Since Descartes’ declared, ‘Cogito ergo sum,’ ‘I think. Therefore I am,’ the rational mode of consciousness has occupied a special, even preeminent position in Western cultures, almost to exclude other modes of knowing. What have we missed by cultivating only the rational mind? If you look at the ecology of biological systems, it becomes clear that monoculture – preferential cultivation of one thing to the exclusion of others – is neither a sustainable nor wise path to follow in either agriculture or thought. As Albert Einstein said, ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.’
1.4.1 The Ecology of Consciousness
By drawing analogies from biological systems’ ecology, we can establish some principles of the ‘Ecology of Consciousness.’ Survivability is a basic requirement of biological ecosystems, which is seen to depend, in part, on a multiplicity of life forms. In a meadow, there maybe six or seven different kinds of grasses. If a mutation of leaf mildew were suddenly to overcome the defenses of one of the varieties of grass and wipe it out, the meadow would not become barren because the other grasses, which were resistant to the mildew, would expand their ranges and fill in the ecological niches vacated by the vulnerable variety that was killed off by the mutated leaf mildew.
It is obvious from a study of the structure of consciousness that there are different modes of awareness that can grow in the mind’s meadows. However, since Descartes dreamed up science and declared, ‘Cogito ergo sum,’ the rational mode of consciousness has occupied a special (meaning preeminent) position in Western cultures, almost to exclude other modes of knowing. Edmund Husserl, the French phenomenologist, has attempted, through phenomenology, to restore intuitive modes of knowing to prominence. Still, until recently, the rational mind has been the focus of most Western education and has been the reigning force in the dominant scientific-technological world view. Just one form of consciousness has flourished in the meadows of the mind, and its dominance has been reflected in the monocultures of modern agricultural fields.
Instead of the stabilizing multiplicity of natural ecosystems, Western agriculture has promoted uniformity. Vast fields of single-crop species are maintained at a huge cost: plowing, cultivating, and spraying with plant and animal poisons to suppress all life forms but the chosen crop. In this disruption of natural ecosystems’ safety mechanisms, we are threatened with disaster; just as in the cultural suppression of the non-rational forms of consciousness and the encouragement of a monoculture of the mind, we are also threatened with cultural disaster. Only with a rational mind cut off from the guidance of feeling and intuition could Herman Kahn write his horrific yet eminently logical book, On Thermonuclear War.
Western agriculture has also carried monoculture to fantastic extremes. Not only is the attempt made to clear vast areas of all life forms other than the chosen crop, but also then the chosen crop is hybridized to produce millions of virtually genetically identical plants of that crop. With such a catastrophic decrease in variability, disaster predictably arrived. In 1970 a mutated variety of corn blight took advantage of the fact that a vast majority of all the corn planted in America had been standardized to have cells containing the T-type cytoplasm.
When the corn blight mutated to attack T-type cytoplasm, the food supply of much of the world was suddenly threatened. Fortunately, the mistake was quickly recognized, and the weather cooperated that year to keep the moisture dependent blight confined to about 10% of the corn crop. Government and private research facilities were then quickly given the task of reinstituting and maintaining the variability of the gene pools of important crops. Science Magazine began to publicize the dangers of shrinking gene pools. It published an article by Bonnell and Selander (1974) on ‘Elephant Seals: Genetic Variation and Near Extinction,’ which concluded: ‘…that the northern elephant seal, now lacking a pool of (genetic) variability with which to adapt to changing conditions, is especially vulnerable to environmental modification.’
The danger to our genetically restricted food crops was seen as so grave that even before President Richard Nixon’s opening to Communist China, there were hastily organized agricultural exchanges with the People’s Republic of China to expand the gene pools of important crops. But, regrettably, no government agency has been similarly concerned with the homogeneity of consciousness perpetrated by the dominant culture’s rational worldview. In fact, the near catastrophe in agriculture may be seen as a consequence of rational farming methods in a rational social, political, and economic climate in a rational culture created by rational minds. More recently, it has also been discovered that there is a similar problem looming large and growing rapidly that affects domesticated animals’ loss of diversity. It is not widely known that domesticated animal species are going extinct at a faster and more alarming rate than wild animals. Now wild animals are going extinct for reasons caused by humans. These include: (1) Overfishing, over-harvesting, or over-hunting; (2) Loss of habitat as humans encroach on the habitat and change it with urbanization, farming, deforestation, or desertification; and (3) Pollution, which renders the wild habitats unsuitable for wildlife and their normal feeding and reproduction activities.
Let us consider an example of how this is working with milk cows. You may know that breeds of milk cows include Jersey, Guernsey, and the Holstein. The Holsteins are those cows with big splotches of black and white fur on their hides. Unfortunately for the other breeds of cows, the Holsteins are the most prodigious milk producers of all time. A Holstein can produce 40% more milk per cow per year than the nearest competitor breed of cow.
Now consider two farmers with neighboring farms. One farmer milks Jerseys or Guernsey’s, and the other farmer milks Holsteins. They both have the same costs for taxes, barns, tractors, fuel, fertilizer, milking machines, and electricity. However, the Holsteins farmer is getting 40% more milk and 40% more money than his neighbor, milking Jerseys or Guernsey’s. And so rational economics is driving all the other breeds of cows to extinction because few farmers can afford a 40% cost disadvantage.
Now before your rational mind starts cheering with nonsense about ‘survival of the fittest,’ we need to note again that diversity promotes survival. There is a severe and possibly fatal flaw with breeding and milking Holsteins. Holsteins can only do their prodigious milk production feat by eating a high-energy diet of grain; they cannot do their milk-production feat by eating just grass or hay. However, Jerseys and Guernsey’s can make milk by eating only grass and hay. At present, there is enough grain to feed both people and Holstein cows, but what happens in times of famine? We know that even in periods of stable climate that there are periods of famine.
Now in the face of global warming and the profound changes that this will bring, including changing patterns of rain and drought, causing the oceans to rise over 300 feet (as the ice melts, the oceans will rise 100 meters), with consequential loss of much arable land, there may soon not be enough grain to feed both humans and Holstein cows. So we say goodbye to milk and butter and cheese and yogurt and ice cream. And why? Because the rational mind made choices that reduced diversity in the domesticated animals. And this problem is not limited to cows. It affects virtually every type of domesticated animal: pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, goats, sheep, llamas, yaks, water buffalo, etc. Once the number of breeds is sufficiently reduced, there is such loss of genetic diversity that disease or changes in the environment can much more easily wipe any species of domesticated animal off the face of the earth. Again the problem is the dominance of the rational mind, the dominance of rational thinking in controlling the fate of humanity and the fate of this planet.
There are really two issues here: the dominance of the ecosystems of consciousness by the rational mind and the innate competence of the rational mode compared to the other modes of knowing. It is one level of danger to depend upon a monoculture of the mind. Still, it is a greater danger if the chosen monoculture is not the best and most competent example of the many modes of consciousness.
We are joined by more than Arthur Deikman (1966a, b, c) and Duncan Blewett (1969) in believing that the mystical mode of knowing draws man closer to absolute truth than do the intellectual and rational modes. Ideally, for an ecology of consciousness, all modes should have a harmonious representation in the mind’s fields and forests. John of Ruysbroeck was a 14th-century Flemish mystic who is an example of mystical-intellectual balance. Evelyn Underhill (1974) has commented upon his wonderful mental harmony:
‘. . . Ruysbroeck was one of the few mystics which has known how to make full use of a strong and disciplined intellect, without ever permitting it to encroach on the proper domain of spiritual intuition. An orderly and reasoned view of the universe is the ground plan upon which the results have. . .
[spiritual] intuitions are set out: yet we are never allowed to forget the merely provisional character of the best intellectual concepts dealing with ultimate truth. Ultimate truth, says (Ruysbroeck), is not accessible to the human reasons: “the What-ness of God” we can never know. Yet this need not discourage us from exploring and describing as well as we can those rich regions. . . which await us beyond the ramparts of the sensual world. . . (Ruysbroeck) was. . . almost as well equipped on the intellectual (as on the contemplative) side: and hence was enabled to interpret to others, in language. . . something at least of the adventure of his spirit in the fathomless ocean of God.’
If we are to join in such adventures, we must have practice in setting aside the ‘merely provisional. . . intellectual concepts’ and we must, as Freud said, ‘. . . take the trouble to suppress (the) critical faculty.’ Freud was no friend of mysticism; indeed, that was the main reason for the ending of his friendship with Carl Jung, who wanted to explore the mystical world, which Freud did not. However, despite Freud’s reluctance to explore the mystical world, he did know that a whole inner world would open to our observations if rational (i.e., ratio, meaning comparison and evaluation) processes were suspended. The ‘Trust in the Heart Sutra of the Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen’ is an excellent teaching on suspending comparisons and evaluations in our thinking. We have seen how much suspension can lead to ego dissolution.
Ego dissolution is the goal of mystical practices in all cultures and leads reliably to mystical experiences. We are interested in such mystical experiences for many reasons. There is a priest or guru who acts as a conduit to altered reality (mystical experiences) for his or her followers in some spiritual traditions. The priest or guru sometimes requires that the followers surrender their personal will to his will, and then he provides transcendent experiences in return. As history has shown, there is much mischief that can accompany the follower’s submission to the will of the priest or guru, including psychological, sexual, and financial exploitation of the leader’s followers (e.g., Reverend Jim Jones, etc.).
Also, once the leader dies and is gone, the followers often have no further access to the higher states they craved and which the leader provided (e.g., Swami Muktananda, who had Shakti could throw his followers into advanced spiritual states by a wave of his hand, and yet after his death, they often had no further access to these advanced spiritual states which they craved.
Neurofeedback offers a better way. Neurofeedback is a profoundly democratizing influence in spiritual discovery since each trainee discovers and develops his or her own personal connection to the Divine, to the desired states of altered awareness, to mystical experiences. With neurofeedback training, each trainee allows their ego to dissolve to open more fully to their higher self and the ‘Divine Will.’ In Hymn of the Universe (1961) by Teilhard de Chardin, we see that:
Surrendering one’s own ego to the ego of another person (the spiritual leader) actually limits the individual’s growth, in part because the leader’s ego grows, and the total system of the leader plus follower does not diminish in total egoism. While the initial surrender by the ‘follower’ to the leader’s ego may lead to some growth of awareness in the follower relative to the follower’s original egoic state, this growth is limited by the inherent limitations of the leader and the leader’s ego. This is because the leader takes on the ego given up by the follower, so there is no reduction of ego in the total system of leader plus follower. Eventually, the leader’s ego grows to the point of sabotaging the growth of awareness of everyone in the system. Neurofeedback offers a better way. If, instead, the neurofeedback trainee diminishes his or her own ego in favor of his or her own ‘Higher Self,’ then the neurofeedback trainer who assists this process has successfully functioned as an assistant coach, whose primary mission is to establish effective communication between the trainee and the trainee’s ‘Higher Self,’ which is the head coach, and this had coach can best connect
the individual with the ‘Divine Awareness.’
There is still a role for leadership in spiritual exploration with neurofeedback. Still, this role becomes one of organizing and optimizing an individual’s spiritual experiences or a group rather than, as in the past, the leader being the source of spiritual experiences—also, the requirements for a leadership change. Rather than being based on evoking mystical experiences in their followers, leadership now requires wisdom and compassion in guiding the mystical experiences. The ‘followers’ now have the full ability to evoke on their own with the neurofeedback technology. This also means that the leader must lead with love rather than discipline, penalties, or punishment. These later negatives may have been useful, in a less enlightened past, with some spiritual children, but not now. The radiant being’s awakening through neurofeedback into a fuller understanding of the Divine source of the universe will only respect and gather around leaders whose central premise is love. Again from Chardin:
‘Reflecting. . . on the state of affairs which might evoke this new universal love in the human heart, a love so often vainly dreamed of, but which now leaves the fields of Utopia (meaning it ceases to be an unattainable utopian ideal) to reveal itself as both possible and necessary, we are brought to the following conclusion: that for men upon the earth, all the earth, to learn to
love one another, it is not enough that they should know themselves to be members of the same (species/race/nation/region/family,- the same) thing; in “planting” themselves they must acquire the (larger) consciousness (of the human collective awareness), without losing themselves (and their individual awareness and they must realize they are) becoming the same person. For there is no total love that does not proceed from, and exist within, that which is personal.’ And from Chardin’s, Hymn of the Universe:
‘The true self grows in inverse proportion to the growth of egoism. The element becomes personal only in so far as it becomes universal. [I] f the human particles are to become truly personalized under the creative influence of union, it is not enough for them to be joined together (in some random fashion), no matter how. Since what is in question is achieving a synthesis of centers, it must be center to center [heart to heart, mind to mind through love] and in no other way that they establish contact with one another. In other words, the [issue] to which all this leads is the [issue] of love.’
‘To be pure of heart means to love God above all things, and at the same time to see him everywhere in all things.
. . . Who then could fail to see that the effect of this contact with God must be to unify it to the innermost core of its being? Given a profound insight into the concept of collectivity (and collective awareness), we are bound to understand the term without any attenuation of meaning. [T]he stuffs of the universe does not achieve its full evolutionary cycle when it achieves [merely] consciousness; we are therefore moving on towards some new critical point (the Omega point). The noosphere (which is the envelope of consciousness around the Earth) becomes a single closed system in which each element (each person) individually sees, feels, desires, and suffers the same things as all the rest together with them.’
‘Thus we have a harmonized collectivity of consciousnesses which together make up a sort of superconsciousness; the earth is covered by myriads of grains of (individual) thought but enclosed in one single enveloping (collective) consciousness so that it forms, functionally, a single vast grain of thought on a sidereal scale of immensity, (in which) the plurality of individual acts of reflective consciousness (are) coming together and reinforcing one another in a single unanimous act, (which is the ignition or the awakening of the collective
human Super Consciousness.)’
‘Such is the general form in which, by analogy and in symmetry with the past, we are led scientifically to envisage that humanity of the future in which alone (i.e., this is the only way in which it is possible that) the terrestrial drives implicit in our activity can find a terrestrial fulfillment.’
Through my research into the ecology of the mind, I have learned that the mystical and intuitive modes of knowing draw man closer to absolute truth than do the intellectual and rational modes. The mystical and intuitive modes are certainly responsible for more inventions, creative insights, ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking, and problem- solving skills and abilities. In fact, for a healthy, robust, optimal ecology of consciousness, all modes of thinking, all ways of accessing information should have a harmonious representation in the fields and forests of the mind.
The fact is we have been ignoring a great deal of the knowledge and power that our brains have to offer us by living in a high beta state that involves alpha wave suppression. We drink caffeine and alcohol in our beverages, and many people use nicotine, all of which suppress alpha waves. We have largely ignored the state of consciousness that is the most creative at solving problems and hidden it away at the back of the closet shelf in favor of the rational mind, characterized by mostly beta brain waves. In this time of increasing planetary conflict, resource depletion, and, at least in the West, horrendous increases in medical costs due to anxiety and stress-related chronic illnesses, we must find a way to use ALL of our brains. Like Einstein said, ‘Problems can only be solved at a different level of awareness from where they were created.’
It’s time to learn how to access a more holistic, wise, and balanced knowledge discovery and problem-solving process. The technology and proven protocol for brain wave neurofeedback are available, and the results are impressive, as you will see from the examples in this book. Remember, ‘Alpha isn’t what you think.’