sensation and perception

4 08 2010

Reading A History of the Mind by Nicholas Humphrey and so far he has proposed the two different processes of sense and perception. Interesting enough. But I am on page 85 and it is pretty simple really. And he hasn’t togged on to the notion of time.

Anyhoo, while reading chapter 14, I got an insight. It might be useful to compare how kids grow up and use that a map to guide us into the history of the mind; that is, to intuit how our ancestors were thinking.

At some stage, we are animals. We don’t seem to be aware of what is going on in anything close to the way we are as human beings. At some point, a monkeys became aware of sound and rhythm, dancing. This greatly improved language development. But this is just awareness of sound. Sensation. At some critical threshold, some monkey-human noticed that they could see things with their eyes closed, and hear things that were not there.

Imagine. Sounds that have no source.

So, the question is, where do you locate these sounds? It makes sense, at least to me, to attribute them as being from out there. Animism, spirits, whatever. Combine this with the notion of God, of wholeness, then we get a rather powerful concoction. And if we locate God to be somewhere within us, yet another powerful combination of thoughts and beliefs.

When we read about peoples 6,000 years ago, perhaps they were living in worlds where their internal voices, well, were not internal. This just couldn’t make sense. It had to be external. And of course, given this is the case, what is issuing these sounds? Depends on whether the voice is positive or negative. Positive… angels… negative, devils. To become aware of the projecting mind, must have been a rather surprising and destabilising awareness to our ancestors. Once aware, they couldn’t go about ignoring it. At some stage, we were quite happy, in our ignorance, in a way. Then we noticed. And the knife-edge we have been playing down through the ages.

It would be nice to talk to non-literate peoples, to see how they think about their language.

Also, consider kids, toddlers. Are they capable of thinking and being aware of their thinking? Closing their eyes and seeing things? Of course. Their lives are full of monsters and funny things. Their play consists so much of imaginary worlds. The question is, though, can they hold the awareness of this aspect of their invention in their mind’s eye? And I would contest, they can’t, at least not easily. Or just temporarily. It is like a force field that is not strong enough. Or a lens, not capable of focusing to the level required. So it is a bit of a blur. Life is a bit of a blur. The moment, is something which has more… stretch to it. Hmm… this is an interesting direction of thought to be… unfolded :)

The ancient greeks. We might be able to discern that they became acutely aware of their language. Certainly the Romans did. The word “present” (from Nicholas’ book:) comes from “pre” as in “before” or “in front of” and “sens” as the present participle of sum “i am” (“to be”?) or the past participle of sentio “I feel” (“to feel”?). That’s interesting, don’t you think?

I am not sure how biased I am towards this insight about the Romans being conscious of language because I happen to learn grammar through studying latin. But there is some sense in this. They started to analyse how language was constructed, and they got pro-active about manipulating it. I suspect there was a massive explosion in terms of the invention of vocabulary. The notion that one could create prefixes and suffixes. Were they in the language before this? Did some clever romans notice how the greeks were doing it, and copied it? Or was the structure in the language already? Again, another interesting direction of thought… someone more erudite than me could inform and guide us towards a more accurate understanding.

And my question is, how aware were the romans of this invention? Or perhaps it is us who are aware of our creative capacities? Perhaps NLP and its word-play and its effect on advertising is our equivalent to what happened to the romans? And our texting, and the crazy shorthand that made so many kids aware of how pliable the written word is.

I suspect, the sense of it must be contingent on the system of thought that occupied them. Gods, for example. To feel they had a place. The natural order of things. That language had this structure, was miraculous. All showing the glory of the gods. They surely had a hand in it.

I might even suggest that we live in particularly dangerous times precisely because of science. By becoming aware of the power of mathematics and its application to physical objects, we have just about killed God, and our spirit in the process.

And, I might ask, if we are to invite into our ecology of mind the notion of God, because it somehow fits with our western thinking, where do we place Him? I believe it was a mistake to place God within us, because then we can discount whether a person has God or not, and this leads to terrible arguments… And to place Him everywhere is just a little too enigmatic and unspecific.

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