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(November 2002)

Feedback on 'Invaginated Shadow Mind'

[Read the essay]

Gerald Smith (December 1998)
Bill Wright (December 1998)
John Newman (December 1998)
Marc Ortlieb (February 1999)
Bill Wright (February 1999)
Bruce Gillespie (April 1999)
John Newman (April 1999)
Lucy Schmeidler (June 1999)
Bill Wright (June 1999)
Jeanne Mealy (August 1999)
David Charles Cummer (December 1999)

GERALD SMITH writes (December 1998):

I have to tell you that, while I did find "Invaginated Shadow Mind" an interesting read, I am having difficulty making any comments about it. In part I think that's because I haven't fully grasped yet just what it is you are trying to say. In part it is also because I have problems with dream interpretations. I realise that what you are saying about your dreams is not the sort of mumbo jumbo resorted to by many (you know the sort of thing - "Oh, that means you are going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger.") I am still having a little difficulty divorcing what you do from that mumbo jumbo.

You see, I tend to look on dreams more as the mind's way of reordering things - putting them back in their compartments, maybe dealing with some problems that have been nagging at you. By and large I see attempts at interpreting dreams as reading too much into what has happened - trying to impose conscious order on something that isn't capable of being ordered.

I reply (February 1999):

Re: Dream Interpretation.

I was going to write a long reply here, but I feel that an essay for "RM9" on "IS THERE MEANING IN DREAMS?" would be the best way to explore the topic.

[See also Gerald's feedback on "Is There Meaning in dreams?"]

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BILL WRIGHT writes (December 1998):

Liked your adoption of Martian chronology, by which reckoning you are only eighteen years young.

Also interested in your Invaginated Shadow Mind, a dazzling view of Mind in terms of the structure and functions of the Brain. The brain strives for order, efficiency and automation. As we get older it is hard to learn new things. Then, by having opened the way by reminders (revelation?) of the pioneering concepts of Freud and Jung, you take us by the hand and launch into the Dream with the innocent question "What happens to this stuff?"

On the substance of this Dream, I have to tell you that the idea of bodies being disassembled in a dream is not original, although your treatment of it is. In that wonderful collaboration between Robert Sheckley and Roger Zelazny, Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, celestial powers vie for the souls of mortals by constantly changing that which is and observing to which side's advantage it all works out. The full panoply of metal and physical attributes are up for grabs. The head of Prince Charming is only one component of a hero construct devised by a minor devil with aspirations to higher status in the spiritual domain. The total irrelevance of morality in the conduct of angelic, and human, affairs emerges.

In your Dream, dead body parts are never wholly dead but only close to death. Dissection becomes an operation to reanimate them.

   Hack at the heart and dig in the head
   There is no rest forever for the dead
   Only the dead are available to be
   Psychic spare parts for little old me.

Truly frightening.

Three weeks pass, then you enter another dream. Images of cat cleaning the cesspool, bicycle, dried-blood, decay, washing hands, infection .. darkness. Voice (male), "If I was a woman I'd be pregnant." 'Nothing is ever dead-and- buried in the subconscious - it is all exhumed and re-buried again and again.' Very true.

The remaining dreams pass in kaleidoscopic review before my mind's eye. The main impression is the dichotemy of living in a multi-storied environment versus a single storied existence. Then my own subconscious takes over and I lose track of yours. I think of the prim and proper housekeeper, Ms Dos, making all her rooms tidy and the corridors leading to them neatly signposted. People like to visit Ms Dos because her house is spacious and can accommodate many mansions. Her predecessor, Captain Manager (CPM to his intimates) kept all his possessions in a multi-layered tower. His unwillingness to share discouraged visitors and, if he survives at all in cyberspace, it is as a lonely and bitter old man. In recent years a long standing affair between Ms Dos and Mr Gates has begun to sour. Mr Gates now spends most of his time looking out the window and seems to be ignoring Ms Dos. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if, by the year 2000, he has forgotten all about Ms Dos in his preoccupation with windows.

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JOHN NEWMAN writes (December 1998):

It seems to me that your discussion of the brain confuses the model and the thing itself. Neural net theory, at one extremity, is about modelling the observed behavior of the brain. There is no general intention to say the brain is a neural net, except in the trite sense of it's being in some sense a net of neurons.

That is, a 'Neural Net' is a mathematical thing, a big lump of neurons with lots of connections is a lump of glop! 'Net' is still not defined in any substantive sense for the structure and processes of the brain and it's wetware.

I reply (February 1999):

Re: Invaginated Shadow Mind.

[A185]. "It seems to me that your discussion of the brain confuses the model and the thing itself."

Actually it doesn't. There have now been accumulated sufficient experimental results to give us a pretty good idea of some of the ways in which the brain behaves, and how information is deconstructed and stored in different locations. We have some good mathematical models of neural networks which model to a reasonable level of accuracy how real neurons work - albeit simplified.

What is missing is all the 'middle-stuff' - how neuron firing patterns somehow merge into firstly a sort of distributed statistical-averaging matrix, then at a higher level a genuine semantic network, and lastly a modelling tool for an active adaptive consciousness.

Somehow additional functionality is added at each level of complexity, and describing the brain as a neural network is ultimately about as useful as describing the human body as 'a bunch of cells.'

My main purpose in "Invaginated Shadow Mind" was not to describe the brain - brain structure was just base camp for a much more ambitious journey. Perhaps I jumped too many levels in too few words - and people could not figure out A to B to C. (I had to work with models - semantic abstractions here - because the whole is far far too complicated to tackle otherwise. It would be like attempting to describe the life of a person by listing each and every chemical change and its cause in each and every body cell for every arbitrarily small time period for each and every moment of life. Human beings are *brilliant* at abstractions - it's why we can describe an image on a computer screen without having to list the colour and intensity of each pixel.)

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MARC ORTLIEB writes (February 1999):

I tend to avoid thinking too much about thinking. It seems too much like dividing by zero. Be forewarned, therein infinite loops lie, which brings us back to the Oozalum bird. The tendency I dislike in Freud is the tendency to think that, once one has given something an adequately impressive name, it must exist. Labelling something does not explain it. Brian Aldiss had a nice piece on the nature of dreams. I can't remember where he published it; I'm sure Bruce would know.

Re: Addendum.

Looking at your comments about New Scientist's use of "zombie" and at the option of using the term "robot" instead, I'd comment Richard Dawkins Climbing Mount Improbable if you haven't already read it. I finally finished reading it yesterday ... Dawkins refers to organisms, including humans, as robots and counters the usual objections to being called robotic with the following: "A robot is any mechanism, of unspecified complexity and intelligence, which is set up in advance to work towards fulfilling a particular task." (Richard Dawkins Climbing Mount Improbable (Penguin 1996) p258)

I reply (April 1999):

"The tendency I dislike in Freud is the tendency to assume that, once one has given something an adequately impressive name, it must exist. Labelling something does not explain it."(MPHOTD7)

This is true enough, though it is a fallacy of far-more folks than Freud. Words becoming a gathering device for a collection of related ideas - but too many experts forget to look into their own concept baskets, naively assuming the name they have given the basket they carry explains its contents. Whereas, we (being cleverer than many experts), know that if we are told that you have a basket of fruit - we'd all have different expectations of the types of fruit lying inside....

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BILL WRIGHT writes (February 1999):

On Invaginated Shadow Mind Addendum, I would venture to say that humans are not the only earthly species to experience conscious thought. Ever listen to pigs at an abattoir? It is impossible to underestimate their terror. Surely they are aware of being aware.

I reply (April 1999):

"On Invaginated Shadow Mind Addendum, I would venture to say that humans are not the only earthly species to experience conscious thought. Ever listen to pigs at an abattoir? It is impossible to underestimate the terror. Surely they are aware of being aware."

I have never listened to pigs at an abattoir - but I will accept your words.

Back in "RM1" in my essay "Prophets of the Silicon God" I wrote:

"There is no clear spectrum of conditions between consciousness and the state of being a mere automaton -between machine and being. (But we can ask "how conscious are insects?" Do they have moments of awareness in a life of responding to stimuli and instincts through preprogrammed behaviour patterns?)"

I will accept conscious awareness in pigs.

Re: Invaginated Shadow Mind & Waking Dreams.

"I usually don't remember dreams but remember having them. Sometimes a story holds my interest and remains in conscious memory. The imagination takes off and I continue the story in ways which the author in all probability never thought of...words flow effortlessly out of a continuously running dream which seems to have been with me - in conscious and in subliminal states for years....I might well have used your key to unlock my deepest well of consciousness in a fashion which, if emulated by the multitude, will have profound social consequences" (IRS185)

Natalie lent me a copy of the book "How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction" (J.N. Williamson - Editor) which contains an essay by Colin Wilson called "Fantasy and Factor X."

I copied some quotations out of the essay which I will add here. They will provide - hopefully - some enlightenment.

"...Faculty X is the ability to...project your mind totally into some other time and place." [p.134]

"Although the brain consists of two identical halves. like a walnut, each seems to have completely different functions. In human beings, the left half deals with language and logic, and the right with more 'intuitive' functions like pattern recognition...the left half is a scientist, and the right, an artist...the person you call you is the scientist, we are literally out of touch with the person in the other half." [p.134]

"the right and left hemispheres operate at different speeds: the right is slow, the left is fast. And this explains why they are out of contact much of the time. They are like two men going for a walk, and one walks so much faster than the other that he is soon a hundred yards in front, and conversation is practically impossible. In primitive people, the hemispheres relate differently, the people live at a slower pace, so the left and right find it easier to stay in contact. The slower pace also makes them more intuitive; intuition is a function of the right hemisphere.

"There are two basic methods for re-establishing contact between the two selves. One is to soothe yourself into a deep state of relaxation, so the left slows down. The other is to stimulate yourself into a state of intense excitement - the younger generation does it with loud music and strobe lights - so the right begins to move faster. Both these techniques have the same effect; the two halves are like two trains running on parallel tracks at exactly the same speed, so the passengers can lean out of the windows and talk...." [p.135]

What do you think Bill?

Now that I *think* I understand the process - I hope to figure out a way of 'reintegrating the muse.' (Re: "Mundane and Metaphor" in "RM5".)

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BRUCE GILLESPIE writes (April 1999):

I find nothing new in your essay 'Invaginated Shadow Mind', but I'm interested that you can offer such sophisticated accounts of your own dreams. I wrote down a lot of my major dreams in the early eighties, and still have those notebooks. However, I often found it very difficult to offer even the most cursory of 'explanations' for the dreams. Most of them were experiences too deeply felt to be explained. Some of the Big Dreams remain as mysterious to me today as when I wrote them down, despite the fact that I ran a competition in TMR hoping some of my readers might be able to untangle the dreams for me. (For other dreams, of course, the everyday meanings are startling[ly] clear.

* * * * *

I'm jealous, I've never had a flying dream or an out-of-body projection. I hate mundanity, yet all my experience is mundane and my abilities mediocre. I escape into larger mental spheres only by listening to great music or reading wonderful books.

I can't see any point in directed dreaming. The whole point of dreaming is raising the theatre curtain of the conscious and allowing the unconscious to spring into action behind the curtain. Directed dreaming is leaving the curtain down.

Re: Addendum.

Damien Broderick wrote somewhere at some length about the amazingly odd and entertaining experience of appearing on the same panel as Colin Wilson. I can't remember where. You'll have to ask Damien if he still has a copy.

The terms used by the TA people sound just like Freud's id, ego and superego. The popular new psych groups rarely say anything new: they just invent a newer brand of coloured paper in which to wrap old ideas.

I reply (June 1999):

"I can't see any point in directed dreaming.. The whole point of dreaming is raising the theatre curtain of the conscious and allowing the unconscious to spring into action behind the curtain. Directed dreaming is leaving the curtain down." (brg No.23. ANZAPA 187)

It doesn't work like that Bruce.

The unconscious mind always provides the stage, the characters, and the story. Directed Dreaming is not about inventing these things for yourself. It is simply being able to choose to do something different when the 'play' is being performed - like, for example, opening the
Forbidden Door....

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JOHN NEWMAN writes (April 1999):

RYCT me, yes, it certainly is the details of how it all works that matter!

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LUCY SCHMEIDLER writes (June 1999):

Re Marc's and your comments on the idea that, once something is impressively named, it's assumed to exist. Have you given any thought to the converse: that it's relatively hard to assert the existence of something nameless?

I reply (June 1999):

"Re: Marc's and your comments on the idea that, once something is impressively named, it's assumed to exist. Have you given any thought to the converse: that it's relatively hard to assert the existence of something nameless?"

Not before now. One of the very first things human beings do when they are trying to work with an idea is to give it a name. (Even mathematicians - the greatest abstract thinkers of all - will want to call an unknown quantity "x.") Giving something a name allows one to drag in meanings to associate with the formerly nameless. Even calling something "unknown" or "nameless" is labelling it.

The real mysteriousnesses are sudden alien mindstates and the touches of unnameable emotions, and the unrecognised precursors of transforming 21st century ideas.

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BILL WRIGHT writes (June 1999):

Ryct Me, it is uncanny the way you answer questions posed by your articles in mailing comments to me at the back of the same issue of Reality Module. At last! You have joined me in accepting conscious awareness in pigs. We should all cultivate the acquaintance of pigs. In an earlier incarnation of IRS I advised Lyn McConchie to make pets of the pigs at Farside farm and parade around the countryside in their company. She was not greatly enamoured of the suggestion, but the idea has merit. I expect one day to see you on the strut in porcine company in the leafy environs of Malvern - on one of my increasingly rare bicycle excursions, if I ever make it as far as your place. A pig of my own is out of the question, I am afraid. It would not last long in the vicinity of the exotic restaurants in Fitzroy Street, not to mention crazies that inhabit the place at night when the moon is full and the disco clubs close.


Thanks for the explanation of my continuous waking dream. Creating conditions for Cortex and Thalmus to commune might indeed be the way to 'reintegrate the muse'. If we both succeed, will we immediately start expressing ourselves in contrapuntal iambic pentameter to the enrichment of Australian culture and the consternation of fans? Consequences are likely to be unpredictable, whatever the outcome.

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JEANNE MEALY writes (August 1999):

Aligning the right and left hemispheres of the brain sounds interesting. I wonder if that's what I'm doing when I turn on the TV or something else to distract [an] inner dialogue or restlessness in order to concentrate on doing something like, say, an apazine. (No, he says, backing slowly away, you're just psychotic.)

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DAVID CHARLES CUMMER writes (December 1999):

CT Bruce Gillespie.

"I can't see the point in directed dreaming. The whole point of dreaming is raising the thater curtain of the conscious & allowing the unconscious to spring into action..." I'm not sure how similar directed dreaming & shamanistic traveling to the underworld are, but, if you ask me (and nobody was, but what the hell...), there is a connection. Both deal with images from the back of the mind. & setting out to do one or the other with a goal in mind can result in some interesting revelations. (By-the-by, I don't think dreaming has a point. It's like summer, it just is. What we make of either is up to us. Somewhat related note: One morning, when I lived in the Bozo Bus Building, I woke up thinking, "Dreaming is the summer of the mind.")

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Last Updated: 17 November 2003