In the section on Time, the idea that the perception of Past and Future is a cognitive mechanism for formulating an intention that might be expressed as a beneficial action is discussed. The Past and Future are illusory, existing in our experience only at the synapses of our brains. A feature of this neurological trick, that is required to empower it, is that we experience Past and Future as “real”. Without this experience of reality, the process of formulating intention would lack traction and be less likely to motivate a beneficial outcome. Another neurological trick is the formulation of “I”, which also depends upon being experienced as “real”. When our experience of an individual self loses this sense of being real we can become very uncomfortable, and tend to go to great lengths to re-establish its authority. It is a precursor for us to initiate action – “I do”, and without its authority, we easily become lost as to how to proceed. If this sense of individual self is examined purely rationally, it is apparent that it too is illusory – an artifact of processes occurring at the synapses in our brains because they have some proven utility for our species survival.
Mammals in our lineage function as a social unit – “we”. A sense of self is useful for recognizing the position of oneself relative to the social unit – “What is my position in the herd.” As our successful mammalian social structure grew more complex so did this awareness of the position of self relative to the whole, eventually morphing into the cognitive “I” which we use today. This formulation of sense of self is embedded in and integral to our high-level cortical functions (our simpler ancestors have a less complex formulation of sense of self, regardless of how much we anthropomorphize our pets), which first evolved to manage our more basic cognitive mechanisms, labeled in this essay as “First-Order Cognition”. Here these high-level cortical functions are labeled “Second-Order Cognition”.
Whereas First-Order Cognition is firmly rooted in the sensory stream, processing sensory data and figuring out what to do (based on Reflexes, Drives, Instincts, and Emotions), Second-Order Cognition is not anchored in the same way. The benefit of this is that novel solutions can emerge, an ability at which our species has obviously excelled. The liability of Second-Order Cognition not being locked into the sensory stream, when oriented to survival, is that it will gravitate to formulating intent based on a reference point – our sense of self. Our defense of this self-reference and the way in which we enable its authority is by experiencing it as real. Although it always seems real and immutable, this reference point changes constantly over the course of our lives (when it doesn’t we cease maturation). This sense of real immutableness has a potential Achille’s Heel, which is that it can relatively easily be co-opted or hijacked.
As organizations and charismatic individuals have become more skillful at manipulating social identity we can observe this effect in the radicalization of individual members of societies, an activity which is now rampant worldwide. However we identify, we will aggressively defend that identity as real. There is perhaps a more insidious hijacking that may be occurring. Our Second-Order Cognitive processes do not automatically process the origin of the sense of self, only formulating intentions based on the assumption of its “realness”. This leaves it vulnerable to the possibility of exploitation by energetic entities that have a penchant for expression through a physical presence. We may notice this occurring when we perform irrational acts. If we notice this happening is it possible that our impulses to act (I do, I am) are being initiated by something that is not aligned with our self-interests.
Before this argument is completely dismissed it is worth considering how deeply embedded in our cultural heritage energetic entities are. Angels and Demons, Exorcism, Witchcraft, and currently the influence of Pleiadians are a few examples1. For thousands of years, our ancestors have noticed, usually after the fact, a tendency for something to get in behind our Ego and push it in a direction we probably would not have chosen. While occurring, these actions seem purely congruent with our Sense of Self, but upon reflection, we wonder “what were we thinking?!”. In this essay, the answer to that question lies in the diaphanous, but rigidly defended Sense of Self and its vulnerability to manipulation by external influences. This vulnerability is an inherent weakness of Second-Order Cognition, which, untethered from the stream of data flowing from our senses, consequently lacks references for evaluating its choices other than the tenuous “I” it maintains.
Second-Order Cognition does not require a self-reference to function. Our brains are quite proficient at abstract thought, as demonstrated by our scientific and artistic accomplishments. On this website, this is described as Third-Order Cognition. The purpose of self-referenced Second-Order Cognition is to enable decision making beneficial to oneself, which confers a survival advantage. If one is survival-oriented, Second-Order Cognition will tend to be dominated by a self-reference. As long as one’s awareness presupposes the presence of a “real” self, one will be vulnerable to exploitation by manipulation of the rendering of one’s self-reference. If discrepancies are not too obvious, your choices will always appear to be made by the “real” you, expressing your “Free-Will”. If one dislocates one’s thinking processes from the burden of maintaining a self-reference, seemingly unlimited possibilities for awareness emerge, and the threat of manipulation by energetic entities disappears.
There is a discussion on the nature of Third-Order Cognition, or Pure Thought, in the section on Archetypes, in the essay on the Intelligence Archetype.
1 Of course, this argument is not scientific. However, based on the definition of what Science is, neither is individual identity, which is an abstract construct. What is examined here is the mechanisms by which cognition manifests beneficial outcomes, and the observation that there are attributes of our surroundings incompletely described by our scientific enterprise, which may bear unrecognized influence on those outcomes.