The new brain

What is the next evolutionary step of the human brain? Is there at all such a new step or has the brain reached its final maturation, the pinnacle of its evolution? Is it possible that a brain of a completely different activity would emerge on this planet, transcending the known Homo Sapiens’ brain?

This question is significant, even critical, for at least one reason. There is a growing recognition that, in the not too distant future, humanity will be able to develop forms of artificial intelligence at some level or other of sentience. It could be, some speculations suggest, that such an artificial intelligence would even be programmed to be capable of reacting emotionally.

Now, if robots would one day be able to think by themselves, quote from books and movies in the right moments, cultivate a well-cultured discussion, and even express wishes and yearnings, fears and attachments, how would they be differentiated from human brains?

But is there a “human” brain anyway, in terms of a volitional and independently choosing system? Or are we nothing but a programming too, the result of social, cultural and genetic conditioning, language and memory? Is there any element in our brain that is genuinely un-programmed?

Nowadays, brain science recognizes the brain’s ability to change in an extraordinarily flexible manner. This offers a great hope. First and foremost, it implies that an inseparable part of the nature of self-consciousness is its capacity to become conscious of the program in which it is trapped and to break through it.

 

The enlightened brain

The greatest support that can be given to the shaping of a new brain comes from the higher level of the mind’s functioning. This level is, in essence, completely unconditioned, since it has never been shaped by the forces of time. It is not a result of past, history or cultural influence. It is total wakefulness, an untainted awareness, and not a product of evolution but rather an observing eye that exists beneath all evolutionary streams and that encompasses each and every possible step of evolution.

What would a brain saturated with this higher level functioning look like?

Before anything else, this brain would be, at its core, unconditioned. Since it would be, by its very nature, not a part of the movement but completely outside of it, it would stand fully awake within a luminous nowness. It would be a-historical and non-evolutionary. In other words, it would be essentially free.

When we try to picture such a brain, whose center of activity is no longer processes of accumulation and becoming, we reasonably find it quite difficult to comprehend. After all, the very cognitive activity that encounters such a possibility is thought-based and is therefore unable to capture such an exceptionally different type of timeless cognition.

 

How the brain gets old

Thought, as it is – a ceaseless river of memory, past and future; regret, longing and hope; attachment and desire; quoting and comparing – is an imitation, or a replication, of the stream of time. Thought creates time just as time creates thought.

Time as becoming is an ongoing accumulation, a brick by brick process of building. From a certain point onward, the brain clings to a certain groove and, from it, begins to construct well-paved and familiar pathways. Eventually, the brain merely repeats itself. It becomes hypnotic. Not only is its perspective no longer renewed but it also seeks to confirm itself over and over again. For this reason, it automatically rejects anything that seems to undermine its validity.

In this way, the brain crystallizes. It becomes a Jewish or Hindu brain; a mystical or scientific brain. This is a brain that develops a tradition of its own, even if it appears unattached or indifferent to any known external tradition. It is its tradition of thinking – the one-dimensional perspective according to which it examines and evaluates everything.

Gradually, it begins to react to things according to what it already expects to find in them. It has a ready-made answer for any question, which it shoots out without hesitation. When it reaches a final consolidation, it shifts to only looking backwards. Any piece of information is compared to what it remembers, to that which has become its field of the “known.” When the brain becomes content with only several well-paved mental pathways, which it trusts enough to never bother to look into or question again, the brain begins aging and deteriorating (not an inevitable process of physical aging).

 

The art of listening

The new brain abandons time-based and memory-based thinking for the sake of what one might call “listening.” Listening then turns into the central cognitive activity. The brain’s center of gravity shifts to this mode of complete wakefulness, which does not lean on information, reaction or concepts, and does not examine everything it encounters according to some fixed perspective. On the contrary: it negates the familiar activity, all accumulation and the very principle that intelligence is gradual accumulation.

The conception of intelligence radically changes in such a brain. Now, listening – a lucid, new and free quality of the mind – becomes the most significant type of “intelligence.” The act of negation – a wakeful rejection of cognitive reaction, automatic interpretation and perspective, which was recognized by thinkers, such as Jiddu Krishnamurti, as a principal characteristic of a “new brain” – enables the brain to start afresh.

 

The freedom to ask questions

With all the countless books, theories, carefully developed concepts, and great thinkers of humanity, we still ask the same questions, since none of them could be fully and truly answered. Who are we? Why are we? What is the meaning of life? What is true freedom? What is death?

These questions must be met with an unconditioned and new brain, since they themselves possess a remarkable awakening quality that compels us to inquire, with full attentiveness, into the infinite mystery that encompasses our universe. Such is the power of the great questions of life when presented to a listening brain – to ignite, every time anew, a life-changing movement towards the mystery.

To support such a movement, I developed new-brain techniques such as the “Question” and “Talks of Transformation.”

The listening brain is naturally self-authoritative, because it possesses a genuine freedom to question. As opposed to the listening brain, the so-called individual brain we currently take pride in is not at all individual and independent: it is a brain that was shaped by society and by our relations with it.

The possibility of an emergence of an unshaped brain capable of demonstrating a full wakefulness outside all familiar mental pathways is evolutionarily thrilling. It would bring the collapse of memory as the leading force of our mental activity and the coming apart of all safe and predictable pathways of thinking.

This kind of shift implies no less than a deep transmutation of the brain as we know it: a brand new pair of eyes gazing at everything without a past and so, perhaps for the first time, with the possibility of a real future. Such a brain could show how a mode of listening is a source of new creative activity – including a different perception of the problems of life and their solutions.

 

Read more on the new brain in this Shai Tubali’s article