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Fruits of the Metaphorical River


There are three basic ways to try to understand our mind.  (1) We can limit our view of the mind to just the external view. This is how a behaviorist attempta to see the mind.  (2) We can turn to the assumptions we find in traditional philosophy and religion.  (3) We can observe the mind though meditation.

(1) Using behaviorism, the external view of the mind is indirect.  We cannot see the mind.  We can watch another person, and note their behaviors.  If we shine a light in a person's eyes, their pupils constrict. If we tap their knee, the leg jumps.  Mental processes are ignored. Thus behaviorism has a very limited scope.  It ignores individual differences and places overreliance on animal (e.g., rats and pigeons) research.  This approach is reductionistic, simplifying behavior to stimulus-response behavior.  It seems to imply that people are machines.

(2) Traditionally, the mind has been studied through metaphysics epistemology, and phenomenology. No attempt is made to directly observe the mind.   Christian religion proposes the we have a soul that is capable of transcending physical limitations, having an afterlife.

(3) See our mind through meditation has many benefits.  By detaching ourselves from our mind, metaphorically crossing the river we can observe the mind in action.  We can hear our mind speak as if there are many actors.  We can hear our mind tell us we are hungry, or that we need to plan what we are going to do. Or we can identify with one of the archetypes.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, introduced the concept of archetypes as part of his analytical psychology. Archetypes are universal, recurring symbols, themes, and patterns found in the collective unconscious, a reservoir of shared experiences and knowledge that all humans inherit. These archetypes are present in myths, stories, dreams, and religious beliefs across various cultures. Jung identified several archetypes, but here are some of the key ones:

The Self: The Self represents the totality of the psyche, the integration of the conscious and unconscious aspects of an individual. It is the archetype of wholeness, representing the striving for unity and completeness.

The Persona: The Persona is the social mask or facade that an individual presents to the outside world. It is the public image that conforms to societal expectations and conceals the deeper, more authentic aspects of the self.

The Shadow: The Shadow embodies the repressed and unconscious aspects of an individual's personality. It consists of elements that the person denies or dislikes about themselves, often involving negative traits, instincts, and desires.

The Anima (in men)/Animus (in women): The Anima represents the feminine aspects in a man's unconscious, and the Animus represents the masculine aspects in a woman's unconscious. They represent the qualities of the opposite gender within each individual and are essential for achieving psychological balance.

The Hero: The Hero is the archetype of the savior or champion. It symbolizes the journey of self-discovery, courage, and the triumph of good over evil. The Hero's journey is a common narrative structure found in myths and heroic tales.

The Mother: The Mother archetype embodies nurturing, love, and fertility. It represents the protective and caring aspects of the feminine.

The Father: The Father archetype represents authority, guidance, and discipline. It symbolizes the protective and responsible aspects of the masculine.

The Child: The Child archetype signifies innocence, spontaneity, and the potential for growth and development. It represents the future and the creative aspects of life.

The Wise Old Man/Woman: The Wise Old Man or Woman archetype represents wisdom, guidance, and insight. It symbolizes the accumulation of knowledge and experience throughout life.

The Trickster: The Trickster archetype is mischievous and unpredictable, often challenging societal norms and conventions. It represents the disruptive force that brings change and transformation.

An archetype that is not on Jung's list, is the monkey mind. It comes from the Buddhist and Taoist traditions and it refers to the restless, agitated, and unsettled side of the human mind. This part of the mind is constantly jumping from one thought to another, like a monkey swinging from tree to tree. The monkey mind is associated with a lack of focus, inner chatter, and a tendency to dwell on past events or worry about the future. The monkey mind includes music we sometimes hear, that seems to keep going.

Through meditation and attachment from the mind, it seems to be that we can see that the mind has many departments that talk to us.  Of course, these departments vary a great deal between different people and also change within one person through time and circumstances.

By naming these departments and working with them, we have a powerful tool of mind control.  For example, say that the mind sometimes wants to solve equations for no particular reason.  We could call this department "math guy".  By naming the department, we can talk to this department.  If math guy is talking to us as we try to go to sleep we can tell her to stop in no uncertain terms.

So when we worry about something, it is not we that is worried, but it is only one part of our mind.  For instance, if we miss someone too much, we can tell this department to let the person go.

When we control the mind, it is our true person inside us that is doing the controlling.  The true person is the part of us that crosses the river and experiences life.  This is the "me" inside us.  This is our true nature, the part of us that makes decisions and unifies our self. 

It was suggested by some that this is our homunculus. This concept goes back to ancient civilizations and continues to influence philosophical and scientific thought up to modern times. The term "homunculus" comes from the Latin word for "little man" or "little person." In ancient Egyptian mythology, there are references to artificial creatures and figurines associated with creation and magic. In Greek mythology, the Pygmalion myth tells the story of a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation, a lifelike statue named Galatea.

Perhaps our true self is a little green man inside us.  Alas, this is not true. If the homunculus represented a whole person, this homunculus would have to have a homunculus within it too. And this homunculus would have to have another homunculus within it.  It would go on and on and in the end we have an infinite number of these little green men inside us.  Not such a good idea.

You might call this part of us, our soul, but this is just a name and the word "soul" has many religious meanings. So we need to avoid this idea and not go down the rabbit hole.  The idea we are ghosts in our bodies is another rabbit hole.   We really do not know our true nature, but it is important to hang on to the notion we are really something precious.

The true person inside us possess consciousness, that is it is the true person who is aware of the passage of time, and the experiences we have.  The mind is something else that is more of a helper and seems to be something that helps us sense the world, feel our feelings, and solve problems. It seems separate when we pounder a thought.  The mind can think of a thought is many different ways.  It is the true self that forms a belief. 

The true person inside us is mysterious, and could be make of brain tissue or something spiritual or both.  If we consider ourselves as just brain tissue, then we are cutting ourselves to the barest levels.  Instead we are more like a elaborate tapestry with many facets and possibilities and very real. 

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