Does Consciousness exist or have our brains tricked us?


Paul Bush, PhD computational neuroscience. Nonmaterialist.

Answered Mar 15, 2016


Find out for yourself. It’s not difficult, just takes persistence.

First: The theory that consciousness is an illusion comes from neuroscientists who have shown that the contents of consciousness are produced by the brain. Your thoughts are groups of brain cells firing. Everything you experience corresponds to the activity of one of these groups. However, no one can explain why you are aware of this activity. We can show that the concept of what “you” are is generated by the brain, so maybe the question is “why is there awareness?”. Still, no one has an explanation. The best that they can do is to say it must come from the processing of the brain. To perceive something, to be aware of it, the representation of that thing must be presented to, or have some form of interaction with, the representation of the self, “you”. In some unspecified way the combination of the object-representation and the self-representation generates awareness, or awareness is no more than this cognitive process, hence an illusion.

So is this true? Is awareness an epiphenomenon of cognition? Here’s the test:
Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Close you eyes if it doesn’t make you fall asleep. Then just watch what happens. Whatever you notice, ignore it. After a while the tumult of thoughts and sensations will begin to die down. You’ll probably have to try it more than once. Some people find that concentrating on their breath helps them ignore everything else.

Anyway, after a while thoughts and other mental activity will actually stop, at least for some time.  All the activity that scientists say “generates”, or is, awareness. Yet there you are, aware. More aware than normal, actually. Is it real? Is anything else real? Is it anything other than you?


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I am tall mountain, wide sea

ENERGÍA…………………………ENERGY – Prana

Yo soy montaña y soy mar.        I’m tall mountain, wide sea;
Soy del río la corriente,………   Of the river I’m the current,
soy el correr de la fuente,……   The flowing of all the springs
del raudo viento el bramar…… And of a gale I’m the howling.

Soy el mar embravecido……… The turbulent ocean too
y soy tormenta rugiente,……… And also the raging storm.
soy caudaloso torrente………    I am a torrent unwieldy
y fuerza del vendaval………….. And of wind the blowing force.

Torbellino, rayo, trueno,           Whirlwind, thunder, and bolt,
relámpago y terremoto,            Of fire the conflagration.
Lightning, earthquake – that am I;
La conflagración del fuego,
el ojo del huracán.                     The eye of the hurricane.

Yo soy del águila el vuelo,…… Of eagle I am the flight,
y del león el rugido,…………… And of a lion the roar;
de las estrellas el giro………… Of the starry sky the gyre
y brillo del disco solar………… And brightness of the solar orb.

Soy yo Mercurio y soy Marte; I am Mercury and Mars;
Dionisio, Apolo y Teseo;           Dionysius, Apollo, Theseus;
soy de Cupido el deseo.            Of Cupid the lusty love…
Yo soy eso y aún soy más.        I’m that and e’en more than that.



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Philosophy vs science

(From a discussion in Quora on science vs philosophy)

— Max Planck: “I had always looked upon the search for the absolute as the noblest and most worth while task of science.”


M – ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’… Objectivism in science was given up long ago (no doubt you know it, from what you are saying). I said previously that knowledge or truth is the relationship /’adequatio’ of ‘rei’ (subject matter) and/with the intellect. I still like that medieval definition of ‘truth’.

In advaita philosophy all truths, being merely conceptual, are relative (mithya) – all of them; they are not only falsifiable but sublatable or stultifiable. The only ‘thing’ that is unsublatable is experience of the transcendental ‘something’ (Consciousness, Atma… the name is not important – “sages call it by many names”), which is indescribable, the only reality there is, and which pervades everything (like the Tao in that other tradition). I happen to be interested in/attracted by this ‘thing’ and this way of thinking about it. The evidence? Purely subjective – in a metaphysical sense, different from the subjectivism of science referred to above). You can call it mysticism if you wish, but it is something more than that, and not just mental speculation… and I cannot provide any evidence for you.’

Y – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Yep, and what is the best way to find out what those things are?  Rational inquiry, or just making stuff up?  Personally I’ll stick with rational inquiry.

M – – ‘It cannot be found by searching, but only those who search may find it’ (Nicolas of Cusa). I am not particularly fond of entering into a (forced) marriage between science and philosophy or “spirituality”, so I don’t particularly recommend dipping into a site called ‘Non-duality North America’, or something like that – where a bunch of physicists and cosmologists have their say. Rationality? Why not say ‘(searching), unbiased Intelligence’? That includes the former.

P.S. I said that the evidence is ‘purely subjective’, and that is because there is only one ‘Subject’ – with no object/s. Consciousness reflects on itself, ‘knows’ itself. It cannot be said that Consciousness is aware of ‘anything’, or knows ‘anything’, but everything is known, etc. in its presence, as it were. There are no things; there is only Consciousness (I am no-thing).




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Is reality knowable? (From Quora)

“The affirmation that reality is not knowable is itself an assertion of knowledge about reality.” Does this sound like an example of the law of non-contradiction?

So this proves that reality is knowable? 

Tom McFarlane, degrees in philosophy, mathematics, and physics.

The assertion “this sentence is false” is self-contradictory. From that contradiction one cannot draw the conclusion that the sentence is in fact true. It is simply evidence of the fact that language can be used to construct self-contradictory statements.

Alberto Martin

Rather than self-contradictory, isn’t the quoted statement in the original question a case of second order language, that is, meta-language, as with so many paradoxes and apparent contradictions?


Hi Alberto. Are you suggesting that, because it involves meta-language, it thereby avoids contradiction?

AM. Yes, but rather than meta-language (my mistake) the quoted passage, seems to me, is an elliptical statement. To complete it one should add: ‘by the conceptual mind’, i.e., ‘not knowable by the conceptual mind’. Real (ultimate) Reality, being non-dual, cannot be known (as you well know) as a conjugation or conjunction of a subject and an object. But it can be ‘Known’ through a unitary vision – the visionary subject abating or subsiding as an individual by that very act. There is only one ‘Knower’ or Subject, and that is Reality Itself. ‘One without a second’.

“So this proves that reality is knowable?” (under the text in bold letters). Yes, with that proviso.


I think one would have to insert ‘by the conceptual mind’ in two places to make it explicit that it is referring to conceptual knowledge, not non-conceptual non-dual knowledge. Or is your point that two different kinds of knowledge are involved in the original statement? In any case, I still don’t see how it constitutes a proof in the logical sense.

AM Correct, thank you. There is a tendency nowadays in neo-advaita and other circles to put down the mind, let alone terms such as ‘intellectual’, ‘spiritual’, ‘metaphysical’ ‘mysticism’ (‘It’s just mind stuff’… only intellectual knowledge, or understanding’, etc.). ‘Experiential’, ‘experience’ alone are admitted in the vocabulary. I like, though, the expression ‘knowledge-experience’. All experience, and all understanding, go through the mind (formerly, sometimes, ‘the Heart’), but the latter can be transcended.


The irony is that putting down the thinking mind is itself a judgment of the thinking mind.

One way to view it, which I find quite useful, is that the thinking mind can help reveal its own limits, and that can clear the way to insight that transcends the thinking mind. The classic metaphor is the wooden stick used to help burn the fire, and, at the end, the stick itself is thrown in to the fire as well. The stick does not cause the burning, and it is ultimately itself burned, but that does not imply it is useless and should be tossed off into the bushes instead of skillfully used to facilitate the burning.

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Empirical science vs metaphysics or spirituality


Positivism vs. Spirituality

What are some really ‘deep’ thoughts?

. The truth is the whole (Hegel)

.Consciousness is the whole of reality (advaita).

. Causation, space, and time are unreal (advaita).

. The microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm – ‘As above so below’. Hermetism.

. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite (William Blake).

. The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it. (Jesus).

. People forget the reality of the illusory world. (Huang Po).

. There is neither birth nor dissolution; nor aspirant to liberation nor liberated nor anyone in bondage. That is the ultimate truth. (Gaudapada). Continue reading

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Siddharameshwar (teacher of Nisargadatta)

Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj (1888 – 1936)


Sri Siddharameshwar was the guru of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ranjit Maharaj – see the chart of the Navnath Sampradaya (also known as the Inchageri tradition). Philip Renard’s guru was Alexander Smit, one of Nisargadatta’s disciples. Philip travelled to India in 1989 to find out more about Siddharameshwar and his background. He wrote an article at the time (in Dutch), illustrated by numerous photographs. He has now translated this into English and you can read this here.

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Vision and conceptualization

“Anon.”: ‘The ideas or concepts of Advaita or any other school of thought/belief, etc., introduce duality into the mind…“It’s only the conceptualization of thought that prevents direct experience of what is.”’

M. That is, in my opinion, like putting the cart ahead of the horse. Thinking, or conceptualization for that matter, is a function of the mind, and mind is consubstantial with duality – it is there not to confound or mislead us, on the contrary, to address all issues and problems in the right manner, that is, intelligently. The individual mind is subservient to intelligence – which is transpersonal -, and intelligence (nous) is in turn subservient to vision or ‘apprehension’, intuition, ‘what is’ (pick your word) and unites with it. But vision or insight, which is wordless, as if coming from empty space, is ahead of or prior to the mind. The vision or intuition (not just intellectual but transcendental, transpersonal) is then invested with words and then we have the concepts and ‘explanations’ of that which, in itself, is unexplainable, unutterable. Continue reading

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