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Chapter 1: The Role of the Mind

as a Survival Tool


In the introduction we concluded that access to resources is necessary if our bodies are to survive in a material world. It is tragic that so much intellectual energy has been invested over the centuries trying to downplay the importance of our material existence, because our bodies not only provide the context for our experience, they are also a valuable source of information about life.

The very existence of our bodies in the material realm indicates that our basic physical, neurological, and mental structures are adequate to the task of keeping us alive&emdash;at least long enough to create more beings such as ourselves. Our survival, however humble, presumes a genetic structure that meets the basic requirements of life. This assertion is embodied in the concept of "genetic epistemology."1 Any creature that is alive today, is alive because its ancestors successfully adapted to the requirements of life on this planet. The fact that we are alive at all says we are doing something right.

Our Minds Can be Likened to Computers

Noam Chomsky, in the movie, Manufacturing Consent, suggested that our neurological structure can be likened to the assembly language of computers. Although analogies that compare humans to computers are less than perfect, they are still useful, and Chomsky's comparison of our neurological structure with computer language seems like a good start.

To round out this analogy, we also need to account for our bodies, our emotions and our intellects. In an attempt to do this, I have developed Figure 1-1.

In computers, each higher level of language is a "short hand" for the language below it. A single symbol in a higher-level language can represent a whole series of symbols in the lower-level language. For instance, at the level of an application program, a single symbol in a word-processor program can set into motion many small functions in the assembly language and the hardware. All this happens transparently, so it is easy for users of computers to be oblivious to the millions of on-off switching "movements" taking place every second. That is, of course, until something goes wrong.

Although it is more efficient to use application programs than it is to issue commands in assembly language, they are not a substitute for either the assembly language or for the hardware. Each level must work with the others if a complete job is to be done.

The same is true for us "three-brained" beings. The intellect is a wonderful tool, but it is not the sole repository of intelligence. Our bodies, our emotions and our intellects each possess an intelligence uniquely its own. Ideally, they would all work together, but frequently they don't. According to one "extra-terrestrial" observer, "[T]heir separate 'brains,' associating now quite independently, begin engendering in one and the same common presence three differently sourced being-impulses, they then, thanks to this, gradually, as it were, acquire in themselves three personalities, having nothing in common with each other, in respect of needs and interests."2

One point to be made in this chapter and throughout this book is that while abilities differ greatly among people, they do not differ so much as scholarly egos would like to believe. Seemingly simple people have made great contributions to humanity and ivory tower intellectuals have frequently been the deserving butt of ridicule and oftentimes a source of great tragedies. "De Tocqueville, the prophet of early American democracy, was acid in recording the practices of the French royal bureaucrats who would come around in the spring and tell the farmers how to plant their potatoes, and then arrive again in summer to tell the farmers to dig them up again because they had discovered that there was a better way to do it."3 Also, Hitler enjoyed very influential support from a number of prominent German intellectuals who helped lay the philosophical groundwork for the carnage that was to come.

It is generally accepted that people with big muscles should not arbitrarily impose their wills on other people. By the end of this book, the notion that people with "big brains" should have that privilege will hopefully be debunked as well. (This concept will be explained further in Chapter 3.)

The Carriage, Horse and Driver Analogy of the Mind

The computer analogy is not the only model that can help us understand our situation. There is also the Eastern analogy of the carriage, the horse and the driver, as represented in Figure 1-2.

In this example, as proposed by Gurdjieff, the state of humanity is characterized as a system in poor repair.4 The driver's "desire for tips has gradually taught him to be aware of certain weaknesses in the people with whom he has dealings, and to profit himself by them. . ."5 The horse, "Never having seen in any of the manifestations toward it even the least love or friendliness, . . . is ready to surrender itself completely to anybody who gives it the slightest caress. . . . The consequence of all this is that all the inclinations of the horse, deprived of all interests and aspirations, must inevitably be concentrated on food, drink, and the automatic yearning towards the opposite sex; [and] it inevitably veers in the direction where it can obtain any of these."6 Finally, the carriage is said to be in a serious state of disrepair.

Summed up, the carriage is rickety, the horse is flighty, and the driver is half-drunk and occupied solely by scheming for more fares and leering at scullery maids. Finally, lacking a master to give any consistent direction, the whole entourage travels wherever any chance rider dictates. This is not a prognosis calculated to stroke our vanity. (It should be noted that this story was told in order to motivate people to enroll in self-mastery schools. However, even with these "commercial" considerations factored in, the above story still sheds light on our predicament.)

Gurdjieff also offered one of the best definitions of intelligence I have yet to encounter: "The ability to adapt to change." One might call this a whole-being approach to understanding intelligence.

Humans are justifiably proud of their intellectual accomplishments. However, just because we have a faculty that does not appear to be present in other species, that does not mean that the other "brains" which we do have in common with other species are useless. The beauty of Gurdjieff's definition of intelligence is that it obliges us to account for our emotions and our physical/neurological structures as well as for our intellectual capabilities. This means that intellectual keenness, emotional sensitivity and stability, and physical capabilities must all come together to make a person fit for living a good life. When we manifest intelligence in this manner, we are expressing ourselves as complete beings.

It is difficult to define where the physical brain leaves off and the emotional brain begins, and where the emotional brain leaves off and the intellectual brain begins. All three brains share the use of the body, the nervous system and the five senses. Although we do not have an exact understanding of the location of each brain, each brain's activity seems to be connected to respective areas of the body.

The physical brain's functions are spread throughout the body via the nervous system. Wherever the body is hurt, we feel physical pain. (Nothing profound&emdash;just simple, straight-forward information.)

Sensations connected with emotions are concentrated primarily in our torso. Disappointment and anger puts a knot in our stomach, romantic possibilities make our hearts flutter, and fear or surprise make our hearts leap into our throats.

The intellect's functions take place in that much-ballyhooed gray matter that resides in our cranial cavity. As evidence, we can consult those who insist that too much thinking makes the head hurt.

Using common anecdotal evidence to locate brains may not be a scientific approach, but knowing the location of each brain is not so important as understanding their functions so we can train each one to do its own work. Einstein described our dilemma well with his analogy of the watch. "In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations." 7

Our dilemma can also be likened to looking at a factory from the outside. We can only see the raw materials going in and the finished good coming out, but we cannot see the process of conversion itself. However, by studying the inputs and the outputs, we can guess what happens in between. Our knowledge will never be perfect, but as we develop theories that give us the power of prediction, we find that even imperfect theories can still be of service. Although this theory of the three brains should not be taken for gospel truth, it nevertheless remains the best conceptual framework I have found so far.

The Speed of Centers (Brains)

Part of understanding the function of each brain comes from understanding the relative speeds with which they operate. Contrary to the common notion that the intellect perceives something in the environment, the emotions then react, and finally the body takes action, Gurdjieff and Ouspensky asserted that the intellectual brain is the slowest and the emotional and physical brains are much faster. Ouspensky suggests that the emotional brain is faster than the physical brain,8 but my experience suggests the reverse. (Unless I actually tapped into a higher level of emotional functioning and was unaware of it.)

The Physical Brain

My first personal experience with this concept of the "speed of centers" happened back in 1973. After I had walked on some 20-foot high iron beams over an old bridge while a friend was watching, he showed an interest in doing the same thing. However, because he was somewhat clumsy, I asked him to walk on a low beam first so I could watch him. As he tottered and struggled, it became apparent that he was trying to balance himself by thinking about it. Of course, it didn't work, especially when little gusts of wind would come up unexpectedly.

Although this theory was new to me, I explained it to him. Apparently it seemed reasonable to him, so he decided to try getting his intellectual brain out of the way so his body could do its work. After some practice at ground level, he was soon up on the beams with me and having a great time.

Of course, I didn't discover anything new. Becoming good at any sport or other physical activity means we must practice until the picture in our mind translates itself into natural and habitual movements by the body. However, understanding the concept of the physical brain being faster than the intellectual brain cannot hurt.

Later, in 1979 and 1980, I studied for a short time under Hugh Ripman, who was himself a student of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. One of the exercises he assigned to us was to observe our physical sensations during periods of upset. My "favorite" upset was in response to people who did something like pulling out in front of me in traffic.

After considerable self-observation, I noticed a tension just below my chest. It was as if an angry little man was standing on a platform in my chest, just looking for an excuse to jump up and scream. When something would happen, I noticed that a little tremor would begin at my diaphragm and ripple upward toward my throat. After the ripple passed a certain point, my emotions would kick in, and then I would go through a cycle of anger until I ran out of energy. (Negative emotions use a lot of energy.)

It took quite a bit of work and practice, but I finally got to the point where I could detect the ripple before it reached the point where my emotions would kick in. When I succeeded in stopping the ripple before it reached the point of no return, I bypassed the emotional upset completely. What's more, I didn't even need to go into denial!

Gurdjieff's system is not the only one that puts a lot of emphasis on body awareness. Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), which came into vogue about ten years ago, also addresses the importance of physical awareness. One NLP practitioner, during a speech, gave the following example: "Old sales training classes would tell new sales-people to sit on the edge of their chair and act all attentive and positive while talking to a prospect. However, our studies have found that approach to be a good way to guarantee miscommunication when prospects are lounging back in their chairs. We have discovered that it is better to mirror the other person's body posture first, and then gradually lead them in the direction we want them to go."

For years I have had a very unscientific speculation about a possible reason for the high suicide rate among psychologists and psychiatrists. When these therapists deal with patient problems, they usually focus on the intellectual argumentation that the patient offers in an attempt to diagnose the problem. While the patient is talking about suicide, the therapist's body starts to mirror the patient's body posture without the therapist's awareness. Then a chain reaction starts with the physical center, working through the emotional center, finally influencing the intellectual center, at which time, suicide may appear to be a rational option after all. (There are two ways to influence our emotional state. The first is to modify our emotions by willfully assuming a different body posture. The second approach calls for philosophical restructuring&emdash;when we change our mental picture of reality, we suffer more or less than we did previously, depending on whether our new picture is further from or closer to being an accurate description of the larger world in which we live.)

One final point needs to be made about the physical brain. Good physical health is vital for the efficient functioning and development of our emotional and intellectual brains. While some courageous souls have triumphed in the face of great physical pain, they are the exception rather than the rule.

To summarize, the function of the physical brain is to perceive information from physical reality and to respond to it quickly. (My body has detected and handled threats that my intellect was not aware of until after the danger had passed.) Like a salesperson looking for an opportunity, or an infantry point man looking for danger, the physical brain is our first point of contact with the physical world.

The Emotional Brain

Emotions have always been a mixed blessing. We enjoy feeling happy or excited, but those feelings seem to come at the price of being sad and depressed. This seemingly inescapable cycle has caused some philosophers to suggest that our emotions are slave masters. "Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign masters: Pain and Pleasure . . .they govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think."9

Throughout history a battle has been waged against the enslaving forces of fear and desire. Eastern mystics have long prized the ability to experience life from a vantage-point that is free from the influence of these cruel masters. Even modern investment advisors, such as Venita van Caspel, advise strongly that success as an investor requires the ability to sidestep the fear-greed cycle.10 This cycle of fear and greed has the unfortunate consequence of motivating people to buy high and sell low, which is the opposite of the all-time investment tip&emdash;buy low and sell high. (Unless you are selling short.) Given that so much energy has been directed toward the pursuit of pleasurable feelings and the avoidance of painful ones, we might do well to understand what they mean and where they come from.

The best way I know to define emotions is by observing what they do.

In general, our emotional response to a situation is an indication of whether it promises to satisfy our desires or threatens to justify our fears. Stated differently, emotions produce "lightening-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values."11 In short, our emotional responses indicate how events in our lives correlate with our values and expectations.

An aspect of emotional life that is all-pervasive is something we call "self-image." Just as we judge other people and situations according to our desires and fears, we also judge ourselves according to how we measure up against our mental picture of how we should be. Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psychocybernetics, got interested in what has come to be called "self-image psychology." After he had several beauty contest winners come to him for cosmetic surgery, he started to wonder what was driving these women. The world had already formally recognized their beauty, but apparently they could not believe it themselves. Mr. Maltz was to later conclude that these women were not alone&emdash; he concluded that fully 99% of the population also had a poor self-image.

A poor self-image indicates that we have fallen short of an ideal we have consciously or unconsciously accepted for ourselves. It has been said that if we can live up to our ideal we are life's master, but if we cannot, we are life's slave. Sometimes we do fall short of reasonable ideals and some change of our behavior is in order, but very often, like those poor women wanting cosmetic surgery, our ideals are so extravagant that we are destined to come up short.

When we are dogged with a persistent sense of unworthiness we often make only half-hearted efforts toward attaining our goals. Another consequence of that nagging sense of unworthiness is a tendency to act like Gurdjieff's allegorical horse which is "ready to surrender itself completely to anybody who gives it the slightest caress."12 (Yours truly has surrendered more than once.)

Educating the Emotional Brain

Earlier I mentioned that there are two ways to restructure our emotions. The first is to intentionally change our body posture to a posture that reflects how we want to feel. (If you want an idea of how someone else feels, imitate his or her body posture.) If one adopts a new set of body postures for a long enough time, one could conceivably change one's emotional habits as well. However, the outcome of using this method is quite uncertain.

The second method is to consciously understand our values and the expectations we place on reality as a result of holding those values. This method will have more lasting results because the more our values and expectations are in alignment with reality, the less cause we will have for being upset or for feeling miserable in general.

When I was in school, the primary focus of education seemed to be on developing our intellectual brains by memorizing disconnected scraps of data. There was also an emphasis on developing our physical brains through sports and physical education. However, little concern was given to nurturing and training our emotional brains.

In previous centuries, philosophers were supremely confident in the mind, and they saw emotions as an annoying impediment to clear observation. Since the 1800s there has grown a backlash against this belief in the supremacy of reason. Since then, the doctrine of the supremacy of reason has lost ground steadily to a new doctrine that proclaims the supremacy of feeling. Thinking has come to be regarded as a sterile activity while emotion has been declared by some to be the elixir of life itself. (The last few decades has seen this trend accelerate.)

Unfortunately, for all the talk about the importance of emotions, the idea of training our emotions to contribute to our well-being has not surfaced as yet. Of course, as long as we believe that emotions automatically give us correct assessments about the world around us, the idea of training them will seem absurd. Consequently, whereas we previously denied our feelings, we now pander to them.

The uncritical worship of our emotions has practical consequences that affect the quality of our everyday lives. Life's problems require creative and well thought-out solutions. To simply demand, with fervent feeling, that someone else should fix our problems is to abdicate personal responsibility. As more people make demands and fewer people do the work, the quality of life must of necessity decline. If we are to truly master our lives, reason and feelings must work together. To sacrifice either in favor of the other has unhappy consequences.

One example of the consequences of this split is the dichotomy we see between science, and religion and politics. For decades now, scientists have been pursuing mastery over the physical world without considering which values such mastery should promote. (To be fair, there have been some dissident scientists.) Consequently, many inventions have been created by those for whom reason is primary, only to be used by those for whom feelings are primary.

In America, an alarm is being sounded by some that education is failing to develop intellectual skills and discipline. They are warning us that in a world where problems "just happen" and where "somebody" must fix them, we are not giving our children much hope for the future. "If we do not give them the language and thought in which they might genuinely clarify some values, they will do their clarifying with sledgehammers"13 and spray paint. When people fail to express potency in life through creative acts, they will frequently express their potency through destructive acts.

Are Emotions for Indulgence, Suffering, or Guidance?

This leads us to the question: what is the function of the emotional brain? Most often we use it for judging our experience moment by moment. And depending on how things look at any given moment, we are either imbued with hope or filled with despair. For some, emotional distress is a badge of honor because it shows what caring human beings they are. For others, emotions are their primary form of recreation, believing that unless they are feeling something strongly, they might as well be dead. Still others are simply dominated by their emotions without any thought that other options might be available. For them, emotions just are.

Fortunately, another option is available. When I was reading about Fritz Perls and Gestalt therapy, I was impressed with his idea that a therapist should risk emotional involvement with patients. Instead of trying to be completely detached, the idea was for the therapist to allow personal emotional reactions to a patient, and then to observe those reactions. By watching personal emotions, as well as the patient's words and actions, much more information can be gained which will, in turn, hopefully improve the therapeutic outcome. (This approach is useful for us non-therapists too.)

This, of course, implies a great deal of self-knowledge. We must first understand how our value systems and emotional reactions are wired together. Only then can our emotions be depended on to be a reliable guide for understanding the subtleties of situations in which we find ourselves.

Emotions Provide Valuable Guidance if We Will Listen

Once we realize that emotions are statements about our evaluations of reality rather than direct statements about reality itself, we will have more control over our emotional lives. Emotions are best used as a barometer to tell us how the present moment promises to either manifest our dreams or justify our fears. Naturally, if it looks as though our dreams will come true, we experience pleasant emotions. If it appears otherwise, we experience unpleasant emotions.

A great deal of freedom can be gained by understanding that emotional responses are simply reflections of our values and expectations. It is common for people to learn through bitter experience that what we want may not be what is best. Throughout the ages many wise men have suggested that "when the gods are angry with us, they give us what we want." Just because something evokes a pleasant response in us does not automatically mean it will be good for us, and just because something else evokes an unpleasant response in us doesn't mean it is necessarily harmful. In fact, people often get their emotional wires crossed, and find themselves pursuing things that are harmful, or even fatal, to them.

A common example of crossed emotional wiring is found in the case of women who go from one abusive relationship to another. While they suffer greatly in that type of relationship, it is still the only place they feel safe. More than one therapist has commented about how a woman patient with a history of abuse would terminate beginning courtships with nice and respectful men because, "somehow, it just didn't feel right."

There are several theories about why this happens. The most popular theory says these women have a poor self-image. Not believing they deserve better, they either settle for or even seek out abusive men. Another theory suggests these women may have survived abuse as children, and somehow their minds have learned to equate abuse with survival. The suggested unconscious logic works as follows: "I was abused during my childhood and I survived. Therefore, as long as I am abused, I know I will survive." To these theories, I add a theory I call The 5,000 Year-Old Con Game&emdash;the morality of sacrifice which insists that the benefit of one person can only be had at the expense of another. This theory will be explored in detail in Chapter 3. All of these theories suggest our emotional reactions to the outer world are not, by themselves, infallible guides to successful and happy living.

To sum up what we have considered thus far, a picture of the relationship between events and our emotional reactions to them might look something like Figure 1-3:

If our emotions are to be our friends and servants rather than our enemies and masters, we need to become consciously aware of what our values and ideals are. This way, if we find any self-defeating ideals lodged deeply into our value systems, we can root them out.

Another benefit of using our emotions as a tool of perception, rather than as a tool of judgment, is that our ability to perceive subtleties in the environment around us will improve. Recalling the concept of the speed of centers we explored earlier, and noting that the emotional center operates much faster than the intellectual center, we can find ourselves blessed with new possibilities. Once we are aware of the relationship between situations and our emotional responses to them, we can gather subtle information from the world around us because our emotions tend to work faster and pick up more information from our immediate surroundings than our intellectual center.

Our emotional center/brain can either be an enemy or an ally. If we use it as a self-righteous seat of judgment without any thought of where those judgments come from, it can make both our inner and outer lives difficult. On the other hand, if we use our emotional brain as a fine-tuned receptor of subtle information, the quality of our lives will improve.

The Intellectual Brain

Thus far we have explored the functions and work of the physical and emotional brains (or centers). Now we are ready to consider the role of the intellectual brain and the process of reasoning that sets humans apart from other species.14

Unlike some philosophers from the past, I do not propose that the only part of us worthy of the status of human is that which is not-human. "[T]he fact that mothers are seldom interested in Kantian ethics . . . probably says less for Kant than it does for mothers."15 Our possession of an intellectual brain in no way diminishes the importance of the other two. Without the support of the first two brains, there is no way the third one could exist on this planet..

It was mentioned earlier that it is difficult to determine with absolute certainty the exact location of each brain. All the brains share the use of our senses to gather information in order to perform their respective tasks. Once again, for the purpose of this book, it is sufficient to accept the popular wisdom which locates the intellectual brain in the gray matter which is tucked neatly into our skulls. (Some people get headaches when they think. This observation, by itself, is an inadequate proof. After all, when I think, other people get headaches.)

The primary function of the intellectual brain is a process we call thinking. However, thinking can be done efficiently or inefficiently. We can either accept information at face value without trying to attach any kind of meaning to it, we can hastily put together loose correlations and make them pass for understanding, or we can rigorously attempt to trace cause and effect relationships and then check and re-check our proofs. The quality of our lives depends in large part on which of these three options we choose most frequently.

Perceptual Thinking and Conceptual Thinking

There are two basic modes of thinking: perceptual and conceptual. Gurdjieff speaks of "'mentation by thought,' in which words, always possessing a relative sense, are employed; and the other kind, which is proper to all animals as well as to man, which I would call 'mentation by form'."16 Perceptual thinking is equivalent to "mentation by form" and conceptual thinking is equivalent to "mentation by thought."

Perceptual thinking, in its most basic form, is illustrated well by an historian named Tobias Dantzig:

A squire was determined to shoot a crow which made its nest in the watch-tower of his estate. Repeatedly he had tried to surprise the crow, but in vain: at the approach of man the crow would leave its nest. From a distant tree it would watchfully wait until the man had left the tower and then return to its nest. One day the squire hit upon a ruse: two men entered the tower, one remained within, the other came out and went away, but the bird was not deceived: it kept away until the man within came out. The experiment was repeated in the succeeding days with two, three, then four men, yet without success. Finally, five men were sent: as before, all entered the tower, and one remained while the other four came and went away. Here the crow lost count. Unable to distinguish between four and five it promptly returned to its nest.17

Since then, this type of thinking has come to be called "crow epistemology." The above story demonstrates well the limitations of perceptual thinking. When humans turn off their "chatter box" and focus only on the forms without trying to describe them through language, they discover they can only "count" seven or eight items before their minds go blank. With only perceptual awareness, humans can count seven or eight hunters before being surprised by that last hunter waiting in the tower&emdash;not much better than the crow's performance.

Humans, under the same circumstances can survive much longer because of their capacity for conceptual thinking. Thanks to the language we call "numbers," we can progress from perceptual thinking to conceptual thinking in relation to quantity. "It has been said that an animal can perceive two oranges or two potatoes, but cannot grasp the concept 'two'."18 Given enough time for counting, we can have one-million hunters go into the tower, see 999,999 come out, and know there is one hunter still waiting for us.

The possession of language alone, however, does not automatically elevate humanity from the level of perceptual consciousness to the level of conceptual consciousness. The blind acceptance of conventional thinking without any attempt to check its premises is, in effect, perceptual thinking even though words are being used.

In all fairness, few people are totally devoid of conceptual capacity, and of course, nobody completely avoids lapses into perceptual thinking. It is safe to say that people's thinking capacities cover the range&emdash;some being almost total automatons, others being extremely conscious and aware, and most of us being somewhere in between.

Earlier, it was noted that the concept of numbers&emdash;the language of quantity&emdash;contributes greatly to our survival potential. Quantity, however, is only one component of a description (or a definition). Various philosophies have attempted to list all aspects or categories of a description. Aristotle, for instance, suggested ten aspects, or "categories": "1) Essence&emdash;(this shows what a thing is), 2) Quantity, 3) Quality, 4) Relation, 5) Place, 6) Time, 7) Situation, 8) Possession, 9) Action, and 10) Passion."19 Of course, this is only one of a number of ways to define the different aspects of a definition. "The problem of the precise meaning of the term 'category' with Aristotle was quite extensively discussed in the past, and is still the object of contemporary investigations."20

While perceptual thinking may or may not use language, conceptual thinking requires the use of language. Consequently, our next subject must of necessity be the structure and use of language.

Language&emdash;Our Primary Tool for Thought and Comprehension

Language is the primary tool used by our minds to comprehend the nature of reality. When our language is clean and precise, so is our ability to meet the challenges presented by nature. On the other hand, when our language is confused and muddled, the world around us will seem to be confused and muddled as well. Therefore, it is important for us to take some time to consider the nature and function of language.21

We Need to Define Our Terms

Language is made up of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, volumes, and according to some, even higher over-arching symbols. Each word represents a concept. A sentence joins together a series of word-concepts to form a larger sentence-concept. A paragraph, in its turn, joins together a series of sentence-concepts to form an even larger concept. And so goes the upward progression. However, no matter how far up the conceptual ladder we climb, the end result will not likely be any better than the clarity with which we use individual words.

Because every word has at least one definition, the first question we need to ask is, what is the definition of the word, definition. In the American Heritage Electronic Dictionary, two attempts have been made to help us understand the function of words: "1. The act of stating a precise meaning or significance. 2. The statement of the meaning of a word, phrase, or term."22 These definitions are somewhat obscure, but they give us a good starting point.

Ideally, a word helps us pinpoint a specific phenomenon in either the world of nature or in the world of ideas. In Indian logic, "A definition . . . is an exact enunciation of the characteristic points . . . of [a] defined object . . . which allows us to distinguish it from any similar or dissimilar object."23 Stated differently, "everything that gets a name gets it because we can perceive that everything else is not that thing."24

A word should either describe one object or idea, or, having failed to do so, it should be assisted with additional descriptions that help us further isolate the object or idea we are referring to from any other object or idea. An example of this is the English word "hot." In English, we must use adjectives in order to differentiate between temperature-hot and spicy-hot. In Thailand, they have two totally different words for these two types of "hot." Temperature-hot is lon and spicy-hot is pet. Of course, given that adjectives are available, separate words are probably more a matter of convenience than of necessity. Nevertheless, it is important to know what we are doing with words so we can use them more efficiently.

Words not only help us store ideas in our mind, they act like signs, giving directions or warnings. "That which is to function as a sign must not only be lower in rank and value, it must be closer and more accessible than the designate. The order is: first the sign, then the designate. The vicious dog lying before the sign, 'Beware of the dog' renders impotent, so to speak, the sign which was to give warning of him."25 Perceptual awareness helps us deal with today's vicious dog, but we must progress from perceptual consciousness to conceptual awareness with the help of language if we are to "deal with the lion that was and the lion that will be, even the lion that may be."26 (Or the vicious dog that was, or will be, or even may be.)

Poorly Defined Terms Exact a High Price

Back in 1982, long before I knew that the study of epistemology existed, I stumbled onto epistemological principles while pondering the meaning of love. Before going any further, let me refer to the dictionary so you know I am not making this up: "Epistemology: 1. The division of philosophy that investigates the nature and origin of knowledge. 2. A theory of the nature of knowledge."27

Common wisdom says that "love means different things to different people," and "no two people experience love in the same way." However, I noticed others around me, not to mention myself, doing a lot of suffering in the name of love. It seemed strange that something so hurtful should be such a prized object. Fortunately, "cynical" statements in different books, such as " we beggar the poor word for kitchen usage and workaday desires," tipped me off&emdash;there were indeed things in "both heaven and earth not dreamt of" in my philosophy.

From these observations, I started to suspect that many things commonly called love would be better referred to by more accurate and concise terms. Any word meaning so many things is also a word that means nothing. With this idea in mind, I set out to catalog all the different feelings, complexes and behavior which march proudly under the banner of love, many of which would embarrass us should they be exposed by the light of reason.

Ultimately, I found five things commonly called love: desire, pity, guilt, possessiveness and projection. With such a wide range of phenomena taking refuge under a single term, it is little wonder people have such a hard time diagnosing and correcting their emotional problems. (Of course, a lot of work must be done: first, to understand the fallacies we have accepted, and then to practice reprogramming our emotional center so it won't run away and repeat old patterns. For many people, unfortunately, it is easier to endure the disease than it is to find the cure.)

It is not in the context of this book to fully explore love and intimate relationships, but those who are intrigued by the idea of a systematic approach to love and relationships might wish to inquire about my tapes titled Your Power to Create Love. In time I may rework this material and give it a new title: Love, Language and Logic.

To be useful, a word must accomplish two functions. First, it must indicate the category of phenomena within which the thing described fits: genus. Second, it must show how the thing described is different from all the others within its genus: differentia. One way to visualize this is by way of an analogy using the cross-hairs of a gun sight. In the following diagram, the vertical line represents the genus of like phenomena, and the horizontal line represents the differentia&emdash;how it differs from all the other like items. (Please refer to Figure 1-4.)

Allow me, for a moment, the indulgence of quoting my own material on the subject of love:

Once upon a time, human language only consisted of one word: GRUNT! This word was very unique because it meant different things to different people, and no two people experienced GRUNT in the same way. Many were self-righteous about their use of the word GRUNT, but when they started mistaking poison for food, which even killed some of them, they decided that a one-word vocabulary offered disadvantages too. Since then, language has been expanded to thousands of words so new ideas can be thought-out and then communicated to others.
In today's scientific world, we still have one final frontier of language development. Instead of the word GRUNT, we now have the word LOVE. People now declare that LOVE means different things to different people and that no two people experience LOVE in the same way. Of course, just like in the "good old days," people suffer from mistaking emotional poison for emotional food, with many becoming sick, and some even dying. Now, like then, we need to challenge the validity of catch-all terms like GRUNT and LOVE.29

In the realm of the physical sciences, great strides have been made. However, in the realm of human relationships, we have not progressed much beyond the Dark Ages. And while language has expanded greatly, it has not always been to our benefit.

"Finding apt words to express one's thought is like shooting at a target,"30 but it often happens that "it is our words that hide reality."31 Our mission, then, is to learn how to walk on the edge of an "epistemological razor: Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity, nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity."32

In my analysis of "love" I discovered the five things commonly called love which I outlined earlier: desire, pity, guilt, possessiveness and projection. This is not to say we should never feel any of these feelings, but to mistake them for love can be disastrous. Problems are hard enough to solve without hiding them behind sacred words. Consequently, like Benjamin Franklin, "I proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few names with more ideas . . ."33

Words can cause us a great deal of trauma. One form of trauma comes from accepting "philosophical package deals." In the realm of personal relationships we often hear, "If you loved me, you would . . ." If these unspoken demands which are so often issued in the name of love were articulated, it would become immediately obvious that such demands are often excessive. Most of the time these demands are not articulated, which implies an additional demand for mind-reading. In other words, "If you loved me, you would read my mind. You would automatically know, understand, and agree with my values and act accordingly. And because you have failed, I feel offended and hurt, and now, to prove your love you must suffer my distemper."

The Power of Making the Unconscious Conscious

In real life we seldom have the luxury of someone explaining their power strategies to us. However, once the light of awareness exposes the game, it loses its power. When controlling people become aware of their game, some of their energy is absorbed by that awareness, leaving less energy available for playing the game as effectively. As for those being controlled, when they crack the game they can just walk away.

Games of subtlety and power take place in larger social arenas as well as in relationships, often with even worse consequences. In Chapter 10, the relationship between philosophical assumptions and social and personal realities will be explored in greater detail.

Ultimately, if we are to use our intellectual capacities to the fullest, we must progress from the perceptual "crow" approach to thinking to conceptual thinking. "Learning is not the accumulation of scraps of knowledge. It is a growth, where every act of knowledge develops the learner, thus making him capable of ever more and more complex objectivities. . ."34 "Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality . . . Knowledge, then, is a series of transformations that become progressively adequate."35

Conceptual Thought is Powerful and Liberating

A couple of years ago I read an article about gifted children. It suggested that these children naturally focus on discovering the conceptual framework that surrounds their subject of study, rather than trying to memorize all of the particulars. Actually, this is a useful strategy for all of us. Once we have learned a formula, we do not have to memorize so many individual details. (As a result of reading this article, I have begun to suspect gifted children are children who learn to think conceptually in spite of an education system that wants people to think perceptually.)

For instance, once we have learned our times tables, we do not need to memorize the answer to 141 times 2,377. We simply apply the formula of basic multiplication to our problem and come up with the answer&emdash;335,157&emdash;when we need it. And if we never need it, we have not lost precious time memorizing the answer "just in case." The good news is that we ordinary mortals can learn to do what gifted children do naturally.

This problem becomes very apparent to me sometimes when I am teaching someone how to use a computer. I will try to explain the theory, or larger concept, behind what they are attempting to do, and they will say, "just tell me what keys to hit." Of course, I will then honor their request, but invariably, they very quickly end up hitting a wall soon after I leave.

There is a story about a doctor at medical school who was giving an introductory address to a new class. At one point he said, "I can teach you how to perform an appendectomy in fifteen minutes, but it will take me four years to teach you what to do in case something goes wrong." If we wish to be able to solve problems as we go, and to even make knowledge self-generating, we must work to rise from perceptual awareness to conceptual awareness.

There Is More to Knowledge Than "Head Stuff"

Our intellectual brain is not our only storehouse of knowledge. A great deal of knowledge is stored in our physical and emotional centers, not to mention our "unconscious" or "subconscious minds." This means that a large percentage of the knowledge we need for survival is not easily accessed for scrutiny by our conscious mind. Consequently, we are often surprised to find people who might be considered dull or unexceptional accomplishing great things and rendering valuable services to others.

Up to this point, we have surveyed the three "brains" humans possess, and how each has its own vital functions to perform. While everyone possesses all three, one brain or another is usually dominant in people. For some, the physical brain is dominant; for others the emotional brain is dominant; and for yet others, the intellectual brain is dominant.

Earlier it was noted that as individuals we live better if we let each brain do its right work. The same is true of society. Different people, according to their dominant brain, are suited for different types of work. This means that society will work better if people are encouraged to be of service according to their inclinations. "A culture that esteems philosophy no matter how poorly conceived and disdains plumbing no matter how well performed will soon discover that neither their pipes nor their theories will hold water."36

Throughout history intellectuals and "common folk" have shared a contempt for each other. This rivalry has been short-sighted on the part of both groups. Both sides need to learn to accept themselves and to respect each other because neither group has the whole picture.

Culture and Tradition Add to the Store of Knowledge

To the three brains discussed thus far, we can add the factors of tradition and culture. F.A. Hayek summed up the idea that knowledge is more than just a "head trip":

The growth of knowledge and the growth of civilization are the same only if we interpret knowledge to include all the human adaptations to environment in which past experience has been incorporated. Not all knowledge in this sense is part of our intellect, nor is our intellect the whole of our knowledge. Our habits and skills, our emotional attitudes, our tools, and our institutions&emdash;all are in this sense adaptations to past experience which have grown up by selective elimination of less suitable conduct. They are as much an indispensable foundation of successful action as is our conscious knowledge.37

The Intellectual's Role in Society

Although the rational and effective use of our intellectual center is important, we must remember that if we use thought as a substitute for action rather than as a guide for action, we may well end up like our professor friend:

Nasrudin sometimes took people for trips in his boat. One day a fussy pedagogue hired him to ferry him across a very wide river.
As soon as they were afloat the scholar asked whether it was going to be rough. "Don't ask me nothing about it," said Nasrudin.
"Have you never studied grammar ?"
"No," said the Mulla.
"In that case, half your life has been wasted."
The Mulla said nothing.
Soon a terrible storm blew up. The Mulla's crazy cockleshell was filling with water.
He leaned over towards his companion.
"Have you ever learnt to swim ?"
"No," said the pedant.
"In that case, schoolmaster, ALL your life is lost, for we are sinking."38

This story leads us to an important question: will the world fare better if it is micro-managed by fussy pedagogues, or should the average person be allowed a voice at times other than just election time?

This will not be an easy question to answer. Neither the common person nor the intellectual fares well under careful scrutiny. Thoreau had a point when he declared that "even if a million people believe a silly thing, it is still a silly thing." However, the focus of intellectual leaders on the use of their intellectual brain has not automatically immunized them from believing silly things. Once again, "De Tocqueville, the prophet of early American democracy, was acid in recording the practices of the French royal bureaucrats who would come around in the spring and tell the farmers how to plant their potatoes, and then arrive again in summer to tell the farmers to dig them up again because they had discovered that there was a better way to do it."39 In today's universities we see the spectacle of professors demanding the right to coerce their values upon others while they simultaneously pay homage to "Cultural Relativism." (Maybe what they are really saying is that all values are of equal value, and therefore relative&emdash;except theirs.)

Regarding issues such as government in general and world government in particular, we are confronted with one key question: Where should freedom for the average person end, and where should the "guidance" of the intellectual begin? This issue, along with similar issues, will be explored slowly and systematically in the chapters to come. Were the answer easy, we would have found our way back to the garden long ago, and I would not have written this book.


Jean Piaget, translated by Eleanor Duckworth, Genetic Epistemology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970).


G.I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Vol 2. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1950), p. 71.


William Tucker, Progress and Privilege: America in The Age of Environmentalism, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1982.), p. 208.


G.I. Gurdjieff, Op. Cit., Vol. 3,, pp. 382-391. Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1872-1949) is not well known, but has been described most consistently as a "Russian mystic philosopher." He started teaching in St. Petersburg in 1914, and offered a conceptual map of the psyche that modern psychological theory is only now beginning to consider.


G.I. Gurdjieff, Op. Cit., Vol. 3, p. 384.


G.I. Gurdjieff, Ibid., Vol. 3, pp. 385&endash;386.


Quoted in Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters (New York: Bantam Books, 1979), p. 8.


P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949), pp. 193&endash;194.


Jeremy Bentham quoted in F.J. Shark, How To Be The JERK Women Love : Social Success for Men and Women in the '90's (Chicago, IL: Thunder World Promotions, Inc., 1994), p. 85.


Venita van Caspel, The New Money Dynamics (Reston, VA: Reston Publishing Company, Inc., 1978), p. 119.


Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It? (New York: Penguin, Inc., 1982), p. 6.


G.I. Gurdjieff, Op. Cit., Vol. 3, p. 358.


Richard Mitchell, Less Than Words Can Say, (Boston MA: Little, Brown & Company, 1979), p. 95.


Some scientists have declared that man is a "tool-making animal" and insist that it is the use of tools that separates humans from other species. Given that other species use tools, I would like to offer an even more fundamental difference between humans and other species&emdash;the reasoning brain.


Carol McMillan, Women, Reason and Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 54.


G.I. Gurdjieff, Op. Cit., Vol. 1, p.15.


Tobias Dantzig, Number, The Language of Science (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1930), p. 3.


Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (New York: NAL Penguin, Inc., 1966), p.19.


Anton Dumitriu, History of Logic, Vol. I (Kent, England: Abacus Press, 1977), p.154.


Anton Dumitriu, Ibid., p.153.


Many Eastern traditions insist that our "monkey minds" are the primary cause of suffering. Hence, they advise us to learn to stop thought. Willfully expanding and shrinking our conceptual universe is effective for putting our problems into perspective, however, were we to develop more adequate conceptual frameworks in the first place, we would not have so much suffering to put into perspective.


American Heritage Electronic Dictionary (Sausalito CA: Writing Tools Group, Inc., 1991).


Anton Dumitriu, Op. Cit.,, p. 64.


Richard Mitchell, Op. Cit.,, p. 34.


Erwin Straus, M.D., Primary World of the Senses, Translated from German by Jacob Needleman (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1963), p. 149.


Richard Mitchell, Op. Cit.,, p. 35.


American Heritage Electronic Dictionary, Op. Cit.


For more information about these cassette tapes, please write to: Larry Barnhart, 2390 S. University Blvd. #401, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. 80210 or call (303) 733-3385.


Larry Barnhart, "Your Power to Create Love," Article/Advertisement, July 1989


Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Complete Sayings of Hazrat Inayat Khan (New Lebanon, NY: Sufi Order Publications, 1978), p. 28


Ibid, p.126.


Ayn Rand, Op. Cit.,, p.115. [Italics original.]


Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962), p. 82.


Quote of Husserl, Rollo May, Love and Will (New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1969), p. 221.


Jean Piaget, Translated by Eleanor Duckworth, Genetic Epistemology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), p. 15.


I have been looking for the source of this quote for some time now. If you know of it, please share it with me. Thanx!


F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. I (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 19.


Indries Shah, The Exploits of the Incomparable Mullah Nasrudin (New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1966), p. 18.


William Tucker, Op. Cit.,, p. 208.

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