The Self and The Mirror of Nature – Part 3

Click to Read: The Self and The Mirror of Nature – Part 1

Click to Read: The Self and The Mirror of Nature – Part 2

Chapter IV | The transdisciplinary process map of the self

In the previous chapter, we have considered the evolution of our understanding of the self. We have seen that the self is an epistemological creation that results from the filtration of the noumenal reality which is then stored in memory, we have seen it described as the emotional attachment that gets embedded into our surrounding making them part of the unity, we have seen that there were thoughts on how the self is that which emerges between the interaction of our primal needs and society, and we have seen how it is difficult to state that the self is not the creation of external reality. What do we do now with all of these synthesized ideas? What is their value? Why did we go through the before chapter? That, for me, is quite obvious. Remember, at the beginning I promised a non-contradictory reinterpretation and revelation of the history of thought regarding our subject. This is where that will emerge, for, if taken alone the above ideas do seem to be at war with one another, yet none of them seems to be sufficient if left to stand alone. Hence, in this chapter I will start from the above ideas and others not mentioned in our short gaze over the history of though on the subject[1].  At first, I will map each idea in as narrow a context as possible, later I will add together all of the separate representations to create a unified model of the self, which will be a functional end-to-end dynamic process[2].

4.1 Ontological Presuppositions

What are we actually addressing here, is it the self or is it its emergence? We are talking about the self as an ever-emerging process, that co-arises together with the rest of reality. Are we then equivalating the self with the process? If so, should we really be talking about a self or should we be talking about the process that is birthing it? At this point, before we proceed with modeling the self, I need to give you a glimpse into the ontological presuppositions that have been keep undisclosed and that drive my thinking. I will be brief, as the current format, to which I have decided to confine myself too, does not allow me to go into too much detail, thus I will present only sufficiently so that we may be on the same page. In the following pages I will take you through a short argumentative process where I expose why I believe that reality is founded in action that generates a positive feedback loop, thus, allowing me to state that reality is an ongoing process and that there cannot be made any valid and sane argument that will support the existence of a difference between the process that gives birth to the self and the self itself.

All the methods through which we have ever tried to describe reality find their inception with something that was, be it God, Allah, Brahma, The Big Bang, you name it. The idea is that we can state: ‘X was’. Yet, how can there be something? What is required for something to be? We could state that something is if it participates in the action of being. But, this answer is tautological and, thus, by far not satisfying. There has to be another better approach we can take to explain being. Let us look at it this way, we can state that something is if we can compare it to something that is not, in which case it emerges dialectically, at the same time we can state that something is if we can observe it, or if that something can know itself and thus declare its ‘Being’. ‘Being’ can be confirmed through one or more of the three above mentioned actions: comparing, observing, knowing. But does that mean that if we are not able to confirm ‘Being’ it doesn’t exist? While it might exist, if it is something which is isolated from any outside interaction and self-realization of its being, we have to state that it is of no significance to us as it is neither subject, nor object, nor both. As, the whole of our reality can be manifested as either subject-object interaction or non-dual realization (non-differentiation between subject and object) this leads us to the impossibility of ever interacting with such a thing, hence making it insignificant.

Given the insignificance of the non-realizable-being, we have to fall back to our three modes of realization: comparing, observing and/or knowing. If we decide to acknowledge being by comparing, non-being also emerges in order for the act to be realizable, yet at the same time that which realizes the comparison has to emerge as well. In order for the comparison to be realizable that which compares need to be able to observe both ‘Being’ and ‘Not-Being’. However, observation is insufficient if it does not come with awareness. Knowing, thus, becomes key as awareness without it is impossible. Let us now switch to observation, in order to observe something, we have to be aware of its existence and in order to be aware of its existence we have to know what existence is. Beyond knowing we also confront ourselves with the fact that there must be at least another ‘Being’ except for ‘X’ namely us, the observer that is performing an action. But what if we instead go with self-observation, which is actually part of the action of knowing, would there then be only one ‘Being’ that exists, namely ‘X’, and two actions observing and knowing that would be performed by the same being? We seem to have come at the minimum necessity to confirm ‘X’, to confirm being.

Yet, we cannot accept this. To make it clear why this is unacceptable let us run again only through the last realization of ‘X’, the one done through knowing. In this case we are X, we are aware of ourselves, in order to be aware of ourselves we need to observe ourselves. Thus, we are fulfilling two actions. Now that we can confirm that this is us, we can also confirm that that is not us. Hence, even in this case we have at least two elements ‘Being’ and ‘Not-Being’ whose existence is being brought forth through the interplay of three actions: comparing[3], observing and knowing. Still, we cannot say at which point these actions can take place one without the other, thus, we cannot truly differentiate between them, hence, we will consider them equivalent and for ease of use and to mitigate further linguistic diversity we will replace all of them with knowing. Proceeding form this decision we can state that: ontology and epistemology cannot be divided for we cannot have being without knowing nor knowing without being. Yet, both are actually actions and not substances as existing is an activity. We need thus, to imagine reality different, we need a different method than the one we colloquially use when we refer to it through a substance based approach as this is incompatible with the realization of action as that which stays at the foundation of reality.

As of now it might still be hard to see how everything connects. To make up for the gaps, I will continue to present the manifestation of the process by going through a couple more stages in the formation of reality from the standpoint of self-knowing. As I’ve said, we now know who we are and who we are not. Thus, a separation emerges that creates being ‘X1’ and ‘X2’ – the former we will consider as ‘us’ the latter as ‘the other’. The definition of what we are is becoming ever more problematic for you see, before this point, the point when we defined ‘us’, we had nothing to relate ‘us’ to, given that ‘the other’ emerged together with ‘us’. Now though, as ‘the other’ is also present, we have to define our being in relationship to it. We can look at the other and compare where we are in relationship to it and when we are in relationship to it. But, in order for this to have any sense there needs to be a way to store all of this information as otherwise there will be no way to state if we are still us if the other engages in any other action. Here, memory will become essential. In this case, memory is nothing more than a way of storing the awareness of our intersubjective relationship that emerges between ‘us’ and ‘the other’. Why intersubjective? What gives us the right to state that ‘the other’ has the capacity to proceed willfully with action as we can – I’m  presupposing that action took place for actions sake as otherwise there would have had to be something that enforced it, which would have been impossible without having that certain something not go through the same action as we did[4]. Why do we have to presuppose that ‘X1’ and ‘X2’ are co-arising? That’s because they emerged without there being a possibility to differentiate which one was the owner of the action without applying the action. Thus, as we are indifferent to which one started it, we also need to be indifferent if both proceeded in the action. If the action would be the only differentiator and action requires an actor and an acted upon, both ‘X1’ and ‘X2’ would be non-dual. And, as they are non-dual, they can both be subjects allowing us to use the term intersubjectivity.

We now have, two subjects that interact with one another and who store the knowledge of their interaction in memory. Though, let us not forget what the main action was, namely an onto-epistemological one. Hence, both ‘X1’ and ‘X2’ dive into questioning who they are and, as memory exists, we will now have stored within reality who they were initially which will allow the former to exist together with the current, for the who-we-were to exist in tandem with who-we-are now. So, we can say that we have ‘X1.1’, ‘X1.2’, ‘X2.1’ and ‘X2.2’. If the same process repeats itself one more time, and we apply the same process of argumentation as before and acknowledge that every ‘Xn.m’ is a subject that goes through the same basic action of self-definition we come out with the following. ‘X1.1.1’, ‘X1.1.2’, ‘X1.2.1’, ‘X1.2.2’, ‘X2.1.1’, ‘X2.1.2’, ‘X2.2.1’ and ‘X2.2.2’. We can see here that in striving to realize its onto-epistemological action, reality grows exponentially following this simple formula: reality = 2x, where x is the number of times knowing was repeated (if you want to repeat the process you should end up with 16 elements, repeat it again and you should end up with 32, etc).

We can now agree that reality is action driven, yet what is the process? Can we call a single action, that of knowing, a process? As we have acknowledged that there are multiple concomitantly manifesting actions of course we cannot call them a process as we cannot differentiate between them and they are, thus, only one action. Though if you don’t see how the process emerges let me elucidate it. We established before that once the two elements co-arose, in order for us to maintain our continuity – to be sure that our being, as ourselves, continues – memory had to become manifest. At this point a looping process emerges between action and memory (here action should be seen as the set of all possible actions that can transpire given the number of elements present at a certain time and the capabilities granted by their network relationships and their holarchic structure[5]). Every time an action transpires that action is stored within reality allowing for the continual assurance that we are still us that we are still subjects that can engage in action.

Of course, there are still a lot of points that would require clarification within this description. Though, as stated, this is not a paper on my views over ontology and epistemology, they are here present only tangentially as means to clarify various points that I think would not be understood without a minimum of information on my view of reality.


4.2 The Hypothalamic model, a neurological derived approach to Freud’s Structural model

Based on the onto-epistemological model that I’ve just presented we can go on accepting the following, which was also accepted by other great thinkers, such as Hegel and Alan Watts: reality exists in order to know itself. The default mode of any being seems to be exploration, in that sense memory serves as a mechanism that help ensure that we do not explore the same thing twice. We require as such a constant recognition of what is in order to proceed further into the exploration of the new.

Let us move to lower, more empiric level of analysis first, following which we will transform the above statement into a model. Based on experiments that have been done on both humans and animals, the hypothalamus seems to be the core revealer of desires. To discover this, scientists have looked at animals and humans whose nervous system were severed at the spinal level, leaving them with a clear separation between their spine and their brain following which the only thing that could still be observed would be them laying there, paralyzed, unable to move. Yet, both animals and people, if they are hoisted up and placed on a treadmill, their limbs will move and they will move in a coordinated fashion. So, it seems that the system as a whole is functional. Thus, it is not that it’s not capable to move as all the necessary mechanisms are in place, it’s just that it has no driver that can dictate the movements. Now, if we look at experiments done on animals whose nervous system were sectioned at the level of the hypothalamus – meaning that we maintain the connection between the spine and the hypothalamus but we disconnect the rest of the cortex, the memory systems and most of the emotional systems, to the point where we can state that the animal almost has no brain at all – the animal can still act spontaneously, unlike in the case presented before with separation at the spinal level.[6]

Such an experiment has been run with cats, if you have a female cat, that is in a cage and it’s only a hypothalamic animal it can manage to survive. It can eat, maintain its body temperature, it can use defensive aggression, though, it cannot learn as it’s memory system is disconnected, which as a result makes it hyper exploratory. Keeping in mind that the hypothalamus is one of the oldest parts of the brain we inadvertently come up with the realization that, the rest of the brain is there to tell the difference between what is new and what is not by utilizing memory and to censor us by turning off the hypothalamic exploratory drive.

The hypothalamus, as stated before, is the revealer of drives, it is a drive machine. Imagine that you are hungry, as the hypothalamus is responsible for survival and exploration it will instantly bolt you into movement. Not only that, but it will restructure your perception of reality so that when you are looking at the world it looks like one in which you could and should find food. Based on what your hypothalamus determines that you are lacking your perception immediately reacts and it tunes out everything which does not help you attain your need. Here, we can see a clear manifestation of the Id in the process undergone by our hypothalamus, it makes out of the whole of reality a playing field for the fulfilling of our needs and out of us a machine which cannot do anything else except behave in such a way that we attain that which we are lacking.[7]

Now, let us conceptualize a bit, we have realized that within our biological system there exists a part whose sole purpose is to drive our exploration. Our exploration is driven by our need which structures our perception of reality and the spectrum of our action so that all which is not linked with the fulfillment of our need disappears. Yet, given our technological advances and our mastery over our environment, we, very often, do not have any survival need. Truth be told, given a willing mate that wants to reproduce with us and an IV bag we could stay in bed all day. But, boredom kicks in and we start exploring beyond our basic physiological necessities, in the process climbing Maslow’s ladder of needs, though, in doing so the same still happens, namely our perception of reality and our actions are still limited to a spectrum that would help us fulfill our conceptual needs. Here is a basic model that explains the above:


Fig 4. Source: Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning

Reality for sure is a bit more complicated. As we start the set of behaviors, based on the perception of reality that was generated by our needs, we inadvertently encounter various objects within the world. These objects can have a positive or a negative effect on our ability to pursue our desire. If positive we see them as tools and our affect, with regards to them, will also positive, if negative we see them as obstacles and our affect, with regards to them, will also negative. In case we encounter tools, we can state that the world and its relationship to us is at least as good as we envisioned it if not better, in any case no change of perspective in necessary. However, if we encounter an obstacle we need to change our perspective about the world, about ourselves, and about our relationship to the world and we need to change our actions. We need to do so as that which we have encountered is a hindrance in the before planned sequence of event, it puts the sequence if not totally at least partially out of play. Here is how this model should look like:

fig 5

Fig 5. Source: Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning

Proceeding to an even deeper level of analysis, we observe that as we plan our action we calculate that which may come in our way. These threats once mapped out become predicted outcomes. On the other end we can encounter unpredicted outcomes, be they negative or positive. Here is an interesting fact, the predicted outcomes that we encounter, be they positive or negative, can engender hope, pleasure and promise within us while the unpredicted once, be they positive or negative, will engender threat or anxiety in us. Why does encountering a negative prediction still generate a positive affect, while encountering a positive unpredicted outcome will generate anxiety? Encountering something negative that we saw before will have a positive affect because we were beforehand aware of the possibility, meaning that we would have a preestablished plan b allowing us to maintain our perception of the world as it is and to continue acting within the preestablished sequence of events.  If, however, something unexpected comes out of nowhere, even if it is not negative, anxiety still kicks in for we do not have a set sequence that we preestablished on how to deal with it.  Even beyond the set sequence, that which we do not have any more is a valid perception of the world, a perception that can include such a positive surprise. The negative affect is as a result generated by the requirement that the acceptance of the unknown demands, namely the reestablishment of our model of the world and the adjustment of the adjacent behavioral sequence set that results from the model. I propose we use this as the full model of the driving force within us:

fig 6

Fig 6. Source: Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning

One of the elements that I have left out the current models is reality, the world within which we take our stance, which we chose to perceive in a certain way, based on our needs, and whose model drives our spectrum of possible action sequences. The world, however, will be described later as for now it is too early and there are other more pressing avenues that we need to go through.

We can see ‘what is’ as the realization of the current reality; while, we see ‘what will be’ as the point of our satiation. From this perspective the above model relates solely to the Id. Though, we have to be aware that the ideal, once we go beyond the simple physiological drives is created through a more complex process. In order to create the ideal, we access memory in whatever shape we find it available so that we can reconcile with the intersubjective. The reconciled intersubjective that determines the ideal towards which we strive is not only our ideal but the ideal of the whole intersubjective reality. This pressures our Id, for it is not just that we want the satiation of a certain need but we want it satiated in a certain way. What we see here in the end is the interaction and emergence of the Id and the Superego. Then, the sequence of behavior that we engage in so that we can realize the ideal is our Ego.

At this point, given what was hitherto presented you have surly realized that the ego is by far not the self, that it is but a process which helps the self become complete. In this model the self can only become complete when it realizes what it has and uses that to attain what it lacks. Does that mean that the self vanishes once it has given up striving for what it lacks (I’m presupposing here that the only way to delay the entropic process is to fulfill that which you are lacking)? Par contra, what actually happens is that the self realizes the true nature of reality. Namely that reality has co-arisen together with it and that its need comes from forgetting that the other is there to confirm its existence and not to deny it.

4.3 The Epistemological Model and Its Connection to the Hypothalamic model

Reality is everywhere and everywhen. It is boundless, limitless, infinite. Within this all-encompassing and all permeating manifestation, we awaken and we try to understand and to express what we are understanding from the whole. Though, unlike reality, we seem to be limited. What I mean by this is that our capacity to grasp the world is limited. We can only see up to a certain distance, we can only perceive visually and audibly a limited range of wave lengths from the whole of the existing spectrum. Of course, we can use various machinery to extend our reach, but those machineries in turn are troubled by the same, they are also troubled by the existence of limitations. Yet, within this reality we need to be able to function given the great disadvantage of our inability to completely grasp it in our awareness. Within our struggle to grasp reality, through the process of understanding, we are beset by a paradox as by synthesizing reality we are actually diluting it.

I will first go through the process step by step and then present the graphic.[8] As explained at the beginning of chapter three, in our pursuit to understand reality we have gone through multiple dualistic divisions. These dualistic divisions are nothing more than ways of understanding our relationship to reality. We first identify with the universe, as I have presented in my short ontology, point at which initially there can be no self, and no other, there is just the universal which can be imagined as a spectrum of possibility. The problem with identifying with the universal is that it is the equivalent of trying to define ourselves in a void. We have no way of stating anything as all statements and definitions are referential. Thus, being one with the universe seems equivalent to non-being. In order for a clear self to become manifest, we need to enter into the initial separation. We need to break reality onto-epistemologically apart, only then do we manifest.

The first realization or level attained in the process of self-manifestation can be called the trans-subjective level. As explained in chapter 4.1, all other elements that are present in reality are subjective, not only the elements that we consider ourselves to be. It is in this stage that we have attained observation and awareness of ourselves though we have not gone to the point of comparison. We can imagine this as the point at which there is another and at which we might have an idea of the existence of the other, though we do not know when and where that other starts and when and where we end.[9]The trans-subjective level can also be seen as archetypical; for, here we can imagine the primordial relational forms that will become manifest within reality.

Once the self has fully emerged it identifies totally with a psychosomatic organism as it exists in space-time. The limits have now been clearly drawn, we are separated from the other and from our environment. Comparison has been fully realized. As such, the self is aware off all the relational fields it has with the rest of reality. Thus, even though we do not see a non-delimited connection between us and others we can follow lines of comparison or, better said, lines of relationship to determine how each of us adds to the full picture. This can be called as the existential level.

Diving further into the divide, we come to the Ego level. Here, man places a clear divide between the somatic and the psychic. The self “identifies solely with a more-or-less accurate mental representational picture of his total organism. In other words, he is identified with his Ego, his self-image.” (Wilber, 1975) The self becomes disembodied and transforms itself into a ‘floating brain’ unbound by anything else. Theories that evolved at this level, as stated earlier, were able to declare such non-sense as that there are two ontologically distinct substances that do not interact with one another, but which unexplainably manage to be perfectly synchronized. This makes as much sense as the tooth fairy, for anyone who has actually reached a rational level of development. Though this is very secondary to the subject at hand I’m accentuating it again from a deep wish that such mistakes not continue to take place.

The final divide we are currently aware of is that which manifests with the emergence of the Shadow level. Now, that we have already stated that the self is confined to the mind the only thing that remains is to split up the mind into various categories, into various aspects. Here, the self becomes strictly that which it values as the most desirable concepts repressing or eliminating from its identification anything that would not have a positive impact.

Now, let us see how we can merge these dualistic divisions that emerge out of the dilution that is realized through the synthetization of reality with the combined model of understanding of Kant and Hegel. In all three cases reality is described in the beginning as something beyond the grasp of any conceptual tool that we have. In the case of both Hegel and Kant there is nothing directly described that could match the trans-subjective divide. Though, even if it was not mentioned directly we can presuppose that in both cases something, such as thought, would more than facilitate the manifestation as presented above. This would not require anything else except that the concept of the self be something very vague, nothing above the recognition of the possibility that one exists, in order for it to be able to proceed only with imagination where it would then develop the archetypal map of reality. Sense-Filter or I-It separation, Consciousness or the running memory necessary to process and compress multiple ‘Its’ into an Object and Perception, which Recognizes the Object which is made out of the set of multiple processed ‘Its’ would be integrated in the existential level. This would allow for the establishment of relationships to the multiplicity of objects we perceive and the understanding of the self in relationship to them. Hence, it would also include the understanding of the self in relation to space and time.

Understanding, namely that which labels the Objects, and Reason, that which allocates properties to the newly labeled object, are part of the ego level. Understanding moves away from the somatic part of reality and results in the transformation of soma into code. We are not dealing here anymore with psychosomatic entities, but only with signifiers that exist in the psyche. Because, at this moment, we have transformed the whole world into signifiers to which we have given weight through reason we start to believe that we ourselves, at our core, are nothing more than mental, disembodied beings, which is only natural given that we have moved the whole of reality within our mind. For the shadow level, though, no synchronic epistemological model is sufficient to explain it, we will need to move to a diachronic consideration of the realization of selfhood.

fig 7

Fig. 7

Something is synchronic if it exists at a given time, while a diachronic element is something that persists through time. It can be argued that each instance of the first four levels mentioned can function in a synchronic fashion. There is no need for self-continuity to be formed. Though, in order to determine which of the mental elements that we have imbedded in us is to be most desirable we need to be able to understand in what way the evaluation of desirability is made, so that we can see why it can only emerge in diachronicity. We stated that up until now we have formed an understanding about our relationship to the rest of the world, we have also moved the world within our mind and have defined ourselves conceptually in relationship to the existing psychosomatic elements of reality that have been metamorphosed in concept, or symbols in the psychic realm.

If we want to evaluate which actionalized concept sits well with our imagined ideal world, we need to have an understanding of what is not ideal, namely ‘what was’[10], and the ideal ‘what will be’, and how to get there, the now in which action can be manifest. Of course, one can state that the present, momentary, synchronic self contains within each of its disconnected and separate particular incarnations all the events that can be said to have led to its current manifestation, the whole environment and relationships that allows it to exist as it is, and all the dreams of the future that it has. Yet, you see, for me doing word plays like this to conceive that the self can be fully manifest without diachronicity are nonsensical, all that I’m doing here is to say that in any particular moment we have access to the full history of our exitance and the ideal of the future. The how is called memory, for memory is that which stores all of the past circumstances that allows for the current manifestation to be born. The present, for sure, is all that which can be transformed into the Object and the imagination, is the ideal, the archetypical level at which the future is created, the realm of the trans-subjective, which is manifest at the sheet of thought. Hence, for the Shadow to manifest, we require the complete manifestation of the trans-subjective, existential and ego level to which we add the function of memory as that which ensures continuity. Now, that we have remembered the past and anticipated the future, and that we have realized the diachronic structure of the self and of nature, we can also combine the two models of self-realization into one single representation.

fig 8

Fig. 8

4.3.1 Merging the models

To be able to understand how the shadow level emerges we would have to combine the two existing models, namely the Hypothalamic with the Epistemological. This is necessary as the shadow level requires affective responses to events in order to manifest. What we will be dealing with now will be the normal epistemological process up until the sheet of reason is reached, following which we will go through process flow 1 from Fig. 8, where we see the existing memories. In the initial state there are no memories, hence, no need to have any affective and event values. After loading the memories in our consciousness and going through the processes up till reason one more time we go through process 2 where we input the event as a new element in the memory stack. At the same time the event gests transferred to the hypothalamic process, where it is seen as an action item that manifests between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’. After going through an expected/unexpected analysis followed by a tool/obstacle analysis affective values are attributed to the event.

We will now look at a simpler version of this process that is applied in the creation of artificial selves. In Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, the self, as in our case, is viewed as an open, dynamic structure, that is goal-oriented. The instability of the system comes not from its psyche, in this case from its software, but from the need of having an embodies psyche that can function within the material reality. As long as the system within which the psychosomatic being finds itself, functions as expected, there can be no realization of a functional, aware, self.

An existing self, once placed in a situation where it’s being, as it is known to itself, comes under question will come into awareness. Thus, in AI and Robotics – as in our case – we can truly understand what the self is if we solve the mutual relationships that are born among all the elements that manifest themselves at the level of the ego, aka within our cognition. But it’s not enough to understand the symbolic relationship that takes place in the realm of the concepts we also need to understand the somatic ones, and then the non-dual nature of said relationships in order to truly grasp what is happening.

fig 9

Fig. 9

In order to create an artificial self that can navigate the real world there are two levels of processing that need to communicate. There are the lower level processes that transforms the real-world signals that the receptors gather into machine code and the higher level process that deals with the symbolic manipulation of abstract world models. The dynamic system we mentioned emerge out of the interplay of the two perceptual levels as they seek to reach a stable state. Thus, the dynamic structure is self-generated by the system. The neural net architecture, which is one of the basic models used in artificial intelligence, has the following structure: there is a perception layer, an association layer and a prediction layer. Within the first layer, the perception layer, the information is taken in and sent into the association layer so a representation of what is perceived can be generated. At the same time the information from the first layer is sent into the prediction layer where a top-down prediction is generated with regards to who the machine should expect to encounter in reality. The generated prediction is sent to the association layer where it is compared with the generated representation. The machine will use the association part each and every time it encounters anything; while, the prediction part will be conducted only incrementally when the existing prediction does not align with what is to be expected. If our predictions are correct there is no need for us to invest any psychic energy, thus, this seems to confirm Heidegger’s idea that self-consciousness is diminished substantially in moments of peace.

4.4 A narrative, meaning oriented model of self and reality[11]


Our ­world is dependent on a perceived order. We expect certain places to look in a certain way, certain beings to fit into predefined roles and to stick to them. If any of the above stop functioning we lose our calm, our world starts to crumble, if it is something small we can readjust quickly, but there is always the possibility that we will encounter something of a greater magnitude that will completely destroy all that we know. In such cases fear and dread overtake use and we rush to pick up the pieces and to rebuild. Though, we can never rebuild the same.

This world, as we have seen is built out of other selves, out of other subjects. At least those subject that an everyday understanding of reality allows us to consider as “true selves”, namely animals and humans, behave in accordance to a dominance hierarchy which sets order in the intersubjective world. These hierarchies are born out of psychosocial systems of belief. We do not simply have a theory in our head and it becomes our main theory of explaining reality just to make us feel better, but because the way it explains the world coincides with the way other people explain the world allowing us to work hand in hand without causing unexpected interaction to manifest between one another which would require the both of us to reset our view of reality. Thus, both ‘us’ and ‘the other’ is released from the fear of losing one’s self. Culture is the result of these functionally interacting world views. What culture does is to tell us how we should perceive given the spectrum of possible ways of perceiving known to it and, of course, it also tells us how we should act within it. As Francisco Varela said: “What we do and what we see is not separate”. Culture informs us towards what we should be orienting ourselves, helping us in the process deal with one of our most dauting questions, ‘what should we be?’.

Going back to what we have described in chapter 3.2, ‘The Age of Psychologists’, we can say that once selfhood arises it starts to assimilate the signs that are permeating our culture through a semiotic process. The self in this sense is cultural, it manifests as a center of awareness that caries identity between the situations, between the relational settings of reality that the self interacts with. Thus, the self takes from culture and gives back to culture, in the process enriching the spectrum of possible interactions that can be had. As a result, culture is in constant transition, driven by the self-perpetuating cycle of psychosomatic causality. That which has been mentioned many time before comes up again, the self has to be seen as an open process in order for this to function. Only processes can allow for constant development, only they can allow for identities to be in permanent fluctuations and for new depths of meaning to emerge. And only processes can be indifferent to their content, to the form they take, all that matters to processes is the underlying action, or narration.

Culture, giving us what to believe in, thus, helping us regulate our emotions. As we have seen in the Hypothalamic model our acts in the world are belief driven. Looking back at history we can observe that humanity has created metaphysical beliefs that we transformed in religions upon which we founded our societies. Every time a subject of society would be considering what to look at, where to go, what to do, they would look towards the divine and they would ask them what is the right course of action. While the fundamentalist belief in the scriptures of said divine being have caused great pains, an understanding of the metaphorically coded wisdom that is contained within the cross-cultural religious scriptures is what stays at the roots of current days human rights and of our concepts of equality in front of the law. Belief itself is fundamental in order for action to transpire, though we need to be aware that belief needs to be reoriented inwards.


Fig. 9, Source:

This is nothing new, the idea of inward belief, of belief in the self has been around for eons in all mystical understandings of mythologies and religions. If we look at the Christian faith, we can find, at its core, the idea that what we believe in is within us. The idea is materialized in the Vatican, the center of Christian belief, by means of Michelangelo’s painting, “The creation of Adam”, Fig. 9. Within the painting we see Adam, with his hand stretched towards god that is in the sky, while god, who sits within a folded burgundy red veil with his Angels, stretches his hand towards Adam. At first sight we might think of this image as Adam having been created by God. Though, if we account for the fact that Michelangelo had in depth understanding of the human anatomy, including the human brain, and that the outlines of the veil are identical to the outlines of a fontal-dorsal cross section of the human brain we need to rethink our position with regards to this. What the painting is actually telling us, is that God the creator is in our mind and that, while he may be creating us, we are creating him. At the same time, we can view it as symbolizing that the Axis Mundi of Christian values is located in our mind, and while it may shape our way of perceiving and acting in the world, it is still us who are creating that Axis Mundi. It is important to grasp this realization, so that we may reattribute the power of creating meaning to ourselves.

As meaning is one of the core elements in the conceptualization of the self, we need to accept that the self is nested within systems of meaning, or moral systems. The moral systems are what orient us in life and they are predicated on narratives. For us what matters is the why and the what, the how becomes secondary. All subjective being bears the pain and suffering of reality because they have a why and a what, even if they are not conscious of that. Through the education system society aims to address questions of morality, such as: ‘To what end should you devote your life?’, ‘Does life matter?’, ‘Is there something you should be aiming at?’, etc. As subjects grow within their culture they get information with regards to these questions which they are trying to put together into a comprehensible picture. This works until they meet the post-modern, pluralistic university professors, that teach them only that everything can be deconstructed, that we cannot be sure of anything, that the whole of reality is a game of probability, and while in part true, if these teachings are not presented within an integral model that also constructs something, the poor souls that are being exposed to such nonsense will be left there as pray for nihilism and ideology.

I think, I’ve jumped a bit far with my stream of consciousness and that I need to connect some dots for you to be able to make sense of the before. As we have discovered through the fusion of the hypothalamic and epistemic models that we inhabit a story: we are somewhere and are going somewhere. We are in a constant state of insufficiency, every time we satisfy an insufficiency another one emerges which we will then try to rectify. We constantly presume that our current state is not optimal and we are choosing and acting towards another, ideal state that we hope to reach. On our way to the ideal we have to risk ourselves, for the ideal is not here, it is there, a there for which we can only imagine a blurred incomplete image. Thus, we will have to face novel events on our way to the ‘promise land’. Interacting with the novel, as stated before, sets us into high alert, our awareness is in overdrive, our senses become sharper, our reactions quicker, the whole of what we consider ourselves to be is ready, is attentive to all the details around it. In the process of facing the new we are expanding ourselves.

Though, can an expansion of self be done without a renouncing of the old self? Within the knowledge I have encountered thus far, I have to say that such a feat is not possible. The only way towards self expansion is through a cycle of death and rebirth, through an experience that allows one to shed their old self, their old presuppositions and replace them with new ones, that are higher in the holarchy, thus becoming the new expanded self, by incorporating the new presuppositions through embodied action. In this process, we include and transcend, all that which was of essence in our former state is maintained, while all that which was redundant is thrown away.

Let us look at another symbolic image from the Christian tradition, Jonah and the Whale which was painted by Pieter Lastman in 1621, Fig. 10. The paining is based on the biblical story from the Book of Jonah, who tells us the story of Jonah, a seaman, who was out on sea during a rough ocean storm, and he had been commanded by god to do something which he was ignoring. The storm was sufficiently rough that he was tossed into the ocean, where a whale swallowed him up, following which, a couple of days later, the whale cast him up on shore. The idea of the story is that the self will inadvertently face elements of reality that will terrify it into paralysis and that will break through all of its assumptions – because when the normal sets of assumptions are functioning it’s impossible to be terrified enough to be frozen. This also symbolizes that the only way for the self to transcend is by being swallowed by the unknown (the whale in this case).


Fig. 10, Source:

After a dive into the unknown has ripped apart the assumptions that stay at the ground of the self, retrogressive restoration usually kicks in. At first, given the traumatizing nature of the experience, we are drawn to the safety of our home. In this case the home is the former hypothalamic higher level model and the memories stack of events and affects that were generated by it. The former hypothalamic model though cannot be rebuilt as the assumptions, the ‘what is’, has been changed. We still have access to the same memories but we start entering dissonance with them for the existing event affect associations have proven insufficient to explain how we ended up in chaos. A new stable state is required in order for us to know who we are, and for that stable state to be created what is required is for us to look for the new spirit that is going to enable that stable state to be generated. The awakening of the new spirit will ask of the self to reevaluate each event and to give it a new affect, it will have to reinterpret all that has happened considering the plunge into the unknown, the seismic event it just went through. After that has been done, a new ideal can be created, and a new stable self can emerge, one that knows what is, what is lacking, how the ideal world looks like and what is the sequence of events that is required for the ideal to become manifest.

In the onto-epistemological model we realized that we can state the world is created through and for self-knowledge. And, in the above pages of this subchapter we saw that the self is created through the confrontation with the unknown and the transforming of the unknown into the known. This fundamental realization has been transferred spread throughout human culture since time immemorial, since the age of the Mesopotamians, who have also left us with the oldest stories known to humankind.  Between the mythologies that have perpetuated from that regions and that have been written down in the bronze age, the story of Marduk was seen as one of highest importance. Here, Tiamat and Abzu were locked in embrace at the beginning of time, in a marriage between chaos and respectively order. Their embrace gave rise to the world of the elder gods that represent our primordial motivational forces, our most basic needs, drives and emotions. These deities were acting out unencumbered in the world, up to the point where they had slain their father, Abzu. Tiamat, the mother of all things, the representation of chaos is very unpleased by the fact that its creations have destroyed structure itself. Tiamat decides that things have gone too far and that the elder gods need to be eliminated. To fulfill her purpose Tiamat spawned a battalion of monsters and leads them to battel. The gods, go and face her one after another, but they do so hopelessly, never returning after their encounters. One day, Marduk[12] is born and he offers to fight Tiamat on the condition that if he wins he should become their leader and that he should be given the power to determine destiny. It is important to note that this story was created during a period when the Mesopotamians were assembling themselves into one of the world’s first great civilizations. Thus, all the gods, which represent the highest ideal, of all the tribes were coming together to organize themselves into a hierarchy in order to determine what should be the highest value that rules everything. The gods agree to Marduk’s proposition and he goes off to face Tiamat, he goes to face chaos. He takes a net with him in battle which he uses to confront Tiamat. He uses the net to catch Tiamat, in the process he encapsulates chaos in a conceptual model by putting her in a net. He then cuts her into pieces creating the world. The Mesopotamians saw their king as the avatar of Marduk and each year they had a ritual that acted out the story of Marduk, through which the emperor had to show that he is able to be a good Marduk, that he is still able to confront chaos and create order out of it.

We have a tripartite structure of the narrative, meaning model of self and reality that is composed of chaos, order and the self. Chaos needs to be split into two: the dragon of chaos and mother nature. Mother nature is the chaos that is defined in relationship to what we already know. It is manageable in some sense and if its combined with what we already know it will bring something forth. The Dragon of Chaos is that which we can’t fathom that we don’t know it. It is so overwhelming that it demolishes everything. It is the ultimate source of what’s known and unknown. It is the most primordial symbol. Chaos is that which is outside of our existing cognitive structures, it is latent information, or better yet it is a domain of latent information. This latent information contains the spectrum of potentiality that I described as preceding being. Order, or The Great Father is culture and society, it is the dominance hierarchy that is utilized within the holarchical structure. It is that which is created to protect us from the surrounding chaos as it is the structure that was created out of it, a stable ground upon which we can rest. The part of reality which we have an active role in modifying tends to be oppressive and authoritarian, it oppresses the individuals within them to fit into the predefined orders and paths, while at the same time they sustain their development. Anything that manifest itself in a complex environment takes with one hand and gives with the other, anybody that points out one of the two is nothing more than an ideolog. Rousseau and Hobbes are great examples of such ideologs. The former believed that people were basically good in their state of nature, so he considered nature to be basically good and culture to be what corrupted people (an idea shared by many post-modernists). Hobbes, on the other hand, believed exactly the opposite, he believed that in the state of nature, people were warmongers, that they were violent beast like beings that could not be stopped from killing one another. For him, the only thing that managed to hinge the chaos and establish order was the imposition of a collective agreement that governed how people should conduct themselves through the state. Of course, both are wrong if taken alone but together, if considered through a non-dualistic frame they don’t lay in contradiction, but they complete one another. This goes against one of the basic propositions of formal logic, namely that something cannot be itself and its opposite at the same time. But, as argued for in the second chapter, this is true only in the narrow frames of reference set forth by colloquial understanding. To conquer the Dragon of Chaos, to conquer Tiamat, we need to acknowledge that we are both the good and the bad, that within us lies a non-dual seed that gives us the option at each point in our lives to be Hero or Adversary, in the same fashion that Mother Nature can be destruction or creation, and The Great Father can be benevolent order or tyrant.

fig 10

Fig. 11, Source: Jordan Peterson Maps of Meaning

4.5 The transdisciplinary process map of the self

Now that we have an understanding of the narrative, meaning oriented model of self and reality, we can move to the next and final step, fusing together all three models.

Let us start from the top. We have the noumenal reality, which, if interpreted from the perspective of the narrative, meaning oriented model, is composed out of the Dragon of Chaos, that which we are not aware that we do not know, and Mother Nature, that which we are aware that we do not know. As we are in the non-dual state, there is no real difference between the two, the difference appears only once we descend into the trans-subjective dualistic split, in which we have the thought of there being something as an ‘I’, though we do not understand what that I is per say. At this moment we are aware of the fact that we do not know what exactly we are, yet we are unaware that there has to be another for us to know that. Once we have entered the existential realm, we generate a clear I, It separation. In order for that to happen our sense send information about our environment to our consciousness, the running memory of the self, which then – as there can be multiple ‘It’ depending on the sequence in the repetition of action, that stays at the foundation of the onto-epistemological process, that we are in – compress reality together into one Object that will get passed to perception. Once we have the object in mind, once we have recognized it, we start labeling it using our understanding and defining it, giving it characteristics, through the use of knowledge. This completes the ego level, following which we have the emergence of the shadow. To make manifest the shadow we go through our memories, that have event and affect coordinates, and we check which high level concepts we consider having the highest positive value for us and we plug these into consciousness as a representation of our current self, while the rest gets repressed or eliminated.

With the shadow version of the self plugged in, we go again down the epistemological sheets from consciousness down until we are left with the Phenomenal Reality version of the event. The event gets plugged into two parts simultaneously, first it gets plugged into the memory stack and second it gets plugged into the Hypothalamic Model where, after going through an expected/unexpected analysis followed by a tool/obstacle analysis, affective values get attributed to the event. The ‘What Is’ element of the Hypothalamic Model is formed based on memories. The what should be are then formed based on the inputs of culture. While we did state before that the ‘What is’ is the ‘Id’ and that the ‘What should be’ is the Super Ego, here I find myself to add an extra layer to Freuds theory for, while we may be able to call something the engine of desire, we need to always think that desire is manifest together with the idea for the solution (indifferent of who vague that solution might be) leading me to state that without the pleasure of the idea there is no intrinsic desire. This also makes sense given the epistemological sheet sequence which manifests reality as is once we imagine possibilities. From ‘The Unbearable Present’ to ‘The Ideal Future’ actions need to be take. The sequence of action that we take on the way feed into Culture, thus driving it towards constant transformation. Our Memories also feed into Culture, where we transform those that we consider to be the most positive our those that are of greatest necessity even if they do not incite a positive affect into rites of passage.

final process map

Fig. 12


Chapter V | Conclusion

We have seen the open-ended, positive feedback looping, dynamic process that stays at the base of the self. But, what value does it bring us? Having structured the above process we are now aware of the fact that we inhabit a frame of reference or a story or are occupied by what can be psychologically called sequential subpersonalities that come about given the hypothalamic model that underlines our acting. These frames of reference and subpersonalities each have their own point of view and each salienates different thoughts and different memories with different emotional values in directing our behavior and structuring our epistemological filtration of the world. Through the process of epistemological filtration, the world manifest itself, hence, we have an indeterminate roll to play as a consequence of our value based choices (or value is the ideal). Given that culture also partakes in the creation of our value based choice and as it is impossible to say what is motivating us, given the feedback loop that takes place between culture and self, who is more responsible for the values that we manifest and having acknowledged that our physiological drives are a product of nature. All we can state is that we cause to an indeterminate degree the manner in which the world manifests. The self is thus, at the least, a cocreator of being.

As biologically living selves, we come into the world embodied, with a set of subpersonalities predetermined by the evolution of our species, which are regulated by very archaic parts of our brains and over which we gain more control with each new layer of our cortex that evolved.

Stories are of particular importance for us, but more than the story itself what is of even higher value for us has to be the stories about how stories transform themselves, as mastering this process would allow us to attain mastery over the processes of the manifestation of the self and thus of the manifestation of the world.

As we can’t integrate all of reality into our frame of reference we usually ignore parts of it. We ignore everything that we cannot predict beforehand as being either a tool or an obstacle in the achievement of our ideal. Though these things do not go away, for as we have seen they are subjects in themselves and thus they possess the same capacities as we do which allows them to develop uninterruptedly out of sight and out of mind. Thus, if we do not know how to search for them and tend to them in time we may end up being faced with a plethora of unpredicted elements that pop out of nowhere at once. This will then mess up our current model of the world, destroying our current structure and forcing us to either fall apart or rebuild ourselves. As the unknown might come out when we less want it to, we need to actively search for it so that we may confront it and integrate allowing us to replace the old models at our choosing and to transcend our old state at our choosing. The willingness to go from order to chaos is the ultimate order we can hope to attain. We will thus be equal to the legendary phoenix as we will have come to terms with that within us that is present across all transformation, action itself.


[1]I only mentioned sufficient ideas so that you can start to grasp the complexity and difficulty of the quest at hand, that of presenting the self in a process fashion and of creating a graphic process map of the emergence of the self

[2]If not clear what an end-to-end process is please check foot note 2 chapter one

[3]If not clear, the only way to know that we are is and what another is, is by using comparison

[4]Due to the fact that we can go on and one at-infinitum with this, I’m also presupposing that we are that final entity that went through the before discussed action

[5]A holarchy is a hierarchy of whole, where that which is seen as hierarchically above requires and contains the below in order to manifest, while that which is below can never contain the above. I.e. a proton is contained in an atom but an atom cannot be contained in a proton, a molecule is contained in DNA but DNA cannot contain a molecule, a country contains a person but a person cannot contain a country, etc

[6] Swanson, L.W; Cerebral hemisphere regulation of motivated behavior; 2000; Brain Research; 886, 113-164

[7] Ibid.

[8]This will be mostly in line with the graphic shown in chapter 3 when unifying Kant with Hegel.

[9] The difference between this state and the previous is that at the previous we could not even conceptualize otherness

[10]The ‘what is’ phrasing, if applied here would be more confusing thus I’ve rephrased it to better fit this line of thought

[11]Largely based on Jordan Peterson’s Maps of meaning – lectures and book

[12]Marduk is described as heaving eyes all around his head, he sees everything (and since seeing in that age was equivalated to knowing he also know everything) and he speaks magic words, he can articulate all his knowledge in a way that reality responds to his demands.

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