The creative power of human mind
The creative intelligence
We have already noticed how the creative function of human intelligence has transformed, over the centuries, the natural environment, clearly differentiating humanity from any other animal species. This big change has manifested itself in a more accentuated way in complex societies, growing dramatically in the last century in what we could define as global technological civilization. Where today there are urban agglomerates populated by millions of people, once there were only woods, grasslands and rivers: these changes have required, in addition to time, the energy and work of generations of living beings (in addition to humans, we must not forget the animals used), but every particular aspect, every detail, has been elaborated and carried out by human mind. So the human brain is gifted with a creative faculty that can devise and process new increasingly complex combinations of substances and materials present in the natural environment, increasing the level of information of the environment itself and of human interactions.
Not all human brains have the creative faculty at the same level, but almost all contribute in some measure to the implementation of the programs needed for the production of the designed artifacts. In some individuals the creative function is particularly developed, able to give form to new ideas, making new discoveries or developing new projects. In other individuals creativity expresses itself in an organizational form, that is, in the ability to coordinate and assign the tasks necessary to achieve a goal, and to control that they are properly performed. Finally, in most people, creativity manifests itself as a functional ability to perform the task (work) that they themselves have decided to do or has been assigned to them. Sometimes the designing, organizing and executing skills are well developed in the same person, as for example in a classical artist, but the complexity of advanced technological projects requires the collaboration of teams of individuals, able to collaborate effectively in the role assigned to each one.
What determines the creative function of the mind?
According to the current scientific approach to knowledge, we should consider the inventive and creative function of the mind as the result of the activity of some particular areas of the human brain. Taking into account the extraordinary complexity of behaviors and manifestations that we can observe in the animal world, scientists have definitely established that each action is determined by a particular signal (or a set of signals) activated by sensorial stimuli (coming from external environment or from within the body), which act on that particular physical instrument consisting of the brain and the nervous system. No matter how much wonder certain behaviors can arouse in us (think, for example, on the flight of birds and their ability to orient themselves), we are still able to recognize and accept the possibility (or certainty) that all these behaviors are due to the working of complex systems, yet similar to servomechanisms, activated by the interaction between stimuli and congenital or learned programs.
However, in the case of the creative function – a faculty, as we have said, exclusively human – we are dealing with something essentially different, with a higher level of information complexity. How can a physical system which, however complex, still remains something like a computer, conceive something new and realize it, using only its own resources? Evidently the human brain is not a computer, or at least it is not just a computer, since it also has the ability to develop by itself new programs. An alternative hypothesis, all to be verified, could be to consider the human brain as a processor of programs that are conceived and transmitted by alien forms of intelligence, not belonging to our dimension (such as the subliminal Self or the unconscious, as we have mentioned on previous page).
Where are the higher functions located?
Whatever the truth (which currently escapes our knowledge), two facts of fundamental importance must be taken into account. The first is that what we can define as the higher functions of the human mind, that is, intelligence, creativity and the ability to organize and communicate, are clearly different from the perceptual, sensory and emotional functions that we share with various animal species. So their localization must be sought in those structures that differentiate the human brain from those of the higher primates, which shows the greatest similarities with ours, notwithstanding the fact that in different human brains the higher functions do not manifest themselves in the same way. But even if it were proved that brain activity is the sole cause of the creative function, it remains to be seen how some particular electrochemical connections of neural networks can determine new ideas and realizations. Ultimately, it would be a transfer of the issue, from what in the past was defined as the spirit (or the soul), to what is the neural system that produces the same effects.
These arguments lead us to the second important fact: in recognizing that the human brain is the system determining all those functions that in the past were attributed to the spirit, we do not make any significant progress in terms of knowledge regarding the motivations and purposes of the evolutionary process that has led to the structural and functional organization of our brain and to human life, under the profile of the meaning that each person attributes to their life as a conscious Ego. Indeed, this type of knowledge that cannot be denied because it is based on solid experimental basis, not infrequently translates into cultural programs that have the effect of denying importance and meaning to individual lives, so as to generate in many people reactions of rejection, denial and resentment. Anyway, these are fights of a psychic origin between conflicting cultural programs, because the fact that the seat of the spirit is in the human brain is not in itself less surprising, less extraordinary or less complex than a presumed metaphysical nature of the spirit. What constitutes the core of the problem, that is the meaning of life for the conscious Ego, is still waiting for an explanation: since this meaning is not revealed satisfactorily in the course of our lives, the human psyche has attempted to to solve the question by hypothesizing that the existence of the conscious Ego can continue beyond our organism's death and the brain dissolution. But cultural programs based on scientific knowledge, binding the existence of the conscious Ego to the brain functioning, undermine this option offered by the psyche.
The creative mind and the tales of the psyche
As a matter of fact, in the course of human history, some people have felt the need to creatively interpret the history of their evolution and the purpose of our existence. The reason why this need emerged remains another of the enigmas that characterize the human brain, differentiating it from that of other animals. The fact of attributing this need to higher cerebral functions and not, for example, to the spirit, is a consequence of the current scientific approach that considers the brain as the source of consciousness and of any mental activity. Actually, however, this need has always manifested itself as a mental activity of the conscious Ego, which posed questions to which it sought answers in the form of thoughts, reasoning, revelations or other psyche's experiences that could satisfy it. Up to a relatively recent past, the knowledge about the brain functioning was insufficient and inadequate, and left room for representations originating from the psyche that considered the human being as constituted by a body and a soul, or spirit, of a non-physical nature.
At this point it must be kept in mind that the current scientific knowledge is still inadequate and insufficient to explain comprehensively the complexity of mental functions and psyche's experiences in which the conscious Ego can be involved. The only thing we can be sure of is that, under normal conditions, all our experiences, the very fact of being conscious and the quality of our consciousness are determined by the functioning of particular neural systems. Neuroscientists are however mainly oriented to include in the brain activity also the creative function, such as that which gave and gives rise to the psyche's tales on which is based every specific vision of the world and of the meaning of life that has been transmitted – and even now it is transmitted – through cultural means, differentiating itself from one culture to another, depending on the era and location.
The interactions between the human psyche and the physical world
In the pages of this section dedicated to the human psyche the reasons are explained for which it is advisable to consider the psyche, as a whole, as an autonomous phenomenon, connected to the reality of this world but at the same time independent. Perhaps neuroscientists could come to understand and explain in the future the ways in which the activation of new neural circuits, with the presence of specific neurotransmitters, can determine new creative experiences, including those psyche's tales that constitute the basis of myths, religions and the various worldviews. In any case, the human brain represents the fulcrum that allows the interaction between the psyche's experiences and the physical world: if the physical world, in its real dimensions of external environment and functioning of our body, determines in our brain particular reactions that at least partly translate into mental experiences, the psyche too determines new creative configurations in the brain that produce activities which can act on the physical world and transform it. The fact that the brain is the hub of this interaction does not authorize us to reduce the whole reality to the sole aspect of the physical world.
The interaction between the human psyche and the environment is ordinarily manifested through the mental activity and the forms of collaboration and organization that determine the creation of increasingly complex artifacts, constructions, machines and tools that deeply modify the natural environment at an ever faster pace. Nature is studied, conditioned and tamed to meet the vital needs (but also the desires originating from the psyche) of an ever-increasing number of human beings. What is commonly called progress is nothing but a process by which the human psyche exercises its power of transformation of the natural physical world for purposes that transcend every single living human being, and which remain unknown to us. The cultural interpretation according to which progress represents an advantage for the life and happiness of human beings is not infrequently denied by historical facts, even if we must recognize that in certain periods and for some social groups the conditions of life have been more favorable and also pleasing, thanks to the technological resources created through ingenuity and work. On the other hand, a certain balance, however precarious and unstable, must always be guaranteed between the general conditions of human life and the resulting experiences: when this equilibrium is lacking, the same possibility of sustaining the life of billions of human beings interacting in complex social structures, such as those we find in today's world, comes into crisis.
A particular creative aspect of the psyche's activity
Up to now we have considered the creative activities of the human mind in conditions that we can define as normal or ordinary. But this site also emphasizes those paranormal phenomena which, although occurring in particular and non-ordinary circumstances, show the existence of a creative activity able to interact directly with the physical world, without the mediation of those body's muscular forces that are normally necessary to our mind to exert the actions aimed at modifying the physical conditions of the environment or of our body. Even paranormal phenomena, and especially the mediumistic ones, require the presence of a brain with particular faculties (still unknown), in the person of a subject defined medium, which is associated with the brains of other people usually interested in mediumistic activity. In fact, without the physical participation of the medium mediumistic phenomena can not occur, and even the ways in which such phenomena occur when the medium is present can be very different from one medium to another: for example, some mediums go into a trance, losing consciousness completely while the phenomena occur, while others remain more or less conscious and in some cases fully lucid. Mediumistic phenomena can be mental or physical: both of them pose particular problems regarding the brain functioning, but physical phenomena involve dynamic actions which, according to the laws of physics, can only be performed by active forces. If these forces are not those that are known and investigated on the basis of scientific knowledge, even with the help of instruments created by human ingenuity, we must necessarily hypothesize the existence of forces of a different nature which, in particular circumstances, can interact with our physical dimension.
The role of human brain
In our age we are in a singular cultural condition: neuroscience, putting the functioning of the human brain, in all its complexity, at the center of the scene, tends to interpret every single conscious mental experience as a product of the neural activity of certain areas of the cerebral cortex. However, precisely the complexity of psyche's experiences, the considerable differences found in the quality of these experiences between one person and another (and therefore between the respective brains), and the considerable difficulties encountered in the study of the brain functioning (especially as regards the correlation between the state of a neural network and the corresponding conscious experience), make the cognitive scheme of brain functioning still very incomplete, even if correctly set up. Above all, the tendency to consider the brain working as the sole and exclusive source of every form of mental experience is still unsatisfactory, as we are not able to explain convincingly how this cerebral machine can by itself implement processes such as the inventive and creative activity, or produce complex phenomena such as the mediumistic ones.
While recognizing and acknowledging that brain activity is the necessary and indispensable support for every mental activity, and therefore for every experience originating from the psyche, it is important to keep in mind how the operational differences between one brain and another, and certain established facts that depend from the functioning of a particular brain, induce to hypothesize that this complex organic instrument can also have a catalytic function towards complex autonomous realities, largely alien to the physical dimension, such as the human psyche, or certain entities that seem to manifest themselves in mediumistic phenomena. The other sections of this site are dedicated to the study of these realities. It is worthwhile to mention here a famous phrase by Schopenhauer, which von Hartmann quoted at the beginning of the first part of his book Philosophy of the Unconscious: «The Materialists endeavour to show that all, even mental phenomena, are physical: and rightly; only they do not see that, on the other hand, everything physical is at the same time metaphysical».