The Union of Opposites

Jung’s work was central in applying the ideas relating to uniting the opposites contained within the conscious and the unconscious for psychospiritual growth. However, the seeds of this concept were planted deep in history. Plato is often attributed to first raising the concept of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, although these were not his exact words.

Meister Eckhart brought Christian concepts to the German speaking people by considering God as the thesis, Christ as the antithesis in physical form, and the unifying concept as the Holy Spirit. His work was censured by the Catholic Church soon after his death.

Hegel described this in terms of his dialectic: two opposites which created a new whole. His usage was more along the line of the abstract as the first principle which would generate a form of its automatic opposite as it became concrete in the world. The opposing energy between the two would then generate a new level of understanding. Writers who later described Hegel’s work used the Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis model to describe his thought.

Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 6

One other subtle requirement of Godel’s Proof is a special use of numbers in which unique numbers are used to encode mathematical formulas and even other numbers. In this manner, numbers are used to describe themselves, a form of self reference. At one level the numbers are numbers, yet at the meta-level the numbers provide information about the truth or falsity of equations.

This use of self reference may in some ways have equivalence to our own mental representations making reference to our selves or the ability to observe mental states. Theoretically the electrical and chemical processes of the brain could be understood in a mechanistic way. Yet, the actual experience of being seems to elude the reductionistic approach.

The surprise of a new insight, perspective or understanding which was true but unknown may, in fact, be a rough equivalent of the true but unprovable Godel statement. These insights often come unbidden, or through self-reflection, or depth psychotherapy, but the surprise of the AHA moment creates a new whole of reality for the individual who experiences it. An interior depth of new views of a data set that is largely unchanged in detail, the meta-view of the self.

Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 5

There is one key distinction to be made in this particular discussion regarding the concept of an infinite number of truths not provable within any formal system. Many post-modernists have taken Godel’s ideas to promote the primary tenet of post-modernism which is that all narratives [truths] are equally true. The corollary to their perspective is that various truths cannot be compared, especially if they arise from different cultures or worldviews.

From that disastrous series of errors, the post-modernist arrives at political correctness and other forms of idea restriction.  The reason for this degeneration in communication is because truth is no longer the value that determines what can be argued since all truths are equal.  The means the post-modernist then justifies is the emotional effect on the reader.  Anything that potentially offends is forbidden under this schema.  

As a logician, Godel would, I believe, have been horrified by this misuse of his proof. Godel would have easily known that there are actually infinitely more false statements than there are true statements in the universe of ideas. His proof does not proclaim false statements to be true, nor would he have ever endorsed the abandonment of logic itself. His proof only stated that there exist statements which are true, but not provable; he does not claim or endorse the concept that all statements are equally true.

Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 4

One of Godel’s biographers, Dr. Wang, a rather conservative philosopher himself, concluded that the consequences of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem for Mathematics included at least one of the following, if not all:

1.        Mathematics is inexhaustible.
2.        Any consistent formal theory of mathematics must contain undecidable propositions.
3.        No theorem-proving computer (or program) can prove all and only the true propositions of mathematics.
4.        No formal system of mathematics can be both consistent and complete.
5.        Mathematics is mechanically (or algorithmically) inexhaustible (or incompletable)

Certainly if mathematics, as the foundation of science, is without limit, that at least suggests that other aspects of reality are also without limit, inexhaustible, and contain “undecidable propositions.” There is no reason that this limitlessness should be necessarily limited to mathematics. Godel actually believed that he had demonstrated the truth of Platonism, but neglected to publish that further proof. This proof certainly does imply that “truths” are discovered from a larger field of reality rather than merely created as an arbitrary convenience.

Godel certainly believed that although brain states might be mathematically determined as measured by such things as electo-encephalograms or brain imaging techniques, nevertheless, neither of those techniques nor any other mathematically based technique could [even in theory] predict or determine the richness of consciousness. He was certainly accurate regarding the limitations of the abilities of digital systems like computers to emulate consciousness, and was a consultant to the Artificial Intelligence community until his death.

Observing Ego

There is a rather delightful aphorism from the yogic traditions, which will paraphrase, and perhaps mangle a bit:

I have feelings, but I am not my feelings.  I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

This pearl of exceptional wisdom should probably be on a plaque on the wall of every therapist and psychiatrist in the world.  For this is, in essence, the purpose of many forms of psychotherapy.  In cognitive models one learns to identify negative thoughts as not intrinsic to the person.  In psychodynamic models, one learns that we are distinct from the patterns we unconsciously repeat in life.  In family therapy on learns that one is affected by and affects the family system but is not identical to it.  This is the essence of developing an observing ego.

Neuroplasticity

Although epiphenomenalism may be assumed true by both doctors and patients alike, since it seems to match data related to impaired neurological function, some of the research in neuroplasticity refutes the entire concept of epiphenomenalism. Early research demonstrated that when people learn new skills, such as typing or piano, that areas of the motor cortex of the brain actually increase in size to match. Later research demonstrated new brain connections, after some forms of brain injury, sometimes form to areas of the brain which would otherwise have processed information from different areas of function. This process actually restores the lost functioning, even with different areas of the brain processing the information.

Although these studies were fascinating as they showed the neuronal connections and biological functioning of the brain changed as a result of essentially newly learned tasks, some researchers minimized the results with arguments that this was largely a unique ability for repair following injury. One of the more recent studies was a true paradigm changer. In this research, Tibetan Buddhist monks participated in functional brain imaging studies while practicing a compassion based meditation technique. The finding was astounding: monks showed a novel Gamma brainwave pattern in the frontal lobe, which correlated with the subjective sense of blissfulness. This brainwave pattern had never been seen in any non-pathological state before, and its presence and strength was only related to the number of hours of meditative practice. No other demographic factors correlated with the finding, which suggested a clear circumstance in which willed meditative practice altered brain function over extended practice.

Since epiphenomenalism requires that mental process is only an accidental byproduct of neuronal firing, there is no conceivable way that mental process could actually effect the biological structure. This latest research proves just the opposite: that mental process changes the biology of the brain. Clearly then, any form of biological monism cannot account for this research finding. A different model is needed which accounts for the research data.