(Or, Metamorphoses of Mind)
Quadrune mind is a secular, evolutionary model of spiritual consciousness. Until the 21st century, consciousness has “naturally” expanded on earth without active, intentional human intervention, but that is rapidly changing. With emerging neurotechnologies, neuroscientists and neuroengineers are capable of making radical changes to what the human brain is and what kind of mind(s) would then result.
What is a Mind?
Daniel Siegel’s definition of mind in his “interpersonal neurobiology” model1 is one of the most relevant definitions of mind for our purposes.2 Siegel states that the mind is a self-organizing process that emerges both from functions within the body and interactions with the external world. The mind regulates the flow of energy internally and between us and the external world. Consequently, for Siegel the “mind” extends beyond our individual physical body.
Siegel is also famous for his “hand model” of the brain. He notes the distinctions of a “head brain,” “heart brain,” and “gut brain,” each of which has networks of neurons. In this presentation he notes that the prefrontal cortex is the “integrating” part of the brain that connects the functioning of the other major divisions of the brain: frontal lobes, limbic area, brain stem, the body, and the social world. When the prefrontal cortex is unable to coordinate the brain system, the resulting state of mind is chaotic and rigid internally and socially.
Similarly, to MacLean and to the quadrune mind, Siegel observes that harmony of mind results from the integrating dominance of the prefrontal cortex in a healthy brain. He concludes that the best predictor of our well-being is our “connectome”: how well connected are the differentiated areas of our brain.
In the next two sections of this post, I present speculations about the future of “human” consciousness and spiritual consciousness, specifically.
What Is the Future of Consciousness?
Thomas Aquinas said, “If our natures were different our duties would be different.” Our natures changed as our ancestral brain evolved. Our duties as human beings are different from the “duties” of lizards, lions, and chimpanzees. Currently, there are multiple neuroengineering technologies in the works that will almost certainly change our brain in such a way as to create new “minds” and, presumably, new duties.
Following are three fanciful-sounding future neurotechnologies hypothesized by neuroscience writer Laura Saunders. Each has some basis in current scientific research.3
Brain bots. A woman suffered from severe postpartum depression. Millions of nanobots were temporarily implanted through a blood injection. A tech guided the nanobots with a magnet from the woman’s arm to her head. After the nanobots reached the brain, they spread out to form a web of microscopic electrodes. By learning how the woman’s neural network functioned, the brain bots pinpointed where her neurons were misfiring and repaired it with precisely focused electrical charges.
Mind meld. Many birds have prodigious memories, which is especially true for Clark’s nutcrackers. They are able to remember locations of an estimated 10,000 seed stashes at a given time. One of these birds, Harry, went through several years of training to use an implanted brain chip to merge his neural signals with that of a person with memory troubles. The human-animal mind meld lasted only a few hours a day, but its benefits of enhanced memory for the person lasted for months after a session with Harry. Scientists are looking to expand other abilities of animals for human enhancement: to see in the dark like echolocating bats, taste with their arms like octopuses, or smell diseases like the olfactory skills of dogs.
Thoughts for sale. Because of a history of car accidents, the company wanted to be sure that it had the best commercial drivers possible. The company’s director of neural systems engagement, Javier, developed the Signal program to incentivize drivers with cash for their brain data, collected by gray headsets. Drivers whose brain activity indicated alertness and focus were given automatic bonuses. Those drivers whose brains seemed sluggish or aggressive received a warning. If their brains did not show improvement, they were fired. The program worked wonderfully at first, but then accidents started increasing again. The flaw in the program was found to be the brain itself. “Human brains learn, find creative solutions, remake themselves.” The brains of the drivers learned to produce signals of alertness and focus—to get the bonuses—even if those signals did not correspond to better driving. The program failure cost the company more money, because the company had planned to require drivers to wear the headsets even when they were not driving. The company planned to have the drivers wear the brain caps when the drivers were eating, grocery shopping, and talking with their kids. The company then planned to sell the drivers’ personal neural details to the highest bidder. The drivers could refuse, but the company believed that most of the drivers “would open up their skulls for a paycheck.” Or, consent could be snuck into the standard contract.
What Is the Future of Spirituality?
The quadrune mind embraces the philosophies of Panpsychism and meliorism. Panpsychism is the view that all matter has parts with mental properties, although it does not necessarily follow that all bits of matter have a “mind” or are sentient. In other words, all matter has fundamental parts consisting of a mental characteristic. This philosophy eliminates the mind/body duality problem, replacing it with a unified conception of nature. It also eliminates a moral duality in which there is a secular realm of reality as opposed to a sacred realm. Secular and sacred are also unified into one state of nature.
Meliorism is the idea that world history is naturally progressive. This inherent earthly course can be enhanced with human intervention. Quadrune mind is grounded in the evolutionary history of consciousness as being increasingly compassionate, cooperative, and healing since life first began on earth. This progressive pattern has been reproduced in human history.
Throughout the history of the universe, the one irreversible trend (so far) has been the increase of consciousness, or as Dan Siegel, and the Buddha, might say regarding people, there has been an increasing capacity for mindful connectivity between us and everything.
Taken together, Panpsychism and meliorism would seem to guarantee that everything that happens in the world will lead to a sort of paradise. One in which the whole universe is “enlightened.” Alas, we don’t believe quadrune mind can make this claim.
One of the foundational positions of the quadrune mind is that it cannot comment on any metaphysical beliefs. And just because it philosophically claims to be a “naturalistic” model of progressive spiritual consciousness, there is no guarantee of what the end of the story might be. In the very long run—billions of years—life has followed the progressive path. But in the short run—decades, centuries, or days—anything can happen.
So, human interventions into the mind, such as brain bots, mind melds, or thoughts for sale may subvert nature’s growth of spirituality. We may spectacularly fail our part of the whole by regressing other people’s spiritual growth through our corrupt, exploitative, hateful actions toward them, and ourselves. Or we might destroy the planet through our rapacious behavior toward her not quite inexhaustible resources.
Or, in ways that are beyond our comprehension, as creatures inalienably one with all that is, our ignorant meddling may actually facilitate the organic growth of spirituality, even if our motives are purely greedy and egocentric, although intuitively that possibility seems unlikely. Some of the bad news is that I don’t think any of us can know one way or the other which it is beforehand.
Where does that leave us? We cannot know what spiritual consciousness will be like in the future. So, it’s really impossible to pursue a spiritual practice now that is designed to lead us to that unknowable, uncertain future level of post “spiritual” consciousness (i.e., conscious beyond our spiritual Human mind, which we can develop). Besides if we tried to it would be just like the Christians who try to “make” Jesus reappear. In both cases we would be trying to control our own physical or metaphysical survival, which is a trait of the pre-Human mind. As such, it would be self-sabotaging to our spiritual well-being.
On the other hand we have a good sense of what consciousness was like in our evolutionary past. We still have with us lizards, lions, and chimpanzees to observe. They help serve as approximations to the kinds of consciousness we came from. Unfortunately, many of us continue to live out of our reptilian, old mammalian, or new mammalian mentalities to this day. It is not spiritually helpful.
The best we can do for ourselves, other people, and the earth is to gain as much knowledge and skill to practice spiritual mindfulness in all things, as our current brain architecture shows it to be. We can strive to fulfill the duties required of us by our nature as it is now. The rest we leave up to the quadrune mind’s “higher power”: the force that brought the human brain into existence.
The subtitle of this post, “metamorphoses of mind,” is meant to suggest a metaphor for the evolution of minds, as described by The Book of Symbols.4 Minds metamorphose as dramatically as a caterpillar does into a butterfly. What reptile could have foreseen the mind of a mammal, or mammal foreseen the quadrune-minded human being? (Can a caterpillar comprehend the consciousness of a butterfly?) If we are not the end of evolution—including neurotechnologically—then there must be the possibility of another stage of consciousness—the quintessential5 “quintine mind.” Could we expect to foreknow the nature of the mind of that being any more than our predecessors anticipated us? I think not.
In any case, if humanity is still around, I hope that the metaspiritually five-minded beings of the future will treat us better than we have treated our own ancestral family.
Brockman, J. (Ed. & Pub.). (2019, January 28). The future of the mind: How AI technology could reshape the human mind and create alternate synthetic minds: A conversation with Susan Schneider. Edge. Edge Foundation, Inc. “We have to be careful to make sure that we know if we’re creating conscious beings and we know if radically enhancing our brains would be compatible with the survival of the person, otherwise these technologies will lead to the exploitation and suffering of conscious beings rather than improving the lives of people.”
Cellan-Jones, R. (2014, December 2). Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind. BBC News. “Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans….
“‘Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.’”
Chalmers, D. J. (Ed.). (2002). Philosophy of mind: Classical and contemporary readings. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hofstadter, D. (2007). I am a strange loop. New York: Basic Books. “Since we all perceive and represent hundreds of other human beings at vastly different levels of detail and fidelity inside our cranium, and since the most important facet of all of those human beings is their own sense of self, we inevitably mirror, and thus house a large number of other strange loops inside our head. But what exactly does it mean to say that each human head is the locus of a multiplicity of ‘I’s?’” [Page 207. Emphasis in the original. This book is Douglas Hofstadter’s very personal—and sort of odd—deep examination on the counterintuitive nature of “I”].
Macek, D. E. (2013, April 18). The birth, evolution, and future of human consciousness and their implications in human-Earth relationship. Abstract: “This paper explores the birth, evolution, and future human consciousness and how humans have interacted with the environment over the course of their existence. In the birth of human consciousness, it explores the awareness of death as another critical factor in human development. In the evolution of human consciousness, three periods of development are explored: domestication and agriculture, empires and industry, and the accelerated technology of today. In the future of human consciousness, the paper advocates for a shift in consciousness towards interdependence and social justice to achieve a healthier human-earth relationship.” [This paper appears to have been written for a class on environmental studies].
Oppy, G, & Dowe, D. (2003, April 9; substantially revised 2020, August 18). The Turing test. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “The phrase ‘The Turing Test’ is sometimes used… generally to refer to some kinds of behavioural tests for the presence of mind, or thought, or intelligence in putatively minded entities.” [The classic thought experiment on thinking].
- Goldhill, O. (2016, December 24). Scientists say your “mind” isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body. Quartz. “Traditionally, scientists have tried to define the mind as the product of brain activity…. But growing evidence shows that the mind goes far beyond the physical workings of your brain….[O]ur mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human….” [Website requires subscription. Siegel developed the interdisciplinary field of “interpersonal neurobiology.” See Joan Borysenko’s related slide presentation, “The Cutting Edge (Better stated as the Healing Edge) of Mind Body Medicine.”]
- For another rich and vitally relevant model see, Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Following quotes and reference pages are from the online text. “[The] human species has not begun to tap its potential and half suspecting this deficiency, we blame everyone and everything except the real culprit. [That is, self-contempt.]
“We see evidence of mankind’s disparaging itself in folklore, religion, philosophies, institutions, as well as in daily life. It seems that these processes are not within the reach of conscious control but deep within us. Freud was so struck by the capacity by the human race to put itself down that he posited a death instinct….For him, creativity was a by-product of the necessity for man to repress his human nature. Like us Freud was a product of his times [emphasis in the original]…. This book suggests another alternative…. Man’s goal… should be to rediscover that lost, alienated natural self [page 4]….
“[W]e are not nearly enough in awe of ourselves, possibly because we know so little and have nothing to measure ourselves against [page 5]….
“[A] major and continuing source of frustration exists because the many gifts and talents of women, blacks, Native-Americans, Spanish-Americans and others are not only unrecognized, but frequently denigrated by members of the dominant group. It is the corrosive daily frustration, the inability to communicate or to establish meaningful relationships that is so soul-shrinking [page 7]….
“[Extended functions serve] to enhance a particular function of an organism: the knife does a much better job of cutting than the teeth (but not of chewing). Language and mathematics enhance certain aspects of thinking. But, like the knife, they don’t do the whole job. The telescope and the microscope extend the eye, while the camera extends the visual memory system. Wheels enable man to get around faster, but they can’t dance or climb cliffs, and when they are powered by motors, atrophy of important body functions can result.
“Possibly most important of all, an extended function reveals something of the process from which it springs. There is… an emergent property to extensions.
“Man’s mechanical extensions tell us… about man’s brain… his body as well” [pages 35-36].
[Edward Twitchell Hall Jr. (May 16, 1914 – July 20, 2009) was an American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher. Beyond Culture is historically, culturally, psychologically, and philosophically significant for the quadrune mind. Hall’s “extended functions” seem to me to be analogous with Siegel’s “relational mind”].
- “Brain bots,” “mind meld,” and “thoughts for sale” are from: Sanders, L. (2021, March 13). Our brains, our futures. Science News, 199, 16-23. Online version: Our Brains, Our Futures.
- Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. (2010). The book of symbols: Reflections on archetypal images. Cologne (Köln), Germany: Taschen. “From the Latin ‘meta’ (to change), ‘morphosis’ (form), metamorphosis, a powerful symbol of transformation, reflects one aspect of psyche’s encounter with its development: radical changes in form, function, character and state of being. Usually evoking the notion of soul or psyche’s liberation or true incarnation, the symbol itself rests on an ancient vision of the essential unity of being, reflected in the multiplicity of form and structure that psyche and matter can assume” [page 774].[This is an elegant description of how the quadrune mind model conceives the evolutionary development of minds from pre-reptilian to the Human].
- Merriam-Webster. (2021). Quintessential. “The philosophers and scientists of the ancient world and the Middle Ages believed that the world we inhabit was entirely made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Aristotle added a fifth element, the aether or ether, by which he meant the material that fills the rest of space, mostly invisibly but sometimes taking the form of stars and planets. Many writers described the element as a kind of invisible light or fire. In the Middle Ages, it was referred to as the quinta essentia (‘fifth element’). It isn’t surprising that the quinta essentia came to stand for anything so perfect that it seemed to surpass the limitations of earth. Today we generally use quintessential rather freely to describe just about anything that represents the best of its kind.”