The Mind Counterattacks

Erasmo Calzadilla

“I have noticed how the scientific-theoretical and scientific-sociological structure of our society increasingly approaches that of the Alexandrine-Hellenistic epoch. Then —like now— crudely mystical and superstitious cults, circles and sects, in constant renewal, problematic redeemers, skillful in the art of suggesting to the masses, and, as an imitation, a positivism of specialists, a vacuity of ideas, were gradually supplanting unity and the noble framework of Greek and Roman culture.”   – Max Scheler

Waterproof-Retazos performance in Old Havana. Photo: Caridad

A person named Camila made a comment recently concerning a diary entry in which I affirmed that the “stopping of the mind,” to which mystics invite us, prevents unraveling and criticism, and I would also add freedom.

I thank Camila for the opportunity to address this matter again.

On this issue she says:

“The ‘stopping of the mind,’ either with meditation, psychotropic drugs, fasting, etc., is the sole way to understand what the mind is and what its true function is. In our current state, the mind has many attributes. It is simply a dictator; a cell that has forgotten its function. Instead of being an instrument for communication and the explanation of the world, it impedes the thought process and the deeper and more complete interpretation that we possess and that we can see when the mind quiets down.”

It is evident that the idea of mind that Camila uses here is not the same one that I use.  I begin with viewing the mind as the center of thought, assuming one has any.  Viewed in this way, stopping the mind would be the same thing as to stop thinking.  However, Camila affirms that when quieting the mind, thought doesn’t stop, but instead it becomes deeper.  We would first have to come to an agreement concerning the meaning of terms to be able to continue the controversy.  Meanwhile, I will try to gradually advance something with my tools.

Above, Camila says that it is only possible to comprehend the mind by stopping it, and I believe this is an absurdity. Let me explain:

The mind, whatever this might be, must have a counterpart, an anti-mind that is beyond its own limits and allows its definition, its demarcation.  I also start from the point that that we can only perceive something from its counterpart, from its difference. Being identical to something, we cannot distinguish it by ourselves as observers, and consequently we can never “see” it.

However nor is it possible to distinguish anything that it is absolutely different from the observer themself, because it would not have references for orienting itself.  That which is absolutely identical to the observer and that which is absolutely different from this are invisible to them.

Taking this to the issue in question, I would say that it is only possible to perceive the mind if we are a certain degree identical to it and a certain degree different from it.  That which stops it completely, that which doesn’t think at all with the mind (that is to say, it goes beyond its limits) will never be able to “see” it, much less understand it, as Camila wishes.

The problem of “the other”: of evil, of not being, etc., is as alive as it was the very first day.  We have now spent a host of centuries chewing this over to see if it has softened up a little, but the neo-mystics treat it as if the discussion had started yesterday.

The question is simple in the extreme: the mind, capitalism, evil, or the other in anyone of its definitions, if it’s there, in front of us, it is because we too are that; and it is not possible to annihilate it without also annihilating ourselves.

If instead of stopping, annihilating, annulling the other, we should seek to understand it; then we would have to be and to assume ourselves as much as the other.  We would have to, to a certain degree, use our mind, to be evil, to be non-being, etc.

Faced with consumerism, unconsciousness, alienation and other by-products of modern life, the mystics suggest interesting alternatives, but it’s necessary to be alert so as not to succumb to their siren songs.  Instead of filling my ears with wax, I have a proven remedy: proceed with keeping the mind active.

2 thoughts on “The Mind Counterattacks

  • July 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    And if you are going to be discussing the Identity/Non-Identity of hegelian or marxist or even ancient dialectic — you should be somewhat more explicit about it, IMO. And I should think the place to start would not be topsy-turvy upside-down with that highly-evolved end-product, the Human “Mind” — as Idealists/religionists are infamously wont to do — but rather with the simpler, ‘lower-level’ relationships found in the material World… and to do it scientifically. And then work your way ‘up’.

  • July 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    First of all (to be blunt and crude about it): all matter-energy is in constant motion (as per any useful understanding of ‘dialectical-materialism’). This is its very defining nature, in fact. And so it is impossible — at all levels: physical, logical and perceptual — for even something as troublesomely abstract as “the Mind” to ever actually “stop”, per se. And so (as is alluded-to here) what is actually being talked about is instead a ‘deepening of perception’ to some higher cognitive level. That’s ‘all’ that’s being gotten-at here. As for the required “anti-Mind” being referred -to: that is in fact simply the material reality of the physical corporeality of the human (or any other) body — the connection between the two being the circuit of the electrical impulses of the synapses to the body, and the return of electrical impulses and various endocrine, etc. chemicals, to affect the *brain* — which is in fact the material substrate of the ‘higher’ functions we have labeled as “Mind”.

    There’s not so much of a mystery here, you know — unless your intent is to obscure matters, a la Organized Religion.

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