What Does It Mean to Be You? A Podcast Explores Consciousness

This 40-minute podcast offers a tour through the state of research into consciousness, including the study of meta-cognition, or studying how people and their brains function when they reflect on their own consciousness.

The hosts of the show are guided by cognitive neuroscientist Anil Seth. They visit Professor Christof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, as part of their journey. Koch is pursuing integrated information theory, which posits that a system that can integrate information and cause changes in itself is conscious. This means that consciousness extends not just to mammals but to all multi-cellular life, so, for example, a bee has some modicum of experience of being a bee. This raises questions of degree – at what point does consciousness not exist? This shares some elements with pan-psychism, which argues that consciousness exists in everything.

Koch says we have to realize that science comes up with theories that seem counterintuitive but can turn out to be true. Such was the case with many major advances, such as the theory that the earth is round, which was initially rejected because it would seem that everyone would fall off a round world.

Dr. Steve Fleming at University College of London discusses how important the study of consciousness is. We don’t understand it, so understanding it would be a huge scientific success. But we also have a practical need to understand it, Flemin said, so we can address what happens with mental illness or patients who appear to be unaware but might have an interior mental life.

Consciousness Underlies Reality, New Physics Theory Shows

By Carol L. Hanner

Dr. Edward R. Close, PhD., looks every bit the elegant scientist, tall and thin, with pure white hair and a long, neatly trimmed white beard. He speaks in a soft voice, juggling so many complex concepts with ease that sometimes those with slower minds can barely keep up. His wife often travels with him and can act, Close says, as an interpreter when he geeks out, to put it in words he would probably never use.

His scientific partner, Dr. Vernon Neppe, MD and PhD, is every bit the eccentric brainy guy, the top of his bald head shining above shocks of Einsteinian gray hair that goes in many directions at once. He speaks in a voice that requires no microphone, with a British accent that could be a caricature (where “years” become “yeah-ahs”) if it weren’t the authentic speech of another very smart man.

The two have come up with their own Theory of Everything, and it answers many questions that other Theories of Everything must ignore or face dismantling, such as the presence of dark matter and dark energy, which are mysterious undefined somethings that account for 95 percent of the known universe.

At its core, their theory says a substance they call gimmel — which they posit to be continuous, timeless consciousness – is what makes up the universe, along with the physical reality we see, perceive, create and affect by observing it, as quantum physics says. Close and Neppe have come up with mathematical equations that appear to back up their theory with astonishing precision, using data that came from the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, the same source for discovery of the Higgs boson or “God Particle.”

The idea that infinite consciousness forms the fabric of the universe is not a crazy philosophy at all. But for science, this is a paradigm shift, as significant as science shifting from a view of the earth as the center of our universe to a view of the sun as the center around which our planets orbit. Much actual blood was spilled in that transition of reality concepts.

Quantum theory was the next paradigm shift, determining that tiny bits of reality called quanta exist as particles smaller than those at the core of our natural laws of physics and gravity. In quantum mechanics, everything is connected across time and space (non-local “spooky action at a distance,” as Einstein called it.) Everything exists in a state of potentiality, springing to existence and action only when observed (presumably by consciousness of some kind).

In each of these paradigm shifts, the scientific community responded for quite a long time with scorn, derision and oppression before ultimately confirming. And quantum physics still is dismissed by some, despite plentiful evidence of its validity.

Fellow scientists haven’t attacked Close and Neppe, as would be expected if the duo had concocted a cockamamie theory in contradiction to the theories that scientists have devoted their lives to defining and studying. Instead, those who have reviewed the work have not refuted it or found flaws in it, though they say more review is needed. And in many quarters of the scientific world, say Close and Neppe, the response has been overwhelming silence.

This comes as no huge surprise to those who notice that the word “consciousness” seems to be considered a third rail of science inquiry, fraught with tangential talk of spirit and soul and life independent of the body. Talk about consciousness and you’ve flown off into philosophy or religion, no matter how much physics anchors the equation. And yet, if it’s a Theory of Everything, why are some aspects of it not discussable? And why is the looming sphinx of dark matter not a concern?

Explaining their theory in detail required a full-day pre-conference workshop with Close and Neppe before the Academy of Spirit and Consciousness held its four-day seminar June 9-12 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Close is a physicist, mathematician, cosmologist, environmental engineer and planner who was a charter member of the U.S.G.S. Systems Analysis Group, where he developed state-of-the-art coastal and storm modeling techniques. Neppe is a psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute in Seattle, as well as an author, speaker, playwright and philosopher.

Even trying to tease out the underlying concepts of their theory is difficult in this short space, but here are a few highlights of their theory, called TVDP or Triadic Dimensional-Distinction Vortical Paradigm:

It is based on a nine-dimensional spinning finite reality rather than the four dimensions that we normally consider as our reality – three dimensions of space and one dimension of time. Neppe and Close believe but can’t mathematically prove that those dimensions break down into three space, three time and three consciousness dimensions. Other theories of reality, including String Theory, have proposed additional dimensions, but the dimensions fold upon one another rather than spinning. The math of TVDP works out to explain some previously unidentified relationships if the dimensions are considered to be spinning.

Combinations of these dimensions could represent the “genome” of reality, similar to the amino acids that combine in different forms of DNA to create the human genome.

The math that Close and Neppe used explains the previously unexplained strange size of what is known as the Cabibbo mixing angle. Italian physicist Nicola Cabibbo’s original research in 1963 discovered this “mixing angle” in the elementary subatomic particles that were quickly named “quarks.” No one could say why the angle was 13.04 degrees. Close’s calculations come out exactly to that number when he uses his nine-dimensional reality. Close successfully performed the calculations after an anatomy professor at Johns Hopkins University in 2012 flippantly rejected the TVDP theory by quipping, “When you can explain why the Cabibbo Angle is what it is, then I’ll believe you.”

The TVDP theory presents consciousness — the substance mathematically defined as gimmel — as the source of reality, a cosmic soup from which the universe emerges. This solves the chronic question of what was there before the universe was created, whether by a Big Bang or some other way. Continuous, infinite consciousness was there, and reality manifests from it.

The TVDP theory allows explanation for meditation, near-death experiences, altered states of consciousness and possibly even space-time travel.

And, as Close has written, “I propose that this Primary Consciousness is none other than that which the Spiritual Masters of all times have called God, the Infinite Intelligence underlying reality and connecting the individualized consciousness of every living being.”

Want to know more? You can read Close’s book Transcendental Physics or Neppe and Close’s book Reality Begins with Consciousness: A Paradigm Shift That Works. Both are available at

Consciousness and Afterlife From A to Z

A few spaces may still be available for a wide-ranging conference called Aspects of Consciousness on June 8-12 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  The Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies will bring together top researchers and experts to discuss four areas: spiritual mysticism and transformative experiences, after-death experiences and survival of consciousness, integration of mind and body in medicine and the physics of consciousness. And if you can’t attend, we will be posting reports from the conference at in the weeks and months after the conference.

Quantum Experiment Confirms “Spooky Action at a Distance”

Quantum Experiment Confirms “Spooky Action at a Distance”

The results of this experiment prove to the strongest level so far the existence of quantum entanglement. This theory could offer a scientific underpinning to explain why people experience connections across normal time and space, including perhaps after death.

Neuroscientist Builds Device That Allows Brain-To-Brain Communication

This 18-minute Ted Talk by neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis explains his research that led to a brain-controlled exoskeleton used by a paralyzed man to kick the first ball of the 2014 World Cup. Now Nicolelis is testing the limits of how consciousness can be transmitted between brains of monkeys. In amazing ways, this broadens the horizons of what we think is possible in human communication.

Some Patients Conscious Under Surgical Anesthesia

Research suggests that about 1 in 1,000 patients undergoing surgery will become conscious, usually in a fleeting moment, while still sedated and appearing unresponsive. Researchers wanted to know more about this to increase understanding of consciousness, which remains scientifically elusive. So they tested patients with surgical anesthesia (but not surgery) and found that many could recount images and events, some realistic, some dreamlike — another research step for those who want to know what happens to consciousness when we aren’t “conscious.”

Anesthesia May Leave Patients Conscious—and Finally Show Consciousness in the Brain

Scientists Capture What Was Thought To Be Unprovable!

A huge scientific discovery announced this week confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, which Einstein theorized but that most scientists believed could never be proved. (Sound familiar? Like the notion that communication from the afterlife is absurd and can never be proved?) What made this happen was a creative, persevering team of scientists, and they recorded the sound of two black holes merging into a blast that would make the Big Bang look like fingers snapping. This New York Times article explains it all, with a great, informative video in less than 5 minutes. Be sure to listen to the link in the article to hear the sound itself, replayed in slow motion. The second link is to an opinion piece that puts the discovery in perspective. Our hope is that one day, this same scientific perseverance can answer questions about survival of consciousness.

World Science Festival includes debate on mind, infinity

This essay by a blogger who attended sessions on consciousness and infinity at the World Science Festival in 2013 illustrates the depth of debate among researchers on these topics. Physicists, mathematicians, neuroscientists and others can have very strong views on the boundaries of what is and isn’t possible – which is a bit ironic when talking about infinity!

How I Mastered Consciousness and Infinity in Four Hours