25 May 2010


It has been two weeks since I last posted on blogger. That has been the length of time it has taken me to figure out just how far I stuck my foot into my mouth on my last post. Where I said, as near as I can tell, "hypnosis = meditation = profound devotion = trance".

It turns out the information to correct this oversimplification was sitting on my library shelf, except it took a long time with many false starts and dead ends to zero in on it. The better presentation of this idea is in Charles Tart, States of Consciousness, pp 144-145 of the 2000 Author's Guild edition:

"use of the concept of discrete State of Consciousness must first be done on an individual basis. . . . The very existence of names like dreaming state or hypnotic state indicates that there appears to be a fair degree of commonality among a fair number of individuals . . . Several discrete Altered States of Consciousness may be hidden within common names like hypnosis or dreaming."

Tart's book is fantastic. He has a case study of this subject William, twenty pages long, and William is the most deeply hypnotized subject that Tart has ever studied. My equation above from my blog post of 11 May is a gross and crude approximation to the facts, which are only partially understood. Hypnosis and meditation are at least two different human states of consciousness.

Also there was a less serious error in my description of the meditating monk brain scans. The hot spot in the cortex is in the right parietal lobe, not the left. I actually found the image I was remembering. It is in this paper:

Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: effects of meditative expertise. Lutz A, et al.



The hot spot is on the left side of their brain image which is looking at the brain slice from the bottom up and so right and left are reversed. Since I was a physics major this is merely a sign error and almost does not even count.

One of the books I spent a lot of time on is Doctor Daniel Amen (a neurologist and psychiatrist) Making a Good Brain Great. There was enough good information in Amen's book to keep me turning the pages but also some misinformation. Enough to get the man a quackwatch listing. Supplements for brain improvement which are not recommended treatments by his specialists review board, for example. Apparently the man is an incredible entrepreneur, irrespective of how great a neurologist he happens to be.

The most interesting thing in this book is he has an exhaustive bibliography of references, even to support his bizarre supplement recommendations. He does not take much stock in that famous paper from a couple years ago "Most published research results are wrong." I am pretty confident that, with sufficient time and energy, you can find many peer review research publications to support both sides of a very long list of physiology and anatomy and medical debates.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.