Is Your Brain Really Necessary?

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

You may dismiss the title question as a real no brainer, but in so doing you may be closer to the truth than you realize. I recently encountered some remarkable research that suggests that at least for some people, the answer may be no. A British neurology professor named Dr. John Lorber (now deceased) collected several hundred case studies of people with “no detectable brain” who nonetheless lived perfectly normal lives and scored up to 120 on IQ tests.

One of Lorber’s early encounters with this phenomenon occurred when the campus doctor at his college referred a mathematics student to him. Lorber discovered that the student had hydrocephalus, a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the skull. It is usually fatal within the first few months of life if untreated, and those who do survive with the condition are often severely mentally impaired. Yet this student, who “had less than 1 millimetre of cerebral tissue covering the top of his spinal column,” was not only perfectly normal, but an academically excellent student who eventually graduated with honors.

What on earth is going on in these cases? No one really knows for sure, but a number of theories have been put forth. Lorber and other scientists have suggested that the functions of the brain are so redundant that even very small amounts of brain tissue are able to assume the functions of a normal brain. A related idea is the common notion that we use only ten percent or so of our brains anyway. However, recent brain research has suggested that different areas of the brain are highly specialized and thus (normally) necessary for proper functioning—the “ten percent” idea has largely been discarded. Then there are less conventional theories, such as the theory of memory put forward by biologist Rupert Sheldrake. Brain scientists have discovered that memory is not stored in any particular area of the brain, and Sheldrake speculates that the brain is “more like a radio receiver for tuning into the past” than a storehouse of data. The implication of Sheldrake’s theory is that at least some aspects of mind exist outside of the brain.

A Course in Miracles goes even further than Sheldrake: It tells us that the mind is a purely nonphysical entity that exists entirely outside of the brain. This, of course, is the exact opposite of the conventional view; people everywhere believe that “their minds [are] trapped in their brain, and its powers…decline if their bodies are hurt” (T-13.In.2:7). But this, in the Course’s view, is simply an ego ruse designed to convince us that we are vulnerable physical beings rather than the limitless Sons of God we really are.

The Course’s insistence that our minds are not physical is so emphatic that it dismisses the whole idea that our brains can actually think as utterly preposterous:

You…believe the body’s brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea. It is as if you thought you held the match that lights the sun and gives it all its warmth; or that you held the world within your hand, securely bound until you let it go. Yet this is no more foolish than to believe…the brain can think. (W-pI.92.2:1-4)

The metaphors here are striking: Believing this tiny hunk of gray matter can produce thought is like believing that a tiny match could be the source of the sun’s light and warmth, or that your tiny hand could hold the entire world. That, according to the Course, is how absurd the idea of a thinking brain really is.

Is it really true that our minds are totally nonphysical? This would be a very difficult thing to prove. It must be admitted that there is plenty of physical evidence in support of the idea that the mind is a product of the brain; most of the time, the mind is impaired in its functioning when the brain is hurt. And even with cases like the ones Lorber collected, scientists may yet find a physical explanation for why these people are able to function so well. But the fact that at least some people with “no discernable brain” can think and function perfectly well does raise an intriguing possibility: Could the Course be right? Could the mind be entirely nonphysical? Could it be that your brain is not really necessary?

Source of material commented on: http://www.rense.com/general42/brain.htm