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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part VI: The Subconscious and the Forgiveness of Sins

Chapter 3

Mind versus Brain

     IN THE PRESENT "state of the art," if I am reading the literature correctly, certain things seem to have come to light regarding the faculty of memory that were not anticipated; and the connection between thought and matter, between mind and brain, is as mysterious as ever.
     It is important within the context of this present Paper to realize that unless memory survives the destruction of the brain, a destruction which happens at death, we have no reason to concern ourselves about the survival of an accountable self in the hereafter outside of this body, nor to expect people to concern themselves about a Judgment to come. I do not think for one moment that any scientific argument will convince a man about such a prospect. Only the Spirit of God can bring such a conviction. But the scientific evidence does, it seems to me, leave the skeptic with less excuse for his skepticism.
     What research has shown thus far is that there is no precise one-to-one relationship between any fragment of memory and the nerve cells in which it is supposed to be encoded. These cells can little by little be replaced by new cells (as happens throughout life), or they can be destroyed in large numbers or at least have their interconnections severed (as in Ralph Gerard's experiments with rats), or the whole cortex can be deliberately put out of action (as in experimental decerebrated dogs), and yet apparently "memory lingers on." That there is an originating connection is borne out by the fact that a decerebrate animal cannot learn any new tricks: but the fact that it does not forget the tricks it has already learned when it is deliberately rendered decerebrate suggests that memory survives the destruction of those physical structures which are necessary for its origination.
     Moreover, animals without "brains" in the accepted sense, such as planarian flatworms, can learn and remember what they have learned quite effectively even when they are chopped up into several

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"individuals." Each segment appears to retain not just a fragment of memory but the whole of it. Indeed, there is evidence not only of consciousness but even of deliberate choice -- and therefore of "mind" -- even in unicellular creatures which are lower still in the scale of life than the flatworms. These creatures being constitutionally unicellular obviously do not have a brain, though it is conceivable that they are brain in some sense. Many students of unicellular amoeba have found it impossible to describe their behaviour without assuming that in some way they are "mind-ed" creatures. In one of the little prefatory collections of quotes which Sherrington has prefixed to each chapter of his book Man on His Nature he has the following remark at Chapter 3 by Santiago Ramon-Ramon-y-Cajal: (40)

     I remember that once I spent 29 hours continuously at the microscope watching the movements of a sluggish leukocyte in its laborious efforts to escape from a blood capillary.

     Sherrington himself speaks of his own strong impression that single cells do have conscious life of some kind. He speaks of cells moving towards a source of food, withdrawing if touched, "preferentially" seizing this particle rather than that, and he comments that although we may assume this is purely a matter of chemical reaction, "There are observers of skill who after devoting patient study to the motor behaviour of such single cells conclude that microscopic single cell life without sense organ and without nervous system can learn. . . ." (41) and presumably learning involves some kind of memory. Elsewhere he speaks eloquently of how, under the microscope, they seem to jostle one another as they line themselves up, "stop watch in hand," ready to move with every evidence of purpose the moment the signal is given. (42)
     Then he asks a crucial question. After admitting that it becomes more and more difficult to be sure that any inferences are meaningful as one traces apparent mindedness downward along the scale of being, from multi-cellular to unicellular creatures, he concludes, "Ultimately, mind, so traced, seems to fade to no mind."
(43) And here is the real problem for the scientist. At what point does mind become no

40. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p.61.
41. Ibid., ref.40, p.208. The work of Sten R. Bergstrom of the University of Uppsala with even simpler forms than Paramecia, i.e., Tetrahymena, shows that even these creatures have a memory. See report in New Scientist, Jan. 29, 1970, p.193, under the heading, "You don't need a brain to be able to learn."
42. Ibid., p.70.
43. Ibid., p.209.

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mind? Or, in reverse, whence does mind arise, and having arisen, can it really be annihilated by the destruction of the cells?
     In animals we either assume that mind does disappear with the destruction of the cells at death, or it must be assumed that in some way animals do survive into the hereafter. In man we know from Scripture that mind, and with it memory, is not annihilated in death. The destruction in death of the cells which have initially given rise to it evidently does not lead automatically to its annihilation. We know this from many passages of Scripture, and it is worth noting that in the only picture we have of a conversation between two people in the hereafter, the man who is suffering torment is invited to "remember" (Luke 16:25). For a while it appeared that scientific research stood squarely against any such concept of memory persistence apart from matter, but even here there has been a subtle change. And the change is coming about with understandable reluctance.
     Francis Crick (of Double-Helix fame) has written a book entitled Of Molecules and Men, in which he resolutely rejects any idea that matter could give rise to or contain something beyond itself, but in reviewing this volume, C. H. Waddington cautions the reader:

     The thesis that consciousness or awareness belongs to a different logical realm from that inhabited by present-day science which deals with observable behaviour, is, I think, irrefutable.

     In the English Journal Nature Cyril Ponnamperuma wrote an article on the chemical evolution of life in which he expressed his firm conviction that life may be considered as an inevitable consequence of "favourable conditions." Equally inevitable was the emergence of consciousness. It is all merely a "special and complicated property of matter, and au fond there is no difference between a living organism and lifeless matter." (45) Subsequently, D. F. Lawden wrote to the Editor expressing his disagreement and underscoring that the real problem was more complex than Ponnamperuma was apparently allowing. He wrote: (46)

     If consciousness is a characteristic of . . . matter by the principle of continuity it must also be a feature . . . ultimately of the fundamental particles. If this were not the case, at some level in the hierarchy (from the fundamental particles to ourselves) consciousness would arise

44. Crick, Francis, Of Molecules and Men, University of Washington Press, 1966, reviewed by C. H. Waddington in Nature, Oct.14, 1967, p.203.
45. Ponnamperuma, Cyril, "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life," Nature, vol.201, 1964, p.337.
46. Lawden, D. F., Letters to the Editor, Nature, April 25, 1964, p.412.

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discontinuously and it would be possible to draw a sharp dividing line separating conscious from non-conscious matter forms. This would only be a disguised form of the line earlier assumed to separate living from non-living forms.
     Undoubtedly, such mental characteristics as are possessed by the fundamental particles must be of poor quality and weak intensity, but unless some such features are postulated, I fail to understand how consciousness could ever arise in any matter system, how ever complex.
     A system of particles each of which possesses the known physical characteristics of electric charge, spin, etc., might very well be designed to behave like a human being but not to experience consciousness as human beings undoubtedly do. . . .
     We may perhaps hope to explain human behaviour but our experience of this behavior will remain unaccounted for. [emphasis mine]

     What Lawden was really saying is that either the very first particle of matter to be created must have contained within itself some kind of primitive consciousness, which in due time as larger and larger aggregates of particles were formed, led inevitably to more and more complex forms of consciousness as in higher animals, or consciousness was suddenly introduced into certain aggregates of matter where it had no previous existence. This in effect means either that it did not originate with matter or that all matter, even the simplest molecule, has some kind of elemental awareness. But he would go further than this by pointing out that beyond "mere awareness" is an even higher stage which involves self-awareness.
     To some extent, therefore, the character of the consciousness of both animals and man appears to be the same. But a little reflection will show that this is not the case. We hold men to be morally responsible for their behaviour, but we do not do this with animals. The reason for this difference in judgment is that the consciousness which animals have provides them with one kind of memory but the consciousness which man has provides him with a very different kind of memory. In what way are these two kinds of memory different?
     W. R. Thompson in a Convocation Address on the work of Henri Fabre speaks of even insects as having memory, a fact which few will doubt. He says that instinct enables the insect to manoeuver, "among the contingent events it encounters."
(47) But Fabre believed that the animal also had a faculty of "memory." By "memory" he did not mean human memory, the kind of memory which Aristotle called reminiscence, which recognizes the past as past, but simply the kind of memory which constitutes mere recognition of what has been seen or experienced

47. Thompson, W. R., "The Work of Henri Fabre," Canadian Entomologist, vol.96, nos.1, 2.

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before. In other words, the animal recognizes a place, an object, a source of food, etc., for what it is (because he has seen it before), as soon as it is presented to it. This is merely recognition in the presence of the object, not in its absence. The animal has no need to reminisce about it, and probably has no capacity to.
     Man, on the other hand, by his power of recollection can reflect upon the past, a faculty which not merely allows him but virtually forces him to pass judgment in retrospect. This is what makes unique the form of consciousness which man has.
     So consciousness seems to arise out of brain cell activity, but having arisen, in man it then gives rise in turn to a further stage, namely, self-consciousness. One of the great puzzles of our present knowledge is how it comes about that all the individual little consciousness of the individual cells that compose us can somehow be united into a single whole that becomes a consciousness conscious of itself. As Edward McCrady put it:

     I, for instance, certainly have a stream of consciousness which I, as a whole, experience, and yet I include within myself millions of white blood cells which give impressive evidence of experiencing their individual streams of consciousness of which I am not directly aware.
     It is both entertaining and instructive to watch living leukocytes crawling about within transparent tissues of the living tadpole's tail. They give every indication of choosing their paths, experiencing uncertainty, making decisions, changing their minds, feeling contacts, etc., that we observe in larger individuals. . . .
     So I feel compelled to accept the conclusion that I am a community of individuals who have somehow become integrated into a higher order of individuality which somehow coordinates and harmonizes the activities of the lesser individuals within me.

     It might be supposed that these tiny bits of conscious living matter are not really conscious but only seemingly so. Perhaps? Yet Seifriz in his work on protoplasm does not think this is the case. (49) By placing amoeba on the stage of his microscope where he could probe them with micro-manipulators, he found that when he prodded an amoeba it would sometimes contract into a ball, but other times would "run away." Evidently it had a choice of reactions. If he trapped it by pinching it somewhere, it would, like the fox which bites off its leg caught in a trap in order to get free, detach itself from the portion held and escape. H.

48. McCrady, Edward, Religious Perspectives of College Teaching: In Biology, Hazen Foundation, New Haven, 1950, pp.19, 20.
49. Seifriz, William, Protoplasm, McGraw Hill, New York, 1956, p.58.

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S. Jennings (50) drew the conclusion that if an amoeba were as large as a dog we would ascribe to it all the mental states which we ascribe to the dog, such as fear, anger, and courage. (51)
     So Mind has no size. Indeed, there are many who believe that it may not occupy space at all, that it may escape the bounds of space, as the evidence from telepathy would seem to indicate. In his review of Koestler's latest work Beyond Reductionism, William Thorpe quoted from von Weizacker who contributed to the volume as follows:

     The concept of the particle itself is just a description of a connection which exists between phenomena, and if I may jump from a very cautious and skilled language into strict metaphysical expression, I see no reason why what we call Matter should not be "spirit."

     Now, in his Gold Medal Lecture before the Royal Medical Society in London, Wilder Penfield traces very briefly the changes which have occurred in the climate of opinion with respect to the relationship between mind and brain. He says, having referred to Lashley's opinion: "One must agree with him that, someday, co-relation may show that (the phenomena of consciousness and the phenomena of neural activity) are somehow, one. But that 'some day' is far away. Indeed, in my opinion it may never dawn." (53)
     In another of his contributions Penfield observed:

     It is obvious that nerve impulse is somehow converted into thought and that thought can be converted into nerve impulse. And yet this all throws no light on the nature of that strange conversion.

50. After this Paper was written, I came upon further details of Jennings' views in Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, MIT reprint, dated 1969, p.28: "Even the most elementary forms of life are very complex and are not behind more superior organizations in their capacity for purposive reactions. According to the researches of Jennings, unicellular organisms respond to the same stimuli as do the higher animals. Protoplasm, devoid of a nervous system, responds to the same stimulations as do the sense organs of Metazoa. Even the naked protoplasm of the amoeba reacts to all classes of stimuli to which higher animals react. The nervous system and the sense organs are thus not essential to the perception of any special kind of stimuli. Voluntary actions, i.e., modification of activity produced without the application of external stimuli, occur in Protozoa, just as in Metazoa. The idea that voluntary actions are confined to the higher animals only is quite erroneous; activity in Protozoa is fully as voluntary as in man. There is nothing to prove that the behavior of the Protozoa and of the lower Metazoa is essentially different. 'The behavior of the Protozoa is neither more, nor is it less, automatic than that of the Metazoa. both are governed by the same principles'." See H. S. Jennings, Behavior of the Lower Organisms, Columbia University Biology Series X, N. Y., 1906, Chap.13.
51. Jennings, H. S., quoted by William Tinkle, "The Principle of Uniformity," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, vol.12, no.4, l960, p.l06.
52. Thorpe, W. H., "Reductionism Vs. Organicism," The New Scientist, Sept. 25, 1969.
53. Penfield, Wilder, "Engrams in the Human Brain. Mechanisms of Memory," Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, Aug., 1968, reprinted by Montreal Neurological Institute, Reprint no. 934, p.2.
54. Penfield, Wilder: quoted by Susanne Langer, ref.17, p.18.

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     The problem is to form some working model of how something which is non-physical can interact with something which is physical. Certainly God interacts with His created order, and perhaps the reverse is true also. Because we cannot conceive of how such interaction occurs is no reason for denying the possibility. Penfield has recorded a remark by Sherrington in which this very real "limitation" of the scientific method is acknowledged. (55)

     That our being should consist of two fundamental elements offers I suppose no greater inherent improbability than that it should rest on one only.

     Penfield comments, "This, to my mind, is the best way to leave the matter." In other words, two of the world's greatest authorities in this area feel that in spite of a tremendous amount of experimental evidence undertaken with every expectation that mind would be equated with brain the equation has not been demonstrated. Certainly Penfield's evidence has failed to show that there is a one-to-one relationship between a particular memory and some little segment of the cerebral cortex.
     One of the great scientific minds of our time, Michael Polanyi, has in recent years repeatedly warned against the assumption that the phenomenon of life, which includes the faculty of awareness, will one day be explained in chemical terms.
(56) And in an article significantly entitled "Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry," (57) he spells out this conviction by observing, "When I say that life transcends physics and chemistry, I mean that biology cannot explain life in our age by the current working of physical and chemical laws." If this is true of that so-hard-to-define phenomenon which we call life, it is equally true of that equally hard-to-define -- and uniquely human -- phenomenon which we call self consciousness. So the issue is far from resolved in the minds of those who are best qualified to express an opinion. Reductionism is not as widely accepted as it was.
     H. H. Pattee of Stanford University recently wrote at some length on this widespread presumption that we now know about all we need to know to clinch the reductionist argument. He said:

      In spite of these detailed factual descriptions of polynucleotide and polypeptide interaction in the cell, many physicists as well as biologists

55. Sherrington: quoted by Wilder Penfield, ref.53, p.3.
56. Polanyi, Michael: see "Objectivity in Science: A Dangerous Illusion?" by Harold L. Davis, senior editor., Scientific Research, vol.4, no.9, 1969, p.25.
57. Polanyi, Michael, "Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry," Chemical Engineering News, Aug. 21, 1967, p.54.
58. Pattee, H. H., The Physical Basis of Coding and Reliability in Biological Evolution, Stanford University Biophysics Laboratory, Report 193, Mar., 1969, p.21.

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remain uneasy. Is this vast amount of phenomenological description really sufficient to support the claim, which is now made even in elementary biology textbooks, that we have a fundamental understanding of living matter in terms of physical laws. . . .
     In the remainder of this paper I shall attempt to express why this claim that biology has now been understood in terms of physical laws is not yet convincing. . . .

     This feeling is shared by Sir Alister Hardy in his book This Living Stream. But he carried the logic one step further by giving consideration, as we feel is inevitable, to the whole question of consciousness and not merely to the question of the difference between living and non-living matter. He argues that there is evidence that not only must we assume that a lot of single consciousnesses in one body add up to a summation of consciousness which is greater than the parts, but even that groups of individuals can share a "larger awareness" in some given situation. (59) He views it as a sort of species soul or group mind, not altogether unlike the "shared Unconscious" which Carl Gustav Jung spoke of as belonging to a whole species. Perhaps in man, as a species, one aspect of this shared consciousness is the persuasion that God is, a persuasion which man denies with difficulty. The existence of such a phenomenon would clearly imply that mind exists in some kind of free way independently of nerve attachments or synapses. This, of course is mental telepathy at a subconscious level. Hardy believes that there is some evidence to support this conception among animals. For example, a school comprising hundreds of thousands of small fishes, each with its own little consciousness, will nevertheless turn as one if they are disturbed. He feels that it would be impossible to account for this unanimity and absolute coincidence of movement if one has to suppose that the first creatures to become alarmed have passed on a signal to those in their immediate vicinity and they in turn to their neighbours until the message has spread through the whole school by a series of relays. It is simpler to assume that in some way the first alarm is communicated directly and instantly to all other members of the school. Koestler points out that the Portuguese man-of-war (an unpleasant jelly fish) is really a very large number of free-living individuals that have become organized and bound together in what appears to be a single creature with a single consciousness. Hardy wrote: (60)

      It is possible to imagine some such pattern of shared unconscious experience; a kind of composite species pattern of life. It is important to remember that in the concept of the individual mind we are faced with a

59. Hardy, Sir Alister, This Living Stream, Collins, London, 1965, p.257.
60. Ibid.

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mystery no less remarkable. The mind cannot be anchored to this or that group of cells that make up the brain. The community of cells making up the body has a mind beyond the individual cells -- the impression coming from one part of the brain receiving sensory impulses from one eye and that from another part of the brain from the other eye are merged together in the mind (i.e., as a whole) not in some particular cells, as far as we know.

     This line of reasoning leads almost inevitably, of course, to the projection of mind independently of matter, in the form of conscious mental telepathy as opposed to the unconscious mental telepathy which may exist for animals.
     The very concept of telepathy and other forms of extra-sensory perception is, of course, anathema to all scientists, who reject vitalism in any form and must therefore also reject the existence of mind apart from brain, and any potential it might have of surviving its destruction. Every claim of investigators that mental telepathy has been demonstrated in a way that fulfills the current demands for "proof," is always rejected in the end by the simple device of setting the standards of "proof" still higher. It is doubtful if, in the present climate of scientific opinion, mental telepathy can ever satisfy the conditions of proof required of it. Yet one suspects that a great many scientists are more nearly convinced of its reality than current literature would indicate. The fact is, however, that editors of scientific journals are reluctant to publish papers which deal with a subject that so critically challenges modern scientific philosophy. But once in a while new evidence arises, sometimes quite unexpectedly, which does find its way into the journals, and when this happens, it is always interesting to see how in successive issues Letters to the Editor appear with monotonous regularity purporting to discover minute flaws in the nature of the evidence presented such as would never be considered of any importance if the subject matter itself had not challenged the writer's bias.
      Recently the New Scientist reported evidence of an extraordinarily high scoring rate in an ESP programme which was randomized by computer.
(61) The possibility of unintentional bias in the experimental set-up is believed to be as nearly zero as is likely to be achieved. The scores obtained by some of those taking part were so consistently high that the probability that they were obtained purely by chance turns out to be less than one in 500 million. But immediately it was challenged.
      One of the major criticisms of ESP experimental data, a criticism voiced by Price for example,
(62) is that those who prove to have a great

61. "ESP--New Evidence," editorial, New Scientist, Oct. 16, 1969, p.107; and also Helmut Schmidt, "Quantum Processes Predicted?" p.115.
62. Price, George R., "Science and the Supernatural," Science, vol.122, 1955, p.359-367.

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aptitude initially, especially in the matter of prediction (identifying cards before they are exposed, for example), tend to lose the ability with practice. The argument is that any human faculty, if it really is a faculty, will improve with practice, not deteriorate. Therefore, this is not a human faculty. Somewhere there is a hidden error in the experimental procedure. But it may be that we now have an answer to this criticism, since it has been found that certain animal instincts (particularly "homing") are more precise and dependable when exercised by the younger animals, who have had little opportunity to use them, than by the older animals of the same species which have had a great deal of experience. (63) It is evident, therefore, that the exercise of an instinct may lead in some instances rather to its decay than to its improvement. The decay of a genuine faculty is therefore possible.
     With regard to the possibility of one mind acting upon another mind at a distance, a remarkable example, discovered quite by accident, was reported in Science.
(64) It has been known for many years that the alpha brain wave, which is recorded when the eyes are open, is very characteristically changed when the eyes are closed. The difference presumably stems from the fact that closing the eyes shuts off one avenue of sensory awareness. An experiment was performed in which the alpha brain wave was being recorded simultaneously, but independently, from two identical twins who were in separate rooms. To the surprise of the investigators, it was found that if one twin closed his eyes, thus changing the characteristic form of his alpha waves, the wave form being recorded from the other twin independently responded with precisely the same change whether his eyes were open or closed. The discovery naturally created a lot of discussion and in one of the letters which appeared in a subsequent issue of Science the criticisms appear almost pathetic. Although no further reports have been published to my knowledge, it must appear to any unbiased mind that the original experiments were conducted in a truly scientific manner and that the discovery is a potent argument for the existence of some force which is non-physical and can cause an interaction between two minds separated in space without any other means of communication. Evidently there is something more in the constitution of man. Man is not merely a system of sticks and strings.
     We are clearly living in exciting times, when a change of opinion is 

63. Ardrey, Robert, ref.24, p.127.
64. Duane, D. T., and Thomas Behrendt, "Extrasensory Electroencephalographic Induction Between Identical Twins," Nature, vol.150, 1965, p.367, and Letters to the Editor, subsequently Nature, vol.150, 1965, p.1240-1244.

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taking place in a critical area of scientific research. The reductionist's edifice is showing weaknesses in its foundations. But those who would seek to escape the responsibility of what they are and who lightly set aside the possibility of survival through death into a Judgment to come, because they make a direct appeal to the scientifically based philosophy of reductionism, are gradually being left without excuse. We do not need proof from science that an essential part of individual identity, once it has been generated by experience through the medium of nerve activity, can thereafter continue to exist in its own right, for Scripture makes this abundantly clear. But the denial of such a possibility by a rational appeal to scientific philosophy has not been a healthy thing for man and it has left him with a dis-ease which he finds himself unable to heal, because of his refusal to recognize its cause. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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