posted on Apr, 12 2018 @ 09:10 PM
Why does this word bother some people? It's very simple, really. Humans are intelligent; we perceive deeply, and even more importantly, we
metacognitively experience ourselves perceiving deeply.
This 'existential' level of awareness is deeply significant, as can be seen, in the fact that humanity and a sense of the sacred seem to go
How many thousands of years have we been myth-making? Speculation, if it is to be done, should be done with reference to some invariable. And what
better invariable than the two modes the autonomic nervous system self-organizes through: the sympathetic (HPA axis, dopaminergic and serotonergic
systems) and the parasympathetic (noradrenergic and vagal pathways).
This is the stop and go of the mammalian organism's nervous system. The entirety of a biological organisms homeostasis passes through the sieve of
autonomic networks to mediate everything the organism does. This is how mental processes stay completely 'in tune' with biological processes.
Ancient Contexts, Random Events, and The Need For Meaning
I think Viktor Frankl's claim to fame is an unusually special one: emphasizing, that at root, human beings need meaning to survive. Yes, other
philosophers before him thought of these things as well, but he was the first to really emphasize it as a general category of human existential need.
Of course, he also has a grueling story of being in the holocaust, and recounting, as he does so well, what he needed to do in order to survive the
deprivation, torture, evil, and suffering all around him.
It's an obvious thing to say, but it is treated with contempt by most people: the environment creates us. The significance of early life relational
interaction and the shaping of the genetic and neural systems of the brain to accomodate the nature of the social interactions the infant was
subjected to cannot be disputed. It is irrational to think external perturbation on a dynamically organizing meaning-making system wont force it to
self-organize in a more adaptive way.
To really get this difference, we need to also understand that the mind and the brain are not quite the same thing. The brain presents us with a new
experience every waking moment of our day. If we turn our head, whatever our visuoaffective systems take in will engender a reaction: and from whence
does that reaction come, if not from a past experience? In this way, the bottom, or ventral and embodied part of our existence, is constantly being
apprised by meaning reactions that have to do with past adaptations to alike or analogous situations in the past.
Consciousness, or 'holding the object in mind', occurs at a later interval, and it is from here that we experience the manual manipulation of our
awareness, to choose to defocus from the object we reacted to and focus on something else, or pursue a more directed mode of awareness by recalling
something that is more 'essential' to the larger patterns of the 'self', such as an agenda or goal.
But are the agendas or goals some 'higher' spiritual power? Or, rather, as the cognitive scientist Merlin Donald believes, is it a higher level
pattern that organizes 'higher level existential meanings'? The truth is, since we are fundamentally embodied beings, everything is entrained to the
homeostasis patterns of our autonomic nervous systems.
Now, in order to appreciate how these two systems work in human consciousness, imagine a third system, which has been described by the
neurophysiologist Stephen Porges as the 'social engagement system'. This system actually has its own brand-new neural component: the nucleus
ambiguous, which helps synergize the effects of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems; the nucleus ambiguus connects into the
orbitofrontal cortex where the conscious mind can literally guide at a preconscious level its affect state during the process of speaking. When we
speak, we are explicitly attuned to the meanings of the words were using. But at the implicit level, we are also seeking to regulate our affective
state, controlling how what we respond to and how we respond. This lower level system, as everybody knows, is far more significant in convincing,
persuading or annoying people than the words we use. The contents of the words we use - to pay attention to that - requires the social engagment
system being used - and the conscious mind - an emergent property of the social engagement system - can then bring about 'top-down' effects from its
studious attunement to the relevant informational categories of interpersonal interaction within an environment.
What is trauma other than horizontal information flow - the outside world, the world of our attachments, and the world which enlivens us -
overactivating the sympathetic nervous system to such a dangerous point that the parasympathetic system 'slams the brakes' by engaging in a very
primitive response which derives from reptiles: the freeze response.
When we freeze, a molecule called dynorphin plays a role in inhibiting dopamine and noradrenaline production, more or less 'stunning the mind' out
of its relationship to reality. This response is for the sake of the systems homeostasis: the body seeks to survive, and so when the environment
becomes too much, the mind cannot do anything to prevent the primitive response of your body to protect itself.
Now comes the complicated part. Imagine a major disaster, like the one which apparently happened to the people in and around Gobekli Tepe in southern
Turkey 11,000 years ago, or 9000 BCE.
There are megaliths which show relevant astronomical configurations that point back to what the sky looked like 11,000 years ago, and beneath these
symbols, we find the image of a headless human. Many take the headless human as representing the human having 'lost his head' - or his intelligence.
Of course, humans are spiritual, so the loss of the head would not imply a loss of spirituality; rather, it would seem to represent the loss of a
coherency of awareness - of recognition of how things work, and what sort of belief systems and forces had been let loose and had begun to undermine
What we see here, I believe, is the emergence of a dynamic that has at least 4 individual scales, each feeding back on the brain-mind at a larger and
larger temporal scale.
Social Relations (class)
Psycholinguistic narratives (cherished beliefs)
In this language-obsessed world of ours, it is mostly the last one that occupies the minds of humans. Why is that?
On the largest scale, we can all admit that material things are desirable; and that having a lot of stuff over and against another person, or group of
people, could easily produce feelings of "deserving to have" what you have.
Already, the description above includes all the above scales, because they are constantly feeding back upon one another. In todays world, the
'elite' own the material structures - infrastructure, properties, etc; they also have their own unique cultures - their own group of social
connections, or attachments to other people like themselves; inside each of these people, lies a brain, which, being composed of two hemispheres,
requires the regulation of 'feelings' in the form of symmetrical or coherent explanations in language. Hence, beneath emotion regulation lies
'psycholinguistic narratives'. The human...