CHAPTER 9 - AFTERWORD
What does the fine chaff say to the wind?
Each wound is an eye; see me
and you shall be healed. Your laughter is the river
on fire, your touch is the wet stones
shining in the empty arms of water,
your dream is the shadow of the sun,
awkward and disobedient in the fields
of this summer's evening between worlds;
and your anguish moves the stars in their lonely closet
to sing the long dark songs we love.
We are here now, together. These wings in the distance
like lips waking, these blue eyelids opening beneath the horizon,
these are voices from the well of the future
no longer frightened to be born. This breathing
you hear in the wind all around you is a gift
freely given by the healing angels,
the angels of the wheat.
- Richard Messer (1)
This book began with the curious premise that everything significant in our lives emerges, not from the world outside, but from the inside-out. This may have sounded strange at first, but I hope that by now you've come to regard it simply as a straightforward model of reality.
The structure and operation of the brain helps explain why this is so. As described in chapter 3, the brain might better be considered as three brains--the reptile brain, the mammal brain, and the human brain--each of which developed at vastly different points in time. Though all three brains are interconnected, the reptile and mammal brains largely function without interference from the human brain. Here the analogy to the computer model of the brain helps us understand how they relate (though it's important to remember that this computer model is a vastly over-simplified model). There are behavioral "programs" stored within the structure of the reptile and human brain, programs that often go back largely unchanged to a time long before humans were even a glimpse on the horizon. When we get "territorial" and react instinctively to "protect our turf," that is a program in the reptile brain that is kicking in. When we try to find our place in the "pecking order" at work, we draw on knowledge hidden in the mammal brain. Most of our wants and needs, thoughts and behaviors, are triggered by programs that are millions, if not hundreds of millions of years old.
This isn't to say that our reactions are identical to the behavior of a crocodile protecting its territory, or a chimp grooming another chimp, but at their core, our reactions are more similar than we would like to believe. Evolution, by its very definition, is a slow process. Either we can regard this connection to supposed "lower animals" with indignation, or we can accept that we are all bound together within a web of life that encompasses all creatures in all times. When I read Lorenz' story about the jackdaw trying to "court" him by feeding him worms, I was charmed and thought immediately of times when I had tried to come up with just the right present for a girl I was dating (though I admit that I never came up with worms.) And what parent can't appreciate the jackdaws instinctively rushing to defend against anything that might attack their children. I think it's better to realize how much we share with other animals than to keep stressing how unique we are.
Our uniqueness lies in that human brain that surrounds the reptile and mammal brains. Gerald Edelman's model of neural Darwinism gives us an idea of how all these operate together in our lives. Within the brain's structure we have approximately one hundred billion neurons divided into perhaps one hundred million neuron groups. Each of those groups might be considered as a program storing some tiny portion of behavior. At birth we select about a million of those groups as a primary repertoire. That leaves 99% of the neuron groups unused at birth. Clearly there are enough possible stored behaviors to deal, at least broadly, with almost anything in human experience, but also clearly the million neuron groups in the primary repertoire are hardly enough to account for all our behaviors.
But development doesn't stop at birth: as we experience the world during our life (especially our early life) the primary repertoire (and quite possibly neuron groups not originally selected in the primary repertoire) is connected and reconnected in myriads of different ways specific to our life experience.
And even that isn't all. Within the human brain, it appears that much of our learned behavior is stored diffusely throughout the entire structure of the brain. Neural nets provide a possible model of how memories might come into existence. As an illustration of how neural nets form, we gave an example of how a consensus is arrived at during a town hall meeting. At this point, it isn't yet clear exactly how this process operates in the brain, though neurophysiologist and psychologist Karl Pribram speculates that holographic memories are formed within the dendritic connections of the brain. Because much of the information received by our brains are in waves, our brains have hard-wired programs which perform Fourier transforms, which convert the diffuse wave patterns into structured patterns.
This is exactly the same process performed by holograms. And, since the entire universe is made up neither of particles nor waves, but rather of particle/waves, this ability of our brains would explain how we could not only access information stored deep within the brain's structure over millennia, but also could bypass space-time limitations. This holographic theory, which appears to be supported by what we know of the brain's structure, provides at least a preliminary model to explain how dreams can provide information not known to the dreamer, how synchronicity can connect events acausally, how divinatory devices like the I Ching can provide information not available to consciousness.
Gateways and Rituals
Most of this book dealt with specific "gateways" through which we are able to access "inside" information. Dreams are the method par excellence, as evolution has already provided us with this structure for accessing otherwise unobtainable information. I explained that dreams begin to develop in the age of the dinosaurs almost a quarter of a billion years ago and were fully developed 65 millions years ago. From then until now, all birds and mammals (and probably reptiles) have dreamt each night. That is a very long time. Clearly dreams serve a significant function.
I described rituals, techniques to help (1) remember, (2) honor, and (3) interpret dreams. If readers does no more than begin to keep a dream journal, they will have taken a major step toward creating harmony between inner and outer, a harmony that will be reflected in the way she lives her life.
Another, less well-known gateway into the inner world is through synchronicity. As with dreams, synchronicities appear in our lives whether we pay attention to them or not. As with all things, however, becoming conscious makes all the difference in the world. Synchronicity appears to be a natural extension of two principles: saliency and synchrony. The world is filled with sights and sounds and smells, as well as other data not interpretable by our senses. Whether this data is interpreted as "noise" or "meaning" depends entirely on the circumstances, much like a key is only useful when the proper lock is found. This is saliency. When the proper information is received by more than one person, for example, a synchrony forms between them. A simple conversation, for example, when video-taped and observed at slower speeds, appears as a synchronous dance. Information is coming to us all the time: some we interpret as noise, some as meaningful. We are dancing to the music of the universe. Synchronicities are the most obvious manifestation of that dance.
Not only is our evolutionary history stored within the structure of our brains, it is also stored within the structure of our bodies in energy centers called chakras. Though chakras are ignored by traditional science, chakras have been known to most cultures throughout history. The difficulty in gaining acceptance for chakras in our own culture is that they are psychoid structures (to use Jung's term); that is, they are both body and psyche. In the body, they are located at sites that correspond to the major glands; as psyche, they are experienced in our developmental cycle, which mirrors the entire evolutionary history of the universe. While that may seem too grand to deal with, we can become aware of chakras through our breathing, a unique function that is under the control of both our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. As such, our bodies keep us breathing without any effort on our part, yet we can take conscious control of our breathing any time we like.
This unique aspect of breathing leads to another major gateway to our inner life: meditation. Though we don't know if any animal other than human beings meditates, we do know that meditation is a very ancient human ritual. I presented ways to meditate, with an emphasis on the Zen technique of simply observing our breath until we become one with it. I also presented a personally developed technique of breathing through the chakras, which is especially powerful. Aids to meditation were described, including light and sound mind machines, as well as numerous examples of music that help induce altered states of consciousness.
In an altered state of consciousness, we are capable of speaking for the gods; i.e., accessing information that seemingly is unavailable to anyone. There is a long history of such oracular techniques, with the most famous being the Oracle at Delphi. But this ability is not limited to far-off places and time; a technique discovered by C. G. Jung called active imagination allows us to turn to deeper powers within us to obtain information.
Another ancient oracle is the I Ching: a volume of wisdom which can be consulted by combining chance with a pre-defined structure. Because the I Ching is such a powerful gateway available to all, I described it at some length, explaining its history and structure, as well as the actual mechanics of consulting it.
If by now, all I've said above sounds natural, even common-place, this book will have served its purpose. But don't let that mislead you; this is a revolutionary view of reality, one that might restore meaning to the world! It has, unfortunately become a common-place for the educated person, thinking themselves modern and scientific, to assume that the world is the product of chance and life is without meaning. But really this is an outmoded view of the world based not only on out-of-date science, but also on an undervaluation of our own abilities. Each of us routinely makes use of knowledge and power contained within us, but we rarely take that into account in our philosophy of life.
Someone who accepts that life has meaning, and that we have access to that meaning from within, lives a much different life than one who, like 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, regards life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The world is strange and beautiful and each of us is not only contained within that world, but also contains that world within us.
1. Richard Messer, unpublished poem, given to author in e-mail communication.
Return to Home Page