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Noises from the Darkroom: The Science and Mystery of the Mind

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Noises from the Darkroom: The Science and Mystery of the Mind
Guy Claxton

Noises from the Darkroom draws psychology, biology and mysticism together into an exciting new theory of human consciousness.Starting from an evolutionary perspective, Guy Claxton shows how the mind has emerged from the brain, and how, along the way, some crucial misapprehensions have slipped into our unconscious models of ourselves. Through its masterly and engaging synthesis of different perspectives, Noises from the Darkroom offers a view of the totality of the human brain-mind that illuminates clearly both its blind alleys and its potentialities.Guy Claxton’s many books include Wholly Human, Beyond Therapy and The Heart of Buddhism.

Noises from the Darkroom

The Science and Mystery of the Mind

Guy Claxton

Table of Contents

Title Page (#u8d210d4d-2FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Epigraph (#u8d210d4d-4FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Foreword (#u8d210d4d-5FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

PART I: EVOLUTION OF THE MIND (#u8d210d4d-6FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 1 Science and Mystery (#u8d210d4d-7FFF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 2 Body-Building: The Origins of Life (#u8d210d4d-16FF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 3 The Plastic Brain (#u8d210d4d-21FF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 4 The Self-Organizing Organizer (#u8d210d4d-31FF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 5 Mosaic Mind (#u8d210d4d-40FF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 6 The Pressures of Society (#u8d210d4d-47FF-11e9-9e03-0cc47a520474)

Chapter 7 Languaging the Brain (#litres_trial_promo)

PART II: THE STORY OF THE SELF (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 8 The Language of the Self (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 9 Affluence, Leisure and Learning (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 10 Identity and Survival (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 11 Accentuate the Permanent: the Narrative Self (#litres_trial_promo)


Chapter 12 Alarums and Excursions (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 13 Feelings and Seeings (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 14 The Circumcision of Consciousness (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 15 The Cultivation of Ignorance (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 16 Stupidity: the Retardation of Perception (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 17 Myths to Live By (#litres_trial_promo)


Chapter 18 Myths of the Mind (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 19 Unconsciousness — The Essential Mystery (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 20 The Reconsecration of Unconsciousness (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 21 The Restoration of Sanity (#litres_trial_promo)

Notes (#litres_trial_promo)

Index (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

Praise (#litres_trial_promo)

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

Epigraph (#)

Our minds lie in us like fish in the pond of a man who cannot fish.

Ted Hughes

It is the impossible job of the mystic, if he wishes to try to teach what he knows, to scrute the inscrutable, speak the unspeakable, and eff the ineffable.

Alan Watts

Foreword (#)

The human mind is mysterious in two fundamentally different ways. It is mysterious in the sense that we do not yet have a clear understanding of how it works. Penetrating this mystery is the job of science, and there is, currently, a flurry of very fruitful and exciting activity going on in laboratories and seminar rooms around the world. One of the aims of this book is to provide a reader-friendly synthesis of, and some novel contributions to, this research. The approach of ‘cognitive science’, as it is called, sees the mystery of the mind as a temporary fog of incomprehension which precise experimentation and smart theorizing will eventually dispel.

But the mind is mysterious in a much more profound and indelible sense – and this meaning of mystery is not scientific but religious. The great spiritual traditions of the world agree that a brush with God is a close encounter of an essentially mysterious kind. The more clearly we see, the more obvious it becomes that at the very heart of human experience there is an ineffable Something, greater by far than the human mind could ever, in principle, encompass. ‘The peace of God passeth all understanding’, and ‘God moves in a mysterious way’, not because we don’t yet have enough data about the Almighty, but because He/She/It/They are fundamentally, intrinsically enigmatic. And that enigma, so the mystical explorers tell us, is not remote but present, accessible in every moment of mundane human experience. Thus the larger aim of this book is to bring these two meanings of ‘mystery’ into conjunction, and to show how science, by clarifying what it is to be a living human being, demands that we remember the invisible bedrock on which we are built. For our modern intuitive understanding of our own psychology leaves it out. And this oversight is not a matter of academic interest, but of vital personal and even global significance.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the world is in a mess because the human mind is in a mess. The problems we face are not at root technological, political or economic; they are psychological and spiritual. And the mind is in a mess because it misunderstands itself. We pollute the skies and ruin the earth because we are confused about who and what we are. It is because of our improper and unjust relationship with our own psychology that some of us plough up fields of good wheat while others of us are starving; some of us confess to murders that others of us have committed. Every culture lives within an invisible myth; and a central part of that myth, the most invisible of all, concerns human nature. Our culture has developed a particularly disastrous mind-myth, and while that myth remains unconscious and unexamined, we will continue to wreck the nest and hurt each other.

One of the symptoms of the mind’s disease is that it will go to great lengths to examine every conceivable option except the right one. It will think endless new thoughts, but has extreme difficulty in scrutinizing that-which-thinks. The fundamental strategic problem of our time, therefore, is how to get individual minds, in sufficient quantities and with sufficient speed, to embark enthusiastically on the requisite process of demythologization-brain-washing, in the sense of laundering away our misconceptions, you might say. If cognitive science can demonstrate to rational minds how and why they have expurgated their own mystery, and what it has cost them to do so; if it can open our ears to the noises from the darkroom and make us wonder about them, then it will have proved itself valuable as well as merely interesting.

The science on which we have to draw is biological and psychological. Twenty years ago, the dialogue between science and religion was revitalized by the appearance of Fritjof Capra’s classic The Tao of Physics, and since then there have been many attempts to account for the basic mysteries of human spirit and consciousness in terms of the fascinating concepts of cosmological and particle physics. But these accounts, it has turned out, while they offer intriguing metaphors and allegories, are not real explanations at all. Heisenberg’s ‘uncertainty principle’, however powerful in the world of the atomic nucleus, tells us nothing of interest about the emergent properties of brains and minds – just as the study of liver disease in principle cannot explain the Nuremberg rallies.

(#) Spirituality is a phenomenon of whole human beings embedded in their biological and social worlds, and it is therefore from the shores of brain science, evolutionary biology, and transpersonal psychology that we have to build out towards the far bank of mystery.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge some of the major bridge-builders in this area, whose masterly construction work has enabled me to reach out as far as I have. Not all of them will approve of the uses to which I have put their work, but without them it would not have been possible. There are the founders of systems theory, such as Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and Gregory Bateson with his famous search for ‘the pattern which connects’. There are those who have forged links between religion (a word whose root meaning is itself ‘to bind back together’) – especially the Eastern traditions of Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism – and forms of Western psychology: most notably Alan Watts and his ‘dharma heir’ Ken Wilber. More recently there are the pioneers of ‘ecopsychology’ such as Warwick Fox and Theodore Roszak. And then there are psychologists such as Nicholas Humphrey and Robert Ornstein, whose informed speculations about the evolution of mind and consciousness have contributed much to the development of my own thought. The fact that I have come to the conclusion that the origins of the unconscious are much more important than those of consciousness in no way detracts from my debts to them. Finally there are the cognitive scientists, whose bold ideas about the nature of brain, mind and self have contributed perhaps most of all to the story that I want to tell. I am thinking especially of philosopher Daniel Dennett, and neuroscientists Gerald Edelman and Michael Gazzaniga. To all of these, and many others, my thanks for their building materials.

On a more personal note, I am most grateful to Jenny Edwards and Liz Puttick, my editor, both of whom read drafts of the book and made suggestions for improvement, the wisdom of which I could not deny. Thanks to Stephen Batchelor for sharing on many occasions his profound understanding of Buddhism. Though Buddhism as such hardly appears in this book, its insights permeate Parts II, III and IV.

Finally, a note on style. Because the web of ideas in this book is spun within a context of practical concern, I have endeavoured to write in an evocative, sometimes even jaunty, manner that will, I hope, engage both the general reader and the experts in the various fields on which I touch. Where this has meant throwing my more natural scholarly caution to the winds, I have done so. One of my draft-readers wrote to me: ‘I can’t remember ever having read another science book that made me laugh aloud!’ I admit that comment pleased me almost as much as any learned approbation. In keeping with this attempt to treat weighty matters with a light touch, the referencing is minimal and illustrative rather than comprehensive – though if you wrote to me I could give you chapter and verse and in the interests of good story-telling I have written as if I were propounding the absolute truth, rather than constructing a flexible, equivocal span of ideas.

Guy Claxton

Dartington, October 1993

1 Evolution of the Mind (#)

ONE Science and Mystery (#)

The mind is far too narrow to contain itself. But where can that part of it be which it does not contain? Is it outside and not in itself? How can it be, then, that the mind cannot grasp itself? A great marvel rises in me; astonishment seizes me. Men go forth to marvel at the height of mountains and the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vastness of the ocean, the orbit of the stars, and yet they neglect to marvel at themselves.
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