Discussion in 'Culture' started by Joe Fitzgerald, Apr 12, 2017.
Welcome to the forum, and thanks for this post. I skimmed through the paper and this type of material is what I've been hoping to have discussed here. In this case, going to what is the underlying nature of 'culture' and consciousness. I'm going to take more and read it more thoroughly.
Any thoughts on the role of 'ritual' in the entrainment of the individual and collective mind? Is our contemporary mass media 'entertainment' taking the place of such as overt religious ritual?
Thank you very much, Richard.
One of the most important aspects of ritual, as I understand it, is that a collective group engages in it together, so popular media certainly qualifies. This collective aspect imbues the collective mind with a sense of normalcy that can powerfully affect the individual participants' perception of reality, even to the degree of what we may call hypnosis. Another important component of ritual, as I see it, is the aspect of passive role playing where the participants psychological selves merely play the roles of the ritual. Participants' may become so absorbed in the role-playing that their psychological selves come to accept the "play" of ritual as reality prima facie.
Something television, radio, and religious rituals have in common is that they take place in real time, and this constant involvement of the participants' mind and attention leaves them unable, or often unable, to disengage from the present context to consider what is being presented or what is happening in their mind and with their emotions - they are caught "in the spirit of the moment". Literature may have this same ritualistic power, though as it doesn't take place in real time, it leaves the mind able to more easily disengage of its own accord. Also, reading stimulates the imagination to render and conceptualize the words meanings whereas television draws in our attention in a way that doesn't leave much to the imagination, unless we consciously analyze what we are being presented. I don't think there is a hard rule for what is or isn't ritual, though the difference is apparent, but learning how to recognize mental entrainment when it happens, I believe, enables us to make the choice of if and how to engage our minds, and this, I believe, is at the heart of what developed consciousness is!
Is "developed consciousness" a formal concept, or some general term, as with something like Transcendental Meditation, etc.?
Your(?) paper made me think about the possibility of developing something akin to open source software development, but rather for allowing communities to take control of their consciousness and cultural development, rather than a top down approach ala Bernays, the Church, etc..
What is the status / purpose of this paper? Is it a work in progress, .... ?
"Developed consciousness" is my own term, based on the idea animals like apes may at times be capable of conscious introspection and behavior, and people under hypnosis may not. So consciousness, as I understand it, is a latent capacity which creatures with a capable brains and minds can develop with the right nurturing. The flip-side of this is that a population can be trained (without their knowing it, presumably) to think and act unconsciously. 'Consciousness' is an ambiguous term so I try to really be specific. Julian Jaynes was a friend of Margret Mead, who was married to cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, so I have reason to believe that his targeted audience may be oligarchs; he also spent time in England as an actor and play-writer, so I naturally have doubts that he may be, as Joe Attwill says, a "lifetime actor".
It is my paper, a work in progress and a part of a series. My purpose for writing is to help me organize my understanding, and my goal for sharing it is basically what you're suggesting: helping to develop "something akin to open source software development, but rather for allowing communities (but individuals, especially) to take control of their consciousness and cultural development, rather than a top down approach ala Bernays, the Church, etc.. " as you say.
I've learned a lot from you all here at Postflaviana, by the way. Thanks for your hard work!
"Opaque consciousness" may be a good term for undeveloped consciousness.
"Bicameral" simply means "two chambered" (as in our right and left hemispheres), so 'bicameral mind' means a divided mind, like when our awareness is one "place" while we get "inspiration" from "somewhere else" (or apparently so to the bicameral person). "Consciousness" means "with knowledge" but can also be read "together knowledge" ("com" means "together/ with") so implies undivided attention, awairness, or 'consciousness' if you will.
I think bicameralism may be inherent in consciousness, like how You-Shen Li describes the "bicameral mind" and "consciousness" changing into each other. In other words, you may have a bicameral mind and opaque consciousness, but a conscious mind can divide itself where the "analog I" is absorbed into two tasks simultainiously and so be two-chambered or "bicameral". I wonder what this may have to do with cognitive dissonance, or religious chanting where one is both speaking and listening at the same time, which, is whould be facilitated by the right and left temporal lobes of the neo-cortex working on the same phenomena at the same moment.
I'm pretty sure this is the study I read that said, although the language centers of the left neo-cortex hemisphere are involved in speech production (and word recognition?), the right temporal lobe is suspected to facilitate listening and possibly the inner narration of one's mental experience, like when we read, or metally "talk" in our mind. This may give some credibility to a neurological basis for a two-chambered (bicameral) mind in our species... And both "chambers" need to be coordinated for proper thinking and consciousness.
So we may speak from our left hemisphere and hear from our right hemisphere, and when listening to speech, we would bring the left hemisphere "online" to what we hear in order to interpret speech (the left hemisphere produces speech... and word recognition also if I recall correctly).
By coordinating the two hemispheres we would in effect be operating the two brain chambers in more direct unison and breakdown the resultant two chambered (bicameral) mind, which Jaynes says pertains to the "origin of consciousness" in the title of his book.
Perhaps though, best thinking comes from an altering of "conscious" attention between functions of left and right hemispheres in relative sequence, or risk a kind of congnitive dissonance? -(You can only be one place at a time).
So, if what is said is right (?), we need do alternate primary focus between left and right hemispheres (which not only pertain to inner and outer attention (?) but also deductive and inductive reasoning (?)) to produce good, coherent consciousness.
If we used both hemispheres or "chambers" with full attention simultainiously, might that bring about a kind of cognitive dissonance- a thinking two things at once, or "bicameral (two-chambered) mind"?
I think we should ask Jerry Russell.
Did you mean "trained to think .." or "trained to think differently (than otherwise one would)"? Perhaps "alt-think"?
There are some interesting psychological studies in the last decades looking into how people come to form and retain opinions (correct or not), which I will try to post some articles about soon. It is Jerry's and my pet theory that the Shepherd class (in our Shepherds, Sheepdogs, and Sheep Model of humanity, the SSSM) empirically, at least, learned how to apply lessons from animal herding to mass control of humans. When one watches such as the Dog Whisperer (DW) it becomes readily and quickly apparent just how easily such techniques can be applied to humans without their realizing it. Especially if they have been systemically deprived of education as you discuss.
Whether humans can, if aware of such techniques being applied to them, neutralize them to any extent is a good question. Of course, the DW teaches his human clients that they must consciously adopt the behaviors and stances of alpha dogs in order to establish a "normal" human / canine pack. The common failure to do so results in one's dog feeling compelled to assume the alpha role in the power vacuum left by the human. As such, what happens if large numbers of beta humans decide to adopt alpha characteristics, for either personal objectives or to attempt to neutralize the pre-existing human alpha dominance? This in addition to what you discussed in the paper about leveling the educational 'playing field'.
In the last regard, Michael Moore's documentary Where to Invade Next discusses many novel ideas, such as making education fun (being done in Finland) and more successful. A dozen or so ideas born in the USA but we aren't allowed to implement them. Else the sheep will resist being sheared.
Humans are indeed complicated, and do end up being forced to hold contradictory viewpoints, and I think this comes with a cost. I assert this is a form of induced schizophrenia. This is one reason I think the JudaeoChristian / Abrahamic model is past ready to be replaced.
Yes, I would like to get Jerry to weigh in on the right / left brain business.
What I mean by a population being able to be trained to think and act unconsciously is that people can be conditioned to impulsively respond to commands of perceived authority.
To get more to the point of my understanding of this, though, let me digress; the fact that that humans can "divide our minds", so to speak, like when we talk to our selves, hear the "voice" of our mental conscience, or suffer cognitive dissonance, does imply a kind of two-chambered (bicameral) aspect to our minds, and our minds can also work as one. If consciousness (perticularly as Julian Jaynes describes it) is the ability to talk to our selves in the sense of self-reflection and narration in our inner "mind-space", but directed from the analog "I" of our unified mind (produced by the two chambers working in harmonious concert), then self-reflection and conceptualization should probably be cultivated in youth to bring out the development of healthy functioning consciousness. What we get in our schools though, is that when children are at an age so young their consciousness development is still just beginning, there are not taught these skills but ordered to give their undivided attention to a stranger authority figure. They are actually discouraged from exercising their conscious development in daydreaming and self-directed inquiry (they are taught to repeat what they have memorized at the teacher's direction and inquiry). The skills the children are taught are for the most part executive skills, and the reading (which does develop the inner "mind-space") they do is under the direction and compulsion of the authority figure. So how does all this develop their minds? Through this conditioning which proceeds until the kids are fully matured, they leave high-school full of executive skills and an under-developed inner "mind-space" which has been conditioned to obey authority and they now will line up in rows at the sound of a bell quite unconsciously (with exceptions, obviously).
I think that SSSM theory is brilliant and I agree that this is probably what happened in our ancient past. I think also that the Shepherd class individuals would necessarily need more developed theory-of-mind skills and would pass these on to their children within their social class. Joe Atwill talks about how the oligarchs work to break apart the family structures of the social classes under their rule, which puts the kids more fully into the school system, and the accompanying peer-oriented culture which is under the influence and direction of the culture industry.
I haven't seen that Michael Moore film or know about the Finnish school styles, but I believe that a culture of learning, and science in what is now the Information Age would need very little formal structure to teach kids reading, writing and arithmetic. Learning should be, and really is fun!
Here's a telling sense-evolution of the word 'school'- from "inquiring into natural curiosities (and meeting place for teachers and students to do so)", to the modern sense of "reprimand" and "discipline" and "school of fish".
It's been suggested that Julian Jaynes' definition of "consciousness" is somewhat idiosyncratic, excluding a wide variety of sensory & cognitive phenomenon which many would consider to be aspects of consciousness. Jaynes was very focused on linguistic understandings and self-knowledge. I think a more modern understanding is that there are different forms and levels of consciousness. Visual awareness is one aspect, emotional awareness is another, for example. And there's a theory that consciousness has the function of allowing input from the various sensory subsystems to be pulled together, solving the "binding problem" and creating a neural synthesis that can then give rise to some motor response, or form a memory trace.
There's some value to Jaynes' position that "consciousness is a learned process based on metaphorical language". The most basic approach to understand another human being's consciousness, is to engage in verbal discussion. We find that we identify with much of what others report about their consciousness, and find our own experiences to be relatable. On the other hand, some people report experiences we call "schizophrenic": that is, they report hearing voices in their heads, telling them strange and fearful things which they seem to accept without question. This is something most of us can relate to only by analogy to dream experiences, but it's possible to imagine what the schizophrenic is experiencing.
When it comes to the consciousness of a cat or dog, we don't have nearly as much to go on. It's not possible to talk to one's pet to learn what it's thinking. And we don't have any personal experience of cat or dog consciousness. Yet most people believe that there's some sort of consciousness there: a package of sensory awareness, desires, and emotional responses, at least. They are definitely able to produce behavioral responses to a few words, but grammar and syntax are completely beyond them.
It makes perfectly good sense to me, that the level of consciousness of individual human beings depends on their cultural environment. So as culture becomes more advanced, so also individual citizens reach a higher level of consciousness. So also, if culture degrades, human consciousness must also degrade to some extent.
But in general, practical working psychologists tend to focus on behavioral responses to stimuli, rather than thinking too much about squishy internal processes such as consciousness. And, commentators on sophisticated cultural stimuli (such as books or movies) tend to speak directly of their reactions ("thoughts" or "replies") rather than frame their commentary in terms of internal conscious experience. One might occasionally refer directly to sensory or emotional reactions, but for the most part, our analysis tends towards more abstract levels.
Jaynes claimed that bronze-age humans were similar to modern schizophrenics, in that they were confused about the source of their own internal verbal narrative. This doesn't seem likely to me, just on functional grounds. It seems severely maladaptive. It's a basic and very important skill to be able to tell the difference between what your hunting companions or fellow warriors are telling you, as opposed to one's own internal verbal logic process. It would make much more sense for this narrative-driven part of the "will", to co-evolve with the preverbal systems that must mostly drive animal behavior.
Also, I should note, Jaynes' theory is a competing theory to our own view about the origin of religion. We see that human beings are naturally curious about they mysteries of the universe, but we don't believe they are naturally predisposed to confabulating their own gods. Instead, they seem to be naturally gullible, and subservient to hierarchy. Thus, they easily fall pray to narratives invented by their tribal or national Lords, who are all too willing to be seen as Gods by their willing subjects.
Having said all that, I don't see any reason to doubt Jaynes' sincerity in proposing his theory. Margaret Mead must have had many friends and acquaintences, and lots of people dabble in acting or writing. Is there any other evidence that would single him out as a "Lifetime Actor"?
That's about my own intuition, though by those modern standards of 'consciousness'- of visual awareness, emotional awairness, of sensory input from various subsystems being drawn together to give rise to memory and motor response- we would have to at least concede that all animals posses some level of consciousness, which seems perfectly reasonable to me, seeing how we evolved from the animal kingdom. This was the premise of Jaynes, that humans have a unique conscious disposition, a most reasonable theory as well as an idiosyncratic condition by definition- "mixed ideas" or in his terminology "bicameral mind" http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=idiosyncrasy&allowed_in_frame=0
Again, I couldn't say animals cannot share this sort of temperament, but lacking first-hand knowledge, we can only guess.
I don't have other evidence of Jaynes being a "lifetime actor" per se, in fact, I found his personality as comes through his book and talks very sincere, however... There's the issue of schizophrenia- "split-mind" by definition, and this is where my speculation becomes even more interesting.
First, if you read You-Sheng Li's article http://taoism21cen.com/Englishchat/essay12.html , he makes reference to a time when the common person had their own personal gods, bringing to mind the etymological description of the word 'genius'- http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=genius&allowed_in_frame=0 , which does seems to corroborate.
In terms of Jaynes being a life-time actor, in light of all this, I would point to English fiction author Philip Pullmann who wrote His Dark Materials book trilogy. In the third book- "The Amber Spyglass" it seems clear that the protagonist Lyla Silvertongue may be a typological rendering of Emilia Bassano and her companion Will Parry, a type for Will Shakespeare; just look up the characters names (Lyra's mother's name means "knife" and is involved in a state/church conspiracy to cut children away from their tutelary spirit (bicameral voice?) and her father Azriel, I think, from what I've read, was the Old Testament angle who separated one's spirit at the moment of one's death. On Lyra and Will's journey they have to travel to the "land of the dead" to rescue Lyra's childhood friend "Roger" (a name which means "skilled with a spear). There's more too, like the "Gallivespian spys", reminding me of Galilee + Vespasian ("vespasian" meaning wasp and these spys are small, can fly and sting like wasps. +Galilee- where Ceasar's military campaign against the Jews began as I read from to Attwill's books). Everyone in the story, for the most part, has a personal animal god like some Pagan story. The author Philip Pullmann, from what I've studied of him, seems to be a possible cadadidate for being some secret society initiate with an insiders perspective, but he's another story.
The fact that this seems so related to what Jaynes was proposing makes me quite suspicious. Joe Attwill would be the guy to investigate Pullman and his stories I would guess; I don't have the background education nor do I have the desire to look further into it. When I read of Jaynes, the actor/ playwrite describing his innocent relationship with Mead, wife of the cyberneticist, "alarm bells" went off, but it really is all speculation I admit.
Also Pullmann's "His Dark Materials" is a phrase from Paradise Lost, a Milton play, and if I remember Attwill's Shakespere's Secret Messiah correctly, Milton knew and wrote about the Favian humor? In the end of The Amber Spyglass Lyra and Will Parry help an insurrection defeat the heavenly army and Will Parry's "Subtle Knife" destroys God, the Christian God presumably. Will and Lyra are then separated back into their respective worlds after the insurrection, but agree to meet in the Oxford Collage of there own worlds to remain connected to each other, on midsummer day, recalling Shakespere's A Midsummer's Night's Dream.
Here's how I think of consciousness, not to say a mind of correct understanding necessary, but a qualitatively different mentality from all other life forms we know of for sure-
Unlike a fish, dog, cat, deer etc. we, our bodies, physical abilities and inborn instinct, are maladapted to life on earth as compared to our animal cousins. This is because, through tool use, both physical and mental, our species has transended the physical limitations of our environments through intelligence, which, being exercised over time, must have developed for us this large brain-to-body ratio, I assume. Now we are adapted to the inner environment of the mind primarily, where we make designs for every thing from liturature to spacecraft, but our bodies are soft and slow now and we don't look like runners, climbers, swimmers, etc. So there does seem to be a qualitative difference between our mentality from animals, whatever we what to call it.
And the ability to 'self-reflect' indicates not only a second mental perspective (even an imaginary one) but a third as well, where we see ourselves self-reflecting in our mind. Most people can do this fairly vividly, I think. The only exceptions being those with sufficient brain damage, I presume, and a diminished degree in those who've never exercised there imagination much. Or then there are the "Manchuran canadates", if there is such a thing, which poses all kinds of questions about how our minds work.
Anthropologist Michael Winkelman says our dopamine system is way more apapted than those of animal, and this let our ancestors run down their much faster four-legged prey, which might take days. He says this is something that has to do with our using ritual, music, dancing, even drugs, which has let our species bypass our primate instincts and helps us to accept strangers into our "clans" of modern society. That's his theory anyhow. It does fit in with the understanding of drugs and music being used for social transformation, which you guys know something about.
Joe, over the weekend I found the time to read your entire essay. (I confess I'd been winging it before, responding to the comments in the forum.) One thing that especially struck me, was the analogy you drew between "entertainment" and "hypnotism", or mental entrainment. You also drew an analogy between hypnotism and ritual.
We've talked about "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" here from time to time, but in a very superficial way, without a deep analysis of what it is, or whether it works. It's typically thought of as a subtle form of hypnotism, invoked by embedding a hidden message within a smoothly acceptable theme or trope. But the topics of NLP, and hypnotism in general, seem to be viewed with some disdain by mainstream academia.
Full-blown hypnotism, accomplished with a highly repetitive "induction" ritual sometimes enhanced by drugs, is thought of as a means of manipulating consciousness. ("You will go to sleep now... and wake up when I snap my fingers.") I wonder if this effect has been studied using modern "correlates of consciousness" methodology; i.e. FMRI, evoked potentials, etc? Do you happen to know?
I've read one study, a Swedish one I believe, from 2014 if I remember correctly. It used some sort of brain imaging scan and detected an increase in some right hemispheric activity as well as some inhibition of different brain regions in but not included to the left hemisphere. Here is a Berkley study which argues against but does not disprove that position- http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/HypRightHemi.htm (the "discussion" section is particularly interesting)
Here's an article that doesn't link to a study but was written by an alleged psychiatrist from Stanford and describes a brain-imaging study he and his colleagues did. It sounds reasonable enough, but I haven't looked into it.
I would think that there are more brain-scan studies of subjects undergoing hypnosis, but I don't know.
As for the NLP, the mainstream media seems to believe it works and seems to use it regularly, though I can't say for sure, because I've never studied NLP. What I can see though is the clever use of opinion, attitude and worldview programming imbedded in a consistent enough manor that I suspect that this is major and important part of their job as news reporters and entertainers. Granted, many may be unsuspecting people regurgitating their own programming, but the consistency is as telling as the content that some sort of attempted conspiracy is being projected on viewers. The NLP, or whatever kinds of sophistry being used are often quite subtle and easy to overlook, and subtle in their affect as well, like you say, compared to full-blown hypnosis, but I do believe that powerful beliefs and perceptions can be subtly and even unoticably embedded and triggered in people.
People can also presumably become aware of these phycological dynamics and so become far less susceptible to being manipulated.
Thank you, Jerry.
Ran across the 2010 documentary Science of the Soul today. It touches on a wide range of topics we discuss here.
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