A Short Quirky Look at Consciousness

I am sure I made a promise a long time on this blog that I would be writing a lot about consciousness, but I don’t fee that that I have.  So this is very much a blog rather than an article, and hopefully in the meanderings you’ll find something of interest.

I have recently enjoyed the second three-part series of Sherlock on the BBC. I am no fan of the BBC, it just does not really work for me, but I have to say that this second series was fantastic. I haven’t seen the first series, I guess it must have been on while I was in Brazil.

The second episode was The Hound of the Baskervilles. If you have not seen Sherlock, it is an updated version, set in the our modern age, and so there are tweets, blogs and text messages galore. In this episode, Sherlock and Holmes journey down to Dartmoor in Devon to investigate the strange experiences of a young chap who witnesses his father 20 years ago being killed by a manic and devilish beast.

This was quite interesting, since there was a passing reference to the UK’s Ministry of Defence experiments in chemical weapons at Porton Down, in which army veterans were used as guinea pigs, being exposed to chemicals in various nerve gas experiments.  In the 1960s, the British Government also saw fit to spread toxic compounds over a UK city in order to test the city’s defences. No mention was made to educate the public about the CIA’s hideous MKULTRA programme, but then I suppose any form of real education would be asking a bit too much of a BBC primetime drama. Never mind. I’ll return to the BBC and mind control in a very short while.

In the final episode, we see Sherlock supposedly jumping from a hospital rooftop, committing suicide in order to save his only three friends in the world from assassination. After, and even during the programme, viewers were blogging and tweeting their ideas about what had happened, since at the very end we see Sherlock alive and well, albeit in hiding, and according to the programme’s creators, no one has guessed correctly how he managed this, with all of us missing one apparent clue which is there in the programme to see. Of course someone may well have guessed correctly and the producers simply not revealing which was the right guess.

The Daily Mail even interviewed a panel of experts to determine the solution to this “three pipe” mystery. What we had was Watson witnessing Sherlock jump from the rooftop, but at a crucial moment he was knocked off a bicycle, and the his view of the fall was blocked by a dustbin lorry. He goes to Sherlock’s body, and can’t believe what he has seen. Of course this whole illusion is based on our perceptions of expectations, and not what we actually see, a point Sherlock also makes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when he works out that he had been secretly given a hallucinogen, causing him to “witness” the hound for himself.

It is not just in “Who Done Its” that wee experience this, our expectations can lead our perceptions in everyday life. Even perhaps one of the greatest geniuses of all time, Isaac Newton, it could be suggested was led by his expectations, his mental models, his schemata, or scientific hypotheses, when he concluded that white light consisted of coloured light, astounding the world with a theory which still stands today.

I am not saying that Newton was wrong in his theory of light, but like Sherlock, in whom viewers worship as a hero because of his devastatingly rational and logical and emotionally free mind, when we focus only on the logic and rational, we can miss a very different way of thinking, a delicate empiricism, as Goethe put it, which does not have its foundation in the mechanistic world, but the organic world. It is this way of thinking, of moving into one’s intuition, rather than one’s rational thinking mind, that I have been exploring recently, and how to create new ways of teaching people to think in this way. We have, as Craig Holdrege puts it “To think like a plant grows”.

This is a very different way of thinking, and is dealt with in depth by author Iain McGilchrist, in his book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. In this video below, McGilchrist provides a wonderful, if incredibly fast, summary of his work.

I have to say though that the first time I read his book, much of the more subtle aspects were lost on me. Having done much more work, thinking and generally make a real effort to understand Goethe’s dynamic way of thinking, I can better appreciate McGilchrist’s work, although the one of the greatest elucidators of Goethe’s dynamical thinking, Henri Bortoft, told us in his lectures that he felt that McGilchrist himself had not fully experienced those deeper conscious states of which he was writing about, because he had not been able to express some of the more simple aspects, and these were missing in his book.

So where does this all lead us? Well it is quite phenomenal the extent to which we are subtly mind-controlled each day, as adults, as consumers, as children. I have no great love for the BBC, and in fact I can not cope or bear to watch any BBC news because it is so darned biased. It is so interesting having a Brazilian wife, and living in Brazil, because there their news and media appear to be far less biased politically, and I have seen many an interesting and truly open and intelligent debates and discussions. Of course there is a great level of corruption still in Brazil, but it is the media that is leading the way in attempting to tackle this issue. This is quite unlike us Brits. We love to lecture other countries on issues of morality while being the world’s biggest exporter of weapons, one of the world’s greatest warmonger, and basically quite possibly one of the world’s biggest hypocrites.

David Cameron recently admonished Argentina for attempting to be colonial.  Can you imagine that? Insane : )

And if you are not British, or living in the UK, you may not realise just to what extent coverage of Syria has been pumped into the psyches of British television viewers these last few months. It has been relentless, and these levels of propaganda can only be successful if co-ordinated between the media and the government.  The government alone could not achieve this if we had a truly independent media.

To give you an example of the scandal, we recently had our Minister for Defence resign from his post (but not as an MP). As the Daily Mail put it, he should just apologise for giving his friend favours and we should all move on and forget about it.

By far the best solution would be for Dr Fox to be completely open about the privileges he appears to have granted to his friend Adam Werritty.

Having done so, he should apologise for what looks very much like a well-intentioned error, rather than a serious breach of security.

But there is so much more to this case which has been ignored both by our supposed opposition MPs and media alike. For what we have is not so much the Minister of Defence granting financial favours to a friend (amid much speculation over his sexuality), but a Minister for Defence having meetings in secret, without his Personal Secretary, with Israel, defining the British policy on Iraq and Syria, with no accountability to the British public. William Hague, David Cameron, and Labour MP David Miliband are all involved. British democracy? That would be a fine thing indeed!

Another great video now showing the impact on our children of media saturation.  I know pretty much anyone reading this blog will already be aware of these things, and this is not posted to teach you anything new, but it is an amazing looking documentary, and this eight minute clip seems to have fitted in a huge amount of information.

And finally, here is a video of some very selfish parking in Bath. This kind of behaviour does annoy me, but this video is interesting for many reasons. The UK is probably the most observed and filmed society in the world (I read that somewhere) with insane amounts of mass surveillance which Orwell could never have dreamed of.

The chap who made this video was criticised for not having a life and filming this piece of selfishness, but it made me think. I do not have the book to hand right now, but there is a beautiful passage in Black Elk Speaks in which Black Elk describes how the wise elders dealt with errant youngsters. They would not criticise directly, but they would tell a story in which the issue to be solved would appear, perhaps indirectly, or metaphorically. But the youngster hearing this story would know exactly what the message of the story was. These little nuggets of wisdom were called “darts” and could strike at the heart of the listener, who would be deeply shamed at reflecting on their behaviour.

But we seem to have lost all sense of community, of service to others, of the impact of our behaviour on others, in our iLives where everything is about i or me and stuff everyone else. Well some people seem to act like this, and maybe some kinds of surveillance are good, when carried out by good people, pointing out the great deficiencies in our fellow country men and women. This lady just loses the plot, as does her husband, perhaps because she knows in reality just why he has been filming her. Well done to him for keeping control. The video was released in November, but this week went viral. Maybe I should be giving it publicity, maybe not. I though will, as always focus on the love and trying to do better myself, as I do not want any “darts” thrown my way.

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