It is activities such as the type I am doing right now which both amazes and amuses me on being a human being. What I mean to say is in regards to the act of thinking, questioning and investigating thoughts.
It is through thoughts that we understand and know everything beyond mere sensations.
On occasions where we try to understand the thoughts itself, it creates a very peculiar situation of:
A thing doing that onto itself that it is supposed to do on something else.
Is it even possible?
Let us see where else such situations arise. Beginning with other organs of the human body.
Thinking about thoughts is equivalent to the heart pumping itself, the eyes seeing itself, skin sensing itself, tongue tasting itself, teeth biting itself, hair and nails covering itself, fingers holding itself, brain understanding itself and likewise.
Beyond organs, such situations exist in the following general cases:
Thinking about thoughts is equivalent to a creature consuming itself: a snake poisoning/swallowing itself, a lion biting on its own neck, a mosquito/vampire sucking its own blood and so on.
It is like a hammer hammering itself, a knife cutting itself, a gun shooting on itself, a lighter lighting itself.
Let us name such activities. Let us pick a name.
I have picked a name. Let’s call it: Self-Execution.
It is immediately apparent that it is not the function of any organ or system to do unto itself that which it is supposed to do to something else. Self-Executing is unnatural. Doesn’t the same apply to thoughts?
Is thought understanding necessary? More so, is it even possible?
In regards to the necessity of understanding our own thoughts, let us make a small experiment by pretending we know nothing about them. Let us assume, we don’t know what kind of pattern they follow from one to another nor do we know what kind of law they obey in terms of the circumstances in which they spring or not-spring.
This implies we know nothing about reasoning/logic and psychology.
Now let us put ourselves in a situation where there are five of us in the middle of a forest and you, the individual, are the only one who has a small loaf of bread.
What does this do to us?
Will you be able to safely deal with the situation and ensure everyone comes out of the forest relatively calm and happy?
My guess is No, you can’t. You do not have the skill of reasoning that will tell you what are the best options and actions to take nor do you have the understanding of how your actions will affect your friends. All this will probably lead you to doing something that is unreasonable considering the situation..
Hasn’t this immediately turned us into hopeless beings troubled by great confusion and emotional turmoil?
One thing though is clear in regards to understanding thoughts as self-executive systems: Understanding thoughts is as important as understanding our physical body and in its organs.
But this immediately begs some questions- What are thoughts actually? How do we define it? What are their domains and boundaries?
One of the best approaches to thought-understanding comes from Thomas Hobbes, the British Philosopher. He defines thoughts as representation or appearances of objects which originate from our senses. Imagination for him is nothing but the residue of the sensed while Mental Discourse or thinking he defines as the succession of one thought to another. Every other cognitive faculty is developed from this basic principle for him.
It is clear that, for Hobbes, everything we humans do mentally, originates from senses which are then interpreted as thoughts. Therefore, our each and every mental activity from contemplation to emotions are nothing but thoughts- generated from senses emerging from the brain.
From a slightly different viewpoint, Khaptad Baba, the doctor turned spiritualist is of the opinion that thoughts have special forms of their own. He believes that the origin of thoughts are atomic in nature which are very subtle. In fact, so much that there is nothing in this world that is more subtle. For him too, thoughts originate from the brain:
Thoughts originate from the brain…Brain is more powerful and complete compared to other machines. Brain has such dazzling energy that it cannot even be described.
Like Hobbes, he too describes Thoughts as the original entities of all human cognitive actions. Therefore, our each and every mental activity contemplation to emotions are nothing but development of thoughts which emerges from the brain.
In regards to the origin of thoughts, neuroscience tells us the following:
Neurons release brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which generate these electrical signals in neighboring neurons. The electrical signals propagate like a wave to thousands of neurons, which leads to thought formation…One theory explains that thoughts are generated when neurons fire. Our external environment (such as home, relationships, media, etc.) leads to a pattern of neuron firing, which results in a thought process.
On the other hand, @Deepak Chopra is of the opinion that brain has nothing to do with the origin process and it is merely a medium, a vessel:
If you want to experience the highest values in life — love, compassion, beauty, creativity, joy, and higher consciousness — your brain isn’t the right place to turn. These experiences exist in your awareness, waiting to emerge. The brain cannot give you these experiences, because contrary to popular belief, the brain isn’t aware. It transmits thoughts the way a television transmits pictures on the screen. No one would say that TVs produce the shows they transmit, yet we say this about the brain all the time…It is pure illusion to mistake the brain for the mind.
Perspectives aside, we humans have not been able to clearly and concretely understand what thoughts actually are. This is something of great controversy and debate that has been going on forever it seems! Yet, people have tried and have continued to try.
In the next part, we shall investigate the attempts made to define and understand thoughts. For now, however, let us define thoughts as – everything that the brain does that is not physiological and as:
Something through which we understand and know everything beyond mere sensations.
In regards to the need to understand it, let us accept that anything we humans understand properly is always helpful in one way or the other for us. For this will allow us to move ahead without much confusion and restlessness. Additionally, under the self-execution system of knowing, now we have a valid reason too: Understanding thoughts is as important as understanding the heart, if not more!