States of consciousness

  • States of consciousness

    Posted by Anthony Farnsworth on April 28, 2024 at 7:34 am

    David Bohm once said, ‘ matter is frozen or condensed light’.

    Consciousness can be seen in the same way. Just as water can form into different states from a gas to a liquid to a solid, so can consciousness assume different states of density.

    Iain McGilchrist describes the two different ways the left and right hemisphere of the brain ‘think’. The right hemisphere is open to possibilities and can suspend our need to close down to the definite which is the tendency of the left hemisphere. These two ways of thinking can be seen as two different states of consciousness or density of thinking. The right hemispheres way of processing reality is akin to a gas that has the potential to form into an infinite number of shapes or states. Where as the left hemispheres tendency is more akin to gravity that forces ideas into particular fixed states that once formed are very difficult to reconstitute into something new. People stuck in this way of thinking are very hard to reason with.

    And so consciousness can be seen like the different states of water. It can assume many states, some flowing, creative and nuanced and others fixed, rigid, and immovable. Think of the Dali lama versus Adolph Hitler. In times of stress and lack of resources we give control to the left hemisphere which is very good at searching out for the wheat seed in the gravel. We should be very wary in times of crisis of grabbing on to the one man (and it is nearly always a man) who professes to have the simple answer that will solve all our problems. These characters are very good at making all the right confident noises that makes them sound as though they know what they are talking about. But when we are able to stand back from the agitated atmosphere that these people inevitable produce we are able to start to access our right hemisphere and take our time to think more expansively about what this person has said. As we sift through the grains of their rhetoric, we begin to realise that there is virtually nothing there of any substance. Pradoxically their solid arguments are nothing but empty space.

    Anthony Farnsworth replied 3 weeks, 3 days ago 3 Members · 3 Replies
  • 3 Replies
  • Whit Blauvelt

    April 28, 2024 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Anthony,

    Nice poetry. Thanks.

    Being open to what’s before us involves not just passive perception of what simply is, but also active imagination as to what might be, and what we might do to achieve the best of that. Some better prospects happen when we just let things be; others happen when we pursue them intensely. Many need not simply individual action to achieve, but require coordination across larger groups. That larger coordination involves inspiration and leadership. Even coordination within ones own actions benefits from care in arranging them.

    When I was first reading McGilchrist I had a day job. So I’d finish work, and then be free for reading, listening to music, walking in the woods … switching what per the hypothesis is LH focus during work to a RH focus afterwards. Then I retired, looking forward to a further RH tilt in my attitude. I do like retirement! But it’s become apparent, at least in my case, that each perspective, LH and RH, is more valuable when we swing between them over a day, rather than keep a lean to one or the other as a more static attitude and, yes, discipline.

    As for social leadership, we have gurus like McGilchrist and his associates, and then of course we have politicians who may be so largely disappointing us, whatever better futures we can foresee if we as society but applied ourselves. But I don’t know as we can do better without leaders, even though I love Dylan’s line “Don’t follow leaders / And watch the parking meters.” If the bad folks have leaders, and the good folks attempt to go without our own (by whatever definition of “good” you like), which group wins?



  • Joseph Woodhouse

    April 29, 2024 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Anthony, I think your metaphors are brilliant and useful as we explore the awareness phenomenological state space… this requires “unfreezing” our attention from contracted, tense left brain dominated states.

  • Anthony Farnsworth

    April 30, 2024 at 6:58 am

    Thank you both for your responses. I agree with you Whit. I think we do need good personalities or role models to coalesce around in order to form a robust philosophy that will be a guide us in this time of crisis. And I like that phrase, “unfreezing” our attention Joseph. Thats exactly what it feels like to have my attention frozen or captured by the left hemisphere.

    I believe Iain Mcgilchrist is very aware of walking a tightrope between informing people of his insights and avoiding the danger of telling people what they should do. I believe people naturally want to find someone bigger than themselves who’s advice they can place their trust in implicitly. Generally people who are attracted to this role feel the need to live up to this image of solidity and when they have doubts they ignore them or play them down as they believe they will lose their following. This is a slippery slope that results in their aim being to calm their ego rather than doing the right thing.

    One of the main things I have learned (or remembered) from Iain’s work is the vital importance of learning to ride the wave of uncertainty. Once I’m certain of where I’m going I inevitably run out of energy and get dumped on the beach and end up thinking,’shit I’m back here again!’

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