Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Marcus Abundis currently works at Stanford Graduate School of Business as teaching assistant and steering committee member in the Graduate Facilitation Training Program. He has roughly 20 years experience in various high-tech lines (industrial robots, systems analysis, data encryption, 1st hedge funds, medical technologies, networking) - up until 1994. At that time he left managing the European operations for SynOptics Communications (SNPX) - a company with key enabling technologies of the Internet explosion - to begin development of what he saw as the next most likely "technology explosion." -- the need for cognitive mapping and developmental methods for human consciousness - to improve in our innate ability to process the complex volumes of information unleashed by the Internet explosion.
|Progressively Complex Life Forms||First Appearance Millions of Years Ago (Ma)||"Big Five" Extinction Events and "Others"|
|Microbial (prokaryotic)||3,500 (primitive DNA)||Late Archean: 2,600+ Ma|
|Complex cell (eukaryotic)||1,400 (1st common ancestor)||Early Proterozoic: 2,400 Ma|
|First multi-cellular animals||670 ("Snowball Earth")||Precambrian ice age: 700 Ma|
|Shell-bearing animals||540||Late Cambrian: 488 Ma|
|Vertebrates (simple fishes)||490||End Ordovician: 440 Ma|
|Amphibians||350||Late Devonian: 360 Ma|
|Reptiles||310 (biggest mass extinction)||End Permian: 250 Ma|
|Mammals||200||End Triassic: 200 Ma|
|Nonhuman primates||60||End Cretaceous: 65 Ma|
|Earliest hominids||8||Würm glacial 0.10-0.01Ma 0.01Ma|
|Homo sapiens||0.15 (150,000 years)||Holocene (modern era)|
(Assembled from various standard texts on evolutionary biology, geology, and earth systems science.)
As equivalent example: if you found a laptop computer (or even a ball point pen) on the ground, with no prior knowledge, could you explain how this object arose from the bare Earth? This is even evident with some of our own early artifacts, as detailed in Erich von Däniken's (1970) Chariots of the Gods?, “the puzzle” of Egypt's pyramids, Stonehenge, etc., and with a comic inverse shown in The Gods Must Be Crazy (Uys 1990). Our immense ability (let alone Life's ability) to confound ourselves is rather clear.
Deep informational voids, especially with a topic as pregnant as consciousness, naturally inspire a profusion of well-meaning, confused, and convoluted ideas. This frustrates the disciplined study of consciousness, as most any proffered solution is then dismissed, out-of-hand, as yet another crackpot scheme, with few true “gems” ever seen (Shermer 2001).
Evolution is the one theory that transcends all of biology. Any observation of a living system must ultimately be interpreted in the context of its evolution. -- Martin Nowak, Evolutionary Dynamics, p. ix.
Still, a tool for weeding the resulting intellectual flotsam is plain if we consider the compelling character of Life's evolutionary force, shown in Table 1 and noted by Nowak above. To treat this matter as a scientifically additive process, we need only ask – as a starting point: “Does the proposed view reconcile with evolutionary theory?”
Surprisingly, many consciousness studies appear to treat their subject as somehow separate from biology and natural selection, autonomous. This of course relates to the earlier noted duality and later variations, like Descartes' well-known separation of body and mind, or even modern versions like David Chalmers' “hard problem.” I consider Chalmers' view in the sidebar below, and exhibit the “evolutionary theory test” just suggested above. For comparison, I refer to Chalmer's view throughout this work.
Chalmer's (1998) work is ironic as it already points to an answer to his “hard problem.” “One might say an organism is conscious of an object in its environment when it can discriminate information about that object . . . and do something with it.” Clear interoperation of consciousness and environment (psychodynamic mapping of resources) – consciousness as a continuous phenomenon. But Chalmers never explores this environmental affect (natural selection), or the “something” consciousness is “doing with it” (survival). This makes his claim for a “hard problem” between consciousness and environment, dubious. Rather, he invents a problem by waxing abstract on our ability to see in objects, “redness as opposed to the quality of blueness . . . their similarities and differences . . . why they have their specific intrinsic natures [in our psyche],” qualia.
This added layer of abstraction, diverts one's attention, tends to violate Occam's razor, and suggests consciousness as an autonomous process. Is it hard to imagine natural selection giving advantage to one who discerns “red ripe fruit” from “blue poisonous fruit?” A naturalist, anthropologist, or biologist makes no such oversight (Attenborough 2002). It was already suggested (Figure 2) “organisms failing in such divisive interpretations of their environment are long-since extinct.” This would seem to answer Chalmers' “hard question” rather directly.
In "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" (1995) he speaks of 1st person subjectivity and a vague “something it is like to be . . . [uniquely human]” again ignoring natural selection, which acts in very subjective 1st person ways – survival or demise of the individual; also seen in economics as “methodological individualism.” Later, he conjures a mythic “Zombie” to try to find some insight to explain these “mysterious red and blue qualia.”
To suggest consciousness simply emerges from a backdrop of Life, with humanity somehow exempt from evolutionary biology (autonomous vs. Nowak quote above), implies a deus ex machina – requiring yet another creation story, not yet named but postulated as Chalmers' hard problem. Chalmers and Descartes are two of many (John Stuart Mill, Alfred Russell Wallace, Wittgenstein, etc.) attempting to elevate humanity from a natural world. This goes back to our earliest concepts of an “eternal soul,” but in our modern era this is now displaced by “eternal (modern scientific) knowledge” – humanity's latest “imagined antidote to mortality.” Notable counter arguments to such inherently dualistic views appear in Ryle's (1949) “ghost in the machine,” and Antonio Damasio's (1994) Descartes' Error.
The implication of any such autonomous (evolutionarily non-unified, or discontinuous) view is that certain elements of consciousness exist separate from an organism's physical body, or evolution of that body. Still, I concede, regardless of whether such a view passes the “evolutionary theory test” just proposed, or not, does not necessarily mandate its dismissal. This possibility of “consciousness” as existing apart from evolving embodied organisms is clearly salient. But, for the model's purposes here, I have no opinion on the matter, as “disembodied consciousness” diverts from the work at hand.
In this model, I look only at a specific embodied human lens. I test how far a unified view of consciousness can be formed – before resorting to a necessity of ever-more abstract, spiritual, or mystical tactics. I suggest anything resembling such disembodied consciousness cannot be effectively studied without a firm grasp of the living human lens, with which we view these matters. “Clarity” is first needed to discern artifact from what might otherwise be genuine “other conscious encounters.” In the course of events, it is often tempting to flirt with questions of such disembodied consciousness (mind, god, soul, etc.), but that is specifically not the mission here.
Diversity & Complexity
A second factor to emerge from considering the Evolutionary Landscape is the “stair-stepping” of more diverse and complex Life (Table 1, left column). Stair-stepping phenomena are obvious in evolutionary biology, with an implicit teleology of “more Life information” – more commonly stated as “increasing diversity and complexity.”
While this concept of escalating Life information is central to many notions of evolution, the trend of evermore “living data” seems implausible, to some, as a coincident expression of consciousness – that is, consciousness existing mostly as a means of engaging and enabling more Life information (Chalmers sidebar). This exclusionary perspective allows a further decoupling of consciousness from evolution, which I already suggested is spurious.
In some circles to suggest natural selection is acting on the human brain is tantamount to heresy . . . I would turn that statement on its head. The extraordinary claim is evolution somehow stopped once we developed culture. -- Robert Moyzis, Are We Still Evolving?, (McAuliffe 2009) p.56
The present model argues consciousness is deeply entwined in producing “more information,” coincident with evolutionary biology's “more diverse and complex Life” (Figure 1, left axis).
Destruction & Re-creation
A third aspect of this evolutionary back-story is that Life's “stair-stepping” is achieved via iterative cycles of destruction and re-creation, both subtle and profound. “A thing” implicitly seen in Ernst Haeckel's familiar “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”
That extinction and recovery, on truly massive scales, is a part of Earth's natural biotic process is plain in a “Big Five Extinction Events,” with some 20 total events speculated upon (Table1, right column; Raup & Sepkoski 1982). But this “re-creation” also appears more subtly in natural selection – a spectrum of small daily events, ranging from extreme competition to inspired cooperation (Nowak 2006). Differences in such gross and subtle Life “selection forces” continually vary the survival thresholds seen by all organisms.
Remember that everything [living] adapted to the same invariant laws of the physical universe. -- Michael Gazzaniga, The Mind's Past, p. 90.
Without this heritage of recursive destruction and re-creation, emergence of stair-stepped phenomena seems unlikely. That is to say, invention alone without destruction leaves no new raw material for new information. Invention in fact, survives only as destruction permits – a “dualistic” Life Paradox of creation paired with inevitable death in all things.
This “inevitability of death” also points to entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, and suggests another argument to be made for a unified view (developed in Part III). Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hegel, Sartre, and many others suggest a need for enduring struggle in Life. A sentiment echoed in Freudian views of a life and death drive (Eros and Thanatos). One might also note the likely parallels of re-creation, recreation, play, and play as practice fighting, destruction – again, with a universally entropic flavor.
What are we to make of a creation in which the routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart with teeth of all types - biting grinding flesh, plant stalks, bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence into one's own organization, and then excreting with foul stench and gasses the residue. Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him . . . The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet for about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit of fertilizer. -- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, p. 282-283
Fourth, and final, for any ancestral organism to find its way across this 3.5 billion-year Evolutionary Landscape, it must have effective means of access and orientation. All organisms must enduringly capture information and material from Earth's dynamic environments (Figure 2). Better access gives greater evolutionary persistence and range. Organisms with relatively poor access perish, along with their particular manner of operating (consciousness). This focus on access returns us to the “basic business of living:” capture, utilization, and generation . . . of goods, services, and information, upon the Evolutionary Landscape.
This capacity for access and orientation is physically and behaviorally encoded: a directly embodied means of “engagement,” unique to each organism. I call this biological capacity for Life, general consciousness. This is not far from Chalmers' “One might say an organism is conscious . . . when it can discriminate information about objects . . . and do something with it.” General consciousness is more commonly seen as an organism's utilitarian general intelligence (Mithen 1996), where Figure 2 serves as a proxy.
Harbinger of each organism's “consciousness,” appears in operation of a genetically defined body. This “biological platform” predetermines epistemological potential/ need for conscious traits. Limbs move this way, but not that; reach and grasp are such; hearing/ visual range is so, etc. All operating limits and ranges of the organism provide “ontological form” to all subsequent informational (epistemological) bases. “Information” for the organism, in support of its effective survival, then holds a shape implicitly useful/ sensible/ coherent to its physical form and functioning. Carl Jung (Progoff 1956) called this physiological role in an organism's formative psychology a “psychoid substrate,” or “protoform” (I use the later term).
But beyond the survival sensibility such general intelligence allows, psychological dexterity (Figure 2B) might further improve consciousness. “Dynamic access” then appears in many organisms, but particularly humans, and serves as an “enhanced antenna.” Through this improved three-part antenna (physical, behavioral, psychological) organisms can then more actively navigate the Evolutionary Landscape.
It is this composite antenna (physical, behavioral, psychological) – a specific organism's “biodynamic embodiment” of stimulus, processing, and response, that I suggest is selected “for or against” in humanity's enduring evolutionary struggles. And it is this antenna, in its abstract, informational, and multilateral-form, that I examine here as consciousness. This antenna's traits underlie the species' effectiveness in resource access, and efficiency in resource use. Broadly speaking of all Life, without such antennae, recursively and directionally honed via eons of selection pressure, evolutionary history would appear more as a “random walk,” than the stair-stepped order it is.
While this metaphor of a composite antenna is certainly no perfect trope for the unified biodynamic vehicle being suggested, it transitions us to a needed “systems view.” We principally focus on “a whole system's” navigational challenges, as “organism,” across vast timeframes. But to be clear, we mostly traverse a temporal landscape (metaphysical evolution), rather than a literal, physical landscape (biological evolution).
As intermezzo to developing this model, I highlight a few important concepts introduced so far.
FIRST, on this composite antenna – what we study here is a multi-million year synthesis of diverse systems (Table 1). As a result, simple logic of a unified view demands we treat consciousness as a multilateral system, not to be viewed in conventional segments (biological, behavioral, psychological, etc.), as is perhaps our tradition.
Complex functional systems . . . in biology in particular . . . are constructed of dissociable sub-systems built up gradually . . . adding sub-system to sub-system . . . the properties of sub-systems can be varied independent of one another, in such a way that functionality of the whole is buffered, to a significant extent, from changes or damage occurring to the parts . . . this sort of modular organization is in fact a pre-requisite of evolvability . . . Evolution needs to be able to add new functions without disrupting those that already exist. -- Peter Carruthers, Précis: The Architecture of the Mind, Mind & Language; AotM, p 21
An effective model of consciousness must touch all possible human experiences seen over the course of one's life – a seemingly impossible task. But, inversely, a segmented specialist view, typical of mainstream academia, is destined to fare poorly here. Need for a true cross-discipline solution, removes consciousness from most conventional views, and demands “a new discipline;” but one embracing some form of modified formal rigor.
Psychologist Jean Piaget (1968) neatly captures the issue: “there are many different logics, and not just a single logic . . . and no single logic is strong enough to support the total construction of human knowledge . . . but when all the different logics are taken together, they are not coherent enough to serve as the foundation for human knowledge. Any one logic, then, is too weak, but all the logics taken together are too rich.” Psychologist Otto Rank perhaps first saw a need for such a re-formulated discipline and attempted its articulation, although Freud, Jung, and Adler also likely saw limits in their own work, and a like-minded need for an inevitable fundamental re-focus (Progoff 1956).
Because of this cross-discipline need, work on consciousness per se must then occur outside traditional institutions, as independent scholarship, or at “fringe institutes.” This of course presents obvious controversies around legitimacy in the work, that is, until an adequately developed body of work on the topic finally emerges.
SECOND, on destruction and re-creation – this matter is so central to the overall work presented here, that Part III is devoted almost entirely to its consideration. I touch this issue here again briefly, to give some clarity on the work's ultimate direction.
Ernest Becker's (1973, Liechty 2002) Denial of Death gives this subject much attention. He argues a human need to transcend mortal insignificance of any one individual engaged in life struggle, provokes what I herein call “psychological artifacts.” In a survival-driven need for something greater than himself (God, genetic kinship, shared interest & ability, etc.), the individual slowly finds a means of transforming their otherwise futile solitary Life struggle against Death . . . and faith-based systems arise.
“Faith” emerges as a way of cognitively modeling some agency greater than “the self” (self-transcendent), via fantasy, biology, reason, etc. From this Faith, humanity then begins to indeed think and act greater than itself, advancing beyond basic subject-object modeling. And in this “discovery of self-agency” (pro-sociality), a great human enterprise of practical Self-transcendence unfolds unto the Evolutionary Landscape.
Regardless of exactly how this nascent Faith-based awakening is catalyzed, via Becker's shared psychological distress (existential angst), family relations (genetic), shared circumstance (environmental), appearance, etc. – all may serve role here – something clearly cements thoughts and deeds of the individual with those of others, and across many generations.
This “event” then baptizes humanity in naïve, shared hopes of socially supplanting its otherwise grim biologic reality. Social modes of reciprocity, community, statehood, etc. appear; often initiated via some vaguely idealized notion of morality/ God/ Promised Land/ Life quality, etc. (the “target” of this prosocial behavior). This particular human capacity for pro-social adaptation, the depth and breadth of which we have yet to see, clearly distinguishes us from other species. As Nowak noted, “Humans are champions of cooperation . . . [affording] open endedness of the [human] evolutionary process.”
Our physical and psychological struggle against inevitable destruction (Becker's Death) thus crafts a “biological <-> psychological imperative” that can then be biodynamically and psychodynamically mapped as an Adaptive Continuum.
Our species' resulting philosophic narrative of transcending this “Life angst,” and our record of this struggle, yields an essentially mythic narrative, typified in Joseph Campbell's (1949) hero's journey (overcoming personal/ group destruction). This pervading sense of human drama also appears in many creation stories. But it is a storied magical narrative poorly grasped in, often sub-conscious to, the modern world, except in cynical machinations of religion, politics, and advertising – pandering to fear/ narcissism.
Rather than embrace a deep ken of our mythic sensibility, much debate consumes the existence and competition of these faith-based systems – arguing over whose faux-naïf reality is True Reality. Some suggest our psyche's fragile webs of fiction refuse scrutiny, least they implode, or that self-deception is even purposeful in our species' survival. We dare not confront “The Man behind the curtain.” To do so is to “kill God,” and call humanity to Nietzsche's Übermensch . . . leaving us psychologically orphaned, standing naked before an overwhelming and mostly destructive All (Haught 2008).
German philosopher Alfred Schopenhauer (1818) in The World as Will and Idea seeds a notion of human existential angst in the modern world. But Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kirkegaard more famously elaborate this idea throughout their work. A concept of “life angst” typifies their existential schools of thought. Alfred Adler and Otto Rank, protégés of Freud, later expand on the individual's psychological response to life crisis (Progoff 1956). But Otto Rank's work does so most wholly (Goldwert 1985), and which Becker then picks up in furthering the concept. Others make later note on these psychologically adaptive ways: Robert Trivers' (Nowak 2006) “altruistic reciprocity,” and Rapoport's “tit for tat,” both commonly accepted social strategies that are mostly variations on a theme of faith-based solutions.
A sense of human struggle and of a need “to overcome” arises in many forms. It shows in the Buddha's first noble truth: “Pain in Life in unavoidable;” or in the redemptive suffering of The Christ on a cross.
This human need for belief now has a long history noted by Nietzsche (The Gay Science), Freud (Moses and Monotheism), and in modern writers now looking at scientific, historic, and biological facets: Pascal Boyer (The Naturalness of Religious Ideas), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), Bruce Lipton (Biology of Belief), William McNeil (The Care and Repair of Public Myth), Andrew Newberg (Why God Won't Go Away), Donald Brown (Human Universals), and Stuart Kauffman (Reinventing the Sacred).
Our “shared stories” (beliefs) abound, and are reported on daily; a global “crises of confidence” precipitating a 2008 sub-prime mortgage market collapse, headlines of “Rate-cut Hopes Lift Global Shares” (CNNMoney.com 10/29/08), medical benefits of placebos (WNYC 2007), all define our “reality.” Most any modern space we see is filled with psychological artifacts, now made, or being made into some material form – all sustaining an endless unfolding of human culture yet to show any hard upward limits.
PS: How bad are things in Germany? KG: Things are serious. The situation has still not reached the bottom yet . . . it will get bad . . . PS: Isn't this fundamentally a psychological crisis? I mean we have as many people in the world as we had before, we have the same resources we had before. Are people trusting enough in the system and in other people's promises, their credit, to make the kind of effort they were making before? And isn't that fundamentally psychological? KG: Excellent point! To a certain extent yes, but it's not only . . . that can people trust the system, but also can the system trust itself . . . the trust as such is disturbed . . . there is a lot about trust, certainly . . . There is a lot about . . . when thinking about psychological affects, do we offer a certain amount of optimism, [or] do we offer . . . are we just being part in the race for the worst message of the day, again and again. And that won't be helpful at all . . . [we need to] encourage positive thinking, but [also to] allow ourselves [this] and I think that's needed. -- German economic minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg speaks with Paul Solman, Germany Navigates Course Through [Global] Economic Slump, (Lehrer 2009)
To summarize the preceding section on the four originally noted aspects of the Evolutionary Landscape:
- informational voids,
- diversity & complexity,
- destruction & re-creation,
- and especially, a primitive antenna,
from this earlier analysis, a crude but effective base for the study of consciousness is now at hand. Further, with a typified notion of “general consciousness” which is used here, a door is left open for comparing human consciousness with other likely consciousnesses, or conscious states. But as noted before with dis-embodied consciousness, study of other-embodied consciousness (other mammals, Gaia, plants, etc.) is not the mission here. Rather, it is humanity's specific case we wish to consider in detail.
With the “four evolutionary parameters” set forth above, and with some clarity around what we will, and will not, examine herein . . . it is now possible to move forward.
A Working Definition of Consciousness
Consciousness is one of those remarkably promiscuous terms in our language. Used in different contexts, it can seem to refer to many different things. In fact, coming up with a common understanding of what consciousness is, seems to represent a Herculean task. -- Carter Phipps, Natural Selection, What Is Enlightenment?
From the foregoing evolutionary back-story, it now seems possible to specifically define general consciousness, in defiance of Carter Phipps quoted above, as follows:
An operating schema for spontaneous energy-matter exchange, upon the Evolutionary Landscape, which begets more information.
Again, this seems not far removed from Chalmer's earlier cited notion, but with a key addition of “information.” This realization of information now becomes the “something” consciousness is “doing with its” environment. To further clarify:
- spontaneous energy-matter exchange – is access to and use of resource (i.e. capture, export, and metabolism), in maintaining identifiable organisms and systems;
- more information – is a byproduct of this exchange, where matter and information are converted from one form to another, with a infrequent result of “new information,” or some other form of novelty;
- information – in physical or abstract form, anything intelligible to (further utilizable towards) an organism's presence (survival) upon the Evolutionary Landscape, with an emphasis on raw “parameter and function.” This suggests any organism noticing “tab A” nicely fits into “slot B” (parameters) may find a reproductive advantage (function) in a “A<->B” informational linkage.
And, for operating schema, the basic form used here is:
. . . with an understanding that “Sub-Conscious” (Figure 3) is a controversial term, which is later discussed, as are additional concepts of Social and Conscious Operation.
For now, Social, Conscious, and Sub-Conscious Operation (Figure 3) can be taken as analogous to Mithen's (1996) social intelligence, natural history intelligence, and technical intelligence of early humans.[15 ] Or further yet, it can be seen as more refined proxy of the earlier stated three universal organismic aspects in Figure 2:
- Stimulus – experiences are had, but not understood, Sub-Conscious,
- Processing – work on understanding/ using stimuli, Conscious,
- Response – things and people one acts upon, and with, Social.
As even further tie-in, general consciousness, as defined above, roughly tracks the earlier named facets of the Evolutionary Landscape:
- destruction & re-creation -> spontaneous energy-matter exchange,
- diversity & complexity -> more information (novelty),
- informational voids -> information, and
- evolutionary antenna -> operating schema.
While the above definition of consciousness is certainly not the only one possible, it well suits the model's purpose. And of the triune form used in Figure 3, with the inherently iterative character of consciousness implied therein, a circle is as appropriate for representation, if not more so. But as I work towards a specific mathematical précis of consciousness, a triangle is purposefully used here instead.
To define consciousness in these relatively simple and direct terms has certain advantage.
- First, it allows use of basic scientific, systems, and information theory reasoning in the model. Such formalized focus then requires a precise taxonomy, nomenclature, and syntax in the study of consciousness – which this model attempts.
- Second, with consciousness presented in this triune shape, a simple mathematical form is rendered unto an otherwise elusive concept.
- Third, consciousness is now given a fairly unambiguous definition, which is rather rare in consciousness studies.
- And fourth, the proposed definition conforms to earlier presented evolutionary concepts, and therein brings a needed level of biodynamic consistency to this psychodynamic undertaking of consciousness.
Refining General Consciousness
In this unadorned triune model (Figure 3), a basic “modeled structure” for consciousness is now at hand. But then a new problem arises. No “human and other” differentiation is really possible. It gives no insight that humans might contrast from rats as conscious beings. For this to be a truly practical and wholesome model of human consciousness, this form must expand. An adequately detailed, descriptive, and explanatory view of consciousness must be firmly in hand before we can advance further.
To focus on a specific human proposition, we must see how this general model is immediately “improved and used” within and by humanity. For this, I extend the Core Triune (Figure 3) with more information, externally and internally, as seen in Figure 4. Those familiar with fractal geometry quickly see that I plan to develop a fractal model. Whether this structure grows via interior or exterior dimension is of little import, as both have the same function in fractal geometry.
The first facet of the Core Triune I expand is Social Operation; to which I give three sub-facets of Memetic, Bio-energetic, and Economic Operation (Figure 5) as follow:
- Memetic: anything seen as information, knowledge, tools, structures, or symbols passed from one generation to the next, and used in attempting to perpetuate humanity.
- Bio-energetic: a direct physical ability to navigate the Evolutionary Landscape, access resources, and physically manipulate and transform resources, in perpetuating humanity (echoing the earlier noted “capture, utilization, and generation”).
- Economic: intellectual and volitional command over resources (information, goods, and services) upon the Evolutionary Landscape, whether achieved by behavioral competition, cooperation, commerce, autonomous creation, or other means.
The second aspect of the Core Triune I develop is that of Conscious Operation, with sub-facets of Cognitive, Sensate, and Imaginal Operation (Figure 6).
- Cognitive: analytic orientations of oneself in time, place, and circumstance, relative to material and events on the Evolutionary Landscape (i.e. subject, object, and “other”).
- Sensate: all sensory organ input and output, including internal emotional and homeostatic operations.
- Imaginal: association of possible events and outcomes (future) with one's volitional acts and reactions (present), based upon one's memory of realized events (past).
For the first two aspects just outlined, Social and Conscious Operation, the concepts used here are not unique. Nor is this their only possible presentation. As such, terms used here carry less weight than the framework in which they are placed, since a specific mathematical form is sought, one commensurate with these terms. Social and Conscious triunes, for the most part, then represent a pedestrian world of common reason. This is not so for the third triune, Sub-Conscious Operation, more often called the unconscious mind.
Mapping a “Sub-Conscious Mind”
We have in all naiveté forgotten that beneath our world of reason another lies buried. I do not know what humanity will still have to undergo before it dares admit this . . . How do you find a lion that has swallowed you? -- Carl G. Jung, Meeting the Shadow (Abrams 1991)
Modern concepts of an unconscious mind, a virtual mare incognitum, offer little clarity for modeling and studying consciousness (Table 2, Gazzaniga quote below). Freud and Jung voiced ideas of a “non-consciousness” mind, and while not the first to dabble in this concept, their success is debatable (Ellenberger 1970). In one sense, scientific work commonly eschews such psychological terms, due to poor clarity and verifiability. In another sense, modern psychologists like Hillman argue Freud and Jung overreached in their attempts at structure. In fact, some claim naming a conscious and unconscious mind is entirely erroneous – a false dualism (Davis 2003, Progoff 1956).
[Otto] Rank's criticism of the theory of the unconscious echoed Alfred Adler's view that dividing the psyche into conscious and unconscious segments is both arbitrary and artificial. The human being, after all, lives as a whole. Freud freely conceded this point, but he held that the overlapping of consciousness and the unconscious is inherent in the mobility of psychic contents and that the conception of an "unconscious" area in the psyche is an essential tool for psychological analysis. Jung tended to agree with Freud in this regard, particularly during his earlier years when he developed his theory of the "collective unconscious." -- Ira Progoff, The Death and Rebirth of Psychology, p.205-206
This lack of useful structure for an unconscious mind defeats any attempt at modeling consciousness. It allows for no “common reason,” or form, for the unconscious mind to meet the grounded rational of a conscious mind (Social and Conscious Operation). To cover this lapse in structure, I make a necessary leap of faith. I present a concept of human creativity as Sub-Conscious Operation. I make this leap of faith for three reasons.
Ninety-eight percent of what the brain does is outside of conscious awareness. No one would disagree that virtually all our sensorimotor activities are unconsciously planned and executed. -- Michael Gazzaniga, The Mind's Past, p. 21.
|Conscious Functions||Unconscious Functions|
|Limited Capacity (finite percepts)||Huge Capacity (e.g memory)|
- One is that in the study of consciousness, perhaps the biggest problem is a lack of good models on how human memory works (an unconscious process), memory that is inextricable from consciousness and creativity (WYNC 2007).
- Two, is that we also lack clear models on how creativity occurs. In fact our grasp of what exactly creativity is, and how it works, is even less than that of memory.
- Finally, such a leap is indeed necessary. A complete view of consciousness demands some narrative on how humanity creates novel Life effects. Without such “creativity” somehow accounted for, a study of consciousness seems pointless – it simply holds no explanatory power over evolution.
In fact, a sound description of creativity is requisite in any practicable model of consciousness. It plies another litmus test to the study of consciousness, beyond the evolutionary theory test mentioned before. So, to address these issues, I form a concept of Sub-Conscious Operation, bounded as creativity.
In matching creativity with Sub-Conscious Operation, I map a segment of the unconscious mind for “creative causal affects” in natural selection. I identify the genesis and selection of new information, all as environmentally inspired within the psyche. In linking creativity and Sub-Conscious Operation, the unconscious mind is thus partly parsed to allow this study of consciousness to advance. Still, it must be clear in no way do I map the entirety of the unconscious mind, but only a necessary fragment in developing a specific model (Figure 7).
Others have called this particular creative human aspect “the dynamically active part of the unconscious mind used in creativity,” an awkward turn of words to be sure. “Sub-conscious” is a term most used by the lay public, but it rarely appears amongst traditional academics who are unwilling to speak of anything but an unconscious mind. When I press such academics for a description of the creative process, a phrase as noted above is typical. I use “sub-conscious” here as its lay meaning generally fits my purpose, with good literary economy. Further, it seems a useful way to memorialize work of Pierre Janet (who coined the term, but with different meaning), whose important and often overlooked contributions preceded Freud's.
Henri Poincaré, in his essay Mathematical Creation, suggests an alternative concept of “subliminal self” but this lacks the same popular grasp as sub-conscious. Freud and Jung also speak of a “shadow self,” but again the meaning is often unclear, and typically not well differentiated from concepts of an unconscious mind. There are other likely alternatives, but none as generally well known as the term “sub-conscious.”
We begin by considering . . . that natural selection is a creative process. We then review its relationship to evolutionary change. -- Robert Trivers, Social Evolution, p. 19.
The term sub-conscious is oft criticized as too vague in meaning for practical use. But it is precisely this vagueness that makes Sub-Conscious a perfect term. It mirrors the vagueness of knowledge, information, and temperament common to creative processes. As characterized before, “a thing” variously pointed to as: creative illness (Ellenberger 1970), mazeway resynthesis (Wallace 1956), cultural revitalization movement (Wallace1956a), sense-making (Weick 1995), and gestalt effect. All of which evoke chaotic traits, or “emergent behavior,” in the development of complex adaptive systems.
To address the complaint of vagueness, and to speculate on how memory functions within a creative role, I focus on three factors:
- temporal breadth,
- depth of perspective, and
- dexterous association.
Temporal Breadth of Memory
To explain temporal breadth: as an evolutionary device memory helps locate resource-rich and avoid resource-scarce environments. Within an organism's map of the Environmental Landscape, the breadth of that map affects resource access (Figures 8, 9).
Organisms with a personal memory “1 day wide,” recalling events only one day to the next, are unlikely to willfully feed on seasonal vegetal swings, etc. But in volatile environments, where fluid adaptation helps, “limited breadth” is a survival handicap. Organisms with memories 1 week, 1 year, 1 decade, or even 1 century wide (Figure 9), have advantage in recalling methods, means, and sites for accessing food, shelter, etc.
All creatures, large and small, are locked into the presentational spaces they hold. -- Michael Gazzaniga, The Mind's Past, p. 90.
Greater breadth of memory, gives a wider catalogue of environmental maps to organisms. And we can easily surmise these larger libraries then afford better access to resources. This library concept certainly applies to humanity's early oral traditions, as well as the distributed machine intelligence and memory of our era, notable as the Internet.
But our species extends its temporal sense well beyond anything we experience personally. Our sense of time takes us back 13.7 billion years to cosmic horizons, to temporal minutiae of quantum supercolliders, and big bangs. In a way, we have an experience of time that plainly transcends direct experience, and is, in itself rather fantastical!
Depth of Perspective
Second, as memories are encoded, each moment arrives as a cluster of experience – a “mini-complex” of simultaneous-coincident events and emotions. All organisms, and every individual within a species, capture differing impressions to form a unique subjective map of each moment (Figure 10; WNYC 2005).
Divergent physical and mental ability, sensate acuity, niche sensitivity, and subliminal and emotional tendencies, “all” prompt a uniquely inscribed experience. This sensate variability is well known in trial law, as eyewitness accounts are notorious as the least reliable evidence given in court.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant addresses “subjectivity of perspective” in Critique of Pure Reason, as “noumenon” (das Ding an sich – the world as it is) and “phenomenon” ("Erscheinung" the world as we experience it), a dualistic sense that underpins many modern psychodynamic models. Others, such as John Locke and David Hume voice similar views in a sense of “complex ideas” versus simple or “pure ideas” (fact?). In modern era, our subjective perspectives are also noted in work of Jean Piaget as “genetic epistemology,” a hereditary unfolding of self: continual transformation/ reorganization of one's directed experiences. Even later, Alan Schore (1994) and others define more emotional aspects of this subjectivity – now often referred to as “affect regulation.” Finally, neuroscience comes on the scene to support such emotional subjectivity, as detailed in Damasio's (2003) Looking for Spinoza, and other works (Silvia 2006).
The particular momentary spectrum an individual captures, defines their perspectival bandwidth. The more sensate a person is in their facultative range, the more detailed information they gather for later recall. And accordingly, more information means more richly encoded maps for better potential resource access. As before, this includes humanity's machine perception (instruments) – again, presenting a somewhat fantastical aspect in human perception, but with a well-known utility in science and industry.
Temporal breadth, together with depth of perspective form what is traditionally called episodic memory. To complete a modern view of memory (see below): episodic memory, in turn, is just one of two elements (the second being semantic memory – conceptual meanings) to make up what is usually called declarative memory. Further yet, it is declarative memory (recorded facts – mostly conscious) that combines with procedural memory (learning and skills – conscious and non-conscious) . . . to yield a conventional perspective on human memory. I do not use this specific view in the model here, but I make note of it now for later comparison.
depth + breadth = episodic memory
episodic memory + semantic memory = Declarative Memory
Declarative Memory + Procedural Memory = ALL MEMORY
There are perhaps many ways to describe human memory, but with episodic memory shown as breadth and depth of perspective, I can continue this development of Sub-Conscious Operation, and I now name a third and final facet – dexterity. This aspect of “dexterity” is core to the first argument (human agility) named in forming the unified views already alluded to in Figures 1 & 2.
The essence of man is his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic. -- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, p. 26.
The episodic memory mentioned above is attributed to many organisms, but a need to see “how humans differ from rats” still persists. I suggest the particular measure (degree of breadth and depth) to which any memory feature resides in a species begins to denote such difference. This is especially true for dexterity.
Dexterity can be seen largely as procedural memory – but in a non-traditional sense, as something other than just learning and skills. Dexterity as I use it points to a “skillful manipulation of Forms” – a dialogue between semantic memory (concept based knowledge) and procedural memory (learning and skills). This is a non-standard view of memory (Figure 11), a subtle variation of the memory presentation already given above.
As an example of this dexterity: in exploiting the Evolutionary Landscape, our species has few purpose-built tools such as fangs and claws. Instead, we have an agile physical form (fingers, etc.) that allows us to use rocks, sticks, etc. as pseudo fang and claw. In dexterously holding and manipulating Rock and Stick (physically and conceptually), we find tools for working the Evolutionary Landscape. It is a particular agility that in fact evolutionarily demands inventiveness of us!
The freeing of the hands of the early hominids was a preadaptation that permitted the increase in tool use and the autocatalytic concomitants of mental evolution and predatory behavior. Autocatalytic reactions in living systems never expand to infinity. Biological parameters normally change in a rate-dependent manner to slow growth and eventually bring it to a halt. But almost miraculously, this has not yet happened in human evolution. -- Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology, p. 569.
In the hands of early man, Rock must somehow become missile, hand ax, nutcracker, hammer, hide scraper, etc. And Stick must become back scratcher, fruit whacker, club, boomerang, fish spear, digging tool, and termite fisher. Individuals not making a dexterous behavioral association between physicalities in the environment, and their own particular agile form, are clearly disadvantaged. They collect less fruit, prey, grubs, etc., and reproduce at lower rates. But those who make this happy association find evermore inventiveness rewarded.
This deeply embodied agility (as a physical protoform) would then seem to demand equally elastic neural systems for basic operation. Hence, a versatile physicality – or rather, a lack of purpose-built fangs and claws – evokes a nimble neuro-psychology, and “innovation” flourishes in the survivors.
This agile neuro-psychology, then working with varied memories of diverse depth and breadth, thus finds a base of creative potential (Figure 12). As discrete encounters with individual rocks (r) and sticks (s) accumulate over time, a concept of Life's basic Forms as Rock, and Stick emerges; Durkheim's (1965) folk taxonomy, an “archetype radix,” or semantic memory. This occurs if the species can aggregate its experiences in memory as a gestalt map of shared properties for r1, r2, r3, etc., and s1, s2, s3, etc. Such aggregation and distillation is evidenced in the behavior of many organisms . . . while also pointing to Plato's forms and world of Ideas in humans (Plato 1997), but it does not stop here.
If we accept a human mythical tendency towards “some greater agency” (Becker's argument), these aggregated memories would then seem to amplify over time. More rock encounters yield more refined maps of Rock, and a more perfect Rock therein allows more insight and intuition when a next rock is found. Recursive loops iterate all Forms and related objects, and a simple narrative logic arises between “reality and abstract.”
As more diverse encounters are captured on the Evolutionary Landscape, these Forms proliferate and find a life of their own. They emerge as “ghosts” with potential self-agency, removed from any actual timeline, arising entirely from within our minds. And in a simple way, the fantastical strangely, and rather suddenly, becomes mundane!
In this “Form based” explosion of agency, all directed experiences and related outcomes, are transposed from one hierarchical level to another, from the real to the abstract. And in our later “creative ponderings,” we reverse this process as a function of recall, and orient towards making the abstract, real (reification). All this occurs, principally, as a continued unfolding of human agility, a central difference of “fangs vs. fingers” – the principal functional difference between Figures 2A “fangs,” and 2B “fingers”.
“Ghosts with self-agency:” a quavering potentiality of still-greater agency in objects, a nascent sense of magical thinking overlaid onto that object's Form. The “intuited potency” (base symbolic value) of the object is specific to the organism, or individual, interacting with the object. As suggested before (sidebar p.11), driven by an “epistemological richness” inherent to the organism's physique, with all information taking a shape coherent to the organism's physical form and function. Rock therefore means one thing to humans, and another to rats (one thing to Eskimo, another to !Kung); giving rise to an inherent “environment-organism-object latency.” This inherent organism-object latency is similar to Jung's protoform (Progoff 1956), but is also reflected more lately in Gibson's (1979) affordance theory.
Affordances consist in the opportunities for interaction that things in the environment possess relative to sensorimotor capabilities of the animal. -- Francisco Varela, The Embodied Mind, p.203
But humans then “magically” ascribe this potential (projected agility) onto the object itself in a naive effort at psychological self-facilitation of unrealized human ability, therein catalyzing ever more latent “greater agency” (a revealed Self). But then later yet, as we move into modern eras, and having:
- mastered many pedestrian Forms of our environments,
- grasped our own powerful pro-social agency (cooperative and combative behavioral habits),
this projective relationship is then further transcribed onto personal and political relationships. We see this in Barack Obama's (2006) presidential campaign of Hope vs. the Bush administration's campaign of Fear (Lakoff 2008). And as Ram Dass has said, we then find “Relationship becomes the yoga of the West.”
We spontaneously recombine “our libraries” in sleep dreams (unconscious introspection), daydreams (conscious introspection), child's play, and in most anything we might call entertainment, art, sport, fantasy, or intellectual exercise. This capacity for “recombinant creativity” is first evidenced in artifacts of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic Transition – perhaps enabled by an emergence of mirror neurons (Ramachandran 2000). Artifacts of this early period grow in richness and complexity, mythically remixing all elements and creatures (sphinx, griffin, etc.) as creative and cultural wherewithal expands.
Developmental psychologist Elizabeth Spelke (2008) suggests this recombinant skill is unique to humans, first appearing in three-year olds, but in changing form and degree throughout one's life. Peter Carruthers (2006) and Mithen (1996) argue such a natural recombinant ability (cognitive flexibility) is central to making any modular model of consciousness (popular amongst many who study the mind) a practical proposition. Finally, others like Norman Doidge (2007) and Stephen Jarosek (2007) speak of a neuroplasticity operating within the brain, evident in neurological recovery of lost function, but that is also easily seen as active in developing human cognition.
. . . for the longest time, for 400 years, we thought of the brain as like a complex machine with parts. And our best and brightest neuroscientists really believed that. It was a mechanistic model of the brain and machines that do many glorious things, but they don't rewire themselves and they don't grow new parts. And it turns out that that metaphor was actually just spectacularly wrong, and that the brain is not inanimate, it's animate and it's growing, it's more plant like than machine like and it actually works by changing its structure and function as it goes along. -- Norman Doidge, Kerry O'Brien speaks with Norman Doidge, ABC 30 July 2008
Returning to an immediate experience of this dexterity, these manifestly creative/ psychological linkages are not just crude, artistic, or fanciful. Early man marries and coordinates many of Life's diverse forms. Stick is not just spear and so forth, but also “floats in water,” “holds fire,” forms an “impenetrable thicket,” a “swing branch/ vine,” and on. And when man sees “stick twisted with rock” (r/s – Figure 12), he associates stick and rock in an idea of “Axe.” Ax is then even further recombined with other concepts and Forms to variously yield battle-ax, pole ax, ice ax, fire ax, mattock, hoe, etc.
Our ability to discern specific traits in objects, hold those traits in memory, and make spontaneous/ subjective associations amongst them, endows a powerful evolutionary tool. What essentially begins as a mapping of complex adaptive human sensorimotor ability (depth, breadth, and dexterity), allows us to see a rock rolling downhill, convert this image to a wheel, recombine that wheel with other Forms, and arrive at “new information” stretching from wristwatch, to airplane, and to further untold horizons. In an ultimate quest for some greater prosocial capacity, we ceaselessly expound these Forms, and we then coerce, cajole, co-opt, conspire each other in proving the limits of these evolving Forms – all to expand our Adaptive Continuum.
The aggregated properties of many Life objects and emergence of their subjective Forms, presents very basic subject-object modeling. This de facto articulation and cataloging of qualia has an evolutionary utility so plain, it makes Chalmer's “hard problem” difficult to see. But beyond basic subject-object modeling, this capacity for dexterous association shifts the “ground of cognition,” moving us well beyond basic subject-object modeling – and from psychological access, truly novel effects then begin to appear on the Landscape.
Our early Forms are long-since elaborated and extended in such complex multitude that the original animal necessity is barely seen, another informational void. As noted before, we now live in a world filled with psychological artifacts “made material,” strongly reminiscent of a much earlier worldview – Australian aboriginal songlines, where all objects have a dream life of their own, and gods wander the landscape singing their world into existence (Chatwin 1987, Mindell 2000). In retrospect, this early insight on “Life and creativity” seems an oddly accurate foretelling or our now-pedestrian modern ways.
Is there any evidence that hunger-gatherer communities engage in activities that resemble science? It is now a familiar and well-established fact that hunter-gatherers have an immense and sophisticated understanding of the natural world around them. They have extensive [taxonomic] knowledge of the plant and animal species in their environments . . . that goes well beyond what is necessary for survival . . . But it is [especially] the reasoning in which hunters will engage when tracking [or modeling behavior of] an animal that displays clear parallels with reasoning in science. -- Peter Carruthers, The Architecture of the Mind, p 341-2.
At some point we notice our own agency with these Forms, and in a self-consciousness way, Forms of the human figure then emerge. This newly-Formed “Self” arises in opposition to Earth (dualism); the arena where all human ability is recursively tested and honed. But in Forming our human agency, we have a first experience of “mind,” or consciousness. Becker clearly avows this “sense of agency;” akin to Chalmers' “something it is like to be [uniquely human].” But from our now improved vantage of “Self,” we then Self-importantly argue (via thoughts and deeds) for our elevation from a natural world (as soul-possessed, thinking, rational, etc.).
A resultant “theater of mind” then appears, where our Self-Forms inspire mythic and real battles (probate struggles of a Form's proof or negation), the hero's journey – much as in the Wizard of Oz. At the story's climax, we stand timidly before “The Great and Powerful Oz,” but our faithful servant and guardian, Toto (un-conscious mind, Coyote, trickster), sneaks aside to draw the curtain back. And what is revealed but a Great Mirror of Humanity (a “man”). And what for our reaction? In the midst of existential terror, do we throw the curtain closed, and deny sight of a terrifying Übermensch (a conscious Greater Self), and return to The Oz with ever more fervent prayer (sub-conscious Greater Self)? Do we strike the figure before us, as some naïve animal attacking its image in a mirror, indignant at imagined insults? Do we follow Toto's intuition and explore this new “subject-object latency,” prodding and testing its surface? Or do we bosom Toto's sense fully in mystical inter-subjective/ intra-psychic dialogues with a newly found potential Form?
The psychological transitions seen here are likely befuddling to experience. Spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen (2008, p. 42) notes, “most first discover consciousness through some form of spiritual experience . . . a momentous occasion when someone stumbles for the first time upon that miraculous dimension of the self that transcends memory and time . . . This discovery leaves a permanent mark on our souls.” But this related evolutionary transition of “animal, to allegory, to actual” is likely a bit more plain if viewed in a dry historic/ psychological light – a goal of this paper. In developing such study, a resulting “philosophy of history” must then go back to early moralizing mythology of oral traditions (first historic record), or earlier, but then also lead well into the modern era. Hegel famously named a need for such views in The Philosophy of History, but others have also contributed, particularly Otto Rank in Psychology and the Soul.
SUB-CONSCIOUS MIND IN ONTOGENESIS
To synopsize the foregoing expedition into Sub-Conscious Operation, Figure 13 gives an outline that is explained as follows:
procedural memory + semantic memory = Dexterity
Depth + Breadth = episodic memory
- First, with this three-part presentation of memory (left side Figure 13: depth, breadth, dexterity), part of the unconscious mind (Sub-Conscious Operation) is now parsed to meet the grounded rational of a conscious mind (Social and Conscious Operation). This fills an earlier named void in the model, and affords a fuller view of human agency.
- Second, in this three-part exposition of memory, a means for human creativity is now also apparent. Such a proposed view, as this, on creativity, makes this paper unique amongst related work in the literature (Runco 2007).
- Third, the present psychodynamic view of agency (center, Figure 13) is consistent with the earlier biodynamic model (right, Figure 2B) – except variability within each leg (stimulus, processing, and response) is shown in external fractal triangles. To capture and match psychodynamic/ biodynamic variability this way gives articulate flexibility (fractal granularity, scalable detail) to the model. Further, this cross-mapping of biodynamic with psychodynamic fortifies the earlier nature and nurture argument.
- Fourth, the biodynamic view of “abundant, scarce, neutral environments” (Figure 8 - a fundament of evolutionary dynamics) is herein psychodynamically transcribed as “high-dreaming, low-dreaming, middle-dreaming” (left side Figure 13). This also translates as “population increases, decreases, and no change,” with likely psychosexual implications for reproductive strategy (explored in Part III). This mapping of environmental effects and influences into a study of consciousness is uncommon in the literature.
- Fifth, all the above is accomplished in a way that utilizes a fairly conventional view of memory (Figure 11), but with subtle variations (low-center, Figure 13).
With this now completed view of Sub-Conscious Operation it is possible to speculate further on the roots of conscious origination. To consider “conscious origination” is to essentially propose an ontogenetic map for consciousness (Figure 14). But such a model of origination might then be applied to many organisms, and not just humans.
I explain this proposed map of conscious origins, as follows:
- first, a genetically determined Animat Proto-Form defines the organism's basic operating limits; a type of organized base “parameter information,” or physiognomy (see sidebar p. 11),
- next the organism cognitively grasps (from these parameters) a range of possible acts in working the environment, Interpretive Tendencies as “functional information” (e.g. “I can do this, but I can't do that.”),
- these experiences (parameter and function) are retained in memory as psychodynamic self-maps of “organism in environment,” through what I call Memory Process Affects,
- but the immediacy vs. ambiguity (specialization vs. dexterity, “fangs vs. fingers”) of each parameter and function (affordance), varies highly in many organisms, and a relative agility is incorporated (even “neural-ized”) as part of the Memory Process,
- such memories (fixed and variable, as they may be) are then available for psychological manipulation, as a function of recall – which in turn gives rise to Forms (subject-object modeling),
- these Forms are themselves subjected to further Memory Process Effects (splitting and recombining), giving rise to Archetypes (memory complexes, R/S in Figure 12), and Archetypal Radians, or “arcs of reasoning” (e.g. Rock/Stick > Axe > Pole Ax > Ice Ax > Mattock > Hoe > Hammer > Hammer Drill > Pile Driver, etc.), moving beyond subject-object modeling,
- These Archetypal Radians amass ever more Memory Process Effects, and persist or fail (selected for evolutionarily utility), as one of many narrative lines effusing toward some material realization, all in response to related environmental constraints, present from the start.
Figure 14 above shows a single direction of process, to emphasize origination, but its operation is more plausible as an iterating feedback loop. Further, this “map of conscious origins” can be overlaid onto the Adaptive Continuum (Figure 1), at its base, for more true-to-Life representation of a complex and diverse human reality (Figure 15) seen in the world. Finally, in this now branching Adaptive Continuum, with well articulated “originating elements,” some guesswork on underlying developmental events and methods also seems possible (explored in Part III).
Such a map of conscious origination echoes many behavioralist and information theory ideas on simple organismic control and regulation (Jordan & Ghin 2007). But a key difference here is this map uses terms of parameter and function, over “control and regulation.” 
An advantage of “parameter and function” is a more clear meaning, over terms of “control and regulation,” or even the earlier used biodynamic “stimulus and response.” Further, naming a distal gap between parameter and function (ambiguity, affordance) therein draws open a “creative space.” To cite such an ambiguous gap then demands (in an “information theory” way) naming of a third element – agility (i.e. processing). This agility, as a “variable novel aspect,” then shifts Life's evolutionary expressions from just parameter and function (purely biological, two-part), to a three-part model of “parameter, function, and agility” (informational richness).
As a final clarifying point, this “creative vehicle,” or “agent,” driven by variable environments (abundance, scarcity, and neutrality), must then reflect an equally variable capacity. This would suggest a type of evolutionary kaleidoscope, with facets aligning to refocus the organism's directed actions, as ability and circumstance allow or require (Figure 16).
LINES OF Evidence
That a model of human agency is herein presented, even one with strong intuitive appeal, says nothing about possible validity. To further advance this (or any) model of consciousness, direct evidence to support its premise and design must be ready at hand.
To meet this need for evidence, it was already suggested Figure 14 operates more as an iterating feedback loop of “nature and nurture.” As example of this mutuality of operation, humans continually modify their basic protoform (or parameters) for working the Evolutionary Landscape, via introduction of diverse complex tools (invented “fangs and claws”). Further, we continually intervene upon, and moderate external environmental constraints (roads, housing, cities, etc.), so that most any space we occupy is now filled with “psychological artifacts made material” – for what we then commonly call an “improved quality of life,” or “progress.”
Finally, we incessantly interpose novel elements into our own Memory Processes, reaching well beyond anything we could ever hope to externally and directly experience. Mathematics, philosophy, art, science – this capacity for internalized novel abstractive excess is quite clear and seems endless, even as “mental illnesses” (Ellenberger 1970).
Evidential testimony, as above, is rather plain as “things of a past reality that at one time did not exist, but now do;” a clear unfolding of culture, denied in our modern world only at one's own peril. This phenomenal Icarian Adventure of Man-Bird, in one ancient time sharing parables of “flying too close to Sun,” but now winging at Mach 1+, or soaring on paragliders, with eyes turned toward evermore speed and height, must seem plain. But I confess such evidence is perhaps a bit self-serving (tautological), so more data is needed.
If you're human, what is your environment but culture? The faster our ingenuity alters our habitat, the quicker we have to adapt in response. -- Robert Moyzis, Are We Still Evolving? (McAuliffe 2009) p. 53
For additional evidence: following the Icarian concept above, Figure 16, as a fractal map of the human psyche, also allows for basic mythic profiling. This is to say, the Greco-Roman pantheon of gods and myths can easily be plotted against this “agency,” as a scatter-gram: Sisyphus for low dreaming; Icarus for high dreaming; Vulcan or Prometheus for Bio-Energetic; Venus, Bacchus and Pan for Sensate; Croesus or Midas for Economic; etc. In a viable model of consciousness, one would hope to see such a linkage between psyche and early forms of social knowledge. And it seems likely this “profiling” could easily extend to traditions beyond a Greco-Roman system.
The problem of epistemology is to explain how real human thought is capable of producing scientific knowledge. In order to do that, we must establish a certain coordination between logic and psychology. -- Evert W. Beth (Piaget 1968)
Taking this idea of parallel views for psyche and social knowledge further yet, this model's original development began in an element common to all Life – environment. An environmental concept of “abundance, scarcity, and neutrality” is then suggested as reasonable baseline worldview for all Life. If we indeed accept this as baseline, we already begin “evolutionarily” with a simple triune form we can then elaborate further.
To begin, we might see an association between this most simple triune worldview, with certain implied “existential states” for humanity, and with further triune brain structure (MacLean 1990) as:
Scarcity > Survival > Reptilian
Neutrality > Social > Mammalian
Abundance > Creative > Neocortex
To be sure, reptilian, mammalian, and Neocortex, is not the only neurological triune we might use to represent the human brain (Singer 2008). And, equally important are the other obvious ways we visualize brain structure – as bilateral/ bicameral (right-left) brain models, and other more fine-grained views, are also evident.
But this simple triune relationship extends easily into other knowledge based views. We can now overlay psychology, reasoning, and spirituality onto this basic structure. For psychology, here we find Freud's rather famous “id, ego, superego,” and Gurdjieff's “emotion, instinct, intellect.” For reasoning there is of course Hegel's notable dialectic of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis.”
Moving further towards popular knowledge-based concepts, more famous is the Catholic Holy Trinity of “father, son, holy ghost.” And similar order also appears as “father, son, mother” in Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy (complete, with a Sphinx's three-part riddle). In Poetics, Aristotle cites Sophocles' trilogy as having perfect (three-part) structure, viz. peripeteia, anagnorisis, and catharsis (reversal, discovery, purification). Which then brings to mind the storyteller's “rule of threes:” a beginning, middle, and end; a Jin's three wishes, three bears, three pigs, three blind mice, three Musketeers, three brothers/ sisters, three trials, etc.
But this triune view is not limited to the West. In looking to the East we find Three Treasures of Taoism (compassion, frugality, modesty), Three Jewels of Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha: model, theory, community), three Buddhist traditions (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana), and three pillars of Chinese culture (Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism).
When we shift from popular and historic forms of knowledge, to more common modern memetic and scientific vistas, further triune forms simply burst forth:
- Temporal Sense – past, present, future
- Physical Dimension – height, width, depth
- Medicine: causes of all illness – environment, genetic, pathogens
- Education: states of learning – cognitive, associative, autonomous
- Evolution: forces of natural selection – purifying, directional, divisive
- Information Theory Core – data storage, retrieval, transmission
- Mathematical Mother Structures – algebraic, order, topological,
(And many, many more.)
To answer the earlier need for evidence, this triune view of consciousness illumes a linkage across the span of human Life experience. This is to say, an entire epistemological map (of being), to follow the earlier ontological map (of genesis), appears at hand. Reaching across ecology, physiology, psychology, logic, religion, science, a full human continuum is mapped to reflect expanding diversity and complexity; done in a way that blends biological and cultural dynamics (Figure 15) – the aforementioned nature and nurture.
This “epistemological map of human experience,” mirrors what is shown in Figure 1, and presents the second of the four arguments for a unified view of consciousness. This whole-map of human Life experience is extended in Part II to more social views. What is presented in Part I principally addresses psychology of the individual.
Clearly this triune presentation does not suggest an “only means” for viewing information or consciousness, as dualistic models are already noted. As example, the paragraph immediately above Figure 16 already illustrates a shift from simple two-part reasoning to more complex three-part reasoning – a cusp of new conscious dimensionality. This triune view simply demonstrates one way of tracking variability in complex human thought and function. And further yet, “even other models” can then be placed in a context of less, or more developed human states, for an evermore-whole view of the human experience – again, the topic of Part II.
Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem it was intended to solve. -- Karl Popper
As final point, in this quest for evidence a review of related work offers more insight:
- Jung strongly argued against any formal structure for the unconscious mind, as this would destroy its creative role. This unstructured bias rather defeats Jungian psychology as a science, while more structured behaviorist and Freudian views tend to prevail. But in this model we now have structure and creativity, via Sub-Conscious Operation, which neither Freudians nor behaviorists address (Davis 2003).
- Levi-Strauss saw myth as a universal human language (as did Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Freud). Much of his later work then attempts to define a topology for this imaginative function, which the proposed model now presents (Buchler 1968).
- David Bohm and Karl Pribram speak of a holographic cosmos and holographic brain, predicting the mathematical/ fractal design used in this model (Talbot 1991). With the psychological hologram herein presented, it seems now possible to plug an implied Bohm-Pribram “cosmology-neurology gap” (arguing for a thermodynamically unified view of consciousness – Part III). Similar holographic explorations might then lead to further expansion of unified perspectives across multiple traditional disciplines.
- With the kaleidoscopic form and function of this model, and with its cognitive structures and scalable granularity, the “frame problem” of how an organism orients itself to new problems is addressed (Mithen 1996). Finally, the proposed model conforms to Steven Pinker's five ideas for a new “computational theory of mind” (Pinker 2002). Those ideas being:
- the mental world can be grounded in the physical world by concepts of information, computation, and feedback;
- the mind is not a “blank slate”;
- finite combinatorial programs in the mind generate an infinite range of behavior;
- universal mental mechanisms underlie superficial cultural variations;
- and, the mind is a complex system of many interacting parts.
Yet other points of practical and theoretical evidence are added and expanded in Part II.
- Einstein's catalyzing insight on relativity came as he rode a streetcar to work, and in looking back at the main clock in Bern thought to ask, “What does time look like if this streetcar moved at the speed of light?”
- H. Lau (2006) in Are We Studying Consciousness Yet? touches this issue (and Faw 2006, expands) of “Just what is it we are studying?” – left unanswered, useful analysis of consciousness seems implausible.
- This approach assumes much foreknowledge in the reader, and sadly makes the paper rather dense. A later, more detailed/ popular manuscript is planned, and will give more thorough development of topics.
* Ecological Selection: natural selection minus sexual selection; strictly ecological processes operating on a species' inherited traits, where normal sexual selection is suppressed (e.g. "only available mate" scenario).
- Pro-social: both cooperative and competitive acts, with emphasis on social exchange. As in the apple example, pure cooperation/ competition seems rather fictional, and is better presented as a continuum.
- John Stewart Mill (1962) perhaps first named this non-divisible property of knowledge (apples vs. apple info.), but Gottfried Leibniz also points to similar differences between “the soul” and a material world.
- Steven Pinker (2002) in The Blank Slate offers a useful survey of some debates related to consciousness.
- This doesn't preclude similar, lower order, instinctual/ genetic operation of divisive perceptions. But that a perception is “analytic” makes it available for significant psychological processing and manipulation.
- A Coke bottle, discarded from a plane flying over the Kalahari Desert, disrupts life in a !Kung village.
- Michael Gazzaniga (1998), in The Mind's Past, and Steven Mithen (1996) in The Prehistory of the Mind offer similar “evolutionary theory test” arguments.
- As such experience seems relevant to our species (Boyer 1994, James 1936), this door must be left open.
- Related claims “against culture” are in evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, focused on biological over informational effects in evolution. But evidence of cultural evolutionary effects abounds; we need look no further than medicine's success in biologically extending life expectancy.
- Entropy: of philosophical and physics based meaning, generally meant as a universal tendency towards a lack of order/ predictability in Cosmos, a gradual decline into apparent disorder/ chaos of all systems.
- Edward O. Wilson (1975, p 574) in Sociobiology points to something similar as a “multifactor system,”
- In Part III, a strong sex drive in males, and biological primacy of females (mate selection, child rearing) is argued as central in catalyzing this invention. “Fantasized” sexual re-motivation of males, counterpoint to female reproductive roles, prompts highly divergent but non-exclusive “creative mandates” in each.
- Mithen names a fourth module, language intelligence, but tends to batch this with social intelligence; leaving it open that language might be more of an instinctual universal grammar, than mental process. Carruthers (2006) takes a similar view, suggesting language as a “content integrator” for other operations.
- The terms used here generally refer to traditional disciplines as sociology, economics, biology, kinesiology, etc. But as this model aims for universality, many sets of terms seem likely here.
- Novel and coherent tendencies and structures that arise during self-organization of complex systems.
- Root of a particular “arc of reasoning” (archetypal radian), subject to later branching and recombination.
- A capacity for basic modeling of environment, and an ability to anticipate the acts and intents of others.
- Typically dated 90,000BP, but with much earlier likely evidence. Mirror neurons fire when an animal acts and when the animal observes similar acts performed by another, allowing imitation and learning.
- James Burke's (2007) BBC series Connections 1-10 examines many of these unfolding radians.
- Principally following Vilmos Csányi's (1989) “auto genesis” from Evolutionary Systems and Society.
- The self-diagnosed afflictions of Freud and Jung, central in developing their new schools of thought.
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