Sunday Seminar  April 2005

Consciousness Revisited - Reflections on Korzybski, Tory and Jaynes
Could Julian Jaynes be correct in asserting that consciousness "is a learned process"? 

What might emerge from Tory's "Crucible of Consciousness"?

And does our very-own Korzybski's mapping of the abstracting process

 ever allow for a truly creative thought?

Led by Robert James



“Consciousness” Homework 1


Consciousness Revisited - Reflections on Korzybski, Tory and Jaynes

Could Julian Jaynes be correct in asserting

that consciousness "is a learned process"? 

What might emerge from Tory's "Crucible of Consciousness"?

And does our very-own Korzybski mapping of the abstracting process

ever allow for a truly creative thought?


In preparation for some Saturday delving experience, I invite you to try a little preliminary homework:


On the way into and out of sleep, see if you can reach a little below the "conscious" facade, by appreciating the "twilight" zone.


For example, try to identify what sensory stimulation you're receiving (light in the room, sounds from outside and inside your room (or tent, nest, burrow, etc, wherever you sleep), sound and feeling of your own breathing and heartbeat, pressure of your body against the bed, feelings of eg dryness in the mouth, etc, etc ... 


Try to let your mind-consciousness (no, I'm not going to put all these "fuzzy" words in quotes) look into itself, eg


 - Does your mind seem to reside in a place in your body - Is it really in the brain, or could it just as well be in the heart?


 - Consider looking down upon your body as you lie there - Can you think of yourself as somehow not in your body?


 - Try to think of yourself flying - around the streets, around the World, into the body of someone else (who you know).  What would it be like being someone else, eg of the opposite sex, richer/poorer or different-looking?


 - What if your parents had behaved differently towards you - What effect would that have had on how you are now ? 


 - Imagine what it would be like if you (not the world-as-a-whole) were all that you could possibly be - What would it be like?


Don't make a big effort thinking about these things; just let your consciousness go on a comfortable ramble in the glen ...


In the morning, before getting distracted by the trivia (sorry the very important events) of your daily life, make an effort to record something of this consciousness-experience - just some keyword will do.  Or perhaps you could do a painting(s), compose a poem or a song ... ?


Consider what you may have learnt about yourself in this experience.


During the day, reflect on these experiences, and try to look forward to doing it again, probably at beddie-bye time, or maybe just in a quiet time of your own before then.    

*** * ***


Saturday won't be a "must-show-and-tell" review of these experiences, but we might have some voluntary sharing along the way.


Looking forward to seeing you then.


All the best,

Robert J.


PS:  Alas, there will be more instalment(s) of homework in the next few days, so don't leave it all until Friday night!





“Consciousness” Homework 2


Hello again ...


How are you going with last week's homework?


Have you had a chance to "be quiet for a while" and perceive-experience some non-rational processes as suggested -


- Try to identify sensory inputs (light, sound, etc),

- Develop a feeling of "where you 'mind' resides',

- Consider looking upon your body from outside,

- Try to perceive yourself as someone else, maybe one of your own ancestors!

- Imaging if you'd had a very different background,

- Imagine yourself as the most capable/developed/inspired that you could possibly be ...


*** * ***


Try living for a little while (eg 60 seconds!) without language - Is it possible?


- Can you do the above activities without words?

- Can you recall your best / worst / most wondrous / most embarrassing experience without words?

- Can you envisage a wonderfully fulfilling experience without language?

- Can you form an intention of any sort without language?

- Can you consider your own unique identity, strengths and weaknesses and potential wordlessly?


Is there some little part of your life that is truly non-verbal?  What about, eg

 - The taste of that special Hermitage that you uncorked on Saturday night,

 - The feeling of relief at the opportunity of sleeping-in when you wake on Saturday morning,

 - The pleasure of seeing the success of a tutoring student's exam results or

 - The sight of your "little devil" child in angellic sleep at last ...


Why is our language so inadequate sometime to describe things that are very important to us?


Would our consciousness of these things be much less without language?  Why?



Have you known anyone who was "deaf and dumb"? How could it be that such people sometimes refuse medical assistance that could restore hearing - they say that they fear losing their familiar world of special communication and awareness?


Can you dwell for a while on the Object Level of perception, without slipping to the Descriptive and then Inferencial levels, even when no analysis or action is required ?


*** * ***


Look forward to your "completely full and accurate" thoughts on these matters ...


All the best,

Robert J.




“Consciousness” Homework 3


"Language acquisition engenders a self separate from reality as each "thing" acquires a name separate from the child's (ie our) being."


Sound familiar?  No, not from our very-own Korzybski, but from Krishnamurti *.  What do you think?


"Tao (the spiritual essence of Self, or Soul) is lost in ego's barrage of words busily rehashing the past and fantasizing about the future"


Do you ever feel like this?  Can we truly "live in the present?"


Jaynes, I believe, would say that just a few millennia ago, people did not have this problem as we do.  Yet they created edifices and mused about the human condition in a way that's very familiar to most of us.



Robert J.



* Jiddu Krishnamurti was a Hindu religious philosopher and teacher, born in India in 1895.  Among his writings are “Education and the Significance of Life” (1953), “Commentaries on Living” (1960) and “The Urgency of Change” (1970).








Notes by Ralph Kenyon on “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, by Julian Jaynes  (1977) Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


One of the things you might note is that we humans have millennia of following the directives of our "gods" as they have been instantiated (differently) in various cultures. Most humans still do not possess the wherewithal to question the dictates of authority, and most cultures openly punish those who don't follow the masses. It is this historical and cultural momentum that ends up in the clash of cultures. "Received authority", and the interpretations of the few on how to act are swallowed "hook, line, and sinker" by the masses. Politics comes in as these few lead their respective masses - more often than not - into conflict, usually in the name of god (or country).


Korzybski would argue that if we could teach these people to use the principles of general semantics, and question the dogma of their religions, they would see the flaw in their ways. Unfortunately, that, in itself, is a fallacy (the naturalistic fallacy). Action is dictated by values, but general semantics does not advocate any values in itself, although may "general semanticists" tend to think that any actions that "promote time-binding" are "good". (See my paper The General Semantic 'Ethic' of Cooperation.)


We must differentiate various aspects or perspectives on general semantics.


A classification scheme that separates "man" from "animals".

A theory of (human) evaluating.

A paradigm for viewing the world that includes relativity and the Popperian approach to science.


General semantics has its biases, just like any other paradigm - including the religious ones.


Each major religion believes that it has achieved the ultimate Truth with a capital T. Wars are fought and cultures exist in conflict because each "truth" of the neighboring religion threatens contrasting neighboring beliefs. And the leaders cannot live comfortably with these questions to their own beliefs. But the millennia of "following gods" preclude easily examining and giving up one's beliefs, hence cultures come into violent conflict.


Fortunately, general semantics has not (yet) achieved such cultural momentum and dogmatic adherence to its principles to dominate a geographic area and fund crusades to enslave contrasting views to the will of its adherents. But we have, right in the general semantics community, the evidence that such animosity can occur. Note the historical split between Korzybski and Hayakawa, and more recently between certain individuals in Europe and USA.


In a nutshell, conflicting world views have evolved with cultures, but it is the residual effect of the bicameral mind method of brain function that allows these conflicts to become violent.


To better appreciate this problem we should stop treating "consciousness" as if it were a single cohesive "thing" the "same" for everybody. Julian Janes was perhaps the first to question this assumption when he asked if consciousness evolved. Our current symbolic environment is full of references to "altered states of consciousness", but we have very few clear theories on this matter, Abraham Maslow and Lawrence Kohlberg not withstanding.








Here’s a “big, fat reference” for further study:






(Updated 09/05/2005)

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