The logical Sequence that leads to Navigational Consciousness
This new paradigm— Navigational Consciousness— is so foreign to our everyday understanding that it takes a while to fully grasp the concept and the consequences. Whenever I try to explain Navigational Consciousness, I find myself going through a sequence, trying to slowly step-by-step show the logic that gave rise to the new paradigm. The final outcome—the final conclusion—of this long difficult thought-process is that human beings have a very strange kind of dual-consciousness based on navigation . This dual-consciousness has a neurological and anatomical foundation that makes perfect sense when it is understood. I wrote two books explaining this: Consciousness: A New Slant on an Old Conundrum (2017), and The Confusion Caused by Being Your Own Twin (2018). My background is in optometry and blind rehabilitation. This is my theory, based on my education and experience—you will not find Navigational-Mind Theory if you do a web search. I consider what I do now (in my retirement) cognitive philosophy. Here is the logic that underpins Navigational Consciousness:
All Creatures That Move Have Brains Attached to Nervous Systems
Neuroscientists say that the reason we have a brain attached to a nervous system is so that we can move in a purposeful and adaptive way . This makes sense and the evidence is clear: all creatures that move—bugs, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, human beings—have brains attached to nervous systems. Contrary to this, all plants—living things that don’t move—do not have brains attached to nervous systems. Plants also do not have muscles attached to nerves, nor do they have an embodied sensory system that operates in synchrony with a motor system. A brain is essentially useless unless it has something—like a real or robotic body—to purposefully move.
We have a Nervous System so we can Navigate Straight-Ahead
The neuroscience perspective described above can be refined further using dual-process theory. Purposeful movement is a broad way to consider evolution’s intentions, but the main reason we have brains attached to nervous systems is so that we can navigate straight-ahead . Our whole anatomy and physiology attests to this observation. Our feet point straight-ahead. Our eyes point straight ahead. Our face points straight-ahead. Our muscles are designed to move the whole body forward.
Evolution Designed Bilateral Creatures
From this understanding that brains and nervous systems enable straight-ahead navigation, we can now ask the next logical question: What did nature design—what was the engineering plan—that enabled straight-ahead navigation? The answer is that evolution designed bilateral creatures . Everything that navigates uses a bilateral alternating gait to move straight-ahead. Bugs, birds, fish, mammals, human beings are all bilateral creatures.
A Control System is Needed to Enable Movement
A creature designed with mirror-image halves can only move if a control system is in place that enables and modulates momentum and oscillation. This control system is located in the brain, although there is a distributed network of nerves throughout the body that inextricably operate synchronously with the brain. The job of this neuro-control system is to provide the energy necessary to get the body in motion, to keep the forward momentum going, and to precisely stop the momentum as needed. Very significantly, the brain—in conjunction with the distributed nerve network—must also “stitch” the two mirror-sides of the body together in a continuous and seamless harmony.
This neuro-control system—in its very refined and sophisticated state—has become known as the mind. Notice that the mind must send two simultaneous signals to the two sides of the body to enable movement. Essentially, the dual-signals simultaneously instruct one side of the body to move and the other side of the body to stabilize (not to move). This is a mutually-exclusive oscillation; when one side is on the other side is off . This on/off movement-fractal (as I call it) can be seen operating in the body at various scales: When one set of muscles is activated, a corresponding set of muscles is inhibited.
Dual-Minds Emerged Through Evolution
Bilaterality emerged about 600 million years ago in the Cambrian Age. Therefore, over the past 600 million years, evolution kept experimenting and modifying bilaterality, building evermore complex and capable creatures. The result of over half a billion years of evolution is that the two control systems—that system which activates muscles balanced against a system which inhibits muscles—eventually became quite sophisticated. In other words, the neuro-control system became so sophisticated that eventually dual-minds emerged —one mind specializing in activation of movement and the other mind specializing in stabilization (inhibition) of movement . These two minds evolved to be mutually-exclusive and simultaneous.
This theory of the navigational-brain replaces the notion that we have a right brain and a left brain. Bilateral brain hemispheres are to be expected in a bilateral creature. The activities of the two brain hemispheres inform us about the operation of the overall navigational-brain, which is a whole-body phenomenon. In other words, there is a partial, incompletely thought-out truth to left/brain and right/brain.
The Senses Must Coordinate in Perfect Harmony with the Muscles
To move straight-ahead requires a dual-system for controlling muscles. However, the senses must also coordinate in perfect harmony with the muscles if the organism is to navigate fluidly and accurately. Therefore, the senses evolved to use a dually-controlled sensory system that works seamlessly with the dually-controlled muscles. In other words, the sensory systems—vision and hearing, for example—had to evolve in parallel with the muscles. When a subset of muscles is activated , associated sensory sets are also simultaneously activated. Likewise, when a subset of muscles is inhibited, associated sensory sets are simultaneously inhibited. The physical design of our bodies is such that our muscles and our senses operate in a perfectly coordinated mutually-exclusive fashion. This mutually-linked activity is called embodiment .
The understanding of embodiment is helpful as we research specific muscle sets or sensory actions—in other words, whatever we discover about an activity in one unit of the embodied system can be postulated to also exist in other sensory systems and muscle sets . For example, if we find that the vision system has quantum properties, we could logically postulate that similar and parallel quantum properties would be found in the other senses and in motor control systems (and we do).
Egocentric Processing and Allocentric Processing
The sensory system that simultaneously operates when the muscles are in a stabilization-mode (when muscles are getting the don’t-move signal), I call egocentric processing. The sensory system that simultaneously operates when muscles are in movement-mode (when they are getting the move signal), I call allocentric processing. I chose these two terms because they are used in my professional field (orientation and mobility)—egocentric and allocentric are navigational concepts. Over time, I began to use the terms egocentric mind and allocentric mind and egocentric consciousness and allocentric consciousness . Mind is the whole-body neuro-control system designed to activate and inhibit muscles. Consciousness refers to two ways to attend: egocentric attention contrasted with allocentric awareness . Consciousness can be further defined as a proprioceptive-phenomenon. The derivation and evolution of consciousness—using navigational-brain theory—is explained below.
What Are the Senses Doing in a Navigational Brain?
What exactly are the senses doing in a navigational-brain? The answer is that every sensory system is simultaneously gathering information about the background (scene, gestalt) as well as the foreground (form, pattern, figures). In other words, the senses are solving the puzzle of figure-ground : What is the figure and what is the background in which the figure is embedded? Navigation is made possible because we are able to find and follow pathways around the solid objects in our domain. The two distinct sensory minds of bilateral creatures (allocentric and egocentric) are solving the figure/ground dilemma in exact harmony with the muscle sets that are activating and inhibiting muscle systems.
Two Ways to Attend
To navigate implies intention. We navigate to get somewhere. Once intention is set, the act of navigation must include a constant attending to the surround. Knowing about the duality of the sensorimotor system enables us to speculate that there would be two ways to attend. That is, indeed, what we find: we can pay attention to something , or we can be aware of ourselves and the environment (the map) as we navigate around objects and follow clear pathways. Attention and awareness are mutually exclusive yet simultaneous activities. We cannot attend to an object-of-regard the very same time as we take in (are aware of) the background scene. Therefore, there is an attention system (called egocentric processing) that operates in harmony with the mind that sends the don’t-move (stabilize) system, and there is an awareness system (called allocentric processing) that operates in harmony with the mind that sends the move signal.
Egocentric processing, which only operates in stabilization-mode (during muscular inhibition) requires a seer-seen process. In other words, the egocentric mode occurs when we (as an entity, an ego) lock-on (pay attention) to objects in a domain. To locate an object in the environment requires a sense of ego as separate from an object. The process of locating an object and holding it in the mind long enough to approach or avoid the object, necessitates this seer-seen dichotomy, an “ego and other-than-ego” perspective.
The Ego and the Self are Frames of Reference
However, allocentric processing, operating only in movement-mode, does not require a system that approaches or avoids objects. Instead, allocentric processing requires a system that avoids objects. We flow along pathways and around the objects that imped forward movement using allocentric processing. The entity that avoids obstacles and flows over a mental map is called the self (to contrast it from an ego ). The ego locates, analyses, and remembers information about the characteristic of objects/others, and sets up intention to move away from or toward features in a domain. There is no movement in egocentric mode . Contrary to the egoic mode, the self does move along pathways, flowing around obstacles. The self does not analyze or remember objects, instead, it remembers relationships, networks, and GPS coordinates. The self is responsible for relational movement.
The Egoic Mind
The egoic mind eventually evolved into a sophisticated system that names, categorizes, analyzes, and remembers that which is perceived by the external senses. In other words, the egoic mind operates only in regard to manifest entities, “attaching to” (fixating or tracking) these entities. The egoic mind also creates emotional labels that become associated with objects-of-regard: we avoid that which is distasteful or harmful and approach that which is beneficial or pleasing. Because of proprioceptive memory, the ego can also use language. The self has no access to language.
The Allocentric Mind
The self (the allocentric mind) eventually evolved into a sophisticated system that projects and remembers animated navigational maps. The brain stores animated maps of navigational territories and routes through domains. The self does not attach or have emotions regarding entities in a domain. The ego and the self are mutually-exclusive but they operate simultaneously. In other words, we operate using two minds that are simultaneous but which have mutually-exclusive (contrary) activation systems. We tend to think of reality as visual, but the vision system is just a projected animated map. The scene projected in front of us is created by the mind so that we can navigate straight-ahead. That scene is totally manufactured by the mind. Remember that visual projection is embodied—all the other senses are operating in perfect harmony with visual projection.
Two Different Frames of Reference
Because I taught blind students to navigate through diverse domains (neighborhoods, malls, city centers, and so on), I eventually realized I had to teach both allocentrically and egocentrically. I came to see that creatures that move straight-ahead use two different frames of reference: an egocentric temporal frame of reference and an allocentric spatial frame of reference . Teaching the ego how to navigate required that the seer (the ego) and the seen (the objects, the foreground, the figures) had to be understood. Teaching the self how to navigate required that the function of the ego be inhibited so that the background (the scene, the gestalt, networks and relationships) could be “understood” (felt). I ended up with an overlapping egocentric curriculum and allocentric curriculum. I taught blind kids to perceive using their egocentric temporal frame of reference, and I taught students how to perceive using their allocentric spatial frame of reference.
The Ego is Narcissistic; The Self is Relationship-Based.
The egocentric frame of reference requires that the student realize (sense) that they are the center of all things no matter where they stand—the world always revolves around the egoic center. The ego goes from one event to the next—it uses temporal (serial) processing. Contrary to this, there is no center to allocentric processing. The self is a spatial process that flows over an animated map. The self is not the center of the universe; the self is part of a network-t uses p[parallel processing. The ego is narcissistic; the self is relationship-based.
Attention and Awareness
If the entire reason we are engineered bilaterally is to navigate, and if navigation requires dual-processing, then we would expect to find duality whenever we attempt to explain the mind. It is not surprising, therefore, that from the two mutually-exclusive sensorimotor control systems came two ways to gather information about the environment: attention and awareness .
This understanding that there are two ways to attend is the beginning of our understanding the origin of binary language. In other words, we find matching or opposing (mutually-exclusive) terminology in all our realms of cognitive exploration. Here are some examples:
· In psychology we find these dualities: conscious/unconscious, anima/animus, ego/self.
· In philosophy we find these dualities: deduction/induction, empiricism/rationalism, mind/body.
· In literature we find these dualities: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, facts/metaphor, verbal/non-verbal, intelligence/wisdom,
· In education we find these dualities: knowledge/experience, attention/awareness, creativity/reasoning.
· In religion we find these dualities: faith/belief, duality/non-duality, right doing/wrong doing, divine feminine/divine masculine.
· In science we find these dualities: feedback/feed-forward, background-processing/foreground-processing, left-brain/right-brain, serial-processing/parallel-processing, short-term memory/long-term memory.