Mind & its potential: The Scientific Frontier of the Inner Spirit
As we enter the twenty-first century and look back on the past four hundred years of scientific progress, can we fail to be impressed by the frontiers of knowledge that have been opened to human inquiry? The physical sciences have illuminated the realm of the extremely minute – the inner core of the atomic nucleus; events in the distant past – the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang; and phenomena on the far side of the Universe – the constitution of galactic clusters billions of light-years away. At the same time, the biological sciences have made great discoveries concerning the evolution of life, mapped the human genome, and revealed many of the inner workings of the brain.
But in the midst of such extraordinary knowledge of the objective world, the subjective realm of consciousness remains largely an enigma. While neuroscience searches for correlates between the functions of the human brain and the depths of the human spirit, the actual nature of the mind/body correlation is still a matter of philosophical conjecture: No hard scientific evidence explains how the mind is related to the brain. There is no scientific consensus concerning the definition of “consciousness,” and there are no objective, scientific means of detecting the presence or absence of consciousness in anything – mineral, plant, animal, or human. In short, scientists have not yet fathomed the nature of consciousness, its origins, or its role in Nature.
How is it possible that something so central to scientific inquiry – human consciousness – remains so elusive? Is it because it is inherently mysterious or even impenetrable to scientific inquiry? Or have scientists simply failed thus far to devise appropriate methods for exploring the frontiers of the inner spirit? To seek an answer to this question, let us review the ways in which scientists have successfully explored other realms of the natural world.
Looking first to the physical sciences, astronomy began to move beyond its medieval heritage when researchers such as Tycho Brahe devised instruments for making unprecedentedly accurate measurements of the relative movements of the planets. Whereas previous generations of astrologers were content to focus primarily on the alleged correlations between the movements of celestial bodies and terrestrial events, Brahe made careful observations of the planets themselves, albeit with the intention to improve the precision of astrological predictions. Similarly, Galileo made precise observations of falling bodies and other terrestrial and celestial phenomena. In short, careful observations of these natural phenomena themselves were the necessary basis for the subsequent explanation of why these physical phenomena act as they do…