by Win Wenger, Ph.D. to the Oct. '94 N.Y. City Creativity Exposition
"Next Step" Already Here?
Many have proclaimed
to you evolution's next step, in relation to some particular involvement
of theirs. --And many of these may be correct, in that we humans now
can so profoundly alter and improve upon our own course of development--and
so many positive opportunities now are open to us. Like it or not,
we are the Responsible Generation, the choices we are making are the
ones humanity will have to live with in more settled times.
--Yet we respectfully
submit that by far the preponderant "next step of evolution,"
among the many before us, may be the resuming and continuing
of the very first step which distinguished humanity from the
rest of the ape family.
there was the Word...."
of accumulating anthropological evidence suggest that human speech
functions emerged before any other of the traits which demark human
from ape. --Even before upright walking freed the hands. --Even
before prehuman brains began their huge expansion!
this evidence, speech's importance in the emergence of humanity
is clear in the fact that even the most primitive cultures western
culture has ever contacted, if they've been settled for at least
some years and are not a broken fragment, have complex, sophisticated
languages in many instances more complex than our English.
reading of this precedence, of speech in the development of humanity,
is cultural. In their reading, apparently correct insofar as it
goes, speech gave our remote ancestors the ability to pass on more
complex experience to the next generation. This in turn, caused
our species to begin to accumulate culture and with it tools, for
thinking and perceiving in, which perceptual, conceptual and communicative
tools were more and more effective.
focus in that, however, has been the cultural transmission. In that
context our current Information Age, seen by many as our "next
evolutionary step," may also be regarded as resuming humanity's
very first defining evolutionary step. How-ever, we confront a far
more immediate, and possibly even more powerful, focus and context,
the MAGNIFYING LENS of perception:
Something we have known all along, but yet not known, is the role
of speech in so magnifying anything, any aspect that it refers
to that it is "loud" in our intellectual and brain circuitry
and we can bring our full brain resources, such as they may be,
to bear upon that referent. Without it, most stimuli would be far
too faint to engage our attention at all, and like other animals
we would be dependent upon simple straight conditioning to learn
what behaviors "work" and which don't "work."
demonstrated just how profoundly our perceptions depend upon our
language. In his famous experiment where he had children to draw
butterfly wings: those children who had words in their working vocabulary
for "triangle," "dot," "slash," "stripe,"
etc., were able to draw butterfly wings well even from memory. Those
children who did not have those words were unable to draw those
wings in a way which they could them-selves days later recognize
to have been meant to represent butterfly wings. In a later phase
of the experiment, he took half the children who had been unable
and, in a very different context, taught them those words. In the
final phase of the experiment, the children who now had those
words were able to draw the wings well even from memory, and those
who still did not have those words as before, were unable to draw
those wings in a way that even they could recognize several days
later. "If we can't say it, we can't grasp it!" That profoundly
does our language affect and facilitate our perception, even though.....
the universe around us is so much greater than we have language
with which to encompass it. As Jerome Bruner noted, for example,
humans normally can distinguish by sight seven million different
colors--but we only have a few dozen color names. As poet
Archibald MacLeish once said, "A poem should be wordless -
as a flight of birds."
--And the quality
of our language, as Basil Bernstein demonstrated,powerfully shapes
our ability to perceive, not only to reason. We can expect that
those whose language is clumsy and disjoint, hardly able to follow
and model upon other people's reasoning, are less likely to do reasoning
of their own, as he found. But it goes further than that. Bernstein
found that, despite a lot of individual differences and exceptions,
that on the whole, people with clumsy and disjoint language are
also disinclined to react to the evidence of their own senses,
to what's in front of them. They tend to depend instead on the views
of authority. "Who says," rather than what's right there
in front of them to see. That, more than electromedia, may account
for the decline of American politics and American democracy so sadly
accompany the catastrophic decline of American language skills.
GBD.com without it costing you a dime. Learn
far further than that.
you have this very minute:
What you describe,
you discover more and more about.
It is this
aspect of language, even more than cultural transmission, which
presents us with an awesome next step.
a magnifying lens for perception, once it developed, placed a powerful
premium for development of intelligence, and this is what
accounts for the so-rapid expansion and emergence of the human brain.
--And does still today:
with the most widely-recognized or "First Law" of Psychology
(that "you get more of what you reinforce"): When you
describe one of your own perceptions, you--
that particular perception. What you describe, you discover more
and more and more about, even to the point of the Whitman/Blake
Effect we will mention shortly.
the behavior of being perceptive! We are "a nation
of sheep" because we reinforce going along with "what
everyone knows," rather than one's seeing matters with his
or her own eyes, firsthand, and rather than responding in some way
to (and thereby reinforcing) to what one can see for him or herself.
And to the
extent that the perception being described is subtle, and
so arising in parts of the brain less immediately engaged with our
left temporal lobe verbal consciousness, we--
those parts of the brain more onto line with consciousness.
Onto line with consciousness also, those brain-regions' resources
This is a cumulative
effect. Our own present intelligence is, to large extent, reflective
of our personal history of how much of our own perceptions we got
to express or to other-wise act upon.
especially little boys, are not that far removed yet in nature from
our ape cousins and other animals. All sorts of awarenesses and
impressions are going on all the time in their heads, just as they
are ion ours. But that little boy sitting in class with paper blank
before him because "he can't think of anything to say,"
or with just a few clumsy words on it for that reason, never has
it occur to him that much of what's going on in all those sidebands
of his awareness is rich with material appropriate for that terribly
blank paper on his desk. Indeed, just like us, he is mostly unconscious
even of having this continuous susurrus of thoughts, perceptions,
reflections, images, associations and other impressions even though
it's very much there.
our own perceptions, especially our subtler, inner perceptions,
brings more and more of our own intelligence online and there
may be no end to it! Even a few hours' practice of this describing
makes the whole of our conscious perception, the quality of our
surroundings, the entirety of our existence, remarkably richer,
forever. Illumining your life with this numinous quality is far
more significant than the 40 "I.Q." points for 50 hours
practice found for Image Streaming,one of many forms of this describing
of inner, subtler perceptions which was tested in several independently
conducted state university studies. For now we'll let others argue
over whether this was an actual absolute increase in intelligence
or "merely" a switching-on transference of intelligence
already there but never previously engaged.
enough detail even the most ordinary object in perception, as you
describe one feature other aspects occur to you to describe and
as you describe these, yet others. Often this suddenly surges into
one of those moments of transcendent illumination when you perceive
or "know" everything all at once at the same time.
poet Walt Whitman said, if you look closely enough at even an ordinary
blade of grass, you will discover therein the entire universe. The
British poet William Blake said, if you look closely enough at even
an ordinary grain of sand, you will discover therein the entire
universe. Poetic metaphor? No. The simple instruction for how to
"look closely enough:" while examining it describe
that object of perception, in close detail, to a live or
potential listener. Your chances of triggering the full Whitman/Blake
Effect, also known as Maslow's "peak experiences" and
"peak learning experiences," also known as Socratic "miracle
leaps," is a rapid flow of description, sustained without letup,
a kind of continuing onrushing brainstorm of finding fresh things
to say about the object of perception which somehow describe it.
Even mere association,
as distinct from description, sometimes will still bring about major
effects. A favorite method in Europe for training ordinary people
into becoming sophisticated, sensitive wine tasters and perfume
testers, is: to give the person a sample. Have him immediately,
rapid fire, describe everything that comes into awareness with that
sample and continue this torrent of description for some minutes,
even an hour or so. Then the next sample, which he then likewise
torrentially reports his awarenesses in relation to. And then the
next sample accordingly. Three days of this practice and an ordinary
person has become so sensitized as to serve as a professional wine
taster or perfume tester!
in essence, is to get someone to describe his or her perceptions,
inner and/or outer, and to describe what he or she discovered there.
Traditional Socratic method was not as strong in producing Whitman/Blake
Effect as it might have been, because Socrates did not distinguish
perception from knowledge. By not focusing on first-hand perception,
Socratic method produced Whitman/Blake Effect less often than it
could have. Even so, that was often enough that for 2200 years,
Socratic miracle leaps convinced virtually all practitioners of
Socratic method that all knowledge and understanding are somehow
already within each learner and need merely be "drawn
forth" (trans. "educare," root word for "education"),
and basis during that interval for all respected "education."
During the past century our schools, trying to be "scientific,"
became uncomfortable with the metaphysical implications of that
notion, of all knowledge and understanding being already within
each learner. They dropped Socratic method and turned instead to
didactically teaching passive learners, with results now far too
familiar to us. --Though most of our schools and school systems
are legally chartered to "educate the public."
Now we know,
whatever the metaphysics of the matter, that we no longer need to
assume all knowledge and understanding to be already within
each learner. Socratic miracles and the rest of these Whitman/Blake
Effects can, if need be, be fully accounted for by the phenomenon
of intermodulation of the flow of our description with
the intrinsic feedbacks we receive, even from ourselves, when we
are describing to a live or a potential listener. Both interference-pattern
physics and the larger science of which it is a subset, chaos/fractile
theory, richly show how even slight changes in one or another inputs
into such intermodulation produce enormous, systematic differences
in outcome, basis for storing, retrieving, processing universes-full
of information and/or structure. Both chaos theory and general systems
theory show how the physical universe necessarily has literally
organized itself in this manner. Literally the entire universe does
become apparent within the standing waves between our attention
or description and its feedbacks!
perceptiveness, increased intelligence, increasingly numinously
rich awareness and tremendously increased capacity for and richness
of life itself, up to and including recurrent Whitman/Blake episodes,
all is immediately open before us, to any one of us who can denote
or attach a word and then other words to something in his or her
own perception and who makes a practice, at least some of the time,
of going on doing so for awhile. It is clear from this perspective
how the first emergence of language itself drove ape brains up to
humanity. It is clear that resuming this first defining step of
humanity, by describing to live or potential listeners our own first-hand
perceptions and especially our subtler perceptions, profoundly extends
much of what made us human in the first place. It is clear that
resuming this first defining step of humanity, in this descriptive
manner, allows each and every one of us to immediately share in
the experience of being what indeed may fairly be termed "the
next major step in human evolution."
Copyright 1994 by Win Wenger, Ph.D., Project Renaissance, Box 332,
Gaithersburg, MD 20884. This paper may, however, be freely copied--in
whole, including this notice, but not in part--to share with persons
whom you care about.
©1998 by Project Renaissance (regarding this internet version
only, other copyrights may apply). While we encourage the free distribution
of this article (complete text only, including this notice and acknowledgement
of source), we do require that expressed permission be granted by
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