In this edition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott, author of the book, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind, which she describes as both a scientist’s memoir and a research survey on human consciousness. Dr. Woollacott was a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon for more than three decades and a meditator for almost four. She also has a master’s degree in Asian studies.  Her master’s thesis was the foundation for her book. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and includes both research in neuroscience and testing the efficacy of alternative forms of therapy such as tai chi and meditation for improving both attention and balance in adults.

Infinite Awareness The Awakening of a Scientific Mind Marjorie Hines Woollacott Pim van Lommel 9781538110195 Amazon com Books

Get the book at Amazon.

We had a great conversation about her studies and experiences around consciousness, meditation, and event psi phenomena. Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott.

Questions we discussed:

  1. Let’s start off with your story: your meditation workshop, the Swami, and how it all played with your being a Neuroscientist.
  2. After that experience, you spent time observing your own mind during meditation. What were you able to observe? What did you learn from that?
  3. You mention that mantras help to quiet the mind, letting thoughts go, even opens the filters to the non-local consciousness.
    1. First, What is non-local awareness or consciousness?
    2. How does this relate to paranormal experiences like NDEs?
      1. I’m guessing your top-down view of consciousness would mean that consciousness is already out-of-body and these observations are merely new perspectives, filtered down into the mind?
      2. Is there a link between paranormal experience and meditation? I’m curious about meditation being a window into consciousness, into my own consciousness, into the non-local consciousness. Is it? Can we exercise, modify, improve our mind/consciousness through meditation?
      3. Is there a connection to Robin Cahart-Harris’ (et al) study of psychedelics using fMRI imaging that showed these hallucinogens actually slow down parts of the brain, actually freeing consciousness from the brain’s own filters? If so, how does that play into the top-down architecture of consciousness?
  4. So, what is your notion of consciousness, how do you define or describe it? [the melding together of ‘Western science’ and ‘Hindu teachings’ on consciousness — how did you reconcile those two?]
    1. You mention that, ‘All this is consciousness’ — can you expand on that?
    2. How does it emerge in an individual, conscious being?
    3. What about the ‘ego’? Thoughts on that? ‘Self’ is an illusion?
  5. You’re a panpsychist? What does panpsychism mean to you — I hear a few different definitions.
    1. You’re also an idealist, believing that the mind creates reality? 
  6. You describe how our nervous system filters all the input it receives, that it must do this. The brain also filters a greater consciousness, non-local awareness (infinite awareness)? Can you expand on that?
    1. Can we access this non-local awareness?
      1. How does the brain filter this?
      2. What’s available to us if we don’t filter it? Can we turn the filter off?
      3. Aldous Huxley’s, “Doors of Perception” — the mind filters the greater consciousness and is opened by psychedelics/mescaline. Any thoughts on that? [turns out he might’ve been wrong, according to Carhart-Harris’ findings.]
  7. [given top-down design model] Does consciousness survive death? Does it change form, or does it persist?
  8. What do you think about how neuroscience is taught in our universities? Have you seen an evolution of these studies and teaching in the universities as a result of your experiences and those of others? (DOPS)
  9. In your own studies and in the study of consciousness/awareness/meditation, what about future discoveries or advances excites you?
  10. What else will you be working on?
  11. Anything else you’d like to share? Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences: https://www.aapsglobal.com/

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Michael Nahm, and the topic was Terminal Lucidity, a term he coined. Terminal Lucidity has implications in end-of-life experience, Near Death Experience, and provides insight into human consciousness. Dr. Nahm is a Biologist and studied Zoology, Botanics, Genetics, and Palaeontology. Learn more about his thoughts, ideas, and studies at www.michaelnahm.com.

Please enjoy this edition of The Consciousness Podcast with Dr. Michael Nahm. And listen past the end for a ‘far out’ discussion on psychedelics and Terminal Lucidity.

  1. Questions:
    The topic today is a term you coined, Terminal Lucidity. Can you tell us what that is and why you’re drawn to it?

    1. For those who have not observed or studied Terminal Lucidity, what is that experience like for the patient and for the family or friends who are there for that moment?
      1. How common, statistically, is Terminal Lucidity? Some hospice care nurses even tell families to expect it. Is what they describe different from actual ‘Terminal Lucidity’ due to the non-impairment of those patients’ brains?
        1. In terms of doing studies, is it common enough that using cameras, EEGs or MRIs could provide some insight? It’s probably not that simple. This is very difficult to study, isn’t it
      2. This has been observed even in patients with meningitis, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease or strokes. Can you tell us more about that? I find that interesting, given the physical damage that has occurred to those brains.
      3. Is there a correlation to the affected areas of the brain (temporal lobe in Alzheimer’s, other sections in brain tumors) even neuronal damage and this lucidity? If so, where do you think this moment of clarity originates?
    2. How have your studies of Terminal Lucidity affected your idea of the nature of the mind, consciousness overall?
    3. You mention that the mind, even memories, is not generated by the brain, “that the brain functions as a kind of filter or transmitter organ.” This gets right at the hard problem of consciousness. What are your thoughts, observations, hypotheses on what’s going on there with the mind/brain? How do you see the brain as this ‘filter’ or ‘transmitter organ’?
    4. I’m curious about the mind/brain ‘hard problem’ in many of these cases but especially of the 91-year-old stroke victim. The mind/brain problem seems to be mostly concerned with how, or even does, the brain create the mind or allow the mind to connect to the body. In this case, it almost appears as though her mind was able to overcome physical, neuronal blocks (a stroke) to facilitate muscle movement and speech that were physically impossible, or at least no longer controlled by her nervous system. Can you expand on that? Am I getting that right? How could that be possible?
    5. You have collaborated with NDE experts like Drs. Greyson and Kelly and their colleagues at UVA. How does Terminal Lucidity tie into the NDE experience? [timing, before death] Deathbed visions.
      1. What is your opinion on survival of the mind/consciousness after death?
    6. There’s a time element to the cases of Terminal Lucidity, from a couple weeks to minutes before death. Sorry if I’m going way out there, but…[what is time to a dying mind, what is time to consciousness]…is it possible that somebody with a normal/healthy brain/mind, who dies a sudden death, like from an accident or an aneurism or a massive heart attack, might also have his/her own Terminally Lucid experience (clarity)?
    7. Where do you see further study of Terminal Lucidity taking you, what are the long-term possibilities with your studies? Terminal Lucidity scale.
      1. Do you think there’s a possibility of holding a person in this state once it presents itself? [psilocybin/lsd]
      2. …in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients?
      3. …in helping families, doctors and families during those last moments?
    8. Is there anything else you’d like to share? Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to discuss?

Far Out Question: Psilocybin reconnecting the networks; can that happen with a released chemical in the brain connected to the knowledge of pending death? Goes around damaged areas of the brain?

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. George Mashour. Dr. Mashour is an anesthesiologist and neuroscientist who is internationally recognized for his study of consciousness. He approaches the question of consciousness using computational models, experimental models, translational studies in healthy volunteers, and clinical research in surgical patients.He thinks a lot about the universe and how it came to be, about the brain, how it produces consciousness and how the sentient mind emerges from the physical brain. We covered those topics and more, so please enjoy my conversation with Dr. Mashour.

  1. How did you come to study consciousness? Is that a natural part of being an anesthesiologist? Is it part of understanding what your patients are experiencing?
  2. How do you define consciousness? What is consciousness?
  3. You mention anesthesiology with ‘other states of consciousness.’ What are those states and what have you learned about them from your work?
  4. What is ‘cognitive binding’, and the binding problem?
  5. How is it a crucial event for consciousness itself?
  6. I see you mentioned this binding to altered states of consciousness. Are those the states you mentioned above?
  7. How do anesthetics play into these bindings? Is the administering of anesthetics ‘cognitive UNbinding’?
  8. What else, if anything, can cause this ‘unbinding’ and create similar effects on consciousness?
  9. Simultaneity, what is it, can you explain that real quick? How does simultaneity (temporal binding) play into this, relative to consciousness?
  10. Have you observed the actual emergence of consciousness, as one moves from unconscious to consciousness under anesthesica and vice versa? Does that provide any insight into what might be the initial emergence of consciousness in a maturing human (animal), or even that within a species?
  11. Can one measure consciousness, especially as it relates to anesthetics administered to a patient?
  12. Does your work, your study relate, or even help answer, the ‘hard problem of consciousness’?
  13. How does your work incorporate the philosophy of Kant?
  14. What does the brain know or not know at different levels of consciousness?
  15. I saw in your video from The Science of Consciousness event, that you mention ego dissolution with Ketamine. What does that mean to you, in terms of ‘ego’, consciousness, and the dissolution of the ego? What happens during ego dissolution?
  16. What lessons can we take from your studies? How do you think we’ll see consciousness differently from our current view? Do you think there will be a way that we can use your this knowledge to affect our own consciousness, to exercise it, to expand it, to connect it to others’? Do you see any SciFi in your work?
  17. Is there anything else that you would like to share regarding your studies?

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Edward Kelly, and our topic was Survival of Consciousness after death. It was a great conversation, one which has stayed with me and has me contemplating everything from cosmic consciousness to quantum field theory to heaven and souls. Ed is currently a Professor in the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in psycholinguistics and cognitive science from Harvard, and spent the next 15-plus years working mainly in parapsychology, initially at J. B. Rhine’s Institute for Parapsychology, then for ten
years through the Department of Electrical Engineering at Duke and finally through a private research institute in Chapel Hill. You may be familiar with his books, Irreducible Mind and Beyond Physicalism. He has now returned to his central long-term research interest – the application of modern functional neuroimaging methods to intensive psychophysiological studies of psi and altered states of consciousness.

We discussed:

  1. What exactly is psi, especially as it relates to your experiments and studies?
  2. What is materialism?
    1. Why is a discussion of materialism important regarding consciousness?
      You started off as a materialist. What was the central ‘discovery’ that moved you, or convinced you otherwise? Examples from Irreducible Mind (Amazon)
    2. Would you like to share some of the examples from Irreducible Mind that show that physicalism is false?
  3. Psi phenomena are real (“take it to the bank”). What are some examples of psi-phenomena?
  4. Does a crisis apparition have consciousness? Does the apparition’s original, material body’s consciousness survive in this apparition?
  5. A discussion of near-death experiences (NDE) and how they relate to consciousness. What are your thoughts as to what’s going on with a person’s consciousness during an NDE?
    1. You mention that there are physical requirements in the brain, according to neuroscientists, for consciousness to exist. But, with an NDE, those requirements are not there. Can you expand a little on consciousness and the NDE?
  6. How do you define ‘self’? Is there such a thing in your view?
  7. You mention Mrs. Piper and mediums and how they can connect with the deceased. How do you think that happens? There is so much there, in the context of consciousness. The deceased person’s consciousness persists, and is accessible somehow, somewhere. The medium is able to connect, even communicate with this consciousness. Can you share your thoughts on this process and how it happens?
  8. So, you mention that a picture is coming together of how the mind and brain work together. I guess, obviously, you believe in the duality of mind/brain. Would you mind giving us your description or definition of this duality? The mind is a ‘larger something.’ What is that something?
  9. The brain anchors this consciousness. Aldous Huxley says it also filters a common, universal knowledge and memory (my interpretation). Any thoughts on that, the brain as a filter or portal into a ‘cosmic consciousness’?
  10. Beyond Physicalism (Amazon): Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality. To paraphrase: we are connected to something bigger that is expressing itself through our [consciousness] evolution. Can you speak to that a little bit?
  11. You mention that we’re approaching a major inflection point in our intellectual (growth) history. What kind of leap are you predicting/envisioning? How is this tied to our consciousness?
    How does DOPS play into that?