Contemporary knowing and changing the mind through ‘awareness’ based mental processes
and a new level of consciousness
All our existing mental processes like perception, cognition, emotions, feelings, observation, classification, analysis, planning, problem solving, inquiry, discovery and then Will or doing have one thing in common. They all arise out of the individual biological unit’s connection with objective reality, which is tangible to it through some form of perception or cognition.
The process of ‘knowing’ and ‘changing’ the mind that we are proposing will be through a qualitatively different mental process of ‘awareness’, which is a type of knowing that is capable of arising without any tangible contact with reality. This means it is a process which is independent of normal sensory perception as it deals with mental states and functions which are not yet tangible for our existing sensory/perceptual processes, and where the stimulus is not biology but subjectivity. So it is an awareness of mental processes in relation to one’s subjectivity; it involves another level/form of ‘perception’ of mental processes, including cognition, observation, cogitation, thinking, knowing, inquiry, which is in relation to our subjective existence and not biology. It is this process of awareness which produces its own variety of understanding and consciousness. If contemporary individuals want to change those parts of their subjectivity which are intangible to their normal perceptual processes, then they need the above mentioned type of awareness. It is this awareness which can lay down the steps required for understanding the ‘unperceivable’ mental processes. We need to therefore combine this new awareness with the existing perception based awareness and understanding and learn to employ this composite process for the intelligent ‘knowing’ and ‘changing’ of our minds.
The process of intelligent change through intelligently made mental processes will be initiated and based on a new need (essentially a nonverbal process), which will arise out of this new type of awareness and not the perception based awareness and understanding that is mostly verbal and largely a randomly arrived at mental process. The reason being that the nature and complexity of the steps of changing through intelligent mental processes is such that they will need to be undertaken under the guidance and management of this new type of awareness. And that is also why a need which arises out of the perception based awareness and understanding cannot produce the necessary mental processes required for intelligently changing the mind. More so because existing needs are already fully occupied with perpetuating the existing mind and subjectivity and their primacy. Up to now the changing of mental processes through intentional human action has largely been a random process relying primarily on perception based understanding and awareness. This was principally acquired through and was dependent upon external laboratory tools and methods, topped off with some insights from both ad-hoc or designed introspective, metacognitive and other first person experiences. Of course individuals have tried to change themselves through their awareness based understanding and thinking also but, that has largely been an ad-hoc and peripheral phenomenon. What we are proposing is a more developed and mature form of this awareness based thinking and not what it has been so far. If the control and management of the process of mental change comes in the hands of the new mental processes generated by a nonverbal need arising out of this new accumulating awareness, then the hitherto random process of changing mental processes will no longer remain dominant. It will become a part of the overall design of the new intelligent process of change.
Roots of ‘awareness’ based mental processes
The antecedents of the new type of developed awareness that we are proposing lie in the process of awareness that emerged after mature language and civilization. This happened when a bifurcation emerged in the thinking process which operated predominantly in relation to external phenomena and objects. This new strand of thinking was about processes like feelings, ideas, etc., which had happened inside one’s head. In case of the earlier strand the problem was centered outside of oneself and defined by the outside thing or phenomenon but in this form of thinking the problem was centered and defined within the mind. The reason why we are tying this new thinking to mature language in the period of civilization is that a recording of the experience of what one has been thinking and feeling is only possible with words. Without words one cannot record that experience. We and other living things can experience the outside world and its innumerable phenomena without words but they cannot be recalled and then developed without words.
This new branch of thinking is actually an extra practical or non-practical thinking; disconnected from our practical agenda largely connected to outside world. It takes into account those phenomena and issues which do not have any practical bearing on an individual’s practical agenda. Logically the causation and origins of this thinking can only be in an individual’s emerging awareness. The desire to know more than one’s practical needs can only have its origins in an awareness of the way one’s mind is working (both in thinking and feelings) in relation to the rest of one’s life. The questions which start the process of speculative thinking as opposed to agenda oriented thinking have to have their starting point in one’s awareness of one’s ideas and feelings in general and not some practical need. Because the inquiry which arises out of practical need is limited and circumscribed by the need while speculative inquiry has no such limitations; it can arise out of both thinking and feelings i.e. there can be intellectual and emotional inquiries. thinking arising out of a developed awareness has been growing since the last five thousand years or so. We can see it especially in the works of early philosophers, poets, thinkers, etc. It drives the entire lives of individuals who occupy themselves with it. Of course the majority of the human race have occupied themselves with practical agenda oriented thinking and not awareness based thinking hence it has been a marginal phenomenon in human history. But despite being marginal it has been strong and has consistently grown and developed with time. Consequently, one is justified in recognizing it as a human mental faculty and function distinct and separate from ordinary agenda oriented thinking.
We are proposing that this new awareness, which started off by being one application and function of our mental processes, has after developing and accumulating over centuries reached a stage where it can be used as a tool in relation to problems that arise within ourselves. It can be used as a tool to think about specialized micro and macro problems of understanding, change, correction, modification, etc., pertaining to our mental processes as a whole. We can move from awareness to designer thinking when we confront any specific issue in relation to any mental state, function or aspect of some mental process. Which means instead of accidently discovering and then dealing with it we can proceed through a deliberate regular process of questioning and reasoning in order to understand and change it. This is how that awareness becomes a tool and another form of intelligence. The current information and knowledge that we are getting about the mind from disciplines like Neurophysiology, Neurology, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Psychology, etc., is one level of intelligence. There is a flood of information about mental functions, states, consciousness, brain functions and anatomy and their correlates but not about the functioning of brain as a complex living mental system. We do not at present have an integrated deeper knowledge of the mechanics of its formation, its energy constituents and functioning, its evolution, its core design-hierarchy, interconnections and interactions-and how it can be intelligently modified and engineered through mental tools and processes. Viewing the mind in this manner and for this purpose is way beyond the jurisdiction of contemporary science and philosophy, which are focused mainly on creating a plausible explanatory science of consciousness and mind.
Today we can scan and make all kinds of photographs of the brain and its various components and parts but not of the living system of mental functions. There is no hologram, echogram, CT Scan or MRI of the mental system produced by the brain. And this mental system includes emotional and feeling processes. Contemporary scientific investigations of the brain and mind are not yet within miles of this level of observation and knowing of mental functions as a living system. All attempts so far of becoming intelligent about our mental system fall short of this goal, whether its laboratory sciences or Psychology, Psychiatry, communications or even any mystical practices and traditions. In this situation an indirect but comprehensive intelligence about the mental system has to be developed. And that cannot happen with just talking about oneself; some of our motives, feelings, emotions, ideas, habits, etc., with others. Because we know that this discussion only illuminates certain limited areas, subject to many conditions and reservations and with little effect and is a far cry from being intelligent about mental functions as a distinct system.
If such an intelligence of mental processes is possible then there must be evidence of the role of this intelligence qua the mental system. Which means how this intelligence arising out of accumulated awareness and knowledge actually works with respect to mental processes. Does some difference occur in mental processes from its role? A difference or change which cannot be explained away in terms of what exists in current human experience, i.e. the changes resulting from some emotional shock or trauma (both good and bad). Such changes cannot be ascribed to the role of intelligence as they are unintelligent natural responses. This special intelligence arises out of or is the fruit of this body of thought and understanding about mental processes. And when it is applied to mental functions as a system then it gives rise to a new enabling experience of consciousness.
Rethinking and Redefining the term ‘Consciousness’
There is a need to make a clear distinction between the existing meaning of the term ‘consciousness’ as it is used generally and in scientific inquiry, and the new specific meaning that we are ascribing to it. Broadly speaking, ‘Consciousness’ is presently viewed as an awareness of oneself in terms of experiencing oneself, which is also present in animals. The beginnings of simple awareness (of the form, its needs and outside reality) in living forms can be found even in the single-celled paramecium. This awareness includes experience, perception, and a simple programmed mental response. It is essentially an internal subjective process which is based on the individual specimen’s experience of itself and its biological needs through its emotive process, where its pain pleasure programme resides. In more developed pre-verbal life forms, including pre-verbal human beings, the process of intelligence or problem solving emerges as distinct from and an addition to the programmed response. After the advent of language, we find thinking and a more developed intelligence or ‘consciousness’ coming into the picture. We can better identify the post-verbal form of consciousness with reference to unconsciousness, which implies an involuntary and unevaluated programmed response. So it would generally mean not only a response to perception but a degree of intelligent understanding of what has been perceived, be it a mental process or something outside of it. It therefore denotes not more thinking but thinking based upon deeper understanding of any particular matter or phenomenon.
In our time we would like to ascribe another specific meaning to this term so as to separate it from the normal process of thinking. The normal thinking process is a cogitative process which is mainly undertaken in relation to tangible external phenomena. The ‘Consciousness’ we are referring to involves first of all systematic thinking about mental processes and then the end product or conclusion of that thinking. It is the ‘understanding’ or ‘knowing’ that arises out of a systematic and on-going process of holistic and deeper thinking about mental processes and not assumed knowing arrived at through means like yoga, meditation, psychological exercises or some pseudo religious methods. So it potentially represents a highly organized contemporary intellectual process applied to a crucially important area of inquiry, which is not as yet fully in the grasp of Science.
‘Consciousness’ is a new train of thought arising out of our observation and awareness about the whole of our mental existence and its interactions and interconnections including a focus on what we would like to do and can be done about what we have identified and become aware of. Thus it is actually a next stage or new level of combination of our perceptual, emotive, intellectual and other mental processes (like memory, imagination, etc.), which includes planning, projecting, etc. in relation to the modification and engineering of our mental processes. If we do not assign this new meaning to the term ‘Consciousness’ then we will fall back to its existing connotations and usage in the Sciences (theoretical and laboratory) and Social Sciences, including contemporary Philosophy. In all these areas of inquiry there is a focus on micro aspects and piece meal examination of those parts of the mind which can then be defined and assigned to separate sub areas, i.e. Neurobiology, Psychology, etc. In Consciousness Studies the focus is on finding out what is ‘Consciousness’ (subjective awareness) and not on mental processes as a whole dynamic system. And again within that focus there are further sub divisions of zeroing in on anthropological consciousness, genetic consciousness or social consciousness, etc. The existing focus on ‘consciousness’ and its various forms has become so elaborate and sophisticated today that it is inhibiting a more systematic and holistic inquiry into the mental processes for the purpose of intelligently knowing and changing them. So we need to clarify and demarcate and then assign the above technical meaning to ‘Consciousness’.
From the above, it will be clear to the reader that this new process of awareness and consciousness is not something we are born with. It is like a specialized body of knowledge which can only be acquired later on in life as one grows and is able to see new dimensions of mental capabilities and functions. So this new consciousness will be one such specialized mental faculty with its own specific mental processes, tasks, applications and experience. Human beings while acquiring specialized knowledge and its applications in any area of inquiry discover and construct a whole spectrum of new mental and emotional functions and dimensions in addition to the specific mental and emotional programmes they are born with. New mental breakthroughs in specialized understanding of any phenomenon are accompanied by corresponding pleasure experiences which are not coming from any pre-existing emotional programme but from new mental processes and dimensions which are a product of the process of specialization. Thus a similar process of specialization will take place when we start gaining knowledge about our mental processes and reach a developed stage of this process where the new ‘awareness’ of mental processes emerges along with corresponding emotional pleasure processes, which one was not born with. Then we have an emerging new mind. What that practically means is that many layers of this new awareness accumulate as a result of which our consciousness is able to see not only our existing dimensions but also project their potential. When we acquire this capability of projecting and adding up our new and acquired mental functions then at that point arises the question of whether a new mental phenomenon is emerging or not. If we find it emerging as a reality, then the issue of cutting its mental natal cord with the old, arises. When our new ‘consciousness’ can see and identify the new emerging mind, not as a tool-kit for biology but a phenomenon in itself, then the cutting of the mental natal cord becomes possible and necessary. It has to be a positive discrete step, as it is in the case of a child, arising out of the awareness that there is another phenomenon which will grow to be a counterpoint and then a successor. Hence it now needs a disconnection from the old and its existing source of nourishment and has to be nourished and developed through a different way and with new sources.
The above will be the character and direction of the new unfolding awareness and consciousness of the mind which will eventually result in the new mind becoming a concrete crystallized reality and an autonomous identity with its own dynamic and far greater capabilities of intervening and changing not only its own self but the outside world.
What is ‘mental’ cognition or ‘cognizing’ and ‘observing’ the mental complex; distinction between ‘normal’ cognition and ‘mental’ cognition
It is only at the present juncture of the civilizational process that ‘cognizing’ or ‘observing’ the mind can be proposed on an intelligent plane or an unprecedented footing than how this process has been conceptualized and practiced in hitherto mystical/spiritual traditions or even in the modern intellectual methodology, which uses techniques like introspection, meta-cognition, etc. The existing concept and practice of self-consciousness or ‘know thyself’, wherein man starts becoming aware of his emotional and mental states apart from biological needs and starts claiming that he is observing his mind, is not the observation we are proposing. In fact, in our view, this concept of ‘observing’ the mind has a basic flaw. We cannot seriously or objectively observe until we develop a new mental capability, which is sufficiently external to and apart from the mental and emotional processes which we want to observe. An observation process which is a part of the preexisting mental processes cannot produce the ‘observation’ and ‘consciousness’ we are proposing. That is not an intelligent process based on acquiring sustained, systematic, objective observations and then processing those observations to produce a holistic understanding which can be called ‘consciousness’ of mental processes. So we need a new process of observation producing a new form of ‘consciousness’ of the mind.We have today a sufficient knowledge and understanding base (scientific and otherwise) to undertake a deeper and serious process of cognition and observation, which would be the first real step toward a sustained and holistic engineering of our mental processes. And as mentioned earlier this will be an exercise that will be aimed not only at restructuring the existing functioning of the mind but also its core design/architecture and logic of the existing connections and interactions of its fundamental processes and functions. In this regard, the first issue that we need to become aware of when we talk of ‘cognizing’ or ‘observing’ the mind is the concept of ‘mental cognition’ itself. In Scientific Literature it denotes a process of mental processing of sensory data after which some conclusions or say inferences are drawn within the mind about that data, which is primarily about the outside world. There is internal data in processes like meta cognition but that is about our existing learning, memory or normal functioning of the cognitive process, when it processes sensory data coming from external stimuli. In reality therefore, this process of mental cognition is really inferential cognition and not primary cognition. By the latter we mean a direct cognitive process like that of sensory perception, which is able to directly receive information about the source. Thus if there is to be any ‘cognition’ of the mind itself then it will have to be such a direct primary cognition at the mental level with no intervention of sensory process based cognition.
Logically some form of primary cognition or we can say internal sensory perception would already be existing within us and even in animals. This form of a perceptual process would be built in into the interconnections between the brain, mind and other physiological systems of the body. It is through such an internal perceptual process of sensing and reception that the mental and physiological systems would be interacting with each other in a coordinated manner. This system would be operating in terms of a composite of rarified massless energy forms which constitute mental processes and the heavier electrochemical energy processes, in which the brain and body operates. There would be interface and transduction between the various levels of energy processes for classification, relevant processing and then corresponding responses. But this entire process would be taking place at the unconscious level and with the sole purpose of coordination between the different biological systems and also with mental functions for smooth and stable integrated functioning and survival of the biological form. We are proposing an addition to this process in the form of conscious internal perception focusing on accumulating direct perceptions and cognitions of mental processes and for the purpose of their intelligent restructuring and engineering.
If we are to observe the mental processes more deeply and clearly in terms of their design, components, energy constituents, critical evolutionary interconnections and interactions (with the genetic and biological processes) and their logic and the deeper (not superficial) layers of their functioning then we need this new internal ‘perception’ and ‘cognition’ capability. This type of ‘cognition’ will be a new mental process and capability which we will have to learn to generate in order to supplement our existing cognitive capability, both external and internal. In order to generate this new internal cognitive capability and process we will need to disconnect from our existing plane of observation and cognition and come up with new mechanics apart from the mechanics of the existing cognitive process, which are actually biological because they are based primarily on external sensory data and process. Which means they are in terms of the familiar and tangible electrochemical or other such heavier energy form based components, while the conscious mental cognition that we are proposing will be in terms of the energy constituents and components or building blocks of mental processes i.e. some lighter pre-big bang massless magnetic energy forms. Because in our view direct primary cognition of mental processes can only take place at the level at which they actually exist and operate. The logic of what we are saying can be discerned from the following statement of Brian Greene where he says “As a general rule, the size of the probe particle that we use sets a lower limit to the length scale to which we are sensitive… Useful probe particles cannot be substantially larger than the physical features being examined; otherwise, they will be insensitive to the structures of interest”.
Keeping the above in mind let us first take a look at the basic logic of the existing external cognitive process. The energy sources that our senses perceive today, historically speaking, existed before our receptors came into being. It was during the process of evolution that we succeeded in producing certain sensors or receptors which could operate within a certain range of the energy spectrum and receive the energy radiating or coming within that range, in a discrete manner. Which means they became capable of classifying the incoming data. So living things then acquired the critical (to survival and further evolution) capability to classify the energy spectrum received. This is a very important point because it is for this classification that precisely calibrated receptors were gradually evolved, which enabled living things to detect micro ranges of energy and also distinguish between one range and another. And then also develop the ability to relate the discrete parts of the received energy to its source, and that too not generally but precisely. So this must have been an internal process that would have emerged and then developed in living things as they moved on to become more complex. In addition, it is through this process that specialized sensory organs would have gradually evolved for perceiving a range of energy processes in the environment of a living thing. This is the process of external sensory perception. In human beings it has become quite complex and many-layered because of the exponential growth in the data it has to perceive and has even been extended through scientific or laboratory tools.
We are of the view that a similar process will be needed for systematically cognizing the human mental processes and that will be this new process of ‘internal sensory perception’ or direct mental cognition. Similar to external sensory perception, this process will also have receptors (a sort of sensing mechanism of weak massless quantum energy formations) sensitive to mental energy constituents, which would detect, record, resolve and classify (not broadly but at the most micro level, which means as micro as the source can produce), the different ranges of mental energy signals that arise at source, from the various mental processes themselves. And then relate each discrete part of the received energy to its source in specific terms. Its resolution in micro detail will depend on how resolved the mental energy radiation or signal is at source and how specific are its components. Ideally the receptor should be able to resolve it at the same micro level at which it originated; logically it cannot do more than that. And this ability to resolve would increase in proportion with the information needed from the spectrum of mental energy signals; the more the information needed the more will have to be the ability to resolve it into micro ranges. It is only after separating the different ranges from the lump of energy received or cognizing discretely its components that it will then proceed to classify them in different categories and then proceed to interpret them. So as to faithfully transmit the data about the state of the source to the next stages of mental processing of that cognized data. Since this entire process will not involve any biological sensory process (which is actually external to the mind itself) so it will be largely non-conflicting with the existing heavier energy substrate of biological processes within us; it will not disturb the atomic and molecular processes or our existing biological/physiological functioning (including the existing brain processes involved in generating mental processes). It will operate primarily at the nonverbal level and largely outside the confines of our existing verbal and normal conscious (in the sense of simple awareness) processes. But verbal inputs will be integrated in this process as they are done in the process of external cognition. Most importantly, it will gradually need to become a specialized mental organ like the various biological sensory organs of perception. Accumulated cognitions of the mind in its various layers (surface to deeper ones) and interconnections will over a period of time result in the formation of a specialized mental process of direct mental cognition, whose data will then go as input into the next stages of processing of those cognitions; producing conclusions and generating the Will for the implementation of those conclusions. In time, the data processing and then Will processes in relation to these accumulated cognitions about the mental processes in all their layers, interconnections and dimensions, will in themselves become specialized and elaborate processes. It is only then that the individual will acquire the capability of engineering and the process of mental restructuring will commence as a sustained and deeper process entailing both modification, pruning, eradication of existing mental patterns and processes and the generation of new mental capabilities and processes.
The above post-mental cognition process will be undertaken by our intellect in consonance with our developed sensitivity process or, in other words, by an intelligent composite of our verbal and nonverbal mental processes. Both these processes are perfectly capable of undertaking this process of internal perception of the various mental processes just as they have been carrying out perception of external phenomena (both tangible and intangible to existing tools like strings, black holes, etc). In fact, at an unintelligent level they already observe and interact with the various mental processes and also modify the various pre-existing mental states and functions. Only now they will be intelligently developing this new process and mechanics of cognizing the mind in all its layers as an objective process and then making serious interventions in its design and functioning so as to restructure existing and make new mental products.
An obstacle in direct ‘mental cognition’
Once we begin the process of observing the mind through direct mental cognition we will confront an obstacle in this process. This obstacle is concerned with how our mind functions when it begins to acquire observations about a phenomenon. Alongside the process of acquiring observations about a phenomenon as it is, one keeps interpreting that information but a stage comes during that process when one needs more observations and one is unable to get them. Because the obvious resources of observation and cognition have gotten exhausted and it is now difficult to get more observations. So there what one is liable to do is to substitute thinking for observation. That is, one starts drawing inferences from the acquired direct observations and then starts considering and treating those inferences on the same level as observations. So then we start engaging in a process of pseudo-reasoning and cheap inferences based on our existing mental software and programmes instead of strict reasoning in which one is able to intelligently see the distinction between inferences and direct observations and not substitute the latter with the former but persist with the process of acquiring more direct observations. And then through strict reasoning draw strict inferences on the basis of those observations, which are tentative and subject to verification during their application. Thus while observing and cognizing the mind we need to be aware of this hazard in our existing method of reason based inquiry and investigation of phenomena.
i. The normal form of ‘awareness’ that we experience is of the tangible reality of our biological existence and its interactions, which we call ‘perception’ and then we have thinking based on this perception.
ii. We have two types of experiences of reality; one through awareness based mental processes and the other through perception based mental processes. And we need to grasp and appreciate the distinction between them.
iii. Up to now whenever any questions and problems arose about one’s own thinking, whether it was in conjunction with outside phenomena like stars, heavens, time, eternity, etc., or something purely internal, it remained a function or process. Because there one was formulating problems of one’s internal mental processes like feelings and ideas, collaterally with things that one observed in the outside world.
iv. If we have an on-going capability which is going to operate and unfold from time to time in different ways then we also acquire the capability of projecting it.
v. Greene, 2000, pp.152-154.
vi. Just an aside here. Cell Biologist Bruce Lipton thinks that human cell membranes might have receptors which could detect the energy signals of thought as well in addition to other known signals that they receive. In our view, the process of mental cognition that we are proposing logically cannot take place through biological mechanics. The physical mechanics of the making of mental processes and consciousness could use such receptors in the cell membrane, just like Penrose and Hameroff’s microtubules, to harness the weak particle/quantum processes and use them as building blocks of mental processes. This could be the physical mechanics of the making of mental processes and consciousness but the mental cognition of mental processes themselves that we are proposing will need to use some other mechanics; these will have to be mental mechanics and not biological.