Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rebirth contd

About the middle of last century a neuro-surgeon called Wilder Penfield was conducting experiments on human brain while he was operating on his patients. He had kept them under general anesthesia to monitor developments during the course of the operations. What he found out was novel. The brain acts like a high fidelity tape recorder and stores all that it has experienced inside in the original format. Electrically stimulating certain areas of the brain elicited responses that were identical to that of the original event. Though only about five percent of his subjects showed this peculiarity and he has not claimed it as a path breaking discovery it is not to be dismissed on that basis alone. What connects him to our subject is the question of how mind works or whether it is connected with brain alone or has any independent existence, since that would help us in stating our case firmly that there is a substratum to life we are unaware of.

Let us listen to what the surgeon has to say about such things. This is what he said in Dartmouth Convocation on The Great Issues of Conscience in Modern Medicine (1960).

“It is fair to say that science provides no method of controlling the mind. Scientific work on the brain does not explain the mind – not yet. Neither the work of Pavlov on conditioned reflexes nor that of any other worker has proven the thesis of materialism. Surgeons can remove areas of brain, physicians can destroy or deaden it with drugs and produce unpredictable fantasies, but they cannot force it to do their bidding.”

Then again he says in his The Mystery of the Mind

"For myself, after a professional lifetime spent in trying to discover how the brain accounts for the mind, it comes as a surprise now to discover, during this final examination of the evidence, that the dualist hypothesis seems the more reasonable of the two possible explanations. Mind comes into action and goes out of action with the highest brain-mechanism, it is true. But the mind has energy. The form of that energy is different from that of neuronal potentials that travel the axone pathways. There I must leave it."

I admit that such ruminations do not conclusively prove there is something beyond the grave and that is mind and desires and thoughts continue their existence even without the body. In fact the doctor says just the opposite. He believes that with the death of brain the mind also ceases. But what I find interesting is the statement about the energy of the mind that is not really linked to the chemical or neurological mechanism that’s functioning within.

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