The Strange Order of Things, by Antonio Damasio

Chu

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This book was mentioned several times in this thread, and recommended by Laura. So, as promised, here are some quotes for those who cannot purchase it just now. I think the entire book is well worth reading if you can, though!


Introduction:

As I considered how feelings could not only drive the first flush of cultures but remain integral to their evolution, I searched for a way to connect human life, as we know it today—equipped with minds, feelings, consciousness, memory, language, complex sociality, and creative intelligence—with early life, as early as 3.8 billion years ago. To establish the connection, I needed to suggest an order and a time line for the development and appearance of these critical faculties in the long history of evolution.

The actual order of appearance of biological structures and faculties that I uncovered violates traditional expectations and is as strange as the book title implies. In the history of life, events did not comply with the conventional notions that we humans have formed for how to build the beautiful instrument I like to call a cultural mind.

Intending to tell a story about the substance and consequences of human feeling, I came to recognize that our ways of thinking about minds and cultures are out of tune with biological reality. When a living organism behaves intelligently and winningly in a social setting, we assume that the behavior results from foresight, deliberation, complexity, all with the help of a nervous system. It is now clear, however, that such behaviors could also have sprung from the bare and spare equipment of a single cell, namely, in a bacterium, at the dawn of the biosphere. “Strange” is too mild a word to describe this reality.

We can envision an explanation that begins to accommodate the counterintuitive findings. The explanation draws on the mechanisms of life itself and on the conditions of its regulation, a collection of phenomena that is generally designated by a single word: homeostasis. Feelings are the mental expressions of homeostasis, while homeostasis, acting under the cover of feeling, is the functional thread that links early life-forms to the extraordinary partnership of bodies and nervous systems. That partnership is responsible for the emergence of conscious, feeling minds that are, in turn, responsible for what is most distinctive about humanity: cultures and civilizations. Feelings are at the center of the book, but they draw their powers from homeostasis.

Connecting cultures to feeling and homeostasis strengthens their links to nature and deepens the humanization of the cultural process. Feelings and creative cultural minds were assembled by a long process in which genetic selection guided by homeostasis played a prominent role. Connecting cultures to feelings, homeostasis, and genetics counters the growing detachment of cultural ideas, practices, and objects from the process of life.

Chapter I: On the Human Condition

When we are wounded and suffer pain, no matter the cause of the wound or the profile of the pain, we can do something about it. The range of situations that can cause human suffering includes not only physical wounds but the sorts of hurts that result from losing someone we love or being humiliated. The abundant recall of related memories sustains and amplifies suffering. Memory helps project the situation into the imagined future and lets us envision the consequences.
[...]
Why would feelings succeed in moving the mind to act in such an advantageous manner? One reason comes from what feelings accomplish in the mind and do to the mind. In standard circumstances, feelings tell the mind, without any word being spoken, of the good or bad direction of the life process, at any moment, within its respective body. By doing so, feelings naturally qualify the life process as conducive or not to well-being and flourishing.

Another reason why feelings would succeed where plain ideas fail has to do wit h the unique nature of feelings. Feelings are not an independent fabrication of the brain. They are the result of a cooperative partnership of body and brain, interacting by way of free-ranging chemical molecules and nerve pathways. This particular and overlooked arrangement guarantees that feelings disturb what might otherwise be an indifferent mental flow.

[...]
FEELINGS AND THE MAKING OF CULTURES
Feelings contribute in three ways to the cultural process:
1. as motives of the intellectual creation
a) by prompting the detection and diagnosis of homeostatic deficiencies;
b) by identifying desirable states worthy of creative effort;
2. as monitors of the success or failure of cultural instruments and practices;
3. as participants in the negotiation of adjustments required by the cultural process over time.

Conventionally, the human cultural enterprise is explained in terms of exceptional human intellect, a brilliant extra feather in the cap of organisms assembled by unthinking genetic programs over evolutionary time. Feelings rarely earn a mention. The expansion of human intelligence and language, and the exceptional degree of human sociality, are the stars of cultural development. At first glance, there are good reasons to accept this account as reasonable. It is unthinkable to explain human cultures without factoring in the intelligence behind the novel instruments and practices we call culture. It goes without saying that the contributions of language are decisive for the development and transmission of cultures. As for sociality, a contributor that was often ignored, its indispensable role is now apparent. [...] And yet something seems to be missing from the intellectual account. It is as if creative intelligence would have materialized without a powerful prompt and would have marched along without a background motive besides pure reason. Presenting survival as a motive will not do because it removes the reasons why survival would be a matter of concern.[...] If your pain is medicated with treatment A or treatment B, you rely on feelings to declare which treatment makes the pain less intense, or fully resolved, or unchanged. Feelings work as motives to respond to a problem and as monitors of the success of the response or lack thereof.

Feelings, and more generally affect of any sort and strength, are the unrecognized presences at the cultural conference table. Everyone in the room senses their presence, but with few exceptions no one talks to them. They are not addressed by name.

[...]

Suffering or flourishing, at the polar ends of the spectrum, would have been prime motivators of the creative intelligence that produced cultures. But so would the experiences of affects related to fundamental desires—hunger, lust, social fellowship—or to fear, anger, the desire for power and prestige, hatred, the drive to destroy opponents and whatever they owned or collected. In fact, we find affect behind many aspects of sociality, guiding the constitution of groups small and large and manifesting itself in the bonds that individuals created around their desires and around the wonder of play, as well as behind conflicts over resources and mates, which were expressed in aggression and violence.

Other powerful motivators included the experiences of elevation, awe, and transcendence that arise from the contemplation of beauty, natural or crafted, from the prospect of finding the means to make ourselves and others prosper, from arriving at a possible solution of metaphysical and scientific mysteries, or, for that matter, from the sheer confrontation with mysteries unsolved.

[...]

When bacteria detect “defectors” in their group, which really means that certain members fail to help with the defense effort, they shun them even if they are genomically related and therefore part of their family. Bacteria will not cooperate with kin bacteria that do not pull their weight and help with the group endeavor; [...] In their un-minded orientation to survival, they join with others working toward the same goal. Following the same undeliberated rule, the group response to overall attacks consists of automatically seeking strength in numbers following the equivalent of the principle of least action.9 Their obeisance of homeostatic imperatives is strict. [...] One would be equally foolish, however, not to recognize that simple bacteria have governed their lives for billions of years according to an automatic schema that foreshadows several behaviors and ideas that humans have used in the construction of cultures. Nothing in our human conscious minds tells us overtly that these strategies have existed for so long in evolution or when they first appeared, although when we introspect and search our minds for how we should act, we do find “hunches and tendencies,” hunches and tendencies that are informed by feelings or are feelings. Those feelings gently or forcefully guide our thoughts and actions in a certain direction, providing scaffolding for intellectual elaborations and even suggesting justifications for our actions: for example, welcoming and embracing those who help us when we are in need; shunning those who are indifferent to our plight; punishing those who abandon us or betray us.

[...]
[Discussion about social insects] In their colonies, they build nests that constitute remarkable urban architectural projects and provide efficient shelter, traffic patterns, and even systems of ventilation and waste removal, not to mention a security guard for the queen. One almost expects them to have harnessed fire and invented the wheel. Their zeal and discipline put to shame, any day, the governments of our leading democracies. These creatures acquired their complex social behaviors from their biology, not from Montessori schools or Ivy League colleges. But in spite of having come by these astounding abilities as early as 100 million years ago, ants and bees, individually or as colonies, do not grieve for the loss of their mates when they disappear and do not ask themselves about their place in the universe. They do not inquire about their origin, let alone their destiny. Their seemingly responsible, socially successful behavior is not guided by a sense of responsibility, to themselves or to others, or by a corpus of philosophical reflections on the condition of being an insect. It is guided by the gravitational pull of their life regulation needs as it acts on their nervous systems and produces certain repertoires of behavior selected over numerous evolving generations, under the control of their fine-tuned genomes. [...] We humans do ponder alternatives for our behavior, do mourn the loss of others, do want to do something about our losses and about maximizing our gains, and do ask questions about our origin and destiny and propose answers, and we are so disorderly in our bubbling and conflicting creativities that we are often a mess.

[...]

Homeostasis

How can we reconcile the seemingly reasonable idea that feelings motivated intelligent cultural solutions for problems posed by the human condition with the fact that unminded bacteria exhibit socially efficacious behaviors whose contours foreshadow some human cultural responses? What is the thread that links these two sets of biological manifestations, whose emergence is separated by billions of years of evolution? I believe that the common ground and the thread can be found in the dynamics of homeostasis.

Homeostasis refers to the fundamental set of operations at the core of life, from the earliest and long-vanished point of its beginning in early biochemistry to the present. Homeostasis is the powerful, unthought, unspoken imperative, whose discharge implies, for every living organism, small or large, nothing less than enduring and prevailing. The part of the homeostatic imperative that concerns “enduring” is transparent: it produces survival and is taken for granted without any specific reference or reverence whenever the evolution of any organism or species is considered. The part of homeostasis that concerns “prevailing” is more subtle and rarely acknowledged. It ensures that life is regulated within a range that is not just compatible with survival but also conducive to flourishing, to a projection of life into the future of an organism or a species.

[...]

Homeostasis has guided, non-consciously and non-deliberatively, without prior design, the selection of biological structures and mechanisms capable of not only maintaining life but also advancing the evolution of species to be found in varied branches of the evolutionary tree. This conception of homeostasis, which conforms most closely to the physical, chemical, and biological evidence, is remarkably different from the conventional and impoverished conception of homeostasis that confines itself to the “balanced” regulation of life’s operations.

It is my view that the unshakable imperative of homeostasis has been the pervasive governor of life in all its guises. Homeostasis has been the basis for the value behind natural selection, which in turn favors the genes—and consequently the kinds of organisms—that exhibit the most innovative and efficient homeostasis. The development of the genetic apparatus, which helps regulate life optimally and transmit it to descendants, is not conceivable without homeostasis.

[...]

Life would not be viable without the traits imposed by homeostasis, and we know that homeostasis has existed ever since life began. But feelings—the subjective experiences of the momentary state of homeostasis within a living body—did not emerge when life did. I propose that they emerged only after organisms were endowed with nervous systems, a far more recent development that began to occur only about 600 million years ago.

Nervous systems gradually enabled a process of multidimensional mapping of the world around them, a world that begins in the organism’s interior, so that minds—and feelings within those minds—would be possible. [...] Nervous systems make minds not by themselves but in cooperation with the rest of their own organisms. This is a departure from the traditional view of brains as the sole source of minds.

Although the emergence of feelings is far more recent than the beginnings of homeostasis, it still occurred long before humans entered the scene. Not all creatures are endowed with feelings, but all living creatures are equipped with the regulation devices that were precursors to feelings.

[...]
In the march toward the human cultural mind, the presence of feelings would have allowed homeostasis to make a dramatic leap because they could represent mentally the state of life within the organism. Once feelings were added to the mental mix, the homeostatic process was enriched by direct knowledge of the state of life and, of necessity, that knowledge was conscious. Eventually, each feeling-driven, conscious mind could mentally represent, with an explicit reference to the experiencer subject, two critical sets of facts and events: (1) the conditions in the inner world of its own organism; and (2) the conditions of its organism’s environment. The latter prominently included the behaviors of other organisms in a variety of complex situations generated by social interactions as well as by shared intentions, many of them dependent on the individual drives, motivations, and emotions of the participants. As learning and memory advanced, individuals became able to establish, recall, and manipulate memories of facts and events, opening the way to a new level of intelligence based on knowledge and feeling. Into this process of intellectual expansion came verbal language, providing easily manipulable and transmissible correspondences between ideas and words and sentences. From there on, the creative flood could not be contained. [...] In the end, human creativity is rooted in life and in the breathtaking fact that life comes equipped with a precise mandate: resist and project itself into the future, no matter what. It may be helpful to consider these humble but powerful origins as we cope with the instabilities and uncertainties of the present.

[...]

Contained within life’s imperative and its seeming homeostatic magic, coiled as it were, there were instructions for immediate survival. [...] But the imperative also harbored the tendency to seek future security in more complex and robust structures, a relentless plunge into the future. The realization of this tendency was achieved by myriad cooperations, along with the mutations, and fierce competition that enabled natural selection. Early life was foreshadowing many future developments that we can now observe in human minds imbued with feeling and consciousness and enriched by the cultures that such minds have constructed. [...] Why, then, are the results of these extraordinary developments so inconsistent, not to say erratic? Why so much derailed homeostasis and so much suffering over human history? A preliminary answer, which we will address later in the book, is that cultural instruments first developed in relation to the homeostatic needs of individuals and of groups as small as nuclear families and tribes. The extension to wider human circles was not and could not have been contemplated. Within wider human circles, cultural groups, countries, even geopolitical blocs, often operate as individual organisms, not as parts of one larger organism, subject to a single homeostatic control. Each uses the respective homeostatic controls to defend the interests of its organism.
 

Hesper

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I'm finding The Strange Order of Things to be even more fascinating than the Dopaminergic Mind - thank you for the recommendation and for the quotes. While Fred Previc (in the Dopaminergic Mind) discusses the role of dopamine in the evolution of advanced cognition and motivation, Damasio manages to put that in the context of the evolution of every living organism - from bacteria down to us.

As Chu quotes above, Damasio discusses the fact that bacteria have a code of conduct. They recognize one another chemically, build societies, can act individually if necessary, and go to war with one another. During war, if a member of that bacterial society shirks its responsibility and refuses to fight, the rest of the bacteria shun the freeloader. If that seems 'human-like' it's actually because we humans operate on the exact same principle, the need for homeostasis, but with different faculties.

Bacteria probably do not 'feel' anger at freeloaders but simply act as though they do because that's what's necessary to survive and flourish. However, with humans we add feelings, which Damasio says work "as motives to respond to a problem and as monitors of the success of the response or lack thereof." With the advent of the nervous system Damasio writes that,

Before the emergence of mapping and images and minds, organisms could acknowledge the presence of other organisms and of external objects and respond accordingly. They could detect a chemical molecule or a mechanical stimulus, but the detection process did not include description of the configuration of the object that emitted the molecule or shoved the organism. [...]

Eventually, side by side, nervous systems working with the rest of their body would create internal images of the universe around the organism in parallel with images of the organism's interior. We were entering, at long last, quietly and modestly, the era of the mind, the era whose essence is still with us.
Cue the cinematic music at the dawn of the mind! The era of the mind led to an inner world split in two. One is the old internal world which is concerned with basis homeostasis - the world of pain, pleasure, heartburn, thirst, fatigue - otherwise information concerning the state of our viscera. The new internal world is the one of our body frame and the muscles attached. It consists of several sensory portals: (81)
  • The eye sockets, the musculature controlling the eyes are our visual sensory portal
  • Our ears and our sense of balance in 3D space
  • The nose and our sense of smell
  • The taste buds and our tongue
  • The skin and every aspect of our sense of touch and feeling
Each of these portals contributes to the creation of images/internal representations of the world, what Damasio considers the basic unit for minds - images of what a thing is, what it does, what it's good for, etc. Integrating images together as they relate in space and time produces meaningful sequences like stories. As Jordan Peterson recently wrote, "The brain uses narrative to guide actions in the world, as it cannot rely or even gain access to unmediated facts. The fact of that usage, and the fact of its selection by evolution, provides proof either of its necessity or its value"

Now we see why having a coherent (and factual) story is so important, and why the constant stream of lies we're exposed to every day risks driving us to extinction. In this sense we're just as 'robotic' as ants and bacteria - inserting propaganda into our narrative-reading systems is like disrupting an ant's pheromone system in order to influence its homeostatic imperative. As Damasio writes:

We humans are born storytellers, and we find it very satisfying to tell stories about how things began. We have reasonable success when the thing to be storied is a device or a relationship, love affairs and friendships being great themes for stories of origins. We are not so good and we are often wrong when we turn to the natural world.
I find it interesting that this goes hand in hand with Collingwood's description of the religious mindset giving way to the scientific, giving way to the historical. Through religion we assert that our inner world is reality. Through science we gain the facts about the outside world as best we can, though it maintains abstractions at the expense of narrative. And we still need a narrative, since that is composed of the basic units of the mind. With history, though Collingwood limits history to only the study of human institutions, we attempt to piece it all back together into a factual narrative that can help us (some of us at least) cope with and debug our homeostatic drives.

It is also interesting to see how one's personal programs relate to the over-arching program - the drive for homeostasis. Still have a ways to go but wanted to share my thoughts this far.
 

mkrnhr

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It seems that Damasio's modelling of the mind/body-environment system can also be linked to the work of Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck institute (haven't read his books yet, only saw a few presentations on youtube) on how human decision making relies on evolutive intuitive heuristics (consciously and unconsciously, not only in system 1 thinking) that often are more efficient than expert systems. In fact, Damasio's model can be used as a explanatory model for why Gigerenzer observations are so. This ties also to Nassim Taleb's ideas (he uses unusual heuristics from the current intellectual viewpoint) as presented in "antifragile" and "skin in the game".
 

Hesper

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An interesting connection between Damasio's discussion of the different interiors - old and new - and Gurdjieff's circuits of evolution. This is from Mohammad H. Tamdgidi's Gurdjieff and Hypnosis: A Hermeneutic Study:

[In the first circuit of evolution] that takes place mechanically ...The combination of the assimilations of the ordinary food, air, and (especially sexual) impressions helps produce the most important and highest result of the ordinary food assimilation in the organism, that is the male or female "sperm" at point 8...

The second, conscious, circuit of the three food assimilation system involves three conscious shocks. The aim of these for the organism is to become consciously self-aware of the process of ordinary food, air, and impression assimilations (or "digestions") in the organism. Self-conscious observation of assimilation of ordinary food, breathing, and impressions, and generally the activity of the organism as a whole in everyday life ...

The third circuit follows exactly the steps of the previous two circuits, except that in this third circuit, the organism seeks, based on the holistic self-awareness it has now gained about itself and its activities amid everyday life, to intentionally transform in a systematic and conscious way the habituated functions associated with the threefold food assimilation system still dominating the planetary body.
Damasio writes that feelings are primarily concerned with the 'old interior'. He writes that "Feelings are primarily about the quality of the state of life in the body's old interior, in any situation..." But then he writes about their ascending quality, up to our consciousness:
The immediate causes of feelings include (a) the background flow of life processes in our organisms, which are experienced as spontaneous or homeostatic feelings; (b) the emotive responses triggered by processing myriad sensory stimuli such as tastes, smells, tactile, auditory, and visual stimuli, the experience of which is one of the sources of qualia; and (c) the emotive responses resulting from engaging drive(such as hunger or thirst) or motivations (such as lust and play) or emotions, in the more conventional sense of the term, which are action programs activated by confrontation with numerous and sometimes complex situations; examples of emotions include joy, sadness, fear, anger, envy, jealousy, contempt, compassion, and admiration. The emotive responses described under (b) and (c) generate provoked feelings rather than the spontaneous variety that arises from the primary homeostatic flow.
 

goyacobol

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I just recently "liked" and "watched" this thread then something kind of snapped in me and I got this negative "feeling" that I didn't like the gist of the conversation so I "unliked" and "unwatched" it. It the only thread I have ever "unliked" and I couldn't stop thinking about why did I do that? Chu might think I don't "like" her and some might think I don't value Laura's recommendation of the book which was not why it did it.

I had to go back and re-read Chu first post and analyze why I reacted so negatively. I may be incorrect or off-base in my thinking but I felt the author was being mostly "body-centric" or kind of soulless in his description of homeostasis and it's influence on human development.

We are learning more about the physical machine and the brain-body interface as well as what we know as psychology which I think is important for sure. I am really trying to learn more about the DNA connection and what it means for our development and "evolution". It just "feels" like the soul is not usually mentioned in the realm of science very much which I suppose is par for the course as they say.

I just think there is more to emotions/feelings than a concept of homeostasis based only on the physical model/machine however important and real it may be.

Q: (V) So Laura's hypothesis that all emotions stem from chemicals is not necessarily true as an exclusive statement?

A: Okay.

Q: (L) Does the soul have emotions of its own as we human beings term emotions?

A: Close.

Q: (L) What emotions does the soul experience?

A: Complex.

Q: (L) Can the soul, at an absolute level, experience hatred, for example?

A: Not same state.

Q: (L) Well, when one is dealing with psychology, what would be the best approach... what is the true aspect of the self or the being that one should inquire into in order to heal?

A: Subconscious mind.

Q: (V) Is the statement that psychology studies emotions, is that a fair statement?

A: No. Subconscious is same in body or out.


Q: (V) The subconscious is part of the soul?

A: One and same
.
I re-liked the thread and will continue to at least watch. Sorry if this is irrelevant.
 

mkrnhr

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I re-liked the thread and will continue to at least watch. Sorry if this is irrelevant.
If it allows self-reflection, it's not that irrelevent. After all, it's part of the process. Many a new information needs to be processed and that involves some internal clashes with old understandings, not necessarily in a conflictual way, but sometimes things to be arranged somehow in order to fit a larger picture.
 

jhonny

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Reading through the first chapters, I feel like being in a biology class for dummies:-) mainly the 4th chapter on nervous system. It's very interesting to refresh terms and concepts like homeostasis (and how this procces is conected with feelings in human beings), interoception and other more complicated words like axom, cell body, etc.. But mostly to understand how our bodies work in general.
I think Damasio has an special skill to make easier this matter, at least in the fist chapters and in this book. I say this because this is my first Damasio's book.
 

Laura

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I just recently "liked" and "watched" this thread then something kind of snapped in me and I got this negative "feeling" that I didn't like the gist of the conversation so I "unliked" and "unwatched" it. It the only thread I have ever "unliked" and I couldn't stop thinking about why did I do that? Chu might think I don't "like" her and some might think I don't value Laura's recommendation of the book which was not why it did it.

I had to go back and re-read Chu first post and analyze why I reacted so negatively. I may be incorrect or off-base in my thinking but I felt the author was being mostly "body-centric" or kind of soulless in his description of homeostasis and it's influence on human development.

We are learning more about the physical machine and the brain-body interface as well as what we know as psychology which I think is important for sure. I am really trying to learn more about the DNA connection and what it means for our development and "evolution". It just "feels" like the soul is not usually mentioned in the realm of science very much which I suppose is par for the course as they say.

I just think there is more to emotions/feelings than a concept of homeostasis based only on the physical model/machine however important and real it may be.



I re-liked the thread and will continue to at least watch. Sorry if this is irrelevant.
It's not important that these works we are going through do not "mention the soul". What is important is the data they collect and reveal. As I have pointed out, there are clear gaps where only "spirit" or information fits, and it is up to us to see that. But meanwhile, what is SUPER important is to understand the machine and how it is that so few people ever do really master their organism with said spirit. If you don't know what you are up against, you don't know how to deal with it! And believe me, after you read Damasio, you will never think about your "feelings" the same way again!!!
 

msante

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I just recently "liked" and "watched" this thread then something kind of snapped in me and I got this negative "feeling" that I didn't like the gist of the conversation so I "unliked" and "unwatched" it. It the only thread I have ever "unliked" and I couldn't stop thinking about why did I do that? Chu might think I don't "like" her and some might think I don't value Laura's recommendation of the book which was not why it did it.

I had to go back and re-read Chu first post and analyze why I reacted so negatively. I may be incorrect or off-base in my thinking but I felt the author was being mostly "body-centric" or kind of soulless in his description of homeostasis and it's influence on human development.

We are learning more about the physical machine and the brain-body interface as well as what we know as psychology which I think is important for sure. I am really trying to learn more about the DNA connection and what it means for our development and "evolution". It just "feels" like the soul is not usually mentioned in the realm of science very much which I suppose is par for the course as they say.

I just think there is more to emotions/feelings than a concept of homeostasis based only on the physical model/machine however important and real it may be.



I re-liked the thread and will continue to at least watch. Sorry if this is irrelevant.
It's not important that these works we are going through do not "mention the soul". What is important is the data they collect and reveal. As I have pointed out, there are clear gaps where only "spirit" or information fits, and it is up to us to see that. But meanwhile, what is SUPER important is to understand the machine and how it is that so few people ever do really master their organism with said spirit. If you don't know what you are up against, you don't know how to deal with it! And believe me, after you read Damasio, you will never think about your "feelings" the same way again!!!
I can understand your feelings goyacobol, most of the books we have read lately focus mainly on very "earthy" aspects of the machine's workings. It is not very likely that we will find authors in this line of research who give too much room to more spiritual issues in their work.

As far as I am concerned, when I am reading I try not to lose sight of the fact that there is an "etheric" reality going through this "material" reality, and every time I find something dissonant or an explanation does not seem to be sufficiently solid and consistent, I pause for a moment to think about whether or not spiritual questions should be considered here.

Even so, IMHO the information contained in the books that Laura has been suggesting for the past year is VITAL. From my point of view the knowledge and control of the machine is what would eventually allow a better and more convenient expression of the "soul". On the other hand, I have the feeling that a great number of human beings (perhaps most of them) are under a strong influence of their machines, therefore understanding our machine not only allows us to reduce our own automatism, but also to better understand the reality that surrounds us and the subjects that inhabit it.
 

Chu

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Damasio takes a while before getting into more details about emotions. No, you won't find anything "spiritual" in there, but it couldn't be more so, in my opinion. What can be more "spiritual" than to really understand at least part of the material world we inhabit, and then be able to master what we can at our level? We should never assume that we are above any of that. That doesn't mean that we ignore more "esoteric" concepts or the soul. On the contrary, it helps you put them in context instead of them being just vague notions.

You'll see that sometimes, even bacteria seem to have more control over themselves than we do! In the example Hesper gave, say, "Bacteria probably do not 'feel' anger at freeloaders but simply act as though they do because that's what's necessary to survive and flourish." Remember Lobaczewski and his analogy of the naturalist? Most human beings aren't even at that stage, and that's why psychopathy has such as strong hold on society. People don't know how to recognize pathology or stand against it rationally. True feelings run amok, pattern recognition runs amok, thinking is pretty much null. What chance can a "soul" have in all that mess, unless one starts from basic things?

When reading, you may recall several esoteric concepts, Gurjieff's teachings, etc. Take for example "keep it below the neck". We all know that in theory, and maybe are even able to do it sometimes, yes? Well, Damasio adds a layer to that. I'd say that it becomes "keep it in your belly and take probiotics" ;-) So much can come from what we perceive subconsciously, that at least being aware of that, gives you a greater chance for not identifying with your emotions, not letting the "intellectual center" usurp them, and THEN, trying to form a rational image of what's going on, and act accordingly. Isn't that part of the Work? And isn't that quite hard already? What chance of developing any more spiritual awareness if we don't get a grip on something like this? And if you do all that, while keeping in mind the more "spiritual" domains, then it's a win-win situation. If we incarnated in this reality at this time, it must be because we needed to learn some of these things. OSIT.
 

goyacobol

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It's not important that these works we are going through do not "mention the soul". What is important is the data they collect and reveal. As I have pointed out, there are clear gaps where only "spirit" or information fits, and it is up to us to see that. But meanwhile, what is SUPER important is to understand the machine and how it is that so few people ever do really master their organism with said spirit. If you don't know what you are up against, you don't know how to deal with it! And believe me, after you read Damasio, you will never think about your "feelings" the same way again!!!
Thanks for pointing out where the "spirit" or information "fits", Laura. I think that is why I am trying to read everything I can to catch up with what you are seeing. I have not read this book other than the excerpts here and I have started HDT, Evolution 2.0, Body by Science and a little bit from an older book on the list Operators and Things. I still have Bryant Schiller's the 5th Option to finish on the list too.

I feel like someone else said recently they wished they could just download all this information directly into their brain but there's "no free lunch" as you often say. I'll just keep on reading. Thanks.

Even so, IMHO the information contained in the books that Laura has been suggesting for the past year is VITAL. From my point of view the knowledge and control of the machine is what would eventually allow a better and more convenient expression of the "soul". On the other hand, I have the feeling that a great number of human beings (perhaps most of them) are under a strong influence of their machines, therefore understanding our machine not only allows us to reduce our own automatism, but also to better understand the reality that surrounds us and the subjects that inhabit it.
I think you are probably right msante. We still have to do the Work of learning about the machine and the environment around it too. I really am seeing this "container" more as a container the more I read.
 

goyacobol

The Living Force
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Damasio takes a while before getting into more details about emotions. No, you won't find anything "spiritual" in there, but it couldn't be more so, in my opinion. What can be more "spiritual" than to really understand at least part of the material world we inhabit, and then be able to master what we can at our level? We should never assume that we are above any of that. That doesn't mean that we ignore more "esoteric" concepts or the soul. On the contrary, it helps you put them in context instead of them being just vague notions.

You'll see that sometimes, even bacteria seem to have more control over themselves than we do! In the example Hesper gave, say, "Bacteria probably do not 'feel' anger at freeloaders but simply act as though they do because that's what's necessary to survive and flourish." Remember Lobaczewski and his analogy of the naturalist? Most human beings aren't even at that stage, and that's why psychopathy has such as strong hold on society. People don't know how to recognize pathology or stand against it rationally. True feelings run amok, pattern recognition runs amok, thinking is pretty much null. What chance can a "soul" have in all that mess, unless one starts from basic things?

When reading, you may recall several esoteric concepts, Gurjieff's teachings, etc. Take for example "keep it below the neck". We all know that in theory, and maybe are even able to do it sometimes, yes? Well, Damasio adds a layer to that. I'd say that it becomes "keep it in your belly and take probiotics" ;-) So much can come from what we perceive subconsciously, that at least being aware of that, gives you a greater chance for not identifying with your emotions, not letting the "intellectual center" usurp them, and THEN, trying to form a rational image of what's going on, and act accordingly. Isn't that part of the Work? And isn't that quite hard already? What chance of developing any more spiritual awareness if we don't get a grip on something like this? And if you do all that, while keeping in mind the more "spiritual" domains, then it's a win-win situation. If we incarnated in this reality at this time, it must be because we needed to learn some of these things. OSIT.
Well, now you have me wanting to read this book too. I do think it can only give us a better understanding of where "spirit" fits into the big picture. I don't think we would be here in this particular "format" if there were no lessons to be learned about the format itself. It is kind of like we start out in reverse pondering the spiritual and etheric without really fully understanding the suit of clothes we put on when we are born.
 

Laura

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When reading, you may recall several esoteric concepts, Gurjieff's teachings, etc. Take for example "keep it below the neck". We all know that in theory, and maybe are even able to do it sometimes, yes? Well, Damasio adds a layer to that. I'd say that it becomes "keep it in your belly and take probiotics" ;-) So much can come from what we perceive subconsciously, that at least being aware of that, gives you a greater chance for not identifying with your emotions, not letting the "intellectual center" usurp them, and THEN, trying to form a rational image of what's going on, and act accordingly. Isn't that part of the Work? And isn't that quite hard already? What chance of developing any more spiritual awareness if we don't get a grip on something like this? And if you do all that, while keeping in mind the more "spiritual" domains, then it's a win-win situation. If we incarnated in this reality at this time, it must be because we needed to learn some of these things. OSIT.
Truer words were never written. In a more real sense than you can imagine, reading these books can help with spiritual development than hundreds of vague and word-salady "esoteric" books. You have to know how to divide spirit from matter in order to grow spirit. And if you go along thinking that this or that "feeling" is spiritual when it is nothing but a bunch of bacteria in your gut having a jolly time, you are LOST.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Well, now you have me wanting to read this book too. I do think it can only give us a better understanding of where "spirit" fits into the big picture. I don't think we would be here in this particular "format" if there were no lessons to be learned about the format itself. It is kind of like we start out in reverse pondering the spiritual and etheric without really fully understanding the suit of clothes we put on when we are born.
I really liked Damasio's book. I had a few problems with it, but they were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. One of the things I appreciated was the vast story it told, of the development of consciousness over evolutionary timespans. From basic sensation (although I think there is more 'awareness' to this level than Damasio would admit, even if it's not on the level of the 'image'-based mapping and experience of beings with nervous systems), to feeling-images and up to 'thoughts', which are really just highly refined feeling-images.

But through this whole development, what are we looking at? The evolution of value - the intrinsic value of the beings themselves, the widening of the 'receptivity' to value, and the increased possibility of bringing additional value into the world (not to mention the equal expansion of the capacity for destruction of value). At the level of animals, value is little more than survival value (though life in general represents a bigger value than just survival). And what are we made of? Essentially a ton of tiny 'animals'. To the degree that our only aim or value is survival, we can do a pretty good job accepting their feelings as 'our' feelings, because to a large degree they are - our awareness is composed of the synthesized images of a whole-body feeling/homeostasis that gives us our perspective and the sensations that accompany it.

But as Damasio points out, one of the things that makes us human is our ability to recognize a wider hierarchy of value. We can dominate our drives and emotions if that is the right thing to do in certain situations. But first we need to own up to those feelings, place them into the story or character of who we wish to be and how we will 'get there'. That means seeing them for what they are and 'measuring' how they relate to the ideal we hold in mind - a constant calibration. It's a lot easier to do that if we have a 'map' like the one Damasio presents of the ways in which our innards really work - what signals are getting sent and why. Then we can become masters of our own souls.
 

goyacobol

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
You have to know how to divide spirit from matter in order to grow spirit.
Truer words were never spoken. Thank you for saying that Laura.

But through this whole development, what are we looking at? The evolution of value - the intrinsic value of the beings themselves, the widening of the 'receptivity' to value, and the increased possibility of bringing additional value into the world (not to mention the equal expansion of the capacity for destruction of value). At the level of animals, value is little more than survival value (though life in general represents a bigger value than just survival). And what are we made of? Essentially a ton of tiny 'animals'. To the degree that our only aim or value is survival, we can do a pretty good job accepting their feelings as 'our' feelings, because to a large degree they are - our awareness is composed of the synthesized images of a whole-body feeling/homeostasis that gives us our perspective and the sensations that accompany it.

But as Damasio points out, one of the things that makes us human is our ability to recognize a wider hierarchy of value. We can dominate our drives and emotions if that is the right thing to do in certain situations. But first we need to own up to those feelings, place them into the story or character of who we wish to be and how we will 'get there'. That means seeing them for what they are and 'measuring' how they relate to the ideal we hold in mind - a constant calibration. It's a lot easier to do that if we have a 'map' like the one Damasio presents of the ways in which our innards really work - what signals are getting sent and why. Then we can become masters of our own souls.
That is so meaningful to me at this juncture I just had to highlight the whole section. Thanks, Approaching Infinity.
 
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