Do You Know What Chalk Tastes Like?

An inquiry into the bio-survival circuit of neurological evolution

Cover: Western lowland gorilla Koola cradles her newborn infant at the Brookfield Zoo.

“All the great world religions teach about love and kindness, yet virtually none of them provide means whereby these qualities can be actualized in children.”

Aldous Huxley

Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist best known for her studies of the non-literate peoples of Oceania, observed the Arapesh tribe of Papua New Guinea who developed an extremely effective method for building an attitude of love into children during infancy.

The methods that she described are extremely interesting. For example, as an infant, one is held by its mother while being nursed. She talks to it, caresses it, and periodically brings the child into physical contact with other members of the family. Occasionally, she will do the same with other members of the tribe and domestic animals, and always murmuring the words “Good, good” as she does that.

While the child doesn’t understand it yet, the tone means something, and when the child learns to speak, the significance of the word “Good” will enter its mind. This is because a real, conditioned reflex of an extraordinarily valuable nature will have been built up.

Margaret Mead (1901–1978) was an American cultural anthropologist, a pioneer of the feminist movement in America, an important popularizer of anthropology, and one of the most prominent public intellectuals of her time.

Margaret Mead records how extraordinary it was to discover Arapesh children who were naturally alarmed when she came into their hut — she was of a different color, she was dressed in a completely different way, and she came from somewhere outside the tribe. She recorded how, for a moment, the child would be very frightened, but then the mother would just say “Good, good”, and the child would immediately run to Mead, allowing itself to be picked up. She also noted how the general attitude towards other human beings and animals was one of trustful affection and kindness.

The Thinker & the Prover

According to Dr. Leonard Orr, the human brain acts as if it consists of two parts: the Thinker and the Prover.

While the Thinker may think whatever he wants, the Prover is a much less complicated mechanism as it operates by a single directive: whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.

For example, if the Thinker thinks that the Sun orbits the Earth, the Prover conveniently organizes the perceptions according to that idea. Likewise, if the Thinker changes his mind and starts believing that the Earth orbits the Sun instead, the Prover organizes the evidence in a completely new way.

In a similar way, some feminists are capable of believing that all men (including hungry, homeless men) are exploiting all women (including the Queen of England). So again, if the Thinker is very passionate in his thinking, the Prover will prove this idea so rationally that no one will ever be able to persuade the person otherwise.

Of course, it is very easy to believe that other people’s brains are wired in this way, but it is much harder to comprehend that our own brains are wired exactly the same way.

Science is capable of achieving objectivity, not because individual scientists are immune to psychological laws that govern our behavior, but because the scientific method is a collaborative creativity. Sooner or later, it transcends individual prejudices.

In the long run, we hope that we get closer and closer to the objective truth. However, in the short run, Orr’s law always prevails: whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.

The Electro-colloidal Biocomputer

Every computer consists of two essential components known as hardware and software.

The hardware component of a solid-state computer is localized in space-time and consists of a CPU, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and so on. You can physically bring those components to a workshop and have them repaired in case something malfunctions.

The software consists of programs that may exist in different forms, including completely abstract ones.

Hardware is more “real” than software in the sense that you are always able to localize the former in space-time. For example, if the hardware is not in the bedroom, then someone must have moved it to the living room.

On the other hand, the software is more “real” in the sense that you may completely destroy the hardware (“kill” the computer), yet the software will remain and may be used in a different computer.

Unlike solid-state computers which exist outside our bodies, our brains are made up of matter in electro-colloidal suspension.

Colloids are pulled together (toward a condition of gel) by their surface tensions (agar, gelatin, jelly, and so on.). This is because surface tensions pull all glue-like substances together. Colloids are also pushed apart toward a condition of sol by their electrical charges (milk, pigmented ink, blood, and so forth.). This is because their electrical charges are similar, and similar electrical charges always repel each other.

In the equilibrium between gel and sol, the colloidal suspension maintains its continuity and life continues. However, if the suspension is moved too far toward gel, or too far toward sol, life ends. Any chemical that gets into the brain not only changes the gel-sol balance, but also influences consciousness accordingly.

A doctor holds a human brain at a brain bank in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Image: REUTERS

Speaking of a human brain as of an electro-colloidal biocomputer, we are able to determine the location of the hardware — it is inside our skulls. As for the software — it may be located everywhere all at once. For instance, the software component within my brain also exists outside of it, for example, in books that I read years ago, which were a translation of various semantic signals transmitted by Carl Jung a century ago. Other parts of my software consist of bits from Friedrich Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley, R. Buckminster Fuller, my high school teachers, my family, and everything that has ever passed through my brain.

So, how exactly, out of the vast ocean of software, does a separate individual emerge?

Each set of programs consists of four basic parts:

  1. Genetic Imperatives — hard-wired programs or instincts
  2. Imprints — hard-wired programs which the brain is genetically designed to accept only at certain points in its development, otherwise known as times of imprint vulnerability
  3. Conditioning — programs built onto the imprints that are looser and fairly easy to change with counter-conditioning
  4. Learning — even looser than conditioning

Initial imprints are always stronger than any sequential conditioning or learning. Genetic imprints act as a firmware, permanently hardwired into the human brain during moments of imprint vulnerability.

Our imprints determine the boundaries that guide further conditioning and learning, similar to a permanent software (firmware) which is programmed into the read-only memory of a computer.

Imprints are hardwired snapshots of reality which are highly resistant to subsequent reprogramming.

Conditioning may also be called conditional programming. These are programs whose reprogramming is possible after overcoming a series of weak limitations or conditions.

Generic imperatives and imprints represent that part of the software that can also be described as a neurogenetic recording of information.

Genetic imperatives are hardwired in the genetic code of a biological subject. For example, when interacting with its own species, a kitten or a puppy copies the main features of their behavior exactly and is hooked, respectively, to a “cat” game or a “dog” game. Genetic imperatives are an absolutely rigid, unchangeable part of our software.

As for imprints, the neurogenetic code does not contain the programs themselves, but rather the time range and conditions for special events when the corresponding neuron zones become accessible and vulnerable. Subsequently, these zones are well protected from being rewritten, and opening them for the purpose of rewriting requires special skills that make the normally sealed hardware parts available for reprogramming again.

Continuing the comparison to a regular computer, we can also draw the following analogy. Genetic imperatives are analog versions of basic programs that are hardwired into the BIOS (basic I/O system); this is the toughest piece of a computer software.

Imprints are analog versions of an operating system that are installed on a computer at the initial stage of its life cycle prior to the installation of “soft” user programs. If desired, and with the appropriate skills, they can be replaced later. However, this is usually associated with considerable inconveniences and is accompanied by a fundamental reformatting of the user environment.

Conditioning is an analog version of a unique user environment created in a computer based on the selected operating system. This is generated by programs and applications that the user can download and install.

Learning is an analog version of a unique user environment which the user constantly adjusts according to his/her conditioning; this is a manifestation of his computer culture. In fact, the last two components of the software give the computer a certain kind of uniqueness.

The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit

Do you all know what chalk tastes like? What the leg of a chair tastes like? What about a shoe? Of course, you do — just think about it.

You know what all these things taste like because you spent the first year of your life crawling around and shoving everything into your mouth.

We are all born with a genetically hardwired Oral Bio-Survival circuit which seems to go back to the dawn of life. The earliest life forms (amoebas) ingest everything and what they are unable to digest, they spit out. As evolution continued, we developed more advanced noses, and many animals judge things by smelling them without tasting them, which has considerably helped them survive.

For example, scientists have observed that a rat who knows he has been poisoned will go back and urinate on the food so that other rats won’t eat it.

When rats find food in a suspiciously opportune place, especially when it’s easy to get at, they take very small bites and go away, waiting for a few hours. Then, if they don’t get nauseous or experience paralysis, they go back and take another, slightly bigger bite. If they’re still fine after that, they go back and eat the rest of the food. This thought process is truly mind-boggling.

The brown rat, also known as the Norway rat, is a very sociable animal. Rats love being in the group of their own species or humans. They like playing collectively and love to sleep curled up together. They take care of the injured and sick rats in their group. When rats don’t have friendships, they can become lonely, depressed, anxious and stressed. They are also more intelligent than rabbits, hamsters, mice, and guinea pigs, for instance. They have excellent memories, and once a rat learns a direction-finding route, it never forgets it.

Image: iStock

In order to survive, every multicellular organism must contain a rigidly defined bio-survival circuit which is responsible for the EITHER/OR algorithm, i.e., EITHER move FORWARD for food OR go BACK to flee the predator.

The bio-survival circuit is programmed at the DNA level to search for a comfort and safety zone around the maternal organism. If the mother is absent, her closest substitute will be programmed instead.

There is a case in one of Robert Audrey’s books which centers on a baby giraffe whose mother was accidentally killed by a jeep immediately after giving birth. The neonate, following hardwired genetic programs, imprinted the first object that roughly fit the giraffe archetype — the jeep itself. The baby giraffe then followed the jeep around, vocalized to it, attempted to suckle from it, and, as an adult, tried to mate with it.

This demonstrates the Jungian idea of Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. This means that we are born with archetypal images and desires to find an equivalent which we can attach to in the external world.

We have a genetic imprint of the Mother figure. Every mammal needs a mother to suckle from. Regarding humans, we are born from female mammals, we nurse from their breasts like other mammals, and have other typically mammalian patterns of behavior.

There was also a study covering the birds from the Galapagos Islands where there haven’t been any natural predators for a million years. Researchers tested the birds by using cardboard cutout kites that were shaped like hawks, and had them fly over them. When all of the birds got scared and tried to hide, it was shown that this particular archetype had existed in the bird’s brain for a million years even when there were no predators around. Thus, they still had an archetype that a hawk meant danger.

There is an orphanage in Greece where they encourage the nurses to be especially tender to the youngest members of the orphanage and treat them as their mothers would. It has been proven that orphans get sick more often than children with mothers, they die younger, they have more mental illnesses, they are more prone to drug addiction, and they tend to be a couple of inches shorter than the average height for their gender. All of these are results of the trauma from not having a mother figure.

This particular orphanage tried to compensate these conditions by having the nurses act in a motherly way. However, they were also aware that nurses can change their jobs and that children get adopted, so they didn’t want the children to get too attached to any particular nurse. Thus, they kept the nurses on rotation. Naturally, this didn’t work out, and all the children formed strong bonds with particular nurses even if they saw them once every three weeks. This shows how strong the impulse to find the mother is.

We are born with imprint vulnerability on the bio-survival circuit, and because we want to imprint the Jungian Mother archetype, we pick the closest mother figure that we can find. This is also the basis of romantic love, as Freud had pointed out more than a century ago.

This circuit is a one-dimensional form of consciousness. It tends to approach that which looks nourishing and approximates the Mother archetype. The less it resembles this archetype, the more nervous we get, so there is a polarity between what we consider to be a safe space and an unsafe space (danger). Home is usually considered to be a safe space, thus, the further you go from home, the more nervous you get.

The average mammal never moves more than 15 kilometers from where it was originally born with the exception of a large, North American reindeer and a Norwegian rat. Comparatively, throughout human history, most human beings have lived 15 kilometers from where they were born, which is still relevant in the more traditional societies.

Now, we are living in a completely new age. Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in 1927, then half a century later, 200 million people flew the Atlantic. Consequently, everything about neurological imprinting has been changed by modern technology.

American aviator, engineer and Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Lindbergh (1902- 1974) poses with the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane he used to make the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic.

How many of you have been to more than 10 countries? How many of you have been to more than 20 countries? That would not have been easy or true even 50 years ago. In fact, hardly anyone traveled until recently. The speed of travel has increased a thousand percent since the 1900s, and the speed of communication has increased even more. That’s why we are living in a “global village” as R. Buckminster Fuller used to say.

Some people feel safe going further and further all the time, and thus, they adopt an attitude of neophilia. They enjoy exotic food, exotic philosophies, and might even have extraordinary political and/or utopian ideas. This is why an infant crawls further every day until, suddenly, you are shocked to find that they are not in the kitchen anymore and they that have somehow gotten out into the backyard.

Conversely, those who want to stay closer to their home and the imprints of the early infancy adopt an attitude of neophobia. These people generally don’t want anything to be new, they usually eat food they grew up eating as children, and they don’t feel comfortable trying new foods like Thai or Greek cuisine. They are also afraid of foreigners, as well as people of other colors and religions. Another example of this is when a child gets out into the backyard and gets frightened by the neighbor’s dog. In a more extreme form, this is known as autism where the whole external world is just turned off because it is perceived as too sinister to be dealt with.

These two polarities are extremes and everybody is located on this spectrum somewhere depending on our early experiences. You can imprint, for instance, that your home town is safe, but all other places are dangerous. The key is not to be stuck in one place and we should be able to move, depending on the evidence.

It should be noted that this circuit, which has the longest evolutionary history, is the fastest and most mechanical. The concept of time is absent in the bio-survival circuit whereas the organism’s reaction in case of danger is instantaneous.

Regardless of the person’s age, when the bio-survival circuit senses danger, all other mental activities stop. Essentially, all other circuits are disabled until the problem of bio-survival is “solved”, realistically or symbolically.

As conditional programming of the bio-survival circuit is being done, everything that is nourishing and protective is included in the gradually expanding area of safety. In humans, this happens between the ages of five and seven when the majority of programs responsible for the feeling of complementarity are installed. This is the formation of a “sense of the subconscious mutual sympathy between individuals”, that establishes the “we-they” relationship and the division into “our own” and “strangers” (as defined by Lev Gumilyov, a Soviet historian, ethnologist, and anthropologist).

Nowadays, the conditional programming of the bio-survival connection with the gene pool has been replaced by the conditional programming of the bio-survival desire to possess special pieces of paper that we call money.

In more traditional societies, tribal affiliation was considered bio-safety, and exile was considered a deadly threat. However, in more modern societies, bio-safety is considered to be the possession of those pieces of paper (money), and the lack of them is an unimaginable horror.

Anti-Semitism is a complex delusion, with many facets and causes, but in its classical form (“Jewish banker’s conspiracy”), it expresses a very simple idea: a hostile gene pool controls the pieces of paper that ensure our bio-safety.

Christianity (or any other monotheistic religion) dogmatically states that “God” wants our happiness and success, and can even “miraculously” cure the most severe cases of bio-unrest. The absolute belief that “God” supports us is radiated by the brain day after day, giving the muscles a signal to relax, and thus returns us to a natural vitality and health.

The belief in God allows us to return to the protected state of a child because there is an omniscient and almighty parent who is able to provide a deep sense of a childlike bio-safety, which a significant number of adults desperately need. Additionally, the ideal parent is neither ordering nor strict, but forgiving in his love.

The weakening of the patriarchal family reduces the power of the bio-survival programs associated with parents. Therefore, these programs are easily replaced by the bio-survival opportunities that money can offer.

As a result, the need for God, who bestows the state of a child-like protection, is easily replaced by the need for money. Thus, money easily becomes the new God of a new society of self-sufficient, cynical adults who have completely forgotten their inner child.