being conscious about being conscious
I had been thinking about thinking from the very beginning. My original notion, drawn from my observations of prisoners, was that the internal dialogue of human thought consists of an internalized interaction between dominant and submissive mentalities. I continue to believe that thought is fundamentally the interaction between two different kinds of motivation, but they are not the interaction between these two mentalities. I had concluded that for six million years, the primate dominance and submission mentalities in hominids had combined into a single communal motivation as a unique evolutionary adaptation for survival within groups. I now realized that this collectively motivated mind in Homo sapiens had evolved to interact with the newly arrived individual motivation for self-display, resulting in the novel reflective capacity of human thought. Fundamentally, thought consists of a dialogue between communal beliefs, including knowledge and “rules,” emanating from one’s nested groups, and human vanity, motivated by our unique human sirens relentlessly luring each thought forward, ardently following and searching for a path to our own shining glory.
The notion that the human mind is comprised of a newly minted self-promoting advertising agency (the ego mind) tucked inside the predominance of a communal consciousness – or group mind (not unlike that proposed by Jung) – that has been evolving for six million years opens new possibilities for understanding the human mind. Could not the central phenomenon of self-consciousness be explained by the sudden superimposition of a second consciousness of an individual ego upon a long-established communal consciousness?
Years ago, I read about a fascinating experiment by Benjamin Libet entitled, “Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action,” (1985). It provides an important insight into the idea of two minds. He recorded the exact time at which subjects consciously made the decision to move a finger at a moment of their own choosing. An electroencephalograph wired to their brain revealed that the recorded time of the conscious decision to raise their finger was preceded by neurological activity recorded in the brain (by about 300 milliseconds). In other words, before a person is conscious of freely making a decision to act, the action has already been initiated in the brain. This finding can be easily explained by the proposition that our 200,000 year old individual Homo sapiens (self-)consciousness is aware of itself by virtue of experiencing it from the underlying “platform” of our six-million-year-old group consciousness. The decision is made freely by the new mind, but must await its registration in the old mind before reflective self-consciousness of it is attained. Two conscious minds are required for self-awareness, because it is produced by the process of being conscious of being conscious.