Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Knowledge or expertise should not be taken too seriously, because there is nothing definitive about these. It is only when they are laid aside in play that the truth-generating core of the mind asserts itself. That truth-generating action of the mind does not yield definitive knowledge either because local cultural factors intervene; but the authenticity of the experience behind the creative act is in itself a kind of truth.
Play is essential to the operation of intelligence. Unfortunately the various cognates of the Latin verb ludere (illusion, delusion, collusion) show that we consider playing with ideas to be connected with falsehood. This may at times be so, but some playing is clearly generative of what we call truth. Playing generates truth when the result of the play is a creative synthesis that is of cognitive value and that constitutes a genuine contribution to understanding. Children are the specialists in true play and an ability to re-discover this ability in the mind of the adult is always fruitful.
Imagination is frequently considered to be a rather childish aspect of the mind. But once again, this is a theory of the left-brain, a theory of the control-freakish ego. Of course, children do have a rich imaginative life, but then so may adults if they do not stifle it. The difference with adult imagination is threefold: 1) it has far more intellectual material in which to express itself; 2) it is far more likely to be swamped by this material; and 3) it is liable to take fright at the strangeness of the new. Adult and child have opposite strengths and weaknesses. The child’s relative freedom from intellectual baggage is its great strength, but it is also its relative weakness, since it lacks the formal skills to give a convincing account of what is happening in its mind. The adult may have these formal skills, but is often so intent on manipulating them that the deliverances of the imagination are suppressed. Thus the imagination in human beings suffers from real problems that stem from either formal weakness or formal strength. The genius, the innovator, the creative individual manages to retain an imaginative richness while mastering and further developing high formal skill. There is, indeed no other way for the skills of humanity to be extended and deepened except by their creative extension and expansion through the imagination.
The superficial conception of the imagination is that of a sort of inner picturing faculty; and indeed, this is one of its most powerful modes of operation. But it can equally operate with feeling-toned ‘hunches’ concerning the nature of reality and concerning the inadequacy of prevailing beliefs. It is indeed always a rather emotional business and it might be salutary to attribute a cognitive role to certain feelings in this respect. The feelings of the unprejudiced, curious imaginative mind, whatever its expertise, are those of intense interest, excited anticipation, joy, aesthetic pleasure and the ecstatic ‘eureka’-reaction; they are quite distinct from the feelings of the scheming ego which are those of self-regard, self-promotion, fear of defeat and desire to dominate.
Descartes’ (rather dismissive) understanding of the imagination was entirely that of an inner vision, an inner ‘viewing’ of possibility and as such it has in his writing obvious weaknesses, as for example in the inability of the imagination to ‘picture’ a geometrical figure with more than a fairly small number of sides, whereas the intellect can conceive the most complex polygons, for example, according to definition with great clarity. It may be, however, that it is precisely the imprecision of the imagination that is its greatest strength as far as its role as originator of new structure is concerned. The imagination is unconcerned by internal contradiction: it can combine contradictory features without being restricted by the existing formal constraints of a formal system. But these contradictions are frequently resolved by the imagination itself through the recasting of the formal system so as to incorporate the former ‘contradictions’ as aspects of a higher unity.
As instances of the power of the creative imagination, examples such as Einstein’s adolescent fantasies concerning the behaviour of a light wave as observed by someone travelling on a light-wave, that became the precursor to the considerations leading to relativity-theory, or Kekulé’s dream of the snake biting its own tail as an image of the benzol-ring, are often quoted in books on creativity. They are quoted as examples of visual imagery that led in the minds of great innovators to major scientific discovery. But the limiting of the imagination to this kind of visual imagery is a grave mistake. The imagination can, indeed, allow ‘visions’ of all kinds, visions that have no visual content in them at all. For example, the imagination of Mozart was extraordinarily powerful, but operated with sound. The whole of a symphony could be present in the mind of the composer at once as a single field of complex vibrations, and at that point it would be simply a matter of writing it down in the musical notation of the time. The mathematical imagination of a Poincaré or a Ramanujan, the famous Indian mathematician of raw genius, seemed to work in substantially the same fashion, though with entirely different material. Poincaré felt the emergence of a new mathematical insight simply as a kind of pressure associated with a hazy visual image. This pressure was accompanied by an inner certainty that a problem that he had been working on for some time had been solved in his mind and that it was now simply a matter of writing it down in an acceptable formalism. Ramanujan discovered mathematics of a very advanced nature without having had the benefit of advanced mathematical training. He seemed able to invent his own formalism to express his astonishing gifts and to repair the lack of formal education. He talked of his mathematical inventiveness as a kind of ‘seeing’, but insisted that it was a seeing of a very special kind and only vaguely analogous to visualisation.
Much more than the ability to engage in a sort of inner visualisation, the human imagination seems to involve the ability to relax the control exercised by knowledge, training, conditioning and the like and to give in to a kind of playful dissolution of orthodoxy that is then followed by a reconfiguration of the elements of that orthodoxy in a new and more illuminating form. The fact that this breaking and re-casting of the old is in the highest degree an involuntary process makes it intrinsically worrying for the ego. The ego does not like to be the recipient of gifts it cannot control. Yet the imagination depends precisely upon the relaxation of control, on the abandonment – even if only provisionally – of control and on the yielding to a sort of mental fluidity. Control may be exercised at a later stage on the productions of the imagination, but the control is not the imagination, it is merely the tidying-up operation after the main creative work has been done. The ability to accept without prejudice, to receive without pre-conception is absolutely vital to the functioning of the imagination. Without this humility, this modesty, there simply is no imagination. A rigidly orthodox and doctrinaire ego will never submit to the presentations of the imagination and will never admit that the imagination can provide it with insight for which it can not claim sole and complete credit.
The imagination in western culture tends to be treated patronisingly and its activity officially restricted to the ‘arts’ – that is to say to areas of intellectual life that are intrinsically frivolous and of far lesser value than the authoritatively ‘rigorous’ offerings of science. But this general scheme of things is a deceitful – or self-deluding – invention of the scientific ego and of its favourite ideology. Imagination in all its forms is essential to the process of research in every field, not only in those fields that seem to deal with visual imagery. Every scientific discipline has been revolutionised by the imaginative overview of inventive genius. The work of the imagination in the dissolving and re-casting of scientific theory is not universally admitted. It is just that the intrinsically ‘scientific’ work is the careful job of testing theory experimentally and expressing the experimental confirmations of theory in precise formal language. Imaginative creativity operates, however, at all levels and in all aspects of the scientific process. Even the designers of experiment require imaginative solutions to experimental problems that cannot be arrived at by the application of old methods. Given this, it is all the more remarkable that the myth of the scientific researcher as a careful collector of evidence and a careful practitioner of logical method was so sedulously fostered by the scientific community for so long. One can only suppose that the desire of the ego to distance itself from the preoccupation with revelation at the heart of European Christianity was so great that it had to take over even that prerogative of the divinity and become its cause.
Yet revelation is not a bad term to sum up the innovatory products of the human imagination and their effects upon the history of human culture. Early societies, lacking the machinery of logic and systematised induction, were reliant on imaginative syntheses of the mythological type. No-one should be under any illusion about the role of these imaginative syntheses in ancient societies: those who used them were as conscious of the difference between mythologem and reality as any modern person. The language of myth was a formal language in which the vocables were not those of physical objects, but which nevertheless functioned in direct analogy to the cognitive worth of the modern scientific theory. The difference of course was that the mythological synthesis contained ethical as well as purely ‘physical’ explanation, thus the logic was different. Indeed, the distinction between the ethical and the factual was not made: ‘is’ and ‘ought’ were fused by the poetic imagery. However, one point of extreme importance that one has to retain in this context is that the same process of refinement and criticism went on with regard to the mythological world-systems as goes on in present day science. Indeed, the scientific arose directly out of the mythological, as can be seen in the thought of the first of the eminent pre-Socratics, the philosopher Thales. What disappears in the scientific refinement of mythological ideas is precisely the visual symbolism; yet it is this visual element that permits the development of a more abstract language. There is no absolute distinction to be made in fact between mythological and scientific views of the universe, though their language is different.
The modern scientific stance is derived very substantially from the religious notion of the monotheistic, lawgiving deity of the Jews. The entire notion of 'laws of nature' implies a lawgiver and that lawgiver was historically understood as the monotheistic God. The modern enthusiasm for abolishing the deity has more to do with academic self-love and with the ambitions of the ego than it does with any serious discredit to the religious idea. So religious and scientific thought can be seen as separate aspects of a single human experience, in which insights about the nature of the world are first expressed in visual or emotional images that contain in undifferentiated combination elements that the scientific mind will later find to be inappropriate – ethical, emotional elements that militate against the strictly ‘objective’ or ‘reificatory’ intent of scientific portrayal. These visual elements are winnowed out of our scientific vision of reality, but some of them nevertheless get through and continue to inform, however unconsciously, the scientific mind. It is these images that generate the new insights that re-cast science and that burst autonomously upon the innovator. In religion as in science, this irruption of novelty into the formal language of orthodoxy has a revelatory character that simply cannot be reduced to any known mechanism.
One may not want to use the mythological language of ‘revelation’, but if you think about it, this is no more mythological than the language of ‘laws’ of nature. The problem of the lawgiver is one that will not go away in modern physics. Similarly the problem of the agency that does the revealing of ever more depths to reality is one that will not go away in intellectual life. If it were left to the brain, we would be stuck in more or less routine behaviour like that of the non-human animals. The fact is, we are more than our brains: we use them; they are not us. We can see ourselves as having access in our creative intelligence to the indeterminate core of reality – that is to say, to the indeterminate core of mind, self, language and world. Objectivity, according to the dogma of naturalism, was supposed to be the practice of letting the world speak for itself; whereas it was no more than the ego’s talking the language of things and pretending that it was the world that spoke. In the creative, intelligent imagination, we come up against the indeterminate core of the world, we become hyperworld and we generate midworld – both archetypal human experiences. It is in this experience, where creating and being created become one, that the imagination reveals its greatest power and we, as beings, maximise out potential. Our imagination connects us with the active information that structures every aspect of the universal energy field, from sub-atomic particle to human brain. In this respect, the world has always ‘spoken’ for itself, though it may use our language to do so. In using our language as in using our brain, the world transforms both. It may be that we owe the evolution of our brain itself to the increasing intimacy of this talk, to the growing consciousness of this hyperworld connection. After all, you need a pretty powerful machine to bring the fundamental process of reality symbolically into consciousness. The onward course of this evolution is unlimited in our imagination and we should not allow the rational ego to suggest otherwise.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


For Bohm, the entire information-content of the universe is encoded in universal light, which is the background reality of everything that we experience. He sees all physical phenomena as forms of light that are to a greater or lesser degree ‘bound’ and as emerging, or ‘unfolding’ from the background of unbound light. This unbound light is the implicate order from which the explicate order of the objects of our sensory experience unfolds. Small wonder, then, that he sees the connection between intelligence and light as very profound and very close, as close, indeed as the connection between mind and matter. Just as the electron – a form of bound light – is accompanied by a field that holographically contains active information concerning all surrounding particles, so the brain is the explicate order (the 3D object) that emerges from the implicate order of the mind: the two, brain and mind, are not separate substances, but the mind is at a higher level than its physical counterpart in being implicate rather than explicate. It is for that reason that the distinction between subject and object exists and the subject can experience its brain as object

The brain considered as a mechanism works quasi-mechanically. Its business is to ensure our survival and it can try and foist all kinds of theories upon us in response to sensory experience. In the ego it has a real sucker for a clever, tied-up theory. Sensory-deprivation experiments have shown, however, that in certain circumstances where the input from the environment is reduced to virtually zero, the brain even begins to work on its own internal states and sets to work generating distorted, hallucinatory experiences in order then to impose upon them a story. The consciousness of the subjects thus manipulated is, however, in principle able to spot the subterfuge and uncover the fiction. The mind is able to catch the brain at work. This demonstrates, if any demonstration were needed, that the mind is not only distinct from the brain, but also able to stand apart from what the brain delivers to it and adopt a critical stance towards its offerings: it can in principle – though it does not always use its ability – assess, accept or reject what the brain presents to it. The conscious mind is not a slave to its brain and does not ‘arise’ from the brain, since consciousness is one and, in common with intelligence, universal.

If rational thought is pure brain-operation and strictly determined, intelligence, by contrast is at the interface between the determinate and the indeterminate in reality; it operates at the frontier between the chaotic and the ordered in nature. Though it inevitably makes use of existing, determined formalisms, intelligence must be considered as essentially indeterminate, as non-formal, extra-formal mentation. Intelligence obviously makes use of the mechanism of both left and right brain, but is beyond both. But this is no plaidoyer in favour of facile dualism. This distinction between determined, substantially mechanical brain, on the one hand – though even this is a convenient abstraction, since the complex processes of the brain, too, are chaotic – and undetermined, unpredictably creative intelligence, on the other is no throwback to the theories of Descartes, for whom all rational thought originated in the undetermined, immaterial mind and imagination in the determined, material body. The point of view presented here is not in any sense an attempt to do the sort of dualistic ontology that engaged Descartes. Indeed it is in many senses the opposite of his view.

Thought, sequential, logical, ‘rational’ thought is well explained by the operation of the mechanism of the brain, while intelligently creative imagination, as the generator of novelty originates in levels or dimensions of reality that have to be thought of by us as beyond the material. In talking of levels of reality beyond the material, we mean, of course, beyond the limited conception that we have of the material as a collection of three-dimensional objects. We do not mean some immaterial, supposedly ‘spiritual’ domain where ghosts, spirits, gods and demons live an allegedly spiritual life. Such a domain may exist; but it is not our concern.

Intelligence is the inner nature of the self-conscious mind. It is for that reason that it cannot be equated with any of the formal operations that are supposed to define what we mean by ‘rationality’ or ‘reason’. Intelligence is the ‘no-thing-ness’ at the heart of the self. It is a purely natural agency, undistorted by any cultural conditioning or formal training. It is not the brain, it is not language which programmes the brain, for these are both used by intelligence for its expression. Intelligence is above all an ‘edge-of-chaos’ phenomenon, which in its perpetual fluidity provides the locus not only for the creative re-arrangement of mental contents, but also for the creative expansion of existing formal systems. Intelligence is the agency that stands outside of all formal systems and provides the extra-systemic input required to understand the system from a standpoint above and beyond the system. When the system is re-cast and expanded, its power increases, but intelligence is then, once again, or rather, still, outside of that new system. The formal system is only mechanical insofar as its use is governed by algorithms based upon procedures that are derivable from within the system. The non-mechanical nature of intelligence is observable precisely in its ability to understand principles that are of relevance to the system but that are not derivable as theorems of the system according to axioms of the system.

Those who would entirely mechanise the intellect and try to establish the invariant features of every aspect of the mind’s functioning, miss the point of this view of the mind entirely. They are obsessed by the ego’s addiction to the thing-ideology and can think of the mind only in terms of those object-like repetitive entities that one can isolate, name and predict. Thus, for example, the mechanisers of the intellect (e.g. Margaret Boden in her The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, Routledge 2004) try to establish empirically – that is to say by inductive generalisation – the repetitive features of the creative mind. They talk in terms of ‘mechanisms’ of recombination, re-arrangement, re-configuration, and so on, as if the innovations of the human intelligence were always and only a kind of shuffling of a pack of cards and a random establishment of a new order. Clearly, inductive generalisations will always lead to this kind of mechanical theory, as the left-brain strives to force the new to take on the characteristics of the old with its little rationalising tales. Equally clearly, chaotic nature – here, in the specific form of the human intelligence – will out of its own perpetual freshness continue to generate real novelty, real indeterminate structure, real complex new order.

One must not suppose that the indeterminacy of intelligence, its ‘no-thing-ness’ makes it into a kind of ‘god-of-the-gaps’-style explanatory principle, where our ignorance is used as a cloak for smuggling in metaphysical agencies into the determined order of nature. It is quite simply empirical fact that the inner processes of nature are indeterminate, in the sense of being uncertain according to our mechanical, objectifying mode of apprehension. It is empirical fact that the determinate order arises from the indeterminate. It is quite simply empirical fact that the apparently predictable order of nature rests upon and emerges from an unpredictable substrate, the essential processes of which we can not, in principle grasp according to our mechanising thought. This is not, therefore a question of gaps in our knowledge that are shortly to be filled. This is an ‘in principle’ ignorance that is in the nature of things, and in the nature of that specific thing that is the human sensory-cognitive apparatus.

The brain, as macroscopic structure, tracks macroscopic structures in the range of its experience; but both it and they rest on a microscopic substrate in which such structure is undetectable. It is futile, given this basic fact of our constitution, to prattle in absolute terms about determinism in either brain or world. Empirical investigations rely on experience alone and we may not prejudge our experiences and pronounce certain of them permissible and others as impermissible. We simply have experiences and we have to accept them all, whether we like it or not. And one of the essential experiences of the human mind is of its indeterminate, creative activity. The ability of the human mind to generate novelty is often pronounced by the ego to be the result of a ‘search’ for new structures – as though these just lay around like objects waiting to be found. This is not really how the most creative minds of history have seen things, however. The creativity of human intelligence is not rational and much less the result of active intention on the part of an individual mind than of the reception, in a mind impatient with the inadequacies of existing ‘knowledge’, of re-constructive insight that then finds expression in formal terms. The ability of human intelligence to jump out of the box and, from that position outside, to espy possibilities for the structures inside, that would not have been detectable from inside, is an intrinsic feature of its functioning throughout history.

Take the non-Euclidian geometries of Gauss, Riemann, Lobachewski and the rest. These accomplishments were obtained by an intelligent leap of the imagination which had suggested that suppressing one of Euclid’s axioms – the least well-founded – would permit geometries of enormously greater power and subtlety. The resulting geometries discovered potential properties of space that Einstein, for example, was then able to exploit in his theories of special and general relativity. Euclidean geometry arose from following the natural inclination of the brain, but thinking inside of the 3D Euclidean box – thinking that had been regarded as without alternative for thousands of years – would never have permitted such major advances in mathematics. Moreover, these advances were not obtained simply by thrashing and crashing around randomly inside the box until some new angle was generated by accident. These developments were generated by the creative intelligence of great mathematicians, whose genius consisted in being able to view the system of orthodox geometry from a extra-systemic standpoint and from there espy its shortcomings and envisage its absorption within a higher and more complex unity, in which the previous system would appear as a limiting case of the new, greatly expanded formalism.

So here we have the essential difference between intelligence and thought. Thought is repetitive, backward-looking, rule-governed, algorithmic, mechanical and seeks only the invariant and the predictable in experience. Intelligence by contrast is innovatory, extra-systemic, non-algorithmic, non-mechanical and, since it is guided by aesthetic feeling, delights in the receptive generation of novelty, the creation of the future. The ego will always want to reduce intelligence to thought, for that is its essential nature. Intelligence, however, will always resist such despotic ambitions and blithely slip through the net of reductive ‘explanations’ cast over it by thought. Human culture will thus continue to be fuelled by a productive tension, a creative conflict between thought and intelligence. Intelligence will work critically and in dissatisfied impatience with the formal limitations of orthodoxy until a new synthesis of disparate elements is obtained. Scientific theories are always victims of the dissatisfaction of the generations following those who establish them. These successive generations find the old theories unconvincing and inadequate. They no longer satisfy. This is a question of feeling, as matters of intelligence always are. Only thought, mechanical thought, is supposedly unemotional, emotion-free; and in the computer it is truly this (though in the ego’s thought, the absence of emotion is a subterfuge). Intelligence, on the basis of its feeling-toned hunches, its curiosity and its heuristic passion for the new theory, develops new syntheses, new visions and to a certain extent ‘proves’ them. Thought will then, as a consequence have new formalisms, new algorithms, new determinate structures to operate on and from which to extract the many mechanical, predictable implications.

Rational thought is the functioning of a brain richly programmed by the creations of intelligence; intelligence itself, however, is at the growing tip of the evolving universe.

The eternal battle between old methods and new insights constitutes one of the principal motors of cultural advance. We cannot do without the rationalising ego that desires final, definitive, certain, absolute cognitive states; but equally we cannot do without the creative intelligence that constantly soars beyond the rule-governed midworld into hyperworld. There really is no point in adopting any other stance to this process than that of grateful, reverential trust. The new order does not arise by some plodding application of an algorithm. It arises, as all new order arises, spontaneously and without the control of the ego. Any desire or attempt finally to subject the indeterminate intelligence to mechanical control reveals the totalitarian ambitions of the ego and these ambitions are invariably destined to failure. This failure is nicely illustrated in the old Russian tale of the Golden Fish.

An old fisherman lived by the sea and made a poor living from his fishing. His house was dilapidated, his water-butt leaked and his wife scolded him for their modest standard of living. One day out on the waves, however, the old fisherman caught a golden fish in his net and was astonished to hear the fish address him in human speech. “Release me back into the sea,” said the fish, “and I will grant you a wish.” The fisherman thought for a while and then said, “Give me a new water-butt.” “Your wish is granted,” said the fish, “now release me.” The fish spoke with such genuine emotion and authority, that the simple, good-hearted fisherman believed it without reservation. And indeed, on returning home, the fisherman was surprised and delighted, as was his wife, to discover that a brand new water-butt now stood in place of the old leaking one. The fisherman told his wife about the encounter and about the granted wish. From this point on, the wife who was an ill-tempered, grasping control-freak, gave the old fisherman no peace until he set off again in his boat to find the fish and have more wishes granted. To cut a long story short, the fisherman went out on numerous occasions and had numerous wishes granted. Their riches and possessions increased beyond their dreams and soon they were of legendary wealth. This continued until the day when the wife, impatient with the unpredictable aspect of their good fortune and desiring to control the source of these benefits, demanded that the fish be kept in captivity in order that its wish-granting capacity should be controlled by her. The fisherman, anxious to please his shrewish wife, complied and brought the fish home, despite the latter’s piteous cries. As soon, however, as the fish was in the bowl, not only did it turn into an ordinary, banal little creature of no distinction, but also, the couple, whose riches had raised them to the pinnacle of the social hierarchy, lost everything in a flash and their lives reverted to what they had been before the golden fish had been caught: the house was wretched again, the water-butt leaked and they had hardly enough to eat.

The moral of the story is clear: the deliverances of the human intelligence are gifts, are grace: any attempt by the ego to control intelligence mechanically will result in the loss of its creativity.

Human beings are not masters of the universe; they are not even masters in their own house. The ego wants to control everything in its world, wants to throne as God over the world. Fortunately this is impossible, for such a world would be a nightmare of predictable, totalitarian mechanism. Fortunately, intelligence understands its position as the recipient of wonders that it cannot control. The collaboration of the fisherman and his wife worked well enough until she made her bid for power. As long as the ego is kept in check, as long as its collaboration with the intelligent self remains just that – a collaboration – human culture will continue to grow in wisdom and develop its degrees of freedom. If, however, the ego ever gains complete control and eradicates the creative intelligence, evolution will pass us by leaving us to wither or stagnate like the coelacanth, the horseshoe crab and many other so-called ‘living fossils’.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Humans are very proud of their rationality and think that it is the one feature that distinguishes them from non-human animals. In this they are probably deluding themselves. Rationality is a combination of voluntary and involuntary mental processes; and these processes are far from being unique to our species.

It is almost impossible for the conscious mind to work out when it is actively directing or intending its thoughts – making them, as it were – and when these thoughts are merely happening to it, i.e. when it is simply a passive recipient of mental events. The problem of making any absolute distinction between so-called willed mental events and involuntary ones seems insuperable. Of course, the whole subject has become vexed by the wild declarations of some in the scientific community to the effect that every mental event is determined, so the ‘free’ will is merely an illusion. Just as it is impossible to draw the line between subject and object, between percept and percipient, so it is impossible to delineate a firm frontier between ego-driven, sequential, methodical thinking on the one hand and complexes of mental contents that simply arise in the conscious mind under their own steam, on the other. The ego, of course has many theories about this distinction and many of these theories consist in the ego’s trying to arrogate to itself the entire process of thought, while denigrating, demoting or rationalising the processes that are clearly not under its control. The result is that the paradigm of pure rational thought is the logical form of the deductive syllogism, where a conclusion is extracted mechanically, that is to say analytically, from premises. Nevertheless a consideration of the difference between deduction and induction – the two operations that underlie most of our supposedly rational thought – is instructive.

Inductive thought is as paradigmatic of human thinking as deduction; but induction, as Hume knew, is not rational. It is a matter of submitting to patterns that appear given in experience and then acting as if those patterns were predictable regularities (whether they are or are not). It is thus largely a matter of jumping to under-determined conclusions about future events on the basis of past regularity. The point about these unsafe conclusions, however, is that they cannot be considered voluntary. Non-human animals also use them and often to their own detriment, when the regularity in question turns out not to be very reliable. To illustrate this, Bertrand Russell told the story of the farmyard chicken which rushed across to the farmhouse at the noise of the shaken grain tin, because this sound had always signified a meal in the past. On the last time it heard this sound, however, the chicken itself was the meal and was hurrying to have its neck wrung. As human beings, we greatly reinforce our inductive generalisations by means of the analytic power of deduction. We jump to conclusions of the ‘all swans are white’ variety and then use such premises in deductions such as this: ‘all swans are white, this swan-like creature is black, therefore it is not a swan’. The mistake is obviously down to the unreliability of our experience allied to an over reliance on deductions based on faulty premises, and the frontier between voluntary and involuntary mental events is further obscured by the reflection that logic is weaker than the desire to believe.

The unsafe character of inductive generalisations is disguised by our faith in deduction. For example, strings of propositions such as ‘all mammals are warm-blooded, this is a mammal, therefore it is warm-blooded’ cannot be gainsaid by anyone for fear of accusations of illogicality and irrationality. To deny the conclusion is to contradict oneself. The power of such trains of logical inference is their tautologous nature: they say the same thing twice, though the repetition is not necessarily immediately evident. The conclusion is deemed to be in some sense ‘contained’ in the premises, though quite what that word ‘contained’ means is not clear. The nearest we can get to it is in the notion of ‘repetition’: the conclusion in some sense repeats the information in the premise or premises. Nevertheless, in chains of reasoning of this type, the important thing is that the ego feels in absolute control and can reassure itself of this fact at any one stage of the process by means of the rule of non-contradiction. The power of such deductive trains of thought is the belief that they instantiate some almost geometrical ‘template’ for all similar arguments. The logic works like the cranking of a handle on a machine, stamping out identical artefacts. The same thing goes for mathematical reasoning, where the ego follows a procedure, an algorithm, in order to arrive at a result, let’s say, the solution of an equation. The same kind of reasoning characterises most practical, calculative thought as well. One measures a desired end against the available means of achieving it and a calculation is made of the least costly of these methods. Long chains of deductive reasoning of the hypothetical type – ‘if X then Y; X, therefore: Y’ or if X then Y; not-Y, therefore: not-X’ – are run through, sometimes with surprising rapidity and almost unconsciously, but the ego always claims credit for them because it feels it can at any one point re-construct them in linguistic form and demonstrate their formal and ultimately deductive validity. Thus the ego jumps to the conclusion that since its preferred paradigm of rational thought is the logical, rule-driven type just indicated, then all thought without exception has to be of this type and what is not of this type is unworthy of the description ‘rational’.

The example of the dodgy relationship between involuntary inductions and voluntary deductions, however, should give us pause for reflection because of the unsafe character of inductions. We should reflect upon this: the rules of logic – identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle etc. – are derived from our experience of solid objects. That is what makes them self-evident and ‘irrefutable’. Tangible things cannot be themselves and not themselves at the same time and in the same place, for example. The rules of logic are however, by this very token, infected with the sort of involuntary and unsafe assumptions that made us pronounce space to be infinitely three-dimensional, time infinitely linear and the world to be composed of three-dimensional objects – all assumptions demolished by physics.

Rational thought, so the official story told by the ego runs, is method-driven all the way down. There is only method, and all method is under the direct control of the ego. Thus the history of human culture is, for the ego, largely a process of separating mental processes that are not rational thought, according to its criteria, from those that are. Human culture is therefore represented by the ego as an inexorable march to ultimate and final victory of the algorithmic type of thinking over which the ego has complete control. All other kinds of mental activity are dismissed by the rational ego as ‘irrational’, ‘subjective’, ‘immature’ and so on. (An egregious example of this sort of ‘rationalism’ is John McCrone’s, The Myth of Irrationality, Macmillan 1993.) All of the above words involve reliance on the power of a kind of insult and not on a genuinely critical assessment. But there are many types of thinking. In the quasi-mythological language of current brain-science we could say that the ego, tied as it is to the left-brain language-engine, always and only comes up with the same thing: names of ‘things’ and procedures for grouping them together, and yet more names and yet more procedures for grouping them together. The right-brain, however, is largely inarticulate and, since it allegedly works on images and feelings, is easily shouted down by the vociferous left-brain, particularly when the ego’s lust for power kicks in with force. Thus, like an old oriental despot, the ego claims more and more absolute control for itself over the ultimately indefinable mental realm that is the fundamental experience of the self. But we do not have to go along with this – rather dated – mythology to be aware that there is something wrong with the ego’s over-optimistic rationalism.

The ego has a vested interest in maintaining that there is no other authority, no other controlling agency than itself and its logical methods. The suggestion that there could be other agencies in the mind that are not under the ego’s control is impatiently, intolerantly and even angrily rejected by the ego as ‘infantile’ or ‘irrational’ nonsense. The ego loves to equate maturity and all the other intellectual virtues with its methods and only with its methods. It loves to suppress any view of the mind that seems to indicate that it is not sole master in the mental household. When it comes up with theories of the unconscious creativity of the mind, it does as Freud did: it reduces them to a mechanism in order then to be able to dominate, ‘cure’ or otherwise eliminate them. Alternatively, it puts the unconscious creativity of the mind – which, after all, it would be folly to deny – down to the complexity of the brain and to the brain’s tendency to indulge in random ‘chatter’ between its various modules, random chatter that is so complex that it just throws up novelty and innovation as a matter of course, like the random clatter of the imagined millions of monkeys, bashing randomly away at typewriters for millions of years, that would ‘inevitably’ throw up the collected works of Shakespeare. This touching faith in the almost miraculous power of accident is one of the hallmarks of the ego’s invincible self-belief and is detectable in a surprising number of high-profile scientific theories from the cosmological to the biological and psychological. It has re-emerged in recent years as the ‘complexity’ aspect of so-called ‘chaos-theory’ and here the rational ego claims to have grasped the chaos by means of fractal geometry whereas all it has achieved is an illuminating analogy and anyway, its application to processes in the brain is obscure to say the least.

The common factor in all of these denigrations by the ego of non-rational thought is simple fear of irrationality. The ego is afraid of what it does not control and insists on controlling it or exorcising it as a kind of evil spirit by various apotropaic uses of language: ridicule, insult, belittlement, calumny, and so on. The characterisation of non-rational thought as ‘accidental’ is the most scientific of these exorcisms, but its purpose is similar to the others: whistling to keep the ego's spirits up.

One is surprised that this kind of conception of the mental economy – the belief that what is not the result of the ego’s volition is mere random activity – could ever have gained acceptance by intelligent people. But then one realises that it is in fact an ideology. In the language of the mythology mentioned above, it is an ideology of the left-brain that wishes to pretend that it is the focus of all power and authority. All ideologies turn into rigid and punitive orthodoxy at some point in their development and the ideology asserting that real rational thought is entirely under the control of the ego is no exception. We can however adopt a quite different view of the mental economy, without denying anything that ego-driven rationalistic theories say about the mind, but rather by classifying all those activities called ‘rational’ together and pointing out that they invariably depend on those aspects of the mind that the ego can only dismiss as ‘irrational’. We may to this end distinguish thought from intelligence, and understand intelligence as a fundamental property of the self that, though highly productive, is not ultimately governed by the rules and algorithms that are considered by the ego to be of its essence, and not under the ultimate control of the ego.

Intelligence is the more capacious concept; and rational thought is simply one of many expressions of intelligence. In the human sphere, intelligence may well be expressed using the methods of ego-driven, routine thought, but it is also the origin of creative, innovatory insight. The former may for the most part be under the control of the ego; but the latter definitely is not. We ought to relax the monopolistic stranglehold that the ego has on intellectual life in the west and reflect for a moment on the degree to which human culture is driven forward not by the ego – which uses methods that may or may not be appropriate and tends rather to make a hash of things – but by the self’s passive reception of mental contents that it cannot command, nor direct by any method whatsoever.

The simple fact is this: the methods of the ego can only repeat past thought-patterns according to a distinct recipe. That is the essence of purely rational thought: the re-activation of, and extrapolation from, past experience couched in terms that ‘repeat’ a self-evident template. Ego-driven thought is fundamentally repetitive, because new elements of experience are jammed into old configurations. That is central to the ego’s method. The ego wants always to contain the new in old configurations, calling certain old configurations in which it believes very strongly ‘necessary truths’, ‘invariant features of experience’, ‘regularities’, ‘the laws of nature’ or suchlike. Rational thought can only repeat past patterns and try to tell new stories in old ways. Intelligence – the partially voluntary functioning of the self – does not, however, operate like that at all.

The self’s intelligence is much more aware of its collaborative, subservient nature: it is as much structured by reception as it is by production. The intelligence of the self receives insight as a gift and in combining this insight with rational extrapolations, creates genuinely new methods of containing new ideas. This principle should therefore be writ large in all educational institutions: there is no rule for generating new ideas but neither are they accidental. Really new ideas simply have to be accepted as grace. Along with the new ideas come new insights into the formalisms needed to express them. Often the new insight comes with its new mode of expression. Existing modes of expression are blown wide open and re-formed on a higher level of formal complexity, a higher level of formal power. To want to claim these creative deliveries of the mind for rational, algorithmic thought is to misunderstand totally the entire process according to which human culture has grown steadily richer and more complex. It is creative innovation that drives culture, not rational thought.

The fundamentally repetitive character of rational thought can be seen in every situation where a body of ‘truth’ is being worked upon, processed in order to make it yield up its implications. Much of routine science is the repetition of old thought-patterns and their imposition upon new experiences. It seems that the rational ego can simply not get out of this bind. This is all the more surprising, given the fact that the great innovatory scientists, though using the deductive methods that are vital to rigour, are always conscious of the non-rational, non-methodical aspects of the insight that brings or brought them to their innovatory ideas. The vast mass of scientists seem to be very good at thought, that is to say good at the rule-driven manipulation of old insight; they are sometimes not so good, however, at the generation of radically new insight; indeed some are so bad at it, that they deny its existence and even forbid any appeal to it altogether. Orthodoxy in science, it is well-known, can stifle innovation, cover up results that militate against a standard theory and even so influence the process of observation that scientists mis-observe and mis-interpret observations in favour of the prevailing orthodoxy. The persecution of the unorthodox scientist, the enmity towards him or her and the orchestrated efforts to discredit both the person and the work are all aspects of the same process of mere rational thought. It is almost miraculous, given this, that science produces the wonderful creative advances that actually characterise its history – a history that is most often driven forward by the flexible creative plasticity of the innovating genius.

One can almost draw an analogy between the durability of scientific orthodoxy and the conservatism of species. The genome is like a persistent theory of the way things are to be done. This theory is incarnated in the animal concerned; and this theory will continue as a rigid orthodoxy until evolution, by whatever means it uses, accidental or not, alters the genome and the behaviour patterns of the creature. Some creatures – for example, the coelacanth – show astonishing conservatism. The creature was thought to be extinct until one was caught by a fisherman in a deep lake in Africa. Now it is called ‘a living fossil’. But this sort of conservatism is equally applicable to various beliefs, scientific or not. Old religious and magical practices persist; old theories of the universe persist. People go on believing and defending views of the world that have become difficult or impossible to defend. Even Richard Dawkins, who invented the word ‘meme’ to refer to persistent inheritable ideas, seems not to realise that in his popular writings he too is defending an outmoded and now indefensible view of the world. But that is what happens when the ego takes control of the intellect; and there are few better examples of an ego-controlled intellect than that of Dawkins. It almost seems that natural systems from bacteria to the human mind have two opposite tendencies built into them – the conservative tendency, self-protective and self-perpetuating, on the one hand, and the adventurous, risk-taking tendency that appears not to be afraid of simply giving in to the new and accepting it as a challenge from reality as such. The risk-takers have a kind of faith in their own experience of creativity, the conservatives, with their jealous regard for procedure, do not.

The methods of thought pronounced to be authoritative by the ego are not the only forms of repetition that it develops. The thing-ideology is also a kind of repetition. The naming of a thing is the first stage in the effort to control it. Then by defining and circumscribing it by means of more names, such that any further instances of that ‘thing’ will have all and only the properties given in the definition, the feeling of repetition is guaranteed. The combination of objectification, reification, and the ‘rules’ of reasoning are the principal means by which the thing-obsessed ego strives to wrap up the process of thought for all time and reduce it to a mechanism. The ego can simply not admit that the best products of the mind and the world it experiences are not under its control. It combats such an idea with the ferocity of a creature under attack. This kind of panic-stricken, sometimes paranoid urge to dominate is almost what the ego means by ‘thought’ or ‘rationality’ and constitutes the principal means by which all ‘irrationality’, ‘subjectivity’, ‘mysticism’ and suchlike heinous intellectual crimes are to be eradicated.

Rational thought, with its desire for repetition, control, objectification and so on, is the mechanical aspect of the mind and this mechanical aspect may well be entirely driven by purely mechanical processes in the brain. It is this mechanical kind of thought that pronounces that certain rules of logic are ‘rules of thought’, as if the rules of the mind were laid down in the nature of the universe. These so-called rules of thought are deemed to govern all legitimate mental operations; and hence by definition those mental operations that are not so governed are somehow illegitimate. The ego simply cannot admit that the rules of thought are invented by the self’s need for expression and therefore do not rule the intelligence of the self which invents them: the self, using equipment bestowed by evolution and following a similar biological compulsion to that which drives induction, made them up for its convenience and therefore it rules them rather than being ruled by them. The manner in which the intelligent self rules its own rules, so to speak, is by creating them in the first place in order to externalise its insight. It is strange that the ego wants to ground the rules of thought outside of itself, pretending, like many despots to be no more than the servant of something higher: the logic of reality itself. The intelligent self is above all rules, beyond all rules that it sets itself; and it sets itself rules because without them it can say nothing coherent. But in the saying, in the rule-generation, the means of speaking of ever more complex matters is vouchsafed to the self by a process that is not under its control, but which it enjoys or suffers, depending on your point of view.

This process can only be characterised as ‘creative’ and it is not, repeat not, the prerogative of the rational ego and its repetitive thought. The methods of the ego are pure midworld – that is to say they are linguistic phenomena. They consist in the drawing out of implications from existing formalism, existing theory, existing ‘knowledge’. They are the manipulation of the mechanical aspects of these formalisms. In these methods, midworld, mere language, has taken over hindworld, i.e. the self’s raw experience of reality, and has set itself up as the essential truth about foreworld – the realm of perceived objects. In so doing it has excluded altogether hyperworld – i.e. untamed reality as such. But this exclusion is in fact impossible. There is inevitably a hyperworld component in foreworld, hindworld and in midworld, since we, our world and our language are integral parts of a process that we use but do not grasp. Foreworld, hindworld and midworld each have an indeterminate component. That is the zone into which the intelligent self has as a birthright unimpeded access and from which the ego excludes itself by its dogmatism. It is the indeterminate hyperworld element in all three worlds that is the source of all novelty and therefore of the future. Hyperworld, which is essentially what Bohm means by his term the ‘holomovement’ is the locus, the essential ‘milieu’ of intelligence. It is here that new structure that is manipulated formally by thought emerges into what we call ‘reality’. It is here that the miraculous incarnation of intelligence first takes place. Rational thought that then follows is mere rationalisation of the products of intelligence.

We shall take a look at intelligence in a separate post where our fundamental premise will be that intelligence is not a product of evolution, but rather a fundamental and universal property of the essential processes of reality as such.