The Marriage of Technology and Consciousness
The following chapter is excerpted by permission from Mr. Crane’s forthcoming book.
What is “R – Tech” (Relationship Technology) and Consciousness Processing Technology? What are the implications for Neurofeedback, Biofeedback, Applied Psychophysiology, the evolution of science, our individual and collective mental health?
August 10, 1994 I had the opportunity to present at the Forum co sponsored by the Wisdom Society and the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center. The Forum was conceived as an opportunity to exchange ideas on “The Place of Science and Technology in our Culture”.
Since I feel that the material that emerged in that presentation may be useful to others and (all things being relative) I feel the evening went well, I would like to offer this edited version of that talk.
We intend to communicate with each other at the highest level we can and to create an atmosphere that is as conducive as possible to individual and group creative thinking. Together we make up a kind of mind field (not mine field I hope). If it is true that the learning is the doing and multi sensory, multi dimensional awareness is part of the technology of consciousness, perhaps we can practice these principles as we work together. Then possibly something altogether unexpected, creative may emerge.
May I suggest that as you read this you experiment with me? You will probably be more comfortable and get more out of this short time together if you scan your body, notice if you are holding your shoulders up, look for unnecessary muscle tension, breathe normally, deeply and comfortably. Be aware of all that you can in the room. Loose your belt if it is too tight. Breathing should be relaxed and deep and your stomach should be free to move in and out. If you have eaten or you are tired and feel like taking a nap or even meditating and you close your eyes, be as aware as you can of what is going on around you and within you.
As you are able, please watch the thoughts and feelings that arise inside you (and outside too) as we work together in a spirit of play. To paraphrase Marshal McLuhan, “Those who think education and entertainment are two different things probably do not understand either one very well”. Parts of this discussion may be difficult, controversial, even fun. What is most important is to watch your feelings arise and change.
I would like to examine one of the greatest (depending on how you define technology) perhaps the greatest challenge humanity faces.
In October of 1970 one of my best friends died of cancer. Tom was only 41. Afterwards I took a long weekend at our little country house in Rhinebeck, New York. I had spent a rather dreamy day sitting by the lake contemplating The Big Picture. Dagne, my wife, suggested that I read a magazine article entitled “Alpha, The Wave of the Future”. I promptly read it because I had learned that she had an uncanny way of planting very good ideas in my mind at just the right time.
During the next twenty four-hours I had a kind of classic creative experience. Decades of contemplation and thought seemed to converge with a euphoric, laser like intensity. It seemed as though one of the greatest scientific and spiritual stories of our time was creating itself before my eyes. And I was being invited to immerse myself in an almost unimaginably great work.
The next day I entered full time into what has turned out to be an astonishing, scientific art form, a business and a series of adventures leading me to this discussion here with you. I sold my old business and plunged headlong into the strange, paradoxical, controversial field soon to be called by inadequate terms like Biofeedback, Applied Psychophysiology and Instrument Assisted Transactional Psychophysiology. I like to think of it as
THE TECHNOLOGY OF SELF KNOWLEDGE
Twenty six years went by like a summer afternoon…a summer afternoon filled with the surprises of life, like balmy breezes and tornadoes, blue skies and thunderstorms, flowers and fun and fights and fear and beautiful relationships and heart breaking misunderstandings. All in all, just another day at the office.
The purpose of this discussion is not to focus narrowly on this embryonic, niche, technological art form that I happen to be devoted to….a science that is about where air travel was in the 1850’s when the implications of a balloon ride set people buzzing the world over.
Our goal is no less than to see together a principle or principles which if exercised can transform our societies including our technology…principles that can lead to wiser, more effective individual and collective action…and equally important non-action.
Some scientists warn us that it may already be too late…the evolution of our self destructive technology has outstripped the evolution of our cerebral cortex. They feel it is probable that humanity will get cut off before the crisis in our consciousness can be transformed into opportunity…and before a whole new evolution in the consciousness of the tribe can take place. Others say that evolution, that transformation is already under way. But in order to survive, much less evolve, we must improve our relationship with technology.
The following graph is arguably the most important graph I have ever seen. Furthermore, the insight implied was developed by some British sociologists more than 15 years ago. See Peter Russell’s outstanding book, Global Brain. (insert graph). (insert under graph) From the dawn of history to now, Agricultural Processing has gradually grown. However, about 1900 the growth of Industrial Processing in terms of total human work and economic power (doubling every 17 years) exceeded Agricultural Processing. In 1975, Information Processing (doubling every 8 years) broke through the growth curve of Industrial Processing. But consciousness Processing including R – Tech (doubling about every 4 years) is expected to exceed Information Processing about the year 2000. (end graph insert)
We all understand Information Processing, but what in heaven’s name does Consciousness Processing mean? For one thing if we had understood Information Processing early in the game and invested accordingly, we would be rich. Maybe if we realize that Self Knowledge Technology (Biofeedback) is the very soul of Consciousness Processing, we can invest enough to make a few pesos just in time to offset the collapse of social security. A subset of Consciousness Processing Technology (i.e. the Web and Virtual Reality, etc) goes by the cool new monicher of R – Tech.
Trying to think of a metaphor to help people understand Consciousness Processing Technology is difficult because nothing like it has ever happened before. Just as Information Processing was hard to understand before it massively changed the world.
For about a year I had been grappling with the concept of Consciousness Processing…how to get my arms around it. I had the insight I was looking for while flying back from Seattle after putting on a Neurofeedback seminar with Val Brown. I’m not sure whether it was the altitude (flying seems conducive to meditation to me) or the expresso at the airport, but I love the following model that came in a flash.
See if this way of looking at it helps. Consciousness Processing is like an incredible new kind of “airplane”. It is built out of the material of the Digital Revolution and uses Information Processing as “fuel”. The creators, engineers, pilots and crew of these “airplanes” relate to this technology as though it had a kind of life force of its own. The Information Processing “fuel” produces almost infinite energy through the ancient principle of La Via Negativa (elimination of the unnecessary).
The super exponentially growing Web is a manifestation of Consciousness Processing Technology. However, there is already another manifestation of Consciousness Processing Technology even greater than the Web emerging in the background. It is so immense that it will absorb the Web into itself like the Web is absorbing electronics, television, radio and computers. As much as the Web is forcing transformation of the world, annihilating national boundaries (and to some extent privacy) and empowering the individual, so the new as yet unnamed manifestation of Consciousness Processing Technology will explode over the world like a Tsunami Wave of Light. Like all technological revolutions some will see it as a blessing, some a curse.
As for me, I see it as a blessing because I am convinced that it’s essence will be self knowledge and self knowledge is an end point. Of course self knowledge is not always pretty. To borrow from Betty Davis, like aging, it “ain’t for sissies”. And what we now call Biofeedback and Applied Psychophysiology will be seen as a critically important evolutionary stage.
Now, if that doesn’t get your heart started, go ahead and have that double expresso.
Biofeedback, especially neurofeedback may be a helpful example as we take on the challenge of understanding how to have right relationship with technology. And have right relationship with technology we will…one way or the other!
The creationists among us might be more comfortable to substitute the word transformation for evolution. For me it all merges together and evolution and transformation are taking place quite naturally within the creation.
Self Knowledge Technology (biofeedback) is simply the use of instrumentation to help people get to know themselves better, sort of like mirrors or telephones to various parts of the mind and body. If the signals can be made clear enough, it appears there is no part of the mind/body that cannot be influenced if not actually controlled.
Traditional mainstream medical biofeedback has been growing slowly but inexorably for many years. Some of you may not realize that brain wave biofeedback is growing much faster than traditional biofeedback. Remember that when you examine the human energy graph.
For those who do not understand how it’s done: Sensors placed on the head amplify tiny electrical signals emanating from the brain and feedback that information, enabling the user to increase some brain waves and decrease others, etc. The scientifically trained among us will see that you cannot change the brains electronics without causing changes at the atomic, molecular, brain chemical, behavioral and psychological levels.
I have devoted the last twenty six years to this work because I believe that Self Knowledge Technology can assist a substantial number of the world population to:
- Increase the ability to attend. Increasing not only the length of time a person may attend but also the depth or quality of that attention. So the attention begins to become what I call “profound attention”. Now this may sound like a small, rather obvious idea but it is actually an immense one because many of the most powerful aspects of the human mind are fixed…..almost unchangeable, but the attention processes can be changed relatively easily producing extraordinary results….breaking those mental “ties” that bind up the mind….restricting its vision and dulling its sensitivity.
- Enhanced attention increases the clarity of thinking. This includes the reduction of over thinking or “psychothenia”. This in turn leads to:
- Reduction of fear and inappropriate conditioning which are at the root of the crisis in the consciousness of humanity and embody the greatest dangers, inhibiting the opportunities that lie before us.
- Finally, if the implications of both ancient and modern science are followed to the end, then a dynamic of indescribable potential, beauty and power emerges….OBSERVATION AND ATTENTION CHANGES WHAT IS OBSERVED AND ATTENDED TO. The quality of our attention has a transforming effect on “what is”. The most productive thing we can do may be to observe with a high quality of attention. Action emerging from that kind of attention appears to be the most productive possible. The attention itself operates like sunlight and rain on a seed causing the highest potential to emerge or unfold from the reality that surrounds us – that living possibility – potential that is in our hands everyday, every hour, every second….now! This instant!
I submit that the crisis in the consciousness of our world can be defined as a lack of the capacity to attend, loss of clarity in thinking, over thinking (“psychothenia”), increasing fear leading to unhealthy conditioning. In his book “Quantum Reality” Nick Herbert said, “One of the greatest scientific achievements imaginable would be the discovery of an explicit relationship between the wave form alphabets of quantum theory and certain human states of consciousness”. I assert that neurofeedback is at least the beginning of that scientific achievement.
If Self Knowledge Technology can truly enhance our evolutionary capacity to fix these mental and physical malfunctions (sort of like agricultural – technology has alleviated the starvation problem relatively and electronics has smoothed out communications and information processing) then the total power of technology combined with other forces seen and unseen may possibly enable humanity to snatch an unimaginable victory from the jaws of extinction.
There are those who say it doesn’t matter what we do because at the last minute some outside agency will save us. I dare say that many reading this piece feel as I do that the transformation of the way we live in this world is our responsibility and regardless of how dark the situation looks sometimes, there is no real choice but to act as though it all depends on us. Even if there is some kind of outside agency that has the power to help us out, surely its motivation will be increased if we are doing our utmost to help ourselves.
It is a great delight to contemplate the almost unimaginable vastness of our own galaxy and then to go beyond that to sense the entire cluster of galaxies of which we are a part, then try to find some way to wonder at billion galaxies already perceived, scattered like jewels measuring hundreds of thousands of light years across, throughout the universe. What a playground for the mind if we can meet the challenge of learning right relationship with each other and technology…..we can be this responsible but will we?……For heaven’s sake–will we?
One of the questions I was most puzzled by as a child was why science and religion seem to be so at odds with each other? Both are supposed to be devoted to the pursuit of truth. Could it be that there are two great truths that are mad at each other?
Or is the schism artificial? Frank Lloyd Wright comforts us when he says “all that is done for the truth or against the truth in the end serves the truth equally well”. Perhaps we have become polarized by religious leaders who are not open minded enough and scientists who also focus too narrowly.
The great physicist David Bohm said “The mechanical model of the universe makes nature a means to an end. It implies that nature is there for us to get whatever we want out of it. I say this model is not adequate. A part has no meaning except in terms of the whole. The idea of treating everything as only parts may work in the short run, but it doesn’t work when you follow it through.” Stephen J.Gould, the anthropologist, has implied that evolution is a valid theory but survival of the fittest is only partially true. There is considerable evidence that many of the fittest have not survived. Either some other dynamic/force contributes to evolution in the main – or you can call it luck. This has extraordinary implications for the concept that competition is all important.
Just as some of the “fittest” do survive, so some of the most competitive do dominate. But many business leaders feel that competitiveness is overrated as a principle that causes the long term healthy success of a business, much less as a force or principle for bringing the greatest good to the greatest numbers or true excellence or improved quality of life or as having very much to do with compassion, wisdom or those things that most of us believe are good for humanity. We are not denying competition. We are saying that over-rating it blinds us to even greater, much more productive possibilities. Competition unchecked doesn’t do much for family values.
Biophysicist Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of formative causation and morphigenic fields may have much more to do with those changes that have been hitherto attributed to evolution; and by the same token this type of field theory may be much closer to the truth about what’s shaping our culture than the theory of competition (survival of the fittest) is.
Einstein said “the field is the soul governing agency of the particles”. If what we think and feel is a kind of field then what we think and feel is what is creating our society, our culture, our world….whether it is heaven or hell.
And which is it? We have allowed….no let us take responsibility….we have created media which constantly bombards us…..let’s be kind, informs us of the horrors in the world. And that has its value, but it is also true that stimulating fear and appealing to the lowest and dumbest instincts in humanity creates anxiety disorders, leads to over – competition and contributes to unthinking, rampant consumption…an unnecessary and self destructive orgy that scientists tell us is eating up the earth.
It is a simple, extremely effective marketing principle: the more afraid and insecure we feel, the more we will try to acquire to quench that insecurity. But does having more really prevent insecurity? Is it possible to consume less while living better? Look for the Voluntary Simplicity Movement to explode across the U.S. and the world as the realization sinks in that for most of us consuming less and living simply is a necessary step to achieving the riches of life we are so hungry for.
As earth can be said to be a hell and getting worse so there are places and people who are experiencing a kind of heaven on earth…….at least some of the time. This breeds contentment, peace, the sense that one has enough. The desire to take more leisure time to enjoy the world, to develop one’s mind, to reach out to help others, to work to reduce environmental damage, to stretch what one has to the limit which means be more efficient….waste nothing.
Science is defined as systematic knowledge of the physical or material world. Doesn’t this mean that science is essentially the pursuit of the truth? This means that a science imbued with wisdom – a true science will understand when to say no….and be able to enforce it. Science has given us the means to destroy all life on earth. Just because it can be done does not mean it should be done.
When we refuse to go through one door, it means we will go through another. Because go we must. The physicist Freeman Dyson thinks our destiny may be to populate the galaxy. This requires a science that knows what not to do. What breeds that kind of wisdom?
Many creative thinkers feel that the most powerful creative principle is ” La Via Negativa”. The negative way. By elimination of the untrue the truth emerges. When asked how he created the beautiful statue of David out of the block of marble, Michelangelo said, “Oh, David was always there. I just eliminated the unnecessary marble”. OUR ABILITY TO SAY NO MAY ALLOW SOME OF THE GREATEST YESES OF ALL TIME TO UNFOLD.
So then we have to look closely at fear because it is guiding our thinking, our science, our technology to a very great degree….an extremely dangerous degree.
Are people governed by fear fit to populate the galaxy?
Fear is a form of thinking. Thought is a material process…some say thought actually is matter because matter is defined as “energy traveling in a pattern”.
A further characteristic of thought is that the more energy pumped into it the more it “materializes”. This computer, this presentation, this beautiful airplane I am flying in as I edit this is essentially thick thought. As we think so we are. Descartes was a catalytic thinker, triggering science’s penchant for the mechanical view of the Universe. He said, “I think therefore I am”. Once he walked in to a bar. The bartender said, “what will it be?…a glass of whiskey?” Descartes answered, “I think not” and disappeared. Somehow that joke reminds me of a T-shirt which says “God is dead”, Nietzsche. “Nietzsche is dead”, God.
Of course, I suspect the contribution of Descartes and Nietzsche but scientists are just as funny as everyone else aren’t they? We tend to take ourselves much too seriously don’t you think? Now even the revered Stephen Hawking seems to believe that with the development of String Theory (the theory of everything) we are almost at the end of the quest to understand the physical universe.
So, if we are putting more and more energy into fear, it must materialize. Although fear may have a place, it seems clear that we must materialize much more than fear thoughts – or put the other way around – there are certain deep fears in the psyche of the race that we had better not materialize if we really want to improve the situation here on this earth…much less extend ourselves into the galaxy. Conversely there are thoughts deep in our hearts, indescribably sublime which can also materialize. But will we? The suspense is killing me.
There is a Chinese curse… “may you be born in interesting times”. These must be some of the most interesting times in all of history.
I may err on the side of attempting too much in this piece, but I’m going to take some chances. Forgive me if I seem too sure of the truth. What I say are merely assertions…working hypotheses. Oswald Spengler said that “a hypotheses does not have to be absolutely correct as long as it is useful”. He who says he knows probably does not. Let’s go exploring together and see what we can discover.
May I remind you to stretch? Please sit comfortably, breathe deeply and naturally, drop the shoulders, be as aware as you can of all that’s going on in the room and most importantly of what is going on in you. Watch yourself agree and disagree. Notice emotions arising such as happiness, sorrow, fear, anger or peace and enthusiasm. Watch these feelings like colors of energy arise and fall and flow like waves between and around us. When thoughts wander just watch them and when you can, come back and join our journey together. If you fall asleep watch that fast moving theta imagery…insight may occur at the moment that you have a myoclonic jerk (twitch) so whatever happens, we are taking advantage of it and using it. The quality of our awareness can shape what goes on much more than anything we say.
Some of you may have become interested in the work of the late Dr. David Bohm, especially his creation of The Dialogues. I think Dave is on to something enormously useful. His notion is that a group of people can create an environment and a kind of field of mind that allows wisdom to unfold. The idea behind the dialogues is that when a group uses the tool he called “participatory thought” skillfully enough and perhaps even more importantly attends profoundly enough, there can be an unfoldment of mind that… although often unpredictable….is probably more functional and intelligent than the sum of the intelligence of all the individuals participating.
Unfortunately, true dialogue or “participatory thought” is relatively rare, because when people with different thinking styles and agendas assemble to work on problems, wrong conditioning, fear, misguided egoism and anger block the emergence of insight and sense of adventure latent in the gathering. We tend to sabotage each other, consciously or unconsciously.
The quantum, multi dimensional explosion in technology is inevitable. It is obvious that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Unable to slow the growth of technology, we are forced to develop a far greater sense of responsibility or probably be destroyed by it. In fact, it is clear that the growth of technology is increasing exponentially, maybe super exponentially. Computer “brains” are already inventing self propagating technology and leading scientists are worrying about the moral and ethical problems involved in developing new life forms, as well as computers that think and exhibit virtual feelings and virtual consciousness. (Note the enormous flap over the biotec tomato for heaven’s sake!) I believe it was Roger Penrose who wrote a serious and stunning treatise on the ethical problem’s of teleportation…during that process where is the soul? And what are the moral and legal implications?
Awareness of the “spirit” in tools breeds a far different attitude towards technology. As in the case of master craftsmen and women, attention to the subtle energy that technology is imbued with appears to produce a much more symbiotic and healthy relationship with that technology and the human beings attached to it.
The late Edwards Deming is a productivity genius who went in with Mac Arthur to help rebuild Japan, assisting that great people in learning how to maximize their democracy and free market. I believe he is the only non Japanese in history to be awarded the highest medal that nation offers.
One of his greatest insights is embodied in his use of the term “Profound Knowledge”. It means asking the deepest possible questions about the micro or meta system that you are interested in improving. An example would be the crisis carburetor manufacturers found themselves in. They believed they were in the carburetor business so most of them made better and better carburetors while selling less and less product. The best carburetors the world has ever seen were made by these companies just before they went bankrupt. Those who had “Profound Knowledge” realized they were in the business of getting fuel into the cylinder head as efficiently as possible. Therefore, they entered the fuel injection business early and became fabulously successful.
So, we are bringing this kind of questioning to our meta system, our society, indeed our Global Village…our Global Brain.
There is appalling horror going on in many places in the world. For some of us the apocalypse is here and now. However, I assert that there are many gutsy individuals and organizations and their existence implies that there is a kind of awakening emerging in many U.S. and global businesses and educational institutions.
What happens when even a small percentage of those who have enough say to themselves, “Making more and more for myself seems like a waste of my precious life. I reject the notion that he who has the most toys when she dies wins. Let me seek out those who want to enter the greatest adventures imaginable. Individually and together we will apply the skills and power we have developed in becoming successful, to identifying and working to solve the problems humanity faces”? It would be a paradigm shift…especially coming out of the “greed is good” Eighties. I say this shift is underway and is growing at a magnitude and with a force that is unprecedented in the history of the world. We (or our progeny) shall see if it is too little, too late or just enough and just in time.
A poem from Christopher Fry’s play The Prisoner says it beautifully….
The human heart may go the length of God
Dark and cold we may be
But this is no winter now
The frozen misery of centuries
Cracks, breaks, begins to move
The thunder is the thunder of the flows,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart spring
Thank God our time is now
When wrong come up to meet us everywhere
Never to leave us till we take the greatest stride of soul folk ever took
Affairs are now soul size
The enterprise is expiration into God
But what are you waiting for?
It takes so many thousand years to wake
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?
Many species are dying out or are threatened and huge human die offs are a virtual certainty. Destruction seems to accompany creation.
Once we realize that life is inherently insecure and that the only real security lies in the recognition of that insecurity and in the way the mind is being used, then we have come to a very practical, Profound Knowledge type of insight. Those who can apply this insight can live in a kind of heaven whether life goes on for another minute or for a hundred years – whether we as a race last one more day or are still populating the galaxy and playfully harnessing the energy of black holes a billion years hence.
Many of us have studied the lives of those human beings whose minds have flowered…people who have actualized their potential. It is particularly interesting to observe the processes and stages a person goes through as the mind matures. The type of maturity referred to here has nothing to do with chronological age.
Have you noticed how as a person awakens there is not only a greater awareness of life inside but there seems to be more awareness of aliveness outside as well?
Notice how this person becomes more aware and respectful of “spirit” in others. As this process of waking up progresses, the capacity for Profound Attention increases. This breeds greater sensitivity and the awareness of aliveness or spirit begins to extend beyond human beings and into the animal kingdom. Notice how the wisest and most compassionate individuals become aware of and respectful of the spirits and souls of animals. And if they are meat eaters themselves, do so with humility and gratitude to those creatures which die to nourish us.
Notice how people who are so passionately alive extend their awareness into the plant kingdom and begin to care deeply about what happens to trees and plants and may even begin slipping in and out of states of consciousness in which they swear they can feel the life force in a stone.
Notice how masters of technological art forms like music, painting, carpentry, etc have traditionally shown great respect for their instruments and tools. Ponder the teaching of the great oriental carpenters and warriors who will not step over their tool or weapon if it is lying on the ground because they do not want to offend its spirit.
What about the Celtic mythology?…The Arthurian legends and Excalibur…technology which protected you if the mind and heart were right and hurt you if the mind and heart were not right?
Now see our current situations…our love affairs with cars and houses and planes and T.V. and movies and computers and all kinds of technology.
Doesn’t it follow that the same Universal Mind that creates flowers and babies and solar systems is creating technology? Only this Mind is using humans as a kind of tool for creating technology, a material part of the Universe, unfolding as it ought.
Notice how respect and affection for another person’s spirit usually brings co-operation and benefits from that person, yet disrespect can cost us dearly, even cost us our life.
Do you see where this is going? Profound Attention applied to technology breeds great sensitivity to the spirit within that technology. As this phenomena emerges technology becomes a kind of Friend, an Incredible Companion as our own bodies, minds and spirits solve these essential crises on earth and extend throughout the galaxy and beyond.
On the other hand if our awareness and attention is inadequate allowing conditioning and incoherent thinking to dictate our relationship to technology, then technology may wipe us out. The technology we built becomes a suicide weapon….our executioner.
Many scientists say mankind is doomed, the crisis in consciousness and the technological explosion has already gone too far. The great sage Lao Tze says, ” The gift of prophesy is but the flowery trapping of the Tao and the beginning of folly”.
No one knows how this immense journey will end…or if it ever will. Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, its the only thing that ever has”.
Chaos and Turbulence theory is profoundly contributing to paradigm shifts occurring in physics, math, psychology. Essentially, Chaos theory says there are living patterns that simply emerge from the mind of nature given the right conditions. These are called attractors. They are always the same and always different. A snowflake, a sea shell, a flower, a human being, participatory thought… “where two or more are gathered together”. Another aspect of Chaos theory is that nature tends to amplify the small. It’s called the butterfly effect. The wind from a butterfly’s wings can theoretically cause disturbances which amplify and can trigger a storm on the other side of the world. Jim Crutchfield, a computer scientist studying the sensitivity of chaotic systems has estimated that the gravitational pull of an electron, “randomly” shifting position at the edge of the Milky Way can change the outcome of a billiard game on earth. So, perhaps Margaret Mead is right. We are not too weak and too few to make a great difference.
Some types of technology may be offering unprecedented opportunity for human beings to come to know themselves better including enhancing the ability to watch thought more clearly. If this is true then technology or the “spirit”(or if it is more comfortable for you, the morphegenic fields Sheldrake talks about) in technology may be setting the foundation for a self correcting paradigm shift of infinite value to the unfoldment of life on earth.
The fact is many of us feel the most important values in life transcend the material and so we have a love / hate relationship with technology because it is so blatantly material. As we helplessly watch the accelerating development of technology our excitement and hope is mixed with frustration, sorrow, anger and fear that technology may be of the devil; and if we don’t find some way out it will not only cost us our lives, worse it will cost us our souls. There is no one among us who would disagree with the fact that technology has precipitated an incredible crisis in the world even as it has ended some types of crisis..
Is technology really the problem? Or is it a tool, a kind of mirror, a huge biofeedback instrument if you will that we have created in order to amplify and reflect the crisis in our consciousness? An even more interesting question is: Have we accelerated the development of technology in order to force humankind to transform itself? Is it possible that collectively we have set up circumstances that are forcing us to either make a great spiritual / evolutionary / transformational leap…or perish? Crisis means danger and opportunity. Evolution and transformation seems to usually, if not always, progress based on great pressure.
One of the more understandable aspects of the crisis in technology and the consciousness of the tribe is the dualistic way we view conflict between the spiritual and the material. Most of the wisdom schools of both the eastern and western traditions point out the danger, the futility, the immense mistake in dualistic thinking.
There is a huge problem that occurs when we allow the brain to settle into the semi-conscious comfortableness of the corridor of opposites. One aspect of David Bohm’s work in physics was to demonstrate that meaning and matter are one. I believe that the illusion that they are separate is at the root of this fear, anger, psychic paralysis and dangerous disrespect that we have for the technology that surrounds us and yet is forcing us to awaken, like it or not. Sort of like a friend. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Are we as a race driving drunk?
The Heisenberg principle states that you cannot observe something without changing it. Won’t it be interesting if the magnitude and quality of that observation has a direct relationship to the magnitude and quality of the change?
There appears to be in quantum physics some kind of bridge between the non material essence or ground of being, from which material reality emerges and into which it disappears.
I am no expert in physics but my understanding is that according to quantum mechanics and field theory all material things, whether they are automobiles or human bodies or the brain and nervous system as we know it, are made up of atoms. These atoms are made up of subatomic particles. And these subatomic particles are essentially fluctuations of energy and information in a huge void of energy and information. So then, it seems to follow that the raw material of which everything is made up is apparently coming from the non material. This line between what is material and non material may not in fact exist. The stuff of the universe is in fact non stuff. I submit, mind stuff. Perhaps we can put it this way, all manner of advanced technologies such as computers, television, radar, radio, fax machines, radio telescopes, etc are possible because science no longer believes that the atom is a solid entity, but rather that it is information and energy in a void of all possible states of information and energy.
EEG BIOFEEDBACK AS MIND COMPASS
Since we are looking so deeply into the principle of attention, observation and neurofeedback, I’d like to integrate some comments from a presentation I made to the Society For The Study Of Neuronal Regulation.
None of us really knows exactly how brain wave biofeedback is working. So all of our views are hypothetical including mine.
This hypothesis holds that thought is matter and (like movies) thinking is a material process and an image making process based on memory. Furthermore, that high order, what I would like to term “Profound Attention” is probably the most important mental asset a human being can have.
Capacity for “Profound Attention” can in many if not most human beings be enhanced. This enhanced “Profound Attention” carries with it the capability of conscious observation of thought. The implications of this are that this ability to watch oneself think is the healthiest possible way to manage and improve the quality of thought. This observation is a kind of “field”. Einstein said, “The field is the soul governing agency of the particles”. In this case the particles are thought. The implication follows that one of the most effective ways in the history of learning to enhance this “Profound Attention” and improve the quality of thought may be slow wave, relatively synchronous neurofeedback training.
English is only about five hundred years old. As a young language it lacks words to describe much subtle perceptual and consciousness phenomena, including some of the most important concepts we hunger to communicate with each other. So often, we must borrow these words from more mature languages.
This hypothesis further asserts that as cartographers of consciousness we must now come to much more precise definitions of intelligence, thinking, imagery which transcends thinking and attention etc. in order to clarify what we really want to reach for, what we want to materialize.
If the ancients (and many of the modern masters) are correct the problem is that psychothenia (over thinking) “unconscious” or unobserved thinking is the fundamental barrier to the natural intelligence and creativity latent in humans; and if it is true that in most “normals” slow wave (ALPHA / THETA) but mostly mid-range ALPHA training can enhance the ability to profoundly attend to internal (thought, archetypical imagery, etc) and external phenomena simultaneously, in real time, then indeed ALPHA / THETA neurofeedback (skillfully managed) is one of the most valuable educational tools ever developed. Like a compass it can help the mind find its way through the confusion of too much and overly conditioned thinking, to Profound Attention, the road less traveled, the way home.
This hypothesis is not prejudiced against fast wave training (SMR / BETA); however, it does hold that the type of “attention” enhanced by SMR / BETA training should be redefined as a kind of “seize and hold” attention…a kind or class of attention highly impregnated by thought and very useful in its own right. This kind of attention is not the “Profound Attention” enhanced by ALPHA / THETA; it can, however, lead to “Profound Attention”. And that should be a goal of advanced neurofeedback training. Obviously, I could be mistaken about this; however, I strongly believe that the evidence indicates the essential validity of this hypothesis.
I once asked Dr. Les Fehmi to work with me teaching Attention Deficit Disorder protocols and he commented, “Who in the world does not have Attention Deficit Disorder?” He was of course referring to the almost universal deficiency in the exercise of “Profound Attention”.
“Profound Attention” may be general or focused and carries with it a quality of depth or emotional integration as though one is attending with the heart as well as the brain.
The following hypothetical model has considerable appeal to some. Brain cells perhaps in combination with surrounding glial cells etc., have at least two major capabilities…thinking and attention. These capabilities produce signals in the range of ALPHA for “Profound Attention” and BETA for thinking. The kind of attention enhanced by SMR / BETA training is what some are calling data-capture-and-hold attention. Eventually I believe this kind of attention will be redefined as a subset of thinking.
Therefore, ALPHA training (perhaps other frequencies under different conditions allowing for individual idiosyncrasies) enables the individual to substantially increase the number of brain cells that are attending. They are attending to “what is”. That is, these brain cells are reflecting (like smooth water) subtle signals (vibration). One of the most important things they are watching is thought.
This thought is in the form of movie-like images being generated by other brain cells radiating energy in the form of approximately BETA. In short, ALPHA training can, in at least some people, enhance the ability to watch thought more clearly. The more clearly thought is attended to, the less subject to error it is.
I believe brain cells (and their field) either are attending or thinking. I am uncomfortable with the idea that a single brain cell both attends and thinks at the same time; although that may be the case. Many are sensing that a paradigm shift is occurring in psychology. Some are already naming it the “Psychology of Awareness”.
The notion is that awareness itself breeds both optimal mental health and enhanced performance. This awareness and Profound Attention are the same or inter-dependent.
There is no question that these high orders of awareness / attention can be learned without neurofeedback. Indeed, the biofeedback field unfolded largely from the study of people who had developed these mind skills without technological feedback as we know it.
But these most gifted ones are often quick to see the value of neurofeedback when it is demonstrated to them. They are also quick to point out how mind – numbing difficult is the treacherous path to discrimination between high order attention and thinking one is attending. Herein lies the awesome potential of brain wave biofeedback.
IF NEUROFEEDBACK CAN BE USED TO HELP AN INDIVIDUAL DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN THOUGHT AND ATTENTION / AWARENESS….THEN IT IS A TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH AS IMPORTANT TO THE EXPLORER OF THE MIND AS THE COMPASS AND SEXTANT COMBINED ARE TO NAVIGATION.
Over thinking, error prone thinking and inappropriate conditioning are barriers to health and creativity. Therefore this model integrates the popular notion that almost any neurofeedback training works as long as it moves the over conditioned brain out of its “parking place”.
I call this “the steel filings and the magnet principle”. Breaking the conditioned patterns apart with neurofeedback is like breaking a hunk of steel into filings. The brain is better able to reorganize itself, like the filings, along the natural lines of force of the magnet or attractor, if you will.
However, this hypothesis holds that ALPHA training in many subjects goes much further because it teaches the difference between active, memory based image making and true relative neural silence. This neural quietness is essential for the healthy management of thought.
Fear is a form of thought and is at the root of most, if not all, psychological disorders. When adequate masses of brain cells are quieted, fear in general is cut off.
This means that attention / awareness deals with fear now, in real time, replacing it with increased sensitivity to what is….and creative or as Jung would say, “archetypical imagery”.
The late David Bohm, was a genius and a physicist, who devoted his incredible talents to the integration of the physics and math of consciousness, perception and those principles by which the mind naturally unfolds itself.
We became friends towards the end and I am still wrestling with all he taught me. But one most interesting thing is his way of categorizing thinking as types a, b and c. In my efforts to make it my own, I changed the terminology to thinking of the first kind, second kind and third kind…sort of a play on the movie Close Encounters, because thinking of the third kind implies contact with a high order of intelligence.
Thinking of the first kind is the condition in which a person is lost, not a good thing. The individual is not aware he is thinking and cannot observe himself think.
Therefore contact with “what is” is lost. All that she sees or hears or feels is distorted by this condition of unconscious over think…”Psychothenia”…usually leading to one form of disaster or another. Extreme psychothenia would be typified by a panic attack, complete disassociation and inability to see “what is”.
Thinking of the second kind is the condition where the thinker begins to watch himself think. This begins the capability for the thinker to discriminate. The good engineer emerges because he can reject those thoughts that do not conform to natural law as he understands it. Of course, when his wife asks him to take the trash out, his ego is activated (fear and panic emerges) and he falls back into thinking of the first kind.
Thinking of the third kind is the highest order of thought. In this condition a kind of quickening of thought occurs as thought awakens to its own structure. This leads to awareness by the thinker that his self image or ego is constructed of images based on memory and that he is not who he thought she was.
Further, thought becomes aware of its own limitations. At this point thought stops trying to be all things. For example, perceiving its limitations, it stops behaving as though it were unlimited. This produces a kind of shock and in this shock relative neural silence, greatly enhanced sensitivity and creative or archetypical imagery emerges. In this silence there is the possibility of “contact” with the “unlimited”.
A relatively small group of us became deeply committed to EEG biofeedback about twenty five years ago. We then struggled with a long period of rejection by the biofeedback community as a whole and even worse, enormous frustration because neurofeedback did not work with our clients as quickly as we thought it should.
I believe that Dr. Gene Peniston was enormously productive in helping us to realize that we had been too impatient.
Most of us who became so convinced that neurofeedback was the grand breakthrough it is now believed to be, did so because we had personally experienced impressive insights and changes linked to our EEG training.
I call this the “primed pump syndrome”. We were all tremendously involved in our own mind explorations…meditation if you will. Therefore, a small amount of training produced a big result. Most of the clients we trained were not so primed. Therefore, many more sessions over a longer time period were required.
In addition, unconscious fear of the exposure of the image of the me (or ego) as unreal (a kind of fraud) and the certainty of the need to break free of conditioned behaviors produces a further obstacle to many, if not most.
One of the problems of definition that exists is the confusion over THETA brain waves.
It appears that there is healthy THETA and unhealthy THETA. This model holds that unhealthy THETA relates to a kind of trancelike behavior the result of which is a kind of detachment from “what is”. Walinsky, a psychologist, has written a book entitled, “Trances People Live”. These are generally not good trances. I assert that this dissociative phenomena may be broken out of by “Profound Attention”. Indeed, awareness of any attention to ones own disassociation may be a prerequisite for breaking through; and prolonged attention / awareness may be the only way of not falling back into disassociation. Many of us have noticed how Alpha training tends to attenuate the unhealthy Theta while opening the “window” for the healthy Theta to emerge.
On the other hand, “Profound Attention” increases sensitivity to subtle internal imagery such as the fast moving archetypical insight imagery associated with healthy THETA.
ALPHA training prolonged produces the “window”. This window appears to be a condition where healthy THETA emerges, constructed visualizations have enhanced effect and consciousness – contaminating repressed psychological material rises up…to be, as it were, burnt up by insight, energy…..a kind of fire in the mind.
SMR / BETA protocols may have greater economic power at this moment. However, the ALPHA / THETA protocols are basic to our field. Indeed, Dr. Ferdinand Poirer of the Clinique du Epilepsie du Montreal used high Alpha (10 hz and above) to achieve excellent results with many of his epileptic patients.
“Peak performers do the basics very well.” It is estimated that 65 to 80% of the population are “Alpha Normals”. That is, by closing their eyes and relaxing, they increase Alpha production. In my opinion these Alpha Normals will come home to “Profound Attention” better by using the compass of ALPHA/THETA training.
Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at Independence Hall on July 4, 1994. I’d like to share some of his poetic wisdom with you: “….The way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.
The distinguishing features of transitional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures and a plurality or parallelism of intellectual and spiritual worlds. These are periods when all consistent value systems collapse, when cultures distant in time and space are discovered or rediscovered.
New meaning is gradually born from the encounter or the intersection, of many different elements.
This is related to the crisis or to the transformation, of science as the basis of the modern conception of the world. The dizzying development of science, with its unconditional faith in objective reality and complete dependency on general and rationally knowable laws, led to the birth of modern technological civilization that spans the entire globe and binds together all societies, submitting them to a common global destiny.
At the same time, the relationship to the world that modern science fostered and shaped appears to have exhausted its potential. The relationship is missing something. It fails to connect with the most intrinsic nature of reality and with natural human experience. It produces a state of schizophrenia: Man is becoming completely alienated from himself as a being.
Classical modern science described only the surface of things, a single dimension of reality. And the more dogmatically science treated it as the only dimension, as the very essence of reality, the more misleading it became. We may know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.
Today, we are in a different place and facing a different situation, one to which classically modern solutions, do not give a satisfactory response. After all, the very principle of inalienable human rights, conferred on man by the creator, grew out of the typically modern notion that man – as a being capable of knowing nature and the world – was the pinnacle of creation and lord of the world.
This modern anthropocentrism inevitably meant that He who allegedly endowed man with his inalienable rights began to disappear from the world: He was so far beyond the grasp of modern science that He was gradually pushed into a sphere of privacy of sorts, if not directly into a sphere of private fancy – that is, to a place where public obligations no longer apply, the existence of a higher authority than man himself simply began to get in the way of human aspirations.
The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet I think it must be anchored in a different place and in a different way, than has been the case so far.
Paradoxically, inspiration for the renewal of this lost integrity can once again be found in science. In a science producing ideas that in a certain sense allow it to transcend its own limits. I will give two examples.
The “anthropic cosmological principle” brings us to an idea, perhaps as old as humanity itself, that we are not at all just an accidental anomaly, the microscopic caprice of a tiny particle whirling in the endless depths of the universe. Instead, we are mysteriously connected to the universe, we are mirrored in it, just as the entire evolution of the universe is mirrored in us.
The moment it begins to appear that we are deeply connected to the entire universe, science reaches the outer limits of its powers.
With the “anthropic cosmological principle,” science has found itself on the border between science and myth. In that, however, science has returned, in a roundabout way, to man and offers him his lost integrity! It does so by anchoring him once more in the cosmos!
The second example is the “Gaia hypothesis.” This theory brings together proof that the dense network of mutual interactions between the organic and inorganic portions of the earth’s surface form a single system, a kind of mega-organism, a living planet, Gaia, named after an ancient goddess recognizable as an archetype of the earth mother in perhaps all religions.
According to the Gaia hypothesis, we are parts of a greater whole. Our destiny is not dependent merely on what we do for ourselves but also on what we do for Gaia as a whole.
If we endanger her, she will dispense with us in the interests of a higher value – life itself.
What makes the “anthropic principle” and the “Gaia hypothesis” so inspiring? One simple thing: both remind us of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and what perhaps has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone, nor for ourselves alone but that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme.
This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man’s understanding of himself, of his place in the world and ultimately of the world as such.
The only real hope of people today is probably a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the earth and, at the same time, the cosmos. This awareness endows us with the capacity for self-transcendence!
Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence.
Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can genuinely value himself and his neighbors and thus honor their rights as well.
It follows that, in today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to peaceful co-existence and creative co-operation must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies or sympathies: it must be rooted in self-transcendence.
The declaration of independence states that the creator gave man the right to liberty. It seems man can realize that liberty only if he does not forget the one who endowed him with it.”
In summary. Is there a Crisis in the Consciousness of Mankind? Yes. Is there both danger and opportunity? Yes. Is technology contributing to the resolution of that Crisis? Yes. (One way or the other). Is technology forcing us to deal with this challenge? Yes. Does that make technology friend or foe? Yes. Can the quality of our attention transform our enemy into teacher? Yes. Are these interesting times? Yes. Are we cursed or blessed? Yes.
During one of the many times when my own inner faith had grown weak my wife said to me. “Of magic doors there is this, you do not see them even as you are passing through.” Yes!!!