Monday, April 15, 2013

The Modern Fascination with the Brain: The Religion of Cranialism and Politics of Neurocracy

This new and thriving religion of "Cranialism," is the materialist's latest retreat into naturalistic reductionism. If the govt. seizes complete control of health care, then they can set their standards for "mental health". If the brain is merely a material organ--like the heart or lungs--then our ideas and emotions make be broken like legs or infected like teeth. Then the mental health doctors can define how a "normal" brain thinks and feels. And if your brain is declared "mentally dysfunctional" by the "professionals", that that sick brain must be treated and repaired according to their norms. I think part of the motive for millions of dollars being sunk into brain research has to do with a bio-social engineering approach to politics and culture.

I don't care if you are on the left or the right, as a Libertarian I don't want the govt. defining who is and is not mentally "healthy". When I told someone I was probably going to vote for Romney, she seriously blurted out, "Are you mentally ill?!" There you have it. Disagree with me, and you have a brain disease. Accusing someone of mental illness these days is the equivalent of ancient people accusing someone of demon possession or of being a witch. The moment the verdict is declared--demon possession or mentally ill--you are in need of treatment by the professional priests or psychiatrists.

As Thomas Szasz points out, mental illness is the modern version of the Inquisition. Put the govt. in control of DSM, and you have an updated version of the medieval Malleus Maleficarum. Once you are diagnosed as "not normal" according to the current orthodoxy, you can be fixed. At that point the dialogue goes from a healthy soul-making discussion of ideas to that of who has the healthy mental ideology. Shades of Russian, Chinese, Cuban and North Korean re-educational camps. And not that far from a form of religious theocracy--perhaps Statist Cranial Neurocracy.

I propose, from an archetypal perspective (or spiritual view), that the brain is merely the conduit of ideas and feelings that come to us, through us and only the, as us. We are conduits for images, ideas, emotions and eventual actions. My eogic interaction with their visiting perceptions allows "me" to interact with them, dialogue, reflect and assimilate or excrete them--like food. This is soul-making. This view sees the mind as independent of the brain (and perhaps other organs) prior to their interactions. I am NOT reduced to brain-organ.

I like to use this analogy for the hard core materialists: "Imagine that you could transport some primeval character, who had never seen a television or cell phone or any such technology, into a modern room with you. Then you turn on the flat screen TV monitor hanging on the wall, and there appears an image of Jimmy Fallon doing his monologue. Then you ask that ancient person where Fallon is located. He would likely say, 'He is a little person, inside that box.' And that is a very reasonable answer. But you reply, 'No, he is 500 miles (25 sunrises) from here in a place called Los Angeles.' The fellow replies, 'How is he getting into the box?' You respond, 'Well, there are invisible signals (images, voices, ideas) in the air entering this room. In fact, there are hundreds of such signals (images and sounds) all around us. We just need the right apparatus (mechanical circuitry in the box) to capture the signals (ghosts) and turn them into images that talk.'" Magic--invisible images and ideas appear in a little box.

In this analogy, of course the brain is our "television monitor" replete with amazingly intricate hard wiring and processive technology that allows us to capture the myriad signals in the air (Sheldrake'smorphic fields, Confortti's archetypal fields, Jung's little people dwelling in the Psychoid realm, Corbin's Mundus Imaginalis, Jesus' Kingdom of Heaven, etc.). Perhaps our personal daimon (see James Hillman's The Soul's Codecontrols the psychological remote control that chooses the particular configuration of channels we each receive for our personal soul-making experiences (akin to Keat's hornbook in his School of Soul-making). 

This analogy doesn't prove that there is consciousness apart from the brain. But it does illustrate that immaterial, or at least invisible to the naked human eyes and ears, signals do work in conjunction with the material monitor--transmitted by a kind of Hermes-like technology that translates and interprets from one realm to the other. Why then would it not be at least possible to have an amazingly complex material brain-monitor replete with 100 billion interconnected cells, chemical synapses, and an intra-somatic neural wiring system, etc., as well invisible signals we call consciousness in Mind, or Psyche co-operating with that brain?

When I share this in class, I always see someone gazing eerily and imaginally around the room as if conscious for the first time of the many imperceptible signals filling the air--as if realizing we live daily in the midst of audio and visual invisibles. 

This analogy fits in well with Barfield's/Steiner's anthroposophical "spiritual theories"--the notion that spectral messengers exist in the ethers, and may be"captured and translated" by a part of the mind. This akin to a theory by neurologist Andrew Newberg in his book Why God Won't Go Away. A growing group of so called neuro-theologian'snow talk about the "god-part" of the brain. 

We modern material reductionists may be quite ignorant, or as Bergman said in an interview about his movie Scenes from a Marriage: "We Westerner's are emotionally illiterate."

Another book that masterfully takes on this simplistic materialist view of consciousness is A Mind So Rare, by Merlin Donald. One reviewer said, "Merlin Donald takes on the role toward the study of the human mind that Gould, Lewontin, and Rose take toward the study of human evolution. He tries valiantly to bring us back from what he sees as the brink of an awful and unwarranted reductionism." Donald utilizes literature (art) as neglected data for brain/consciousness studies--especially the chapter titled "The Governor of Mental Life," and page 78 "A Literary View".

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