Imagine if you will, that you lived in a world where every day you were told that you had no influence on the really important things in your life. Imagine that you were born to parents, who likewise, believed that they, and you, had no power to affect the way life was; and that they also had been born to parents, who were very sure, that they too, were powerless in this manner. Generations of firm belief and concomitant proof, through life experience, that this was true. That reality was operating outside of you and that you had no noticeable effect upon it, it would go on doing what it would do, whether you were there or not. The sun would come up in the morning and set in the evening; the rain would fall from the sky when there were precipitating circumstances; people around you would live and die – and all of these things would happen, pretty much without your direct input making a world of difference. Imagine what effect this would have upon your sense of self worth and attitude towards your existence.
Well, welcome to the real world, and to the psychological basis of your life and the lives of the majority of the six billion people living on this planet we call Earth. Newtonian science has for the last four hundred years firmly placed us outside of reality, as spectators in our own life, able to measure things but not much else. We have been taught and told, as were our parents, that life and matter happens independently of us. We can of course engage in transmutation of substances, if we follow strict rules for doing so, in a laboratory under controlled conditions and with the appropriate levels of technological education. Our subjective consciousness, our sense of who we are and how we process the sensory experience of our lives, however, cannot directly interface with existence. It can bear witness and it can measure, and oh what pleasure can it be to measure, everything. Science has measured and identified and named much of the fabric of our known universe, we know a hundred different names each for a billion different things we have never experienced; and most likely never will. I suppose it is a bit like that old Islamic idea of there being 999 names for God. Our Western scientific heritage has set us up as the ultimate arbiters of measurement and not so much good taste.
For the taste of powerlessness is one reason why, I think, that we have massive levels of depression in our modern cities and why we are medicating, or sedating, vast numbers of their inhabitants. Now smarties can put up their hand and say well Newtonian physics is dead, it died in 1904 with the discovery of Quantum Mechanics, but I would reply, that this fact is a well kept secret, culturally speaking, and that the greater majority of human beings are untouched by its revelations. Even Einstein struggled with accepting Quantum physics basic premise and resisted its outcomes for decades. The uncertain nature of The Uncertainty Principle does not lend itself to the delusional controlling proclivities of generations of white coated lab assistants and the population at large. We are all in love with the idea that we can benignly go about life, if we stick to the rules as Science has laid out for us, derived from all that measuring, and, like a good anti-depressant, avoid the lows by sacrificing the highs.
So the good news is, that on the most basic level we can perceive matter, the sub-atomic level, we actually do effect whatever we attempt to observe or measure, our consciousness of it changes it; and so the deadening spectator sport, that was Newtonian physics, is now obsolete. The bad news is, that the reality of this over the last hundred years has failed to bite, or be taken up by us, the masses, and that our lives continue to be mired in the complacency of our previous understanding of the workings of reality. Which means, that while we live in a truly wondrous world of modern scientific genius, the greater majority of us only get to experience it, as consumers, as if we are watching it on TV- and I reckon, that discovering ground breaking shifts in human evolution, via the Discovery Channel, years after they happen, is not an individually deeply rewarding experience. As populations in our cities, have grown and grown, we have replaced concern with the direct experience of the individual with statistical concern for the majority percentage of the many. Which is why so many people can still be unhappy or depressed, despite the fact that their lives contain less death, hunger, poverty, disease, and numerous other positively indicated quality of life evaluation measurements. Western medicine is a statistical science in practise and theory and concerns itself ultimately with the individual only as a unit of population. The pharmaceutical industry, which funds the medical behemoth in part and provides it with its tools for healing, is predicated on the double blind testing of its drugs and their ability to work on the greatest statistical percentage of people with as few side effects as can be managed.
“Over the last 30 years, rates of depression have been steadily increasing in Western societies. In the last ten years, consumption of antidepressants has doubled in the most advanced Western countries. Today, more than 11 million Americans are taking antidepressants. The estimated number of people in Britain taking antidepressants is two million. In Australia, 66 percent of those seeing a GP for the first time about depression have a chance of being medicated – in most cases with antidepressants. These data are so stark that most of us and our institutions prefer not to think about them.”
Dr David Servan-Schreiber, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh University School of Medicine
Author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac, 2004, Rodale.
So we live in a world, where care and concern, is officially monitored in terms of our per unit participation in demographic data for various population studies. We read in the newspaper, or online, about rates of unemployment, rates of breast cancer, rates of life expectancy, and rates of mortgage defaulting etc. We learn that if something affects the many then it must be powerful and have substance – it must be real. An example of this is the many chronic health conditions, which began under clouds of suspicion, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome began as this shady condition affecting bludgers and other weak and lazy people; Bulimia and Anorexia were likewise considered examples of neurotic women’s problems; ADHD is still doubtful in many people’s minds – but once weight of numbers builds up, then democracy grants acceptance for these diseased manifestations into the canon of medical reality. Pharmaceutical companies then go into overdrive to come up with a drug to cure them – often recycling ones that did not work out for other diseases, like Ritalin, now the drug of choice for ADHD and ADD.
Common sense is most people’s strongest definer of reality, meaning if the largest number of fellow citizens consider something to be so, then it must be so. The term common sense also has many subtle strands of meaning: its common sense! Can be exclaimed to mean that something is so manifestly obvious, that its truth cannot really be questioned. For something to be of common sense, it must appeal to a primary indicator of what is true, which is shared by the greater majority. We school our children in institutions made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of pupils, we encourage socialisation and the herd mentality that goes with it. Common sense must survive the sometimes brutal testing of the mob and therefore have the appeal of being the lowest common denominator. Common sense is very often paraded as a decidedly uncommon virtue by those wielding it in argument.
I question whether common sense is the most apt indicator for the understanding of truth and also whether capitalism – the so called ‘free market’ and selling things – is the best distributor of truth. How will we, the masses, discover the changing nature of humanities perception of physical reality? Through our consumption of product, which has been created in light of the technological changes made possible by subatomic particle physics, and through the consumption of media informed by it. It has been over a hundred years since the first experiments baffled and perplexed physicists like Nils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, before ultimately turning them 360 degrees around in a new direction. Yet most people have no idea about this reality shaking, new awareness and the consequences to our culturally accepted perception of what existence is made up of and our consciousness of it.
“I think it would be misleading to call particles, the entities involved in the most primitive events of the theory (quantum topology) because they don’t move in space, they don’t carry mass, they don’t have charge, they don’t have energy in the usual sense of the word.
Q – So what is it that makes events at that level?
A- Who are the dancers and who the dance? They have no attributes other than the dance.
Q- What is they?
A- The things that dance, the dancers. My God! We’re back to the title of the book.”
Physicist David Finkelstein & author Gary Zukav
The Dancing Wu Li Masters, 1979, Hutchinson & Co.
So the nature of matter, at the most fundamental level known to humanity, is a dance of energy and barely understood as matter. We have gone on, since the publication of this book, to comprehend that much of our known universe is in fact empty space and that we could fit all the actual particles or dancing energy, which make up the six billion people who inhabit the Earth, into a small suitcase. So perhaps Mother Earth is travelling light after all and cataclysmic disasters, like that which wiped out the Dinosaurs are not such a big deal, sub-atomically speaking anyway.
The most important aspect of this to understand, is that how the universe is perceived by those who make it their business to care, has had a filtering down effect upon humanity since the beginning of time. It may seem so much irrelevant bumph to those firmly rooted in the here and now of survival and making money, but once those, who wish to lead and control the rest of us, get hold of this information; they then utilise it for their own ends. In the West we are still greatly influenced by the thinkers and early scientists of the classical world, from ancient Greece and then Rome.
“Every domain of post-classical life and thought has been profoundly influenced by ancient models. True, these models have not always been interpreted in ways that a sober modern scholarship would consider correct. On the contrary: it has often been creative misunderstandings that have preserved the ancient heritage and made it useful.”
Edited by Anthony Grafton, Glen W Most & Salvatore Settis
The Classical Tradition, 2011, Belknap Press
Our very language, the meaning of our words, comes from those who thought in Ancient Greek and Latin. Homer the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, who was alive anywhere from 1200BC to 850BC, is a great example of where we can see the changes in consciousness, in the development of the words used to describe these states. Terms like thumos, phrenes, noos and psyche, which are the first recorded words referring to places within an individual where inner life is happening. There were no words for ‘mind’ or such as we would understand, and in the Iliad everything happens outside of the hero, through the directions of the gods. Achilles is directed by the goddess Athene in his actions against Hector, during the Trojan War, and the Iliad relates similar control over the other players into the hands of the gods. Thumos originally is used as a term in the poem to indicate spirit of life, as in it ceases to exist when a warrior is slain, it then evolves to incorporate the aroused pre-battle state experienced by a warrior; and then if it is not a god urging a man into battle it is his thumos. Julian Jaynes goes on to say:
“All these metaphors are extremely important. Saying that the internal sensations of large circulatory and muscular changes are a thing into which strength can be put is to generate an imagined ‘space’, here located always in the chest, which is the forerunner of the mind-space of contemporary consciousness. And to compare the function of that sensation to that of another person or even to the less-frequent gods is to begin those metaphor processes that will later become the analog ‘I’.”
The Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976, First Mariner Books, pp 263.
Noos of course becomes nous, and this term is still used as a slang colloquialism in English to mean intelligence or smarts. It began in the Iliad as a term referring to perception or seeing, or a sight or show, as in for a warrior there is no better noos than hand to hand combat. Noos was then located in the chest and began to mean heart or spirit. Words in all languages evolve and often come to mean different things over time, but in these early recorded examples it can show us the development of how these people were thinking. These are the first recorded examples of the internalisation of consciousness in human beings.
This process obviously continued over time and grew and grew until we had such a strong sense of an inner subjective consciousness, and this was reflected and emphasised in our languages, that we separated mind from body; mind from matter. Dualism was born and came to flourish into Aristotelian physics, which really lasted from Aristotle’s time 384BC-322BC right up until Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century. It continues today as commonly held belief – that our minds are separate from our bodies. And most of us live inside our heads, within those 20cm from chin to the top of our skull. Well that is where we perceive ourselves to reside – to be floating somewhere inside our craniums; as we sit slumped on our couches at night staring at flickering screens and wondering why we are depressed. So our imagined space, where we consider our consciousness to reside, has moved from chest to head over the last couple of millennia.
Where do we reside inside ourselves? Do you know where your consciousness, spatially, has its abode? When you speak of your self, and your awareness of your self, where is that self inside you located? Where does the watcher live? What do you imagine when you refer to these things? How do you calibrate your own levels of self? Do you have a soul and is your mind separate from it?
Religion has made great use of this split between body and soul, and flourished in the crack like a healthy weed. For once you remove the necessity of having a corporeal presence, then you are unfettered by any physical limitations like material reality, you can bend truth any which way you like. God, in my opinion, is an invention based on our own inner reflections of mind space, and, seemingly, can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee (apologies to Muhammad Ali). Has there ever been a bigger fib than the one about there being a god? An all seeing, omnipresent , omnipotent and omnificent being, who, just like Santa, knows when you are good and definitely knows when you are bad. The thought police were invented by the Church and still exist in many people’s minds today, because if you are brought up with these fairy tales about good and evil, God and Satan, Jesus dying for your sins etc – then you have been brainwashed at an early and very vulnerable age to believe in fantasy. If your mummy and daddy believed in these things and their mummies and daddies also believed in all of this, then it becomes solidly fixed as a reality; a traditional lore established over generations. People stop questioning things like this and act out of deference to the past. It takes much greater strength to question and overcome tradition, to break away from the beliefs of your tribe. Because once you believe in things that have no verifiable relationship to reality, and are simply asked to have faith, then you are lost in Maya – an illusion of ancient parentage designed to control you within the flock.
“One facet of the many faces of religion is intense love focused on one supernatural person, i.e. God, plus reverence for icons of that person. Human life is driven largely by our selfish genes and by the processes of reinforcement. Much positive reinforcement derives from religion: warm and comforting feelings of being loved and protected in a dangerous world, loss of fear of death, help from the hills in response to prayer in difficult times, etc. Likewise, romantic love for another real person (usually of the other sex) exhibits the same intense concentration on the other and related positive reinforcements. These feelings can be triggered by icons of the other, such as letters, photographs, and even, as in Victorian times, locks of hair. The state of being in love has many physiological accompaniments, such as sighing like a furnace.”
John Smythies, Neuropsychiatrist, 2006 - http://wn.com/John_Raymond_Smythies
Ask yourself how many assumptions, about reality and existence, you hold among your most valued truths? How many untested beliefs live inside your consciousness? Is there a god? Is there good and evil? Do you believe in sin? What about love, what is love? What is the purpose of your existence?
Do you have any proof, any discernable evidence that would stand up in a court of law for your answers to the above questions? Why do you believe the things you do? Where did these beliefs come from? Who was involved in their transference to you?
The reality is, that just because something has been passed down to you by family, does not make it true. And just because something has been written in a book, and published, similarly does not make it true, even if it is a really old book, which has been accepted as the gospel truth over hundreds of years. Truth is something we all need to seek out ourselves, in our own lifetime, and see it put to the test by experience. At some point in time, we all need to put aside, the desire to be liked and to belong, and use our time on earth to find out what is really what. Don’t take my word for it – find out yourself!
Who are you? What are you? Beyond the roles you may play of wife, husband, partner, mother, father, daughter, son, and far beyond the work you may perform. Who are you really? Deep inside your consciousness, what are you? Go beyond the pat answers you may have read in some book and answer the question from your own true knowledge and experience. Nobody knows you as well as you know yourself! So who are you?
Are you an accident of nature? A dribble of sperm and some egg, that has grown into a human being and been given your name? If you don’t know who you are, then why are you here? What is your real purpose? Why are you alive this day? Why do you have consciousness?