Contributions to Self Clarity, Wholeness, & Health

Psychological Implications of Crichton's Foundations for a New Civilization

AFTERWORD: SOME IMPLICATIONS OF CRICHTON’S PHILOSOPHICAL SYSTEM FOR PSYCHOLOGY (From Foundations for a New Civilization)

BY CARL SEMMELROTH PH.D.

This foundational book, like the foundation for a building, determines the nature of the structures built upon it. Presented here are a few implications of Crichton’s philosophical system for psychology.
  Psychology today may be roughly divided into two parts. One part, represented by classical learning theory and its physiological relatives, American behaviorism, psychobiology, sensory psychophysics, and their cousins, finds its foundation in the harsh materialism of the physical sciences. Apart from these psychologies that claim materialism as a foundation are “all the rest.” Cognitive psychologies, motivational psychologies, dynamic psychologies, and their cousins, claim no discernable foundation at all. Modern psychologists are left with a choice between standing on the rock of materialism and studying humans as one more aspect of a purely physical world, or studying humans by skipping deftly, like a logger on a river of logs, from one floating set of assumptions to another, hoping to keep bits of psychological theory together and flowing.
  Unfortunately, a choice between the rock of materialism and the river of floating assumptions also implies a choice between including and excluding phenomena that are transcendent of the physical world. Materialistic psychology necessarily views the mind as the brain. Thinking is the brain acting as a computer. Feeling is limbic activity. Consciousness is an altered brain state. For each phenomenon, there is nothing more than its physical manifestation. And given its materialist foundation, nothing more can ever emerge from psychological theory. Unlike physics, where the physical reality of the chairs they sit on is no different than the reality of the chairs’ atoms, materialist psychologists can never make their conscious experiences out of nerve impulses, and keep both as real. No wonder so many psychologists have chosen the river. There, although their footing is without foundation, they need not sacrifice the reality of their consciousness.
At the beginning of Chapter 4, Crichton boldly stakes out a foundation that will accommodate experience along with particles in a coherent view of nature that includes more than elementary particles.
“How do you begin to develop a deeper understanding of nature than that which science has already given us? You need a notion of the elements of reality. Physics gives us a notion of the elements as being the elementary particles. But reality is more than things; it is also events or changes, and also the underlying causes of these.
  “Elements must be both irreducible and comprehensive, and they must together comprise all of reality. This implies that they cover both the parts and the whole, as well as intermediate wholes and how all these work together.
I propose that structure, change and tendency are genuine elements of reality, at least some of them. Structure and change are material, but tendency, although affecting material things, may not be entirely material; it may have an ingredient that transcends time and space.”
  By including tendency as one of three “irreducible and comprehensive” elements of nature, Crichton opens the door for a psychology that includes the reality of consciousness on the same foundation as the reality of the body and brain. His proofs concerning the tendencies of natural events, are carried out without recourse to explanations that depend on “natural laws” that science assumes as “super-natural” rulers of physical events. This places causation within an entirely natural framework. Natural “laws” are evolving as part of nature. They aren’t super-natural. The naturalistic existence of tendency reveals the inseparable connection between consciousness, creation, and change. Natural existence includes both conscious experiences and atoms.
  His system is pregnant with psychological theories, like a queen bee is pregnant with a multitude of related offspring, each carrying the same genetic signature, but doing different work while living together in the same hive.
A few of the offspring are likely to be in the areas of psychological health, the nature and importance of relationships, and the reality and usefulness of our feelings as our awareness of our tendencies. Crichton’s on-going proofs, premised only on the existence of structure, change, and tendency, lead to conclusions concerning health and relationships. These are woven into his deductions concerning what it means to be individuated as a being.
  An example of the Crichton’s revelations concerning health is the connection he reveals between individuality, well-being, freedom, and what he call’s “vivacity” – behavior in the living present that contributes to well-being. (See Page 37.) He emphasizes that health is functioning that contributes to individuality, that is, it is functioning that contributes to our wholeness and distinctiveness. This consists of functioning of subsystems of the body and of external relationships such that they contribute to our individualities.
Health is both living that produces well-being, as well as well-being. Our way of living, because it is more or less well patterned, has more or less distinctiveness, meaning that the way we promote our well-being, itself has more or less well-being. So health includes the living of our lives in ways that produce wholeness and distinctiveness of us as persons, not just the state of being whole and distinct as persons.
  This forms a bridge to a coherent view of freedom and its relationship to individualities of persons. (see page 126 and following) After pointing out the usually noticed limitations of frequent historical treatments of freedom as either “absence of restrains vs. opportunity,” he uses the foundations he has built for understanding individuality and health to take the idea of freedom in a novel direction. He derives the ideal of freedom as “maximum opportunity to maximize one’s vivacity.” Thus he uses the derivation of “veracity” - living in ways that increase well-being – to illuminate what individual freedom is and what it’s good for. He proceeds to explicate what “opportunity” for maximizing one’s actual living so it contributes to one’s well-being. Sociable love provides a social environment that contributes dependable social structures that circumscribe and make perceptible opportunities for vivacity.
  The implications for psychology here are numerous. Perhaps most important is a change of focus concerning mental health from just a state of well-being, to inclusion of the manner in which one lives. Mentally healthy living involves freely acting on opportunities for increasing well-being. In addition, Crichton explicates the importance of a social environment that includes dependable structures and circumscribed opportunities for freedom to operate. He even includes the fine arts as an important part of what he calls a “freedom culture.”
  Because Crichton’s discovery of the nature of causality by patterns, is key to many psychological implications of his work, perhaps it is worth reviewing it.
The metaphor of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle, although misleading in some respects, helps us to get at the nature of causality and its relationship to feelings.
  Picture a jigsaw puzzle whose entire edge is unfinished. The puzzle represents every physical state of the material universe since its beginning up to the present moment. That is, each piece of the puzzle represents a single change that occurred since the center piece appeared at the formation of the first physical particle preceding the “big bang.” A mighty big puzzle! In addition, there is a creator of the puzzle that is responsible for creating each material piece from the beginning. Because this creator of material particles existed prior to all structure, tendencies, and changes, it cannot itself have any of these attributes. It has no intelligence, no material existence, and no structure of any kind. Because it has no structure of its own, the creator’s awareness of the puzzle can only be exactly what the puzzle is and the shapes of pieces can only affect the shape of the new pieces it creates already there. Its existence consists only of an exact awareness of everything about the puzzle – the shape of every piece, the shape of each combination of pieces taken one at a time, two at a time, three at a time etc., and the direction and distance of each piece from every other piece. Therefore, included in its awareness is the puzzle’s edge. Because it creates and is awareness is inclusive of everything exiting, the puzzle’s creator “sees” the relationships between the shapes of all the existing pieces and the edge of the puzzle. Similarities between what exists and the shape of the edge determine what is possible to create at any given time. Because the puzzle’s creator has no existence other than creative awareness, it does not exist in any location that could ever be included in the puzzle. This is to say, it has no material relationship to the puzzle. It is literally nowhere in space. Its relationship to the puzzle is only through awareness/creation. So it is equally aware of everything about the puzzle.
  The puzzle plus its transcendent creator include all existence. The puzzle contains all of material creation since the beginning of the material universe and all the precedents that cause what comes next. All existence is still there in its material form. The edge of the puzzle is what exists in the present; it is the present everywhere in the universe. Starting from the first piece ever created, if you were to count outward toward the edge, the present, you will have counted time, all time. All material change that has ever occurred or will occur is creation at the edge of what exists and adds to it.
  Like all metaphors, this “flat world” picture leaves out a good deal. For example it is in two-space. Also it implies that created patterns literally touch one another in space, as do the jigsaw puzzle pieces. It is the individuation of patterns of matter due to relationships that is represented metaphorically by the puzzle pieces. Unlike puzzle pieces, fundamental particles are separated by space. Furthermore, our imaginations begin to fail as we try to expend the puzzle pieces laid out before us into three dimensions and then try to imagine the addition of pieces in a fourth dimension, time, so that the outer edge is present time. If we were able to imagine the entire history of the material universe in four dimensions, we would see the shape of the outside surface as the limiting possibilities for what can happen next. The future is limited, at any time, to those patterns that most resemble patterns already existing inside that most easily lock onto the surface shapes. The present literally has a material shape. Shapes existing in the past, any place and any time in the universe, that have resemblances to something that would fit with the shape of the present, constitute the active tendencies for change in the present. Such is the nature of causation proposed by Crichton.
  What has this to do with feelings? Crichton’s theory of consciousness is that individual consciousness is an individual’s participation in the creator’s awareness, except it is limited to one’s local position in space-time. The creator’s awareness is of all potential fits of the past to present circumstances. Therefore, our feelings are our awareness of causal tendencies that are operating on local possibilities, mainly our bodies. Thus, a potentially close fit of any pattern existing anywhere in the history of the universe to one’s present circumstance could be experienced as a feeling and could constitute a tendency for one’s behavior. However, patterns existing in our own history or the histories of persons or other animals like us are likely to furnish closer fits and therefore become more frequent as exemplars for our behaviors.
The implications of this are vast. What of Jung’s collective unconscious? Could his archetypes be representations of deep natural tendencies? Is there a naturalistic explanation for the effects of myth? What are the possibilities for a deep understanding of our lives extending back beyond those who raised us to those whose lives serve as patterns from afar in space-time? Can we cultivate our sensitivity to subtle feelings to the point where we can detect enormously more possibilities for our behaviors in any given circumstance?
  I am reminded of four students who came to me many years ago with a proposal for a natural observation “experiment” concerning feelings. They proposed keeping diaries of all their feelings, recorded every ten minutes of wake-time for a week. In preparation for their recordings, they tried to prepare a list of all human feelings. The number of feelings started with a few dozen and quickly got out of hand. Crichton’s work implies that a complete list of feelings could never have been completed by them, which itself has implications for our notions of prediction of human behaviors. According to this work there is potentially a feeling for every behavior of which we are capable, that is, for every precedent existing in space time that bears any resemblance to present circumstance. There is a tendency influencing our behavior, potentially accessible by us as a feeling, originating from every pattern in the history of the universe that bears some resemblance to our present circumstance.
  The potential influence of the system presented in this book on all areas of psychology is enormous. The examples of its treatment of feelings, well-being, individuality, health, and freedom are only a sample. Many of us who have toiled a lifetime in the psychology garden have tired of growing barren plants, plants that resist our attempt to make them bear fruits expected of materialistic science, a botanical family that is not their own. Crichton’s work cultivates the ground for another kind of garden, a place where science and mind can blossom together. The soil provided by Crichton’s philosophical system is rich and firm. It awaits a thoroughly naturalistic psychology to take root.