Monday, June 30, 2008

Viewing the world through the filter of our right mind

June 25th, 2008 Guest Blogger: Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
By Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor 3 COMMENTS SHARE Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. WATCH NOW

Everything we are capable of thinking, feeling or doing is because we have cells in our brain that perform that function. I can track a moving target because I have cells designed to do that. I can move my finger because I have cells wired specifically for that function. Once those cells are either traumatized or die, then I can no longer perform that function.

On an emotional level, I can experience anger or sadness or loneliness, because I have emotional circuitry, made up of cells that perform those functions. Equally important, I have the ability to experience deep inner peace or a connection with something that is greater than I am, because I have cells that perform those functions.

Our beautiful brain is divided into two very separate and equally important cerebral hemispheres. Each of these hemispheres process information in very different ways, thus creating for us two very different ways of looking at the world. Our right hemisphere is all about the present moment. It’s all about right here, right now. In this present moment, information in the form of energy streams in through our sensory systems and our right hemisphere creates an enormous collage about what this present moment smells like, tastes like, feels like, sounds like and looks like. In the present moment, there is no judgment placed on our experience – things are not good or bad, or right or wrong, instead they are simply relative to one another. In addition, our right hemisphere thinks in pictures and experiences the world around us as energy. As energy beings, we are at ONE with all that is, because energy cannot be separated from itself, and the underlying ‘feeling’ of our right human mind is one of deep inner peace and joy.

Our left hemisphere is a very different place, however. It is our ability to think in language – to create language and place meaning on sounds. It is our ability to understand when others speak. A portion of our language centers is the portion of our left brain that says “I am an individual”. Thanks to this circuitry and other circuitry in our left minds, we can identify the boundaries of where our bodies begin and end. Thanks to my left hemispheres I am capable of perceiving myself as a single, solid individual separate from the flow.

In the consciousness of my left hemisphere, I am capable of relating this present moment to my past moments and recall information from that past that I can apply in the present to influence how I choose in this moment to interact with the world. Because I see myself as an individual, my left mind ego center has the understanding that I am very important. It also is the home of the voice of my ‘inner critic’ or that mean little voice that has a tendency to place negative judgment on either myself or others.

There are several wonderful benefits to having two very different minds. First, we always have a choice in who and how we want to be in the world. We can choose to approach the world with a compassionate perception whereby we understand that we are connected to everything around us, where we are aware that we are the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses (cells) that make up our form.

By viewing the world through the filter of our right mind, we experience a sense of satisfaction, bliss and deep inner peace. Another advantage to having two very different anatomical machines inside our head is that we have the ability to observe and witness what is going on inside our heads. We have the power to consciously choose what we want to focus our minds on. As human beings we have the ability to realize that everything we think and feel emotionally is merely emotional circuitry, and we have the ability to choose to bring our minds back to the present moment where we can once again experience the feeling of deep inner peace.

We truly are remarkable living entities and what a privilege it is that we have the ability to co-create with one another the kind of world we yearn for. Our life is a gift and when we choose to see the blessing of what we are with gratitude in our hearts, we can live heaven on earth. home about blog episodes subscribe contact

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sandra continues her self-funded voluntary work with a reforestation project in Auroville

A passage to India with VSO Morpeth Herald - Morpeth, England, UK: 27 June 2008 By ANNA SMITH

Back home, Sandra looked back fondly on her time with VSO and six years on, at the age of 54, she has returned to Bangalore under her own steam to offer her services once more. She has already toured the old horticulture training centre where she was based originally, visited the new, larger facility and met up with former colleagues, including her old boss Hegde.

Now she has moved on to Auroville to continue her self-funded voluntary work, helping with a reforestation project, before meeting up with her husband to visit friends in the foothills of the Himalayas.

"Personally, I feel I have grown and developed as a person, become more accepting of some things, and less of others, and I have realised how lucky I have been to have had so many opportunities — to go to school, have a career, choose my own life, travel, etc," said Sandra.

"I have a much greater awareness and understanding of the Indian culture — our similarities and differences — and an understanding of how globalisation is affecting the country, both then and now.

"I have seen great changes in the past eight years, notably an increased middle class and its attendant consumerism and traffic."

Sandra's experience of India has taken on a new lease of life since she first set out with VSO eight years ago, but she remains full of praise and gratitude for the charity that set her on her journey.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Philosophy can offer insights into mental phenomena for psychiatry to objectively verify

A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man And Their Matrix
Why MSM Acknowledgement Call for papers... Forthcoming MSM... ARTICLE Ahead of print schedule
Notes on a Few Issues in the Philosophy of Psychiatry
Singh Ajai R 1, Singh Shakuntala A 21 M.D. Psychiatrist, Editor, Mens Sana Monographs, India2 Department of Philosophy, Joshi-Bedekar College, Thane, Maharashtra; Deputy Editor, Mens Sana Monographs, India
Correspondence Address: Singh Ajai R 14, Shiva Kripa, Trimurty Road, Nahur, Mulund (West), Mumbai 400080, Maharashtra India

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

The first part called the Preamble tackles: (a) the issues of silence and speech, and life and disease; (b) whether we need to know some or all of the truth, and how are exact science and philosophical reason related; (c) the phenomenon of Why, How, and What; (d) how are mind and brain related; (e) what is robust eclecticism, empirical/scientific enquiry, replicability/refutability, and the role of diagnosis and medical model in psychiatry; (f) bioethics and the four principles of beneficence, non-malfeasance, autonomy, and justice; (g) the four concepts of disease, illness, sickness, and disorder; how confusion is confounded by these concepts but clarity is imperative if we want to make sense of these concepts; and how psychiatry is an interim medical discipline.

The second part called The Issues deals with: (a) the concepts of nature and nurture; the biological and the psychosocial; and psychiatric disease and brain pathophysiology; (b) biology, Freud and the reinvention of psychiatry; (c) critics of psychiatry, mind-body problem and paradigm shifts in psychiatry; (d) the biological, the psychoanalytic, the psychosocial and the cognitive; (e) the issues of clarity, reductionism, and integration; (f) what are the fool-proof criteria, which are false leads, and what is the need for questioning assumptions in psychiatry.

The third part is called Psychiatric Disorder, Psychiatric Ethics, and Psychiatry Connected Disciplines. It includes topics like (a) psychiatric disorder, mental health, and mental phenomena; (b) issues in psychiatric ethics; (c) social psychiatry, liaison psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, forensic psychiatry, and neuropsychiatry.

The fourth part is called Antipsychiatry, Blunting Creativity, etc. It includes topics like (a) antipsychiatry revisited; (b) basic arguments of antipsychiatry, Szasz, etc.; (c) psychiatric classification and value judgment; (d) conformity, labeling, and blunting creativity.

The fifth part is called The Role of Philosophy, Religion, and Spirituality in Psychiatry. It includes topics like (a) relevance of philosophy to psychiatry; (b) psychiatry, religion, spirituality, and culture; (c) ancient Indian concepts and contemporary psychiatry; (d) Indian holism and Western reductionism; (e) science, humanism, and the nomothetic-idiographic orientation.

The last part, called Final Goal , talks of the need for: a grand unified theory.he whole discussion is put in the form of refutable points...

VI. Final Goal
VI.A. A Grand Unified Theory VI.1. The ultimate aim of psychiatric theorizing and research is to find a grand unified theory that will explain all mental phenomena, in health and disease. VI.2. All piecemeal approaches are valid only as stop gaps to this destination, never as the only reality. Hence, statements like 'Our strongly held desires to find the explanation for individual psychiatric disorders are misplaced and counterproductive' (Kendler, 2005) need to be accepted as the reality of today, to be countered by systematic research to find exactly such an explanation. VI.3. No foreclosure, no giant leaps; just a string of evidences to a final resolution. VI.4. The present maze-like complex findings in most major psychiatric disorders only camouflage an essentially simple solution that awaits discovery. VI.5. Just as Einstein integrated a string of evidences/theories before him to give his essentially simple theory of relativity, we need the genius of a synthesizer to make sense of the burgeoning scientific research in psychiatry and extract the essential simple solution that lies within handshaking distance. VI.6. As we get to know it finally, we may be surprised at the naivetĪ¹ of it all.

Concluding Remarks
1. Disease cannot vanish. Diseases can. This is the very basis of medicine, it is very raison d'etre . It is equally applicable to psychiatry.

2. For psychiatry, we are in dire need of exact knowledge, and knowledge that is universally valid. Although the scientific approach may not be the only one, it is the only one that can be empirically validated, and refuted. Psychiatry, which claims to be a scientific discipline, should not lose sight of this. It either gives up the claim of being scientific, or learns to follow the cannons of science.

3. A scientist looks at the 'how' of phenomena. A philosopher looks at its 'why'. What is the nature of a question that combines both the 'how' and the 'why'? It will be an integrated question. A 'what'. What is the nature of an answer that answers both the 'how' and the 'why'? It will be an integrated answer. Again a 'what'. By integrated, or a 'what', we mean it involves the empirical knowledge of the scientist combined with the speculative reason of the philosopher.

4. Science is basically antiphilosophy, since its fundamental thrust is to reduce the need for speculation, and speculation is fundamental to philosophy. Philosophy is basically science nurturing, since it offers insights for science to objectively verify and accept/refute. It also plays the role of being the conscience of science, because it shows the path and often prevents it from getting waylaid. While playing this role, philosophy sometimes appears to be antiscience since it is critical of science's unbridled power. Actually it is science nurturing.

5. The mind is the functional correlate of the structure called the brain. It has no existence aside and apart from it.

6. Theology and philosophy of mind can supply many speculative insights, which will need scientific enquiry and validation to convert them into empirical knowledge.

7. Robust eclecticism is compatible with subscribing to any one strand of thought in psychiatry - biological or psychosocial. It remains robust only as long as it accepts the worth of evidence from any quarter, even adversarial. Eclecticism is an attitude. Empirical enquiry is a process. One cannot substitute for the other. But one can, and should, complement the other.

8. Diagnosis cannot replace individual and customized care. But the converse is equally applicable. In fact diagnosis complements individual and customized care. And the latter helps refine the diagnostic process.

9. Beneficence is essential, non-malfeasance obligatory; autonomy is relative and justice debatable. Beneficence is the bedrock of medicine, non-malfeasance its conscience. Justice its sentinel, autonomy its crowning glory.

10. Most psychiatric problems are illnesses, since they involve an inability to fulfill normal social roles. They are often also sicknesses, since there is subjective awareness of distress. But none are diseases as of yet, as there is no proven universally accepted objective pathology. This is the most important problem for psychiatry to tackle.

11. The major task of psychiatry, therefore, is to prove their illnesses and sicknesses are also diseases. Till this happens, psychiatry has the promise to become, but only approximates, a branch of medicine. It is at an interim stage of development as a medical discipline. This is an uncomfortable but necessary realization.

12. Genes determine, and regulate, behavior. And behavior alters gene expression. Both are interlinked through and through. The major task of modern psychiatry is to unravel which determines what, and to what extent.

13. Insights in psychiatric knowledge will come from many sources, especially the psychological, the psychoanalytic, the sociological, and the philosophical. Breakthroughs will come mainly, if not solely, from biology.

14. Psychiatric treatment will always require an empathetic grasp of the patients' inner feelings; and a working knowledge, if not an intimate grasp, of the sociocultural ethos in which they occur.

15. Biology is the engine and the fuel. Will psychoanalysis hold the steering, help change gears, and stop clamping on the brake?

16. The mind is the brain. And the brain, the mind. They are two sides of the same coin.

17. How do biological and psychosocial approaches gel? (i) Only under the overarch of ensuring comprehensivity of patient welfare; (ii) each supplies insights to the other while carrying out self-correction; and (iii) each accepts irrefutable evidence of its shortcomings, from whatever source it originates, internal or external.

18. Reductionism is a valid approach in the study of psychiatric phenomena. But integration of the finding of disparate approaches is equally valid. As is explanatory pluralism.

19. So, reductionism or integration? Both. Reductionism as an approach. Integration as an attitude.

20. All mental phenomena have a correlate in brain functioning, known or unknown. All brain activity gives rise to mental phenomena, known or unknown. The key is to find the links between brain activity and mental phenomena. The key is also to make the unknown mental phenomena and brain activity known.

21. In psychiatric therapy , beneficence and non-malfeasance are paramount, and must override autonomy and justice when they conflict. In psychiatric research , however, autonomy and justice are paramount, and must override beneficence and non-malfeasance when they conflict.

22. Social psychiatry must back up its insightful contentions with strong evidentials. Liaison psychiatry remains relevant only if appreciates the relevance of the medical model, but is prepared to transcend it. The same rule is applicable to psychosomatic medicine. Forensic psychiatry is necessary, but psychiatric ethics is mandatory. While the former ensures autonomy and justice, the latter ensures beneficence and non-malfeasance. Neuropsychiatry is promising but guild-driven.

23. What Szasz and his ilk have to realize is there is a moral judgment involved in any labeling, whether of a disorder in psychiatry or the rest of medicine. If it were good/proper to vomit blood, or fall unconscious, or live with broken bones, or develop heart attacks, no branch of medicine would be needed. Similarly, if it were good/proper to live with suicidal attempts/thoughts, to fear meeting people so, one remains confined to the house, to keep hand washing for hours, to believe one is the Almighty, or that the whole world is plotting/scheming against you, no psychiatry would be needed.

24. Psychiatric classification is capable of being both scientific and objective. Diagnostic categories do match real mental disorders. Hence, the medical model of psychiatry that many defend is legitimate, even if inadequate.

25. While psychiatry should beware it does not protect criminals, delinquents, etc., it must equally make people at large, and law enforcing agencies, aware that in certain mental conditions, a person may not realize the nature and consequences of his actions. A typical example is a schizophrenic who acts on his delusions and assaults someone, or a suicidal depressive who makes a suicidal attempt during a depressive phase. Treating helps them get rid of their delusion/suicidal impulse; putting them behind bars does not.

26. Often those who are creative are so not because of, but in spite of , mental illness. Moreover, often they continue to remain creative not because of, but in spite of, mental illness and treatment; and all the side effects and lifestyle modifications that ensue following a major mental illness.

27. Religion and spirituality hold an eternal fascination for some serious psychiatric thinkers. There are many concepts in both that intersect. But in so far as religion stresses the subjective at the expense of the objective, it cannot become a predominant force in psychiatric thinking. However, it can supply many insights into mental phenomena, which psychiatric research can explore with profit. But with its tools, its criteria, its methodology.

28. Unless the older concepts in the philosophy of mind, whether of the East or the West, get converted into empirically testable hypothesis, they are useless for modern psychiatry. Reverence and awe is one thing, proof and therapeutic validation quite another.

29. Indian psychiatrists' attempts to understand ancient Indian concepts and their relevance to contemporary psychiatry have been intensely patriotic/reverential but feebly scientific. As different from this, Western thinkers have not desisted from critical evaluation of their greatest predecessors. Only that which stands the critical scrutiny of peers is accepted, and that too provisionally. This necessary progression in mindset - from reverence to critical sifting and analysis - is essential if experimentally verifiable models of care have to evolve from the writings of the great masters of the past.

30. It is also mentioned, almost as a truism, that Indian thought is holistic, synthetic, as opposed to the Western, which is reductionist and analytic. The predominance of religion (and belief) in Indian thought, and of science (and verification) in the West has given rise to such predominance. Holism is necessary as an attitude ; reductionism is necessary as an approach . Holism is necessary to synthesize and integrate diverse strands of knowledge. But reductionism is needed to produce new knowledge, which is then synthesized and integrated.

31. The orientation necessarily has to be a blend of science and humanism. Where universally valid scientific knowledge serves individual patient welfare. And individual patient welfare serves to promote further universally valid scientific knowledge. Not as difficult as it seems, provided research integrity and patient welfare remain the watchwords. Holism at its best.

32. The ultimate aim of psychiatric theorizing and research is to find a grand unified theory that will explain all mental phenomena, in health and disease.[74]

Take Home Message
There are many areas of connect between philosophy and psychiatry. Philosophy can offer insights into mental phenomena for psychiatry to objectively verify. Psychiatry must progress from being an interim medical discipline to becoming a full one. It will do so only by finding biological determinants of behavior in health and illness. A grand unified theory to explain mental phenomena is the final goal.

The editors wish to thank the peer reviewers of this paper for their valuable contributions. The authors wish to thank Dr. Anirudh Kala who invited them to first write on this topic for the book Culture, Personality and Mental Illness: Perspective of Traditional Societies (Eds. V.K. Varma and A.K. Kala) to be published by Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers. This is a substantially expanded version of the paper to be published there under the title, 'Notes on Some Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry'.Conflict of Interest Author and co-author are editor and deputy editor of MSM.

Questions That This Paper Raise

  • 'Science is basically antiphilosophy and philosophy is basically science nurturing.' Why can both not be nurturing of each other?
  • 'Disease cannot vanish. Diseases can.' When can disease vanish, and well-being flourish?
  • 'Eclecticism is an attitude. Empirical enquiry is a process.' What if their roles are interchanged?
  • 'The major task of psychiatry, therefore, is to prove their illnesses and sicknesses are also diseases.' Will only biology help here?
  • 'Insights in psychiatric knowledge will come from many sources, especially the psychological, the psychoanalytic, the sociological, and the philosophical. Breakthroughs will come mainly, if not solely, from biology.' What about breakthroughs from other sources and insights from biology?
  • 'Reductionism as an approach. Integration as an attitude.' What if their roles are also interchanged?
  • Unless the older concepts in the philosophy of mind, whether of the East or the West, get converted into empirically testable hypothesis, they are useless for modern psychiatry. How do we do that?
  • 'This necessary progression in mindset - from reverence to critical sifting and analysis - is essential if experimentally verifiable models of care have to evolve from the writings of the great masters of the past.' Is not reverence itself necessary to understand phenomena? Which areas of enquiry are most suited for a move from reverence to critical enquiry?
  • 'The orientation necessarily has to be a blend of science and humanism.' How much of each, what when they conflict, how can then blend seamlessly?
  • The ultimate aim of psychiatric theorizing and research is to find a grand unified theory. Is it at all possible? Such grand ideas are doomed to failure. Why at all attempt it?

[Authors' Postscript: A Parting Thought, and Some Explanatory Notes:
A paper such as this can arouse two extremes of reactions. There are some who may find this paper well worth the effort, others may want to forget all about it. While both reactions are understandable and legitimate, more relevant would be to tear apart and analyze which of its points are relevant, and which need rejection; and why.
The paper adopts a certain format of presentation because it best suits the assertion that it presents. This is no comment on the usual style in which academic papers are presented.
To those who may feel the writers think they are Wittgenstein, or it is an imitation, we wonder whether anyone, Wittgenstein included, enjoys sole proprietary rights to presenting papers in a certain format.
To those who find this paper poorly written, badly argued, and rather naive in its outlook, we plead guilty on all charges. It is not well written, if a typical academic paper format is what makes a paper well written, for it only presents points to be refuted, if possible. It is badly argued, for it mainly presents assertions and conclusions of arguments, and many actionable points, rather than pure arguments. It is rather naive in its outlook, for we believe a naivetĪ¹ that charts the course is preferable to arguments that enmesh and cause inaction. Of course the course should be worth charting, and well delineated. How this paper errs in so doing, would be worth knowing from our peers.
The charge can also be made that despite being a paper on philosophy and psychiatry, it seems to be ignorant of most recent philosophy. Being ignorant and not quoting, or commenting on, are not identical. The purpose of this essay is to raise certain foundational issues with regard to psychiatry and its sub-disciplines, and its relation to many other branches, especially philosophy. The purpose is not necessarily to enter into a polemic with recent writings in the philosophy of psychiatry. This is no comment on the need for, or preoccupations of, the latter.
Some may not be sure if this is a final version: this reads like an essay plan for several papers and does not offer a coherent argument and position. This is the final version, as of now, which of course can expand into several papers over a length of time. It does not offer a coherent position/argument, because it presents several assertions to be worked over, by the author and contemporaries, if psychiatry has to make solid ground as a rigorous empirical discipline in biomedicine. If it wishes to reject its empirical base, if it rejects the very need to establish itself as a branch of biomedicine, if it wishes to keep floundering, or if it wishes to continue with presenting arguments for the sake of arguments, then these assertions may be kindly forsaken.
Some of you may get irked at the sheer audacity of making such a grand project of a paper. Especially the sweeping generalizations, the dogmatic assertions, and the occasionally brusque comments. If you can stop getting irked, and can manage to give it a second read, things may not seem that bad after all. For you, as a reader/thinker, have at least sometimes realized the worth of an initially rejected idea.]

About the Authors Ajai R. Singh M.D. [Figure 1] is a Psychiatrist and Editor, Mens Sana Monographs ( He has written extensively on issues related to psychiatry, philosophy, bioethical issues, medicine, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Shakuntala A. Singh, Ph.D., [Figure 2] is Principal, Reader and Head, Department of Philosophy, K.G. Joshi College of Arts and N.G. Bedekar College of Commerce. She is also Deputy Editor of MSM. Her areas of interest are Indian Philosophy, Bioethics, Logic and the Philosophy of Science.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When it comes to religion, history and culture trump neurology

A religious history of American neuroscience
from The Immanent Frame by Leigh Eric Schmidt

Not long ago, researchers wired up the atheist Richard Dawkins with a helmet that would create magnetic fields partially simulating the brain activity of temporal lobe epilepsy, which they linked to dramatic visionary religious experiences and to less dramatic feelings of sensed presences. It turns out, though, that hooking up a hardboiled atheist to a machine, known as the transcranial magnetic stimulator, produced no such experiences. "It was a great disappointment," Dawkins related after 40 minutes on the machine. "Though I joked about the possibility, I of course never expected to end up believing in anything supernatural. But I did hope to share some of the feelings experienced by religious mystics when contemplating the mysteries of life and the cosmos."

As my own mind was being massaged with images of Richard Dawkins having his temporal lobes stimulated, an odd notion popped into my head: namely, when it comes to religion, history and culture trump neurology.

I will try to write a paper on yoga psychology and the future of scientific psychology

INTEGRAL PSYCHOLOGY BEYOND WILBER-V Inviting Open-Minded Skepticismof the Materialist View Don Salmon

[4] Geoffrey also made a few brief comments about psychology as a science. The more I've thought about his comments, the more it seems I would need to write a paper instead of an endnote to respond to them. At some point (hopefully in the not-too-distant future), I will try to write a paper on yoga psychology and the future of scientific psychology. Meanwhile, here's a pretty good site for getting an overview of the history of scientific psychology:

Two points in response to Geoffrey — he asks the question, when did psychology become a science, and refers to the "hyper-imaginative babblings" of Freud and Jung. Actually, Freud and Jung were psychiatrists, not psychologists (and Freud was trained as a neurologist). Second, Geoffrey takes issue with Ronald Melzack's critique of scientific psychology (see below) and puts forth "evolutionary psychology" [EP] as an obvious and ideal framework for an all-inclusive psychology. He then takes me to task for quoting Steven Pinker without mentioning EP.

Scientific psychology is generally thought to have begun in Europe with the founding of Wilhelm Wundt's laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879. The 1890 publication of William James' "The Principles of Psychology" is thought by some to mark the birth of American scientific psychology. James' theory of functionalism — which has evolutionary thinking at its core — was one of the more predominant psychological theories of the time (actually, Darwinian thinking was at the core of much of Freud's thought as well). Throughout most of the last 125 or so years of scientific psychology, evolution has always been taken into account. "Evolutionary psychology," however, is another matter. Its parent, E.O. Wilson's sociobiology, was so ridiculed that it eventually died, only to be reborn as "evolutionary psychology." It presents an extremely reductionist view of human psychology, and is thought by many leading scientific psychologists to be crude at best, hardly more worthwhile than its parent, sociobiology (I'm speaking here of ontological reductionism, which a significant number of philosophers of science consider suspect, rather than methodological reductionism, which is almost universally accepted).. This is true despite the fact that Pinker and Dawkins think so highly of it. To my knowledge, all of scientific psychology takes into account the facts of evolution. But doing that doesn't make all psychologists proponents of evolutionary psychology! (I realize that EP has been an immensely popular fad in the last several years, and you can find dozens of positive evaluations in a quick web search; but even hundreds of comments on the web don't equal scientific respectability).

Regarding the beginnings of scientific psychology: there is a surprising amount of basic scientific work done as far back as the late 1800s which is still considered relevant. If you've ever spoken of having a "learning curve" with regard to learning something new, you've been influenced by Ebbinghaus' theories which were developed around the time of the birth of scientific psychology. The introspectionists like Thorndike, whose research methodology is generally thought to have been discredited, were not the only psychologists doing research at the time. The psychophysicists, developmental psychologists, students of motivation, learning, perception, memory, etc. all contributed to the scientific knowledge of the time. John Watson, the behaviorist, may have set back the study of the mind with his call for a purely behaviorist science, but at least some of the learning principles of Watson, and even Skinner, still hold up. George Miller heralded the cognitive "revolution" with his "The Magic Number Seven Plus or Minus Two" article in 1959 (an article on the number of things most people can generally hold in working memory). Meanwhile in the past 40 years, a great deal of neuroscience has been incorporated into the work of scientific psychology, and computer modeling has made possible many advances as well.

Having given this very brief historical overview, I still don't find anything lacking in Ronald Melzack's critique of psychology (Melzack developed a pain rating scale which is widely used both in pain clinics and pain research; there's a nice short wikipedia entry on him). He wrote in 1989, "The field of psychology is in a state of crisis. We are no closer now to understanding the most fundamental problems of psychology than we were when psychology became a science a hundred years ago... some neuroscience and computer technology have been stirred in with the old psychological ingredients, but there have been no important conceptual advances... We are adrift... in a sea of facts and practically drowning in them. We desperately need new concepts, new approaches." Nine years earlier, psychologist Seymour Epstein wrote about the problems of psychology in The American Psychologist, saying: "Psychological research is rapidly approaching a crisis as the result of extremely inefficient procedures for establishing replicable generalizations. The traditional solution of attempting to obtain a high degree of control in the laboratory is often ineffective because much human behavior is so sensitive to incidental sources of stimulation that adequate control cannot be achieved.... Not only are experimental findings often difficult to replicate when there are the slightest alterations in conditions, but even attempts at exact replications frequently fail."

This seemed to me to still have been pretty much the state of affairs when I was conducting psychological research as a graduate student in the late 1990s. In 1999, developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan (I think he was still a professor at Harvard at the time, though I'm not sure) reiterated Melzack's point, saying that not only does psychology lack an overarching paradigm, but it is so full of conflicting views that there is hardly anything more than a few trivial facts about learning and perception about which more than a handful of psychologists would agree. Charles Honorton, in his 1993 essay "The Impoverished State of Skepticism", notes that Ray Hyman and James Alcock frequently refer to parapsychology as being a failure after more than 100 years of research. He goes on to say, "Is psychology a 'failed' science? If we were to apply the 'century of failure' arguments of Hyman and Alcock to academic psychology, we might well conclude that psychology has failed in its mission: after a hundred years of relatively well-funded research, vigorous controversies continue over such basic phenomena as memory, learning, and perception. The simple act of human facial recognition, for example, remains a mystery and is currently a hot research topic in cognitive psychology." Regarding contemporary cognitive science, philosopher Jerry Fodor comments, "Our best cognitive science is the psychology of perception, and (see just below) it may well be that perceptual processes are largely modular, hence computationally local. Whereas, plausibly, the globality of cognition shows up clearest in the psychology of common sense. Uncoincidentally, as things now stand, we don't have a theory of the psychology of common sense that would survive serious scrutiny by an intelligent five-year-old." (see

As Douglas Hofstader has recently pointed out, among the "basic phenomena" which cognitive science has yet to get a hold of, "the question what is a concept could be said to lie at the crux of cognitive science and yet concepts still lack a firm scientific basis". Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga admitted that in a textbook on cognitive science of over 1,000 pages, nothing was mentioned on the topic of thinking (that is, actual critical and creative thinking as opposed to simple problem solving, concept formation, etc, which often show up in cognitive science texts). And according to Edward Kelly, in his book, Irreducible Mind (2006), "even former leaders of the 'cognitive revolution' such as Jerome Bruner, Noam Chomsky, George Miller, and Ulric Neisser have publicly voiced disappointment in its results." I think these critiques are worth noting because, if one day the "paranormal" becomes "normal", and "mind" and "matter" are both understood — as they are in yoga psychology — to be different forms of one conscious-energy ("chit-shakti"), then a new expanded psychology will be born which will far transcend the discoveries of the last 125+ years. Jan and I tried to give an overview of what this psychology might look like in our Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness.

However, we did not make much of an attempt to tie the vision of yoga psychology with specific developments in cognitive science, though I think we succeeded in showing that yoga psychology does not conflict with the findings (as opposed to physicalist interpretations) of cognitive science. Kelly has done an admirable job of linking scientific psychology with a truly post-metaphysical (that is, non-speculative) vision in his Irreducible Mind and I highly recommend it. As Kelly puts it in the introduction to his book,

"[Noam] Chomsky for example, pointed out that empirical regularities known to 19th century chemistry could not be explained by the physics of the day, but did not simply disappear on that account; rather, physics eventually had to expand in order to accommodate the facts of chemistry. Similarly, he argued, we should not settle for specious 'reduction' of an inadequate psychology to present-day neurophysiology, but should instead seek 'unification' of an independently justified level of psychological description and theory with an adequately complete and clear conception of the relevant physical properties of the body and brain — but only if and when we get such a conception. For in Chomsky's view, shared by many modern physicists, advances in physics from Newton's discovery of universal gravitation to 20th century developments in quantum mechanics and relativity theory have undermined the classical and commonsense conceptions of matter to such an extent that reducibility of mind to matter is anything but straightforward, and hardly a foregone conclusion."

The philosopher Jerry Fodor has some wonderful observations regarding evolutionary psychology (and his observations, to my knowledge, are in line with what a majority of psychologists think about EP):
"Thus we now have titles such as Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality, and The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex. In the wake of neo-Darwinism, science appears to be descending to the level of soap opera. Another book in this category, The Natural History of Rape, describes rape as "a natural, biological phenomenon that is a product of the human evolutionary heritage", akin to "the leopard's spots and the giraffe's elongated neck". Not long ago a Princeton University professor published an article defending bestiality, insisting that "sex across the species barrier... ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings."

And in the wake of Columbia disaster, in an article in the Science Times reflecting on the fact that we are moved more by the deaths of individuals than by statistics, we were assured that "emotions, developed to enhance the species' survival, keeping early humans one step in front of hungry lions, sometimes mislead in the modern world." Welcome to brave new world of evolutionary psychology! Regarding Steven Pinker's book, How the Mind Works, Fodor comments: "A lot of the fun of Pinker's book is his attempt to deduce human psychology from the assumption that our minds are adaptations for transmitting our genes. His last chapters are devoted to this and they range very broadly; including, so help me, one on the meaning of life. Pinker would like to convince us that the predictions that the selfish-gene theory makes about how our minds must be organised are independently plausible. But this project doesn't fare well. Prima facie, the picture of the mind, indeed of human nature in general, that psychological Darwinism suggest is preposterous; a sort of jumped up, down-market version of original sin."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A fully developed mind in man must in all climes search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss

The unconscious mind and social order The Times of India Spirituality Speaking Tree 24 Jun 2008, D S FARUQIE

We’ve always found ourselves to be interesting objects of study. That’s why some of us often cross personal limitations in our endeavour to understand human behaviour and spirituality.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud introduced the term ‘unconscious mind’ while explaining the topography of mind. He divided the human mind into three specific regions: the conscious, subconscious and unconscious.

The conscious mind represents immediate awareness of the person; the subconscious mind acts as a channel between the conscious and unconscious whereas the unconscious mind — which is out of a person’s awareness — is a large storehouse that contains past experiences, animalistic drives and unfulfilled wishes in their suppressed form.

An individual making a socially unacceptable wish generally does not execute it; so it gets left in his mind. In time, the idea disappears from his conscious mind, but it does not go away altogether. For it is unwittingly transferred to the unconscious mind. This is known as repression, when the mind relegates to the unconscious painful memories. Repressed memories influence the individual’s conduct, mental health and social transactions and stimulate negative behaviour. Unconscious patterns are thus reflected through various a-social behaviour that manifest through feelings of vanity, anger, greed, treachery, jealousy and indifference.

People in search of reclamation put their invaluable efforts to overcome all worldly frailties. For this, an exceptional search of self is conducted in order to reveal one’s unconscious to the seeker. Sages, Sufis and yogis, through the practice of meditation, think profoundly and surpass their limitations internally. This activity needs tremendous effort and is different from introspection, which is just the review of consciousness.

During therapy, psychotherapists conduct catharsis in which they help their subjects to identify negative unconscious patterns and overcome them to an extent. In order to achieve complete redemption and to get deliverance from all burdens, comprehensive self-catharsis is required. Poet, philosopher Iqbal said: “Dive deep within yourself in order to find the clue of life; be good to yourself if you can’t be good to me.”

Carl Jung explained the role of the unconscious in spiritual realisation and in the achievement of psychological wholeness, “The seat of not consciousness but spontaneous religious experience only when the individual is willing to fulfill the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledge...that is the unconscious.”

The practice of exploring the unconscious does not necessarily limit us to stay confined in the shell of persona. Besides the personal unconscious, there is also “collective unconscious” which is a socially shared unconscious. This deals directly with temporal or worldly affairs such as various patterns of justice, humanity and balance of power. These golden patterns present in abundance in the collective unconscious are named as ‘archetypes’.

Exploration and realisation of self is inevitable in the striving to achieve purity. According to Sri Aurobindo, “A fully developed mind in man must in all climes search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss.” Knowledge of the unconscious enables one to overcome the negativities of life and the process leads the seeker to follow universal laws.

Universal laws uphold the regularity of the cosmic process and social order and intrinsic to this is the prevalence of justice and right conduct.

Monday, June 23, 2008

After death a body can be kept for up to 7 days to give the body's consciousness time to depart in a quiet atmosphere

Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Current issue > Current issue Archive copies Auroville Experience May 2008
The Farewell project
- Elle Rasink

What does it mean to die a conscious death? The writings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo suggest that, as one's consciousness increases, it takes progressively longer for the body's consciousness to leave after death. Based upon this a room has been set aside in the Health Centre where, after death, a body can be kept for up to 7 days to give the body's consciousness time to depart in a quiet atmosphere. The space has been left neutral to enable friends and family to personalise it. Visitors may also be received there.

The room is available to all who have expressed the desire that their body be kept there after death. To facilitate the carrying out of this wish the Farewell Project group has developed a questionnaire that Aurovilians can complete and which will be kept on file at the Health Centre. Although not legally binding it will have strong persuasive power as to the clearly expressed wishes of the person concerned. The document will include information useful in cases of accident or serious illness as well as dealing with preferences after death such as organ donation. “We also want to emphasise the benefits of making a will,” says Suzie, a member of the Farewell Project Group. “If you have personal property outside of Auroville, it's important to make your intentions with regard to Auroville clear in a document that is legally valid.”

Another aspect of the Farewell Group's work is the preparation of the site of burial or cremation. This work is carried out by a team of young Aurovilians, who offer it as a service to the community. The work of the Farewell Group is deeply appreciated. It is a help for family and friends in difficult times to make the passing of the deceased a harmonious movemement towards the Light.
Elle Rasink
Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Current issue Archive copies The Auroville Experience

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sri Aurobindo had definitely anticipated what a historian like Trautmann would conceptualize a century later

Title: A dead end for Aryan Invasion Theory"s Racism - Part II
Author: ka Date: Sat, 14 June 2008 20:43:59

However, an even more systematic refutation of the charges of racism against the ancient Aryan Indian came from Sri Aurobindo in his "Secret of the Veda". He contends that the dasyus have been identified with darkness and the Aryans with light and the light of the sun in the veda is called the Aryan light in contradistinction to the dasyu darkness. The Dasyus are powers of darkness and ignorance who oppose the seeker of truth and immortality. The gods are the powers of Light, the children of Infinity, forms and personalities of the one Godhead who by their help and by their growth and human workings in man raise him to the truth and the immortality Vashishta speaks of the Aryan people being jyotirgrah, led by the light! [VII.33.7]

His final conclusion is "The indications in the veda on which this theory of a recent Aryan invasion is built, are very scanty in quantity and uncertain in their significance. There is no actual mention of any such invasion. The distinction between Aryan and non-Aryan on which so much has been built, seems on the mass of the evidence to indicate a cultural rather than racial difference. The language of the hymns clearly points to a particular worship or spiritual as the distinguishing sign of the Aryans - a worship of light, and of the powers of light and a self evidence based on the culture of truth and the aspiration to immortality. There is no reliable indication of any racial difference."

Sri Aurobindo had definitely anticipated what a historian like Trautmann would conceptualize a century later.

Even K D Sethna, a contemporary of Trautmann in his "The Problem of Aryan Origins" published over 25 years ago consistently disapproved of the racial theory. Basing his theory on the Aurobindonian vision he discovers in Rik V.14.4 the master clue as to the real nature of the dasyus in general..agnir jato arochate ghnan dasyun jyotisa tamah avundad ga apah svah [Agni born shone out slaying the Dasyus, the darkness by the light..he found the cows, the waters, the saw.] All dasyus are here identified with the darkness and Agni the god of fire brings about their destruction through the advent of light! But unfortunately Trautmann seems to be also unaware of Sethna"s work.

Trautmann can of course take heart in the fact that the Aryan theory had several native Indian Historians in its support. B R Ambedkar, the dalit leader denounced the Aryan theory to be a hoax and its continued propagation as a Brahmanical conspiracy. In recent times, Romila Thapar in "Early India" uses the same argument, while Dilip Chakrabarti in "Colonial Indology" quotes a vast array of nationalist Indian Historians like R C Dutt, Majumdar, Nilakantha Shastri, Pandey who all upheld the Aryan Invasion theory. But even he would agree that they were all without exception ready to reconsider the AIT in the light of fresh evidence and were generously open to new ideas on the subject. One may add it is only the Marxists and dalit historians who remain rudely recalcitrant in rejecting their unconcealed love for the AIT until today.[6] The queerly querulous tones of Thapar et al are definitely sounding sanctimonious to me.

In the History and culture of the Indian People, Volume I, the Vedic Age; Majumdar presents briefly the opposite view of autochthonous origin of the Aryan but admits his inability to side with it in the light of extant evidence but is willing to wait for the decipherment of the Indus script, which if proved to be Sanskrit would definitely overthrow the AIT. Even the others, hardly ever considered the Aryan to be a persecutor of the native and instead suggested them to be migrants, and their interaction with the former leading to a cultural fusion or synthesis. We are certain that the majority did not believe the Aryans to be the torch bearers of civilization in India especially after the discovery of the Indus valley civilization. Panikar in his "Survey of Indian History" is most explicit on this account.

The differences between Aryan and Non Aryan subsisted according to them in cultural and not necessarily racial differences, although unlike Vivekananda and Aurobindo they were not wholly emphatic on this point. One should be sympathetic and not discount the burden of Western scholarship which they were pitted against and the mere ring of unorthodoxy could sound the death knell of professional careers through academic apartheid. One may add that in the absence of modern genetic, anthropological and archaeological evidence they were compelled to rely on colonial experts on the same who more often that not were subject to their own racial biases, and sometimes had a distinct political axis to grind. These racial sentiments were acutely perceived by Indian Historians of the day like Majumdar who in his preface to Ancient India in 1927 wrote with observation with respect to the writings of Vincent Smith "These sentiments which are echoed in other books, are not only uncalled for and misleading, but are calculated to distort the vision and judgment of modern readers."

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The soothing musical notes that emanate from the bed will give its user a very relaxed state of mind

New Style Bed Provides Hummer - Magic of Music to Relieve Stress
June 3rd, 2008 • RelatedFiled Under Filed Under: FeaturedOdd Tags:

At SVARAM, a division of Auroville, all possible sound materials are explored and experimented with to discover new means and approaches for the opening of the ‘Magic of Music’ for everyone. The team at SWARAM makes musical instruments offer an immediate contact to one’s inherent playfulness and creativity. I just spotted a very unique musical bed on their site called the Nidhranantar.

This musical bed consists of 50 strings attached to its bottom. These strings will be played by a musician even as the user lies on it with his/her eyes closed. The soothing musical notes that emanate from the bed will give its user a very relaxed state of mind and the vibrations generated by it will also relax the weary muscles of the body. Via Born Rich