Toward the First Revolution in the Mind Sciences

Uploaded by Google on 23.07.2007


MALE SPEAKER: Alan Wallace is not a typical man.
He's a man who cannot sit still in one place.
So, even while he was a man, he went on to
get a degree in physics.
And then he went on to study neurosciences, and
psychology, and stuff.
And eventually, he got one of those PhD thingies that some
of you might have. And then he pulled a PhD, so he went on to
become a professor in UCSB.
And then he decided he couldn't sit still in UCSB, so
he went on to found his own institute.
And he decided to take everything as evidence in life
to try to advance the mind sciences.
And, when I heard about his work, I figured these things
ought to be interesting to Google mind sciences and
everything, so I invited him to come visit, come eat with
us, and share a talk.
And before I bring Alan up, just a reminder to all
Googles, please do not ask him any questions that contains
information that is Google confidential.
Thank you, and with that, Alan.

B. ALAN WALLACE: Thank you.

Well, it's quite a delight for me to be with you today.
I've been knowing about Google, like the rest of us,
for a long time.
Delighted to be in the matrix here and to share some of my
passions pertaining to understanding the nature of
the mind, its potentials, the nature of consciousness.
And, as Meng mentioned, I've had a rather diverse
background, but I have been blessed with extraordinary
teachers in the Tibetan tradition, other Buddhist
traditions, but also marvelous instructors in physics,
philosophy of science at Amherst College, and then
doing a very diverse PhD program at Stanford
University, where it was ostensibly in religious
studies, but taking courses in philosophy of physics, and
cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind and trying
to bring all of these together, to integrate them.
My background, being raised in the West but then living for
years in Europe and quite a few years in Asia, trying to
integrate, to synthesize, so that these various aspects of
my own life as a Buddhist monk for 14 years, but also a
physics student and so forth, could be all integrated, and
so that the various aspects of my own last 56 years on the
planet would be all one integrated unit.
So no part was isolated from the others.
You know, it actually took a long time because I've had--
again, been exposed to so many diverse world views, ways of
life, and so on.
So what I'd like to share with you this afternoon is a vision
of a possibility of a first
revolution in the mind sciences.
And this very notion is based on an assumption that
certainly can be contested, probably everything can be.
But the starting assumption here is that, among the
natural sciences, we had the first great revolution in the
natural sciences starting with Copernicus, building up
momentum with Kepler, Galileo, and coming to its fulfillment,
to its fruition, with Newton.
And so the first great revolution we had in the
natural sciences was in physics and astronomy.
And I would say, from my own perspective, it started with
Copernicus, but, with Newton, it came together.
He brought it all together.
And that's when that revolution stopped.
And then we simply had a lot of excellent science, a lot of
ethnophysics, after that.
And then we move over to another discipline.
The life sciences are plugging along, plugging along, and
then, 1859, Darwin comes out with his masterpiece.
And so he started the first and the only great revolution
we've had in the life sciences.
I'd say it started with Darwin.
It started building momentum in the 1870's with Gregor
Mendel, a Christian monk, with genetics, of course.
And then it was building momentum, building momentum.
Key point, one century after Darwin, 1959, Crick and
Watson, DNA, we finally found out the mechanics.
How does this happen, the natural selection?
How can species mutate?
Darwin didn't tell us.
Mendel gave us a hint.
Crick and Watson pointed; there is machinery.
And so, following that, we've had this extraordinary growth,
this spectacular growth, in the study of genetics.
And I would say that great revolution starting in 1959
has come to a culmination; it's over, and it was with the
human genome project.
We've mapped it something like 99% now.
Well done.
And now, of course, the study of biology, of
genetics, will continue.
But it was 140 years, and, interestingly enough, it's
probably just a coincidence, but it was 140 years also from
Copernicus through Newton.
It took 140 years for the revolution to start and then
go voila, there it is.
We've also had a second great revolution in physics, and it
started with Max Planck in 1900.
It picked up momentum in 1905 and 1915 with the special and
general relativity theories from Einstein.
It was truly a revolution.
And by revolution I mean, to use the familiar phrase, the
paradigm is shifted.
Your fundamental orientation towards the subject matter has
shifted, and it will never be the same.
From the geocentric to the heliocentric, from pre-Darwin
to post-Darwin, nothing's the same.
You cannot look at human existence, you cannot look at
the planet, in the same way any more, it's fundamentally
your axis has rotated.
That second great revolution in physics, it's not over.
106 years, if we start in 1900, was Max Planck came out
with the notion of quantum.
It's not over.
There are some core, crucial, fundamental issues in quantum
mechanics, in particular, have not been solved, the most
important of which I would say is the measurement problem.
How is it that you move from a mathematical abstraction of a
probability function which is hardly physical?
It's a pure abstraction.
But prior to making a measurement that's what you
have, you have a probability function, a
Schrodinger wave equation.
And then you make a measurement, and voila, now
suddenly you have an electron that is here.
It still doesn't have simultaneous exact momentum
and location, but at least it's a real electron, photon,
what have you.
But what is it about the act of measurement that moves you
from a realm of possibility to a realm of actuality?
Somehow, the observer's involved, but in what way?
What does it take for a measurement to take place?
What's required?
Do you need consciousness?
Could a robot do it?
We don't know.
The measurement problem, I think it was identified about
1930 or so, it's unsolved, it's big.
We don't know.
What is the role of the observer in the natural world
who takes this from potential to actuality?
But, of course, another major unresolved question in this
20th century physics is you have two extraordinarily
elegant, profound, powerful theories, and that is quantum
mechanics on the one hand and general
relativity on the other.
And neither one's going away; they're too good.
But they're not integrated.
They're not integrated.
That would be the grand unified theory, and nobody's
come up with it.
So, that revolution is in progress, the second great
revolution in physics.
But now we go to the mind sciences.
And I'd like to get a little bit of historical perspective
here to point out one element that I think is absolutely an
indispensable catalyst to bring about a revolution in
any field of science, and that is the development of
extraordinarily sophisticated, advanced methods of empirical
If you don't have that, the revolution's not
going to take place.
That'll be my premise.
You've got to observe this phenomena you're really
interested in, and you've got to observe it beyond folk
astronomy, or folk psychology, or folk biology.
Get professional.
And so, when I think of this first great revolution in the
physical sciences, I don't think of Copernicus.
He was a brilliant mathematician.
He was not a brilliant experimenter.
He was not a brilliant observer.
He'd get up on the roof of his monastery; he'd look at the
stars with the best of them.
He didn't do anything innovative there.
His mathematical theory that was innovative, so they called
it the Copernicus revolution.
Kepler himself was not a great observer.
He got all his data from Tycho Brahe who was a very powerful
observer, a very brilliant Danish astronomer.
But Kepler, like Copernicus, was a great mathematician.
It was Galileo that brought in the full package.
Galileo was the observer.
He was the engineer.
He was the one that reinvented the telescope, which it
actually had been invented in Holland.
He tried to order one; somebody
snipped it on the way.
You know, he Googled and got one on the way, and then they
snip it in the mail.
And so he was there, bummed out, he didn't get his
telescope because somebody snipped it, you know?
And he said to heck with it.
I'll make my own, so he did.
He made himself a twenty power telescope, and he did
something unprecedented.
The telescope was already there, but Galileo was the
innovator and he used it in unprecedented ways.
Instead of just goggling, looking at the girls across
the street in Holland, he directed it upwards.
And everywhere he looked, can you imagine how thrilling this
must have been?
But everything he looked at he was discovering something
nobody'd ever seen before.
He took his telescope and directed it at the moon, and
he saw craters for the first time in humanity's history.
He turned it to Jupiter; he saw the moons
for the first time.
He turned it to the sun; he saw sun spots.
He turned it to Venus; he saw the phases of Venus.
Wouldn't that be thrilling?
That's what was needed.
He too was a mathematician, but he was an experimenter.
He was rolling balls down a ramp to see whether they went
at constant velocity, or they accelerated.
He did actually drop objects off the tower of Pisa.
I've been there and asked the people at the
University of Pisa.
He did it all, and he also brought it out into the world.
He didn't write in Latin like so many of his contemporaries,
he wrote in Italian.
He brought it home.
He was the full package.
He was the consummate first great scientist that brought
it all together.
Among the things he did which was seminal, which is
indispensable for this triggering of the first great
revolution in the physical sciences, was
his use of the telescope.
He was making observations like nobody
had ever done before.
The mathematics was there.
The observation, that was crucial, otherwise, what they
were doing with Copernicus' heliocentric system was a very
cool mathematical system, but we already have
one, thanks very much.
And ours covers the data, it accounts for the appearances,
so does yours, so whatever.
It's a matter of choice.
But it is not a matter of choice when you start seeing
the phases of Venus.
It's not a matter of which one you like, like do you like ice
cream or do you like fudge brownies?

By this rigorous observation of material phenomena, he was
the one, I think more than anybody else, that launched
the true revolution, the first great revolution, and it was
in the physical sciences.
In a similar fashion, Darwin spent about 25 years in very
meticulous, rigorous, careful observation of biological
phenomena, of course, in the Galapagos.
We all know about that.
But, no, it wasn't just the Galapagos.
He was doing years of study observing, observing,
observing, and then, in 1859, came up with this great
monumental work, The Origins of the Species, that would not
have happened had he not been meticulously observing that
biological phenomena.
It wasn't just staying home at his estate and thinking really
deeply about biology, it wasn't by doing really good
physics, it was by observing biological phenomena carefully
and then drawing from that and developing his spectacular
theory of evolution.
Well, then we get to 1890.
We get to the closing years of the 19th century, the first
decade of the 20th century, and a person I believe is of
equal stature.
William James, I have to admit he's one of my
heroes, so look out.
I really love this guy because he was brilliant.
He was an MD, he was a biologist, he was a
spectacular philosopher.
He wrote the greatest American treatise on religious
experience ever, The Varieties of Religious Experience.
He was a psychologist. He started the first neuroscience
lab, experimental psychology lab, in the
United States at Harvard.
He was a brilliant philosopher, religious studies
scholar, scientist, MD, biologist, psychologist. And
he was so dogma-free; that's what I love about this guy.
He wasn't buying into any dogma, but he was an
empiricist. In fact, he started a school of philosophy
called Radical Empiricism.
William James came to the mind, and this is something
that had been postponed for 300 years from the times of
Can you imagine 300 years of the development of science, of
physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, et cetera,
et cetera, 300 years before they actually started the
scientific study of the mind?
That should throw you back for a moment, if you've not quite
thought of it in those terms. This is bizarre.
The mind is that with which you're
doing all of this science.
It would be like somebody giving you an instrument and
saying use this instrument, you'll discover a lot of
things, and then waiting 300 years before you actually look
at the instrument itself.
That is weird.
But there were very good reasons for it, and today we
have too short a time to really explore them in-depth.
But, of course, for those first 300 years, science, the
natural sciences, established a reputation, a spectacular
reputation, a well-earned reputation, for studying
objective, quantifiable, physical, phenomena,
objective, quantifiable, physical, phenomena, so you
can bring in the full weight of mathematics, the
technology, which is there starting from the telescope,
moving right through all the extraordinary advances in

But mental phenomena, emotions, thoughts, mental
images, desires, memories, expectations, the whole array,
visual perception, auditory, mental perception, dreams,
these are not objective; they're subjective.
They're not quantifiable; they're qualitative.
They're not clearly physical.
I mean, the last time you had a dream, look at the contents
of the dream and ask what physical attributes do the
contents of your dream have?
The answer's none.
Or, your emotions, your desires, your hopes and fears,
your feelings, your thoughts and mental images, they don't
have any physical attributes at all; you observe them, and
they're not physical, at least they certainly
don't appear physical.
If they are physical, then they're
really concealing something.
And so William James was presenting, perhaps, the
greatest challenge in the history of science with its
300 years of spectacular success.
because he, himself, was a biologist, an MD--
we have gotten extremely good using scientific method to
explore the objective, quantifiable, physical.
And, now, can we take this same expertise, this same
methodological rigor, and apply it to that which is, by
nature, subjective, qualitative and, perhaps,
And he said let's do it in a way, the old fashioned way,
and that is let psychology be, above all, the study of mental
phenomena as we experience them immediately.
And for that, like physics and like biology, let us catalyze
a revolution in the mind sciences.
Let us start and do it the old-fashioned way, carefully,
meticulously, rigorously observe the phenomena,
He proposed this, and they didn't do it.
They tried it, and they namby-pambied around with it
for about 20, 30 years, and then they stopped.
Now, William James wasn't the only person.
William James started the first experimental psychology
lab at Harvard in 1879.
And here was his mission statement in terms of
He said, "Introspective observation is what we have to
rely on first, and foremost, and always.
The word introspection--
actually, we should have no quotation marks there.
You can take out that middle quotation mark.
He continues, "The word introspection
need hardly be defined.
It means, of course, the looking into our own minds and
reporting what we there discover." In other words,
just as Galileo was an empiricist and Darwin was an
empiricist, when we finally get around to the mind, let's
be equally empirical and study the phenomena themselves.
Now, in presenting this, he did not at all disparage or
try to marginalize studying the mind by way of behavior.
So the whole behavioral sciences, inferring states of
consciousness, mental processes, and so forth by way
of behavior, extremely valuable; he did
not disparage that.
And so we're looking at the fruits, the effects of mental
processes, by studying behavioral output; excellent.
And then, of course, they knew back then that the brain is
crucially important in generating mental states,
processes, and so forth, so causally look at the mind
indirectly by looking at the neural causes giving rise to
metal phenomenon.
Look at the mind indirectly by looking at the behavioral
output, or effects, of mental phenomena.
But first, and foremost, and always, look at the mental
phenomena and let your science be based upon the actual
careful observation of the phenomena themselves.
Now, in the same year that William James started this
first experimental psychology lab at Harvard, Wilhelm Wundt,
a German psychologist in Germany, in the same year, he
started his own experimental psychology lab.
And he echoed a very similar theme.
He said, "The service which it-- the experimental method,
or what we call the scientific method--
the service which the scientific method can yield
consists essentially in perfecting our inner
observation, or rather, as I believe, in making this really
possible, in any exact sense."
That is, anybody can introspect a little bit.
Are you happy right now or sad?
Interested, or bored?
Agitated, or calm?
You don't need to look at your behavior.
You don't have to go to an EEG, or to an fMRI, and ask
how am I doing?
Tell me what my brain scan tells me.
To some level, to some rudimentary level right now,
you even have some idea of what's going on in your mind,
are there a lot of thoughts arising, are you falling
asleep, and so forth, so emotional states, cognitive
states, the focus of your attention, the scattered-ness
of your attention.
But what both William James and Wilhelm Wundt, these two
giants on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, were
suggesting is take your folk psychology, your folk
untrained introspection, and start refining, honing it,
intensifying it, make this a
sophisticated method of inquiry.
This is the battle cry.
This is a great challenge for the mind sciences.
It didn't happen.
It didn't happen, 1913, especially in America, John
Watson at Johns Hopkins University, William James was
just cooling off in the grave, and another movement came in.
It was almost like a palace coup.

And John Watson, in 1913, said, "From now on the
scientific study of the mind is going to avoid all
psychological subjective terms. We will not use the
terms belief and emotion, thought, perception.
We're not going to use any of those subjective terms at all.
They have no place in psychology."
This is bizarre.
We've got a science of the mind, but, by the way, we
won't use any mental terminology at all.
We're going to treat the mind as if it's a black box
containing only dispositions, proclivities for behavior, and
we're going to confine ourselves to studying the
non-mind by way of behavior.
In other words, we're going to flatten, like stamping on a
tin can, we're going to flatten the study of mental
phenomena, treat them as if they don't exist, and reduce
psychology to the study of behavior.
It's back to the good old-fashioned way of
objective, quantifiable, and physical rather than picking
up the gauntlet that William James had thrown out and said,
"It's time to start something afresh; attend to the mental
phenomena." And John Watson said, "No, thanks."
These were radical behaviorists.
This was going on from 1913, building a momentum, the
'20's, the '30's, the '40's, '50's.
In 1953, 40 years later, BF Skinner comes out and says,
"Mental phenomena do not exist. There's no such thing
as emotion, mental images, thoughts,
desires, hopes and fears.
They don't exist at all.
In fact, consciousness is a word that refers to nothing at
all; it's a superstition.

Your jaws should be dropping down to your knee
caps at this point.
And he said, Well, after all, they can't exist. They don't
have physical attributes." What?
This is the absolute trumping of dogma over experience
because they've decided now, BF Skinner writing in 1953,
the only things that exist are physical.
The only things that exist are physical and the properties of
the physical.
Mental phenomena clearly don't have any physical attributes,
therefore, they don't exist. Appearances to the contrary?
Well, tough luck on appearances.
And he kept on saying that until 1974.
He never learned.
And he wasn't some yahoo at Podunk State University.
He was a full professor at Harvard University, and saying
these things look like he's brain dead.
And it really should astound us that such a highly
intelligent person--
I say with respect--
can say such a ridiculous thing.
It compares to Descartes' statement also
operating under the dogma.
Now, it's the dogma of the Roman Catholic church, in the
17th century, when he equated consciousness with the human
immortal soul; only human beings have immortal souls,
animals don't.
If you equated consciousness with an immortal soul, you
now, in one step, logically have to come to the conclusion
that animals are not conscious.
Because they don't have an immortal soul, they don't go
to heaven or hell.
Therefore, your dog has no consciousness,
which means no feelings.
Try to solo that one, if you can.
Well, even back then, they thought, "What, Descartes?
We thought you were a pretty smart guy, but, what?" But
which is more--
pardon me, but-- idiotic, to say your dog has no feelings,
or you have no feelings?

Again, when I was studying this at Stanford, when I was
studying philosophy of mind, we learned that, actually,
that whole school of behaviorism that dominated
American academic psychology for 50 or 60 years can be
refuted with a joke.
I mean, it's tough when a whole system can be refuted
with a joke, but it can be.
A man and a woman make love.
The man rolls over, lights up a cigarette, and he says, "It
was great for you, how
was it for me?" [LAUGHTER]
B. ALAN WALLACE: That should pretty well do it for
But we actually can ask, how is it that brilliant minds,
psychologists at Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford,
Chicago, how could they settle, over 50 or 60 years,
on something so bizarre and so radically anti-empirical?
And I asked my professor of Philosophy of
Mind at Stanford this.
"You know, the reputation of this was a piece of cake; it
was a one-page reputation.
Any sophomore, even with a hangover, could
have written it.
How come they didn't get it?
These were smart people.
Why didn't they get it?" And the professor smiled at me
with a whimsical grin and said, "Well, after all, it was
a matter of fashion." Well, that's a nice way of saying
group think.
It's a nice way of thinking, or saying, lemmings.

This introspection fell by the wayside.
It was thrown out the back window, and
they didn't look back.
And so this challenge of William James and Wilhelm
Wundt, bring introspection and make it scientific, has been
ignored, and has been ignored to this day.
So I'm finding a parallel here.
If we go back to Galileo, his telescope, the kind of trouble
he got himself into, there was a medieval theological
resistance to Galileo's empiricism, to his using the
telescope and discovering things that violated the
principles of a literal reading of the Bible and the
metaphysical assertions of Aristotle.
Because, until Galileo, for the most part, people
interested in the stars were astrologers, and they would do
folk astronomy.
They would look up at the stars, but what they were
really interested in is the terrestrial correlates of
celestial phenomena, that is, "Should I get married
tomorrow, or next month?" "When shall I sow my crops?"
"When was my birthday?" You know.
And so, working out your horoscope, that's what they
were really interested in.
And that's where the professionals were, in drawing
up the horoscopes, and they left astronomy at, pretty
much, a folk level.
And when Galileo said, "Look, I've got a telescope.
I'm making some fantastic discoveries here." The most
conservative of the clerics, the churchmen of his time,
refused to look through his telescope saying,
"We don't need to.
If you discover things through your telescope that contradict
what we already know to be true from the Bible and
Aristotle, what you're seeing is false.
It must be an aberration, an artifact of your lenses.
And, after all, it's merely an illusion,
why should we bother?
We don't need to because we already have
the Bible and Aristotle.
Who are you, Galileo?
Do you think you're an Aristotle?
Do you think you're God?
Why should we listen to you?
We've got the Bible and Aristotle, what do we need you
for, and your empirical observations?"
So they refused to use it, and they refused to accept the
They grounded him.
They put him under house arrest. They said, "Go to your
room and stay there for the rest of your life." You know,
like Mom and Dad getting really irritated with their
teenage kid.
But now we have Galileo in the modern times, we have William
James, saying, "We have a whole new kettle of fish here.
We have a domain of the natural world." In other
words, this is not a supernatural infusion from
God, these are natural phenomena,
these mental phenomena.
Let's follow Galileo's queue and observe them carefully.
But what do we have in response from the
behaviorists, from the cognitive psychologists, and
the cognitive neurophysiologists, which are
very prominent these days?
What do we have here?
We have a focus on the behavioral and neural
correlates of mental phenomena, but introspection,
as a sophisticated, refined means of observation,
by-and-large, a refusal.
By-and-large, in psych departments, neuroscience
departments, if you introduce, "Hey, how about, really, some
refined introspection?" They'll say,
"Sorry, we're busy.
We're busy.
We're studying the brain.
We're studying the hippocampus.
We're studying aspects of psychology, we don't need it."
And, if you claim to have some discoveries from
introspection, "Well, whatever, but we're busy.
And, after all, introspection gives rise to only the
appearances of the mind; they're illusory after all, so
why should we bother?
Let's get back and study the hardware and let's start a new
neuroscience lab." But there is a certain limitation in
this orientation of insisting that everything that is real
must be physical; everything boils down to physics.
And let us just do a waltz through history here.
Think about Copernicus.
Think about the Ptolemaic mathematicians, who are
crunching the numbers coming up with one epicycle, one
eccentric after another.
Great mathematicians, really not that great for observing
celestial phenomena.
And if you can imagine confining your understanding
just to mathematics, you're sitting in a room, and you're
a great mathematician, there's nothing in pure mathematics
that defines mass or energy.
It's not there, not in pure mathematics.
There's nothing that defines the emergence of the physical
phenomena in the universe.
There's nothing in pure mathematics that predicts that
there ever would be a universe.
And, in pure mathematics, there's nothing that explains
the emergence of matter and energy.
When would it happen?
When was the Big Bang?
When did you start getting particles and so
forth and so on?
You have to step outside of mathematics, as Galileo did,
and combine the mathematics with empirical observation.
But now we shift over into the realm of physics.
And imagine for the time being that you only know physics,
but you don't know anything about biology or psychology.
Confine your understanding just to physics, classic
mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, the whole
range of physics.
I would suggest you're going to see the parallel here.
There's nothing in physics, per se, that defines life.
If you don't know anything about biology, there's nothing
in physics that defines life, or live and
dead, healthy and sick.
These words don't mean anything in physics.
That's where my scientific training was.
Those two words don't crop up.
Life and death, healthy and sick, flourishing, and so
forth, they don't crop up.
There's nothing in physics that defines life.
There's nothing in the laws of classic mechanics and all the
way through, that predicts that at some point in the
universe life would emerge.
There's nothing there.
It happened, but physics didn't tell
you it would happen.
And, once it has happened, physics, on its own, does not
explain life.

Let's shift to biology.
Now we've got mathematics, physics, and biology.
But, if you confine your understanding to biology
alone, with its physics and mathematics behind it, there's
nothing in biology that defines consciousness.
Consciousness is not defined in biological terms. There's
nothing in biology that predicts the emergence of
At what point in the evolution of life in the universe, or on
our planet where we know it takes place, at what point did
consciousness happen, and why?
There's nothing in biology that predicts it, nothing in
biology that defines it.
And, once it's there, biology does not explain consciousness
in living organisms.
And now, let's finally move to psychology.
So, finally, one of the mind sciences, and we're studying
attention, and volition, and perception, and
memory, and so forth.
But, in psychology alone, there are people throughout
the planet, in the United States and everywhere else,
for millennia who have been having religious experiences.
Call it spiritual, call it religious, but a sense of the
transcendence, something larger and so
forth, this is happening.
It's been happening a long time.
It's happening to this day.
But there's nothing in psychology, per se, that
predicts that this would ever happen, that defines religious
experience in its own terms rather than reducing it to
something very prosaic like hysteria, a form of neurosis,
a form of psychosis, and so forth.
In drawing it down to psychology, you miss what was
there that was distinctively spiritual or religious.
Psychology, by itself, does not define, predict, or
explain the emergence of religious experience, and yet,
there it is; it happens.
So this would be an argument, not against math, physics, or
biology, or psychology, but, saying it's arguing for
epistemic pluralism.
And that is, let's get out of this rut of thinking that
everything can be explained in terms of the more primitive
and recognize that we need different modalities of
inquiry, that everything does not boil down to
physics or to biology.
In this physicalist world view, which, in many ways, has
so much going for it, we know about what happened during the
nanoseconds after the Big Bang; that is spectacular.
We know about the nucleus of an atom, quarks with charm and
color, and so forth; that's spectacular.
We know about the constitution of galactic clusters 10
billion light years away; that is amazing.
But what about consciousness, that which makes all of
science possible?
It's the blind spot, I would call it, metaphorically, the
retinal blind spot in the scientific vision, where the
optic nerve touches the back of the retina, and you know
what happens there.
What we should have is we're walking around with two dark
spots in our visual field, right, we shouldn't have that
because there's no information coming in from those spots.
But what does our cunning brain do?
It covers over the area, about which you know nothing at all,
it covers it over with the environment.
So, if you're looking at a brown wall, it
covers it with brown.
If you're looking at a purple wall, it covers
it over with purple.
It covers over that which you don't know at all with that
which is familiar and gives you an illusion of knowledge;
Well, what is there in the retinal blind spot of the
scientific vision of reality?
I would suggest it's consciousness.
We have no scientific definition of consciousness.
That's a bad start.
If consciousness is a natural phenomena, for heavens sake,
let's have a definition.
How can you study it, if you don't even
define what you're studying?
That's a problem.
But, for any empiricist, it's a crucial point that we have
no objective means of detecting consciousness.
There's a word for a type of technology that doesn't exist.
It's called a psychometer.
It would be like a Geiger counter that you could point
to a rock, and a plant, and to an amoeba, and to a baby
during the first trimester, and during the last trimester,
and to an old person who's got Alzheimer's and become
vegetative, and so forth, and you would bring out your
little psychometer and it would go eh, eh, eh, eh, eh.
No, the computer's not conscious.
And then, to the insect-eating plant, and the rat, and the
cockroach, et cetera, and you would get it on, like, a
Geiger counter, oh, it's 10 psychometer or something, it
would be psychological units, that's how conscious it is.
It would be marvelous to have such technology, the only
problem is we don't have it.
That's why there's such an enormous debate,
still, about abortion.
No person wants to kill babies.
These are not evil people on either side of the fence, but
nobody's got a clue, and that thing
in the womb is conscious.
So, is it 12 days?
Is it, as the Muslims say, 120 days?
Is it, as the Roman Catholics say, at conception?
Who's got a clue empirically?
We don't have any objective means of detecting the
presence or absence of consciousness in anything,
mineral, plant, animal, humans, et cetera.
That makes it tough to have a science of consciousness.
What are the neural correlates of consciousness, that is,
whenever we have a conscious being?
You're conscious.
I'll bet my life on it.
You are conscious.
And, yet, what are the neural correlates?
What's invariably happening when you are conscious?
We don't know.
They're called the NCC, the neural correlates of
consciousness, haven't been identified yet let alone
We don't even know what the neural correlates of
consciousness are.
Here's a crucial one.
What are the necessary and sufficient causes of
Well, we don't have to speak about it in the abstract.
Let's say, visual perception, we know a lot
about the visual cortex.
It's the area of the brain that is really pretty well
mapped out.
We know, in a human being, the visual cortex is necessary for
us to see color for visual perceptive to take place.
So we know that visual cortex, the optic nerve, the retina,
are necessary for the generation of visual
perception in human beings.
But do you need a visual cortex if you're developing
some artificial intelligence and you
want it to be conscious?
But you're not going to give it a brain, a gushy brain, you
wanted to work it out with silicon chips.
So is a visual cortex necessary in an instrument of
artificial intelligence?
We don't know.
We don't know what the sufficient causes are, whether
it's sufficient just to have a visual cortex and
photons coming in.
We don't know what the necessary or sufficient causes
are for visual perception let alone any other kind of
So any assumptions about what happens to consciousness at
death are just assumptions.
Because, to know, to speak with confidence and knowledge,
consciousness terminates at death, you would have had to
identify the necessary and sufficient causes and know, at
least, the sufficient causes aren't there.
But we don't know what they are, so, frankly, we don't
know what happens to consciousness at death.
And we finally come to what, David Chalmers, the
philosopher of mind, called the hard problem, and that is
the chemicals, the electricity inside the skull, they're
really ordinary.
They're just what chemists have been studying for decades
and decades.
There are no mystical neurons.
There's no mystical chemicals or electrons in there; it's
really ordinary stuff.
So how is it the neurons generate subjective
What is it about those chemicals and electricity that
enables them to generate subjective experience, mental
states, or even influence mental states?
And, although we know from the placebo effect that when you
go to a doctor and you receive a tablet and you believe it
will help, the placebo effect is going to kick in big time,
just your belief or expectation, your desire and
trust, will have enormous impact on your body, your
brain, your immune system, the pharmaceutical industry knows
this very well, how is that possible that you go from an
idea, a faith, a belief, and it actually influences
physical health?
We don't know.
So, when we add up all of that ignorance, it becomes hard to
say that we actually have a science of consciousness.
It falls in the retinal blind spot.
But, nevertheless, we cover over that retinal blind spot
with assumptions or, what I would call,
an illusion of knowledge.
And John Searle, a very distinguished philosopher of
mind, expresses this illusion of knowledge, although he's
expressing it as knowledge, when he writes, "There is a
simple solution to the mind-body
problem." Isn't that relief?
It's a simple problem, and the news gets better.
"This solution has been available to any educated
person since serious work began on the brain nearly a
century ago, and, in a sense, we all know to be true." Well,
that should be a relief.
And, "Here it is, mental phenomena are caused by
neurophysiological processes in the
brain." Yeah, of course.
We know that.
You know, knock out your visual cortex; you don't see
any longer.
Knock out your hippocampus.
Other things don't happen.
Frontal cortex, other things, we know that.
But wait a minute, there's a catch.
"Mental phenomena are, themselves,
features of the brain.
Mental phenomena, themselves, are physical.
Wait a minute.
When did we learn that?
Where is the empirical evidence that showed
equivalents between mental phenomena and neural events
rather than neural events taking on the role of causal
agents generating resultant mental phenomena?
Who demonstrated equivalence?
The answer is nobody.
But he's saying everybody knows it.
How does everybody know something that nobody knows
and for which there's no empirical evidence at all of
Well, happily, one of the foremost people on the front
lines of scientific research into consciousness, Christof
Koch, outstanding cogno-neuro scientist, he's the one
leading the charge of trying to find the neural correlates
of consciousness.
He unmasks this illusion when he states, "The character of
brain states and the phenomenal states," by that,
he means mental phenomena, desires, emotions, and so
forth, mental phenomena, "The character of brain states and
mental states appear too different to be completely
reducible to each other."
Look at brain states, they don't have any mental
qualities at all.
Observe mental states, phenomena processes, they
don't have any physical properties at all.
Bring out all your instruments of technology.
They do not detect a single mental event.
So why on earth are we equating these when they don't
even have any overlapping qualities?
And, in fact, neural events, being causal, take, generally,
about 100 milliseconds to generate the
resultant mental state.
They don't even exist at the same point in time.
So he's calling a spade a spade here, you know?
They're so different it now seems unlikely that they can
be reducible to each other, namely, that mental phenomena
are nothing other than brain states.
He said, "I suspect that the relationship is more complex
than traditionally envisioned." Traditionally
envisioned is mental phenomena are just physical.
"For now, it is best to keep an open mind on this matter."
I love it when scientists say that.
Let's just acknowledge that we're ignorant.
We don't know the nature of mental events.
We don't know that they're physical.
Let's keep an open mind.
But, practically speaking, what should we do now?
And let's concentrate on identifying the correlates of
consciousness in the brain.
So it's back to business as usual.
It's not picking up the gauntlet that William James
threw down, it's going back to the safe, observing the
quantifiable, the physical, the objective as if you were
going to really fathom the nature of consciousness by
simply studying the neural correlates that contribute to
the generation of consciousness.
He's a really good neuroscientist, so we can't
blame him for saying let's focus on the brain, but that
doesn't mean all of us should.
William James said, please, when are you going to start
listening to me?
Daniel Boorstin, a very distinguished historian,
American historian, wrote an excellent book called, The
Discoverers, the history of mankind's discovery for the
last 5,000 years.
In the preface of this book, he makes a
very important point.
He said, "Throughout human history illusions of
knowledge," thinking we know something that we don't really
know at all, but absolutely being convinced of it,
"illusions of knowledge, and not ignorance, have proven to
be the principal obstacles to discovery." Ignorance is clean
and it's honest; "I don't know.
Can we find out?" An illusion of knowledge is, "I already
know, and we don't need to ask." "Mental
phenomena are physical.
Any more questions?" That's an illusion of knowledge as
Christof Koch makes quite clear.
So what I'm proposing here is I try to envision the first
revolution of the mind sciences.
We haven't had one.
It started in 1879.
Where was the revolution?
At what point was nothing the same because our understanding
of the mind is radically shifted like it did with
Darwin with respect to life, Galileo with respect to the
planet Earth and its place in the universe?
And so, what I'm suggesting here is, we need a renaissance
of empiricism.
That the empirical examination of physical phenomena--
if we look back to the time of Galileo, the empirical
examination physical phenomena dispelled the illusions of
knowledge of medieval scholasticism with respect to
or regarding physical phenomena.
They thought, in the 16th century, the 15th century,
that knowledge of the universe was pretty well complete.
They had the Bible, which is God's own word.
They had Aristotle, the philosopher.
Thomas Aquinas fused these into one complete, perfect
system, except for it was riddled with
illusions of knowledge.
And Galileo started tipping over that cart, and it's never
been up-righted since.
It was Galileo, and then it was Newton, then it was one
after another.
And they kept on showing that which you thought was complete
is not only not complete, but it's radically flawed because
you're mistaking illusions of
knowledge for actual knowledge.
And I'm suggesting here the empirical observation of
mental phenomenon, not just the behavioral and neural
correlates, the phenomena themselves.
Picking up the challenge of William James may dispel the
illusions of knowledge of modern physicalism regarding
mental phenomena.
Physicalism assumes, it insists emphatically, there is
nothing in the universe apart from physical phenomena and
their emergent properties.
Who said?
Why should the whole of reality fit into a human
conceptual construct?
After all, we're the ones who define physical; nature didn't
define it for us.
And the very notion of the physical has shifted from the
time of Descartes, through Galileo, through Newton,
through Maxwell, through Max Planck, through Einstein,
through Stephen Hawking.
It's a moving target.
Everything is reducible to physics?
Which physics?
The physics of yesterday, or today, or 100 years from now?
Where's the moving target stop?
At what point can you physicists say, OK, we've got
it under wraps now.
We know what the physical are, and mental phenomena have to
fit into that box.
The day you've stated that, you've just stopped doing
physics and you've become a medieval scholastic.
We now know what is physical and nature, happily, fit into
our conceptual construct.
Nature, the whole of nature, fit into our box and we called
it physical.
That's not scientific, that's dogmatic.

And so perhaps the empirical observation of mental
phenomenon may dispel this illusion of knowledge, not
from medieval scholasticism, but from modern scholasticism.
Now, happily, our Euro-American, Australian, and
now our modern because it's in Singapore, it's in Bangkok,
it's in Argentina, it's in Brazil, it's not just the West
now, it's the vision of modernity.
Happily, we are not the only intelligent life in the
universe, our Euro-American civilization.
Happily, there have actually been other civilizations on
this planet that have had the same, statistically the same,
scattering of geniuses as our Euro-American civilization.
But they weren't us.
They weren't in the Mediterranean basin.
They didn't come out of the Abrahamic religions of
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
They didn't come out of the Greek
heritage, Plato and Aristotle.
Other civilizations, like that of China for 5,000 years,
India for who knows how many thousands of years, might be
able to come up with anything that we haven't.
It's one of those questions you don't often ask, at least,
not in academia.
I've been there.
It's not one of the questions that comes up.
We're just assuming that we trump everybody.
But India, classical India, they, unlike Galileo, unlike
the founders of our scientific revolution, they were not
seeking a God's-eye view of objective reality.
They were not creating, or assuming, an absolute
demarcation, a bifurcation between subject and object and
trying to observe the purely objective world from an
absolutely outside perspective, God's own
That just wasn't on the agenda for the Indians, for these
classical Indian truth-seekers.
They were seeking to understand the world of
experience, not some objective world independent of
In science, we call it loka.
Now, if that's your agenda, to understand the world of
experience, not a God's-eye view of something that
transcends experience, if that's what your focus is--
in German philosophy, by the way, it's called lebenswelt
from the phenomenological tradition of Husserl and
if what you're primarily wishing to understand is the
world of experience, then the study of the mind has to be
first, foremost, central, to your inquiry into the natural
world because the world of experience doesn't even exist
without consciousness.
There is no world of experience without somebody
experiencing it.
And so, for the Indians, the study of the mind was the
first thing they tackled.
In modern science, it was kind of like the
last thing they studied.
Consciousness itself didn't even come up in psychology for
almost 100 years.
Only in the last 10 or 15 years has consciousness become
a legitimate object of inquiry for a cogno-neuro scientist,
for a psychologist. When I studied cognopsychology at
Stanford, consciousness was not there.
It wasn't even in the index.
And introspection was mentioned only in the preface
when they said, "We tried it.
It didn't work." And they moved right on.
The Indians, happily, are not part of our
Mediterranean basin box.
They had their own areas, and this is one of them.
The Sanskrit term is Samadhi, and I'm proposing here that
it's a type of telescope of the mind.
These revolutionary truth-seekers, and they were
revolutionary because they were kicking away from an old,
tired, dusty religious system, called the Brahmanic
tradition, heavily institutionalized,
ritualistic, dogmatic, close-minded.
And they said enough.
And these shramanas, or these truth-seekers, roughly, maybe
3,000 years ago, they set out to understand the world of
experience with a primary emphasis on mind.
And the first thing they discovered is, if you're going
to try to observe mental phenomena, your observation of
it has to be introspective, but your attention is wobbling
all over the place, right?
It was ADHD 3,000 years ago.
It's, you're either getting dopey and falling asleep, you
know, falling asleep at the wheel, or your mind's
scattered all over the place.
How can you make rigorous and sane observation of mental
phenomena if your attention is wobbling all over the place,
oscillating between dullness and agitation?
So the first thing they did--
and they were very good at it by the time that Buddha came
along 2,500 years ago--
is they developed extraordinarily effective
techniques for refining and focusing attention.
Rather like a telescope firmly mounted on a tripod, polished
lenses, large aperture, so you can make stable, vivid
observations, now, not at stars because they weren't
that interested, but they were fascinated to study the mind.
And they developed a telescope of the mind the like of which
we have never developed.
And modern science, since William James, has not made
any progress at all.
Now that was the groundwork laid, like the Dutch lens
makers who started off before Galileo.
And there was this historical individual, Buddha, Gautama,
and I would say he was to India what Galileo was for the
West. He took a pre-existing technology, but it was a
contemplative technology of refining attention, and he
applied it in unprecedented ways.
Instead of simply going into a state of samadhi, experiencing
bliss, and equanimity, and euphoria, and so forth, he
stabilized the mind, and then he used it to explore states
of consciousness, ordinary states, extraordinary states,
but rigorous, careful, empirical observation of
mental states of consciousness and made extraordinary
At least, that is the claim.
Not for us to take as religion, that would be
boring, but to take his hypotheses.
They said they discovered this just like any good scientist.
You hear of somebody over there in Beijing made a
discovery in their lab?
Can we replicate it?
That's the first thing that comes up.
Somebody in Korea said they've cloned a dog, they've done
this and this?
Let's replicate it.
Oops, that was a phony, so write him off.
Get back to work.
But this is what scientists are doing all the time.
Somebody makes a claim; replicate it.
And this is exactly what the Buddha encouraged.
He said these are my discoveries, but don't just
take my word for it.
See if you can replicate it.
And here is the experimental
procedure, refine your attention.
Well, here's the overall framework.
First of all, cultivate a way of life, your whole way of
behaving in the world, that is conducive to social
flourishing, so that, here at Google, you can all get along
together, happily, harmoniously.
You know how that happens; it's called ethics.
No ethics, you're going to be all ripping each
other's hair out.
Without ethics, no harmony.
With ethics, you've got a chance.
But also, in our relationship with the environment at large,
with Mountain View with the state of California, the
planet Earth, there is a way that we can live in harmony
with our natural environment without sucking it dry and
leaving the husks to our children.
It's called ethics, environmental ethics.
And so that was the foundation.
Upon the basis of that, developing mental balance,
refining the mind, refining attention, developing
exceptional levels of mental health and well being.
And, with that basis, then becoming a true contemplative
scientist and using a refined attention to explore states of
consciousness, giving rise to a sense of spiritual
flourishing or, what some would call, liberation.
So I'm suggesting something dramatic, something
revolutionary, here, and you notice I said
nothing original at all.
It was William James, it was Wilhelm Wundt, it was Buddha,
so they're just saying this is the way to go to understand
the nature of the mind.
Don't be satisfied by just studying the physical
You're always going to get that which is around
consciousness, but not the nature of consciousness.
Should we be skeptical of that?
And the answer is, "Yes," said Richard Feynman, the great
Nobel laureate in physics.
He said, "One of the ways of stopping science would be only
to do experiments in the region where you know the
law." Play it safe.
If you want to understand consciousness,
stick to the brain.
You'll get tenure.
You'll publish in peer review journals.
Go introspection route, and oh, you are on thin ice.
"But," he said, "experimenters search most diligently and
with the greatest effort, in exactly those places where it
seems most likely that we can prove our theories wrong."
There's a theory the mind is just the brain.
The mind is just an epi-phenomenon of the brain.
The mind, mental phenomena, are physical.
Maybe it's true.
But the good skeptic, not the one that's skeptical of other
people's views, the person who's skeptical of his own
assumptions, says let's put that one to the test. In other
words, he says, "In other words, we are trying to prove
ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that
way can we find progress."
Now, science is known for skepticism, religion is known
for dogmatism, but what did the Buddha say here?
This great Galileo of India, he said in response to a bunch
of skeptics, he said, "You are skeptical about what you
should be skeptical about." He said, "Do not be led by
reports, or tradition, or hearsay.
Do not be led by authority of religious text or by mere
logic and inference all by itself, nor by considering
appearances," just taking a casual look, taking all
appearances at face value, "nor by delight in speculative
opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea
this is my teacher." What he said must be right.
"But, when you know for yourselves that certain things
are unwholesome, destructive, and
detrimental, then reject them.
And, when you know for yourselves that certain things
are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them."
In other words, be a skeptic.
He encouraged his own followers to be skeptical.
So Occam's Razor was used to great effect coming out of the
Medieval era into the Renaissance.
As Occam said, the principle is, "It is vain to do with
more assumptions what can be done with fewer assumptions."
What I'm suggesting here is we have too many assumptions in
the scientific study of the mind.
Let us use Occam's Razor to shave off the assumption that
mental phenomena are physical.
It's just an assumption.
Christof Koch pointed out they don't look physical.
Why should they be?
And, if we shave off that assumption, what have we lost?
What less do we know?
And I would suggest nothing.
We still know the correlates.
We know just about as much about the brain and behavior
as we did before.
We've just shaved off an assumption that's never been
Throw that one out, and now apply a fresh method of
inquiry of introspection to actually
observe mental phenomena.
And what might we gain?
And the answer is, we don't know until we try it.
As we draw this to a close, we come back to William James,
who suggested, in terms of this interface, science,
religion, and empiricism, is that, "Let empiricism once
become associated with religion, as hitherto, through
some strange misunderstanding, it has been associated with
irreligion, and I believe that a new era of religion as well
as philosophy will be ready to begin.
I fully believe that such an empiricism is a more natural
ally than dialectics ever were, or can be, of the
religious life." In other words, introduce empiricism
into religion as much as science.
Throw out dogma on both sides of the fence, and let's see
what the fireworks display.
Final point here is I suggest that, towards a first
revolution in the mind sciences, I would suggest that
we haven't had one because there's been too much dogma
suppressing the empirical study of mental phenomena
themselves as opposed to the physical correlates.
But now there's a possibility, as we have access to Buddhism
and Hinduism, the Sufi tradition, psychology,
neuroscience, we no longer are isolated.
Here, at Google, you know this, maybe better than
anybody else.
You are on the globe.
Your physical plant happens to be in Mountain View, but it
could be in the Amazon, right?
We are now living in a globe where we can integrate like
never before.
Integrate these rigorous first-person and third-person
methodologies, from the contemplative, the
psychological, the neuroscientists, in
collaboration between cognitive scientists, the
whole broad range, and who have exceptional mental skills
and insights resulting from rigorous, sustained mental
training, and observing and experimenting with states of
So there would be a challenge, to break down the barriers, to
throw out dogma and uncorroborated assumptions,
and open up a new renaissance of empiricism in the
scientific study of the mind that would be profoundly
contemplative and experiential, and yet
rigorously scientific, that could revolutionize the
contemplative traditions.
It could revolutionize science.
And it could bring this unfortunate rift between
religion and science, creationism in the school
district that makes most of us gag, and so forth, start
breaking down those barriers, and see about integrating East
and West, ancient and modern, and cast a fresh light on the
nature of the mind and on human identity.
It's a possibility.
That's my hope.
B. ALAN WALLACE: So if anybody has questions or observations
or debates, anything is welcome.
AUDIENCE: So, first thing, you kind of asked the core
and came back to the [UNINTELLIGIBLE] that instead
of looking for so much proof that the split within the
Greek thought as one of the original places we ought to
look at resolving this.
And then there's also, of course,

in a particular place, look at all of the traditions.
Can you comment on why Buddhism particularly?
Or is it just one way?
B. ALAN WALLACE: It's just one way.
I was using that in a short presentation.
I was saying here is a good sampling.
This was not promoting Buddhism versus Hinduism, or
the Muslim tradition, or the Taoist tradition.
Not at all.
I was saying this is a good example from the very rich,
well-developed, intellectually very sophisticated,
contemplative tradition.
But the Santa Barbara Institute, which I founded, is
not a Buddhist institution.
It is an inter-contemplative tradition drawing from the
wealth of East and West contemplative traditions from
all over the world, interfacing these with the
best of science.
So it's not plugging any one tradition, and it's certainly
not trying to validate Buddhism or
any particular school.
Very much the contrary.
These great contemplative traditions have been after
universal truths, and not just trying to
corroborate Buddhist ideas.
And I'm not interested in that, at all.
So, I think, going back to Greek thought, back to Plato,
back to Pythagoras themselves, to the notion of Noitos, which
is a type of mental perception by means of which we can
directly observe non-essential mental phenomena.
That's a Greek notion, but we've forgotten it.
So I don't want to leave anybody out, that is
indigenous people, East and West, bring it all together
because the stakes are high now.
We're dealing with something that is central to everybody's
existence, and that is consciousness.
So let's throw out dogma of all sorts, sectarianism,
biases of all sorts, and not leave anybody out, not leave
out the contemplatives, not leave out the neuroscientists,
for heaven sakes, not leave out anybody, and really start
fusing and taking advantage of the technology, including
transportation, that we have now so that we can really draw
from this wealth of wisdom, and insights, and multiple
This epistemic pluralism, I think, is absolutely the key.
Two more questions.
Here's one.

AUDIENCE: If you want to approach consciousness in a
scientific way, which I assume you--
B. ALAN WALLACE: Absolutely.
AUDIENCE: are for, you need some idea of what it means to
prove or disprove something.
B. ALAN WALLACE: Very true.
AUDIENCE: How do you do that in the absence of physical
B. ALAN WALLACE: Very good.
So the question is if this is going to be scientific--
and, of course, science gained its laurels by studying
objective things that you look at from a third-person
perspective, quantifiable, but measurable out there, right?
So, if one lab does it, another can corroborate it,
and it's pretty clear.
And mental phenomena are subjective.
There we are.
As John Searle says, "Irreducibly, ontologically,
first-person," right?
But I think a good analogy for this-- the question deserves
not a two-minute answer.
It deserves conferences and really detailed investigation
so we don't come up with cheap answers.
Cheap answers are easy.
But if we take, as an example, mathematics--
now, mathematics is not scribbling things on a board.
That's the outer display of it.
But anybody who doesn't know mathematics can memorize the
equations and write with the best of them with no
understanding at all.
Mathematics, when I studied higher mathematics in my
training in physics, it's really subjective.
It's working through a proof.
It's thinking.
And you may do something out here on the
board, you may not.
But the real juice of mathematics is something
that's taking place internally.
And you say, "Well, how can mathematicians ever speak with
each other?
How can they know who's great?
Well, they did a similar training.
They go through an undergraduate, they go through
the graduate, they go through postdoc, and, after a while,
they know who gets the Fields Medal.
It's not just that he wrote things on the board, it's
through dialogue.
And you say, "Oh, we speak a similar language here.
Everybody else, they can't understand what
we're talking about.
But you and I have gone through eight years of
training in mathematics, and we know the elegant proofs.
We know shoddy mathematics.
We know the short stuff.
And so, even though it's largely internal, they develop
a language of common training so they can communicate
amongst themselves in ways that outsiders cannot fathom.
Now let's imagine.
Now, this is hypothetical in a way, but it's also historical
in another, and that is I spent a lot of time with
Tibetans living in Tibetan culture, and we have
contemplatives there that will go for 10,000, 20,000 hours of
training with a common basis of ideas and training in
contemplative technology and so forth.
And they developed a refined--
how do you say it--
professional language that they can speak amongst
And they know what they're talking about because, like
the mathematicians, a shared training developing a shared
And then amongst them-- and we know this is true-- in the
Tibetan tradition, all the great contemplatives, the
great scholars, they know who the cream are.
It was Dingo Khyentse Rinpoche, it was Ling
Rinpoche, it was Kalu Rinpoche.
These people, the peers know.
To an outsider it looked like, well, a really sweet monk, a
really nice guy, good charisma.
But the professionals know it's more than that.
This guy really has the skivvy.
This man really knows what's going on.
So I would not ask you to accept that because I'm saying
it, but I am saying this issue has been grappled with.
If we take a more prosaic example, wine connoisseurs.
And that is, when I drink--
I got my palate ruined when I was 18 because I got drunk on
Red Mountain wine, whiskey, and beer at the same time, and
that totaled my tongue for life, you know?
And so I can't tell any good vintage from another.
But I've hung out with people who've had that training.
It's three years formal training, and then years of
getting experience.
So two wine connoisseurs will come together and say, was it
a 1948, or '49?
And What part of France was this raised in?
So the taste of wine is very subjective.
You can't pick up the taste of wine with some external
technology that will tell you this is a five $500 bottle
versus a $5 bottle.
No technology will tell you that.
But they train.
And then they use things like bouquet and so forth, whereas,
I don't even know what they're talking about.
But they have a specialized vocabulary.
And they know who the brilliant wine connoisseurs
are and who are just mediocre.
And it's a specialized vocabulary that they know what
they're talking about.
And outsiders, like me, I don't have a clue.
So wine tasting, that's very empirical.
The mathematical is very internal.
If we try to draw inspiration from those only by analogy,
then perhaps we can get some idea.
But, again, the danger, there's all kinds of potholes
here, a minefield, and that is they're all being brainwashed
in the same way.
And that was how introspection fell to its knees and died is
that different labs were simply corroborating their own
And the trainees, the observers, their observations
were so laden with the theories and assumptions of
their mentors, that they weren't getting this intra-lab
corroboration, so it fell apart.
But they gave up too soon.
And they didn't go through a 10,000 or
20,000 hours training.
Not Wilhelm Wundt, not Tischner at Cornell, not James
at Harvard.
This requires training, if it's going to be professional.
Don't give them five hours of training
or a week of training.
How about three years of training, 10 years of
training, training the mind 10 hours a day?