Unification News for September 1996


Mind Games

by Paul Carlson

Humans are the only creatures who wonder about themselves. We are the only earthly beings with conscious minds. Animals don't have one, and neither do computers.

Please note that each field described in this article has both advocates and critics, and that, in trampling merrily through them, your author is expressing his personal opinions only.

Humans have always tried to understand their own nature, and the functioning of their minds. Entire disciplines have sprung up in this quest. In this article we shall deal with the scientific attempts, leaving aside, for the moment, the religious paths.

In recent decades this study has become systematic. Biologists run rats through their mazes, teaching and testing them in countless situations. Psychologists work with living, yearning people, while neurophysicists study the brain's complex anatomy.

Recently, wondrous scanning machines have enabled scientists to study living brains, actually watching as stimulations beget thoughts, which become intentions, then physical actions. New and wildly differing theories are pressing the outer boundaries of science.

Very few people claim to be completely satisfied with their lives, and fewer still with their surroundings. Scratch the surface, and one finds that all people suffer, internally, to some extent. An ordinary psychological `group counseling session' can reduce virtually anyone to a flood of healing tears.

People have always sought to have some `extra' fun, as well as to `self medicate' their internal pain. Even animals are known to imbibe; cats with catnip, monkeys with fermented fruit, etc. Humans have vastly expanded this pharmacopoeia. Drugs might make one `high'-until they run out. They cannot fill one's heart, and in ritual use, the best they might do is provide the user with a different perspective on things. Wiser and kinder people have studied this pain, and sought to relieve it on a deeper level.

Sense of Self

The human `sense of self' has varied greatly between different cultures and eras. The ancient Egyptians believed that the physical heart was the seat of human essence. The Aztecs and several other primitive cultures took this further, offering the still-beating heart as a blood sacrifice to their gods.

In the Orient, the `belly' has long been viewed as the center of the self. The Chinese storybook hero Stone Monkey (the inspiration for today's Monchichi) could have his head lopped off without lasting harm. His belly would proclaim: "Head, grow!" and a new one would. Japan's modern cartoon hero An-Pan Man receives fresh vitality when his creator bakes him a new pastry head!

Only in recent centuries has medicine confirmed that the physical brain is the actual seat of thought and physical awareness. Ever since, both medical and psychological treatments have been applied to people's minds and brains. These two fields have not always agreed, much less cooperated.

Sincere, caring counselors have done much good for individuals, couples, and families. A few have ruthlessly exploited their patients for financial, sexual or other gain.

Psychoactive medicines have brought comfort to many depressed or otherwise endangered persons. In the best cases, people change enough to not need these drugs any more, after a course of treatment. Unfortunately, many of these drugs are over prescribed, especially for the institutionalized elderly. Currently, millions of creative, restless Public School students are being drugged into dull passivity by the massive overuse of RitalinR.

Human Sciences

The science of Psychology dates back two hundred years, to Dr. Philippe Pinel, who worked for many years in the lunatic asylums of Paris. He was deeply concerned about the misery of his patients, and he -literally- removed their chains. He was the first doctor to make a scientific attempt to heal such mental patients.

Psychology has advanced greatly since his day, branching into many schools. Some are cold and deterministic, especially B. F. Skinner's Behaviorist school. Others are warm and compassionate, such as Humanistic Psychology. (Not to be confused with the similarly-named Humanism.)

A century ago, Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov conducted experiments on animal behavior, the best known involving ringing bells and salivating dogs. Unfortunately, while his theories accurately describe the rote behavior of the physical brain/body, his work is often used to reduce human beings to animal status-in order to justify their treatment as such.

Sigmund Freud founded Psychoanalysis, while his contemporary Carl Jung established a differing school. Freud's work has undoubtedly healed much suffering. However, he has since come under heavy criticism. He may have deliberately bent his own theories, in order to justify his own (alleged) bizarre sexual habits . . . to the detriment of thousands.

Charles Darwin traced the physical lineage of Earthly life, and shocked the world by announcing that humans had evolved from apes. His modern disciples have had to update this, as the `family branches' of apes, monkeys and humans separated many millions of years ago; thus the descent cannot be direct. Darwin originated the view that humans are nothing more than `naked apes,' and that our behavior can be traced directly to simian behavior.

This field, popularized by Desmond Morris, is now known as Evolutionary Psychology. In it, the stresses of `rush hour,' and the comforts of the living room, are compared to the old days of hunting woolly mammoths, and to the fire-warmed cave.

In a further round of `reductionism,' Richard Dawkin's The Selfish Gene reduces ourselves and all life to the status of "carriers for ongoing generations of successful DNA." Here, Group Theory math is used to balance "cooperation vs. competition," "personal advantage vs. altruism," etc., amongst groups and species. Only the survival of one's self, and of one's descendants and nearest kin, count here. The survival of the species as a whole does not count, in most versions.

Extrapolating, its proponents are making some very controversial claims. For instance, that women are `programmed' to seek `strong stock' to conceive their children, and a `steady provider' to raise them-not necessarily the same person. Thus the headline-making, supposed Adulterous Gene.

Computer technology has given rise to a new round of metaphor-laden studies. Many now claim that "the soul is a software program run upon an organic computer called the brain." This gave rise to the idea of `programming' people, and the belief that a knowledgeable practitioner could easily alter someone else's thoughts and capabilities. However, this simplistic concept has engendered much ruin, and as science, it fails to explain much.

In these materialistic views, happiness could only arise from chemistry, or from constant stimulation of the nervous system. The possibilities for disappointment, and abuse, are endless.

It is doubtful that computers, no matter how large or complex, will ever achieve genuine self-awareness. There are several reasons for this; the best case is made in Roger Penrose' popular books. [See your author's upcoming article Cyberia.]

The Fall

Researchers are now making a good case for `genetic determination,' even including relatively complex human behaviors. It should be pointed out that the Fall of Man occurred tens of thousands of years ago-more than enough time for humanity's very DNA to become corrupt.

Similarly, while battling big-rigs in traffic might well be compared to fleeing from saber tooth tigers, note that it was the Fall that condemned humanity to remain on a savage level. Originally, humans could have rapidly developed their civilization and technology. If humans behave ape-ishly now, it is because they spent far too long struggling alongside their hairy cousins.


Currently, scientists are asking hard questions about the nature of thought, of self-awareness, and of consciousness itself.

Few agree on the definition, much less the functional nature, of these phenomena. There is a simple `dye/mirror test' which may be administered to people or animals. An animal which has unknowingly had a patch of its fur dyed some bright color, will see itself in the mirror-and not even notice the change. Even a gorilla will not seem concerned. However, a chimpanzee will react instantly-as will humans.

An older theory involves the `Cartesian Theater,' a supposed place in the brain where all outside stimulus is recreated, and a homunculus, or `little man within,' observes and considers it.

Today's leading theory of brain function is spelled out in Antonio Damasio's book Descartes' Error. A reading will certainly expand, and to some extent redefine, the Principle's description of "mind and body duality." Its students may learn that the Principle's extent is both deeper and more subtle.

Damasio posits that the mind is doubly aware. It registers the constant input of the physical senses as well as the body's reports of its condition. Concurrently, the mind refers to a special sort of memory he calls `somatic markers,' a deep-seated feeling of how we experienced similar situations in the past. This enables the mind to grasp, and to quickly act upon, even the most complex situations. He has studied brain-damaged people who lack this one capability, and their lives are a real mess . . .

Damasio has had to posit a `third function'; something to weigh and combine these two constant inputs. Though he cannot define it, he assumes it will be found somewhere in the cells of the brain.

Others are taking a different tack. One scientist is attempting to explain `near death experiences,' and even to verify Hinduism, by positing that Consciousness is imbued throughout the cosmos, just like light or gravity. Our brains, he claims, are valves which let in small, measured doses of this universal awareness.

From this, one can see that even top scientists do not agree. The field remains wide open, and the possibilities for new discovery remain endless. Those poor `deprogrammers' are saddled with shoddy, outdated theories. Darwin has long been left in the dust, though his disciples have yet to notice.

Eventually scientists will discover the `mental' input of the spiritual world, and the balanced give and take of the energies passed between the physical and spiritual bodies. In the meantime, religious people strive to make their spiritual selves the `subject partner' in their lives.

The Unificationist tradition of matching, Blessing and `separation period' directly counters every secular school of thought mentioned in this article. By following our `formula course,' we are assured that our God-centered spiritual mind will remain the most important factor in our eternal lives.


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