Wednesday, August 01, 2012

II Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

The study of how we know (epistemology) has been a fashionable area of scholarship for centuries, but the fact that it has attracted so much attention is a sign not of progress, but rather an indicator of regressive decline. It is evidence of a desperate striving to discover what has caused the elision of our humanity, a deficit that has enlarged to the point that contemporary scholars no longer have the tools essential to interpret many ancient, late antique, medieval and some modern texts that are key to their research. The post-Cartesian mindset that allows for only one, merely linear epistemology is an existential anachronism, especially when applied to texts that are based on two epistemologies—one of them global or holographic—that are interdependent. The grip of the Cartesian vis [c]e is so strong that many of those who write, who depend and draw on the holographic part of the mind that is out of their sight and out of their control—though not out of their influence—cannot seem to make the connection that they are drawing on a greater, if differently rational, thinking mind. The concern for the Other needs to begin with one's one mind!
Even those thinkers who for centuries have sensed that there is something wrong with the Cartesian project seem unable to grant that the holographic part of the mind that is not directly accessible is in fact thinking and rational, in fact, far more rational than the self-conscious mind. This reluctance persists due in part to the lingering influence of Dr Freud and his nemesis, positivism; and even in the face of Gödel's theorems that prove that formal systems are both incomplete and self-subverting.  Iain McGilchrist likens the present confusion to a flock of penguins crowding at the edge of an ice cliff, waiting to see who will be the first to jump into the sea.
The left side of the diagram indicates the small capacity, linear, hierarchical, two-dimensional, self-conscious mind that interprets, categorizes and speaks. David Brooks in The Social Animal suggests that it can hold in play perhaps 40 items at any one time and it deludes itself that it has everything under control. This is the self-conscious mind, as in, 'Don't be so self-conscious; be yourself.' Its world is artificial; everything it thinks is reified and bent to its own purposes. It re-presents; its re-presentations are dead. It gives the illusion of objectivity.
By contrast, the right side of the diagram indicates what I shall call the deep mind, which is holographic, and has an almost unfathomable capacity. It is objective in fact. It can hold up to 11 million items in play at any one time. This part of the mind sees directly; the world manifests to this part of the mind. It processes the more polyvalent aspects of language, such as metaphor, and is the source of insight, but, crucially, it does not speak. This part of the mind isn't directly accessible but it can be influenced through intention, such as setting your interior alarm clock in order to wake up at a certain time in the morning. But it does far more: it is the place where connections are made, where our most complex thinking is done. Its perceptions are alive. We can open to this hidden treasure by what is often called unknowing, a kenotic relinquishing of the self-conscious mind's ideas, concepts, expectations and speech, along with the two-dimensional analytic faculty that generates them. 


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