“There is more under heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” [Shakespeare, Hamlet]
What’s on your mind? I have half a mind to say no. I am of two minds about what to do. Mind your manners. It’s a case of mind over matter. I don’t mind. I am minded to do that. Never mind. Put your mind to work. I changed my mind. Who’s minding the store? I have not made up my mind. Mind the hole or you’ll fall into it. Keep an open mind. Going out of my mind. Blow my mind. A narrow mind.
Our common use of the word “mind” should reveal that we need this term, one that acts as noun and verb quite well. (Other words that try to be noun and verb too, like “impact,” do it with less grace.)
Whatever the word means to you, clearly it is not just an object like a head. It is a created phenomenon.
Two things make our minds what they are: first, natural-physical things in the brain, its axons, neurons, and chemicals; one billion brain cells, one trillion connections, in a three-and-half-pound organ. Second: cultural-nurturing inputs like ideas and experiences; the people who care for us from birth, and in the womb, make the greatest original impact, shaping our mind, but much else will impact it in later life.
More and more evidence seems to be accumulating that after Nature has supplied you with the raw material of a mind – your genetic inheritance, the grey matter of your brain and how well it is built – then Nurture/culture will provide by far the larger share of what your mind is. Your consciousness is your kingdom, and no one else’s, but what might exist inside the kingdom is not freely chosen by you.
Too many outside things determine what you have for furnishing the mind for you to say your freedom is complete. Much as we would love to say we construct our “self”, that is hardly what happens.
After nature and nurture take their place in the making of any one person’s consciousness inside a mind, is there any other ingredient in the recipe? What about Providence or wyrrd or karma or fate or destiny?
Is there a daimon that lays down a path before you ever take a step? Is that the third major determinant of you and your consciousness? Do you like or dislike the idea of a guardian spirit watching over you?
Before I go on to unpack some of the complexity of the questions I ask, I should offer a backgrounder to why I even believe that I would find anyone to read such explorations in this column.
Having just looked through and studied the latest issue of the Kootenay Moonly magazine, I am once again profoundly impressed by the variety of worldviews and “constructed realities” co-existing in Nelson. It is so clear that here are many people who do believe in strange and marginal notions of what is real, including the Reptiles from Nibiru and all sorts of beings that were labeled ignorant superstition when I was a child. And alongside them are the committed materialists and scientists, and devout Christians, who would find the imaginings of the Moonly writers bizarre, silly, goofy, or just plain bad.
Now back to the question about who each of us is, who made us what we are, and what limits our freedom of choice to be whatever we will ourselves to be.
Do what you love, and you will never work in your life.A nice proverb, from Confucius. When you are not feeling that what you do is an effort, it is not labour. What you love to do feels like no effort.
To me this is the power of mind. Mind determines what is effort, what is work, and what is “true to myself.” Self is my creation. It matters not at all that other experience, education, people, places, culture, would have produced a different me, had I been exposed to those. I am the result of what actually has made an impact on my mind. I process the input, I take attitudes, I have perspectives, I heal myself of wounds. All of that is my conscious role in the construction of my mind. I am my own project.
But then there are the unconscious, the subconscious, and the super-conscious, over which my interior witness and decision-maker can have no power. For in those parts of me, what happens is not perceived by any internal sensations of mental activity. I do what I did not intend, I have feelings I do not know, I dream and never understand where the dreams originate or why such dreams happen. How do people rule those parts of themselves? Many traditions teach that methods do exist to rule the mind.
Can we accept that in the areas of our mind where our control seems beyond our will, there are other makers of our mind? Consider the ancient notion of personal attendant spirits. Guardian angels, spirit guides, totem animals, higher powers, daimons, elementals, departed souls of loved ones – all these words and many more have been used to indicate that we do not go through mortal life with no other determinant than our own choices and the external material world in which to exercise our “free will.”
Most modern Westerners do not try very hard to explain their spiritual and religious interiors to one another, for the commonplace wisdom of our culture is that science has solutions, and if they do not know all just yet, the scientists will eventually find the answers to questions of life and what is after it.
Against this modern consensus runs a common denominator through all previous cultures. It is still present among us too, that thread of wisdom. Traditional insight asserts the human is not just material, not just physical, not only the mortal body. “There is more under heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” Shakespeare could have addressed his line to materialist scientists, I think.
Esoteric teaching of many times and places have asserted that humans can be analyzed into ingredients not accepted by Western physics, chemistry, biology and medicine. Freud’s famous ego-id-superego is a division of consciousness, but Freud was a scientist by his own definition; he was appalled by his colleague Jung who added “unscientific” phenomena to the science of psychology: the animus and anima, the Collective Unconscious, the Shadow, and mythic Archetypes, to name the best-known.
The ancient body/mind/spirit triple division is commonplace, and a distinction between soul and spirit has been widespread. India has perhaps the oldest science naming parts of a human within a complex formula, but as with Hebrew, Greek or Egyptian notions of psyche, nephesh, or akh/ba/ka, translating alien terms like atma, karma, dharma, from Sanskrit, may confuse us more than they truly inform us.
Just what is the proper balance, between freedom of our interior will, our choices and our intentions, weighed against the force of exterior circumstance in materiality, in politics, the economy and natural limitations? People apparently need to feel free. Humans make meaning out of experience. The way we strike our balance is one of the distinguishing marks of a personality, a character, a fully-realized “self.”
In politics we see some people going from one success to another. More often their record is mixed; some are failures. Esoterically, one is successful because one is totally aligned with other powers, is attuned with some “Tao” or necessity. The phrase used for such success is “his Star is in the ascendant.” When you follow your Star and it knows the path for you, you make history and shape the human world.
When your star falls, so do you. Every star, the sun, the moon, were once supposed to be manifested lights of spiritual forces. Planets too had beings with purpose and character, and inspired the origin of ancient cultures’ astrology; Saturn is possessed by the Seth-spirit of materialism, Venus by the light-bearer, Lucifer, and so on. The evidence is compelling that astrology works -- when practiced by gifted ones whose scientific training hones an inborn skill. Scoff, but at least investigate it. Be open-minded.
Alexander the Great never suffered defeat, yet could not force his army to go further east when it decided no longer to obey, and he died very young after ignoring the warning of an oracle. He is the paradigm historical figure who never failed until his meteoric career crashed in death. Napoleon and Charlemagne had amazing “runs of luck;” even Hitler defied high adverse odds for a few years.
These examples from political-military history are hardly the most spiritually-uplifted men, but their careers do illustrate the point. It is not just your mind/ ego, it is not just your material circumstance: Unseen forces of destiny and karmic necessity are the third and equal part of what your life will be.
Electoral politics allow the collective force of many minds to affect what leadership a democratic social order chooses. It is not just choice. Too many material factors affect who becomes powerful for us to believe that our votes alone made Mr. Harper our prime minister. His own powerful drive to be leader, his intelligent or cunning political strategies, and the autocratic means keeping his party followers under control, are not sufficient explanations for his success. At this time, Harper appears to have a star on the rise, and to be in harmony with some Zeitgeist (time-ghost or Spirit of the Age) that has pushed him to such a height of power. No other radically-ideological leader has ever held political sway over our society on the national stage. Canadians, in this time, in these global conditions, manifested this P.M.
Harper’s prorogation of Parliament to stave off defeat by a coalition might so easily have failed. Why did it succeed? Why did the coalition make stupid blunders, and why did the Governor General allow what she did not have to sanction? What forces affected the minds of the leading players in this Canadian theatre of politics?
Is it entirely lunatic (moon-made) to wonder if immaterial and irrational forces of the unseen were in play? When the natural, physical world of our planet is in crisis, and human social order, war, politics, economics, plague and overpopulation converge in a perilous crux, why would it not be probable? Manifestation of ill-will to humanity can be attributed to beings of which our sciences will never tell us.
Harper’s star will wane, one day. For now, the Zeitgeist is with him.“Tout debut en mystere, et finit en politique.” (Everything starts in mystery and ends in politics.) All I can do is wait for his luck to turn.
Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit, philosopher of science, hypothesized an evolving planetary mind; he called it the noosphere. The collective sum of all human minds in their connection to the biosphere, to natural ecologies and to life as a generalized force, creates this Consciousness of Gaia. The Internet is not it, but is certainly a significant human contribution to conditions for the emergence of noosphere.
In the creation of this uber-conscious world-mind, each human mentality is a contributor. Through human consciousness, the materials and spirits in Gaia evolve the emergent world-mind. Each mind counts. Your mind is your realm. Rule it with wisdom, rule it with love; above all, don’t abdicate power to others. What are you doing to make the noosphere a positive environment for living beings ?
Charles Jeanes is a Nelson-based writer. You can read the previous edition of Arc of the Cognizant here.