On Tuesday, 2nd December 2014, Peter Walling and Jagveen Tyndall (both Old Chigwellians) visited the Williams Project to give the final talk of the term. They both gave highly interesting talks on consciousness, though both talks were very different.
Firstly, Dr. Walling looked at consciousness from a scientific view, concentrating on the brain and various experiments that have been conducted looking at consciousness in animals. He showed us that the complexity of brain function correlates with what you are doing. For example, a Buddhist Monk who is meditating exhibits simple dynamics, reflected in a low attractor dimension (1.3D), whereas someone who is multitasking may show dynamics working in 4.8D. Consciousness can also depend on how focused you are – for example, when doing mental arithmetic, you are focusing so much on the maths that you are less conscious of your surroundings. He then spoke about how the brain processes five-dimensional concepts, using the analogy of a square in Flatland (a theoretical two-dimensional world), which cannot perceive a sphere, but can perceive the holes made by different parts of the sphere as it breaks through the surface of Flatland. From these different-sized holes, it can formulate an idea of what the sphere looks like by stacking them together to form an approximate reproduction in the shape of a honey spoon. In the same way, the 3D brain may deal with 5D concepts by reducing the data to manageable slices at the rate of about 40 Hz.
Mr Tyndall then spoke about the Hindu philosophy of Advaita (literally not-2), based on the idea that the human self (Atman) and the Divine Self (Brahman) are one. He spoke about a French monk named Henri Le Saux, later known as Abhishiktananda, who spent much of his life trying to experience Advaita. He travelled around India in the mid-twentieth century, visiting temples and ashrams, in his quest to try and come closer to this experience. Originally he could not understand the concept of Advaita, as it was so contradictory to the Christian idea of the Trinity. However, he eventually managed to experience it and declared to his family back in France that no experience, be it prayer, meditation or any other form of being in God’s presence could satisfy him, as it was nothing in comparison to his Advaitic experience. He also criticised institutionalised religion, saying that his experience had taught him that one cannot have an accurate idea of what God is like without experiencing his presence through Advaita first: “confusing the idea of God with God.”
Overall, both talks were very much enjoyed, as evidenced by the heated debate that arose after they finished, about the nature of consciousness.