11 Information

CHAPTER 11

Information

The function of the communication processes that were discussed in the three preceding chapters is to transfer information from a source to a recipient. Much of the confusion and controversy that exists in certain philosophical fields is the result of a failure to distinguish clearly between these several aspects of the process, or between them and the process itself. We have already seen in Chapter 9 how many of the criticisms of the concept of intuitive knowledge are based on a misunderstanding of the nature of intuition, in which this phenomenon is viewed as a source of information, rather than in its true status as a transmission, or communication, process.

The point of view which denies the reality of an external world, as expressed in the statement by McVittie quoted in Chapter 4, rests on a similar misunderstanding. Only the sense data—the items of information received by means of the senses—are real, according to the school of thought with which McVittie aligns himself. But once it is realized that the senses are receiving mechanisms of a communication system, this contention becomes untenable. Communication necessarily involves a source as well as a receiver. If the messages (the sense data) are real, then the communication system that handles them must also be real. Thus, the reality of the external world as an aggregate of sources of information is established as soon as the true nature of the sense organs is recognized.

It is true that what we apprehend mentally is something different from the information that is brought in by the communication process, the raw sense data. When we see a tree, for instance, the information received by our sense of sight is not that a tree exists at a certain location; it is actually nothing more than a pattern of electromagnetic radiation. But all information that we receive through the senses is put through a further process in which it is correlated with other, previously acquired, information. Our conclusion that we see a tree is not based on the radiation pattern alone, but on the significance of that pattern after it has been subjected to the correlation process.

It is possible, of course, that the message, as we receive it, may be wrong. In semidarkness, for instance, what we see as a tree may be something else altogether. Furthermore, even though the sense data may be received accurately, they may not be adequate to support the conclusion that we ultimately reach. This is not very likely in the case of objects such as trees, but it is a very real issue when we are dealing with objects of atomic size, or at astronomical distances, or in other circumstances unfavorable for accurate observation. We will give this question as to the accuracy of the information some further consideration later in the discussion.

It is even suggested by some philosophers that the entire universe, as we observe it, may be nothing but an illusion. This assertion is one that cannot be disproved, inasmuch as any evidence that might be adduced against it is itself an illusion, on the basis of this hypothesis. In that case, however, all of the characteristics that define the physical universe and existence in general, according to our findings, are characteristics of the illusion, and there is no detectable difference between illusion and reality. There may be a philosophical question here, but so far as this present work is concerned, it makes no difference whether we are investigating a reality or something that cannot be distinguished from a reality.

A more sophisticated viewpoint of a somewhat similar nature is that the external world that an individual thinks he observes is a creation of his own mind. The outside world exists only as it is experienced, and the experience is the reality. The adherent of this point of view “holds that there can be no object, as well as no perception of it, without a knower; that the subject (mind or knower) in some way creates its object… and that all that is real is a conscious mind or a perception by such a mind.”190 (H. H. Titus) To the man-in-the-street this is utter nonsense, but it has been a respectable position in philosophy, under the name of subjective idealism, ever since the arguments in its favor were first put into supportable form by George Berkeley in the eighteenth century. A modification known as objective idealism, which concedes the existence of an outside world, has largely supplanted the subjective form of the idealist position, but in either version, the essence of this position is the primacy of mind over matter. “Idealism,” says Hocking, “is the philosophy which holds that reality is of the nature of mind… . It is primarily a metaphysics, a world-view which may be reached by various ways of knowing.”191

The basic alternative to idealism, in philosophical thought, is naturalism, in which matter has primacy over mind. Again we may use a definition from Hocking: “In a literal sense, we may define nature as the sum of things and events in a single space and time, subject to a single system of causal laws. Naturalism is the type of philosophy which takes nature, in this sense, as the whole of reality.”192 The findings of this work are, of course, in direct conflict with the idea that the universe of space and time is the whole of reality, and we must therefore reject naturalism. But our findings give no support to idealism either, as they show that the entire universe of space and time, including the human mind, is purely physical. We find that there is an existence independent of space and time, but it is also independent of the human mind.

According to the Reciprocal System of theory, the physical universe, the universe of space and time, is a universe of motion, one in which everything that exists is a motion, a combination of motions, or a relation between motions. Motion is the reality of this universe. Any motion is just as real as any other motion. Ordinary matter consists of motions that are spatially related to each other. We may therefore define an aggregate of such matter as a system of regularities in space. Once such a system is in existence, it may acquire motions of a different kind, motions which are related in time rather than in space. Some of these motions are commonly called processes, and for present purposes, we may use this term as a general designation for the whole class of motions. An aggregate of processes is then a system of regularities in time.

For example, the earth is an aggregate of matter. It is also an aggregate of processes. It rotates; it revolves about the sun; it accompanies the sun in a revolution around the center of the Galaxy; it participates in whatever random motion the Galaxy may be undergoing; it participates in the recession of the Galaxy from all distant galaxies; and it has various minor motions such as the precession of the axis. In conventional thinking, these motions are not regarded as part of the earth; they are looked upon as something that the earth does. Our findings are that what an object such as the earth is and what it does are both systems of motions, and they are equally entitled to be considered as part of what the earth is. However, we will need to distinguish, in certain contexts, between these two aspects of the totality of the earth, or any other object, and for convenience we will therefore continue to use the terms “is” and “does” in the conventional way, and we will designate the entire aggregate of motions of an object as what that object “consists of.” On this basis, the earth as a whole consists of what it is and what it does.

If the earth could be separated from its environment and turned over to a group of scientists for examination as an aggregate of matter, these investigators would find nothing at all that would account for many of the conspicuous phenomena that are observed when the earth is in its usual condition: the alternation of light and darkness, the tides, the seasonal variations of temperature, and so on. These are all products of the processes that determine the manner in which the earth, in its normal environment, reacts to external stimuli, such as radiation from the sun.

One of the long-standing puzzles of philosophy is the so-called mind-body problem, the question as to the relation of the mind to the corresponding body structure, the brain. “An interpretation and understanding of the relation between the human mind and the human body is one of the most important issues philosophy has to consider—and one of the most complex and baffling.”193 (H. H. Titus) A little reflection about what has been said concerning the motions that collectively constitute the earth should make it clear that we have here a rather close analogy that points the way to a resolution of this “complex and baffling” problem. There is in the human body a material structure, the brain, which has the capacity to undergo certain processes, just as the material structure called the earth can undergo certain processes; that is, move in certain ways. In the living brain, such a system of processes is in operation, a system which we call the mind. The brain is an aggregate of matter. The mind is an aggregate of processes. Both are aggregates of motion, and one is just as real as the other. As in the case of the earth, the nature of the reaction to external stimuli is determined primarily by the processes that are in operation.

The mind-body problem, as it has heretofore been conceived, is the result of viewing mind and body as separates entities. “How are these separate entities, mind and body, related?” asks Hall. In answering this question, he reports, there has been a running battle between parallelism, which holds that mind and body “run parallel to each other like watches that keep the same time,”194 and interactionism, which holds that mind and body interact on each other. Our finding is that neither of these views is correct. There is one single aggregate of motions, the mind-brain, we might call it. Using the terminology previously defined, we may say that this mind-brain consists of a brain, which is what the mind-brain is, and a mind, which what the mind-brain does. If we compare this mind-brain to a computer, the brain is analogous to the “hardware” of the computer, the aggregate of physical parts of which it is constructed. The mind is an aggregate of processes, analogous to the computer operating programs—not the written descriptions of those programs, but the actual operating processes that the programs describe.

Most of the force of the analogy between the mind-brain and the earth is lost for those persons who are not familiar with the Reciprocal System of physical theory. It may be difficult for them to see the resemblance between the earth, which is moving, and the brain, which, in the context of the local environment, is not moving. However, the activities of the mind are carried on by means of electrical processes, and one of the consequences of the fundamental postulates of the Reciprocal System is that electrical activity in an aggregate of matter is equivalent to motion of that aggregate. The units of electricity, the electrons, move through matter, not between the atoms of matter, and, as the previous publications which describe the theory have shown, the mathematical relations applicable to the motion of matter through space are equally applicable, under comparable conditions, to motion of electrons through matter. The physical status of what the mind-brain does is therefore identical with that of what the earth does. The existence of so many cases of this kind, where conventional science fails to provide an adequate explanation of the physical situation, is one of the primary reasons why an accurate and comprehensive physical theory had to be developed before any exploration of the metaphysical region could be undertaken.

On the foregoing basis, the effect of mind and brain on each other, strongly emphasized by the supporters of interactionism, is easily understood. If a portion of the brain is damaged, the processes that require the use of that part of the brain can no longer be carried out. Similarly, if the mind is damaged—that is, one or more of the processes is subjected to some detrimental change—the output from the intact brain will be wrong because it is the result of a defective process. The reason for the inability to find any evidence of existence of the mind when the brain is dissected is also clear. When life ends, the processes that have been taking place in the brain cease, and since these processes are the mind, that mind no longer exists. Where did it go? some may ask. The motions of which the mind is constituted follow the same course as any other motions that can no longer exist in the previous form. They are converted into other types of motion such as heat or radiation.

The concept of mind and brain as two aspects of one reality is by no means new. It has been included in the thought of many philosophers, including such prominent figures as Kant and Spinoza. But it has not heretofore been realized that mind and brain together constitute that reality, and the nature of the underlying reality has therefore been left essentially undefined. “The approach uses an unknown, X, to explain a difficult problem,”195 says Titus. What is needed is to recognize that there is no unknown entity involved. The mind-brain, like the earth in the analogy, is a combination of matter (what it is) and processes (what it does). The philosophical problem that has existed is a result of what Bergson called intellectual “spatialization”: a failure to take the functions of time in physical situations into account. Mind and intelligence, a feature of mind, are entities of the cosmic type. They are not material, but they are wholly physical.

This fact that the mind is a purely physical entity is very significant. Much of the present-day thinking on the subject is influenced by the views of Descartes, who regarded the universe as consisting of two “substances”—matter and a non-material entity, mind, which is indestructible and in which the spiritual aspects of a human being, as well as his rational aspects, reside. Our findings are that both mind and matter consist of the same “substance”; that is, both are manifestations of motion, the sole constituent of the physical universe. We find that there is also another aspect of the human personality which has some of the characteristics attributed to the mind by Descartes, including those that are generally classified as spiritual. But this aspect, we find, is non-physical, whereas mind is merely non-material, and is as definitely a part of the physical universe as the brain, or any other part of the body.

With the foregoing understanding of the nature of the receiving apparatus of the communication process, we are now ready to examine the transmission aspect of the process. Inasmuch as the objective of this work is an exploration of the metaphysical region, neither the mind, which is physical, nor the physical transmission of information is within the area of coverage, and no comprehensive treatment of either of these subjects will be undertaken. However, a general understanding of the manner in which physical information is handled in the communication systems is essential for a full appreciation of the manner in which the information from intuitive sources fits into the picture. In order that physical messages of some particular kind may be received, there must be a structure in the body, a sense, which is capable of transforming the motions that constitute the incoming signal into the kind of motion that will affect the processes of the mind. Evolution has produced senses that receive messages which satisfy two criteria: (1) they are present in the environment in significant amounts, and (2) they are useful to the organism.

One of the reasons most frequently advanced for the rejection of the concept of intuitive processes such as ESP is that there is no evidence of any physical structure in the human body for receiving information of this kind. The obvious answer is that since the intuitive mode of transmission is not physical there is no need for a physical type of receiving apparatus. The information is received by the non-physical control unit. At the present stage of our knowledge of the subject, we do not know just how the control unit exercises direction of the activities of the biological organism. From the information developed in Chapter 7, it is clear that such direction is being exercised, and it follows that some means must exist whereby this is accomplished. One possibility that naturally suggests itself is that, inasmuch as the effect of chance plays a large part in the interaction of electrical and material motions, the metaphysical influence may supersede the operation of the normal probability principles and thereby modify the results of the individual’s mental processes without violating any physical laws. In any event, the answer to the question as to how the intuitive information is received is that the communication is direct from Sector 3 to the control unit through Sector 3 channels, and the effect on the mental processes is then exerted in the same manner as the control functions, whatever that manner may be.

Aside from this matter of the means of reception, the most common reason given by those who deny the reality of intuition is the unreliability of the intuitive information. The skeptics are fond of pointing out that the intuitions of different individuals with respect to the same subject often vary over a wide range. Clearly there is a great deal of error in the information that is received by way of intuition. To put this fact into the proper perspective, however, we need to recognize that there is a great deal of error in all of the information that we receive, irrespective of the channels through which it arrives. For example, a large part of our information, particularly that which is of lasting significance, comes in the form of communications from other individuals: the written and spoken word. The contradictions that we find in this material are no less numerous or significant than those between different intuitions. Even the philosopher who condemns intuition because of the presence of contradictions is, in that condemnation itself, contradicting the considered opinions, and the corresponding statements, of other philosophers. Here, too, a large part of the information that we receive is wrong.

Direct sense data have a reputation for accuracy. About the most positive statement that one can make is “I saw it.” As noted in Chapter 10, however, when a number of those who “saw it” are put on the witness stand in a court proceeding, the differences in their testimony are often very substantial, not only with respect to minor details but also with respect to the essential elements of the incidents that were witnessed. Since the transmission by means of light is not likely to be at fault, the differences between the observations were in the interpretation of the transmitted messages. What needs to be realized is that the raw sense data have little significance in themselves. In order to arrive at any real meaning, the recipient has to interpret these data in the light of whatever other knowledge he may possess with respect to the phenomena under observation. Where there are significant differences in the knowledge, or purported knowledge, on which the interpretations are based, the conclusions reached by different individuals may differ widely.

The point of all this is that every message which we receive from physical sources is subject to error, regardless of whether it is a direct transmission from an original source or a communication from another individual. Every item of information that is received through these physical channels must therefore be verified in some manner before we are justified in accepting it as an established fact. In the ordinary course of everyday life, the uncertainties in most sense data are minor and of little consequence. Verification of these data is therefore perfunctory, and mainly carried out unconsciously. But if we are viewing something in the distance or in dim light, or if we hear an indistinct sound or detect a faint odor, we make a conscious effort to determine the validity of the message that arrives by way of the senses. Was this actually what we saw, heard, or smelled? we ask our reasoning processes. Then, after checking the incoming information against whatever pertinent knowledge we may possess, we eventually arrive at some conclusions as to the probability that this information is correct. If action is called for, we act accordingly.

Exactly the same considerations apply to intuitive information. The true status of the information received through the various forms of intuition discussed in the three preceding chapters—revelation, ESP, scientific insight, and intuition in general—can be understood only if it is recognized that intuition is not a source of information; it is a means of transmission. It cannot be expected that the reception of the transmitted information by the human recipients will always be accurate. On the contrary, there are good reasons to believe that human ability to receive non-physical messages accurately is even more limited than the capability of accurate reception of physical messages. Like physical information, therefore, non-physical (intuitive) information must be verified before it can be accepted as valid.

Consideration of the foregoing points should make it clear that the metaphysical (non-physical) communication system is a parallel of the physical communication system. Each has its own source of information, each has its own method of transmission, and each has its own kind of receiving equipment for converting the transmitted messages into mental processes. This parallelism can be illustrated as follows:

INFORMATION

Character Physical Metaphysical
Source Experience Sector 3
Transmission Physical processes Intuitive processes
Reception Physical to mental Metaphysical to mental

The reliability of the information depends, in both cases, on the extent to which it can be verified. Physical information is customarily verified by showing that it is consistent with the other relevant information derived from experience. Specialists in this field distinguish between the specific comparisons of the individual items with the corresponding data from observation, which they call the test of correspondence, and examination of the extent of agreement between these individual items and all other relevant items of information that are accepted as valid, which they call the test of coherence.

The Reciprocal System of physical theory is necessarily coherent, inasmuch as it is derived in its entirety from a single set of basic premises. It has also passed the test of correspondence in thousands of separate correlations. The validity of this system is therefore physically certain. The metaphysical theory derived in this volume by extension of the verified physical findings is likewise coherent as it, too, is derived entirely from a single set of postulates. Certain consequences of these postulates, particularly those concerned with the reality of metaphysical existence, have been checked against observation and have passed the test of correspondence. For example, the basic assertion that there is a metaphysical aspect of human existence was verified by showing that there are certain features of human behavior, such as taking actions that are contrary to the principles that govern purely biological organisms, that are beyond the capacity of any entities that are wholly physical; and other features, such as the ability to do something totally new, that are beyond he capacity of mechanisms in general. This and the other theoretically derived conclusions that have been verified by the correspondence test are physically certain and have the full status of scientific knowledge.

As indicated in Chapter 10, there are other metaphysical areas, such as ethics, which do not have the kind of an impact on the physical world that makes direct correspondence tests feasible, as matters now stand. Perhaps some tests of this nature can be devised later, after additional investigations have developed more information; but for the present, we will have to rely on the test of coherence, supplemented by a modified form of the correspondence test, in which we apply a number of different criteria, such as those described in the earlier discussion, each of which increases or decreases the probability that the item under consideration is correct. By summing up the positive and negative contributions of this kind, we arrive at a net evaluation of the probability that this item is a valid addition to knowledge.

In some cases, as we will see later, this procedure arrives at what may be considered physical certainty. The degree of confidence that can be placed in the other results is variable, but their standing as knowledge can be appreciated if it is recognized that this standing is comparable to that of a large part of what is accepted as established knowledge in the frontier areas of science. There is a tendency to regard scientific knowledge as consisting of items which can be counted, weighed, measured, or otherwise subjected to positive physical operations, and it is easy to overlook the fact that this is not true of many of the results of modern science.

For instance, the evidence from which the astronomers deduce the existence of some of the classes of objects which they are currently studying, such as the “X-ray stars,” is of essentially the same character as the evidence for the reality of non-physical existence. In both cases, the method of transmission of the information is such that it cannot be detected by the human senses, and must be recognized by means of some physical effects that can be observed. Likewise, in both cases, these physical effects merely identify the means of transmission, not the originating entity. Obviously, that entity must be something of such a nature that it is capable of producing whatever is transmitted. Beyond this, any conclusions with respect to the originating entities have to be based, in both cases, on inferences from the magnitude and other characteristics of the physical effects, and on whatever collateral evidence can be obtained.

As can be seen from this comparison, there is no significant difference between the physical and the non-physical items of information so far as certainty is concerned. Ordinarily, the physical information can be more easily checked against observed facts, but the ultimate result depends on what is actually verified in each case. Where the overall probability of error has been reduced to a negligible level, physical certainty has been established, irrespective of the nature of the criteria that were employed. Where something less than certainty is reached, a given probability derived non-physically is fully equivalent to the same probability derived physically. Thus, there is no legitimate reason why verified non-physical information should be regarded as in any way inferior to verified physical information, or verified information from intuitive sources as any less reliable than verified information from experience.

Recognition of the authenticity of properly verified intuitive information is essential before full advantage can be taken of the new knowledge as to the reality of existence independent of space and time in straightening out the present confused and illogical situation in the non-physical fields of human activity. As matters now stand, those who recognize the existence of such things as moral standards, ESP, religious revelation, non-evolutionary goals, and the like, are compelled to make their stand on unsupported assertions; while those who are impressed with the lack of acceptable evidence find it necessary to deny the existence of such items: some of the most significant features of human life. The availability of a large supply of additional information of a reliable nature derived from intuitive sources now makes it possible to reconcile these conflicting viewpoints. In the pages that follow, we will examine some of the important non-physical aspects of life as they appear in the new light that is thrown upon them by the intuitive information.