Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 14, No 2 (2018)

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The Practice of Presence; Consciousness, Meditation, Health and Spirituality

Sean O Nuallain


This paper has several different aims. The first is to extend the "zero power" hypothesis that the health benefits of meditation are energetic in two ways. The first way involves engaging with the mindfulness movement; the second is extending  the "zero power" hypothesis to consideration of entropy. The mindfulness movement may be considered a discipline of presence including conscious states not normally viewed as meditative and we consider these as practicing presence as we explore a synthetic view of consciousness.

Recent analysis of the thermodynamics of brain metabolism is engaged with, and the fact that the brain consumes an order of magnitude more energy than its weight should warrant is investigated. The attenuation of this demand by the synchronized gamma oscillations that are a signature of both meditation and consciousness is proposed, and the Carnot cycle is supplied as an explanation for how low-entropy energy may become accessible to the rest of the organism by meditation. This is turn may have substantial health benefits.

Before arriving at the conclusion, there is an attack on that incident of archness in Francis Crick's writing called the "central dogma of molecular biology". The issue of how gene expression can be changed by metabolic factors leads to discussion of the foundations of biology. Meditation, it is argued, allows relatively permanent changes in gene expression, along with openness to quantum effects that might seem a natural consequence of a thermodynamically quietened biological system.

It is fair to say that followers of the Abrahamic religions have, for better and often for worse, demanded more from their religion than mere meditation. In the final section, we discuss this. We leave the door open to imprecatory prayer, as ironically quantum mechanics, the most precise of sciences, in certain very limited contexts allows the observer to determine states both in the present and past.

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