Yes, I know I've done this before, but this one is much more encompassing. My latest creation into the study of mind, brain and being.
Please take a few moments to study it.
Ok, so where to break it down. First, let me mention what isn't mentioned.
In between the poles of Self and Other (represented, quite
deliberately, as male and female) and the explanations written therein, is a trifecta of triangles, with the words "Relaxed Field" in the center.
The relaxed field is the origin and source for the continuing evolution of brains in the universe. Let me explain very basically what this concept
It was developed by the cognitive scientist and ethologist Gordon Burghardt to explain - at a bodily and neurological level - what
in the nervous system of a creature when they begin playing. Yes: the source of all our human thinking, symbolizing and spirituality, has its roots in
the free-flow of spontaneous energy in play. But notice something also about play: true play is entirely equal. Consider the dog which self-handicaps,
even against little dogs, just so that the play will continue. In play, it is not so much the individual that is playing, as it is the individuals
by the mystery of the Self. Indeed, Burghardt's second criteria for play is it's paradoxical quality: it seems to have no
functional purpose (i.e. isn't well explained in typical economical-darwinian explanations). Play, indeed, is the very paradox of life in the abiotic
background of physical matter.
The middle section of the diagram takes mostly from the work of the psychologist Merlin Donald, but also a recent book written by the neurologist Todd
Feinberg and the Evolutionary biologist Stephen Mallatt. The emergence of consciousness, or phenomenal experience (having a conscious 'take' on the
world) started after the so-called Cambrian explosion 500 million years ago. With the Cambrian explosion, the first true vertebrates emerged, with
what Feinberg & Mallatt determine in terms of the idea of isomorphic mapping, where peripheral sensory and motor neurons are 'mapped' to the spinal
chord, and then someplace in the brain. This is a 1 to 1 to 1 mapping, hence "isomorphic". Since we too are organized this way, it's sound
reasoning to regard the lamprey as being one of the first sentient creatures to arise on planet earth.
33 million years ago, the first prosmians were evolving into the first primates. 10 million years later, the first apes evolved. Donald considers
"episodic consciousness" (however vague this description seems to be, given how different episodic experience must be from species to species) as
the background to mimesis. Mimesis, or imitative behavior, refers to a similar idea of the psychologist Colwyn Trevarthen which he called
"communicative musicality". It's important to really emphasize this point more than I have in this diagram, because practically everything about
human awareness is predicated in the emergence to this higher-mode of knowing. The middle band in the diagram is indeed reflective of this, because
whenever we are able to exist vis-a-vis Others with a sense of positive knowing - or experiencing ourselves being positively known by Others - energy
flows, and thus, the relaxed field expands, and so neurogenesis happens.
Because mimesis, communicative musicality, or "non-verbal reflexive openness to the Other" is so basic in us, it is made most apparent by
psychopathology. And indeed, ALL psychopathology is a pathology of Self and Other. Simply existing in-relation to Others, predominantly important
Others (such as parents, siblings, or other important relationships) with some sort of negative knowledge (i.e. "I don't talk to my mother anymore)
is a source of psychopathology, negative experience, or more simply "tension" within the Self-system. The flow of phenomenal experience will NEVER
re-balance itself until the Self resolves its attitude, feelings and traumas with those whom they feel hurt by. Indeed, "holding" anger needn't be
something we need to be consciously aware of, as our body - the very recorder of our openness to Others - does that for us. The physician Gabor Mate
has argued in past books (When the Body says No) precisely along these lines, albeit, without the developmental-evolutionary logic being described in
The entire yellow field is not arbitrary, but representative of the semantic space where our words and symbols are found. Notice that this semantic
space extends from Self to Other, arching along the circumference from both sides. The Circumference represents Michael Tomasellos crucial insight of
"shared-intentionality", which basically means that knowing and relating as we do is non-sensical without a pre-existing knowledge of the Others
intentional or attentional interests. The circumference could thus also be regarded as a symbol for the brain, and everything within the
circumference, the symbolic processes we use to organize our relations.
The incredibly original philosopher and scientist Terrence Deacon has provided the most plausible explanation for how it is we - and no other animals
- are able to think and know symbolically. Deacon takes his cue from the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who figured out long ago that symbolic
processing was a mnemonic way of handling copious amounts of icon-index information. So, for instance, the "icon" of an experience is the immediate
quality of similarity, or analogy. It arises in immediate experience. Indexicality, conversely, is referential, which means it extends what is known
iconically so that others can be informed. All social animals (besides humans) communicate through indexicality. Deacon gives the example of unique
vervet monkey calls for different types of predators - an eagle in the sky, a leopard on the ground, or a crocodile in the water. Each of these calls
are unique. Furthermore, the calls differ between the sexes. That said, each vervet monkey has a (presumably) genetic, inbuilt capacity to discern the
meaning of each call, albeit, first after learning it from the calls of conspecifics.
Symbolic communication is an emergent property of big brains, and so they represent, as Deacon argues, a new way of handling the increasingly complex
forms of human knowing. It began, of course, quite primitively - probably starting with gestures, and later on including grunts; but at a certain
point, vocalizing intentionality became the primary (foreground) form of expression, with the affective/non-conceptual forms moving to the background
(though never leaving: it can't! its the very glue that allows us to know one another in the first place).
The evolution of Humans began 2 million years ago with the transition of an ape-like creature to bi-pedality, and as the anthropologist Philip
Lieberman has shown, bipedality requires a quarter of the energy required for knuckle walking. Thus, evolution in different directions is mediated by
the lifting of constraints.
Back then, were still talking about apes (australipithecus africanus), but apes on the very edge of becoming
something very different. With the advantage provided by bi-pedality, the metaphor of being upright provided the means to develop our prehensile
functions, which led to tool use, and ultimately, the arch-metaphor that would turn an animal into a spiritual being: the discovery of fire.