Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Can Long-Term Training in Highly Focused Forms of Observation Potentially Influence Performance in Terms of the Observer Model in Physics? Consideration of Adepts of Observational Meditation Practice

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Can Long-Term Training in Highly Focused Forms of Observation Potentially Influence Performance in Terms of the Observer Model in Physics? Consideration of Adepts of Observational Meditation Practice

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This paper presents developments in a published yet still little known model of how intensively trained individuals--adepts or virtuosi of special meditational techniques--appear to be potentially capable of radically enhancing their sensory perceptual capacities to the point of, for example, directly perceiving light at the scale of single photons, at the quantum mechanical limit of its detectability (Bushell 200ga,b; Bushell 20iia,b; Bushell in preparation). This is a working model which is based also on little-known work of leading physicists and biophysicists from Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley and other institutions.

Along with the enhanced perception of light, the working model presents evidence, based on established findings in neuroscience, for other forms of significantly, even radically, enhanced perceptual abilities: the ability to perceive on the spatial scale of a fraction of the diameter of a human photoreceptor cell, or within millionths of a meter ("hyperacuity"); the demonstrated ability to overcome "normal" limitations in experimental tests of change blindness; and others.

The model hinges on a number of key principles established in neuroscience: the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, which, in sensory-perceptual or observational terms, results from exposure to sets of visual stimuli, as well as to deliberate practice of observation; the of course closely related phenomenon of "perceptual learning," which can lead, through practice-induced neuroplastic changes, to perception in the realm of hyperacuity; and the schema of "expert and exceptional performance," which is a form of rigorous science devoted to investigating the superior performance of a range of leading experts (from chess grandmasters to virtuoso musicians, as well as to savants), which was originally developed by the Nobel Prize-winning cofounder of the fields of cognitive psychology and AI, Herbert A Simon.

The model winds up providing support for claims of some meditation traditions (in Tibet, India, elsewhere) that highly advanced long-term practitioners become enabled through intensive and extensive practice to directly perceive the world at the "limits of phenomena," ie at fundamental levels of matter and energy. This is an alien concept in the West (except perhaps within the realm of "parapsychology," which will not be discussed in this paper), as is the concomitant concept that these intensive and extensive practices may lead, through the "mechanisms" elucidated, to the radical transformation of the human sensorium into a kind of "soft tissue high tech" system with previously unsuspected capacities which resemble those found in modern technology. The potential capacity to observe fractal self-similarity on microscopic and macroscopic scales will also be discussed in this framework.

ENHANCED ABILITY FOR THE PERCEPTION OF LIGHT AND SCALE IN VIRTUOSO MEDITATORS?

The revision of scientific history proposed here, that the development of Western technology, paradoxically, can be utilized to demonstrate that centuries and perhaps millennia ago, developments in meditation practice led to extraordinary extensions of sensory-perceptual capacities, which in fact may be thought of as representing a kind of earlier scientific and technological revolution. Bushell (2009a) asserts that such a claim is based on recent research--the advanced high technology research mentioned in the Dalai Lama's writings--by physicists and biophysicists from Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, Columbia, the University of Washington, among others, research that has demonstrated that, under certain conditions, the human visual system is capable of detecting light at or near "the limit imposed by quantum mechanics," and actually at the level of single photons. To summarize this extensive research conducted in numerous labs, Rieke and Baylor (1998), writing recently in Reviews in Modern Physics, claim that the human visual system, beginning with the photoreceptor cells of the retina, are "nearly perfect photon counters . …

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