A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavour to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with”.
The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
When driving, walking and moving through the world, my eyes are constantly collecting visual information. This information supposedly goes into a kind of storage system in my brain, the nature of which I am not consciously familiar with. Yet, when needed in the studio (or when asked by family members as to the whereabout of wallets, shoes, footballs etc), these visuals usually come freely forward to be used, translated and interpreted. I notice that my ability to recall visual information is a lot stronger than my ability to recall verbal information.
This morning I was wondering what this storage facility would look like if it was out in the world. Would there be labelled boxes in a massive warehouse? What would the labels say? I am fairly certain that it would not be a terribly logical labeling system (if my office is anything to go by).
Although I am not privy to the way that my mind stores information, I have started noticing that my responses are changing to the various things that my eyes collect. For example as I drove home yesterday, I noticed the white reflective posts by the side of the road as they curved around the green verge of the hill. This image could be stored in a box with the words Rhythms or Repetitious Patterns written on it. It could also go into a box called Fences, Barriers and Enclosures or Reflections and Things That Glow In The Dark or another marked Perspective and Distance or simply, Green and White Things. Perhaps this information would go into all of these boxes as well as one that would be more obviously labelled with: Reflective Road Markers and Traffic Signs. To my mind it would make sense to store everything in numerous places to make retrieval statistically more likely and faster. But recently my response is to try not to consciously catagorise things. I am also trying to do this in the studio. To allow the work to reveal itself and resist the temptation to label or pigeon hole the work that I do. So what may appear to be a landscape painting could in fact be a painting about dreams, connections, ant tracks, neural pathways or what I had for breakfast.
The next question that comes to mind is: what comes first? Do the images and forms that interest me come from without or within? Who creates the symbols?
Then I remember that this definition of boundaries perhaps does not exist at all. That there is new science that suggests that memory does not exist within the confines of the cranium. It exists both inside and outside of the body in an endless field of energy (the Morphic Field*) and all of this information has been swirling around and continually added to since time was a boy in short pants. This science seems to beautifully echo Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious as well as the possibilities suggested by Quantum Physics, Field Theory and the ancient Absolutist philosophies of Advaita Vedanta.
I am no scientist or academic and my research is scant and focussed purely on what interests me or what contributes to the direction of my work. But these theories somehow ring true for me. Especially when I think about my own experiences of dreams, death, intuition and the mysterious way that the creative process unfolds. So many things. It also greatly reinforces my belief that what I say and do and put out into the world has widespread ripples so it had better be good and worthwhile (I don’t always succeed but I try).
So perhaps my brain is not just a glorified filing cabinet but a highly skilled selector. My own personal editor in chief. It certainly works in mysterious ways and I love these mysteries. I hope that it remains eternally so.
*”The morphic fields of mental activity are not confined to the insides of our heads. They extend far beyond our brain though intention and attention. We are already familiar with the idea of fields extending beyond the material objects in which they are rooted: for example magnetic fields extend beyond the surfaces of magnets; the earth’s gravitational field extends far beyond the surface of the earth, keeping the moon in its orbit; and the fields of a cell phone stretch out far beyond the phone itself. Likewise the fields of our minds extend far beyond our brains.”
Morphic Resonance and Morphic Fields- An Introduction
By Rupert Sheldrake