Today’s stren, #78, introduces a new word-switch, second signaling system. Word-switches are our means to selectively replace the trigger words hardwired by instinct and tradition with newer action pathways we ourselves design to assume control of our will power. The knowledge turned on by this word-switch inspires us to become our own person and assume responsibility to wisely direct its power; failure to understand the power of our second signaling system will lead to our self-extinction.
For every physical action, a physical signal is the final common pathway to trigger the action. All life is sustained by physical cues that trigger a specific action. This process is labeled “our primary signaling system.” Humankind is distinguished from other life on earth by the degree to which our intelligent cerebral cortex creates mental energy by assigning meaning to symbols. Our use of symbols to influence our primary physical signaling system is called our second signaling system.
For example, a specific word may release chemicals and activate our nervous system. The symbol of a cross, crescent, six pointed star, or swastika may release considerable energy depending on the specific meaning previously assigned to that symbol. One individual finds a cemetery a quiet setting to enjoy a picnic; while another panics at the thought of walking through it, fearing ungodly spirits that might dwell there. No species creates and uses symbols to initiate action the way we do. We continue to expand this second signaling system from the limited number of symbols initiated by our ancestors.
The final common pathway leading to a physical response consists of a measureable physical event such as a chemical or electrical change. However the symbols we energize by the meanings we assign to them are capable of triggering the chemical or electrical final pathway. Since ideas are not physical, we label them “mental” or “spiritual.” Scientists usually prefer the term “mental power” whereas faith-based individuals may label this energy “spiritual power.” The label “will power” brings a similar image of non-physical energy.
Our cerebral cortex is the source of our exceptional ability to assign meaning to symbols and make them capable of releasing sufficient energy to trigger physical action. The more knowledge we acquire of the universal rules of cause-and-effect, the greater our mental strength to exercise will power. Humankind has increasingly become the dominant rulers and creators on earth because of our second signaling system.
We each start life as a servant to instinct and thereafter the traditions of our nurturers and the demands of human dictators. We remain obedient to these early masters unless and until we free our will power to assume personal responsibility for our life’s experience. We create symbols consisting primarily of language and we assign meaning to the symbols we create. Our symbols serve as signals to turn on imagination, concepts, and alternative action pathways of our own original design. Through our power of interpretation, we transform the commonly shared physical reality into personal mental images. The specialized ability of our cerebral cortex to manipulate images enables us to discover knowledge of the universal rules of cause-and-effect. New symbols, energized with meaning, are passed forward, allowing successive generations to grow their self-mastery and power to influence what is about them. Mental freedom to pursue “good” in our own way is among our most prized goals. We are powerful creators because our second signaling system manipulates images in logical sequences to form ideas.
Imagination is much more important than knowledge. ... Einstein
We store knowledge like a library stores data, and we pull out what serves our need by the use of a linked symbol. Make the new word-switch, “second signaling system,” the word-handle to grasp your power of imagination, bring it to conscious awareness, and serve as an accelerant to the process of mentally freeing your will from domination by instinct and tradition to become master of your own life’s experience.
Knowledge of the universal rules of cause-and-effect is power. The more knowledge we acquire, the more we make ourselves powerful creators. We not only increase our power; we continue to dramatically accelerate the speed at which we increase our power. With more scientists alive today using increasingly powerful technology, we now grow knowledge (and power) at an explosive rate. We envision becoming the civilized humane species we create in our imagination, while we simultaneously direct our unprecedented power towards becoming the first species to annihilate itself. Knowledge is power that is suited to both constructive and destructive ends.
The payoff of this stren begins when we realize that the first part of our life experience is not in our control; we have become what fate and circumstance have made of us. But wow!!! We make a fantastic discovery: We don’t have to remain a mental servant to other masters. Our freedom organ, matured, is ready to develop. Once we understand that symbols with their assigned meanings influence action, we can ask what is needed to get at the controls. The secret of making ourselves wise creators of the joyous life experience we seek is adding word-switches to our second signaling system that accurately reflect the common sense order of cause-and-effect.
Knowledge is raw power. Wisdom is the means by which we selectively replace the superstitions and faulty assumptions of our animal brain (instinct) and the hardwired traditions of our nurturers with common sense. The source of common sense is our intelligent freedom organ. Mental strength is accomplished by creating symbols and assigning them meanings that generate energy. Our collection of symbols provides us the power of interpretation that elevates us above other life. The word-switch “second signaling system” serves to turn on our conscious awareness of the source of our special power. Once we recognize the secret of our mental strength, we position our intelligent freedom organ to add wisdom to power.
We increase our power of knowledge as we discover the universal rules of the creative force that governs all life. The more knowledge we discover, the greater our raw power to act both stupidity and wisely. Our ancestors were intelligent but they had limited knowledge. Their power of interpretation was understandably misdirected by superstition, false assumptions, and rituals we now consider bizarre. By equipping our animal brain with an intelligent cerebral cortex to do its bidding, we have made ourselves the most powerful life on earth, so powerful that we are close to creating our own annihilation.
A simple explanation for the current crisis that threatens our survival. Our second signaling system is dominated by trigger words that turn on old solutions based on primitive knowledge. Individually, collectively, and historically, the influence of our animal brain precedes the maturity of our freedom organ to think using common sense wisdom; our intelligent but immature cortex is servant to our animal brain for many years. Our ancestors have slowly equipped our second signaling system to repeat the life cycle at all costs. Overloaded with trigger words biased to serve our animal brain, we preserve our local family without considering the harm to those we perceive as not our family. As we acquire more knowledge and increasingly harness nature’s power, we become more dangerous.
With physical and mental maturation of our freedom organ, our second signaling system may use common sense to add wisdom to power. Each word-switch we add to our glossary of symbols replaces ignorance with common sense and shifts the balance from “my way the only way” confrontations to problem-solving collaboration for mutual benefit – “what is best for all parties, for now and the future?”
The power of our second signaling system will continue to be the greatest threat to our survival unless and until we teach ourselves Einstein’s solution – “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” We do so by creating newer word-switches that turn on universal common sense and selectively replace those trigger words of our ancestors that perpetuate the action pathways established by instinct and tradition that have become maladaptive.
We have enough intelligence, knowledge, and technology to rapidly popularize ANWOT. Indeed, we perpetually create newer symbols that add civility and the humane qualities that elevate us above animals. What we must realize is that we can no longer tolerate the slow growth of common sense thinking. Urgent action is required now if we are to survive and thrive as most tribes acquire weapons with ultimate destructive power.
The trigger words created by our animal brain and the traditions of our nurturers express the adaptive action pathways proven by trial-and-error learning to work for yesterday’s challenges. New technology creates newer problems that render these older hardwired solutions dangerous. We must rapidly upgrade our thinking. We must add wisdom to the power of our second signaling system. Wisdom is attained by the process of selectively replacing the hardwired trigger words that mindlessly advocate obedience to the commands of instinct and tradition with newer word-switches offering out-of-the-box common sense solutions, that accurately reflect our current knowledge of the universal rules of cause-and-effect.
Our future or its lack now requires urgent action. We must assume personal responsibility to popularize ANWOT. This stren will be productive if sufficient individuals are inspired to apply the word-switch “second signaling system” and take action to popularize a newer way of thinking and become an each one, teach many leader of world peace.
1 The New York Times; May 25, 1946.