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The Tides of Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

9780871403803_p0_v2_s118x184The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness
David Gelernter
Liveright Publishing Corporation/A Division of W.W. Norton & Company (February 2016)

How and why “a brain becomes a kind of organic computer; and the mind is like the software”

In the first chapter, David Gelernter cites one of my favorite passages from an essay of Ralph Waldo Emerson in which he responds to what had become “the grossly unfashionable practice of introspection.” Here it is:

“In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time, — happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly…For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he had descended into the secrets of all minds.”

In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Gelernter takes his reader on an extended exploration of what is generally referred to “depth psychology.” As I understand it, it consists of approaches to therapy that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. A depth approach may include therapeutic traditions that explores the unconscious and involves the study and exploration of dreams, complexes, and archetypes. What intrigues me is the fact that depth psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies. Concepts and practices at the core of depth psychology are central personal growth and professional development.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Gelernter’s coverage in Chapters One-Five:

o Mind from Inside (Pages 9-11)
o The “Little Room of Man (12-17)
o How Can We Know the Mind from Inside? (17-19)
o Spectrum View 1: The Transformation in How We Make Sense of the World (21-27)
o Spectrum View 2: The Transformation from Acting to Being the Main Focus of Mind (27-39)
o Spectrum View 3: The Transition from Outer to Inner Field of Consciousness (39-46)
o From the Top: Dreaming That Is More Than Wish Fulfillment (56-58)
o Travels Across the Spectrum, and, Two Fields of Conscious (63-67)
o The Liberation of Emotions (68-75)
o Strange Thoughts (84-85)
o Approaching the Hallucination Line (91-92)
o Dreams: Remembrance, Predictions, and the “Only Protection” (96-103)
o Thinking, and, Sensing and Emotions (110-114)
o Thinking and Feeling: Parallel Minds (115-121)
o Summarizing Conscious Mind (123-124)
o Making Templates (136-138)
o Learning by Forgetting (138-141)
o Enter Reasoning (142-146)
o Exit Reasoning (146-148)

Also, be sure to check out Chapter Nine, “The Basic Points.”

* * *

To what does the title refer? Gelernter observes, “The mind does protect us from frightening content of dreams, by the only means it has: making us (or letting us) forget. There is nothing else it can do. On the other hand, the mind can reverse time, unwritten unreality, and under narrow but important circumstances, foretell the future.”

He then adds, “The mind, in sum, follows a great tidal motion. At its logical peak, reality and self are two separate things. Our reflective selves and the reality on which they reflect are different. But from there start of our journey down-spectrum, the borders begin to blur, And at the end of the trip, our real selves have been absorbed into dream reality, and only our hollow unreflecting dream selves are left on the narrow edge of consciousness — and the place the remains after dreaming has taken what it needs. Reality and self have both changed radically from what they were.”

These brief excerpts can only suggest — albeit brilliantly — the as yet unfulfilled potentialities of a self, of a mind, that is not only compatible with by interdependent with both its conscious mind (“now”) and its unconscious mind (“then”). Gelernter discusses all this in great detail and, thank heaven, in mostly layman’s terms. In this context, I am again reminded of this passage from T.S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

David Gelernter nails it: “Nothing is more beautiful than the human mind.”

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