Jan. 23 – What’s in a Word?
Now that we’re all sort of like friends, have been rowing merrily down the intellectual stream for a while, it’s time to look deeper at the “Two Matter Theory” and see what gives. I use aliens and UFO’s as useful metaphors for the mind-blowing revelations of our times. Like it or not, the future is here and it can’t hurt to be better prepared for the massive cognitive load that’s coming around the bend.
Can a selfie hurt ET’s eyes? Are ray guns and probes still made in Chi-nah? And do Midwest jobs remain at stake? So many questions! Maybe we’d better straighten things out in advance, you know, work on our groove.
I think it is apparent now, at least dimly, that it is high time homo sapiens dealt with some incomprehensible gaps in self-awareness. But I make no attempt to prove one thesis over another so much as to arrange certain notions in a way that does not immediately estrange the reader from big discoveries I am about to relate.
On the one hand, this is not about educating a world that’s already way over-educated. We can’t handle the education we’ve got now and our plan to spackle our lifestyle across an unprepared cosmos may contain unsuspected flaws.
On the other, because our subjective consciousness is an analog of what is called the “real world,” the emerging New Science needs a vocabulary or lexical field whose terms better mirror the physical world. Let’s start with the human body as our current generative ground for how we perceive and communicate about our shared experiences. How’s that? Psychologist Julian Jaynes lays it out this way:
We see solutions to problems, talk about the head of an army or a nail. We describe the face of a clock, card, cliff or crystal to describe some kind of similarity between things or between their relations to other things.
Needles have eyes as do storms, targets or potatoes. We approach the brow of a hill, endure the teeth of the wind, or line them up in combs. Our shoes have eyes, tongues, heels, soles and toes. There are arms on chairs and legs on tables, and handy for supporting the excuses upon which we stand. So what’s going on here?
Well, consciousness is based on language. Such a statement is of course contradictory to the usual views that are embedded in popular belief and speech. But there can be no progress in the status quo until careful distinctions have been made between what is introspectable amid all the hosts of other neural abilities we lump into the word “cognition.”
Right now, I’d guess, readers are proclaiming “I’m reading your stuff at this very moment. Are you trying to say I’m not conscious of you in this moment?”
No, I’m actually saying readers are being conscious of the rhetorical argument they are making. This type of confusion stems from Bertrand Russell’s 1921 assertion of logical atomism “We are conscious of anything we perceive.” Once this became fashionable in philosophy it became difficult to see it any other way.
But Descartes, who gave us the modern idea of consciousness, would have never agreed. Nor radical behaviorists like B.F. Skinner, who denied that consciousness exists but certainly did not include sense perception. Russell would diagram the situation as ‘I’ α newspaper (I see a newspaper). Readers, like him, may think that consciousness is the second term, but in reality it is the entire expression.
A more valid example of conscious behavior would be “how can I afford to pay for yet another Microsoft upgrade?” or “I think I will rewrite the Principia now that Whitehead’s dead.” Jaynes calls these kinds of examples consciousness in action. “I see a newspaper” is not.
Perception is sensing a stimulus and responding appropriately, often on an unconscious level. Language is a power in its own right while consciousness is but a portion of language. So how is it generated and accessed?
Suppose we have a series of figures such as the following: X O X O X (? ). What is the next figure in the series? How did you arrive at your answer? Jaynes coined the word struction to designate both this act of instruction and construction. There is obviously a “something” already in place to make our answers possible, and the way this works needs to be defined and made crystal clear. Our assumptions about communication, finding missing dark energy and reading minds may need to be revisited.
Let’s look at a photograph of a giant redwood tree, say. We have four associations that constrain consciousness, divide it into four broad categories. A redwood is superordinated by a larger association “tree,” or can be co-ordinate (redwood-elm), or subordinate (redwood-shingles), or made another part of a common whole (redwood-forest). The nature of constrained associations, like an invisible net, pre-builds and pre-divides our consciousness in subliminal and well-defined ways.
These constrained associations make it possible to divide our consciousness of a redwood into four formative periods. Let’s say the first division is the instruction as to which of the constraints apply (e.g. superordinate). Then there’s the presentation of a stimulus noun (e.g. redwood). Third, there’s the search for an appropriate association and fourth, the spoken reply “tree.”
We can pause here to contemplate each of these periods and then regard its link to the next and thus become more sensitized to an account of consciousness in each. At what point do we become conscious? When do we know that we know? Most people think it’s in the third period, when we search for the word that would suit the particular constrained association.
But nothing of the sort happens. The third period is introspectively blank. What seems to be happening is that thinking is automatic and not really conscious once a stimulus word has been given, and previous to that, the particular type of association demanded has been adequately understood by the observer.
This is a remarkable observation. Another way of saying it is that we do our thinking before we know what we are thinking about. The crux of the matter is the in-struction, which frames the net, and the whole business goes off automatically.
Thinking, like judging, the supposed hallmark of human consciousness is not conscious at all. Rather it is an automatic process following a struction and the materials upon which the struction is to operate.
If I say to myself, “I shall recall the January mists over Booger County” that is a struction and what I call “thinking” about it is really a file of associated images cast upon the shores of my consciousness. When we speak, we are not really conscious either of the search for words, or putting the words together in phrases, or of putting phrases into sentences.
The important thing is the struction itself disappears into the nervous system once it is given. How does it disappear? What kind of bio-energy preserves the informational thread over time? It appears that our mind’s processes are something we are not in the least aware of once they are put into motion. We are only conscious of the ongoing series of structions that we give ourselves, which then, without any consciousness whatever, result in speech. The speech itself we can be conscious of as it is produced, if we wish, thus giving some feedback to result in further structions.
So anyhow, we arrive at the position that the actual process of thinking, so usually thought to be the very life of consciousness itself is not conscious at all. It’s only the preparation, its materials, and its end results that are consciously perceived. Our minds work much faster than conscious introspection can keep up with.
The Latin word prae means beforehand, the word dicere means to say, and together they mean “to predict.” Our choice points are pre-chosen by the interplay of our structions and we normally do not go back and revise them. It’s like a wave-particle collapse where a potentially possible future becomes reality from then on.
This is, of course, the major feature of mass trance induction, the necessary basis for civilization or Senate hearings. The process is neither good nor bad by itself if we can personally retain the unbounded freedom of the mind. Otherwise, we usually find ourselves working on somebody else’s pyramid.
Deeper still is the possibility of creating and dis-creating these structions at will, bring time itself to bear in currently unsuspected ways. But we can’t take our quantum brains out and play with them just yet. There’s still a ways to go.