Open Journal of Philosophy
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 17-24
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ojpp) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpp.2012.21003
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 17
Recovering from Libet’s Left Turn into Veto-as-Volition:
A Proposal for Dealing Honestly with the Central
Mystery of Libet (1983)
Century College, St. Paul, USA
Received November 3rd, 2011; revised December 10th, 2011; accepted December 18th, 2011
With certain topics the general reader experiences a double-whammy wherein one must peer through a
curtain of needlessly obscure jargon to try glimpsing something that is inherently weird in nature. Bell’s
nonlocality was once such a topic, but authors have had considerable success over the years in showing
where the line is between the enigma itself (in nature) and the human-made oddities surrounding it (in
physics). Libet-ology has yet to undergo that de-mystifying process. Accordingly, our first order of busi-
ness here is to restate its basic tenets in plain English so that only nature’s inherent puzzle is left on the
table, free of certain peculiarities of the existing technical literature. We also address the question of the
central topic versus its byways, as alluded to by ‘left turn into veto-as-volition’ in our title (On the final
page of Libet’s landmark paper, there is an effort to resurrect free will in the same breath that implicitly
just killed it. In this way, the founder of the field placed it into perennial disarray and left its true message
in obscurity for decades). In the ensuing parts of the paper, we look outside the field to see how hypno-
therapy and Hinduism might shed light on it.
Keywords: LIBET; Volition; Free Will; Free Won’t; Mental Timing; Ethics; Hypnotherapy; Rossi &
Cheek; Hinduism; Neurophysiology; Readiness Potential; Bereitschaftspotential; EMG Onset;
Downward Causation; Unconscious Processes
Definition of terms and scope: In the text I will make fre-
quent use of the term “Libetology”—an admittedly graceless
but necessary shorthand device to avoid reiterations of the fol-
lowing string of references: Libet et al. (1979, 1983), Libet
(1985, 1999, 2006), Penrose (1989), Klein (2002a), Obhi &
Haggard (2004), Hallett (2007), Matsuhashi & Hallett (2008),
Kühn & Brass (2009), and Schooler (2010). i.e., these twelve
will comprise my primary frame of reference; thus, an ad hoc
paring down of the field to a size that I, as an outsider, find
manageable. Also, in connection with Figure 1, there will be a
“programming” thread, supported by references to Klein (2002b),
Obhi & Haggard (2004), Murphy et al. (2009), and Vohs (2010).
Following natural contours of the field itself, one becomes
aware of four primary topics in Libetology.
The Central Mystery (A)
Libet (1983) leads to a genuine puzzle regarding self and vo-
lition. As an individual, I “know” I have free will and I accept
responsibility for my actions; at the same time, the science says
volition (as we regular folk think we understand it) is only a
time-lagged illusion, suggesting a planet populated by automa-
tons. How can these be reconciled? Not easily!
Closely bound to the central mystery but casting a decades-
long shadow over it is veto-as-volition (later canonized as free
won’t), which appears immediately as a non sequitur in Libet et
al. 1983: p. 641. In retrospect, we see that page 641 was only
the tip of an iceberg comprised of Libet’s implicit theology
founded upon a special brand of stealth-dualism; this is de-
scribed in Klein (2002b): pp. 329-330 (but note also the apol-
ogy/rationale for Libet on pp. 331-332). These matters create a
significant drag on the whole field. They are addressed below
in the section called Doublethink.
Ascribed -Time-of-Percep tion unde r the Microscope (C)
This topic holds a degree of intrinsic interest, yes, but in rela-
tion to (A) above it strikes me as hair-splitting. I can’t help
wondering if some who dwell upon this line of investigation are
not attracted to it as a form of denial or avoidance of the central
mystery. §2.1.1 in Hallett (2007) is devoted to this cottage in-
dustry. Given Matsuhashi & Hallett (2006), one might expect
the topic had been laid to rest. Not so. A “lively literature” on
this topic is still alluded to in Baumeister et al. (2010): p. 49,
More Felons at Large, More Liars at Home (D)
Those who gravitate to this topic hold roughly the opposite
view from those who dwell upon topic C. Far from denying the
implications of Libet, these individuals seem impressed by the
preponderance of evidence that free will is dead and wish to
strategize now about the ethical fallout that might occur once
the news gets out. In the extreme case, the prison gates would
Summary of various Libet-related experiments (plus a “programming” conjecture).
be thrown open since blame could no longer be attributed. Note
the double whammy: Not only would the tectonic shift in atti-
tude cause a release of felons into the general population, but it
would likely induce higher rates of lying [and criminality]
among us all. The latter scenario has already been demonstrated
by Vohs and Schooler, as referenced in Schooler, 2010: pp.
194-195. Note however that their lying-rate studies involve
college-level subjects who are asked to read from Francis
Crick’s The Astonishing Hypothesis. Meanwhile, Smilansky
has remarked that, “Humanity is fortunately deceived on the
free will issue” (quoted in Schooler, 2010: p. 192). Whereupon
one has to wonder: Will the public ever be in a position to com-
pre- hend/believe in Libetology? Given the intrinsic weirdness
of the field, the answer might be no, in which case one’s con-
cern about the prison gates opening might be allayed, or at least
deferred for some decades.
In Libetology, we explore topics A and B above (and have
little more to say about topics C and D outside of this introduc-
tion). In New Context(s), we try picking up the lost thread from
1983 in a slightly off-beat framework: the “mind-brain/brain-
body” model of hypnotherapists Rossi and Cheek (I find their
model compelling but I prefer to use the nomenclature “head-
brain/body-brain” for reasons explained below). Also, since
Hinduism is the oldest and best authority on introspection, one
wishes to see how/if all this might be re-synthesized in that
broader context (Quite well, as it happens, as indicated in Trip-
tych and Concluding Remarks.).
Exoticism? Perhaps my forays into hypnotherapy and Hin-
duism look recherché at first glance. But don’t forget topic D
above. I may have couched it in semi-facetious terms (felons
running amok), but unlike topics B and C, topic D is a serious
one. It tells us to wake up and try to honestly finish what Libet
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
started before it is too late. And for that task, we need “all the
help we can get” from whatever far-flung quarter.
The Central Mystery
Please refer to Figure 1 where I give my synopsis of Libe-
tology, based on sources as early as 1983 and as late as 2010, as
detailed in the Legend and in Appendix A.
Admittedly, the story told by Figure 1 is very strange, so it
bears repeating in a slightly different form before we proceed:
At the outset, to provide some minimal context I say, “She
[the subject] decides to lift a finger”. But already, with that
bland-seeming statement, I’m in trouble. How so? Because any
conventional definition of “she” or “the subject” will be at odds
with the ego-less zone depicted at the lower-left, where we
need to start the narrative. The solution to this dilemma: On
faith, you must promise to set the puzzle aside for now and read
The finger-lift that “she” has somehow “decided upon” has its
Inception (I) at the time labeled zero. In the literature, this is the
moment of the readiness potential (RP) alias Bereitschaftspo-
tential (BP) of Kornhuber & Deecke (1965). This is where her
body starts its journey toward being physically able to perform
such a movement. Since the RP correlates with nothing in her
conscious awareness, we must assign it by default to some kind
of “unconscious awareness” (For now, please pardon the oxy-
moron. After we’ve introduced Rossi & Cheek, 1994, we will
find a substitute for the term “unconscious”, which lingers in
the literature from the time of Freud, and short-circuits under-
standing). The event itself occurs at the 1000 ms mark (arbi-
trary icon with solid center). Still later, at 1100 ms or “W”, she
feels that she is just now willing the event. Finally, she imag-
ines that her (supposedly) willed event happens at 1250 ms
(icon with hollow center), now a full 5/4 seconds beyond in-
ception and a quarter-second after the event. Is she not one of
the strangest creatures in the cosmos?
Although the literature includes variations on the theme, the
concomitant nuances do not change by one iota the basic
weirdness of the model just presented. In short, “she” is anyone
and everyone who ever lived (It gets worse. “Nowhere in any
formulation of physics that we know of does the issue of a spe-
cial point in time called ‘now’ ever occur”; Lederman & Hill,
2008: pp. 341-344. Adding insult to injury, physics thus re-
minds us that the slippery “now” we’ve been chasing probably
isn’t real anyway!).
So much for defining the central mystery, as I call it. The
following advice from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seems tai-
lor-made to the circumstance: “Once you eliminate the impos-
sible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the
truth”. In other words, rather than flee Figure 1 in dismay, let’s
be adults and squarely face “whatever remains”, namely that
free will operates somehow in the realm of the so-called un-
conscious. Specifically, let’s try a two-pronged attack, divided
along the lines of long-term/short-term mental processes.
It is actually not so difficult to imagine the conscious mind
instructing or “programming” the unconscious with reference to
events in the mid-term or long-term future, e.g., for “impression
management” to borrow a term from Vohs (2010). Already this
recaptures one aspect of the free will “Paradise” that we feared
was “Lost”, and it reinstates in large measure Individual Re-
sponsibility. Relative to Libet (1983), this is something extra,
represented by the large downward swooping arrow in Figure 1.
Now we return to Libetology proper:
Meanwhile, on the left side of the figure, time is measured
not in hours or months but in fractions of a second. At first
blush, shouldn’t it be just as easy to imagine the unconscious
mind generating the events in this region? After all, the ver-
nacular has a ready-made phrase for this: “doing things on
autopilot” (e.g., the subroutine we call upon for steering a car
while speaking to a passenger). However, to encompass all that
is symbolized by the solid arrow on the left side of Figure 1 we
would need to greatly extend this autopilot notion to encompass
everything we do (e.g., speaking to the passenger)—and that in
turn would evoke a picture that is highly repugnant: earth in-
habited by a species of zombies or automatons who steer cars
and talk “mindlessly”. For now let’s say we’ve reached an im-
passe, and revisit that piece of the puzzle in New Context(s) for
Considering the profound implications of his 1983 paper, it
seems odd to me that Libet has so little name recognition out-
side the immediate field; or, more to the point, that the findings
of 1983 are not known to the public (cf. Smilansky’s words
above). Here is a related thought, from Klein (2002b): “...why
has there been continuing controversy over the past 20 years
regarding Libet’s volition experiments...when there is so much
agreement on the basic facts?” Klein then introduces the term
“chronotheology” (from Bolbecker et al.) and goes on to sepa-
rate Libet’s science from Libet’s theology, finally invoking
quantum mechanics to try rationalizing Libet’s stance (Klein,
2002b: pp. 329-332). My own critique of Libet will be less
sympathetic: In the final few sentences of his 1983 paper, Libet
jerks our attention away from the astonishing findings on pp.
623-640 into ruminations on veto-as-volition: “There could be a
conscious “veto” that aborts the performance even of the type
of “spontaneous” self-initiated act under study here. This re-
mains possible because [W appears a substantial time before
EMG]”; p. 641, my italics. (Possible but improbable. Try tell-
ing the parent who just locked Baby and keys into the 90˚ F car
that “you should have been quicker and exercised your veto
power”; compare Penrose, p. 443.) Instead of dealing honestly
with the death of free will (as classically understood), Libet has
taken a left turn into the area that will eventually be canonized
as free won’t (in Obhi & Haggard, 2004: p. 360). Implicitly,
Libet has forsaken his own best idea. This partially explains his
lack of name recognition, even after decades.
Evidence of the lingering problem is conspicuous in Hallett
(2007). As implied elsewhere in this paper, I regard Hallett’s
work as first class, but his use of language threatens to obscure
his results. For example, his title indicates that the topic will be
“Volitional Control” and “Free Will”, but the ensuing text
shows in excruciating detail that there is no such thing as voli-
tional control and no such thing as free will. When Hallett
writes of the “voluntariness of a voluntary movement” in §1.0,
a reasonable person assumes that the upcoming topic must be
voluntary movement. Wrong. From context, one begins to real-
ize, circa §2.3, that Hallett is using the term to denote a sub-
ject’s illusion of voluntary movement. Apparently he views
“voluntary movement” not as a meaningful English term, rather
as an arbitrary technical tag. We expect engineers to (ab)use
language in that passive-aggressive manner when compelled to
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 19
write their much-despised “documentation”, but we are taken
aback to see it in a scholarly context. In Endnote 10.1 Hallett
writes: “Free will exists, but it is a perception and not a force
driving movement.” Since the sentence itself is nonsense, one
might speculate that its author is treating “free will” as another
arbitrary engineering-style tag. Or, could these linguistic pecu-
liarities signal a thread of doublethink in Libetology?
The term “doublethink” made its debut in 1948 in Orwell’s
novel, 1984. Since then, generations of students have dutifully
told their English teachers how aghast they are at the idea of
slate-eyed bureaucrats promoting doublethink from windowless
towers of the future. But the practice of doublethink goes back
to the mists of prehistory, and it pops up around us all the time
in areas that have nothing to do with Orwellian politics. For
example, every child growing up in the West will likely ex-
perience a period of doublethink lasting a week, a month, or
perhaps even a year or two during which the Santa Claus belief
is recanted in one part of the mind, yet protected in another part
of the mind, for old time’s sake. For half a century, the particle
physicist has held his mind in just such a state of double-
think-suspension, knowing about the triple blow to parity in
1957 (separately for beta-, muon- and lamba-decay) yet labor-
ing ever after with quasi-religious fervor to find creative ac-
counting tricks that will “prove” the cosmos cares about sym-
metry just as much as he does, in allegiance to Noether’s theo-
rem. Thus the bizarre language of particle physics, where one
must avoid any hint of cosmic indifference to symmetry, and
speak rather of “failure of conservation of symmetry” or “evi-
dence of parity nonconservation”. Partly this is the fault of the
English language: the word “symmetry” may be conveniently
negated by prefixing “a-” but to negate “parity” one would
have to coin an ungainly new term. But this shortcoming of
language suits the psychology of the physicist just fine, for he
wishes fervently to hang on to symmetry forever (see Lederman
and Hill, 2008: pp. 20-25 and 176-181). If a child at age eleven
filled his journal with “observations of nonconservation of Ex-
istence-of-SantaClaus” his parents might call in a psychiatrist;
and yet, in physics such thinking is routine.
Clearly, then, Libetology is not alone in the world, in suffer-
ing bouts of doublethink rooted in ambivalent feelings about
experimental facts that threaten to overturn cherished beliefs.
But what to do? If one wished to see Libet’s name elevated to
its rightful place, in lieu of Klein’s approach alluded to earlier, I
would simply draw the line between decades of “volition” fan-
tasy and the reality of free will’s demise (analogous to the
Downfall of Parity). With Libet’s name thus “cleared”, one
would feel free to change the focus to something more promis-
ing such as “programming”, as introduced in connection with
Figure 1, and revisited below.
New Context(s) for Libetology
The Head-Brain/Body-Brain Model
Paraphrasing from Rossi & Cheek (1994: pp. 61, 160, 165,
275, 345, and passim): Each of us possesses a head-brain AND
a body-brain. (Nomenclature: Where I speak of the head-brain
and body-brain, they use the rather confusing terms “mind-
brain” and “brain-body”.) Specifically, the distinction they
draw is between 1) the classical neural transmission of informa-
tion, rapidly through the nerves only, and 2) the “information
substance receptor system [operating slowly through] the blood,
cerebro-spinal fluid, lymph, intercellular spaces of [the] brain,
etc.” (p. 52). They speak also of a contrast between “fast ana-
tomical information addressing of the nervous system and the
slower parasynaptic chemical addressing system”.
To those familiar with Biblical Greek or Classical Chinese or
Indo-Tibetan religion, this notion of brain-stuff residing else-
where than in the cranium should not seem strange. Even in
modern Chinese, for that matter, the word for “heart” still
serves double duty as the word for “mind”. (See also Dorje, pp.
21 and 405 re the correspondence of the Indo-Tibetan syllable
Hūm with the concept of heart/mind). Caveat: In Rossi &
Cheek, many organs are mentioned—among them the thyroid,
spleen, kidney, and ovaries; also cells in a generic sense—but
never the heart specifically; so it must also be noted that the
oriental heart-as-mind concept is suggestive only in a general
way of their detailed western model.
Even though Rossi & Cheek’s long-ago (1994) publication is
of narrow provenance (hypnotherapy), it represents an impor-
tant advance in our general understanding of the mind, I think.
Moving now into my own characterizations (which may some-
times go in a slightly different direction than Rossi & Cheek
intended), I would say the head-brain is fast and modern,
though often rather obtuse relative to the body-brain, which is
slow and ancient but (ironically) better “informed” about events
as they transpire. Also, it is noteworthy that the head-brain can
be turned off, in its little nightly death called “falling to sleep”.
By contrast, the body-brain never sleeps—hence its potential
for greater intelligence and deeper knowledge.
Note how remarkably compatible Rossi & Cheek’s model is
with Figure 1 above, even though the latter comes at the prob-
lem from such a different direction. In Figure 1, suppose we
replace the lingering Freudian labels “conscious” and “uncon-
scious” by “head-brain” and “body-brain”. We can now resume
our discussion of “programming”, by bringing into the picture
the small arrows labeled A and Z in Figure 1. My intention is
that these two be read as “the same arrow” so that the diagram
depicts a full cycle involving both short-term programmed
events on the left and long-term programming activity on the
right. (This is highly schematic. In a more realistic model we
would show other kinds of input in the vicinity of A, such as
visual data from the environment, and so on.) Any time we
engage in the kind of self-programming called “impression
management” (alluded to earlier), we are already implicitly
acknowledging that the body-brain possesses a respectable,
full-functioning mind. This is in sharp contrast to the cesspool
evoked by Freud, or the primeval “bug”-ridden mess proposed
by Buonomano (2011). Of course there are some “bugs”, if you
like, that can benefit from course-correction by the head-brain,
but the far larger challenge is learning how to “talk to” the
body-brain about its execution of the medium-term and
short-term actions that comprise one’s life! The A-Z loop is
there. Our job, if we wish to stop being a planet of zombies
who operate on a half-second delay, is to figure out how to
exploit the loop—in the direction of more ethical behavior if
one is a regular citizen, or in the direction of introspection if
one has mystic aspirations.
In the meantime, we should not be too surprised when our
public figures commit acts of pure folly (Weiner’s tweeted
wiener), or when a sociopath of phantasmagoric dimensions
blossoms on the scene (Florida v. Anthony). To explain such
cases one could postulate that all “programming” has simply
broken down. Or, in still other circumstances, it may happen
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
that the body-brain issues a unilateral communiqué, deliberately
going rogue against the programming cycle. This idea will be
explored in the next section.
An Alarm Clock “Dream” or the Body-Brain
Delivering a Communiqué?
To balance my heavy reliance on metaphor and abstraction
elsewhere, this will be an interlude about some phenomena that
are specific, albeit purely anecdotal and subjective. For years, I
believe my “body-brain” has tried to announce its presence to
my “head-brain”, but the message was garbled until I became
familiar (only recently) with Rossi & Cheek. Most days of the
year, my alarm goes off and I simply get up, like everyone else.
However, on three or four random days of the year I experience
something like this instead:
A: At 7:00:00 a.m., my body-brain (the one that never sleeps)
hears the alarm in real time.
B: At 7:00:03, my head-brain, still half asleep, takes note of
event “A” and hazily classifies it as “a dream but not really a
dream” (This layer seems to jibe with Freud’s proposed “pre-
C: At 7:00:06, my head-brain wakes up fully. At this mo-
ment, the alarm seems louder, and qualitatively “real”. My
head-brain briefly puzzles over “B”—that moment of having
glimpsed “A” (Comment on the pseudo-times indicating three
seconds and six seconds past the hour for B and C. I would
characterize those numbers as “twice removed from reality”:
First, they are only impressionistic; secondly, they are impres-
sions of subjective time. Meanwhile, the objective times for B
and C might be at a half-second and one second past the hour,
i.e., of a time granularity compatible with Figure 1. A certain
Chinese story comes to mind here: a man puts a pot of rice on
the fire, takes a nap, dreams an entire lifetime in the time it
takes the rice to finish cooking).
This ABC sequence is blessedly simple compared to the
scenarios I concocted pre-Rossi & Cheek to try explaining
these “alarm clock dreams”, armed only with a smattering of
Libet (1979) via Penrose (e.g., perhaps all existence is a sham,
only the playback of 4D movie, in which case time-lags would
be a non-issue; or, perhaps my unconscious mind contains its
own precise clock and mischievously tosses out a preview of
the alarm moments before the physical alarm sometimes, just to
spook me; etc.). Simple or not, the new vision is not immedi-
ately welcomed, however: The head-brain does not like being
told, in effect, that it has been sharing space all these years not
with a primitive, nocturnal, mental ball of rags à la Freud but
with a full-fledged “second brain”—a bigger brain that never
sleeps, whereas the head-brain must suffer the indignity of its
nightly mortality. If the alarm clock scenario could be articu-
lated as a communiqué from body-brain to head-brain, I believe
it would go something like this:
“I’m not just a fantasy realm that churns out dream-stuff.
You should realize that I also register sensory input, i.e., that I
have perceptions. In fact, between the two of us, I’m the only
one with perception. Your so-called perceptions are just an
echo in your cranium of my genuine perceptions. True, when
communicating with you I may seem slow, but my perceptions
of the outside world operate close to real time, a feat that is
physically impossible for you! Which is worse: to be a slow
speaker with both feet on the ground or to be a mute off-kilter
Thus far, for the “alarm clock dream”, the primary point of
reference has been Libet et al. (1979), which deals only with
the mental timing puzzle; we return now to Libetology in the
larger sense, where the focus is on (our notion of) volition.
Suppose I lie in bed for a few seconds or minutes after hearing
the alarm. Eventually, there must come that magic time, say
7:01:35 a.m. or 7:08:21 a.m. for argument’s sake, when I actu-
ally start to get up, e.g., by throwing the covers off. Which of
my two brains do you suppose chooses that particular moment
for my hands to “impulsively” throw the covers off? Per Figure
1, it must be the body-brain. A related vignette: When I look in
the mirror, someone (a personage) looks back. Who is it? I
believe it is my body-brain looking back at my head-brain,
mano a mano—hence the eeriness sometimes associated with
this experience, if it is late at night and the defenses are down
from lack of sleep.
Their spiritual insights aside, the Hindus happen also to be
the most ancient and accomplished of introspection specialists.
So their viewpoint must be incorporated—or at the very least
acknowledged—in any such discussion. Happily, one finds that
there is no particular problem accommodating most of the ideas
discussed so far in this paper with the Vedānta model. I’ve
based Figure 2 below on passages similar to the following:
Waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep, the three states of
consciousness, are dissolved in the turīya, the transcendental.
Once more the bell rings. The sound Om is heard and as it were
a heavy weight falls on the bosom of the calm, infinite ocean;
immediately the ocean becomes agitated. From the bosom of
the absolute rises the relative... from the transcendental come
the three states of consciousness... Again the waves dissolve in
the ocean, and there is the great calm...innumerable worlds
issue from the ocean and go back into it... Just as, through in-
tense cold, some portions of the ocean freeze into ice and the
formless water appears to have form, so, through the intense
love of the devotee, Brahman appears to take on form....—
from Śrī Śrī Rāmakrsna Kathāmrta as translated by Prabha-
vananda (1963), pp. 346 and 289
Related images occur in Prabh. (1963) pp. 349 and 357.
In the Legend for Figure 2, we say Ātman is the true Self.
But that simplistic definition needs to be supplemented by the
In one passage [of the Katha Upanisad] the Ātman is de-
scribed as enclosed in a series of sheaths:
One must pass through annamaya, the food-body; prānamaya,
the vital principle; manomaya, the mind; vijñānamaya, the in-
tellect; ānandamaya, bliss/ego; and the unmanifested seed, only
then arriving at the Self [Ātman], the unconditioned, knowing
whom one attains to freedom and achieves immortality (after
Prabh, 1963: pp. 52-53, by merging his two lists).
In the context of Hinduism, one is struck by the following
passage in Penrose: “Perhaps consciousness is, after all, merely
a spectator who experiences nothing but an ‘action replay’ of
the whole drama” (Penrose, 1989: p. 443). At first one thinks,
“Ah, another convergence of east and west!” But look again.
Penrose’s rumination is actually the inverse of the model where
Ātman, the true Self, is a silent and constant witness to ego.
Thus we are reminded that metaphors are alluring but treacher-
ous. Not to say the one metaphor is “correct” and the other
“incorrect”. I would rather just mark all verbiage with a “DAN-
GER” sign and leave it at that.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 21
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Triptych and Concluding Remarks By contrast, the paradigm of the Upaniṣads is a trinity, com-
prised of Brahman-Ātman-māyā. From this trinity, the tempo-
rary dichotomy Brahman/māyā or the temporary dichotomy
Brahman/Ātman may be extracted to facilitate discussion. (Also,
a fourth piece, ego, may be temporarily appended, as in Figure
3). Focusing then on the Indic scheme’s binary aspects for a mo-
ment, we may draw a parallel between it and the simpler paradigms
to the left, to arrive at a distillation of all three panels:
Sources for the triptych in Figure 3 below: The first panel is
distilled from Figure 1 but with the lingering Freudian terms
X’d out (also, sans “programming line”, to be revisited in due
course). The second panel contains my attempt to summarize
Rossi & Cheek (1994) in a mini-mandala. The third panel re-
peats key terms from Figure 2.
The content of the first two panels may be characterized as
*** from a solid foundation, something ephemeral arises and
is (mis)perceived by the ego as the sole reality ***
binary: The first shows an event’s Inception (I) versus its illu-
sory moment of being Willed (W) only later. The next one de-
picts another binary paradigm: the body-brain and head-brain
working not so much in parallel as with the former encompass-
ing the latter, and/or “standing behind it”.
This is the shared motif that runs through all three. But what
has become of the “programming line” in Figure 1 that I said
was so important? For brevity’s sake, let’s allow the middle
An ocean metaphor, from hinduism.
panel to serve double duty as a picture of the head-brain “pro-
gramming” the body-brain.
Here is another aspect of the three-way relationship between
Libetology, Rossi & Cheek, and Hinduism:
1) Given the relative newness and mystery of Libetology, it
could benefit from being “legitimized” or “authenticated” by
Hinduism—the most ancient and detailed introspection system.
If one believed absolutely in the connections I’m proposing,
then one might want to construct a mandala that followed a
“nested” scheme as follows:
Libetology hypnotherapy Hinduism
I’ve deliberately avoided that approach since it would tend to
inhibit rather than invite more discussion. I prefer the deliber-
ately rough analogies suggested by Figure 3.
2) Conversely, one could say that Hinduism “needs” Libe-
tology to help explain why it is so difficult to modify or even
observe one’s own actions/thoughts. Libetology shows how the
driving force for thoughts and actions is always a half-second
ahead of the would-be observer of “now”. Small wonder that
learning how to meditate (or to truly take Responsibility) is
3) Rossi & Cheek provide hope for a mechanism capable of
breaking into the cycle alluded to in 2) above. The key is the
realization that the body-brain is real, sharp and “approachable”,
not the dull, amorphous, recalcitrant, blob evoked by Freud’s
“id” (previously Freud’s “unconscious”).
What finally shall we make of this life on a half-second delay?
Outside the technical details and outside the possible resonance
with eastern thought, what might be the implications of Libe-
tology for “the rest of us” in developing a day-to-day philoso-
phy of life? One possible reaction is to simply laugh Libetology
off as an oddity: “We all live together on the same delay, so no
harm done.” Wrong. So long as one continues to denigrate the
body-brain by calling it the “subconscious” or worse yet the
“unconscious” he/she can slip easily into a situation of mortal
danger, seemingly beyond one’s control. The first step toward
breaking out of this difficulty is to acknowledge and to “talk”
seriously to one’s real brain (i.e., to the body-brain, the one that
never sleeps and has the better grasp of “real time” and basi-
cally runs the show). The story “Split/Brain” by Joyce Carol
Oates is dedicated to this very problem, where she shows per-
suasively that sometimes the dialogue between the two brains is
indeed a matter of life and death.
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Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 23
Appendix A: Sources for Figure 1
My Figure 1 is a distant relative of Figure 2, “Timing of
subjective events and the Bereitschaftspotential (readiness po-
tential, RP) with data from Libet et al. (1983)”, and Figure 6,
‘Possible timing of subjective events in comparison to measur-
able events in the course of making voluntary movements’, in
Hallett (2007), pp. 20 and 24. I’ve reworked Hallett’s graphs as
follows: 1) For clarity, I’ve relabeled his minus 1000 ms as my
time zero; 2) To properly dramatize the key findings, I’ve com-
bined his “Real World Time” scale with his “Actual Time of
Perception” scale, to form a single time line (In his Figure 6,
Hallett includes a third scale called “Ascribed Time of Percep-
tion”. This, too, I acknowledge in Figure 1, by way of the
dashed lines at 750 and 900 ms); 3) I’ve “boldly” broken tradi-
tion by relabeling “RPI” (=Readiness Potential One) as “I” =
Inception (Unless one is proposing that each adult thought has
asymptotic roots dangling all the way back to the subject’s
infancy, one should make way for the commonsense proposi-
tion that a thought has its moment of inception “today”. And
while we wait another decade or two to confirm the precise
time/space parameters for inception, why not admit that we
believe already with great confidence that the RPI is it?); 4)
Commonsense dictates that we round out the picture with
something akin to my “programming” arrow. Without some
such provision for closing the loop, it would seem that one
believes his only audience is the myopic specialist in a sub-
basement lab. With loop closure, we have a model that ac-
knowledges the elephant in the room, namely: “How the heck
does all this work in general, in real people, in full cycles?”
Further details about time lines, labeling and rounding: A
time line labeled “Real World Time” in Hallett’s Figure 6
shows RPI somewhere to the left of –1000 ms. More specifi-
cally, he says: “With thoughtful, preplanned movements, the
BP began about 1050 ms prior to EMG onset” (Hallett, p. 3),
where “BP” = Bereitschaftspotential = “RPI” = Readiness Po-
tential One = my “I” for Inception, and “EMG” = Electromy-
ography = the physical event in question = my “solid center”
icon. I round his 1050 ms to 1000 then flip the scale east-
to-west so that his “0” becomes my (positive) “1000 ms” mark.
Next, I merge Hallett’s time line labeled “Actual Time of Per-
ception” into my combined time line. Implicitly, the “W” on
his middle time line would fall at +108 ms on his top time line.
Let’s call this +100 ms in round figures. Accordingly, I place
“W” at (1000 + 100 =) 1100 ms on my combined time line. In
Hallett, “M” is separated from “W” by ([–90] – [–250] =) +160
ms (in both his Figures 2 and 6). In my graphic, the corre-
sponding interval is the (1250 – 1100 = 150 ms) separation of
my "hollow center" icon from “W”. In other words, I have
rounded his implicit 160 ms to an arbitrary but explicit 150 ms.
The impetus for introducing the changes described in this ap-
pendix was to demystify the presentation.
i.e., as difficult as my way may seem at first, the traditional
way in the literature is far more difficult to follow.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.