I was pissed. I had just returned from my anthropology class. I frantically knocked on Einstein’s door. He unlocked it and let me in. I immediately launched myself into a tirade of thoughts and ideas - “Under no circumstances, at least not in my fricking world, is it acceptable to believe or to posit or to assert that early man was a genocidal maniac! Anthropologists’ assertion that homo sapiens wiped out homo Neanderthal over 40,000 years ago is completely unfounded, biased and utterly stupid especially in the light of the sheer contradiction of facts.”
“What are the facts?”
My tirade went on. I paced back and forth reiterating to Einstein that I had always had a deep problem with anthropologists’ assertion that we were much more intelligent than Neanderthals. I told him that I had always been interested in the origins of intelligence and was fascinated by the story of how humans evolved from apes. But I found the explanation of evolution to be riddled with flaws and believed that anthropologists were off the mark on more than a few of their theories.
“Oh yeah? How so?”
“Well, for instance the idea that the Neanderthals were wiped out by the then up-and- coming Homo-sapiens is preposterous! “
“Why is that?”
“Because the theory is riddled with egocentrism! In all actuality we have no clue as to what happened to the Neanderthal species! All we have are a bunch of bones! Yes, some of those bones may indicate death by violence but to conclude that early humans killed off ALL the Neanderthals is a retarded fabrication because - #1) it contradicts the fact that Neanderthals brains were 200 cubic centimeters larger than our own! Neanderthals had bigger brains than we do but anthropologists say that this ‘extra’ brain matter doesn’t count because of the ‘extra’ muscle mass the Neanderthals carried on their skeletons! This is sheer blasphemy! In every anthropological account I’ve ever read they always trump up the idea that increases in brain size lead to more intelligent species! But when they find out that the Neanderthals had bigger brains they reverse their stance, call them dumb! Unable to make tools! Unable to speak and unable to form culture!”
“Physiologically, yes, most theories today assert that the Neanderthals were unable to speak. Evidence indicates that their larynx was underdeveloped and they were unable to create speech.”
“But what is speech but a form of communication? If the Neanderthals had extra brain matter located in the occipital area of the brain, the area where our visual world is recorded then perhaps they had a different form of communication. Perhaps they communicated with light and their eyes in the same way we produce sound that in turn correlates to our sense of hearing producing language. Perhaps the Neanderthals were able to produce light in a way that correlated to their sense of sight to produce a vastly different system of communication.”
“How in the hell do you think they saw their world?”
I was surprised to see Einstein going along with the absurdity of my speculative thought. My father was a staunch realist and would have resorted to pure defiant ridicule to set me in my place for even thinking such a thing. “Well maybe the Neanderthals were able to see in infrared or perhaps they saw into the ultraviolet spectrum and through the use of shiny objects they were able to communicate. If Neanderthals did see into the ultraviolet spectrum the tools they made, the culture they sustained would be inconceivable and therefore unavailable to be perceived by the human mind. Somewhere along the line of evolution a cognitive barrier grew between the Neanderthals and us making them entirely disappear!”
“Your assertation that Neanderthals extra brain mass in the occipital region allowed them to see and somehow interact with the ultraviolet spectrum is interesting. They lived in, what - glaciers and snow and ice? They certainly could’ve shined up a rock and used it as a reflective device to send signals long distances. And thus, establish a basis for their form of communication.” Einstein walked around the room rubbing his chin.
“I like your idea,’ Einstein said. “We consider them apes, yes. But we consider them dumber apes than us. Your assertion is -what if we considered them to be exquisite in every way comparable to what we are?”
I sat down still furious. “When is a genocide a valid conclusion to anything? This is the best intellectual conclusion that the world's greatest anthropologists have to offer as to the disappearance of the Neanderthals? Our innate nature is not homicidal egomaniacal mania!” This is a blatant case of egocentric racism! And this conclusion gives modern day people the permission to believe that we are inherently genocidal egomaniacal killers. This kind of thinking allows monstrosities like Hitler to exist! Genocide in Africa! Never will I accept ‘this’ as any thing remotely close to the truth in my heart of hearts.”
“Well I can see that you are quite passionate about your argument. “What do you plan to do?”
“I am going to go into the ultraviolet spectrum and find them.”
Einstein smirked and in a devilish manner mentioned that, “How can anyone 'go' into the ultraviolet spectrum? According to the way we understand the world the ultraviolet spectrum is a wavelength of light. There is no way to go into a wavelength of light!” He tossed a handful of peanuts into his mouth and began to chuckle. “How can a person go to the ultraviolet spectrum, in the first place and in the second, and above all to look for Neanderthals?!”
He bent over in his chair his whole body was shaking. He nearly fell out of his chair laughing. I was afraid he was choking on the peanuts. "Its impossible!” He roared throwing his head back. “There is no way to achieve your quest! Your quest entirely contradicts everything we know about the world and thus is perfect for engineering a conscious experience!” He winked at me and smiled tossing back a couple more peanuts.
“To engineer a conscious experience of this magnitude takes a person of certain constitution. By that I mean one needs a righteous passion worth dying for, a genuine desire to know, and of course - honesty, hard work and on top of it all - an extraordinary sense of discipline!
“In order to engineer a conscious experience of the ultraviolet spectrum you have to be willing to make this your last act on this Earth. You see, I am not like those other professors out there; I am not going to lie to you. I will not pull the wool over your eyes. I will not spin myths and fairy tales to cloud your mind. The truth is that you are a being who will one day die. This can neither be a curse nor a blessing. It simply is a fact of the human condition.
“The imagination engineer, however, uses this fact to his advantage by choosing something and then going the distance and fighting for the possibility to actually chose how you want die. Most of us live our lives selling our deaths to the highest bidder. We sell it to the Marlboro Man, to Budweiser, to cake and frosting and other delights. You know, whatever indulgence it is that catches our eye. We don’t really know how to die or rather I should say that we don’t know what is involved in the actualities of dying and so we auction it off. We simply sell our death. We buy our plot and resign ourselves to it with a signature. We either don’t care how we die or we’re not interested. Traditionally, we’re told to accept it.
“However, the imagination engineer does not accept the fact that he will one day die. Instead he rallies against it and battles the chance to have a chance at escaping its clutches. He does this by selectively choosing his battles and finding, as you’ve done, something worth dying for. All you need now is to understand the mechanics involved in engineering a conscious experience.”
He paused and walked around the room for a moment. His eyes glistened and seemed to be focused beyond the four walls of his lab.
As if reading from a non-existant horizon he said, “You see traditional academia relies upon quantitative and qualitative analysis, as well as textual and visual methods to study the world and our place in it. As such, the imagination is not considered by academia to be a feasible tool with which to investigate meaning, the production of knowledge and the nature of consciousness. Colin McGinn and Eva T. Brann both involved in contemporary debates of the imagination largely define imagination as the ability to produce an image of a person, place, thing or idea that is not present to the senses (McGinn 7; Brann 24). Due to its ephemeral quality the imagination has rarely been thought of as a tool on par or equal to that of reason and logic. Philosophical investigations of the imagination have been conducted in terms of how the imagination can create an image in the conscious mind not in terms of how to bring the conscious mind to the imagination. That is what you are flat up against! You are going to engineering a conscious experience in the imagination.”
Einstein began to root through the journals in, on, and stacked around his desk. I didn’t think there was anyway in hell he could find what he was looking for in an area of such disarray. But after a few minutes of digging, pausing and digging again he pulled an article out of the debris.
“Aha! He announced. “Thomas Nagel!” He read aloud a statement like a reverent Irish man. “There is every reason to think that the imagination contains genuine and important insights, and that it addresses real socio-cultural, or even spiritual, needs. For science to dismiss the issues it raises would amount to the acceptance of a major limitation on the scope of the scientific approach to reality. In order to address these issues rationally and effectively we need a scientific theory of imagination.”
With that he nimbly scaled a stool and stood atop it and announced with graceful distinguishment,“Human beings process information in two completely different ways.” He then crawled down the stool without ever looking at the floor in a slow, calmly mannered way that reminded me of an unsure child - something of complete benevolence. He then pulled the stool up to the cold black slate of his lab table. I watched as he meticulously swept off the seat of the stool. He brushed it and polished it with his sleeve. I closely watched his antics because I believed he was attempting to show me something of great importance. He looked out the window and measured the angle of the light coming streaming through the window and he turned carefully and bent down slowly picking invisible dust mites or hairs or whatever it was he saw, off the stool. When he was satisfied he bowed like a true gentleman and offered me a seat. I sat down on the rather high stool and my feet came off the floor.
He picked up a book from his desk and read aloud, “ ‘Gerald C. Cupchik, a professor of life sciences at Scarborough College, states that there are primary differences in the conscious experience produced from everyday cognitive processing and conscious experience produced from aesthetic cognitive processing (Cupchik, 72).’ He goes on to say that the primary distinction between everyday and aesthetic processing is that in the former a person is semantically oriented to the world and unaware that he or she is perceiving. In the latter Cupchik says there is a ‘reinvestment of attention in physical-sensory information” and one is aware of “the process of perception itself (Cupchik 80).’ Taking these two distinct differences in cognitive processing into consideration we find that aesthetic processing can be pushed further to the point that the synthesis between sensation and understanding which produce the world we know, doesn’t necessarily have to create the world we know.”
He looked at me with a wide eye seeing if I understood his point. He sat slowly searched amongst his papers. Upon finding something he turned to me and said, “ The imagination is commonly understood as and I qoute – ‘a power mediating between the senses and the reason by virtue of representing perceptual objects without their presence.’ (Brann 24). By virtue of representing perceptual objects without their presence . . .”
Einstein slowly stood and began to pace back and forth. “If one were sitting in a room reading this paper one would have to take into account the limitations of the fives senses and what they immediately perceive. According to the definition anything outside of the immediacy of the senses should then, quite rightly, be considered to exist in the imagination.. And certainly persons, places and things exist outside of the immediacy of the senses. They do exist, certainly of course they do exist. There is no argument there. But this means the imagination is engaged when anything outside of the immediacy of the senses are referenced or talked about.
“According to the stricktest rules of reasoning what exists outside of the five senses can only be found by following a specific sequence of events that we’ve come to regard as actual ‘proof’ that there is an outside world that we visit on a daily basis. Since talk of what exists outside the senses takes up so much time there is no time left to pay attention to what exists directly to the senses. We always end up traversing the sequence of events as we go to-and-fro and fro-and-to. What I aim to emphasize is that this basic philosophical reduction ‘from the world at large’ to the ‘world of the immediate senses’ creates a dichotomy between a perceived and unperceived world. The unperceived world is that which exists right outside of our senses.
“For instance, an adult and perhaps an infant or a very young child hear a train. The adult knows the sound of the train is a train. As such all of the adults five senses are convinced the train is real. Lets say the infant/child is hearing this peculiar sound for the first time. As such the infant/child has no idea what the sound is but still hears the sound. Both the adult and the infant/child in hearing the train only detect the train with their sense of hearing. However, the adults other five senses are stimulated by imaginary sense data. The adult truly believes an entire train exists just outside the full range of his senses. The adult believes this because his senses are stimulated from an internal subjective source - imaginary sense data. And, of course, the infant/child's senses are also stimulated by imaginary sense data. But the child does not conjure up, or think or is even convinced there a train. So what does the child experience?
“Uh . . . something inexplicable probably.”
“Of course! Unfortunately, our imaginations respond to the sound by forming the concept ‘train.’ But according to the senses there is no train! There is only a sound detected by the ears. A vibration in the fabric of time and space touches our ears and the infinite power of the imagination to a single response – train!” He laughed aloud and continued chuckling to himself while shaking his head.
“For everyday cognitive processing the abstract sense datum doesn’t exist. The synthesis of train occurs with a minimal amount of stimulii. The most important thing about this mental construction or synthesis is that it occurs with a minimal amount of stimuli. What Cupchik is describing, Cupchik’s everday processing, is minimal processing. A simple glance at an object and instantly we know what the object is. A half-second of hearing the sound of a car and lookey here we know what it is. Only a minimal amount of sensory information is detected by a sense organ and Shazam! We are convinced of the entirety of the object!.”
He continued to go on with whatever he was saying and I began to find it difficult to hear him. I knew internally that I had heard enough of whatever such and such a theory it was he was spelling out for me and felt my familiar habit of boredom come over me. I also noticed that my habit of ignoring what people were saying begin to take over. I barely noticed that he began to dig into a cupboard. The more he kept drolling on and on about objects and sense datum’s the more I became more involved with my own thoughts and feelings. I kept him occupied by offering an occasional ‘uh huh’ and ‘hmmmm.’ I barely heard him rummage through one and then another and then yet another cupboard. I knew he was mindlessly spouting off Kantian gibberish and I quickly became lost in a sense of timelessness and thought.
Out of nowhere Einstein slammed something of huge mass onto the cold black table in front of me. My body shrieked in surprise. I sat bolt upright in my chair. He announced in a loud inquisitive booming voice, “Do you remember learning?” In front of me was a massive chunk of soft urban brown palpable clay. My eyes fell in love and immediately began shaping the clay with my hands.
‘What Cupchik doesn’t know is that human beings are also capable of processing information in bulk. That is to say, human beings have an undiscovered ability to process sensory information in bulk. The engineering of conscious experience takes advantage of the fact that human cognitive processes can process sensory information in bulk form. Do you remember first grade?”
I nodded as I busily worked the cold clay into a warmer form. He looked me in the eye stopping me for a moment. “No, I mean really make an effort to remember first grade.” I paused and thought back.
“Well close your eyes!” he said chuckling. “Then breath in the scene. What do you see? Where are the windows? What is the teacher wearing? Is the teacher male or female? How does your body fit to the chair? What is the surface of the desk like? What sounds do you hear? What is the teacher teaching? Once you’ve summed up all these questions breathe in all the sensory information in the scene while turning your head from one side to the other. And then breathe out all the sensory information in the scene. This simple act converts the sensory information into abstract sensory information. What appears to memory as windows, desks, light, shadow, sounds is unlocked from language and raw or abstract sense data is capitulated to the body. Do another sweeping breath of the head with your feelings. Keep the feelings, the emotions, the sights and sounds you want and then blow out the feelings and/or reactions that you don’t want moving your head back to other side.”
I sat there for a couple of minutes really getting involved with the memory I was experiencing. Then I moved my head breathing in all I wanted to keep and then, moving my head the opposite way, I breathed out all that I didn’t want.
“When your done acknowledge that you’ve breathed in scene and that you’ve released it by moving your head from one shoulder to the other in a slow movement stopping in the center” I finished the scene and he asked, “What did you remember?”
I told him I remembered sitting in a room facing east. The morning sun glistened all throughout the room. My memory was one of kindergarten not first grade. I told him as many details as I could remember – the thickness of the pencil, the funky recycled paper, the blue lines, the girls sitting next to me, the location of the bathroom, and my feelings about the lesson. I couldn’t quite remember the lesson we were learning and the memory wasn’t specific to any day. It was more or less a generic memory. We were writing that is for sure. And I remembered wanting to be the first to play with the red Tonka fire truck when our fifteen minute break came along.
“Curious isn’t it? All those lessons learning about giraffes, elephants, leopards, lions are all buried somewhere in our minds each undistinguishable from the next. Where are they? How do we learn things? Lets take apart the scene – what happens if you take away the sensation of the chair you're are sitting on? Take away the windows, the walls, the floors, the ceilings, take away the sounds and the sensation of the big pencil in your hand? Blow out all these sensations and what do you have left?” He looked at me inquisitively.
Einstein laughed aloud. “The lesson! What is left is the lesson –the teacher standing there and everyone in the class looking at a picture of an alligator and learning about the alligator.We learn in the hopes that one day in the future sometime somewhtere we will be able to go to the zoo and recognize – ‘Hey there is an alligator!’ And yet what we most often remember is not the lesson but like you said, the fire truck, the location of the bathroom, the windows, or perhaps even the people sitting next to you. If you practice this breath it becomes apparent that every single sensation in the room contributed to our learning of ‘alligator.’ Everything! Birds flying by, Billy flushing the toilet, sneakers in the hallway . . . all of it every ounce of sense information contributes to learning.
“By being able to detect all those sensations in the room and being able to match those sensations to the concept and picture of the alligator and to the repetitious writing of the word ‘alligator’ we successfully learned the meaning of ‘alligator'. Engineering a conscious experience is similar in that all the sensastions one is aware are associated with the concept one is intending to learn more about. Raw sensation surrounds us twenty five hours a day eight days a week! Accessing it and being aware of it are the heart of engineering conscious experiences.
I looked at him puzzled. He had lost me somewhere.
“For instance, imagine that ‘alligator’ was at one time a foreign concept, just as foreign as ‘going to the ultraviolet spectrum.’ Well, instead of alligator, lets use llama, as it is the most foreign animal I can think of right now. When we were given the concept of llama it wasn’t a word yet, it was a new kind of animal and as children we were filled with awe and excitement on learning what kind of animal a llama was. We collected all the sensations to fill the ‘concept’ llama through rewriting the word and associating all the sensory information available to the senses with llama. Once the concept is engrained in our minds and bodies we have learned what a llama is and can recognize one on the spot and recite various facts about its existence. And thus the end product of learning is knowledge.
"What is interesting when you really look at this way of learning is how it’s accomplished. The gathering of abstract sensory information into a concept we will call ‘taking an inventory.’ Everyday we wake up and go about our day gathering sensory information from work, school or where ever it is we go during the day and at night we come home and eventually fall asleep only to wake up again and take pretty much the same inventory of sensory experience and so on till the next day and the next day and the next and again and again. Our future is born of boredom, monotony and routine. The imagination engineer deeply desires to escape monotony, routine and boredom. And the imagination engineer knows and is aware of the fact that, whether we like it or not, the body and mind continously takes an inventory of sensory experience. Go back to ‘alligator’. Repeat the word aloud in various intonations. With enough repetition the meaning of the word will fall away. The word becomes incomprehnsible. When this happens the sounds of ‘alligator’ has become abstract sensory data.
“In order to make the jump to the ultraviolet spectrum you will have to associate abstract sensory data with an action oriented concept – ‘ I intend to go to the ultraviolet spectrum.’ This association, if persistently taken for a duration of time will form a bulk inventory of abstract sense data. This inventory must completely contradicts the order of 'the kantian understanding.' And you must take it to its full length. For instance, as you work with that clay intend to create the association.
He paused for a moment and watched me as I kneaded and knodded the clay in and out of forms and shapes and figures. He said nothing and then moved about the room. "The ability to engineer conscious experience is dependent upon registering, collecting all the sensory information you come in contact with under one single unbending category – ‘Intend to go to the ultraviolet spectrum.’ As you fill the concept with abstract sensory data your mind, your Kantian understanding, will feel threatened because it is reasonable and will refuse to process the abstact sensory data. The Kantian understanding inherently knows it is impossible ‘to go to the ultraviolet spectrum.’ And we are reasonable creatures. As such we have to admit that there isn’t a chance in hell that you will ever see the ultraviolet spectrum. But then proceed as if this fact doesn’t matter one iota. It’s important to erase any expectations that you will succeed in your task and yet you must move forward and do more than you best to accomplish your goal. This way more of the raw abstract sensory data will go into your inventory and not into entertaining ideas of ‘how great it will be when’ or ‘i can’t wait for such and such to happen’. The bulk inventory must be whole and complete.”
I looked at the clock on the wall. I was time for me to go.
“Remember, human beings are capable of learning in two vastly different ways. Minimal processing produces the world of everyday life and all it’s toils and spoils and wins and losses. Bulk processing registers abstract sense data in an inventory and upon cognitive digestion produces imaginary sense data in a reasonable state of awareness wherein the struggle for life depends upon abandoning the daily mode of cognition in order to survive. Thus, the state of awareness engendered in an engineered conscious experience has all the hallmarks of daily awareness. And by that I mean that in the engineered state of consciousness, one is fully aware of who they were, where they were and why they were doing it."