Mullah Nasruddin embodies the way of the wise fool to which one aspires with increasing maturity:
One day, people saw Mullah Nasruddin out in the street searching frantically for something. Curious, people from the town gathered around him.. “What are you searching for, Mullah,” they enquired?
“I’ve lost my key” replied Mullah.
So everyone joined him, trying to help him.
After a lengthy search someone had the urge to ask the exact place the key was lost. So, the question was put to Nasruddin.
“I lost the key in the house,” replied the Mullah, matter-of-factly.
“Then why are you searching for it in the street?”
“Because there is more light here.” replied the Mullah.
Like all parables, Nasruddin’s search for his lost key evokes explanation in the context of the dilemma in which it is being told. Our dilemma is the scientific study of consciousness. The key is the best guess about how consciousness “works”. The light is the tool we have at our disposal to look for the key.
D.B. Klein wrote a very long treatise on the history of scientific psychology. He awards the laurels of Founding Father of the scientific study of consciousness to Plotinus, who in his major work ENNEADS considered:
1. that the brain is the chief locus of consciousness; 2. that consciousness is influenced by the effects of drugs and illness on the brain; 3. that our perception of beauty is based on principles of form which could be discovered; 4. that our perception of material objects is due to a complex of sensations. Plotinus was not “scientific” in the way we think of “scientific”, in that there was not an experimental tradition in place to test his assertions. But, according to Klein, in many ways he anticipated William James’ whose magisterial PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY is, among much else, a history and commentary on the nineteenth century impetus towards a truly experimental psychological science.
In point of fact, scientific psychology as we mean it, with all the trappings of scientific method, the eternal quest for the best explanations, properly begins with the long life of Wilhelm Wundt, a 60-year career spanning two centuries. A cautious introspectionist, Wundt was driven to place psychology on solid scientific ground. To do this, he felt, required attention to and knowledge of neurophysiology – the physics of the mind. Others followed Wundt’s lead. Many of the originators of experimental psychology are still familiar names.
This week’s website is from the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiberg, Germany. (http://www.igpp.de/english/welcome.htm).
Founded by Dr. Hans Bender in 1950, the Institute has maintained the European tradition of psychophysiological research while extending it into insufficiently understood phenomena and anomalies at the frontiers of current scientific knowledge. These include altered states of consciousness, exceptional human experiences, mind-matter relations, and their social, cultural and historical contexts from the perspectives of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
Privately funded, the Institute is the largest of its kind in the world. Housing four research departments, experiments from Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics as well as Theory and Data Analysis contribute to themes familiar to students of consciousness science, including subjective experience and perception of time, relations between brain functional states and mental states, methods of analysis of brain electrical activity, complementarity in dynamical systems, stability of coupled map lattices, variability of cortical activity and structure and dynamics of cortical networks, among others. This is serious research by serious people, one of whom, Dr. Harald Atmanspacher, has been a favorite of mine due to his work in nonlinear dynamics and complex systems.
Dr. Henri Montandon
- brain activity
- brain imaging
- brain research
- brain science
- cognitive neuroscience
- consciousness science
- consciousness studies
- human brain
- human consciousness