The Self


It seems that only the mind is real. But how can I be just a mind? We are of course physical beings. The strange thing is that the physical being is determined and defined only by the mind. But there is of course much more to the body than this. First we need to see exactly who we are as conscious beings.

Just as the world around me is only determinate where observed, the same is true of my body. The reason is the same as for the rest of the world. I exist in every possible body that gives rise to this mind. Therefore my superworld includes every possible variation of the body in which my mind exists.

All the things I have observed about myself, outer appearance, inner traits, are the same in all these worlds. So all these aspects of my body are determinate, like the body of the butterfly. But everything else, like the positions of small internal blood vessels, is indeterminate, like the wings of the butterfly. Thus even my own body is only determinate where defined by my observations of myself.

The Self-Avatar

Just as we build up knowledge about the world with our observations, we also build up knowledge about what we ourselves are like. This is the complete mental image of myself, built up from all the observations of myself, looking in the mirror, hearing what people say I am like, and so on. So this includes the self-concept, the self-image and the ‘body schema’, the mental map of where everything is and how it all works.

The self-avatar is the three-dimensional representation of myself at the centre of my world hologram. This self-avatar is what is symbolised by the me inside my head in the pictures. And, as with the rest of the world hologram, it is mentally projected out onto my physical body. So this is the reality of the basic identity. This is who I am conscious of being. And it is also what defines my physical self.

The Unconscious

The great psychologist Carl Jung (1969) described the three attributes of the mind: the conscious mind, the ‘personal unconscious’ and the ‘collective unconscious’. The conscious mind is the immediate awareness of experience. The rest of the personal system is the unconscious.

As Jung defines, the personal unconscious is all the aspects of the memory, laid down by experience, that could be accessed consciously but are not in conscious awareness at the moment. In other words the record of your experiences, which is of course the world hologram. The collective unconscious is something quite different.

As Jung describes, this psychic component is not formed in the mind of the individual. It is a feature of the inherited structure of the brain. So in a sense it is not part of the mind of the individual. But of course it is part of what makes you tick, so it is crucial to understand it. The great majority of the activity of the brain is simply running the body. The collective unconscious is like the operating system that comes with the body. Vast amounts of neural activity are overseen by the unconscious.

The collective unconscious contains certain pre-existent forms, the ‘psychological archetypes’. Classic examples are those defining the basic characteristics in the Myers-Briggs classification, extravert / introvert and so on. Each has a typical personality, a pattern of behaviours that make up a certain way of being, and they can play a major role in influencing how we think and feel and act. It is collective because this is shared among all humans. We all carry the same set of archetypes. A further key point is that the collective unconscious can also have an agenda, which is where it gets interesting.

Because it is outside of the mind, this explains the remarkable kinds of properties Jung described. He observed that these archetypes can be energised in the service of mass politics. Powerful archetypal symbols, such as patriotism and rights, can be used to energise the collective unconscious to produce powerful emotional responses to a simple message. So just as computers can be hijacked when the operating system is hacked, we can be manipulated en mass outside our conscious awareness.

The Self

So the conscious part of me is the experience of the moment. And the record of my experiences is my world hologram with the self-avatar at the centre, and this is my personal unconscious. The collective unconscious is the operating system of the body, and this has one more extraordinary feature. Like the physical body, the features of the operating system are only real, determinate where observed. So everything else is indeterminate. This would explain why there seems to be ‘nothing there’ beyond memory. But what is really fascinating is that it means that the system works like a quantum computer.

The mind follows a train of thought, a sequence of associations. But where do new thoughts come from? Daniel Dennett in his ‘Multiple Drafts’ concept (1991), holds that the unconscious is constantly producing many trains of thought which one is not aware of. Each one is like a first draft, a possible beginning, a seed idea of the way a new train of thought could develop in conscious awareness. When one such draft is noticed, and the train of thought followed consciously, this becomes the content of awareness, meaning the train of thought one actually follows consciously and develops. In the personal world you exist in every possible variation of your body, with its operating system. So in this case, every possible variation of a new train of thought is there in your operating system. This would explain creativity. Where do creative ideas come from? Now we know. They are there already.