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.


Mom Delivers Messages Through Grandchild, Touch, Greeting Cards

Email from Sarah Choukalas of Arizona

My mom suddenly passed away in March of 2014. I was 12 weeks pregnant with my second child. Two very distinct things happened on the day of her death that let me know my mom was still with us, even though her physical self was gone. Many more have happened since.

My mom died in my childhood home while getting ready to come to my house to watch my daughter. (She had been her caregiver since my daughter was 6 weeks old and my husband and I went back to work.) When someone dies in the home, the emergency response team sends in a Crisis Response Team, and that day it consisted of two women. When they introduced themselves, my husband and I stared in shock…one of the women was named Sawyer. That was to be the name of our unborn child if we found out it was a boy. My mom knew our name choice and had maintained I was pregnant with a boy because it was a very different pregnancy from my first, a girl. My mom was telling us to expect a boy (which, two weeks later, we found out was true!)

That evening, after handling the funeral arrangements my family went to dinner. As we loaded up in our vehicle, I closed my door, and my daughter suddenly starts singing from the backseat, “I love you, yea, yea, yea! I love you, yea, yea, yea!” to the tune of the Beatles “She Loves You.” To my knowledge, my daughter had never heard that song, and since the words were different, I know it was my mom speaking through her.

Much later my mother-in-law shared with me that the day after my mom’s death, my daughter was staying with my mother-in-law and my daughter had three out-of-body experiences. The first time she fell onto her back on the bed, glassy eyed and repeated three times, “I can’t breathe” and was nonresponsive to my mother-in-law. The second time she fell on the floor, on her side with an arm under her head (how my dad found my mom when she died), and glassy eyed/unresponsive, repeated three times, “I can’t breathe.” The third and final time, she fell on her side, glassy eyed/unresponsive and took three large breaths in and out.

My mother had told close friends she wanted me to have a C-section with the birth of my son because I had such complications with my first. The day he was to be born, I was petrified because he was early and there were complications with labor. I suddenly felt her in the room, come up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and just calm me. She didn’t say anything, just her presence was felt, and I immediately was comforted and ready for whatever happened. Moments later, my doctor came in to say they were going to do a C-section. My son was healthy, though early and spent weeks in the hospital, but he’s been fine ever since and is the sweetest, smiliest, cuddliest baby ever.

At Christmas, my mom’s brother’s wife found a Christmas card my mom had written her 43 years ago. (My aunt had made gift tags out of old Christmas cards, and when she pulled this particular one out, something told her to flip it over.)There was a note from my mom written to my aunt, but applying to present day. Saying she missed seeing us, she was very happy, and other things. That’s what got me through the holidays, being reminded she was still around.

Other things have happened in the past year: finding pennies at specific times; my mother-in-law finding a handwritten card in her house from my mom that none of us put there; my dad finding a handwritten note from my mom in a secret hiding place (that had been previously empty); my daughter seeing her in our house and mentioning her often (she was only 2.5 when my mom died, but she still remembers her and speaks her name a lot); my niece finding a Coca Cola with the “Share a Coke with Patricia” on the side (my mom’s favorite drink and her name); my husband hearing “What a Wonderful World” on the radio each time he got in the car the day after she passed (one of their favorite songs together).

I always thought there might be some sort of afterlife, but this past year has truly solidified my belief. I know my mom is still around and still letting us know she loves us. I am so thankful for these little touches she gives us, because I miss her so much it hurts, but I think if you’re open to these connections from deceased loved ones, it helps to ease the pain a little bit.

Family Credits Departed Son As Christmas Tree ‘Dances,’ Lost Glove Reappears

An email from Sheilah Ream of Pennsylvania:

I lost my son, Samuel on Nov. 23, 2014. He died unexpectedly, in his sleep. He was 36 years old and adored by his family and friends. Our family of four sons, my husband and I are extremely close.

Three weeks after he died my husband was home alone. He was looking at the Christmas tree and an ornament that Sam had made as a child with a smiling photo of him, thinking of how happy he looked, when the top half of the 8-foot tree began to bend, move and shake as if it was dancing! He watched for a while and left and returned two more times, and each time the tree danced for him.

That same month my husband lost a leather work glove outside, no sign of it after much searching. On Sam’s birthday in January, the glove turned up on the floor in the middle of a room.

Some of his close friends and his brother had “dreams” of seeing and hugging him, talking to him and then waking up and still feeling the hug he had given them.

We visited Northern California in August 2015 to spread his ashes in the Redwood forests and Pacific Ocean, where he always wanted to visit. After spreading his ashes in the ocean on a huge deserted beach, totally devoid of stones, shells etc., I looked down to find an inch-wide pure white stone in the perfect shape of a heart. I know he left it there for me. These are a few of the signs that my Sammy sent us. They comfort me, and I have totally believed that our love is a connection that will remain forever. I have felt that your book was an affirmation of what I and my family have experienced and are very glad you wrote it. Many thanks.

“More Than Human” Documentary Raises Many Questions

Actor Paul Giamatti narrates and directs this 2015 episode of National Geographic’s Breakthrough series about how science and computers can augment and replicate and change our experiences as human. This fascinating two-hour show will leave you questioning what consciousness really is and how much we may one day actually control our human experience – and whether we need our bodies to have those human experiences.


Sister’s Christian Faith Strengthened by Brother’s Messages

Email from Scarlett Meadows of Nashville, Tenn.:

My brother died of a massive heart attack at age 42, the day before his 43rd birthday. He and our mother shared a love of football. Green Bay football, to be exact. A couple of weeks after his death in 2011, Green Bay went to the Super Bowl. The first player to score, was Nelson (Jordy Nelson of Green Bay). The very next score of the game was Collins (Nick Collins of Green Bay). My brother’s name……Nelson Collins.

Also, my mother, after the funeral, was sitting in Nelson’s childhood room (which he had spent a week in visiting about 1.5 weeks earlier), when she smelled tobacco smoke. Nelson smoked quite a bit. She had an overwhelming sense of his fear — that he didn’t know what was happening. She told him (through her tears) to “go with the Angels, it is okay to go.” The smell left, and the sense of fear.

I am reading your book and really enjoying it. We have a strong Christian faith. I faltered in my faith and even a cancer diagnosis of my own did not strengthen it. But when my brother died suddenly I had overwhelming joy and renewed belief in Heaven and God’s grace for His own. I do not believe that everyone has a “peaceful” afterlife, but those with faith do. My brother was not a church-goer. He was a believer. And he is with Jesus. Thank you for your book!

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 www.brainvoyage.com.

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 TheHandontheMirror.org in the weeks and months after the conference.