CHAPTER 2


By Chris Wilson 

Chapter 2  The Mind

We all enjoy the comfort of solidity, it gives us a sense of security and of tangibility, and it often acts as an easy term of reference. A good example of this is a building brick in a wall. If someone asks us what a brick is we can demonstrate with ease its presence, it’s strength and a sense of longevity, especially if it has been in place for some time. What happens though if the second person decides he can, and will, knock the wall down with a hand held stick of dynamite? The wall may well be there for his own protection, he may well be seriously out of pocket if he succeeds, and if the explosive goes of he may well die, but if he decides to blast away there is nothing that you, or the wall, can do. He has made his mind up, and unless we can change how he thinks, he will never change what he is going to do. We try to change his mind, we fail, and a couple of minutes later neither the wall, nor our companion, are as they were. Both are blown to smithereens, and all we can do is to find then pick up the pieces.

So it is that logic, common sense, and solidity have been destroyed by a power that cannot be held, seen, stored, or physically demonstrated in any way, and yet despite such elusiveness it still retains a power that can kill or destroy. So what is this thing called the mind, what power does it really have and is it a blessing or a curse? This chapter is all about the mind, so join me if you will as we enter the cranium. Enter, if you will, the realm of the mind.

Academics have and will argue about what and where the mind is until time itself comes to an end, but even they would have to admit that there is nothing to indicate such an entity is there. They can show us the accepted site of the mind, and they can demonstrate effects caused by the activity of the mind. They can, and do, discuss what this unit should do, but as stated already they cannot give us a, or some, “mind”. It is a bit like us trying to show someone Mount Everest without using the word mountain, and without the thing even being there. We know of its solidity and dimensional size, we know how dangerous a mountain it can be to climb, but if we do not have an acceptable term of reference, or an identifiable object, we soon come unstuck. The good thing is it is there, regardless of what it may actually be, for without this mysterious power source, where would be as humans?

Regarded as both the sum of conscious and unconscious brain activity, and also the source of our higher consciousness, we simply could not operate if the mind were not there. Try to imagine for a moment our lives without a mind? To begin with we cannot do so, as it is our mind that is currently trying to visualise this for us, but let us suppose that we are somehow operating independently of our mind, how would life be without a mind; how would we actually survive? The mind may be defined as the totality of conscious and subconscious process of the brain and the central nervous system that directs mental and physical activity [2]; so just think of the mess we would be in if it was not there?

We are incredibly complex animals, and we still do not fully understand how our bodies work, but without this automatic control we would most assuredly be dead, as would everything else in the planet. No breathing, walking, talking and no sense of everything around us. No food or water intake, no waste control, and no heat or pressure regulation.  Such subconscious actions are life itself, and it is a gift we share, in complex and variable modes, with all life around us, and yet we take it for granted everyday.

 

We also have a cognitive facility within our mind, and this is where our perception of life really becomes interesting. The extent we share this facility with other life forms around us is highly debatable, and our understanding of the world around us increasing every day, but this discussion is about the human mind and what it can do. If consciousness is defined as a cognitive awareness of existence, sensations, thoughts, and of environment just think how useful a tool this becomes. Through the cognitive or mental faculty within our mind and/or brain we can perceive and interpret the world around us, and, unlike certain life forms, to the best of our knowledge, we are often aware that we are doing so. This is a wonderful facility that nature has given us, but how often do we really appreciate the resultant power that is within us all.

What if we were to try and live by non-cognitive natural instinct alone, just think of how our lives might be then? Would most of our lives either be, at best, impoverished, by the standard of life most of us enjoy now? At worst might they not be extremely problematical or even impossible? In thinking about every potential action we might initiate or follow, do we not make a cognitive choice as regards whether such an action should be actively pursued or possibly cancelled? This might sound harsh but even if we look at a most basic example such a statement is soon proved true.

 

Let us assume that we are in our homes or chosen place of residence, and that we are both cold and thirsty, how many of us would fill a kettle, boil some water, make ourselves a hot drink, sit down, and enjoy the benefits that such a drink might bring of us. How many cognitive choices are involved in such a sequence, and where would be if we only behaved in an instinctive non-cognitive way. If we go back to the beginning of this sequence it is fair to say that we naturally sense that we are cold and thirsty, so cognitive forces may not be involved, but as soon as we begin to formulate a course of action our cognitive powers soon take control. We might decide to put on more clothing so as to get warm, and slate our thirst with a cold drink rather than putting on the kettle. If we were to do so would we not cognitively chose both the clothing to be worn and the liquid, or liquids, to be imbibed? We could choose to negate the choice of additional clothing by accessing a source, or sources of external heating, or conversely generate our own internal heat by choosing to pursue some form of exercise regime.

If we move on we still might decide that our best option is to make a hot drink, once more cognitive choice is activated. The chances are we will open or access a storage area and choose one of several items that might be available. We make that choice, and then we to decide how much of the chosen item we wish to use, the receptacle we wish to use to hold the drink, and whether to add any other item to the chosen drink in question. Now the drink has been made and it sits on a surface, once more, a surface of our choice. Are we going to pick up the drink, or leave it where it is? If we leave it where it is things might be simpler, as a series of other choices we would have to make might be avoided, but in doing so we still need to transfer the drink into our bodies, how are we to do so?

Do we choose a spoon, if so what spoon; do we wish to use a straw, if so which one, or should we mechanically use a part or parts of our body so that we might transfer such a liquid. If a straw is not available should we lap up the liquid or suck it up instead, and in doing so we must decide whether the liquid holder needs to be held or secured to facilitate such an option. Most of us, however, would probably pick up the drink in its holder and go on from there. That’s fine, but where would we go to, yet more choices lie before us. Do we drink the liquid where we are standing, do we relocate to a different area and possibly sit down so as we might enjoy the drink in more comfort? Most of us I suspect would choose to relocate to do so, but in doing so we still have to decide where we are going to sit, what posture we are going to adopt, and whether we wish to pursue any other activity at the same time.

So we see that once an instinctive realisation has occurred, a bewildering array of cognitive choices are assessed, screened and then either activated or rejected, and all such choices are made over a simple container of liquid and a need to satisfy the demands of feeling cold and thirsty. What might we do though if we could not make such choices? Might we not simply sniff out, then satisfy our thirst, through the intake of water through the nearest clean water supply and then either curl up to conserve body heat or source some insulated safe shelter; isn’t that what most mammals would chose to do? We could of course follow such a natural sequence but think of the myriad of choices and opportunities that we would deny ourselves, would most of us wish to live in such a potentially dull and limited world, especially as we know what incredible diversity now lies before us?

 

Up until now a simple example has been chosen where there a relatively simple choice has been exercised and where there is no interaction with any other living force around us, but though this is a common enough scenario, our daily lives are generally complicated by interaction with other forces around us. Some of these forces may be natural or even inert forces without any mind of their own e.g. wind and rain, or a flight of steps leading up to or down from a building, but if we have trouble with such forces think of how much more of a problem we have in dealing with more active forces with either a non cognitive or cognitive mind. Regardless of how such forces might think, might not their actions and thoughts directly or indirectly interfere with whatever we are trying to do, and if so might we not have to dramatically change our own plan of action? If we can sense the force or forces beside us such a change might be relatively simple, but how often are we affected by choices that are made by forces totally unknown to us and thereby totally out of our control?

 

If we seek to find an example we only need to look at the current global financial credit crisis, for most of us the reality is all to painfully clear. Unless we have been directly involved it is fair to say that the following scenario has occurred. A group of unknown individuals, in unknown companies, and in unknown locations, have pursued a sequence of cognitive choices that, at the time, seemed like a sensible or plausible thing to do. Over time such choices have proved disastrously wrong, and now we are in a position where whole countries, let alone companies or individuals, are in reality bankrupt, and that such counties are only being kept as viable financial entities through major international banking loans. Considering such levels of complexity that surround us all the time, it is remarkable that we cope with such a seemingly overwhelming tide of incoming data or stimuli, so is it not sensible to try and work out how we manage in order that we might maximise the efficiency by which we do so. We obviously have devised some kind of a survival mechanism, otherwise we would all be insane by now, and might we have done so be continually suppressing or screening our natural sensory abilities?

If we are in any doubt, look at how we cope in a crowd or on a crowded underground train. How would we cope if we fully appreciated the invasion of our personal space or privacy, how would we manage with all the sensory stimuli that would otherwise flood our minds and bodies? All is not lost though, as due to such suppression we are able to achieve feats in life, and a degree of natural environmental dominance, which should otherwise be impossible, thereby gaining a huge advantage over so many other living things. It would seem that this should be the end of the story but, as ever, life is never that simple, for although dominance has been achieved to a certain degree, are we not potentially paying a terrible and possibly irreversible price for the apparent freedom that we enjoy?

 

If we wish to suppress the older and more natural sensory part of our mind, do we not lose the appreciation of so much that is around us, and in addition do we not weaken our ability to survive should our civilized society ultimately break down? This might sound harsh, and it is true to say that we do not know how aware our early ancestors were as regards sensory and natural awareness, but is it probably fair to assume that such ancestors were probably more aware of natural powers around them than we are today. If this is so, then might we find ourselves at a disadvantage to our ancestors, despite the wealth of knowledge and scientific advances that we enjoy and utilise today?

Even if we look at the basic five senses we all know i.e. sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch; let alone the host of other senses within us, are we not remarkably inept in comparison to a lot of life that quietl;y walks by our side. I am not saying that all life forms have amplified versions of all such senses, as often one sense may be sacrificed so that another may be amplified, but in most cases are not such senses within most animals tailored to their own natural   life cycle and, generally unlike us, are not such cycles synchronised or in harmony with the natural environment around them?

Does this mean that such cycles will give such a life form automatic long life, peace, and harmony, certainly not as such life is often cut short by predation from those around them, but at least they are in tune with nature both up to and beyond their eventual death. Can we state with any honesty and integrity that we operate in the same way, and if we fail to do so, can we really claim that our ancestral line will carry on into perpetuity? We have already seen how artificial an existence we enjoy, and as the book goes on such artificiality will increasingly become clear, but as regards our potential longevity perhaps we should recall two lessons from history that surround us on all sides. One lesson states that no species last forever, and the second lesson states that no civilisation or empire will, can, or has lasted forever. The stupid thing is we actually know this, but how often do we mock the country simpleton who humbly lives a quiet and simple life, or deride the uncivilised savage who lives their life in accordance with life’s natural rhythm around them.   

 

It may well seem that under such circumstances we are doomed to repeat our current inadequacies time and time again, but we are lucky, for despite such obstacles our mind still has one incredibly powerful asset up it’s sleeve. Such an asset may be termed higher consciousness, and although the existence of this particular asset has been fiercely debated for centuries past, and probably will be debated for centuries to follow, the possible impact of this tool is beyond doubt. If it is present, such an asset creates insights such as intuition, faith, belief, inner comprehension, and a host of other tools for all us to enjoy. So we have this wonderful machine and, securely locked within us all, it gives us the gift of life itself as well as a sense of belonging, awareness, and a sense of our place in a bigger and broader universe. The fuller implications of such natural gift will be examined throughout the book, but perhaps we should resolve what we can do with such a powerful mind, and asses whether or not we should keep it under control?

Negative though it may sound, I firmly believe the answer is simply yes, as the mind, in all it’s glory, is simply too powerful a tool for us to use to it’s full. This may sound depressing, but think of the mind as being a high-speed train that has been delivered to a branch line railway company. Here is a small, relatively underused, and potentially underdeveloped railway company, whose train travel at low speeds along rail lines whose curvature and maintenance negate the use of higher speeds. It has been operating fine up until now, as everything within its current system is in balance, but then this new train arrives, and controlling authorities way above the company demand it is full potential be released. Even worse the same authorities state that not only must the trains speed be utilised, but that the train cannot be returned. The train is sitting on the track and with an anticipatory audience patiently waiting; something clearly has to be done. Three options lie at hand, but only one seems to fit the bill.

The first option is to run the train at full speed and see what happens, a great idea until the train crashes. The second option is to maintain the current speed and timetable, very sensible, very safe, but the higher authorities are behind you and they say no. The third option takes more time but it does provide you with an answer.

Not every member of staff is able to operate the high-speed train with safety, but by careful assessment you identify several individuals who are willing and able to do so. You train these staff, they learn quickly, and within the bounds of both inner and outer safety you allow them to operate the train to the full. Once trained, you feedback their knowledge into the railway system so that the whole company can benefit to become stronger, safer, and more viable as a whole. Would they then  have complete freedom at the controls, of course not, as other trains and other personnel must operate alongside them, but at least some benefits may be sourced, the likes of which were simply unavailable before?

Our mind is that train, and in various guises and strengths it operates ceaselessly within us all.

Most of us are the orthodox employees who have, for many years, kept the company going, but alongside us stand the exceptional few who can realise the fuller potential of their mind. They can be strange creatures at times, ranging from the wonderfully inspired to the dangerously insane, and often one mirrors or adopts the disguise of the other, but if we wish to grow as a species we have to take a chance and let their minds flow. Sadly even they have to be monitored and at times, controlled for though some are the great artists, scientists and philosophers leaders of this world, others are the great villains who either accidentally or deliberately bring death, misery, or destruction to the world around them.

 

Such individuals may seem very different from us, and it may seem to us lesser mortals that they inhabit a world far above and away from our own. All is not lost though for do we all not have such assets as free will, free thought and individuality? This is the area we investigate next and in doing so we shall see if such notions might be developed to the full. This will be our next chapter and an area where, as ever, complications soon seem to emerge.

Link to chapter 1

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