The Simple "Key" to Learning
Some of our knowledge is stored in the brain in association with words. This knowledge is necessarily something we acquired in the past. As we go about our daily life, we access this knowledge through the words that constantly "come to mind". Daily life is full of words.
Some of this knowledge originates from our having examined our own "cognitive unconscious" in the past. But a lot of it is just "learned" from other people, and accepted provisionally because it is consonant with our own cognitive unconscious. It is stored by the words through which we learned it.
Most of our knowledge is stored wordlessly in the "cognitive unconscious". (It is not even "unconscious": It provides our basic grasp of the world. We are aware of it at all times. Try to define some concept, such as "physics". What are you "looking at" as you try to "see" what exactly in your whole body of knowledge this word reasonably refers to? You are looking at the cognitive unconscious!).
"Consciousness" (self-awareness) is simply being aware of both systems at the same time--seeing one in relation to the other.
The first system cannot be changed. It is like a memory.
Knowledge acquired from other people we learned by means of words which were labels for more basic knowledge already in our "cognitive unconscious". If it were not, we couldn’t have understood the new "knowledge" at all.
The second system can and does change on its own. When it does change, it changes instantaneously in ways that cannot be predicted. We don’t have to allow it to change--we can preferentially use our word-associated "knowledge" instead. Nor do we have to examine it closely once it has changed. Examining the "cognitive unconscious" to identify its contents in a consistent way is called "reasoning".
What the cognitive unconscious learns is not likely to be obvious. It is like a little man inside us who thinks.
The second system is left over from our primitive ancestry. Its very purpose is to see things in new ways. its purpose is "cognition", a personal knowing of the world.
The Simple Key to Learning
If we want to allow the second system to work, we must learn the skill of seeing things "with new eyes": as if we had never seen anything like that before. We have the ability to look at something while keeping all our past knowledge out of our "conscious mind." (Blowing out softly between the lips seems to be required--apparently this allows us to shut off all the words. A less efficient method is to touch the lips. ( This type of learning is not completely unconscious. But we are only aware of it "in the back of our mind", such that we are unable to report what is happening).
In the moment we see something "with new eyes," something in our brain (the cognitive unconscious) is enabled to undergo a physical change of some kind. Whether it does, or how it does it, is not under our control. The change is immediate. but if not subjected to further input can last our whole life.
After we do that, we may see the world a little differently. Just what our new knowledge consists of is something we must make an effort to understand by introspection.
Certainly there is apt to be some degree of conflict--at least temporarily--between what we ("unconsciously"--that is, in a form as yet unidentified) know now and what we "learned" previously either by our own reasoning--by observing our cognitive unconscious at that time, or from someone else; and memorialized by means of language.
The knowledge stored previously in the "cognitive unconscious" cannot be "wrong". It is never wrong, except in the case of some kind of biological malfunction or illness. If it were susceptible of being wrong, human life would not exist.
But "knowledge" we accept from other people, or glean or interpret ourselves from what is in our "cognitive unconscious" may well be and often is wrong. We may have gone way beyond the conclusions we should reasonably have drawn from our "cognitive unconscious" (for example, we might have drawn the unwarranted conclusion that the world is flat, or
that "white light" is "pure").
Two systems side by side. One changes, and one doesn’t change. The content of one is older; the content of the other, fresher. Both have reference to the "outside world", that is, the very same things in our daily lives. We are always simultaneously aware of both systems and see them in relation to each other. This is what "consciousness" is.
All these things have correlates in physical brain systems. The physical correlate of "seeing something as if we have never seen anything like it before" apparently consists of switching on a discrete pathway in the brain, or perhaps shunting aside one or more pathways which interfere with this pathway. Introspectively, this simply act consists of stopping oneself from "seeing" words spelled out in one’s mind.
The "trick" to this is just blowing out through the lips in any way which eliminates the spelled words from our consciousness. This blowing out feels introspectively like an act of focusing.
It makes one feel "all alone" One simply loses awareness of what one is "supposed" to know (what he has "learned" from other people). This feeling as well speaks to us about the physical organization of the brain.
When reading in this manner one is aware in the "back of one’s mind" that he is seeing the word and "hearing" its sound, but is not aware of the letters or the sound in away that allows him to remember them or report them later.
It is obvious which type of knowledge is more valuable. The knowledge in the "cognitive unconscious" must be true knowledge, although it takes effort to determine what it has to tell us. Knowledge acquired from other people remains "something I read" or "something I was told". It has not really become part of us. Even knowledge we gleaned from our cognitive unconscious in the past may not be the most "up to date" that we have.
In reading it is important to keep in mind that the cognitive unconscious does not develop through sentences or paragraphs--what changes and develops is the individual concept. Each word or group of words must be exposed to the cognitive unconscious individually, to be processed for its individual meaning, rather than as part of some larger thought sought
to be conveyed by the writer.
Each time something is read, the mind must be allowed to select for itself how big a grouping of words it is ready to process. This may change each time the same material is read--usually the groups will be larger and larger. But again, the "unconscious mind" must be allowed to make this selection itself. There is no point in trying to consciously relate the individual words or groups of words to the writer’s overarching thrust or argument. All that will do is process the material by the first system instead of the second system, and it will always remain ‘something I read".
Obviously, formal education with its world of homework and testing cannot encourage children to process "knowledge" in this way. Ideally, formal education should confine itself to teaching of language and reasoning.
Beyond that, having found out where the individual child’s interests lie, we should provide him with some books which would normally be considered years--perhaps many years-- beyond his or her current abilities. Then the child should be instructed to read a few pages every day, being careful to pronounce each word but never, never try to consciously try to keep his mind on the material, or to consciously grasp or remember anything. We want to allow the "little man" to do the thinking!