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The high and low potential of the mind

By Kim Michaels

 

Materialism claims that the mind is subjective and that it is an unreliable tool for determining truth because it believes what it wants to believe. This claim is correct, as people clearly have a tendency to believe what they want to believe—which can turn individual minds – as well as the collective mind of an entire civilization – into closed systems. The reality is, however, that the mind also has an ability to go beyond the level of subjective thought and raise its level of awareness, until it can indeed interact with a higher reality. This, of course, is denied by both traditional religion and materialism, for the simple reason that both are controlled by power elite groups who want to disempower the people and therefore must deny the true powers of the mind. This can be clearly seen by the fact that most modern countries teach schoolchildren about many aspects of life, but they do not teach them about the one aspect that affects everything they experience, namely the mind or psyche. Thus, for those who want to be healed, it is necessary to explore the different aspects of the mind.

When looking at history and everyday life, it is clear that human behavior spans a very wide spectrum, from the most selfish and insensitive to the most altruistic and selfless. Again, what is the difference between those who act selfishly and those who do not? Materialism claims it is a matter of the DNA combined with people’s upbringing. Yet there is much real-life evidence to counteract this claim. People from very poor and abusive environments have become truly selfless, and people within the same family can become both criminals and outstanding citizens. Thus, a closer examination reveals that the real difference between selfish and altruistic behavior is to be found within the mind of the individual. 

One way to explain this is to say that the mind has a wide range from its lowest to its highest potential. There is a low potential for the human mind, which is seen in insanity or complete selfishness, such as sociopaths. Yet there is also a high potential, as seen in many outstanding people throughout history. The differentiating factor is the level of selfishness or selflessness. As people move towards the extreme of selfishness, their minds become increasingly closed, as seen in sociopaths who have no sensitivity towards other forms of life. 

In fact, an examination of the psychology of people who belong to a power elite group will show that they have gone quite far into the selfish extreme. They can appear as outstanding and altruistic citizens on the surface, but in reality they are completely focused on working for themselves, their group or a cause defined by their group. On the other hand, the creative elite have gone towards becoming increasingly selfless and able to work for the good of the whole. Both groups may be working for a cause that both see as being for the common good, but the difference is whether it serves to set the general population free or make them slaves of an elite.

Most people are somewhere in between selfishness and selflessness, yet the important point is that people’s current position is not an exclusive product of inheritance or upbringing. The science of psychology has been affected by the materialistic paradigm, and thus it promotes theories that disempower the individual by portraying the psyche as a product of external factors over which a person has little control. Yet in the more avant-garde areas of psychology and self-help – as well as in the universal spirituality – it is becoming increasingly clear that the individual does indeed have power to change his or her psyche. In other words, while one’s current psychological condition may indeed be influenced by inheritance and environment, the human psyche is not set in stone. Every person has the potential to move down towards selfishness or up towards selflessness, which means that every person has the potential to work towards personal healing through the powers of the mind.

In fact, one view of both mental and physical disease is that it is a product of a person’s mind becoming a closed system. As this happens, the mind becomes subject to the second law of thermodynamics and goes into a downward spiral that makes people more self-centered. This leads to depression or mental illness, and it can also affect the body in terms of physical disease. Thus, it becomes important to understand the element of the psyche that makes people increasingly focused on the self as an entity separated from the whole.

 

The separate self

Science has gradually revealed an underlying unity which points to the fact that the universe is one, indivisible whole. Those people who have moved towards being truly selfless act as if the world is an indivisible whole, and thus what they do affects the lives of all—and therefore also themselves. People who are in the selfish extreme act as if they are completely separate individuals who have the right to do whatever they want without even considering how it affects the whole and without reaping what they have sown. Thus, it becomes clear that one can talk about two different “selves,” two different ways of viewing the individual and its connection to a larger whole: 

  • The separate self sees the world as fragmented and divided into separate spheres. It sees itself as a separate being disconnected from the whole and from other people. The fact that other people are different becomes a threat. When many people are in this frame of mind, they see each other as competitors, which leads to an inevitable and ongoing struggle for power and resources. People who look through the separate self also believe they have a right to do whatever they see as justifiable and that they can do things to others without affecting themselves.
  • The one self sees the world as an interconnected, indivisible whole. It sees itself as an individual, but not a disconnected being. Rather, it sees all self-aware beings as expressions of a greater self, a greater mind. The fact that other beings are different is not a threat but a source of creative tension that leads to growth. People are seen as complementing each other and can achieve more together than can be achieved alone. Thus, there is no struggle but a spirit of co-operation based on the recognition that the whole is more than the sum of its parts—especially compared to when the parts are competing with each other. People in this frame of mind also see that because the world is an interconnected whole, anything they do to others will eventually affect themselves. Thus, they understand the timeless truth that the universe is a mirror and that what you do onto others, the cosmic mirror will reflect back to you.

The separate self is commonly being called the ego by people in the fields of modern psychology, self-help and universal spirituality. The origin and characteristics of the ego will be explored more fully in Part Two, yet for now the important point to understand about the ego is that it forms a filter that colors how an individual looks at the world. It is the ego that turns the mind into a closed system, and for those who want to be healed, it is extremely important to understand how this works.

 

Why do people believe what they believe?

When looking at the range of human beliefs, it becomes obvious that people have the ability to believe some very strange ideas. How can a religious person believe that killing members of another religion is justified by God and will bring a reward in heaven? How can a church official believe that torturing people in order to get them to recant their unorthodox beliefs will save them from an eternity in hell? How can people believe that God is a judgmental being in some remote heaven and is not found on Earth? How can people believe that there is no God, and thus there is no connecting link between people or between them and the world in which they live? Well, the reality is that all such beliefs spring from the illusion of separation. They seem credible only when seen through the filter – the reality distortion field – of the separate self, the ego.

The simplest way to describe the ego is to compare it to a pair of colored glasses. Without the glasses, one sees the world as it really appears. Yet when one puts on the glasses, one still sees the same world but everything now has an overlay that makes it appear slightly different. For example, if the glasses are yellow, the sky will appear green. The ego is like a pair of glasses that makes everything appear to be separate because the ego hides the underlying connection between everything. And once everything is seen as separate, a number of beliefs suddenly appear credible, whereas a person who sees the reality of oneness can see these beliefs only as illusions.

Yet what is the core of the ego? It is that it is separated from reality. Thus, the ego cannot “see” or experience reality directly. Instead, what the ego sees is a mental image. This image is a picture of reality that is created in the mind by an interaction between reality and the image created by the ego. How is this possible?

To fully understand how the ego distorts perception, it is once again helpful to look at science. Scientists have discovered that everything in the material universe is made from energy, and energy is a form of vibration, a wave. When two waves meet, they interact, and the interaction is called an interference pattern. When the physical eye sees the world, this happens because waves of light enter the eye. These waves of energy are created when visible light interacts with the energy waves that make up the material things in the surroundings. So even the naked eye is seeing an interference pattern, yet it is not colored by anything artificial.

When you put a pair of colored glasses in front of the eye, the light entering now interacts with the energy that makes up the glasses. Since both are forms of energy, an interference pattern is created, and this is what the eye sees. The eye no longer sees the natural interference pattern but sees an artificial pattern, and thus the perception is no longer true or natural. If a person had yellow contact lenses mounted at birth and had never seen the world without the lenses, that person would be completely convinced that the sky is green. Likewise, if a person has never seen the world without the filter of the ego, the person is completely convinced that the ego’s image is reality. Yet this can be taken to a deeper level of understanding by looking at quantum physics.

 

Quantum physics and how people see the world

Before the advent of quantum physics – in what is called classical physics – scientists saw the world as being made from two elements. One was solid matter, being made up of tiny elementary particles, the term “elementary” signifying that they could not be divided because they had no internal parts. The other element was energy waves that were always vibrating, either moving through a medium or appearing as standing waves, what is called an energy field. 

When physicists began to study the world of subatomic particles, they discovered that the line between matter particles and waves appeared to blur. In fact, if a scientist is looking for a wave, the subatomic entity will behave as a wave. Yet if a scientist is looking for a particle, the same subatomic entity will dutifully behave like a particle. This is called the wave-particle duality, and it is still baffling to most scientists. The explanation, however, is quite simple.

What quantum physicists have proven is that when a scientist is making an observation of the subatomic world, the outcome of the experiment is the result of an interaction between three elements: the subatomic entity, the instrument used and the mind of the scientist. Yet all three elements are made from energy, meaning they are forms of energy waves. Thus, what the scientist sees is an interference pattern created by the interaction of three forms of energy waves, namely those of the subatomic entity, those of the particle accelerator and those of the mind of the scientist. The scientist is not making an objective or neutral observation of a separate phenomenon. The scientist is part of an interconnected whole, and his or her mind is actually co-creating the interference pattern that is being observed. In other words, the scientist is not seeing a separate object because everything that human beings see is an interference pattern influenced by the mind.

The fact that a subatomic entity can behave as both a wave and a particle shows something very important. The subatomic entity is neither a wave nor a particle—it is something entirely different, something that cannot yet be conceptualized by the human mind. In other words, physicists are so focused on seeing the world in terms of waves or particles that they cannot see the subatomic entity for what it really is. What they see instead is a result of the fact that their minds are seeking to superimpose a mental concept – wave or particle – upon reality. This mental construct is turned into a waveform by the mind, and as it interacts with the subatomic entity, it creates something that did not exist before—an interaction between an objective reality and the subjective image inside the mind.

Take note of the essential point. Scientists are looking at the world through a particular filter, namely their current understanding, paradigm or world view. According to this world view, the universe must be made from waves and particles. Thus, in studying subatomic entities, they are not truly looking for reality the way it really is—they are looking to make reality fit into their world view and behave as either a wave or a particle. Thus, they cannot see the reality that is beyond their concepts of what the world should be like. Although this does not mean that all scientists are blinded by the ego, it does show an important truth about how the ego distorts perception. Yet to understand this, it is necessary to distinguish between the ego and the linear mind.

 

The linear mind

Scientists are often seen as being highly intelligent people, and intelligence is commonly defined in terms of a highly developed intellect. The intellect is the analytical part of the mind, often associated with the left hemisphere of the brain. The intellect is a great tool for helping people improve the practical aspects of life, which is why the intellect has been used so successfully to develop practical technology. Yet the intellect is only one aspect of the mind, and as such it has certain limitations. Highly intelligent people are often socially awkward and have difficulty dealing with moral and ethical concepts. Does the fact that scientists can develop a virus that would kill every human being mean that they should do so? The intellect either has no answer or will answer with a “Yes.” To gain a more complete perspective, one must use the right hemisphere of the brain, often associated with more holistic, spherical or “big picture” thinking. Yet for people with a highly developed intellect, this can be extremely difficult. Thus, the popular saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail.

The main point to understand about the intellect is that it is a relative faculty. It works by analyzing, and analysis is an act of comparing something new to something already known. The intellect creates a database of ideas or facts that are thought to be valid and true. For example, the database may contain facts that are perceived to be true, such as “The Earth is round.” It may also contain facts or ideas that are thought to be non-true, such as “The moon is not made of green cheese.” Yet in either case, what is put in the database is considered to be valid and thus normally beyond questioning.

When presented with a new idea or fact, the intellect can work only by comparing it to its database. The underlying assumption is that the contents of the database are true, and thus the new idea or fact is evaluated based on how it compares to the valid ideas or facts in the database—which explains why people could believe the Earth was flat. If a new observation contradicts a valid idea in the database, the intellect assumes the new observation must be faulty in some way. Yet consider what happens when a new idea simply cannot fit into any of the existing categories in the database.

As an example, consider the findings of quantum physics. Scientists have entered a “fact” in their databases, namely that the universe is made from matter particles and energy waves. Thus, when they observe the level of subatomic particles, they are subconsciously seeking to fit their observations to confirm this view, meaning their observations must conform to either their view of how particles behave or their view of how waves behave. If a subatomic entity does not conform or conforms to both, the result is confusion. The intellect alone cannot resolve this confusion, and if people use only the intellect, they are stuck, they are at an impasse, they are in a mental catch-22.

The consequence of the way the intellect functions is that the intellect has a very clear limitation. The intellect functions by working within a predefined framework, yet it is not able to define this framework or to question and expand it. As an example, consider that for centuries, scientists pondered the mystery of why heavy objects fall to the ground. Then, Isaac Newton defined a solution, namely that there is a force of gravity that pulls on all objects that have mass. He used this insight to create a theory of gravity, and it became the foundation for the creation of a database in the minds of physicists. The intellect is very capable of building upon such a foundation, and scientists have used the foundation laid by Newton to develop a sophisticated knowledge about gravity, allowing them to create complex technology, including sending a rocket to the moon. All of the subsequent development was done through the intellect, yet the original discovery was not made through the intellect.

Isaac Newton used the intuitive or holistic aspect of the mind to make the conceptual leap and “see” the force of gravity that had so far been unseen by scientists—although it had obviously been in operation all along. Likewise, Columbus used the intuitive faculties to make the conceptual leap of seeing that the Earth is round, and Einstein did the same to discover the theory of relativity. Einstein called intuition for “the mysterious” and said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

The important point is that the intellect is a relative faculty that works by comparing anything new to what is already known. Thus, once a particular world view has entered the intellectual database and been accepted as valid, the intellect is reluctant to question it. This is why people who rely exclusively on the intellect find it very difficult to think outside their mental boxes. The intellect has a tendency to turn the mind into a closed system, where anything that could expand the mental box is rejected as invalid.

Yet this is not to say that the intellect itself is a problem. The problem comes into being when the ego builds upon the intellect and adds a value judgment to the database created by the intellect.

 

The value judgment of the ego

The intellect, or the linear mind, is a relative faculty. It works by comparing everything to what is already in its database. Yet the intellect does not make ultimate judgments. For example, the intellect cannot determine what is an ultimate truth or what is absolutely right or wrong. When faced with a question such as, “Should scientists develop a nuclear bomb?” the intellect can bring up arguments for and against the action but cannot make a final determination. Such a determination must be made by another part of the mind—the question is which part of the mind. There are two options: 

  • The one self is a higher part of the mind, and it is accessed through the intuitive faculties, often associated with the right hemisphere of the brain and holistic thinking. The higher mind actually does not think in terms of right and wrong, but evaluates everything based on the reality that all life is part of an interconnected whole. Thus, any action will either serve to raise all life or to diminish the whole. To the one self, anything that raises the whole is the optimal thing to do, whereas anything that diminishes the whole is not optimal.
  • The ego is based on the illusion of separation and cannot make an evaluation based on what is best for the whole—because it cannot see the whole. Thus, the ego makes an evaluation based on some aspect of the illusion that the world is fragmented and that the ego is a separate being. This world view can take many forms, but common to all of them is that the ego sets up certain ideas as unquestionable and then makes the value judgment that they are ultimately right or absolutely true. This inevitably leads to a dualistic conflict, because any idea that is different from or seems in opposition to the ego’s ideas must be viewed as wrong or untrue. Thus, the ego is the faculty of the mind that sets the foundation for an epic struggle between two opposing forces, one seen as ultimately good and the other as absolutely evil. 

This insight leads to an answer to one of the persistent mysteries of human existence, namely why people can be absolutely convinced about the validity of ideas that are later seen as outrageous. How could the medieval inquisitors be absolutely convinced that by torturing people they were doing God’s work? How could the Nazi leaders be absolutely convinced that their “final solution” was justified and would lead to a better world? How can a modern suicide bomber be convinced that killing civilians will lead to a reward in heaven? 

The reason is a combination of the relativity of the intellect and the value judgment of the ego. This works as follows. The intellect can present arguments for or against any question but cannot make an ultimate determination as to which argument is superior. For example, some scientists were convinced of the necessity for developing a nuclear bomb, whereas Albert Einstein refused to participate. 

The intellect’s inability to make ultimate judgments is compensated for by the ego, which makes such decisions based on its value judgment of what is right and wrong, good and evil. The combination works in a very subtle way that is not recognized by most people. 

 

Why people can justify the most inhumane actions

As an example, consider a medieval inquisitor, who claims to be a follower of Christ (who told his followers to never resist evil and to turn the other cheek). How can a person who claims to represent Christ commit acts that are so obviously against the commandments of Christ? The reason is that the person has not used his intuitive or holistic mind to gain a direct knowledge of Christ and his true teachings. Instead, the person has been brought up in an environment that discourages such direct experience and states that people can know Christ only through the doctrines of the outer church (controlled by the power elite). The power elite controlling the church are trapped in the illusion of the separate self (or they would not seek to control others), and thus they cannot know Christ’s true teachings. Instead, the institution they have created promotes doctrines that are mental images of Christ. Yet these mental images are based on the illusion of a fragmented world and the perceived reality of a separate self.

The world view promoted by the church is a dualistic view, in which there is an epic struggle between two opposing forces, namely God and the devil, good and evil. It is claimed that Christ came to Earth to found the only true church and that membership of this church, adherence to its doctrines and obedience to its leaders is the only road to salvation—the alternative being that a soul will spend an eternity being tortured in hell. 

The inquisitor was therefore programmed to accept certain absolute “truths” and incorporate them in his database (“he” is used here because there were no female inquisitors). These absolute truths are colored by the ego’s value judgment, namely that they represent good, whereas anything that contradicts them represents evil. The combination forms a closed mental box that most people find it very difficult to question.

Yet how can a thinking person accept that it is justifiable to torture people and burn them at the stake if they will not recant their heretical beliefs? The reason is that the intellect can present arguments for or against any question, which means that the relative faculty of the intellect can present an argument for why it is necessary to have the inquisition. The intellect can also present arguments against the inquisition, but when the ego’s value judgment is added, such arguments can be dismissed, possibly even as the work of the devil. 

The mechanism is that the value judgment and the epic world view of the ego has put certain unquestionable ideas and absolute value judgments into a person’s subconscious database. And the intellect now presents arguments that validate these beliefs and the actions that follow. When only the affirming arguments are considered, a person can commit the most inhumane acts while being firmly convinced that they are necessary, justified and will contribute to the greater good.

The combination of the relativity of the intellect and the epic world view of the ego leads to the axiom that the ends can justify the means. For example, even though almost all people have an inherent sense that killing is wrong, there are exceptions where it becomes justifiable to kill people in order to prevent an even greater evil. For example, it is better to torture and burn people than to have their souls burn forever in hell or have the entire world fall into the hands of the devil and thus destroy God’s plan for the universe. This particular psychological mechanism has convinced people about the justifiability of some of the most inhumane acts in history. It has the following elements:

  • The illusion of a fragmented world and a separate self.
  • The value judgment of this separate self, or ego, leading to the belief that the world is embroiled in an epic struggle between good and evil.
  • The relativity of the intellect, which can present arguments for or against any action. Yet when the value judgment of the ego “invalidates” arguments against the action, people are absolutely convinced that the action is justifiable.

 

 

Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels

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