The mathematical music of the mind

July 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

These are practiced in different forms by many people, from the fire-dancing Navajo indians to the Hindus, and even occur within a nominally Christian tradition in Europe. To this day, on the feasts of St. Constantine and his mother St. Helen, the villagers of Langadas in Greece dance on glowing coals, clutching icons of these saints.
Bob Rickard and John Michell, Unexplained Phenomena

Statistical tests have shown that sick people who have taken “sugar pills” – tablets with no drugs in them – but who are told that they have taken drugs often seem to recover, even though their diseases have not really been treated. In “blind trial” experiements, some patients are given healing medication, and others are given tablets with no healing value. The patients do not know that some of the tablets have no drugs. A significant number of those receiving the placebo recover anyway, apparently just by taking what they believe is medicine.
William F. Williams, ed, Encyclopedia of Pseudo Science

I’m sure most of us know about the placebo effect, where a person who is taking completely non-medical substances can show an improvement in health merely because they believe it to be so. (There is, of course, debate as to how much of a role hypochondria can play in this…then again, hypochondria is in its own way an example of the flip side of this phenomenon, where a person’s sincere belief in an illness can actually manifest symptoms of that illness.) Then there are those who walk on hot coals, or manifest stigmata, or cause blisters to raise on their skin, or who can emit electricity from their bodies or magnetically lock themselves in place…what mechanism allows for all this? Doctors refer to the placebo effect as a psychological one…but how can a mere psychological process, in effect a delusion (“These pills are curing me”) bring about real healing? How can the inverse delusion (“I have an illness”) actually cause sickness in some cases?

Harrison’s book, which gathers together the result of many studies, leaves no possible doubt of the reality of spontaneous combustion. But what causes it? At present it must be confessed that the phenomenon baffles medical knowledge. But Harrison offers some interesting clues. He speaks of the researches of an American doctor, Mayne R. Coe junior, who was interested in the study of telekinesis – mind over matter. Coe was able to move aluminim strips pivoted on the points of needles by moving his hands over them…he began various yoga exercises in an attempt to develop his bioelectricity; sitting one day in an easy chair, he felt a powerful current passing downward from his head throughout his body.Colin Wilson, Mammoth Encyclopedia of the Unsolved

I once argued that spontaneous human combustion was quite possibly caused by a moment of transcendence, wherein the person in question comes to that moment of clarity so familiar to those who dabble in mysticism (and which is often called hitting bottom by addicts, which many SHC cases seem to be, addicts to alcohol) and at that moment of clarity, when the addict’s brain chemistry is at its most fervid, self-loathing takes over and the victim literally burns him or herself to death. Obviously, just as Harrison does, I see a connection between SHC and the psionic, although in my case I argue that the person who burns is burning himself. Admittedly, it would take a great deal of self-loathing, but subconscious self-immolative suicide is just the beginning of what I’m talking about.

There are innumerable examples. Mircea Eliade reports that the Dogon of North Africa (you remember them…the ones who tell tales of Sirius B, the ones who may or may not have been contacted by fish men from space in Robert Temple’s Sirius Mystery cosmology) can handle red-hot metal and often do in order to ritually repeat the actions of the smiths who forged the universe. Anna Monaro, a patient suffering from asthma, found herself glowing from within in May of 1934, and we can all decide if we think the official explanation that electromagnetic radiation from certain compounds in her skin was an explanation or simply a way of saying She’s glowing and I don’t know why. Or if you want a psychiatric evaluation of her case, we can always use the one handed down…that electrical and magnetic organisms in the woman’s body developed in eminent degree. If you’re wondering what organisms those would be, or how psychiatric training would allow one to perceive them, you aren’t alone in that. There are cases of supposed saints or mystics who display such luminous fields, of course, but in many cases it seems that pain and/or ecstasy play a key role.

It makes me wonder. Pain, whether it be the suffering of an addict unable to bear what their life has become or the self-inflicted pain of one walking on fire, can often serve as a great focusing agent. Distractions melt away when one is in agony. Even the anticipation of pain can serve to clear one’s mind, and the desire to avoid pain is one of the most primal emotions a human can experience. We know from our dabbling in neurological circles that all human thought is rooted in the paleomammalian brain and its emotional drives, that our powerful neocortical ‘computer’ is really secondary to the urges of the paleomammalian, that it is in effect slaved to it. We rationalize. So the idea that pain or the desire to avoid it or end it has an effect on these related phenomenon…the healing of the body through belief in the efficacity of worthless medication, the ability to transcend fire, to end the suffering of a life one cannot bear, to create symptoms to imaginary diseases so that they might be treated, the shedding of light from diseased or wounded portions of the body as if to illuminate their position, the electrical people who display strange powers of attraction or repulsion (as did Angelique Cottin, who could repel objects from her person and who was afraid enough to flee from anyone who witnessed her, or Vyvyan Jones of Henbury, Bristol, who upon breaking his arm in 1976 became charged with sufficient electricity to shock people, stop watches and cause nearby light sources to flicker in his presence) following psychological or physical trauma….becomes something to consider.

Pain focuses thought. But what is thought, that focusing it should have such an effect? Objectively, we think every day and I would be fairly certain that most of us can’t lift iron bars with magnetic fields or cause objects around us to burst into flame. Is it merely the extremity of pain? If it were, wouldn’t our terminal wards be filled with beds that contained naught but ashes or people emitting strokes of lightning as they thrashed about? It would seem to me that were pain enough to cause these kinds of effects, we’d have no assisted suicide cases in our courts and Jack Kervorkian would merely be a doctor with a morbid taste in art. Also, it’s clear that in many cases…the mystic who levitates himself, glowing like a torch, above a crowd of believers, the stigmatic who manifests gaping wounds on her body…that at times pain is totally irrelevant to the situation. And there are other factors to consider.

Psychogenic death Literally “mind-caused death,” the possibility that a person can die as a result of a psychological process was first considered by social scientists under the name voodoo death. Researchers observed in many cultures that individuals who were cursed, or who violated a taboo, frequently died shortly afterward in the absence of obvious physical causes. The classic description is that of Basedow (cited in Cannon). He observed the reaction of an Australian aborigine who had just had a cursing bone pointed at him by a sorceror. The victim: stands aghast, with his eyes staring at the treacherous pointer, and with his hands lifted as though to ward off the lethal medium which he imagines is pouring into his body. His cheeks blanch and his eyes become glassy and the expression on his face becomes horribly distorted…he attempts to shriek but usually the sound chokes in his throat, and all that one might see is froth at his mouth. His body begins to tremble…he sways backward and falls to the ground…writhing as if in mortal agony. After awhile he becomes very composed and crawls to his [shelter]. From this time onwards he sickens and frets, refusing to eat and keeping aloof from the daily affairs of the tribe. Unless a counter-spell is done quickly, death may be imminent.

Leonard George, Alternative Realities

But if we adopt an organismic rather than an atomistic perspective, there seems to be no good reason why organisms at levels of complexity should not have characteristic fields. Indeed, de Broglie’s original idea of matter waves implies such a view: entire atoms and molecules were wavelike quanta, as indeed were all forms of matter. It might not be absurd to think of an insulin molecule, say, as a quantum or unit in an insulin field: or even of a swan as a quantum of unit in a swan field. But this may just be another way of thinking about morphic fields: any particular insulin molecule is a manifestation of the insulin morphic field; any particular swan is a manifestation of the swan morphic field. Morphic fields may indeed be comparable in status to quantum matter fields. If atoms can be said to have morphic fields, then these may well be what are already described within quantum field theory. The morphic fields of molecules may already be partially described by quantum chemistry. But the morphic fields of cells, tissues, organs and living organisms have so far been described only in vague and general terms.Rupert Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past

Imagine thought. Thought, at its most basic chemical description, is an encoding of neurological signals which are transmitted by chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Therefore, thought is chemical. Therefore, thought is made up of matter. Therefore, thought is possibly described as a wavelike quanta, a characteristic morphic field of its own, the thought field. Any particular thought can be said to be a manifestation of the morphic field of thought. Are there, therefore, multiple morphic fields of thought? Just as individual cells may have their own fields, and the organs they make up may have discrete fields of their own as well as the fields generated by their components cells, who may have fields generated by their component molecules, which may have fields generated by their component atoms, which may have fields generated by their component electrons, protons and neutrons…and so on, and so on…does each kind of thought generate its own morphic field? Is there a field for hate, a field for love, a field for disgust…all of these fields seperate, and yet overlapping with the larger field of thought itself? And how does the thought field intersect with the field for the brain which generates the thoughts? We know that fields of force such as morphic fields are generated (in general quantum superstring theory, anyway) by the interaction of dimensions on matter. So there is no actual gravity as such, just the effect of a concentration of matter or energy on three-dimensional space, a kind of space warp.

Consider, then, the morphic field of thought. It’s a manifestation of the same means by which all matter and energy is created…the way three dimensional space interacts with the 10 (or 22, or however many dimensions are ultimately postulated) dimensions of the superstring. The superstring could be said to generate the morphic fields of all fundamental matter and energy, which then combine to create the ascending fields…the morphic fields of electrons, protons and neutrons, in varying combinations, creating the various morphic fields of all elemental atoms, which then combine to create the various morphic fields of all molecules…all the way up to the ultimate morphic field for the universe. Everything is a vibration of the superstring, or more accurately stated, everything is different variations of the vibrations of the superstring, just as music is different variations in the vibrations of air. The universe is a symphony played on the string, and the morphic fields are the notes. (Compare this to the celtic concept of Oran Mor the world-music, and you get some interesting ideas.)

Thought and its sub-fields, therefore, are a component in that symphony, and a very interesting one. Imagine a symphony where none of the performers have the sheet music, and are improvised as the music progresses. Now, into that symphony, introduce an instrument which is even more mutable, one that can mimic almost any other music and can range forward and back over the score, making itself felt in ways subtle and gross. We know thought can be translated into action. When a woman picks up a rock and throws it into a crowd, or spends a day planting a garden, she is translating thought into action. There is always resistance to this translation, whether it be the weight of the rock or the consistency of the soil, but this interaction of forces has a myriad of daily affects we experience. The sweep of a clock’s black wing. The smell of a human hive, exhaust fumes and sweat and food’s explosion of odors, the literal Chaos of interacting forces. Chaos can be seen as the fields that make up existence coming into resonance, the hand (as it were) of morphic resonance itself.

But is it possible that the thought fields can interact more directly, without needing to use the body as an instrument? Field theory would seem to argue that it is…morphic fields are habitual. A crystalline structure forms, and then it becomes easier for those crystals to form in that manner again. The fields are generated by repetition, as if the fold of three dimensional space wears a crease in it. So it becomes possible to imagine that as the thought fields interact, they can create regions where the universe is more or less disposed towards their interference. For instance, our example of the terminal ward above. If thought fields, focused by the stimulus of the pain field (like a catalyst dropped into a solution) can cause spontaneous human combustion, why don’t we see explosions every day in these storehouses of the dying, suffering and wounded? Because there are multiple fields at work, and they are worn into place by the general conception of an area. A terminal ward is a place of great suffering, yes…but it is also a place of hopelessness. You only go there when there’s nothing more that can be done. The weight of that much belief, pointed in one direction, becomes a counterforce that only the strongest focus could overcome.

It helps if you imagine the thought fields as electrons for a moment. We know that the reason our bodies don’t just pass through other matter (despite the fact that, in atomic terms, there’s plenty of empty space for solid matter to pass through other solid matter) is because of the repellent charge of our electrons. In this conception, both electrons and thought are essentially just fields, the electron field and the thought field. What if the reason that our sorceror in Australia can kill a fellow who grew up in the same belief system with a bone but can’t even make a sociologist nervous is because their thought fields are not sympathetic, but rather repellent? Electrons bind atoms, yet also repel them. Until the sociologist and the sorceror’s cultures come into close enough contact for there to be (for lack of a better word) morphic infection between them, they simply bounce off of one another. Their thought fields are not composed of the same sub-thought component fields. If you take it further and imagine that the collective of humanity is composed of the thought fields of all humanity together, there would be many, many places where these thought fields were in morphic dissonance with each other…many places where the wave of thought is in flux, and can more easily be swayed in one direction or another by sufficient focus of thought by one individual, imposing her own will like ripples in a pond.

So we have two competing mechanisms for thought fields to have direct affect on the fields of rocks, flesh, light and so on. One is through infection, as the morphic field of thought creates resonance with the morphic fields of other aspects of reality…the symphony taking on a new rhythm, or a new tempo…and the other through dissonance, as morphic fields clash against each other and possibly create new patterns. But how does a thought field create sufficient resonance to overwhelm or infect another? The easiest way is through sympathy (as magicians have known forever, it seems, with their fetish dolls and bits of primal matter) as the personal thought field of one being contains enough of the sub-thought component fields to, in effect, tune itself to match the fields around it. The sorceror points the bone, and like a tuning fork, matches his field to the field of his intended victim’s expectations. They both know what will happen, they both expect it to happen. The sick man is given a pill with no medicine in it, and he tunes his thoughts towards the possibility of recovering. He does not consider that it will not happen, and his focus is sufficient to allow him to override the fields of his own body.

All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Are the legends of shapeshifters endemic to our species cases where someone manages to tune his thought field to closely approximate the body fields of another species and his own form? Does a werewolf think strongly enough that it is both beast and man, and thus become both? One imagines Tarzan and Mowgli as humans who managed to go half-way, and at least think of themselves as beasts strongly enough to achieve some of the power of their chosen totems. Does the ancient Qabbalistic idea of emanations of God, of the descent and ascent of the divine lightning flash symbolize the quest to conceive sufficiently of the ain sof aur that one may tune one’s thought field to the highest possible frequence and encompass everything? Does it follow that, as society becomes more and more intertwined that the set of sub-thoughts that make up the thought field of individuals will become more susceptible to morphic infection, allowing old ways to start working again? Is this what is behind the seemingly constant similarities between quantum physics and ancient mysticism, the almost hermetic nature of the superstring and superspace theories? Is the reason these things don’t seem more readily apparent due to the effort it takes to force the fields of so many disparate components into alignment with our own, or is that the result of a misapplication? Should we be attuing ourselves to the universe rather than attuning it to us? And for that matter, are we deliberately creating a world where the mental focus, be it esoteric or simply personal, is harder and harder to generate?

Some see the universe as math. Music, one might respond, is inherently mathematical and yet resonant. Are we at once notes in a grand song and potential composers? How closely bound is thought to perception, and perception to reality? Hell if I know, but if everything is a vibration of a string, I’m happy just to get to hear some of it.

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