Monday, November 3, 2008

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I went back to Einstein to talk about the nature of engineered conscious experiences and the idea of collecting sense data in bulk. Einstein said that to understand why bulk processing engenders a dramatic shift in consciousness a cognitive model is needed. Einstein said that this cognitive model is found in Kant’s Transcendental Theory of the Imagination. He added that Kant’s great claim to fame was his quiet, unyielding and eternally patient, well studied and astutely observable accounting of they way in which the Transcendental Imagination worked. Einstein stood and began a lecture.

"Immanuel Kant is one of the most influential philosophers in the history of western civilization and his intellectual reach influences every single field of academic discipline from philosophy to psychology and from science to art. In his book, The Critique of Pure Reason, he finds that, and I quote –‘we must assume a pure transcendental synthesis of imagination as conditioning the very possibility of all experience’ (Kant 133). And further, that our sensory experience of the world of objects and the understanding needed to differentiate them, as Murray Code acknowledges, ‘ . . . requires a synthesis of sensibility (which provides the mind with its object for thought) and understanding (which forges conceptual coherence out of the objects for thought)’ (Code 93). Sensibility and understanding require a transcendental synthesis, a synthesis that occurs before sensation and understanding are formed and available to the conscious mind. This synthesis as Richard Kearney, professor of philosophy at Boston College says, is attributed to the power of the imagination and ‘points to a primordial unity of sensation and understanding brought about by the imagination prior to the functioning of either faculty’ (Kearney 191).

“The imagination’s synthesizing power is recognized theoretically. In the realm of cognitive science, Gregory Kampis claims that, 'The result of information processing is an artificial reality, as many have suspected since Rudjer Boskovich and Immanuel Kant’ (Kampis 142). And, in relation to Kant’s theory, Richard Tarnas notes that, 'Experience is a construction of the mind imposed on sensation' (Tarnas 344). Kant asserts that the power of the imagination to synthesize raw sensation into something meaningful is dependent upon the concepts of pure understanding. Without the concepts of pure understanding, the imagination’s power to synthesize sensation is nearly useless to make sense of experience. Thus, as Roger Scruton notes, raw sensation synthesized by the imagination, and I quote - “contains no concept” and “is without intellectual structure”-end quote- until the concepts of pure understanding give form and meaning to sensory data and create ‘appearances’ (Scruton 67). Howard Gardner notes that appearances are the phenomena, the sensations caused by particular objects (Gardner 58). But these appearances are synthesized into a unity by the transcendental imagination and therefore are a distinct production of our cognitive processes and not a real appearance of them, as they exist. As Kant explains on page 147 of his Critique of Pure Reason, “ . . . the order and regularity in the appearances, which we entitle nature, we ourselves introduce. We could never find them in appearances, had we ourselves, or the nature of our mind, originally set them there" (Kant 147). The appearances of objects relate in very distinct ways to the concepts of pure understanding, which are present both in the mind and in reality. As Gardner notes, without the concepts of pure understanding embedded in the understanding scientific experiments would not have measurable results (Gardner 60). Therefore, the mind is actively structuring the world of perception around it according to its process of cognition. According to Tarnas, this means that, "the nature of the human mind is such that it does not passively receive sense data. Rather, it actively digests and structures them, and man therefore knows objective reality precisely to the extent that that reality conforms to the fundamental structures of the mind” (Tarnas 343).

Einstein paused, looking at me poignantly, "The question to ask here is: If an individual’s perceptual experience is put together by the primordial function of the imagination and if the mind is actively constructing the overall perceptual unity of this world i.e. via correlating imaginary sense data with abstract sense data, then why can’t the imagination engineer its own conscious experience? First, it is known that the understanding is capable of incorporating all kinds of experiences into its organization. Secondly, the imagination does not possess the concepts of pure understanding! Our question dichotomizes and now we must ask,’ How can the concepts of pure understanding be dislodged from the understanding?

“Right?” he said looking at me. “And is it possible to instantiate the concepts of pure understanding in the imagination?” When you engineered your experience of the ultraviolet spectrum, you instantiated the concepts of pure understanding within the bulk inventory of abstract sense data. How did you do it?” I told him I associated every sensation or every sense data I was aware of with my intention to go to the ultraviolet spectrum. I also told him that I chose a single habit in order to dislodge the concepts of pure understanding from the understanding.

“What was your single habit?” I told him I had chosen to continuously tap my foot with the intention to go to the ultraviolet spectrum. And I kept up this habit practicing it continually.

“The ability to engineer conscious experience takes advantage of two key principles in human cognitive processing. The first principle is that objects and events in the daily world are instantly synthesized and categorized with a reaction to a minimal amount of stimuli. Per the example, when I hear the sound of a car driving by I actually believe it is a car. In accordance with the strictest rules of reasoning, all I’ve heard is a sound. Why? Because the factual elements that constitute the veracity of ‘a car driving by’ do not exist to my senses. Secondly, our cognitive processes also respond to registering and collecting sensory data in bulk. Giuliana Mazzoni’s research on the origin of dreams suggests that “our brain is busy consolidating important memories that have accumulated during the day and combining neuronal signals with existing knowledge and memories to produce some sort of coherent interpretation” (Mazzoni 442). What you've done with going to the ultraviolet spectrum is just that. You've collected what you once regarded as meaningless data into the intentional construct - 'I intend to go the ultraviolet spectrum.' Then with your sustained efforts you managed to complete a bulk inventory of abstract sense data and your single minded habit managed to dislodge the concepts of pure understanding from the understanding itself. Once the concepts of pure understanding fell into the bulk inventory of imaginary sense data it was digested or rather instantiated. Instantian created imaginary sense data i.e - the conscious experience of the ultraviolet spectrum. In a similar vein, lucid dreaming happens because the participant is trained to frequently acknowledge throughout their day that perhaps they are dreaming. Imagination Engineering consolidates these two views and advances that basic premise that gathering raw sensory data in bulk produces vast and extraordinary changes in consciousness – not that we know what consciousness is mind you. Rather, imagination engineering is a way to experience what consciousness does.

"The raw bulk data that is registered and collected intentionally and will affect the understanding. This is obvious when one encounters nearly any kind of abstract artwork. There is nothing there because the understanding is initially overwhelmed with large amounts of raw sensation. Interacting with large amounts of raw sensation produces an aesthetic experience. Inside of this aesthetic expreience is what Kant called the ‘free play of imagination’ (Kant 244). The ‘free play of imagination,’ for Kant, meant that the imagination was free and “accountable to no authority beyond itself – neither to understanding nor to empirical reality” (Kearney 174). In an aesthetic experience the words disappear and the understanding turns the raw sensation over to the imagination. This occurs just as philosopher Paul Guyer explains, “Kant’s view seems to be that in the experience of art the mind plays freely yet harmoniously with a wealth of both images and ideas – intuitions and concepts – manifested and suggested by the work at hand” (415). The ‘wealth of images and ideas’ he talks about can only come from raw sensory data stimulating more areas of the brain. With more stimuli reaching the brain the understanding is supplanted by the aesthetic experience thereby allowing the imagination to play with more concepts and imaginings.

"But this is not enough to produce an engineered conscious experience. A categorical intention must be used to transform raw or abstract sensory data into imaginary sensory data. It’s been said that categorical intentions function to “determine the type of interpretation that is appropriate to the work” (Rollins 178). If the type of interpretation is to be ‘aware of the ultraviolet spectrum’ one could intend to collect raw sensory data into a categorical construct that overrides the understanding and engineers a conscious experience in which one is aware of the ultraviolet spectrum. A point will be reached where the imaginary sensory data, the categorical construct, and the understanding - which again, contain the much needed concepts of pure understanding- acquiesce to the sheer persistence of the individual’s will and to the overwhelming amount of data collected. In one moment an engineered conscious experience occurs.

"But it only occurs because the concepts of pure understanding have fallen into a huge collection of abstract sensory data. The concepts of pure understanding act to digest the imaginary sensory data into sensorimotor responses. It has to be clearly understood that the inventory of imaginary data is a simple fantasy without the instantiating power of the pure concepts of understanding. Imaginary data will never be turned into lived experience without slowly allowing the understanding to let go of the concepts of pure understanding. The pure concepts are freed from the understanding via a new routine, an intentionally upheld habit. Or in your particular case - the process of creation found in art.

“The only way to free the concepts of pure understanding from the understanding is to come up with a new habit. For instance, if you copy someone else's way of walking with the intention to 'go to the ultraviolet spectrum' or if you intentionally move a foot 24 hours a day 7 days a week within the same intention your body and mind will automatically collect the data and simultaneously the new habit will pry loose the concepts of pure understanding.

“However, even this is not enough to engineer a conscious experience. The third and final element of using a conscious intention must be utilized. Everyday we reach for things, cups, steering wheels, fruits, breads and so on. The imagination engineer must make every act count and he does this by deciding before he moves that his conscious intention for acting is to ‘intend to go to the ultraviolet spectrum.’ That decision and conscious intention must be renewed every time one acts. This conscious intention must be upheld simultaneously not only with the single habit that is loosening the Kantian understanding but also with attempts to register and collect imaginary sensory data. A moment of instantiation will be reached creating an experience that accords to the nature of the imaginary data a person has collected.

He denoted the end of his lecture and sat down. A question that had been bugging me all throughout his lecture came to my mind. "But Einstein there were no Neandertals in the ultraviolet spectrum. How come the experience didn't accord to the nature of the data I collected?"

“You collected data necessary to jump to the ‘ultraviolet spectrum’ where you were going to look for Neandertals!” He burst into laughter and looked at me seriously. "Why don't you try going directly to the Neandertals world?"

I felt like an idiot. Duh! Why didn't I just intend to go to the Neandertals world? I told him that my experience of the ultraviolet spectrum reminded me of money and how money in our world is just as controlling as the unknown materials were in their world. I wanted to say so much and tell him so many things. But I rambled on about nothing for a good five minutes when finally a question I was dying to ask erupted from me. "But, Einstein, is the ultraviolet spectrum a real world out there or is it just in my imagination?"

He laughed uproariously and the light in his eyes seems to ask the question –Does it matter? He kept laughing and leaned perilously back in his chair. "Truth is always established by consensus. Certainly there may be someone else on this planet who is interested enough to engineer a conscious experience of the ultraviolet spectrum. And that person could go there and see the marvelous materials you spoke of and most certainly he or she could report back to us exacting descriptions of what was there. But I fear the day of such consensus is a million miles away. What matters is that you've taken responsibility for the fact that one-day you will die. Right here smack dab in the middle of it all you'll die and the respect you've shown your death by leaping to the ultraviolet spectrum in search of something larger than yourself goes much, much further than attempting to establish a truth or a consensus on whether or not the ultraviolet spectrum is a real world. On your very last day here in this world your death will stop in awe of you and what you've witnessed and stop for a moment to see what you've done with your life. Imagine that! One of the most powerful forces in the universe stopping to see what you saw, to breathe through your breath. Your death will pause for a moment allowing you to have a gesture with all that your life has been. Such a pause from such an eternal force can only be respect.

“Until a consensus is formed you can only consider your journeys into the imagination as just that journeys into the imagination. For now you will just have to consign these experiences over to your imagination. Perhaps 300 years from now, when the blarthy swarms have fettered away, and the rubbles been cleared and the smoke disappears and then, perhaps then, we will clearly see and understand the meaning of consensus, perhaps then, the world will be a better place. Perhaps then.”
He turned slightly to his keyboard and struck a slow key on his old antique Remington, striking a single letter to a crisp white sheet. Neatly and quietly I gathered up my things and snuck out of the room.

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