Have you ever considered that the brain must learn how to see? Vision is not automatic. Even if we couldn’t test infants, we know from dramatic blind-to-sight stories that the brain must learn how to process visual data. Apparently it does this by processing moving images. (Read about MIT’s neuro-scientific experiments on the faculty of vision in Out of Darkness, Sight: How the Brain Learns to See.) Does that mean that at one time in evolution we couldn’t see light? Like, maybe we were pod people? Aliens implanted our eyes? I leave those titillating questions to greater minds than my own. (A friend of mine used to ponder why we had to have eyebrows. I quickly answered that many folks don’t. That seemed hugely funny at the time.)
In his book, Cosmic Consciousness, Canadian physician Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke observed how the human family apparently could not see BLUE until very recently in our history. He provides further examples of how our senses evolved new detections of fragrances, and so on. What seems simple to us was preceded by incredibly long, complex biological changes. Bucke also predicted something I believe: human beings are now poised to enter a higher state of consciousness he called cosmic consciousness. Much of the disarray we’re experiencing at the moment is apparently part of this process.
Readers who are interested in some of the marvelous structural changes in our brains, and how that has affected self consciousness, should make the time to read Julian Jaynes’ The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Brain and Erich Neumann’s Origins and History of Consciousness. What you and I refer to as “right” and “left” brain is a fairly recent development in the long evolution of the homo sapiens. For many millennia, we humans lived inside a brain where there was no such distinction. It is useful to learn how these things work because many politicized terms are actually functions of changes in brain structure and chemistry, as opposed to objective truths. If people took more time to study these things, instead of starting fights at holidays, we’d all be better off. Of course, Tony Buzan’s books are invaluable tools as well.
Years of life experience and somewhere over 200 jury trials have taught me that human beings don’t “see” nearly so well as they think. Have you ever watched the Selective Attention Test, from Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris?
In my experience it is the rare juror who understands that our brains don’t work very well, if by “well” you mean ‘I am certain.’ Have you ever driven into traffic only to discover — perhaps at great cost — that you had a “blind spot”? Well, the intellect is pockmarked with blind spots. If you don’t believe me, sign up for a logic or math class at your local college; and if you’re “left-brained”, take a course on literature or women’s studies. You’ll find out in short order that your brain is ordering what it sees. It does not see nearly so well as you may believe. Alas, sight is very much a function of belief. Hard to accept, isn’t it? Yet it is true, and that fact has a direct bearing on what we can expect in the wake of this change in Ages. Those of us who are alive at this time are like the blind folks in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. We think we see, but we never ask:
‘What do we think we’re seeing?’
Once you ask that question, life gets very interesting indeed. It is, in fact, the only honest question that can ever be asked, because once we ask it, we have to take responsibility for what we see.
The early Christian Bishop, Synesius of Cyrene (370–413), made a number of remarkable statements about our imagination, or our soul, that have a bearing on this discussion. I want to share two with you. They are somewhat difficult to grasp, but they will repay attentive reading:
Imagination is the sense of the senses (the first body of the soul), necessary to all others: it inheres at the same time in both the soul and the body, It dwells within us: established in the head, as in a citadel which nature has built for us, and it governs the animal life. The hearing and the sight are not true senses, but rather instruments of sense, which put the animal in relation with the exterior world; in the service of imagination they transmit to their mistress impressions received by them from without, sensations which are transmitted to us from the objects by which we are surrounded. Imagination is the collective sense in which are united our various senses: in reality it is that which hears and which sees; it is through it that all the perceptions occur; and it assigns to each organ its particular function. From it all the faculties proceed: they are like the rays which go out of the centre and meet wholly in the centre: many in progression, and one and the same in origin. The sense to which the organs are indispensable is a purely material sense; or, to speak more correctly, it is only a sense when it enters into the service of the imagination: imagination is the sense which has power of acting instantaneously without intermediaries. It has a divine character through which it approaches intuitive Intellect.
It will thus be established that the soul, as we have advanced, contains in itself the images of the things which become. It encloses them wholly, but it produces them outwardly only at a convenient time; imagination is similar to a mirror in which it reflects itself, so that the animal perceives the images which have their seats in the soul.
Synesius seems to be saying two things: first, that the animal world, of which we are a part, is very limited in what it can see, as indicated by the MIT study; and, second, that we we call “truth” is, according to Synesius, a function of how are soul presents the world to us. Lest you think that closes the discussion, Synesius writes at length about how to restore the imagination to its proper abode, the soul. He seemed to think that we corrupted the process of sight by rejecting those things which the soul knows. In other words, part of the soul’s bondage is to find itself ensnared in interpretations which are closer to the animal kingdom. If imagination is restored to its proper place, we could consistently produce harmonious and prosperous conditions on earth.
One way of understanding this is to look at what happens when people project evil onto a politicized label (pick your label). What they’ve done at that point is to ensure an outcome consistent with their expectation.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BRUCE HANIFY 2012