Getting the mind to understand how other things work isn’t so difficult, but the mind understanding how it works, itself, presents a whole different set of problems to scientists. What we do know with the help of modern science, is that the brain creates a self-referential loop to understand itself. This fact has far reaching implications.
If we were to look at the brain like a giant computer, we’d see that its computational skills are fabulous, but that it presents the same challenge as in advanced mathematics.
As the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel proved eight decades ago, no law governing all math can reduce it down to a self-referential set of axiomatic truth; any system as complicated as arithmetic contains true statements that cannot be proved within the system. The brain is the same. The question for some philosophers is this: Does the brain lack a way to understand itself completely because consciousness exists outside of the brain?
We cannot even define what a mind is. René Descartes, the 17-th century French philosopher struggled with this question, the same as we do today. We identify the min with the brain but quantum physics tells us that mind or consciousness isn’t relegated to the grey matter between our ears. This is the mechanistic viewpoint which we’ve struggled to overcome ever since Descartes first asked what consciousness was.
Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human defines consciousness or mind as,
“the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.”
In plain English, this means that the mind – non-local as it is – is not simply our perceptions of our experiences but the experiences themselves.
Quantum physicists will tell us that we cannot observe the brain in entirety because any time we observe what is happening to us, we change the outcome of reality.
Douglas Hofstadter explains this strangeness in yet a different way, from the viewpoint of a computer scientist.
A statement can itself be represented by a number. So you can take the number describing a formula and insert that number into the formula, which then becomes a statement about itself.
Such a self-referential phenomenon introduces a certain “loopiness” into mathematics, Hofstadter notes, something like the famous Escher print of a right hand drawing a left hand, which in turn is drawing the right hand. This “strange loopiness” suggested to Hofstadter that something similar is going on in human thought.
We can’t draw the hand without being the hand. Only we do this with an infinite number of stimulus created by and perceived by the brain.
To wit, floods of raw sensory data trigger perceptions that fall into categories designated by “symbols that stand for abstract regularities in the world,” Hofstadter asserts.
The human brain creates an incredible repertoires of these symbols, conferring the “power to represent phenomena of unlimited complexity and thus to twist back and to engulf themselves via a strange loop.”
This is why the sensory data we put into the brain is creating our experience, and it the infinite, quantum level, where time and space do not exist, we are both the creator and the experiencer of our realities.
This also means that our minds extend beyond our physical selves in order to “create” what we experience. Consciousness therefore is a non-linear, adaptive, coherent, highly complex “loop” of experience that we participate in every millisecond.
Instead of feeling isolated and disconnected from one another, we are infinitely attached by this quantum, non-local consciousness. There is literally no way to be “alone.”
So, the next time you’re feeling a little “loopy,” you’ll know it’s just consciousness doing its thing.