It happens to all of us – without exception. One minute we are oblivious to what we are thinking and then unexpectedly we are captivated by a trail of thoughts which have the potential to lead us any where.
Profound thoughts leave us uncertain, even perplexed. When we are focused or paying attention on what is going on inside our head we have become fixed (albeit temporarily) on a particular train of thought, however, that doesn’t mean thoughts cease to exist at other times. You will find if you take the time to observe thoughts that they are like an endless freight train thundering through your Mind, we simply get good at ignoring the background noise.
This brings us to the question. The origin of thought. It is far too simple to say the brain produces thought. This immediately leads us to question the nature of the process by which electrical and chemical signals are converted into images and words that we instantaneously become aware of. What is this unexplainable ethereal stuff and how is it that intangible-ness emerges from electrochemical reactions to produce information we can observe in the solitude of own Mind.
The question must be – why do thoughts manifest – is it because the brain has it lost it’s way, is it malfunctioning… or is it because the brain accidently converts (through some unknown process) electrochemical activity into coherent thoughts that allow intellectual and meaningful interaction. The fact that thought is an instantaneous flow or stream of activity one has to wonder how an organ (which when sliced open) and looks as uncomplicated as a cauliflower can actually manifest such vivid and complex experiences.
What we experience is known as Qualia – it’s officially one of the greatest mysteries of humanity and is often labelled as the “hard problem” of consciousness. Strangely, some regard the One quality that defines them as a sentient being… as meaningless – that the extraordinarily complex nature of humanity can be dismissed with such cavalier disregard exposes a level of ignorance that surpasses so many things. Unfortunately this stance explains very little, anything, about the nature of experience or the origin of thought. Nor does it offer any rational ideas that one might pursue, it leads to a dead end.
It is bizarre that this crucial attribute of Life, i.e. consciousness and all it’s associated effects, without which there would be no recognition of the world, the universe, other people and of course, one-self, is dismissed as readily as it is. Attributing intelligence to the brain is also folly – the brain is a biomechanical organ which is utterly useless when void of the force that animates it. Without this Life-giving force the brain becomes the useless cauliflower in a jar to be mused over.
Is this Life-giving-force electricity alone, or is electricity merely a signature, one has to wonder. For even when this energy has left the body and we are termed dead there is still the presence of it in the atoms that are the body, a form of energy never leaves the parts that will ultimately return to the environmental whole to be used elsewhere.
The reality that the brain is nothing without the presence of this unseen energy very rarely registers with people, however, take away what animates the brain and you instantly take away all thoughts and feelings – in other words you take Life away. This in itself tells us, conclusively, that thoughts and feelings are inextricably linked to electricity and unknown energetic forces. Why does atomic activity create the cohesion of consciousness and the synchronicity of thoughts and feelings? What is it that causes atoms to behave in such a way that we experience sustained conscious experience?
For me this is a vital question, what is it that locks this process in place, what is it that keeps it consistent or constant, what started it – bearing in mind this process doesn’t just take place in one person and can thus be explained away by chance, it takes place within all Sentient beings. What are the chances of that level of synchronicity? One machine accidently gaining the experience of consciousness is one thing, but the fact that every machine shares similar experiences opens up the question of how and why other so called machines resonate conscious experience in the same way?
With the brain being regarded as a biomechanical machine and conscious experiences (thoughts and feelings) being downgraded as an epiphenomenon there is no requirement to answer these difficult questions, such questions become the domain of philosophy and therefore provide a convenient way to side-step debates, even though intelligent behaviour is enshrined as the work of machinary. My avenue of inquiry is not concerned with understanding background functions of a bio-computer but understanding the driving force behind the functions – machines are not intelligent, unless of course they have been programmed to behave intelligently.
When we think about something, we must ask the question “why is the brain doing this?”
If the brain is a bio-computer how does it self-program, why does it produce Qualia, but more importantly why is the mechanism wasting unnecessary energy when nature is known to not be wasteful – the Law of Energy Conservation makes this clear – are we to assume that energy created by Qualia dissolve back into the environment to be used elsewhere? The fact that Nature wastes nothing and will always seek the path of least resistance (or the path of most efficiency) one has to wonder why consciousness hasn’t been dispatched of altogether?
The problem with dismissing thoughts as an unimportant epiphenomenon is that they contain information, whether they are regarded as meaningless in the grand scheme of things they undoubtedly mean something at an individual level. To be clear, thoughts and feelings are a major driving force behind human behaviour because they develop the inner self and also help shape relationships with other human beings. They are also comprehensively explored by well known and well funded disciplines such as psychiatry and psychology, which seems somewhat bizarre if there is nothing to them. In fact, thoughts and feelings not only contain information and are taken very seriously they are also recognised for their potentially destructive and disabling nature. Look at the so-called mental health condition that is known as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, a psychological condition that effects soldiers exposed to war.
The effect of PTSD is becoming so acute that governments and military officials are being forced to face up to the fact that soldiers being exposed to severe violence and stressful combat conditions are experiencing overwhelming side-effects. Quite clearly, the human psyche wasn’t designed to deal with the destruction of other beings. The effects of viewing or partaking in the death and destruction of other human beings, particularly innocent children, are becoming more and more pronounced both in serving soldiers and veterans.
Thoughts and feelings are clearly a great deal more than smoke from a firing gun. Why would the brain torture itself to the point that it malfunctions and why would it push itself to self destruct.
A mechanistic view of conscious experience is woefully lacking, thoughts and feelings can and do have disturbing effects on our well being, This tells us, unequivocally, that these mysterious and intangible experiences actually define who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Therefore, they are enormously significant, not irrelevant. It turns out that the brain has a great deal to answer for. Do you think it will be concerned?
Part 2 will explore the origin of thought at a Quantum level.