In my last blog posting, we witnessed how it is that brain is the perceived and acknowledged product and thus the crowning glory of the life that we have come to know. We also, if only by inference yet just as reliably, recognize that mind has, as it were, a kind of aura, which emanates from but vastly transcends brain.
Thus it is clear that mind, as we now define it, is dependent upon brain. When the brain dies, mind – again as we presently comprehend it – ceases to be. However, the spirit – so it is hypothesized – enters into and is a projection from brain though vastly transcending it. By that same pathway of transcendence, our time-based home has evolved from being a hostile and inhospitable planet, to becoming “Mother Earth”. However, before moving on to discuss the hypothesized realm of spirit, we have much further to go in our comprehension and present discussion about mind.
So far we have clearly established that we are vastly more than animated automata, merely possessing a capacity to slavishly imitate others of the same species. Whenever or however we, i.e. man first ‘set foot’ on this evolutionary journey millions of years ago, we have now, without doubt, arrived at the pinnacle of what is known as “the phylogenetic scale”*. This not only makes man what he is but defines both the point and means of contact with what, in an appropriate future blog we shall refer to as a “beyond self”. Indeed, this we shall, over the course of time, come to regard as the spiritual universe. Moreover, it is such uniqueness that enables man to experience the outcome of contact with, on the one hand, the world of everyday sense perception, of individual contact with individuals and group members and on the other, a less sensory more spiritual sense of belonging and of sharing. (Any distinction which might appear to be implied in the above, is in the reality, no more than prima facia. In truth – and as we shall see – the two are inextricably and fully connected).
The American psychologist, author and writer, Lawrence Leshan·· has, for reasons of convenience but in a similar vein to the above, described these seeming realities as “the world of the many” and “the world of the one”. The “world of the many” is the world of individuals, as we presently know it. It is that world in which, as Leshan would have it, “You are an ‘island’ and I am an ‘island’”, from which we communicate with one another across the void of space, via signs and symbols; verbal and nonverbal means of communications, i.e. visual and auditory cues etc. ‘The “world of the many” is the familiar, everyday world of sensory awareness, perception and contact. We drive to work or to the shops or theatre; we meet with and part from colleagues and friends; we return home, meet and greet neighbours, family members etc. It is the world of ordinary everyday activity, chiefly deploying the basic senses, i.e. “the world of the many”
The “world of the one” is easily as recognizable but is nevertheless very different. Furthermore its impact and influence lasts significantly longer, indefinitely even. Perhaps the best way of illustrating and demonstrating what is meant by and entailed in the “world of the one” is to consider an orchestra. As violinists, cellists, oboe, trumpet, trombone, bass players etc, each is an individual belonging to “the world of the many”. However, once they unite in the sense of forming an orchestra i.e. each member in harmony with the other, the entire group is transformed. Whilst remaining individual, although now collective members of a group, they now form one body, i.e. an orchestra; the “world of the one”.
Nor does it present difficulty when, for example, we apply this notion to our relationships to those about us. With some people, e.g. members of a football or other sporting crowd, we are members of the “world of the many” (that is, unless we are avid supporters of a participating team with whom for a time, we can become ‘welded’ into a oneness of support for and desire to see our team succeed). On the other hand, with working colleagues it is by no means unlikely that we shall remain as members of the “world of the many”. Should, perchance, we meet and become attracted to another individual who reciprocates such feelings, we are likely to become – as they say in modern parlance – “an item”. Nor is it entirely unknown for such a reaction and response to take place with lightning speed and precision. Put another way, there are likely to be in most people’s experience, those who we have known – possibly for twenty or more years – and who we know now just about as well as we did during the first week of meeting. Conversely we also know how common it is to meet someone with whom in the very first moments of contact – much less hours or weeks – we feel a strong and enduring sense of affinity. Of course, we need and know – and very quickly learn to adapt readily to – both aspects of such knowing. Plotinus, a first century Roman mystic expressed it succinctly and with wonderful clarity. ‘Man’ he mused, ‘is something like an amphibious creature. Amphibians can live equally well on land or in water. But to realise and fulfil their ‘amphibianhood’, they need both’.
In the above, we can clearly perceive how it is that the wonder, mystery and complexity of mind and all that it portends, comes into its own. Brain is the organ that facilitates the identification, localisation and storage of awareness and information and which thus supplies the necessary meaning and interpretation in the form of recognisable and reliable functional ability. Mind is an abstracted entity and complexity, which vastly transcends what we can identify and interpret cognitively and/or affectively**. Mind it is that affords the uniqueness of self= awareness and identity; that distinguishes between “self” and the “not self”; that provides the basic and essential link to and with the “beyond self” and it is to give these terms meaning that we now turn. But more of that anon: first to some further basic but necessary issues for our which we must take account. (C)SB. *
* A scale which sets out the evolutionary development of an organism or a group of organisms.
** Relating to an affect or emotion.