Article

The Brain, Engine of Creativity

1804l

Best selling New-Age author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) recently delivered a TED talk in which she called into question the role of the human mind in the creative process. In a disturbing broadside against “five hundred years of scientific humanism,” she called on her audience to accept the “psychological construct” of a kind of supernatural inspiration. Her thesis is that we have unduly burdened artists and killed their creativity by giving them both the credit and responsibility for it. She advocates a new relationship to creativity, one in which we accept that it comes from a ‘higher’ source.

Click.

What Gilbert is promoting is a New-Age variant of the old religious meme Giving God the Glory: This phrase permeates both the Old and New Testament. Aside from its sheer meaninglessness, what is really wrong with this idea? To discover a partial answer, we’ll examine Gilbert’s message.

But first, let’s look at the trend she’s riding. David Hume said, “reason is…the slave of the passions.” The boundless human passion to wallow in narcissism and subjective imprecision limits some people’s capacity for reason. It has also spawned a lucrative industry of pied-pipers promising “en-lite-enment.” The runaway success of authors such as Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle paved the way for Gilbert’s memoir, (her year of ‘seeking’ paid for with a generous publishing advance), and Rhonda Byrne followed up with The Secret. In general, these ‘gurus’ substitute wishing (Law of Attraction) for hard work, ego-denial for shadow integration, suppression of pain and a vague undefined ‘spirituality’ for deep self-awareness. Who can argue with their flowery Utopias of love, spirit, and community? Like sex and food, those are things we all need and want. But the road to fulfilling our desires is paved with setbacks and disappointments. From that reality there’s no escape, and the only defense is perseverance.

Let me be clear that this article is not a review of Eat, Pray, Love. I have not read that book and don’t plan to. This is a direct rebuttal to Gilbert’s TED talk only. But judging from her philosophical imprecision there, I’m certain Eat, Pray, Love contains an equal helping of vapid New-Age slop.

New-Age authors in general sell the masses on self-acceptance and living in the moment (code words for complacency) and become fabulously wealthy in the process. There’s something smarmy about making millions by telling the commoners to be happy with their pittance–or providing them with false hopes of magic material success. These books may make some people feel better about their circumstances, but they don’t make them better. True enlightenment only comes through great effort and study (Laws of Power, evolutionary psychology, history, and the like). Learning comes largely from mistakes, and wealth from providing valuable services. But the New-Age gurus paint a different picture, providing glib soporifics which lack depth and substance. Regardless, swept up in a torrent of Oprah-fueled social reinforcement, these books fly off the shelves and into the pop lexicon. They become unstoppable. If there was such a thing as a Ponzi scheme of philosophy, the New-Age would be it.

Many paths lead to this same sewer of confusion.

Giving God the Glory. Every such religious platitude which has been rejected by thinking people since the Enlightenment has a New-Age afterimage. These memes are so seductive to untrained minds that they mutate and multiply like pathogens, returning again and again to infect the zeitgeist. So it is with Gilbert. She knows she’s on shaky ground, so first she has to lower her audience’s defenses, especially a crowd as tough as TED. The best way to defeat logic is to evoke compelling feelings of sympathy. So Gilbert begins by discussing the angst faced by writers, and laments that they all seem to have suffered gravely for their art. She quotes Norman Mailer, who said in his last interview before his death that each of his books “killed him a little more.” Couldn’t we–she ponders–come up with a better “psychological construct” with which to view the creative process? And then she goes in for the sentimental kill:

In ancient Greece and ancient Rome, people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings, back then. People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant unknowable reasons. The Greeks famously called these…Daimons. Socrates famously believed that he had a Daimon who spoke wisdom to him from afar. The Romans had the same idea, but they called that sort of disembodied creative spirit a “genius.” The Romans did not actually think that a genius was a particularly clever individual. They believed that a genius was a sort of magical divine entity who was believed to live in the walls of an artists’ studio…who would come out and invisibly assist the artist with their work and shape the outcome of that work. So, brilliant, there’s that distance right there, that psychological construct that I’m talking about to protect you from the results of your work…So the ancient artist was protected from too much narcissism, if your work was brilliant, you couldn’t take all the credit for it…if your work bombed–not entirely your fault…

This is clearly argument from consequence. Gilbert laments the artist’s pain, and then attempts to revert to a dualist pre-scientific understanding of the mind in a vain effort to lower the stakes. But to do so, she mounts a wholesale attack on the Enlightenment.

…and then the Renaissance came and everything changed and we had this big idea, and the big idea was: “let’s put the individual human being at the center of the universe,” above all gods and mysteries, and there’s no more room for mystical creatures who take dictation from the divine and its the beginning of rational humanism, and people started to believe that creativity came completely from the self of the individual, and for the first time in history you start to hear people start referring to this or that artist as “being” a genius rather than “having” a genius. And I gotta tell you I think that was a huge error. I think that allowing somebody, like one mere person to believe that he or she is the vessel, the fount, and the essence and the source of all divine creative unknowable eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the Sun. It completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think that the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last five hundred years.

Gilbert wants it both ways. Rational humanism says there are no gods or divine unknowable mysteries. Humanism sets aside the spirit world and says that the human brain _is_ the source of inspiration, not some kind of conduit. It’s not that we are attributing creativity to the brain, it’s that science has discovered that the brain _is_ the source of all thought. It’s not a construct, it’s reality. Even an artist who feels the “presence” of a daimon or a genius is actually experiencing and describing in metaphor the powerful pattern-matching and sorting mechanisms of their own brain. This understanding actually adds to the creative process. Gilbert has no standing whatsoever to smear five hundred years of scientific awareness, nor to devalue artists’ struggles. The sheer hubris of her stance demonstrates the very narcissism she disparages.

Can we go back to some more ancient understanding about the relationship between humans and the creative mystery? Maybe not, maybe we can’t just erase five hundred years of rational humanistic thought in one eighteen minute speech. There’s probably people in this audience who would raise legitimate scientific suspicions about the notions of basically fairies who follow people around rubbing fairy juice on their projects. I’m not probably going to bring you all along with me on this. But the question I want to pose is “Why not?” Why not think about it this way? Because it makes as much sense as anything else I’ve ever heard in terms of explaining the utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process–a process which as everyone who’s ever tried to make something knows does not behave rationally and can sometimes feel paranormal.

What an anti-intellectual rant that was! Gilbert acknowledges the scientific objections as legitimate, then dismisses them in the same breath. Then on to her special pleading, probably the most egregious example of it I’ve ever seen: “It makes as much sense as anything else I’ve ever heard.” Could you get a more textbook example of an anti-science mentality than that little gem? And she’s just getting started. I recommend you watch the whole speech to see someone rather masterfully lead an audience down the primrose path of subjectivity and sentimentality. It’s nothing short of a sermon, an exhortation against reason and knowledge, an impassioned paean to subjectivity, fantasy, and “God” as the source for all human artistic brilliance.

And she got a standing ovation. OK, what’s going on here? The audience was mesmerized by an incredibly charismatic and successful author spinning a yarn about “transcendence.” A group of whip-smart people who pay $6,000 a year to be eligible to attend the most exclusive TED conferences were transfixed by a modern-day preacher. They got caught up in the moment because they did not realize they were attending a 20 minute New-Age revival meeting. And they obediently chanted “Allah, Ole” at the end.

In the interest of fairness, let me just say that I am a huge fan of TED. The vast, overwhelming majority of the speakers are great thinkers and world-changers. But every once in a while, the shadow of TED rears its ugly profile. What would that shadow look like? Elitism, self-congratulation, pseudo-science, narcissism, and yes, gullibility. No one I’ve yet seen typefies this ugly side of TED more than Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’m frankly disgusted by her saccharine nonsense, and I’m not the only one.

But enough about what’s wrong. What can we rationally say about the creative process in human terms? Two words, skill and editing. Every human brain has an unconscious mind which is an endless fount of creativity. Every person from the time they are a young child generates a vast stream of thoughts and images in random associations. The most prolific examples are dreams, but daydreams can sometimes be just as vivid.

Why do some people seem to burst with ideas and others experience a crippling writer’s block? Books have been written on this phenomenon. But the most important characteristic of any creative person is a sense of freedom to express any creative idea without reservation. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes this as “getting past the censor.” Marvin Minsky discusses inner “censors and critics” as functional blocks within the human brain. They are both friend and foe, but an inseparable part of who we are.

Artists must get into dialog with their critics and censors, and thereby develop the ability to definitively choose which ideas to pursue further and which to leave behind. It becomes first a question of individual aesthetic, then a weighing out of how the given idea fits the style in which the artist is working, and how it will be received by its intended audience. This is a constant process of elimination. The most creative people are the ones who can effectively tame the wild imagery boiling over from their unconsicous by quick selection and decisive expression. Artists’ pain is virtually defined by the degree to which they vacillate. A great song about this process is Geddy Lee’s Working at Perfekt.

The torment of vacillation is compounded exponentially by the direct impact wrong choices can have on an artists’ career. Artistic success can be as terrifying as obscurity. A taste of fame can permanently warp a person’s aesthetic by encouraging conformity with accepted modes of expression. Trying to top one’s own success can be paralyzing. Putting out ones work before critics, not to mention a fickle and distracted public, is an act of utter humiliation. The thin-skinned need not apply.

The ability to create art both great and trivial seems to be a feature of generalized intelligence and an integral part of what it means to be human. To externalize this process onto supernatural personalities is to devalue ourselves. To attempt to divorce art from struggle would be to strip it of its incredible power. Personally, I want artists to bleed over their creations. There’s a certain nobility in this suffering. Gilbert can try to insulate herself from the pain by pretending she’s not in control of the process. But this line of thinking is dangerous and seductive and cheapens the whole enterprise.

As Buddha said, life is suffering, and this applies to the artist even more than most. We have flashes of brilliance in our youth, then eventually our brains become calcified and we die. This is the subject of the song Losing It, and the backdrop against which all artistry is measured. It is a testament to profound grace that we humans are willing to stand up and create at all–for better or worse. The very process and experience of creativity could be as close to a higher purpose as we humans will ever know. We aren’t inspired by gods to create, we rather become gods to the extent we direct our own creative fire. And the risk, potential for fame, and the possibility of failure are all contained within every brush stroke or keystroke. We cannot reduce risk without destroying the result. Art is not just careful aesthetic choices made _by_ artists, but careful selection by the audience _of_ artists. To find one great, a hundred lesser artists might not make the cut. Consumers get the benefits of all this competition and brutality, which bears striking parallels to natural selection.

Art is by its very definition fraught with pain and struggle. Far from being frivolous–as we artists “birth” our ideas into the world–it is a serious, nerve-racking, and terrifying business and always will be. For we hold in our hands nothing less than the creative tension between life and death.


Comments (50 comments)

Amaterasu / February 16th, 2009, 10:37 am / #1

GIMMICK Gimmick, faux humilty, cutesy pie bargain basement new age gimmicks.
Endearing herself to the audience by suggesting she is afraid of seaweed (cutesey pie), she asks "is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work they feel that they were put on this earth to do?". So it is passive, as she has been "put", and is "expected" to be afraid, (sounds familiar). It's a false dichotomy; there is no one expecting you to be afraid. I you're afraid, you choose what to do with it.
You can decide if your fear is rational or logical.
For example, your book is a number 1 best seller, you are rolling in cash, Oprah has her clones out there ripping your book off the shelves, the bank balance is rising, you're flat out spinning yarns to keep the sales momentum up, and you are afraid? Well I am to going to belittle someones fears, but if it were a genuine fear and not just a gimmick to fill 20 minutes on TED, perhaps she'd be spending some of that cash on therapy.

It's just like if someone loses alot of weight; they get people saying, "aren't you afraid you'll just put it all back on again and then some?". Would we recommend the dieter invite the faeries in the walls to come and take responsibility for maintaining the new weight?

I am reluctant to give credence to the stereotype that writers and artists are "alcoholic manic depressives" and refuse her subtle and insidious suggestion that this is the only option for the struggling artiste.
Any alcoholic worth their label can't put together anything more than a messy poem between hangovers, or a paragraph that will never connect to another paragraph.

End of paragraph.

Cheers.

Modusoperandi / February 16th, 2009, 3:13 pm / #2

Okay, I see what you're saying but…
Sometimes, the artistic urge, the spark, that thingcomes from somewhere else. The muse may very well come from some place in my brain (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), but that place isn't one that I normally have access to. That part of my brain, and it's a little bizarre to write about, is not "me". The "I" that I am is not the "I" that feeds me the bits and pieces, the spark, the
something that "I" see when rereading things that "I" have written that came from that place. Seriously, it's like reading something that someone else wrote, and whoever that someone in my head who isn't me is, I'd like to meet that "me" and buy the two of us a beer.
As an example: I wrote this. The muse gave the first part to me one line, one "bit" at a time, in no particular order. The "I" that I am wrote the latter part. They're two completely different stories, in two different styles, on the same theme. The latter part is good (and that's mostly through neurotic tweaking vice inspiration, to the point that when it was done, I could recite it from memory. I could also recite the first part from memory, but that came from trying to put the "bits" in the correct order, with the right rhythm), but the first part isgold.

BlackSun / February 16th, 2009, 5:12 pm / #3

Modusoperandi,

Good stuff. I think that you're right there are multiple personas at work. People used to categorize these as some sort of external "spirit," but now we understand that they can co-exist inside of one brain. It's not just people with multiple personality disorder but all of us who have different characters at the "table" of our identity.

Learning to identify and get into dialog with those characters is important for understanding our motivations. A Jungian therapist I worked with a number of years ago described it as a council table, with the "I" as the king at the head of the table. But sometimes, other characters come forward to take over as the "I," and that's when you get Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type personality changes. And those are just the sub-personalities in the conscious mind. There's also sub-conscious and even unconscious identities. The unconscious is linked more to broader human archetypes.

I'm looking forward to the day when psychology catches up to neurology, and some of this can be studied empirically. Right now it's all theoretical. But when you think about it, the brain is composed of modules which have different functions, it's not too much of a stretch to think that some of those could be the seat of a different identity.

Ron C. de Weijze / February 18th, 2009, 6:54 pm / #4

The multiple un/sub conscious personalities seems to me no more than a metaphor. What is at stake here, is understanding of a situation that will not have a breakthrough (in the writers-block) if you do not have the right perspective on things. And once you accidentally run into it, you need pen and paper quickly. It is exactly as I have worked for 25 years now: catching all those valuable facts and ideas when they present themselves. Question is, what do you do with them after that?!

BlackSun / February 20th, 2009, 7:07 am / #5

I totally agree about capturing inspiration. And I think it's more about a general creative disposition like you said.

Even if one day you have a fantastic idea and can't write it down, you'll have an equally good (if slightly different) idea on another day. I think that this idea of "lost inspiration" is kind of an artist's superstition. Because if an idea is that good, why wouldn't it be persistent? I think of things all the time that I don't write down, and then develop the idea more later. It might gestate for a year and then come out one day.

But that's me. Everyone has their own process. Broad self-actualization and a life of engagement and challenge create the fertile field for creativity.

BlackSun / February 16th, 2009, 4:59 pm / #6

One thing Gilbert is right about is that creative people like her do face certain pressures: One of them is the puffery she must feel. Aside from any fear she may or may not feel, she also has to deal with the false sense of infallibility that comes along with legions of adoring fans. I know that was a problem for my parents, and I think it's there to some degree with every celebrity. How do you engage in the proper introspection when you've been placed on such a pedestal?

BlackSun / February 16th, 2009, 4:59 pm / #7

One thing Gilbert is right about is that creative people like her do face certain pressures: One of them is the puffery she must feel. Aside from any fear she may or may not feel, she also has to deal with the false sense of infallibility that comes along with legions of adoring fans. I know that was a problem for my parents, and I think it's there to some degree with every celebrity. How do you engage in the proper introspection when you've been placed on such a pedestal?

Amaterasu / February 16th, 2009, 10:41 am / #8

GIMMICK Gimmick, faux humility, cutesy pie bargain basement new age gimmicks.
Endearing herself to the audience by suggesting she is afraid of seaweed (cutesey pie), she asks "is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work they feel that they were put on this earth to do?". So it is passive, as she has been "put", and is "expected" to be afraid, (sounds familiar). It's a false dichotomy; there is no one expecting you to be afraid. I you're afraid, you choose what to do with it.
You can decide if your fear is rational or illogical, and there are qualified people to help you.
For example, your book is a number 1 best seller, you are rolling in cash, Oprah has her clones out there ripping your book off the shelves, the bank balance is rising, you're flat out spinning yarns to keep the sales momentum up, and you are afraid? Well I am not going to belittle someones fears, but if it were a genuine fear and not just a gimmick to fill 20 minutes on TED, perhaps she'd be spending some of that cash on therapy.

It's just like if someone loses alot of weight; they get people saying, "aren't you afraid you'll just put it all back on again and then some?". Would we recommend the dieter invite the faeries in the walls to come and take responsibility for maintaining the new weight?

I am reluctant to give credence to the stereotype that writers and artists are "alcoholic manic depressives" and refuse her subtle and insidious suggestion that this is the only option for the struggling artiste.
Any alcoholic worth their label can't put together anything more than a messy poem between hangovers, or a paragraph that will never connect to another paragraph.

End of paragraph.

Cheers.

Tyler / February 16th, 2009, 10:26 pm / #9

As usual, Blacksun, you're eloquence leaves me humbled.

When I sit down to write, I always tell myself it's time to do battle with my brain. No external daimons. The only daimons that exist are my thoughts, both the intrusive ones and the inspirational ones. Gilbert's "Why not" equivocation is bizarre, not merely offensive- why believe the sun is over 1 million km in diameter instead of believing it's the size of a dime, as it looks?

Because we know stuff about the sun. Same with the brain. What cave has Gilbert been living in?

When I'm writing I am rarely in control. Because, as has been said, our brain is manifold. It's a bunch of committees having meetings, and sometimes these committees forget to tell the other committees what they've decided. The outcome is, for one example, Mr. Bumble, Fagen, and Oliver Twist. Those characters were the result of Mr. Dickens' neurological committees trying to come to some conclusion. Us writers end up as the arbiters of these differing points of view. Why Gilbert is not interested in these psychological processes leaves me a little sad for her, yet also without sympathy.

BTW, Blacksun, if you're interested in some hubris the size of Elizabeth Gilbert times 10, watch, if you dare, Rick Warren's TED talk. A thing to behold. :)

BlackSun / February 20th, 2009, 6:59 am / #10

Tyler,

Thanks!

You describe exactly the absurdity of the factual relativism preached by the New Age. That kind of thinking has been tried before, and the results were really, really bad.

I'll check out the Rick Warren talk.

I really think someone needs to open the eyes of the TED people. There's so much right about their organization, but then they have speakers like Warren, Gilbert, or even Karen Armstrong (who got the TED prize for her idea to make religions more humanistically palatable–a shaky endeavor at best).

darkeros / February 17th, 2009, 5:03 pm / #11

It is tragic that this woman has taken a sophisticated meme, which the Greeks created understanding the complexity of working with the psyche, and simplistically distills it down to… 'fairy dust'. They would be rolling in their graves. Shame on her! And just to assuage her own 'guilt', her own inflation over getting rich and famous. Sorry, baby… you are going to have to face the dark face of that reality in your nightmares if you don't directly deal with it.

Great piece, Sean

Ron C. de Weijze / February 20th, 2009, 12:03 pm / #12

Hi BlackSun, glad you agree. What you describe I would label "multiple perspectivism". You see the same thing reappearing and giving you inspiration from a somwhat different angle. So it is both up to you to re-use ideas when your perspective changes and it is up to the 'thing in itself' to force a kind of object-oriëntation upon you. I think (and have a philosophy) that the combination of these two mechanisms is what keeps us conscious and bright.

Tyler / February 20th, 2009, 10:05 pm / #13

Following up on what darkeros says- that Gilbert should face her shadow- does anyone else get the feeling that these light-and-love types are uncommonly angry people? I know when I was an angry kid I smiled, laughed and joked more than what is normal (and I fooled no one) all in an attempt to show how in control I was. Seems to me Gilbert, Eckhart Tolle, and all these types are violently overcompensating. But maybe it's something else.

I simply can't understand why someone would run to these people and their books to explore human spirituality, and not "King Lear", or Samuel Beckett's plays. "King Lear" and Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" are spiritual masterpieces, mostly because they deal with something approaching Jung's shadow.

Reading/watching Lear's conversation with Tom o Bedlam is as close to enlightenment as I've ever come!

heather / February 21st, 2009, 8:53 pm / #14

I had thought that you were being a bit harsh and that she was just describing some mental technique for focussing her own creative process. Then I watched the Ted video….
The self-congratulation and the name-dropping and faux-rapport for the audience would have had me grinding my teeth, by themselves.. The soppy reduction of powerful ancient metaphors into new age horseshit just added a whole new dimension of absurdity.

michael / February 22nd, 2009, 10:12 pm / #15

This rebuttal of Ms Gilbert (a) argues that creativity in the arts comes from some combination of the unconscious mind (sometimes dreams and daydreams), personal skill and editing; (b) does not explain the abilities of prodigies; and (c) implies (incorrectly in my view) that creativity, as well as dreams, solely derives from within the physical confines of the artist's head.

Although, much creativity derives from within an artist's head, the metaphysical phenomena suggested by Ms Gilbert certainly contributes. Individuals who personally have (not) had “metaphysical experiences” will (not) agree with the previous sentence.

Examples of “metaphysical experiences” include (a) a vision or dream of an event, personal encounter or danger which subsequently occurred; or (b) a dream involving involving an acquaintance and later during a conversation with that friend, discovering that the friend shared the same dream with you, or (c) a vision or dream that an acquaintance or relative was in danger, and subsequent discovery that such was true.

To those who have not had such experiences, I can only suggest that you privately and individually ask 20 or so acquaintances if they ever had such experiences. You should discover that 1/5 to 1/3 of those you ask indeed have had such.

BlackSun / February 22nd, 2009, 10:30 pm / #16

michael,

Neural correlates of consciousness are well established. Absent proof of an alternate metaphysical reality, the "experiences" you describe must be acknowledged to come from the brain. This includes dreams and visions.

Precognition is not possible, (due to free will and lack of sufficient information about likelihood of random events) so people's experience of it can be chalked up to confirmation bias as follows: Fear of danger can be a rational response. If the fear is realized, you would call it pre-cognition. But evolution favored people who could take in information about threats, sense and anticipate danger, so we humans have that skill highly developed. On the other hand, if you fear something and it never comes to pass (the most common scenario) you don't take note of it as being "uncanny" (unless it actually happens). This "counting the hits and ignoring the misses" is a very popular delusion.

The phenomenon of "parallel dreams" is weak, anecdotal, and impossible to verify. Another popular delusion. Personal experience is not evidence.

michael / February 23rd, 2009, 12:18 am / #17

**Neural correlates of consciousness are well established.
Agreed that a correlation exists. Neural correlates with the subconscious and superconscious also exist. A good reference on this point is 'Zen and the Brain' by James Austin

**Absent proof of an alternate metaphysical reality, the "experiences" you describe must be acknowledged to come from the brain.
I see no reason to acknowledge such. You would characterize the brain as a highly sophisticated computer. I would describe the brain as also a radio receiver for the metaphysical signals which also become inputs to the computer.

**Precognition is not possible, ……
Your arguments for this are not convincing in my view.

**The phenomenon of "parallel dreams" is weak, anecdotal, and impossible to verify. Another popular delusion. Personal experience is not evidence.
Personal experience is evidence, the value of which we obviously differ upon, but certainly not scientific proof.

You probably are one of the majority of persons who have not had metaphysical experiences. Thus, as noted in my post, I would not expect you to concur with the views of those who have. Given the lack of scientific proof, I can only suggest that you undertake the survey I suggested.

BlackSun / February 23rd, 2009, 3:27 am / #18

I would describe the brain as also a radio receiver for the metaphysical signals which also become inputs to the computer.

This is an object lesson in the hubris of the New Age. This whopper of a statement is presented with absolutely no evidence or even an explanation of how it might function. And all of modern science, biology and neurology is dismissed in favor of a non-descript "radio transmitter." Sorry, I can't respect that line of thinking.

You probably are one of the majority of persons who have not had metaphysical experiences.

Actually, you are woefully misinformed. I grew up in a New Age cult where everyone had those experiences. I was a minister for seven years and vice president of the cult. My mom was the cult leader, and later confided in me and others that she did not possess the spiritual sight she claimed. Though thousands "experienced" the "light" of her dictations, they clearly originated in her mind, as I often heard fragments of her prior conversations in her messages, or she used them for political or self-aggrandizing purposes. You are way out of your depth to accuse me of having no "metaphysical expereinces," sir. I have not only had them, I have experienced what it's like to be in the center of a mass delusion.

I've also been debating New Agers for many years now. When people whip out the "radio receiver" argument, it means they are conceding they can't prove their point, falling back on outmoded dualism, and shifting the burden of proof. We will get no further in this discussion.

michael / February 23rd, 2009, 4:17 am / #19

*** I have not only had them, I have experienced what it's like to be in the center of a mass
***delusion. I've also been debating

Metaphysical experiences are not simultaneously shared by large numbers of persons, so based on the admissions of your mother that you mention, your childhood experiences were mass delusional, rather than metaphysical. A good book to read is 'Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change' by Conway and Siegelman, which discusses several instances of mass delusion, but leaves open the possibility of individual metaphysical experience.

**** When people whip out the "radio receiver" argument, it means they are conceding they *****can't prove their point, falling back on outmoded dualism, and shifting the burden of ****proof.

Neither of our positions are scientifically proven or provable today. Although you certainly disagree, I believe enough evidence exists to make my view plausible and, for me and a significant minority of others, believable

Also, I am curious what your definition of 'New Agers' is. I again urge to do the survey and
consider the two references I have suggested

BlackSun / February 23rd, 2009, 5:07 am / #20

Again, the example is meaningless. Personal experiences do not constitute any kind of evidence, scientific or otherwise. I don't care if every person on earth reported the same experience. Until such time as an objective observer could verify or measure with instruments the existence of the alternate metaphysical reality, it would not be proven to exist.

You attempt to place the proposition P = "there is an alternate metaphysical reality that causes or contributes to consciousness" and Q = "all human consciousness is caused by the brain" on an equal footing by claiming that neither is scientifically provable today. They are not equal. All, and I mean all the peer-reviewed evidence points to the physical seat of consciousness. When parts of the brain are damaged or destroyed, so are the corresponding functions. Well, you might say, the receiver for those functions was destroyed. Possibly but highly improbable. Occam's razor and all that jazz. So I'll concede that there's possibly a million to one chance that our brains might be radio receivers of some kind. But you as the claimaint have the burden to show how it works and demonstrate how you know it to be true.

If you want to argue the point scientifically, you've got a mountain of work to do. You need observation, theory, experiment and proof. Otherwise it's just argument from personal experience or belief.

My definition of "New-Agers" is the category loosely self-identified as "spiritual not religious." They essentially believe in all the supernatural trappings of religion, but often without authority figures. They believe in one or more of the following: physical effects of negative and positive energy, crystals, homeopathy, astrology, Mayan calendar, law of attraction, spooky action at a distance, coincidences, remote viewing, precognition, mediumship, channeling, etc.

Essentially they are metaphysical dualists who bristle at any request for proof, then shift that burden of proof onto any scientifically-minded person they encounter.

I might take a look at your book suggestions. But if they don't contain peer-reviewed evidence, what's the use? Do they?

michael / February 23rd, 2009, 6:21 am / #21

**** Personal experiences do not constitute any kind of evidence, scientific or
**** otherwise.
That is a false assertion. Humans and animals use personal experience as evidence to
guide their subsequent behavior. This is especially true for children and young animals.

**** Until such time as an objective observer could verify or measure with
**** instruments the existence of the alternate metaphysical reality,
*** it would not be proven to exist.
Nor proven that it does not exist.

**** All, and I mean all the peer-reviewed evidence points to the
**** physical seat of consciousness.
This is a false assertion. Please provide readers of this discussion
with references to support this claim

**** When parts of the brain are damaged or destroyed, so are the
**** corresponding functions.
Not totally true. Under some circumstances, healthy parts of the brain and take up up the slack for injured parts.

**** If you want to argue the point scientifically, you've got a mountain of work to do.
I have provided suggested references–this is the best one can do in an
internet exchange of messages.
You have not provided readers of this discussion any references to support your claims.

**** Otherwise it's just argument from personal experience or belief.
There is nothing inherently wrong with such argument. Your arguments read as having being derived from your personal beliefs, rather than your knowledge of peer-reviewed studies..

**** My definition of "New-Agers" is the category loosely self-identified ….
In your mind, to be a new-Ager, must an individual believe in only a single one of the items you list ?

**** I might take a look at your book suggestions.
**** But if they don't contain peer-reviewed evidence, what's the use? Do they?
They do, but this is much less important than you suggest,
since the scientific "truths" derived from peer-reviewed research
evolve over time as more and better research
becomes available.

Finally, you seem fearful to perform the survey I suggested. Why ?

BlackSun / February 23rd, 2009, 6:36 am / #22

You're equivocating. I'm referring to empirical evidence and you know it. I'm not going to run all over the internet finding citations because you declare I have the burden of proof. We don't prove negatives, that's not how this works. And no, I'm not scared of any such survey results which would always be subjective, anecdotal and therefore completely meaningless.

It was clear from the beginning you weren't interested in an honest discussion, only to validate (and fail to empirically defend) your supernaturalist feelings. Fail.

michael / February 23rd, 2009, 7:16 am / #23

**** You're equivocating.
No I am not

*** I'm referring to empirical evidence and you know it.
Asserting what you believe I know is quite a metaphysical act for someone who dismisses the metaphysical.

*** I'm not going to run all over the internet finding citations because you
****declare I have the burden of proof.
I have provided references for my position.
I asked you to provide evidence for your assertion about the weight of scientific evidence. Readers of this thread will justifiably dismiss your arguments if you fail to do this.

**** We don't prove negatives, that's not how this works.
You were asked to provide supporting evidence for a *positive* assertion you made.

**** And no, I'm not scared of any such survey results which would always be subjective,
**** anecdotal and therefore completely meaningless.
Then you should at least undertake the survey so you appreciate how many persons disagree with you. Also, your discussions with others about their personal experiences might help modify your perspective.

At this point readers of this thread are much less likely to sympathize with your position.

LasraelLarson / February 23rd, 2009, 5:56 pm / #24

At this point readers of this thread are much less likely to sympathize with your position.

At this point I am thinking, what a fucking douchebag, and I am not referring to Sean.

What the fuck is with all the asterisk's? There aren't any footnotes at the end of your posts.

michael / February 27th, 2009, 1:42 am / #25

Anyone who follows the link from TED.com to this site should be now be most unimpressed by the quality of the postings at this site of Sean and his sympathizers.

BlackSun / February 24th, 2009, 12:44 am / #26

This is a textbook New Age response: Disagree, refuse to provide evidence, assert relativism "you can't prove it one way or the other," argue from personal experience, shift burden of proof, accuse holders of the scientific viewpoint of being "afraid of the truth," or "not being open-minded." Finally, they become "concern trolls" saying that they're concerned that no one will listen to your point of view. I spell most of this out in the comment policy.

He named a couple of books, but failed to cite any passages which would provide actual evidence for his position. On the other hand, we materialists have the entire scientific, AI and neurology community in near unanimous agreement. Still the dualists insist on ignoring the facts, wheezing out their self-serving obfuscation to avoid reaching the inevitable conclusions they dislike. A couple of decades from now, when AI's routinely outdo humans on cognitive tasks, maybe the dualists will have to either give up or find some new arguments. I'm not holding my breath.

Textbook. Wingnuts and global warming deniers use similar tactics with minor variations.

michael / February 27th, 2009, 1:47 am / #27

** He named a couple of books, but failed to cite any passages which would provide actual
** evidence for his position.
Correct, but not significant

** On the other hand, we materialists have the entire scientific,
** AI and neurology community in near unanimous agreement.
This thread lacks any references supporting this assertion

Tyler / February 27th, 2009, 2:29 am / #28

I'm a little torn- people like Michael fascinate me, mostly because I don't understand how they think. But I'd like to understand, for a reason I can't quite explain. (I'm also currently writing a story with a character displaying similar defense mechanisms against the Bloody Obvious as he's displayed.)

But I'm torn. Sometimes I feel trying to understand people like Michael is a Sisyphusian endeavor. I hope that comes across as intended: I'm not preening my nails or anything, or patting myself on the back. Or maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill- maybe he, and others like him, are in fact fear-based and that's it, no further mystery.

That's why Black Sun Journal has been a real boon to me- it's helped me understand a little more about this side of human psychology. But I still sometimes feel in the dark when faced with people like Michael, and I find it frustrating, because I don't know what they WANT.

Heh. Sorry. Didn't mean to hijack the thread, but this has been a thorn in my side for a long, long while.

BlackSun / February 27th, 2009, 3:52 am / #29

I don't understand how they think.

It goes something like this: Select desired conclusion, ignore overwhelming evidence, grasp at straws of anything that might cast doubt on knowledge or conventional wisdom, declare any minute gaps or weaknesses in current theory to be incontrovertible evidence of the opposite.

For example, creationist trope: "everything couldn't have come from nothing, therefore the Abrahamic God created it."

In the case of mind-body dualism, since we haven't fully explained consciousness, it must come from an external spiritual source, and could not be brain-generated. Pure bluster.

What I most object to is the certainty. Scientists never declare certainty. But rather they state what is known and refrain from commenting on the unknown until sufficient observation allows theory and experiment to offer testable explanations for their observation.

Evidently, some people's brains just aren't satisfied with the discipline and patience required for that process. The reliance on personal subjectivity is a combination of hubris and petulance with a touch of solipsism. Turning Descartes maxim on its head, "I think, therefore the world is."

sja / February 28th, 2009, 10:21 pm / #30

Readers of this thread would be most interested in the following web site:

http://www.scientificexploration.org/council.html

Anna / March 1st, 2009, 3:37 pm / #31

I have read the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' and part of it focusses on Gilbert's time living at the Siddha Yoga ashram in India. Gilbert paints a pretty, rosy portrait of the ashram and of 'Gurumayi', the supposed Living Saint who runs the show (nowadays from a distance).____Gilbert's experience at the ashram was overwhemlingly positive

AnnaL / March 1st, 2009, 3:58 pm / #32

This is not my full comment! Having trouble posting the whole thing, will try agan later.

AnnaL / March 1st, 2009, 6:40 pm / #33

I have read the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' and part of it focusses on Gilbert's time living at the Siddha Yoga ashram in India. Gilbert paints a pretty, rosy portrait of the ashram and of 'Gurumayi', the supposed Living Saint who runs the show (nowadays from a distance).

Gilbert's experience at the ashram was overwhemlingly positive; yet by the time the book was published, numerous disciples had come forward with emotional acounts of psychological abuse at the hands of Gurumayi herself as well as physical & other abuses by various ashram staff in positions of power.

So many people were hurt by things that happened in Siddha Yoga and the continuing refusal of its leader, Gurumayi to acknowledge and make amends for the wrongs done. Yet Gilbert still happily appears on Oprah, selling a book that disseminates the teachings of Siddha Yoga apparently without concern for the victims of that cult; only interested in her own pleasant feelings of 'light and love'.

AnnaL / March 1st, 2009, 6:40 pm / #34

Most of Gilbert's 'insights' are evolved from the Hindu-based teachings of Gurumayi. Gilbert does not think critically but cultic-ally (!) As in most cults, the overt & covert instruction is that we should not think. Instead, empty of the small personal 'self' we should allow ourselves to be 'guided' to act by God or the Divine Beings.

What is amazing to me is the power that these beliefs have when introduced to an audience that have never encountered them before. In the TED talk video that Sean posted above, there is an almost immediate suspension of belief and before we know it, people are practically falling over in the aisles as though its a tent revival!

Why are these ideas so immediately powerful? I succumbed to them myself at one point but I still fail to fully understand why even the scientific-minded fall thrall to this stuff.

Mystic Atheist / March 3rd, 2009, 11:50 am / #35

BlackSun, this is a really great article. You effectively attack the purely mystical or external inspiration model that Gilbert defends and promotes for how creativity works. I also agree with you concerning the central importance the brain plays in all our activities. It is clear the neurobiology is helping us to avoid such illusionary models for how things work like the self, reality, volition, etc. There are two points I would like to make:
Firstly, science has always traditionally critiqued “personal experience” and promoted a so-called objective point of view. Objectivity is the cornerstone of science, but it is largely a myth. Admittedly, scientists gather evidence and data on things that happen and exist in the world, but it's always scientists (as subjective, first-person beings) that do this. When we study something external like the physics of the sun or the geology of a canyon, we can look at happening that are external to a subject, find “objective” forces that cause such-and-such to exist or happen, and write the “objective” story for why or how nature works. As you can tell, while objectivity is the goal of science, it is impossible to understand the world outside of subjective human research. Epistemologically-speaking, scientists write themselves out of their “objective” explanations. Excluding “God” (which we can hopefully agree lacks proof), there is no Archimedean point to provide us with pure Objectivity. Objectivity as is explained by science is a myth. This means that, I think, that we should, in keeping with how discovery and understanding actually comes about, redefine Objectivity as a collectivity agreed upon position of multiple subjective positions or as Objectivity-comes-from-Subjectivies.
When it comes to such subjective experiences like dreams or creativity, a proper epistemological understanding of a Subjectively-based Objectivity is extremely important, because while science intends to only use “external” evidence, this is impossible when it comes to explaining first-person experiences like consciousness, creativity or the feeling that I myself am the one doing an action (not some internal ghost). Brain scans will continue to point to neurons externally firing here or there in the brain. An understanding of how different regions of the brain interact in creativity and memory is central to neurologically understanding first-person experiences. All the same, we cannot simply “write off” subjectivity from the study of creativity in the hopes of a purely external explanation, because in fact, we are acting agents of our lives and, specifically, of our artistic creations. This is not to say that we should follow Gilbert's naïve route of “evoking” spiritual muses to explain the artistic process, but it is to point to the mass of cultural baggage that we ourselves (as subjective, first-person agent) filter through, absorb, and, eventually, churn out in creations that bare the mark of the creator—the writer, the painter, the artist. When we study the human brain, we cannot ignore the human actor and project a kind of robot or computer in its place, because as human being we are subjective, living beings seeing and acting upon the world from a personal, first-person perspective. To this extent, we cannot ignore “personal experience” and personal perspectives as we attempt to explain the brain.

Mystic Atheist / March 3rd, 2009, 5:33 pm / #36

Secondly, I would like to try to defend Michael's comments to a certain extent and, hopefully, add a more robust position for why we should remain open to the POSSIBLITY of parapsychological happenings. I think Michael's use of the word “metaphysical” is a little too charged for me and seems to historically represent the idea of a realm distinct from the physical universe in dualistic model. Just to clarify, parapsychology is the scientific study of psychic phenomenon in the framework of science as we know it. It does not negate the current scientific model but instead looks to understand certain unexplained and mysterious cases (for example, Jean-Pierre Girard, Nina Kuligina, Jean Gurik, etc.) and various psychic phenomenon (like ESP, telekinesis, psychic healers, telepathy, having a “green thumb,” etc.) that current science is still befuddled by. Through their training, most scientists are never exposed to psychic phenomenon, and, when they are exposed to them, they simply dismiss them immediately. But this is a TABOO we must attempt to overcome as we (people in general, including atheists) continue to explore the natural world around us.

For centuries, there have been numerous mystical and occult traditions that considered “spiritual” inspirations, séances and communications possible with the “other world.” This “other world” was for sometime considered as a distinct realm from the physical one, but it must be admitted that such appellations reflects largely upon the cultural and philosophical frameworks upon which any sort of happening occurs. As our current scientific knowledge has grown, scientists have grown increasingly skeptical of psychic phenomenon, because such phenomenon cannot be explained through our current current models and cannot be very effectively tested, scientists claim that they cannot and should not exist. While there are admittedly numerous cases of fraud and magicians' illusions, this does not deny the fact that some parapsychological facts might be real. The current scientific model, as we generally imagine it, does not allow such Ghostbuster-like parapsychological things because it doesn't fit the model; but this doesn't mean they aren't there. As French philosopher Jean Baudrillard said and Robert Anton Wilson echoed, the map is not the territory, but the map has the capacity to limit our openness to recognizing certain phenomenon and certain realities outside of our own biases.

Mystic Atheist / March 3rd, 2009, 5:34 pm / #37

Quantum Mechanics and Einstein's Theory of Relativity present us with a very different causal universe than that which we are used to since Newton. In studying the nature of light, scientists came across a a number of truly baffling phenomenon. For example, the two slit experiment showed that the location of neurons changed when there was an observer and when there wasn't (this is typically called the “measurement problem” in quantum physics). Equally difficult to put your head around is how String Theory presents a universe of multiple dimensions and strange interactions across distance and time. Quantum Physics says that, in fact, all “things” exist as waves of possibilities.” A good summary and introduction to all of this is Brian Greene's book and Nova Program, “The Elegant Universe” (available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/ While the fact of the matter is that we do not yet as scientists and laypeople really understand these quantum things, the “fabric of reality” as we understand it has changed both due to experimentation and theorization. My intention is not to defend Quantum Mechanics and String Theory but to put forward the idea that these are current scientific models defended and explored by scientists. My intention is equally not to promote superficial New Age-ism searching for some (ANY!) justification for its rather nonsensical beliefs. All the same, these theories present us with a view of the universe and of the mind that is very different from what we are told to believe (scientifically and personally) and, as such, open the possibility of incorporating and explaining parapsychological phenomenon like being inspired by something seemingly mysterious and distant from you or perhaps being connected to a collective unconscious of shared stories and narratives (like with Carl Jung or ).

In his books “The Conscious Universe” and “Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality” as well as in numerous talks available online (check out his Google Talk at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw_O9Qiwqew Dr. Dean Radin uses Quantum Physics to theoretically explain some his experimental research. Radin's primary experiment deals with the ability of humans to intentionally affect a random number generator. His research shows that people are statistically able to affect the probability of the appearance of certain numbers that should be purely random. The core of his research has shown that psychic phenomenon do exist. In turn, he has used Quantum Physics to “perhaps” theorize about the nature of reality that could accommodate such happenings. He presents “mind” and matter as closely interacted or, at the extreme, as the very same thing or fabric of the universe. This isn't so hard to imagine in the sense that the mind is a matter thing, which is capable of affecting or imprinting matter with a mental mark or mindedness through our intentionality.

While BlackSun I think you are right to criticize baseless New Age religions that promote spirits, fairies and metaphysical whatnots for the sake of communal control, I don't think we can as skeptical yet open-minded human beings deny with one sweep of the hand all forms of mental phenomenon beyond those accepted by scientific textbooks and academic indoctrination. This leads me to conclude the communicated inspiration can come from many sources including possibly from collective sources outside our brains.

plum grenville / March 7th, 2009, 9:21 am / #38

I'd love to know how you distinguish between "spirits, fairies and metaphysical whatnots" and (alleged) parapsychological phenomena. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the experiment you mention in which people supposedly influenced a random number generator was flawed and that less credulous people than the experimenter have pointed out its flaws.

plum grenville / March 7th, 2009, 9:23 am / #39

A few general comments on Eat, Pray, Love. I thought it was a shallow and self-indulgent diary of a self-indulgent exercise insufficiently redeemed by smatterings of humour. She may be a writer, but it's a stretch to call herself an artist. Walden it ain't. (Possibly she merits the title based on her other books.) And it's supreme hubris to put herself in the same league (by implication) as the artistic geniuses of ancient Greece and the Renaissance.

The suffering artist meme is a little insufferable coming from someone who has made millions from a trivial book. I think she can afford all the therapy (or trips to ashrams) that she needs to deal with the Awful Burden of Responsibility for her own creative output. We don't need to hear about it.

Based on Black Sun's commentary on her speech, I'm certainly not going to waste 18 minutesof my life listening to it (although I've spent more than that agonzing over my own writerly output critiquing her – what can I say – SIWOTI (Some is wrong on the Internet)). Her New Age sympathies were annoying enough in the book (I had to read it for a book club).

Mystic Atheist / March 7th, 2009, 10:52 am / #40

plum grenville, I was also equally skeptical concerning parapsychological phenomena, because I had always been TAUGHT that this stuff isn't real. It's clear that science needed to be against these “magical” descriptions of reality inherited from past societies in order to found a purely scientific explanation of things. All the same, we must have an open mind concerning these things, which scientists do not always have due a certain taboo against such “psychic” things.

I've done a good amount of reading on this topid, and I think that there is pretty good evidence for existence of parapsychological phenomena. The majority of these experiments depend on a certain amount of statistical correlation to show that what should be purely random is not what is happening due to some sort of psychic phenomenon. For example, an experiment that should be random (25%) turns out to be 33%. These experiments point merely to the existence of these phenomenon and do not support storytale or mythological explanations. This is scientific, not New Age spiritualism. Equally important to note is that science has yet to figure out why or the reason behind the existence of these phenomenon. Their most important “discovery” is that "there is something interesting going on" concerning psychic phenomenon. Scientists appeal to various models like Quantum Physics in order to find a theoretical place or fit for these traditionally banished entities, forces, and happenings.

If you check out this detailed video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw_O9Qiwqew , you'll be hard pressed to find "flaws" in these experiments.

For your first question, I would distinguish "spirits, fairies and metaphysical whatnots" and parapsychological phenomena like this: 1.) parapsychological phenomena are real happenings, which include ESP, presentiment, etc. and 2.) "spirits, fairies and metaphysical whatnots" are our cultural models to explain, label and describe the things around us; they might be in our dreams, in our interpretative models or they might be used to explain things we have reason to believe that exist but do not have a proper scientific model to explain.

SeanG / March 18th, 2009, 4:01 am / #41

I am a musician, writer and visual artist. My pain and torment is mine, all mine and I'll keep it, thank you very much. Without it I'd have no reason to create. Life is pain, pain is art. Sometime inspiration does come like a "bolt from the blue" but I know its all inside my head. Even if it is just neurons firing, they are my neurons, firing based on my experiences.

I am actually offended by Gilbert's assertion that creative burden is killing me and I need to relieve it by saying it comes from something outside my head. I don't set out to suffer but sometimes life sucks. Sometimes I need to create to hold up a mirror to reality so I can understand it. Then I feel better. And if my choice is to suffer or live in some new age la la land I'll stick with the suffering.

And big props for the Geddy Lee reference!

John Dillon / March 24th, 2009, 5:08 am / #42

Come oooon…maybe it feels soooo good to say we are just our brains, but it doesn't FUCKING MAKE ANY SENSE. Atheism is the worst, its worse than New-Age as far as drugged up philosophies go.

Cathy Sander / August 29th, 2009, 7:00 am / #43

Atheism is not a "drugged up" philosophy. It's a position of the status of supernatural beings, which is that there's no [so far!] evidence they exist. That is all. We're trying to work out the details of the human brain, which is not easy. It takes time for some of the results to arise.

John dillon / March 24th, 2009, 5:48 am / #44

Your inane philosophy that we can BECOME Gods through creativity when there is no God to begin with makes no damn sense. How the hell did the universe evolve creatures with Godlike abilities and knowledge if there was no God to begin with?

Where the hell is it all coming from? What is it?????? What self is having these incredibly complex, self-reflective thoughts.

It seems atheists are able to deflect things, the way a clever person with a perverse habit might. You instinctively say to the weirdo, "Ew! How could you eat shit and get off to that?" And then they try and argue out how you are applying emotional judgement, relativism and subjectivity on them. My reaction to you people is "Ew! You eat shit philosophy and get off to it!" I mean, I do appreciate the challenge in a sense, but you are VAINLY arguing AGAINST ONE OF THE MOST BASIC GUT INSTINCTS IN ALL HUMAN BEINGS and have it down to a fucking self-congratulatory science at that.

SeanG / March 24th, 2009, 5:50 am / #45

John, you're going to have to be more specific. Why doesn't it make sense to you? Just being my brain makes sense to me. Making blatant statements about atheism without any follow up adds nothing to this discussion. Your attempt to paint atheism and new age philosophy as drugged up is merely a red herring or an ad hominem attack. That depends on where you go next. Where is your evidence that all atheists and new agers are drugged up? Not to mention that this particular post and discussion barely mention atheism at all.

John dillon / March 23rd, 2009, 10:54 pm / #46

You don't even GET the questions…they come from the heart. You will divide the heart up into scientific concepts and deny it exists. Fine, have fun.

SeanG / March 24th, 2009, 6:00 am / #47

We become gods of a sort by being creative. Creation is one criteria for being a god. But you have to understand the concept of metaphor here. Why is it so hard to accept that the human brain can make art all on it's own? I don't understand what you are referring to as gut instinct. If you mean creativity then, yes, I suppose could be instinct. Everyone picks up a crayon in their childhood. If you mean believing in god, no, that's not instinct. That is taught. I have never in my life had a gut feeling god was real.

SeanG / March 24th, 2009, 6:03 am / #48

Heart is a metaphor for the mind/brain's accessing of emotional and creative experiences. I can play my guitar "with heart" but I have never seen sufficient evidence for me to believe that there is an actual cognitive function going on inside my chest.

Cathy Sander / December 5th, 2009, 11:01 am / #49

I know that my brain's the originator of creativity…by the fact that I can simulate the 'feeling of a presence' over my
shoulders [though the mechanisms behind it are still unknown…]. At the moment, I'm trying to get a grip over using
my imagination to better understand physics, which has been a mixed story: at one stage, I was able to visualise
vectors of force as I moved around. However, I was afraid of using it at times, as it was threatening to overtake my
mind-brain [and hence my fear of insanity, especially with the bad stereotypes of mathematicians and scientists].

As a side-note: I'm going through Cohen's translation of the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

Doris Tracey / December 5th, 2015, 11:47 am / #50

Albert Einstein said, the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

Post a comment

Comments are closed for this post.