Exeter University, May 2006
When evolutionary theory was applied to consciousness, the outcome was liberating; a wholly benevolent definition of the limits of the territory that can be encompassed by ideas and a recognition of science’s partner and master.
We cannot now picture our minds independently of our bodies. In acknowledging our descent from animals we see that our higher consciousness is built on (and into) the primary consciousness that we share with animals.
This primary consciousness is built upon principles of selection and the interaction of emotion, memory and the senses that constructs the constantly changing present.
While we can attempt to describe the heritable structure of consciousness with science, we do so by discriminating between different kinds of intelligence.
(The symbol of NATURE includes this heritable structure that has evolved over the earth’s lifetime)
From an early age, I considered it to be grossly unfair that a horse who threw its jockey and then galloped home in front of the other horses and riders was not recognised as the winner of the race. While the horse and jockey who came second (or even third or fourth) was applauded and presented with prize money and trophy, the true winner was ignored.
But not by me.
We can filter the data that we receive from our senses in order to construct shadows of our immediate experience – when focussing on particular problems – or through a chain reaction involving memory, emotion and intuition create and permit a present which engulfs and defines us. We know that such states are accompanied by a sensation of remembering – which heightens rather than diminishes our experience of the present. As a result, we sometimes associate such intensity with non specific childhood experiences and emotions.
Whether language and ideas tumble or stay the course does not necessarily affect the result of the race but may only alter the way in which it is described.
The term “primary consciousness” does not describe an inferior type of superseded intelligence but a process capable of development, growth and refinement. The theory of evolution does not describe a progression. It is a mistake to picture our past or future progress in terms of the development of those faculties which differentiate us from animals.
Oscar Wilde was asked to review the letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, who went to Samoa in order to lead a more natural life among the indigenous population. Oscar Wilde claimed that by sitting in a Parisian café he was leading a more natural life than Stevenson self consciously “chopping wood with the natives”
NATURE is not self-conscious; it is neither an idea not it be categorised as an experience.
Ideas and Experience come together in the symbol of NATURE. A symbol – to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge “always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity, of which it is the representative”