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Is the Brain a Receiver of Consciousness as Well as a Generator?

Candace Pert (1946 – 2013)

Neuroscientist & pharmacologist 

Quote: “Creativity comes from the spiritual realm, the collective consciousness. And the mind is in a different realm than the molecules of the brain. The brain is a receiver, not a source.”


Chris Carter asks, “Does consciousness depend on the brain?” PARABOLA Winter 2012-2013. The answer is “yes” if we are referring to how consciousness awakens as the brain generates survival awareness by skillful interface with the environment. This is ordinary consciousness. This amounts to an editing and limiting of the blizzard of input in order to adapt successfully to conditions. In other words, we spend most of our time in ordinary states of awareness

On the other hand many people through the ages assert that there are realms of consciousness that are non-ordinary and exist outside the brain’s survival mode. These realms of consciousness are transpersonal and metaphysical, but can be accessed by that which is asserted to be the brain’s receiving powers. 

It is the non-ordinary consciousness and its contents that we will explore here.

Cyril Burt, in his 1975 The Gifted Child, compares ordinary and non-ordinary consciousness.“The brain is . . . an instrument evolved to transmit [utilize] and limit the processes of consciousness and of conscious attention so as to restrict them to those aspects of the material environment which at any moment are crucial for the terrestrial success of the individual. In that case, such phenomena as telepathy and clairvoyance would be merely instances in which some of the limitations were removed.” So it seems that ordinary brain can to extraordinary brain.

Chris Carter compares the brain to a prism that refracts the content of sense perceptions as well as several non-ordinary types of content.

What follows are examinations of several types of non-ordinary awarenesses very different from the ordinary mind. 

1 Telepathy, clairvoyance, astral projection
2 The archetypes of the collective unconscious
3 Sacred and extraordinary precincts
4 Communing with plants and animals
5 Hypnotic suggestion, trance, past life regression, alien abduction, altered state, scientific breakthroughs, performance trance
6  Dreams

1 Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Astral Projection

“Telepathy is supposed communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses.” “Clairvoyance is a supposed faculty of perceiving things or events in the future, or beyond normal sensory contact.” (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

Burt and Carter assert that our brain evolved as an organ that conducts and guides our awareness/conscious attention efficiently towards skills most beneficial for our survival. Intuition, which may smack of telepathy or clairvoyance, can be viewed as just an additional brain-mind survival tool.

The weighty and advanced psychical/metaphysical phenomena are not proximally pertinent for survival consciousness. We don’t normally need or use telepathy or clairvoyance to get along in life, but 57% of Americans at least believe in ESP. 

Psychics and metaphysicians are glad that the intuitive is generally affirmed. But for them, it is instances of the paranormal, the extraordinary, that are superior, powerful, stunning and seductive.

“Astral projection, is a term used in esotericism to describe an intentional out-of-body experience that assumes the existence of a soul called an “astral body” that is separate from the physical body and capable of traveling outside it throughout the universe.” Wikipedia

2 Jung’s Collective Unconscious and the Archetypes 

Carl Jung asserted that the brain-mind of humans contains a collective layer of non-ordinary unconsciousness—the collective unconsciousness, and it is peopled by archetypes. This is a preternatural realm that contains numinous psychic paradigms which are picked up, so to speak, or rather realized under various conditions by the receiving brain-mind. The collective unconscious is “the part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s [personal] unconscious” and conscious awareness.

Jung’s main archetypes are the persona, the shadow, the anima and animus, the self, the mother, and the father (among others).

Can we say that all these pieces  and chunks from Jung constitute some form of the paranormal that is received by consciousness—quite different from generated survival consciousness?

3 Sacred Precincts and Sports Venues 

Psychical/Metaphysical encounters are normal in the atmospheres of church, mosque,  synagogue, and the seance. The dojo, the Yoga studio, the Zendo, the Olympics games, and like places broadcast to us extraordinary content and powers. The scriptures, the faithful, and the public ethos are full of male and female receivers, seers, hearers, and performers of the numinous. Besides having visions, people are performing near miraculous things, such as high dives, climbing Everest, or composing symphonies. Temples, theaters, sports arenas, symphony halls, and museums are achieving extraordinary productions and artifacts.  

Is some diaphanous or spectral entity “sending” divine inspiration? Are creative people being led by their daemon or genius?

For one exhaustive answer, do consult Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body: Exploration into the Further Evolution of Human Nature; Altered States of Consciousness, edited by Charles T. Tart; The Nature of Human Consciousness, edited by Robert E. Ornstein; Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit by Norman Cousins.

4 Talking to our Animal Kin and to Plants

What are we to make of the plant and animal awareness? Is this a realm of the psychic that is being transmitted to us? We know of incredible instances of animal mind-melding with humans. There are people such as Dan “Buck” Brannaman, the horse whisperer, a cowboy with almost magical ability to calm unruly horses. 

Peter Tompkins gives an account of the physical, emotional, and spiritual relations between plants and man in The Secret Life of Plants. Are we talking about a mystical transmission from the non-ordinary realm to the receiving brain? 

5 Hypnosis, trance, past life regression, alien abduction, altered states, scientific breakthroughs, performance trance

Here is a cocktail of non-ordinary states of awareness. Do they bespeak of transmissions from realms beyond the physical and material world, or are they remarkable effervescences of which the ordinary is capable? For example: high dive champions; one minute mile racers; actors in magical character portrayals; sky divers; basket ball stars; genius sculptors and artists.

6 Dreams

Of all the experiences in life that manifest the psychic, the non-normal, the paranormal, dreaming has got to be the most powerful—the disembodied “visuals” playing out in the dark theatre of the sleeping mind. Dreaming, day or night, disconnects us from the quotidian commitments and drudgeries of survival. In dreams we visit strange, magnificent, surreal climes and meet ghosts and mysterious entities. 

Are these experiences beamed in from “somewhere else,” having nothing to do with the realistic, concrete world?

Frederick Nietzsche seems to say that dreams are something like psychic static. 

Misunderstanding of the dream. In the age of crude primitive culture, man believed that in dreams he got to know another real world; here is the origin of all metaphysics. Without the dream one would have found no occasion for a division of the world. The separation of body and soul, too, is related to the most ancient conception of the dream; also the assumption of a quasi-body of the soul, which is the origin of all belief in spirits and probably also of the belief in gods. ‘The dead live on; for they appear to the living in dreams’; this inference went unchallenged for many thousands of years.” (Source: Walter Kaufman. The Portable Nietzsche, Penguin Books, 1982. p. 52)

Is Nietzsche asserting that dreaming mind is merely awash with jumbled and misapprehended content from everyday life? It seems he is.

Things get worse in Michael Finkel’s Want to Fall Asleep? Read This Story. National Geographic, 08-2018. “Every time we experience REM sleep, we literally go mad. By definition, psychosis is a condition characterized by hallucinations and delusions. Dreaming, some sleep scientists say, is a psychotic state — we fully believe that we see what is not there, and we accept that time, location, and people themselves can morph and disappear without warning.” p. 72. Would you not say that this is a comedown from our vaulted sense of our rationality?


Have I made a lot of conceptual jumps and turns? Yes. And so it goes. But I do acknowledge that many people report paranormal consciousness that is surely different, more thrilling and powerful than everyday natural awareness. But in spite of the charm and enchantment of the array of the paranormal, it is to my way of thinking merely something “hyper-natural,” meaning the paranormal is rooted in the normal. The transpersonal, the astral body, astounding though they be–these are tethered to the personal body, and are signs of only the natural, not the supernatural. My guess is that Plato, pondering the dreadfulness of the material world, came up with “pure ideas and forms,” floating somewhere, as his way of soothing his anguish. I was born into Christianity, what Nietzsche called Platonism for the masses, so I was one of the faithful, and continue to be haunted by the imperative to believe. But my mind is still open. So I will close with deference to my past credence and hope. Regarding the paranormal as supernatural, just bring on something I will have to say is indubitable. Until then I will take the the middle ground of agnosticism, polite tolerance, and stoic calm. FINIS


In The Future of the Body Michael Murphy, Co-Founder, Esalen Institute produced an encyclopedia what he calls the further evolution of human nature.

In The Holotropic Mind Stanislav Grof, M.D. introduces the reader to the evolving psychology of the spirit–transpersonal psychology.

(Thanks to Charlie Atencio for some input.)

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