I watch this COSMOS series by Carl Sagan whenever I am free and in some curious mood. yesterday I was watching its episode on 'The persistence of memory'. That made me wonder, again, on how our brain works, what is this self, and how, through it, science and spirituality are connected.
He showed the anatomical structure of brain and its evolution and its various parts, and showed what function is associated with each part. Apart from Cerebral cortex other parts of our brain are quite the same as brains of reptiles or lower mammals. He showed how they are associated with tendencies like aggressiveness, territoriality, jealousy etc. so these features are quite deeply ingrained in us. they follow it, so do we. now I wondered what separates us from them. Carl Sagan said its the 'Thought' that's characteristic to us and its produced by cerebral cortex which stores memory, synthesize and analyse it and finally produce something called thought from it.
But I wonder what is thought. in other animals, whatever comes in their brain they immediately act upon it. if due to some outer sensation their part of brain producing aggression activates, then their body will immediately react accordingly i.e. aggressively. they cannot 'think' over this aggressiveness they are feeling; they must act under it...they are bound to act; they are slaves of their brain. But what happens in us? aren't we too slaves? suppose our brain also produce same aggressiveness due to same outer sensation. Now what will we do? In us this aggressive feeling will act on the memory cells of cerebral cortex and those cells which are related to current outer sensation will activate. then these activated cells will be "analysed" by elaborate network of cerebral cortex and this analysis manifests itself as a thought. But then what? who will "see" this thought and act on it? where am "I" in this scene? I wonder what is self. this question must be answered if i am to reach anywhere. A thought is a kind of second action. body is no longer the only way to act now. that aggressiveness indeed has done its part by producing a thought. its like we are divided into two selfs now - the body and the thought. or you can say that thought is preliminary to body, a kind of its assistant.
But that's not the answer. what is the self that is experiencing that thought, that analysis. who is judging that thought and drawing out future plans based on it. Is it all brains doing? its too complicated, too interconnected. why will brain do so? why, and more importantly how, will it add an extra step in its working i.e. a judger, a self? why don't it simply do the analysis and act accordingly? why bring a judger, a future planner? can't it plan future itself based on that analysis? or do the self simply easy up its task in doing so? you know, I do have its answer but I somehow don't want to accept that (don't know why). V.S. Ramachandran did indeed pointed out in 'the tell-tale brain' that self is an illusion produced by brain so that it can work smoothly. its a kind of imaginary focal point of all the doings of brain. self thinks it is doing everything although in reality brain is doing them independently. but i don't accept it by heart somehow. my own self don't allow me to perhaps :-P. I must work it out before i can step any further or draw out any conclusion.
to be continued....