Friday, July 8, 2022

The Affect of Information on Imagined Reality


Reason without affect would be impotent,
affect without reason would be blind. ― Silvan Tomkins

Still seeking the perceptual wisdom of cosmic integration this post continues with the idea that our conscious mind is an adaptation of imagination. Introducing this unfamiliar word ‘affect’ into our contemplation of the subconscious + conscious way we human beings function. Tomkins’ quote speaks to the subconscious nature of behavior and conscious nature of our perceptual paradox. 

And by way of analogy the grammar checking algorithms of artificial intelligence testify to our unfamiliarity with innate affect and its role in human consciousness. Try a search for 'affect' and see the programmed assumption you meant to type 'effect.' In a clear demonstration of how AI mimics our conscious sense of reality with its hard-wired memory system.

Here we explore innate affect’s role in the subconscious judgments involved in our perceptions based on Tomkins Affect Theory. With nine innate affects observed as a stimulus response system that manages the way reality affects our body-mind and its stimulated responses to experiences. 

Responses like the subconsciously orchestrated motions of our eyes, lungs and limbs at birth. Like the subconsciously orchestrated responses to the words our parents used to convey reality defining information and create the ideas of our mind. Our conscious mind's imagined sense of reality?

Professor Alan N Schore, author of "Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self." Suggests our early-life experience of behavioral adaptation is humanity’s practicing period when the universality of innate affects are most observable. While others use the word training to convey what is happening to the developing organism during this common experience of human development.

A time in our lives when human beings are, as they say in Thailand, same, same but different. Same in the subconscious orchestration of behavior yet consciously different in our spoken language. Demonstrated by the hundreds of different words humanity has for describing one important object, the Sun. And in this context of the 'affect' of information on imagined reality, language is a tool that affects imagination while the orchestration of behavior remains non-conscious.

And inescapable truth of human existence that can be self-validated by trying to think, speak, or write about 'how' you walk and talk. A personal challenge to demonstrate how conscious we really are that goes to the heart of our imaginary-blindness. And how affect, as Schore's book title suggests, contributes to our mind's imagined sense of reality. Consider this consciousness maxim:

The attempt to regulate affect - to minimize unpleasant feelings and to 
maximize pleasant ones - is the driving force in human motivation.

“Ok, so how does non-conscious affect drive my motivation and create my perception of reality?” I imagine you thinking. And perhaps with an additional thought of “surely it’s not as simple as an axis of good/bad feeling and how this polarity affects my physical movements and imagination?” Good question! Are we not the most complex creature on the planet, as shown by our ability to understand complex reality and create the technology that has released millions from a hand to mouth existence? 

Well, should we approach this consciousness maxim as a complex problem to be thought through? Or should we try to feel how it relates to the momentary nature of being alive? With a thought and felt sense comprehension of the twofold, subconscious/conscious dynamic of our momentary experience of sentience?

Should we examine our experience of reality during this year numbered 2022, for example? How does knowing this number and how we use numbers to imagine time make you feel? How long did it take you to read these words and does your comprehension feel good? If you couldn't read English what would you be looking at? How would an inability to know what you're looking at affect or impact you?

Do these questions feel foolish? This is the problem of trying to make the subconscious nature of behavior and innate affect conscious. And is this because, as Plato's Allegory of the Cave suggests, we are raised to satisfy a subconscious need to feel secure with a conscious sense of being certain? Does our raised way of managing existential anxiety create a false sense of reality? In the context of being a human self, is there manufactured truth and absolute truth?

SOCRATES: "And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette-players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets."

Plato: The Complete Works (p. 1338). Reading Time. Kindle Edition. 

Imagine the fire in this image of Plato's allegory is your heart? The organ, arguably, most responsible for energizing your brain? And the manufactured truth of a false reality is the way you learned to represent reality with thought, spoken, and written language? Imagine your conscious mind as an adaptation of innate (inborn) imagination? Imagine asking yourself what the truth of time is?

How long did take to read that paragraph? Was it half a minute, in the rational sense of 30 seconds? Or was it two or 3 seconds and did you experience the twofold act of breathing in and out during this experience of comprehension? How do you feel about these twin forms of information about time, signified by the word two and number 3?

And is the rational sense of reality afforded by our grasp of language the way we actually experience time? Is our lived experience of time about words and numbers or the unseen motions of the major organs of our body? Questions inspired by Tomkins observation, “reason without affect would be impotent, affect without reason would be blind.” 

A comment that reflects the maxim about our subconscious need to regulate our experience of being alive. Life's affect regulating need, beginning at birth with our very first breath and the subconsciously orchestrated motion of our lungs. And is this first experience of reality outside our mother’s womb, the multi-layered meaning of Socrates’ “when you want wisdom and insight as badly as you want to breathe, it is then you shall have it?” 

Is an ultimate truth about time defined by language or the constant motion of our body’s major organs? Our heart, our lungs, our stomach, from the very first affect external reality has on our body? Why does meditation traditionally focus on the motions of our breath and the bio-energetic nature of our thoughts? And in the context of postmodern deconstruction, is an internal attention + awareness of sensation akin to the attention + awareness of sight? 

Is this what Plato meant when he wrote, “must there not be some art which will affect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?” Plato: The Complete Works (p. 1342). Reading Time. Kindle Edition. 

Is the embodiment purpose of meditation about our need to notice the yin-yang nature of conscious effects and subconscious affects, as we feel how the rhythmic motion of breathing affects our mind? And why Tomkins said: "All life is “affective life,” all behavior, thought, planning, wishing, doing . . . There is no moment when we are free from affect, no situation in which affect is unimportant."

Tomkins observed nine innate affects in a theory that is difficult to talk about because of the paradox of human self-consciousness and our instinctive avoidance of pain. And how the feelings of well-being expressed in spontaneous smile are subconsciously orchestrated. While there is a growing interest in Affect Theory, as evidenced in this video from Then & Now

Affect Theory is a field that arose out of the ‘affective turn’ of the mid-90’s, influenced by thinkers like Spinoza, Bergson and Deleuze. I take a look at some of the foundational ideas, especially through the work of Brian Massumi (Parables of the Virtual) and Eve Sedgwick (Touching Feeling). The video looks at attempts to overcome the dualistic mind-body divide, so dominant in western thought. I also look at how Sedgwick draws upon the work of Judith Butler and Performative Utterances.

While within the functionally automatic nature of our subconsciously affective judgments, should we use attention + awareness to feel how our mind affects our body in search of a coherent sense of wholeness? Should we contemplate how our wisest ancestors learned to experience the cosmos as a coherent whole? And is humanity experiencing a need to join mind and matter together in the way our ancestors suggested with their cryptic sayings and perceptual wisdom stories?

And here in 2022, has a recently published book laid a foundation for a global reexamination of human consciousness in the context of Alexander B Johnson’s, “the delusion is extraordinary by which we exalt language above nature: making language the expositor of nature, instead of making nature the expositor of language?” 

Has Iain McGilchrist’s book The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World set the stage for what he suggests is “the coming together of mind and matter, which seems to be a business of attending to the world?” A comment he made during a moderated discussion with the author Philip Pullman staged by the people from How to Academy

At the end of this discussion Pullman stops the spontaneous outburst of celebration, presumably triggered by feeling good about participating in a meaningful event? Urging the audience to buy McGilchrist’s book because he feels it is a vitally important addition to our human understanding of mind and matter, during what humanity may look back on as a truly epoch defining period? And from our perspective of experiencing perceptual wisdom and existential freedom, is there a paradox in How to Academy’s front page greeting, “Welcome to the Home of Big Thinking?” Is our habit of thinking counterproductive to the “coming together of mind and matter” McGilchrist’s book is calling for?

Specifically, within the context of perceptual wisdom and humanity’s increasingly urgent need to resolve the mounting problems of our global experience? Especially from the perspective of How to Academy’s reason for staging this event, as stated beneath the video presentation? An event meant to be a testament to the power of imagination and a celebration of humanity’s innate capacity to experience awe and wonder?

And in the context of perceptual wisdom, is our experience of awe and wonder a product of big think or big feel? Or a combination of both whenever we practice the embodiment purpose of mindfulness to recalibrate our perception of reality? Especially if we engage in contemplating the purpose of being?

Does this “picture worth a thousand words” convey a sense of attention + awareness of the information provided to our brain by our inborn senses? Or the feeling of reality that creates our descriptive and paradoxically abstract thoughts about reality? While from the imbibing perspective of meditation practice described earlier, are the five senses we are born with the way external reality gets inside our body? And do we reconstitute this biological information into conceptual information inside our skull, in order to describe reality in a well-imagined, consensual way?

Does this image of meditation practice convey a need to pause the functionally automatic nature of mind-sight in order to revisit the five senses of awareness we are born with? Is the image also conveying a need to let the nature of reality affect us in the immersive way an imbibe meditation practice facilitates? Especially after we have studied the Oracle-like information we carry around these days?

Should we contemplate the meaning of this picture through the lens of Einstein’s, “thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, is a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. . . a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us?” Like the reaction to the earth turning effect of sunrise described in the post Recognizing Optical & Cognitive IllusionsAs a subconsciously orchestrated fitness agenda of adapting to social environments overrules our need of existential truths.

Imagine spending 40 nights and days in the splendid isolation the meditation picture conveys to confirm important existential information with a process of adaptive realizations? Imagine wandering around mother nature’s wilderness for 40 days and forty nights and having to keep both eyes open to her dangers and her delights?

And these days would you prepare yourself for such an experience by researching the information available on the internet? Or, like our ancestors, would you trust your innate capacity to survive? Would you have faith in the millions of years spent developing your nervous system, as a subconscious guidance system? Would your sense of time change relative to the sun and moon as this experience challenges modernity's linear concept of time? 

The Blind Eye Effect of Innate Affect

Is this one-eyed pirate picture worth a thousand words? Does it speak to our personal capacity to turn a blind eye to whatever sense of reality makes us feel bad? Does the institutional cover-up of behaviors that reflect badly on organizations the world over show humanity’s perennial capacity to turn a blind eye? And if so, is the subconscious cause of such behavior innate affect? Does Schore’s maxim give us a concise reason for our capacity to create the perceptual prison Einstein called an optical illusion of consciousness?

Speaking personally, I can’t say with hand on heart that I have not been guilty of giving in to the temptation of averting eyesight and mind-sight away from impressions of reality that make me feel bad. Even educated insight into the instinctive well-springs of my behaviors, more often than not, does not prevent these avoidance reactions. Such as a spontaneous closing of my eyelids whenever graphic scenes of death and violence appear on my TV. Unless I’m reposed in the consciousness state signified in the picture of meditation above, which I can’t automatically maintain.

Yet does the involuntary movement in my avoidance of distressing images speak to the subconscious paradox of innate affect? Suggesting a capacity within our human consciousness to become imprisoned by our own nature? Does an instinctive avoidance of distressing images suggest that consciousness is driven by affective judgment? Was Silvan Tomkins right to say: “There is no moment when we are free from affect, no situation in which affect is unimportant?” And does this one-eyed image symbolize a divided self of subconscious - conscious, attention + awareness? Does my subconsciously orchestrated and involuntary avoidance impulse show how my conscious mind turns a blind eye to how much it does not control my behaviors and perceptions?

In her book The Transmission of Affect, Teresa Brennan writes about how socially induced affect can change our biology. Yet because we are unaware of this subconscious process, we don’t talk about it. In everyday conversations, human beings don’t talk about the second brain growth spurt we all experience during adolescence. And is that because most of humanity is unaware of the wealth of recently created information about their own reality? Imagine if we taught information about the structure and functioning of their nervous system to high school students, as they were experiencing their second brain growth spurt? Would it change the way they imagine their own reality during one of the most important periods in a human being’s life?

Would such a change in institutional education affect the coming together of mind and matter, Iain McGilchrist's book is calling for? While in the video conversation cited above, we hear Pullman quote the psychologist William James’ idea of human perception as a flimsy screen. And is that idea spelled out in these words “the delusion is extraordinary by which we exalt language above nature: making language the expositor of nature, instead of making nature the expositor of language?” Creating a flimsy screen or veil of existential self-deception, woven by the speed of our memory enabled thinking, that unmakes the reality of the world as McGilchrist's book title suggests?

And if so, do we unmake the world by adapting our inborn imagination into an imagined sense of reality, defined by the way and speed at which we name it? Whenever we name what we see, do we create an optical, yet paradoxically functional illusion and a delusion of consciousness? Or, as dictionary definitions of illusion suggest, do we create a “misinterpreted perception of a sensory experience?” Or, as another definition suggests, do human languages create a “deceptive appearance or impression?” Within our mind’s imagined sense of reality? Our Mind-Sight? Do we look and see something that isn’t there? Words?

And should we wonder why McGilchrist uses this quote to introduce a chapter on human perception, “To repeat: don’t think, but look!” ― Ludwig Wittgenstein. (Kindle location 2700 of 50452) Why in his previous book The MASTER and his EMISSARY The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, he writes about the primacy of affect? (Kindle location 4288 of 17309) Can an imbibe meditation practice of looking without thinking of descriptive words bring mind and matter together in the coherent sense of the cosmos our wisest ancestors knew? Or do the adaptive realizations of perceptual wisdom involve seeing through the veil created by thinking to ease any bad feelings arising from an effort to stop thinking and seeing words?

And just like our experience of infancy when we learned to walk and talk, does a coherent sense of cosmic wholeness require a well-informed practice of mindful attention and awareness? Guided by our key insight and understanding of how practiced behaviors and perceptions become functionally automatic? The kind of insight that can affect a spiritual reawakening that develops into a resurrection philosophy? Please watch a video about spiritual reawakening:  

This video uses footage from a popular four horsemen television documentary and scrolling text to ask viewers perceptual wisdom questions about the cognitive maps of reality we take for granted as adults. Asking these questions: Has humanity entered an age of consequence? When systemic collapse forces change? A changed reality perception? Even a spiritual reawakening? From a delusion of consciousness? An induced trance of optical illusions? The look and name optical illusions within our educated understanding of reality?

Do education systems suppress? When does our education really begin? What is our cognitive map of reality? Who are the gate keepers of cognitive maps? Is any map the territory? Are names on a map:- symbols of reality?

Does spiritual reawakening involve recognizing the truth about the symbolic nature of human languages and our collective delusion? Who were the gate keepers of your cognition? How was your cognition created? Does your cognitive map rely on sight and sound? Is true perception about two or five senses? 

Is spiritual reawakening about adult level cognitive maps or the sentient consciousness every human being is born with? Will spirituality be reborn with a revival of the twice born experience of resurrection philosophy?

We can become more aware of how we make an existential prison for ourselves and the truth of the maxim “you’re your own worst enemy you know?” When we take the subconscious primacy of affect seriously by asking ourselves how we walk and talk? l have asked hundreds of people this self-knowledge question with very few able to admit their self-ignorance. 

I'm often struck by the speed of replies and left wondering about the relationship between time and hearing. Struck by the relationship between time and seeing as l read these words as I'm writing. A muse that overtook me while experiencing the reality of dawn and that one moment of time when the sun first appears above a horizon. As I tried to stop thinking and tried to perceive a felt-sense of the dimensional nature of reality. 

Discovering that only a feeling of time as a fourth element allows me to grasp the 3-dimensional nature of objective reality beyond my socially conditioned mind-sight. While the purpose of the most recent self-cross-examination of my so-called logic and reason is summed up in the consciously unpalatable "Bullshit and self-deception are infectiously versatile." In the book: Zombies in Western Culture: A Twenty-First Century Crisis by John Vervaeke; Christopher Mastropietro; Filip Miscevic, Kindle Edition.

Although I have to say I find these words about an ancient malady and its cure far more penetrating than any found within the intelligent zombie book: “The dynamic of information flow within and among us points to a particularly human malady: to avoid anxiety, we close off crucial portions of awareness, creating blind spots. That diagnosis applies both to self-deceptions and shared illusions.” A quotation from: Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception by Daniel Goleman.

While in the context of timeless wisdom and experiencing the cosmic reattachment purpose of a psycho-spiritual rebirth, I find the recent research into Consciousness as a Memory System to be a plausible synchronization of historical emergence. Within the context of buzz words and phrases on and thoughts like these: HOW TO THINK ABOUT THE META-CRISIS WITHOUT GETTING TOO EXCITED.

And often these days as l take in the reality of sunrise at Bondi Beach l think “if this is not heaven, where else would heaven be?” A thought l explore more in the following post about the perceptual wisdom experience of heaven. As I continue my decades-long effort to understand the spiritual aspects of consciousness implicit in ancient wisdom sayings and stories.

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