Mind Course – Recommended Reading

A Brief History of Mind and Civilization

by Garry Jacobs

The rational mind is the highest evolved status of human consciousness. The evolution of mind and civilization has proceeded hand in hand for millennia. The development of new capacities of mind made possible the development of tools, language, agriculture, permanent settlements, towns, cities, religion, trade, transportation, communication, government, law, money, literature and the arts, education, nation states, scientific and technological research. So too, each stage in the development of civilization has shaped the evolution of the human mind and its faculties and the way they are applied in life. The limits to our knowledge and accomplishment reflect limits to our rationality and the utilization of our mental potential. Our knowledge consists of fragmented, piecemeal, compartmentalized theories, when the reality we seek to understand is inclusive, complex and integrated. Our conceptions are based on mechanistic, static, inflexible equilibrium models, whereas the world we live in is alive, dynamic, organic, conscious, responsive, creative and continuously evolving. Our science assumes the poise of an impartial observer of objective reality, whereas all knowledge without exception is colored by the subjective perspective of the observer. Our science strives to be neutral and value-free, whereas the knowledge we need should help us realize universal values. We need to evolve ways of thinking that reunite the objective and subjective dimensions of reality and reflect the integrality, dynamism and vibrancy of evolutionary nature. That is the challenge and adventure before us.

Ways of Knowing: Life Beyond Chaos

by Garry Jacobs

“The first necessity is to recognize that the limitations of present knowledge are the result of the limitations of the mental faculties we employ and that the solution lies not in endless, repetitive exercise of those faculties, but rather in efforts to transcend them by developing more powerful ways of knowing.”

The ways of knowing we employ determine the nature of knowledge we arrive at. Our capacity for knowledge depends on our conception of what knowledge is and the faculties we employ to seek it. The early advances of modern science resulted from efforts to overcome the limitations of the physical senses by a conception that sense data does not adequately reflect reality and from development of instruments capable of extending beyond the reach of our physical senses. The capacity of the physical mind to divide reality into its component parts, to concentrate on each of the parts and analyze its properties led to remarkable scientific advances during the 18th and 19th centuries. The capacity of mind to aggregate apparently independent objects and view them as constituent elements of a wider totality gave rise to systems thinking and important discoveries during the 20th century. Empiricism, reductionism and systems thinking are all based on a conception of reality that regards life and consciousness as artifacts or, at best, secondary emergent properties of material mechanisms. The problems of knowledge and life confronting humanity today result from exclusive reliance on the mind’s capacity for division and aggregation. This article calls for efforts to develop more synthetic and integrated ways of knowing which possess the capacity to build on the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of reductionism and systems thinking. Doing so will enable us to discover solutions to pressing problems and vast unutilized opportunities concealed by what we presently perceive as threatening uncertainty.

Original Thinking

by Ashok Natarajan

“Problems such as we know are not real problems. They are of our own making and will disappear if we acquire the right attitude to new ideas and take the right initiatives.”

History that comes to us as a chronology of events is really a collective existence that is evolving through several stages to develop Individuality in all members of the society. The human community, nation states, linguistic groups, local castes and classes, and families are the intermediate stages in development of the Individual. The social process moves through phases of survival, growth, development and evolution. In the process it organizes the consciousness of its members at successive levels from social external manners, formed behavior, value-based character and personality to culminate in the development of Individuality. Through this process, society evolves from physicality to Mentality. The power of accomplishment in society and its members develops progressively through stages of skill, capacity, talent, and ability. Original thinking is made possible by the prior development of thinking that organizes facts into information. The immediate result of the last world war was a shift in reliance from physical force and action to mental conception and mental activity on a global scale. At such times no problem need defy solution, if only humanity recognizes the occasion for thinking and Original Thinking. The apparently insoluble problems we confront are an opportunity to formulate a comprehensive theory of social evolution. The immediate possibility is to devise complete solutions to all existing problems, if only we use the right method of thought development.

Creativity and Education

by David Peat

“Creativity is unconditioned; it is its own reward.”

There is a call for increased creativity on the part of individuals, groups and society as a whole. For when creativity is blocked the mind becomes frustrated, even angry, violent and destructive. But why should creativity appear to be so compromised in our modern world? By contrast creativity appears to be totally natural and spontaneous in children; in their play, dressing up, make believe and even play fighting. Why then does it become impoverished as they become adults? Creativity in children is its own reward but as they enter school they find themselves rewarded for the work they do. Soon seeking approval and reward becomes their motivation and so they begin to look at the work of others for clues as to the rules of success. The paper discusses ways in which children’s creativity can be fostered rather than blocked.

The Conscious Individual

by Ashok Natarajan

“Humanity progresses in the measure it becomes conscious and organizes that consciousness.”

This article traces the evolutionary development of human consciousness and its increasingly complex and sophisticated organization as human personality from the instinctive behavior of the animal and the subconscious conformity characteristic of early forms of human civilization through progressive stages of transition from physical to social to mental levels of awareness and from the undifferentiated social consciousness of the member of the tribe to the emergence of independent thinking, creativity and uniqueness, which characterize the Conscious Individual. The individual and the collective evolve in tandem. The collective imparts its acquired capacities to its members. The emerging individual acts as a catalyst to spur further development of the collective. Each stage of the journey is the same in essence and structure at progressively higher levels of consciousness and organization. The higher the level achieved by the collective in terms of quality and complexity, the greater the knowledge and organization demanded of the individual. The article ends by cataloging crucial points at which modern society is mired in outmoded conceptions, superstitious beliefs, pre-modern values and archaic institutions that obstruct humanity’s further evolution from problems and limitations to ever-expanding opportunities. The conscious individual is the key to that process.

Recognizing Unrecognized Genius

by Ivo Šlaus, Garry Jacobs

“Genius sees life in its profundity and totality.”

How can we identify the potential for genius, so we can encourage it rather than waiting for it to manifest? The answer lies in understanding the most striking characteristics that distinguish the creative processes of genius. One approach to identifying unrecognized genius would be to look for people who approach problems from a wider perspective. These are individuals with the capacity to transcend the limits of conventional thinking and the boundaries of prevailing rationality. Genius unifies apparently disparate and unconnected phenomenon. Today, there is an urgent need to reconnect disparate fields of thought in the social sciences – economics, politics, society and psychology. Unification of the social sciences and humanities can generate precious insights into the social process, such as the study of social evolution in literature. The genius is one who sees the whole which is greater than the sum of the parts. Prevailing conceptions in economics have become so highly compartmentalized, quantified and abstracted, that economic science is divorced from the reality it seeks to explain. Genius has the capacity to discover the truth in opposite viewpoints and to reconcile apparent contradictions at a higher level. Every sphere of human existence has progressed dramatically over the last 200 years — freedom, education, information, communication, technology, knowledge, and measurement have all increased exponentially. Then, is there any reason why the phenomenon of genius cannot similarly multiply? In the last ten centuries, the world may have discovered a hundred or more geniuses.

Viable Solutions for seemingly Intractable Problems

by Ashok Natarajan

“Modern science was born to fight the superstition of religion. Now we find that it has generated its own superstition.”

Life is filled with seemingly intractable problems. But life wisdom affirms that if there is a problem, there must be a solution. Or better yet, the solution to the problem lies within the problem itself. Problems have their roots in disharmony. Disharmony arises when a part separates itself from the whole and acts independently of the wider reality of which it is a part, as financial markets have separated themselves from the real economy and economy has detached itself from social and ecological consequences. Insistence on out-moded approaches under new conditions generates intractable problems, as when the framework of a heterogeneous nation-state is employed for the dominance of a single ethnic or religious group. Knowledge and culture are the supreme values of a society and core element of its capacity for accomplishment and development, yet both tend to be exclusively possessed by elites for their own benefit, rather than freely distributed to maximize their impact on society as a whole. Society evolves by the transformation of ignorance into knowledge. Life evolves by organization. The linking and integration of social organizations spur development. Mind itself is an organization and powerful force for development. Energy makes organization more efficient. Any problem can be solved by raising the effectiveness of energy by converting it into skill or capacity and transforming it into power through organization. What one person sees as a problem is an opportunity for another with wider vision. The difference in perception accounts for the difference in levels of accomplishment. So, those with the right perspective see opportunities where others see insolvable problems. Current problems are the result of irrationality, refusal to benefit from past experience and insistence on repeating past errors. Modern science, which was born to fight the superstition of religion, has become a source of superstition. Fully availing of the latest advances for the widest benefit of humanity is a simple and effective principle for solving apparently intractable problems. Problems exist at various levels; what works on one level may not work for the other. Solutions are possible for any problem because man is always free to draw on solutions from a higher plane.

The Emerging Individual

by Garry Jacobs

Humanity is in the process of evolving from collective uniformity to increasing individual variation and diversity. This movement has gained impetus from the growing recognition that the overall strength and sustainability of the collective is proportionate to the value it accords to each individual human being and the active support it lends for full development of each individual’s unique, creative potentials. The relationship between the individual and the collective, microcosm and macrocosm of one integrated whole which we call Society, is a crucial determinant of social development. The collective initiates social change through the actions of pioneering individuals – thinkers, artists, inventors, explorers, entrepreneurs, innovators – who give expression to its unrealized aspirations, unformed conceptions and unexpressed initiatives. Formed individuals seek to fulfill higher aspirations, express new conceptions and initiate new actions which are eventually accepted, imitated, organized and assimilated into the subconscious of the collective.
As humanity evolved from its animal ancestors in pre-history, Society emerged as an amorphous mass struggling to consolidate itself into a single viable, integrated entity. Once it succeeded in molding itself into a unified entity, it refused to tolerate divergent behavior among its members which threatened to jeopardize that integrity. Even harmless attempts at variation were prohibited. Thus, gradually the collective emerged with a unified identity. Beyond this stage of assured survival of the social collective, society has evolved subconsciously, that is, its development has occurred not by a conscious, concerted, organized and coordinated effort but by sporadic, spontaneous and uncontrolled variation. Once survival, the main objective, was assured, other activities were allowed to emerge and spread within strict limits but without conscious direction by the collective. During this latter phase, the accumulated subconscious experience of society leads to the acquisition of collective knowledge, but it remains unnoticed or unformulated and is not made conscious or explicit by the collective until it becomes conscious knowledge and is given conscious expression by one or a few members of the collective. The pioneer, leader, entrepreneur, genius and all its other versions are various expressions of a common principle, the Individual who consciously embodies in himself all that the society has developed subconsciously.
The evolution of individuality remains incomplete. At the level of society, convention and conformity stifle individual freedom and creativity. The need today is for individuality of social action with the creative capacity to fashion more positive human relationships. It can be aided by mental individuals who give voice to ideas that will guide social development in the future, such as global financial management, full employment, new economic theory, the abolition of nuclear weapons, the end of competitive security paradigms, democratization of the UN and global action on the environment.

Rationality in a Complex World: Pushing Back the Frontiers

by Simeon Anguelov

“We need a lot of physical and social energy directed and managed rationally in order to change the structure of economy or any other social institution which has deep roots in the society.”

Rational decisions should not only be reasoned, but also be optimal for achieving a goal or solving a problem. Often, rationality is treated stricto sensu independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts. A rational decision-making process should be objective and logical. However, observing patients with brain damage which perturbs the emotional sphere, neurologists have concluded that reason alone is insufficient for problem-solving in everyday life. Consciousness is a late evolutionary development. It is not the brain that we have to focus on, but the body as a whole being, the “container” of feelings and emotions. Rationality as a strategy for successive reasoned problem solving by human societies creates with the advancement of time a more complex world containing all technical artifacts of civilization and the corresponding social institutions necessary for their usage. In parallel with making existence more comfortable, rationality gets self-trapped in the complexity of the artificial world! At the individual level there are epistemological (metaphysical illusions) and existential (escape from freedom, nostalgia for the absolute, etc.) impediments which can aggregate by mimetism to huge constraints at the societal level. Objectively, by a three-way trade-off between time, energy (physical and social) and information one can get rationality out from a trap. The political approach to achieving the goal could be the so-called directed incrementalism. Identifying the creative elements in various strata of the society and giving them the opportunity to participate in constructive negotiations at various levels (“mega diplomacy”), one could fuel directed incrementalism.

Limits to Rationality and the Boundaries of Perception

by Garry Jacobs

“We remain primarily social creatures comfortable in conforming and belong to the mainstream, rather than thinking rational individuals willing to risk ostracism or ridicule for challenging conventional wisdom.”

Rationalization masquerades as rationality in human affairs. Rational discourse is displaced by social conformity in academia. Mind’s habitual mode of functioning leads to error in the name of rational thinking – among them, its tendency to divide and subdivide reality in an endless fragmentation of knowledge, to confound description with explanation, to view reality in terms of irreconcilable polar opposites, to mistake symbolic abstraction for the reality it represents, and to draw conclusions predetermined by its own premises. The apparently insoluble problems confronting humanity today are the result of mind’s divisive, piecemeal functioning. Solution to those problems lie in formulating a perception of society and the world as an integral whole. That is only possible by an action of the whole mind, which is the basis of the insights and intuitions that are the source of our greatest human initiatives, scientific discoveries and artistic creativity. This is a call to transcend the limits imposed by mind’s characteristic functioning as a basis for formulating comprehensive solutions to the pressing challenges facing humanity today.

The Digital Era: Challenges for the Modern Mind

by Merlin Donald

“Plato famously complained that reading would make us mentally lazy.”

The digital media are the new interface between mind and world. They enable us to gain instant access to an infinitely expandable collective memory system. This is an indispensable breakthrough, but has the potential to seriously violate the ancient co-evolutionary pact between brain and culture which has kept the rate of cultural and technological change within tolerable limits. Traditional cultures, with all their flaws, stayed well within the adaptive capacities of the individual brain. However, the recent explosion of digital culture has placed all forms of traditional culture under serious challenge.
The principal challenge is a cognitive one: the economic system is increasingly tethered to a machine-driven agenda that either ignores or downgrades the most basic needs of the human mind. The result is a governance system that is out of control, in which success depends upon fitting the individual mind to a largely machine-driven agenda, rather than vice versa.
Three especially serious concerns stand out: (1) how to maintain the autonomy of the individual mind in the context of massive and sophisticated external programming; (2) how to construct networks of trust in an environment of anonymity and manipulation; and (3) how to place the most basic needs of the human mind at the top of our list of governance priorities.