He who knows others is clever.
He who knows himself has discernment.
Lao Tzu, 6th century BCE.
It was many days before the E-group met again. I had begun to help Mindy in her lab. I came to know her chimps well. And they knew me in different ways. They recognized me of course. They also came to know my preferences in their antics. One chimp named Frieda threw her head back, raised her arms palm upwards as if regaling some unseen God and stomped her feet while she rotated round and round. Just for me she did this. Maybe she knew more about me than I did. Willie always turned his back on me until I showed him special attention. And Ax, a young adult male, would screech and rattle the bars whenever I showed Mindy the slightest affection.
I knew I would have to get a job soon. My funds were running low and I was still paying for my carriage in North Carolina, full of furniture. I made plans to move my things. Mindy and I discussed sharing rent, or not. Ludwig offered to help me with the move. At first he wanted to get the E-group back together. Then when Victor called to arrange an E-group meeting, Ludwig seemed hesitant. Ludwig seemed unavailable for every proposed meeting. I grew frustrated with Ludwig.
I thought there were many unexplored subjects in our venture of the mind. Did they all know of Mindy's conclusions about how brain and body generate mind? If so, did that change the meaning of spirituality? Was there need or room for a God? What guidelines could we use for our actions? And I still wasn't sure if any of them really understood my experience of living with religious ideology twenty-four hours a day. They might talk adequately about it, but that wasn't the same as feeling, eating, and breathing it. An objective description was just not the same as a subjective sensation.
One day, Victor was over having breakfast. He was quizzing me on the interoceptive system. "I understand that the proprioceptive system gets its data from the muscles and tendons'"
"And even the joints." I added.
"OK. This information reflects the state of the muscles and bones. Where they are positioned and where they are going."
"Right." I agreed.
"But what data does the interoceptive system sense?"
"Well, it gives the brain information on the internal organs. Like how fast the heart is beating and if the bladder is full." I answered.
"What about lungs, and liver and intestines?"
"Those too. In fact the linings of the three cavities in the body also send signals through the interoceptive system. The pleura surrounds the lungs, the pericardium surrounds the heart and the peritoneum surrounds the abdomen." I pointed out.
"Large zones." Victor mused. "The nerve nets for these areas would be good antennae."
"What do you mean, antennae?" I asked.
"You know, I have been interested in ESP as being mediated by electromagnetic and other related energy fields. It seems that a large, spherically shaped network of nerves, like the ones you just described, are good candidates for antennae to receive these signals."
"Maybe. But the nerves are already active with signals from the organs." I cautioned.
"True. But in general, ESP is easier when a person quiets down the nervous system anyway." Victor pointed out.
"As in meditation." I remembered my years of practice.
"Sure. If the nerve activity is quiet, or at least regular, then extra activity can more easily be filtered out. Communications programs clean up noisy signals with Fourier analysis." Victor said.
"I have to say that's interesting because these interoceptive signals are associated with the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. That's the side which is prominent when we are more calm and relaxed."
"The same parasympathetic system that Dr. Puharich correlated with ESP receptivity?" Victor reminded me of my own words.
The doorbell rang and it was Ludwig. I was glad to get the two of them together so they would work out a date for the next E-group. We settled on the following Saturday. Victor had found a spot near Walden Pond that he wanted us to meet in. After Victor left, Ludwig seemed deep in thought. He looked severe, quite unlike his usual jovial self. He went home early, and I went out for a walk.
Crossing the Kennedy Bridge into Cambridge, the Charles' riverbanks were bustling on this crystal clear and chipper autumnal hint of a day. I was feeling shy of all the people, though I knew none. It was my teenage self-consciousness afflicting me again. I laughed at myself for becoming so self-conscious. I had to bring it all into my conscious awareness, realize its uselessness, and begin to refocus my energy. Some days I could bring myself into a single minded, what Mindy might call "primary awareness"; sort of the "Beginner's Mind" of Zen training. Just to watch, smell, feel, and react from one's essential nature was my goal.
But it didn't always happen that way. I welcomed another method to handle my social unease. I had taken some of Mindy's lessons and reinterpreted them from my own metaphysical perspective. I would think about each chakra, each energy center, from the bottom of my spine to the top of my head, and intentionally relax the associated muscles. Each zone seemed to have a theme. I noticed when I relaxed the muscles at the back of my throat, my sense of 'I' relaxed. The exercise ended at what the Chinese called the "inner courtyard", that space between the third eye and the crown; the frontal lobes I presumed. This special place was believed to be set apart from ordinary influences. Once this zone was clear, my furrowed brow relaxed, my scalp tingled, and I felt amiably disposed towards all the strangers around me. Imagined interactions were no longer them versus me, but rather cooperative in nature.
Maybe this was the next step in our evolution. To take the ninety percent of our neural processing out of the realm of unconscious, and bring it into the light of day. Then we could decide if we liked our unconscious reactions. Maybe our instincts and first reactions would remain our choice. And maybe not. Some social imperatives, etched in our evolutionary biography, were no longer relevant. Maybe the Golden Rule now applied to all members of the human race, not just our local tribe.
I was starting to feel that a more complete scientific explanation of the workings of the human mind would be in alignment with some of the lessons learned through the old time religious morals. Some of the ideas that Victor described about an energy field without barriers; maybe these were the key to a scientific understanding of why morals were of universal value, rather than some small-minded interpretation of propriety.
This concept set off a flash of ideas, like an explosion, too fast to remember each line of thought. My right brain had had an "Aha". My left brain was a distant witness to the process. Like waking from a dream, each connection faded so rapidly, I couldn't write them all down.
I sat down, knowing sooner or later they'd all return. I watched people come and go; some harried, some slow. They were all my species of hominid. They all had the same machinery upstairs. But everyone had a unique pattern of electricity coursing through their fabulous network of neurons.
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.