Thursday, July 5, 2012

Has Stuart Hameroff Explicated a Way Out of Death?

This is the question that occurs on viewing the excellent documentary (H2 channel), 'Science and the Soul' and specifically the section dealing with anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff , who began his unusual research by asking: "What happens to people when put under via anaesthesia?"

He notes, for example, that there is no passage of time, nor does one dream during this peculiar state in which key cognitive functions appear to be suspended. I can vouch for that having experienced both aspects while having a tonsillectomy in 1977. One minute I was counting backwards from 100, and then the next I was awake (okay, almost ..) and nurses were pulling a tube from my throat as I gagged. 'Where did I 'go?' - to use Hameroff's phrase. Who knows?

Anyway, 35 years of anaesthetizing patients and seeing the same results over and over led Hameroff to postulate that small structures in the brain called "microtubules" are at the root of apparent "escaped" consciousness and that they hold the key to what happens. He also surmises, in the same documentary, that at putative death (or even "near death") essential energy associated with the microtubules disperses out from the brain and becomes "entangled" in a larger, undifferentiated whole.

If the person returns then those earlier dispersed, energy- entangled wave forms are "sucked back"  into the body and the person's consciousness is again localized. Hameroff cites certain aspects of quantum mechanics to explain his reasoning though, he leaves some ends open.

In the brain, information persists through a phenomenon called quantum coherence. This means that a multitude of quantum wave states are stored in a multitude of microtubules. Precisely how this is done remains a topic on the frontier of current research, but the point is that if one is aware and conscious there is a high degree of locality. When one dies, those wave states presumably evacuate and one's consciousness enters the domain of non-locality.

Hameroff's basic argument then, is that death doesn't mean the final termination of consciousness, so much as the end of its localization. If that is so, you cease to be a "person" or an individual identity and instead merge with other dispersed quantum wave forms (I have called them "B-waves" or de Broglie waves) to enter an "oceanic" state.

Physicist David Bohm, in his superb book 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order', refers to this oceanic state as the "implicate order" and its being a higher dimensional reality into which we are subsumed. Another term he used is the  "Holomovement". Another term often used is "the Dirac Ether". The relation of previously (living- biological) individualities to the Dirac Ether might be depicted as I show below:




This then gives a nice analogy, say between the ocean and individual waves. The “ripples” on this Dirac sea are the distinct material forms or assorted biological individualities perceived as separate entities in the universe - because (in our explicate order) we are generally unaware of the implicate order. Nonetheless, the remarkable insight is that within this order separate forms (individualities) emerge as purely illusory. By analogy, the separate waves one sees on the ocean surface are illusions - at least in the sense they cannot be removed and placed on the beach one by one for inspection! So also, material forms cannot be abstracted from the energy background of the Dirac Ether. We are all basically hostage to separable perception and locality.

An interesting aspect of the above is that people, live current manifestations of individuality, don't have to die in order to enter the Dirac Sea. They can also attain this nonlocal entry temporarily via meditation. In an interview with Renee Weber (The Holographic Universe, p. 213) , Bohm himself (before his death) acknowledged the feasibility, noting (ibid.)

"Perhaps meditation will lead you deep into this ocean of physical and mental energy which is universal."

From this remark, quantum physicist Bohm (see also his great book 'Quantum Theory', Dover, 1951) regards meditation as a possible "channel" by which the individual mind can access the Dirac Ether. I have dealt with similar conjectures before, in terms of the 'quantum potential".

In general, VQ= { - ħ2/ 2m}  [Ñ R]2 / R          

Where ħ is the Planck constant of action h divided by 2π , m is the mass, and R a phase amplitude. Assume the total set of one's thoughts contains waves of frequencies ranging from f' (highest) to f, then the quantum potential ( VQ) can be expressed:

VQ = h(f' - f), where h is Planck's constant.

Thus, VQ has units of energy as the other potential functions in physics, e.g. gravitational and electrostatic. On average, the greater the number of possible states, the greater the difference (f' - f) and the greater the quantum potential.

Of course, in a real human brain, we have a "many-particle" field (especially since we're looking at neuronal complexes) so that the quantum potential must be taken over a sum such that:

VQ=  { - ħ2/ 2m}  å i  [Ñ Ri]2 / R

The velocity of an individual B-wave is expressed by:

v(B)= Ñ S/ m

Where m is the mass of the particle associated with the B-wave, and S is a phase function obtained by using:

U = R exp( iS/ħ)

The last discloses the "phase-locking mechanism" that Hameroff believes operates for a localized consciousness - but which he describes as a "resonance with the EEG". The point is we have the basis for a bifurcation between localized waves in the microtubules, and those dispersed outside (for which we have non-locality and the phase exponential approaching infinity.

As I said before (in other blogs) this isn't really any kind of recognizable "after life". Indeed, it is impossible to even remotely describe what a nonlocal consciousness might perceive, if it perceives at all. It also leaves a decided negative slant on the question of preserving any sense of self. How can one, if the "self" is no longer separable? But it might be at least one step removed from the atheist's state of total obliteration and nothingness.

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