The IDEA of the Thought-World
- and its practical implications for our
shared political life -
It is the purpose of this Wikipedia-like entry/essay to
shed some light on something which we all experience, but for which we
often have other names, and of which we frequently believe we know a
great deal, although we do not. We mostly swim in the true nature
of thinking like a fish swims in water - mostly unaware of the
complexities of our inner environment at all.
I have taken, as general examples, thinking and
that are related to our public life (politics), since everyone seems to
share there a common interest. Different fields could have been
used as examples, such as epistemology, but not as many people will
have a direct experience of that subject matter as will have had
thoughts and points of view about politics.
To make this above discussion more concrete and less
abstract: Note that the words/terms/concepts/ideas conservative and liberal are what needs to be
called: generalizations. Such a class of objects (or human
beings) that might be included under the terms conservative and
liberal, don’t really fit us, as individuals. Most individuals
have a large number of complex beliefs, concepts, points of view,
tendencies and so forth, not all of which would fit within such large
They might be “liberal" with the way the view their own
and other’s vices, but “conservative" in their ideas of how to raise
children. Many are overly influenced by the ways in which
politicians and political consultants define a political liberal or
conservative, and as well tend to fit themselves into their own
families historical views. Not being trained or educated in how
to think, we are grabbed by clever ads that seek to divide us, rather
than serve our need to understand. The often harsh rhetoric
of negative campaigning inflames our emotions, but does not encourage
mental clarity or thoughtful reflection.
Concepts, based on such large and inclusive categories
that use terms that are highly abstract generalizations, actually don’t
have much real-world meaning at all. Same with such terms as black,
white, Latin, female
and so forth - they are superficial
generalities and when used in speech (or in thinking) they actually
stand in the way of true knowledge. In an unfortunately too real
sense, the use of the terms liberal and conservative in modern
political speech is often a cover for what has to be understood as a
kind of political bigotry. That conservatives (or liberals)
automatically decide to dislike and criticize their imagined opposites
is really just a kind of political racism, encouraged by political
consultants and their use of divisive simplistic issues such as
The linguistic scientist George Lakoff views the matter a
little bit more accurately,
applying the principles of cognitive science to define
conservatives as holding a “strong father model” of government, and
liberals as holding to a “nurturant parent model” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff),
makes the error of believing the general class has any
real world meaning, as against the individual thinker and speaker.
Lakoff finds common categories in the uses of language (what he
calls “frames”), but fails to properly emphasize that it is the
political consultants’ efforts to determine political language itself
that fails to provide the “citizen” with an adequate complexity of
discourse. Stuffing people in Lakoff’s Moral
Politics categories also
oversimplifies. As well we need note that a sufficient
educational training in Civics has disappeared from our schools - no
one really knows anymore how our government is supposed to work at all
- even many politicians. The professionals in politics have no
use for an electorate that can’t be manipulated, and have had years to
misdirect public thinking and train us to believe their lies.
What is worse, as regards Lakoff, is that he is a member
of a scientific community that believes it knows things about the
mind/brain relationship that are not true. For example, I just
walked you, as a reader, through a very simple philosophical
investigation of the meaning of words, in this case the word class
“generalizations”. Lakoff would have us think that we are
beholden to brain structures for how we think, rather than have the
capacity to increase our thinking sophistication in many alternative
ways, including just being taught the basics of an epistemological way
of seeing the world.
Here is Lakoff in a recent article (Alter Net, Dec 3,
2012) about the problems with the terms “fiscal cliff”, trying to
explain why people can’t be taught how to think more clearly, and can
only think within the limits of our brains:
Because we think with our brains, every thought we have is physical, constituted by neural circuitry. Because about 98 percent of conscious thought has an unconscious neural substrate, we are rarely aware of conceptual metaphors. And because the brain is a physical system governed by conservation of energy, a tightly integrated cascade of neural metaphor circuits is more likely to be learned, remembered, and readily activated.
This is poppycock masquerading as science. Don’t
think so? Continue reading. The problem will turn out to be
education - as in knowledge of the real nature of the mind and of
thinking, not the brain. Brain and consciousness scientists can
be understood for their errors, because they mistake “discursive
thinking”, or inner-wording, as the sole nature of how we think.
For this reason, like Lakoff, they pursue studies of language,
believing that the dissection of language rules unveils the nature of
thinking. We actually, if thinking is studied itself
introspectively, do not actually think merely in words.
It is possible for academics to over-think somethings,
often being more in love with their own specialty rather than in the
phenomena itself. Their assumptions guide them. A real
history of the last 100 years in politics might help, for example, Uncommon
Sense: the Degeneration, and the
Redemption, of Political Life in America http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/degeneration.html
Such a history would show that there is a great deal more
appearing in the phenomena of our political life than confused
metaphors and cascading brain structures.
Those who let themselves think such thoughts (such as
that there is a reality of “conservatives” and “liberals") are being
very foolish, regardless of how clever they frame their bigotry (see
the written works of the “conservative" Ann Coulter, or the comedy of
the “liberal" Bill Maher). Why are they foolish? Because
they pretend to knowledge and kinds of reason that they not only do not
possess, but avoid confronting in all cases. Where someone
reaches toward their errant and foolish thinking with logical
questions, these two retreat into deflections and other means (such as
jokes) of avoiding following out their own assumptions to their natural
and logical conclusions - which “conclusions” would be so ridiculous as
to prove beyond any doubt that their thinking was off-course right from
The root of this actually exists in our systems of
education. We mostly don’t train people in the how of thinking very well at all. We can teach them what to think (as in a point of view, such as evolutionary
theory), but very often not how to think critically and logically (for
a good example of such critical and logical thinking concerning the
theory of evolution, read Ron Brady’s Dogma and
suffers from the assumption of the speaker
or writer that all is opinion, and facts and logical thought do not
is my opinion (belief), and I have a right to it, we frequently assert.
There is not a lot of truth in political speech, in large
part because people work from an ideological point of view (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology),
really interested in how the social-political world
actually works. When an ideology is imposed, such as in politics,
it frequently fails precisely because the ideology never asks how the
real world works, it only asks: how can I make (as in force) the world
to work the way I want it to. Sort of as if physicists were
trying to get into space by demanding the laws of gravity have to
change and then obey their fantasies, not the real laws of material
Examples of failed political ideological points of view
abound and here are a few of the the most obvious: the War on Poverty;
the War on Drugs; and the War on Terror. The social-political
world has a lot of momentum and inertia, and if we try to change it
into something it really can’t change into, we cause a lot of harm.
The ideological view may be wonderful in its fantasy of in what
way the world could be nicer, but as everyone in the recovery movement
knows, you can’t fix an addict - only they can fix themselves.
The deep nature of our social life is rooted in human
psychology, and while it is possible to manipulate that on occasion,
grand changes only come infrequently, as was noticed in the Declaration
of Independence: “Prudence,
that Governments long established should not be
changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience
has shown, that human beings are more disposed to suffer, while evils
are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to
which they are accustomed.”
We could say, with some confidence, that most of us are
addicted to our favorite political ideology, and resist changing that
point of view at all, because it is a kind of belief system. The
seeming conflict between modern science and religion bears the stamp of
that identical very human problem; with one of main difficulties being
that many believers in science refuse to recognize it too is a belief
system. See the discussion of the ideology or philosophy of
“scientism”, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism
Understanding the Thought-World may help some overcome
these deficits in their own thinking, and as well understand what goes
on in the real social-political world as a consequence of the rules of
this Thought-World, and our relationship as human beings toward our own
thoughts and thinking. In a way, if we change how we educate, we
change how people think, and as people think more consciously they will
themselves change our social-political life. It is, as Saul
Bellow points out below, as regards the writings of Owen Barfield: a
question of inner freedom.
For example, we have in English these three terms:
beliefs, understandings and knowledge. An empirical approach to
thinking (see below for details) reveals that each individual swims in
a sea of self-generated vain beliefs, genuine ways of understanding
reality, and actual knowledge of the world. Everyone.
Beliefs are vain because we hold to them in-spite of all
evidence to the contrary - the folk wisdom being: don’t confuse me with facts,
my mind is already made up. Most of us
can’t do a job, or even a simple task, without understandings - ways of
appreciating that often are learned the hard way, such as what happens
when a child touches something hot. Postmen understand why dogs
are chained up. If I am really good at something, what we try to
describe with the word expertise, it is because I not
only understand why the car engine sounds funny, I also know
how to fix it.
In modern political discourse, few politicians or pundits
or talking heads on TV actually know the basics, for example, of the
science of economics. There are a lot of pronouncements rooted in
ideological beliefs, such as that decreasing the taxes on the most
wealthy will benefit the whole economy, but when empirical evidence is
offered that shows this belief to be false, that evidence is buried
so busy believing they too can be an economic expert
the airwaves are polluted with dialog that is essentially
Since the crisis in world finance, that began in 2008 to
continue the example, all kinds of austerity measures are being
advocated, when the economic historical evidence is to the contrary -
austerity only compounds economic weaknesses. See the
writings of the Paul Krugman, a Noble prize winner (expert) in economics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Krugman. In a similar
ideological vein, during the recent Presidential Election in America
(2012), Republicans favored certain kinds of Polls, but hated the work
of Nate Silver, who predicted correctly the 2008 election and the
election of 2012
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nate_Silver. It is possible to
be smart about political questions, and not just a religious-like
believer in an ideology.
Why is the “truth” so troublesome to so
many? When we better understand the Thought-World and its
operational rules, that will become more clear.
Everyone knows they have thoughts. As modern
individuals, in the Age of Science, we are encouraged to believe,
superficially, that our thoughts come from the activity of our
brains. If I was to suggest that good dancers of a certain sort
think with their feet (“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet!” ~ Constanze), this might raise some questions about
subjectivity, or about the spurious meaning of words, or that to have
such an experience would be an illusion created by the brain.
The general modern tendency in Science is to believe that all mental phenomena are products of the neurological structures in that physical organ we call the brain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brain). For some, this causal assumption goes so far as to hold that even the idea that we have of a "self" is manufactured by the physical processes in the brain. A corollary of this general tendency in modern thought is that all perception, such as for example what we believe we see when we believe we "see" a tree, is manufactured by the brain. The actual physical world - in its true nature - is not seen, according to this view.
This often raises a very peculiar question regarding what
is "real". For example, why does the collection of
molecules and atoms that supposedly make up the “tree” look to our
consciousness or brains like a “tree”. These are not simple
questions, see: The
a Christian meditator considers the problem of
Owen Barfield wrote extensively on
consciousness, perception and thinking, as well as the limits of modern
science to appreciate the relevant nuances. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owen_Barfield
Saul Bellow, the Nobel-Prize winning novelist, wrote: “We are well supplied with interesting writers, but Owen Barfield is not content to be merely interesting. His ambition is to set us free. Free from what? From the prison we have made for ourselves by our ways of knowing, our limited and false habits of thought, our ‘common sense’”.
Parts of this complicated "riddle" of existence is discussed in many fields and in many different ways (c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordinary_language_philosophy ). Simply to provide fully adequate footnotes for the above commentary could take up dozens of pages. In order to avoid getting lost in that vast jungle of words, sentences, meanings, fields of knowledge and so forth, let me just guide the reader's thinking-attention to what exists right in front of them.
I have written some words on a page, and the reader is reading them. The words on the page, given our general assumptions, would not exist if someone didn't write them - so we have the terms: the "author" and the "reader". Or, perhaps, one brain doing something involving the modern tool of a laptop computer and another brain doing something with a similar device.
The writing consists of "signs" - letters. These are essentially "code". These marks on a page have no meaning in themselves. One could take this page, and using a translation program get these letters changed into Chinese ideograms. The signs can be changed, and the question does exist that if we did that, would the meaning of the signs also be changed?
Of course, certain trends in philosophy in the 20th Century suggested there might not exist any meaning that could be transferred from an author to a reader - the "subjective" aspects being too insurmountable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction). In spite of that school of thought - mostly only of interest in certain circles of academia, people still read and write and we still teach our children to read and write. And, you dear reader are in fact reading this, so at the least your brain is doing something that might well not be a complete waste of time, - maybe.
In order to write, and read, as all of us subjective
brains can at least fantasize, requires the existence of a language -
in this case: English. Convention gives us dictionaries, and
many thousands of books and schools of thought* on writing and grammar and logic and so forth.
What the existence of these books might suggest is that there is
perhaps a reality to language, otherwise why bother.
*[a small technical aside, regarding the “geography” of the Thought-World, we might note that various complex features of this “world” could be called “schools of thought”, or systems of belief, or ideological points of view.]
Since we (you and I) - two brains (?) - are collectively bothering, is there anything else we can notice.
Well, - we could turn away from the page for a moment and reflect - observe inwardly - that our selves, or our brains - (at this point take your pick), are engaged in some kind of inner activity, which someone watching us can not see. These watchers might see me typing and they might see you looking at a page and on occasion scrolling down, perhaps sipping some coffee and cleaning your glasses - perhaps even breathing, sniffing or coughing. What these observers will not see is either of us "thinking".
If we were to self-observe what the observers cannot see, we might notice that during this "thinking" there is something we could call: "sub-vocalizing". Another way to put words to this is: "discursive thinking." Even when you are not reading, you sometimes think, perhaps having a moment of reverie where you imagine being on a date and engaging in a conversation that successfully leads to sex.
During the course of a day we do a lot of this "discursive thinking" - this inner dialog, which when we engage in the act of reading also can appear with the phenomena we called above: "sub-vocalizing". Our brain, given modern views of the mind, seems to be talking to itself in order to “think”.
One part of whatever we are "speaks" and another part "hears". Who or what speaks and who or what hears?
If we were asked to answer that question, most of us would say "I" speak and "I" hear. Now, given the idea of some that there is no self, my question is: If the brain is capable of creating language, music, poetry, science and all the glories of human cultures, how is it that this same "brain", while so obviously and wondrously clever, is also so stupid as to create a false belief in an imaginary self? Does it really make any sense at all to hold that a physical instrument so otherwise assumed capable of maybe leading us to the "singularity" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity ), can at the same time be so dense? What in the “brain” makes us stupid in some cases and smart in another ?
While you'll have to decide that for your "self", let us
note in passing the mode of thought just applied, which can be called: comparative thinking. The category/word stupid also implies its
opposite - smart. Liberal is often used as the opposite of
conservative. Most parts of grammar called prepositions include
their opposite in their natural meaning: in/out; up/down; although
grammarians can make this overly complicated. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prepositions).
The mode of thinking being labeled here as “comparative” is basically where we form an idea* that involves comparing or valuing one object of thought in relationship to another object of thought. This woman is more beautiful than that woman. This politician is less honest than that politician. This profound mode of comparative thinking has deep and rich meaning when applied in some “spiritual” disciplines. See this and that, an article of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/thath.html
*[another, a bit more complicated, technical aside: We can get confused if we mix up such terms and words
as: terms, words, concepts and ideas. On the page is the term or
word. In discursive thinking (where we “speak” to ourselves, we
still have the word, just “sub-vocalized”. One is visible (on the
page) the other is not visible to others, although clearly “there” to
our own experience, since we put it there.
Each term or word can have, inwardly, a corresponding
mental picture, generalized concept, pure concept or idea. For
purposes of clarity: we can have a mental picture of a specific book; we can have a generalized concept of a class of objects of thought, which we call books;
we can have a pure
concept, such as bookness, which allows for a
metaphorical or figurative (higher) use, such as Goethe’s “reading the Book of Nature”) and even higher than that, the Idea, which
is consistent with Plato’s world of forms (an earlier version of what
we are studying here: the Thought-World), which Idea refers to a
general class of spiritual Beings - see below.
All these: mental picture, generalized concept, pure
concept, and Idea can be observed in our minds when we practice a
scientific and empirical introspective study of thinking and thought.
So, for example, the reader in reading this sentence and
in forming inwardly the idea of this sentence - “This woman is more beautiful
than that woman” - has united in the
reading/thinking process: words or terms; concepts and ideas.
The idea is the “meaning” of the whole sentence.
Each word or term has either a related mental picture (e.g. the particular women being
compared); the generalized concept (woman);
beautiful). That we
are not taught about this way of viewing reading and writing is a
cultural artifact of the Age in which we live, with all its limitations
and confusion natural to any particular Age through which humanity
Why we make such judgments is another question.
That we do is obvious - we do comparative thinking all the time.]
Whatever else we can think/believe about these riddles, one fact can't be denied. Something happens of which we are aware (thinking) and others around us are not (unless we blurt out into speech, our intimate thoughts usually for emotional reasons). A lot of human discourse, for example when someone tries to manipulate another person, is calculated - that is we first think about how we want to get another person to do something, and then we speak in such a way as to accomplish that goal. There is to the human being (brain?) an interior quality, that is, as America's Founders might have said: "self-evident". And, one of the clearest manifestations of this phenomena is reading and writing. From out of my personal invisible nature comes what ends up as code on this page, and subsequently then within your personal invisible nature there is constructed what you think (as in “believe”) that code means.
If we didn't find, as an experience - and collectively as human beings - that speech and writing were important and valuable, we'd simply stop doing them -wouldn’t we?.
Where are we when we do this "thinking" thing, that manifests everyday in reading and writing?
When we are in the visible world that appears to our senses, such as well - walking in the woods, or riding in a bus, that fact is fairly obvious. When we are in this "brain" thing, but not attending to the physical world - that is only "thinking" or reflecting, or analyzing or whatever - we are in a place where our language conventions (from centuries of "self"-knowledge) create such terms as "INsight", "INspiration", "INtelligence" and so forth.
Now this INterior world is vast and complicated. There are large disciplines that have sought to penetrate its secrets, most recently (beginning in the 19th Century) such as psychiatry and psychology, although these faded away in the late 20th Century into such as cognitive science http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science, neuroscience http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience, and their relatives. Each of those somewhat older (19th Century) disciplines began with the root-term "psyche", which was generally meant to refer to the "soul". Keep in mind that "soul" usually is taken to mean something so immaterial that religions believed it would survive the death of the physical body.
There is a story that when Freud's works were translated
into English, the German words "seele" for soul, and "geistes" for
spirit - which he used when he "wrote" down his thoughts, were simply
translated as "mind". Subsequently, as this "mind" thingy became
more an object of scientific study during the 20th Century
(especially among the English logical positivists http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_positivism),
was eventually replaced with the concept/term
"brain". Mind, as something originally “thought of” as being
ephemeral (psyche or soul and spirit), becomes, over the last 100 years, a
physical object - the wet-ware organ the “brain”.
recognized that mind does not exist somehow apart from
brain...” (The Mind, Richard M. Restak M.D. pp ll, Bantam Books, 1988);
“My fundamental premise about the brain is that its workings - what we sometimes call mind - are a consequence of it anatomy and physiology and nothing more.” (The Dragons of Eden, Speculations of the Evolution of Human Intelligence, Carl Sagan, pp.7, Ballantine Books, 1977).
This bears repeating: That interior world that for centuries was thought of as a realm of soul and spirit, became over time merely mind, and then ultimately merely a physical organ: the brain.
The chief problem is that this view is not how we actually experience our interior lives and our "selves". What many modern brain scientist wants us to believe is that this interior world is not what it seems to us - not what it seems to our experience as a “world” rich with dreams, and ideas and feelings and thoughts and imaginations, but rather we ought to view it as something quite physical and often the producer of an illusory mental world. This change followed in parallel a more general change, riding on the tails of natural philosophy (science in its infancy), that eventually abandoned any religious interpretation of causal reality in favor of a completely materialistic interpretation (all is matter, there is no spirit - see The Art of God: an actual theory of Everything http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/artofgod.html, for a detailed discussion of the philosophy of science implications).
Please now return to your
own observations of this interior
world, which factually is invisible to even
the brain scientist. While he can observe his own interior life
(but basically does not bother to do), he can’t really see ours.
He only sees then what certain instruments reveal and as well his
own theories of what it
all means - using his own “discursive thinking”. The social
reality is that what his scientific community "thinks" (as in believes)
is by them being proclaimed to be superior to what we ourselves think
(again, as in “believe”) about our own experience of our interior
We have direct experience/knowledge which we should
(according to their view) ignore, and instead we should conform our
thinking to theirs, which is completely based on indirect (secondary)
experience coupled with their theories. They put a machine to
watch our brains, and then they watch the machine. The machine
never ever sees what we see when we think.
For a good discussion of the real world consequences of this incursion into real life of brain/consciousness scientism, see the article Do Addicts have Free Will: http://www.alternet.org/do-addicts-have-free-will?akid=9744.10660.5mg149&rd=1&src=newsletter753630&t=19
Natural philosophy began by making us doubt our senses, because the microscope and the telescope (instruments) revealed a world the eye does not see. Modern consciousness (brain) studies do the same thing - our own experience is to be doubted and the only valid approach is through the instruments and processes by which the consciousness scientist studies others. Our naive realism is to be replaced with his imagined empirical scientism.
Now what this all means, in a way, is that one community of thinkers intends to tell the rest of us what to think. And, not only that, but they mean to tell us what to think about that aspect of our existence which is most precious to us - our self-understood interior reality. In the physical world, where a social-political determinism might concern our freedom or autonomy to move our bodies about as we wish, or to limit by laws what we want say - such actions by others to control us would be viewed as totalitarian.
Our freedom to think for ourselves about our own meaning is now being assaulted by a mode of thoughts and thinking that ultimately (as a natural logical conclusion) seeks to define us as not spiritual, not free, and otherwise completely determined by physical processes over which we (this “illusion" in the brain) have no control whatsoever (c.f. http://phys.org/news186830615.html)
In such a world personal responsibility and morality disappear, to be replaced by the theories of the agents of a claimed superior knowledge of the working of the brain and its processes. Once a joke on television: "the devil made me do it", is now being replaced with: "the brain made him do it." This trend in natural science toward a fully physical determinism now replaces a previous "God runs everything" non-physical religious determinism, once upon a time the sole possession of religions.
Sam Harris (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Harris) and his new atheist friends, for example, while hating religion, want to be the scientific popes of their own new religion. They are just changing what we are to worship, and who are to be the new priests. Their God is faceless random Chance, and we - human beings - are a weird accident that amidst most biological life on the planet Earth is like an out of control deadly virus given the effects of our civilization on the rest of the living world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Smith).
Now before the reader of this gets too disquiet, and wanting all kinds of quotes for these views expressed above, these views were not really the main point. What I have been doing here is demonstrating to the reader certain observable aspects of the Thought-World. I wrote, you read, and together we went some "place" in this Thought-World which is not visible to the physical eye, but only to the mind's eye, or better yet: thinking’s spiritual eye.
The conceptual world we traveled together is seemingly
existentially the same "place" as is the conceptual world of the
brain scientists, such as Sam Harris. In each particular
individual instance the landscape is assumed to be different - that is
the conceptual content of all our minds is believed to be different,
but any thinker can think these thoughts - that is go to that region in
the Thought-World where meaning exists. How do we do that?
By reading what is written by others.
Let us repeat this for it is such a common experience
that we hardly give it the import it deserves. You read several
paragraphs that I wrote. During this reading, sentence by
sentence, you constructed in your own mind what you think I meant.
In in very real sense, the mind creates meaning from the code on a page at near the speed of light.
At this point in our discussions it makes no different whether
you actually got what I meant, for I am pointing not to that, but
rather to your direct (but mostly sub-conscious) experience as a
reader. You can’t make meaning (find/create the Idea
connected to what I wrote), while reading, without taking the coded
words and terms on the page, join them to mental pictures, generalized
concepts and pure concepts via your skills as a thinker/reader.
If you found yourself arguing with what I wrote, you were at the same time engaged in light-speed comparative thinking, whereby you made near instant judgments comparing what I was suggesting as an over all Idea to those Ideas of which you yourself have experience (and/or believe, understand or know). In every act of reading and writing a spiritual miracle appears directly to our own conscious perception in thinking.
None of this is really new, in a way, as it goes on all
the time. For example, in politics we have different ideologies,
in religion different systems of belief, in science different paradigms
of Scientific Revolutions) and so
forth. The point is to draw attention to the huge array of
systems of thought in the Thought-World. Vast regions of the
Internet house huge recorded aspects of the great corpus of centuries
of human thought, none of which apparently is visible as Thought itself
- that is we record the Thought in code (written language), but that
record does not reproduce the Thought as it originally came to be in
the mind of the primary thinker. All of which Thought was created
by human thinking, and which we for the most part believe exists in a
world private to each of us - i.e. not interrelated at all, except via
At the same time, we not only believe we reproduce that
Thought when we read, but social existence would not be possible if the
exact same thing did not happen in speaking and hearing. Again, via
code - language - meaning is carried from one person to another in a
fashion we rely upon entirely, at the center of which is the act of
Shut the fuck up! I love you. Vote for
me for President, and I will remake the world into a place of glory and
plenty free of all the assholes we both don’t like.
This main assumption that accompanies this kind of
thinking - that each brain is isolated from each other brain - should
itself be questioned. How can there be a “Thought-World” if each
collection of thoughts, mental pictures, concepts and ideas is isolated
in each individual brain? Or, how can there not be such a World?
If we are to doubt, in order to be scientific, then all
assumptions should be doubted, including our supposed mental isolation.
If the brain scientist wants to doubt the existence of an “I” - a
self, why then should we also not doubt our apparent isolation?
If one thing can be doubted, it all can be doubted. Who the
fuck gives the brain scientist the right to tell us what to do and/or
Let us return our thinking-attention to our own
inwardness, for a moment, and work with the possibility that this seemingly dark territory is actually a
doorway. Can we go through that doorway to some-"place” else?
Can we find within us something that is of the invisible and is
like in kind to the other-invisible? We experience this doorway
as isolation because that is the character of this Age. Prior
Ages did not have this experience, witness their deep religious views.
For example Platonism - through the experiences of Plato - was taught as thinking that the source of thought was otherwise - holding there was a world of invisible pure forms, of which our visible forms are a poor copy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonism). Modern thinkers such as Einstein, Godel and Roger Penrose are seen by some as neo-platonists (see Rebecca Goldstein’s: Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. Penrose (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Penrose) wrote in his The Emperor’s New Mind how as a mathematician he is beginning to think mathematical truths have their own independent existence. “...I cannot help feeling that, with mathematics the case for believing in some kind of ethereal, eternal existence, at least for the more profound mathematical concepts, is a good deal stronger...” (pp. 97).
The development of natural science is filled with what
appear to be instances of the same idea appearing to several human
beings around the same time (a most famous instance, involving August
Kekule’s somnolent vision of a snake biting its tail, has been
supposedly debunked - see: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/16/science/the-benzene-ring-dream-analysis.html.)
main thing that happens is disputes over who can
patent such “common” thoughts. Microsoft had a famous dispute
with Apple over the nature of the “look and feel” of the desktop
environment, and who “owned” this complicated and remarkable Idea.
Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Microsoft_Corporation”. A few
centuries earlier Newton and Leibniz (and their supporters) argued over
who had “invented” the calculus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz%E2%80%93Newton_calculus_controversy).
How could it happen that we experience the same, or each
other’s, thoughts? In the animal kingdom we have the so-called
hundredth monkey phenomena (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_Monkey)
hundred monkeys on an island gain a new skill, then all of
them begin to display that skill. Then, of course, there are all
the reported instances of telepathy and related psychic experiences.
People emotionally close to each other often seem to have the
same thought at the same time. While this is anecdotal, it
doesn’t mean it is not true, and rushing to judgment in these instances
mostly is done in order to save the all is matter, there is no
spirit assumption common today to natural
Could we then all have the ability to drawn down -
download - ideas from this possibly shared world of pure conceptions?
If that is the case, from what source are these ideas uploaded
into the Thought-World in the first place?
It appears that only small portions of the totality of concepts are distributed among individual biological based memories (no one knows everything), and physically large arrays are needed for the storage of this totality, which require immense material libraries and many terabytes of hard drive space to hold. Again, not one of us knows everything, most of us know only a relative little as compared to that totality, and much of that tends to be very personal.
Yet, we know this huge content is there, but where did this content originally come from? By this I mean to focus now mostly on the problem of creativity. From what do concepts originate?
If our explanation is a physical brain, then at the least we have to explain how they got "there". Now some would say they come into our own consciousness and memories from processes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme) of reading and study - that is we share them somehow, one to the other, c.f. the theory of memes . That's fine, until we get to what has to be called a "new" idea - an "idea" or "concept" never before thought. Where did that come from?
If the "brain" is completely a physical organ, it seems
unlikely that it can create something new. Think this
through thoroughly. We can agree the brain is complex. But
still, how does something new and original arise from what we conceive
of as an essentially closed system. A closed system ought only be
able to repeat what is already there. The same question exists in
evolutionary biology - how does something essentially fixed produce
something new. The “theoretical” answer is “by accident”, which
is a very curious formulation.
If we put random numbers or operations in mathematical
proofs, would that “accident” not do anything more than foul the works?
Let us for the moment give credence to random chance? Perhaps, but then you have to explain as random chance the whole history of natural science, the industrial revolution and then the computer revolution, which are so full of new ideas that some kind of accidental random process seems to hardly have had enough time.
People have argued that the idea of physical
evolution requires the magic of a tornado going through a junkyard and
creating a 747. The counter to that is the argument
suggesting that evolution has had billions of years to produce by
chance all the needed biological variations. Okay, ... but the
Age of Science, in terms of producing new concepts, clearly didn't have
that amount of time. Too much organized change happening too
rapidly. To base it on random chance is to make a very silly and
completely disingenuous bad joke.
There is a field which posits what are called: Laws of
terms logic and reason, and develop all kinds
of systems of thought around
these processes, but did not factually find these processes in nature.
We only found them in our own minds. It is we who reason. The “Idea” of random chance is that it can
organize itself - for there is no operator that can do the organizing.
In fact, if Nature cannot reason or be logical, having no
consciousness or capacity for intention and purpose, where do we get
such capacities that are so very obviously there. How does random
nature, which cannot reason or show purpose, produce an organism that
does reason and show purpose?
We also make assumptions, believing we have arrived at
knowledge. Yet, the fact is that in the practice of science
difficult assumptions are often created, ignored and then converted
beliefs. See again Ron Brady’s Dogma and
of the confusion caused in biology by this
unconscious, mostly ignored and very human, mental process (converting
assumptions into beliefs).
Some might offer that the computer itself reveals the needed analogous process to explain how creativity arises in the brain (sort of a combined up by your bootstraps and cart before the horse argument). That might be theoretically okay, except for the law of GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Physical computers don't create, and don't think. The writers of "software" think and create - all the computer does is calculate very very very fast, and get smaller and smaller and smaller. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/science/scientists-see-advances-in-deep-learning-a-part-of-artificial-intelligence.html?hp&_r=0
The computer doesn't even use "concepts". It can't dream, or fall in love or experience reverie. It can't pray or meditate. While software writers might create in the computer program a capacity to successfully simulate the human being (the so-called Turing Test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test), that doesn’t (and can’t) ever mean the computer does what we experience when we daydream. In fact, the best evidence for the spiritual nature of the human being is the computer, which shows clearly the limits of a sense-visible physical system to do an invisible non-physical action, such as thinking. The brain may be like a biological computer, to a degree - but the more true that is, the less likely it is the brain can create new ideas.
How do we know this?
Let us consider for a moment what the brain scientist actually does.
All of us do this. We all use this tool - the
computer, but it only does what we with our thinking inwardness tell it
to do. If we want something to receive some instructions and
carry out a complex task requiring thinking and experience, we ask
another human being to do it, not a computer. A computer can do
repetitive tasks fast and accurately, but complicated tasks, such as
just recognizing a face, are nearly impossible - unless there is human
created software in place. Is there god-created software in the
brain? Or is it just chance created software in our wetware?
Does the brain have an “operating system”? It can
seem to if we follow some of the thinking in consciousness studies.
But what about from the point of view of that imaginary “I”
thingy? My computer has an “operator” - it doesn’t direct itself,
although it does a lot of work itself. But the computer isn’t
self-aware - it isnt’ aware that what it is doing is work - it doesn’t
know some hacker has sent it out to steal wealth from others.
Unlike most of us, it can’t be troubled by what we call a guilty
This particular argument is made all the more crucial
when we reflect that all over the world exists disciplines that are
analogous to operating systems for the mind (not the brain, the mind).
Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Various kinds of Yoga.
Sufism. Anthroposophy and Christian Hermeticism.
Tarot and Alchemy. Kabbalah. Most are ancient,
a few are new.
All of these operating systems of the mind
have points of view about what it means to have ideas, or not. What the
“I” is, or is not. What separates them from modern
brain/consciousness studies is that the practitioner of these skills,
crafts and arts, goes inward, not outward. The modern scientist
looks outward - at others with instruments. The spiritual seeker
looks at his own consciousness directly, as it appears to him.
Rudolf Steiner, who taught Anthroposophy, and called himself a
“spiritual scientist” had this to say about a Thought-World:
“The path that leads to sense-free thinking by way of the communications of spiritual science is thoroughly reliable and sure. There is however another that is even more sure, and above all more exact [emphasis added, ed.]; at the same time, it is for many people more difficult. The path in question is set forth in my books The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. These books tell what man’s thinking can achieve when directed not to impressions that come from the outer world of the physical sense but solely upon itself. When this is so, we have within us no longer the kind of thinking that concerns itself merely with memories of the things of the sense; we have instead pure thinking which is like a being that has life within itself. In the above mentioned books you will find nothing at all that is derived from the communications of spiritual science. They testify to the fact that pure thinking, working within itself alone, can throw light on the great questions of life - questions concerning the universe and man. The books thus occupy a significant intermediate position between knowledge of the sense-world and knowledge of the spiritual world. What they offer is what thinking can attain when it rises above sense-observation, yet still holds back from entering upon the spiritual, supersensible research. One who wholeheartedly pursues the train of thought indicated in these books is already in the spiritual world; only it makes itself known to him as a thought-world [emphasis added, ed.]. Whoever feels ready to enter upon this intermediate path of development will be taking a safe and sure road, and it will leave with him a feeling in regard to the higher world that will bear rich fruit in all time to come.”
Every human being, unless prevented by some physical defect, has access to the Thought-World. No machine can do that, because only the human being has a spiritual invisible aspect that is able to enter into a non-physical world. This spiritual invisible aspect we call the: "I".
The brain is not the "I". The brain is a physical interface which enables the non-physical spirit - the "I" - to interact within the physical world, which actually makes it even more of a remarkable organ then currently believed even by brain scientists. Let me repeat that. The brain is physical/material organ, so rich in its complexity, that it enables a non-physical invisible spirit (the “I”) to interact in the physical world - for spirit to interact with matter. Now that is amazing!
Personal investigation, made by more than a few, reveals that this thought-world is an invisible place, which can also be called: the spiritual world. While modern convention tries to teach that there is only matter, and never spirit, we cannot think a thought without being a spirit among spirits. To think in a fully awake fashion is to be in the thought-world
What I just wrote is - to the reader - a concept or an idea, possibly unfamiliar and something I do not expect the reader to believe. Although, the reader could seek to know these matters directly through their own scientific and empirical investigations of their own minds. Let me finish out this seemingly "theoretical" idea, by borrowing from a recent film: Avatar.
In that movie, the "I" consciousness of a human being is
transferred into a biological organism of an alien nature. All
the means for doing this is imagined first in the minds of the creators
of this movie - that is the whole conceptual structure is created
by the "I"s of those who made this movie. How the characters in
the movie even built or replicated a copy of the alien organism is
assumed possible in the movie, but not explained. It is imagined
artistically by the movie's creators.
We human beings leave our bodies at night when we sleep, and during sleep we wake up in the world of spirit. When we re-enter our bodies on awakening, we forget our night-work, but are - like the characters in Avatar - having a physical world experience because our “spirit” is integrated with a physical body, via the nervous system - most especially the brain. For our spirits, our physical bodies are our “avatars”, just like the creators of imaginative fiction and computer virtual worlds have thought possible. Physical evolution provides the bodies, but a corresponding spiritual evolution provides the self-conscious “I”. We just live in an Age where the main unproven assumption is that: all is matter, there is no spirit.
Art, something a computer will never do, is able to go places science, too tightly today bound up with reason, cannot go. A computer cannot imagine.
Yet, if we read the INtrospective ruminations of
scientists, such as Einstein, we are made aware of how much creativity
arises precisely in the imagination. From this non-physical picture-thinking has come all that science has produced that is
original. The transistor revolution that created Silicon Valley
came from the imagination of human beings. It was first thought
into existence by a few minds (spirits) that did not limit themselves
in what they were willing to conceive. No physical organ, such as
a "brain", can do this - make something out of what is otherwise a
fixed thing - the material brain.
Once more, Rudolf Steiner: from the Preface to his
doctoral dissertation: Truth and
Knowledge [published in 1892]: “The object of knowledge is
not to repeat in conceptual form something which already exists, but
rather to create a completely new sphere, which when combined with the
world given to our senses constitutes complete reality. Thus man’s
highest activity, his spiritual creativeness, is an organic part of the
universal world-process. The world-process should not be considered a
complete, enclosed totality without this activity. Man is not a passive
onlooker in relation to evolution, merely repeating in mental pictures
cosmic events taking place without his participation; he is the active
co-creator of the world-process, and cognition is the most perfect link
in the organism of the universe.”
Whatever else we believe, it is clear that the “picture” the brain scientist has of this completely material organ is that it is a mechanism, however complicated and biological. It is a really silly self-satisfied fantasy, on the part of the brain scientist, to hold to the view that the completely non-material imaginative inner life of the human being can arise from a tinker-toy structure, however complicated. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/opinion/sunday/neuroscience-under-attack.html?hp
A "brain" only appears to be able to do this because hyper-rational scientific thinking is afraid of the spiritual, the mystical, the sacred, the imaginative, and the artistic. This is a fear-driven irrational limit placed by scientists themselves on their own minds. See Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World.
For details on another way of looking at this, and as
well all the logical flaws underlying modern materialistic scientific
thinking, "read" the previously mentioned: The Art of
God: an actual theory of Everything. http://ipwebdev.com/hermit/artofgod.html
Some final thoughts, born in the Thought-World, an invisible “place with which we are all intimately familiar:
the gift of the word
(should be read aloud, better even if we get someone to
read it to us)
Speech, / Words, letters, sounds, / heard by both the inner ear and the outer.
Letters, sounds, words, / linked invisibly to ideas and thoughts.
Ideas, thoughts, letters, sounds, words, / a woven tapestry of meaning,
carried by Speech, / sometimes with grace, / but most often just carelessly.
Meaning, / a weaving of thoughts, sounds, words, letters and ideas,
spoken into the air and left there, / abandoned.
Words, spoken and heard. / Meaning intended. / But what is heard?
That which is heard is also intended. / Two intentions, two purposes, two meanings.
How difficult then communication, / suffering as it does the contrary pulls of multiple intentions, purposes and meanings.
I speak, you listen. / I mean, you grasp. / Somewhere in this delicate dance of words, sounds, letters, thoughts, ideas and purposes; / understanding is sought after.
Perhaps. / Sometimes.
Voice. / Speech reveals the unspoken. / Anger, fear, pride, arrogance, true humility.
The ear of the heart hears what is hidden in voice.
Posture, gesture. / Speech is more than sound. / The eye hears things the ear cannot, just as the ear sees things the eye cannot.
One mind. / Two minds. / Speech, a bridge of woven light between two minds, and sometimes, although rarely, / between two hearts.
Speech, rich and full of flavor, / a light bridge, / joining two separate beings.
Speech denatured, / No sound, no gesture, no posture, no voice.
Speech reduced to lines of dark on light. / Written. / A treasure map in code spilled across a page
Words, letters, ideas, thoughts, sounds, / reduced to marks upon a parchment. / Speech dying.
Yet, / even in death, murdered by pen or pencil mark, / some essence of Speech still.
Meaning embalmed. Understanding buried. / Until read.
Reading. / Words, sounds, letters, thoughts, ideas, meaning, purposes, intentions,
Speech resurrected in the silence of another mind.
Speech. / Light bridge dying into print, / reborn when read in the inner quiet of another soul.
Speech, / The Spoken Word. / Writing, / The Word entombed. / Writing read, / The Word resurrected.
That this is so, / that human beings live in such an exalted state having Speech, this is Grace.
The spoken word, the written word. / Things so ordinary, so taken for granted, so pregnant with possibility.
The emptiness between two souls is always / chaste, virgin, pure, / waiting for Grace, for the bridge of light, / for Speech.
The Gift of the Word, originally called Speech, was written on Epiphany,
Jan. 6, 1997, in the evening, in about a third of an hour.