State of scientific research into meditation & consciousness

Scientific challenges to the beliefs promoted by the Brahma Kumaris so called "World Spiritual University"
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State of scientific research into meditation & consciousness

Post15 Jul 2019

From: The Science of Meditation: A Conversation, Sam Harris speaking with Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson.

The authors have done both science on the subject and an meta-analysis of other works. Interesting to note they mention the existence of about 6,000 papers on the topic of which 60 they consider stand out.
In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson about the current scientific understanding of meditation practice.

They speak about;
    the original stigma associated with meditation,
    the history of introspection in eastern and Western cultures,
    the recent collaboration between Buddhism and Western science,
    the difference between altered states and altered traits, an alternate conception of mental health,
    “meta-awareness,”
    the relationship between mindfulness and “flow,”
    the difference between pain and suffering, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and other topics.

Goleman and Davidson have just published Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.

Daniel Goleman is well known for the book 'Emotional Intelligence', written in 1995.

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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post17 Jul 2019

Ex-I,

I smile when I read your post and have flash-backs about the case study conducted on Janki at University of Texas Health Sciences Center (UTHSC) San Antonio in the late summer of 1978 and the case series conducted in San Fran in the late 70s and early 80s on BK raj Yoga. In those days there was a strong equal and opposite stigma by BKism against any meditation research on raj Yoga.

For more than a decade or less my focus as a bench investigator has been in the psychophysiology and biophysics of meditation. I have found the studies of Bashin et al. (2013) at Harvard to be fascinating. The Harvard investigators have demonstrated that meditation techniques can influence DNA transcription and translation.

In 1993, I could have been awarded an NIH grant to study meditation in non-mammalian animals, but the US NIH was not ready for such ideas and non-invasive electrophysiological recording of data with micro-probes was on the horizon.

Only since leaving BKism have I been able to conduct laboratory investigations on meditation.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post18 Jul 2019

When we speak of altered states of consciousness, we have to include the pioneering studies of John Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health and Elmer Green. Green's studies of yogis using electrophysiological measurements must have inspired Benson to investigate a variety of meditation techniques at Harvard. To appreciate the depth and vastness of Lilly's studies we have to attend any of the Float Conferences in the USA, international events.

In the 1960s and 1980s even Hollywood recognized Dr. Lilly's research with dolphins and his work with the sensory deprivation tank now called the float tank. The two movies fictionalizing John Lilly were the Day of the Dolphin with George C. Scott and Altered States with William Hurt.

A veterinarian and BK who was completing his internship to specialize in aquatic veterinary medicine was the link connecting the BKs with the domain of John Lilly and meditation research. It happened at a BK meditation retreat in Tampa towards the end of 1984 or early 1985.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post18 Jul 2019

I have not taken time to listen to all of the audio yet but rate of expansion in studies and papers jumped out at me. When we were BKs, there'd literally be just a handful of them and they were definitely way out there in "crank science" territory. The other thing was a throwaway line about how not all monks etc actually practise meditation, how it takes a distinct kind of mind. And how now you have schools of secular, "scientific" mediation, eg mindfulness or spirituality without religion or religious framework to encourage them.

It's a wonder the BKs have not re-applied or even sponsored an official repeat study of Janki now that she is so near to perfection and her practise has deepened so much more, 40 years later (I am being sarcastic).
    Do you follow the science in this area?
    How would you summarise the findings?
    You mention modifying DNA, what does that mean practically?
Something that often comes up in the study of psychotherapies is that the modality does not matter. That is to say, it does not really matter which therapy theory you follow, they all have the same sort of effect, or non-effect.

Do we see variances in the effects of spiritual practises, eg Yoga meditations versus Buddhist meditations? Does BKism stand out above the others?

Sam Harris has been aligned with the "New Atheism" movementalong with intellectual luminaries like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, however, he has maintained a lifelong interest in meditational practises and spent time in India and Nepal and latterly studied Dzogchen.

His academic background is in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience.

His podcast interviews are unusually long for this day and age but would probably interest BK types looking for a bit of depth and intellectual stimulation.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post20 Jul 2019

Yes, I have been following the scientific investigations on meditation, even before I became a BK.

There is Dean Ornish, Herbert Benson, and Wallace, who split from Benson's team at Harvard and became president of Maharishi University. Benson was the investigator who discovered the relaxation response, the physiologic antagonist or opposite of the emergency response or flight or fight response. Benson has been the investigator who has been persistent and consistent in his use of the scientific methods to unravel meditation. His scientifically sound papers would be one or two per year. Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science would not have Benson present papers at its annual conference in the 1980s.

All forms of meditation elicit the relaxation response, including BK meditation. One day in the early fall of 1993, my fiancee came home and informed me that she spent the day attending the meditation workshop of Dr. Kabot Zen, a molecular biologist who became the authority on mindfulness.

There was also Dr. Brown, whose research was in biofeedback, a term coined by Elmer Green who was famous for his research with Swami Rama. My lady became a Zen practitioner, she was critical of the BKs. Benson trained many PhD and MDs. Dharma Singh Khalsa is authentic and so is Gary Null. There is also Depak Chopra, an internist whose explorations have meshed with the quantum physics of the mind pioneered by Hameroff and Penrose.

One ex-BK who was present at a meeting with the doctor who did the the EEG studies on Janki, told me that the Texas scientist attributed some of Janki's EEG out-puts to her senility.

The ability of meditation to modulate DNA transcription and translation in inflammatory by cell signal transduction is awesome. It means that meditation can influence protein synthesis and many essential physiological functions. There are many randomized control trials required to gaining deeper insights in the physiology and biophysics of meditation.

My good friend Errol after paying his dues in veterinary medicine and science, while gaining a solid background gained from post grad studies in pathology, toxicology, zoo-medicine, and bio-mimicry, he has set his sites on studying altered states in floaters.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post20 Jul 2019

What or where's the current state of art/argument with regards consciousness, or "soul", its creation or existence?

Or is it still a taboo area and a question of faith?

I always thought it was the weakest/most difficult argument science had, to theorise that consciousness somehow magically arises from meat, and that it fell back on an equivalently fundamentalistic faith based "no soul" position in opposition to religion.

These days, I have "no pony in the race". I won't and cannot know if there is a soul until I die. I doubt the vast majority of BKs are experiencing "soul consciousness", perhaps even anything. And I suspect what some do experience is just that ... an experience that they interpret in a way to suit the social dimensions of BKism in order to conform.

It seems that our species' priorities these days are all far more practical and immediate ... and that faith based position are one of the greatest obstacles we have to ovecome.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post20 Jul 2019

There is a new and emerging sub-discipline defined as lifestyle medicine and health in which spirituality and economic health are considered by academicians as parts of the spectrum of total health of an individual. There is now an effort by mainstream science to use quantum physics and medical imaging to understand the interactions of the soul or spirit with the neuroendocrine system of the bodies of humans and animals. A majority of the scientists conducting investigations in neuroquantology are European and Middle Eastern, including Iranian scientists.

Saybrook University in California has a critical mass of faculty and graduate students who have been pioneering research in many areas of psychology and the spirit, including studies in applied psychophysiology.

Studies on the near death experience and out of body experiences are now in the domain of mainstream academic research and has advanced far beyond the pioneering studies of Kubler-Ross and Moody. Some of the disciplines exploring the interaction of the soul with the body are neuroquantology, psychophysiology, psychoneuroimmunology, psychoneuropharmacology, and quantum physics.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post21 Jul 2019

Are these scientists who believe in "the soul", as the BKs present it, as a starting point?

You name check "quantum physics", but would an attempt to fit "the soul" into that framework not just be a further extension of materialism, rather than accepting to be some other kind of stuff all of its own?

As an aside, I wonder why Lekhraj Kirpalani never mentioned Jainism? He mentioned the Buddha, who was greatly inspired by Jainism, but not the source.

I only mention it because, while deny "god", it has a concept of conscious substance that passes through 8,400,000 birth-situations (said to be number of kinds of material bodies for soul), as they circle through Saṃsāra. Not infinite but co-extensive with body. Many of the basic arguments the BKs use relating the jiva are more likely derived from Jainism rather than orthodox Hinduism. In many ways, Jainism has a far more developed, albeit theoretical, concept of soul that BKism as it embraces all living things, at different levels of consciousness, right down to trees and plants.
Jains believe
    I. The soul exists forever.
    II. Each is always independent.
    III. The soul is responsible for what it does.
    IV. The soul experiences the experiences the consequences of its actions.
    V. The soul can become liberated from The Cycle of birth and death.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post21 Jul 2019

The scientists' beliefs in the soul differs from the systems of the BKs, that includes me. We use mathematics and other forms of abstract thinking to formulate hypotheses, which we test by experiments. The models we use to aid our hypothesis formulations are always changing, advancing because of the data generated from our experiments.

On the personal side, I still meditate and I fully understand that I am a soul in a physical body, who had many births in many cultures. In my personal situation I have used past life regression, dreams, visions from meditations or day dreams, and DNA family trees to understand my past. There are many cycles, but it is more like a spiral than cycles presented by the BKs and the BKs need to do much home work on the calendar dates and timings to correct their model of The Cycle.

Barbara Thiering's book: Jesus of the Apocalypse, the Life of Jesus After the Crucifixion, offer some insights into how and why the BK s will most likely have to change the dates and other variables on their cycle.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post21 Jul 2019

Hmmn, sounds like we are just as far from any scientific consensus on the stuff of "soul" as ever and belief in it amongst scientists is equivalent to scientists who are also Christians. It would be a step too far, would not it? It would mean the acceptance of the existence of some other kind of material yet unrecognised.

It appears to me that science is still suffering from the ruptures of the C19th, its battles with the orthodox churches and the defeat of rising tide of spiritualism. Groups like the BKs can concoct images like "the science of spirituality" without actually doing any and, especially, funding any - free from any academic criticism - because real science has already thrown the baby out with the bath water in that department. No soul.

Going back earlier, where does Cartesian dualism stand today?
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post22 Jul 2019

I am not a Christian, although I have great respect for Jesus Christ as one of the great Masters. We have made much progress in our quest to decipher consciousness. I, like Professor Dr. Michio Kaku, am a believer in a soul and my research use models of the soul to understand altered states of consciousness. The research I conduct today, along with my other heterodox colleagues, we could not perform them 3 decades ago.

We cannot declare that mainstream science has distanced itself from the soul when articles on animal telepathy experiments have been recently published in Nature and engineers are racing to develop devices, which will enable humans to communicate without cell phones by means of thoughts.

My BK Sisters and Brothers will say they had ideas about humans communicating by thoughts in the Golden Age. A BK scientist should by now have filed a patent for developing a device for communication by thoughts.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post23 Jul 2019

I've read up some of his and the critical views of Dr. Michio Kaku and the conclusion I've reached is that,
    a) in 'populist mode' (I appreciate Kaku is also a serious scientist), he's using terms such as God in merely a poetic manner, just as Einstein did, appealing to his audience (talking about quantum effects that I have zero understanding of), and

    b) the current consensus is still very clearly weighted in the 'no soul, no god', with a very few attempting to offer some other explanation for the related phenomenon.
My understanding of Einstein's comment is that he meant the god of [mathematical] order underlying the universe. Not the BK Baba whose grasp of basical arithmetic has found to be sorely lacking.

There also appears to be a fair amount of kick back or criticism of "New Atheism".
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post24 Jul 2019

Kaufman's published article is an essay in a peer reviewed journal. Dawkins declaration on God will not make me all of a sudden take more a thousand years of my spiritual experiences from dozens of incarnations and cast them into the sea, because he is an international authority and highly published scientists. One of the attributes of science is the rejection of authority; it is the rejection of the authority of those in science who hold on to theories and concepts, which are made obsolete by shifting paradigms.

One strong rejection of authority in the natural sciences is the movement of neuroquantology lead by scholars such as Sultan Tarlaci. Noetics with Edgar Mitchell is another challenge, supported by the military industrial complex. On one side of science are the loud mouthed atheists who can deny the existence of the soul by dismissing serious scholarship pertaining to experimental approaches to mind body interactions; then there is the faction who work in laboratories as secure as Area 51 and are investigating psychic phenomena and metaphysics.

The US military has used psychic espionage and actively study metaphysics, because the Russians and Chinese have made significant advances in metaphysics.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post24 Jul 2019

GuptaRati 6666 wrote:The US military has used psychic espionage and actively study metaphysics, because the Russians and Chinese have made significant advances in metaphysics.

While I accept that's true - however its successfulness and accuracy is unknown - it does not necessary lead to an scientific acceptance of the soul, God or gods and this is the point that I am seeing.

There may be a reluctant acceptance of some of those phenomenons but, generally, there appears to be a fall back to struggling to find other "rational" or materialistic explanations for them.

And, let's be honest, most professional scientists just don't have the time and funding to explore such issues and, I would guess, even pursuing funding for them would be damaging of their credibility and therefore of future funding.

The impression I get, which may be wrong, is that what research is done, or what opinion is voice, generally comes at or after the end of their careers once their pensions are safe!

There is, in the UK and internationally, a network called Scientific & Medical Network who have run "Mystics and Scientists" conferences since 1978. I went once but have no idea where their current 'state of art' is at.

You may be interested in their members' works. It appears that, like you, they are also "real scientists who also do mysticism".
ABOUT US

The Scientific & Medical Network is devoted to the emergence of a more enlightened world – a world in which the wisdom of spirituality and the thoughtfulness of philosophy balance the power of science and technology.


MYSTICS & SCIENTISTS 2019

The Mystics and Scientists conferences have been held every year since 1978 and are dedicated to understanding the complementary roles of scientific and mystical approaches to reality. Our topical theme this year is the relationship between technology, spirituality and well being.
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Re: State of scientific research into meditation & conscious

Post25 Jul 2019

The psychophysiologists, biofeed back, neuro-feed back investigators talk about the soul and God. It may be of interest to conduct a literature search or even conduct a meta-analysis of peer-reviewed articles about the soul and God in the natural and abstract sciences.

In the group of scientists who talk about soul and God in their investigations, I will include Winkleman, Null; Gary Null, scientists at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), and investigators who study flotation restrictive environmental therapy or FL-REST I remembered about 30 years of so ago being forsaken by one of my mentors because at that time my publications in the spiritual community far exceeded my peer reviewed publications in scientific medicine. At the time I was applying for a post doctoral fellowship to study in Europe. I did go to Europe and study and today I have witnessed my mentors prediction about the demise of holistic medicine and health being false. I discuss the soul and God in my research, but I am not under the influence of corporate-based science. In fact, one of my advanced degrees was funded by the United States Military Industrial Complex.

Thank for the link for the mystics and scientists. In my BK days, I heard of them.
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