The Evolution of the Brain and the Mind

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The following is excerpted from Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment, by David Perlmutter, FACN, and Alberto Villoldo, PhD,  published by Hay House.  

 

 

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors faced a neurological opportunity similar to the one we face today, an opportunity that facilitated an evolutionary leap forward. With the awakening of the neocortex, our forebears acquired a new brain structure that nature had wired for joy, creativity, and innovation.

To access that potential, our ancestors required specific nutrients to provide fuel to run their neurocomputer. Once they added brain-enriching foods to their diet, the faculties of certain individuals, the visionaries of their day, came online and began to create great works of art, devise written language, establish civilizations, and lay the foundations for our modern human experience.

During this time, ancestral shamans described Creation as a web of life in which we are all interconnected. This was a kind of Indra’s Net, which the mythology of ancient India describes as a web with an infinite number of intersecting strands and a precious jewel at the intersection of every strand. Each of the infinite number of jewels reflects every other jewel perfectly. Within this mythical net, all beings are interrelated, and all of our actions, no matter how slight, affect everyone else. Within this net, prophets converse with God and interpret His will, while mystics search for the elixir of immortality and alchemists attempt to transform lead into gold. These sages, mystics, and alchemists shared the same preoccupations as seers of today. They asked, as we do now: How can we live long and healthy lives, unaffected by debilitating illness and degenerative brain disease? How can we turn the dense lead of human suffering into the gold of enlightened consciousness?

In the scheme of history, the quest for metaphysical answers about the origin of life died when Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. The popular understanding of the time was that life is a perennial struggle for survival, that humankind is governed by a harsh Law of the Jungle where only the fittest win.

But, fortunately, after centuries of scientists’ dismissal and ignoring of the ancient teachings, people in all walks of life are once again asking the mystic’s questions about the significance and potential of human consciousness. Could evolution have also been favoring the survival of the wisest?

 

Ways of Fear, Ways of Wisdom

The history of human consciousness is marked by the battle between the older awareness, the ways of fear, and the newer awareness, the ways of love. When the newer awareness prevails, we discover a God of love and compassion, express religious freedom, and practice generosity. When the older awareness dominates, we tend to worship an angry god who scourges his enemies with plagues and who sends his chosen people on so-called “holy wars” to ensure his dominance. With the older brain, greed and intolerance prevail.

Lower awareness views everything, even nature’s beauty and bounty, as a commodity, valued only as a means to generate profit. Water, one of the essential elements of life, is seen not as a home of aquatic organisms and a natural means of transportation but as a liquid to be bottled and sold. Air, another essential element, is seen not as a vital substance indispensable for breath but as vacant space in which to emit industrial waste products. Soil is seen not as a necessity for growing food but as property to be owned, fenced, and contaminated with agricultural chemicals and industrial and domestic waste. Mountains are seen not for their majesty but as places to be stripped of minerals and ores. Forests are seen not as animal habitat and places for spiritual retreat but as potential planks and boards. Even space beyond the sky above is seen not just as an opportunity for galactic exploration but as a place to dump planetary trash and spy on our global neighbors.

Even human beings are viewed as a commodity when our thinking is fettered to the ways of fear. Children in developing nations, for example, are seen as labor pawns in sweatshops or, in developed countries, as future rank-and-file employees. Senior citizens, at least in Western societies, are not revered for their wisdom but warehoused in “old people’s homes” until death finally gets them out of the way. People of ages in between, according to Darwinian protocol, are often trained in warfare or programmed to “get even,” if not “get ahead,” even at the expense of other fellow humans. But perhaps the worst dismissal of human value occurs in the spinmeister term “collateral damage,” which would have us heartlessly gloss over the killing of innocent civilians who happen to be caught in a war zone.

And while the new, higher awareness offers us the ability to think on a sophisticated and grand scale-to see Earth from space and to comprehend that, as the health of the planet goes, so goes our own health and well-being-we find societies, whether developed or emerging, returning again and again to seemingly inevitable violence in order to resolve conflicts and impose values on others.

While arguments wage over global warming-whether it exists or not and, if so, who is to blame, and what is the cause and the cure-and whether or not the world is perched on the edge of ecological disaster, many individuals are beginning to realize that human society is also standing on the brink of an extraordinary leap in consciousness.

In the previous chapter, we carefully looked at the characteristics of the brain’s first three evolutionary stages: that is, the reptilian or R-brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex. Now, to understand this extraordinary leap and to better manifest the opportunity at hand, we need to look more closely at the development of the fourth brain-the prefrontal cortex.

 

The Prefrontal Cortex: Key to Enlightenment

In humans, the prefrontal cortex, located in the front of the brain, takes on critically important significance as our link to the future, our key to enlightenment, the answer to those ancient questions: How can we live long and healthy lives, unaffected by debilitating illness and degenerative brain disease? How can we turn the dense lead of human awareness into the gold of enlightened consciousness? How can we program the brain for life, health, and joy? How will we evolve?

The prefrontal cortex is associated with the loftier brain functions such as reasoning, inventing the alphabet and music, discovering science, and engaging in creative thinking. Many of the functions of the prefrontal cortex remain a mystery, but we know that it is associated with personal initiative and the ability to project future scenarios, and it is quite likely the place where our individuality and sense of self developed.

When our brain functions synergistically, our prefrontal cortex is fully awakened and we have the ability to develop the very highest form of intelligence and creativity and remain grounded and effective in the world. We understand who we are in relationship to our village and our history. Able to think originally, we recognize what holds us back from achieving a higher level of consciousness and what will help us to attain it. We recognize how we can survive and thrive.

 

Which Brain Are You Using?

Is your life a struggle for survival? Are you forever trying to make ends meet financially? Are you living hand to mouth? If so, then your reptilian brain is in the driver’s seat of your cognitive apparatus.

Do you learn your lessons through difficult love relationships? Does your prince turn into a frog with a drinking problem after the honeymoon-just like your previous prince did? Are you always ending up with abusive bosses or business partners who never seem to appreciate your contributions? If so, then your emotional mammalian brain is predominantly in charge of your consciousness.

Does your intellect get in the way of your passion and joy? Are you forever analyzing things in your head? Do you fail to listen to your instinct and your intuition? Do you mistrust anything that is not proven scientifically? Are you disconnected from your feelings and insensitive to the feelings of others, even when you try not to be? If so, then you are strapped and bound to the fiendishly logical aspect of the neocortex.

Or are you flighty and ungrounded, with your head up in the clouds? Do you walk into a room and forget what you went there to do? Are you more conversant about quantum physics, the bloodline of Mary Magdalene, and international conspiracy theories than about your children’s homework or what is happening in your neighborhood? If so, then your consciousness is probably in the grip of the prefrontal cortex.

If you are experiencing a predominance of any one of these brains, it is a sign that the parts of your brain are not acting in concert with each other, that those in the background at the moment are allowing another part to dominate and exhibit only its limited traits.

In actuality, to experience brain synergy, it’s necessary to be aware of your financial situation and your relationships; it’s good to think logically and to dream with whimsy; and it’s vital to keep all of these mental activities in balance with each other.

 

Awakening the New Brain

In the 17th century, James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, published a treatise that identified the date on which God created the world: the evening preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 b.c.e. on the Julian calendar. Although his chronology was based on the patriarchal lineages described in Genesis and inaccurate from a scientific perspective, the Archbishop was not totally wrong. Today, while we dismiss the good Archbishop’s claim as a flight of religious fancy, he did approximate the date on which the gifts of the prefrontal cortex were becoming available for large sections of humanity at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing

But this self-awareness didn’t happen overnight; rather, it took countless generations for the prefrontal cortex to become functional enough to warrant a circuitry connection with the older parts of the brain. In fact, fossil evidence of the earliest changes in this part of the brain dates back 2.5 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, when an early hominid called Australopithecus africanus lived. The enlarged cranium of A. africanus-a member of the “Great Apes” family, which includes humans)-was more like that of modern humans than his immediate predecessors.

This means that the artists of the Altamira cave and the hunters of the Pleistocene epoch who lived 20,000 years ago had the same brain structures we have today. Yet most members of the species lacked the nutritional support and mind-body disciplines that would allow them to experience artistic creativity and scientific discovery. This is why only a few isolated individuals awakened to the potential of the prefrontal cortex. Indeed, the gifted crafted their great works of art during secretive ceremonies deep inside caves.

With the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago, when abundant and brain-rich food supplies became available, the prefrontal cortex began to stir. During the late Neolithic period, starting around 7,000 years ago, our ancestors initiated horticulture, which ended the need to follow and harvest food from a nomadic herd. They domesticated cattle and sowed grain crops and ground the grain into cereal. They developed a curiosity for science, exploration, and perhaps even love. And they conceived of transoceanic travel; for example, Micronesian navigators built sailing canoes in which they navigated the open ocean for hundreds of miles, using only the stars for reference and arriving at islands that were not visible from their point of departure. It was around this time in history that writing and city-states emerged in many geographically disconnected societies around the globe.

At that time, as civilization emerged in the Fertile Crescent in western Asia and the sprawling city of Mohenjo-Daro rose along the Sarasvati River in what is now Pakistan, the dietary staples of the political and religious leaders came from the Himalayan rivers and the Mediterranean Sea. These were fish and mollusks rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a brain food that has become increasingly scarce in the human diet of today. DHA provided the neuronutrient boost that brought the previously installed prefrontal cortex’s software online. Is it not possible that the benefits of a DHA-rich diet explain why a great Master-Jesus of Nazareth-chose simple fishermen as candidates wise enough to be his apostles, his “fishers of men”

However, while the prefrontal software was already installed in all humans of the time, the masses, though capable of tapping into the wisdom of this brain, were still struggling between two mind-sets-the old and the new.

 

The Old Mind-Set versus the New Mind-Set

To truly understand the conflict inside the human mind, let’s compare the power of the prefrontal cortex, or new, higher brain, with the prowess of the old brain. This comparison is akin to “the ways of fear and ways of wisdom” presented earlier in this chapter. However, there we explored fear and love from the software perspective, that is, emotions that come from our belief systems. Here we are examining fear and love from a hardware perspective, that is, the physical brain that processes those emotions.

The old brain perceives the world as a frightening place, filled with rivals competing for the same scarce resources. To this brain, what matters most is survival, and it is always ready to fight or to flee. Considering that the old brain developed in mammals at a time when large, stomping dinosaurs still roamed, it is no wonder that these survival mechanisms were firmly embedded in the core of those small, fuzzy creatures that we developed from.

The old brain in humans gave rise to the belief that the spirit world is populated with fierce gods who demand sacrifice and that the physical world is prey to invisible forces that are to be appeased. In many mythologies, the earth was populated by titans, giants with extraordinary powers, who had to be defeated. The early Greeks, for example, identified 12 Titans who ruled the earth during the legendary Golden Age. In the King James Bible, God tells Moses of “a land of giants [who] dwelled therein in old time.”1 In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of older gods whom the Olympians banished to the darkest depths of the underworld in the War of the Titans.

The old brain seeks magical and religious explanations for natural phenomena, be they the formation of mountain ranges or the course of rivers or the tempest of storms. Legends of the Inca tell of the four original beings who could move mountains and establish the course of rivers with their bare hands. Zeus, the king of the sky, wielded a thunderbolt that he periodically used to wreak havoc on the earth.

With such mythic precedent, the old brain righteously claims, “My god is stronger than your god,” and believes that only those of “our faith” have been chosen for salvation, while everyone else is a pagan or a heathen destined for a hellish experience in the afterlife.

The new brain, however, understands that we do not have to live in a continuous state of threat. It knows that we are not struggling to survive in a hostile world haunted by death. It comprehends, rather, that we are all interconnected, that we can practice compassion by “turning the other cheek” and “loving our neighbors as we love ourselves,” and that physical “death” is really an opportunity to return to a heavenly realm-a precept that lies at the core of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

But even this mind-set is a matter of consciousness. At first, only those living in monastic communities and among religious orders attained this insight of the ways of wisdom. Meanwhile, the older mind-set in the majority of the populace continued to be tempted by the ways of fear. This mind-set continued to seek wealth and justify greed, while the newer, higher mind-set called out to the ways of love. These two, seemingly opposite callings have plagued humanity for millennia-and continue to do so. The disparity will only be resolved when we can turn on the truly beneficial neural programs inherent in the prefrontal cortex.

It is clear that our reasoning abilities, rooted in the more evolved brain, are not enough to prevent our suffering or give us the opportunity to create a more habitable, peaceful, and sustainable world. Indeed, if reason had ever prevailed over passion, the story of humanity would not be written in blood.

At this point in history, our species is in need of the next great opportunity offered by our prefrontal cortex, which will allow us to entertain the ancient notion of a web of life in which all creatures, and even inanimate matter, are interconnected as part of a field of information and energy. To experience enlightenment and learn to interact with this cosmic web, we must begin by healing that part of our bodies that allows us to dream a new world into being: our prefrontal cortex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser image by Janet Anderl, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

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Ayahuasca Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
The Amazonian brew, Ayahuasca has a long history and wide use. Read our guide to learn all about the tea from its beginnings up to modern-day interest.

 

Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order
Wahid Azal, a Sufi mystic of The Fatimiya Sufi Order and an Islamic scholar, talks about entheogens, Sufism, mythology, and metaphysics.

 

Ayahuasca and the Feminine: Women’s Roles, Healing, Retreats, and More
Ayahuasca is lovingly called “grandmother” or “mother” by many. Just how feminine is the brew? Read to learn all about women and ayahuasca.

What Is the Standard of Care for Ketamine Treatments?
Ketamine therapy is on the rise in light of its powerful results for treatment-resistant depression. But, what is the current standard of care for ketamine? Read to find out.

What Is Dissociation and How Does Ketamine Create It?
Dissociation can take on multiple forms. So, what is dissociation like and how does ketamine create it? Read to find out.

Having Sex on Ketamine: Getting Physical on a Dissociative
Curious about what it could feel like to have sex on a dissociate? Find out all the answers in our guide to sex on ketamine.

Special K: The Party Drug
Special K refers to Ketamine when used recreationally. Learn the trends as well as safety information around this substance.

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

Ketamine vs. Esketamine: 3 Important Differences Explained
Ketamine and esketamine are used to treat depression. But what’s the difference between them? Read to learn which one is right for you: ketamine vs. esketamine.

Guide to Ketamine Treatments: Understanding the New Approach
Ketamine is becoming more popular as more people are seeing its benefits. Is ketamine a fit? Read our guide for all you need to know about ketamine treatments.

Ketamine Treatment for Eating Disorders
Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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