These psychological breaks, these fits of madness, or the experience of altered states during rites or initiations (usually mixed with hallucinogenic) speak to this underlying psychological architecture…
We’re not looking at neuro-chemical brain structure here, we’re looking at what in systems and computer engineering we call a “logical” map, or architecture. This is to be distinguished from a physical map/architecture which maps to actual physical components – hard drives, spindles, RAM, CPU, database software, application servers, networking equipment, power and cable lines, etc. Logical architecture by contrast holds true, at its level of understanding, but nonetheless is not a description of physical components per se – although there can most certainly be some overlap between the two. It’s a logical, rational really, understanding of the framework in question which overlays on top of a physical architecture.
This psychological model we’re developing here starts with a few main components:
- There is a right sphere of influence which deals with dynamic quality elements (Pirsig), that which is fluid and changing, direct perception and creativity is associated with this mode of thinking
- Left sphere of influence which is more static, structured and well formulated. More resistance to change
These two elements represent, or more accurately put perhaps, are reflects (not by accident of course) in the basic cosmogonies of almost all prehistoric societies – order out of chaos. An interesting solve to the chicken and egg problem really, the two core, primordial substances, mix together (the spirit moves on the waters) and from this cosmic seeding this universe is born. This is an example of the so above, so below phenomenon here again (god in the image of man) and this represents, in a very real Darwinian sense, the precursor to monotheistic conceptions of the universe. The Old Testament weaves them together quite elegantly in fact. It’s forced monotheism but the older, more archaic worldviews are retained in fact.
As we evolve and grow, our brains do the same – right and left evolving together with the organism so that we become wired to it physically, its needs and desires, but also become wired to the environment – both natural and social of course. In this ‘wiring’ process, the balance between the left and right hemispheres is critical, ensuring that whatever new experience we have is integrated into our understanding of the world without bringing the whole system down. This is learned behavior, socially constructed in no small measure, but supported by developments in the body/mind as well, and overlaid (logical architecturally speaking) onto the brain.
Sometimes though, the system cannot handle the information provided – or it goes into some sort of infinite loop where it can’t function (Pirsig’s madness), and as such needs to be rebooted. Reset as it were. In well-functioning societies this is done via sacred ritual – again birth, adolescence, marriage, new years (rebirth)… All of these ‘life events’ are injected with sacred meaning, and are ritualized so that the individual, the family, and the community as a whole can take part, and celebrate, the event in question. But these events, are (or at least were) embedded with psychological significance as well, that is (or should be) mirrored in society. A boy or girl’s coming of age in bat, or bar mitzvah for example. And in more primitive societies this was accompanied by some form of fasting, or mind altering rite or ritual that supported, promoted even, a psychological restructuring of sorts that allowed for the individual’s evolution to the next stage of being – whatever that may be.
But we have lost much of that in modern society – and we have almost entirely rejected our religious structures to the point where they carry little to no psychological weight on he new generation. This is a problem. The notion that these systems of belief – which co-evolved with society and advanced civilization itself, can simply be disregarded with no social or psychological ramifications is foolhardy. What we see today in fact is the replacement of these pseudo-religious ideologies with alternatives – nature abhors a vacuum. So we now see, supported with the broad based global adoption of social media platforms, these polarized views gain massive popularity. Particularly in the United States which is heavily invested in, and whose population is very influenced by, technology. Homo Machina.
Conservative and right wing on the one side – to each his own, long live capitalism and freedom – and left wing, liberal and (more) socialist on the other that is looking to ease the burden of the downtrodden and the oppressed. This is the great clash of ideas in the modern era in the West. Where is god in all of this? Is this not just a recasting of the religious and cultural warfare of the middle ages except now we are warring with ideas rather than swords? Positive development you would think.
And yet tribalism now is a term you see used in political spheres, or socio-political spheres more so than you do in geo-political matters. And yet we still are confronted with remnants of medieval religious ideological warfare with the West, mostly led by the USA of course, confrontation with religious (mostly Islamic) extremism centered around the middle east and Africa. This is an ideological conflict just as the Cold War was, make no mistake about it. And with the War on Terror as an excuse, Western incursions into middle east sovereign nations are justified (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.).
So you have this rising wave of extremism in general – again centered in the West around these right and left wing ideologies, conservativism and liberalism respectively. And yet the process by which we, as individuals and as a society as a whole, digest, integrate and evolve alongside these ideological and technological advancements is barely even recognized. This alchemical process which is mirrored in the psyche, in the individual, and in revolution (upheaval) in society, which is so fundamental to growth, is left out of the conversation in a very real sense.
So we’re looking at patterns here, that relate to the underlying psyche as well as to a more broad socio-economic-political structure that flow along two (at least two) dimensions. Individuals develop and evolve, are educated and change the underlying structure of society as they grow and take more positions of leadership and influence in said society, thereby changing prevailing views and – at least in a democratic system, ultimately change the laws to reflect said views. And as such, the second dimension, at the socio-political level, there are also changes that stem from, and are correlated with, broader changes in sentiment. This is the outer world (socio-political and economical) reflecting the inner world. Of course means that if you have broad mental or psychological disorders in a culture or society you will see those manifested in their leadership (Trump for example) and their politics.
Conservatives are right in the sense that the solution lies with the correction, the optimization (from a mechanical standpoint) of the individual persona, but what they miss is the inter-dynamic codependence of the individual and the society that they live in. There’s a very strong mutual interdependence even if it’s not totally evident day to day. Boiling over points will accrue, as they do in the individual, with sometimes dire consequences as the organism in question evolves to the next stage of development. The Enlightenment Era is a good example of this of course, you had this wave of change that came over the West in the form of Revolutions which swept France and the United States for example, that ran concurrent with the lifting up of Reason over God. Science would save us…. Would it?
This interplay between the individual and society as a whole, and the subcomponent social structure in between (family, community, work/school, etc.) are the topic of the second part of this work. The proper functioning of these spheres of influence is crucial for not just a well-functioning person but a well-functioning society as well (and groups of societies). We need to cultivate this understanding so that we can evolve with the minimal amount of upheaval necessary, so that the boat can weather the storm, as life is stormy indeed.
This soft reboot then, which doesn’t have to take place all at once but can be a more gradual restructuring too, typically allows for (the experience of) unique insights given the new perspective that is yielded from the neuro-cognitive restructuring – essentially mapping to, as has been documented I am told, the preponderance of new and unique connections that are established within the brain – during a psychedelic experience for example. Neuro-cognitive sensors for sight, and time and space, are also clearly affected as the testimonies of hallucinogenic experiences abound.
What this theoretical framework – man as machine, recast you might call it (hardware, software, BIOS, etc) – is that it helps explain why the effects of these experiences usually have lasting effects on people. These are not temporary changes, they represent a modification of the underlying perceptual structure, and processing structure, that underpins an individual human being essentially.
What’s true at the micro level is also true at the macro level – the ability for the organism to reset itself is absolutely critical to its survival. And many times this restructuring is coincided with (note we did not say was caused by, or causes) an expansion in knowledge and awareness. A true growth of the individual – out of the ashes you might say. A dissolution of sorts must occur in order to support the regeneration of the organism.
Societies must do this as well if they want to survive. They must build in the capability to adapt and integrate fresh new ideas just as individuals must. This is why more democratic based states have flourished since the Enlightenment Era, they have (at least in some respect) built in safety valves that allow for the people at a mass scale to express their opinions in the form of elections. This in turn allows for social change with (at least) minimal amount of violence and bloodshed as the old ideas die away.
We have an opportunity to understand these two (at least two) dimensions if we are able to develop a model that helps us better understand their relationship to each other – harmony of the spheres again. But the map of the individual, our homo machina, can be better understood today by expanding upon this computer Science model we have been developing – and this notion of soft, or had, reboots that change the underlying structure of the brain and in so doing allow for (opportunities) of tremendous growth and insight (homo mysticus). It must also be pointed out though, they also represent opportunities for people to drown in the abyss, in self-loathing or depression or other psychological disorders. People do not always safely return from the underworld, their return (and their sharing of the tale to others) is what makes them the hero.
What perhaps cannot be overstated, and is very rarely talked about, is just how fundamental this masculine (left brain) and feminine (right brain), order and chaos core is to our psyche. It’s baked into the very essence of our being, is instrumental to how we came into being and is also absolutely essential to maintain being over generations. The constant movement of the spirit over the waters to create existence itself, to create us – which drives us, motivates us, to create and carry on the journey forward. To procreate in fact.
This is core to who we are and is a driving force of existence itself, and most certainly at the level of the persona. Society must take this into account in order to be healthy as well of course. And provide for freedom of expression and creative expression as best as possible. 1st Amendment got this right.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
These rights must be protected. Question is what purpose do they serve?
But there are limits of course, our individual freedoms or rights should not incur or infringe on others but these perspectives do not always line up nicely with each other and occasionally are fraught with conflict. This dialectic, this friction, is the fuel of the spirit, of growth, you might say. We are bigger, more expansive and more knowledgeable on the other side of these conflicts. But this cosmic, erotic soup, rests at the very belly of the beast doesn’t it. It is the very core to our being, as Freud hit on quite elegantly. This is the libido, the fuel which moves the beast. And this is the connection between the erotic and the mystic, that at their most elemental level set, and keep, the universal cauldron moving. Living. Dying. Regenerating…
What’s unique about this perspective on the life, on reality you might say – personal reality. Is that it is in computer Science, AI, where the actualization of philosophy, its testing, can truly happen. We have machines that can, and are starting, to emulate in many respects man himself. We have become gods in a way. Mostly we automate things, things we don’t want to do, but we also have the ability to create massively scaling structures to yield facts about reality that we would not otherwise be able to make – be they sending satellites into orbit to view the galaxies in the furthermost point in the known universe, or cars that help us get to and from where we need to go to handheld devices that store information and allow us to communicate with anyone around the world almost instantaneously.
The divide between man and machine is breaking down, if this is abundantly clear at this point it will for sure be too late before people recognize. Ironically everyone is worried about AI going wild and taking over (hello Matrix) but in reality, what we should be worried about is really powerful tech (eg nuclear weapons) in the hands of bad, or ill willing, actors. Much more of a real threat of course.
But all of this is giving us very mechanistic models, from the ground up, within which we can start to understand how we as human beings are constructed, which in turn sheds insight into our behavior. In was that of course that has not been elucidated before because it is only in recent memory, last decade or so, that we can start to see the models taking shape – the robots are coming. They are here already really they just aren’t what we think they are. Homo Machina.
This dynamic and static quality dichotomy (Pirsig), which underpins all creative thinking you might call it, is manifest in the AI / Computer Science analogy as the man (or woman) behind the keyboard. When they write the code, which executes in a linear, physically rooted machine in time and space, they predetermine the outcomes based on known data elements from the environment, or sensors thereof. More advanced machines, machine learning for example, are now able to come up with various conclusions by themselves relative to a data set, a domain in question but still nonetheless rooted to linear time and space. It is only with live, sentient beings themselves – homo machina – that this true creative interplay can take place. No matter how advanced the machines become they will always be an extension of us. Res extensa, extended you might say.
Res cogitans: This model though allows to go from the individual psyche, up through the mystic channels that are revealed during these psychic breaks. You have a sort of normal model, which involves the correction of the psyche at certain framework level shifting of the mind-body system, and then you have the mystics themselves who appear to be almost hardwired to be able to experience said insights, and also as has been documented, transmit said insights to others (in the most extreme cases- Adi Da and Ramakrishna for example). Hardwired to this left and right brain neurological structure which underpins the organism itself (which also has two of many things, like a built-in redundancy – hands, feet, testicles, etc.).