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Insight and the Beginnings of Awareness and Learning

Insight and the Beginnings of Awareness and Learning


The physical body can, and does, experience the world directly in a multiplicity of ways, but the majority of the body's subtler perceptions either pass unnoticed, swamped beneath the noise that normally pervades human consciousness, or get explained away - by extension of the very same noise - and generally dismissed by such meaningless terms as 'intuitions', 'visions', 'spiritual experiences', 'vague feelings'.

The nervous system, working in a parallel non-linear manner through the entire sensory apparatus, possesses tremendous integrated awareness. This awareness continually detects masses of individual and collective micro and macro signals that bypass the preoccupied, linear consciousness of the 'thinking' (speaking) mind. These are signals that most have little or no inkling of except in times of dire peril when the whole system acts to make all but the greatest dullard immediately realise that 'something isn't right'.

This article explores some means of side-stepping the day to day states of 'normal' word/noise dominated consciousness such as to access the parallel intelligence that lies beyond: this initiates the beginnings of learning.

The Nature of Insight

Any genuinely 'new' or original insight that arises in individual consciousness will (almost by definition) lie beyond the day to day run of the mill repetitious 'noise' and as such will necessarily exist in an ephemeral form just beyond normal self awareness.

The mundane, word-looping mind, caught in its extant cultural habitual grooves and predominant lingustic pattern, has difficulty in grasping such novel forms in any concrete sense, and as such they will evade easy incorporation into normal consciousness unless caught immediately and firmly at the time of awareness of them arising.

Almost everyone has experience of failing to seize a creative moment - of thinking of something original, seeing a unique way to solve a problem, creating a pun or joke, inventing some new device, etc. etc. - only to lose the embryonic idea in the clamour and momentum of ongoing events.

Usually, one retains a certain vague memory that the 'good idea' came, but just as certainly one has awareness that it's gone, just as one can have a word on the tip of the tongue but without the ability crystallize it into speech.

Genuinely new things, insights, are necessarily outside normal consciousness, and unless practical and immediate action occurs to capture them they will inevitably fade away and thus remain beyond the veil.

We cannot force insight, indeed any attempt to do so comprises a contra-diction in terms, but we can arrange conditions such that if and when insight occurs, we welcome it and assimilate the benediction it bestows upon mundane existence. One cannot force a flower to grow, but one can prepare a place in the garden.

The Nature of Learning

I have entitled this page: 'Insight and the Beginnings of Awareness and Learning'. This 'learning' does not depend upon books, teachers or gurus, authority, belief, ritual or repetition of any kind. The process of 'learning' here comprises an awakening of awareness, attention and observation of the ephemeral in the initiation of the processes of deep insight such as to permit their assimilation into intelligible, conscious form.

Once this process has initiated then it transcends the established cyclic rote of deep childhood (and lesser adult) behavioural conditioning. It becomes self-energising and self-directing, as the awakened parallel intelligence spontaneously moves towards dissipation of dissonant noise and integration of the apparently separate, but in reality conjoined, mind-body system. Expanding awareness implies expanding consciousness.

Below, I explain the basic techniques that comprise the essence of this page below in a question and answer dialogue. As a related supplement, some notes regarding the superficial operation of consciousness are offered in a Appendix 1.

Elsewhere in these interlinked web pages the reader will find various exercises and experiments designed to enhance awareness using various observational devices and physical behaviours. These are principally directed at interrupting the stream of habitual inattention we experience as 'internal dialogue' - that thinking that takes place within and continually reinforces the prison of the limited word and conceptual set that each of us got programmed with in our early years.

As children, without any reference framework, we accepted these forms uncritically, as did the one-time children who came before who conditioned us unwittingly in their turn.

Given this insight, and the opportunity it offers to put away the things of childhood, the way to radical individual change stands open.
These exercises can either stand alone or serve as complementary activities to those given elsewheree on this site.

The fountain bubbles joyously and endlessly when not plugged with the mud of inattention; when one approaches it with an empty cup, that cup becomes filled to overflowing, filled without end.

The Beginnings of Learning

Q. Why do you call this ‘the beginnings’ of learning and awareness?
A. It works that way. If you follow the techniques given on this page you will learn how to learn, to become aware - not from any theory, external instruction or parrot repetition but by actually observing, doing it from yourself and by yourself. You will come to know yourself. Consider learning to walk, you had help with that at first, but once you found your feet, you managed to run quite spontaneously.

Q. What does the essence of the process comprise.
A. It rests on the fact that all of us have insights form time to time but, because of the essentially ephemeral nature of the material, and more significantly owing of our persistent, habitual internal and external noise (or 'down time' or 'internal dialogue'), we fail to attend to them and thus fail bring them within the scope of our conscious awareness.

The process given here considers the capture and subsequent integration of insight into consciousness.

Q. So how do I get hold of these insights?
A. It's a two to three part process.
First of all there's the actual capture which I'll deal with here.
You achieve this by always having to hand the means of recording these things as they emerge (and they can come at the oddest moments, sometimes singly, sometimes collectively and sometimes at such a rate you will hardly be able to keep up).

The means you have to hand depends on you. A smudge proof, click action pen and a set of index cards is very handy, or a small pocket recorder, or knots in a piece of string if that suits you. You might choose to use a small notebook (but cards are better since if you lose the book you lose the lot): back of the hand is useful when all else fails. Whatever you means you choose, the important thing is to ensure that it provides you with easy and immediate access.

When making records in normal waking consciousness you need to take sufficient INTELLIGIBLE notes such that you can 'forget' what you have recorded and yet be able to come back to it later in full confidence that your notes will enable entire recapture of the insight such that you can expand on it in full.

That sounds simple enough, but you must do it without 'writing an essay' at the capture stage (if you are writing more than about fifteen words for a 'capture' then you are writing too much and getting analytical - this will stop the flow since analysis is a linear/linguistic operation).

Be aware that you cannot trust to memory with these things since your memory cannot obtain leverage on ephemeral processes that exist just beyond the edge of your normal consciousness. The brief note taking process seems so, so simple - but it comprises an essential, active part of the process.

Q. Do I get any warning?
A. Perhaps, perhaps not. Make yourself aware of your body and find out: try to adopt a ‘feeling‘ or ‘listening‘ attitude. You might begin to 'notice yourself noticing things' more acutely than normal. Otherwise, your body might give you any kind of cue - from a tingling in the solar plexus a tickle in the calf or throat - but you will need to develop the sensitivity to recognise it.

Q. You said it's a two or three part process.
A. Yes, multiple parts. Here's part two.
Once you have the capture, you can forget about whatever you recorded (and you will - beyond edge of consciousness, remember?) and just keep on capturing; don’t block the flow in the capture stage by trying to analyse. The next stage (stage two) relates to assimilating the 'new' into your waking consciousness. To do this, you need to consider each 'capture' carefully and in depth and expand the raw bones into an organised, objective construction.

You achieve this by sitting down periodically with your notes and expanding each capture into a meaningful paragraph or paragraphs that could be understood by any person of approximately your own intelligence and educational standard. This process you can carry out longhand in notebooks or on a word processor.

It brings the insight into 'concretion' such that it is now intelligible to, and established in, your own conscious mind (and could be understood by a like mind if you should choose to pass it on). This may, in the case of relatively minor insights, be the end of it, but cases will arise in which you need to go a lot further.

You will recognise this in that the stage two transcription process becomes extensive, perhaps generates many related issues, and rapidly grows beyond a few hundred words. This indicates a need for a transition into stage three...

Q. What's stage three?
A. Writing the capture up in it's own notebook as a stand alone 'project' or essay (or essays) dealing with the particular capture, its corollaries & cross fertilizations with other captures/matters arising from it.

Q. Can you give me an example of this?
A. Here's one from last week (week ending 22nd May 2005) that relates to sonic and visual images.
It occurred to me that in music we have certain proportional relationships between notes that form harmonies - for example a justly intoned major chord comprises a root with a (relative frequency of 1) a third (frequency = 5/4 x the root) and a fifth (f = 3/2 x the root). That gives us the proportions 1, 5/4 and 3/2 - and that's just one harmonic chord out of dozens.

Now, what about having visual forms that contain proportions possessing similar harmonic compound ratios?
The 'capture' on this was no more than a handful of words, but by the time I had transcribed it and filled a page with notes and drawings of potential 'harmonic visual forms', extensions into colour, geometric pattern, shape and texture, I realised I had a major project to consider and write up.

Q. Is doing this like ‘sitting for development’: will it make me 'psychic'?
A. No.
You will certainly become more attentive and your senses will become more acute - in active and alert awareness rather than a passive way. When your sense system begins to operate in parallel then what you might call your ’intuition’ will become more developed and you might find you begin to perceive and ’know’ things in a parallel, non-linear (which basically means non-linguistic) manner.

You could call this developing the 'feeling principle' - but as intense awareness, not as some airy fairy pseudo-'psychism'.

Q. You said that I should write things up that can be 'understood by any person of approximately your own intelligence and educational standard'. Why not write them up to be understood by anyone?
A. You are dealing with your own consciousness. Many of the things you come across may well be comprehensible to anyone BUT if you were an expert in (say) Babylonian Hieroglyphics you could not expect 'the man in the street’ to understand a significant insight of yours in that field of study.
Neither would you be able to fully comprehend the deeper notions of (say) a mathematician or a computer scientist unless you shared the knowledge base.

Make your own insights comprehensible to yourself: this refines individual consciousness and ultimately the entire pool.

Q. When do insights usually occur?
A. Except as noted below they don't 'usually occur' in waking consciousness for you are dealing with the non-usual. They can come at any time when a break in the normal stream of word-focussed consciousness happens - perhaps as you sit in a park (or a bath!), walk down the street, pick your nose or eat your supper.

Q. What's the special situation?
A. A special situation occurs in the few moments of quiet that spontaneously arise in awakening from sleep (either in the morning or at any time in the middle of the night).

At these times the process can be very deep, intense and fruitful. To ensure best recording, there should be no interruption from external sound sources, especially voices (radio/TV/partners), no stumbling around looking for light switches or pens/recorders, and no analysis of content.

You will need to have your note taking device(s) conveniently to hand to achieve this (and yes, you can get pens that light up in the dark). Aim at recording the essential bones of your insights (get the nouns and verbs - capture the spark) in an intelligible manner that you can subsequently understand.

It will take practice at first, and you might foul up with indecipherable scribble and vague phrases/words that you can't make sense of, but in time it will come. Remember not to attempt to analyse or over expand. Analysis and full expansion comes later at the transcription stage(s).

Q. What do I get out of all this?
A. You break free of your childhood conditioning (in which you had no choice) and the conditioning imposed on you by your formal and informal 'education' (in which you had little or no choice).
If and when your deep intelligence breaks through into your consciousness, it will occur as part of a process of fundamental change. One truly profound insight will result in radical transformation - as you will discover when you experience one.

Q. What if I set all this up and nothing happens?
A. Then nothing happens.
Keep an open mind and try it as an experiment, don't try to force matters, and give it a couple of weeks. If you are serious, the actual physical behaviour of setting yourself up to note what's going on in and around you creates deep intent, which if genuine will initiate the movement beyond the superficial, chattering conscious mind. If and when it happens, it will occur effortlessly (see link below to page on practical choiceless awareness).

Appendix 1: Symbol, Conditioning and Noise

Humankind does not accurately interact with the 'universe' out there, rather (s)he interacts with a conditioned view of 'out there'. Indeed, the 'out there' is a misconception since ‘we’ interact with a a reality determined by our conditioned consciousness - which is a continuum of the actual field in which we (supposed) individual beings experience physicality.

The nervous system experiences (rather resonates with) aspects of that actuality as a conditioned, consensus reality, the consensus arising through agreed (linguistic) conditioned sonic, vibronic, associative symbol systems.

In general, human beings possess a severely restricted perception of the universe they inhabit owing to their almost continuous generation of repeating energetic loops of internal and external 'noise'.

Specifically, each of us continually repeats a limited set of auditory images - either in speech or the imagined speech that arises as 'internal dialogue' - that comprise personal subsets of the (symbolic) language system into which we were culturally conditioned as children. Linguistic systems, which all normally developed humans become proficient in, simultaneously bless us with coherenet consciousness and curse us with narrowed views of creation.

Persistent repetition of specific sound symbols, externally and internally, physically conditions the structure of the body and nervous system - hence the means of perception and thus awareness and consciousness - and confines and focuses attention to conceptual features that exist as items within the symbol set.

The greater the extent of repetition of particular symbols/symbol groups, (and the more limited any individuals particular set of symbols) the more powerful the conditioning of those groups & the more significant their prominence in individual consciousness*; elsewhere on these web pages I have referred to these prominent groups 'islands in consciousness'.

In an entirely rational, pragmatic world we would elect to choose our symbols carefully and use them as practical devices such as to facilitate our individual and collective physical and emotional security and wellbeing.

Unfortunately in the world we have inherited, and the particular culture we are born into, the linguistic symbol sets gifted to us have evolved from antiquity and have been passed from generation to generation almost unconcsiously, certainly without careful scrutiny as to the sensibilty of their clarity, meaning and worth.

Through the mists of time the marvellous practical benefits of the sonic, associative symbol systems our ancestors developed permeate and enable us whilst simultaneously burdening us with their implicit archaic, presuppositions, misconceptions, fears and superstitions.

Becoming aware of this as individuals - and we need to become aware, since more conditioning brings more of the same maisma albeit of a different hue - we can do something, practically, about addressing the situation.
As Plato pointed out, if we change music we change state: if we change lingustic pattern we change state as well - in a far broader sense.

[* accordingly, the acquisition and use of an extensive vocabulary and the avoidance of participation in/and exposure to cliche, parrot style repetition (chanting, song, advertising via repetitive material etc.), ritual, mechanical and mass behaviours tends to mitigate against fixation]

Appendix 2) Structure in Consciousness, Memory Making and Persistence

Say it Three Times...

"The question 'How does a thing become conscious?' could be put more advantageously thus: 'How does a thing become pre-conscious?'. And the answer would be: 'By coming into connexion with the verbal images that correspond to it".
[Sigmund Freud: 'The Ego and the Id']
In other words, human consciousness - the conscious mind, individually and collectively - depends upon the structure of verbal image patterns and its associations with sensory image: language. We perceive things through a linguistically defined conceptual grid.

The most predominant patterns available to conscious memory comprise those which are routinely brought into consciousness by the most predominant access tags. These tags,(language patterns) comprise those that leap out to associate/respond to a given sense experience or word set (either actual [='external' sense event] or imagined [='internal' or memory event]): they possess immediate, moment to moment, ascendancy in feeding the conscious thinking process (experienced as reaction of memory) owing to their predominant energetic states (they actually comprise the 'conscious thinking' process).

Energisation of these tags occurs by repetition (such as to create what elsewhere on this site are referred to as islands in consciousness). The more you actively repeat certain word groups (or are subjected to external repetition of them - either way it's forced vibration), the more predominant those patterns become in colouring your consciousness and perception.

Perception depends upon consciousness, which in turn depends upon memory, which in turn depends upon the intensity (or current energy state) of preferential conditioning of selective language pattern in the nervous system.
"The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.'"
[Edward Sapir: 'The Status Of Linguistics As A Science']
This process can be (and is) used deliberately in elementary and secondary education, advertising, religious indoctrination, speeches/reports of all kinds, public relations, propaganda and spin doctoring, indeed in any kind of endeavour wherein one person(s) attempts to influence the perception of others. Follow links for more regarding mechanisms of repetitive structuring of consciousness.

Re Member Re Member: Re Petition Re Petition

Upon listening to a typical forty-minute lecture, the average student, unaided, will have forgotten more than 90% of the material presented within two weeks.
Difficulty in recall arises owing to the inability of the student to slow things down, pause, or reflect upon the spoken material. To overcome the natural “fading” effect of short-term memory demands recall and repetition of content.

Each repetition the student performs reinforces the message and fixates information into longer term portions of memory. Note-taking in a lecture, which provides means of both short and long term repetition (and hence recall), significantly improves retention.

The process of recalling information over increasing intervals of time (which includes reviewing or re-writing notes, doing worked examples, applying the material in everyday life and revising for/sitting examinations) creates spaced repetition, one of the most powerful ways of implanting long term memory..

Note that the actual nature of the information implanted can comprise fact, fallacy, picture, word, sound, propaganda, pure fantasy (and annoying jingles!) or combinations of these. Irrespective of content, the memory process involved remains essentially the same.

As an example of spaced repetition, to effectively implant a new concept, one needs to repeat it within about 10 minutes, then the next day then again within a week, a month and six months such as to embed 90% retention. Given a few repetitions like this, the information will remain fixated in consciousness for years - indefinitely if one continues to draw on it and repeat it.

[Now refer back to your formal education and note the spaced repetitions deliberately engineered into the structured learning process - the cycles of preparation, lecture, note taking, tutorial, coursework, homework, revision and examination.
You might also begin to wonder why your typical 'news' bulletin gives you headlines, main body and then repeats a 'reminder (or summary) of the headlines' ten minutes later...]

The 'capture', 'writing down' and 'project' stages of the 'beginnings of learning' process described on this site use short term participatory spaced repetition such as to bring original material that emerges into consciousness and pin it down. Reviewing notes at longer (say weekly, then monthly) intervals will reinforce the change.

Appendix 3): Poetry, Transitory State and Notes, Notes, Notes

In reinforcement of the statements given previously regarding 'idea capture' and the genesis of creative process, upon completing the main body of this article I came across - from quite unexpected, alternative directions - the following gems:

a) Recollections of a Dreamland (James Clerk Maxwell)

An extract from Maxwell's original poem:
'There are powers and thoughts within us
That we know not
Till they rise
Through the stream of conscious action
From where Self in secret lies
But when Will and Sense are silent
By the thoughts that come and go
We may trace the rocks and eddies
In the hidden depths below'

b) Regarding Transitory, or 'Quiescent State', and Choiceless Awareness

"...the mind's best work is sometimes done without conscious direction, during receptive states of reverie, idle meditation, dreaming or transition between sleep and wakefulness."
[R.N Shepard: 'Mind Sights' [Freeman NY]: (the italics are mine).]
As given previously, deep creativity can only come into being when the ongoing, repeating (looping) noise of verbalised consciousness - which is circumscribed in and by its own movement - becomes quiescent. This holds true for the individual, group, society and humanity at large.

It explains why crowds/groups/committees 'decide' in terms of their lowest common denominators (=maximum repeated dominant energies) of shared, self-sustaining linguistic 'noise'. It simultaneously explains why the expansion of consciousness, of both the individual and the collective, depends upon the creativity and deep insight generated by 'vision' or inspiration encountered in the quiescent state.

What we normally experience as superficial 'consciousness' - a partial, word-based consensus symbol system, based upon reactive, conditioned repetition - exists only within its self-defined and self-circumscribed domain as conditioned in childhood and then beyond in 'education'. It cannot extend beyond the bounds of its own enclosure since its very movement gives rise to the bounded enclosure.

The habitual, reactive energisation of such consciousness - which comes about by resonance of the nervous system (experienced as memory or 'thinking' in word and word associated image) with local, structured oscillatory 'noise' - actually blocks direct, choiceless awareness.

c) Notes, Notes, Notes

A recommendation on capturing ideas as they arise (discovered entirely coincidentally in a book I bought in Spetember 2005 entitled: 'Google Hacks' (Calishain & Dornfest: [O'Reilly Media 2003]). The section: 'Notes, Notes, Notes', refers to producing original web page content thus :
"If you build one page per day, you will find that brainstorm-like inspiration will hit you in the head at some magic point. Whether it is in the shower (dry off first), driving along the road (please pull over), or just parked at your desk, write it down! Ten minutes of work later, you will have forgotten about the great idea you just had. Write it down and get detailed about what what you are thinking. When the inspirational juices are no longer flowing, come back to these content ideas. It sounds simple, but it's a lifesaver when the ideas stop coming."

Appendix 4)
Systemization and Recall of Ad Hoc Ideation: The Talking Book

This following text comes directly from the auotobiography of James Nasmyth, English engineer, iron-founder and inventor active in 19th century Manchester in the heart of the Industrial Revolution. I shall let it speak for itself without comment.

"I found Mr. Field to be a most systematic man in all business affairs. I may specially name one of his arrangements which I was quick to take up and appreciate. I carried it out with great advantage in my after life. It was, to record subjects of conversation by means of "graphic" memoranda. Almost daily, persons of note came to consult with him about machinery. On these occasions the consultations took place either with reference to proposed new work, or as to the progress of orders then in hand. Occasionally some novel scheme of applying power was under discussion, or some new method of employing mechanism: On ordinary occasions rough and rapid sketches are made on any stray pieces of waste paper that were about, and after the conversation is over the papers are swept away into the waste basket and destroyed. And yet some of these rapid drawings involve matters of great interest and importance for after consultations.

To avoid such losses, Mr. Field had always placed upon his table a "talking book" or "graphic diary." When his visitors called and entered into conversation with him about mechanical matters, he made rapid sketches on the successive pages of the book, and entered the brief particulars and date of the conversation, together with the name and address of the visitor. So that a conversation, once begun, might again be referred to, and, when the visitor called, the graphic memoranda might be recalled without loss of time, and the consultation again proceeded. The pages of Mr. Field's "talking books" were in many ways most interesting. They contained data that, in future years, supplied valuable evidence in respect to first suggestions of mechanical contrivances, and which sometimes were developed into very important results. I may add that Mr. Field kept these "talking books" on a shelf in front of his drawing table. The back of each volume was marked with the year to which the entries referred, and an index was appended to each. A general index book was also placed at the end of the goodly range of these graphic records of his professional life."

Insight and the Beginnings of Awareness and Learning

Dan Scorpio Home
Kinfo Home (Prince and Magician)
Process & Effects of Patterning
Process & Epimestology of Philosophy
Process and Epimestology of Knowledge
Practical Choiceless Awareness
Dialogues on the Nature of Language
Some Conditioning Influences
Overcoming Conditioned Patterning, Repetition and Habit
Union of Mind and Body
James Nasmyth Autobiography