THE MATERIALS OF THE MIND

THE FORM AND THE CONTENT

In order to determine which roles different aspects of a living organism have in relation to a mental event, it is necessary to make the distinction between the form of a metal event (the explicit side) and its content, its meaning (the implicit side). A simple example can be used for this purpose. The sentences ‘one and one are two' and ‘jedan i jedan su dva' have different forms but exactly the same meaning. If the same meaning can have different forms, the meaning cannot be identified with the form.

The form is evidently preserved in the brain, but there does not seem to be a part of the brain responsible for the meaning. This suggests that the meaning and the corresponding mental representations are stored in different aspects of the person, and that the brain plays an important role in storing these representations, but not necessarily meaning. It is indicative in this respect that the disruption of articulated language due to a brain injury is not inevitably accompanied by loss of comprehension. Sufferers of aphasia often know that the words they are uttering are wrong, but they cannot correct or alter them (‘Pass me the bread - no, not the bread, the bread - no!') (in Gregory, 1987, p.31). Or, they recognise the meaning of a written word, but not the word itself and use a similar one to describe it (e.g. sword for duel or monk for hermit) (Gilling and Brightwell, 1982, p.63). As early as 1930 physician A. A. Lowe showed a patient who had suffered a stroke (that had damaged his brain) simple words such as dad, child or vice. The patient read father, girl and wicked. The patient evidently understood the meaning of words, although he could not read the printed version. There is now strong evidence that most amnesic patients are well able to process information in terms of its meaning, although their memory remains impaired. This all indicates that the comprehension of meaning does not seem to be affected even after the brain has been damaged.

On this basis it is proposed that the non-representational, implicit content of a mental event (meaning) is preserved as energy structures in the soul. This, however, is not so simple. Any particular instance of an image or word is too specific to be directly related to its meaning. When we learn a new word (e.g. table) we usually connect it to the idea that such a word represents. This idea is never a specific table (otherwise the word would not have acquired universality). The rings consist of these ideas that act as an intermediary between the content and the form, between the soul and the brain.

In relation to the example ‘one and one are two' the above can be summarised in the following way: neuro correlates in the brain are mostly responsible for a particular form (e.g. the English language). These correlates are constructed through physical exposure to such forms. Considering that the brain acts as a relay between the soul and the material world, when the brain is damaged the content is not lost. Rather, it is like being in a prison - the transformation of sensations into perceptions is impeded, as well as the output (e.g. verbal report). What is preserved in the rings are the general ideas of oneness, plus-ness, equal-ness and their relations (so speakers of different languages have fairly similar ideas about ‘one plus one are two'). Any specific instance of ‘one plus one is two' requires both, the rings and their neuro-correlates. On the other hand, the non-representational content of a mental event is preserved in the soul as an imprint, or energy configuration. That tacit meaning of ‘one plus one is two' consists of relations without necessitating the objects that relate[1]. This is why it is difficult to formulate them (what would be the meaning of ‘one and one equals two'?). These relations represent a dynamic component. Those aspects of experience and information that are preserved in the soul are not context dependent and are timeless. They approximate universal principles[2].  So, the soul does not contain any formal representations (e.g. specific images, symbols or words), not even their generalised ideas. Its constructed energy can be intimately linked, but cannot be identified with the rings. Of course, related soul processes, mental processes and brain processes tend to reinforce each other, although the brain processes are the strongest. In other words, the brain and the mind act like scaffoldings, helping the formation and reinforcement of energy configurations in the soul,  which, in turn, enables meaningful organisation of mental representations.

The above does not only refer to language structures, but to our perception of objects too. One clarification may me necessary in this respect: the form and the content are not intrinsic features of an object, but rather the result of an interplay between a subject and an object. For example, the form of a table (e.g. its solidity) is influenced by our perception (in fact, it is, as any other object, mostly empty space). The meaning of a table also depends on an observer (presumably, it has a different meaning for a human being and an ant crawling on its surface).

Not surprisingly, our mental faculties, such as cognition, affect, and volition, also have this dual aspect.

Affect - at least two components of affect can be distinguished: feeling (an experiential component) and emotional reactions (a physiological and behavioural component). It is proposed that the former is a capacity of the soul. The brain does not feel the pain. Neither, of course, the body does (otherwise the nerve impulse from an affected area of the body would not need to travel to the brain centres that relay the pain). On the other hand, emotional reactions normally involve certain physiological processes, and are closely related to the brain and body. This distinction applies also to Autonomous Nervous System (ANS) reactions, not only semi voluntary ones. Observations of animals and humans who have a damaged ANS show that they still feel, although their feelings are somewhat muted (see Dana, 1921, and Hohmann, 1966), which is to be expected. The patients' reports indicate that they experience affects even in the absence of physiological reactions. Thus, physiological and behavioural changes reflect the type and degree of a reaction, but not the quality of a feeling.

Cognition (thinking) - although computer processing is sometimes compared to cognition, computers, in fact, are not near to thinking in human terms. When we think, we constantly make choices and are creative. Computers cannot do either. Thoughts can be intentional, while computers do not have any intentions (they are programmed). This unbridgeable difference arises because thinking also involves the non-material aspect of the person, and has its formal and tacit (implicit) component. Sometimes our thoughts may be formulated but they do not need to be. We usually think too fast for any formulation, so it is likely that a pre-verbal process takes place. A cognitive event starts with intending a meaning that creates a tension in the non-material energy configurations. This, in turn, triggers corresponding activity in the rings and the brain, which can produce a sentence or an image related to this configuration.

Volition also consists of one implicit aspect and the explicit one. The tacit aspect can be associated with intent which is, as already discussed, different from will. It is observed, for example, that sufferers of Parkinson's disease can be more successful in their movements if they intend to get somewhere, than if they focus on the movement itself (one patient, for instance, danced to the toilet). This is because intent can exploit the plasticity of the brain, and therefore, utilise unaffected areas (intent is not very strong though, so it has limited value in this respect). On the other hand, willing the movement is an attempt to recreate the form, and therefore uses the same brain circuitry that is not working well. This can also explain how different muscle sets can be invoked to do the same task, even if the original skill was not acquired using these muscles. For example, you can sign with your foot and the signature will still be recognisably yours (see the above quote).

Spontaneous mental processes - beside the mental processes that are intentional or responses to stimuli, there are also spontaneous mental processes. They are worth a closer look too. Sometimes (in fact, very often) it seems as if our thoughts or images have come from nowhere. They often intrude, impose on us. Yet, normally we own them, we are aware that they are a part of ourselves. So, it is more appropriate to call them spontaneous, rather than unconscious or subconscious. After all, we are conscious of such mental events, although perhaps not of what has caused them.

The part of the soul associated with the rings consists of a number of fields. Each field has a certain amount of energy and is in interaction with other fields. The result of that interaction is an increase or decrease of the energy in the field and a change in its shape or volume. Energy has a natural tendency towards equilibrium if other factors are not involved. Thus, even those fields that are not in one's awareness can be active if there is some permeability between them and a non-equilibrium state. Spontaneous changes are based on mutual interaction of the fields (energy does not have its own will). They can affect the soul if they have an energy potential even when we are not aware of them, and this can trigger unintentional thoughts. This makes the notion of the unconscious more complex: it may involve automatic brain processes, energy shifts in the soul, and spontaneous realignment of the rings. The trigger for all of them may be an external stimulus (e.g. association), although this is not necessary.

The other issue is why it is notoriously difficult to stop thinking - it is observed that even in sleep mental activity does not cease completely:

... the impression of absolute nothingness between falling asleep and waking up is more apparent than real, facilitated by an impairment of episodic memory and by some degree of confusion upon awakening... careful studies of mental activity reported immediately after awakening have shown that some degree of consciousness is maintained during much of sleep. (Giulio, 2004, p.17)

One way of looking at this is to consider that energy is a process. Both, the brain and the part of the soul associated with mental life are not objects but processes. The brain is not the brain and the soul is not the soul unless working (the brain can get energy from the body, the potential between energy fields in the soul, or intent). To be what they are, they need constant activity. However, thankfully, this is not to say that this activity has always to involve an ordinary level of thinking, as characterised by beta-waves. The whole system has the capacity to move below ordinary clatter and chatter (which can be empirically detected by a change in dominant wave patterns). This can be beneficial in many ways and is a standard practice in spiritual traditions.

  • [1]. Some quantum physicists tend to perceive reality in a comparable way, but such similarities are beside the point here.
  • [2]. Of course, the above example can be formulated more universally, such as x + x =2x, but this is still far too narrow. The nearest expression of its content would probably be through musical tones.