Life and Mind

 
 

"All problems exist in the language". (L. Wittgenstein).

In between my first essay written in 1982 and published on this site since its inception in 2002 and the present text there is a time lapse during which more essays were written and, as well, here published. Clearly during this period ideas changed, although not radically and possibly knowledge increased. To borrow a statement from Mahatma Gandhi "At times of writing I never think what I have said before. My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me at a given moment. The result has been that I have grown from truth to truth." But a statement which appears several times in the previous works and was never properly explained still holds, and that is "life is not our experience, but we are an experience of Life" where "Life" with the capital "L" stands for the life which pervades and sustains the cosmos. The mystery of life is humanity's impassable stumbling block and a solution to the conundrum which has occupied the human intellect since its dawn might never be arrived at, in this respect we are in the stance of a painting trying to understand its painter. "Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors." [1]
When we look at a building in its complex, we perceive its outlines; then within the same its distinctive features strike our imagination: nice outfits and ornaments, or old ones and falling apart, or whatsoever. We seldom, if ever, give a thought to that which is hidden beyond the plaster, namely, bricks, stones, cement or whatever keeps it standing. Sadly, we normally do the same thing when we look at or think about our physical temple. We perceive an image and appreciate its youth, or its beauty; or we despise its manifest old age, or its ugliness and all sort of things. All in all we perceive a living entity, so dressed, so moving, so behaving, so attractive or so repulsive. We look at it just like we look at the building above mentioned; we hardly if ever give a thought to the hidden structure which lies beyond the skin and bones which keeps it together. We are struck and narcissistically attached to the outward appearance. This hidden structure however, as we are too well aware, is made up by a myriad of living organism acting in concert, the cells which make up the various important organisms within the body itself. Each of these cells, singly among thousands of billions of them, has a life of its own, a motive power and intelligence and thence this temple of ours, as such, is not an individual living being but the sum total of uncountable microscopic organisms’ lives, each thriving with an exact purpose, an unerringly set goal. We are barely conscious that these myriad of lives are the very pedestal not only of our physical frame, but as well of our real essence, that which is not conditioned by spacetime; calling it essence is a linguistic necessity, but such it is that cannot be named simply because it is beyond the spacetime frame; as well, saying that it is frames it within spacetime and so, again, we have to rely on linguistic inadequacy. This complex and tangible frame of ours should then be properly visualized for what it is and not from the outward appearance of the structure. Looking at ourselves in such a wise a different reality is perceived, a greater, incomparably richer image teeming with life strikes our mental vision and widens its horizon towards border-less visions. Calling it “our physical temple” is not inappropriate because here it is that, like in prayer in a holy place, a greater discernment of our real place in nature, as well as a greater understanding of the nature within ourselves develops and matures; a keener view of what we really are.
Now, while relaxing under the shadow of a jacaranda tree in my spoiled verandah, the sky brownish from the dust carried up in this period by the desert's winds (kamsin) from the lowlands and foretelling the approaching of a desperately needed rainy season the thought that biological life, all of it, be it a unicellular organism, or your pet, or anyone of the seven billion humans moving on this beautiful planet independently of the sensory organs perceiving them is a projection of images crossed my mind (if this 'mind' is really belonging to me; I have some reservations about that!). That such grand projection of three dimensional images which make up the universe so as we perceive it might be a grand illusional display is not a new concept, we may trace it as far back as Abraham since "... the name assigned to Abraham’s father was Terah, a “maker of images” and even beyond in ancient myths and eastern philosophical thought.
These images are mental (more about mind and mental later) expressions which actually do not belong to the perceiver even if the percipient appropriates them as a sine qua non which is an indispensable existential means of any organic form of life. This concept apparently broadened my vision of Life or, to say it differently, disclosed the important truth that Life itself (as “source”, without plunging ourselves in the teleological doctrines or the metaphysical problems of its origin and what sustains it) is a great mental process loosing itself into eternity; eternity into space, eternity into time and quite likely some other dimension which must remain undisclosed to our limited perceptions.
Hence the meaning of “we are an experience of Life” looses it nebulosity and a new threshold is crossed, a new vision appears: Life is a mental process with no bounds hence now I fall into the subsequent logical question: if this is so there is no illusion into it, no Hindu maya, and the concept arises that nothing of that which apparently belongs to our mental processes ever gets lost, everything adds up into an infinite bucket with no holes holding it, it may be inferred, for its own supra-cosmic existence, or evolution. This lays bare the fact that everything is exactly how it ought to appear: the perception of a Helicobacter pylori perforating a stomach; that of a cat missing a step and falling off a skyscraper; that of a fighter killing an enemy; or, a scene of sensual love are real in themselves and as such appear to the percipient which however is sustaining an illusionary form of his own mind. Clearly there is a sequence, an imponderable perhaps not completely at odds with Henri Louis Bergson's hypothetical élan vital [2] which has to be synchronized between the nervous and sensorial systems of diverse, but taxonomically related, organisms which enables diverse spectators to experience the same visions.
Since Nothing is more difficult than to express in simple words our ignorance, I am not sure how clear the precedent conceptualization is, so I will add this: the keyboard I am tapping is as real as the person who is tapping it but this is the classical cogito ergo sum, a relative reality, that of the perceiver and the perceived and as such belonging to a world which to us is tangible and real; a world made up of tangible images but which, of itself, is an idealization of something beyond our concept of reality. We live through the illusion of this world's reality and it ought to be so, the sine qua non giving meaning to life. Yet the world is not an illusion, just kick a stone if you want to prove otherwise; the illusion is the mental perception of the action, even the tangible reality of the pain we feel after such a feat!
Paradoxically that which creates the illusion of the phenomenal world gives us the means to perceive it as real but only that that [which creates the illusion] is real and therefore we cannot perceive it. This brings me back to Krishna's “The unreal never is: the Real never is not” (Bhagavad Gita 2:16) which interestingly, so as I can interpret it within the frame of the above disquisition, somehow contradicts the elaborate Hindu doctrine of maya, or illusion; even if the Bhagavad Gita is a stepping stone of Hinduism.
My riddle concerning Life apparently solved, the next question goes to another ancient problem of mine: "what is the mind?" One answer comes by itself: Life (capital "L"), which I spoke of as a mental process of cosmic scale and Mind (capital "M") equate and seemingly here there is no way I can trespass. The mind which exists per se, the common denominator beyond physical existence cannot be expressed in words, it belongs to the transcendental kingdom and as such it must be realized. We are forced to somehow imagine it as well as to locate it within our restricted conception of infinity, but infinity as such does not exist, it too is a mental concept like the void or nothingness. Our mental concepts forcefully employ time and space because of time and space we are constructed, spacetime creatures we are. Is this an unsurpassable limit? Then there is that mind which supposedly is a mental process exclusive of some inferior being, that Homo sapiens who thinks that he is the culmination of creation (sic!). I fully agree that these beings have an intellectual machinery encased in a bony shrine which enables them to think but I have some reservations concerning the human mind, or an individual mind as such, I am prone to exclude the individuality of any 'mind' [3] whatsoever in the phenomenal world which we belong to. This, however, does not mean that we are marionettes at the mercy of a puppeteer; doubtlessly we are granted a certain degree of freedom.
Here I have to go back to " … an imponderable perhaps not completely at odds with Henri Louis Bergson's hypothetical élan … etc." and visualize a new image - or better - a system which acts on all biological life; this must be that same intelligence which spins the electrons around the atomic nucleus and ostensible all the way down to particle and quantum physics' phantom entities. For the present purpose I will take into consideration mainly those beings who are the culmination of creation even if those below down even to a virus invading a unicellular organism are all included in the system, therefore I will use the words 'human mind' but exclude 'my' mind in what follows albeit I have to make a concession to the undeniable fact that I do have a brain, a piece of incredible biological electronics whose circuitry is made up of capacitance, inductance and resistance which however does not come serially off a conveyor belt. It is an electrical powerhouse, it is a camera, it is a computer, it is a timer, it is a color television set, it is an organizer and everything else but there cannot exist, as luck would have it, two identical brains anywhere in the cosmos, coming from the same blueprint and strictly obeying equal parameters; that one-and-half kilogram mass of extremely delicate soft tissue enclosed in a bony shrine is an interface which commands and receives feedback from a multiplicity of organs and billions of cells. What its degree of freedom is in the system I cannot know; brains are actors in a comedy, the comedy of life. (Ponder the last three words!)
Still, brains are subservient to the strands of double helixes of DNA and RNA [4] the incredible biological coils which somehow control the system but I have to eschew this genetic topic due to my ignorance in the specific matter. Even so since coils are my preferred pieces of electronic components I stick to my knowledge of electronics and scanty knowledge of neural circuitry for any analogy and to my obsession with resonance. Resonance is an effect of a tuned circuit (the flow of an electrical current through an inductor, or coil, and a capacitor connected in series or in parallel [5]) and every biological entity which somehow invariably harbors this circuitry has a specific resonance, be it an elephant, the person reading these lines or a shiga bacillus; even the earth as a whole has a specific resonance(Schumann resonance see also Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields - "Man is a bio-cosmic resonator.") and no less so a cosmic galaxy; resonance is what maintains the balance of every form of life, not less so even of apparently inert matter; untune it (dissonance) within its own environment and what depends on it will be be disrupted and eventually become extinct as such.
We may suspect that, eschewing an individual mind, (a human mind) there is an agent through which the resultant of our brain's electrical circuitry at a given moment (an electromagnetic field which is detectable around the skull) can access to, use or elaborate upon in accordance with its resonance, or affinity - within a specific, as such restricted, frequency band - with some part of the mysterious medium which sustains the electromagnetic spectrum which is the core of the physical universe; it is that beyond which, consciously, we cannot access to but which gets a feedback from the images brought about by its own being. Were it not so there would be no affinity between two similar - although non identical - brains and the span of perceptions common to them; each one of us would be a lonely sort of zombie lost somewhere on the planet, unable to share or communicate with each other. Hence what I envisage is that which I called an ‘imponderable’ to which we have limited access, so far as we can tune into it and which is a commonality for that specific organic structure which does have an indisputable existence, that human brain which is, to use an analogy, a microprocessor made up of seven layers of neocortex coordinating all the activities of the structure which brings it along.
This stated, I can say that what I wrote down to this point is none other that the elaboration of some information, presently somewhat confused, right or wrong as it may be, tuned or untuned, which my brain perceived but which does not belong to me individually - to a strictly personal mind. It is like fishing in a muddy pond, you see a small surface but you have no idea of what the line will bring into the open air. All in all the hard part however is to accept the concept that I am mind-less, to throw away my individuality but here another variable enters into the equation, awareness. [6] Awareness depends exclusively on the brain perceptual faculties and of that, from personal experiences, [7] I can have no doubts whatsoever; I am also fully aware of what I am not anymore aware, but this may simply be classified as remembrance and does not belong to the present moment. These are perceptions and all sense perceptions are elaborated in the brain, they are the sum total of awareness and awareness itself is what creates our intellective faculties or, to say it differently, the intellect is a response to impinging awareness. On the other side while fully aware of what I am presently writing I am not, in the least, aware of the source dictating it; that possibly comes from a personal storehouse of those intellective faculties which accumulate (or get lost, like in brain's diseases and dementia) in the course of time and 'mind' has nothing to do with it; a brain's fallout! The argument here is that awareness and intellective faculties do away with the concept of 'mind' unless we use the term ‘human mind’ strictly denoted as the sum of intellective faculties and awareness, doing away with all the tentative and uncertain definitions which in the course of time have tried to explain it since, so as we conceive it, the mind is a construct to which we ascribe perception, reasoning, memory, feelings, associations and ideation; nay! it is simply a psychical conceptual creature born of our spacetime unsurpassable limits therefore as a separate entity it does not exist, in other words, we do not have a personal mind as such. Awareness and intellective faculties result from neurological interactions in the brain, not from some undefinable individual extra-physical entity even if awareness itself is not strictly restricted to the perceivable physical environment and here, again, I return to "nothing of that which apparently belongs to our mental processes gets lost, everything adds up into an infinite bucket with no holes holding it for its own cosmic existence, or evolution ...there is a sequence … etc.” Then the conjunct work of awareness and intellective faculties elucidate another somewhat nebulous entity, the human psyche, (forget all the compartments, viz. id, ego, animus, anima, shadow and so on which psychologists and related disciplines added to it) that hidden laboratory where the inner workings of conscious and unconscious processes are responsible for our ways of confronting our inner and outer environments, that repository of our life experience which pushes us forward in accordance with what previously enriched it and with a sense of what might follow. Let us simply call it psyche, and and be content with the fact that we do not have a psyche, we are a psyche! and our organic structure is an appendage of the same; it thrives from the feedback that our senses relay to it from the environment, conscious and unconscious; and it reacts so that we can adapt and react to the environmental challenges. The relation is that one cannot exist without the other, there is no independent survival of one or the other yet in effect an imprint of this speckle of life leaves its trace in the immensity of spacetime.
~ ~ ~

[1] Nikola Tesla.
[2] - Here I am not, in the least, taking into account H.P. Blavatsky and the theosophist's ether and force; however, that very selfsame science which sent ether to limbo is now tentatively reconsidering it. The pure nothingness into which the universe is immersed clearly must have some undetectable property since, whatever it may be it is ... nothingness! (as energy!?!) at least to our perceptions and to the perception of our advanced technological instruments. “Explaining the Workings of the Universe without recognizing the existence of the ether is futile.” – Nikola Tesla. (Albert Einstein disregarded the ether's existence.) See "Tesla Versus Einstein"
[3] - See Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism - David J. Chalmers --- “Panpsychism, taken literally, is the doctrine that everything has a mind. ... we can understand panpsychism as the thesis that some fundamental physical entities have mental states.” (I am not sure of what the chair I am sitting on is presently thinking about!)
[4] - Of the 3% of human DNA that is coded and expressed, about 50% of that is devoted to the human brain. This suggests that maybe as much as 30-40% of non-coding human DNA may be related to the functioning of the brain; of the 3% of human DNA which is required to build a human being, 20% of that is used to create a brain, and another 30% of that DNA is expressed in the process of running and maintaining the brain (Brain, 1990). That is, 50% of the 3% of DNA which is coded, serves the human brain. Hence, since 97% of the 140,000 or more genes (and their 3 billion or more base pairs) that make up the human genome are repressed, up to 50% of that and thus perhaps as many as 50,000 repressed genes and over a billion base pairs of nucleotides may be available for future cerebral metamorphosis and expansion of the brain. Given that over 90% of human DNA is dormant and silent and as tens of thousands of silent genes (and almost 3 billion base pairs) have yet to be expressed, the likelihood is that evolutionary metamorphosis on this planet will continue well into the future.
[5] 1 -An excited state of a stable particle causing a sharp maximum in the probability of absorption of electromagnetic radiation.
2 - A vibration of large amplitude produced by a relatively small vibration near the same frequency of vibration as the natural frequency of the resonating system. (http://www.wordwebsoftware.com/)
[6] - State of elementary or undifferentiated consciousness. Synonyms: cognizance, consciousness, knowingness, sentience. (http://www.wordwebsoftware.com/)
[7] - An acoustic accident deprived me of my hearing to the extent that I lost great part of my hearing faculties, that is, I am aware but of a few of the sounds in the environment and fully aware of the hellish tinnitus which will follow me to the grave; an experienced ophthalmologist butchered (term used by other professionals) my left eye and deprived me of my awareness of the left side of the world; old age brings along the full awareness of unremitting loss of strength and vitality (and in due time a lifeless, cold and rotting corpse will have no awareness of anything at all).

Public Domain July 2017.