The Inner and The Outer

…just as he who wishes to see the intelligible nature will contemplate what is beyond the perceptible if he has no mental image of the perceptible, so he who wishes to contemplate what is beyond the intelligible will contemplate it when he has let all the intelligible go…we in our (aporia) do not know what we ought to say, and are speaking of what cannot be spoken, and give it a name because we want to indicate it to ourselves as best we can…

—from “Apophasis”

Evolution, Goddess Gaia, if you will, has granted us a most astonishing gift… Our brains, our mind, our consciousness, our perceptions — this intricate interweaving of grey matter with electric impulses and tissue and muscle and bone has, over the expansive eons, given us not merely a thinking mind by which to behold and contemplate our surroundings, but almost another, outer mind beyond this natural mind, by which we are able to contemplate our own selves as well! We are able to Observe the Observer.

In this sense, we might say that we are capable of, at its most basic, two focuses, or ways of looking and experiencing. This concept has already been beautifully and plainly described in the study of Open Focus, and I highly recommend you explore Kurt Keefner’s writings on the subject at the aforementioned link! Additionally, the Buddha would call this very concept and practice Mindfulness. But, too, let us consider the pragmatic implications of this kind of understanding in regard to our personal and societal interactions…

In our American society at present, there seems to be a great struggle tearing us violently apart, pitting basic religious and social viewpoints against each other. This debate is very near and dear to my heart at present, as I have experienced both sides of the struggle in the full and complicated extent of my own personal journey, and I feel I’ve at least been able to grasp the basic concepts rooted at the heart of the struggle. “The Devil is in the details,” it is said, but from an eagle’s eye view, I see the broad lack of understanding on the whole as a resistance against accepting Open Focus or allowing oneself to Observe the Observer in a mindful manner.

Consider this:

What is it that drives our current breakthroughs in Science, that which enhances our knowledge of the Universe and our place in it, that which enables us to create technological advances to enable us to understand more? Is it not the scientific process of careful and testable Observation and Experience through experimentation? What is it that enables us to live our daily lives and make basic decisions? Is it not the result of our current and past observations, built upon habit and understanding? How is it that a child learns what is not particularly beneficial to their well-being but by testing and observing and getting hurt and thereby learning in the process? We live our lives, we observe, we learn, we grow… and we develop frames within which our experiences fit — frames that seem to explain our experiences and by which we are able to categorize future experience and observation, frames that will guide our future decisions if we let them. One might call this living life through the Ego Filter

I would also call this the Inner Experience. This is the realm in which most “normal” life is lived, without thought, without mindfulness. This framework we build and with which we shelter our Egos and Perceptions could very well be called rigid religious structure. It is protective, offers guidance, and seems reliable in an apparently unreliable world. It gives meaning and explanation to the uncertain. And, when it is attacked by other emerging viewpoints, it is defended violently.

If, however, one could from time to time, emerge from within this rigid framework in order to observe its colors and shapes and structural intricacies from without, then I would call this the Outer Experience. It is this mind-existing-outside-the-mind observational phenomenon that allows Science to double-check itself for validity. It is the realm in which Understanding and most perfect, unconditional Love dwell. It is the place from which we can come to understand our Egos and its decisions and perceptions, and the place we can come to embrace our Shadow and realize that we are One…

One dwelling in the Inner realm is one who holds to their ideology, for there is nothing else beyond it; it is all they are. One dwelling in the Outer realm is one who does not take part emotionally in anything that is seen, but rather only watches and studies and accepts. From this vantage point, there is much to be learned, and much wisdom and peace to be attained.

Reflections…

  • Our thoughts are like butterflies; when they amass, they may assume any certain shape of a supposed reality, yet when we observe the cloud of butterflies carefully, we may be more and more able to see each individual butterfly, and watch them as they flutter by, to and fro. Then, to be able to look past each butterfly and see the spaces between their fluttering wings, that is to begin to understand… My thoughts are not me.
  • Our mind is like an onion. To meditate and to slowly peel back layer after layer, we will eventually find our primordial self. Imagine and see the primordial being from which we have evolved; that same being is at that heart of us all, underneath layers and layers of accumulated other beings, across the eons. Therefore, let us realize that we ourselves are an accumulation of eons of thought, passed down from one generation of beings (and all the adaptations that are attached to them) to the next. In this sense, our current forms truly are simply the present incarnation of life and energy.
  • We came from and are so intricately intertwined with Mother Earth and Grandmother Starry Host. In this way the Universe itself is a part of our Collective Mind. May we reach out during grounding and breathing meditations, and become the conduit of energy and life from above and below… May the universal energies that stir the cosmos flow without hindrance through us, back and forth from the cosmos to the earth’s heart, and back….

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Mystery of Time

I’ve mentioned before the illusory nature of Time. I considered it further the other day while enjoying a most beautiful meditative day in the mountains. 🙂

Our senses depend upon change to take notice and develop interpretations of our state of being in relation to our environment. (Recall the science of color vision, for example:

…black and gray are not produced simply by absence of light coming from an object or surface but arise when and only when the light from the object is less than the average of the light coming from the surrounding regions. White arises only when the surround is darker and when no hue is present….an object’s whiteness, blackness, or grayness depends on the light that the object reflects from some source, relative to the light reflected by the other objects in the scene…experiments showed convincingly that the sensation produced in one part of the visual field depends on the light coming from that place and on the light coming from everywhere else in the visual field….

Etc…)

Consider this: Time, as we think of and relate to it, is only an arbitrary grid of numbers we’ve attached meaning to over the eons. And the attachment of meaning is made all the stronger through the vastness of shared unconsciousness, to the point that it becomes our Reality.

But, in truth, night and day are ruled by the rising and setting of the sun, the rotation of the earth. Our natural cycles that denote a passage of time to us, are only processes of Change that occur within the Now. We compare the change based upon recollections of the way things were before they changed, and label that The Past. We would do well to keep in mind the arbitrariness of labeling–that in a real sense, this is our collective mythology: a story to illuminate and make sense of what is occurring. Even aging is only a process of change, changing from Now…to Now…. 🙂 (Even our language reinforces the mythology of Time moving from place to place…) Remnants from those who came before us, what could be considered “evidence” of the Past, yet still exist Now, but in an altered state of being.

This is Evolution at its heart! This is the unity of Change as the Universe’s heartbeat, with the Heavenly Now. This is Transformation and a certain kind of immortality. I challenge you to contemplate and embrace the marriage of Change and the Now, rather than bemoaning a mythical passage of time.

Mind-Body Holism, Consciousness, and Reality

…Because this core dual structuring of the self was retained, many of the conundrums of Descartes’ philosophy have been retained as well, albeit recast in terms of the brain: Does the brain have direct contact with, and therefore reliable knowledge of, reality, or is our knowledge a ‘user illusion’? … [Noë] claims that neuroscience isn’t getting anywhere in explaining consciousness because it views consciousness of reality as a representation of the world created and manipulated by the brain. Noë attacks brain-body dualism in part by attacking this representationalism.

I believe this is one of the key points in the discussion of dualism versus mind-body holism. Dualism and representationalism share the idea of the true self being at one remove from physical reality, with the sensing body as both intermediary and barrier. Noë doesn’t examine this relationship in great detail, but he’s clearly aware of it. …brain activity is just part of an extended process that starts with the environment, involves the whole body and includes the brain. In this, the environment isn’t merely a source of stimulation, nor is it a model or representation built by and viewed by the brain. In Noë’s words, “the world is its own model.” To put it another way, the real object of perception is the physical environment, not some artifact of the brain/mind.

….I believe that Noë’s fundamental error is that he wants to hang on to the concept of mind. But what is mind except the thing that is conscious and initiates action? If you eliminate the notion of the little self inside the big self in favor of the person as a whole, the concept of mind doesn’t do any extra work, because we could just say that the person is aware and initiates action. All that would be left for the concept of mind to do would be to support useful metaphors (i.e. fictions), such as ‘I’ll keep it in mind’. Yet if you take the concept of mind more seriously than that, as Noë wants to, then it will begin to work its mischief anew. This is because it is a fuzzy concept. … Noë wants to break down mind-body/brain-body dualism, which is commendable. But in so doing, he verges on breaking down subject-object dualism: he wants to project mind out into the environment so our bodily-external tools become a part of us….

Still, I wouldn’t want to dismiss Noë’s extension of the mind completely. Perhaps without using the pernicious concept of mind, we could speak of different senses or extensions of the self. The core sense of self would be the living organism; in its environment, but distinct from it. The next sense of self would incorporate non-living parts of the self, such as the hair and nails. Here the cat’s whiskers serve as a biological analogy to the blind man’s cane. The third level of self would include our clothing and jewelery, which form part of our ‘person’. Fourth might be the tools we use naturally, such as a fork or a pencil and paper. One could take this further and include the things one identifies with, such as family and country – although such identifications are often problematic. Although there would be a solid notion of the person (conscious and bodily) as the primary sense of the self, we could be flexible about the boundaries for different uses of the word. I think this way of speaking would be more intuitive than super-sizing the mind. A framework along these lines would be flexible enough to handle tough cases: the amputee’s prosthetic limb is intimately part of his self insofar as it is strapped securely to him and responds to electrical stimulation from within him, unlike any other tool currently in use. At the same time, if the artificial limb were to be crushed, the amputee would not himself be hurt. The definition of self along these lines would be a fascinating thing to explore. I would not want to dismiss the idea that some sense of the self can be larger than the bare organism, especially given the way technology will surely extend the self in decades to come. But I believe it is essential to preserve the idea of the natural person, especially in the face of a Cartesian materialism which would divide and destroy it.

—© Kurt Keefner 2010, from “Out Of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain by Alva Noë; Kurt Keefner tells you why you can’t be only your brain.” at Philosophy Now Magazine

 

Vision science has for a few centuries now taken its start from the idea that what we see far exceeds what we receive in the form of sensory stimulation… The brain’s job, it is supposed, is to make up for this discrepancy…to compensate…

The question of vision science boils down to explaining how we can enjoy uniformly detailed, high resolution, brilliantly colored images of the world when, really, we see so very little…

Alva Noë, “Out of Our Heads” page 136.

 

As we contemplate the “Miracle of Sight” and the wonder with which our physical mechanisms make sense of the world around us, I was struck with Alva Noë’s words, appearing above — that sight is “affected,” or derives from the following examples of brain-altered discrepancies:

  • The inverted retinal image and the cyclopean character of vision
  • The uneven resolution of the eye
  • The unstable retinal image (i.e., saccades)
  • The blind spot
  • Obstructions, such as veins criss-crossing the eyeball; “bits of organic material float[ing] freely in the eye itself”; “Strangest of all, the retina itself is positioned backward; that is, the sensitive receptor itself is positioned behind the web of nerve fibers that ultimately join to form the optic nerve.” (Ibid. pg 134)
  • “A small object nearby can project the same pattern of retinal stimulation as a large object at a distance. All we are given, when we see, is the two-dimensional image… if we do in fact see spatial relations…we don’t do so directly. That information just isn’t there in what is given to us.”
  • Color (refer to my previous bare-bones understanding of Color Weirdness…) 🙂
  • Time — The nature of the established fact that what we are actually seeing is the past existence of the object in our vision, due to the nature of light carrying the information to our eyes and then the time it takes for the eye to make sense of the stimuli reaching it. At the extreme, think of the nature of the stars we observe in the night sky. We are seeing the stars as they were, not as they are now. The same is true on a much smaller scale in regard to everything we encounter around us.

It is due to these natural, biological elements “conspiring” against our seemingly flawless vision, that it is thought of our minds to be responsible for “filling in the gaps,” as it were; making up for the deficiencies and “fixing” our flawed input of information, making for perfected output of understanding. And that’s where we all wonder, how do our brains do it? Is what we see, then, a Grand Illusion, constructed by our brains filling in the gaps of what’s missing sensorily? Are we all just being deceived by our eyes? Is Believing, Seeing?

I had a most interesting inspiration while contemplating these thoughts… I fully accept that there is Reality within which we are fully integrated. We are All. We are Star-Stuff, birthed via eons of generations from the crudest life forms in the earth… We are a part of our environment, and it is us, as well. We all affect each other. And, I am absolutely fascinated with the nature of Perception, that we interpret and influence what we see and experience via our senses, based on, well, what our senses tell us, AND how we interpret those signals as they pass through the Ego-Filter! Then… based on those interpreted signals, we make choices and react… It is All, we are All, entirely cyclical and thoroughly integrated!

So, then, what of the concept that our brains must fill in missing information, as is considered with the Miracle of Sight? Consider this:

When did our brains ever decide there was anything missing that needed filling in, in the first place?

In other words, I posit that what we see as steady, for example, perhaps may not be steady at all, but because we all share the same experience, and it is all we know growing up, we interpret our “unstable retinal image” as steadiness and stability! Likewise, what if the world really is seen as “upside-down”? But we know not any differently, because to us, down would be up, and up would be down. We’ve grown up seeing and perceiving as we do, and this is our shared experience. Again… “It’s difficult to say how someone else sees color, because it’s so subjective. How do I know that what I see as red is what you see as red?” (from this article). Perhaps the stimuli creating the sensation of blue in my vision is creating a sensation of mauve in yours! As an extreme example, if the mauve-seer had grown up being told what he sees is called blue then how easy it is for us to agree, yes, we are both seeing this object as blue… when, oddly enough, perhaps it is not… But for each of our perceived Realities, both colors are called blue, and therefore, they are indeed Blue. But… what is Blue to you, may not be Blue to me… Yet, we could not possibly know this…

Spatial relations and three dimensions?… We call our experience three-dimensional… but at the heart of it all, this is a human contrivance, a way of labeling what we experience around us and comparing it to other experiences of lesser dimensional relations. We see, we experience, we feel, we touch and examine, and we say… three dimensions. I’ve read that it is the nature of our three-coned eye system that gives us the sensation of seeing in three dimensions…. Perhaps our reality in which we find ourselves is truly in multiple dimensions, but our biological systems can only perceive it as three, and with only certain color implications… But, again, this is all we know, this is our shared experience, this is our reality. This notion, too, however, doesn’t make our Reality any less Real!

It all comes down to the fact that we can only experience what we can experience. And we label it and study it, rightly so, trying to understand our environment and the greater universe around us. We are still very much intertwined with our environmental Reality, and we affect each other profoundly.

More on Vibrational Influences…

I did some more digging into the complexity of the biology and neuro-physiology behind the process of how we see and perceive color (and thus how we interpret not only the world around us, but how we might interpret and “allegorify” notions like the chakra color system). There is a phenomenal and enlightening chapter from David Hubel’s Eye, Brain, and Vision available for reading online and download, at the link. Following are some excerpts from Chapter 8, Color Vision, which I found to be pertinent for me in these contemplations of mine (For ease of understanding, I’ll post the Conclusion first, so you can see better where this complex information is headed; all emphases are my own; and be sure to see the final important statement at the end of this article….Everything we do depends on the brain!):

CONCLUSION
The subject of color vision illustrates so well the possibilities of understanding otherwise quite mysterious phenomena—the results of color mixing or the constancy of colors despite changes in the light source—by using a combination of psychophysical and neurophysiological methods. For all their complexity, the problems presented by color are probably simpler than those presented by form. Despite all the orientation-specific and end-stopped cells, we are still a long way from understanding our ability to recognize shapes, to distinguish shapes from their background, or to interpret three dimensions from the flat pictures presented to each of our eyes. To compare the modalities of color and form at all may itself be misleading: remember that differences in color at borders without any differences in luminous intensity, can lead to perception of shapes. Thus color, like black and white, is just one means by which shapes manifest themselves.
…..
The result of mixing paints is mainly a matter of physics; mixing light beams is mainly biology.
In thinking about color, it is useful to keep separate in our minds these different components: physics and biology. The physics that we need to know is limited to a few facts about light waves. The biology consists of psychophysics, a discipline concerned with examining our capabilities as instruments for detecting information from the outside world, and physiology, which examines the detecting instrument, our visual system, by looking inside it to learn how it works.

….Light is defined as what we can see. Our eyes can detect electromagnetic energy at wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers. Most light reaching our eyes consists of a relatively even mixture of energy at different wavelengths and is loosely called white light. To assess the wavelength content of a beam of light we measure how much light energy it contains in each of a series of small intervals, for example, between 400 and 410 nanometers, between 410 and 420 nanometers, and so on, and then draw a graph of energy against wavelength. For light coming from the sun, the… shape of the curve is broad and smooth, with no very sudden ups or downs, just a gentle peak around 600 nanometers. Such a broad curve is typical for an incandescent source. The position of the peak depends on the source’s temperature: the graph for the sun has its peak around 600 nanometers; for a star hotter than our sun, it would have its peak displaced toward the shorter wavelengths—toward the blue end of the spectrum, or the left in the graph—indicating that a higher proportion of the light is of shorter wavelength…. If by some means we filter white light so as to remove everything but a narrow band of wavelengths, the resulting light is termed monochromatic.

The energy in a beam of light such as sunlight contains a broad distribution of wavelengths, from 400 or less to about 700 nanometers. The gentle peak is a function of the temperature of the source: the hotter the source the more the peak is displaced towards the blue, or short-wave-length, end. Monochromatic light is light whose energy is mostly at or near one wavelength. It can be produced with various kinds of filters, with a spectroscope containing a prism or a grating, or with a laser.

Most colored objects reflect light that is generally richer in some parts of the visible spectrum than in others. The distribution of wavelengths is much broader than that for monochromatic light, however.
What color we see, I should quickly add, is not simply a matter of wavelengths; it depends on wavelength content and on the properties of our visual system. It involves both physics and biology.

…The pigments in the three cone types have their peak absorptions at about 430, 530, and 560 nanometers, as shown in the graph below; the cones are consequently loosely called “blue”, “green”, and “red”, “loosely” because (1) the names refer to peak sensitivities (which in turn are related to ability toabsorb light) rather than to the way the pigments would appear if we were to look at them; (2) monochromatic lights whose wavelengths are 430, 530, and 560 nanometers are not blue, green, and red but violet, blue-green, and yellow-green; and (3) if we were to stimulate cones ofjust one type, we would see not blue, green, or red but probably violet, green, and yellowish-red instead.

….The three cones show broad sensitivity curves with much overlap, especially the red and the green cones. Light at 600 nanometers will evoke the greatest response from red cones, those peaking at 560 nanometers, but will likely evoke some response, even if weaker, from the other two cone types.
Thus the red-sensitive cone does not respond only to long-wavelength, or red, light; it just responds better. The same holds for the other two cones.

Color is the consequence of unequal stimulation of the three types of cones. Light with a broad spectral curve, as from the sun or a candle, will obviously stimulate all three kinds of cones, perhaps about equally, and the resulting sensation turns out to be lack of color, or “white”….

…To understand what is happening we need to know that the blue cellophane absorbs long-wavelength light, the yellows and reds, from the white and lets through the rest, which looks blue, and that the yellow filter absorbs mainly blue and lets through the rest, which looks yellow. The diagram on this page shows the spectral composition of the light each filter passes. Note that in both cases the light that gets through is far from monochromatic, the yellow light is not narrow-band spectral yellow but a mixture of spectral yellow and shorter wavelengths, greens, and longer wavelengths, oranges and reds. Similarly, the blue is spectral blue plus greens and violet. Why don’t we see more than just yellow or just blue? Yellow is the result of equal stimulation of the red and the green cones, with no stimulation of the blue cone; this stimulation can be accomplished with spectral yellow (monochromatic light at 580 nanometers) or with a broader smear of wavelengths, such as we typically get with pig- ments, as long as the breadth is not so great as to include short wavelengths and thereby stimulate the blue cone. Similarly, as far as our three cones are concerned, spectral blue light has about the same impact as blue plus green plus violet. Now, when we use the two filters, one in front of the other, what we get is what both filters let through, namely, just the greens. This is where the graphs shown on this page, for broad-band blue and yellow, overlap. The same thing happens with paints: yellow and blue paints together absorb everything in the light except greens, which are reflected. Note that if we used monochromatic yellow and blue filters in our experiment, putting one in front of the other would result in nothing getting through. The mixing works only because the colors produced by pigments have a broad spectral content.

… Presumably, some time in the distant past, a primordial visual pigment gave rise to rhodopsin, the blue pigment, and the common precursor of the red and green pigments. At a much more recent time the X-chromosome genes for the red and green pigments arose from this precursor by a process of duplication. Possibly this occurred after the time of separation of the African and South American continents, 30 to 40 million years ago, since old world primates all exhibit this duplication of cone pigment genes on the X-chromosome, whereas new world primates do not.

…We can think of Hering’s yellow-blue and red-green processes as separate channels in the nervous system, whose outputs can be represented as two meters, like old-fashioned voltmeters, with the indicator of one meter swinging to the left of zero to register yellow and to the right to register blue and the other meter doing the same for red versus green. The color of an object can then be described in terms of the two readings. Hering’s third antagonistic process (you can think of it as a third voltmeter) registered black versus white. He realized that black and gray are not produced simply by absence of light coming from an object or surface but arise when and only when the light from the object is less than the average of the light coming from the surrounding regions. White arises only when the surround is darker and when no hue is present. (I have already discussed this in Chapter 3, with examples such as the turned-off television set.) In Hering’s theory, the black-white process requires a spatial comparison, or subtraction of reflectances, whereas his yellow-blue and red-green processes represent something occurring in one particular place t in the visual field, without regard to the surrounds. (Hering was certainly aware that neighboring colors interact, but his color theory as enunciated in his latest work does not encompass those phenomena.) We have already seen that black versus white is indeed represented in the retina and brain by spatially opponent excitatory and inhibitory (on versus off) processes that are literally antagonistic.

….an object’s whiteness, blackness, or grayness depends on the light that the object reflects from some source, relative to the light reflected by the other objects in the scene…experiments showed convincingly that the sensation produced in one part of the visual field depends on the light coming from that place and on the light coming from everywhere else in the visual field….

Any color can thus be thought of as corresponding to a point in three-dimensional space whose coordinate axes are the three ratios, taken with red light, green light, and blue light…. to have color at all, we need to have variation in the wavelength content of light across the visual field. We require color borders for color, just as we require luminance borders for black and white. …differences across borders are necessary for color to be seen at all.

…If blob cells are involved in color constancy, they cannot be carrying out the computation exactly as Land first envisioned it, by making a separate comparison between a region and its surround for each of the cone wavebands. Instead ^ they would seem to be doing a Hering-like comparison: of red-greenness in one region with red-greenness in the surround, and the same for yellow-blueness and for intensity. But the two ways of handling color—r, g, and b on the one hand and b-w, r-g, and y-b on the other—are really equivalent. Color requires our specifying three variables; to any color there corresponds a triplet of numbers, and we can think of any color as occupying a point in three- dimensional space… …the blob cells making up the three classes are not like peas in pods but vary among themselves in the relative strengths of surrounds and centers, in their perfections in the balance between opponent colors, and in other characteristics, some still not understood. At the moment, we can only say that the physiology has a striking affinity with the psychophysics. You may ask why the brain should go to the trouble to plot color with these seemingly weird axes rather than with the more straightforward r, g, and b axes, the way the receptor layer of the retina does. Presumably, color vision was added in evolution to the colorless vision characteristic of lower mammals. For such animals, color space was one-dimensional, with all cone types (if the animal had more than one) pooled. When color vision evolved, two more axes were added to the one already present. It would make more sense to do that than to throw out the pooled system already present for black-white and then have to erect three new ones. When we adapt to the dark and are using only our rods, our vision becomes colorless and is again plotted along one axis, to which the rods evidently contribute. That would not be easy to do with r, g, and b axes… …Our tendency to think of color and form as separate aspects of perception thus has its counterpart in the physical segregation of blobs and nonblob regions in the primary visual cortex. Beyond the seriate cortex the segregation is perpetuated, in visual area 2 and even beyond that. We do not know where, or if, they combine.

Finally, too, an important word from the last thoughts at the end of the book:

We may soon have to face a different kind of problem: that of reconciling some of our most cherished and deep-seated beliefs with new knowledge of the brain. In 1983, the Church of Rome formally indicated its acceptance of the physics and cosmology Gallileo had promulgated 350 years earlier. Today our courts, politicians, and publishers are struggling with the same problem in teaching school children the, facts about evolution and molecular biology. If mind and soul are to neurobiology what sky and heaven are to astronomy and The Creation is to biology, then a third revolution in thought may be in the offing. We should not, however, smugly regard these as struggles between scientific wisdom and religious ignorance. If humans tend to cherish certain beliefs, it is only reasonable to suppose that our brains have evolved so as to favor that tendency—for reasons concerned with survival. To dismantle old beliefs or myths and replace them with scientific modes of thought should not and probably cannot be done hastily or by decree. But it seems to me that we will, in the end, have to modify our beliefs to make room for facts that our brains have enabled us to establish by experiment and deduction: the world is round; it goes around the sun; living things evolve; life can be explained in terms of fantastically complex molecules; and thought may some day be explained in terms of fantastically complex sets of neural connections.
The potential gains in understanding the brain include more than the cure and prevention of neurologic and psychiatric diseases. They go well beyond that, to fields like education. In educating, we are trying to influence the brain:
how could we fail to teach better, if we understood the thing we are trying to influence? Possible gains extend even to art, music, athletics, and social relationships. Everything we do depends on our brains.

More of My Favorite Things…

Here are a couple more of life’s treasures that make me smile…. :mrgreen:

  • The smell of honeysuckle….
    Honeysuckle
    (The smell of rosemary, too!)
  • Dragons
    blue-dragon-black-design-1

…In fact, not long ago my own Divine Beloved took shape and introduced himself to me as a beautiful blue dragon; he called himself Malachi – meaning “Messenger”… I knew I always had a thing for dragons!!

Dragons can hold important mythological meaning:

Dragons and Snakes are symbols for human DNA. Fire representing soul sparks of light emanating from the flame of creation…The way through all things….A winged dragon – the volatile elements; without wings – the fixed elements…Guardian of the ‘Flaming Pearl’ symbol of spiritual perfection and powerful amulet of luck…The “spirit of the way” bringing eternal change…. in the Eastern world the dragon…was essentially benevolent, son of heaven, and controlled the watery elements of the universe. –(from “Dragons and Winged Serpents“)

And….

The most common message a Dragon totem carries to us is a need for strength, courage, and fortitude. Dragons are also messengers of balance, and magic – encouraging us to tap into our psychic nature and see the world through the eyes of mystery and wonder. More specifically, Dragons are the embodiment of primordial power – the ultimate ruler of all the elements. This is because the Dragon is the master of all the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind. As a totem, the Dragon serves as a powerful guardian and guide. (–from “Dragon Symbolism“)

Tap into the inner personages of your consciousness and receive wisdom today!

Align the Universe Within

Some Carl Sagan wisdom (excerpts from “Cosmos“, in no particular order):

We are made of stellar ash. Our origin and evolution have been tied to distant cosmic events. The exploration of the cosmos is a voyage of self-discovery.

We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose.

And you are made of a hundred trillion cells. We are, each of us, a multitude.

We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands.

Some part of our being knows this is where we came from… We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

The juxtaposition of mind and body vs. spirit is a topic that has been explored in many a myth and philosophical exercise across the ages. We all somehow sense that there is more to us than this mere physical body which we inhabit. Yet it is still an elusive mystery…

What can we say about the nature of who we are?

  • The Fundamental Forces
    The Fundamental Forces

    We are a “mini universe”, we are a multitude; in a sense, our ultimate Personal Consciousness is built upon the delicate balance of myriad other “lesser” consciousnesses, if you will. My cells, genes, every bodily function readily perceived and not, even operations on the quantum level upon which the operations of the entire Universe are based, are all directed, expressed, and controlled by various processes: such as the quantum-mechanical forces, DNA and RNA, energy cycles, and much, much more. Because of our amazing evolutionary legacy, this “mini-verse” of ours is able to operate at its current utmost via its own cyclical system of communication processes, without Me getting involved, aside from providing it the necessary fuel and energy sources it needs to continue normal operations.

  • Incidentally, this is why I so enjoy and resonate with the notion of the fractal multiverse; we ourselves — and all of nature around us — are a smaller version of the intricate interweaving of processes and structures that make up the larger cosmos we inhabit! All is unfolding and overlapping in fractal symmetry; Nature begets after its kind in ever-evolving improvement and adaptation to changing surroundings. The truth of these things is all around us to behold. All we have to do is observe and understand…
  • The evolution of the human brain is wondrous and revelatory!

    …moving from the simple to the complex over an extended period of time. The billions of cells that work together to make the brain and body function harmoniously have numerous critical functions. …the brain has adhered to Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” methodology by ridding itself of less important functions while enhancing the more essential ones over time.

    It is a fact that as man evolved, certain mutations took place within the nervous system that forced it to evolve in time with the body. …mutations in the nervous system were also forced to prove their might against environmental challenges.

    …as man’s ability to survive began to necessitate increasingly complex actions and reactions to his environment, the nervous system was also compelled to adapt accordingly. –(from The Evolution of the Human Brain)
    –>(Next segment from Consciousness In The Cosmos: Perspective of Mind: Carl Sagan):
    Sagan notes that in “the human intrauterine development we run through stages very much like fish, reptiles and nonprimate mammals before we become recognizably human.” And thus it is not surprising that we possess a corresponding “Triune Brain.” [Carl Sagan, THE DRAGONS OF EDEN: SPECULATIONS ON THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, Ballantine Books, 1977, p. 59.]

    The schematic of a human’s Triune Brain is as follows: * The Reptilian Complex * The Limbic System * The Neocortex

    Declaring that there is considerable evidence for the localization of brain function–as well as discussing in detail the electrochemical nature of brain function–Sagan lays the groundwork with his depth discussion of the Triune Brain.

    The Reptilian Complex is the site from which our propensity arises for “aggressive behavior, territoriality, and the establishment of social hierarchies.” The Reptilian Complex still performs dinosaur functions, according to Sagan. [Ibid, pp. 62-63.]

    The Limbic System is mammalian. It is the base for our emotions. Our passions, our altruistic behavior, spawn from the Limbic System– which also is devoted to oral, gustatory, and sexual functions.

    The Neocortex is our third, newly human brain in terms of evolution. “Among other functions, the frontal lobes seem to be connected with deliberation and the regulation of action; the parietal lobes, with spatial perception and the exchange of information between the brain and the rest of the body; the temporal lobes with a variety of complex perceptual taks; and the occipital lobes, with vision, the dominant sense in humans…” Sagan suggests, too, that the Neocortex is the locus for abstract thinking and nonverbal intuition. The Neocortex is what makes possible our judgments, what makes for the moral knowledge of good and evil. It is also the site from which our creativity emerges. And the Neocortex is home to our sense of self. [Ibid, p. 98.] (Bold-facing my own emphasis.)

  • Might we then say, that our myths and concepts of achieving Enlightenment have an actual basis in science and biology? I like to think so!

Consider this:

…Sagan draws upon the Platonic metaphor about the human soul as an uneasy charioteer drawn by two horses in different directions. He considers this metaphor as remarkably similar to our “neural chassis.” The two horses correspond to our Reptilian Complex and Limbic System, and the charioteer to our Neocortex–which is barely in control.
…It is, however, the Neocortex where “matter is transformed into consciousness.” It comprises more than two-thirds of our brain mass. The realm of intuition and critical analysis,–it is the Neocortex where we have our ideas and inspirations, where we read and write, where we compose music or do mathematics. Sagan puts it thus: “It is the distinction of our species, the seat of our humanity. Civilization is the product of the cerebral cortex.” [COSMOS, p. 229.]
–(Ibid.)

It is an observable and scientifically established truth that our physical bodies are directly integrated within itself — all parts function together in harmony (or are meant to, at least!) — and therefore our bodies and physical brain matter are also an integral part of our minds and personal consciousness. Part of the practice of meditation is to position ourselves in such a mindful manner as to begin to simply observe — apart from judgement or reaction — the various parts of Us.

…This is my Ego, telling me how I should interpret and react…

…This is a manifestation of Karma, an unmindful gut reaction based on memory and, consequently, judgement…

…Etc…

So, perhaps this age-old struggle of our mind, soul, body, and sprit, is, in fact, the age-old struggle of the older Reptilian and Mammalian remnants of our evolved brain with our higher functions of the Neocortex.

Naturally, all parts are thus far integrated and are all important to life as we know it, right now; we cannot function without all portions of our brains intact! Perhaps one day in the distant evolutionary future, however, our brains will have but reduced these former forms of brain structure to naught. It is the former animalistic propensities for violence, domination, leadership, and blind judgement that I see in current Culture Wars and instability across the nations and earth in our present days. If all would turn inward and Align the Universe Within themselves — find reconciliation between the lower and higher forms of thought, and embrace their Higher, True Selves of the Neocortex — then, I believe, this race of humanity may be able to survive and heal, and continue to evolve toward greater and greater planes of consciousness.

Carl Sagan holds hope for human intelligence, for our extension of Mind. We are still people from divergent and cultural backgrounds, yet our intelligence is beckoning us toward greater webs of global relationships. In due course, he hopes that we will simply be the “whole human community, the entire planet Earth.” And further, Sagan dreams of our comprehension that we are a “local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness.” We have become “starstuff pondering the stars.” [Ibid, 286.] (Bold-facing is my own emphasis.)

Indeed, Carl Sagan has said that the evolution of our higher brain structure is an effort of freedom — a gift from the nature of evolution to liberate us from the necessity of merely storing information in our lower systems, liberating us from this limited universe of operation in our environment and enabling us to create and evaluate… in a sense, “helping” evolution along. But if we do not align ourselves within, will we allow the lower forms of brain function to control the tools and gifts our neocortex has bestowed upon us — more than likely bringing destruction upon ourselves? I sincerely hope we will awaken to our amazing legacy and heritage as inhabitants of the planet Earth, and work together in peace toward our unfathomable destiny!