THE FACES OF THE SELF
THE FACES OF THE SELF: INTROSPECTIVE INSIGHTS
THE FACES OF THE SELF: INTROSPECTIVE INSIGHTS
Copyright©2018 by SAMHITA K
#55, 16th cross, 13th main, Malleswaram West,
Bangalore 560055, India
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
Fondly dedicated to my parents
Preface: The genesis of this book commenced in the month of January 2017. I have always wanted to write and hence I decided to put together a book on the multiple hats worn by the self/ individual. I wrote my first poem at the age of 9 years and since then, there’s been no halting. I write to express my innermost feelings, my angst, and my joy. Writing for me is a cathartic medium. I started gathering information to write this book in early January 2017. I visited some libraries like the National Institute of Advanced Studies library, the Alliance Française library and bookstores like Blossoms and Bookworm. I bought a small collection of books to write this book. I also referred Google books, magazines like Psychologies, journal articles, scientific essaysand banked upon my own introspective insights. The concept of the “self” is brought out in a few chapters whereas its inclusion is latent as well as implied in other chapters. I hope this book will stir and stimulate your mind and make you think beyond the ordinary. Since I am a young psychologist, I do not expect this book to be paralleled with erudite books in the discipline. I do hope, though, that I have made a fruitful start for many more books to come.
Acknowledgement: I give my heartfelt thanks to my parents who keep telling me to “do more”. I give my gratitude to Dr. Gopukumar Kumarpillai, my evergreen mentor for giving me his views on Chapter Nine and for his constant support and encouragement. I thank my aunt Usha K.R, a writer who provided valuable tips on writing this book. Finally I thank my friends for their appreciation and encouraging words.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Writing Self: The Path to Infinity
Chapter Two: The Conditioned Self
Chapter Three: The Rest-less Self
Chapter Four: The Racist Self: All in the Name of Colour
Chapter Five: The Thinking Self
Chapter Six: The “Self” and the “Other” in Consciousness
Chapter Seven: The Transpersonal Self
Chapter Eight: The Metaphysical Self
Chapter Nine: Representing Reality: Perspective, Perception, Patterns and Weights
Chapter Ten: Rationality beyond Space-Time
Chapter Eleven: The Philosophical Self: Monologues of Closet Philosophers
Chapter One: The Writing Self: The Path to Infinity
René Descartes famously quoted, “I think, therefore I am.” Edward de Bono added another element to the quote by saying, “I do, therefore I matter.”
I say this:
I think, therefore I ink.
When I think about the exercise of writing, a string of thoughts emerge in my mind.
Who am I at this moment, as I write? What happens to my self as I write? Am I the person writing or am I the writing itself? Or, am I the intersection between the writing and the writer? Who am I now? After I’ve finished writing, do I still remain the person I was, like a minute ago? Has my writing changed me? Has it changed my self? Have my words impacted my soul? Has my soul grown? Who can give me lucid, crystallized answers to these questions? Have I changed someone’s thoughts by virtue of my writing? Have they become better or worse after having read the write-up? Human writing has enormous potential. The written word can do wonders. Sometimes a book can change your life. Often times, a page or a paragraph can. Many a time, just a sentence or even an impactful word has the potential to transform a person’s life. A writer, if he/she lived forever, would probably write forever, infinitely. Writing is limitless. It is infinite because infinity exists or so the mind believes. Yet, what is infinity? I agree that it cannot be quantified. Nor can its opposite –nothingness. In nothingness, can I find everything, like the great poet Pablo Neruda said? Perhaps I can. Let me then go there where nothing is waiting. I’ll find everything waiting there.
But I will not say I will write nothing. I will write a few somethings, I will pour an infinitesimal cup or two of water into the vast ocean of knowledge. And that will be the inception that leads to infinity!
Chapter Two: The Conditioned Self
The following poetic lines illustrate the tricky phenomenon of conditioning.
I succumb, I can’t.
I try again,
I fail again.
I succumb again…
I don’t judge.
I remove the invisible chains,
I don’t have to try.
I naturally win.
Again and again.
But I only realize that I have become conditioned
When a bibliophile looks at an eye-catching blurb on a book, she/he might immediately think of buying it from a bookstore. When a writer looks at a writing prompt in a literary competition poster, she/he feels the urge to write and immediately starts thinking on those lines. These are a few instances where conditioning is in play. Such conditioning is beneficial to the individual and promotes self-growth.
There are other types of conditioning such as addiction, and impulsive behaviours, etc which are risky and detrimental to the individual. For instance, craving for weed everytime one feels bored or low, and engaging in risky sexual behaviour brought about by stimuli as simple as the smell of a masculine perfume.
The self is conditioned right from childhood and certain behavioural patterns are formed and sustained, sometimes throughout the lifespan.
So what exactly is conditioning? Conditioning, in physiology, is a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response. Early in the 20th century, through the study of reflexes, physiologists in Russia, England, and the United States developed the procedures, observations, and definitions of conditioning.
An analysis of classical conditioning and engrams reveals that they share a direct relationship between them and that engrams or “memory traces” occupy a crucial place so far as classical conditioning is concerned. Apparently each time a person is conditioned, his/her brain forms an engram.
Classical conditioning involves automatic or reflexive responses, and not voluntary behavior. It is one of the most basic forms of associative learning.
Engrams refer to a means by which memories are stored as biophysical or biochemicalchanges in the brain in response to external stimuli. The biological conceptualization of a memory was given a name—an “engram”, by the German Zoologist Richard Semon in 1921 (Semon, 1921). Richard Semon propagated that information is not only encoded into memory but that there are ‘memory traces’ (engrams) or after-effects of stimulation that conserve the changes in the nervous system. In addition, he contended that these changes in the brain (that is, engrams) have a genetic component.
Now let us address the scenario of classical conditioning. For instance, you accidentally bite your tongue really hard when you are eating chocolate and simultaneously thinking about someone who has had a great positive impact on your life. The next time, if you happen to bite your tongue while eating a chocolate bar, there are chances that you will automatically associate it with that revered person in your life. If you do happen to think of that person again, there is a high possibility that the next time, in a similar situation involving episodic memory, you will be reminded of him or her again. It might also get deeply engraved in your brain, and create an engram. These memories are stored within neuronal ensembles in the brain.
Certain episodes which have left an impression in the person’s mind in the past can continue to do so whenever a similar stimulus comes into contact. These episodes generally tend to be of an impressive nature. It is more probable for a negative event to trigger such a response when compared to positive events. A person with a certain phobia has been conditioned to feel fear every time he or she encounters the fear-causing stimulus. For example, the sound of thunder (CS) could create a response of fear (CR) if the person met with an accident on many rainy days when there was a lot of thunder before the rain. A particular perfume (UCS) could create a response of happiness or desire (UCR).
Classical conditioning emphasizes the importance of learning from the environment. But behavior is due to an interaction between nature (biology) and nurture (environment). Classical conditioning is also a reductionist explanation of behavior. Complex behavior is broken down into smaller stimulus – response units of behavior. Those who subscribe to a reductionist approach opine that it is indeed scientific. Breaking complicated behaviors down to small parts implies that they can be tested scientifically. The reductionist view lacks validity and it can lead to incomplete explanations. Another criticism of classical conditioning theory is that it is deterministic. In other words, it does not allow for any degree of free will in the individual. Accordingly, the individual has no control over the reactions he or she has learned from classical conditioning.
It has been suggested that at least a part of the “engram,” the essential neuronal plasticity that codes the learned response, may be localized to the cerebellum. Scientists have found that associative synaptic changes take place in neurons of the amygdala during fear conditioning, and that these changes require dopamine-mediated modulation. Evidence endorses the view that engrams are formed in the hippocampus and in the cerebellum in classical conditioning of discrete behavioral responses (e.g. eyeblink conditioning). A variety of techniques such as electrophysiological recording, lesions, electrical stimulation, pathway tracing are employed to identify the essential memory trace circuit for a given form of learning and memory. Using classical conditioning of eye blink and other discrete responses as a model system, the essential memory trace circuit is identified, the basic memory trace is localized (to the cerebellum), and putative higher-order memory traces are characterized in the hippocampus.
“It is only through silent awareness that our physical and mental nature can change. This change is completely spontaneous. If we make an effort to change we do no more than shift our attention from one level, from one thing, to another. We remain in a vicious circle. This only transfers energy from one point to another. It still leaves us oscillating between suffering and pleasure, each leading inevitably back to the other. Only living stillness, stillness without someone trying to be still, is capable of undoing the conditioning our biological, emotional and psychological nature has undergone. There is no controller, no selector, no personality making choices. In choiceless living the situation is given the freedom to unfold. You do not grasp one aspect over another for there is nobody to grasp. When you understand something and live it without being stuck to the formulation, what you have understood dissolves in your openness. In this silence change takes place of its own accord, the problem is resolved and duality ends. You are left in your glory where no one has understood and nothing has been understood.”
? Jean Klein
Jean Klein in this quote contends that silence and non-judgemental awareness can help one overcome the phenomenon of conditioning.
To truly live life without any form of conditioned behaviour seems impossible. The brain has been programmed and conditioned for years to filter reality. Without conscious effort, it is not possible to un-condition oneself. Expanding one’s awareness and horizons, formation of new attitudes, deletion of the old self, exposure to novel stimuli, learning new things, and an effort in perceiving reality with objectivity are ways to overcome past conditioning.
J. Krishnamurti has said, “Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning. You may never be free of it, and if you say, ‘I must be free of it’, you may fall into another trap of another form of conditioning. So are you aware that you are conditioned? Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, ‘That is an oak tree’, or ‘that is a banyan tree’, the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it.” Thus, there is no doubt that engrams play a significant role in eliciting the conditioned response. It can be safely concluded that the formation of an engram and classical conditioning go hand in hand. One must endeavour to unlearn, relearn and re-engineer the conditioned brain to experience emancipation from the shackles of conditioning.
Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/conditioning
Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/conditioning
Mccormick, D.A., Lavond, D.G., Clark, G.A. et al. Bull. Psychon. Soc. (1981) 18: 103. doi:10.3758/BF03333573
McLeod, S. A. (2014). Classical Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/classical-conditioning.html
Ramirez, S. (2014, January 17). Identification and optogenetic manipulation of memory engrams in the hippocampus. Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00226/full
Thompson, R. F. (2004, June 10) In search of memory traces. Retrieved from https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/insearchofmemorytrace.pdf
Retrieved from https://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/daily-quote-list.php?t=Conditioning
Chapter Three: The Rest-less Self
If you’re always busy, woven yourself into the web of “doing” rather than just “being”, if you’re up and about, dynamic and trying your hand at an array of things, it’s considered socially desirable. Ultimately, you’re rest-less!
Australian singer Lenka starts off her song “Everything At Once” by these lyrics :
“As sly as a fox, as strong as an ox
As fast as a hare, as brave as a bear
As free as a bird, as neat as a word
As quiet as a mouse, as big as a house
All I wanna be, all I wanna be, oh
All I wanna be is everything.”
In the era that’s hugely technology-driven, the average person is constantly on the move (more so, online, rather than on one’s feet). Driven by the urge to know everything that’s being posted on the Internet, people have become Surfers of the Net rather than Surfers on a Surfboard, which would be physically more beneficial.
Information overflow, in turn causes an ebb and flow in the mind, a sort of turbine that needs to keep running, receiving bits and pieces of information 24/7.
Doing more leads to increase in feeling good about oneself, albeit ephemerally. If one does not run after information and updates, one becomes uneasy and wants to know what’s going on out there. FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is what Behavioral Scientists call it.
Oh well! There are ‘n’ number of things happening all around the globe and one can only learn a certain percentage of it all.
If you’re not online, there’s another type of “Itch” with regard to the outside world. There is a craving, a certain amount of insecurity, envy, a sense of incompleteness and even a tinge of depression when you see people posting updates regarding places, events, hangouts, people they’ve met (be it peers, pals or influential people/ celebs). You immediately feel that you ought to do these things too, in order to accept yourself as a worthy person. What the heck is going on? How on earth can the virtual world affect you so intensely, every so often? It deprives you of peace of mind and makes you neurotic.
A study finds that there’s another element to social media’s growing list of negative effects: A “spiral” of envy that develops when you see your Facebook friends exceling or enjoying life in ways that you aren’t. The good news is you’re not alone in your bitterness. The bad news is that the solution (aside from shutting down your account) isn’t entirely straightforward. We’ve all felt Facebook-inspired pangs of jealousy when we flip through the pictures of friends lounging on the beach when we’ve just trudged through the snow to the office. These feelings of jealousy or envy have to do with the comparisons that we implicitly make between ourselves and our “friends,” or in many cases, our distant online acquaintances.
Dr. Hanna Krasnova, who led the study at the Humboldt-Universität, points out how different social interactions in social media vs. real life can be. “By and large, online social networks allow users unprecedented access to information on relevant others — insights that would be much more difficult to obtain offline.”
“From a provider’s perspective,” the authors conclude, “our findings signal that users increasingly perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may endanger platform sustainability.”
My mind transports me to a poem we had to study in our undergraduate course, by Imtiaz Dharker, titled “Question I”. It is a poem on the monumental role of the Media in everyday life and goes like this:
I have the biggest remote control of all. I can channel-hop and skip and jump across the world, turning your voices on and off, start and rewind, play and stop, fast forward squeak and double-speak, murmur mutter mute stammer stutter gabble rattle rap rasp shout croak shriek whisper scream chant sing. Nothing.
You’re off the air.
Am I there when I can’t hear your voice?
I wonder what would happen if there was a global communication lapse for a considerable period of time. Would we finally be able to take our mind off things, unwind and take rest?
Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/01/22/jealous-of-your-facebook-friends-why-social-media-makes-us-bitter/#4a1979c535cc
Chapter Four: The Racist Self: All in the Name of Colour
We live in a world full of colours, of colourful beings and of colourful things. What two scientists have said about colour is insightful.
In their introduction to Simon Baron-Cohen’s book Mindblindness (1995), two cognitive scientists, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby make the following remarks about colour:
Scientific investigations have led us, logical step by logical step, to escape our fantastically insistent, inelastic intuitions. Far from being a physical property of objects, colour is a mental property.
Specialized neural circuitry of the brain “colours” our perception of the external world. This permits us to savour the multicultural world out there and appreciate beauty in everything, albeit ephemerally. Thus colour is a mental property created by the most complex structure in the known universe – the human brain.
Despite our appreciation of everything colourful like picturesque landscapes, nature in all its raw beauty, sophisticated man-made structures, art, architecture, etc., we somehow do not appreciate all sorts of skin colour. We have been culturally conditioned to put Caucasians on a pedestal and some of us are secretly or blatantly in awe of fair skin. This is quite bizarre and some of us seem to attribute superior qualities to people with fair skin. In this context, we are all prey to the “halo effect”. Do we treat dark chocolate or Belgian dark chocolate flavoured ice-cream the same way? Or do we consider vanilla ice-cream as superior in taste just because it is white in colour? Why have we, as a race become so irrational and biased towards skin colour?
Dr Alexis Carrel, Noble Laureate and author of the outstanding book “Man The Unknown” makes racist remarks in the book by stating thus:
Resistance to disease, work, and worries, capacity for effort, and nervous equilibrium are the signs of the superiority of man. Such qualities characterized the founders of our civilization in the United States as well as in Europe. The great white races owe their success to the perfection of their nervous system – nervous system which although very delicate and excitable, can, however, be disciplined. To the exceptional qualities of their tissues and consciousness is due the predominance over the rest of the world of the people of western Europe, and of their swarms in the United States.
It is a shame that notable personalities like Dr Carrel have gotten away with such statements and imposed on readers such disgraceful impressions. What is amusing about Dr Carrel and his work “Man The Unknown” is that he has raised an important issue of the moral degeneration of people, which I believe he must first apply to himself.
Intellectual maturity and “cleansing” of the brain is the need of the hour. We must cease to be hypocrites and deal effectively with our own hidden biases. Let us take the example of Blacks who are the target of racist crimes in several countries across the globe. White offenders have been conditioned to view Blacks in a negative light, owing to their skin colour and other physical features, which are some of the reasons for the perpetrators to commit such hate crimes. By the same token, black coloured clothes are adored by the white fashion industry and black outfits are deemed “sexy” and “cool”.
Only an intellectual or cognitive revolution can change the present scenario. We must win the war in our heads or risk witnessing racism in all its subtleties and gross manifestations. Ted Grant aptly says, “When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls.” Thus it is crucial for us to go to “Black and white” mode to see the soul of people of all skin colours, not to forget other skin colours like brown, yellow, and so on.
All in the name of colour, let’s brighten the world by unconditional acceptance of all skin colours. For it’s a beautiful and a colourful world.
Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. MIT press.
Carrel, A. (1961). Man: The Unknown.
Chapter Five: The Thinking Self
What is thought? What are the mechanisms that trigger thought or thinking? What goes on in the brain when we think? What are the limits of thought? Is there a general characteristic that differentiates mental phenomena from nonmental or merely physical phenomena? Questions like these instigate thought. That is to say that thinking about thinking or metacognition occurs.
Thinking is quintessentially conscious. Thinking encompasses everything that the conscious mind does. This includes perception, mental arithmetic, remembering a phone number, or conjuring up an image of a pink elephant. Going by this definition, thinking simply is equivalent to conscious cognitive processes. Psychologists define thinking as the manipulation of mental representations of information. Subjectivity or qualia (a quality or property as perceived or experienced by a person) is one of the hallmarks of the mind. William James in 1890 proposed the idea that thinking is a constant ongoing stream of thoughts.
An examination of stimulus-response situation casts more light on the baffling nature of the mind. Although the same stimulus is presented to a group of participants, each participant might have different perceptions of the same stimulus and respond differently. This can be due to a multitude of factors like heredity, environment, perspective, perception and experiential learning. A stimulus, by itself can result in a chain of thoughts or a stream of thoughts. For instance, when a picture of a candy is shown to the perceiver, and the latter is instructed to articulate the first natural response that comes to mind, he or she might give it connotations like sexual connotations, or a plain response like hunger pangs, drooling, or the thought of his or her favourite candy brand, etc. The state of mind, mood, immediate needs, and strong memories associated with a candy might surface into conscious awareness. Thus, it is possible that one particular stimulus can generate a series of interrelated thoughts.
The mind is mysterious, strange and unfathomable till date. What we know about the nature of the mind is still in its infancy. It may be stated that when it concerns the body, scientists have reached an understanding similar to the expertise with which Milton or Shakespeare wrote but with regard to the mind, cognitive scientists are still “learning the alphabet”. One mind-boggling phenomenon is the fact that a person, when instructed to not think of something for a minute, like a pink elephant, ends up thinking about and conjuring up a pink elephant for 60 seconds. In such a case, the cognitive control on the part of the person is at stake. The listener is unable to navigate from the point of imagining a pink elephant to imagining something else. Even if this happens, the pink elephant would end up being at the back of the person’s mind and will not leave the pond of consciousness till the task is completed or a new task is introduced. Rare exceptions to this rule may exist in enlightened individuals, who are believed to have the ability to think of nothing and to have the capacity to empty their mind. In such a context, another witty, thought-provoking question which states, “Presuming that ‘nothing’ is a concept, doesn’t thinking of nothing by itself mean something?” seems to give a different angle to the discussion. If the individual surpasses this stage and literally thinks of nothing, not entertaining even the connotations of nothingness, then he or she is said to have achieved a state which language cannot yet label.
Let’s take a brief look at some key issues in the philosophy of mind, a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind (mental events, mental functions, mental properties and consciousness) and its relationship to the physical body.
An unsolved issue in cognitive science is the mind-body problem: the problem determining the relation between the mind and the body. The mind-body problem is one of the oldest, most intriguing and difficult problems in the realm of both science and philosophy. The mind and the body are like two sides of the same coin and are interrelated. For example, if a person is pinched by another, he or she experiences pain no matter where he or she gets pinched. If the person is pinched on the shoulder, can we say that that is the locus point of the mind? This is implausible, given that all parts of the body can experience pain if pinched. Then one might suppose that the mind exists where sensation and perception are focused. Some Indian philosophers have asserted the view that the mind exists outside the body, in different loci in the environment. Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at The University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine School of Medicine, said that the mind is: “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.” The mind extends beyond our physical selves. It is not solely our perception of experiences, but experiences themselves. Siegel argues that it is impossible to completely disentangle our subjective view of the world from our interactions.
Another unresolved issue is the hard problem of consciousness. This refers to the problem of explaining how and why we have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors, sounds and tastes. David Chalmers contends that the really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious entity. This subjective aspect is what we call experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of greenness of lush appearance of flourishing vegetation, the experience of darkness and light, and the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a flute, the smell of perfume. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.
How do we justify our existence? French philosopher René Descartes’ well-known quote, “I think; therefore I am” convinces him that he can be absolutely certain of his existence and is a perfectly indubitable bit of knowledge. Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking takes one step ahead of Descartes by saying, “I do, therefore I matter.” Doing and thinking is not the same thing. Thinking is mental, doing is physical or kinesthetic. This takes us back to the cognitive revolution, the name given to an intellectual movement in the 1950s that began what are collectively called the cognitive sciences. George Miller says, “Psychology could not participate in the cognitive revolution until it had freed itself from behaviorism, thus restoring cognition to scientific respectability.” Cognition is a buzzword as of today and holds a lot of promise for unravelling the mysteries of the mind.
Merely philosophizing about the nature of the mind will not fetch many answers. A scientific bent of mind and logical method is essential. What happens in the brain when we think? Neurons fire, brain waves are active and chemicals are released. Despite having dabbled with the anatomy and physiology of the human brain in the last century, we don’t actually have a better comprehension of how consciousness and cognition arise in the brain than it arises out of immaterial soul-stuff. The ghost in the “machine” – the soul, is believed to be the truth of who we essentially are. According to parapsychology, the seat of the soul is the pineal gland in the brain. Reality as we know it is not reality but is an illusion. The real reality is beyond matter. What are the upper limits of thinking? Tim Bayne in his book “Thought: A Very Short Introduction” poses questions like, “Are there aspects of reality to which we are cognitively closed? Are there ‘known unknowns’ and the ‘thinkable unthinkables’?” He further opines that it is very unlikely that our powers of thought are absolutely unlimited.
Is there a general characteristic that differentiates mental phenomena from physical phenomena? Philosopher J. P. Moreland outlines several differences between physical and mental entities in the book he co-authored with Gary Habermas, called “Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality.” The reader is asked to picture a pink elephant again. Moreland says that when we close our eyes, we will see a pink property. There is no pink elephant outside us, but there is a pink image in our mind. In addition, there is no pink entity in our brain; a neuroscientist cannot open up our brain and see a pink entity while we are picturing the pink elephant in our mind. Moreland concludes, “The sensory event has a property – pink – that no brain event has. Therefore, they cannot be identical. The sense image is a mental entity, not a physical one.”
So how do we climb the cognitive ladder? It can be accomplished by being cognizant of the inner and outer environment. This is the first step in enhancing our cognitive capabilities. Other means to improve our cognitive functioning is to train the brain by engaging in cognitive enhancement tasks, like those found on sites like Lumosity and enabling our brain to grow more neurons by keeping the brain active. A futuristic view of visionary physicists contends that thoughts have miniscule mass and hence we must choose our thoughts wisely, send out positive thoughts to the cosmos, because of the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. The subtle effect is known as quantum entanglement – the phenomenon where certain objects interact and become related to each other in such a way that even when separated by large distances they continue to share certain characteristics in common, even when those characteristics change. Einstein called it “Spooky Action At A Distance.” Prayer is a form of quantum entanglement. When we pray for each other, we become entangled with them, and them with us. Here lies the beauty of the interlink between quantum physics and cognitive psychology.
Thoughts are powerful and if we prophesize good thoughts, it is highly likely that it will happen in the future. For a person is the product of his or her thoughts, at the rudimentary level of existence. Negative thoughts appear to have more psychological ‘weight’ as compared to positive thoughts. Perhaps it is due to the evolutionary survival value in ancient times. Harboring positivity seems to be the only way out to ascend the cognitive ladder.
Siegel, D. J. (2015). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. Guilford Publications.
Chalmers, D. (2007). The hard problem of consciousness. The Blackwell companion to consciousness, 225-235.
Chalmers, D. J. (1995). Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of consciousness studies, 2(3), 200-219.
Miller, G. A. (2003). The cognitive revolution: a historical perspective. Trends in cognitive sciences, 7(3), 141-144.
Bayne, T. (2013). Thought: a very short introduction (Vol. 343). Oxford University Press.
Habermas, G., ; Moreland, J. P. (2004). Beyond death: Exploring the evidence for immortality. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Chapter Six: The “Self” and “the Other” in Consciousness
The state of being cognizant or aware of one’s internal and external environments is termed ”consciousness.”
The philosophical state of self-awareness is the awareness that one exists as an individual being. One knows that the self exists by the constant mechanisms of the mind that, like the gushing of waves, engulfs the self or preoccupies the self.
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that behavior and personality derives from the constant and unique interaction of conflicting psychological forces that operate at three different levels of awareness: the preconscious, the conscious, and the unconscious. The conscious self is different from the preconscious self in that the preconscious is located in between the unconscious and the conscious locales. The unconscious section is at the bottom of the iceberg that is extremely full with thoughts milling around while the conscious is the tip of the iceberg with fewer thoughts.
Let us explore the enigmatic self and the ”I” that a person refers to, when he or she indicates his or her own self.
Here I am, my body made of elements that once were stardust, drawn from the far corners of the universe. Who or what is this ‘I’ that I think I am? When you direct attention towards yourself, you may feel with certainty that you exist as an entity. Can you bank upon this certainty or are you a victim of “the illusion of self”? Do you really exist? Where do you begin and where do you end? These questions have perplexed philosophers throughout the history of humankind.
Oxford’s Derek Parfit, a philosopher dealing with the issue of personal identity says:
Given what we now know, what I really am is my brain. On this view, moreover, I am essentially my brain…Personal identity is not what matters. Personal identity just involves certain kinds of connectedness and continuity.
The continental existentialities, particularly Heidegger and Sartre, whose conclusion that at the heart of the self there is nothingness (‘I am the null basis of a nullity) has contributed to much of nihilism in modern philosophy. On the other hand, quantum physicists hold the view that it is in nothingness that one finds everything. Pablo Neruda echoes the same thought in his poem titled “You Will Remember”. He says, “So we go there, where nothing is waiting; we find everything waiting there.”
I am something that is nothing and everything. Is this statement valid for all individuals? Does it really make sense to the layman or to the erudite philosopher alone? Is ‘I’ fluid all the time? If there are no ”ripples of thought” in the pond of the self, and the self is in deep sleep mode, does it exist at all?
According to Titchener:
All human knowledge is derived from human experience…and there can be no essential difference between the raw materials of physics and the raw materials of psychology.
Is quantum physics behind the brain’s ability to think? “That’s a perfectly legitimate question”, says Fisher. On one level he is right – and the answer is yes. The brain is composed of atoms, and atoms follow the laws of quantum physics. Danah Zohar, author of “The Quantum Self” divides the self into sub-selves and contends that the successive sub-selves are linked together by the thread of memory. She says that for the quantum self, ‘now’ is a composite of already existing sub-selves. Our selves as we were before ‘now’ form their own wave pattern on the ground state of consciousness- the Bose-Einstein condensate. A Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC) is a state of matter of a dilute gas of bosons cooled to temperatures very close to absolute zero (that is, very near 0 K or ?273.15 °C). Under such conditions, a large fraction of bosons occupy the lowest quantum state, at which point macroscopic quantum phenomena become apparent.
Personal identity on a moment-by-moment basis is formed by the overlapping wave functions of the things that cause ripples and patterns on the condensate such as thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc.
As Self 1 fades away into the past, in the next second, Self 2 takes over and so on. If memory is diminished or destroyed, it diminishes or destroys the connectedness between selves. Memory is a thread that links successive selves, a facility of the brain to record the brain states of one day and play them back the next day or the next time the person recollects the matter. This process is akin to how one perceives human history. Parfit sees human history as a chain of successive selves, each linked contingently by a degree of ‘physical and psychological connectedness’. The weaving of the web of the self happens moment by moment, as the wave functions of the past selves overlap with the wave functions of the present self, giving rise to what is called ‘quantum memory.’
The polyphonies of the self render it challenging if not difficult to study it objectively. Am I the end product of the brain, the mind, the soul, and consciousness? Or am I the thoughts that I think, the emotions that I have and the intentions that are behind my actions? Am I qualitatively describable? Are qualia the ultimate explanation of the self for a noetic understanding of the self?
How much can I change the future by altering my perception of the now? If I am “hung up” on the past, I will choose to see the future as I saw the past. If, on the contrary, I alter my perception of the now, then my altered view will change the future! The self lives on, from the womb to the tomb. If conceived as being a tabula rasa, one must fill the self with wise thoughts and sagacity for it to attain self-transcendence.
According to Danah Zohar, “To know fully the person that I am, I must understand the relationships that I am – the wave aspect of my being.” Thus, an understanding of the relationship between the self and ”the other” is rudimental in better understanding of the self.
The concept of the “Other” is a well-defined concept in literature, philosophy, psychology, anthropology and sociology. The founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, identified the Other as one of the conceptual bases of intersubjectivity, of the relations among people.
The concept of “the other” is a complex one, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it means. In some way or the other, we are all “others” to someone, and everyone else is “other” to us. We can never fully know the other, and even if we strive to do so, “the other” is like a constantly changing fluid. By the same token, there can be no ‘I’ without a concept of the other. The ”I” cannot get away from the concept of the other, because it is crucial for an understanding of the self. Sara Rismyhr Engelund in the Introductory Essay: “The Other” and “Othering” remarks, “The power of definition is a strong one, and when used in the context of othering, it continues to reinforce discrimination.” The concept of ”the Other” instills in us a sense of exteriority, the fact that someone or something is outside our physical terrain. The self needs “the other” to plot the boundaries of itself. In most cases, the self cannot thrive without “the other”, that is, without social relations. Exceptional cases include the lives of saints, recluses, etc. In this sense, “the other” belongs to the self in umpteen numbers of ways. The self can be pictured as being a co-author of the world, the other author being the other people like kith and kin. Our points of view have special statuses as our windows of reality. Experiential learning is by far one of the most vital aspects of existence. The self must be true to itself first, and thereafter true to “the other”. The ethic of self-centered behavior and self-importance is encapsulated in the “Gestalt Prayer” which was central to the 1960’s self-awareness movement and strikes a chord even to this day:
I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance, we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
Let us then, become increasingly mindful and aware and let the self and “the other” become wiser and exercise balance in the experience of the world. For, our world comes about through a mutual dialogue between ourselves, our “selves” and “the other.”
Zohar, D. (1990). Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness. Morrow, New York.
Strange, J. R. (1978). A Search for the Sources of the Stream of Consciousness. In The stream of consciousness (pp. 9-29). Springer, Boston, MA.
Chapter Seven: The Transpersonal Self
“There is something out there, beyond the intellectual mirage. At least we’re explorers.”
This is a quote I coined on one particular Teacher’s Day. What I intend to convey in the quote is the latent presence if the transpersonal element in the nature of things and in things themselves. It is also personally true in the experience of learning and in knowledge acquisition.
The word transpersonal means denoting or relating to states or areas of consciousness beyond the limits of personal identity.Transpersonalpsychology is a sub-field or “school” of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. It is also possible to define it as a “spiritual psychology”. The transpersonal is defined as “experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos”.It has also been defined as “development beyond conventional, personal or individual levels”.
Transpersonal psychology emerged as a field in the late 1960s.
According to the article “Brief History of Transpersonal Psychology” written by one of transpersonal psychology’s founders, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, in the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies:
In 1967, a small working group including Abraham Maslow, Anthony Sutich, Stanislav Grof, James Fadiman, Miles Vich, and Sonya Margulies met in Menlo Park, California, with the purpose of creating a new psychology that would honor the entire spectrum of human experience, including various non-ordinary states of consciousness. During these discussions, Maslow and Sutich accepted Grof’s suggestion and named the new discipline “transpersonal psychology.” This term replaced their own original name “transhumanistic,” or “reaching beyond humanistic concerns.” Soon after- wards, they launched the Association of Transpersonal Psychology (ATP), and started the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. Several years later, in 1975, Robert Frager founded the (California) Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, which has remained at the cutting edge of transpersonal education, research, and therapy for more than three decades. The International Transpersonal Association was launched in 1978 by myself, as its founding president, and Michael Murphy and Richard Price, founders of Esalen Institute.
According to the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (which is a private graduate school founded in 1975):
Traditional psychology is interested in a continuum of human experience and behavior ranging from severe dysfunction, mental and emotional illness at one end, to what is generally considered “normal”, healthy behavior at the other end and various degrees of normal and maladjustment in between. While an exact definition of Transpersonal Psychology is the subject of debate, Transpersonal Psychology is a full spectrum psychology that encompasses all of this and then goes beyond it by adding a serious scholarly interest in the immanent and transcendent dimensions of human experience: exceptional human functioning, experiences, performances and achievements, true genius, the nature and meaning of deep religious and mystical experiences, non-ordinary states of consciousness, and how we might foster the fulfillment of our highest potentials as human beings.
I’d like to quote unquote some lines that I wrote out of inspiration on different days. They’re as follows:
• In the midst of the whirlwind that restricts our perspective, we forget who we are and who we can be.
• You can be an ocean in between the waves.
• What makes your heartbeat stop? What is that one thing that creates the “Cocktail party effect”? When you’re feeling sleepy, what makes you become alert and interested? What makes you push boundaries? Physiologically speaking, what makes your body energized? What gives you the adrenaline rush? What awakens you in the morning? What makes you feel awe and wonder in life? What kinds of people fascinate you and what kinds of people do you admire? What ignites your soul and sets a spark in it?
Whatever it is, it’s your life purpose.
• When you look at nature in awe and wonder, be it sandunes, snow-capped mountains, cascades, stalactites, vales, clouds, deserts et cetera, you realize that they speak a language of their own. When you listen intently you might be able to comprehend a wee bit of it through your intuition. Nature is mysterious, unfathomable and beautiful. It’s almost as if it contains elements of sorcery in it.
• God moves, works and exists in mysterious ways. Pay attention to environmental cues, cases of synchronicity and transpersonal experiences. For that is one of the ways in which God manifests Himself. And most importantly listen to the wind for it talks, listen to the silence, it speaks. And listen to your heart, it knows.
• All fields of knowledge are essentially equal and interrelated when you think about it. This is a philosophical truth. There’s mathematics in poetry, mathematics in psychology, psychology in history and history in everything. And so on and so forth.
Transpersonal Psychology is one of the most beautiful schools of psychology. It instills hope, a sort of hope that reminds the seeker that there’s something beyond the ego, that there’s magic out there. If only we can see to see and seek to harness the potential in one’s self, it can open doors to a world of wonder and awe. And hope anchors the soul.
I would like to give an account of a few of my personal paranormal/ transpersonal experiences.
The Jasmine Flower incident: It happened on December 1st 2012. I was praying vehemently in the ‘puja’ room. During that time, I was a Master’s degree student at Surana College pursuing my first semester of MSc, in Psychology. I was in a dilemma and I did not know whether I must choose Industrial Psychology or Clinical Psychology as my specialization in the second year, It was an emotionally charged prayer and I was asking God the following: “Should I take Clinical Psychology or Industrial Psychology?” while looking at the jasmine flower on the ‘shivalinga’. All of a sudden, when I worded the words Clinical Psychology, the jasmine flower literally nodded! Was I taken aback or startled? No! I was at peace and felt it was a normal divine intervention. I was joyous that my dilemma was resolved and I immediately telephoned one of my friends and told him about the incident. And yes, I happened to take up Clinical Psychology in the second year and I don’t regret the decision because my life journey would never have been the same if I had chosen Industrial Psychology.
The ‘Humans are Gods’ Incident: When I was listening to the song “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya back in 2015, I experienced something awe-inspiring and revelatory. As I was watching the video of the song on YouTube, I got the adrenaline rush and felt that humans are the real Gods, that we are living a life of illusion about true human potential and that infinite achievement is possible by humans.
The Christmas Gift Incident: I got a gift from my friend Kiran in Surana College while in the first semester of my Masters. The night before I received the gift, I saw the very same thing, I was lying down on the bed in my wooden room and was preparing to go to sleep. Like a bolt out of the blue, I saw Lord Shiva’s back and long black hair, with a bracelet on one of his wrists. The bracelet was red and yellow in colour. Basically it was a bow and contained some arrows. The next day in college, Kiran gifted me a bow and arrow in the very same colour combination. I was taken aback and at the same time inspired by what had happened. Even to this day, I remember the Lord Shiva that I saw as a snapshot image. He still looks gorgeous and heavenly.
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
– Albert Einstein
We have now come to a new phase of adventure of consciousness. Through its humble beginnings as an attempt to comprehend the peak experiences of exceptionally healthy people, transpersonal psychology has blossomed into an international, interdisciplinary movement. Transpersonal experiences, potentials, and traditions, once dismissed as fantasies, pathologies, or fictions, are now being explored and lauded. The transpersonal movement is more than a gnostic intermediary. In addition to translating knowledge it is actively involved in creating new knowledge.
A collective awakening is essential. This collective waking up is the adventure of consciousness and for this we must pursue the paths beyond the ego with a transpersonal vision as our torch bearer.
So when we’re entrapped in the great chain of being, let’s make the best use of what we have beyond the ego – our transpersonal self. For what we do reflects our beliefs about who and what we are.
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpersonal_psychology
Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/11/03/6-facts-about-transpersonal-psychology/
Walsh, R. E., ; Vaughan, F. E. (1993). Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision. Perigee Books.
Chapter Eight: The Metaphysical Self
The word “metaphysics” emerged in the mid 16th century: representing medieval Latin metaphysica, based on Greek ta meta ta phusika ‘the things after the Physics’, referring to the sequence of Aristotle’s works. The title came to denote the branch of study treated in the books, later interpreted as meaning ‘the science of things transcending what is physical or natural’ or the study of things which ‘go beyond’ physics. One is engaged in metaphysics when one tries to get behind appearances and describes things as they actually or really are.
Everybody has a philosophy and metaphysical viewpoints. William James defined metaphysics as “nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly.” To think metaphysically, according to Richard Taylor, is to be able to think, without arbitrariness and dogmatism, on the most basic problems of existence. The problems are basic in the sense that they are fundamental, that much depends on them.
There are two basic impulses to study metaphysics. One perspective, emphasized by Aristotle is the need to comprehend how things work and how they are linked to each other. The second one is the need to know why, to understand the meaning of things and especially, the meaning of one’s existence. Thus a philosophical individual may pose the questions, “Why am I here?”, “What is the meaning of my existence?”, “What is the meaning of life?” and so on.
There are a plethora of theories which include Interactionism, Materialism, Idealism, Epiphenomenalism, Double Aspect Theory, Parallelism, Pre-established Harmony and Occasionalism.
Interactionism: This theory contends that the connection between mind and body is that of cause and effect, that one’s body acts upon one’s mind, and that one’s mind acts upon one’s body. It contends that this causality is what connects and unites the two into one person.
Materialism: In the effect to obviate the necessity of connecting mind and matter, the existence of the mind is denied.
Idealism: This theory denies the existence of matter, maintaining that all bodies, including one’s own exist merely as ideas in the mind.
Epiphenomenalism: Theorists subscribing to Epiphenomenalism claim that the body acts upon the mind to produce consciousness, thought and feeling, but the mind itself has no physical effects.
Double Aspect Theory: According to this, there is really only one kind of substance and what we call “mind” and “body” are simply two aspects of this.
Parallelism: According to Parallelism, mind and body, being different substances, never act upon each other, but the histories of each are nevertheless such that there seems to be such a causal connection.
Pre-established Harmony: It has been suggested that parallelism is wrought by God, who, in creating a person, arranges in advance that his mental and physical histories should always be in close correspondence without interacting, in the manner of a pre-established harmony.
Occasionalism: According to this theoretical perspective, all of one’s mental life is caused, from moment to moment, by God, who sees to it that this mental life is in close correspondence with what is going on in the body.
Metaphysics deals with questions such as “Is there more than one actual world?” “What is truth?”,”What signals the death of metaphysics?” and so on. To the first question, the metaphysician may contend that the word “world” could refer to “the sum total of everything that exists, period.” In this sense of the word “world”, there could be no more than one world, even if one takes into consideration parallel worlds. The typical metaphysician may answer the second question in hand, that is, “What is truth?” by stating, ‘that which deals with the true nature of things.’ What is it that signals the death of this discipline? According to Hilary Putnam, itis ontological relativity that signals the death of metaphysics. By this she means to say that the sole real evidence with respect to what a person is speaking about or means when he/she speaks is his/her observable behaviour and the environment in context. Thus what exists is relative and not certain, in which case metaphysics ceases to exist.
Putnam, H. (1988). After Metaphysics, What?. Van Inwagen; Zimmerman, 1998, 388-392.
Chapter Nine: Representing Reality: Perspective, Perception, Patterns and Weights
When we refer to reality, are we referring to a simple univocal reality? Or is reality but grey, neither black nor white? How does one construct reality? Are there instances where shifting the paradigm shifts one’s perception drastically? What is the quintessential difference between perception and perspective? Do they both affect each other or are they unilateral in the effect on the individual?
One can safely say that perception and perspective are two sides of the same coin. Indeed perception provides perspective. Perspective refers to a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something. It is a point of view, On the other hand, perception is the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. Another term in this context is frame of reference. A frame of reference is a particular set of beliefs or ideas on which you base your judgements of things. Thus it is slightly different from the definitions of the words ‘perception’ and ‘perspective’.
If there are ‘n’ number of people, there are ‘n’ number of perceived realities. The way in which savants look at reality is very different from the ‘lens’ used by laypeople. Reality is neither black nor white but a continuum of grayness. Each individual constructs his/her reality based on life experiences, previous learning, socio-economic background, schemas, racial identity, etc. The construction of reality begins at the time of conception and can change throughout the lifespan. If a person is rigid, his/her perception of reality may crystallize in childhood and not alter much throughout the lifespan. If on the other hand, the person is flexible and open, and welcomes change, the perception is fluid-like and does not remain fixed or static. Shifting one’s paradigm can alter perspective. For instance, we know that we are on land and that the sky is above us. If the paradigm shifts, we may say that we are actually floating upside down. Although perception and perspective are two different words, they are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably.
In a sense, perception is not real. It is like adding butter to a dish. When there is butter, the dish tastes slightly different. Perception is also connected to the community, religion and culture, and the person is influenced by these factors. In the bargain, the individual’s originality is lost.
Patterns are behaviors which keep repeating themselves due to conditioning. Each individual is unique and has his/her own patterns of responding to stimuli. It is not always static and can be dynamic and fluid. The patterns may get crystallized during childhood or change as the person moves up the age ladder. An individual may behave in one way in Person A’s presence but behave in a totally different way in Person B’s company. This can be attributed to social cognition, emotional state, motivational factors and so on which can be either conscious or subconscious. The domain of interpersonal interaction is complex and cannot be unveiled in a jiffy.
Childhood behavioural patterns and biomemeories shape the adulthood.
These patterns consist of responses and reactions. Behavioural responses are conscious and cultured whereas reactions are subconscious. Reactions reflect the real personality and may be compared with sudden jerky movements. How does one break free from the patterns of conditioned thoughts, feelings and actions? Non-judgemental behaviour is one good way of unshackling oneself from the conditioning process. Unconditional acceptance, empathy, emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence also play a major role in getting out of the trap of conditioning.
The world’s leading high performance coach Brendon Burchard talks about the psychological weight people give to their thoughts in a YouTube video. The ‘weights’ assigned to something is important. The frequency of thought, emotion, and volition, the duration and the intensity of the behaviour are directly proportional to the ‘weight’ that that particular behaviour gains. By focusing on positive thoughts, training the brain, tuning to the brain to positivity and thus changing the content of the ‘weight’, life takes on a new green path of re-conditioning. It’s like keeping a kilogram of nutritious food on the right palm and a kilogram of garbage on the left palm. Whatever one chooses to consume decides what happens later. Positive cognitions must become habitual to rejuvenate the mind.
Personality is based on structured and unstructured systems. These systems can be in the outer environment or in the individual’s internal environment. To know the true colours of an individual, one may say jokingly, “Get him or her drunk”, or “Place a hidden camera in the person’s room without his/her knowledge.” In the private space, the person is himself/herself, unadorned with any artificiality. The individual’s true perceptions, perspective, patterns and ‘weights’ can be uncovered in the private sphere.
Rancière, J. (2007). The future of the image (p. 109). London: Verso.
Chapter Ten: Rationality beyond Space-Time
Rationality refers to the quality of being based on or in accordance with reason or logic. It means being rational, and agreeable to reason. “Rationality” has different specialized meanings in philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, game theory and political science. The cognitive sciences, psychology, and economics are intimately linked in their interest in rationality. Human rationality is characterized by its capacity to relate strategically to the future. Psychology has always been concerned with both rational and irrational aspects of behaviour. According to psychology, even abnormal behaviour involves the exercise of thought, reason and logic. Sigmund Freud was insistent that there is method in madness, that neuroses and psychoses were patients’ solutions for problems that troubled them. The quantum mechanics view of rationality is quite different. Whenever something comes up that isn’t consistent with classical theories, it is often labelled as ‘irrational.’ But from the perspective of quantum cognition, some findings aren’t irrational anymore. They’re consistent with quantum theory—and with how people really behave, according to Joyce Wang. Quantum physics deals with ambiguity in the physical world. The state of a particular particle, the energy it contains, and its location—all are uncertain and must be calculated in terms of probabilities. Quantum cognition comes into the picture when humans have to deal with ambiguity mentally. Sometimes individuals aren’t certain about how they feel, or they feel ambiguous about which option to choose in which case they have to make decisions based on limited information. With the quantum approach, Wang and her colleagues argued, many different and complex aspects of behaviour can be explained with the same limited set of axioms. Thus it can be said that one is not irrational but quantum probabilistic.
The lines of rationality become blurry when one encounters paranormal phenomena or psi. During such instances when one comes across a paranormal phenomenon, rationality is blotted out and the principles of conventional science fail to bear fruit. For instance, in precognition wherein a person can accurately predict the future without the help of the five senses, there is no rational explanation. Quantum physicists may explain this as a bleed in the space-time continuum by attributing precognition to one’s existence in a parallel universe, much ahead of time than our own. This is a feasible explanation although it might take us years to actually prove the existence of parallel universes by scientific means. The parallel universe theory was incepted in the 1950s and the 1960s. Parallel universe theory introduces a new and paradoxical way of thinking. It provides an alternative explanation for psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder. Accordingly, in a client with schizophrenia, the hallucinations are real and are emanating from another universe. When it concerns dissociative identity disorder, the different alter egos are real selves in other universes.
With the discovery of quantum physics – the physics that governs the behaviour of atomic and subatomic matter, gaps in our knowledge were filled and physicists started looking at matter in a very different light altogether. It was discovered that observation plays a vital role in the atomic world. One might ask, then are atoms conscious? If they know they are being observed, why do they behave differently? Do they have a ‘self’, which one may call ‘the quantum self’?
Certain types of processes display a ‘beyond spacetime’ property—or nonlocality as evidenced in the quantum entanglement—, including psi, proven to operate beyond-brain and beyond-spacetime. These anomalies are not only at odds with Relativity but also with the indeterminacy of Quantum Mechanics. This brings up the question of unseen worlds, worlds which we’re able to access but unable to travel to physically. Right now, the unseen worlds merely seem intangible and their existence is yet speculatory. Visionary physics deals with such matters, as explained in the book “Space time and Beyond” by Bob Toben and Fred Alan Wolf. Space is anything that occupies a space or helps contain something. Space refers to the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
Time can be seen as a property that exists when we speak of something moving or the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.Although the term space is devoid of dark speculation, philosophers have regarded time as a dark subject of speculation since everything revolves around it. Time is perceived as being enigmatic and sometimes even incomprehensible. Like a glass thrown onto the floor shatters, the linearity of time is one that matters. The glass pieces cannot be put back together in one piece. In the same way, time once lost cannot be regained. Paradoxically, the access to parallel universes adds a whole new colour to this scenario. Wormholes or shortcuts in space-time are believed by some theorists to be the secret passage to other universes. A wormhole can be visualized as a tunnel with two ends, each at separate points in spacetime (i.e. different locations or different points of time), or by a transcendental bijection of the spacetime continuum. A wormhole could connect extremely long distances such as a billion light years or more, short distances such as a few meters, different universes, or different points of time. As of today, the existence of wormholes is still speculatory and still in theory.
Quantum cognition is a new field which suggests that the mathematical principles behind quantum mechanics could be used to better understand another inexplicable area of knowledge: human behaviour. Decision making, one of the higher cognitive processes can be subjected to quantum analysis. It is said that the making of a decision collapses a thought wave into a particle, according to Jerome Busemeyer and Peter Bruza’s book Quantum Models of Cognition and Decision. “We argue that the wave nature of an indefinite state captures the psychological experience of conflict, ambiguity, confusion, and uncertainty; the particle nature of a definite state captures the psychological experience of conflict resolution, decision, and certainty,” they write. Another key concept in quantum cognition is the idea of “complementarity.” Two ideas are complementary if they are incompatible. This is similar to the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which states that if one is certain of a particle’s position in space, then he/she must also be uncertain of its speed, and vice versa. When this is translated to decision-making, this means that if one is certain about what one thinks about one thing, he/she can’t simultaneously be certain regarding what he/she thinks about another thing. Behaviours that appear irrational under classical probability models become lucid and rational under quantum theory.
“Rationality itself depends on how you define it,” Wang says. “It’s perfectly consistent with theory, and so it’s rational. Quantum rational.”
Rationality is defined differently in different areas of knowledge. The term rational refers to being of sound mind and having (or exercising) the ability to reason. In psychology, being rational means using conscious thought processes to solve problems. On the other hand, in quantum physics, the word rational is dealt with from a different approach. It is argued that there is nothing about quantum mechanics that defies the laws of logic. No logical contradictions are obtained through quantum mechanics. Nor does quantum mechanics imply the truth of statements that are known to be false. One might think it’s contradictory that a cat can be both alive and dead, but that’s no more illogical than the fact that a chessboard is both black and white. If one wants to know how you can approach quantum mechanics rationally, one must accept that his/her intuition might be wrong. Then, he/she must examine the evidence for the quantum picture of the universe (such as the double slit experiment). Finally, he /she must revise his/her intuition accordingly. Another way of perceiving quantum mechanics is impressive. The reason behind why people believe quantum mechanics is it is one of the best theories which can explain the world the way it is. Occam’s razor tells us that the most promising theory contains the least number of assumptions. The only thing which was assumed here was Planck’s constant. The reason behind why the theory survived after much criticism is because it follows intuitive reasoning. A few examples demonstrate this sort of rational thinking and emphasize that quantum physics is rational in its own way, which are as follows:
1) Whenever someone asks us where we are, we cannot tell them our position with precision, because the more we try to know our position, the more we lose our time. (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle)
2) At the time when we open the refrigerator and start looking for the chocolate- the answer we would get is either Yes or No (Schrödinger’s cat)
3) Whenever we gossip about a third person whose sixth sense is considerably high, he/she would get the information intuitively in the form of negative vibes or intuition (quantum entanglement)
4) A person goes to a press conference and doesn’t notice the person who was serving drinks to him/her in the midst of the conference. (God’s particle).
Rationality is dependent on its operational definition. Its definition varies from one discipline to another like customization of a product for a particular customer. Thus rationality is approached from different paradigms in this article, based on whether one is dealing with quantum mechanics, quantum cognition, abnormal psychology or parapsychology.
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationality
Elster, J. (1979). Ulysses and the sirens: Studies in rationality and irrationality.
Simon, H. A. (1986). Rationality in psychology and economics. Journal of Business, S209-S224.
Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2015-09-youre-irrational-quantum-probabilistic-human.html
Chater, N., Felin, T., Funder, D. C., Gigerenzer, G., Koenderink, J. J., Krueger, J. I., …&Stanovich, K. E. (2018). Mind, rationality, and cognition: An interdisciplinary debate. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 25(2), 793-826.
Hardy, C. H. Nonlocal consciousness in the universe: panpsychism, psi & mind over matter in a hyperdimensional physics. Journal of Nonlocality, 5(1).
Wolf, F. A. (1990). Parallel universes. Simon and Schuster.
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormhole
Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/09/how-quantum-cognition-can-explain-humans-irrational-behaviors/405787/
Chapter Eleven: The Philosophical Self: Monologues of Closet Philosophers
According to Kant, we cannot learn philosophy; we can only learn to philosophize.
Philosophy is not merely a field of study but also a way of life. Philosophy is the science of separating true from false knowledge, beliefs, and statements (Lenz, 2017). For eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell, philosophy pointed to a new and better way of life. Russell contends that philosophy has a value; its chief value derives from the greatness of the objects which it contemplates, and the freedom from narrow and personal aims resulting from this contemplation. Through “philosophical contemplation” of the vast impersonal universe, a “philosophic life” is “calm and free.”
Pierre Vallaud in his book “Initiation à la philosophie” defines philosophy as becoming aware of oneself, becoming aware of the world, to question oneself and to question the world.
I asked three well-known closet philosophers from my circle to elucidate their views on philosophy.
Closet Philosopher One: H.R Bapu Satyanarayana
Age: 85 years
Profession: Retired Chief Engineer, Ministry of Transport.
Past Affiliations: United Nations and World Bank
Mr. Satyanarayana commences with zeal and enthusiasm as soon as I ask him to talk about philosophy. He says that I can probably call these philosophical ramblings. He opines that each philosopher goes through a process of deep thinking. He contends that there are five things in a person, namely mind, reason, logic, intuition and faith. The mind is raw and pristine. Reasoning, logic and intuition are essential elements for survival and exist in a hierarchy. Reason and logic have limitations whereas intuition doesn’t have upper limits. Faith is the ultimate; it is something beyond intuition, ingrained in the individual as an aggregate of all life experiences. To philosophize is to not have any cross-current of thought. The mind behaves like a monkey, giving rise to contradictory thoughts. Pure reality emerges when the mind dies. Mr. Satyanarayana firmly believes that there is nothing beyond the self, that is, there exists no reality beyond the self. Each person is an embodiment of reality. Philosophy, he continues, is an art and science of living that leads to a life full of wisdom and maturity. It comes about from the heritage of one’s country that enshrines thoughts of evolved personalities. Understanding the self is the purpose of life. Self-realization requires one to go through an entire gamut of experiences and experiential learning. It occurs when one unconditionally accepts and surrenders to Almighty.
Closet Philosopher Two: Andrew Joseph
Age: 64 years
Profession: Consultant Architect
Mr. Andrew Joseph pauses for a while after I ask him to speak about philosophy. He ponders over a little and then begins. He contends that philosophy is basically search for the truth. It also entails questioning oneself, which is of utmost importance for philosophers. To discover the truth, the philosopher must exhibit love for knowledge. With knowledge and understanding, the person arrives at the truth. It is important, he emphasizes, for the philosopher to believe in himself/herself and to believe in his/her caliber. In theology, all truth ends in God whereas the philosopher must deal with multiple truths at times. Finally he says that anyone who is quest for the truth or believes that truth is the only way forward is essentially a philosopher.
Closet Philosopher Three: Dr. Gopukumar Kumarpillai
Age: 48 years
Profession: Neuropsychologist, Past Life Regression Therapist and Hypnotherapist
Affiliation: Bangalore Neuro Centre
Dr. Gopukumar is a multifaceted person and has a variety of interests. He spontaneously commences by saying that the self is guided by intrinsic motivation. As a past life regression therapist, he has learnt that half an hour before the person dies, the unfulfilled wishes surface in the mind and the person forms an internal picture of it all. This half an hour is crucial as it is what Dr. Gopukumar calls ‘soul memory’, which is recorded in the memory of the soul. The occupation that one chooses in the next birth would be based upon the soul’s desires in its previous birth. To become highly philosophical, keeping silent works, which is called “Maunavratha” in Kannada. Maintaining complete silence for about 4 or 5 days leads one to become a philosopher. Enlightened selves also do not speak many a time, especially when engaged in philosophical or spiritual contemplation. They only engage in internal dialogue and the ideas that arise as a result are philosophical in nature. Following “Maunavratha” can also serendipitously lead to Eureka moments and intuitive and/or insightful experiences.
The philosophical self, Dr Gopukumar continues, preaches and teaches. Any research becomes philosophy after a certain level. Even a PhD degree in Science becomes philosophy once it is proven. Dr. Gopukumar concludes by saying that all of life is philosophy and all knowledge is philosophy in the end.
A string of philosophical thoughts come to my mind which I articulate thus:
I think, therefore I am.
I do, therefore I matter.
I think, therefore I ink.
I philosophize, therefore I shall be remembered and
I shall leave footprints behind the sands of time.
Lenz, J. (2017). Russell on the Value of Philosophy for Life. Philosophy Now, 120, 9-11.