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Mind and its mysteries


Took the day off from my normal routine, as I was feeling tardy since I awoke. Remnants of the happenings I had experienced in sleep mode? Do not know.
Was reading all day, on the monitor, that is. First, “The doors to Perception”, by Aldous Huxley. (My son had uploaded for me a sizeable collection of e-books) about his experiments with the drug “mescalin” and his conclusions about the possible effects of “chemicals” on our perception, some of which such as “adrenchrome” may be spontaneously produced by our body. So, poets, painters, musicians etc. whom we refer to as the “gifted ones” may in fact owe their genius to their neurobiology. And mystics too, may be capable of an altered consciousness because of the way particular regions of the brain many have developed or the chemicals produced by their cells and that is perhaps why they become aware of a reality that is denied to the general population.

Went on to read a couple of essays by a guy named Ingrid Solano , that I had bookmarked a few weeks ago , which was also a take –off on the same subject , with relevance to our notions of “right “and “wrong”. The gist of what he says is that our sense of right or wrong can be impaired by the biological condition of our brains, in that, our sense of empathy, which is the basis of moral behavior ( do unto others as you would have done unto you) may become kind of numb and while we may still intellectually understand something as “wrong” , we may not “feel” the effect of our actions on others and hence lose what we generally term as “guilt” or “compunction”.

Then there is Charles Darwin and his view that an understanding of morality is best based on a study of the evolution of Man and that a moral sense can exist even in a person who has no belief in a higher Intelligence from whom the rules of behavior are believed to emanate according to most religions that have existed and are existing. Morality , according to him, can come from an instinctive understanding that if one “acts for the good of others , one receives the approbation of fellow men and gains the love of those with whom he lives.”

James Rachel’s , “Created from Animals:The moral implications of Darwinism “ and Frans De Waal’s , “Good Natured:the origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and other animals “, also propounded on the same issues, as one can gather from excerpts that can be accessed on the internet. Social instincts/morality work towards greater harmony among groups or in other words, what promotes the best interests and harmony in a group is what is generally considered as moral. But there is apparently a hierarchy , altruism first coming into play within the closest kin, then to the group, then to each and every member of one’s species.

As a rule, they say, reciprocal altruism will not occur when individuals are unlikely to meet again and that it requires good memories and stable relationships. To see oneself in the plight of another is the basic building block of morality. So that would mean, that the more “evolved” we are, the greater should be our capacity for feeling a connection with the rest of our species and to other species as well . We should also then assume that for the “evolved”, their neurobiology would be such as to predetermine such altruism and harmonious behaviour would come naturally to them. In other words, it is part of their genetic make-up. As for those whom we consider, ”misanthropists”, or as a “deviant” or “psychotic”, it could just be that they are chemically compositioned that way?

There is a quotation from Marquis De Sade which was quoted in this context in one of the essays I read. “One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s wrong too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours, than are we for being born bandy-legged or well proportioned.”. So then, “right” or “wrong” really has no basis for being “applauded” or condemmed. It’s just the way we are. And we owe ourselves some compassion. One can understand that.

Chemical imbalances in the brain can be triggered off by distress and trauma. Accidents and illness can alter the disposition of our brains. Mystics can have a heightened consciousness which gave them a sense of reality, much larger and intense than ordinarily available to the rest of us. All of this one can understand at an intellectual level. But how do we get to be hardwired in the way we are? Why do we get to undergo the particular circumstances that become the cause for distress or sets off a particular mental or “spiritual” experience? Is that where the “karma” theory comes into play? Do we still have something called “freewill” that will determine our evolution , both as individuals and in terms of this homogenous mass of “ human consciousness” in this universe, hurtling itself forward to “God” knows where?

 

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Through the glass, darkly


Those who have read “Many lives, many masters ” may recall that this book is about the reportedly real experiences of Dr. Weiss, the psychologist, encountered by him while treating one of his patients, who would have past life regressions during her  hypnotic states. The book did leave one wondering… who knows?

This afternoon I was watching a film by Ingmar Bergman , “Through  a glass darkly”. The name apparently is an indication of how we perceive God while we are still in this existence , clarity coming to us only on death. The story in the film unfolds over a twenty four  hour period, when the four characters, the only ones , are on a vacation on an isolated kind of island. Karin, the daughter has just come back after being treated for schizophrenia , her husband Martin, is a sensitive person  who is sincerely in love with her  and knows that she depends on him to help her to bridge the divides in her mind. Her brother Minus is terrified of his incestuous yearnings , which she, in her confused state seems to subtly encourage. The father , David, had sought escape in his writings , running away from the loneliness and coldness of his own heart, staying away from the family ,disinclined to deal with his daughter’s illness , as we come to learn that his wife had suffered similarly before she died. He tells Martin that he had even tried to kill himself by trying to drive his car into the sea over a cliff , which didn’t come to be because it developed some snag and the car was left standing with its front wheels in the air. At that point, he says , the emptiness had disappeared because he had suddenly become aware of his love for Karina and Minus , his children and also for Martin and that had given him hope.

The film is depressing, the loneliness of the sea front and the old house, all accentuating the narrative of  the dark and sombre  goings on in their minds.

Karina has hallucinations about waiting in a room, full of people with bright faces , for the door to open and God to walk in. In one of those spells she leaves the house and is found by her brother in the old wreck of a ship that had been lodged near the shore. What follows is not explicit ..but Karina then begs her father that she be taken to the hospital and that she was tired of flitting between one reality and  another and that she had to decide between the two. The film ends with a conversation between Minus and his father after the helicopter had carried Karina and her husband away , on their way to the hospital in the town.

Minus:      I’m scared Papa. When I sat holding Karen in the old wreck, reality burst open. Do you    understand what I mean?

Father:    Yes , I understand

Minus:    Reality burst open and I tumbled out. It’s like a dream. Anything can happen Papa, anything.

Father:      I know

Minus:     I can’t live in this new world Papa

Father:    Yes you can . But you must have something to hold on to.

Minus:    What could that be, a God? Give me some proof of God. You can’t.

Father:   Yes, I can. But you have to listen carefully.

Minus:   Yes I need to listen

Father:   I can only give you a hint of my own hope. It’s knowing that love exists for real in the human world.

Minus:   A special kind of love , I suppose

Father:   All kinds of love . All kinds Minus; the highest and the lowest, the most absurd and the most sublime. All kinds of love

Minus:   The longing for love?

Father:  The longing and denial, trust and distrust.

Minus:   So love is the proof?

Father:  I don’t know if love is the proof of the existence of God or not. It’s like a reprieve , Minus, from a death sentence.

Minus:  If it is as you say, then Karen is surrounded by God since we love her?

Father:  Yes

Minus :  Can that help her?

Father : I believe so

Minus:   For you, love and God are the same?

Father:  That thought helps me in my emptiness and dirty despair.
Minus:  Tell me more Papa.
Father:  Suddenly, the emptiness turns into abundance and despair into  life.

( In case you are wondering how I managed to remember the dialogue so accurately, here’s how..I kept pressing the pause button to write it down from the sub titles.)

And then there is all of Carl Jung’s work  in which he points to a collective sub-conscious from where we draw our individual psyches . So  what then  is the source of the so called” evil “that manifests itself  in us . Are some of us born with those tendencies . If so why? How do we distinguish ourselves as separate from the “evil” , if indeed we are just segmented manifestations of a whole combined reality? Won’t we become more compassionate if we can but really, really get even a fleeting feeling of it?

Whatever that may be, Love does turn emptiness into abundance and despair into life. Of that I am sure.

 

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