NIH and Consciousness: Commentary

08 Jun 2000

Dean Radin opines, "The scientific world will eventually learn how to deal with psi rationally." Yet I fear that rationality is itself the major obstacle for the scientific world in learning to deal with psi, since rationality is itself born of the very language of the culture in which it is expressed.

I have become convinced of the proposition, following Benjamin Whorf, that logic, reasoning and rationality, as well as philosophy, science, and more, are a rather direct outgrowth of the grammar of a language. For the latter I would point to the word "karma", which thousands of years ago was used by the Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali to mean "direct object" -- that which is acted upon by the verb -- long before it gained its present philosophical meaning, which is essentially identical. The same can be said for "Atman", originally used to mean the "reflexive" form (i.e., my/your-self).

As for logic, reasoning and rationality, these are very slippery terms when seen from a meta-level, since each grammar grows a different kind and its speakers will defend theirs as better than others (kinda like Protestants and their various interpretations of The Word, some calling the others "cults"). For thousands of years Europeans have roamed the world confident of their reasoning and rationality given them by their grammar, dismissing as "children" or worse those foreigners who just didn't "get" it. We now know, however, from the last two centuries of linguistic fieldwork with Native American languages, that you can only get certain forms if "logic" if you have the required language pieces necessary, and those languages don't have the same pieces ours do. So ancient logical syllogisms such as "Socrates was a man. All men are mortal. Therefore Socrates was mortal." looks great in English and European languages. But I know of languages where people talk all day long without uttering a single noun, languages without copula (was, are, etc.) forms: so if we take the nouns and copulas out of the syllogism above, what do we have? Mush. So we are faced with either proclaiming that these Native Americans are not *logical, rational* and never will or can be -- OR we are forced to admit there may be some kinds of language-based logics that are verby, and to open up the terms for a much larger meaning of multiples which gives no arbitrarily privileged position to any one.

A long preamble: what does that have to do with understanding psi rationally -- in English or other European languages among others? I submit that "psi-ing" is not a thing at all, as the "psi" term superficially suggests, and therefore little amenable to explanations in a nominophilic (noun-loving!) language without massive distortion, rather like pulling a fragile deep-sea creature to the surface. Look at what we do to "atoms": Whitehead said that all we know of an atom is its radiating, but that there was no 'thing' there radiating; Heisenberg lamented that we'd "reached the limits of our language" when faced with describing the internal structure of an atom. Yet most of us still have no problem picturing the Mickey Mouse head of an H2O molecule or the solar-system picture of the inside of an atom made possible by our education and enculturation.

If this massive thing-hallucination, enforced by our grammar, is going on about the process/relationshipping of "atom-ing" despite warnings by the greatest thinkers in science last century, what are the chances that "psi-ing" will meet any better fate in such a ferocious monolingual and nominophilic environment as the English-speaking world?

Can "psi" as a noun ever be understood rationally -- i.e., using alone the left-brain logic of a nominophilic language? I don't think so. The challenge, sadly but excitingly, is tougher than that: nothing less than raising speakers of European languages to a new metalevel of thinking, variously called complemetary, comprehensive, respect, and primal thinking, which demands holding irreducible opposites in mind simultaneously, such as the wave/particle nature of the physical, or form and meaning/function; or classical and quantum (though some physicists believe that the classical is the fallout of the quantum as some linguists believe the form to be fallout of the meaning). It is only with this kind of thinking that psi-ing will be understood -- once our shallow rationality is put in juxtaposition with its opposite in a whole within in meta-reasoning. After all, as most physicists agree, we are always in a classical/quantum mix, yet OUR THINKING remains classical only when it is monolingual thinking in western languages.