|EDUCATING THE PARADOXICAL MINDS OF MAN|
“Data is not information,
Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not understanding,
Understanding is not wisdom.”
~ Clifford Stoll
Every human being is either an 'amphibian' metaphorically speaking - 'living both in water and on land' - or five or six amphibians rolled into one. Man is both an embodied spirit, and a self-conscious and self-centered member of a social species. This is bad enough, but it is only the start of our troubles. Below the human level, being amphibian in brain functions presents no problems. For example, the tadpole knows when to get rid of its tail and become a frog and the bird knows when to build its nest. With us, however, the case is painfully different.
Our human amphibiousness is repressed as multiple selves, dwelling in half a dozen incompatible worlds; this is the source of endless problems and conflicts... Each of these worlds has its own particular problems.
Initially, I wish to confine this discussion to one of these worlds: the world of the ape that learned to talk. Put another way, the problem of an immortal and potentially higher mind that has as yet not learned to dispense with words. Without language, our condition would be far worse than that of a hairless ape. With a high non-verbal IQ, but no language, we would be too clever to be guided by instinct, and too self-centered to live in a state of animal grace. Language made possible the accumulation and communication of knowledge; it was language that permitted the formulation of ideas and the codification of laws. In short, it was language that turned us into human beings and created civilization.
Every existing language is a virtual philosophy, as a model of both inner and outer reality with the capacity to define the world view of its users. All languages, even the most primitive are stupendous works of genius. But these works of genius were created by people as stupid as ourselves, so we are almost forced to believe in the existence within ourselves of a higher source of intelligence than the conscious self. In whichever manner language may have originated, it is one of the primary facts of human existence. Although language admits us into a conceptual world, it does so only at a price - the conceptual world of doctrines and beliefs. A world where delusions and created realities keep popping up over the horizon: where all kinds of poison come pouring out from the propaganda factories of religion, politics and commerce.
Living as we do, *amphibiously,* half in a world of facts and half in a world of words, half in immediate experience and half in abstract notions, we contrive most of the time to make the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, we are liable to use language so badly that we become slaves to it, hence we become either fanatical or doctrinaire. On the other hand, we use immediate experience as badly as we use language, so that we become blind as to our nature and the realities surrounding us. In short, the price of abstract knowledge is frequently Concrete Ignorance.
In his book "Remembering", the psychologist, F. C. Bartlett has recorded the results of a number of experiments, designed to test the influence of language on the ability to recall various types of past experience. In one of these experiments, the subjects were asked to recall a passage from one of Emerson's essays. When the subjects reproduced this material, immediately after reading it, and again at longer intervals all that was fresh and original in the material tended to disappear. The subjects of the experiment were slaves to the frameworks, in which they habitually experienced themselves, they changed what they had read into the likeness of their own familiar notions, as embodied in their class and culture.
Bartlett concludes that our words good or bad, our verbal and abstract intelligence tends to drive out both our immediate experience and our memory of past experience. This is one of the major problems, which confronts a therapist when he is trying to access the early childhood memory of an adult subject. Unless the therapist has got a tool, which permits him to differentiate much of what he has to deal with, there will be a highly edited and distorted version of the original experience. Unfortunately, however, without words there would be very little memory of any kind. For example, the 'wolf children,' who have been brought up by animals find it almost impossible to remember anything of their wordless life among the brutes. Even sophisticated methods of therapy, such as hypnosis only bring a few salient and fragmentary memories to the surface of consciousness. Likewise, how complete, in every one of us, is the amnesia for almost all the novel and immensely exciting experiences of pre-linguistic infancy.
Without abstract thinking, without philosophy, we would be nothing but intelligent hairless apes. Language and abstract thought condemns us to spiritual death. Furthermore, the absence of language condemns us to something just as bad. Whether we like it or not, in the absence of appropriate technology, we are forced to be an amphibian, confused by simultaneously living in the world of direct experience and the world of the abstract - the verbalized knowledge about these primary facts - but with little training to differentiate between the two worlds.
Unfortunately, organized education has done little to help us with this task; most organized education is predominantly verbal and has as such contributed to the problem by expanding abstract intelligence without contributing much to the development of non-verbal intelligence, direct perception and intuition. In short, organized education has contributed much to the development of the left side of the brain and little to the right. Modern education provides for numerous excursions into nature where students are required to observe non-verbal facts and to perform experiments with them, and in addition, students are encouraged to develop their artistic skills, this is a question of too little - too late. These approaches only touch the surface of the problem. Much more is needed to educate the non - verbal part of our amphibian nature. The requirement is a system tailored to this purpose.
Man's double lives, the not-selves
Before I pursue this subject further, I would like to return to my earlier list of Man's double lives, then add to it yet another item: Every human being is a conscious self, but below the threshold of consciousness itself. Outside the perimeter of his current identity every human being is also a "not-self" or more precisely, he is several merging yet clearly separate not-selves. First of all, there is the homemade not-self, this is the not-self of habits and conditioned reflexes, repressed but obscurely active impulses - buried alive reactions to the remote past and forgotten words; the festering remains of forgotten infancy. This not-self is the region of the subconscious.
Next comes the not-self that used to be called the vegetative soul or in Freud's words, the 'structural unconscious,' who is in charge of the body - the not-self, who, when we walk, does the walking, the not-self that controls our breathing, our heartbeat and our glandular secretions, the not-self that heals our wounds, then brings us back to health when we have been ill. Following these is the not-self who inhabits the world, from which we derive all our insights and inspirations, the not-self who is responsible in all of us for every enhancement of wisdom. Beyond this lies the world that Jung calls the 'archetypal unconscious,' a world of shared symbols that stand for Man's deepest tendencies, perennial conflicts and ubiquitous problems. From this stems the visionary experience of non-human facts: a world from which theologians have derived their visions of Heaven and Hell.
The last three not-selves constitute the very essence of our being, their transcendent nature means the Ego has no power to affect these dimensions of not-self, but it does have the power to overshadow them. The conflict between the conscious Ego and the lower not-selves sets up a more or less opaque screen between our conscious and our transcendental self. Enlightenment is simply the removal of this eclipsing barrier. Any self can affect or be affected by its associated not-selves in many different ways. For example, the conscious self may be inappropriate to current circumstances. In the process it will be the personal not-self with all manner of disturbed emotions and notions, thus the distorted, personal not-self reacts upon the conscious self, forcing it to react even more inappropriately than before. When such a conflict occurs with the not-self in charge of all bodily functions, the consequences are disastrous. Left to itself, the physiological intelligence is almost incapable of making a mistake, but when it is interfered with by a delinquent Ego, it loses its native infallibility and the organism falls at once prey to psychosomatic disease.
This group of selves and not-selves may be described as our psycho-physical instrument. The psycho-physical instrument is one and indivisible, but for practical purposes we may regard it as being made up of several distinct components. Accordingly, a hypothetical course of development should include at least the following items: Training of the special senses, training in the various memory systems, training of the kinesthesic sense, training of the autonomic system, all of this as preparatory steps for the final stage of training, the training of the sense of spiritual Insight: the ethical sense, the numinous and the transcendental. Descartes based the whole of his philosophical work on the axiom: "Cognito ergo sum." The truth, however, is not "Cognito ergo sum," but the converse, "Sum ergo cognito": "I am therefore I think." (See Note below). My present identity, and indeed the identity of any man, woman, or person of the third persuasion is brought into existence by the Being behind it. By compulsively thinking, our conscious Ego prevents the Being from thinking into existence a better Ego, to function at a higher level, a prerequisite of perceiving the numinous; having a mysterious, holy, or spiritual quality, rather than having an Ego, which may be described as philistine. In the worst case, a person who does not appreciate art and intellectual pursuits, smug and indifferent to art and culture, and in addition blind to the dimension of spirit.
Note: You can't reach the conclusion "I think therefore I am" before having an external world that 'fills' the contents for the consciousness to be aware of and then think about. In other words, in this case the primacy is of existence not of consciousness. Ayn Rand [Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand] correctly rectifies this by saying, "I am therefore I think." In other words, without the 'I am' - a statement of existence - there cannot be the 'I think' - a statement made in response to contents of consciousness derived from existence.
Importance of the kinesthetic
The most fundamental of our awarenesses is the kinesthetic sense, as this is the gateway to subconscious and traumatic content in our personal past, it is also the main line of communication between the conscious self and the vegetative self, by which the autonomic system can be trained to operate in a healthy state, then brought under conscious control. A consequence of the breakdown of the kinesthetic sense is that a therapist can neither access the unconscious content nor the maladaptive programs in the client's personal subconscious content, so he can apply the appropriate therapeutic steps, without which the client cannot gain the conscious knowledge and feedback required to obtain complete insight, thus transcendence - the ability and the will to stand above his present condition, so he can evaluate it.
Man, as we can observe now with certainty by the use of devices such as special electronic equipment, is associated with an interactive constellation of not-selves. By the development of bad habits and programs, the personal conscious Ego and the Personal Subconscious interfere with the functioning of the of the deeper not-selves, such as the collective unconscious from which we receive the grace of both good health and the grace of spiritual insights that lead to transcendence, which sets us free from all our false goals. The larger part of educating the psycho-physical instrument is the clearing of the senses, especially the kinesthetic sense, so we can clear dysfunctions of our past. A training which frees us from distortions that cause us to stand in our own light. A necessary training, especially, because most clients believe they are one stage or more above their present level. Should we wish to go further these earlier stages are imperative! The physiological and the spiritual not selves with which we are associated cannot do their work effectively, until the Ego and both the personal subconscious and unconscious are trained to let go, then trained to function accordingly to allow further development.
F. M. Alexander who developed "The Alexander Method" spent fifty years studying the kinesthetic sense, a sense which is distorted in urban-industrial cultures in proportion to the development of abstract intelligence. Many of F. M. Alexander's insights and methods have been incorporated in my own system of transcendental therapy. The kinesthesic sense tells us what is happening within the organism, whereas external senses give us information about the world outside - they are a necessary window to our kinesthetic self, but they are blind, without suitable development to "Knowledge" to its fullest form: intuition guided by insight. The training of visual perception is based on the same principles of several experts in this field. To learn the arts of the two most important senses, the arts of hearing and seeing, we must combine the arts of relaxation and intense activity, as taught by G. I. Gurdjieff in the Fourth Way. He says: "Non-identification pulls out of distorted self-interest, which gives us tunnel vision and keeps our psychology in the basement of its potential." Gurdjieff's methods are used to frustrate and usurp the normal patterns of thought.
Developing the senses
Our method for developing the senses draws on the work of the New York optician W. H. Bates, Professor Samuel Renshaw (to be written about in detail later), Ernest Wood (who wrote the books "Mind and Memory Training" and "Concentration") and David Boston of the Royal National Institute of the Deaf.
David Boston taught me how to use ear training. He said: "We don't really hear in our ears; we hear in our brain." There is a fundamental difference between hearing and listening. Normal hearing alone does not assure that one is a good listener. We all know people who have normal hearing but are pretty poor listeners. Conversely, many hearing- impaired individuals are wonderful listeners. While hearing is a physical function that requires an auditory system that allows access to sound, listening is a skill that requires effort, and when a hearing loss is present, that effort becomes particularly difficult. Training in both listening and hearing are important components in formal music training. Good auditory processing abilities allow clients to excel in phonics and hear what a person says at considerable distance, he said; this leads to the ability to read fluently. He went on to say: "Our senses don't exist as separate abilities, nor do they exist in a vacuum. Instead, our senses are interconnected and frequently changing - they're deeply affected by our environment, the way we use or sight and hearing, and the cognitive skills behind them and numerous other factors, some of which are within our control."
Professor Samuel Renshaw is a Gestalt Psychologist of Ohio University whose work became famous for a short period of time during World War II when he taught sailors to identify an enemy. He generally worked with using tachistocopic training thereby enhancing the latent ability of the mind. He believed that most people used only one-fifth of their available mind-power to process information. By using methods of flashing pages he produced students who could read upwards of 1,200 to 1,400 words per minute. Several young students were used in the experiment. Film strip readers and page-at-a-glance equipment were used for training in these exercises, Renshaw was able to reduce the moment of present time (the specious moment), by as much as 60%. 'The Renshaw Training System for Aircraft and Ship Recognition,' designed by psychologist Samuel Renshaw, was considered to have "saved untold lives during World War II." Learning to speed-read both orally and silently is one of the most effective methods of opening the doors of perception.
Renshaw's work on the training of memory and the special senses are the most important skills when it comes to what Gurdjieff calls 'Self Remembering,' a fundamental step to enlightenment. He has shown that it is possible to take any group of unselected undergraduates and train them by using suitable methods to see with enormously increased rapidity and precision and perform feats of memory comparable to those exhibited by so called prodigies. In training vision, Renshaw makes extensive use of the tachistoscope - a magic lantern fitted with a shutter that permits the projection of images for a period, ranging from a tenth of a second to a thousandth of a second. Tachistoscopic training therefore is an effective method for bypassing the bad habits and defenses of the conscious Ego. In ordinary seeing, we are hardly ever aware of our immediate perceptions, as these perceptions are profoundly modified by a mind that does most of its thinking in words. The tachistoscope gives us no time to conceptualize or bring our Ego defenses into play. Similarly, the tachistoscope makes it possible for the Ego to stand in its own light. Without a period of hard work you cannot see anything in a hundredth of a second - it will bypass the defenses - then go to the unconscious part of the Ego that Sigmund Freud calls the 'Ego unconscious,' but what we call the 'inner self.'
Note: In addition to the above, we use the material in Ernest Wood's books "Mind and Memory Training" and "Concentration," the techniques in "You Can Remember" by Bruno Furst, "Psychological Exercises & Essays" by A. R. Orage (a pupil of Gurdjieff), "Use your Mind" by Arnold Hahn, the "The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics," "Color Meditations" by S. G. J. Ousely and "Straight and Crooked Thinking" by Robert H. Thouless. These materials are used to rid the mind of a client from maladaptive patterns of thinking, such as rhetoric in the place of logic, to inculcate effective methods of thinking and understand the concepts and skills of numerosity: the ability to calculate, thus an understanding of probability, ratio and relative proportion. Many techniques are involved, so I cannot go into further detail in a short essay such as this. My suggestion is that you read the books listed above if you wish to know the details.
The autonomic system
From the special senses we now pass on to the autonomic system - that part of the physiological 'not self,' on which the self depends for its physical wellbeing and life in a body. Training of the autonomic system begins with the Raja Yoga techniques of meditation, which bring about the desired state of relaxation. Systematic relaxation is one of the means whereby the conscious Ego and the personal subconscious can be induced to stop interfering with the action of the *not-selves* associated with them. For those who have the desire and the necessary aptitudes, there are many more elaborate training methods the purpose of which is to establish the closest possible working relationship between conscious will and the automatic nervous system. By so doing, it will increase the range of psycho-physical capacity. Such training, however, takes several years, but it goes far beyond the requirements of achieving any form of Gnosis.
The art of spiritual insight
The last and most important branch of non-verbal education is training in the art of spiritual insight. For the next step, the aim of the psychotherapist is to adjust a client to the statistically normal, whereas the role of the transpersonal psychologist is to teach the statistically normal client that that he is yet insane on the absolute scale, then facilitate the awakening of spiritual awareness. In short, the therapist's goal is to make the already able client become more able. The therapist's business is to free a client from bad habits - bad habits not merely on a normal level, as would be the case in normal psychotherapy, such as behavior therapy etc., but also on the cognitive, emotional and spiritual levels. Because it is these malfunctioning factors of unrealistic thinking, inappropriate emotions, and distorted perception, which incite the Ego to behave as it does. The major objective of developmental therapy and training, then, is to achieve freedom frown the known which we gain from secondhand experience, freedom from our conventional thoughts and freedom from our stereotyped notions about inner and outer reality.
The ultimate goal of an integrated system of development is the rediscovery within ourself of a virgin 'Not Mind' (not verbal and not thinking) applying intuition and cognition in response to immediate experience. A state described by Zen Masters as "No Mind." According to the Zen Masters, freedom from knowledge is called understanding!
Knowledge without understanding is useless, because it is mere words. We must work on changing our state of being, but if we work on that as we do on everything else in ordinary life, life will not be long enough. It is possible to get a durable change of state of being only if we use the perfected methods of learning, otherwise our attempts will be too scattered. The first condition of such work is not to believe anything, to verify everything one learns. The second condition is not to do anything unless one understands why and for what purpose one is doing something. So it depends on understanding, as all short-cuts depend on understanding.
As a simple example: passing algebra class but not being able to put up a fence using algebraic formulas. Or to know that 2+2 = 4 is good but not knowing why 2+2 = 4 is not very useful. However, many people may think that knowledge is senior to understanding. There are myriads of students who have passed an A Level in French, and they think they know the subject, but within six months they have forgotten the most part and can speak very little, because they have not understood it in the way that is achieved by really trying to apply it. It was learned by rote but not for application. Such students are examples of the quintessential Idiot Savant. Without understanding, knowledge is useless and knowledge with understanding, but without action, is useless.
There are a few exceptional people, who have both knowledge and understanding in almost every situation, and for the most part are intelligent and aware enough to know that the process of understanding is different to that of knowing, so these two different worlds of experience are seldom confused. I have been lucky to meet two such people. One is Jiddu Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader, who once mended my bike, as he had a practical bent. He said: "It is no measure of health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society." To observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence, and if you know how to look and learn the door is there and the key is in your hand. The other is J. G. Bennett, who said: "We do not know structures, but we know because of structures." It is very strange, therefore, that hardly anyone has noticed this. If you are willing to practice listening, and if you will practice simply observing, then notice what happens; a greater reality will be given to you.
Knowledge is required when we succeed fitting a new experience into the system of concepts based upon our direct experience, understanding, however, comes when we liberate ourselves from the old ideas, thus making possible a direct unmediated contact with the new. Knowledge is primarily the finished product of abstract thinking, which may only have an intermittent connection with reality, whereas understanding is primarily the direct awareness of the raw material that abstract thinking may take as its starting point. Knowledge is always in terms of concepts, which can be passed on by the means of words and in other symbols, whereas understanding is not conceptual, therefore it cannot be passed on directly. There can, however, be knowledge of such an understanding and this class of knowledge may be communicated, but we must remember that knowledge of understanding is not the same as understanding itself.
At a practical level, knowledge and knowing may be equated with the analytic and abstract principles of the left hemisphere of the brain and understanding, which derives from the perception and recall of raw experience with the synthetic and non-verbal principles of the right. Knowledge of understanding may be equated with both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain when the bot sides work in cooperative harmony. In contrast, rhetoric and pseudo-knowledge can be equated with the left hemisphere when it is in conflict with the right.
The error of identifying understanding with knowledge is a block to spiritual insight, the opposite mistake, and the most serious block to progress, however, is the mistake of supposing that knowledge is the same as understanding and interchangeable with it.
Categories of knowledge
All people with a mind and brain possess vast stocks of knowledge that can be broken down into three categories:
- Knowledge that is correct
- Knowledge that is false or incorrect
- Knowledge that only looks like knowledge. In is neither correct nor incorrect, it is just meaningless. Much of this derives from emotional opinions, thus it has nothing to do with the price of rabbits.
Many metaphysical doctrines are propositions that cannot be operationally verified. The information they convey is only pseudo-knowledge and rhetoric, which is for the most part, meaningless. Usually the formation of metaphysical and the believers in such doctrines have mistaken the pseudo-knowledge for knowledge, further confusing the dichotomy between knowledge and understanding, so they have proceeded to modify their behavior accordingly. Action based on meaningless pseudo-knowledge is always inappropriate, and beside the point and consequently always results in the kind of mess that Man has always lived in. For the most part, in the upper level of my system of Mind Development, the therapist uses techniques and instrumentation designed to classify a student's data into the three possibilities of "Correct," "Incorrect" and "Meaningless," then to differentiate between knowledge and understanding. This classification of data eventually leads to Insight and the experience of understanding. Its conceptualization as knowledge of understanding may be regarded as Gnosis.
Existence is prior to essence: We learn to speak, we accumulate knowledge and pseudo-knowledge, we imitate our elders for good or ill, thus we build up fixed patterns of thought, feeling and behavior, then through this process we become human; we turn into persons. But most of the developmental processes that make us human are precisely the processes, which interfere with self-realization and prevent true understanding. We are humanized by imitating others, by learning their speech and by acquiring the accumulated knowledge that language makes possible. We will only come to a state of full and clear understanding by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of words, and social conventions. Once these things have come to pass, we will establish direct, unmediated contact with experience and, as it would appear to be in our researches: the conscious availability of content from the Collective Unconscious.
The paradox of gnosis
The paradox of personal and spiritual development is that we must first become human, transcending the preconscious mind, in which our pre-human ancestors and animals with anything like a brain understand their world, before the human level of consciousness can be transcended. The first step is a form of life repair to deal with trauma and the dysfunctional aspects of childhood. This form of life repair comprises a number of techniques to deal with childhood experiences, as these emotionally charged memories at best are distractions from the task at hand, that of understanding, and at worst empower the personal unconscious, such that under stress, particularly the stress of self-development, one can be pressed down to a pre-human level of consciousness.
Before a student can proceed to the final two transpersonal levels, further steps need to be taken, these are the previously mentioned steps of developing the senses, listening, memory, increasing the speed of one's mental processes, by the use of speed reading and speed perception, using the tachistoscope and the stroboscope, then reestablishing connection with the kinesthetic self, then ridding the brain of maladaptive programs by a process of reeducation. These preliminary steps are taken to elevate a student to the highest levels of consciousness possible before he becomes "Trans-human."
He has attained what we call the "Metavert State," a trans-verbal state on the threshold of becoming "trans-human," which permits a student access to and control over the "Cognitive Unconscious" (William Carpenter, Mental Physiology, 1862, et al). Sometimes manifesting as minor "savant abilities," and both the perception and recall of unmediated experience - a state, which once reached confers sufficient powers of "Spiritual Intuition" to proceed further... a necessary state of potential clarity that is a precondition for the two highest transpersonal levels which follow on from this. Consequently, unmediated experience and unexamined data can be separated into true knowledge and true understanding, then the mental noise and rubbish of pseudo knowledge and mis-emotional opinions can be found, then thrown out with the help of a Transpersonal Psychologist, who is trained in the special techniques.
Once a sufficient stage of Spiritual Intuition has been reached, and a student is free from the compulsion to think in pictures or words, unless he wishes to, there are two further transpersonal levels of development, the first of which comprises techniques for the analysis and release from systems of pseudo knowledge, which interfere with the perception of both inner and outer reality, the achievement of which is that our Collective Selves become just One or Unity. Some may refer to this as Gnosis. The final level of my system so far as I have researched with the assistance of my friends is a second and further transpersonal level, the purpose of which is to connect a student with the Collective Unconscious - the wellspring of all real creativity and genius.
Looking for a method to go forward with transpersonal development, I was inspired by the work of Saxton Burr, suggesting that electrical fields surrounding the body could be measured with a sensitive volt meter, and Tarchinoff's discovery, concerning the Human Galvanic Effect, to do my own experiments, then build my own equipment. I have published much on the subject elsewhere, but I suggest that you read these Footnotes to give you a general idea, as the full explanation would add up to a book.
Saxton Burr wrote the "Electro-dynamic Theory of life" and (with C.T. Lane) "Electrical Characteristics of Living Systems." Burr is noted for his use of the voltmeter to detect the electromagnetic potential of the body, first reported upon in his 1936 paper (with C. T. Lane and L.F. Nims), "A vacuum tube microvoltmeter for the measurement of bio-electric phenomena." Burr proposed the term "L-Field" for the bio-electric fields of living systems. I read about Saxton Burr first, then, after finding a reference, I read about Tarchinoff and his experiments with what was probably the first "Galvanic Skin Response Meter." The Tarchinoff Response, however, was discovered much earlier than the L-Field. The Tarchinoff effect, discovered in 1888, is a change in DC potential across neurons of the autonomic nervous system connected to the sensori-motor strip of the cortex.
This change in the characteristics was found to be related to the level of cortical arousal. The emotional charge on a word, heard by a subject, would have an immediate effect on the subject's level of arousal, and cause this physiological response. Because the hands have a particularly large representation of nerve endings on the sensori-motor strip of the cortex, hand-held electrodes are ideal. Two self-adhesive sensors having a paired offset potential of consistently below about +/−1.0 mV were used. These were led to a very sensitive galvanometer (see note below*). Tarchinoff found that as arousal increases, the "fight or flight" stress response of the autonomic nervous system comes into action. It is thought by many psychologists that adrenaline causes increased sweating, amongst many other phenomena, but the speed of sweating response is nowhere near as instantaneous or accurate as the Tarchinoff response.
*Note: The early moving-magnet form of galvanometer had the disadvantage that it was affected by any magnets or iron masses near it, and its deflection was not linearly proportional to the current. In 1882 Jaques d'Arsonval and Marcel Deprez developed a form with a stationary permanent magnet and a moving coil of wire, suspended by fine wires which provided both an electrical connection to the coil and the restoring torque to return to the zero position. An iron tube between the magnet's pole pieces defined a circular gap through which the coil rotated. This gap produced a consistent, radial magnetic field across the coil, giving a linear response throughout the instrument's range. A mirror attached to the coil deflected a beam of light to indicate the coil position. The concentrated magnetic field and delicate suspension made these instruments sensitive; d'Arsonval's initial instrument could detect ten microamperes.
The simple psycho-galvanometer he used was one of the earliest tools of psychological research. A psycho-galvanometer measures the resistance of the skin to the passage of a very small electric current. It has been known for decades that the magnitude of this electrical resistance is affected, not only by the subject's general mood, but also by immediate emotional reactions. The first paper to be presented on the subject of the psycho-galvanometer was written by Tarchinoff in 1890.
By virtue of the Galvanic Skin Response, autonomic nervous system activity causes a change in the skin's conductivity. The overall degree of arousal of the hemispheres, and indeed the whole brain, is shown by the readings of the GSR psychometer, which does not differentiate between the hemispheres, or between cortical and primitive brain responses. Higher arousal (such as occurs with increased involvement) will almost instantaneously (0.2 - 0.5 sec) cause a fall in skin resistance; reduced arousal (such as occurs with withdrawal) will cause a rise in skin resistance, which could be measured by using a sensitive galvanometer, or recorded by using a kymograph (see note below*).
*Note: A kymograph is a device that gives a graphical representation of spatial position over time in which a spatial axis represents time. It basically consists of a revolving drum wrapped with a s A kymoheet of paper on which a stylus moves back and forth recording perceived changes of phenomena, such as motion or pressure, or the galvanic response. It was invented by German physiologist Carl Ludvig in the 1840s and found its first use as a means to intrusively monitor blood pressure and has found several applications in the field of medicine.
In 1906 C. G. Jung published an article entitled “Studies in Word Analysis,” where he describes using a GSR meter on a subject. Jung read a prepared list of words one by one to the subject while watching for reactions to each word on the meter. Words which the subject found emotionally charged caused a change in body resistance, which showed up as a reaction of the needle on the GSR meter. When a word produced a larger than usual meter response, Jung assumed this to be an indicator of possible areas of mental conflict, which could subsequently be explored in greater depth during the course of therapy. Jung was thus able to adjudicate which areas would be most fruitful for exploration in individual subjects. Jung wrote up his findings on the use of a GSR meter in an article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1907. Much later, in 1961, I spent a long weekend with Carl Jung just before he died. During that visit, Jung told me that at some time in the 50s, it was found that the most advanced layers of the cortex, unique to Man, link to the thumb and forefinger especially, quoting a Dr. Wooly Hart, and that there is a further complex physiological response which occurs when the fore brain is aroused. It was noted that changes in Alpha rhythms cause blood capillaries to enlarge, and this too affects resistance.
Several researchers have noted in passing that one side of the body gives different responses to the other. See Reid and Inbau (1964). No one bothered to investigate this phenomenon however, with the exception of a little known Czech, Vilem Laufberger. He was a cardiologist by profession, and for cardiology one uses an instrument not unlike a psychogalvanometer. (A very sensitive psychogalvanometer will react to heartbeat by a slight movement of the needle). Patients are sat with both arms and one leg in separate buckets of saline solution. These buckets act as electrodes to conduct the current from the skin's surface to the filament. The three points of electrode contact on these limbs produces what is known as "Einthoven's Triangle," a principle still used in modern day ECG recording. With a specially constructed instrument Laufberger went further and monitored the resistance changes of the body from four pick-up points, namely, the soles of the feet and both palms. He found that the greatest change would occur at the place in the body where the subject concentrated their attention. For example, if the subject were told to concentrate on their left foot, the reading for this electrode would show this. I have been able to verify the work of Laufberger, which covers much more than the above.
I experimented with an electroencephalograph (EEG) belonging to Dr. Francis Lefebure, the author of "L'Activation du Cerveau par l'Audition Alternative" and the inventor of the "Alternaphone." I was his student during the time I lived in Paris. By using this device, we found that Laufberger's observations correlate with the activity of the left hemisphere and the right of the brain. Individual differences in galvanic skin resistance (GSR) were found to be related to the presleep state of the person. In general, electrodermal activity increased in all EEG stages as daytime stress increased, being especially great on nights preceding important school examinations. The nocturnal EEG profile was also related to the presleep state, the percentage of alpha rhythms decreasing as daytime stress increased. The occurrence of GSR "storms" connected with deep and especially painful past experiences, is consistent with the notion of release of cortical or other inhibitory influences during this state.
Gregory Mitchell, Paris 1962
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