Today’s topic: The Brain

I was not entirely satisfied with the last post.  I had started off strong enough, but needed a break half-way through, and when I returned the thread of continuity of thought had broken (for obvious reasons).  The problem became one of handling complexity; no matter how I try to break things down into little pieces, the interrelations between process and parts, the interrelation between objects of discourse becomes so dense that I get lost in the maze of verbiage, concepts and lose clarity along the way.  I need some string, I guess;  maybe a string theory?

THE BRAIN

This is not going to be a scientific thesis on the form, function and the physical composition of the grey matter, because I don’t have that much detail at my fingertips.  This is more of a generalized discussion of structure and how structure impacts function – how, in the case of consciousness manifesting in the brain, function in this case follows form.  The brain doesn’t create consciousness, it is the mechanism by which consciousness functions in the body, and thus in the world.

“The son of Man has not the power to undo the creation of Gd,” the Course in Miracles tells us. 

Consciousness has no direct method of effecting material (physical) reality; Consciousness effects the brain, which, through directing the body, effects the desired changes in the material world.  That is reality’s safeguard against magic and what sci-fi readers refer to as “psi powers” – ‘the big three’, according to The Tomorrow People – telekinesis, teleportation and telepathy – which would render reality unstable, as we learned in New Mutants #25 (Mar 1985), when the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier (created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Bill Sienkiewicz –  thank you, wikipedia.org) ultimately causing the unraveling of the reality of the Marvel Universe, instituting the “Heroes Reborn” storylines.  This is all conjecture, you say, and my response is that this ‘conjecture’ amply illustrates the need for some kind of safe-guard to the actions of Consciousness in the shared reality.  If one, each one, could truly alter reality at will, the “common” aspect of existence –the ‘fact’ that we all share this reality – would evaporate, again causing the unraveling of reality.

This is where it gets difficult for me: do I start by explaining where these concepts come from, in my personal learning and experience, or do I attempt to explain the concepts first, and present the personal journey as an appendix, as it were?

I use the comic books and science fiction literature as a source of analogy, not of fact.  The wish fulfillment aspect of the science fiction and the super-hero saga allows us to generate hypotheses about OUR reality by creating one that is slightly different, allowing the manifestations of consciousness in that reality to do more than we can in this one.  Where it gets strange is when the hypotheses (like alternate realities, my personal favorite) prove to have some basis in the way the world actually works.  We can use the possibilities generated by choice to understand the idea of “alternate realities” to understand the limitations of this one.

and now, BACK TO THE BRAIN

I don’t like discussing “evolution” as strictly literal nor specifically linear (as the “creationists” are wont evoke in their attempts to decry the ‘evolution’ as a scientific theory, and thus the entire field of genetics as part of that demonic discipline, science.  Instead, let us speak of “Developmental Heirarchies” as a measure of complexity.

 

BrainImage_1000_800

Ontogeny (“the origin and the development of an [individual] organism”) capitulates phylogeny (“the … development and history of a species”), within limits we can trace the development of features and functions of the brain over the breadth of the spectrum of species of the Animal Kingdom, and with each additional layer emerges an additional level of complexity in the functions that develop.  Flatworms have nervous systems, but very “primitive” brains, their behavioral range is limited.  If we look at the way the brain develops during pregnancy, we see the linear aspect of development within the individual growth and development from a single cell to a complex system of organs, bodily fluids, and … consciousness.  I apologize, but any analysis of the nature of the body – and brain – that doesn’t include the mode of animation is not only incomplete, it’s absurd.

The human brain is a paired organ; it is composed of two halves (called cerebral hemispheres) that look pretty much alike.
The term brain lateralization refers to the fact that the two halves of the human brain are not exactly alike.
Each hemisphere has functional specializations: some function whose neural mechanisms are localized primarily in one half of the brain.http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/brain.html

AN EXAMPLE: this is what I was complaining about that last post, earlier, where the train of thought stops at a station and then derails rather than resuming the journey).  This time, I’m going to stop here, take a break and resume after I’m re-focused.

 

                                               

2014.0314.10:45 hrs, 2 days later.

If we look at the Animal Kingdom (the taxonomical one (“The arrangement of entities in a hierarchical series of nested classes, in which similar or related classes at one hierarchical level are combined comprehensively into more inclusive classes at the next higher level.”), not the entertainment one), from the simplest examples of Consciousness with motility to the most complex of mammals, the human being, the question of a linear development is secondary; we can’t know what happened before man himself developed, or even before the development of self-consciousness, the awareness of one’s own being as an object (of consciousness), and so the linear aspect of ‘evolution’ is actually a red herring; however, the developmental heirarchies hold true.

When I speak of developmental heirarchies, I define “complexity” in developmental terms as adding layers of function and capacity in addition to the capacities already inherent in an heirarchically lower developmental stage; more complexity means that the capabilities of the less complex are all inherent in the more complex, but there are capacities and capabilities in the higher stages that are simply not available to the lower stages.  I do not mean “better”, or even “more advanced”; it’s not a value judgment, but a statement of relative complexity.

As an example in familiar terms, a human and his or her pet dog.  The human has all the capabilities of a dog – we eat, sleep, play, shit and show affection;  but the human brain has those capacities as well as the functions of speech and self-awareness.  How do we know domesticated animals don’t have the capacity for self-reflection?  First, there is no evidence, and secondly, there exists no method for these animals to express an “I” concept.  Ultimately, we know from the size and structure of the “dog brain” that, developmentally, the functional capacity is not inherent in the “dog brain” as it is in the human brain.

I have two Pekingese, born around the same time, but from different litters and different mothers, so they’re similar yet so different.  They do communicate their needs – to go outside to relieve themselves, to get fed; the girls have even demonstrated the ability to remind me when it’s time to go to bed – but not according to the physical clock, but by the biological clock: simply by the fact that it’s late, they’re tired and they know the bedtime schedule, and when it’s not being followed.  They are conscious, they can communicate, they do relate to other beings as part of the ‘pack’, or not, but they demonstrate no ability to individuate themselves from the group to which they “belong”.

Following this logic, the capacity for language may develop from this self-reflective capacity, and not necessarily the other way around.  Less developed animals obviously communicate, but without the capacity for self-reflection – and by that, I don’t mean introspection, but the ability to view oneself as an object of consciousness.  This self-reflective ability is a development of the forebrain, the more advanced/developed area of the brain.

When we analyze the brain in terms of developmental heirachies, and try to establish a sequence of complexities in the brain structure and function, we find that the brain is organized laterally – the left and right lobes of the brain operate separately, and function somewhat differently.  We also find that, across species, the brain develops from back to front; from the back brain, the more “primitive”, the simpler parts of the brain are shared across species, to the more functionally developed frontal areas that change and get more complex in the more “developmentally advanced” animal species.

Before I conclude this confusion, I want to make a point about structure and function within the mind/brain/consciousness system.  Consciousness doesn’t change, the energy of awareness is a unitary thing, it permeates existence, when you stop to ‘think’ about it.  However, keep in mind that the brain’s structure and function define how consciousness operates in the material world, but its manifestation in the world is structured according to the capacities of the brain itself.  The brain dictates the terms under which consciousness operates for us, but it doesn’t alter the nature of consciousness; form, in this case, defines function, we have to use our brains to operate in our bodies, but the animating force is not altered by the functioning; its effects are directed by the brain, but the energy itself is not altered or limited by that functional necessity.

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