Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thought = Matter x (Consciousness). Part 2: The role of the mind

In the previous post, we deduced an equation linking thought energy with experiences derived from matter or the physical world. The common thread linking thought and matter is consciousness or awareness. Hence the formula,

Thought = Matter x (Consciousness).

While considering the concept that consciousness links thought energy and experiences derived from matter, we have to also contend with the human mind. Defining the mind is not easy. In both ancient and modern philosophical viewpoints, there have been many theories and ideas regarding the mind. Mind is not something that can be collected, measured and placed in a bottle with a label. Yet it exists and plays a very prominent role in our lives. When we are born, everyone comes into the world with a physical form and an entity called the mind. Our bodies change gradually, while our minds can change in a fraction of a second. We are “stuck” with two changing forms.

The mind and the body are distinct, yet connected. When we look at ourselves in a mirror, we can see our physical bodies. If we form an image of the physical body based on the reflection we see in the mirror and close our eyes, we can mentally visualize our physical form. The form we see in the mirror with eyes open is perceived by the visual apparatus that is part of the physical body. This same form can be seen with eyes closed, without using the visual apparatus. We cannot touch or grasp this form that we see in our mind. Yet, it can appear as real as our physical selves.

René Descartes, widely considered the father of modern philosophy, espoused the concept of the separateness of the mind and the body. In his famous thesis, the Sixth Meditation, he stated that the mind and the body are separate and distinct. He argued that the mind is a thinking non-extended thing, quite distinct from the body which is an extended, non-thinking thing. Based on this “mind-body dualism”, he reached a conclusion that the mind can exist without the body and the body without the mind. Plato was another prominent proponent of dualism of the body and mind. Descartes’s conclusion of the distinctness of the mind and body led to the famous mind-body problem i.e., the causal interaction of two distinct entities, mind and the body. One instance of this causal interaction of the mind and the body is the example given above. The eyes, which are part of the body can see a reflection the the body in a mirror and the mind, with eyes closed can reproduce this image. With your eyes closed, you can make the mental image of yourself move the right leg while simultaneously you can move the opposite leg in the physical body. Another example of this is eating food. The mind makes you seek a certain type of food and directs your hand to put the food in your mouth.  The senses of taste are part of the body and how is the mind able to appreciate taste if the senses of taste and smell, the tongue and nose are part of the physical body? The debate on this mind-body problem continues even today.

Without fully understanding what the mind is in relation to everything else, one cannot successfully transcend the mind. The real question is how do we turn the mind from being a gadfly to a true aid in our own individual evolution. At some point in time, everyone will be faced with a question, what is the mind and how do I overcome it? Until you face this question and attempt to answer it, you will spend your lifetime lost either in the pursuit of mental images that you fancy or in running away from mental images you don’t like seeing.

Our minds can fluctuate day to day and minute to minute. To illustrate how fickle the mind is, consider this. Let’s say someone comes to you as asks to borrow a 100 dollars. Assume that you have the 100 dollars in your left hand. Your mind may agree to that request and you hand over the 100 dollars without hesitation. If you hesitate even long enough to transfer the 100 dollars to your right hand, that little amount of time is enough for you to change your mind and your initial willingness to help may be overruled by your mind.

In the course of one’s day, our minds can take many forms. When you first wake up, if you have had a restful night’s sleep, you say your mind is rested. After drinking your morning coffee, you say your mind is now fresh and alert, ready to tackle the day. As you go out to your driveway to get into your car, let’s say you notice a flat tire and you are already a little late for work. Your fresh, rested and alert mind goes up in smoke and turns into panic, anger and frustration. You finally get to work and there is an unexpected pile of paper on your desk that you have to deal with. Your mind is conflicted. You have had a taste of a fresh, alert and rested mind as well as a panicked, angry and frustrated mind. Which would you chose? Obviously the former. However, the impressions of the latter state of mind tend to be stronger and longer lasting and dilutes the more subtle, shorter lasting impression of a rested and fresh mind. As the day goes along, more impressions are generated in the mind and finally when you get home, you may say “my brain is fried, I just want to go to sleep”, which really means that your mind is a convoluted mess of impressions that confuse you. Sleep then rejuvenates you and you can potentially start the same cycle over again the following day. This is another form of the mind-body problem. This average daily experience that we go through refutes one of the main view points of Descartes’s philosophy of the separateness of the mind and body.  

Is this the fault of the mind? Is this the nature of the mind?

I would propose that it is neither. One answer to this problem may be to look at the mind in a completely new fashion, a paradigm shift of sorts. This view point may help rest the age old philosophical debate on the mind-body problem.

Consider the mind to be a blank screen. This screen (or mind) is something you are born with. It is one of the many faculties that accompanies you when you first arrive for your earthly sojourn. This screen or mind is fashioned in such a manner that what you see projected on it does not appear in two dimensions such as a movie theatre screen. It has multiple dimensions. It has many more dimensions than the four dimensions we commonly see (three spatial dimensions plus time as the fourth dimension). Some things that you see on the screen of the mind may appear more “real” than “reality” that your intellect suggests. According to theoretical physicists, our universe may have ten, eleven or more dimensions. The mind probably appears so real because it may be projecting in these multiple dimensions.

Going back to the movie screen analogy. When you go see a movie, you are sitting and watching a screen. The screen appears blank when there is nothing projected onto the screen. The moment the projector lights up and starts to send a beam of light, images show up on the screen. Nowadays we have three dimensional screens and projectors that appear more real. When you are watching a movie for instance, you cannot interact with what is projected on the screen. You have to watch it from start to finish the way it is projected. Since there is a distance between you and the screen and your intellect tells you that what is projected is just a movie, you don’t perceive it as real and you call it a movie. Supposing, you had the ability to jump into the action on the screen and based on what you do on the screen, you influence the next sequence of projections, effectively altering the next sequence of projected images, you then become one with the projected image. At any time you can take a step back and uncouple yourself from the projected images. Therefore, even if you are part of the projected image, you are not really part of it.

Now, consider the projected images as coming from a storehouse of thoughts and experiences from your interaction with matter. You are not able to see the storehouse of thoughts and impressions in its entirety because in general, your consciousness limits you to the images on the screen. When your consciousness expands, the source of the projected images and the storehouse from which the images are drawn from becomes visible. If you let these projected images run on the screen (your mind) and you just happen to witness it, it is no different from watching a movie. If you don’t like what you see on the screen (your mind), all you need to do is wait till the projected images turn to something more interesting or till the images dry up and the screen goes blank. As a practical demonstration, if you simply sit and watch the screen of your mind, you will see a projection of a mental movie. Each one’s experience will be uniquely different based on what is projected.

Alternatively, if you decide to jump in to the screen and become part of the projected images, you can still watch the projected images with a more “real” experience without altering the course of the projected images. An example of this is being depressed or anxious. The projected images may be doom, gloom or states of panic. Since you have jumped into the action and have chosen to be a observer in the midst of this projection, it appears more real than the previous state where you are more of a distant spectator with a certain distance between you and the images projected.

Extending this further, if you jump into the projected images partaking in the multitudes of dimensions of this projection, and you also chose to change the next set of projected images based on your real time involvement, you are in a way changing the destiny of the projected images, and NOT the destiny of your true self. This is a very important point. There is a part of you that changes in response to the projected images and a part that is changeless in relation to the projected images (Additionally, this can also explain the concept of the past, present and future. I will explore this in another blog). This scenario is our daily life, what we call “reality” that we see and interact with.

The way we perceive and interact with the projected images on the screen called our mind determines the next sequence of images in the mind. Since these images can be projected from our stored thought and from experiences from interaction with matter, we can apply the concept of the screen or the mind on both sides of the equation, thought = matter x (consciousness) arriving at

Thought x (mind) = matter x (consciousness ) x (mind)

Since mind (the screen) appears on both sides of this equation, it cancels out, leaving thought energy and experiences from matter.

The energy behind the generation of thought is converted to the experience derived from interaction with matter and this this experience is projected on the screen or the mind. When we get involved with the projected images on our mental screen and we create further experiences by interaction with the projected images, this cycle can go on endlessly.

The more we get involved with the projected images on the mental screen, the more ensnared we get. The deeper our involvement in the projected images on the screen or the mind, the more real it appears to us. This relative reality prevents us from seeing the absolute reality (topic of a future discussion).

More to come on thought, consciousness and matter.

To be continued...