Week 7: The Relativity of Consciousness- by Leslie Grant

 

An example of how a picture can lead us to perceive things in a way that is against the norm. Does this look like a levitating body? When viewed in real life, this would look exactly like what it actually is- a person jumping.

An example of how a picture can lead us to perceive things in a way that is against the norm. Does this look like a levitating body? When viewed in real life, this would look exactly like what it actually is- a person jumping.

This week’s discussion on consciousness was a truly thought provoking one. I had always found altered states of consciousness interesting, partially because they can be brought about in many ways. Many people tend to focus on the altered consciousness that comes about with the use of mind-altering drugs, but it is my opinion that the varied mind states that can naturally occur when someone is sleep deprived, or has an extreme fever are just as interesting. 

One avenue that I had not considered is the affect that art can have on one’s consciousness. It is apparent that an altered state of consciousness can inspire someone to create a work of art in a way that they never would have considered normally, but I never considered how the reverse can occur, how experiencing a work of art can trigger a different form of consciousness. That is, I never considered it until Thursday’s lecture, when the pseudo-salvia experience was presented. It was then that I realized that even everyday music and sounds have the potential to alter how we perceive the world around us. I also believe that something such as a particularly moving painting can alter our perception of reality, but music seems to have more potential to do so because of how enveloping it is, the way it allows you to block out the sounds of the outside world and replace them with the message that the artist is trying to convey to the listener. 

After contemplating all of this I was inspired to do more research regarding other ways people have intentionally changed their perception without abusing hallucinogens or other drugs, and I came across an invention called the Brain Tuner. It was invented by Dr. Bob Beck and has been in commercial circulation since 1983. The idea behind this invention is that it is supposed to release “relaxing energy” to the body through electrodes. It is my nature to be skeptical of products of this nature, and I even considered for a moment that it may be akin to electroshock therapy. I am still not completely convinced that such an invention is legitimate or even completely safe, but upon doing further research I was able to read some amazing claims. One woman claimed that after being given anesthesia during birth she had lost all of her memories for years, and that upon being presented with a cranial electro-stimulation device her memories returned almost instantly, even memories of things that she would have never expected herself to recall. This case was connected to the electrical nature of the neurons in our brains, which fire electronic signals that trigger the release of neurochemicals. It was no doubt an interesting idea. However, some of the other websites I investigated only testified to the Brain Tuner’s ability to calm people down even in the most stressful environments. When focusing on the first claim, the Brain Tuner seems like a miracle-worker, too good to be true. But when focusing on the latter, the Brain Tuner merely seems like a dangerous mind-numbing device that produces the same effects of yoga or other meditative arts. 

Bob Beck’s Brain Tuner has been linked to a lot of claims regarding consciousness, with the ability to alter dreams as an addition to the two previously mentioned. Some of the more interesting websites that I came upon are listed here: http://drdavidcohen.us/braintuner.html; http://www.elixa.com/braintuner/index.html. It is an indisputable statement that consciousness is directly related to people’s sanity, and therefore should not be constantly tampered with when the consequences are unknown. Overall, my contemplation on the subject has led me to the conclusion that that if people wish to improve their memories and stress levels, they should strive to attain these goals through more natural methods, rather than relying on developing technologies with uncertain side effects. This statement is not to be pessimistic in regards to technology. In fact, according to this website (http://educate-yourself.org/be/) it appears that Dr. Beck’s technology may have led to a scientific discovery with even further reaching possibilities than he ever imagined. It is more meant to be an encouragement to have more faith in our minds’ capabilities when working alone.

Leslie Grant

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