Monday, September 1, 2014

Going Crazy: Part I

Truth or Delusion
Vision or Graffiti

CC Jean Stimmell: 8/10/14
According to a vast majority of psychiatrists today, schizophrenia is a medical disease like diabetes. The delusions the patient exhibits are considered to be strictly biological: undesirable random noise generated by a "malfunctioning (and mindless) brain."⁠1

It wasn’t always so.

As recently as the second half of the twentieth century, a majority of psychiatrists in the USA, largely due to the influence of Sigmund Freud, believed that schizophrenia resulted from the unconscious conflicts originating in childhood.⁠2

Growing up in the 1950s I cut my teeth on Freud. Then with the blossoming of the counterculture in the 1960s, our generation found a soulmate in Carl Jung who ideas fell well outside of medical pathology. “Through careful analysis of his own dream life, the dreams of his clients, and the hallucinations, fantasies, and delusions of psychotics, Jung discovered that the human psyche has access to images and motifs that are truly universal. They can be found in the mythology, folklore, and art of cultures widely distributed…throughout the history of humanity.”⁠3

Thus, Jung did not consider people who had visions that made no sense in terms of the biographical events in their lives to be “crazy:” He understood that the deities and demons his patients saw were not “spurious noise in their brain” but meaningful messages emerging from the collective unconscious.

Another of my 1960s idols, Stanislav Grof, delved further into the spiritual dimensions of this phenomenon:  “many episodes of unusual states of mind, even those that are dramatic and reach psychotic proportions, are not necessarily symptoms of disease in the medical sense. We view them as crises of the evolution of consciousness, or “spiritual emergencies,” comparable to the states described by the various mystical traditions of the world.⁠4

Grof goes beyond psychology to put the “problem” of spiritual emergency into the context of the crisis modern humanity is facing. “We firmly believe that spiritual emergence – transformation of the consciousness of humanity on a large scale – is one of the few truly promising tends in today’s world.”⁠5

Ah, the promise of the 1960s, the electric excitement in the air, the abiding hope that we could transcend the rigid orthodoxies of the past, escape from those confining cages suffocating us and fly free, liberating not only ourselves but all sentient beings everywhere. The whole spirit of those times is encapsulated in the opening line of the rock musical Hair: This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

It’s hard to believe that it all disappeared in a poof of air, collapsing like the World Trade Centers in 2001. 

How could we have regressed so far from the mind expanding possibilities of the 1960s– liberating schizophrenia from the straight jacket of medical pathology and rigid biological determinism – to the stark reality of today as personified in this 2012 pronouncement in Psychology Today:

Since then, the advent of antipsychotic medication, advanced brain imaging, and molecular genetic studies has confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that schizophrenia is a biological disease of the brain.6
It is an unbelievable swing. If nothing else, it proves my thesis that mainstream psychology is absolutely not an independent science investigating “reality” but merely a weak reflection of the surrounding culture.
I’m actually optimistic, however, because I think this trend toward biological determination has already hit rock bottom.  In Part II, I will present evidence that the pendulum has already started to swing in the other direction.
XXX
1 The Delusions We Serve by Gary Greenbergaug. NYT 8/28/14
2 A Brief History of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia through the ages.
Published on September 8, 2012 by Neel Burton, M.D.
3 Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis. Edited by Stanislav Grof, M.D., and Christina Grof. p. 5
4 Ibid., pp. 2-3
5 Ibid., p. xvii
A Brief History of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia through the ages.
Published on September 8, 2012 by Neel Burton, M.D.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Immerse yourself in the water of life and become a clam

I’ve had what I think is a revealing dream about a prior dream I wrote back on  8/17/14. In order for my latest dream to make sense to new readers, I have started out by repeating Part I below. Sorry for the duplication…

Part I: A dream I had last night (8/17/14)
Oregon Coast at Nightfall
CC Jean Stimmell: September 2013

Like a bolt out of the blue:
It strikes me I must start a journey:
hike the Appalachian Trail,
NOW before snow fills the passes.

Beginning on the barren knife edge
of Mt Katahdin I head south
but, oddly, arrive at the ocean instead,
stumbling over rocks and slick seaweed,
increasingly hemmed in as I navigate
between lapping waves and arid cliffs.

As I hurry along in the fading light,
the shore turns to slippery ledge,
so steeply inclined that inextricably,
like a ship being launched,
I slide into unchartered expanse
and dark rhythms of the sea,
disoriented and all alone.

As I float untethered
in a misty sea fog of unknowing,
lit by the soft glow of the moon,
 I sense with trepidation that
this is the moment of truth:
To continue on my journey
I must take the plunge.

Part II: The Dream I had about the Dream (8/20/14)

Unmanipulated photograph of river current
CC Jean Stimmell
It takes superhuman effort
to abandon all I know
to relinquish all control.
Though it feels like death
I take the plunge.

After an initial choking gasp,
I find myself gliding downward
in a perfect Greg Louganis dive.

Stripped away of ego,
I see who I really am:
An armored clam
 of two bivalve halves,
one male and one female,
clasped firmly shut
like a virgin’s legs.

Hitting bottom is a relief.
I root myself in the mud
like Buddha’s sacred lotus.
My bivalve shell spreads open,
exposing my vulnerability.

I pump the water of life
up through my root chakra
and out my crown:
 At one with it All.


This dream is also further clarification of an even earlier dream back on 7/24/14, the one about digging a deep pit down to find the water of life but then unable to get the water to the surface in order to nourish my soul. My latest dream gives me an answer: Instead of attempting to haul the water up, become a clam and dive down into the water of life and revel in the mud, opening up to both my male and female sides.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Serpents always lurking just below our consciousness

Serpent lurking at Sewells Falls: 8/10/14
CC Jean Stimmell
As documented in the histories of cultures all over the world, the serpent is always lurking just below the surface of human consciousness – as I became aware of at Sewells Falls two weeks ago. To Jung, snakes are a powerful archetype with both positive and negative aspects. He talks about the symbolism or snakes and serpents in the The Red Book:

“The serpent is an adversary and a symbol of enmity, but also a wise bridge that connects right and left through longing, much needed by our life.” (247)

“Why did I behave as if that serpent were my soul?  Only, it seems, because my soul was a serpent….Serpents are wise, and I wanted my serpent soul to communicate her wisdom to me.” (318)[i]  




[i] http://kellybulkeley.org/snakes-dreams-jungs-red-book/

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A dream about sliding into the unchartered depths and dark rhythms of the sea

A photo of me taken by Russet,
hiking in the White Mountains 5/1/10,
polarized in Photoshop
A dream I had last night: Part I

Like a bolt out of the blue:
It strikes me I must start a journey:
hike the Appalachian Trail,
NOW before snow fills the passes.

Beginning on the barren knife edge
of Mt Katahdin I head south
but, oddly, arrive at the ocean instead,
stumbling over rocks and slick seaweed,
increasingly hemmed in as I navigate
between lapping waves and arid cliffs.

As I hurry along in the fading light,
the shore turns to slippery ledge,
so steeply inclined that inextricably,
like a ship being launched,
I slide into unchartered depths
and dark rhythms of the sea,
disoriented and all alone.

As I float untethered
in a misty sea fog of unknowing,
lit by the soft glow of the moon,
 I sense with trepidation that
this is the moment of truth:
To continue on my journey
I must take the plunge.
Caught between the cliffs and the sea at dusk
CC Jean Stimmell: Oregon coast, Sept. 2013








Saturday, August 16, 2014

Emergent Behavior, Robots, and Singularity

Detritus evolving in slow-moving stream: 8/30/10
CC Jean Stimmell
According to a recent Reuters’ news report: They look vaguely like miniature hockey pucks skittering along on three pin-like metal legs, but a swarm of small robots called Kilobots at a laboratory at Harvard University is making a little bit of history for automatons everywhere. Researchers who created a battalion of 1,024 of these robots said on Thursday the mini-machines are able to communicate with one another and organize themselves into two-dimensional shapes like letters of the alphabet.
In a recent blog, I write about an eerily similar process: swarming phenomena in nature, this time evolving spontaneously through emergent behavior.

I quote Joseph Cambray’s definition of emergent behavior: it is a process that happens whenever “particles interact with one another, whatever they are, whether people or atoms, and if they interact in a competitive environment, they have the capacity to self organize, and once they start to self organize, you get new properties that are completely unexpected, that’s what emergence is.”[i] 

Cambray uses a mind-blowing example:

This was something I picked up in some scientific publications, it had nothing to do with psychology. These are beetle larvae from the Mojave desert. They tend to clump, a number of them all get on to a little branch, and… they make a kind of lumpy shape that apparently looks enough like a female bee, and gives off the right pheromone, that male bees try to come and mate with this clump. In the process, these beetle larvae, which are parasitic, attach themselves to some of the chest hairs of the male bee, and then when the male bee leaves, he carries them around to an actual mating event with a female, they transfer on her back, they’re carried by her to the hive, where they then eat the pollen. If they don’t do this, this is what’s remarkable, if they don’t do this, they can’t complete their life cycle. So that the creation of this bee-like structure is an emergent form. There’s no image inside these creatures to build a bee, and there’s nobody telling them how to do this, it’s a spontaneous self-organization into that form.[ii] 

If Cambray is correct that there was no image programed inside these creatures to build a model of a bee; and if, in fact, there’s no one telling the larvae how to do this, then this is, indeed, an example of spontaneous self-organization.

Remember that spontaneous self-organization is an inherent function of Mother Nature, happening whenever particles interact with one another in a competitive environment, whether the particles be atoms, animals or people.

If that’s indeed the case, why won’t the swarm of tiny robots built in Harvard’s laboratory also exercise emergent behavior: developing new properties that are completely unexpected.

We may be witnessing the first faltering steps of a unique type of singularity. Could it be that emergent behavior is Mother Nature’s way to coevolve through human technology?



[i] Transcribed from www.ShrinkRapRadio.com : Shrink Rap Radio #311: Synchronicity and the Interconnected Universe Page 9 of 23
[ii] Shrink Rap Radio #311: Synchronicity and the Interconnected Universe Page 15 of 23. Transcribed from www.ShrinkRapRadio.com

Monday, August 11, 2014

Embodying the Mind, Part II

The Guardian Spirit of Emergence, Uniter of Mind and Matter
I wrote in my blog (8/5/14) about embodying the mind: about how we are co-evolving not through some preordained destiny or higher rationality but through emergent behavior:  through our moment-by moment, ongoing interactions with our social and cultural world, the natural world, and the universe itself.

We, in the individual and collective sense along with the universe itself, are unfinished beings, fashioning ourselves extemporaneously as we go. It’s like what the famous postmodern philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein replied when asked what side he was on during a philosophical debate; he answered, I don’t know yet; the conversations isn’t over.”

That’s the truth of our lives and of the universe.

 Yesterday I received my latest Tricycle Magazine/The Buddhist Review. In a bit of synchronicity, the feature interview is entitled The Embodied Mind with philosophy professor, Evan Thompson. As opposed to most neuroscientists today who think the mind is something in the brain, Professor Thompson considers cognition as a form of embodied action:

Embodied” means that the rest of the body, not just the brain, is crucial; “action” means that agency—the capacity to act in the world—is central. Cognition is an expression of our bodily agency. We inhabit a meaningful world because we bring forth or enact meaning.”…What’s important is not just what is inside the brain but what the brain is inside of—the larger space of the body and culture. That is where we find mind and meaning.
Doesn’t that resonate with what I wrote about emergent behavior?
While most neuroscientists believe that consciousness is now largely a scientific problem of finding the neural correlates of consciousness in the brain, Professor Thompson disagrees, viewing it as yet another expression of the mind-in-the-head idea.
It’s like saying a cathedral is in the stones. You need stones, of course, and you need them to be connected in the right way. But what makes something a cathedral is also iconography, tradition, and its being a place of worship. In other words, the larger context in which the structure is embedded helps constitute it as a cathedral. In an analogous way, consciousness isn’t in the neurons or their connections. Here the larger context that constitutes consciousness—in the sense of sentience, or felt awareness—is biological: consciousness is a life-regulation process of the whole body in which the brain is embedded. In the case of human consciousness, the context is also psychological and social.
What we are talking about here is meaning; that’s the essence of it. That’s the crux of what makes us human!  And most honest observers have to admit that when meaning is included in the discussion, scientific methods are no longer sufficient. As a remedy, Thompson recommends a cross-cultural approach.
From this cross-cultural philosophical perspective, we can’t take science for granted; we have to remember that it operates within a human community of shared norms and values and practices—what phenomenologists call the “lifeworld.” Science itself is a social practice that has the force and meaning it has because of its place in our lifeworld. Science can change the lifeworld, but it can never step completely outside it and provide some absolutely neutral perspective. To put the point another way, philosophy is concerned with the meaning of science—something that science on its own can’t tell us. And Buddhist philosophy is as relevant as Western philosophy for thinking about the meaning of science.
––––––––––––––––––
I’m hoping it’s not just synchronicity which has lead me to all these references to Embodied Mind.  I’m hoping that it is the beginning of a trend: that the intelligentsia is waking up and realizing that, indeed, scientific methods aren’t sufficient, in and of themselves: that they are only tools, sometimes very useful, but not the truth, certainly not truth with a capital “T.” I’m hoping that the world is waking up to realize that rather than the truth, science is an ideology which over the last 300 years has become the dominant religion of our time, certainly at least in the western world.
After writing the first draft of this yesterday, I searched for one of my photos to illustrate it, but couldn’t find the perfect one. I decided to to go to Pawtuckaway State Park, which to me is a gateway to indigenous mysteries. I’ve written about it before, The Guardian Spirit of Pawtuckaway
I knew I needed to bring my ultra-wide Nikon lens to capture this image, even though I didn’t know yet what it was. Wandering around in an erratic boulder field of giant stones at Pawtuckaway, I found what I was searching for, looming up in front of me two stories tall.  The resulting photo is at the top of the page. I lightened her eyes in photoshop to make her appear as she did to me in person. To me, She is The Guardian Spirit of Emergence, Uniter of Matter and Mind. (Click on her image to make her bigger. Look in her eyes: what is she telling you?)
xxx

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wonderment

Crab in Tree alongside Great Bay
CC Jean Stimmell: 7/26/14
“There’s that feeling that you get when you see something that you don’t understand the origin of: wonderment. It brings about a kind of innocence, and I love that. I love to witness it. I love to be a part of making those moments happen.”

I love this quote by Caledonia Curry who started her career as a street artist, but leapfrogged to museums and galleries and now has expanded her work to include installation and performance art.
(Taken from NYT:   Life of Wonderment by Melena Ryzik, 8/6/14.)
First leaf of autumn falls in primal dark stream
CC Jean Stimmell: 8/6/14