One of the most significant discoveries of modern science is that the world we perceive around us is not as it appears. Rather, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and quantum physics have demonstrated that our day-to-day reality is a relative construct, built upon a scaffolding of information bits that betray their real origin and causation. For instance, the other day, I remarked to my oldest son, Shaun, that the ocean water around Catalina Island looked exceptionally blue. But, given his deep knowledge of science, my son responded that such “blueness” was actually not in the water at all, but how different light waves get absorbed and refracted. The colors we see are due to the spectral properties of light. The longer wavelengths of light (such as red, orange, and yellow) are more readily captured by H20 whereas the shorter wavelength of light (such as blue) gets refracted and thus we see the color blue, particularly if the water is clear. But the scientific explanation for why an ocean is blue or a sunset is red is precisely not how we tend to experience such at first glance. In other words, the way we apprehend the world around us is not necessarily how we later comprehend it through scientific analysis. And herein lies the great divide, the great deception, or what early Indian rishis insightfully called “Maya.” We live in a magic land, where all that manifests and appears real and certain is anything but.
Perhaps the study of consciousness has an inherent limitation, similar in import to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics or Gödel's incompleteness theorem in mathematics. Perhaps we are like seasoned travelers on a Mobius strip in quest of the “other” side of the band who after long and arduous circular travels come to realize that no matter what route we take we will always only be touching the same surface. If this is so, then a specialized version of Niels Bohr's complementarity may be an instructive insight for us as we venture forth: “In any given situation, the use of certain classical concepts excludes the simultaneous meaningful application of other classical concepts.” In the study of consciousness it appears we may have to confront an epistemological complementarity where any objective study (via third person analysis) of qualia must by necessity lose in translation a fundamental feature of the very phenomenon under inspection. This book combines the Oceanic Metaphor and the Cerebral Mirage.