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Very interesting thanks Michael. This 'tightening of the sieve' is a useful illustration. It reminds of the phenomena of 'terminal lucidity'', in reverse, as the 'sieve' fails, normal processing may be restored at least temporarily prior to death.

Great post, Michael!

I think it's also pertinent to note that antidepressant and antipsychotic medications tend to have a numbing, sedating effect, as if to close the aperture of the filter somewhat.

If this is so, then what is doing the filtering once one is dead and, we are lead to believe, have escaped the limitations of the brain?

While alleged spirit communication, NDEs etc present an image of extraordinary new perceptions...360degree vision for example or instant does not as far as I know decscribe spirits overwhelmed with knowledge and senses and voices , nor do they appear to lose their sense of individual identity which itself would surely be the result of the brain's "manageable" limitations.

Without such filtering in other words how do the dead appear to remain more or less themselves and perfectly sane?

My sister Rose was a schizophrenic. She was also manic depressive too. Rose was brilliant when she was young and in school. She had a scholarship to the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. She got married and started having kids and went on the Beeler diet where she lived on Zucchini and green beans while she was pregnant and it was like she wasn't getting enough nutrition, and the babies took it from her and it was like her brain just snapped when she was 27 years old. She lost touch with reality. She was so unhappy and the doctors had trouble controlling her depression and put her on massive doses of lithium. She died of kidney failure when she was 46 years old in 1988. I like to think of her as being whole on the other side. I believe we are healed when we enter that Light. The Rose I knew as a child will be there waiting for me in the Light when it comes my turn to cross over.

"If this is so, then what is doing the filtering once one is dead and, we are lead to believe, have escaped the limitations of the brain?"

Good question. Here's a possible answer: Maybe the so-called discarnate person is not actually discarnate in the literal sense. Maybe there is still a body, but it's a more evolved body, akin to the spiritual body discussed by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. It still has a filter, but a greater proportion of higher consciousness can be processed.

This would fit in with claims attributed to deceased communicators - namely, that they must lower their vibration and restrict their consciousness in order to function on the earth plane. It would also fit those NDEs in which the person temporarily experiences a complete awareness of his own history (life review) or the universe in general (cosmic consciousness), but does not remain in this condition.

In other words, the transition may be incremental, not radical. Instead of going from a tight filter and a limited brain to no filter and no brain, maybe we go to a slighter looser filter and a slightly more evolved brain (or nonphysical brain equivalent). Meanwhile the higher self remains unaffected.

Just a thought ...

For the scientifically minded there is an excellent Medscape article titled "Gray, White Matter Changes Seen in Schizophrenia". When I try to link to it, it takes me to a log-in page and I can't see the article. But if I browse for 'schizophrenia and grey matter' I can find the article in the search results and it takes me directly to the article. I think that it is worth the effort to read this more comprehensive article.

"The close relationship between mysticism and madness (and between madness and artistic or scientific genius) has often been commented on."

But do the brains of mystics and artists exhibit a loss of gray matter?

Perhaps if one thinks of a consciousness as what truly survives death of the physical body, then it seems to me inappropriate to speak in terms of 'more' or 'less' consciousness. This is a matter of definition of terms.

Of course if one is unaware of what is going on in one's physical reality then the person might be considered to be unconscious but the consciousness, i.e. spirit is still whole and not diminished in any way. Being conscious and being a consciousness are two different things. Allowing the consciousness to perceive more or less stimuli does not affect the intrinsic wholeness of the consciousness or spirit in any way.

A consciousness may perceive more or less of the physical reality in which it finds itself, depending upon the functionality of the brain but consciousness is not diminished or enhanced by a malfunctioning brain even though it may appear to be so to those looking on from the outside. Those on the outside have no way of knowing what the consciousness is experiencing while the body is unconscious or in a conscious state of compromised brain activity. All animals experience a conscious state as do humans but it is not known just what is the state of the human's or animal's consciousness by observation from the outside.

(Reportedly, Hippocrates is to have said, "The soul [consciousness] is the same in all living creatures although the body of each is different." )

I think it may be more appropriate to speak of a conscious state rather than to think in terms of increasing or decreasing amounts of consciousness. I tend to not favor statements of "an excess of consciousness" or "an unmanageable flood of consciousness".

(Is this bull-crappy or what?) - AOD :^)

A most engaging and incisive analysis, Michael. Well done! :)

Very interesting and makes sense. Savants - people who can perform really extraordinary feats with memory or with art, for instance - may also have a "loose" filter.

Yes, she will, Art.

We live in an imperfect Universe. I'm guessing it is imperfect on purpose. It is through life's imperfections that the soul learns the things it came here to learn. If this life were perfect in all ways then we would all be perfect, looking perfect, and we would lose our uniqueness and sense of identity.

Things in this life that start off perfect seem to very quickly acquire slight imperfections and thus become separate unique and individual. It is almost like the fractals that make up our universe are mathematically designed to have slight imperfections and thusly are slightly different from each other which may be the whole point of "why we are here."

We learn what it's like to be separate unique and individual in this life which may not be possible in the next life due those overwhelming feelings of oneness and connectedness so many near death experiencers talk about.

My point being that we also have imperfections in our brain and these imperfections cause us to all be different and to think differently and thus experience imperfection. My mom used to say "life ain't a bowl of cherries you know kiddo" and perhaps life ain't supposed to be.

Craig Hogan, the director of Fermilab, said in an online article in New Scientist that there is a certain inherent fuzziness or blurriness in a holographic projection. Perhaps there is also an inherent imperfection in the projection too and it is that imperfection that teaches our souls what it means and how it feels to be different. And by the way that may be why NDE'ers say that they other side was realer than real or "more real than normal".

I think the filter hypothesis (one size fits all ) is a little symplistic.

There has been quite a bit of research on schizophrenia recently, including meta analyses done.

One meta analysis showed grey matter reduction in a number of brain areas important to executive thought, decision making, comprehension, communication etc. The inferior frontal lobe for example is though to inhibit response.

The superior temporal gyrus is involved in auditory processing, including language, but also has been implicated as a critical structure in social cognition.

Further research into schizophrenia also implicates peri-neuronal nets, these regulate brain development and functions such as synaptic modelling, cell membrane formation, regulation of glutamate receptors, calcium channels and susceptibility to oxidative stress. And have major control on inhibitory circuits, as well as cognitive and emotional processing.

Here's some studies on schizophrenia. Cheers Lyn.

Sorry Lyn I'm not clear on the point you're making.

I'm a little perplexed by the insistence to correlate parts of the brain with things that fall outside of it, which seems to be a large part of the main thrust of this website. It doesn't seem to add up.

Yeah sure there are parts of the brain we know about and some in great depth. But we certainly don't know everything.

I am sure that an illness like schizophrenia falls into the same category as other paradoxes in life like whether abortion is ok. And so on. These issues are not solvable.

Plus, there are people with mental illness that simply just have - mental illness, and not any link to anything paranormal.

I was diagnosed as a schizophrenic myself when I was 17. How do you draw the line between something pathological and something spiritual going on for me? It could be both.

I am very wary of the pharmaceutical drugs that are used to treat this condition. In my case I was on an antipsychotic medication that I lowered to the lowest possible dose about a year ago and I feel better instead of feeling worse. It made me fat and probably did damage to my circulation, as I felt pains and stiffness in my legs go away when I lowered the dosage. Before I was even taking medications I knew it wouldn't change my experience of reality - and I was right. It did absolutely nothing for me.

I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist on the basis of my external behaviour. How is this even considered to be scientific? It is the opposite. Was I given a brain scan first? no. Was I given any tests whatsoever in any scientific way? No. A "doctor" simply wrote down on a piece of paper that I was schizophrenic.

I remember I used to go to a famous London hospital that treated people like me and there would be drawings that schizophrenics made which were put on the walls of the mental health clinic. I used to look at these pictures and wonder why I was even there. They were clearly the product of deeply disturbed individuals going through something I couldn't even imagine. I never so much as once in my life drew any such thing. I didn't scribble on the walls of my bedroom, I didn't behave externally in a "mad" way, I wasn't violent, I wasn't incoherent, I didn't sit still in one position for hours on end, I didn't hear voices in my head, have hallucinations of anything whether audible or visual, absolutely nothing of the kind. My perception of external reality was skewed in a type of paranoid sense but that was about it. What I should have really done is diagnosed the "doctor" that diagnosed me as being "incompetent".

Apparently in the first part of the last century in the USA people that entered a university course to study to become a psychiatrist were well known to be insane people themselves! They wanted to study it to figure out what was wrong with them.

I have absolutely no idea why psychiatrists are allowed to peddle their trade under the banner of science when nothing could be further from the truth. I spent 10 years of regular meetings with a psychiatrist "talking" about my life until I decided it was a complete waste of time. And I am so glad I did that. Who knows what would have happened to me. I might have been sectioned. That is what is really sad and really mad.

Our modern culture is a culture of nosy busybodies. Sometimes people just want to be left lone to deal with their own issues.

One last thing. I remember I bumped into my psychiatrist at the local hospital where I had to go to pick up my medication. As soon as she saw me she said, "Ahh, synchronicity".

Oh and one time I was on the train at the rush hour travelling home and there were 3 doctors" talking about their patients, standing next to me. I was absolutely appalled at their behaviour. They were mocking and ridiculing the very people they claim to be helping, in the most obscene ways. I wanted to punch them in the face. There seriously are assholes like that out there.

Perfection is like beauty; it only exists in the eye of the beholder. I like to think that everything is perfect in and of itself. A rotten apple is a perfect rotten apple. You are a perfect 'Art' not a perfect 'Amos' - AOD

"The close relationship between mysticism and madness (and between madness and artistic or scientific genius) has often been commented on."

That isn't madness in the sense of schizophrenia. That's merely extreme eccentricity mistaken for madness by the common herd.

@ Paul. Rather than a filter theory -"A corollary of this claim is that less brain function should, at least in some cases, lead to more consciousness — even too much of it. With the brain-filter mechanism impaired, an unmanageable flood of consciousness can get through, overwhelming us".

Specific areas important to reasoned thinking, problem solving, communication, and social function are absent. As well as defects in neural functioning, development, inhibitory effects etc, and so these specific brain changes lead to the symptomology of schizophrenia. Not less consciousness leading to an access of consciousness. And similar to the effects of brain damage. Lyn x.

Thank Lyn

Well there certainly seem to be cases where less brain function leads to increased consciousness, if one accepts that some NDEs are examples of that, or after death communications when there's no brain at all. That would definitely support the filter model.

I don't see anything in the argument that undermines the filter concept. Schizophrenia is a very broad term as far as I can see and I would imagine there are many causes for it and thus many ways it can manifest.

Also, brain function appears to be somewhat portable over time very often, function support by certain areas when damaged are sometimes taken over by different parts of the brain.

Off topic: I am finding the book Vistas of Infinity by Jurgen Ziewe to be very useful. He is a lifelong disciplined meditator. His work is along the lines of Robert Monroe's, but more illuminating and in depth, IMHO. He sheds a bright light on many aspects of "the other side."

David r.
I have always objected to labels---any label applied to people---and to be labeled as schizophrenic at a young age is a burden often borne for a lifetime. Whether or not there are behavioral reasons for consideration of such label, people are complex organisms and one label or diagnosis usually does not accurately define a total problem, especially those problems related to identity and experience. Labels sometimes are applied arbitrarily by incompetent physicians who practice psychiatry (whether they are trained in that specialty or not) like one would follow a recipe for beef stew, according to text book information they learned perhaps many years ago in medical school. But I know from being on the inside of a psychiatric practice that not all trained psychiatrists practice in that way.

Unfortunately those physicians who look for other explanations for behaviors thought to be outside of normal and who avoid labels are often ridiculed by their peers and sometimes penalized by state licensing authorities for their non-mainstream approaches to diagnosis and treatment. The Federal government and Insurance companies require a label, that is, a diagnostic code, before they will reimburse the physician for the medical services provided. Insurance companies also require specific diagnostic codes before they will reimburse for medications and frequently the only medications that are approved for reimbursement are the mainstream ones usually used to treat a diagnosis.

Innovative treatments are usually not approved for reimbursement. Medication is regarded as an easy treatment of choice for most psychiatric conditions. Often physicians loose their licenses for not following 'standard medical practice' requiring a certain drug therapy for each diagnosis. Psychiatrists are caught between a rock and a hard place and they are damned if the do and damned if they don't as they always risk being sued by the patient or family or loss of their physician's license or ability to prescribe 'controlled substances' if they don't follow standard medical practices and prescribe drugs..

Few psychiatrists are financially able to provide the time required by patients to address psychiatric problems from a non-drug perspective because the Federal Government has determined the amount of reimbursable time required for each diagnosis and service and they as well as insurance companies will not reimburse physicians for the actual amount of time provided to the patient even though it may have been needed by the patient. So, physicians must provide treatment for patients in the most expeditious way by prescribing drugs. This is the system determined by the Federal Government primarily through the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement programs. Other insurance companies follow suit.

Sometimes medications may be appropriate but it usually takes trials of several medications to find the one with the most benefits and the least amount of side effects. There is no perfect psychiatric medication; they all have side effects. Few if any behaviors are cured by medications although symptoms may be reduced if an accurate diagnosis was made. Unfortunately unless behaviors are flamboyant, psychiatric diagnoses are often the opinion of the psychiatrist so one hopes such opinion is based upon physician experience and clear signs and symptoms of a malady. There is no laboratory test or brain scan that will definitively diagnose the most common mental illnesses although they may help in the diagnosis. But even with those aids to diagnosis it often comes down to the opinion of the physician.

Best wishes to you David r. - AOD

I personally think there is a huge difference between psychosis and the discarnate state of mind, because most NDEs and pre-existence memories certainly do NOT include memories of a being in a state that would be reminiscent of a frightening psychosis.

Psychosis seems to be something else or more than just 'being released from the filters/limitations of the brain'. In psychotic episodes, there seems to be a mental chaos very similar to the chaos of an associative dream or nightmare, and totally untypical of reported afterlife experiences. I personally see it as a disruption of mental order, which can be caused by brain malfunctioning but also be psychogenic (for instance, some people may become psychotic as a consequence of a shocking personal loss), which means that at least some psychoses are NOT (primarily) caused by the brain and its filtering function.

"The brain as a filter"-theory does not have to imply that the inner, personal mental order we possess is caused by the filtering of the brain. As I interpret it, the filter-theory does imply that the brain focuses a large part of our attention on the direct situation of our bodies and the sensory stimuli that reach them. After death, we are usually freed from this limiting focus, but not robbed from our psychological structure or control. In other words, I believe that psychosis is not a good model for afterlife (or more generally, 'higher') consciousness.

I'd like to add that in my view consciousness is not some impersonal category or entity, but simply the conscious life of the personal Self.

"Paul" I agree plasticity occurs sometimes and adjacent areas of neural pathways open up with brain damage. But that's different to less consciousness leading to access.

"Amos" the drugs in schizophrenia are used to sedate i.e. reduce symptoms such as hallucinations, the postive symptoms. I don't know that you can cure chronic cases due to what appears to be structurally induced brain changes.

What may be helpful, genetic testing is coming to the fore, so they will be able to tailor drugs for each person allowing increased effectiveness and less trialling of drugs for best fit. Lyn x.

Amos, of course a stigma as a label is no good thing. I didn't mention that in my post in any specificity. The simple point I tried to make was that whether a psychiatrist is a medical person or not, they are not qualified to diagnose a person with any mental illness based on nothing scientific except their own judgment.

I also pointed out that in obvious cases of physical or behavioural abberative behaviours, compared to the absence of such symptoms, the former requires no brain scans or other scientific testing because the state of insanity is blindingly obvious.

I am afraid that I found all the technical details of the psychiatrist positions you outlined in the remainder of your post were simply irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

No offense!

I'm not a great advocate of medical intervention but sometimes it is necessary. Hopefully in the future gene research will find ways to inhibit gene induced brain changes.

Drug changes have been made as well, and some newer psychiatric medications have less side effects than older the older ones. Lyn x.

Tangentialy related but Irreducible Mind's chapter on the F-T hypothesis free on Esalen (might not be the whole chapter?):

Fascinating post and conjecture Michael. The increasingly arcane cat illustrations remind me of drawings made by those under the influence of psychedelics, which might also work by reducing brain activity:

I've worked with schizophrenics for decades as a nurse. Sometimes meds do wonders, by, for example, giving the patient a blessed respite from the tormenting voices and ideations. Other times, the meds seem to be a blunt, crude instrument. Using heavy meds can be sort of akin to spreading concrete over a melted-down nuclear reactor. Medicating a schizophrenic is an inexact science. My tentatively ventured estimation is that schizophrenics suffer from an open door to gnarly astral realms. These realms extract a toll physically on the patient. One manifestation of this process is reduction of brain volume and neural interconnections.

Michael Duggan
Thanks for the linked article. It seems that there are at least two sides to every story (theory). - AOD

I wonder whether accessing consciousness beyond that normally regulated by the brain is sometimes disorganised because we're accessing it using the wrong 'device' rather than because it is necessary discordant.

Almost as though we're trying to process information of type or in a format not compatible with our physical state, hence the advantage of the brain as a filter when it is functioning correctly.

Michael Duggan said:

"The increasingly arcane cat illustrations remind me of drawings made by those under the influence of psychedelics"

Interesting point, and supportive of the very argument MP is making. I noticed right away that the third drawing looks remarkably like imagery seen during psychedelic trips, but I failed to make the connection—I missed how that tends to validate what Michael is saying.

My own history makes me look to repressed trauma (infantile, in particular), as a cause of mental illness. I have not the slightest doubt that's *one* of the causes.

But it would seem that personal and transpersonal factors are mixed together in a complex stew. Nobody is more insightful on this matter than Stan Grof. His book LSD Psychotherapy, to mention just one, is a treasure trove of cases, including one (that I was just re-reading because of MP's post) of an apparent cure for schizophrenia.

James, "My tentatively ventured estimation is that schizophrenics suffer from an open door to gnarly astral realms."

I worked with psychotics on a locked down unit as a mental health tech - first b/c after I graduated college I wanted to go after an advanced degree in psychology and then later to earn my way through grad school (I ultimately chose economics over psych).

I agree with what you say. The meds are crude and blunt, but it's the only way these poor people can get respite from their torment. And yes, I also agree that they seem to be flooded by input from lower astral realms. There were a couple of cases out the hundreds I saw where I was pretty sure the patient was actually possessed and there were some paranormal phenomena that reinforced that idea. Mostly though just chaotic going torturous voices and sometimes visions going haywire.

Now that I think about it, I believe it's probably true that the absence of a filter opens the person to influences from the lower astral planes rather than the higher self. This would be in line with Carl Wickland's work, for instance.

When I was young,I owned some CB radio's who had a "magic" feature:the SQUELCH.
Turning it around, you were able to get rid of low signals and focus the device on only one speaker. Guess that the "valve" in our brains acts in the same way, the more transistors you had, the more clear the conversation was.

Michael: Thank you for mentioning Carl Wickland's work. I checked into it, and I am impressed!

Interesting post and comments. I just came from Bernardo Kastrup's site ( where he has just posted an article on the filter theory and his 'idealist" framework.

In looking at these comments as well as Ed Kelly's enormous working collecting writers on various aspects of Myers' filter theory, it strikes me that all of these writers are still presenting very vague notions which make them quite susceptible to criticism. I was struck in the comments here by Lynn's very intelligent responses which yet did not appear to be directly related to what Paul and others were trying to say to her. All we know so far (I'm speaking as a psychologist who has worked with schizophrenics) is that certain functions (you can't really say "parts" of the brain - our knowledge is not that specific) of the brain are impaired, which appears to be correlated with a certain impairment of mental functions. This doesn't in the least contradict what Michael just wrote about the possibility that schizophrenics may be open to certain extremely dangerous non-physical realms and have no way to navigate them (though in early societies may have had much guidance in doing so).

Look at the work of Dan Siegel at Stanford, with Dan Daniels on the Enneagram. They both remain open to the possibility that the "3 brains" (gut brain, heart brain, head brain, all of which - except maybe the heart brain to some extent? - have tremendous empirical verification in contemporary neuroscience) may serve as "filters" to non-physical modes of consciousness.

But one needs to get even more specific. We can start with what we know from mindfulness research. We know that when the brain stem activity and limbic activity is reduced, and the various parts of the autonomic nervous system are in balance, and the various cortical regions reach a critical degree of coherence, all kinds of abilities emerge - increased empathy, loving kindness, increased ability to reason, to problem solve, greater intuition, improved relationships, better ability to manage difficult emotions and physical pain, overall increase in physical health.

So now we have a much more complex addition to the filter theory - it's not just "damage brain and get greater consciousness" which is absurd. Lower the noise in the brain by greater integration, and you may have access to greater intuition, greater consciousness. Damage parts of the brain by accident, and you may BOTH have decreased cognition AND increased access to non-physical aspects of Consciousness but without control and likely with overwhelming inability to deal with what comes through.

There remains decades of work to begin to refine this understanding. We've hardly begun and need to keep a tremendous dose of humility in a bottle on our desk and remember to take some every few hours:>))

by the way, if i may put a little plug on, this video we've made on the "Unbalanced Brain" gives a clue as to how the filter was put in place over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, and a clue as well about how to balance the brain thus allowing in more of our non-physical "true nature"

Nice video Don, very easy to understand. I have thought that loss of the 'tribe' is perhaps one of the reasons that there is so much increasing anxiety and depression in the American population, especially as we move toward more and more diversity. Dissolution of the family, rejection of organized religion, diminishment of fraternal groups, inter-racial marriage, integrated schools through bussing, blurring of sexual identities, gender equality---all result in the loss of the 'tribe' and thereby produce individuals who don't feel a part of or believe in anything.

It just could be that diversity is not the best pathway to mental and emotional health. Perhaps valuing differences but at the same time maintaining separation through 'tribes' which provide safety, support and comfort would be an innate, evolutionary/survival way to find one's identity and peace of mind. - AOD

In ancient and prehistoric/primitive societies, I think schizophrenics were the shamans and prophets. I think Moses was a schizophrenic, for example, as well as the other Old Testament prophets.

There is, I have heard, a constant rate of schizophrenia in all cultures of about two percent. That is because, I believe, all cultures need the guidance of mystics.

In our modern society, sadly, schizophrenics have no way to develop their special talents and they become lost and medicated.

Now in our society, natural prophets are considered insane. But really it is our society that is insane. In my opinion.

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