The Leap from Instinct to Self Awareness

As an experiment, while staying with my son at Cambridge, was he asked me two questions to be responded to by spontaneous voice. To me, the responses were so marked I want to record them as well as I can.  See Spontaneous Voice

The first question arose because we had been talking about what it was in humans that led them to be unaware of the possible wider life – the unconscious – they live in. This was not the exact question but it was certainly about the relationship between the conscious self and the unconscious.

The response was long, and I can only remember the highlights. I believe it started by stating that to understand one needed to know that it had to do with information gathering through the senses, and the way we responded or reacted to this. I will try to state it verbatim.

To understand this you need to realise that the brain works in certain ways. It is something like the brain running a computer program, like a set of responses. Or it can be like something flowing – a stream – which creates channels. So our responses to information gathered is that it runs or triggers a program or set of responses. Or the reaction flows in already created channels.

But there is something else. To explain this, to build a view of it I will have to go back to how humans developed, go back a long time.

Early life-forms had something like a program from which they responded to their environment in a manner to survive. This was a set of responses. One could also think of it as a limited repertoire, or set of repertoires which enabled the creature to survive. If something was not in its repertoire the organism could not respond. But the system was also an information gathering one, as this linked with survival and survival strategies.  The creatures lived in a completely different state of consciousness, one where they were in an ocean of awareness and instinctive information. See Brain Levels

There was a dramatic leap to another situation which was still survival based. Instead of being limited to a certain set of responses – the problem solving response function was able to do what we call dream. That is, it could experiment with situations, replay events in new ways, and try different responses. This produced a remarkable potential far beyond the actual survival needs. It was as if the process could play at life or creativity, erecting situations, forming events, trying out variety.

It was this potential beyond need which reshaped the body/brain, and was the ground out of which humans could emerge. Creatures could experience much more than they were limited to by their physical environment. (As I write this it leads me to the exciting thought that dreaming, daydreaming, imagination and fantasy, so extends ones range of experience, that one doubles or trebles ones life span, and becomes that much wiser or more experienced.)

With human beings, with the great information they could gather and manipulate in this ‘dreaming’ mode, a strange thing occurred. In the dreaming play or experiment with options, one option was posited which produced a whole new set of experiences and therefore the possibility of a way of gathering new information. Therefore the new option, which was one in which the wider awareness of the organism was shut out to allow a sense of individual existence, was guarded, held onto, isolated from the rest of awareness. It was like a small laboratory was walled off within a much larger structure to isolate the area within the smaller area. The other creatures who had not themselves developed this new option in the ‘dreaming’ were infected with it by those who had – just as ideas or moods are infective.

The barrier is very real, and is placed to prevent the disappearance of the isolated sense of self. It had to be isolated, because when exposed to the wider information held by the individual, it doesn’t compute. It is an unreal sense. There is no such thing as isolation or separation within the biological life process.

The barrier only goes down when the individual reaches a certain stage of maturity. I cannot remember what I said in detail for the reasons why this barrier must stay.

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