What is the source of consciousness: the brain or the soul?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMarch 16, 2011

Question: Is there any practical scientific evidence that the soul – and not the brain – is the source of consciousness?

Answer: Yes, there is the sensationally incredible yet scientifically documented evidence of people who have practically no brain yet have normal or even above-normal intelligence.

“Is your brain really necessary?” was the title of an article published in the Science magazine in 1980 about the work of British pediatrician John Lorber. For several decades, researchers had documented anecdotal cases of individuals with very little or no brain, but Lorber, who also served as a member of the Nobel Prize committee, was the first to investigate them systematically and scientifically. He documented over 600 scans of people with the brain disorder called hydrocephalus and broke them into four groups:

  • those with nearly normal brains.
  • those with 50-70% of the cranium filled with cerebrospinal fluid
  • those with 70-90% of the cranium filled with cerebrospinal fluid
  • those with 95% of the cranial cavity filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

Of the last group, who would normally be expected to be severely retarded, half had IQs greater than 100. Here’s one dramatic example reported by Lorber: “There’s a young student at this university, who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain… When we did a brain scan, we saw that instead of the normal 4.5-centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeter or so. His cranium is filled mainly with cerebrospinal fluid.” And he is just one among many cases documented all over the world of intelligent individuals with little or no brain.

These cases are no doubt rare, but their rareness doesn’t decrease their significance. Even if there’s one case of a person with intelligence and consciousness but without a brain, that one case is enough to disprove the theory that consciousness is produced by the brain.

Vedic insights help us understand that consciousness is the energy of the soul. Normally the soul channelizes its consciousness through the brain into the body and the external world. This consciousness perceived in the material body known as citta and it is a stepped-down version of the original pure consciousness of the soul known as cit. By the processes of purification and meditation like mantra meditation, we can raise our consciousness from the citta to the cit level. At that level of consciousness, each one of us can directly, personally, experientially verify higher spiritual realities like the spiritual world and the ultimate spiritual reality, God.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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