From the journal Material For Thought, issue number 9
Excerpted from Transitional Man
by Franklin Earnest III
San Francisco: Far West Editions, 1981
The most singular physical manifestation that declares man has been prepared for a unique task on planet Earth is the human brain itself. As the nervous system developed, we watched it appear as a bud and then virtually burst into a full bloom with the arrival of man. The cerebral hemispheres suddenly expanded and became the heralds of a new potential consciousness; the dawn of new behavioral possibilities. Man found he was equipped not only to change to meet the demands of environment with exceptional capacity for adjustment, he could also cause environment to meet his demands on a limited basis. He could change dark to light, cold to warm; and through his inventiveness, he could move swiftly through the sea, the air and over the land. He found also he could even escape the planet for brief periods. Still, the most exciting capacity of his brain he has barely noticed; yet it is the high point of creation. Man can change himself. Through the proper use of his brain, man is capable of overriding instinct and altering Essence. Man is the first of the animal kingdom to be offered a choice of responses. Ordinary mechanical man has within his reach the ability to lift himself out of the circle of mundane survival-reproductive animal programming. The human brain has become the command post of a totally new human experience. There would be no need for its complexity if the activities assigned to it were to be confined to the circumspect matter of survival and reproduction alone. The whole animal kingdom has been capable of this with far less equipment. The human brain symbolically tells us that man is ready to cast off his animal bondage. Within the folds of the cerebral hemispheres is the circuitry for escape.
From the simple fact that the brain is structured and functions as an electrical instrument, it is reasonable to suppose that the thing that plays upon it, namely consciousness, is also electrical in nature. Tucked into the folds and crevices of this mysterious organ are billions upon billions of electrical schemes whose circuitry still remains immune to our most updated scientific evaluation. Though the skull could not long hold back man’s exploring fingers from its depths, the disclosures only declare that the brain’s organization is of such a high order that we can rightfully expect surprise in behavioral performance.
Responses need no longer be simply moving toward or away from a stimulus based on purely survival or reproductive interests. Although the electrical circuit tends to follow old historically based pathways and to reduce response to the simple and expedient act on behalf of instinct (the lazy route), the possibility now exists that as fresh information is channeled to the brain through its end organs, it can be processed, refined and redefined through multiple augmentary and inhibitory relay systems to yield an innovative response. With his brain man has the opportunity to assimilate a wide spectrum of stimuli, to move about and gather distant samplings of his environment, to mix old with new through memory, to contemplate, and finally to add imagination to the electrical recipe. The result can be a new response to an old stimulus. The end product of this electrical machination is creativity.
But man need not limit his observations of the human brain to its physical dimensions. The brain is far too delicate to permit the revelation of its secrets by the use of lesser tools. Man must expand his assay of the human brain to include its metaphysical dimensions as well. He must be willing to step across the boundary established arbitrarily by science in its sensory examination and roam unshamefully in the realm of ideas, in the world of the unseen, and let the human brain demonstrate without restriction just what it is capable of. Although science has given us a peek at the brain and placed us in awe of its complexity, we must come to see that the only laboratory capable of revealing the intact brain’s possibilities is the individual himself. Each of us has the validity of his own experience. We are the proof. Man becomes the living testimony of what he discovers.
We could watch an animal for thousands of years and because of its repetitious pattern we could just as well call it a robot. But man need not be a robot. Even if science’s laboratory can yield no proof of the human brain’s metaphysical implications by its standards, the individual’s own evaluation of the human brain, by the very circumstance of the study, can establish the magic of its function. By accepting new ground rules defined through personal experience, he can use his own brain, directing its energy as he sees fit, as a method of describing its significance. He thereby becomes the witness and the verification of its miraculous performance.
Man cannot escape the opportunity within his own laboratory which his own life provides to verify that what he imagines to be possible is possible. The elimination of the experiment by a stout scientific declaration of denial of the terms of experimentation because they deal with the abstract, in no way eliminates the experimenter, the experiment or the laboratory—man himself. Statements of distrust of the unseen, no matter how officially they are issued, cannot discount the significance of the unseen, and the brain’s ability to deal with the unseen, to the experimenter who is locked to the experiment by birth. He might as well deny life itself. The individual who pursues an idea cannot escape the full implication of it in his own life because of his own living. The idea will rub off on him in spite of his declared allegiances. It continually breaks out of whatever sensory formula he attempts to impose on it and affects him.
Man’s consciousness calls upon the human brain to translate its distant messages into earthbound language—body, mind and emotional language. Man’s actions are a rendition of his level of consciousness.
Smothered beneath the fumes of old violence, the noise of survival, and the grinding teeth of man’s perverted appetites, there is audible to him an inner voice that raises behavioral questions, challenges his right to destroy his world and himself, and calls for a new level of consciousness. New ideas, foreign to his ancient protoplasm, hover over him, and though they are strange to him, they are somehow acceptable because of the long preparation of his unique brain to receive them.
As man’s destiny on his present course becomes more critical, the inner voice becomes more perceptible. It calls to him from every spoke of his wheel; he must change. The ecologist, the physicist, the economist, the priest, the farmer, the philosopher, and the metaphysician all cry crisis.
Man cannot continue to run in his present circle of destruction unabated, unmoved by his own information. He must see that at his present level of performance he only accelerates his own demise as he overpopulates his world, robs it of its resources, exhausts its energy, and pollutes the land, the sea, and the air with the debris of his own selfishness. Man must awaken and listen to these new sounds counter to the perverted survival drive. Give! Share! Sacrifice! Love!—all challenging instinctive rights. They call for complete abandonment of violence at the marketplace.
This inner message, hopefully touching the consciousness of ordinary mechanical man, leads eventually to the formulation of a question within him—a question that produces the birth pangs of a new man—a possible Transitional Man. The question that reaches him in some form is—Who Am I?
This question, asked in so many variations (Why am I here? What am I doing this for? What’s it all about? Where do I go from here?) can become the beginning of man’s break with the animal kingdom. If he listens more carefully he will hear the theme of a whole new behavioral world—man must love, he must love God and his neighbor as himself, But who is Self? The task is given to him in reverse order. Before he can love anything he must know who Self is. He must sense the significance of his presence here.
To the social community, which is still geared at present to the local programs of survival and procreation and its perverted extensions, questions of personal identity arising in a man’s consciousness represent a threat to the stability of the social order which tries always to establish conformity, insure a forced calm, and oversee all toy games. Questions of this type are not useful to these goals, for with the discovery of the answer, the questioner may no longer fit quietly into the pattern established as best for him in the herd. With the answer, the questioner could become an individual and individuals by definition cannot be counted upon to perform blindly in the tight circle,A true individual’s behavior can no longer be predicted by the herd in toy transactions. He cannot be programmed to conform or to not conform for he tends to resist the mechanical acts which fill the marketplace. His responses are spontaneous and are subject to alteration in tempo with his own growing concept of truth.
Society’s first reaction to this frightening phenomenon is to make more rules, hoping to discourage signs of initiative and fatigue the innovator with paperwork. This sequence compounded leads to the production of more rules than any one person can master because now many of them are in direct conflict with each other. Because of the questionable meaning of each phrase a whole profession develops around rules pretending to produce justice, exploiting the confusion for personal gain while making a noisy, futile attempt to provide man with an interpretation of just how he is behavingrulewise.
If a man continues to be troubled by the unanswered question, other measures can be summoned up to nudge him back into his mechanical role. The rehabilitation can begin by offering him more education to improve his lot in toy games. The enticement of better rewards can sometimes distract the questioner from the question. Ifsuccessful, he will become diverted from his inner turmoil as he pursues “how to make a better living in the marketplace” rather than “how to make a better life on planet Earth.”
If his inner torment increases in spite of various supportive systems, the psychiatrist may be called upon. Generally, because of the unfortunate economic circumstance of this confrontation, both the therapist and the patient are forced into a prefabricated plan of social goals, designed to return the patient to society as he was—a functioning unit—rather than to proceed on the adventure of returning the patient to himself—a project that would need to be innovative, demanding of both the psychiatrist and the patient, costly, time consuming, and uncertain (maybe unsuccessful). The psychiatrist is handicapped not only by the sheer numbers of patients who stand at his door waiting upon his palliation, but also by the fact he himself may be a prisoner of the same social malady. Frequently, as a matter of logistics, if nothing else, the patient is offered a chemical solution to the problem—a tranquilizer—which may be temporarily helpful at the time of the dishevelment, but which can hardly be expected to disclose the meaning of life. Rather it tends to dilute the question until hopefully it disappears.
These efforts, designed to maintain the status quo of the social order, may provide temporary stability in human interplay about toys but they only put off what must occur in the human experiment. Man must eventually answer the question—Who Am I?—if he is to find meaning in his life.
For the individual, there is no more important moment in the unfolding of his consciousness, nor one that is more critical for his fruition than the moment of this question. With this sudden arousal of personal awareness, man stands peculiarly alone, surrounded by unfriendly forces, the armies of tradition, dogma, family, social hypnotism, the frailties of his own Essence, and lingering instinctive drives; all of which beg for the overworn circuitry of history—the easy, expedient, ready answer—`acquiesce and conform’. If he decides to become ‘the seeker’ looking for the answer to the question (Who Am I?), ready to accept the reality of its disclosures, he must also be ready to suffer the grief of being unique in the human scene. If he falls back into the social formula geared to struggles for comfort, power, wealth, prestige, and all the false goals of Personality, he will fall also into the rut of animal bondage which he mistakes for security because in its depths he can no longer see over its walls. His consciousness and his brain no longer serve their real purpose. He disappears into the mirage of the social sea of superficial orderliness which remains quiet because it is asleep.
If he decides to pursue the question, he will launch upon a search that will lead him out of the labyrinth of tradition and dogma and all the impediments set as traps for him by the social order as he climbs the mountain of himself to a higher viewpoint. He pays homage to his physical world because his feet are there, but his head is directed toward a distant goal—harmony with his God, his neighbor and himself. His cerebral skills will permit him with perseverance and a strong wish—a deep prayer and an unprecedented will—to express the fresh spontaneity of freedom as he constructs a new scale of values, values he was created to understand.
It is this man we have spoken of as ordinary mechanical man who can awaken to this special responsibility to become the bridge between the animal world beneath him and the spiritual world above him—each claiming him. If he awakens to his identity, he is caught in the struggle between these two worlds for he is in transit from one to the other. The destiny of the man of our fantasy depends on the outcome of the struggles of this man who awakens and begins to move toward his new behavioral goal—a man we could call Transitional Man. Such a man is awake but unfinished.