In the mid-1990s, fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging devices) enabled researchers to begin mapping correlations between real-time brain activity and specific cognitive functions, thereby providing an empirical basis for the study of consciousness. Though it was a commonsense fact that we were conscious long before the invention of fMRIs, the lack of empirical proof meant it was taboo to speak or write of it as a scientific fact, and to do so was to jeopardize one’s career by garnering unflattering labels like irrational, flaky, New-Agey, etc.

For decades, humanities departments had been openly exploring subjective perspectives, inner voice, psycho-social dynamics, and altered conscious states, but in a culture that looks to physics and religion for its ultimate truths about reality, these explorations were regarded as mere entertainments. Discovering a consciousness-related physical effect that could be observed, measured,...

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