The more one studies human behaviour, the more apparent it becomes that the English language is hopelessly ineffective in describing the types of experience which could be classed as "paranormal". Although, we have inherited one of the most expressive languages on the planet, we still find ourselves stammering when it comes to describing magickal and neurological phenomena. We need a new terminology to describe what we feel. Before we begin such a process, it might be useful to summarise the current theory on how we process symbolic information.
Whether we are aware of it or not, everything we process through the brain is a symbol. Any sensory perception or thought must be converted into some sort of code to be run through the electro-chemical system of the brain. A useful model is, of course, the computer. The thought is data, the brain itself is like hardware. The data has to be rendered compatible to be run through the hardware.
Research has shown that we actually see the world around us upside down. Within a few days after an infants eyes open, its brain learns to flip everything it sees upside down, so that the visual data is easier to apply. This probably becomes fully automatic within months. If we can subconsciously edit out such a huge perceptual shift, one can wonder what else gets edited out. We'll return to that thought later.
The brain consists of ten billion neurons, which operate, like a computer, on a binary basis. They are either on or off. In a sense, a particular thought is a specific neural trail though the brain. No two thoughts share exactly the same path. There are a thousand trillion synapses in the human brain. A synapse is the point at which two or more neurons interconnect. So when we "see" something, a neuron near the optic nerve is electrically activated. The impulse travels to the synapse at the end of that neuron. If the impulse is powerful enough, it jumps across the synapse, triggering the next neuron. This process is over in a fraction of a second, and the charge fades out.
Most perceptions fade before we have time to interpret them, which is a large portion of the editing process mentioned before. It appears possible to cause the neurons to reactivate again and again, giving us time to analyse them. There appear to be two ways that we are able to accomplish this. One way is the way we remember a poem, conscious repetition. The other way is if the current meets no resistance in its path, it can flow easily to the next neuron, and so on, until it connects to the original neuron, and it just continues in this circular pattern until it meets some form of resistance.
If this pattern is repeated enough times, little synaptic bridges form along that circuit, which saves a lot of energy, since the impulse doesn't exhaust itself jumping across the synapses. Most "lower" animals are born with many of these bridges hardwired in. Thus, a lion might have "furry" and "running" wired to "dinner" in his brain. So the lion will treat anything running and furry as food.
Humans seem to be unique in the sense that we are born without any such bridges. We have to create our own. The process of conditioning is actually the process of creating these synaptic bridges to inter-relate and categorise the things we perceive. In this process, we are forced to create "archetypes", to abstract. We see both a pine, an oak, with or without leaves, and generalise them all as trees, even though each is an individual, and each is very different from the others.
We have to do this, both to save time and memory space. Every time we see a tree (or anything else), we create a neural circuit, which leaves a tiny neuro-chemical afterglow, making it slightly easier for the next impulse to jump across the synapse. After triggering this same circuit many times, the bridge becomes progressively easier to cross. This is interesting because, in a sense, all that we "know" is like a scratch in a record. When we place the stylus there, the thought plays over and over, either until the record stops spinning, or we move the stylus to another groove.
A frequent thought is literally a loop. Thus, our knowledge could be measured by the number of loops we possess. The loops become much stronger the more they are used. An unfamiliar sensory stimulus must travel a new neural path. That is why we have trouble visualising an unfamiliar face or piece of machinery. The more often we experience the new thing, the more the synaptic bridges harden.
So how does this all relate to language? Anytime we learn a new thing, we are able to call it up anytime we think of it. If we have assigned a name to this complex impulse, we are able to "file" a certain amount of its attributes under this name. Ask a four year old what a car is, then ask a mechanic. You'll get very different answers. The mechanic has a great deal more synaptic bridges stored under "car" than the child.
So, to learn and use a new word creates a physical change within the brain. The problem is that our electrical impulses tend to go along the most travelled neural paths. It requires effort to fuse new bridges. But without these new bridges, new paths of thought are impossible, except by accident. It is altogether possible that this is the neurological explanation of magick. By performing a ritual using a setting and words, smells, etc. that are alien to us, we are actually trying to speed up the process of synaptic bridging. The success of a specific ritual depends on how successful we are in creating a neural lockgroove.
The Process of Abstraction
We have seen why the human brain must abstract and edit out certain stimuli in order to cope with the overload of sensory input, now it is time to try and explain how this process takes place. Alfred Korzybski invented a model for this process which he called the "Structural Differential", which will serve our purposes as well as anything.
The round area marked E we will call the Event. Each point on that plane is one attribute of that event . For example, the piece of paper that this magazine is printed on appears white. It is made of millions of molecules of bleached woodpulp, some of which are covered by symbols, which are really composed of carbon molecules which where adhered to the paper by static electricity, then burned on. Each of these attributes could be represented by a point. We know that each of these molecules is in perpetual motion, and that the colour we perceive as white is actually the entire light spectrum reflected off of those molecules. Since we know that this piece of paper is really in constant motion, it seems like a good exercise to think of it as an event rather than an inert thing.
Now, since we could never list each molecule's attributes or location accurately for any specific moment in time, one edge of the plane E is broken off, to show that our definition or perception of any event can never be complete. We could define an infinite number of points for event E. In the actual process of "seeing" this event, there are a number of attributes that are imperceptible to our nervous system, such as the motion of the molecules, the component colours of the spectrum of white light, etc... Thus, when we see an event, the number of attributes becomes finite, although still very large.
What you or I might see, we will call V, the Visual Object. The lines connecting E to V are the attributes of the event which we are physically capable of seeing. The points on the event-plane which are not connected to V are already left out. What we first have to realise is that it is not possible for us to see an event in its entirety. Ever. This is the reason that some of the attribute lines have been left dangling. This point cannot be stressed enough. What we see is not what we "see".
So the step from event to perceived object (V) is what we would call a First Order Abstraction, in that it is one step away from what is actually happening. A great deal has already been edited out in the mere process of perceiving it. The act of seeing V triggers the familiar neuron circuit for "paper", "magazine", and so forth, calling your brain's attention to this fact. The naming of these attributes narrows their number yet further, as we become mentally aware of its presence.
We'll label this Second Order Abstraction "N". Please note that at this point, the perceived event still exists only in purely neurologickal terms as yet. We cannot discuss it without labelling it somehow. The dictionary definition of this Neural Event leaves out a number of attributes of the paper, its taste and colour, for instance. This Third Order Abstraction is Labelled L-1. It is rare that we refer to the woodpulp that comprises most paper, and which is included in the definition of paper, so at the point of recognition of "paper", we have generated a Fourth Order Abstraction, which is labelled L-2. It is only at this point that we are able to make any kind of statement about piece of paper, which would then be a Fifth Order Abstraction (S), as our statement reflects our opinion of the paper. We can then make statements about the statement, on an infinite basis.
Now if a concrete event like "paper" is abstracted to this degree, imagine the number of abstractions required to discuss a concept like "freedom" or "magick"! One of the main reasons we so violently disagree over such abstracted subjects is that we assume that everyone defines a word like "magick" in a similar way. Similar perhaps, but not identically. If you want to avoid an argument, it's always wise to ask, "What do you mean?" You will be astounded at how often it will turn out that the misunderstanding is based on the assumption that you are both talking about the same thing. In many cases, you are not! The verbal abstraction is not the event!
This can be more simply put. If a map were perfectly accurate, you would be able to see yourself reading the map, and on that map would another you...ad infinitum. The map is not the territory! No matter how accurate our language, it can never approximate the event. The event we discuss, or think about is always at least two or three Orders away from the actual event we think we are describing .Try to become more aware of this process of abstraction. Try to sense events with more of your nervous system. Sight is in reality one of the least reliable and easily tricked of all our senses. Taste events, feel them, smell them, Try to make your abstracting process include as many attributes as you can.
The more attributes you are aware of, the more accurate your abstractions will be. The more accurate your abstractions, the better you will be able to communicate about events with other people. If you practice this process of abstracting, you will become more aware of how few people even know that they are constantly doing so. And the mere act of being aware that "the map is not the territory" will make you more tolerant of their abstractions. You'll realise how absurd it seems to say that anything "is" anything. It seems that way to me.
This linguistic foible is called the Is of Identity. Once you have realised that the map is not the territory, you will realise that nothing "is" anything. It only seems that way to you via your process of abstraction. This point seems crucial to anyone embarking on a "magickal" path. We have to realise that we all perceive events, interpret words, in our own unique way. The only assumption we have any right to make is that each of us see events in a completely unique way. Certainly, there are points of mutual agreement, but the deeper you go, the less subtle these differences are. By realising that each of us is constantly abstracting in completely different ways, we can take the time to assure ourselves that we are talking about the same event before we start to argue.
Thee Word Made Flesh
In thee beginning was thee Word, or so they say. And it triggered new synaptic bridges and new association. Butter, it be-came well-trodden and thee meanings be-came stale. Thee newness ov synapse to xplore be-came lesson less free-quent. Thee language e-volved, or d-volved-like thee main stream ov thee cult-ure it reflected. As thee words were used, re-used, ab-used, thee meanings b-came further d-tached from the original Spirit each Word represented. So thee sentences were cut-up and meaning was restored, like an old lover in new lingerie. And new Words OV Power were created. Butter thee process ov Creation has just b-gun. A word like "b-gun" triggers new ass-ociations. New associations trigger new neural paths. New Paths create new modes of thought. Or revive forgotten ones. It b-cums thee Word made Flesh, perhaps literally, if thee brain is bridged synaptickally. If a definition for a new Word takes, it could alter thee structure ov your Nervous System permanently! Thee Temple is in thee process of creating a jargon. This serves a number ov very use-full functions. First, it mystifies and intimidates, as well as intriguing and attracting, those unfamiliar with it. Second, by definition and repetition, it facilitates thee creation ov new Synaptic Bridges in thee brains ov those who take the time to learn their meanings. To turn a paragraph ov philosophy and turn it into one Word ov Power is to create a mnemonick system which can simplify thee process ov modifying ones own behaviour. Or sadly, that ov another, Thee jargon ov Dianetics/Scientology is a shining example. They enslave thee Humyn Spirit with thee creation ov thee Word, T.O.P.Y. hopes to use thee same power to liberate it. To create terms for processes which actually stimulate thee humyn brain to create new possibilities and solutions in very unconventional ways.