Session 80: Awareness of Awareness and Potentially the Last Soap Box Speech on Materialism

B. Alan Wallace, 19 Nov 2010

This morning Alan took another stab at modern scientific reductionism – the tendency to reduce everything to an objective, solid reality, independent of an observer. He cited William James’ experience at Harvard Medical School in the 1860s to show that the idea of the brain being the agent – the source of consciousness- actually pre-dated any significant discoveries about the brain and its functions. All along, however, there have been people like William James himself and the entire Buddhist tradition who have claimed that the brain constricts consciousness rather than being its source. This is where Buddhism and modern scientific reductionism clash. According to Buddhist contemplatives and some modern thinkers who are being successfully ignored – in the mind-brain relationship, it is the mind (experience), not the brain (matter) that is primary and not vice versa. We then proceeded to investigate for ourselves, who does what in our own contemplative laboratories.

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