The nature and need for knowing the mind
through mental restructuring
We must not confuse the fact that we have learnt to use our minds for observing, reflecting upon and enhancing our various mental functions/processes, (through various empirical techniques, methods, technologies and psychological tools) with proposed holistic intelligence (knowing and doing) about them. The former is necessary but insufficient for the task that contemporary man is really confronting at this stage of his evolution.
The holistic intelligence we are proposing talks of a long-term and sustained internal journey in the sense of being a regular, rigorous and systematic process of observing, thinking, and its application to one’s own mental processes and capabilities with clear long-term stakes for us as individuals and as a society. This on-going process of observing and thinking about one’s own mind has to be undertaken by the most developed part of our mind, i.e. our intellect supported and directed by our new developed sensitivities and emotive processes about the need for this process. We are therefore saying that one part of the mind. i.e. our developed verbal intellect and its nonverbal emotional and sensitivity counterparts, can objectively and rationally observe the mind as a whole and also intervene in its existing design and functioning. We are proposing the possibility of an on-going process of intelligent mental restructuring and engineering carried out by the mind itself through internal mental tools. Hence this is not some external, short-term, funding driven scientific study or project to either pursue intellectual curiosity or any other subjective agenda (a Nobel prize for instance), or enhance some of the existing mental functions or address various mental disorders and impairments. Of course it is clear to us that we are still at the very beginning of this journey, like the primitive man was when he started learning to work with stone. Hence we want to proceed in this direction with humility and use the existing scientific and philosophical research in brain and mind sciences and related areas as an invaluable resource with the hope of contributing some new knowledge to it, if possible.
The problem of intelligently knowing and changing mental processes
In every period of human history men have drawn and accepted boundaries or parameters of their lives in relation to what they can and cannot change. Within those boundaries they struggle for things they can change through a mixture of luck and circumstance, while those existing beyond the boundary are thought of as unchangeable. So this essentially boils down to individuals struggling to improve the lives they have accepted within accepted boundaries and parameters. The part of our lives lying beyond the above mentioned boundaries has many components and their subdivisions such as birth, death, facial features, functioning of internal biological mechanisms which cannot be changed beyond the limits of available medicines and surgery, discovery of a hidden disease that could neither be predicted nor prevented, and then accidents. This list also includes making changes in spoilt relationships, which are beyond repair or negotiation, or the constraints of our habits, temperaments, and personalities, where we feel we cannot change our ideas (which we have come to adopt as our own) in some basic fundamental matters. In all the above cases, we draw a line and we do not make any attempts to cross it except through some external means like science and technology. What our mental processes can know and do is tied to what technologies and sciences are available to us. The core underlying assumption being that our mental processes cannot change their capabilities on their own as they have no control over their ability to function beyond a given limit.
Our emphasis on external means and tools and our assumption about the mental capability, to directly intervene in the mind to change it, emanates from the fact that the Science of the mind has not yet been able to produce any technology of mental processes which can enable us to intelligently engineer and use them more productively and purposefully. The various Sciences of the brain and body cannot directly affect and change mental processes but only through changes of environment, which includes external tools and methodologies. Due to this fact there is no serious curiosity and interest in discovering the technology of mental processes. Although human history tells us that man’s curiosity in relation to external things made him mentally conceive and invent the technology of innumerable objects ranging from early and crude things like spears, swords, gunpowder, to highly sophisticated artifacts and processes like missiles, rockets, AI, Nanotechnology, and so on. The important thing to note is that when these technologies were not in existence, man’s said and unsaid position was never that he cannot or will not make them. He went on experimenting, mentally inventing and eventually physically creating these innumerable technologies. In the case of mental processes, both scientists and ordinary thinking individuals are not at present interested in discovering how they can proactively change them through their own deeper inquiry and with the assistance of internal mental tools. They want to passively wait for them to change as they have been changing, through external environmental means and ways. There seems to be a consensus among them that this is not an area for inquiry because they feel satisfied with the existing arenas of inquiry they can already access and use. There seems to be a kind of control over the process of inquiry which flows from the existing social formations, trends and forces along with mental constraints and barriers against this form of knowing and changing.
We would like to challenge this existing situation and propose that we can go beyond it if we are able to intelligently understand and restructure our mental processes so as to tap their power and potential for internal and external change. Mental processes are known to intervene and interfere both with non-mental processes such as iron, earth, etc., and mental processes of planning, thinking, desires, and habits, although the degree of intervention in the latter is far more circumscribed. At a given time in human history there are limits of human mental decisions and actions in the manipulation, interference and changing of minds and external things. We know, for instance, that mental decisions like going to war, making peace, drafting and passing of certain laws, etc., have their limitations. But it is illogical to draw the line of possibility and impossibility on the basis of what mental processes are capable of doing at a given time and place, especially when this line has been changing throughout history. Human abilities to think and reason, which are purely mental acts, have been changing over time. Of course they are believed to change predominantly through changes of environment and most of the time independent of our Will and intention. The different kinds of changes of environment have varied effects on mental processes, which either changes them or not. Man needs to explore the possibility that an inquiry into intelligent and deliberate changes in mental processes through an internal process might be far more productive (in terms of time, investment of effort and cost) than exploring the changes he already makes in them through the fields of sciences, engineering and technologies.
The interesting thing is that since we do not yet have laboratory (read external) tools so in fact we do not need laboratories for an inquiry into mental processes. At present, we have to proceed without external tools just as all existing advanced inquiries did in their own time. History of Science tells us that inquiries did (and can) begin without laboratory tools of observation and all existing knowledge emerged out of that stage of man. Thus undertaking such an inquiry would not be an unprecedented act on the part of contemporary man.
There is no conspiracy theory preventing this from happening but a consensus, not only among scientists and engineers but also lay people. It is generally believed that since scientists do not yet have positive knowledge and lay men do not have access to laboratories so a deeper inquiry and engineering of mental processes is currently not possible. The result of this consensus is the continuing existence of a large area of ignorance about mental processes. Whereas in reality there is ample raw material for starting a serious inquiry into knowing and changing of mental processes. With the help of existing highly advanced and powerful external technologies we can collect and classify massive amounts of data relating to mental processes and their effects, make logical tentative inferences from it to construct reason based hypotheses for our comprehensive internally driven and directed inquiry into mental processes. This inquiry can be undertaken by individuals and then groups of individuals and its results can be tested and then modified and supplemented through a collective process.
Unfortunately, we, the ordinary people, governments, corporations, laboratories, etc., are not willing to invest in such a process of inquiry. There is a lot of investment in the industries related to the behavioral effects of mental processes but the deeper design level causes of those effects are not being inquired into on a serious philosophical plane. The implications of discovering and understanding these causes are far reaching. For instance, we could use such understanding to mentally intervene into our genetic processes and thereby produce a new man, who would live longer and be more capable of resolving his current crises, which are primarily a product of his mental plane. In addition, this knowing could also open new areas of inquiry outside of man. Intelligently and consciously directed mental processes would affect other things and processes in Nature because their constituent energy forms already interact with and influence other energy processes and formations around them.
Why this type of knowing and changing is needed and has become possible today; overcoming the mental obstacles to moving in this direction
In the last ten to twelve thousand years of human civilization when a growing and accumulating experience of the modern mind unfolded, we have been using the mind largely for investigating and acting upon those things and objects which were directly observable by our sensory organs and corresponding thinking processes. Two things have happened during this time. One, the human intelligence process has evolved and is clearly the most advanced and productive tool available to man so far. Two, man has gained enormous amounts of experience in using his intelligence and intellectual processes to investigate phenomena and develop that investigation over generations and centuries to produce objective knowledge and its successful applications in innumerable spheres of human life.
Today man has reached a stage where he can historically identify within himself an old and a new emerging mind. On the basis of accumulated knowledge and intelligence man can realize that his mind has not always existed in its present form and has a history. And what he experiences today as his intelligent mind is not the whole of it. So when he traces that history he will see both the old and the new emerging mind within himself and the issue of the transition from the former to the latter. A transition which has to be made intelligently, in accordance with contemporary norms of growing intelligence, intellect and the best of human sensitivities. More so because one is dealing with a very important and highly complex phenomenon, i.e. the contemporary human mind, which logically requires one to intelligently go about it. When one is confronted with this issue and question of intelligent transition then one confronts the crisis of a few prevailing and unconsciously formulated paradigms about the mind, which have an in-built exclusion of a deeper investigation of the mind, urgently needed in our time. One, we know what the mind is; the phenomenon of ‘Mind’ is basically the experience that we have of our own mind and the way we use it. Two, since we have ample experience of how we use the mind hence that is how the mind should be used. The third paradigm, which is largely unstated, comes as a kind of bonus for our being unintelligent about our own minds. According to this nonverbal paradigm our minds do not and are not capable of working in any other way or for anything else other than their present manner of functioning based on known and practiced mental procedures. This exclusivity is a negative feature because it inhibits further questioning and inquiry about the proper and future uses of the mind and the manner in which it can be used.
At this stage then one tries to use one’s mind as one has been using it in accordance with the second paradigm. Where the procedures and methods of this usage make the mind inaccessible to our intelligence because they are dependent on tangible perceptual observation, which we do not yet have in relation to the phenomenon of our own minds. That is why any speculation and existing use of our intelligence in this area is really a substitute for a serious investigation into the mind for the purpose of its intelligent transition from the old to the new. For example, the inquiries, questions and actual work in disciplines like Neurology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Cognitive Sciences, Consciousness Studies, etc., are, in our view, essentially a substitute for the much needed deeper level of inquiry that is required today for tangibly identifying and carrying out this process of transition within the mind. In objective reality after the inception of the emerging new mind the bandwagon of transition has been rolling. It is our failure to make progress in this transition that is producing a huge number of crises in all departments of human life. And this issue is an even bigger problem and on a much larger scale, than other urgent and critical problems like power, poverty, inequality, food security, climate change, population, etc.
In this situation we can take two steps. First, recognize our mental capability of intelligent inquiry which is already an installed procedure in our intellect, focusing and coordinating the various departments of our mind, like, knowledge, imagination, seeking parallels and analogous situations, theoretical modeling based on intellectual tools and assets, etc. Alongside this capability of inquiry, we also have the emotional capability of harnessing ourselves or latching onto an investigation despite all odds against it and persist with it with a sharp focus. So we can keep hammering at it like the Vietnamese did for winning their war. When they were asked how they succeeded their reply was that they learned to break stones with egg shells. Thus we can carry out a similar process which might bear fruit as it did for the Vietnamese.
The other step is that we need to emancipate these mental capabilities of intelligent inquiry and emotional persistence from the groove of the earlier mentioned paradigms about the mind. As long as they prevail they prevent us from focusing our intellectual and emotional capabilities on the design and engineering level investigation into the mind. So we have to get our contemporary mental capabilities, as they stand at the cutting edge of our intelligence, away from the gravitational pull and prison of these paradigms and then focus them onto the mind as a whole. Here it would be pertinent to mention that empiricism or the empirical method is a very important feature of how we preserve the prison of these paradigms. The reason is that it ties the working of the mind to perceptually (including extensions of our sensory organs) observable and mathematically quantifiable phenomena. Before this method if we go back to earlier periods, starting from the Greeks, when man’s intellect began to investigate both external (nature, human body) and internal (mind, soul) phenomena without laboratory tools then he did not have the arrogance of his ignorance at that time. Despite those phenomena being intellectually and also perceptually (as there were no telescopes or microscopes) intangible to man he kept on inquiring and investigating. There was no inhibition, as in the case of empiricism, to inquiring into the intangible unknown. Human mind’s history is full of such periods.
What this tells us is that although at present we do not have the laboratory tools to observe and investigate mental processes or to objectively establish what they are made of but if we seriously become inquisitive then we will find an infinite amount of secondary evidence available through observing the results of their interactions and functioning in relation to non-mental things both within (in our body and brain) and outside ourselves. Alongside this we also have evidence that our various intellectual (which includes our developed nonverbal perceptual, emotional and sensitivity processes) exercises, functions and undertakings have produced situations and circumstances where our previous state of mind has been altered. We can witness this in human individual and social evolution. This tells us that there is an interactivity going on between our intellectual capabilities and corresponding developed emotional and sensitivity processes and pre-existing mental states and formations independent of any consciously designed intervention and elaborate redesigning and restructuring of the mental complex. So this is secondary evidence of the fact that our existing intellectual processes are capable of interacting with and modifying our other mental processes. There are two implications of accepting the above interaction. One, both the intellectual process and old mind are tangible to each other. And there is plenty of evidence that they can observe and modify each other. Two, if at the unintelligent level there is an inbuilt mutual and interactive tangibility within the larger mind then how can we exclude the possibility of an intelligent observation, interaction and modification process. This would be an unreasonable position to take when we know it is being done at the unintelligent level. And the only reason for that position would be that we have never tried doing it intelligently. We have been too busy with the constrictions of our defective paradigms, which have actually become inhibiting dogmas for us. So we are in fact inhibiting this intelligent process because we want to preserve the status quo in our mental formations. This is the contemporary version of the old witchcraft of the church which tried to inhibit and obstruct Science. We are doing to ourselves what the pope was doing to Galileo. Today there are too many interests and inertias involved with the mental status quo regardless of the crying need of humanity for breaking out of these shackles and its cost in terms of human misery.
Thus it is time that we open an era of intelligent investigation into our minds by our intellect and developed sensitivity and emotional processes, which, as mentioned earlier, are perfectly capable of internally observing and interacting with the rest of the mind and doing that intelligently and on a deeper and fundamental level.
i. This includes the current ideas and latest technologies exploring the changes in human mental and social functioning due to brain-AI connection and interaction.
ii. Even today despite having elaborate and sophisticated laboratory tools of observation we cannot rely only on them to comprehensively and deeply understand any phenomenon. They are still a part of the overall process of any scientific inquiry, in which the large part is of mental cognition, conception, interpretation and tangibility. In fact here we would like to quote some pertinent words of a computational Physicist on the nature of scientific tools. According to David Deutsch “It may seem strange that scientific instruments bring us closer to reality when in purely physical terms they only ever separate us further from it. But we observe nothing directly anyway. All observation is theory-laden…” (2012, p. 41). This clearly points to the actual role, value and limitation of external scientific tools in understanding the actual reality of any phenomenon.
iii. Apart from intelligence, the mind has many other functions which come under the umbrella of emotional processes and functions and then the repetitive and unconsciously formed Will patterns or protocols in the form of emotional and intellectual habits, and many overlaps of these areas, producing new mental processes and functions. There is a lot of research happening in science on the various mental functions and processes apart from intelligence.
iv. When we are largely ignorant but unaware of our ignorance then we become arrogant of that hybrid state of little knowing and more ignorance. We have the illusion that whatever we know is true and real.
v. We have seen how certain ideas and motivations have gripped individuals and made them override their pre-existing ideas and emotional fears, motivations, feelings which modified their personalities and their doing in relation to the world around them. And this very process at times took a collective dimension where strong ideological frameworks influenced the social interactions of individuals and channelized them into new directions. For example, Marxist ideas influenced (through rejection) an individual’s preexisting ideas, feelings, motivation processes and then his social interactions and led to new doing on both planes. So we have many examples of such modification of mental processes through new intellectual ideas and corresponding sensitivity processes.
vi. At present any deliberate intervention is to the extent of using rational thinking to modify, rectify and enhance the functioning of our emotional processes and other mental functions and states like habits, memory, cognition, reasoning capability, etc., which constitute our personality and its basic character. But the internal (mental plane) mechanics and steps of this process have not so far been tangible which means one cannot make changes at the design level and do serious engineering through dismantling and making new mental processes with their new interconnections and interactions.