Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Meaning of Truth in the Media

Of course, we all know that truth is relative; the personal and cultural view of truth is contextual. But, what can we say about the eternal verities? What are those anyway, and should they be considered at a meaningful media discussion? I’m not sure that anyone who plans to attend MM wants to get into that philosophical discussion. On the other hand, “transformation” can go in many directions—even sideways. In the decades after World War II, the media-initiated transformation of American cultural values from needs to wants. This marked a transition to the so-called “consumer” culture—certainly a major transformation. To most people, this seemed like a good thing at the time, but as documented in the BBC documentary, “Happiness Machines,” we see that this transformation had its origins in what many would recognize as a pathological “nightmare” that led to Cold War foreign policy and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Based on the arguably paranoid schizophrenia of certain academic researchers, professionals, and industry elites, these policy manipulators were successful in altering the collective consciousness and turning much of the 20th century into a psychological trap modeled on game theory and the symbolic manipulations of the media, advertising, and statistics (The trap: Game Theory).

George Lakoff has argued that a “rational enlightenment” faith in the human capacity for reason is faulty. In fact, Lakoff cites research which suggests that 98% of human function is based in dimensions of the cognitive unconscious. My feeling is that the views of Jung, Lakoff, and others in the field of cognitive research have not received adequate attention. Re-framing our approach to global crisis from a perspective on cognitive science and the media would prove practical and cost-effective in every way.

The cognitive view of reality is far more comprehensive and scientifically based than orthodox science—until lately—has been willing to admit. Jung says, “Nothing influences our conduct less than do intellectual ideas…for such ideas represent forces that are beyond logical justification and moral sanction…man believes indeed that he moulds these ideas, but in reality they mould him and make him their unwitting mouthpiece.” (Jung, 1933, p. 42) He observes that, “Under the influence of scientific materialism (What he calls The Spirit of the Age), everything that could not be seen with the eyes or touched with the hands was held in doubt,” (p. 173) Based on discoveries in quantum physics, researchers in an array of cognitive sciences have been exploring dimension of the cognitive unconscious—dimensions that, due to apparent compatibilities of physics and cognitive science, qualify as psyche-physics.

If Jungian thought did not generate much of the thinking in current cognitive research, Jungian principles are certainly compatible with this thinking. Jung understood and articulated what is now emerging as scientific fact in many fields: that the “materialistic” Spirit of the Age was not particularly rational. He said, “It is a religion, or—even more—a creed which has absolutely no connection with reason, but whose significance lies in the implicit fact that it is taken as the absolute measure of all truth and is supposed always to have common-sense upon its side.” (p. 175)

The measure of truth seems to be related to our cognitive architecture—the narrative-metaphorical frames that experience and repetition have forged. So, what do folks have to say about this kind of truth? George Lakoff argues that the basic assumptions of rational materialism are faulty. (Lakoff) Bernard Baars notes that all cognitive models are based on the theatre metaphor (Baars) that assumes a dynamic relationship between vast unconscious dimensions (of psyche) and a much more limited “lighted stage” of consciousness. Due to discoveries in Physics, modern science has gone well beyond the truths of rational materialism. In our everyday media-sphere, we experience the scientific fact expressed by Shakespeare that, “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in (our) philosophy.”

The commonplaces of our media age are ideas that were given no credence in the recent past: thoughts are things, time and space are relative, day exists simultaneously with night, time is a psychological phenomenon, politics is religion, two plus two equals five, the past can be changed, space can bend, and dreams are real. Meanwhile, two of the most rational facts of our time are ignored. Of course, these facts have to do with the catastrophic consequences of ignoring the “natural” environment and the suicidal consequences of ignoring the psychological-somatic global media environment. Perhaps it is time to review Jungian principles of the cognitive unconscious from the perspective of an emergent media age.

Jung was the quintessential media expert, and he researched the quintessential medium—the medium of dreams. By discovering how dreams function in an environment of psyche, Jung discovered the fundamental parameters of a media age. But so far, the benign mandate of mediation has not been adequately addressed, so most of the indications are that the media can have an overwhelmingly negative impact on all aspects of culture. This subject has been addressed by Neil Postman who argued that the structure of our media influences the structure of our culture and of our cognitive processes. (Postman) Observers of the syndicated nightly news for the past decade or of the 2008 elections understand that the so-called reality we experience in the media is too often delusional. Jonathan Schell recently addressed the problem in The Nation (Schell) where he details the political dangers of unprincipled political campaigning. The campaign provided meaningful insight as to a future in which humans intentionally recreate reality with the technology and dynamics of illusion. The media-sphere must be our first priority. It is upon the media that all else depends.

I have one final recommendation as to the nature of “truth” in a meaningful media. Significant research on the influence of the heart on cognitive function can be found at This is important research relative to the coherence of heart rhythms and oscillations and their affect on cognitive processes in both personal and collective energy fields. Technology already exists and is in process of being applied to the unified Earth field. Relative to any discussion of truth and meaningful media, we cannot afford to ignore the intelligent heart.

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