What Feeds Consciousness?
The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.
Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.
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Edited Transcript = See Below
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Notes by TK
Every organ feeds on something outside the body or inside the body. E.g., lungs: outside; heart: inside. The brain is unique in that it feeds off both sources. Consciousness is sustained by both inputs. Internal: limbic system feeling, which requires only registering by the brain. This is the majority of normal brain function in people. Mythologies and religion are created via this source, from the passions of the body. Consciousness expanded the scope of the passions of the body.
E.g., hunger—hoarding—hunting technology—agriculture. It does not change the passions, it expands their purview. If the brain is not involved in an external problem it is daydreaming and the daydreaming is fed by the limbic/feeling input from the body. (47:37) #3118
Notes by DR
The thinking about the feelings of the body gave them a new life. Consciousness hasn’t changed the nature of the body. It changes the way we deal with those feelings and passions, and one of the ways we deal with them is by talking about them. Writing, mythologizing, where is it being fed from? It’s being fed from the way you physically feel. (Other than having great physical pain you don’t think about it.) There’s no organ that puts out thoughts and sends it to the brain. So where does it come from? It comes from muscles, from how your body is feeling.
3/8/08 Number 3118
Edited by SA
I’ve got a multi-night thing, probably, that I’ll start tonight. It’s something I’ve tried several times to talk about, I never felt with any great success, but several examples hit me over the weekend to spur me back to it. They have to do with the whole question of “What am I, this conscious person?”
You’re conscious all day. Consciousness is running even at night in your dreams, which is of almost no useful pertinence that I can find. But the point is you’re conscious throughout your life, at least from a certain age. And what is this thing that’s so much a part of us. Since consciousness is the heart of consciousness, it’s like the universe trying to comprehend itself. You can’t normally get outside of consciousness. And you take what’s going on in your head to be something other than, something more than, it is.
I just have to jump in and get, either tonight or next time, to a primo example. Something fairly simple, that may drag some of you people into looking at it in a new way, considering “What is consciousness?” Or, if you like, “What am I, here and alive, with an awareness that I’m here and alive?”
Every organ, every function in the body, either feeds off of something outside of our body or something inside of our body. The lungs feed off of something outside the body. The stomach, our digestion, our nourishment, feeds off of something outside the body. You could say that the heart, feeding off blood, is feeding off something inside the body. The heart does not look outside of itself for that which keeps it going. It’s strictly inside of ourselves. Whereas the stomach cannot eat anything in the body. It has to go outside of itself.
The conscious part of the brain is represented accurately, from most views, by the cerebral cortex. The brain is unique in that it feeds off of both sources. Consciousness is kept alive by nourishment coming from within the body and by nourishment coming from outside the body. Inside the body—it’s physiologically valid, but then it’s symbolically more so—if you picture the cerebral cortex surrounding the brain, it’s fed inside the body, not just in the wide metaphysical sense that Life is feeding you thoughts, that Life is broadcasting thoughts and the cerebral cortex operates like a radio receiver and it’s picking up the thoughts.
But other than that wide metaphysical view of it, your cerebral cortex is in part being fed up the spinal cord, through the brain stem, into the limbic system and into the center of the brain, the old mammalian part of the brain. In other words, being fed by the way you’re feeling. You can’t always identify the feeling that’s feeding the brain. It’s not even necessary. Unless it’s some specific complaint that you can deal with, it’s not important. It’s simply the way you are physically feeling. The way your body is feeling is feeding nourishment—that is, information—into consciousness, into the cerebral cortex.
As I said, the feeling doesn’t need to be identified unless it is some specific pain you’re suffering that you can do something about. The feelings are just physiological sensations that go into the brain, because the brain, as everyone knows, is control central. It is where all the information is taken in, and decisions are made.
But much of the information coming in to the brain does not require a decision. It’s simply the registering of something. A cold—there’s not really anything you can do about a cold. Or a muscle ache—there’s nothing you can really do about a muscle ache. But the brain registers the pain. And the brain, and consciousness, will make note of the source of this information so as to decide if there is something that can be done. “Oh, I’m having aches here in the back of my legs. Well it’s not some sort of horrendous muscle disease. I remember now I was lifting a lot of heavy objects yesterday when I was cleaning out the basement.” So the brain registers, “Alright, I’ve got pains down there.” And it’s affecting consciousness. The brain is making note of this information that’s coming from within. This takes up, in different people, varying degrees of consciousness’s attention. In most people, the majority of the world’s population, their consciousness is feeding most off of the inner nourishment.
You understand what I’m saying by “nourishment.” I mean the stimuli, the information. Of course the brain cells are fed by oxygen and minerals in the blood, like every other cell in the body. But the brain’s nourishment that we’re speaking of is primarily information. In most people the information-nourishment that the brain feeds on most is internal. This is what I used to call the red circuit. The vast majority of people all over the world are primarily run by their emotions, by their gut, by instinct, by physical desires.
Of course, we’re all partially run by our emotions. You can see it in all the world’s histories of man. You can see it in the world’s art and music, but primarily in man’s literature, in his storytelling. If the libraries of the world were divided into two wings—well, I hate to put a figure on it, but eighty or ninety percent of the world’s fairy tales, religions, myths, fiction, literature, reporting—most of man’s popular culture would be over in the wing that is fed off of how your body feels. Man’s religions are almost entirely generated by the way he feels. All of his mythology is coming from inside the body, generated by the way he feels. In the Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, Roman, and Norse mythologies, the ways in which the gods acted were a direct result of how somebody was feeling, generated by somebody’s consciousness.
All tales are told by consciousness, by that part of the brain that can speak. All of these mythologies, all of man’s tales, all of man’s religions are told by the cerebral cortex, by the conscious part of the brain. When consciousness wrote those mythologies, those religions, it was being fed directly, without any question, unmistakably, by what the writer felt. The nourishment in his consciousness, where his consciousness was focused, and what his consciousness was thinking about were the passions, the physical sensations inside of his body. You read the mythologies of Zeus, of Jehovah, and all it is, is a representation of indigestion, anger, irritation. Not at somebody. Not at some ideas outside the consciousness of the person who wrote it. Consciousness is being fed directly, and unmistakably is a reflection, is a reporting, of how the writer felt physically.
The further back you look, the more you find that the stories are unmistakably direct reflections of human physical feeling. The passions of the body, all the way from the sex drive to physical hunger. Hunger turned into greed, into hoarding, which is hunger carried into tomorrow. Because the stomach will only eat what it can right now, but once the brain became conscious, then the cerebral cortex could think about being hungry at times you’re not hungry. That is, you ate all the food you could eat right now. The stomach stops eating. The stomach is satisfied. If you were a pig or a dog, you would then leave the rest of that food. You’d stand up and walk away from it, never think about it again.
With consciousness, hunger turned into hoarding. That is, the stomach is through with the food in front of it, and it would get up and walk away, if it was left to your instinct. But once the brain developed consciousness, consciousness looked at the food and thought about tomorrow, and then remembered that yesterday when it ate, it got up and left the food, but now it’s today and just before it sat down at this food, it was hungry again. Then consciousness can look into tomorrow, based upon yesterday, and think, “Tomorrow I’m going to be hungry again. But instead of looking for new food tomorrow, like I did today, why don’t I just save this food that I don’t want to eat right now? Why don’t I save it for tomorrow?”
Consciousness changed all of the passions of the body. Let me expand. Consciousness didn’t change the passions, it didn’t alter them, but it extended them, it expanded them into other things. The thinking about the feelings of the body gave the feelings a new life. It didn’t change hunger. You still are hungry and still want to eat. But hunger was expanded into hoarding, saving. And into agriculture.
Consciousness was able to look at the needs of the body, such as hunger, and do unique things. Things that had never been done, and still haven’t been done, by any other creature. There are some animals like chipmunks and squirrels that by instinct will bury food. Fifty years ago, biologists and psychologists made a big deal out of the intelligence of squirrels. But on further investigation, it seems to be accepted knowledge that ninety percent of the nuts that were buried, the squirrels can’t remember where they were buried. They just bury them by instinct, and come back and just stand there and go, “Where the heck are they?” So much for the intelligence of rodents.
But at any rate, consciousness has changed everything about the passions of the body. It hasn’t changed the nature of the passions themselves. It hasn’t changed our hunger. It hasn’t changed the desire to procreate, to have sex. It hasn’t changed the need to get in out of the elements, to live within certain boundaries of temperature and humidity. Consciousness hasn’t changed those, but it’s changed the way we deal with them. It’s made us build structures. Made us develop heating systems and air conditioning systems. Made us develop agriculture to grow our own food in a place we choose, and then to preserve the food by smoking it, by freezing it. Consciousness made us develop monogamy and families so that males can have sex whenever they want it, without having to go out and fight for a new partner every day.
Consciousness developed medicine. Consciousness miraculously—there’s no other word for it—figured out how to treat itself. Nowadays, if you have a severe pain, an acute internal pain, and it lasts a certain length of time, consciousness tells you, “Go seek professional help. Go see a doctor. This pain is too acute. It is too lingering.” So consciousness leads you to take certain actions. We haven’t stopped getting sick. We haven’t stopped getting hungry and horny and cold. But consciousness took those passions, those feelings, and changed the way we deal with them.
Now, one of the ways we deal with those feelings is by talking about them, by writing about them, mythologizing about them. And as individuals, by thinking about how we’re feeling. So consciousness—not instinct—changed all sorts of things.
Other than that, what does consciousness do with how you feel? Remember, how you feel is nourishment coming from within that’s feeding consciousness. Consciousness, once it gets going, at whatever age it started in you—a year, sixteen months, two years—once it gets going, it doesn’t stop until you die or go into a coma. Consciousness circulates the same as the heart does blood, from the time you’re born until the time you die, twenty-four hours a day. And in a sense, the brain is circulating information day and night. Something that happened while you were asleep—your house catches on fire, a bug crawls on you—and you’ll wake up. The brain is still on duty.
So consciousness is circulating information twenty-four hours a day. But unless it is acute information, usually of a threatening or painful sort, what consciousness circulates is just the way you’re feeling. Nothing outstanding. Just the results of your general temperament. You’re just kind of feeling yucky. And who knows why? You’re always prone to feeling a little bit some way or another. In what way does consciousness deal with that? Nobody knows. May I be a little more accurate? Nobody cares.
I can be more precise than that. Nobody ever thinks about it. Do you? Now remember one more time, don’t take into account some quite specific pain, because without any decision on your part, your instinct will forcibly drag your consciousness into paying attention to that. That’s the sort of thing over which you have no control. But the rest of the time, you’re just you. There’s just nothing particular one way or the other that you feel, that you’re aware of.
But if you’re not feeding consciousness from something outside of you—you’re not engrossed in reading a book, or watching a movie, then however you’re feeling internally is what is determining consciousness.
Driving a car is a good example of feeding consciousness from outside. When you’re driving a car, some of your consciousness is outside of your control because it’s related to survival. You have no control over the part of your consciousness that’s focused on driving, on the world outside of you, to make sure you survive the drive and get to your destination alive. But once you know how to drive, and assuming you’re not by nature a complete spastic, very little of your consciousness is taken up with driving. Assuming you’re on a familiar highway, knowing where you’re going, most of your consciousness can daydream.
This is a good place to consider that whatever you’re daydreaming about is being fed by something. What? Of course, your consciousness can bounce back and forth. You can look up, and there’s a billboard that you’ve never seen before, and your consciousness—the part that’s not still on the road, glances up at this billboard that hollers something like “free gasoline.” You read the billboard and it gives some details. For that moment, consciousness is being fed on something outside of you. But generally when you’re driving on a route that’s familiar to you, very little of your consciousness is involved with actually driving the vehicle. Most of your consciousness is being fed from within you physically.
It turns out that what I and most everybody else call consciousness is a flow of words. What’s going on in consciousness is sentence fragments, blurts of words together. The words carry memories, pictures of people, past scenes. It’s a hodge-podge of a voice-over, and little flashes of images, maybe a momentary few frames from a movie clip. But where is it being fed from? You never think about it. Consciousness never thinks about it, but it’s being fed from the way you physically feel.
Remember, most of the time, you don’t think about how you feel. But there’s no doubt about this—consciousness is run by how you’re feeling. And by that, I mean physiologically feeling. Your whole body is registering stimuli. If you’re driving, your foot is constantly aware of how much pressure it’s putting on the gas pedal. Your hands are aware of the pressure you’re putting on the steering wheel. Your buttocks muscles are feeling the seat. Your body is a constant physical conveyor, all the way from your skin to all of your inside organs. They’re registering the heat, which will finally perhaps make you reach over and turn on the air conditioning in the car. But there’s so much going on that the brain does not—can not, evidently—register consciously all the information coming in.
That’s a good thing, because way below the cerebral cortex are all these brain functions that operate simultaneously, operate faster than you can think, that are adjusting the way you sit, the amount of pressure you’re putting on the gas pedal, all of that. But the part that we’re aware of, the part that I stand here and talk about, the part that I think about almost day and night, and have all my life, is what’s going on in consciousness. Because the rest of it will either take care of itself or you can’t do anything about it anyway.
If you want to wake up, the only place to start is to try and figure out what’s going on is in consciousness, in that one area where the brain has thoughts. But if you sit there and look at it—and nobody ever has—where do these thoughts come from? Now, ordinary people say they look at where their thoughts come from. They say that they’ve studied psychology or gone into analysis, and that they think, “Yeah, I have a lot of daydreams that are aggressive, but I’ve read enough psychology that my theory is it has something to do with the way my father treated me.” They might as well be saying, “Zeus still lives in my spleen and sometimes he takes over my thought processes. Or Lucifer. Or the spirit of Tutankhamun.” But what’s driving their daydreams is the way they feel.
There are only two choices—nourishment from inside and nourishment from outside. I’ll discuss this in more detail next time. But picture yourself driving your car down a familiar road. As always, things are going through your head. You’re dreaming, the same as you do at night in bed asleep. If there’s nothing astounding going on outside of you that’s either caught your attention or deserves your attention, then consciousness is not receiving its nourishment from outside. In that case, whatever you’re dreaming about is being nourished by what’s inside. And down inside your body, there is no place that puts out thoughts. The liver puts out bile. The kidneys put out urine. The pancreas puts out adrenaline. There is no organ anywhere that puts out thoughts.
There is nowhere—nowhere—that puts out thoughts and then sends them to the brain. So where do thoughts come from? They come from your muscles. They come from the way you feel. They come from, physically, all the cells in your body, but there are obviously some of them that have more influence, more input. But it’s simply how your body is feeling that generates whatever you’re thinking when you’re not receiving nourishment from outside the body. Consider how much of your life—your mental life, that part of your life that distinguishes you from any other creature—is spent daydreaming.
The full lifetime of your heart is devoted to beating. The full lifetime of your lungs is devoted to breathing. All the organs, all the activities have an obvious, specific purpose. And all the organs, by and large, are devoted singularly to that one purpose. Consciousness is devoted to thinking. What feeds it? As I pointed out, the blood feeds the heart. Air feeds the lungs. Where do your thoughts come from?
If consciousness is not taking its nourishment from outside—let’s say that you were driving somewhere new, and you were looking for Brown’s Ferry Road, and you look at the sign coming up at the exit way down the road, and it starts with a B, and your consciousness keeps looking at it because you want to read it as soon as you can, to decide whether to get in the exit lane. So your mind stays on it until your eyes can take in enough light to see if it says Brown’s Ferry Road up there. Finally, the light hits your retinas, sends the information to the brain, and it says Barstow Highway, and your brain realizes, “That’s not where I’m going.” At that time, your consciousness—other than the part that had to keep driving the car—your consciousness was entirely nourished by that exit sign.
But other than that, how much of the rest of your life is consciousness simply daydreaming? It’s not focused on anything. Some people would say it’s involved in introspection. Navel-gazing, as they called it in the sixties. It’s just daydreaming. There is no better term. It seems to be the same kind of condition as dreaming in your sleep at night—that’s obviously why somebody made up the term “daydreaming.”
The dreams you have when you’re asleep at night don’t seem to have any pertinence. They’re not serving any purpose. Your consciousness is obviously not focused on anything outside of you when you’re asleep. So whatever’s feeding the dreams at night is coming from inside of you. Digestion. All of your physiological activities are responsible for what’s going on in your consciousness. It’s an easily identifiable, quite compact closed system.
Now you’re awake, you’re standing up, your eyes are open. I ask you again, in the life of a civilized man, how much of conscious life is made up of daydreaming? Again, I don’t think it’s important to put a figure on it, but wouldn’t you suspect, shouldn’t it be getting close to eighty percent, if not more? But does anybody ever ask themselves—other than, as I said, some people who believe that they are interested in thoughts? Psychology and psychiatry believe that they study people’s thoughts. But the only thoughts that they’re really interested in are the thoughts that people complain about. That is, thoughts that disturb people, which from psychiatry’s view would be pathological thoughts, thoughts that are harming the system. But then psychiatry says, “Well, it’s obviously caused by something that happened.” That is, something outside of you that happened. Childhood trauma. Past experience. Which I continue to suggest to you is just rubbish.
When you were daydreaming hostile thoughts, I’m telling you it wasn’t fed by what your father did. There is some kind of hostile activity going on in your gut, and that’s what’s feeding the hostile thoughts. Your body’s activity is what’s always feeding your thoughts, if it’s not something external. For the rest of the time, what you’re thinking about is not what you’re thinking about. What the brain and consciousness is thinking about is the feelings going on down inside your nasty, bloody, stinking body. It’s the fumes arising from all of this machinery that keeps you going. It’s the fumes drifting out and they get through the brain stem, they go through the limbic system, and as all odors do, they rise, and they go into consciousness. If I were a TV screen, it would now flash, “to be continued.”
Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)
THE CITY SURVIVES BY ITS BAN OF
THE FINAL WORD
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Outliers’ Open Ended Journal
March 8, 2004 © 2004: JAN COX
A man said:
“One good feature of being sick and having medication prescribed is that,
irrespective of its efficacy, the mere purchasing and remembering to take it
can make you feel you are accomplishing something,”
and his mind said: “Hey! — they stole that from me!”
Frequently does one man introduce himself in the mirror as:
“The most influential man IN local politics!”
One man who was appointed: Big Shot by the present ruler
didn’t feel much indebted thereto, inasmuch as he says he was always determined
to be one regardless of the circumstances attendant to accomplishing same.
(Is The Mad Hatter indebted to Prof. Dodgson?)
“Self congratulations are appropriate just before death.”
“What do you mean: are-appropriate?! —
inevitably-followed-by is the correct term.”
Men who speak of their core-values have no idea what it is that speaks for
what they call: their — much less its core essentials (not to mention what constitutes value.)
Every morning over the bathroom sink, after interviewing himself;
recapping his previous day’s work, and reviewing his plans for the upcoming one,
this one man will commonly conclude by saying to the mirror:
“For additional information on me and all of my exciting activities call:
area code: (213) 578 – T-O-I-L-E-T.” (Do philosophers know how to start the day or what!)
Life In The Herd And Otherwise.
If you believe that reviewing your life as they do in the city
will lead to an understanding of it — you’re totally lost.
The man trying-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-things
has interest in only one community-activity.
One chap says that if you never stop walking — you can keep away death.
(“Pa pa: is he really talking about the effort to open out consciousness?”)
Don’t hesitate to tell ‘em that whatever it is you’re promoting:
“Would make a great gift!” (Makes routine brain cells shiver with anticipatory delight!)
Whenever he was about to say something nasty about himself, one man would say: “Don’t take this personally” — which (him understanding the actual nature of self)
he would not.
The certain man will never get what he wants without a special sort of
protracted mental activity — which ultimately reveals to him something so mundane — yet so foreign to ordinary men’s thoughts that they are totally disinterested.
Asks one man: “What is easier (not to mention more deeply satisfying)
than saying for instance, to an alcoholic or drug addict that:
‘You know there is a better way.’”
The man-who-wants-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-things is tired of playing men’s
normal mental games: the very ones that ordinary people find quite suitable for
filling their lives. (Well, they act like they are.)
One guy says: “Absolutely the most fun a human being can have
is trying to get other people to think like you do. Wow! — it’s da bomb!”
(A short while later his twin brother slipped in and said:
“No, no — the most fun possible is hearing other people talk — about anything.”)
As reward for something or the other, the local god told one man he would be
going to paradise after he died, and would always have a place close by his side,
and dejectedly the man whined:
“I wanted a Mercedes.”
(The headline to this story got mislaid, but it was something about:
How The Mind Handles…this-or-that-something-or-other.)
The city-conscious part of one man’s mind likes to call itself:
“The hardest working man in show business!
(Except of course for the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and colon.)”
Notes one chap: “What could be more interesting than a comedian discussing
the nature of humor, or an ordinary man that of his thinking.”
A man who identifies himself as some-sort-of-historian says:
“Civilization began when men started to talk:
first and foremost about essentials (farming):
it then took off recreationally when men started to periodically replace their talking
with making music,
but where they missed the boat was in never completely dropping talk for music.”
“Pa pa: is it not easy to tell what a man is by what he says?!”
“Okay then: what would his not saying tell you?”
“Well, I know what it would tell him.”
“Zing-go-exacto! — perceptive son of mine.”
A man says: “Throughout my life long interest in the idea of enlarging my consciousness, one thing I always dreamed of finding, but never did
was something I imagined would be entitled: ‘The Book Of Cheap Tricks.’”
This email just in:
“Contrary to what that previous man said: Isn’t that what your Daily News is?!”
One man finds that paying attention to his ordinary thoughts
is like suffering paper cuts to his mind.