The Larger Mind

[...] the very meaning of "survival" becomes different when we stop talking about the survival of something bounded by the skin and start to think of the survival of the system of ideas in a circuit.

The contents of the skin are randomized at death and the pathways within the skin are randomized. But the ideas, under further transformation, may go on out in the world in books or works of art. Socrates as a bioenergetic individual is dead. But much of him still lives as a component on the contemporary ecology of ideas.

The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a subsystem. This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by "God," but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology.

Freudian psychology expanded the concept of mind inwards to include the whole communication system within the body - the automatic, the habitual, and the vast range of unconscious process. What I am saying expands mind outwards. And both of these changes reduce the scope of the conscious self. A certain humility becomes appropriate, tempered by the dignity or joy of being a part of something much bigger. A part - if you will - of God.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.467-8

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Consciousness operates in the same way as medicine in its sampling of the events and processes of the body and of what goes on in the total mind.

It is organized in terms of purpose. It is a short-cut device to enable you to get quickly at what you want; not to act with maximum wisdom in order to live, but to follow the shortest logical or causal path to get what you next want, which may be dinner; it may be a Beethoven sonata; it may be sex. Above all, it may be money or power.

[With the capabilities of modern technology] Conscious purpose is now empowered to upset the balances of the body, of society, and of the biological world around us. A pathology - a loss of balance - is threatened.

On the one hand, we have the systemic nature of the individual human being, the systemic nature of the culture in which he lives, and the systemic nature of the biological, ecological system around him; and, on the other hand, the curious twist in the systemic nature of the individual man whereby consciousness is, almost of necessity, blinded to the systemic nature of the man himself.

Purposive consciousness pulls out, from the total mind, sequences which do not have the loop structure which is characteristic of the whole systemic structure. If you follow the "common sense" dictates of consciousness you become, effectively, greedy and unwise - again I use "wisdom" as a word for recognition of and guidance by a knowledge of the total systemic creature.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.439-40

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The world of consciousness is inevitably a world full of restrictions, of walls blocking the way. It is of necessity one sided, because of the nature of consciousness itself. No consciousness can harbour more than a very small number of simultaneous perceptions. All else must lie in shadow, with drawn from sight.

Any increase in the simultaneous contents immediately produces a dimming of consciousness, if not confusion to the point of disorientation.

Consciousness not only requires, but is of its very nature strictly limited to, the few and hence the distinct [...] We have to make do, so to speak, with a minimum of simultaneous perceptions and successions of images. Hence in wide areas possible perceptions are continuously excluded, and consciousness is always bound to the narrowest circle.

[...] everything subliminal holds within it the ever-present possibility of being perceived and represented in consciousness. The unconscious is an irrepresentable totality of all subliminal psychic factors, a "total vision" in potentia. It constitutes the total disposition from which consciousness singles out tiny fragments from time to time.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East ('Foreword to the Introduction to Zen Buddhism'), p.167-8

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The ordinary Balinese term for the period before the coming of the white man is "when the world was steady" (doegas goemine enteg)

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Bali: The Value System of a Steady State'), p.121

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