Created July 22, 2022
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.
In my previous post, we wrote about that function of mind which unintentionally acts as a traitor, inflicting wounds on its owner. We speak of the bloated ego within us as that traitor.
We postulated that a less obese ego would be a good thing to have, and that the elephantiasis of the ego pandemic is fallout from the accelerating creativity unlocked within us by written language. As daily world events indicate, our creativity and inventiveness has had effects ranging from the spectacular to the disastrous. One of the most negative impacts of the runaway complexity is the ballooning of the ego function through agencies to be unpacked below.
Even the way we all tend to look at the present state of the world is distorted by the ego. We are all obsessed, because of the ego, with the downside possibilities of the near future, much more than we are excited by the upside possibilities straight ahead. Why does the self-protective, selfish function of consciousness, Mister Looking Out For Number One, exaggerate and dwell upon the worst outcomes?
One might explain it away by drawing a nexus between selfishness and survival: surely our urge to survive, central to all life forms, was thinking of the need for a suspicious security officer like Worf when it extruded the code necessary for the existence of the ego function?
Perhaps, but a bit of self-reflection reveals another cause, related to Acceleritis and its resulting information overload: I call this principle “Compensation”. The ego in our present culture is compensating for a general feeling of inadequacy, caused by a never-ending string of missing the mark in almost everything we do, because the complexity of daily life has overwhelmed our capacity to always operate in the natural Flow state. After the first few years of life this wound of mortifying incompetency cries out for succor, and the ego where this notation lives, is the agency by which redress and proving oneself shall be achieved – or so the ego thinks. The methods employed by the ego in trying to salve this feeling of being unworthy, include (a) to brag in some concealed or exposed form, (b) to subtly or obviously try to bring others down to a level in which the ego can feel superior, and many other methods which in Putin’s case, includes trying to take over an even bigger chunk of the world. That would vindicate the ego and win the game, in Putin’s subconscious mind, all would be set to right, or so his subconscious thinks.
Acceleritis might not have done the damage it has done so far if not for another enabling factor in the world of the past few centuries. And that is, the loss of direction in the search for meaning in life.
It’s easy to explain what the ego-ridden average person is doing with their life as a form of a game. The game is essentially to maximize the pleasure for one’s sphere of loved ones, and to minimize their pain. Totally reasonable and pragmatic, but it ignores the human need (possibly shared by other life forms) to feel that one’s life means something more than just continuous defense of one’s pleasure bubble. Humans have an innate desire to know what is really going on here, who am I, why am I here, and to creatively express their unique gifts. We as a race have always had an intuition of Someone Else With Us, a vast consciousness to which we have given the codename “God”.
Until the last few centuries, during which observance of rituals has masked over an inner unspoken atheism which prints out in behaviors that belie the claimed belief in a specific religion. The average person has let science go off using its advanced mathematical cryptography, and stayed in touch only at the broadest level in which it is widely assumed that science has proven that there is no God, and intellectuals go one step further and believe that Logical Positivism has proven that even the concept of God is meaningless.
In a race that needs meaning, the past few centuries have dissuaded us from the search for that stuff. So all we are left with is a choice of which game to play to while away the time as pleasantly as possible. This factor plus Acceleritis have caused the self-promoter function to expand to fill the conscious self, as a continuous band-aid over the cumulating wounds of disappointment in oneself and life. Hence the ubiquitous need to compensate. Thus has the valid ego function become toxic.
It’s not just widespread mental “laziness” (actually mental triage in the face of inforush) that has caused the popular perception of a schism between science and spirituality. Many scientists (excepting the most senior ones) have publicly expressed a bias (unproven assumption) in favor of Accidental Materialism, the explanation that the universe came about accidentally, and all that matters is matter, with energy simply a released form of matter. Some of this breed of scientists have dismissed consciousness as an epiphenomenon, meaning we can hear the noise in our heads but it really doesn’t have any impact on the way we behave, we just think it does.
We humans and other animals are very affected by a show of confidence, if it appears unshakeable and is connected with intelligence. Even before a word is said. Then, when words pour out of such a being articulately, suavely, and with great surety, our tendency as humans is to give those words some credence. Even if it disagrees with one or more of our own long-held assumptions. The actual truth or falsity of the content has nothing to do with how much it persuades us based on the foregoing presentation variables.
The good news, however, is that scientists of the highest order throughout history and even today, are not biased toward Accidental Materialism, have open minds about God and about all subjects where empirical evidence has not been conclusive yet.
In his Amazon review of my latest scifi novel Pandemonium: Live To All Devices, Chuck Young, founder of Ameritest recently acquired by Dynata, lists some of the greatest scientific minds of the past hundred years who have had reason to consider consciousness to be at least equally important to matter:
Consciousness is the central theme of this book. In one of Harvey’s insightful observations, a character notes “The most important human quality is the ability to control one’s own mind.”
Consciousness is the deepest of all philosophical problems, which the ancient Greeks described as the Mind-Body problem, and which the greatest of our modern scientific minds have not shied away from also thinking about. In the words of Max Planck, winner of the 1918 Nobel Prize in physics, “In the last analysis, we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.” Or Erwin Schrodinger, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize, “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is fundamental.” Or Werner Heisenberg, winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize, “Contemporary science, today more than at any previous time, has been forced by Nature herself to pose again the question of the possibility of comprehending reality by mental processes.” 0r Eugene Wigner, winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize, “The very study of the external world leads to the conclusion that the content of consciousness is an ultimate reality.”
The only person to ever win two Nobel Prizes in physics, John Wheeler, pointed out that in the debate of Mind versus Matter it is an axiom of the current secular worldview that matter arises first, in the Big Bang, and that somehow the conscious mind has emerged through some combination of improbable physical processes. But that is only an axiom for creating our belief system about the nature of the Universe. It cannot be proven. But what if, according to Wheeler, we invert that axiom and assume consciousness comes first? Like the shift from Euclidean to Non-Euclidean geometry in mathematics, changing that one starting axiom leads to a radically different worldview.
To me, I find it easier to imagine consciousness coming before matter, because consciousness is unitary and matter is diverse. Also, taking empiricism to its ultimate extreme, the only thing any of us can say with total certainty based on empirical observation is that our consciousness exists. Everything we call matter and energy is something we experience through our consciousness.
Once the mind accepts that being closed to possibilities based on the vagaries of cultural conditioning is counter-productive, the awe, wonder, and numinosity of life come rushing back in like a friendly tsunami. Possibilities are again seen to be endless, and the ability to imagine upsides, free of mental fat, is welcomed in.
In a recent WDST radio interview about Pandemonium: Live To All Devices with my host Doug Grunther, founder of Right Brain Network, Doug asked me if there was anything in the story that would give us all any reason to feel more optimistic about the future. I responded that there are three unspoken takeaways from this scifi spy novel set in the near future:
- Keep an open mind about your own powers of mind
- Keep an open mind about the whole multiverse being one consciousness, each of us an avatar
- The future has a sporting chance of being fun