Now that computers are replicating and recapitulating the functions of thought, we are faced with the questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the human brain for?
The latter may sound like an absurd question to most people. The brain is for what we use it for—to survive, have relationships, build things and participate in society.
But what will become of the human being and the human brain when computers and robots can do most of the work, and more and more people are rendered unnecessary to keep society going?
What happens when virtual reality is able to replicate human experience to such a degree of verisimilitude that most people would gladly rather live in fabricated worlds rather than the real one?
What happens when technology makes science fiction social reality, and you don’t know whether you’re talking to a flesh and blood person or the simulacrum of a human being?
These things are just around the corner. So it’s fitting, proper and urgently necessary to ask: What is the human brain for?
When computers and robots can do nearly everything as well or better than humans can, there is one thing they will never be able to do: They will never have awareness and insight. A perception of beauty that is programmed is not beauty; an insight that is the mere connection of facts, information and knowledge is not insight.
Beyond this, there’s a capacity of the healthy human brain that only the human being possesses—the capacity for awe, wonder and the feeling of mystery. There’s also the potential for the human brain to be a vehicle for an intrinsic intelligence within and beyond the universe.
Many people are trying to convince you that the brain generates everything, but that’s a lie. The brain that’s deeply aware and quiet can experience actualities beyond what any brain is capable of generating, imagining or fabricating. Indeed, the numinous is not a matter of experience at all, which is always of the past, but of experiencing, which is always of the present.
When the mind-as-thought spontaneously falls deeply quiet in undirected attention to the movement of thought/emotion, the brain is a receiver for the background music of the universe. It doesn’t literally hear music of course, since there is no actual sound to inviolable wholeness, but it does pulsate in harmony with it and participate in the ongoing symphony of creation.
What is the practical value of such experiencing? None whatsoever. Yet without experiencing mystery, wholeness and the numinous, life becomes what it has generally become in North America—meaningless, vacuous, flat and empty.
Why are the criteria of practicality the highest measure of value anyway? Americans are the most practical people on earth, and do everything with great efficiency and utility. Yet we have produced a culture of immeasurable suffering, superficiality and ennui.
Consider this sentence: “The brain had lost all its responses; it was only an instrument of observation, it was seeing, not as a brain belonging to a particular person, but as a brain which is not conditioned by time-space, as the essence of all brains.”
I’ve found to have an intimation of what this religious teacher is talking about one has to attentively let go of every thought and feeling as they arise, allowing an unwilled movement of negation to begin.
It’s often said, ‘I am my memories.’ But why are our memories so important, when they are actually nothing but dead things, which computers have? The brain is conditioned to fear letting go of psychological thought, which is the ‘me’ and all the detritus the orbits around it.
Meditation is essentially the passive but intense observation of what is actually happening outside and inside oneself in this moment. The observing brain does not presuppose an observer in the brain. The observer is an illusion, a trick of the mind. There can and must be observing without the observer.
In true meditation one does not choose, decide, analyze or compare. All theses things are the actions and confusions of the observer. By simply watching, letting awareness grow quicker than the judging and choosing reactions of the illusory watcher, the watcher ends, and meditation begins. Try it, play with it, experiment with it.
When negation in meditation spontaneously begins flowing during passive observation, thought and time end within one. Even if this phenomenon occurs for only a few moments, it brings deep renewal.
When undirected attention is sustained, the brain is immersed in deathless death, the perpetual source of ongoing creation.
When death without dying and dying without death are the wellspring of one’s life, one drinks daily from the fountain of youth. One’s body ages, but the mind, heart and brain remain young.
A computer will never know death. And so no computer can ever know life. Only the human being and human brain has that capacity, and the infinite potential that goes with it.