Many of you who know me know that I have had a long time interest in non-ordinary, paranormal phenomena which I have documented in my book Miracles and Other Realities. I would like to begin by discussing a very special type of brain. These brains are very special in that they can detect the minutest change in light, sound, smell and touch, delicately and accurately integrate the actions of many muscles and regulate the functions of the body’s many organs for optimal conditions of life. They can learn from experience and they can communicate with each other through simple language. They are very sensitive to electrical and magnetic fields and ultra-violet light, they can analyze the polarization of sunlight for finding direction, keep constant track of time through the night, create complex social structures with elaborate signal systems. Imagine all of that contained in a brain the size of a grain of salt. It is found inside a bee’s head.
So what can we expect from our brains which are ten million times larger; have many billions more cells and are much more complex? So what limits our potential? I think that much of the limitation comes from the cultural trance that many of us are so immersed in. Our culture determines our beliefs and our beliefs will determine the kind of reality that we create. The best example of a cultural trance occurred over four hundred years ago when Megellan and his men were circumnavigating the globe and they stopped for supplies in Tierra del Fuego. The Fuegan’s were a canoe culture; they had never, ever seen ships or sails before. When Magellan came ashore the natives thought that he had come down from the sky because they literally could not see his ships, masts or sails. When he came ashore they ran up, prostrated themselves and said that they worshipped him thinking he and his men were gods as they had come from the sky. Magellan said that they arrived from the anchored ships in the bay. Although the Fuegan’s looked and looked, for them the horizon was unbroken. They literally could not see the ships. This is all in Magellan’s diaries which make fascinating reading. So what did they do? They brought over the village shaman to see if he could see the ships. The shaman was used to going in and out of other realities fairly easily. The shaman squinted his eyes, turned his head, squinted – yet he could not see a thing. Finally, in frustration Magellan told them to get in their longboats so they could be taken out to the ships to be shown where they had come from and he could get on with stocking his supplies. When the Fuegan’s finally came in contact with the ships, the cultural trance was broken. How many of us have “ships and sails” on our intellectual horizons that we cannot see because of our belief systems?
This brings the question as to what is the most powerful state of consciousness. Is it hypnosis? Meditation? No, it is an open mind. I think that the open mind is the most powerful state of consciousness known to human kind. This is why I like to consider myself as a recovering psychologist. More often than not I work from a performance model or helping people create a future rather than fix the past. Although there are some persons who you must help fix the past before you can create the future.
Marion Diamond, a neuroanatomist at the University of California at Berkeley, has been conducting a very interesting study. She has been interested in observing whether environmental stimulation can change or influence the wiring of the brain. What she has done with white rats is to take a sample cortex through a hole in the skull and come up with a baseline count of glial cells. We have two types of brain cells: neurons and glial. We are born with approximately ten billion neuron cells. However, there are 100 million glial cells and for a long time, no one really knew what glial cells did. The word comes from the Greek word meaning glue and the old anatomists thought they were more like packaging material. Glial cells are like miniature transistors, miniature liquid crystals. They give off faint signals although orthopedic surgeon, Robert Becker, has been saying for a long time that they are another direct current communication system within the body in which rapid communication can take place. What Marion Diamond did, was after taking a sample of glial cells form white rats and establishing a baseline, she would put them into an environmentally enriched setting for 91 days. 91 days later they would take another sample of cortex and found a 27% increase above the original baseline of glial cells. She put the same animals into an environmentally barren setting, four walls, pellets and only water for 91 days and took another sample of cortex cells. Not only did they lose the 27% they had gained above the baseline, but they ended up with 29% fewer glial cells than they had started with. This whole story of use it or lose it certainly applies to brain function. I like to think of the human condition analogous to a very expensive German radio, the type with about nine bands and each band has forty-three frequencies. You can access information from all over the world. But most of us leave our tuner on a middle of the road AM station with a numbing series of commercials. After a while you end up going to “sleep”. This goes back to the whole concept that we are living in a narrower and narrower band of consciousness and thus the cultural trance.
So what about human potential? Let’s begin with the rat. Neil Miller, a psychologist at Rockefeller University would reward his animals with a slight electrical shock to the pleasure centres in the hypothalamus rather than food or drink. In order to obtain this buzz, this high, the rats were very willing and quite able to produce extra urine on demand. They were able to control the circulation of blood in the stomach wall. They were able to direct warmth to one ear and then to the other. In one extraordinary experiment the rats learned to control the firing of a single neuron. As Dr. Miller wryly observes, humans are as smart as rats but this has not been completely proven as of yet.
Let’s begin by looking at the perennial puzzle of untapped potentials. In order to do so we must begin by changing our filters, our beliefs, our way of looking at the world. I am convinced, as many of you are, that there is a cycle of change happening, a new heresy in our world. The scientific revolution began as a heretical thought – reality is not what the spiritual authorities were teaching. Unfortunately this lead science towards scientific reductionism, scientism, and what I call an old breed of scientific fundamentalism. Recently a new heresy has emerged. Reality is not what the secular and scientific authorities have been teaching us and reductionism must make way for meaning and purpose. When world views no longer give meaning to life, this leads to disorientation and compromising stories begin affecting many of us. People who begin feeling disoriented feel a lack of connection between events in their life. People feel powerless to bring about change in the world and this is usually accompanied by a trivializing of the self with the emphasis upon the senses alone and the relative unimportance of consciousness. Reductionist mechanistic models of the world try to explain everything in terms of chance, and random selection thus squeezing meaning and purpose out of our reality. I think that science has to rediscover its role as a myth making endeavor to help deepen our sense of awe and wonder at the universe which is really how it all started.
But how do we do this? I think that one of the best ways is to look at myth. One of the most popular programs in recent history on Knowledge Network was when Joseph Campbell was interviewed by Bill Moyer. Thirty-seven million people watched that night. Is there something that is yearning in the marrow of our beings that wants to reconnect with myth? But what are myths? Images of mythology are symbolic of the spiritual powers within us. They are the coded DNA of our psyche; myths deepen the connection between our mind, body and spirit and help us sense what is possible. I think they are the illumination that allows us to take the next step in the evolution of our psyche. Myths are about connection with our future potentials, about healing and about making us whole. In a sense we are all wounded as individuals and, of course, our earth is very wounded and suffering deeply. Mythical stories are about wounding, transformation and transmutation, breakdown and then break through. For example – Dionysius being childish and attracting enemies to conquer; Persephone being married off to darkness; Oedipus killing whoever got too close; Prometheus having his liver gnawed by vultures and then bringing fire to earth; Job’s travails and all his struggles, and the Virgin Birth which I think refers to the birth of a spiritual life in the human animal. All these stories are fermenting in our souls from which we can take courage for personal change and transformation.
We have all heard the New Age adage that we only use 10% of our mind which incidentally came originally, I think, from Williams James. I disagree with that completely. I think that we use 100% of our mind all the time but we are only aware of 10%. Buddha, when he was approached by a devotee and asked if he was a god, replied that he was not. Asked again if he was an angel and he said he was not. So when asked “What are you?” he replied “I am awake”. I think that exemplifies the idea that Buddha was straddling a number of octaves of consciousness simultaneously and that he could move within these octaves of consciousness and access or potentiate different kinds of potential as I believe that each octave of consciousness does have different kinds of potential that can be brought forth, be it a healing potential or some of the potentials of the mind such as psychokinesis and clairvoyance. As we awaken like the Buddha, we open octaves of consciousness and greater dimensions within our being and we can really discover what it means to be human and what is humanly possible. As we awaken our potential we replace old, blurred lenses with new lenses, develop new beliefs which create new expectations and of course, mobilize our energies in ways that we can never imagine.
Lee Pulos, Ph.D. ABPP