Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two psychological observations

These two pieces from my notebooks come nearly 35 years apart. One is from today, one from July, 1977.

1/26/12, 2 Shevat 5772, week of Bo
Four critical and fundamental errors in human analytical thinking:
1. The confusion of emotional attachment with ‘facticity’, truth; vis belief in God becomes dogma and supporting evidence (Bible) becomes incontrovertible; or, feelings of love can cause us to mis-see and misunderstand the person that is loved and the situation in which that love exists.
2. Confusion of emotional intensity for degree of certainty; vis the more comfort one derives from belief in God, the more certain one is of God’s existence; or, the more desperate our need for companionship, the more certain we may become that someone loves us.
3. The confusion that personal perspective is ‘true’ and co-equal with universal perspective; vis the certainty that whatever political beliefs one inclines towards, those beliefs are the correct (or better, CORRECT) way of understanding the situation.
4. The confusion that consciousness, observation, is an unmediated experience, and NOT an interpretive, filtered, and often profoundly limited or occulted experience; vis, the belief that what we see with our eyes is not merely real, but unimpeachable and unbiased ‘fact’.

Antidotes to ingest liberally:
1. facts all come with a point of view
2. observation and interpretation are co-equal
3. emotion is the carriage upon which all thought rides
4. there is no such thing as a single and pure emotion; all emotions resolve into other emotions

Trained philosophers and psychologists who reject or denigrate emotion and extol reason are equally subject to these four confusions. Emotion is a fact of consciousness, shaping and coloring it, whether it is obvious or not, whether it is intense or subtle, foregrounded or undertoned. It is there shaping, coloring, focusing, distorting, transforming, hiding the inputs of experience. Reason distinct from emotion is a conceptual illusion, a false ideal, a Newtonian distortion of the quantum mechanical nature of consciousness/reality. (I use ‘quantum mechanical’ here as a philosophical and psychological model of thought, and not merely as a way of studying matter and energy.)

7/3/77, Kayseri, Turkey
Symbolic thought:
Human consciousness is determined and constrained by density of thought. Density of thought means the number of conscious images and thoughts occurring in a given period. Even in highly exciting moments like the minutes before a race or curtain call, or the seconds before an auto-collision, there are only so many thoughts that consciously pass thru the mind. The actual number seems constrained by the normal activity of mental exertion The more one is able to concentrate, the more concentrated thoughts can be, ie, the denser the thoughts become. Like a thread or wire or beam that can hold so much tension [or transmit so much data - smb, 2012], so our consciousness can endure only so much stress. Beyond that limit it snaps, or blanks out; the system crashes. That limit can be extended by active practice of methods of concentration, however.

But this is the essential point: increased thought density does not work on a linear or algebraically continuous basis. At some point the many thoughts condense or merge into one or a few thoughts or images, like changing energy levels in an atom or molecule. One increases to a limit the number of thoughts per moment and then, remarkably, they condense into a symbol or archetype, and the working number of thoughts suddenly reduces [the ‘aha’ moment; epiphany] and the [potential] intensity of thought increases on an equivalent basis. This is a functional (phenomenological) description of the formation of symbols and symbolic thought.

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