Hack Yer Mind!
I can almost hear you thinking: "Hack the mind? Isn't that illegal?". I guess I'll have to explain the title.
"Hacking" has earned bad connotations that it does not deserve. A hacker is someone who can look at a system and figure out how it works internally, from which they can derive a model of how it would react under different inputs, so that they can duplicate it, improve on it, and manipulate it better. In this sense, people "hack" all the time, and not always with computers: a mother tries to "hack" the mind of her infant child to figure out why they are crying or what those hand motions mean. A math teacher trying to show a student how to do multiplication has to "hack" the student's mind to figure out why they are getting their products incorrectly. A "cracker" is a hacker gone bad: a manipulator who uses their ability to "play games" with people's heads instead of being a psychiatrist who could help them understand themselves. An e-mail scammer who uses his writing ability to fool the recipient of his phishing scams is a cracker. Thus, when I say "Hack yer mind", I mean getting a better idea of how your mind works so that you can improve it and manipulate it for good ends.
Why should we be concerned about the human mind, and "hacking" it, when the real problem is sin (in the form of Paul's "Old Man") and the lack of power in the Church? Recall that in the first essay, I outlined what I call the Symbiotic thesis: that the relationship of the Holy Spirit and the believer in which He dwells is indistinguishable from a symbiotic relationship between symbiote and host. In the third essay, I showed that the site where Deus resides in Homo is what the New Testament writers ("the ancients") called "the heart" of man. Assuming that there was a difference between the way the ancients viewed themselves and the way we moderns view ourselves, we undertook an examination of verses in the New Testament that spoke of the heart. While our modern definition assigns a metaphorical role of the heart as being the seat of emotions, the ancients viewed the heart as the place from which human thoughts, intentions, good acts, and evil acts, all spring. In the second essay, I pointed out that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit was to create a "virtual Jesus Christ" within the believer that mirrors Jesus Christ. I postulated that this virtual presence in the disciples must have seemed so vivid and real that they would talk of themselves as "being in Christ" or that Christ was "in them".
However, we today do not sense another "presence" within us, either as Jesus Christ or as the Holy Spirit, so we have viewed such phrases as metaphors of the Christian's relationship to God the Son. In this essay, I will argue that this inablity to sense either "Christ in us" or the Holy Spirit as a symbiote within ourselves can be explained in terms of a misconception of how our minds are constructed. The expectations are mistaken because we are trying to understand what the Apostles were saying about the Holy Spirit in terms of a "classical" model of the human mind. What we should do is try to understand what they were trying to say in terms of their model of what we moderns call the human mind, but what they called the heart. I will try to construct, using modern notation and views, a model of the human mind as they saw it so that we can maximize our understanding of what they believed. I will give links to recent work that supports the reconstructed model. We will then fit what they said about the Spirit into that model.
You may be sighing while wondering how recreating a 2 millenia old model of the human mind to replace a later conception could be of any use. "After all", you may be thinking, "Isn't that setting the clock back?"
It was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that if a clock was wrong, then setting it back might be the right thing to do to make it right. If we are to have the mind of Christ, we should, if we want to really know what Paul was saying, figure out what he was thinking when he used the word "mind"?
"But what good is having a model?" you may ask.
That all depends on who is using it. To a layman, it would be a curiosity. To a biblical historian, it would be an interesting insight into the mind of the bible peoples. To a modern atheistic psychologist, it would be an example of naive primitivism. However, to a serious researcher, it would serve as a mental seed to generate new ideas and new ways of looking at old phenomena, leading to (publishable!) experiments to validate or invalidate it. To a serious hacker/engineer, it would be used to develop "technology": a set of rules and methods for accomplishing specific results.
And in the end, it is RESULTS that really matter.
Models of the Human Mind: The "Classical" Model
Here is the classical model of the human mind:
The five multicolored lines going from the globe into the cyan rectangle represent the information coming from the 5 senses entering the conscious mind. The aqua line, going upwards diagonally from the body's border to the conscious mind represents the "internal" or "body" sense that we have. For instance, it is with the "body sense" that we feel the rush of adrenaline or panic attacks or the feeling of being queasy or dizzy. This model gives the conscious mind "first crack" at looking at the "bit stream" of information before passing what it is sensing downwards to the unconscious mind. There is some feedback from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind, mostly via memory, but this model has the conscious mind doing most of the thinking that we do. I have sized the rounded rectangles to reflect the current belief that the conscious mind harnesses about 7% of the full potential of the human mind, with geniuses like Einstein and Goethe attaining 10% of full capacity.
I call this model the "classical" model because it is the one that seems most in accord with our daily experience, and accounts for most of the mental phenomena that we experience most of the time. However, there are clues that indicate that the model is not adequate.
Charles Bonnet Syndrome
One of these clues is Charles Bonnet Syndrome. The syndrome occurs in people with low vision, and is manifested as images appearing in their field of view. Patients...
...according to Mogk and Mogk, "have reported seeing cartoon characters, flowers in the bathroom sink, hands rubbing each other, waterfalls and mountains, tigers, maple trees in vibrant autumn foliage, yellow polka dots, row houses, a dinner party and brightly colored balloons. Many people see faces or life-size figures that they've never seen before. One of the most remarkable qualities of these figures is that they almost always wear pleasant expressions and often make eye contact with the viewer.
"Usually the same image or set of images reappears to each person, sometimes in the same places or at the same time of day. Sam's monkeys usually materialized around sunset, cavorting across the lawn or around the big blue easy chair by the fireplace. They stayed for 10 or 20 minutes several times a week for two years and then began to appear less frequently."
The website, Lighthouse International, is very insistent that these images are not in your mind (i.e. you're not losing your mind), stating that they are coming from your "eyes". However, asking some critical questions about the phenomena reveal otherwise. For instance, the images occur in addition to normal sight, and so are not simliar to memories that are known to be triggered by electro-stimulation of individual brain neurons. Many report images that they've never seen before, so it is not as if the images are encoded in the eye's neuro-circuitry. The variety of imagery also speaks against a hard-wired encoding of the imagery in the apparatus of perception. The images move realistically and can persist for many minutes. The imagery seems to be triggered by visual cues, but not always when the same visual cues occur.
The website maintains that this phenomena is of the same kind as "phantom limb syndrome". However, this is merely using the dubious explanation of one phenomenon to explain another. It also happens to be another clue that tells us that the "classical" model has shortcomings.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Phantom limb syndrome and phantom limb pain is characterized by the sensation that an amputated limb exists, is functional, and is in pain. The sensation of pain is understandable, given that severed pain nerves could be assumed to continue firing randomly. However, the sensation that the limb is functional, with a "known" sense of shape, position and orientation, does NOT make sense: arm position, for example, is based on sensory feedback from muscles tensed or not tensed to specific degrees, so how can severed nerves that sense the tension in muscles fire and not fire in a coordinated fashion so that the illusion of a coherently behaving limb be maintained? Certainly the limb may feel larger, smaller, longer, or shorter than the original limb, but the sensation is that it has a definite size.
What should really cue one to the fact that something unusual is taking place is the "mirror box" treatment for certain kinds of phantom limb pain. Some kinds of phantom limb pain come from a phantom limb as being "paralyzed" into an orientation that, if the actual limb was present, would generate the same kind of pain that is felt as coming from the phantom limb. In short, not only is the phantom limb perceived as being in a specific position and orientation, the feeling of pain coming from the limb is consistent with that orientation. The sensations of orientation and pain are "in sync" and consistent. The treatment consists of placing the good and amputated portions of the patient's body into a box with a mirror that makes the patient "see" a whole limb proceeding from the stump from which is perceived that the phantom limb comes from. The patient is instructed to put the good limb into the painful position, but practice "unbending" the amputated limb from that same position, unbending the good limb in step with the sensations "felt" by moving the amputated limb. The goal is to exercise mental control over a limb that doesn't exist, but using visual cues that would be "in sync" with how the phantom limb is perceived. This appears to be a very successful treatment, with one patient being able to "telescope" the painful portion of his arm "into" his body so that it felt that his hand was attached to his shoulder! He apparently accomplished this by practicing removing the limb from the mirror box, yielding a sensation that his arm was getting shorter until it disappeared.
Researchers from Vanderbilt have detected some growth of axons from neurons adjacent to the neurons that would normally handle sensations from the missing limb. For instance, the neurons handling sensations from the arm are physically adjacent to those handling sehe face, leading some researchers to conduct experments which revealed patients that report feeling sensations from missing arms when their faces were touched. The fact that axons grow from connected neurons to "unconnected" neurons is significant enough to warrant the hope in some researchers that regrowing spinal cords is possible. However, how can longer axons that feed signals from neurons governing the face to neurons governing the arm establish connections so coherently and consistently that the illusion of an intact and functional limb is generated and maintained? Attempts to relieve phantom limb pain based on the assumption that the severed nerves are firing randomly have not been met with much success when the nerves themselves were removed or numbed. Treatment by drugs that operate on the brain and mind seem to have more success, indicating that the phenomenon is closer to the brain than to the former location of the now-missing peripherals.
The cause of the axon growth is itself puzzling: cells grow and divide to fill in for cells that die based on chemicals that only occur within cells. The surrounding cells receive those chemicals only when the cell dies, and thus constitutes the signal to start dividing. We are familiar with calluses and the fact that broken bones are stronger at the breaks than before. That is because when one cell dies, only one cell is required to divide to replace the dead cell. However, because the signal to divide comes from chemicals that are scattered willy-nilly when the cell dies, several surrounding cells receive the chemical signal simultaneously. Because there is no coordination between cells, more than one divides, so that one dead cell is replaced by multiple new ones. The multiplicity of new cells causes the extra skin of the callus, as well as the extra cells at the bone break that make it stronger. However, if neuron cell growth (not division) occurs because of chemical signals, then how can the chemical signal from a severed nerve cell at the elbow make its way to the adjoining neurons in the brain? Presumably, if the damage was done out at the limb, then the chemicals will leak out at the cut, out there at the appendage, not in the brain at the main body of the neuron where the "sensing" is being processed.
Hallucinogens and Bad Trips
Another clue comes from the effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD. I read of one "bad trip" where the user was convinced his body was covered and being stung by huge hornets. He got a razor blade and attempted to shave off the bugs, succeeding in slicing off his epidermis and almost dying of blood loss. From where did this imagery and feelings of bugs crawling over the skin and stinging it come from? Certainly not from "the eyes" or from "the skin": such detailed imagery and sense data is not "hardwired" into the sensory apparatus, but comes from memories powered by a creative imagination that super-imposes these "sensations" on the part of the brain that handles vision.
Why should we be looking at Phantom Limb Syndrome, Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and bad LSD trips? Mainly because a model is refuted or improved when contrary data is brought to it. REAL science, REAL scientists, and REAL engineers do not treat contrary data in the same way that, say, a lawyer would treat contrary evidence or contrary testimony. One method for detecting junk science (including junk science not seen yet as junk) is to present contrary evidence, data, or lab findings and see the reaction. REAL scientists would look at the data, carefully consider it, maybe ask for time to think of a response, and either account for it using accepted methodology, modify their theory, or make an argument to discount it based on accepted scientific criteria for determining valid and invalid data. Junk "scientists" ignore it, repeat their supporting data, take votes, allege conspiracies, use logical fallacies, and otherwise avoid addressing the issue within scientific boundaries and using accepted scientific methods for refuting or analyzing data. REAL scientists want to know that reality is REALLY like. REAL engineers want to know what reality is REALLY like, since REAL engineers know this: that which they do not know is precisely what the gremlins powering Murphy's Law wield to hit them up the side of the head.
I should point out that I am sure that many cognitive scientists and psychologists agree that the "classical" model is probably inadequate, and also agree that there is a lot of sensory processing going on in what is called the "unconscious". I used the term "classical", rather than "modern", because I believe there is as big a difference between the two models as there is between "classical" physics and "modern" physics ("classical" physics modified by Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics). Perhaps a better term would be "the common sense model": it is a model that seems to serve rather well for most daily tasks, but it doesn't hold up when one departs from the "every day" kind of world in which most people live. "Classical" physics works very well in the world of the (relatively) slow and (relatively) large, while the "Classical" model of the mind works well in the world of the healthy and intact. It is when we leave those worlds that we see that there is more to reality than appears to the eye.
Models of the Human Mind: The Biblical Heart Model
Here is my best interpretation of the human "heart" as viewed by the Bible Writers and tweaked to account for the "edge" cases that were cited in the previous three pages:
This is based on an observation made by Owen Barfield in his book "What Coleridge Thought". The 2006 Barfield Press edition of his 1971 work has the following paragraph on page 21 after some quotations he cites from Coleridge:
Tinted glasses make the clearest blue sky look leaden and overcast. Coleridge will continue to be called 'cloudy' even by his admirers, because he will continue to be misinterpreted by readers who are not willing to grasp, and to remember once they have grasped, the elementary principles which consciously permeate almost every other sentence he constructs, and which it is hoped that the foregoing quotations sufficiently illustrate. These are: first, that thinking is an act. Secondly, that it is normally, though not necessarily and always, an unconscious act. Thirdly, though we are not normally conscious of the act, we are normally conscious of the product of of the act (which we call 'thoughts'), and indeed it is this, which actually constitutes our self-consciousness as human beings.
I have underlined the portions of the quotation that are relevant, which I summarize as follows (and without the conditionalities Barfield cites): What we call thinking is not actually thinking. What we "call" thinking is merely the perceiving of thoughts. The thoughts themselves are generated by what we moderns would call the unconscious, but which the Bible Writers called the "heart of man".
Note that all the sensations, including the body sense, is routed into the heart, which performs a huge amount of pre-processing of the signals. This is the modern contribution to the "Heart of Man" model. These resultant thoughts, including thoughts that generates the illusion of having the sense of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing, are thrown up into the part of the brain that we would call the "conscious" mind via what I call "the bitstream" (the green arrow), but which one could call the "display" portion of the mind. It is like a crt display. The "eye" in the model is "us", the "I" of the person. The "I" perceives the thoughts on the display, and chooses to focus on one of the possible thoughts being presented. This choice is fed back into the heart, which uses that feedback to throw "related" thoughts up to the "display" via "the bitstream". (The analogy of the display is a bit strained: it is more like a three dimensional stage on which the "I" is an actor.)
Note that there is a black arrow within the yellow arrow, and impacting the perceiving "I", rather than the "crt". This depicts the contribution of the biblical model. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 15:10-18:
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.....15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. 16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
In the model, the eye represents the "man" that is underlined in the above passage. The black arrow represents the "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" that proceed from the Heart of Man and affect the man. These thoughts are not sensations coming from the senses, but are perceived by way of simulated sensations.
Simulated Sensations and the Imagination
By "simulated sensations", I mean that these thoughts are perceived as if they were real physical sensations. When you close your eyes, you know that you don't see anything, yet pictures still appear in your mind. While you are asleep, dreams come as visual motion pictures, with really vivid ones adding sound, smell, and the sensations that arise from the body sense so that one can feel one's own dream body run, jump, and (the universal "favorite") falling through the air. Daydreaming during a class or a boring presentation overrides the actual sensations coming in from the senses, substituting the simulated sensations that you are in Maui and not being bored to death. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a life lived via simulated sensations. "Imagination" is another name that we use to describe the generative part of the heart of man that generates these images at will.
The value of "simulated sensations" should be obvious. Prudent people almost always try to imagine the reactions to any actions that they are planning to do, while fools are usually those who do not take the time to run these mental simulations. This is what is meant when one says that they "thinking through" a problem or situation. However, if you have lived long enough to suffer the slings and arrows thrown by life, you know that even "thinking things through" before acting doesn't always succeed. Part of the problem is due to having an untrained heart.
Is it possible to have a trained heart? In certain areas, absolutely yes! In Hebrews 5, the writer of that book first introduces Jesus as our High Priest. Since he was writing to an audience familiar with the Torah and its sacrificial system, he knows that the question of authorization would be asked. In verse 10, he introduces the Priestly order of Melchizidek. However, it is the passage following that introduction that is of interest to us:
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
This is one of those "toss off" sentences that truly great professors and deep thinkers utter as an aside while discussing the main subject of the class, but which the truly discerning student grasps, ponders, and realises that the tidbit was worth ten times what they paid to attend. We have no idea who the writer of Hebrews was, but this passage not only reveals a great scholar and teacher intimately familiar with their subject matter, but also someone who is familiar with the process by which their hearers learn what is being taught. The linked word for "senses" is derived from "perceive", usually with the bodily senses, but also with the mind to the point of understanding (It is used in a context where it is said that the disciples did not understand Jesus' warning of his coming crucifixion). Here, the writer points out that long and skillful use of a corpus of knowledge exercises the understanding (which is something the heart does) to the point where the "senses" can do automatically what the mind formerly had to do using reason.
I believe that this is how the imaginations (systematic "simulated sensations") of truly experienced and skilled individuals work. The expert bass fisherman looks up and down the river and knows where to cast the hook: anywhere else just doesn't feel right. The skilled hunter mentally runs through the attack on the quarry, forsees a different result, and changes his position without realizing he his doing it. I knew a travelling salesman who was able to anticipate every move everyone on the highway in front of him would do before they made their move. Outside of his car, he was a financial dolt, but behind the wheel, he was Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel reincarnated and combined. An engineer for a system mentally runs through the behavior of their misbehaving system, "breaking" various parts in different ways, testing the resulting behavior until he finds the likely cause. Speaking as a programmer, I mentally run through hundreds of permutated simulations of different parts of the program I am writing, avoiding complicated code that mentally slows the simulation down, and choosing those code blocks that makes the simulation run smoothly.
The real acid test of a trained imagination is one that discerns "both good and evil" (v 14). A well trained imagination "kicks back" when things are not right, while the imagination of the inexperienced optimistically (and magically) leaps over unplesant difficulties. Milk is a liquid that is "eaten" easily, and is assimilated equally easily: even a babe can do that. Meat "fights back" all the time, in the process of hunting it down, killing it, cooking it, chewing it, swallowing it, and digesting it. If you're not careful, you'll try to handle too big of a piece or cut corners, and wind up getting yourself killed. Thus, when I try to force the code to process the data in a certain way, and my imagination refuses to make it easy, then I know there's a problem. The engineer's imagined system will not function when a certain part is mentally "broken" in a certain way. The fish in the bass fisherman's mind will not move to the area that doesn't feel promising. I once showed a supervisor at my place of employment how two different plant parameters that were being trended would reveal a system inefficiency if plotted in a certain way. An engineer in that group took one look at the plotted curves, left the room, and improved power production efficiency by several percentage points after (figuratively speaking) whacking some valves deep in the bowels of the plant with a wrench. After this experience, his supervisor asked some questions about the resulting curve, then called a meeting where he issued a "request" for the group to discover a method for tilting the curve one way during the summer months and tilting it back during the winter months. We all stared at him blankly, since what he was asking for was a method to systematically violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics: his inexperience allowed him, in his imagination, to do easily and effortlessly that which our trained imaginations forbade us to conceive of or articulate. People terrified of technology mentally see machines and processes breaking in ways and causing catastrophes that textbooks, and the knowledge of trained engineers, say is impossible or extremely unlikely: Those same engineers cannot mentally see or replay the "problems" that Luddites swear are there. This inability only convinces the latter that the former are "in the take" of management or big business, lamely applying an equally ill-trained imagination to the problem of the behavior of professionals with codes of ethics and conduct.
Training the "Senses": How It Works
The writer of Hebrews, in verse 14, talks of those who train those senses "by reason of use". What is mistaken as conscious thought is not really conscious, but the perceived effect of a well trained heart. Note the reddish orange feedback loop going from the "eye" in the image below back down into the "heart":
The "I" specifically focuses not only on the sensations the senses are perceiving, but also reacts to the thoughts from the heart, which are "simulated sensations": to the "I", they are both the same, both being sensations that one has to focus upon. The "I" chooses what to concentrate on, does so, and feeds that decision via the "feedback loop" down to the heart. The heart, if trained, will promptly respond by feeding "appropriate" thoughts as "simulated sensations" in response to what the "I" "chooses" to focus upon. One can picture the process as the "I" navigating a menu system being dynamically generated by the heart that responds to the choices being made by throwing up a kind of "sub-menu" of "appropriate" sub-selections. As a programmer, I am sure that the process is much more complicated than the menu system of Lotus 1-2-3 or Word for Windows, since it seems that "short term memory" resides in the "eye" in the image above (5 to 9 memory items, the exact number varying by individual), and is used to make a specific "menu selection" that can have between 31 and 511 "menu options", or make a "menu selection" while simultaneously supplying a parameter.
The point I want to emphasize is that, for those activities for which the heart is well trained, the process seems to flow so quickly and effortlessly that one may be forgiven for mistakenly believing that there is a "conscious" mind that is doing all this work of thinking, rather than it being a high speed game of mental "ping pong" where thoughts race from the heart up via the black arrow path to the eye, which makes a choice that races down to the heart, which reacts by sending "appropriate" thoughts back up to the "eye" via the black arrow path. The clue that things are not as they seem is that the process slows down considerably during the training process. Obviously, being well trained in how to train the heart (which involves training the heart on how to train itself) helps speed up the process a lot. (You may want to re-read that last sentence several times.)
Another mistaken belief based on the illusion of having a "conscious" mind that is doing all that work of thinking is the delusion at all of this is always under our control. It is not: the success of the process depends on the willingness of the heart to cooperate by choosing appropriate thoughts to present to the "I", as well as the "skill" of the "I" when it comes to choosing which thought to concentrate upon that constitutes the best "menu selection" being made. This mechanism, and process, is only as good as the training given to it: the saying "Garbage in, Garbage out" is very true for this situation. This mechanism and process is a given, but effectiveness is not a given or guaranteed!
This mechanism is the process by which a wicked heart passes the evil thoughts listed by Jesus up to "the man", and defiles him. It is not always under our control: it is the heart that sends thoughts up to the "I", and thus it, not the "I", is truly in control. It is this deeply buried source of thoughts that is outside of the conscious awareness, and control, of the "mental eye" that is the inward source of sin that Paul was talking about in Romans 7:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
We are familiar with the phenomenon that certain sights, sounds, or smells can elicit unbidden mental responses, some of them associated with less than savory experiences. A simulated sensation mimicking the original trigger will generate submenus to be presented to the "I" that are limited in choice, so the "I" feels compelled to either choose or to shut down, leading to further participation in a simulated simulation that triggers the acting out of compulsions. We are familiar with the sensation of feeling or thinking certain thoughts when we see a certain individual. We feel hate, disgust, love, or distrust. Some are acceptable, and some are definitely not. What's up with that? Entire nations stuff their women into FULL BODY BAGS because their men's minds inevitably and inexorably produce evil thoughts and behaviors at the mere sight of an uncovered face or ankle, while the French think nothing of the lack of dress of their women at public pools and beaches that would subject those to arrest if done at family beaches in the United States. From where do these thoughts, with their limited choices, come from? From "sin that dwelleth in me", that is, from a human heart that is corrupt. Paul continues this litany, which almost sounds like a bug report from the frustrated user of a computer program gone wrong:
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
"...Bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Let me illustrate how bound up the "process of sinning" is with the process of "simulated sensations" by the one damnable and pernicious sin that leverages, subverts, and exploits the Human Heart model as ruthlessly and efficiently as a virus subverts the genetic machinery of the cell: Gossip.
Gossip? Am I being over serious? Not at all. If you've been around people, you have probably suffered this: Someone comes up to you with some scandalous or juicy piece of "information". The information is imparted skillfully, colorfully, and with much verbal plumage: all the better to ensure that you, the recipient, will recall the gossip and think about it while re-enjoying, in your mind, the elegance of the phrasing. What's happening? You mind is being trained "by reason of use" to discern only evil about that person. The gossip may toss in a bit of flattery, which happens to be gossip that happens to be about you that is told to your own face, so that your sense of ego is tied to the "veracity" of the gossip. Or maybe the gossip tosses in a concerned "observation" that some danger is present, so that your instinct for self-preservation ensures you run those contingency "simulations" in your mind, with the victim doing successively unlikely and untoward actions to provoke your mind to produce "defensive" and "counter-offensive" plans. "Evidence" may be brought forth in the form of examples of otherwise innocent or well-intentioned behaviour, but with the gossip's encouragement to "look at the facts in a different way." When done in the halls of academia, this form of gossip is called "deconstructionism", but which our great-grandparents would have called "making mountains out of molehills". What's happening is that your mind is being trained "by reason of use" to assume that this individual, because they happen to be the cause of a huge number of contingency plans, becomes someone whose actions only cause bad things to happen.
So what happens the next time you see that person? What happens in your head and in your mind? What comes to mind? What "simulated simulation" of a certain gossip's voice is "helpfully" generated and thrown up into your mental "eye" by a cooperative (with the gossip) human heart? What "menu options" for interacting with that person are presented? Do you bother thinking about what mental "menu options" are missing? The poor victim hasn't done anything, and they're being tried and convicted in your mind without a chance to even know they are on trial!
Was I being extreme in comparing gossip to a virus? Watch what happens when you meet a mutual acquaintance and that knowledge "just happens" to trigger a memory of the victim. Or better yet, feel what happens inside of yourself: from whence comes that increasing pressure and urge to pass the gossip on? If it was done cleverly, be sure that the original gossip will disclaim all copyrights to the original verbiage so that you can pretend that you are as clever as they are when you use the same phrasology (elaborated somewhat to give yourself a sense of creativity and originality). One would think you had a high pressure hose stuffed into your ribcage and the valve opened to a tank of nitrogen pressurized to 3000 PSI, so great is the urge to pass it on. James had it right about the tounge, and Jesus Christ obviously had it right about where it all really comes from.
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
What makes the difference between verse 24 and verse 25? Jesus Christ.
Models of the Human Mind: The Symbiotic Model
This is the Post-Symbiosis Human Heart of Romans 8:1-28 (which reads like the follow-up report after the computer program bug reported in Romans 7 has been eradicated):
We have noted that the Holy Spirit resides in the heart, but the way we have traditionally thought of the location as either metaphorical (thus having no real presence), or incidental and not pivotal. In the latter case, we would put a yellow circle in the lower right hand corner of the Human Heart, far away from and not affecting the bitstream.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Location! Location! Location! The Holy Spirit "wraps" Himself around the bitstream and affects it. There is no need to modify the portions of the bitstream coming from the senses (It is, after all, the Spirit of Truth), but the portion of the bitstream that is "downstream" from the place where simulated sensations (and associated mental "choice menus) are generated is totally commandeered, editing, removing, and adding thoughts to the stream of data that directly impacts the "I". The heart remains fundamentally evil and remains capable of sin, as Paul, James, and John continually remind us. However, and Jesus made this very point, "defilement" (the committing of sin) does not happen in the heart, but when the evil thoughts coming from the heart "defile the man": "with my mind, I myself serve the law of God". The "I myself" of Paul in 7: 24 is the "I"/"eye" in the diagram, and is the part whose choices determines if "the man" sins or not.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
I cannot emphasize this point too much: The Holy Spirit is actually, for really, and very truly, present in the believer. He has to be in there, affecting chemical balances, changing the order, frequency, and location of the firing of neurons, moderating chemical balances in the gaps between synapses, in order to actually affect actual thoughts.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
The implication here is that the process is cooperative: we have a part to play in the way that thoughts run around the "simulated sensation loop". It was asked earlier "What good is a model of the human mind that's 2 millenia old?" If the Human Heart model is closer to reality than the classical model, then "how" one affects the mortification (putting to death) of the deeds of the body must necessarily change. The classical model puts the onus for changing one's thoughts on the conscious mind, which is the "I" in that model. That model states "You, and you alone, are the one creating the thoughts of your mind. Thus, you are responsible if you do not change the thoughts you are creating." The human heart model absolves the "I" of the thought creation process, but restores responsiblity by saying "You are responsible for the choice of what thoughts to focus upon. What's that? Your heart dealt you a bad hand by gving you a pre-rigged list of thoughts, all bad, to choose from? Too bad: you either choose to focus on one of those thoughts and choose the least noxious menu option provided to you by a corrupt heart, or do the right thing by shutting yourself down to enforce the choice of not choosing." The Symbiotic model says, "I, the Holy Spirit, am here and present. I'll edit the simulated sensations so they are either gone or toned down to be tolerable when you get them. I'll add more options to choose from, and implement the options you choose that I added. Choose wisely."
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
How does "The Spirit itself bear witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"? By generating simulated sensations of His own, tossing them into the bitsream, and letting the system sweep those thoughts up and into the mind so that they impact the "I". Or were you of the impression that the Third Person of the Godhead, who was the only one actually on the ground at Creation while the other two stood off at a distance (better to admire the results) and shouted their instructions, wasn't smart enough to do that?
Human parents may care for the sons and daughters of others, but the only way one knows that a child was adopted is when that child bears the surname of their new parents. With God, adoption is signalled by the giving of the Spirit to His new sons and daughters.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Our condition inevitably affects others, even the whole of creation. If we are in bondage, then creation is in bondage. If we are truly free from the bondage of a corrupted heart, then creation is also free within whatever passes for its "heart". All that remains is the redemption of the body, when the corruption of the heart is healed, and not just its output filtered, edited, and augmented by the Holy Spirit. No longer will the "simulated sensation" cycle be half black/half gold, but all gold.
But there is more to this passage: It implies a sort of "field effect", like a magnetic or electric field, but in the realm of spiritual liberty. We have an influence on the human members of this creation that "groaneth and travaileth in pain together". God himself could not do this: The Holy Spirit needs a human host to witness to others in the same way that an electric current needs an antenna to fling electromagnetic waves through empty space. It is not the case that this method that God chose to propagate the Gospel was one of many viable ones picked from a menu of possibilties, with this one chosen because "making the kids work in the garden is good for them". No. The nature of man and the creation dictates that the job lies with Christians symbiotically and actively "linked" to the Spirit Within.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
It is obvious from this passage that the Holy Spirit intervenes in the communications between Homo and Deus. However, in the rush to use this verse as a club to condemn Christians, the underlying implications are missed. The first part of verse 26 assures us that the Holy Spirit helps us deal with our infirmities, one example of which is covered in the rest of the verse and the next. That is, the infirmity of not praying properly. Note how the editing process takes place: as the believer prays, the Holy Spirit edits out inappropriate material, inserts appropriate material, adds proper honorifics, makes sure all the "i"'s are dotted, the "t"'s crossed, and ensures the entire thing is properly entered into the right forms (which are submitted in triplicate).
I, of course, exagerate, but note how the Holy Spirit works: just as he edits the prayers that we, out of our ignorance, generate, so he edits the thoughts that our heart, out of its corruption, generates.
Further note that only one example is cited, that of praying. However, the word "infirmities" is plural, implying that the Spirit helps in more areas than just in our praying.
(I have said that this verse is used as a club to condemn Christians. This merits further comment. When this verse is used as a club, the implication is "You people are so wicked and evil that, even after conversion, you need the Holy Spirit to patch up your prayers!" The problem with this criticism is that, since the Holy Spirit is to lead us unto all truth, then should the Holy Spirit not reveal to us the truth of how badly we are praying? Why is there an assumption that the Holy Spirit will not teach us how to pray better? In reality, He does! In 1 John 3:19-22, we have John pointing out how the Holy Spirit uses the feelings being generated by the heart to inform the Christian of whether their prayers will be answered. As a person who has used the promises to get my needs met, I avoided that passage because I felt I could not meet the preconditions, so much did my heart condemn me of my sins (even though forgiven). I recently prayed on behalf of a church member needing to sell their house, who was getting deperate because they were not getting any nibbles. After confirming they were doing all that was human possible to advertise the house during what was a buyer's market, I revisited this passage and said, "Heck, why not? My heart is so much more cooperative, and I'm not praying for myself, but for another, so why not?" After doing so on Sunday, several inquiries came in by Tuesday, and it was sold by Thursday. The essential thing is to see how the messaging process functions by sending a signal from the Holy Spirit to me, its host, that signalled that the prayer was appropriate.)
Now I invite you to imagine yourself standing alongside the Master Engineer of the Universe, both of us looking at the Human Heart model as a system for producing thoughts. A nasty gremlin has gotten into the system, commandeering the thought generation process and making it generate evil signals that is making the machine behave in an evil fashion. We're not talking about misbehaving. We're not talking about erratic symtoms or behavior. We're talking really evil output here that is destroying everything around it. Whatever is causing this perverse reaction, its buried in so deep that it looks as if the Proprietor will have to scrap the entire engine, purge the inventory of the output, fire the operator, prosecute him for the damage done, and start all over again.
The Master Engineer examines the machinery. He then opens up his heart, pulls out a glowing yellow donut, opens a compartment in the machine, and sticks the donut around a glass cable that is glowing red from bad data and commands going to the machine's processor board. The data flow coming up to the donut makes the cable go red, but the portion of the cable between the donut and the processor board turns a golden yellow for a few minutes, then it slowly begins to redden.
"Hey! Production just changed for the better for a moment there! What'd you do?" asks the operator.
The Master Engineer leaves the door open and turns to the operator "We'll have to wait until the outage to pull it apart and get the gremlins out, but that donut will enable you to control the machine and restore proper production until then. It modifies the data stream going to the processor, and can partially or completely block the effects of the gremlins. You'll need to figure out how to tweak your controls to get the necessary effect, because it won't do that automatically. It will respond only to the choices you make via your control panel."
"Great! So what do I have to do?" asks the operator, "And what am I looking for?"
"Just keep the color of the cable above the donut yellow. That's the signal that all is going well."
"Great!" exclaims the operator, "What else does it do?"
The Master Engineer grins, "Try it out. Have fun. Your biggest problem is that you have no idea of what it can really do."
"Not bad!" you compliment the Master Engineer, "A production unit that was spewing arrows, bullets, and death everywhere is now productive, useful, and has potential it never had before."
"Yes," the Master Engineer replies, "Before I installed that patch, the gremlin had so subverted the system that everything in it was working for evil. But now-"
28 And we know that all [these] things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Achieving Higher Quality in Christian Living
What is the value of having the right model of the Human Mind? If one believes that the problem of Christians today is that they live lives of low quality, and that the solution is that the Church must lead the way to a higher standard, then the kind of model one uses makes all the difference in the world.
In the Classical model, since the "I" is the one producing thoughts, and it is the thoughts that are corrupt, wicked, and evil, it makes perfect sense to "lash the people". Berate and cajole them like an Old Testament prophet. That's how modern western managers of industrial production lines would extract higher production and better quality from their assembly lines. Why not? Is not the operator totally responsible for their output, and the quality of it?
However, if one follows the Human Heart model, an expert in improving production would look at things differently. Dr. William Edwards Deming was a quality improvment guru who was credited for increasing the production of the United States during World War II, and transforming the nature of manufacturing in post-war Japan to its current, first-rate, world-class position of high quality products. The Human Heart model has the human heart producing thoughts, with the human "I", by their choices of what to pay attention to, rendering feedback to the heart that would lead it to change, update, or improve the presentation being given to the human "I". Dr. Deming would insist that quality was a product of the system of man plus machine, not the man alone. He would probably have this conversation with management, who is uttering the first line.
"We ought to fire this entire lot of workers! They're not any better at producing quality product than the last lot!"
"What would happen if you shut off power to the plant? The workers are still awake, so could they still produce?"
"No, they could not! They need the machines to produce!"
"So what if we took away the machines and gave them hand tools. Would they still produce high quality product?"
"Well, No. They could not. Only a few of them, with good eyes and steady hands, could make the product we want to the standards we set! And productivity would fall through the floor!"
"So what if we took away the new machines and gave them the ones the plant started with?"
"Those machines are obsolete! Their tolerances are so bad, the product would not meet our quality standards!"
"But what if the new machines are out of tolerance? That would make them as bad as the obsolete ones, right?"
"Well, of course out of tolerance machines would produce bad product!"
"Wait a minute. We went through changing all these machines and getting different quality products without changing the operators. So what role, exactly, do the workers play?"
"Well, they operate the machines and make the product!"
"No, they don't."
"They don't make product. The machines make the product. The role of the operators are to make sure the machines are in tolerances so that the product is of the required quality."
"Well, a poorly operated machine will make poor quality product, right?"
"True. What do you think operating a machine involves?"
"Why, turning it on and off, making sure its properly lubricated and powered, feeding in the material, taking out product, clearing out jams, and reporting broken equipment."
"What about out of tolerance equipment?"
"What kind of answer is 'Huh?'? Before you fire this lot of workers, who were not producing any better than the last lot, did you bother to train either group how to detect if their machines are out of tolerance and how to adjust them so they are in tolerance?"
As long as Church pastors and leaders believe that the classical model is true, they'll assign blame for evil thoughts to "the man" who is defiled by a heart that is beyond their individual control. They will be more indulgent if they believed that the Human heart model was true, and that the thoughts presented to "the man" from the heart are largely out of their control. Of course, they could become like the New Testament Pharisees and Saducees who decided that the road to purity lay in training the heart to discern, and choose, good over evil.
But Dr. Deming demanded that management go further, giving training and permission to their operators to monitor the output of the machines, tweak the calibration knobs, and use statistical methods to determine the impact of those adjustments on the quality of the product. Testing, measurement, statistical analysis, and adjustment of the production machines to achieve continuous improvment became the means by which Japan overtook the United States in high quality manufactured items on the factory floor.
Unfortunately, Dr. Deming's prescription for quality improvement on the production line cannot be applied to the Human Heart Model: the heart is, after all, the unconscious unreachable part of man, very difficult to search. The "I" only perceives and focusses attention on thoughts whose creation is out of reach or control. Even those thoughts that might have been generated in response to the attention feedback loop were generated because the heart decided to, not because it was compelled to or made to do so.
The Symbiotic Model, however, enables each Christian to apply Deming's shop floor quality improvement methodolgy to their own thought life. This is how you hack yer mind:
- The heart produces thoughts and throws them onto the bit stream.
- The Holy Spirit "filters" those thoughts, deleting some, adjusting others so that the temptation presented by them to the "I" is not overwhelming, making sure that there is always a "way of escape". If the Heart is so perverse that no acceptable "menu options" are presented, then the Holy Spirit adds acceptable ones that He will undertake to perform within the heart of man if the "I" chooses them.
- The modified and augmented thoughts proceed on to the "I", which looks them over and makes a choice by focussing on the menu option desired.
- The feedback path takes the choice down to the heart. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is made aware of the choice as well.
- IF the "I" chose an option that came from the heart, the Holy Spirit allows the process to continue without intervening. The choice made by the "I" constitutes a denial of permission by the "I" for the Spirit to act on its behalf. The ensuing thoughts that are generated, and the process continues at step #2 above.
- However, if the "I" chooses an option that came from the Holy Spirit, then either the heart or the Holy Spirit generates other thoughts that are consistent with the choice, and the process continues at step #2 above. The choice made by the "I" constitutes a granting of permission by the "I" for the Spirit to act on its behalf.
Let's see how Dr. Deming would apply the above process to a machine on the shop floor. Each machine would have two "operators": a measurer and an adjuster. The adjuster is able to adjust the calibration of the machine, while the measurer cannot. The role of the measurer is to identify when the machine is out of tolerance, decide that the variance is intolerable, and communicate the out-of-tolerance condition to the adjuster with enough detail that the adjuster can identify which calibration controls to adjust and determine how much to adjust them. It is agreed that if the measurer does not identify any intolerable variances, that the machine is working normally, and no adjustment is necessary. After each adjustment, the product is measured, and the difference that that adjustment made is recorded in a log book that the adjuster uses to directly enter the new setting to get the desired change in that aspect of the product.
The key is conscious cooperation between the measurer and the adjuster, which is what we would normally expect of an agreement made between two conscious human beings before either of them approach the machine.
On the "thought life" production floor, you, the "I" of your self, are the measurer, looking at the thoughts popping into your brain. If an evil thought pops into your head (a temptation), then you have a choice: you either concentrate your attention on the evil thought and participate in it, or you choose to concentrate your attention on the thought that the Holy Spirit generated in concert with that evil thought that says, "That evil thought is unacceptable. I don't want it. Please suppress it." Remember, you have to have agreed ahead of time that that is what you mean when you focus on that thought that was generated by the Holy Spirit. If you focus on the good thought that says "suppress this evil thought", the Holy Spirit acts on it if the heart refuses to comply, either suppressing the thought or attenuating its attractiveness and giving you a further choice. If you focus on the evil thought itself, the Holy Spirit stands aside and lets nature take its course. (A man without the Holy Spirit doesn't get the "suppress the temptation" thought, and thus has no real ability to choose not to succumb to the temptation.)
The key is conscious cooperation between Homo (the "I") and Deus (the Holy Spirit), which is fitting for a symbiotic being composed of two intelligent and free individuals.
Now a personal testimony. I came to the first inklings of realizing the above process in April of 2008 shortly after deciding that symbiosis was real and not a metaphor. The realization revolutionized my thought life. Working with the Holy Spirit, I began to enjoy life with temptations and compulsions suppressed. I even found phobias and fears that the Holy Spirit took the initiative to suppress. I began to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, which includes joy, and I began to be able to love and say that I loved without the bad connotations that I put on the word while living through the 1960's and being totally disgusted with the manipulations and evasions cloaked by vicious and devious appeals to "love".
Of course, things have not always been smooth, but even the bumps, stumbles, pratfalls, and out and out sinning that I committed, became the means by which I learned what the warning signs were, what I should not have done, and what I should have done. This goes into the resulting in me adjusting, improving, and moving on.
And that's it. That's the key: a conscious, aware, deliberate cooperation with the Holy Spirit by an intentional "paying of attention" to thoughts that appear to come from Him or which would be approved by Him as a means of signalling to him the sort of thoughts I expect to think. I do not, by this, abandon the Scriptures for a mystic inner experience: The Scriptures are the Rule and Official Standard that defines what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. To use James' analogy, the Law becomes a mirror to reveal my shortcomings. How I react to that revelation is the key. If I turn to the Holy Spirit, point at the dirt, and say, "I choose to let you remove this for me," He will be more than happy to cooperate. If I say nothing, He'll let me wear the dirt, to my detriment. However, to push James' analogy to the breaking point, I do not go legalistic and break the mirror and use the shards to wash the dirt off myself.
The remaining articles and essays will deal with the application of the Deming process to living the Christian life symbiotically. Think of it as one measurer sharing hints, tricks, and operating experience with other measurers so that the entire shop floor improves the quality of the production since, as of June 15, 2008, and judging by the number of arrows in my back, I believe I'm the one who's travelled the farthest in this direction. Hopefully, when others figure this out and join me, I'll be able to receive similar help from them and pass it on via this website.
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