Science and spirituality: Jeff Lieberman at TEDxCambridge 2011

Science and spirituality: Jeff Lieberman at TEDxCambridge 2011


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Helene Batt Three years ago
was a turning point in my life because I finally had everything
I thought I needed to be fulfilled, and I still had this voice in my head
saying I had to do more to be happy. The more that I looked
at my own suffering deeply, the more I saw it
in every single person around us. We have trouble standing in lines,
we’re impatient with our own children. It’s as if we all think the future holds
the promise for our fulfillment. And I come from a scientific background, so I wanted to use that background
to understand the real root and source of why there’s so much suffering. And where it’s led me
has totally changed my views of the current scientific paradigm, but more importantly than that,
it’s changed my views on what it means to be
a human being and to be alive. I want to share this theory
with you, and it’s way out there. So, I ask you to have a critical,
but open mind for the next 14 minutes, because you might not actually be
what you think you are. So, who am I, alright?
I’m a human being, and I’m 33 years old. But if you take a microscope
and look at any part of me, you see cells. And I’m a community of 50 trillion cells,
doing a magic dance. And you at any one of those cells
with an even closer microscope, and you see 20 trillion atoms. And so, I’m also a community
of 1,000 trillion trillion atoms. But when you look
at those atoms really up-close, they fade away, and all you see is energy. And 13.7 billion years ago,
at the Big Bang, everything that we’ve ever found
in the entire universe was one infinitesimal,
undifferentiated, pure energy. All of us are energy. A human being is a very
complex pattern of energy. So, I stand here as a 33-year-old,
basically motionless, but when you look up-close
at any single part of me, I’m moving the speed of light,
and I’m the age of the universe. So, the question for me is: I know this conceptually. Why don’t we feel it? Why do we walk around being so sure
that we’re a human being all the time, and we never feel like we’re energy,
because it sounds awesome? (Laughter) And I think the reason
that we don’t notice it is because we are so distracted
by the human levels of our experience that we fail to notice
what is always sitting beneath. And so, I want to look
at those distractions. Take five seconds, and think about something
that you’re going to do tomorrow. So, what you just did is something
that, as far as we understand, no other organism
in the entire universe can do. You just built an alternate reality
inside your head. You just made a prediction
about the future that has never happened in reality. And this powerful prediction,
when you can compare alternate realities, allows you to plan for the future. And from agriculture to your retirement,
this has changed the face of the planet. It’s probably the most significant,
evolutionary step forward since walking upright. So, I want to look
at this tool in your head, because your mind
is a thought-generating machine, to make proliferate predictions
about the future, to guide and goal-orient your behavior. What does this machine
look like in all of our heads, in 2011? So, another experiment:
Take ten seconds, and stop thinking. OK. Did anyone make it? Ten seconds?
(Laughter) I make it about two,
and then I start strategizing about how I’m going to stop thinking;
I think about that the whole time. Alright, so what this means is you have
such an evolutionarily advantageous tool that it’s become completely compulsive, but you’ve got to remember,
no other organism does this at all. And the side effect of having
the most evolutionarily advantageous tool in the entire universe
sitting in your head is that you have no control over it. And when you have no control and you compulsively generate
all these possible realities, you always compare them to where you are,
to try to goal-orient your behavior, and this creates an entirely new class
of human suffering. Things like jealousy and regret
about something that happened in the past, and anxiety about your future,
no other organism can feel. And so, I want to understand
if it’s possible to totally eliminate those sources
of suffering from humanity. This is just a brief list of all those
possible sources of suffering. In order to find out
if it’s possible to remove those sources, we have to take a kind of scientific,
experimental objective at ourselves, we have to take a look at all the layers
of our own experience, and try to be as objective
as possible about them. This is amazingly difficult, because we’re so emotionally involved
in our own lives, and as any of you know, if you go to a movie
and you’re emotionally involved, two minutes into it, you totally forget
that you’re at a movie, and the lights turn on at the end,
and you’re shocked back into reality. So, this is even more difficult,
because we have to look at our own movie, the movie inside our consciousness. We’ll do two quick experiments, and this
only will give you a taste of something that takes much longer
to understand the depth of. So, the first one is your sight. From what we understand in physics, all light is a vibration
of electromagnetic field. And none of those light waves
intrinsically have any color. There’s just this change in frequency. But once those waves go into your eye and into your brain, you create
the subjective experience of color. Now, what this means is that you all think
that you are seeing me out here, with a red shirt on,
but this red only exists in your head, and so, this entire picture you’re seeing
is happening inside your head, in a movie inside your consciousness. And if you remove a little bit
of the attention from me directly, you can start to have
some attention on yourself, noticing that you are seeing me inside your head. So, let’s do a second experiment.
It’s even more subtle than that one. Read this sentence twice,
silently to yourself. [The voice in your head] [“I can hear the voice in my head
reading this sentence”] OK, so it’s weird, right? But you can get this very weird,
subtle perspective that you can look at your own
thought process objectively. You’re actually listening
to the soundtrack of thoughts inside your head,
in your movie of consciousness. [I am] Imagine that I do this process
for thousands of hours, and I just try to look,
as objective as possible, at my thoughts, and my emotions,
and my perceptions, and even the way that my brain
has modeled space and time. The more that I pull attention away
from the thoughts and the perceptions, the more I seem to notice myself noticing these things
inside my consciousness. And eventually, maybe I can pull
all of the attention away from all those layers of thoughts,
perceptions, my body, my sensations, and there’s nothing left to perceive, there’s nothing left
that I can consider myself, because I’ve seen it all
in front as not me. And yet, the one thing that remains
is this feeling of existence. “I am” remains. This feeling of “I am”. And what I find when I sit in that state is that what my identity is,
whatever it is, is beyond perception, it cannot be perceived,
but it is still experienced. And this “I am” is the root
of our entire existence. “I am” is latent in every single aspect
of our existence, but just like a fish might never notice
the water that it swims in, we might never notice the “I am”
because it’s covered. “I am” is a completely empty experience,
it’s devoid of any content, and when I experience it
directly, on its own, there’s the possibility for a realization: “Maybe I’m not a human being
that has consciousness. Maybe I’m consciousness
that is shaped into a human being.” And when I see
this totally empty experience, there’s no content, form, structure, there’s not even a model of space and time
that is generated in the mind. And we’ve seen those conditions before,
13.7 billion years ago, when the entire universe
was an undifferentiated, pure energy. And so, just maybe there is
the potential to realize directly I am that energy, I always have been that energy,
and I always will be that energy. Einstein said that thoughts suffer
from an optical illusion of consciousness, this illusion that there’s
a separate person inside an environment, when in reality, there’s just energy
in motion, everywhere. And just like an ocean is water in motion, we can call a certain part
of that ocean a wave, but it gives us the illusion that the wave
is a separate entity in the ocean. But a wave is not in the ocean.
A wave is the ocean. And similarly, we might not be waves. Maybe we’re the ocean. Maybe all of us are energy,
and we can realize that directly. Now, this experience
could never be reduced to words, because it makes words, but it could be experienced, and I think
it’s such an important experience that people have been trying
to name it for thousands of years, and they call it spiritual enlightenment. [You are not what you think] And I think the first
human beings started realizing that they were fundamentally energy
about 2,500 years ago. And all of them say the same thing. They say it is the complete ending
of human suffering. Well of course it’s the end
of human suffering! All suffering is based
on the illusory separation that there’s an individual
in the environment, that there’s a person that has to survive, that this specific collection
of 1,000 trillion trillion atoms has to hold itself together. But if I realize directly
that I am energy, and I realize the body and the mind are
a temporary manifestation of that energy, then I can fully accept the death
of the body and mind as something that does not happen to me, because I was always energy
and I always will be. And if I were to experience that directly, this voice in my head that tells me
I have to do certain things in order to be fulfilled
loses all of its power. At this very moment, I never have
to listen to that voice again, and so everything in life
becomes a game, for fun, a play. And we’ve all experienced that,
but it’s very hard to remember, because we were so young, and maybe we were at the beach
building a sand castle, and the entire world faded away because we were
only building it to build it, and we weren’t trying
to get somewhere else. We hadn’t even learned how to plan. And so, the only moment
that mattered to us was right now. I think this experience
is so important and powerful that every religious tradition at its core has been trying to convince us
of its importance, and if it’s true, if the true end
of all human psychological suffering is actually possible, it is the most
important thing science could be studying. When we look at monks and nuns
who have meditated or prayed for thousands of hours, we see
remarkable shifts on their brain scans. Trillions of neural connections
have changed configuration. And along with this
quantifiable objective change in the operating system of the brain, they describe a feeling
of undifferentiated, infinite oneness. To me, that sounds like they’re having
the direct experience of being energy. Now, enlightenment science
and enlightenment engineering would study these ancient technologies
of prayer and meditation as data sets, to understand what has to change
in the structure of a human brain for a human being to understand
that they are energy directly. And we still have no idea
how much modern technology could completely change
our ability to understand that. Maybe it’s possible that,
within our lifetimes, we could actually eradicate
human suffering. And what would the world look like then,
if every single one of us felt complete, felt whole, and felt interconnected? [Letting go] When you let go of individual survival,
all of your priorities change, because you actually see
the entire world as your body, you see the suffering of others
as your own suffering, and you want to help. And what is the actual power
of a human being to really benefit the world,
when they’re able to the priorities of the whole system
in front of themselves, even if that means
they have to die in the process? How many of us can do that right now? What if 7 billion of us did that? Maybe the one thing that keeps us from actually solving all
of the other problems in the world is this persistent flawed thought
that we are separate from the world. And maybe it’s time we change our minds. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Science and spirituality: Jeff Lieberman at TEDxCambridge 2011

  1. Nice talk. Since you are a scientist in training, you might enjoy the works of Rudolf Steiner. He had 2 PhD's, physical science and epistemology. Amazon has close to 10K listings under his name. He will take you deeper than anything you have experienced in systematic and organized fashion. Since reading his works the mysteries and faith points are systematically changing to knowledge. If you have a hunger this is a route to check  out. The spiritual path has changed radically with continued spiritual  evolution on humans. We  live in a time where the main portal of understanding for humans is the intellectual soul and we are beginning the development of the consciousness  soul. Dig  in a do the work and you will be amazed at the grounded transformation the occurs.

  2. It's time man…or better we'r already late. I'm convinced that many of the suicidal do that because they fell the connection in a disconnected world of people, and loneliness is a bad beast.

  3. So where was that energy before you were born ? I dont recall anything at all before I was born. We may have a connection to a source, but that does not matter when you are dead. I have been dead forever. I can not recall anything, and I do not see it different from being dead after being alive. I am still a human being, I still need to carry my water buckets, and when I die there will be just nothing, forever. Not even the concept of nothing, so one might say death is very safe, you wont experience it. Still, it is awful to think about from a living perspective. Nothing scares me more than the fact that I'm going to, no matter what, fall into the void of darkness.

  4. Can't get enough spirituality….. "Food, drink, shelter and a degree of material comfort are essential, but human beings cannot and never will find fulfillment in these necessities. Nor is contentment to be found in the somewhat more
    intangible material attainments such as social recognition or political power. Ultimately, not even intellectual achievement satisfies our deepest needs."
    ~ Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Oct, Turning Point For All Nations

  5. the best part is the first part, Steve Martin playing the banjo. Seriously, this guy is like the banjo, sounds good; but, it's really just noise.

  6. There is a western tradition in this line of thought as well. One forerunner is the cosmology of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, from the early 1800's. In the early 1900's, philosopher William James sought to reconcile the question of "how can everything be One and Many at the same time?" Another forerunner is David Bohm, the physicist, who theorized about the Implicated Order (the underlying wholeness) and the Explicate Order (the forms we take, see, and experience).

  7. In my opinion I think spirituality and science could actually work together because science prove meditation and difference form of yoga is helpful for the mind and body

  8. Search this on youtube… Khalil Gibran, "The Prophet". listen to the video on Love. It is an awesome book that really makes you think. I learned of it through a song by Mad Season, layne staley read the book when he was near the end.

  9. An easy way to initiate a good meditation state. Focus on certain part or feeling on your body like you see the monks holding finger tips together , listen to a flat white noise to keep you from running thoughts and close eyes and stare at one spot do not move eyes around.

  10. Even when i am watching everything inside my body….that is my mind my though and everything i can feel …i can expirience …then how am i separated from my mind and hence my body?……..it is not a stage of complete emptiness …i can still experience and feel and that itself contains time…isn't it?

  11. I agree with most of these ideas but I dont understand why the death of the body which is ENERGY as he said should be accepted as " normal" and expected and not make us suffer or feel disappointed…why shouldn't it immortal ?
    These two are contradictory.
    When he says WE are energy…What does he mean then if not the body (and mind) as well if they too are made up of cells-atoms and thus ENERGY? WHICH PART of us is energy then? The consciousness ? But isn't this notion that there is ONE part of us ( mortal) different from the other ( immortal consciousness energy)
    Also based on THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATION?

    What if we realized instead that our body IS also our consciousness and thus is also immortal and the ONLY thing that stops us from experiencing this is the FALSE BELIEF (the mind creates) that Matter and Spirit, the Body and the Soul are SEPARATE ?

  12. Good speech. Although knowledge is lacked in this because everything Science studies is Spirituality. The Brain and The Soul are two different things.

  13. He mixed evolution-ism and Buddhism to make his point, very interesting combination of concepts to make us understand who we are, why we suffer and what is our purpose. I am still soul searching trying to figure this life out. I am keeping an open mind trying to understand why we as the human race have so many different perspective about life and our purpose, whereas the animals only care about food and procreation. For now, my purpose will be to be a life long learner trying to make sense of this world we live in. Thanks to google and youtube.

  14. Is he suggesting all 7 billion of us drink the kool-aid? I've already accidentally achieved spiritual enlightenment thanks to a weird NDE and unfortunately, he is telling the truth. I say unfortunate because I had a really big ego haha. It hasn't died yet.

  15. Cool for the most part. He failed to mention purpose but suggested 7 million die to end suffering. 🤔 and then if we are all on the same page and decide to be an ocean; whats the point?

  16. I'm not saying we're not energy. We're. But we're more than energy and believing we're nothing but energy doesn't annihilate human suffering.

    Though color itself is not any physical matter, it does not mean that the object that possesses the quality of being seen in a particular color is not physical matter. Even for things that don't exist in physical form at all, there is no logical conclusion to draw that they only exist in our thoughts, since they can still be very real in their own form, despite we like/believe it or not. Emotions are not generated by thoughts, though can be influenced and controlled by thoughts. Human suffering is partially from objective reality because our body is a particular form of physical being. Even if we are nothing but "energy", so death is no longer frightening, this "energy" gets sick/weak that causes real physical pain in this life and not being afraid of death doesn't help. Actually how does he know we stay the same form of energy after we die that we are always like waves in the ocean? What if we're becoming ice that is distinctively separated from the water? Hence how does he know that existing in another form of energy doesn't mean another form of suffering? Even if the next moment is suffering free, it doesn't automatically cancel out the pain caused by a nail pierced through the hand at this very moment.

    As for the part that is indeed created by ourselves in this daily life, what we can do is not to deny the existence of suffering, but learn to recognize early and resist those wrong thoughts causing potential negative emotions and find ways to deal with ongoing physical and emotional pain. His idea of "MAYBE we are energy and therefore all suffering can be and should be ignored" is simply outright illogical. But definitely one is free to choose to believe his "maybe" theory.

    Science and all main stream religions actually have one major character in common. They all try hard to stay logical, given their own set of prepositions. As for who provides the ultimate correct answer to certain questions, that's a totally different topic.

  17. I have to say, although he is clearly intelligent and seems to be talking sense, I’m very skeptical. First of all, I find it difficult to believe that a human mind could ever reach a healthy state of mind without the presence of suffering. The whole notion that we can irradiate suffering is just rediculous when suffering is part of life. So he claims that we can irradiate suffering by reaching a state of mind that ‘realises that we are nothing but energy’. This is not the kind of state of mind I personally would like to engage in and I’m talking from experience. It is a cold, nihilistic position to be in, where nothing REALLY matters, because everything is nothing but ‘energy’. For example, why not commit crimes? If it’s all just ‘energy’, there is no right or wrong? Surely everything that brings value into human life is our experience and how we relate to it, so I can’t see how taking ourselves away from that could do us any good.

  18. thank you for this! losing the illusion of separation will bring more unity and happiness to everyone xxx

  19. "The "I think I am," is, since Descartes, the fundamental error in all knowledge; thinking is not my thinking, and being is not my being, because everything is only God or the universe" Schelling, German Philosopher (1775 – 1854)

  20. Hey, you all. If you're interested in learning more about that subject, you can try The Spirits Book by Allan Kardec. BOOK FIST CHAPTER II – GENERAL ELEMENTS OF THE UNIVERSE.

  21. In spiritual science human could generate into pure conductor to link the knowledge of universe.

    bonikingv

  22. Jeff, you did pay enough attention to the Yogies of India. In this matter, theory is far away from experiencial reality. But there are ways and means to it. VOCAL always remain as an intelectual exercise. Bow down and make it all yours!

  23. So fare, so good… In this day and age, anyone can understand this simplistic explanation of energy evolving from individual atoms to the human brain. However, the philosophical dilema arises when the "wave" begins to wonder what to do with the brain that has suddenly appeared on its crest and says to itself:  "Wow!… I am a wave!".

  24. I mean, doesn't most everyone by now understand that the physical bodies of all living creatures are a complex arrangement of atoms, which, in turn, are a complex arrangement of quants of energy? Or is it that I am missing out some particular point of this talk that reveals something new? I am baffled because I see so many awe-stricken comments.

  25. This is what Sikhism also say… our Guru Granth Sahib ( holy book) is based on sound energy which generate when we read Guru Granth Sahib ji.

  26. Exceptional…..super…."truth" in simple language….jeff has put this in such simple words, sentences. This video can be very useful (can be understood easily) right from students in 5th grade…should be shown in schools first.

  27. It's like this guy is talking about Hinduism !! This is what is Hinduism is .it has been there for centuries and no one bothered to even study it.

  28. poetic idealized conceptualization of existence via science, that in essence, says we need to be empathetic and compassionate bundles of "energy" to all other bundles of "energy". monks and nuns are nothing special imo when you remove yourself from the obstacles of everyday life how do you grow and what are you really achieving. I say no …monk and/or nuns are not good examples.

  29. So powerful! Thanks. (Let this humble person say. I had first hand experience of what the speaker says. For several years I suffered so much from a broken bond. I was in a state of trauma and emotional pain so overwhelming that I felt it had broken me. My existence became my suffering. Then I found religion (spirituality). Through deep praying (meditation) giving up my sense of self, replacing the small "I am" with the big "I AM." My suffering gradually disappeared. It is a gift from above. An enlightenment. It requires effort but it is worthy of any effort. After that, I hope everybody finds religion (spirituality) in their own way.)

  30. Why is this so new in west…tibetan buddhism have all this from 1000 of years that's why science now comes with buddhism… Especially tibetan

  31. It just occurred to me that these Ted talks are always 15 minutes long, but the room is always full of people. Do they really travel all the way here for one 15 minute talk, or do they do a series of them in a row to form a larger show?

  32. This is the guy who made the tracks which were used as samples called "Techno" and "Techno2" in Scratch 1.4!

  33. With being energy, exchanging energy, there must be something to the law of attraction. Everyone would have to admit they've experienced it at some point in their life. Would love to learn the trick of total manipulation. He just said it… It's a flawed, pervasive thought that we're separate from the world. We have to match the vibration of everything around us. At which point so much changes in our lives.

  34. There's yet one answer to a question that could destroy his whole argument about suffering.

    "If source consciousness/energy created us all, are we meant to transcend the illusion or to accept it?"

  35. I posted all of this as my Instagram story and me and my friends want to thank you for this, this is everything I believed, and experienced and here you have organized it

  36. We are definitely not the only species to think and plan for tomorrow. Birds look for good sites and build nests for their families. Beavers build dams. Elephants and many other animals travel to known places to forage and drink. There's a heron that drops bits of bread in the water to lure in fish to eat. Our natural world is wonderful, and we need to live IN it, not above it.

  37. I have been heavily reading and listening to spiritual talks and i notice all these masters are trying to convey same message transcend the duality of life, evolving the consciousness , self realization,Nirvana,Moksha, a state of life where all fear jealousy ego as such doesnot exist anymore , no suffering exists any more and leaving a god like heavily sane life. It is true that human suffer human do have a hill of fear in them, human play a drama around other human for better survival , the falsehood of society is also real yes i agree there is almost so much wrong from what we really do and how much false we ourself are we know all these negativities of life yess i agree on this but now religion comes into play giving you a hope that you can go beyond your suffering and so on . My question is does spirituality as such really exists or is it just another false hope for people nothing for than a hoax . And you see it is so easy to attract people if we talk about there suffering and give them a hope for life.

  38. Flawless logic at its core open minded reality thinking which makes sense amen . Bravo my young friend I could not have said it better may you have a long life .

  39. Brilliant. Good speaker and succinctly puts in place what many have come to understand through various means. Finding quiet nothingness leads to the paradox of becoming and experiencing literally everything. I really appreciate this.

  40. Found this video about 4 years ago and still go back to it a couple of times per year, and share it with others often. He so clearly explains the concept of humans as energy, the scientific link, and our interconnectedness, that I'm not sure anyone will ever be able to out-do this one. Absolutely agree with the person who said this is the single most important Ted talk video to date.

  41. This talk undoubtedly has been one of the best enlightening talk I have heard in a long time. It’s an absolute coincidence that he sounds like my Guru. The most fundamental question being “Who Am I”??? , Answer being ‘I am a 50 Trillion cells doing a magical dance’ : ) .The only purpose for being born in the planet is to know recognise and be the one universe. As many enlightened beings who have said the very same thing. My blessings & grace that may all the human beings experience the highest, the full blown experience of knowing ‘I Am That’. ‘Self-Realization’ is the only primary purpose of having this rare human birth. Soham

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