Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Brain and the Mind

The brain and the mind is an interesting subject and a great personal question for me.  The question is:  does physical brain create the mind?

Obviously, the brain and the mind are linked.  Damage to the brain can effect the functioning of the mind.  Meditation can impact the brain.  The materialist conclusion is that the brain produces the mind.  However, others have pointed out that correlation does not mean causation, as we have explored in the posts on dependent origination.  The most we can say is there is a correlation between the brain and the mind.

An intriguing, alternate suggestion is that the brain is a receptor for the mind.  Under this theory, the brain is essential to the full functioning of the mind, and damage to the brain can affect this functioning.  The analogy is between a radio and the music.  The radio does not create the music, it transmits it.  However, damage to the radio can impair transmission.  This theory can be traced back to William James, the famous pragmatist.

Ferdinand Schiller proposed that the purpose of the physical brain was to limit consciousness, to focus it on on the physical realm.  According to Schiller, "Matter is not that which produces consciousness, but that which limits it and confines its intensity within certain limits."  Simple and course machinery allows simple and course manifestations of consciousness, i.e. animals and insects. In this way, matter is like a circuit that conducts the energy of consciousness in a certain way.

This is very much in line with the concept of upadhi in Advaita.  Upadhi limits infinite consciousness.  This is a type of creation by limitation, and may at first sound counter-intuitive.  But consider water.  Water in its raw, pure form is too much for us to use.  We need to limit it, through dams or canals, or with hoses.  Then we can use it in a specific way.   

Of course, this is just something to ponder.

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