Monday, 23 May 2016

Consciousness and the nervous system - From A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle

A Geography of Consciousness by William Arkle - some selected highlights

Chapter 1 – Fields of consciousness - consciousness and the nervous system 

It was said previously that we have a good deal of knowledge about the function of our nervous system is and the way in which brain cells communicate information to our physical brain. However unless we identify the physical brain with thought, feeling and consciousness, it is necessary to propose that our true being resides somewhere other than in the physical function of the physical body.

One reason why we tend to identify our consciousness in the head is because our most valuable organs of communication are situated there. If our eyes were placed in our left arm, no doubt we would tend to sense that we were behind them, and therefore in our left arm also. As the ears and mouth are also in the head we feel comfortably placed between them all and at the centre of our reception and transmission of information.

When the nature of the communication processes associated with the human consciousness is examined, a system which is basically an electronic one is found. This, in its courser stages, is associated with physical and chemical changes.

Unfortunately, because men have not as yet succeeded in understanding much about the function of matter beyond the electronic stage, they are inclined to say that the electronic level of experience is the end of the road. The scientific type of study of these matters is so successful up to this point, that it has acquired an authority greater than that of the theologist, philosopher, psychologist or intelligent human being. When the scientist suddenly stops short in his description of the universe and of man, the temptation to stop short with him is very great.

This, however, is most unfortunate, since there is good reason to believe that the level to which science has attained will be found to be very much on the perimeter of our true nature and are true reality. It must be said, therefore, that something passes beyond the electronic level of function of the human brain and so must pass into a condition of matter which as yet science does not recognise and which pretends to be sceptical about.

The scientist, having the authority which we have given him, tends to make fools of us all when it comes to the understanding of consciousness itself. The scientist is not to blame for this, however. We are ourselves to blame, for the simple reason that we gave our filters to the scientist as soon as we noticed that he was uncommonly successful and full of 'magic and witchcraft'.

We were indeed only too pleased to find someone to give our filters to, since we knew they were very important but that they were a great deal of trouble to the owners.

We must now face up to this situation and endeavour to create some sort of structure in our understanding, which will bridge the gap between the level of matter which the scientific instruments of our age have succeeded in examining and the staff of consciousness itself which is the stuff we actually exist in.

We must break with the temptation to allow our attitudes or filters to be governed by scientific facts and return to a position in which we remain fully responsible for our own attitudes so that they are the result of our own experiences, valuations and intelligence.

The facts which scientists give us are still of great value to us, so long as we do not see ourselves as identified with the world which they are taken from, for this world is the world of time and space which is of no concern to our consciousness as such, but is only a means of communication. We must no more identify ourselves with these physical modes of communication than we should identify ourselves with a telephone!

It will probably be a very long time before instruments are able to observe the stuff of consciousness and discover the seat of it. But we cannot afford to wait until they do. We must therefore use are intelligent imagination to extend the processes which we have examined, towards that awareness which each of us knows exists. So long as we keep this in terms of a broad and tentative vary it cannot do any harm and may help us a good deal.