Archive for October, 2011

Since there’s nothing that human beings can’t crap up, even higher knowledge has its downside.

Many of the problem arise because there are never more than a few individuals who can consistently experience the insights of higher knowledge in a focused manner. It therefore falls upon those few — the shamans, prophets, and visionaries — to convey their intuitions to the rest of us in the form of art, philosophy, and religion.

But as they do, distortions inevitably creep in. Compromises are made with what the audience already believes to be true. The message is watered down to look more like the simple cause-and-effect of ordinary knowledge. And insights that can not be simplified may take on an air of impenetrable mystery that discourages further inquiry.

The result is a kind of “higher knowledge for dummies” — which is as close as most of us are likely to get to the real thing. And though even this diluted version may trigger flashes of genuine higher knowledge in those who embrace it, it can also act as an impediment if they take it at face value and refuse to seek further.

And this is what happens in ideal situations, when those transmitting the messages of higher knowledge do so with no thought of personal gain. If elements of ego and dominance are allowed to intrude, things can go very wrong indeed.

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I’m not done with my survey of wacky 1940’s science fiction, but I’m finding that I can’t proceed without taking a break to define more clearly what I mean by “higher knowledge.”

I’ve made a variety of assertions about higher knowledge in the course of these entries. Each of them is true within its own frame of reference, but they come at the subject from different angles and have different implications, and I suspect that even my own thinking on the subject has gotten a bit fuzzy and could use some sorting out.

I suggested two years ago that from a scientific viewpoint, higher knowledge can be understood in terms of a theory that the human brain generates sudden “neuronal avalanches,” which spark intuitive insights by creating novel connections among scattered bits of information.

When I first mentioned this idea, I associated it with recent speculation that an evolutionary leap to a new form of brain organization around 80,000 years ago might have distinguished us modern humans from our equally intelligent but less creative forebears. I still believe that, but I’m now convinced that the change must go back fully 200,000 years, to the very dawn of our species, and that we humans have from the start been the people of higher knowledge.

The theory of neuronal avalanches, however, can only take us so far — because our sudden intuitive flashes lead not only to the recognition of new relationships among existing information, but also to what appear to be profound insights into the nature of reality itself.

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