A peculiar book called How to Increase Your Intelligence was released in 1975. It discussed how our brains have developed in layers from our history as fishlike creatures, to amphibians, to reptiles, to monkeys (the wider taxonomy of apes), to humans, and it claimed that even adult brains can be rewired by specific sensori-motor activity resembling that demonstrated by our animal ancestors, such as creeping, crawling and brachiation – activities in which we may not have received the fullest experience as infant or child. As long as we give our somewhat less malleable, adult brains so much stimulus that it cannot resist the change, we may force it to improve its arrangement, including in the lower regions of the brain, thereby increasing our brain’s overall efficiency and our everyday intelligence. The book suggests performing a high intensive ‘brain marathon’ in a feasible 3 weeks, and reads as an instruction manual for such marathon.
The thought is intriguing. We know for a fact that the brains of infants and children alike do develop through sensori-motor experience. Various practitioners have also proven that you may repair brain-damage in children through intensive, sensori-motor experience. The author Win Wenger then puts forth the brilliant suggestion – why not improve our “normal brains” in ways we already improve undeveloped and damaged brains?
The book is unfortunately long out of print. However, I felt it deserved to exist somewhere online, so I have made an abridgement of it that you’ll find below. It does not replace the experience of reading the book (nor would I be comfortable with that level of copyright infringement), but its valuable content should now be accessible to a wide audience. In my smaller version of How to Increase Your Intelligence, I’ve put most emphasis on the instructions for the marathon, where I have given each exercise a headline to make the marathon more intelligible to the ‘athlete’. Beyond the marathon, the book is an original perspective on human intelligence, so you will have good food for thought just reading through the abridgement!
One last word: Why would I post this on a web-site with the title Autonomy? I have noticed from my own life, that there’s a small difference from being “under the weather” to being “on top of things”. I believe that to have freedom or autonomy in, or from, your environment, you must have the adequate intelligence to master it. I therefore see that which can bring about a state-of-the-art self, as integral to the quest for self-rule (autonomy).
How to Increase Your Intelligence, Win Wenger.
[Abridgement of 1975 first edition.]
Has man really progressed, or has he just benefited from the observation of his own experience on earth? Does man have, apart from his technology, a greater personal potential? The answer is probably negative.
The world would undoubtedly be a better place if people could understand and utilise the knowledge we presently have. But unless we understand how our brains work and their relationship to intelligence, we may never even approach truly intelligent functioning and enjoy a richer life. Indeed, we may have to improve ourselves if our society is to dissolve a piling backlog of problems before they bring us all crashing down. If man does not learn to live in peace, he may, by dint of his technology, terminate his existence on earth.
Introduction – Piaget and the Origins of Intelligence
Psychologist and educator Jean Piaget developed his theories on the origins of intelligence from studying his own children, and expanded upon them through informal interviews with hundreds of children. According to Piaget, the mind and nervous system are tools which man uses to adapt to the world around him, involving a delicate balance between two processes which Piaget calls “assimilation” and “accommodation”; assimilating new experience into old concepts, or accommodating to new information through revising concepts. Our “adaptive tools” evolve through a series of stages as it matures from infancy to adulthood:
The sensori-motor stage (0-18 months): Developing motor skills and eventually a sense of permanence of objects (looking under the cover for a toy).
The preoperational stage (from having speech till around 7 years old): Using words to represent objects. A tendency to treat objects as symbols of other things, and judging physical characteristics by appearances (higher level of water in narrower glass is thought of as more water).
The concrete operational stage (7-11): Understands quantity and relationships between objects.
The stage of formal operations (11-15): Thinking in abstract terms and considering hypothetical situations. Speculate about future consequences of actions of self and others.
According to Piaget, if a child does not have enough experience in one of the stages his development in the following stages might be handicapped. On the other hand, enriching a child’s experience in one of the stages should aid his development in the following stages. In general, enrichment of the early developmental stages should increase a child’s ability to adapt, which Piaget argues is intelligence.
Jerome Bruner of Harvard has conducted research and hundreds of experiments on how we learn concepts. He has found that children develop a characteristic method for learning concepts, largely as a function of feedback from what gets results early in the child’s interaction with his environment. Bruner and his associates identifies and classified three general types of reasoning, developed sequentially (but not superseeding each other as with Piaget) and remaining active and part of adult thinking. The stages are:
Affective reasoning: Repeating an act because the experience associated with it feel good, or avoiding an act because the experience associated with it feel bad.
Functional or iconic reasoning: A chair is to sit in and a stair is to climb in. Engineers and mechanics rely heavily on sophisticated versions of this mode of thought.
Formal or symbolic reasoning. [No proper description given in book.]
Bruner suggests that a child’s awareness can be increased by teaching him appropriate concepts early in life; a school curriculum should pay great attention to teaching key concepts in his own vocabulary and review them in gradually more sophisticated form as that vocabulary increases.
Bruner’s colleague Jerome Kagan has made observations about the relationship between perception and the quality of the environment, and sees a need for developmental stimuli to be orderly and distinctive. According to Kagan, if stimuli stand out sharply from a calm background, as in many middle-class homes, perception of the stimuli is more likely.
Burton White, also a fellow at Harvard, has done experiments exploring the changes that occur in infant patterns of development when there are changes in the environment. He has found that certain forms of visual enrichment in the nursery accelerated the emergence of some key traits in dozen of infants; infants in nonexperimental conditions taking up to 60% longer to exhibit these traits. White feels that the task of developmental psychology should be to match optimal environments to emerging abilities at each stage of life, beginning at birth.
Alfred Kuhn believes human understanding proceeds by stages, in which a great deal of experience at any one level is required to develop the “code” for operating at the next level. According to Kuhn, we sort a lot of initial information into concepts or categories; then we build higher-order concepts by working out relationships between those concept-categories. For example, simply understanding that a dolphin is a mammal gives us a great deal of information both about the dolphin’s present biology and habits and about his evolution. Contrary, sometimes information contradicts our present arrangement of concepts, and we resort to revising our categories into new, more useful ones. Incoming information serves only to activate the concepts which already have most of the details we need worked out – the more appropriate and useful our concepts, the more readily we can understand the world around us.
Enrichment of developmental stages is a key element in the developmental theories of Piaget, Bruner, White and Kuhn. This book offers methods of providing the brain, mind, and nervous system with the kind of experience that will allow them to work together more effectively and in better relation to the general environment. In effect, these methods will increase what we know as intelligence.
Chapter 1 – Some questions at the start.
Can intelligence be raised? Why should it be raised? How can it be raised? If more people realised how readily human intelligence can be improved, intelligence-raising would be widely seen as the most useful thing anyone could do. Your experience can help bring about a change in attitude; when people discover that intelligence can be earned, some will realise that to develop fuller human capabilities in oneself and in others is one of the very highest and finest of callings.
Whatever your goals, most of the methods described in this book must be applied rigorously and simultaneously, jammed together so much that for a while you won’t have much time for other things. It will take almost as great an effort to make a small difference in your intelligence as a big difference. The purpose of the book is to teach you how to increase your intelligence in a basic, biological sense – ability to sense, consider, take into account, and successfully use or adapt to more in your physical, mental, emotional, social, and cultural environment. Strength, sensitivity, zest, and the power to feel keenly and deeply are as much a part of intelligence as is the power to reason and symbolise.
Chapter 2 – Yes: You can raise your intelligence.
The seat of human intelligence is the brain, thus your intelligence is based on its physical condition and physical processes. And the very lifeline of your brain is a pair of large arteries in the back of your neck – the carotids – conveying oxygenated blood and nutrition (the jugular veins carrying blood back to the heart for recirculation). B. N. Klosovskii and other brain scientists note that only those brain cells which are near to ample capillary blood supply are even developed. Away from such source of supply, brain cells remain undeveloped and useless. In other words, enhanced circulation means better nourishment and improved physical condition of your brain.
A special feature of the carotid arteries is that their valves open wider to let more blood flow past whenever there is a momentary increase in the CO2 content of the bloodstream. If this momentary CO2 increase happen frequently, it “trains” these valves to open wider permanently [no specific reference given for this claim of permanence], building up the brain’s circulatory system in expanding the flow capacity of capillaries, veins, and arteries.
Masking: Rebreathe your own breath from a bag for a half minute, every half hour, for several weeks. The concentration of half-hour intervals is important, while halfway measures (once a while during the day) give next to no results. Alternatively expel your breath and hold it out for a half minute every half hour (although this less concrete method seem psychologically more difficult to keep up).
Underwater swimming: Force yourself many times in each daily swim session to stay under water longer and longer before coming up to breathe would, in a month or so of such daily sessions, help make up in intensity for the lack of frequency of the masking technique.
Respiration-stimulating exercise: Jogging, or other exercise stimulating respiration, every day, has some effect on the carotid valves, and like underwater swimming benefits the well-being of your entire body. But its direct effect on the brain is less notable.
Chapter 3 – Why should you improve you brain?
The vast majority of great discoveries, great inventions, and the great arts – the recorded impressions of beauty and human feeling and experience – were mostly contributed by a handful of gifted individuals. Yet we can only appreciate it proportionate to our intelligence; there often being much more meaning in what is shared than we are able to see. Becoming more intelligent allows you to connect to a richer human experience, realising the meaning and depth of the patterns all around you.
The range of careers and opportunities open to a person of high intelligence tends to be very wide, although other variables may enter in. Similarly, your achievements within a career will correlate with your level of intelligence. Also, many studies indicate that how long you live, as well as how well you live, relates closely to how intelligent you are.
All the continuing, persisting problems you face, or that society faces, by definition remain problems because not enough intelligence has been marshalled to solve them. Raising your own intelligence may not solve all your problems, but it should increase your ability to do so.
Our society needs you as a more intelligent person. Our intelligence has not been great enough to solve the problems which have disrupted our society and environment and threatened an actual end to life itself on Earth, by many different routes of disaster. Whether you yourself, as a more intelligent person, play any active role in solving these larger problems, your better brain will act as a leaven on those around you, having an effect on such problems even without your attention on them.
Finally, when one is in top form and physically strong, he rejoices in the use of his strength. It feels very good to exercise that strength. Your brain is the seat of all you feel, sense, experience; it is the seat of every last scrap of consciousness you possess or undergo; to get your brain – your intelligence – into high form and then to feel yourself using that quickened intelligence, that sharpened grasp . . . by all reports, it feels very, very good.
Chapter 4 – Improving your whole brain, physically
Simply building up your circulatory system is not enough. Your newly reached brain cells must start developing, to make their own demands on your circulatory system themselves. If they fail to do so, your newly enhanced circulatory system will quickly abandon them once your peak efforts at brain-building are over. This means that improving your brain’s circulatory system must be done in tandem with other additional procedures for “turning on” and developing your brain cells, or much of your effort will be wasted. Though you will get some effect regardless, you get by far your best results if you jam most of your brain-improving efforts into a concentrated all-at-once, three-week period.
Why compress all this activity into three weeks? Why not stretch it out over a longer period of time so it won’t be so wearing?
1) Your brain is adult, “settled down”, resistant to change. But it can put up only so much resistance to change. If you throw at your brain less concentrated stimulus than it can resist, your brain will stay largely unchanged. Once you give it more than it can resist, you can change your brain readily. It takes almost as concentrated a regimen to change your brain a little as to change it a lot. Spacing out your efforts into an easier schedule would almost completely waste those efforts.
2) Fortunately for you, the first few weeks of any such brain-building activity are the most productive. Most of the effects of your brain-building will come at or near the beginning of the time you override your brain’s resistance to change. By the end of three weeks, you will probably have accomplished nearly half as much as you could if you kept up this extraordinary marathon for an entire year.
3) You can maintain almost anything for three short weeks, even as difficult a regimen as this brain-building marathon. If you want to go on for longer, fine: we applaud you, and you will benefit from doing so. But aiming for longer and finding, early in your marathon, that you simply can’t keep this sort of thing up for six to eight weeks makes you too likely to abandon the marathon after only a few days and before much is accomplished. Three weeks is realistic and within clear reach. Aim squarely for those three weeks, no more, no less. If, at the end of those three weeks, you feel like going on awhile, that is a different matter.
However forgotten it may be to us now, growing up was hard work. Increasing brain power is very tough for you, the adult, quite possibly among the toughest tasts you have performed in your life. Some of it is easy, but some, one may appreciate, is hard, and keeping up the whole thing for three weeks is also hard work. Make no doubt about it: this marathon is a real test of character (which in the long run counts as much as, if not more than, intelligence).
Vitamin E for the blood vessels.
A host of studies have confirmed the circulation-improving effect of vitamin E, including proliferation of new capillaries, veins and arteries; enabling the circulatory system to expand and develop to meet the new demands made upon it. Vitamin E also improve tissue use of oxygen, adding a better use of your improved blood supply. It is best to begin vitamin E dosage slowly and build up; otherwise much of the vitamin may be wasted. From what various researchers in the field have published, it would seem best to begin with 30 international units (IU) a day of d-alpha tocopherol, toward the end of or immediately after a meal. Starting this a month before your all-out three-week period of masking and brain-building would give you time gradually to build your dosage up to 200-400 IU per day by the time you were ready to begin.
Vitamin E, 200-400 IU [132-264 mg natural d-alpha-tocopherol]
Other vitamin supplements for the blood vessels.
Among all the other food elements besides vitamin E associated with every physical process, these in particular have been indicated as playing an important role in capillary development: choline, vitamin C, and C-associated bioflavonoids; these balanced by the other B vitamins. (no dosage-build-up required)
Choline, 200-400 IU, together with 2-3 tablets of broad-spectrum B-vitamin “Brewers’ Yeast” to prevent imbalances
Bioflavonoids, 200 IU
Vitamin C, ½ gram per day
A general multivitamin rich in B-vitamins
Chapter 5 – Improving the key lower regions of your brain.
| \ /
| \ /
| \ /
| \ Cortex /
| \ /
| \ Midbrain /
| \ Pons /
| \ Medulla /
| | Spinal |
| | cord |
BRAIN ONE (one dimension): Medulla/Cord
Impressions impinging on point of awareness in fish or infant.
BRAIN TWO (two dimensions): Pons
Amphibian or infant aware of objects with extent across vision. Lives and moves in a plane.
BRAIN THREE (three dimensions): Midbrain
Reptile or infant sees in stereo, acquires verticality. Objects are solids.
BRAIN FOUR (four dimensions): Cortex
Human has sense of time; retains and uses awareness of things which are not immediately present in his senses.
By creeping around on the floor, a baby is training his eyes to work together at arm’s length – the distance at which he will later read and write, perform arts and crafts, build and manipulate tools.
One close study of two Indian tribes living in similar economic and social circumstance in the same physical environment, and living so closely to each other that their reservations intertwined, showed that the physical, cultural, and mental (by >25 IQ points among other measures) advantages belonged to the tribe which let its infants crawl and creep freely. [‘The significance of Mobility in Early Childhood: Comparison in Two American Indian Cultures’, William D. Misner.] Other as-yet unpublished studies by the Institute of Man in Philadelphia show the same effects among other societies.
Hundreds of thousands of times, the freely creeping infant practises and trains his visual brain circuits to focus his eyes together and work them together at arm’s length. Because of this training, his eyes are comfortable later when focused at that distance. They can form and hold a single image together at that distance easily and comfortably, and they can work together and follow a common path easily without strain and fatigue.
If you are not completely comfortable reading for at least fifteen minutes at a stretch without once looking away from the page for however brief an instant, and your vision is otherwise normal, then chances are that you did not do enough hands-and-knees creeping when you were an infant – whether you were kept in a playpen, or whether you just didn’t move around much. If your eyes look up from the page often, they need to look up from the page often, however much this diminishes your powers of concentration and following of sophisticated arguments.
In 1911, “father of neuroscience” Ramon y Cajal, published the results of his previous thirty years’ research, during which he found:
1) Not only stimulus, but especially stimulus in the form of feedback through the senses of effects produced on one’s own perceptions of his environment by his own activities (including effects on that environment) is what develops the brain.
2) Of this sensory feedback, it is the feedback from the activities of infancy that, by far, most develops the brain.
Nearly everyone overlooked these two important findings. It was not until the 1950’s that Glenn & Robert Doman and Carl Delacato, under the tutelage of Temple Fay, rediscovered much the same findings as those made by Ramon y Cajal and developed a working cure for mental retardation, brain damage, cerebral palsy, and reading and speech disabilities, built partly around the infantile activities of creeping and crawling.
The point to note here is that both these independent discoverers, Ramon y Cajal and Fay-Doman-Delacato, found that the most effective way to develop the brain is to give it the sensory feedback from infantile sensori-motor activities. To grasp this key point in depth, let’s take a closer look at the brain:
When the earth was inhabited largely by fish, all the brain they needed was the spinal cord and medulla, which control heartbeat, respiration, and other basic body processes, but register only the most primitive sensory experiences and provide only the most primitive motor activities. That cord and medulla, first brain and fish brain, are all the newborn baby really has working once he has come out of his fishlike existence in the sea of the womb. All other levels of his brain have to be developed, by experience.
Atop the medulla and cord sits the pons, that portion of our brain which was developed by the first land animals. Where the medulla registers sense impressions most primitively, reacting to alternation only (changes in light and dark and colour, in sound level, in tactile/touch impression, et cetera), the pons handles sense inputs at a much more sophisticated level. This pons can manage the trick of perceiving differences in light value within the same visual field – i.e., it can see outlines. The pons can perceive some basic elements and patterns in sound and touch and other senses. For reasons imposed on it much later in evolution, in the earliest days of the most primitive mammals whose live-born young had to make it to the milk line or pouch to hang on and survive, the pons has a precocious ability to bring its motor function into play at birth – crawling, stomach-to-floor. If not encourage to crawl when most ready, the human infant may miss the crawling stage altogether, going on much later to hands-and-knees creeping, thus leaving his pons poorly developed and handicapping to some degree all his later development.
Like a great hand closing over the tiny fist of medulla and pons is the midbrain, first developed by the reptiles. Competition on land, at that stage of our evolution, had gotten a lot tougher, and to capture prey or to escape being preyed upon, the reptiles found it dangerously slow going to continue sliding around on their bellies. Except for snakes, a much later development, reptiles mastered the third dimension, the vertical, getting up to totter around and, eventually, to run around on all fours. This third, spatial, upright dimension requires a wholly greater order of magnitude of sensori-motor development, including mastery of that intricate web of perceptions linked to the art of balancing in the upright. Thus, the midbrain has to be many times larger than the medulla, cord, and pons put together. The senses are greatly more sophisticated – to the point where many, many even tiny differences in light value can be seen within the same visual field: the midbrain can make out details within those outlines that the pons sees, a logical progression in which each brain level learns and compounds its seeing from what the level beneath it saw. Pattern and detail recognition in the other senses is similarly sophisticated in the midbrain. Except for the much later developments of swinging from overhead branch or handhold to branch and of upright walking on the hind legs, most physical coordination is learned at the midbrain level.
As our reptilian ancestors became mammals, our cortex was developed, a much larger hand enclosing the midbrain hand wrapped around the tiny fist of pons and medulla. Certain rather ratty mammals couldn’t make out very well on the dangerous ground and took first to the bush, then to the trees, and became monkeys. Some of these tree swingers did very well and became many and large – and then, either they got crowded out of the trees by their own numbers, or the climate turned drier and reduced their treeland habitat. Whichever happened (and evidence suggest that both did), those poor tree-swinging ancestors of ours were robbed of their trees. Willy-nilly, they were forced down to the dangerous grasslands and streams to become apes. And, probably from the same background of the ground apes, man evolved.
This rapid-fire series of evolutionary challenges created a biological freak – the human cortex, capable of adapting its creature to almost anything. The demands placed on that cortex are so many and so drastic and so varied that 90% of all human brain cells are in the cortex. It is with the cortex that we speak, think, walk, run, marvel at beauty, love (with twangs from our medulla), scheme and hate, contemplate microbes and galaxies, destroy and replant forests and fields and cities and civilisations, and experience the sense of wonder.
Our human cortex has given us the means to free ourselves from further evolutionary necessity and to figure our way out of almost any problem. Unfortunately, our cortices are poorly developed, and this has been true for most of us ever since we found a way to build the first civilisations. Why? The answer is in the structure of the brain and the way it develops. Development of one stage is prerequisite for development of the next, higher stage. Lower stages are more limited; higher stages enjoy more possibilities and scope. Rich developing of one stage allows the next stage to develop richly and well; poor development of one stage means that the next stages can only develop poorly. Such maldevelopment at one level produces a “hangup” which warps and cripples all higher stages. In matters of brain structure, as in so many other models of human development, cure of maldevelopment at higher stages depends on reaching the lower-level deficiencies, feeding in enough experience at this lower level to bridge those deficiencies, and then pouring in more experience at successively higher levels to make up their deficiencies in turn. The reason that our information-rich environment doesn’t better develop our cortices is that our lower brain levels are poorly developed.
Chapter 6 – At the foundations of your brain. (Developing your first brain – the medulla.) [2 hours]
Alternation. Light and dark and shift of colour. Primitive motion. Warm and cool. Pressures and release of pressures. These are the experiences of your medulla, the pivotal foundation of that upside-down pyramid which is your brain. These are methods to add experience to your medulla during your three-week brain-boosting:
CO2 / Medulla training in the pool. [45 minutes]
Spend at least a half hour “hanging” or floating stably deep under water and also atop the water in a face-down position, a completely relaxed “dead man’s float”. Don’t use scuba gear. Stay under water for one, two, even three minutes at a time as your wind improves, on a hold-your-breath basis – you will be getting double benefits from this. Not only will you be adding experience at the level of your medulla, you will get the same benefit as in masking, that is, CO2-training the valves in your carotid arteries to let more oxygen and nutrition through to your brain.
In the same pool, also on a hold-your-breath-under-water basis, swim actively for a total of fifteen minutes per day, both with vigorous underwater swim strokes and the more casual moving around under water. Let all your sensations come flooding in, and enjoy them as much as possible. Pleasure sensitises, so the more you come to enjoy this underwater medulla existence, the more medulla-developing sensation you will derive from it.
Medulla training at home. [30 minutes]
Purchase a string or two of flashing Christmas-tree lights, string them up in various patterns at various distances from your chair in a quiet room to which you will go for a half hour at late twilight or at night to rest and relax. A simple flasher for a regular lamp is not a bad idea either, provided it is only one of several light sources in the room.
(In the daytime on sunny days, fill flat pans with water and prop them outside on sunlit windowsills or on the ground where wind and sun will catch them and reflect dancing light on the ceiling inside. This can be part of the visual backdrop for your other activities during the daytime.)
Flick-gazing. [15 minutes]
When among other people, for several minutes at a time (totalling fifteen minutes to a half hour daily) flick your gaze from face to face, not letting your gaze rest on any one face for more than a half second at a time. When travelling or moving about, do the same thing with various features of the landscape or cityscape through which you are moving. Right up one room in your house with pictures and many highly varied objects of visual interest and flick your gaze around these.
(Your eyes perform the odd trick of registering far more information in the first instant of looking at something than at any other time. Flick-gazing will pour far more visual information into you brain than usual, and thus begin to stretch and improve your brain’s information-handling capacity.)
Increasing your vitamin A intake improves the ease, speed, and sensitivity to detail with which your eyes pass on information to you brain. 20.000 IU a day (safe maximum), by improving your eyes’ input to the brain, could help your brain develop if you are already giving that brain a pretty good workout on other counts, especially during your three-week brain-boosting marathon.
Lay out and glue onto some surface alternating strips of sandpaper, velvet, and other textures. Feel these, after dark or with eyes closed – the sense of touch is important to the lower levels of your brain. With eyes shut or the room dark, move around and feel the various textures and objects without trying to identify them – feel the feeling, not the object, so to speak.
Feel some touch-interesting object each day and study, by sight and feel, the hand with which you are doing the touching.
Open a succession of spices and condiments, give each a one-second sniff, then go back and linger over those which most please you. Again, don’t identify them at this medulla stage, merely take in the sensation of their different odours.
Listen to a dripping faucet. Drop a ball, then close your eyes and listen to it bounce. A pendulum clock. Listen to your own heartbeats. Rhythm soothes. As fetuses we all listened to our mothers’ heartbeats for crucial, growing months, even to the point where newly weaned puppies are quieted by a ticking alarm clock and human babies frequently prefer being held on the mothers’ left side.
Stomach-to-floor crawling. [30 minutes]
Oddly enough, a motor activity in the pons, a higher level of the brain, proves to be crucial to further development of the medulla. Crawling, as the head turns from side to side, provides alternation in the senses of sight, sound, touch, and position. More important, crawling provides this alternation as feedback from the total sensori-motor gestalt, or pattern, of an infant-like activity – as Ramon y Cajal has taught us, this makes crawling a most powerful brain developer.
You should do a half hour to a full hour’s worth of stomach-to-floor crawling every day during your three-week brain-boost, broken up into five- to ten-minute sessions scattered throughout the day. For some people this is the hardest step in brain-building, but learning and practising it is crucial to the development of your brain. Don’t worry about style, about “doing it right”. If you follow some instruction, you will teach your cortex instead of your pons how to crawl, and this is of no benefit. If you don’t know how to start, without lifting off the floor, simply move forward a few inches. Move forward any old way. With enough practise, you’ll find a more comfortable and effective way to crawl stomach-to-floor. Crawl without cortical thought. Crawling is one of the few things the pons can learn, and it is a very limiting factor of your brain’s development.
Chapter 7 & 8 – Developing your second brain – the pons. [4 hours]
It was from your medulla’s experience of alternating light values that your pons learned to see simultaneous differences in light value in the same visual field – in other words, to see profiles and outlines. It was your medulla’s experience of shifting impressions in each of your other senses that taught your pons to sense recognisable patterns in sound, touch, taste, smell, position, and combination of these. Among the combinations, of special import to human beings is the medulla’s accumulation of visual, touch, and position impressions that first enabled the pons to begin tracking both eyes together on the hand or on other moving objects.
Most of the deficiencies in our pons are usually deficiencies of development stemming from our being too constricted and understimulated as infants. Whatever the origin of our pons deficiencies, it is now our task to manipulate sense-inputs in such a way as to open up new brain-cell circuits in that pons.
Stomach-to-floor crawling. [see instructions chapter 6]
As at other brain levels, vision looms large in the development of the pons. Crawling, which links the left hand to the left eye and the right hand to the right eye, is essential to the pons as well as the medulla.
–Those portions of your brains which receive vision-edge impressions usually remain at an idiot level of intelligence, because your brain would rather pay attention to only the very centre of your field of vision, as it is easier. Look straight ahead at some fixed point and place your hand about 45-70 degrees from your centre line of vision, and you’ll probably find that you can’t even count the numbers of fingers there in plain sight. Those vision’s-edge section of your brain, by not being linked into your more complex networks, are not contributing anything to the workings of those more complex brain networks! Once linked in, with time these once-idiot portions of your brain should gradually start contributing more to the operations of those networks, cumulatively raising your over-all intelligence long after your training has finished.
Side-vision training for the medulla.
Clicking a pencil flashlight on and off, test all around the edges of your vision to see in which sectors you see light most clearly, and in which you see it least clearly. If you cannot see the blinking light fairly clearly at an angle of 70-80 degrees from the centre of your vision, you should begin work with your medulla first. Break out those flashing Christmas-tree lights again and arrange them in a circle around a point on the wall 80 degrees from your line of vision to the first point. Through 12 to 25-minute sessions spaced over 2 to 3 days, pay attention to each flashing Christmas-tree light in turn and identify its colour.
Side-vision training for the pons. [3 minutes x 30]
Make a set of highly distinctive cutouts, black on white or vice versa – a square, triangle, circle, crescent, irregular, and so on. Make the figures a foot high – later make similar figures six inches high, yet others three inches. At the point farthest from your centre of vision at which you can identify them, practise identifying them. Pick them up one at the time without looking directly at them, and identify them. See how far and how fast you can extend the range at which you can make these identifications. This is an easy way to “turn on” new brain circuits in great quantity, but it consumes unexpectedly large amounts of energy, so break it up into short, frequent practise sessions – perhaps three minutes every half hour. With enough practise you should be able to identify increasingly small figures more and more easily and quickly at greater angles from your centre of vision – and it will become less tiring.
Side-vision training for the midbrain and cortex. [15 minutes?]
Similarly, to train your vision’s edge in midbrain and cortex, repeat this procedure with more and more complexly detailed objects, with subtler distinctions. Again, repeat the procedure for counting numbers of fingers or objects held up. By the same method you can even teach the side-vision areas of your brain to read!
–One limitation: No matter how well you train the side-visions of your brain, the sides of your vision will always remain coarser than the centre – this is not the fault of the brain but of the eye itself and so cannot be overcome by training. But even so, you should become able to read, count, and make out and identify fairly fine detail at 70-80 degrees from your line of vision all around – and the impact of this new ability on the rest of your brain will be unmistakable. Over a period of time, weeks, and years after this three-week brain-boosting marathon, you will find your mind noticing more things, doing more things, performing feats which earlier would have astonished you.
Coordinating eye-hand in the pons. [15 minutes?]
Important to the pons, as noted in connection with crawling, is “bonding” or coordinating the left eye with the left hand and the right eye with the right hand. You can reinforce this bonding far beyond the limits of crawling. Perform one-handed tasks of manipulation at the extreme edges of your vision – putting a pencil through a ring, tracing out a maze, typing, dialling a phone, drawing pictures, putting your finger on a target, opening a can, playing chess or tennis or ping-pong. Practise these things, left hand at 70-80 degrees from the centre of vision of your left eye, right hand conversely – and you will be well on the way toward developing a strong pons, which is the basis for enriching the development of all the rest of your brain.
Tachistoscope-training. [60 minutes]
This is an exercise for centre-line vision, even though it might parallel what you are doing with your edge-of-vision brain development. If you can borrow a tachistoscope from some school, this training should be very easy. If you cannot obtain a tachistoscope, substitute an ordinary slide projector with a hand-held screen blocking the lens for all but an instant. Alternatively, have a partner hold up objects and flashcards, or arrange two mirrors facing each other to give you distance sighting on objects and on flashcards you hold in your hands. [A computer with appropriate software should do the trick in the 21st century.] First with outlines (pons-level seeing). Proceed from larger to smaller figures, from one at a time to as many at a time as you can identify, from sharp contrasts to subtler and more difficult-to-see distinctions, from long gazes in which you can recognise everything to shorter and shorter instants in which to grasp the total scene at a glance (this is why the timed shutter of the tachistoscope would be handy). At each point where identification becomes difficult for you, practise until those identifications are no longer difficult, and then move on to a new level of difficulty. 2-4 x 20-minute sessions of such practise every day are probably best for you during your three-week brain-boosting marathon.
The object of these exercises is to train your brain for more information input and handling, not to correct your probably nearsighted/farsighted/astigmatic vision. For enriching midbrain and cortex, follow the above procedures, but for more finely detailed pictures and objects, rather than outlines.
Developing your sense of hearing at pons level and above. [30 minutes]
For your sense of hearing, you can enrich both your sensitivity and ability to handle complexity.
Taking complexity first. This writer [Win Wenger] has the strong suspicion that a good recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto played on a high-quality stereo and listened to carefully two times a day throughout your three-week brain-boosting marathon, will immensely improve your hearing and make it more sophisticated. Chances are everything will sound different to you after this experience. Another way to sophisticate your hearing is to play two conversations or lines of speech at the same time, and play it over again until you can follow both. Repeat with two different sets of talking, and yet two others, until you can readily follow two simultaneous conversations. (You may also try with three, although loss of definition probably makes this your ceiling.)
Sensitivity to sound is much easier still. One way is to pause every now and then and make note of everything you hear going on around you. At pons level, just listen to the sounds, however faint; at midbrain and cortex level, try to identify each – make a list on paper of everything you hear (not forgetting to include the sound of pen and pencil on paper), and try to extend that list during each session. Another way to increase sensitivity to sound is to turn down the volume on radio or TV so that you can barely hear the talking – then follow that talking, and then turn down the sound a bit more – for 10 to 15 minutes a day. If you like music, play your very favourite pieces at virtually inaudible levels, and prepare to be surprised at how much you can actually pick up.
Increasing your sensitivity to smell. [15 minutes?]
Arrange your spices and condiments in some order of scent, and sniff through the sequence a few times. Change them to some other-patterned order and sniff through a few more times. Still at pons level, don’t identify the scents, just smell them. At midbrain and cortical levels, see what you can identify by scent.
Increasing your sensitivity to touch. [15 minutes?]
In the dark or with eyes shut, continue the feeling of textures and household objects that you were doing to aid your medulla. Now arrange touch experiences in some sort of patterned sequence (as with the scents above), rough/smooth/smooth/rough or some such, and explore the rhythm of tactile sensations – not just with your hands, but with your feet and other parts of your body as well. For pons-level touch don’t identify, just feel. For midbrain and cortical touch, identify objects around the house, objects in a grab bag, denomination of coins in your pocket (a few people even reach a point where they are able to read the dates on their coins by touch). Practise differentiating, by touch, closely similar objects until you become sensitive to even the finest differences – again, you are not limited to your hands.
Chapter 9 – Your Third Brain, Your Midbrain: Into the Third Dimension [4 hours]
It was with your third, reptile-up-on-all-fours brain, your midbrain, that you began as an infant to discover the third dimension – the vertical. It was with your midbrain that you began using both eyes focused together to see in stereo depth. Your midbrain takes the general commands and decisions of your cortex and breaks these down into millions of more specific commands to separate muscles. Imagine how many muscles must be separately commanded, recommanded, and guided in just the right patterned sequence just to carry out your cortical decision to wear a coat. Your midbrain also moves your myriad muscles of lips, tongue, vocal cords, and chest, so you can think about what you are saying rather than how to shape the sounds to say it. And millions of other tasks you don’t usually think about are routinely carried out by your midbrain, which must be well-functioning for your cortex to be free to carry out its functions well. But just as your brain got lazy and settled for interpreting your centre of vision only; just as you prefer to walk because it is easier, even though crawling and creeping more could remove bottlenecks holding back development of the rest of your mind; so also your brain developed hand-eye coordination only to the point that circumstances required of it, maybe a little beyond that point, and then gradually quit. Which brings us to the marathon: improve the way your midbrain works and you will have a better, more effective cortex.
Creeping. [120 minutes]
Of all of nature’s programs for developing hand-eye coordination and stereo vision coordinated at arm’s length, the most important one by far is hands-and-knees creeping, as noted earlier in this book. Adult though it be, your brain isn’t all that settled down and hard to change. Even before your effort to boost your brain’s abilities, you were open to impressions, able to learn things – each such experience made physical changes in your brain, with certain bounds. Now, with everything slammed into this three-week marathon, those bounds have receded. Your brain’s resistance to change is temporarily used up, and it is almost as malleable as the brain of a growing infant. Seize the moment and creep, creep, creep! 2 hours of creeping each day throughout those 3 weeks!
Obviously, creeping is a pattern of motor actions and sensory feedbacks which involves much more of the brain than just hand-eye, through the hand-eye link may be the most important aspect. At first it may be necessary to hold your attention away from how you are creeping (as you did at first with stomach-to-floor crawling), and simply move forward on hands and knees any old way, just to let the pattern and rhythm build itself up and become comfortable. Once your creeping pattern becomes well established and comfortable (and this may take a day or two), switch your attention to it. Soak in the look and feel and even the sound of creeping, soak in the feel of the floor and of movement and slide of skin, muscle, hands, shoulders, arms, belly, toes, haunches, and your head’s position relative to both body and floor – feel/see/hear all these things as distinctly as possible, then try to merge them into a single, whole unit of consciousness moving about the floor, with no element left out of the one integrated awareness.
Arrange as extensive and varied a creeping-course as possible: different kinds of floor surface to cross, chairs, tables, and other objects to loom three-dimensionally in your approach and to slide past as you continue your course.
To give variety after the first few days, use tape, pins, or other markers to lay out various courses and tracks to manoeuvre around and through. In your second and third weeks you may experiment with the pace, speed, and manner of your creeping, but during your first week let the basic pattern become fully established. Another good idea is to heighten hand-eye interest from time to time with different-coloured gloves, rings, or even cigars bands, or other hand decorations for your eyes to light upon.
Wear old jeans for your creeping, lay in a good stock of slap-on or iron-on patches for the knees, which will wear through about every other day. Lay in several sets of Ace bandages and wear one around each knee, under your jeans, until your knees toughen. These Ace bandages too will wear through, but not so quickly as the pantsleg.
Two hours of creeping a day? He’s got to be kidding! But this creeping is essential. At the end of the three weeks you will still have gotten in only a total of forty-two hours of creeping, where the healthy and unrestricted infant, with his growing and impressionable brain, will get in dozens of times more creeping on his way to becoming a civilisation-builder. We would say creep four hours a day, even six, but this would take too much time away from your other brain-building activities which are also necessary – and because you simply aren’t as strong in this respect as is a little baby, your physique probably could not stand up (at first) to a six-hour-a-day creeping regimen. In time you could toughen up enough to keep up and even surpass that little baby, but time is one thing that is all too scarce during this three-week marathon.
Table tennis. [30 minutes]
If time permits, and you have a good player to practise against, during your marathon or at other times, table tennis is an excellent way to extend this hand-eye coordination. That game has many benefits: it demands very fast, complex reactions; you get instant feedback from your responses; the game has many subtleties, finesses, interlinked skills, rhythms, and stratagems which make demands on your entire brain and physical system; and at levels of high desire and stress, the game forces on you extraordinary self-integration and self-discipline. Becoming sharp at table tennis is one excellent way to “turn on” more of your midbrain. Other physically demanding, fast-reaction games, such as tennis and the marvellously three-dimensional games of paddle ball and handball, as well as basketball, also are good for your midbrain.
Refining your mind. [30 minutes / contains suggestions]
To the extent that we add to the brain’s capacity for handling things in fine detail, we extend notably the range, content, quantity, quality, subtlety, depth, value, and import of the information which that brain can handle. So, to refine both-eyes/hand coordination: Perform finer and finer tasks of manipulation with each hand in turn, comfortably within the field of vision of both eyes. (And, to refine your sense of position, perform again what you can of those same manipulative tasks, but with your eyes shut.) Unravelling fabrics, threading smaller and smaller needles fixed in a clothespin or clamp of some sort, throwing or shooting darts at a target, erecting houses of playing cards – these and many other suitable single-hand activities come readily to mind.
Then, as before, perform these and other such tasks using both hands together in the field of vision. Use both hands together in learning a variety of knots to tie and untie, in rope, string, and fine thread, and practise each until it becomes easy for you. Thread finer and finer needles, this time using both hands, by holding the needle in one hand instead of a clamp.
To enlist the aid of visual interest, acquire some highly attractive gemstone. Hold it up and slowly turn it to admire the play of light, at all points of your field of vision and at all distances within and up to arm’s length, for a few minutes each day. Experiment with lining it up with other features of visual interest and with crossing beams from several pencil flashlights. Also, experiment with looking through the gemstone at different things – including the reflection of the gemstone in a mirror.
String games, such as cat’s cradle, are good two-hand/both-eye practise, and also the work you did in fashioning cutouts for your side-vision and general pons development.
Tracking moving objects can also stand some practise. Suspend a pencil flashlight with two strings, front and back, from an overhead fastening, to swing back and forth – at first on long string for longer, slower arcs, later on hitched short for faster pendulum tracking. In the dark, follow the strings right and left, away from and near you. Better still, if you have a partner, have him move the flash up and down, across, around, and in front of you at various distances. Let him bring the flash from some distance away up to your nose and back many times with your eyes fastened on it. Have him vary speed, direction, pattern, distance. Similarly, holding the flashlight yourself, work the same exercises on yourself as just described for a partner. Why both? “Passive pursuit”, where the visual target is moved around for yourself, involve different areas of the brain and both should be practised and improved.
Any gains you do make in refinement, even barely detectable gains, are important to the information-handling capacity and fidelity of your brain. Any gain you make in dexterity, will aid both midbrain and cortex. Together with vision, dexterity is one of the best indicators of the physical condition of your brain.
Balance. [30 minutes / can be done simultaneous with underwater swimming]
Aside from creeping, the most noteworthy function of your midbrain is that of balance. Your sense of balance involves a most strange area of your brain and midbrain – your cerebellum, which consists of huge brain lobes at the back of your head. The cerebellum dominates the brains of flying birds – who need especially fine balance, but we too have fairly powerful cerebellums and can, by exercising the sense of balance, further develop, to some extent, those cerebellums.
At the pool you can do many things in your underwater swimming to stretch and develop your sense of orientation and balance – swimming around and around in a vertical circle, for example, or maintaining yourself upside down. In shallower water you can practise handstands. Learning to dive, and learning various dives, are excellent for developing your sense of orientation and balance.
In a gym, possibilities are almost unlimited. There your general rule is this: hang upside down from anything you can, for as long as you can, and manoeuvre upside down on it for as long as you can. Hanging upside down on a single suspended rope, swinging and twirling, will be especially demanding on your brain circuits. It will help them to develop especially if you swing toward and away from and past some specific visual target on which you can stay oriented. Also, from time to time swing upside down with your eyes closed, soaking in every impression you can from all your other senses. A total of a 30-45 minutes a day spent upside down, and doing things while you are upside down, is recommended. More demanding activities, such as forward and backward rolls, jumping rope, cartwheels, and headstands, are okay if you can do them of if a bystander or an instructor will help you. (Learning the parallel bars or other such gym equipment is more demanding still, but probably beyond the scope of your three-week marathon, unless you already happen to have some experience and skills in those activities.)
Touch. [30 minutes?]
Your sense of touch is still important at midbrain level, and in addition to identifying household objects in the dark, you can experiment with placing diverse objects in a box or bag and identifying them by feel. Use a wide variety of objects, but the more closely similar the objects you can tell apart, the better. For future reference, sometime you might even learn to read Braille, though time can’t be spared for much of that in your first three-week marathon. If you can identify by touch what coins you have in your pocket, your sense of touch is pretty good. If you can tell heads from tails on those coins by touch, you’re even better. If you can read the dates on those coins by touch, your sense of feel is excellent.
10 Into Four Dimensions: Your Fourth Brain, the Cortex [3 hours]
90% of your brain cells are in your cortex – 9 billion, more or less. Cortical cells, with their ability to form complex interconnected networks, appears capable of almost anything, whereas pathways in lower levels of the brain are more specific and more fixed by biological heritage. Your first, second, and third brains have to learn particular kinds of sensori-motor information to function well. Even so, at some levels of the cortex some biologically important, specific forms of sensori-motor information are needed to let those levels, and the cortex in general, function well.
Your cortex takes you into the realm of the fourth dimension – time- for now you remain aware of and even act on things which your senses do not presently perceive. You are still aware of what your best friend likes about you, the state of the economy, where it’s dangerous to cross the street, how doing A might, just might, produce B, what weather is forecasted, and that your fellow man has walked on the moon. No other animal is aware of these things. That biological freak perched atop the upside-down pyramid of our brain, the cortex, is what makes us human. Man not only lives in the present but has bound up and carried along the experiences of the past – he is the only animal that can live in the past. He can project his experiences in predictive patterns: man is the only animal that can live in the future. Our uniquely human, superdeveloped cortex is our organ of awareness for living in the fourth dimension, time.
This fourth brain of ours is us. When someone purports to measure your intelligence, what he is measuring is, mainly, the responses of your cortex. These responses determine nearly all of what you do in school, work, or socially. The end purpose of all that you have done to expand the abilities of your lower brains is to improve the functioning of your cortex. Some of the exercises, especially in touch, smell, position and hearing, already aids your cortex directly, as well as indirectly by improving your lower brains. In particular, the more adept you can become at telling apart and identifying closely similar objects in all your senses, the more you are improving the information-handling abilities of your cortex. Below that level of four-dimensional awareness, there are still more sensori-motor improvements to make in your cortex.
Phonograph Turntable I. [~20 minutes]
The turntable makes especially easy some cortical improvements in stereo vision and in hand-eye coordination. Fashion a few dozen roughly circular, foot-wide white discs from cardboard, with a hole in the middle and some sort of weight to fit over the centrepiece in the turntable to hold the disc down against the turntable. (Small weights fastened around the lower edge of each disc are and acceptable alternative.) With a magic marker, trace an inch-wide circle near the outer rim of the cardboard disc. Now start the turntable and disc rotating. With the same or a different-coloured magic marker, try holding the marker in the centre of the smaller circle as it goes around. Visual feedback in the form of stains from the marker pen will quickly tell you how well you are doing, and will underscore that message once you’ve stopped the turntable a minute later. Draw another inch-wide circle in an as-yet relatively unmarked part of the disc, and try again. When your cardboard disc becomes too marked up, flip it and start over; when used up on both sides, put it aside and start another disc. If you can change the speed on your turntable from time to time, so much the better. This schedule should provide some excellent development in your cortex:
(5 x 1-minute trials with your writing hand) x 3 a day.
(3 x 1-minute trials with your nonwriting hand) x 3 a day.
Phonograph Turntable II. [5 minutes]
Practise reading labels on your records as they turn on your turntable, for perhaps 5 minutes a day. If these labels prove too difficult for you, attach larger, more easily read labels to some of your used-up cardboard discs and practise reading them as they turn – and see if before the 3 weeks are up you can’t also read rotating labels.
Phonograph Turntable III. [60 minutes]
Place the turntable so that you can comfortably place your eyes level with it and sight across it at variously spaced objects in the room, and through an open doorway or window at some much more distant scene. On one of your used cardboard discs, cement a half dozen 1-2 inch tall figurines or objects on various parts of the disc ranged from the centre to the edge. With your nose almost against the turntable, rotate the disc and visually track each of the figures on it. Frequently sight beyond at other, more distant objects in the room and back to the figures, and sometimes sight beyond all this through to the open doorway or window at the more distant scene and back. After the first day or so, swing some highly visual object on a string back and forth in your field of vision a few feet beyond the turntable; look at that and back to the figurines on the rotating turntable frequently. Later in the 3-week marathon, add a second pendulum object, and later still a third, at different distances, with different angles and periods of swing. 3 x 15 minute sessions a day are recommended.
At night, use a different method: Cement bright-coloured figurines on a blackened disc. Focus a lamp on the turntable top so that very little light escapes elsewhere. As described in the previous chapter, suspend a pencil flashlight by strings front and back to swing a few feet away. Arrange a backdrop of flashing Christmas-tree lights at various distances. Keep the rest of the room dark. With figurine disc rotating under the focused light, pencil flashlight swinging, and the Christmas-three lights flashing, sight on and track every lit visual object in turn in rapid succession, repeating for 15 minutes.
To involve more of you cortex in the identification and tracking, give each figurine a name and memorise that name, then identify that figurine each time your eye turns to track it.
The near and far ranging and tracking in these turntable exercises, places extraordinary demands upon your cortex and should do much to improve its development. After a few days you will hardly be able to help noticing that you see everything around you much more quickly and in finer detail. Continue these exercises for the 3 weeks, but not for very much longer, though, as the limited motions of your phonograph turntable would soon stop aiding your development. If you can invent other visual coordinative exercises for tracking in different patterns and directions, then continuing in some form would be worthwhile.
Electronic voice-ear feedback. [15-60 minutes]
If you have a soundsystem, headphones, and a fairly good microphone, there is a valuable thing you can do with your sense of hearing. Talk or read into the microphone for 15 minutes to 1 hour each day. Electronic feedback – from your voice to the microphone to the amplifier to the headphones to your ears – is much faster than ordinary auditory feedback through the air and through convection within your head. You will find that with faster feedback, your speaking and thinking both clarify and come faster and easier. Speak long enough with electronic-speed feedback, and the clearing and speeding of both your talking and thinking will last for a while afterwards. Use this electronic-speed feedback long enough and often enough, in conjunction with your other brain-building activities during your marathon, and your talking and thinking will likely be permanently improved to a noticeable degree.
Jogging. [10 minutes]
…is useful to the cortex in two ways. First, it places oxygen-supply demands on your total system and temporarily raises your CO2 levels (opening the valves in the carotid arteries feeding your whole brain), thereby helping your whole system to better supply your brain. Second, running and walking are important centres and networks in your cortex which involve and develop much of your brain. Chances are that you don’t get enough experience running, so that daily jogging will add significantly to the sensori-motor experience and underlying structural integration of your cortex. Doing a lot of running will improve the pattern of your running and, more important, will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of that vast sea of interlinked cortical circuits involved in walking and running. Run at a lope slow enough for you to sustain the pace for a fair distance.
1st week – 1/2 mile a day
2nd week – 1 mile a day
3rd week – 2 miles a day
(1 mile = 1,6 km)
Walking. [30 minutes / optional]
If you walk fairly crisply, gracefully, or smoothly, then the jogging should take care of most of what your cortex still needs in its walking and running centres. If you do not have such a walk, chances are that the jogging will soon give you that desirable walk. If by the end of the first week you still walk poorly, an exaggerated version of the normal walk may be in order.
The normal walk is a motion called “cross-pattern”, where left arm swings forward when the right foot does, and right arm swings forward with the left foot. Practising an exaggerated form of this cross pattern for half hour a day should erase the imperfections from your walk and improve your cortex. Actually point the index finger of your left hand at your right foot as it comes forward, then the index finger of your right hand at your left foot in turn, and look at where you are pointing. This should correct and enrich the cortical patterns which control your walking, and make your cortex generally more efficient.
Brachiation. [60 minutes]
Climbing and handhold-swinging or brachiation is an extremely important motor activity that the usual living patterns do not feature much. Brachiation – hanging suspended and swinging from overhead handhold to overhead handhold – involves a shockingly large portion of the cortex, with complex circuits involving intimately every sense and many kinds of awareness, peripheral awareness, and coordination.
If you do not have access to gym facilities, suspend an old ladder between two uprights. If no ladder is available, a pole or even a pipe will work well. Wear gloves at first until your hands become used to brachiation. If your hands and arms aren’t strong enough at first to support your own weight, rig your handholds near enough to the ground or floor for you to get a little support from your tiptoes; gradually raise one end of that set of handholds. 40 to 60 minutes a day of brachiation in short practise sessions, and another 10 to 20 minutes a day of simply hanging by your hands, should greatly aid your cortex, and your chest, respiration, and posture as well. The same handholds will do, in many cases, for you to hook your knees over and get in some more valuable experience hanging upside down.
Brachiation, involving vast complexes throughout the cortex, was for many millions of years the main method by which our ancestors moved around. Our ancestors brachiated so much for so long that it drastically changed the shape of our physical bodies; but brachiation is a vast ocean of experiences that human brains can undergo to develop their potential for seeing, thinking, feeling, being aware.
–Next to brachiation and walking-running, for involving much of the cortex, is language – hearing, talking, reading and thinking in language. Without language to describe what we perceive, we don’t perceive, notice, or think much at all. But if we have a word for some subtle aspect of existence, or even a hypothetical, imaginary aspect, we can fix our attention as fully upon that hidden but possibly crucial aspect as upon a louder aspect demanding more attention from our senses. The bigger our working vocabulary, the more things and aspects we can perceive, and the more intelligently we can function. Other factors enter in as well of course: the wealth or paucity of visualised experience associated with each word; whether the concepts, objects, relationships, and classifications named are the most useful to what we need to perceive; and other such matters.
Those aspects of language in which we already have plenty of experience and practise – talking and hearing – can hardly be improved. Reading is the aspect of language experience we are least likely to get enough of, and so we will discuss it in the next chapter.
11 Information and Cortex
Rabbit track in the snow, a traffic light, a nod of the head, the letters on this page, Chinese symbols, the “V-for-victory” sign, the layers exposed on a cliff face, a bent twig or disturbed leaf, a different shade of green in part of a cornfield, thumbs down, a pat on the back, the swirl of a galaxy, the stripes of colour on a spectrograph, faint praise, lipstick on the collar, a rapidly falling barometer.
General Theorem: Every pattern, every configuration, indeed every event in the universe is a “message”, if you can acquire the “decoding” information with which to read it. To see, hear, or make sense of any sensory impression at all is a function of what you already know and understand.
The newborn infant must experience a certain amount of changes in light value – the only kind of seeing which registers on his brain at the time. He must experience changes between light and dark and various colours before he can begin to notice light-value differences between different areas of what he is looking at – that is, before he can begin to see outlines and profiles. He must experience seeing many changes in light value before he can develop a code which will enable him to decipher more of the visual information available to him – before he can generalise these experiences enough to begin to notice and respond to outlines, a “higher code” of visual information. This higher code permits the same visual act to take in many times more information than was handled before, to extend visual experience and facility by a full order of magnitude over what went before. And yet this higher-coded experience of outline perception could not have emerged without being preceded by a quantity of lower-code information (changes in light value) which was great enough to permit generalisations that coded into the next higher level of experience.
Similarly, that infant needs a vast amount of experience at seeing outlines before he can generalise that information into a code which permits him to see and respond to simultaneous outlines and smaller configurations within the larger outlines. In other words, by such code-building experience the visual centres of his brain code at increasingly sophisticated levels, permitting him to see in finer and finer detail, to build perception of minute differences between the detail seen with the right eye and that seen with the left, so that the infant adds yet another dimension and range to his vision by seeing in stereo, and so on.
It can take a child too long to build up such information, so that his at first rapidly growing brain doesn’t grow correctly or have the normal level of abilities if he isn’t fed the right kinds of visual information at the right times. If he is fed better-than-average quantities and qualities of information at the right times, his brain will be correspondingly better able to read the “messages” of the world around him. In this book, we have talked about physically changing and improving your own brain by putting certain kinds of information into it by means of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and kinesthetic position-sense.
Experience on any level depends on having a “code” built out of and generalised from the store of experience on the level below it. Each level provides at least a full order of magnitude of experience, competence, control over a vaster range of things than does the level beneath it. Each level can, in turn, through much experience, generalise a code with which to build a next-higher level of experiencing. We know of no ceiling on this progression. With the higher levels of the human cortex we ascend from merely sensory and motor information into that vast continuum of purely human areas of consciousness and experience. That continuum ranges upward from the first, fumbling understandings arrived at when, as tots, we were first learning to put together a few words in differing combinations, to the most powerful and sophisticated conceptualisations about self, mankind, lifekind, and the universe that the greatest minds among us have formulated – and beyond.
Some concepts are better than others, regardless of level. For example, Cro Magnon man was far more intelligent than we, but the caveman concepts he had to work with were not nearly so useful as the concepts we have to work with today. In line with this argument, within our own culture some areas of conceptualisation have recently emerged which can bring us further conceptual gains. Information Theory, such as much of this chapter is based upon, and General Systems Theory provide a means to generalise all present scientific information and experience into integrated “higher codes” for experiencing and acting upon things, at a higher and more general level of comprehension and effectiveness.
Present a 3- to 6-year-old child with two clear glasses, one much larger than the other. Fill the smaller one with water until full. Pour – or have him pour – the contents of the smaller glass into the larger one, which because of its greater volume remains half-empty. Ask the child: “Is the amount of water now greater than, less than, or the same as it was when it was sitting in the other glass?”
Chances are that child will tell you the water is now less, because the glass it is now sitting in is partly empty and the other one had been full.
Pour the same water back into the smaller glass, filling it once again, and chances are that the child will tell you that now there is more water, because the glass holding it is full.
No, there is nothing wrong with the child. His answer is wrong, but perfectly in keeping with the concepts he has at this stage of development. Until he encodes from enough experience at pouring quantities back and forth between containers, he will not realise that the amount of water is conserved. He will not have encoded the concept of conservation of matter, which in turn will permit him to perceive and relate to a vast range of other phenomena involving constancies.
The point of this? You can by dint of persuasion, adult authority, demonstration, teach that child the fact that the amount of water remains the same regardless of the container. If you succeed in doing so, you will in fact have crippled that child’s mind, for he thenceforth can never see in that vast range of related phenomena as well as if he had discovered that fact/principle for himself.
The point is this: For too large a proportion of those basic experiences in early key concepts, schools are in the business of teaching children the fact that the amount of water remains the same regardless of whichever container is holding it!
That, specifically, is the reason why you and I are crippled in our perceptions and conceptualisations. That, specifically, is the reason why so few people can see much for themselves and must, instead, depend on other people’s opinions.
What can you do about the way your mind has been crippled by the teaching you have received? You have some general resources:
Picture to yourself, in as sharp detail as possible, some of the matters before your attention which are presently described in words or formulas. If you are a student, extract key points from the most abstract, abstruse or difficult of the subjects you are now studying and try to fix them as graphically and as closely as possible to the level of personal experience in your consciousness.
Read a lot of what you most enjoy reading. Whether it’s comic books, mysteries, travel, or whatever, just go ahead and read a lot of it for a while. Build up toward a day when you “saturate” on that type and level of reading, then take a day’s break and locate fresh books in the same field of interest but which are a little more informative, theoretical, and/or challenging than the line you’ve just saturated in. This procedure should let you code in enough experience in your most-preferred areas to encode comfortably to a higher level, and to begin winning correspondingly greater reward from your reading.
Reading is good for you neurologically and in terms of your mind’s life. Nearly all the worthwhile experiences, observations, ideas, feelings, and aspirations of the human race have been recorded in print. Much of that reading can equip you with a sophistication of language in which to think and perceive.
If you can work your way up to a regimen of two or three books a day, then settle, for the long haul, into a pattern of at least two or three books a week, you probably have it made.
1st stage: To your reading, add biographies and autobiographies, either of very intelligent and admirable people, or of people who scored admirable successes in what you are now trying to accomplish. After particularly interesting accounts of the lives of such people, accounts which get inside the person enough to show him as a human being and to detail the circumstances in which he was working (even if it is a fictional novel or character), begin to extend the action in your mind’s eye a little further, from some particularly interesting situation, the one which had most seemed to come alive for you out of those described. Fantasise new situations with the same character playing a role in them. Over a few day’s time, fantasise that same admirable character playing a part in situations increasingly similar to your own. Then stop for a day or so and build the same cycle with another distinctly different but still admirable character.
Put the newer character into the same situations, similar to your own, that you had put the earlier character into. If in this constructive fantasy his actions are characteristically and distinctly different from those of the first, but both sets of actions are plausible, you are probably ready for the next stage.
2nd stage: Put your imagined character directly into the problems, desires, or other circumstances confronting you. Either picture them playing out their roles in the projected circumstance or picture yourself asking for, and receiving, their advice as to your best course of action.
3rd stage: Incorporate into your own personality the new skills and “borrowed” abilities to cope, underscoring again and again in your own mind that it is your own brain, your own mind, which has been supplying you with all those extraordinary answers and information, and that your perceived self-limitations, which your imaginary characters slipped past of found did not apply to them, do not apply to you either because you have, in fact, already slipped by them yourself.
These three stages should eventually enable you to move about in the real world, accomplishing your aims your own way, as readily as did the characters you role-fantasised.
The more distinctly and powerfully you can picture your goal, the more everything around you tends to fall into place and move things toward attainment of that goal. It would be of some help, regardless, to clarify just what it is you want in order to work toward it more efficiently, but some elements of this goal-directed thinking appear to do much the same things as does role-fantasy projection, helping us slip past our self-limitations.
Picture yourself, as clearly as possible, carrying through in the successful stages of a forthcoming event or task related to your goal. Over and over again, with as strong a visualisation as possible, building the conviction that this will be the outcome. Often, then, things seem to fall into place, and this does become the real outcome.
Straight vocabulary-building will generally raise I.Q. scores by some 10-20 points. One of the favoured methods is simply to start going through a few pages of a pocket-sized dictionary each day, marking off and learning the definition of every word whose meaning you can’t immediately and specifically recognise. In this manner one can expand his vocabulary to include nearly all of what is contained in a pocket of abridged dictionary. (The I.Q. gains from vocabulary-building should reflect some gain in actual intelligence, in view of the experiments by Lev Vygotsky on the effects of vocabulary on perceiving and thinking.)
After on has a good vocabulary, whether from the abridged-dictionary exercise above or by other means, or from previously acquired knowledge, he should undertake reading a comfortable, relatively simple introduction to philosophy. Bertrand Russel’s appears to be a good one to start with and will suggest others. If, after one, or six, or a dozen such books, you reach the point where you can comfortably follow the arguments and even argue with their authors as to their conclusions, you will probably be in excellent shape to handle almost anything else – you have thus acquired not a stock of information but a way of thinking.
–Of the sectors of this book upon which to put the most weight in your efforts, at least initially concentrate on those early chapters dealing with redeveloping the lower levels of your brain. Those lower levels are your most comprehensive bottleneck; expanding the abilities of your lower brain will then make more effective everything you do with your cortex, including the things you want to do now – and the things you will want to do in the future. For that is the point: Just as improving your lower brain aids all the other things you can do with your brain, improving your brain per se is your essential aid to all else. Man’s greatest tool is his brain, and you now have the tools with which to improve that tool.