Robert Anton Wilson (RAW, for short) was a prolific writer, a popular "guru" on psychology, futurology and conspiracy theories. He passed away at the beginning of this year. The book "Prometheus Rising" popularly presents Timothy Leary's eight-circuit neurological model of human brain. The model distinguishes four basic circuits:
- The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit: with imprints and conditioning from early infancy; manages instinctive reactions, feelings of security, amiability, hostility, fear, etc.
- The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit: power politics, ego, domination and submission, pecking order, emotions.
- The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit: symbolic learning, language, rationalization.
- The "Moral" Socio-Sexual Circuit: adult personality, sexual rituals and tabu, guilt and satisfaction.
and four higher circuits:
- The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit: can be imprinted by pranayama yoga or cannabis; bliss, "mind/body unity", "faith healing".
- The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit: Jungian sinchronicities, reincarnation perceptions.
- The Meta-programming Circuit: can change imprints and other circuits if you really want, "without a wave of a doubt" (NLP - Neurolinguistic Programming).
- The Non-Local Quantum Circuit: things like "cosmic mind", out-of-body-experiences.
The four basic circles are nicely and illustratively explained in this diary
. Of the higher circuits, the neurosomatic and meta-programming circuits make some sense to me. But I may suppose that those few percent who experienced "everything" (say, all seven stages of Patanjali yoga) mean something. The circuits even appear to have own brain regions. In general, the eight-circuit model looks reasonable and practical to me, especially the basic part.
For my deliberation, the four basic circuits almost suffice. As RAW says, each of us has a "favorite" circuit, more heavily imprinted than the others. The circuits can be imprinted to a "robotic" strength, if you are not aware of your balance.
Openly, I recognize myself as a Rationalist type, operating mostly on the third circuit.
Most communication on this blog is between our third (Semantic) circuits, evidently.
But politics is the realm of the second (Territorial) circuit. Is there a plain conflict
between Rationality and Politics, where we must suffer a serious disadvantage?
RAW thinks there is a problem for Rationalists. His commentary is not kind:
Democracy has been less than a total success - and the intellectual's half-shamed cynicism about democracy is justified - to the extent that traditional society did not need, could not use, and in many ways discouraged the development of high verbal ("rational") skills in the majority of the population. That is, concretely, most people are not encouraged to be very smart, and are rather heavily programmed to be comparatively stupid. Such programming is what is needed to fit them into most traditional jobs. Their bio-survival circuitry works as well as that of most animals, their emotional-territorial circuitry is typically primate, and they have little third-circuit "mind" to verbalize (rationalize) with. Naturally, they usually vote for the charlatan who can activate primitive bio-survival fears and territorial ("patriotic") pugnacity. The intellectual looks at the dismal results and continues to believe in "democracy" only by an act of Blind Faith similar to the way beliefs in Catholicism or Communism or snake-worship are maintained.
[Why] did Adlai Stevenson lose to Ike Eisenhower, George McGovern to Tricky Dicky Nixon, etc.? It was the Wrong Address problem again. Stevenson, McGovern and other darlings of the intelligentsia were speaking to the third circuit, which is not very highly developed in most domesticated primates yet. Eisenhower in his Fatherly way, and Nixon in his bullying Big Brother way, knew just how to push the right Second-Circuit emotional-territorial buttons to get a mob of primates to follow them. They were genetically programmed alpha males, in etho-logical terms.
Similarly, the Moralist (i.e., the Adult Personality who has imprinted heavy Ethical imperatives on Circuit IV) is often totally unable to communicate with the scientist or technologist. The Moralist may even decide - many already have - that the scientist per se is "inhuman." In fact, morals are fairly irrelevant to the Third Circuit analytical mind, which is the brain function the average scientist has imprinted most powerfully. To the third circuit, the only morality is accuracy, the only immorality is sloppy thinking. [pg 142-143]
("The liberal is the one who leaves the room when the fight starts," somebody once said. Third-circuit types are most confused and feel impotent when second-circuit mammalian politics takes over the scene.)
Approximately 50% of the human race has not evolved fully into the third circuit yet. That is, although they can exchange primitive signals and handle primitive artifacts, they are still mostly operating on the mammalian emotional circuit and the pre-mammalian bio-survival circuit.
Newt Gingrich is their current leader in the United States. Third-circuit types cannot understand this and regard it as sinister, but it is simple mammalian herd-behavior. Gingrich is the typical primate leader; the noises he makes, which appear meaningless to the third circuit Rationalist, are urgently meaningful to the territorial-emotional-patriotic minds of the majority of primates.
Another 20% are "responsible, intelligent adults" with fully developed third and fourth circuits. They spend most of their time worrying, because the predominantly primate parameters of human society seem absurd, immoral and increasingly dangerous to them. [pg 279]
My references are to the Second Revised Edition (1997) of the book. If things were bad then...
I am still under impression that Territorial Pissings politics did not appear so clinically supreme over Humanitarian Democracy ideals some time ago. The conservative breakthrough was perhaps inevitable, and our dear leaders of the Left were helping it all along. But today's awareness of Macho Politics' power still seem greater to me than a norm.
RAW scorns at Rationalists for having low sympathy towards themselves as well. Looking back, these evaluations from a "post"-rationalist like him seem like self-fulfilling prophecy, in the full sense of the neurolinguistic methods he presents. But reading along his caricature lines (like Exercise 7 on page 104), I came up with the following reflection:
A big reason that Rationalists are unpopular is that they do not address the Bio-survival and Territorial circuits in their communication. Objectivity of these circuits might be ignorable, but full human communication goes along those channels as well.
In particular, Rational Left politicians should not only deliberate about most rational policies. They should send coherent signals to the Territorial, Bio-survival (and even Socio-sexual) circuits as well. There must be no vacuum left for rival political powers to feast.
There is no need to abandon rational thinking in politics - in fact, Rational Left needs rational tilt of political climate. But the primary and dire requirement for us at the moment is to get a grip on the Territorial, Bio-survival and Socio-sexual messaging in the politics. That is where the conservatives made their recent organized breakthrough - they left Rational reasoning to the progressives, but got a tight control of other basic neuro-perceptions. We will need to do a lot to compensate the conservative breakthrough, but next steps will become empirically clearer along the way.
It also does not mean that we should learn and employ the same tactics of Territorial, Bio-survival, Socio-sexual messaging as the conservatives. We may find (or sometimes just recall) our own means to control these issues.
Foremost, in the Territorial messaging, progressives should assert their podium and mental territories, and show awareness of the whole Territorial "Marking" system. That's where confidence, "backbone" and emotional appeal must be visible. Besides, progressives should organize themselves into a better tribe - they preach cooperation more than they use it themselves. And lets not forget the Humanist-Humanitarian emotional guidance that progressives had already developed.
For bio-survival circuitry, the socialdemocratic ideas of social security and universal health care should register as safe "motherly" heaven. Just rational appeal is not enough. On the other hand, the rational concerns about climate change and energy supply should register on the biosurvival circuits as well, to some degree. This is not easy, especially when people's bio-survival circuits are overwhelmed with terrorist fear mongering. But this effect of the rivaling Terror Management should be diminished as much as possible, not necessarily by emphatically Rational appeal.
Socio-sexual messaging cannot be ignored as well. RAW says:
It is sometime mistakenly stated that there are no universal sexual taboos. This is not true. There is one omni-purpose taboo which exists in every tribe.
That taboo stipulates that sexuality shall not be unregulated by the tribe. That is, even though no other taboos are universal, the taboo against living without taboos remains constant. Every tribe has its own set of verbots and thou-shalt-nots, but no tribe allows the individual to choose his or her own set.
That explains conservatives' successful preoccupation with "proper" sexuality and abortion ethics - they hit the Socio-sexual strings. The liberal approach leaves a vacuum for them here. I think progressives do not have to be strict definers of sexual tabus and rituals, but they should not shy away from their personal preferences and depreciations. In any case, any moral appeal should be definitely registered in the Fourth circuits.
As for the higher circuits... I wish to ask any psychologists here what is the academic status of the whole eight-circuit model. (It makes so much sense, is it not?) Keeping an open mind, I may assume that phenomena of visionaries, charismatic leadership, or collective "miracles" against materialist odds have relation to the higher circuits. Conservatives may have a finger here with some religious manipulations. Progressive should be aware that there is seemingly something phenomenal beyond the basic instincts.
How are progressive politicians doing within this scheme? Are Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama doing something right? What I see first is their pragmatism to win at last - but this is just opportunistic application of the Rational circuit, for own purposes besides. Pragmatism leaves the other three basic circuits cold, I think. US liberal leaders (Gore including) do take empirical measures to appear confident, charismatic and trustworthy - but they do not look like they know well what they are actually doing to other people's minds. Their approach seems to be formless to Territorial circuits, arbitrary to Biosurvival circuits, and unspecific to Socio-sexual circuits. They also empirically try to shy away from appealing to Rational circuits - and this seems suicidal to me in the long run.
Now I turn to the subject of Science Education. Science is clearly the real of the Third circuit. (That does not mean that the Third circuit is perfectly rational - it can rationalize any lunacy.) Again, communication through the third circuit alone feels uncomfortable to many people - they do not trust it enough; they look for Territorial or Survival motives behind; and many grew unconfident of their intellect (frequently proudly so). Should the school nudge science through all basic circuits? Partly yes, Biosurvival and Territotial circuits might be given some "food" in science classes. But not too much. I grew at a Soviet school with almost military style of science education; the shift to more comfortable (and fetishously more useful) science education happened very swiftly here. While formerly the most of school education was science, now it is not even compulsory to have any science in the last years! I can only look in dismay in the drop of science understanding standards. It is like with the progressive politics in the US: the more the liberals try to be reasonable and centristic, the more the center shifts from them!
I think it is wrong to teach science on the wrong circuits. Students should realize that science is not some kind of feel-good rationalization, or empirical search within your mind until you feel certainty. Some fun for the other basic circuits might be provided along the way (and science lovers do have emotions, right?). But the main purpose of school education (and I would be wholly happy just with that) is to help students to realize that scientific logic is something different than everyday practical-empirical logic. In terms of RAW-Leary's model, students should learn to think logically with the third circuit, not with any other!
If RAW's estimate is right that the third Time-Binding Semantic circuit is already a higher circuit for 50% of humanity, then the task of science education is not so simple. It means that Rational Thinking is a kind of yoga to half of the humanity! Hence, some discipline to quiet Biosurvival and Territorial instincts for Science classes is not to be avoided entirely. By the way, RAW's passionate utopia was that soon over 50% of humanity will be able to venture to higher (than the 4th) neurological circuits, making the world revolutionarily more happy, healthy and friendly. Wouldn't it be already great if the school would help students to reach proper handling just of the "rational" circuit?