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Life is not beautiful, if there is no human

They say life is beautiful. I ask – are you sure? Say all the humans suddenly disappear from the face of earth. Will “life” still remain beautiful? In reality, life is not beautiful, it is ugly and wild. Life is not beautiful, if there is no human self to deem and glorify it as such. Take away the advanced faculties of the human mind, and there shall be only one core force left at the root of life – that force is the force of survival. This very force has given rise to the wide array of life-forms on our planet. Among those life forms, there is us, the humans. The world is beautiful, because we see it as such. The world is ugly because we see it as such. All the ascetic qualities the world has, are imposed by the humans on the mental imagery of the world inside the human mind. Turn off the human mind, and all that remains is, rough, ugly and wild survival need.

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If we talk about life as a natural phenomenon, instead of seeing it as a human phenomenon, then it is all about survival. There is nothing else. It is the vanity of the human mind that adorns life with sophisticated qualities. It is the individual mind that determines the nature of life in its subjective reality. A person stuck in misery would see life as miserable. A person in the lap of luxury would see life as glorious and beautiful. The nature of life beyond the raw essentials of survival, purely depends on the internal realm of the human mind. A beautiful mind sees life as beautiful, whereas an ugly mind sees it as ugly. And throughout the lifetime of a human, the mind keeps evolving, hence, the qualities of life keep evolving. A teenager finds the beauty of life in the idea of finding true love, whereas, a parent finds the beauty of life in providing and being there, for his or her child. That’s what life is all about, or to be more accurate, that’s what human life is all about.

Think about the teenage version of yourself. What are the things that you wanted out of your life? Now think about the things that you want now? Are your wants now the same as they were when you were a teenager? Of course not! Why? Because your mind has grown. It has evolved into a more mature version of itself. It has grown new neural connections, while getting rid of many of the old ones. And this change is a relentless process. Which means, even right at this very moment, without being aware of it, your brain is going through various neurological shifts. Over time these shifts begin to show in your mental world, by transforming your needs, feelings, desires, passions, thoughts, beliefs and basically everything that makes you who you are. So, ten years from now, your needs and desires will be different, than they are now, just like, the needs and desires you have now are different from those you had as a teenager.

So, basically life is not about its true nature or anything like that, rather, it is all about your very personal subjective perception of life itself. Your perception can make life wonderful, and at the same time, your perception can make like pathetic. It is all in your mind. What you think, you see, and then, what you see, makes you think further. And the result is an ever-changing mesh of brain cells. Your brain determines who you are, what you are, and how your life is. Your brain creates your soul, and then gives a purely individualistic purpose to that soul. So, outside your brain, your life has no purpose. All the purposes in human life, that humans deem so valuable are all purely human creation. Without the humans, those purposes do not exist. Without the humans, life is merely about survival.

When a puppy dies in front of your eyes, you feel sad. But you feel a billion times more devastated if a human baby dies in front of you. That’s because you, as a biological creature, are evolutionarily programmed to have more affection towards the members of your own species than towards the members of a foreign species, or to be more accurate, an inferior species. It has nothing to with being immoral or cruel. It is just how life works. However, because you have an advanced neural network replete with circuits of humane elements, especially a fascinating neurological system called the “Mirror Neuron System”, you still feel bad at the agonies of other creatures. You can truly empathize with them. Now that’s called being human. Nevertheless, many of us will still continue to eat meat, even though we would not willingly cause harm to another creature.

The point is, there is nothing ideal in the world, no matter how much we pretend otherwise. We are not ideal. Life is not ideal. Nature is not ideal. Yet, it is our pursuit to attain that ideal absolute – that pure perfection, that makes us the real masters of this planet. So, keep on attaining that perfection bit by bit, but keep in mind that you shall never attain it. Perfection is not to be attained, but to be pursued infinitely.

 

(Simultaneously Published on Goodreads)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2015, Neurosutra: The Abhijit Naskar Collection

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?

The Brain creates Morality, not the Bible

“Morality” – it is a fantastic term, so much so, that almost every single religious institution wants to claim its exclusive authority or rather copyright of this simple psychological element. The cave-men of the church keep claiming, “morality comes from the Bible”, and so does every other mindless fundamentalist on earth no matter their religion. They truly believe that without their holy scripture there would be no morality on earth. They truly believe, without their doctrines to guide humanity in the moral path, we are destined to be punished in an imaginary hell. So let me tell those fundamentalists – You need to visit a psychiatrist, pal!

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Here let me make something clear at the very beginning. Beliefs are a quintessential part of the human psyche, but they can be both healthy and harmful. And the beliefs of the fundamentalist Australopithecines are particularly harmful. These beliefs are what we call “delusions”. Except unlike in a neuropsychological ailment, the delusion of the fundamentalists is not just harmful for the individuals suffering from it, but more importantly it is the greatest threat to peace, progress and wellbeing of the entire human species.

I am not going to go into the details of which scripture is more moral than others and which one is most immoral. It does not depend on the scripture itself, as much as it depends on the person reading the scripture. All human creations, including all sorts of literature are bound to have flaws, because it is the human mind that creates them. No literature, including the ones in the domain of religion, comes from some Imaginary Big Monkey, high up in the sky. They all rise from the human psyche. Hence the elements of the composer’s mind gets distinctively imprinted into the content of the literature. So the morality depicted in a certain text is not the ultimate standpoint of moral characteristic of a species, it is merely the textual echo of the composer’s internal moral compass. If a pedophile writes a book, he would probably deem abusing a nine year old as morally justified. On the other hand, if the book is written by, say Tolstoy, it would have a completely reformed depiction of morality, ethics and human principles. The depiction of morality by Tolstoy can be something that the human civilization can look up to and expect to march ahead towards becoming less primitive. But a pedophile’s subjective morality would only drag the human civilization back to the days in the wilderness.

So, where does morality come from exactly? I will tell you where it comes from in a little while, but before that let me focus on where it does not come from. Morality does not come from the Bible. Morality does not come from the Quran. Morality does not come from the Torah. Morality does not come from the Vedas. This beautiful mental element which we call morality, does not come from any scripture, any institution or any God. Morality is born in the human brain, from the electrical impulses among the neurons. Morality like any other mental element, such as love, peace, orgasm, rage or hatred, is simply the expression of electrochemical impulses. These impulses in our brain define who we are, what we are, how we feel, how we think, how we behave and how we distinguish between right and wrong, and good and evil. In fact, we our the impulses within our brain. If you mess with even a tiny portion of the neural circuits constantly sharing electrochemical information among each other, it would radically alter your personality. It can alter your entire identity.

Part of that identity are your moral characteristics. These along with other analytical traits of your mind, are distinct creations of the frontal lobes of your brain. This is the region that is most responsible for making us a uniquely intelligent and wise species. This is the part that gives you the sense of an internal moral compass, based on all the available data. It is here that your innate primitive urges and instinctual responses born from the limbic system, are filtered according to the norms of the society as well as your internal ethical elements. Therefore, when a person thinks and behaves as a civilized human being, he or she is doing so because of the civilized elements within him or her, not because of some book, even though the book may have certain influence on that behavior. Burn all the scriptures in the world, still morality will remain intact. But mess with the frontal lobes, or to be specific the prefrontal cortex, of all the humans in the world, and you would inadvertantly jeopardize the intellectual faculties of the entire human species including morality.

To quote from my book “Either Civilized or Phobic: A Treatise on Homosexuality”

“Morality does not come to this mortal world from some imaginary paradise. It rises from the neurons of mortal humans to aid in the process of a healthy conduct in both personal and social life of the mortal humans. Hence, it is the existential responsibility of the humans to reconstruct the moral parameters of a time based on the advancements and achievements of that time.”

All kinds of external information regardless of where they come from, do engage in the shaping of a person’s neural network of moral characteristics as well as other mental features. The environment we live in, has a deep impact over our psyche, but for the human civilization to keep on moving forward in the path of progress all environmental information must be scrutinized by our internal civilized faculties. Nothing from the external world as well as the internal one, should be accepted to be true, good and healthy, unless it passes the test of reasoning.

 

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Principia Humanitas

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Either Civilized or Phobic: A Treatise on Homosexuality

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Illusion of Religion: A Treatise on Religious Fundamentalism

Some Thoughts on Neuroscience & Science

It is the consensus of the general population that Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. However, in reality, it is far more beautiful than just that. Saying Neuroscience is the field of studying the nervous system, is like saying the Hulk is a man who opens a tin can with his bare hands.

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Neuroscience is the science that reveals every single element of the existential nature of human mind, or simply mind, in a broader aspect. And one who understands the mind becomes a better version of himself or herself. Neuroscience – the science of mind, reveals to us, who we are – what we are – why we are. It gives answers to questions that have haunted humanity since the days in the wildness. We neuroscientists discover the truths that take the human self closer to absolution.

To quote from my book “Love, God & Neurons: Memoir of a scientist who found himself by getting lost”

“We gain from the new science of mind not only insights into ourselves – how we perceive, learn, remember, feel, believe and act – but also a new perspective of ourselves and our fellow human beings in the context of biological evolution.”

The most intriguingly unique feature of Neuroscience, is that here the mind attempts to study itself. Hence, Neural Science is the endeavor of the mind to understand itself. However, like all other fields of scientific endeavor, it cannot work alone. To fully manifest its true potential, Neuroscience often joins hands with other sciences, especially other biological sciences such as evolutionary biology, molecular biology, genetics etc. Through this beautiful collaboration, we get a more complete and solid understanding of the mind. That is why for a scientist in any field, it is imperative to know by heart, that he or she cannot proceed a single step in the path of scientific research with the arrogant idea in the head that his or her own field is the greatest of all sciences.

To become a scientist, you must learn to be humble in front of other fields of science while defending the dignity of your own. A Physicist’s insight of the universe would be much grander than a biologist, and at the same time, a biologist’s insight of life would much grander than a physicist. No scientist in one field is greater than another scientist in another field. Each field of science offers us a unique and deeper perspective on a certain phenomenon of life and universe. Each field of science completes the other.

However, the harsh reality of today’s society is that the Physicists get most of the attention from the general population. And behind this attention, or rather attraction, lies a deeper evolutionary reason. Modern Physics has a certain air of mystery and sophistication around it, which stimulates people’s primeval affinity towards ignorance-driven mysticism. Which means, the less people understand a certain phenomenon, the more they are attracted to it. And that is why almost everybody on planet earth knows about Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, but very few people in the non-scholar population have heard of Leonhard Euler, Joseph Breuer and Gottfried Leibneiz.

Science is the human endeavor to elevate the self and the society from the darkness of ignorance into the light of wisdom. Sophistication is not science people, simplicity is. Science does not complicate things, rather it eases the predominant complications of the society. Science demystifies the mysticism that holds on to the psyche of the human society like a virus. Science is the most effective, efficient and magnificent path that leads towards the salvation of humankind.

 

(Simultaneously Published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2015, Neurosutra: The Abhijit Naskar Collection

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, Love, God & Neurons: Memoir of a scientist who found himself by getting lost

Does God Exist?

Mankind (not womankind) has slaughtered more humans in the name of God and Religion than for any other reason. Every time, their beliefs are offended, they lash out as pathological psychopaths. And that’s exactly what the so-called holy warriors are. But does this so-called holy war really occur due to some kind of divine intervention? Is it the will of what humanity so glorious reveres as God? If so, then what does such ruthless instruction tell us about the nature of that God? What if those instructions are not actually from God?

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All religions, one way or another talk about Lord Almighty being merciful and compassionate. But before you jump into any conclusion about whether my argument is leading towards a religious climax or an atheistic one, I must clarify that I am neither a believer nor an atheist. In all my works till now, I have made evidence based efforts to build a bridge between the ever separated banks of Science and Religion. So, if you must, you can call me an Agnostic. I am not an atheist. But the religion that I do advocate is not of the Bible, Vedas, Quran or any other scripture. The religion I speak of, is what Christ talked about, it is what Buddha talked about, it is the religion of plain everyday kindness. A Muslim who prays five times a day and yet beats his wife at home, is no religious person. A Christian who goes to Church every Sunday, and yet never talks to his or her neighbor with a smile on the face, is no religious person. On the other hand, an outspoken atheist who most lovingly talks and listens to people of all religions without any bigotry or prejudice is a hundred times more religious than all the theoretical preachers of all religions combined.

Now let’s get back to the matter in hand. All scriptures, have elements that advocate compassion, generosity and peace. However, they also possess elements of violence and monstrosity. That’s an unfortunate and unavoidable fact of most of the religious scriptures, especially Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Now the question is, if God is merciful then how can it be so ruthless at times?

Despite the complexity of the question, the answer is quite simple. Here we must take not one but two Gods into consideration. One of them is the God of Humanity, which all humans proudly venerate, experience and often perceive as an Omnipresent, either abstract or humanlike Entity. Human mind in general perceives this God as the driving force behind everything in the universe. This God is perceived as the controller of causality in the universe.
The other God is the actual controller of causality, if there is any such Entity. Humanity only thinks that it knows, feels and experiences this Actual Supreme Entity, while in reality, the God of humanity is a fascinating part of the human consciousness. This God is what I have clinically termed as Absolute Unitary Qualia in my book What is Mind?. In most cases, without even knowing, humanity actually worships not an Entity, rather a mental state. This is the state what all the religious founders experienced. And those who actually experience this mental state of Absolute Unitary Qualia, become radically transformed as humans. Their brain circuits get rewired as if some Supreme Divinity Entity has touched their soul. And that’s exactly what they feel. That feeling has nothing to do with Reality, rather it is all about the exclusively private subjective experience of the individual.

I am not going to talk about the other God, that is the actual driver of causality, for we know nothing of it. The only Science that can answer whether there is an Entity controlling causality is Modern Physics. We Biologists are not the right people to investigate that domain. Our purpose is to investigate Life. And as Neuroscientists, our purpose is to investigate the God of Human Life, i.e. Absolute Unitary Qualia. The God that is venerated in different cultures in different ways, is actually an inexplicable state of the human mind. In fact, it is the Event horizon of Human Consciousness. It is not entity, but the person experiencing it may experience it as an entity, because AUQ manifests in different individuals in different ways. The storyline of that manifestation is constructed by the mind, based on one’s urges, intuitions and conjectures. And the end product of such complicated mental process is a true personal transcendental meeting with God or the Universe, within one’s inner cosmos. Such an experience transforms a person radically. It makes him or her, in most cases, the best version of himself or herself. In AUQ a person’s true personality gets amplified to an unimaginable extent. So, a compassionate person becomes even more compassionate, while a narcissistic misogynist becomes the specimen of extreme primeval human urges.

However, you must remember that there is no such thing as a God Spot or God Module in the brain. Just like Consciousness is the product of collective activity of various regions of the brain, the God part of the Consciousness, which is the most blissful and inexplicable of all conscious states of the human mind, is also a product of complex electrical activity in various neural regions. It also involves inactivation of a few parts of the brain. In various cases, during Absolute Unitary Qualia or simply during God experience, the frontal lobes, parts of the limbic system and to some extent the temporal lobes become highly active. This complex neural functioning of the brain leads to an amazing sensation of supreme divinity and euphoria. Along comes the loss of sense of the self, which occurs due to the inactivation of the parietal lobes, which are principle brain region for navigation of the self in three dimensional space.

This whole collective mental process leads to the glorious experience of Absolute Divinity. It is the ultimate form of bliss. Once you attain that bliss through prayer or meditation, the ordinary everyday happiness and sorrow seem pointless. And that’s the beauty of such God experience. And this magnificent experience of transcendental bliss is the God of the Human Species. All religious founders attained this very God. And due to their unique neural circuitries each of them experienced it in vividly different ways. Their human minds constructed the experience of their desired divinity that heralded the advent of modern religions. Thus at the fountain-head of all religions there were the complicated neural processes of Absolute Divinity. And today, that Absolute Divinity is venerated throughout the world as the God/Yahweh/Allah/Brahman and so on.
Now the biggest question of all is, how can this experience of Absolute Divinity lead to violence? And is it actually true that religion causes violence?

Religion doesn’t cause violence, but the negative elements of the religious books do. While experiencing Absolute Unitary Qualia, a person’s own urges, beliefs, intuitions and imaginations bubble to the surface of Consciousness and manifest themselves as the storyline of the intense spiritual experience. Thus, all the messages recorded in the scriptures were constructed by the human mind in the transcendental state. The thing which we call “revelations” of the religious books, were merely an amplification of the human mind’s inner desires, instincts and fantasies.

Hence, almost all the scriptures in the world contain teachings that are philosophically beneficial to the humanity, alongside some primitive instructions that are downright harmful to the entire species. A healthy human mind is neurologically incapable of carrying out the ruthless instructions of the negative elements of the scriptures. The only way the negative elements of the scriptures can harm the society, is through blind followers of the books. These are whom we, not at all proudly, call fundamentalists. These fundamentalists are the real cause of all the violence in the name of religion. They drive angry young men in the path of vengeance and presents the ideology of Jihad to them in such a way that it appears to them as the last resort for absolution. Their rage against the society, for whatever reason, turns into the tool of religious terrorism in the hands of the fundamentalists.

Religious faith as a whole induces various health benefits in the general population through complex biological processes, while on the other hand, Fundamentalism not only acts the biggest threat to humanity, but also, it consistently tends to drag the entire planet back to the Stone Age.

We the Neuroscientists have already proven through rigorous experiments and studies that Religion is Healthy for the Human society, both physiologically and psychologically. But we must act now to get rid of fundamentalism from the society once and forever. Because, if we don’t, the monstrosity of the fundamentalists will soon turn this beautiful planet which we call home, into a barren wasteland.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “What is God?”)
Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience

Pathology & Treatment of Jihad

If you are reading this, it means you are an intricate part of this modern human civilization. And as a modern human being you already know what the term “Jihad” actually means. So, I won’t go into the worthless analysis of the term itself. However, the purpose of this brief article is to pin-point the actual cause of its birth, and how we can work towards terminating it from our society once and forever.

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The very existence of Jihad or Holy War is predicated on one’s personal idea of religion. It all comes down to one simple matter of personal realization – what is religion to you?

Here let me bring up a little excerpt from my book Biopsy of Religions: Neuroanalysis towards Universal Tolerance.

“If to you religion means reading books and obeying every single word from it without a slightest bit of reasoning, then such perception would only bring destruction upon you and the world. Also there are people who use the words from those books to justify their own filthy actions. Let’s take a conservative Muslim, for example. Say, the conservative Muslim male Homo sapiens (I won’t call such creature a human, regardless of the religion, since his action here shows no sign of humanity) is found to be beating his wife. Now, if someone says to him “this is wrong”, he would naturally reply, “this is a divine thing to do, my book says so”. Now, if a Christian says “my book is older, so you should stop obeying your book and start obeying mine”, there will come the Buddhist, and say, “my book is much older still, obey mine”. Then will come the Jew, and say, “my book is even older, so just follow mine”. And in the end will come the Hindu and say “my books are the oldest of all, obey them”. Therefore referring to books will only make a mess of the mankind and tear the species into pieces.”

Therefore you see, it is not really about which religious scripture permits war on your fellow humans just because they hold a different belief system from your own, rather it is about how you perceive the words from certain scripture.

All Scriptures are mere literature created by ordinary humans based upon the deep spiritual experience of certain individuals of human history. Upon the ecstatic experience of these individuals all religions are founded. They experienced what I have termed in ‘What is Mind?’ as “Absolute Unitary Qualia”. It is an immensely ecstatic state of transcendence. In this state one’s sense of self disappears and the person mentally gets immersed into the universe. And the experience manifests in different individuals in different manners, such as meeting with God, or angels or visualizing a bright divine light followed by a feeling of inexplicable bliss.

Here one’s personal beliefs, intuitions, urges, instincts and conjectures play a crucial role in the manifestation of the experience. In such experience a person often receives the solutions to all his or her confusions in the form of divine revelation, which actually rise from his or her own subconscious mind.

Thus if a person has an innate urge to have authority over the rest of the society, he (not she) would receive divine messages giving consent to have some sort of sacred authority over the whole humanity. That’s why alongside beneficial philosophical teachings, most of the religious scriptures also possess verses that quite unambiguously advocate misogyny, polygamy, violence in the name of God, and various other monstrosities.

Jihad or Holy War is also the product of one of those innate primordial urges for authority. Does this mean that religion does indeed cause violence? The answer is No. Religion is a social construct founded upon the neurological sensation of divinity. And far from being harmful to the society, religion actually promotes health.

Countless experiments of modern neuroscience, eloquently depict, in usual circumstances of daily life, religions, or more specifically religious rituals have great health impact over the human biology. Only a fool with no scientific knowledge would deny it. And as I have said in my book In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience, “a prayer/meditation a day keeps the doctor away”.

If so, then how is it possible, that most of the destructive events of human history took place in the name of religion! Indeed these acts of destruction took place and still do take place in the name of religion, but not because of it. Behind it, lie two major factors – one is the textual advocacy of holy war in the scriptures, and the other one is the neurological predisposition to act in profoundly hostile ways, that is the body’s fight-or-flight response. To quote from Biopsy of Religions.

“the only difference between us, the so-called lucid humans and those who fight the Holy War, is that we have a functional Prefrontal Cortex, that keeps our wild and hostile instincts in check. But unfortunately, the warriors of the Holy War have very little activity in their PFC, that is caused by their boiling rage against the society.”

Let me shed some light on the situation with a simple everyday scenario. Imagine yourself having a fight with your romantic partner. The tension of the situation makes your limbic system run at full throttle and you become flooded with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. The high levels of these chemicals suddenly make you so damn angry, that you burst out in front of your partner saying, “I wish you die, so that I can have some peace in my life”.

Such expression is simply the fight-or-flight response of the beast within you. But when the conversation is over, and you rest for a while, your stress hormone levels come down to normal, and you regain your usual cheerful state of mind. Immediately, your frontal lobes of the brain, start analyzing the explosive conversation you had with your partner, a few moments ago. Healthy activity of the frontal lobes, suddenly overwhelms you with a feeling of guilt. Your brain makes you realize, that you have done something really wrong. As a result, you find yourself apologizing to your partner and making up to him or her, no matter how much effort it takes.

Now turn this into the situation of the holy warriors. First, circumstances make them so damn angry against the society, that their rational regions of the brain stop functioning properly. And as time passes, those regions become permanently damaged. Now all they can think of is vengeance. And that vengeance finds absolution in the textual creeds of the scriptures.

“And when mentally unstable individuals join hands and get hold of such creeds (textual commands from the scriptures to fight for God), they unconsciously foster a dividing line between them and the rest of the world. Their “us versus them” mentality neurologically overloads their brain’s limbic system. This generates fear and hostility toward people who hold different beliefs. The moment they feel like their personal belief is threatened and they need to defend it, their brain kicks into overdrive, generating stress chemicals that put them into a state of fight-or-flight.” Biopsy of Religions

Here the religious fundamentalists grab onto these mentally unstable young minds like infectious virus and drive them in the path of Jihad. Through the sacred verses filled with violence and self-righteousness, the minds of the angry individuals find a way to get rid of all their misery. They visualize a glimmer of hope and emerge as holy warriors. Consequently the whole world faces the wrath of unrestrained rage in the name of God’s judgment.

Hence, rises religious terrorism in the hands of bloodsucking religious fundamentalists. However, it bothers me to use the term “religious” right before “fundamentalists”, because fundamentalists are by no means religious. The purpose of religion, by its core, is freedom of the human mind. Any religion that tends to bind a person with the twisted knots of textual fanaticism, needs reformation.

The greatest threat to mankind is not terrorism, rather it is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism acts as the mainstream fuel for religious terrorism. The moment, fundamentalism disappears from the face of earth, only then, the society would finally get rid of religious terrorism.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads, under the title “Biology of Jihad & The Cure”)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Biopsy of Religions: Neuroanalysis towards Universal Tolerance

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, In Search of Divinity: Journey to The Kingdom of Conscience

Abhijit Naskar, 2017, The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Peace

Soul is born in the Brain & dies with it

What is Soul? Is it magic? Or is it something pretty much physical but seems to be magical? Is it something Science can explain? Or is it beyond human comprehension? In this article you are going to have your confusions surrounding the term Soul, thrown away, once and forever.

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But before you learn about Soul, I must tell you a thing or two about the human brain’s affinity towards mysticism. Our species, that is the Homo sapiens evolved around 200,000 years ago, and even before that our previous ancestral species existed, millions of years back. During the most of existential period we lived in the wild alongside wild animals. On the contrary Modern Science has only evolved a few centuries ago. So, compared to the civilized scientific mind of modern human, the instinctual primitive mind is way older and more deep rooted into the brain. That primitive mind has been surviving in the wild environment for a long time in the midst of fear and ignorance. By nature, that mind is easily fooled by supernatural mysticism. It is very gullible. And no matter how much we the civilized human beings advance in the fields of Modern Sciences, there is always a part of us, that tries to allure us with magical nonsense. Because that nonsense has been with us since the birth of humanity. Scientific understanding of things arrived much later, and in fact, if we compare it with our millions of years long acquaintance with ignorance and fear, Science would look in its infancy. So it is not easy for your brain to embrace the newly discovered scientific explanations of various phenomena which you previously knew as correlated to the domain of the Supernatural or Paranormal.

For example, due to lack of comprehension, primitive humans believed thunderstorms were caused by gods or spirits in the sky, earthquakes were caused by earth spirits and so on. But, now it is common knowledge for you, how various geophysical processes give rise to various weathers, and various natural disasters. Now you know that plate tectonics is responsible for earthquakes. All these things are common sense to the general public. In fact, now you know that the planets including our earth revolve around the sun, but a few thousand years ago, this simple idea was perceived by the ignorant population as blasphemy. Because it was against the mysticism of those days.

Science has advanced quite a lot since then. Especially with advancement in the field of Brain Science, we finally have started explore the existential questions of human life. We are finally investigating questions revolving around our own entity and identity. We Neuroscientists are constantly exploring the fantastic domain of the human mind to understand what makes each human being tick the way they do. And one of the most fascinating terms correlated with the term Mind, is Soul.

The concept of Soul goes way back during our tribal days in the jungle. The only way the tribal primitives could make sense of death, is to incorporate the concept of Soul. They perceived Soul as the breath of Life, without which the body would not function. From this, emerged the ancient mind-body problem. Due to lack of any understanding of human biology whatsoever, the primitive humans perceived Soul and Body to be separate because that’s the only way they could make sense of their fellow human one moment walking around and the next moment lying on the ground lifeless. And in order to diminish the uncertainty that goes along with the notion of death they further developed the primeval idea that Soul is immortal which upon leaving the body reaches a peaceful place, which many cultures termed as Heaven. This idea has been celebrated throughout the world for a long time, because of the comfort that it brings. It erases all the devastating anxiety, uncertainty and ignorance surrounding death. Hence till this modern day of fascinating scientific achievements the common human mind deems death as a blissful departure of the soul to another realm – far more beautiful that our planet earth.

And this idea of heaven is so strong in general human mind, that even today, every now and then we scientists come across various individuals who claim to have visited Heaven and come back to planet earth. These people are not lying. They are indeed telling what they experienced during a life and death situation. And here the ancient idea came into action. A person who has heard a lot about the Afterlife during his or her lifetime, once faced with a near death event, that idea would become a reality through his or her neural circuits. During a traumatic event the extremely high level of stress hormones triggers the release of a special neurochemical called DMT, or Dimethyltryptamine. DMT is one of the most profound hallucinogenic compounds on this planet. And upon the influence of DMT the human mind experiences a reality so soothing and surreal that makes the person forget about the trauma almost completely. It enables the person to deal with the situation. And what the person hallucinates about during that times, depends on the predominant ideas, fantasies and wishes rooted into the neural network of the person’s brain. So, here the person may not actually go to heaven, but to him or her, the hallucianatory reality of heaven or afterlife seems more real and the actual reality. It’s the brain’s way of self preservation. These near death experiences further strengthen the general idea of an Afterlife and the immortality of Soul in the masses.
Now let’s answer the billion dollar question. What is Soul?

It is not really a billion dollar question any more, at least for those who have a basic understanding of human biology. As I have said in my book What is Mind?, Soul is the functional expression of neurons. When billions of neurons start firing, the result is a mesmerizing thing called Soul, or which we more simply refer to as the Mind. Mind and Soul are one and the same thing. Although various cultures till this date perceive Soul to be the driving force behind the Human Mind. Cultural ideas have their own mysticism attached to them, so those ancient concepts cannot be accepted literally. Rather a rational civilization must investigate those beliefs  beyond the limitations of primitive superstitions, in the pursuit of understanding the human mind in a better way.

Human Mind, or from an ancient perspective – the Soul, is born from protoplasmic activity within the brain. All regions of the brain’s neural network play their distinctive roles to construct distinct features of the Mind, such as Emotions, Memory, Individuality etc. If you turn even a small portion of the neural network off, the correlated mental feature of that region would completely disappear from the person’s mental life. And this way, if you keep turning off various regions of the brain one after another, in the end, there would be no sign of mental activity whatsoever. Soul would cease to exist. Because the brain that creates this fascinating phenomenon has been turned off. This is exactly what happens when a person is announced brain- dead.

Hence, we can quite naturally deduce that Soul does not come from any Supernatural Domain outside the body, rather it is born inside the biological domain of the body. And along comes the deduction that soul is born in the brain and dies with it. So, there is no Afterlife, or Heaven or Hell, or Reincarnation. With death you simply cease to exist as your self. However your bodily elements which created your individuality, or from a deeper perspective your Soul, gets dispersed into the nature. So, rhetorically speaking you do live on forever, but not as yourself like depicted in many of the religious cultures, rather as an eternal part of the Cosmos.

 

(This Article was originally published on Goodreads)

Further Reading
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, Autobiography of God: Biopsy of A Cognitive Reality
Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?

Unraveling Conscious, Subconscious & Unconscious Mind

Human mind – what a fantastic phrase! It is the most fascinating biological operating system on this planet, that cannot be simulated on any computer no matter how advanced. Unlike a computer’s operating system, each human brain constructs its own unique operating mind, that later on drives the entire mental universe of that specific brain and none others.

Neuron21

 

In this brief article we shall dive into the various levels of human mind. These levels are commonly known as Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious Mind.

Now, do not get baffled by the superficial terms. These sophisticated terms only look complex from the outside because since Neuroscience is still in infancy, we the neuroscientists have been busy ourselves studying the neurological roots of the mind. And what we have discovered is that underneath their blinding shine of sophistication, there lies plain human biology. The biology that constructs your mental universe.

In short, your Conscious mind is responsible for all your perceptual reality. It is the part of your consciousness that enables you to be aware of your environment as well as interact with it.

Now comes the subconscious mind. This one is the part of consciousness that in usual circumstances of your daily life remains hidden right below the surface of your conscious awareness. It is the mind where all your suppressed emotions and desires are trashed.

And in the end comes the unconscious mind. This part of your mind remains asleep throughout your lifetime at the bottom of your consciousness. It is the most primitive mental construct which you share with the reptiles. It holds an innate beast that has been there since your reptilian days.

Now, let me tell you about the amazing neurology behind all these levels of the human mind.

If I ask you, are you conscious right now? You’d go right ahead and tell me – yes. That’s because your conscious mind is constructing an awareness in you about everything around you. And underneath that operation of your conscious mind, there are billions of neurons working in proper harmony. Various brain regions work together to construct your conscious awareness of your environment. In this whole construction process, there are two brain regions that require specific mention. These are the limbic system and the frontal lobes of your brain. The limbic system is responsible for all your emotional responses, that are major elements of your conscious experiences. And the frontal lobes, or more specifically the prefrontal cortex acts as a filter for those emotions as well as your behavioral responses. Emotions and behaviors that the prefrontal cortex deems inappropriate, never reach the surface of your conscious mind. Hence, they are trashed into the depth of your subconscious mind. They remain hidden in the depth of your limbic system.

Over time the pile of subconscious kinky desires and repressed emotions gets heavier. And if this junkyard of your subconscious mind is not cleansed every now and then by bringing the repressed emotions up to the surface of the conscious mind, then it would start affecting the mental and physical health of a person. All the repressed emotions and subconscious desires in time lead to some kind of psychological or physiological breakdown, if kept unchecked. It is what we call Conversion Disorder in clinical terms. Previously it was known as Hysteria.

We get to know the essentials of hysteria from the joint work of Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, known as Studies in Hysteria first published 1895. The book contains an introductory paper and five individual studies of hysteria – Breuer’s famous case of Anna O. and four more by Freud. But the condition of Conversation Disorder or Hysteria dates back to Ancient Greece.

It can happen to anybody. However women are more prone to having hysteria than men, because of their innate monthly hormonal storms. The harder you try to keep your feelings inside, which you think as inappropriate to express, the more vulnerable you become to conversion disorder symptoms.

Does this mean, you should just express every single inappropriate feeling and desire of yours in public? Off course not. I am not a psycho psychologist to suggest you that.

But here is another way to keep your subconscious mind light and with less junk. You just need to clean your subconscious sewage drain with a close friend or your romantic partner every now and then. You just need to talk your feelings out to someone close. It is that easy. Just spit all of it out, whether it is sorrow, anger or kinky sexual thoughts. It is better to express your repressed feelings to a friend for free, than to pay thousands of dollars to a psychiatrist for the same emotional outburst later in life. You can read more about the emotional domain of the human mind in my book The Art of Neuroscience in Everything.

Now comes the unconscious mind. This part of your Mind goes back millions of years to the reptilian days in our evolutionary history. Several ancient regions of the limbic system house this primitive side of your mind. It holds some of the basic instinctual behaviors such as aggression, territoriality etc.

This primitive part of your mind gives rise to those emotional and behavioral traits that never go well with the modern norms of the society. These traits assisted our hominid ancestors to survive in the wild. But today in this civilized world, that monster from our primeval past is kept strictly dormant under the watch of the frontal lobes of your brain. However, in times of utter distress, this beast wakes up and takes hold of your conscious mind and responds in the form of fight or flight. And when it comes out, it actual enables you to tackle a life and death situation in a way, that you can never do with your usual state of consciousness.

For example, we have countless reports of parents lifting vehicles to rescue their children in life and death situations. In these incidents the primeval beast inside otherwise ordinary people lashed out to save their dear ones. And that fight or flight response resulted in an incredible strength which we call hysterical strength.

Thus, though I am calling this ancient part of our consciousness a beast, I am calling so, considering its beastly features. And if such life and death situations occur, that beast is our nearest biological hope.

So, as you can see, all your conscious, subconscious and unconscious realms of the mind have their own basic biological features. They function in proper harmony with each other to give you a rich mental universe. And now that you know how they function, you can make your mental universe even richer and healthier.

 

(This Article was first published on Goodreads.)

Further Reading

Abhijit Naskar, 2015, The Art of Neuroscience in Everything

Abhijit Naskar, 2015, Homo: A Brief History of Consciousness

Abhijit Naskar, 2016, What is Mind?