Summary prepared by attendees at Silo’s conferences in
mid-November 1975 in Corfu.
The Appendix “Physiological Bases of the Psychism,” was added towards the end of the same year.
1. The Psychism
As a Life Function
Since its beginnings, life has manifested itself in numerous forms. Many species have disappeared because they did not adapt to the environment, to new circumstances. Living beings have needs that they go to their environment to satisfy; this situation in the ecological environment unfolds in constant movement and change. The relationship is unstable and unbalanced, producing responses in the organism that tend to compensate the disequilibrium and thus enable it to maintain its structure which otherwise would abruptly disappear. Thus we see living nature deploy itself in a variety of forms, in an environment that has numerous characteristics that are different and variable; and at the base of living nature we see simple mechanisms of compensation in front of the disequilibrium that threatens the structure’s permanence.
The adaptation to external change. also implies an internal change in organisms for their survival. When this internal change does not take place in living beings, they eventually disappear and life chooses other paths to continue its growing expansion. The mechanism of responding compensatorily to disequilibrium will always be present in the sphere of life and life forms, and its complexity will be greater or lesser depending on each species’ degree of development. This task of compensating the external environment, as well as internal needs, will be understood as adaptation (and, specifically, as growing adaptation)—as the only way to prevail in the dynamic of instability in movement.
Especially, animal life will develop according to functions of nutrition, reproduction and locomotion. Of course these functions exist in plant life as well, and even in unicellular life; but clearly, in animals these functions constantly relate the organism with its environment, maintaining the structure’s internal stability. This will be expressed in a more specialized way as vegetative tendencies,, as “instincts” of conservation and reproduction. The first maintains the individual structure; the second, that of the species. In this preparation by organisms to preserve themselves as individuals and perpetuate themselves as a species, an inertia (we would say, the “memory”) is expressed that tends to ensure permanence and continuity, in spite of the variations.
In animals, the functions of nutrition, and reproduction will need locomotion in order to be deployed. This allows for displacement in space in order to obtain food. Internally there is also a mobility, a transporting of substances in order for them to be assimilated by the organism. Reproduction will be internal within the individual, and external in the multiplication of individuals. The first is verified in the form of the generation and regeneration of tissue; the second as the production of individuals within the same species. Both will need to use locomotion to accomplish their purpose.
The tendency to go toward the environment—from the search for food supply sources, to flight or concealment from danger—gives direction and mobility to living beings. These specific tendencies in each species form a team of tropisms. The simplest tropism consists of giving a response to a stimulus. This minimal operation, of responding to an element alien to the organism that provokes a disequilibrium in the structure, in order to compensate and re-establish stability, will later manifest itself in a diverse and complex way. All the operations will leave “tracks,” which will be preferential pathways for the new responses (in Time 2 the living being operates on the basis of conditions obtained in Time 1). This possibility of recording is of prime importance for the structure’s permanence in a changing external environment, and a variable internal environment.
As the organism tends to go toward the environment to adapt to it and survive, it will have to do so by overcoming resistances. In the environment there are possibilities but also inconveniences, and to overcome the difficulties and surpass resistances, energy must be invested; work must be done that requires energy. This available energy will be used in that work of overcoming environmental resistances. There will be no energy available again until the difficulties are overcome and the work is completed. The recordings of tracks (memory) will allow responses based on previous experiences, which will leave free energy available for new evolutionary steps. Without energetic availability, it is not possible to carry out more complex tasks of growing adaptation.
On the other hand, the environmental conditions present themselves to the developing organism as alternatives of choice, as well as being the tracks that allow it to decide between the different alternatives of adaptation. In addition, the adaptation is carried out by looking for the path of least resistance in front of the different alternatives, and that will require the least effort. This lesser effort implies less energy expenditure. And so, concomitantly with overcoming resistances, the attempt is made to do so with the least amount of energy possible, so that the free energy available can be invested in new evolutionary steps. In each evolutionary moment there is transformation, both of the environment as well as of the living being. Here is an interesting paradox: the structure, in order to preserve its unity, must transform the environment, and also transform itself.
It would be erroneous to think that living structures change. and transform only the surrounding environment, since this environment becomes increasingly more complicated, and it is impossible to adapt while keeping the individuality unchanged, just as it was created in its beginnings. This is the case of man, whose environment, with the passing of time, is no longer just natural, but is social and technical as well. The complex relationships between social groups and the accumulated social and historical experience create an environment and a situation in which man’s internal transformation will be necessary.
Following this roundabout description in which life emerges as organizing itself with functions, tropisms and memory) so as to compensate a variable environment and thus increasingly adapt, we see that a coordination among these factors (however minimal) is also necessary for the opportune orientation toward favorable conditions of development. When this minimal coordination appears, the psychism emerges as a function of life in growing adaptation, in evolution.
The function of the psychism consists of coordinating all the operations of compensation of the living being’s instability in its environment. Without coordination, the organisms would respond partially without completing the different compositional parts, without maintaining the necessary relationships; and, finally, without preserving the structure in the dynamic process of adaptation.
In Relationship with the Environment
This psychism that coordinates the vital functions makes use of the senses and the memory) for the perception of variations in the environment. These senses, which through time have become more complex (like all parts of organisms), provide information on the environment that will be structured in adaptative orientation. The environment in turn is very varied, and certain minimal environmental conditions are necessary for the organism’s development. Wherever these physical conditions are present, life emerges; and once the first organisms appear, the conditions are progressively transformed in way that is increasingly more favorable for life. But in the beginning, organisms require optimal environmental conditions for development. The variations in the troposphere reach all organisms. Thus, daily cycles and seasonal cycles, as well as general temperature, radiation and solar light, are influential conditions in the development of life. So is the composition of the Earth, which, in its wealth, offers raw material that will be the energy and work source for living beings. The accidents that can occur all over the planet are also decisive circumstances for organic development. From glaciations, cave-ins, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, even wind and water erosion—all are determining factors. Life will be different in the deserts, in the mountain heights, on the poles or on the seacoasts. Large numbers of organisms and diverse species appear and disappear from the earth’s surface once life arrives from the oceans. Many individuals encounter insurmountable difficulties and perish as a result. This also happens to complete species—species that were unable to transform themselves or the new situations that arose in the evolutionary process. Life nonetheless continually opens up its path, encompassing many possibilities through great numbers and diversity.
When diverse species appear within one same space, different relations arise among them, apart from those that exist within the same species. There are relations of symbiosis, of association, parasitic relations, saprophytic relations and so on. All these possible relations can be simplified into three major types: relations of domination, relations of interchange, and relations of destruction. Organisms maintain these relationships among themselves, with some surviving and others disappearing.
We are dealing with organisms with functions that are regulated by a psychism; organisms equipped with senses to perceive the internal and external environments, and with a memory that is not just genetic memory for the trans-mission of the species’ characteristics (instincts” of reproduction and conservation), but also individual recordings of new reflexes that make it possible to decide in front of alternatives. The memory also fulfills another function: the register of time; memory makes it possible to give continuity to the passing of time. The first circuit of short reflexes (stimuli-response) allows for variations in its complexity, thus allowing specialization of the nervous and endocrine systems. On the other hand, the possibility of acquiring new reflexes originates learning and domestication, also enabling specialization of multiple mechanisms of response. As a result, variable behavior can be observed; variable conduct in the environment, in the world.
After many attempts by Nature, mammals began their development, producing different and numerous cases. These mammals gave rise to different branches, among them the hominids of recent date. From hereon in, the psychism begins a specific development.
In the Human Being
A notable leap forward is produced when the codification of signs (sounds and gestures) begins among the hominids. Later the codified signs are fixed with greater permanence (in engraved signs and symbols). These signs improve the communication that relates individuals amongst themselves, and tells of matters of importance for them regarding the environment they live in. Memory expands and is no longer just genetic transmission and individual memory; but thanks to the encoding of signals, data can be stored and transmitted signically, resulting in the increase of information and social experience.
Subsequently, a second important leap forward takes place: memory data become independent of the genetic apparatus and the individual. Dispersed memory appears, which progresses from the first signs on walls and clay tablets to alphabets that make texts, libraries, teaching centers, etc., possible. The most important aspect that has operated here is that the psychism goes outside itself and shapes itself in the world.
At the same time locomotion expands, thanks to an inventiveness that, on one hand, creates devices not found in nature, and, on the other, domesticates animals and plants, allowing their transport over water, steppe, mountain and forest. From the nomadic populations, to the locomotion and communication that has attained a remarkable degree of development in our times.
Nutrition, is perfected, from primitive gathering, hunting and fishing until the domestication of plants by the early farmers. It continues to develop with the domestication of animals and progressive systems of storage, conservation and synthesis of new foodstuffs and their resulting distribution.
Reproduction organizes the first social groups of the horde, tribe and family, which leads to rudimentary settlements upon their establishment in fixed locations. These later acquire a complex form of social organization, with the concomitant participation of different generations: in one same historical and geographical moment. Reproduction undergoes important transformations up to the present time, when techniques for the production, modification, conservation), and mutation of embryos and genes already loom in the horizon.
The psychism has become more complex while still reflecting its previous stages. The psychism also specializes apparatuses of response, such as the neuro-hormonal centers, which develop from their original vegetative function up to an intellect of increasing complexity. In accordance with the degree of internal and external work, the consciousness has gained levels, from deep sleep to semisleep, and later, an increasingly more lucid level of vigil.
The psychism emerges as the coordinator for the structure ‘living being-environment’—that is, the structure ‘consciousness-world.’ The result of this coordination is the unstable equilibrium within which this structure will work and process. External information will arrive to the specialized apparatus that will work within different ranges of capture. These apparatuses are the external senses. Information from the internal environment, from the intrabody, will reach the capture apparatuses, which are the internal senses The imprints of this internal and external information, as well as the tracks of the operations of the consciousness themselves, in its different levels of work, will be received in the apparatus of memory. Thus, the psychism will coordinate sensorial data and memory recordings.
On the other hand, in this stage of its development the psychism is equipped with apparatuses of response to the world—very elaborate responses and of varied types, as are the intellectual, emotional and motor responses. These apparatuses are the centers. In the vegetative center, the organic bases are found of the vital functions of metabolism, reproduction and locomotion (even though this last has become specialized in the motor center as well as the instincts of conservation), and reproduction. The psychism will coordinate these apparatuses as well as the vital functions and instincts.
Furthermore, in the human being there is a relational system with the environment that cannot be considered an apparatus with neuro-physiological localizations, and which we call “behavior.” A particular case of psychological behavior in the interpersonal and social relationship is the “personality.” The structure of personality serves adaptation, through its continual adjustment to different and variable situations in the interpersonal environment. This capacity for appropriate adaptation requires a complex situational dynamic, which the psychism will also have to coordinate, at the same time maintaining the unity of the entire structure’s unity.
On the other hand, the biological process that a person goes through—from birth and childhood, through adolescence and youth, until maturity and old age—markedly modifies the internal structure, which travels through vital stages with differing needs and environmental relationships (in the beginning there is dependence on the environment; later establishment and expansion within it, the individual tending to preserve their position, until they finally move away). This process likewise needs precise coordination.
For an integrated vision of the human psychism’s work, we will present its different functions, those whose physiological locations are possible to identify.1 We will also take into consideration the system of impulses that has the capacity to generate, transfer and transform information between the apparatuses.
2. Apparatuses of the Psychism2
‘Apparatus’ is understood to mean the sensory and memory specializations that work integratedly in the consciousness, by means of impulses. These, in turn, undergo many transformations, depending the psychic ambit in which they act.
The senses have the function of receiving and sending data to the consciousness and the memory and are organized in different ways, according to the psychism’s needs and tendencies.
The apparatus of the senses has its origin in a primitive tactile sense that progressively becomes more specialized. One can differentiate between external senses that detect information from the external environment, and internal senses, when the information is captured from the interior of the body. According to the type of activity they can be classified as: chemical senses (taste and smell); mechanical senses (the tactile as such and the internal senses of cenesthesia and kinesthesia) and physical senses (hearing and sight). As for the internal senses, the cenesthetic sense provides information on the intrabody. There are chemical receptors, thermoceptors, baroceptors, and others; the detection of pain also plays an important role.
The work of the centers is detected cenesthetically, as are the different levels of work of the consciousness. During vigil, cenesthetic information has a minimum of registers, as this is when the external senses predominate and the entire psychism is moving in relation to the external world. When vigil lowers its potential, the cenesthesia increases the emission of impulses. There is a deformed register of these impulses and they act as the raw material for the translations that will be made in semisleep and sleep. The kinesthetic sense provides data on movement, body posture, physical balance and imbalance.
Common Characteristics of the Senses
a) Each sense performs its own activities of abstraction and structuring of stimuli, according to its respective aptitudes. Perception is produced by the data plus the activity of the sense
b) All are in continual movement, scanning ranges.
c) Each sense works with its own memory, which enables the recognition of the stimulus.
d) Each sense works within a “range,” according to a particular tone that is its own and that must be altered by the stimulus. For this to happen, the stimulus must appear within sensory thresholds (a minimum threshold below which the stimulus is not perceived, and a threshold of maximum tolerance which, when exceeded, produces sensory irritation or saturation). If there is “background noise” (originating from the same sense or from other senses, from the consciousness or from the memory), the stimulus must increase its intensity for it to be registered, without exceeding the maximum threshold so as to avoid saturation and sensory blockage. When this occurs, it is essential to make the background noise disappear so that the signal can arrive to the sense.
e) All the senses work within these thresholds and limits of tolerance, which allow for variations according to their training and metabolic needs (this is where the phylogenetic root of sensory existence is found). This feature of variability is important in order to distinguish sensory errors.
f) All translate the perceptions into one same system of electrochemical impulses, which will be distributed via the nervous system to the brain.
g) All have neuronal localizations (either precise or diffuse), which are always connected to the central and peripheral or autonomous nervous systems, from where the apparatus of coordination operates.
h) All are linked to the organism’s general apparatus of memory.
i) All have their own registers, which are given by the variation of tone when the stimulus appears, and by the fact of perception itself.
j) All can commit errors in the perception. These errors can originate from the blockage. of the sense (due to sensory irritation, for example), or from a failure or deficiency in the sense (myopia, deafness, etc.). They can also occur due to lack of intervention by one or more senses that help provide parameters for the perception (for example, something sounds “distant,” but when it is seen it is “close”). Some errors are artificially created by mechanical conditions, such as the case of “seeing light” when pressure is applied to the eyeballs; or the sensation that the body grows larger when the external temperature is similar to that of the skin. These errors of the senses are generically called “illusion.”
The memory’s function is to record and retain data from the senses and/or the consciousness. It also supplies data to the consciousness when necessary (the act of remembering). The greater the amount of data from memory, the more options there are in the responses. When responses have antecedents, energy is saved and there is a balance left of surplus availability. The memory’s work provides the consciousness with references so that it can be oriented as to its location and can maintain its continuity through time. The rudiments of memory appear in the inertia that is proper to the work of each sense, broadening out to the entire psychism as general memory. The theoretical minimum atom of memory is reminiscence, but what is registerable is that in memory, data from the senses and from the coordinator in the form of structured recordings are received, processed and ordered. The ordering is carried out in ranges or by thematic zones and according to a chronology of its own. From all this it is deduced that the real atom would be: data + activity of the apparatus.
Data are recorded by the memory in different ways: by means of a shock—that is to say, through a stimulus that makes a powerful impression; through the simultaneous input of data from different senses; through the presentation of the same data in different ways; and through repetition. The datum is well recorded when it is in context and also when it stands out due to a lack or a unity of context. The quality of the recording improves when the stimuli are distinguishable, and this is produced by the sharpness of the signals, in the absence of background noise. When there is saturation due to repetition a blockage. is produced; and when the stimuli become habitual, there is a diminution in the recording of the stimulus. When there is an absence of external stimuli, the first stimulus that appears is strongly recorded. Also when the memory is not providing information to the coordinator there is a greater disposition for recording. Data received that is related to the thematic zone where the coordinator is working will be well recorded.
Remembering and Forgetting
Remembering—or more precisely, evocation—arises when the memory delivers already-recorded data to the consciousness. This evocation is produced intentionally by the consciousness, and this differentiates it from another type of remembrance that is imposed on the consciousness. An example is when certain memories invade the consciousness, sometimes coinciding with searches or with psychological contradictions that arise without the coordinator’s participation.
There are degrees of evocation, depending on whether the data was recorded with greater or lesser intensity. When the data passes lightly over the threshold of register, the evocation will also be slight; and there are even cases where the data is not remembered, but when the data is perceived again, it is recognized. From these minimum thresholds of evocation there are more intense gradations until we reach the level of automatic remembering or rapid recognition, as in the case of language, for example. Recognition occurs when data is received and compared to previously recorded data; the data shows up as having been registered before, and is therefore re-cognized. Without recognition, the psychism would experience an always-being-before-the-phenomena-for-the-first time, despite their repetition.
Forgetting is the impossibility of bringing already recorded data to the consciousness. This happens because of a blockage. in reminiscence that impedes the reappearance of the information. There is, on the other hand, a kind of functional forgetting that prevents the continual reappearance of memories, thanks to mechanisms of inter-regulation that inhibit one apparatus while another is working. In this way there is no continuous remembering while the coordinator is perceiving or coordinating responses, or when it is evoking a particular range. The degree of intensity of the recording and of the evocation is linked to the coordinator’s fields of presence and copresence.
Levels of Memory
Different levels arise, based on the permanence and duration of the recordings. In the acquisition of individual memory, the first imprints remain as the substratum for subsequent ones, establishing the ambit in which the new recordings are compared to the first ones. On the other hand, the new recordings are received over the base of the energetic availability and working readiness left by the first recordings, these last being the basis for the recognition. There is a primary level of substratum, or ancient memory, which is gradually enriched over time. There is a second level, or mediate memory, which arises in the dynamic of psychic work, with recent recordings that on occasion go down to the level of ancient memory. There is a third level, or immediate memory, that corresponds to current recordings. It is a level of work that is constantly open to the arrival of information. At this level there is data selection, discarding and storage.
Memory and Learning
Emotion plays a very important role in recording and memorization of the mnemic imprint. Obviously it is easier to memorize and evoke in a friendly and agreeable atmosphere, and this characteristic is definitive in the tasks of learning and teaching, when data are related to an emotion al situational context.
The incoming paths of the mnemic impulses are the internal senses, the external senses, and the activities of the coordinator. Along these paths, impulses travel which comprise the registerable information that goes on to memory for storage. The arriving stimuli follow a double path: one leads to the coordinator, and the other to the memory. It is enough for the stimuli to lightly exceed the sensory thresholds for them to be registerable, and a minimal amount of activity in the different levels of consciousness is sufficient for recording to take place.
Relationship between Memory and Coordinator
In the circuit between senses and coordinator, the memory acts as a connective, as a bridge, occasionally compensating the lack of sensorial data, whether through evocation or through involuntary remembering (as though it were “metabolizing” reserves). In the case of deep sleep, where there is no input of external data, cenesthetic data combined with memory data arrive to the consciousness. In this way the mnemic data do not appear through intentional evocation, but the coordinator is still performing a task: it is putting data in order, it is analyzing, it is carrying out operations with the participation of memory. In the level of deep sleep there is a re-ordering of raw material from vigil (immediate, recent or ancient) that has arrived to the memory in a disorderly way. In the level of vigil, the coordinator may direct itself to the memory through evocation (reversibility mechanisms), formalizing objects in the consciousness that do not enter through the senses at that moment, though they may have done so previously. From the above it is inferred that the memory can supply data at the coordinator’s request, or stimulate it without its participation, as, for example, when there is a lack of sensory stimuli.
The most common error is false recognition, which arises when a new datum is incorrectly related to a previous one. A variant (or an erroneous remembrance) is the replacement of a datum with another that does not appear in memory. Amnesias are registered as a total impossibility of evoking data or complete data sequences. Inversely, in hypermnesia there is an overabundance of memories. On the other hand, every recording is associated to others that are contiguous to it. Hence, there are no isolated memories; rather the coordinator selects, among all the memories, only the ones that it needs. Thus, another case of error is one that is produced when contiguous memories are located as central ones. Memory data that do not pass through the coordinator can directly influence behavior, motivating conducts that are inadequate for a situation even though there may be a register of the inadequate behaviors. Another case of error is that of “déjà vu,” when in an entirely new situation, one has a feeling of having already experienced it before.
The consciousness can be defined as the system of coordination and register that the human psychism implements. Accordingly, any phenomenon that is not registered is not considered conscious; nor any operation of the psychism in which tasks of coordination have no participation. This is possible because of the very broad spectrum of possibilities for registering and coordination, with the greatest difficulties arising when thresholds, limits of register and of coordination, are considered. This leads us to briefly consider the following: “Consciousness” is commonly linked to “vigilic activity,” with everything else being left outside of the consciousness, and this has made such poorly-grounded conceptions arise, such as the concept of the “unconscious.” This is because there has been insufficient study of the different levels of work of the consciousness; neither has the structure of presence and copresence been observed, which the attentional mechanism works with. There are other conceptions in which the consciousness; is seen as passive, when in fact the consciousness works by actively structuring, coordinating the psychism’s needs and tendencies with the contributions of the senses and the memory, while it orients the constant variations of the relationship between the body and the psychism—in other words, the relationship of the psychophysical structure with the world.
We consider that the mechanisms of reversibility are fundamental, which allow the consciousness; to orient itself, through the attention, toward the sources of sensory information (apperception) and mnemic information (evocation). When the attention is trained at evocation, it can also discover or highlight phenomena that were not noticed at the time they were recorded. This recognition is considered as: apperception in the evocation. The activation of the reversibility mechanisms is directedly related to the level of work of the consciousness. As one descends in level of consciousness, the work of these mechanisms decreases, and vice versa.
The Structure of the Consciousness
The minimum structure of the consciousness. is the relationship between act-object, linked together by the consciousness’ mechanisms of intentionality. This bond between acts and objects is permanent, even though there do exist acts that are launched in search of objects that are not precisely defined at that moment. This situation is what gives its dynamic to the consciousness. The objects of consciousness (i.e., perceptions, memories, representations, abstractions, etc.) appear as the intentional correlates of the acts of consciousness. The intentionality. is always launched toward the future—registered as tension in the search—and also toward the past in evocation). Thus, the times of consciousness intersect in the present instant. The consciousness futurizes and remembers, but at the moment of the impletion, it works in the present.
In the case of a search for a memory, when the evoked object appears it “makes itself present”—and until this happens, the consciousness does not complete its act. The completed action is registered as distension. When acts find their objects, there is free energy left that is used by the consciousness for new tasks. The operations that have been described are characteristic of the level of vigil, since in other levels (such as in sleep, for example), the structure of time is different. Psychological time, therefore, depends on the level of work of the psychism. The time of the coordinator’s work in vigil is the present. From this level, multiple temporal games of protentions and retentions can be effected, but always intersecting in the present moment. The effectiveness of the reversibility mechanisms and of the present time are characteristics of vigil.
Attention, Presence and Copresence
Attention is an aptitude of the consciousness that allows the observation of internal and external phenomena. Thus, when a stimulus goes past the threshold, it awakens the interest of the consciousness and remains in a central field of presence to which the attention is directed. The same thing happens when the consciousness directs itself at a specific stimulus or datum, driven by its own interest. When the attention is at work, there are some objects that are located centrally and others peripherally, in a copresent way. This attentional presence and copresence is something that happens with respect to external as well as internal objects. When the attention is focused on an object, an evident aspect comes to the forefront, while what is not evident operates in a copresent way. One is aware that the latter aspect “is there,” even if one doesn’t pay attention to it. This is because the consciousness works with more than it needs to pay attention to; it encompasses more than just the observed object.
The consciousness directs acts toward the objects, but there are other, copresent acts that are unrelated to the theme or object presently being attended to. The same thing is experienced in the different levels of consciousness. For example, in vigil there is a copresence of reveries, and in dreams there can be eminently vigilic acts such as reasoning. Thus, presence takes place in a field of copresence. In knowledge, for example, the mass of copresent information matters when it is necessary to concentrate on a specific theme. Knowledge is understood within this horizon of copresence; for this reason, when knowledge expands, so does the capacity to establish relations. Presence and copresence configure the image that an individual has of the world. Aside from concepts and ideas, the consciousness also has access to elements that are not thought, that are copresent—such as opinions, beliefs, assumptions—which it rarely pays attention to. When this supporting substratum changes or collapses, what changes or is transformed is the image of the world.
Abstraction and Association
The consciousness’s capacity to work with abstraction increases in the level of vigil .and diminishes in the lower levels, along with augmenting the associative mechanisms. The mechanisms of abstraction, as well as those of association, operate at the base of vigil. The consequence of the first is “thought;” and of the second, “imagination.” Thought consists of the formulation of abstractions that we can define as “concepts.” These are reductions of objects down to their essential character (for example, the abstraction of a field would be its triangular shape and geometric area).
Conceptualization does not work with isolated elements, but with sets of elements; and from these conceptualizations, classifications can be established (for example, an abstraction of “tree” is created, but it happens that there are different types of trees, and so classifications also appear, in categories, classes, genra, etc.). According to this, thought takes place on the basis of conceptualizations and classifications thanks to the abstractive mechanisms of the consciousness.
Imagination arises with the work of the mechanisms of association: contrast (black-white); contiguity (bridge-river); and similitude (red-blood). Two types of imagination are distinguishable: divagational imagination, and plastic or directed imagination. The first is characterized by free, unguided association, in which images are let loose and impose themselves on the consciousness (in dreams and reveries, for example). In plastic or directed imagination there is a certain operative freedom, thus allowing a direction around a plan of inventiveness, in which formalizing something as yet nonexistent is of interest. Depending on whether the impulses that arrive to the consciousness are worked on using one or another of the indicated mechanisms (i.e., abstraction, classification, divagation or directed imagination), different translations will be obtained and multiple representations formalized.
Levels of Consciousness
The consciousness can find itself immersed in deep sleep, in semisleep or in vigil, and also in intermediate or transitional moments. There are gradations between the levels of consciousness, not sharp divisions. To speak of levels is to speak of different operations and of the register of these operations. It is thanks to the register that a distinction can be made between different levels of consciousness, and one cannot have a register of the levels as though they were empty ambits.
Characteristics of the Levels
It can be affirmed that the different levels of consciousness fulfill the function of structurally compensating the world (understanding by “world,” the mass of perceptions, representations, etc., that originate in the stimuli from the external and internal environments). This is not simply about giving responses, but about giving structural, compensatory responses. These responses are compensations in order to re-establish equilibrium in the unstable relationship between consciousness-world or psychism-environment. As free energy is left over from the work done in the vegetative function, the levels rise because they receive the energy that feeds them.
In this level, the work of the external senses is minimal; there is no other information from the external environment except for whatever breaks through the threshold imposed by sleep itself. The task of the cenesthetic sense is predominant, contributing impulses that are translated and transformed by the work of the associative mechanisms and resulting in the emergence of oneiric images. The substantive characteristics of the images at this level are their strong suggestive power. Psychological time and space are modified with respect to vigil, and the act-object structure frequently appears without any correlation between its elements. Likewise, emotion al “climates” and images tend to become independent of one another. The disappearance of critical and self-critical mechanisms is typical, which, starting from this level, will gradually increase their work as the level of consciousness rises. The inertia of the levels and the formal ambit that they establish cause the mobility and the passage from one level to the other to occur gradually (thus, the exit from and entrance into sleep will take place after passing through semisleep). The tone of this level is the same as that of the others: it can go from an active to a passive state, and there can also be of alteration. There are no images in passive sleep, whereas active sleep does have images.
At this level, which precedes vigil, the external senses start sending information to the consciousness—information that is not entirely structured, because there is also interference from reveries and the presence of internal sensations. The contents of sleep lose their suggestive power when they continue to appear, due to the semi-vigilic perception that provides new parameters. Suggestibility continues acting, especially in the case of some very vivid images (called “hypnagogic”) of great power. On the other hand, the system of frequent reveries—which can wane in vigil and disappear in sleep—reappears. It is in this level where the reverie nucleus and the secondary reveries are more easily registered, at least in their basic climates and tensions. The reverie mode that is proper to this level tends to be transferred through inertia to vigil, supplying the raw material for divagation; though in the divagation, elements from vigilic perception also appear. In this ambit the coordinator can already carry out a few operations. Let us also mention that this level is extremely unstable and therefore is easily disequilibrated and altered.
We also find the states of passive and active semisleep. The first offers an easy passage to sleep; the second, to vigil. At this point we can also make another distinction: there is an active semisleep due to alteration, and another that is more calm and attentive. Altered semisleep is the base of the tensions and climates that can arrive to vigil with force and persistence, giving rise to “noise” and modifying behavior, making it inadequate for the surrounding situation. The tracking of vigilic tensions and climates can be done in altered active semisleep. The different states, both active and passive, are defined by the energetic tone and intensity proper to each level. The degree of intensity that emotion al climates and tensions can have is expressed in tones.
In this level the external senses contribute a greater volume of information as they regulate the internal senses through inhibition, enabling the coordinator to orient itself toward the world in the psychism’s work of compensating the environment. Here the mechanisms of abstraction and of criticism and self-criticism function and attain high degrees of manifestation and intervention in the tasks of coordination and register. The mechanisms of reversibility, whose manifestation in the previous levels was minimal, can amply operate here, allowing the coordinator to balance the internal and external environments. Suggestibility in the vigilic contents diminishes with the increase in reference points. There is a tone of active vigil that can be attentive, with maximum control over apperception, or there may be a tone of altered vigil. In this last case, silent divagation and the more-or-less fixed reveries appear.
Relationship Between Levels
In general, the relationship between the levels produces reciprocal alterations. Four factors can be mentioned that affect this relationship: inertia, noise, the “rebound” effect, and “dragging.”
Each level of consciousness tends to maintain its own level of work, and to continue to maintain its activity after its cycle is finalized. As a result, the passage from one level to another is carried out slowly, with the first diminishing when the new level manifests itself (as in the case of contents from semisleep that impose themselves in vigil). The cases we will now mention result from this inertia that each level has, causing it to maintain and extend the type of articulation that characterizes it.
The inertia of the previous level appears as background noise in the work of the subsequent level: contents from infra-vigil erupt, interfering in the work of vigil, and vice versa. We can also distinguish the following as ‘noise’: emotion al climates, tensions and contents not proper to the coordinator’s work at a given moment. For example, if an intellectual task is being performed, a certain emotion should accompany this work (liking for doing it); there will be tension produced by the work itself, and thoughts appropriate for the operations underway. But if there are other types of climates, if the tensions do not come from the work and the contents tend toward allegorization, they will obviously interfere in the activity and introduce noise, which will necessarily alter the coordination and consume the available energy.
The Rebound Effect
This phenomenon occurs as a response from a level in which contents from a different level have been introduced that had broken through the defenses of inertia. Contents proper to the level that was invaded will later on appear, this time in the level from where the other contents were introduced.
Contents, climates and tones that are proper to one level are transferred and remain in another level as draggings. This will be more relevant in the case of climates, tensions or contents that are fixed in the psychism, that are dragged for a long time, and that are represented in the different levels. Due to the psychological importance that these factors can have for growing adaptation and the psychism’s evolution, we can give them special consideration.
Tones, Climates, Tensions and Contents
Tones are considered in terms of energetic intensity. The operations in each level can be carried out with greater or lesser intensity (with greater or lesser tone). There are experiences that are manifested at a greater or lesser intensity depending on the predominant tone, and at times they can be altered by it, becoming converted into a factor of noise.
Climates are moods that because of their variability appear intermittently and can envelop the consciousness for a certain period of time, tinting all of the coordinator’s activities. Sometimes climates match the operations that are carried out and concomitantly accompany the coordinator without perturbing it, in which case they facilitate its work. But things do not happen like this, and instead, they create noise. These climates can become fixed in the psychism and perturb the entire structure, impeding mobility and easy displacement of the opportune climates. Fixed climates circulate through the different levels, and in this way they can pass from vigil to sleep, continue there, then return to vigil for a long period of time, reducing the coordinator’s operative freedom,. Another type of climate is the situational climate, which arises and obstructs appropriate responses to specific situations.
Tensions have a more physical, more corporal root, since it is the muscular system that intervenes, given that tensions are registered most directly in the musculature. The connection with the psychism is not always direct, because muscular relaxation is not always directly accompanied by a mental relax; rather the consciousness can continue having tensions and alteration, even though the body has already been able to relax. This difference between psychic and physical tensions allows us to establish more precise operative distinctions. Psychic tensions are linked to excessive expectations, in which the psychism is led on a search, a “waiting for something” that occasions powerful tensions.
Mental contents appear as formal objects of consciousness. They are compensatory forms that the consciousness organizes in order to respond to the world. This is how a correspondence emerges—or doesn’t emerge—between the activities or needs of the psychism and the contents that appear in the coordinator. If one is performing a mathematical operation, the appearance of numerical representations will be appropriate; but an allegorical figure will be inopportune and will act as noise and a focus of distraction. Aside from hampering the work being carried out, all factors of noise tend to provoke disorientation and energy dispersion. As long as the contents of consciousness are acting within the level of their formation, they have importance as significations for the coordinator; but when they leave their characteristic formal level, they obstruct the tasks of coordination.
The registers of calm states in vigil are also of great usefulness, since they are able to reestablish the normal flow of consciousness. In the case of climates that become fixed, there is an Operative procedure to transfer these climates from their corresponding images to others of less importance for the consciousness. In this way, climates can begin losing their fixedness, reducing vigilic perturbation. In synthesis: the four types of experiences we enumerated above are favorable factors if they are properly adapted to the coordinator’s operations. However, when they are inadequate because they do not correspond to such operations, they become factors of noise and distraction and alter the psychism.
Errors of the Coordinator
A distinction must be made between errors of the consciousness and errors of relationship between consciousness, senses and memory. We generically designate these last as “dysfunctions.” Hallucination is a typical error of the coordinator. It occurs when phenomena that have not arrived directly via the senses are experienced as if they were operating in the external world with all the characteristics of sensory perception. Here we are dealing with configurations made by the consciousness on the basis of memory. These hallucinations can arise during moments of extreme exhaustion, due to a deficiency of the substances necessary for cerebral metabolism; due to anoxia; to lack of stimuli (as in situations of sensory suppression); to the action of drugs; during “delirium tremens” caused by alcoholism; and also in life-threatening situations. They are frequent in cases of physical weakness and of “emotion ed consciousness,” in which the coordinator loses its powers of displacement in time. As examples of sense dysfunction, we can cite the inability to relate data coming from different sensory paths (the cases known as “eidetic disintegration”). Memory dysfunctions are registered as forgetting and blockage.
Integrated Circuit of Senses, Memory and Coordinator
The connectives between senses, memory and consciousness reveal important aspects of how the psychism functions. These connective circuits operate within a complex self-regulation. Thus, when the coordinator performs apperception of perception, evocation). is inhibited; and inversely, apperception of memory inhibits perception. While the external senses are acting, the entrance of internal stimuli is inhibited and vice-versa. There is maximum inter-regulation during the changes in the level of work, when, as sleep increases (or vigil diminishes), the reversibility mechanisms are blocked and the associative mechanisms are then powerfully released. On the other hand, when vigil augments and the critical mechanisms begin their work, they inhibit the associative mechanisms. There is also automatic inter-regulation between the senses: when sight expands its average threshold, the sense thresholds of touch , smell and hearing are reduced, and this happens in all the senses for example, people tend to close their eyes in order to hear better).
Impulses coming from the senses and the memory that reach the coordinator are transformed into representations. These structures of perception and evocation are then processed in order to elaborate effective responses in the work of achieving equilibrium between the internal and external environments. Thus, for example, whereas a reverie is an elaboration-response to the internal environment, a motor displacement is a movement-response to the external environment; or in the case of representations, an ideation taken to the level of signs is yet another type of representation-response to the external environment.
On the other hand, any representation that is placed in the coordinator’s field of presence triggers associative chains between the object and its copresence. Thus, while the object is captured with detailed precision in the field of presence, relations appear in the field of copresence with other objects, which, though not present, are linked, to the first. One notes the importance of the fields of presence and copresence in the translation of impulses as in the case of allegorical translation, in which much raw material comes from data that have reached the copresence of vigil.
A study of the impulses is important because of the special work that the coordinator does with representations. There are two possible pathways: the abstractive path, which operates by reducing phenomenal multiplicity down to its essential characters; and the associative path, which structures the representations over the basis of similitude, contiguity and contrast.
These pathways of abstraction and association are the foundation over which forms are structured. These forms are connectives between the consciousness. that constitutes them, and the phenomena of the objectal world that they are referred to.
The Morphology of Impulses
At this level of our exposition, we understand “forms” as phenomena of perception or of representation. The morphology of impulses studies forms as structures that are translated and transformed by the psychophysical apparatus in its work of responding to stimuli.
Different forms can be obtained from one same object, depending on which channels of sensation are used, the perspective from which said object is perceived, and the type of structuring effected by the consciousness. Each level of consciousness sets down its own formal ambit; each level proceeds as an ambit (with its characteristic structure), linked to forms that are also characteristic. The forms that emerge in the consciousness are real structuring compensations in front of the stimulus. The form is the object of the act of structuring compensation. The stimulus is converted into form when the consciousness structures it from its level of work. Thus, one same stimulus is translated into different forms, according to the structuring responses from different levels of consciousness. The different levels fulfill the function of structurally compensating the world.
Color has great psychological importance, but even as it serves the weighing of forms, it does not modify their essence.
To comprehend the origin and meaning of forms, it is important to distinguish between sensation, perception and representation.
Functions of Internal Representation
1. To fix the perception as memory.
2. To transform what is perceived according to the needs of the consciousness.
3. To translate internal impulses into perceptible levels.
Functions of External Representation
1. To abstract the essential to give order. (symbol).
2. To express abstractions as conventions in order to operate in the world (sign).
3. To make concrete that which is abstract in order to remember it (allegory).
Characteristics of the Sign, the Allegory and the Symbol
The sign is conventional, operative, associative and sometimes figurative; at times non-figurative. The allegory is centrifugal, multiplicative, associative, epochal and figurative. The symbol is centripetal, synthetic, non-associative, non-epochal and non-figurative.
The Symbol as Visual Act
The symbol in space and as visual perception makes us reflect on the eye’s movement. Viewing a point without references allows the eye to move in all directions. The horizontal line effortlessly leads the eye along its direction. The vertical line provokes tension, fatigue and drowsiness.
Comprehension of the symbol (initially a visual configuration and movement) enables us to seriously consider the action that it effects from the external world over the psychism (when the symbol is presented as perception, from a cultural object), and makes it possible to investigate the work of representation (when the image is expressed as symbol in an internal personal production, or is projected in an external cultural production).
The Symbol as Result of the Transformation of What is Perceived
The compensatory function of the symbol emerges here, as referential and a creator of order in space. The symbol contributes to fixing the center in an open field and to freezing time. Monument-symbols give psychological and political unity to nations. There is also a type of symbol that corresponds to non-collective productions, wherein one observes the compensatory function of the consciousness in front of the data from reality.
The Symbol as Translation of Internal Impulses
Symbolism in sleep and in artistic production is generally the correlate of cenesthetic impulses translated into levels of visual representation. Another case of symbolic manifestation as translation of internal impulses is that of certain gestures, known in the East as “mudras”. Certain general body postures and their meanings are familiar to people the world over, and correspond to distinctions made in relation to the symbols of the point and circle, for example, an upright body with open arms symbolically expresses mental situations that are the opposite of those associated to the body’s position when folded over itself, as in the fetal position).
The sign fulfills the function of conventionally expressing abstractions for the purpose of operating in the world, unifying phenomena that are distinct in nature in one same level of language. Expression and meaning are a structure. When the meaning of an expression is unknown, the sign loses operative value. Equivocal or multi-vocal expressions are those that allow various meanings, and their comprehension arises by context. The context gives uniformity to the level of language. But contexts are usually placed outside the ambit of a given level of language, giving rise to syncategorematic or occasional expressions. For example, in front of the same instance of a knock at the door, when someone asks, “Who is it?” different people answer, “Me”—and in each case it’s understood who it is by the voice, the time of day, a visitor’s expected arrival, etc. In other words, through contexts that are outside the level of language in which what is always said is: “Me”. As for the sign as such, it may be the expression of a meaning, or it may fulfill the function of indicating another entity through its associative character.
Differences between Signs and Signical Categories
The connectives between signs are formalizations of relationships, such connectives being, in turn, signs. When signs lose their meaning due to a cultural shift, they are usually considered as symbols.
The Signical Function of Symbols and Allegories
When a symbol is given a conventional value, and it is taken in an operative sense, it is converted into a sign. Allegories also fulfill signical functions.
Allegories are plastically-transformed narrations, in which what is diverse is fixed or there is multiplication by allusion; but also where the abstract is made concrete. The multiplicative nature of allegories has to do with the associative process of the consciousness.
The Associative Laws of Allegories
Similitude guides the consciousness when it searches for what is similar to a given object; contiguity, when it searches for what is proper to a given object, or for what is, was or will be in contact with it; contrast., when the consciousness searches for what is in opposition to, or is in dialectical relationship with, a given object.
The Allegory’s Situational Element
The allegory is dynamic and tells of situations referred to the individual mind (dreams, stories, art, pathology, mysticism), to the collective psychism (stories, art, folklore, myths and religions), and to human beings of different epochs in front of nature and history.
Functions and Types of Allegories
The allegory tells of situations, compensating the difficulties of total grasp. When one captures situations allegorically, it becomes possible to operate over real situations in an indirect way.
The “Climate” of the Allegory and the System of Ideation
In the allegory, the emotion al factor is not dependent on the representation. The climate is part of the system of ideation and is what reveals its meaning for the consciousness. The allegory does not respect linear time or the way space is structured by the vigilic state.
The System of Tensions and the Allegory as Discharge
Laughter, crying, the act of love and aggressive confrontation are all means of discharging internal tensions. Specific allegories fulfill the function of provoking these types of discharges.
Composition of the Allegory
Continents (guard, protect or enclose what is inside them); contents (those that are included within an ambit); connectives (entities that facilitate or impede the connection between contents, between ambits, or between ambits and contents); attributes (are manifest when they stand out and tacit when they are masked). In the allegory the levels are emphasized (importance, hierarchies), textures (quality, and what the quality of an object means), and moments of process (ages). Allegories present themselves to the consciousness with a dynamic, and great capacity for transformism, inversion, expansion or reduction.
To carry out a complete interpretation of an allegorical system, it is a good idea to observe a work plan that begins by separating the symbolic and signical components. Subsequently, one must try to comprehend the function fulfilled by each one of the elements considered, and the origin of the allegorical raw material (if cultural objects are concerned, or a mixture of memories, of reveries or of oneiric images).
We have seen the psychism as coordinator of relations between different environments: the body’s internal environment, and the external or surrounding environment. The psychism gets information from both environments through the senses; it stores experience through the memory, and proceeds to make adjustments through the centers. This adjustment between environments is what we call “behavior,” and we consider it as a specific case of expression of the psychism. Its base mechanisms are the instincts of individual preservation and of conservation), of the species, and the intentional tendencies.
Behavior is structured over the base of the innate qualities of the biological structure itself that the individual belongs to, and of acquired qualities codified over a base of trial-and-error experiences, with their accompanying registers of pleasure or displeasure. The innate qualities set down the coordinator’s biological condition; the coordinator relies on these innate qualities and cannot isolate them without detriment. This biological base has an inertia expressed in the conservation and attainment of conditions that are apt for its expansion.
The acquired qualities arise from individual learning as the psychophysical structure displaces itself through space and time. Learning goes about modifying behavior in relation to the experiences of trial and error. These assays then provide guidelines for the individual’s improved adaptation, achieved with the minimum resistance from the environment, the least effort in work, and the least energetic consumption. This form of adaptation allows for an energetic surplus (free energy that can be used in new steps of growing adaptation.
In every process of adaptation, the psychophysical structure orients itself through the indicators of pleasure and displeasure. Displeasure is configured as the signal of what endangers life, what is toxic, repressive, or is generally harmful for the psychophysical structure. Pleasure, at the same time that it stimulates and motivates the psychism, traces the optimal directions to follow. On the other hand, behavior encounters limits in the possibilities of the psychism, in the possibilities of the body, and the possibilities offered by different circumstances. The psychism’s limits expand on the basis of the acquired qualities, but corporal limits cannot expand in the same proportion—in fact, these limitations increase with age. This does not mean the body doesn’t have all the faculties for acting effectively in the environment; rather that the body imposes limits and conditions that the psychism cannot disregard without harming itself. In the relations between psychism, body and environment, the body will perform its objectal operations with lesser or greater success. In the first case there will be adaptation and in the second, non-adaptation.
The Centers as Specializations of Relational Responses
The simple, original mechanism of stimuli-response appears as highly complex in the human structure, one of its characteristics being the “deferred response,” which is differentiated from the “reflex response” by the intervention of coordination circuits, and by the possibility of channeling the response through different centers of neuro-endocrinal activity. The centers work structurally among themselves and with their own registers, simultaneously with the general register that the coordinator has, and this is possible thanks to the information that arrives from the internal senses at the moment of action in the environment, as well as to the interconnections between centers and coordinator.
The Vegetative Center
Each living being, on the basis of the “plan” of its body, its genetic codes, assimilates substances from the external environment and generates the psychophysical energy necessary for life’s preservation and development. In the human being, the vegetative center distributes the energy, sending out instructions from its many nervous and glandular localizations. It is therefore the basic center of the psychism, from which the instincts of individual and species preservation act, regulating sleep, hunger and sex. Basically, the signals that give instructions (i.e., information) to this center are registered cenesthetically, but signals coming from the external senses also have the capacity to mobilize or inhibit it.
The Sexual Center
This is the energetic collector and distributor that functions through alternating concentration and diffusion, mobilizing psychophysical energy in a localized or diffused way. Its work is both voluntary and involuntary. There is a cenesthetic register of the tension in this center, as well as of the distribution of energy to the other centers. The diminishing of tension is produced by the discharges proper to this center, and by means of discharges through the other centers. It can also connect tensions from the body and from the other centers. The sexual-vegetative structure is the phylogenetic base, starting from which the other centers have become organized in the evolutionary process of adaptation.
The Motor Center
Acts as regulator of the external reflexes—both conditioned and unconditioned—and of the habits of movement. Enables the body to displace itself through space. Works with muscular tensions and relaxations that are activated through nervous and chemical signals.
The Emotion al Center
It is the regulator and synthesizer of situational responses, through its work of adhesion or rejection. When the emotion al center gives “overflow” responses, alterations result in the other centers’ synchronization due to partial blockages.
The Intellectual Center
Responds on the basis of mechanisms of abstraction, classification and association. Works with selection or confusion in a range that goes from ideas to the different forms of imagination—whether directed or divagational—and is able to elaborate different symbolic, signical and allegorical forms. When incorrect responses from this center overflow outside its ambit, they produce confusion in the rest of the structure and therefore in the behavior.
The Structurality of the Centers’ Work
There are different speeds of dictation of responses to the environment, the speed of response having a proportional relationship to the center’s complexity. Whereas the intellect elaborates a slow response, the emotion and motricity do so at a greater velocity, and the vegetative center (in some of its expressions, such as the short reflex) shows, by far, the greatest response speed. The work of the centers is structural, which is confirmed by the concomitances in the other centers when one of them is working as the primary one. An example: intellectual activity is accompanied by an emotion al tone (“a liking for study”) that helps maintain interest, while the motor level of work is reduced to the minimum. During vegetative reparation (because of illness, for example) all the energy is occupied in this task and the other centers’ activities are reduced to the minimum.
The centers can work in an unsynchronized way, which leads to errors in the response. There is a cenesthetic register and psychological perception of the centers’ structural work, and, because of this, in experiences of great internal conflict, the work of the centers is registered as a contradiction between thought, feeling and action.
Peoples’ multiple tendencies., their different physical configurations, and the diversity of actions with which they respond to the world, make the task of establishing character classifications based on common features a very difficult one. A study of this type should consider that the situation of individuals in the environment is dynamic and variable; that throughout life they acquire experiences and can suffer accidents that can bring about profound transformations in behavior. A possible “Characterology” should attend to the combination of the innate and the acquired. Innate dispositions, which are also susceptible to change., are reflected in more-or-less typical psychic attitudes and corporal forms. On the other hand, this typicalness will be the result of the predominant work of one center over that of the others, with its characteristic speed of resonance and direction of the energy, but this will be modifiable depending on the situational structure. That is to say, a situational typology could also be established, since different responses are discovered in the same basic types. The cultural ways of the epoch, the social situation, the genre of daily tasks, etc., are added on to the basic type, and all of this configures what we call “personality.”
The Cycles of the Psychism
The human psychism, possessed of notable complexity, has as its forerunners other organic forms conditioned by nature’s macrocycles, such as the seasons and the passage from day to night. Numerous variations modify the psychism’s internal and external conditions. There are variations of temperature, luminosity, as well as the climatic changes of each season. All organisms are subject to a greater or lesser degree to the determinism of the natural cycles. The human being is not as conditioned as other species by organic cyclicity, and its psychism achieves modifications and an ever-increasing independence. A very clear case is the exercise of sex, which, in contrast to the other species, is independent of the seasonal cycles.
In the mechanisms of consciousness. there are different rhythms, as demonstrated by the diverse bioelectric discharges that show up in the electroencephalogram. The centers have their own particular rhythms and the levels of consciousness have evident work cycles. When vigil completes its time of daily work, it “lowers” its activity and one begins to enter the period of sleep. Thus the period of sleep compensates the period of vigilic work. The metabolic cycles and the general vegetative rhythms operate within the mechanics of the different levels of consciousness.
The human being’s major cycle is given by the vital time, which is completed as the individual goes through the different existential stages: birth, childhood, adolescence, youth, first and second maturity, elderliness, senectitude and death. In each stage there is a transformation of the psychism according to organic needs, interests, possibilities offered by the environment, etc. Finally, the psychosomatic cycles and rhythms show important modifications, in accordance with the changes of direction that take place at the moments when each vital stage begins, and declines.
The Responses to the World as Structuring Compensations
The consciousness in front of the world tends to compensate it structurally by means of a complex system of responses. Some responses reach the objectal world directly (expressed through the centers), but others remain in the consciousness and reach the world indirectly through some manifestation of behavior. These compensations of the consciousness tend to balance the internal world with respect to the external one. Such connection is established according to exigencies, with the individual finding herself pressed to respond to a complex world that is natural, human, social, cultural, technical, and so on. The “reverie nucleus” arises as an important compensatory response, and the “secondary reveries” as specific responses to the exigencies.
Reveries can be visualized as images; not so the nucleus, which is perceived as an allusive climate” as it is configured over time, increasing its power to direct a person’s tendencies, their personal aspirations. In the stage when the reverie nucleus is wearing out, when it ceases to direct the psychism, the forms and images that it had adopted can be observed. For this reason the nucleus is easier to register at the beginning as well as at the end of its process, but not in its middle stage, which is when it most strongly directs the psychic activity. The paradox arises that the human being is unable to perceive what most determines its behavior, since the nucleus works as a background that responds in a totalizing way to the multiple demands of daily life.
The reverie nucleus” rules the aspirations, ideals and illusions that change in each vital stage. Following these changes or variations in the nucleus, existence is oriented in other directions and, concomitantly, changes in personality are produced. This nucleus wears out individually, in the same way that epochal reveries that have directed the activities of a whole society wear out. Whereas on one hand the nucleus gives a general response to the environment’s demands, on the other it compensates the personality’s basic deficiencies and lacks, imprinting a certain direction on the behavior. This direction can be weighted depending on whether or not it follows the line of growing adaptation. The reveries and nucleus imprint their powers of suggestion over the consciousness, producing the characteristic blocking of criticism and self-criticism proper to the infravigilic levels. For this reason, any direct confrontation with or opposition to the suggestion of the reverie nucleus” is useless, as it simply ends up reinforcing the compulsion. The possibility of producing a change of direction in an evolutionary line lies in making gradual modifications. The nucleus can regress or become fixed. In the first case, the psychism returns to previous stages, increasing the discords between processes and the situation in the environment. In the second case, when the nucleus becomes fixed, the individual is progressively disconnected from his environment, producing a behavior that does not adjust to the dynamic of events.
The reverie” nucleus launches the human being in the pursuit of mirages, which, when they are not realized, produce painful states (dis-illusions), while partial fulfillments produce pleasurable situations. We thus discover that the reveries and their nucleus lie at the root of psychological suffering. It is in the great failures—when expectations collapse and mirages fade—when the possibility arises for a new direction in life. In such a situation the “knot of pain” is exposed—the biographical knot that the consciousness suffered from for so long.
The systems of response (there are no isolated responses) go about organizing a personality, a mediator with the environment, which articulates different roles as codified systems of response in order to improve its dynamic.
The personality fulfills a precise function: it searches for the least resistance in the environment. This organization of roles that offer less difficulty in the relationship with the environment grows codified on the basis of learning through trial and error. The accumulation of behavior organizes a system of roles linked to situations, wherein some roles appear while others are hidden. This particular case is quite illustrative as a system of adaptation. In time, what we can call “circles of personality” are organized in different layers of depth. These circles are articulated according to the instructions of the reveries and the environments most frequented. Now then, in this interplay of roles that try to offer the least resistance to the environment, the roles may or may not be adjusted to a conventional, accepted consensus and give typical or atypical responses, respectively. Typical responses are not only codified by the individual but also by broad social groups, such that when a response arises in these groups that differs from the customary one, it can be disconcerting. This can occur above all in new situations for which there is no codified response. The response given in these situations can ultimately be opportune, or inopportune. Thus atypical responses appear that do not fit the situation, and the degree of inadequacy that they manifest can be weighted. Typical responses, though they can be adequate in an environment that is stable and relatively unchanging, are not such in a changing environment whose dynamic modifies customs, values, and so on. On occasion, the typicalness of the responses is an obstacle for adaptation to change. There are other, atypical manifestations that act as a catharsis of tensions, or that manifest negative emotions in the form of a catharsis of climates. Both of these atypical responses surface as a result of pressure from internal impulses that are expressed in situations with which the tensions do not necessarily coincide. In this case, the tensions and climates act as situational noise that abruptly bursts into the environment.
From the point of view of growing adaptation, the types of behavior that are of interest are those that offer multiple options of response, which is a situation that can enable an energy savings, usable for new steps of adaptation. Therefore, there will be responses of growing adaptation; but there will also be responses of decreasing adaptation, and this will happen as much in the case of atypical responses as in typical ones, with their differing degrees of timeliness. Thus, a particular behavior can either fulfill or not fulfill an adaptative function.
We can evaluate changes in behavior as significant or circumstantial. A change will be significant if the new orientation goes toward the evolutionary line, and it will be circumstantial if there is merely a replacement of roles, of ideology, an expansion of the circles of personality, an apex or a decline in the reveries, and so on. None of these last are indicative of an internal change. of importance. From a more general point of view, there is a significant change of behavior when a psychic instance is exhausted because the contents that were valid in one instance (with their characteristic theme and discourse) were progressively worn out until they were finally depleted. The psychism then orients itself toward a new instance, as an articulated response in its relation to the world.
The behavior is an indicator of the changes that are of interest. Many decisions to change, or plans for change, remain locked up in the psychism and for this reason do not indicate any modification; whereas when they are expressed in real changes in behavior, it is because some modification has taken place in the consciousness-world structure.
Appendix: Physiological Bases of the Psychism
The senses constitute the limits of the neuro-endocrine system and are apt for sending information signals regarding the external and internal environment to the centers of processing, coordination and response. The informative specialization of this information is carried out by cells (or teams of cells), converters of the environmental energy which have the property of transforming heterogeneous impulses that reach them from the exterior, into homogeneous impulses, common to any type of sense. The energy forms that reach these receptors are of varied types: Mechanical energy (as pressure or contact), electromagnetic energy (as light or heat), chemical energy (as smell, taste, oxygen-carbon dioxide content in the blood). These forms of heterogeneous energy have already undergone an initial stage of processing and are converted into a nervous impulse that reaches the information centers in the form of “bits” (signals). These differ from each other in frequency of signal and silence. There are numerous receptor cells with respect to their class and transformative activity, with around 30 different types having been identified at this time, each structured in its own particular way and giving rise to what are called the “senses.”
The environment’s energetic variables, however, are far more numerous than the number of senses that are apt for collecting them, as happens in the case of sight—a receptor of only 1/70th of the electromagnetic spectrum that is accepted and recognized as visible light. This case shows how the receptors are specializations of restricted phenomenal detection, and from this enormous ranges derive of silence for the equipment of perception. Here we recognize six more cases (hearing, smell, taste, touch, kinesthesia and cenesthesia), and from this an enormous range of perceptual silence results if we add up the insufficiencies of each sense. It is important to consider the receptors with respect to the distance from the transmission source (i.e., telereception, exteroception, interoception, etc.); the receptors’ distribution in the body; the sensory pathways through which the homogeneous impulses travel; and the processing and coordination centers where these homogeneous impulses arrive. There they are once again differentiated, and the result is the “informative experience,” which allows the apparatus to make perceptual distinctions in order to later work with structures of interpretation and structures of response that are adequate to the “portion” of world detected. We call “perceptible range” the particular form of energy that a receptor is most sensitive to. For example: the adequate stimulus for the eye’s receptor cells is light; pressure is specifically captured by another type of receptor, but pressure on the eyeball will also stimulate the light receptors. This means that there are specific and non-specific ranges for each type of receptor that under certain conditions can considerably expand or contract their thresholds. It is also necessary to make a distinction between range (which refers to the quality of the phenomenon), and thresholds (which refers to the quantity or intensity of the phenomenon). These thresholds work with minimal levels of detection and maximum variables of tolerance. Each sense has been organized [in this Appendix] taking the following into account:
1. The Organ: Includes a minimal anatomic-physiological description of the organ or the receptors, as the case may be.
2. Mechanics: Describes in a simplified way the receptors’ possible modes of operation upon transforming the energy coming from the environment into a nervous impulse.
3. Nervous Path and Localization: Briefly indicates the path followed by the impulses until reaching their destination point in the corresponding zone of the cortex.
The above is valid for the external senses. As for the internal ones (kinesthesia and cenesthesia), there are small explanatory variations owing to their particularities.
Organ: The eyes are complex, light-sensitive organs. Given their location, they enable humans to have three-dimensional vision of objects. This three-dimensional view is of course integrated into a system of perceptual interpretation that is considerably more complex than the organ itself. Equipped with straight and oblique muscles, the eyes possess an amplitude of movement of under 180 degrees. For some time now, the eye has been allegorically described as a photographic camera: a system of “lenses” (cornea and crystal) focuses the images on a photosensitive layer (retina) located in the back of the eye; the eyelids and iris contribute to the system’s protection and the regulation (in the manner of a diaphragm in the second case) of the light intensity received by the receptors.
Mechanics: It is accepted that the retina is a thin film made up of several layers of nerve cells. Light passes through these cells until it reaches the photoreceptors. These have been grouped in two main types: (a) thick bodies or “cones” that are concentrated above all in the center of the retina (fovea), and that provide information on color, working best in bright light; and (b) thin bodies called “rods,” most of which are concentrated in the retinal periphery. These are more numerous than the cones and they are sensitive to semidarkness, and provide information on chiaroscuros. Both the cones and rods contain pigments, which, upon absorbing different types of light, become altered in their molecular structure. This alteration seems related to the nervous impulse that is sent to the brain.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: The external impulse having been transformed into a nervous impulse, it travels through the optic nerve, arriving after intermediary stages in the occipital cortex of both hemispheres of the brain.
Organ. Sound waves penetrating through the outer ear conduits strike the eardrum or tympanic membrane, which retransmits the vibrations to three ossicles located in the middle ear. These ossicles, acting like levers, amplify the received vibrations ten to fifteen times and retransmit them to the cochlear fluid, where they are converted into nervous impulses (inner ear).
Mechanics: The cochlea, or snail shell, is divided internally and along its length by two membranes, forming three tunnels or scalas that contain different liquids. The vibration transmitted in the form of pressures of varying intensities exerted by the ossicles when they provoke diverse flexions in the membranes, will activate the receptor cells (ciliate or hair cells) located over one of the membranes (the basilar membrane). This activation would be the one that leads to differences of electrical potential and the stimulation of the nerve endings that carry the impulses to the cerebral location.
Nerve Path and Localization: The nerve fiber endings distributed in the basilar membrane form the auditory branch of the acoustic nerve, which conducts the nervous impulses to the upper part of the temporal lobe, after passing through intermediary stages that include the medulla oblongata and thalamus.
Organ: The olfactory membrane, which has a surface area of around five square centimeters, is located in the upper part of the nasal cavity. Odor-producing molecules are transported in the air that arrives through the nasal passages or the pharynx, and are dissolved in the secretions of the membrane’s supporting cells. Distributed among these cells are ten to twenty million receptors, each of which is a neuron.
Mechanics. The receptor neurons end in the superficial part of the mucosa, with expanded endings (olfactory rods) from which cilia extend that are some two microns in length. How odorant molecules react with the receptors is unknown, though the hypotheses in this regard are many. The nervous impulse that is generated is transmitted by the receptors that end in the olfactory bulb, located above each nostril.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: In each olfactory bulb, the neuronal endings form glomerules, whence three nervous fiber bundles extend which end in the opposite olfactory bulb, in the limbic system, and in the olfactory area of the limbic cortex (allocortex), respectively.
Organ: The organs of taste, or taste buds, are tiny bodies formed by supporting cells and hair cells (receptors). They are concentrated above all in the walls of the taste buds that are on the dorsal surface of the tongue.
Mechanics: The taste receptors (hair cells) are chemoreceptors that respond to substances dissolved in the liquids of the mouth. How the molecules in solution interact with the receptor molecules to produce the nervous impulse is unknown, although there are hypotheses. There are four gustatory sensations registered in different areas of the tongue: Sweet and sour on the tip; acid on the edges and bitter in the back. The taste buds in each of these areas do not appear to be different in terms of cellular structure, but some of them, depending on which area they are found in, will only respond to bitter stimuli, others to salty ones, and so on.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: The nervous impulses start from the taste buds, traveling along three nervous pathways going through the medulla oblongata and the thalamus, and reaching the gustatory projection area of the cerebral cortex at the base of the post-rolandic gyrus.
Organ: The receptors of this sense are distributed throughout different layers of the skin. They are more highly concentrated in certain areas of the body and less so in others, thus determining different degrees of sensitivity. These receptors are nerve specializations that appear differentially enabled for distinguishing between variations of temperature, pressure, contact and pain.
Mechanics: Variations in the stimuli are accompanied by a variation in the frequency of the nervous impulses constantly sent by the receptors through the nerve fibers. This variation in impulse frequency is the result of an electrochemical process, not well clarified, that is set in motion by the stimulus.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: The fibers coming from the receptors ascend through the medullary bundles up to the thalamus, and from there to the somatic sensitive cortex (post-rolandic gyrus).
Organ: The kinesthetic sense detects body postures and movements via specialized receptors that would seem to have the capability of discriminating between variations in muscle tone (muscle bundles); joint position (joint corpuscles); tendon stress and linear and angular acceleration of the head and body, including phenomena produced by gravity (receptors lodged in the semicircular canals, saccule and utricle of the inner ear).
Mechanics: When movement occurs or is suppressed, the receptors (proprioceptors) register variations in their tone. By means of an obscure electrochemical system, they convert the primary stimulus into a variation of impulses that are conducted as information.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: The sensitive nerves transmit impulses via the spinal cord to the cerebellum and cortex; some nervous branches lead to the sensitive layer and others to the motor localization area of the cerebral cortex.
Mechanics. Some of the variations in the internal environment are picked up by a set of nervous receptors called “interoceptors.” The psychic information that they provide is normally registered in a distorted way (deformation and translation of impulses). Now then, these tiny organs (receptors) are related to points of automatic vegetative coordination (hypothalamus, thalamus and medulla oblongata). They basically intervene in respiratory, cardiovascular and temperature adjustments, and incite the body in general to satisfy its needs through translations of “hunger” (arteriovenous difference in blood sugar), “thirst” (osmotic pressure of plasma) and “pain.” Visceral pain such as deep somatic pain initiates the reflex contraction of nearby skeletal muscles, and these contractions in turn generate pain, creating a vicious circle. On the other hand, the excitation of viscera frequently produces pain, not in itself, but in some other structure that may be located some distance away from it. This “referred” pain has numerous variants or forms of irradiation. The variations in sexual economy are also registered cenesthetically.
Nervous Pathway and Localization: The sensitive nerve fibers reach the central nervous system via sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways. The cortical reception zone encompasses almost the entire archicortex (limbic cortex) and part of the paleocortex, maintaining specialized connections with other areas. The theory of convergence tries to explain the case of “referred pain” mentioned above: There is convergence of visceral and somatic afferent fibers that act upon the same spino-thalamic neurons. Since somatic pain is more common and has “recorded” the referenced pathway, the impulses coming from visceral areas are “projected” over somatic areas. In synthesis, it will be a case of signal interpretation error.
In the terrain of the memory, physiological research has made important progress but experimentations have not yet been completely correlated (year 1975). For this reason, a satisfactory overview has yet to be provided to accompany the psychological explanations. The results obtained with electroencephalography; the application of electrodes to the brain; the observations of the hippocampus and reflexology work deserve to be pointed out because of their significance. However, the nature of stable reminiscence itself is as yet unrevealed. The advances in the field of genetics are more important. With the discovery of DNA’s participation in genetic memory, research is being carried out at present on certain basic aminoacids that intervene in this phenomenon. In general terms, and in the present state of the research, we can establish a classification of memory as: (1) genetic or inherited (by the transmission of traits from the same species, from progenitors to descendants), and (2) individual or acquired memory. In the first type of memory, aside from maintaining individuals within the same species, the genetic code regulates the organic changes in the individuals’ different vital stages. Acquired memory, on the other hand, develops in different layers of depth according to the passage of time, from the oldest to another that is recent, and the immediate memory. Not much more can be added, except that it does not have a precise cerebral localization.
Working Range: The recording range is identical to that of the senses (upon a change, in sensory tone, the recording of information takes place), and to that of the activity of the consciousness at its different levels. It is accepted that everything that arrives to consciousness or that is produced by it is memorized, even if not everything is evocable. Theoretically, the only time when there would be no recording is in passive deep sleep (without images), with a minimum of cenesthesia.
Nervous Localizations: It is accepted that there seems to be no precise localization, but rather one that is diffused throughout the nervous system, in which reference is made to “low and high” levels of mnemic track locations. The first is understood as referring to the medulla and limbic system; the second to the cortex in its areas of association—frontal, temporal and pario-occipital. The stimulation of temporal areas allows us to infer that memories are not stored there; rather that in this lobe, “keys” function for the liberation of memories located anywhere in the nervous system, normally working on the basis of similarity between recollection and sensory impulse or current of thought. On the other hand, the areas of language, vision and writing seem to effect a specific recording, together with specific work. It seems that the vital importance of the cortex for the memory and the importance of the hippocampus for “recording” have been experimentally proven. It is known that in the event of damage to one hemisphere (imprints of which are left), the other proceeds to regenerate memory, though not completely. It is therefore assumed that memory is diffuse and is spread throughout the cerebrum and brain stem.
Levels of Memory
If there is inherited information, there can be a level of genetic memory, and if there is acquired information, there is acquired memory. Acquired memory, in turn, has three levels, depending on the moment and the duration of recording: immediate memory, recent memory and remote memory. Inheritance has its biochemical basis in the cellular chromosomes, which transmit genetic traits from progenitors to descendants. Twenty-two basic aminoacids can be mentioned that are responsible for the “genetic code.” The immediate memory is susceptible to being easily lost; not so recent memory. Remote memory persists after severe damage to the brain. In controlled experiments monitored with encephalographs, it has been observed that the hippocampus is involved in recent memory; the hypothalamus in memory maintenance and retention; and the hippocampus tissue of the temporal lobes in lasting memory. On the other hand, clinical therapy tells of cases such as anterograde (post-shock) amnesia, retrograde (pre-shock) amnesia, and combined retro-anterograde amnesia (forgetting prior to, during and after the shock). In any case, remote memory is difficult to affect, at least in its overall outlines. Memory recovery is gradual. First, isolated images appear that are gradually completed, until finally there are acts of recognition that have permanence. The nature of stable palinmnemic awareness is totally unknown, but its resistance to electroshock and concussion leads one to presume that it has its basis in a biochemical change in the cell nucleus, in the RNA. The use of drugs that facilitate remembering or recording, such as caffeine, nicotine, amphetamine, or that inhibit memory such as puromycin, flag the chemical alteration. Finally, cerebral electrography tracks the electrical waves of cell work, verifying the phenomenon’s electrochemical basis.
Mechanisms of Memory
Certain neuronal connections seem to explain the immediate and recent levels by reverberation—i.e., reinforcement of recording, lateral association, and forgetting. This is because descending axons of the major pyramidal cells emit collaterals that give feedback with association neurons to the original dendrites. In addition, the recurring collaterals connect with neighboring neurons that associate other information, and with an inhibitory one that they bring back to the original neuron. These deep fibers receive specific and non-specific thalamic fibers that end in the first and fourth layers of the cortex.
There are indicators of the participation of the hippocampus in recent memory, and in the ciphering of memory, such that there could be a “recollection” in the hippocampus that would be distributed through the anatomical connection of the closed circuit, which, along with the thalamus and the amygdala, includes the frontal areas of the cortex. Information could arrive here, followed by cortical distribution and its final storage, keeping in mind that the frontal lobe is mentioned as being important for tasks of abstraction and is also related to emotion al behavior. In this way, there would be a “collector,” “distributors,” and “storage” in the information. As for the thalamus, it connects with the reticular formation. Specific (or classic) and non-specific pathways go through this formation that carry information to be diffused in the cortex. This would be the direct sensory circuit or memory that would be closely linked to the levels of work of the nervous system, and could explain the enhanced recording of memory in vigil. The diffusion that could be performed through the thalamus (firing reticular system) would be an indirect route based on the limbic system that would provide the emotion al substratum to all mnemic activity. The hypothesis around the specific diffusion that the reticular substance could carry out would explain an extremely varied distribution of stimuli. The interconnection between lobes would explain the possible combinations that could be effected (for example, frontal with occipital and temporal; and since touch and sight are related in the temporal, the phenomenon of stereognosis would be the basis for a type of remembering together with the translation of impulses. A problematic point is the ciphering and discrimination of the datum: does the image arrive to memory, or is it formed there and recorded? The question is difficult to answer at present. The “internal circuit” makes one think and remember one’s own thoughts, or remember images from dreams and reveries. These impulses would originate in the neocortex, for example, and through transmission by axons (white matter) it would relate with other cortical areas; or the thalamus and reticular matter could also intervene. As will later be seen (levels of consciousness), the participation of the latter is fundamental in order to activate and maintain vigil—a level that is indispensable for complex learning.
Reversibility in Memory
As for the reversibility of the mechanisms, this is not very clear; however the need for a vigilic level is. Here there is a synchronization between the ample degree of external perception (which progressively diminishes toward the level of sleep, wherein there is an increase of internal perception together with the imagination that is a transformer of impulses), with spontaneous and involuntary data from memory. Evocation is therefore only possible in vigil. It could be assumed that a datum, upon reaching its storage point, would trigger a remembrance at the same time it was recorded, which would explain automatic recognition (i.e., the sudden recognition of all the habitual objects through progressive conditioning). Finally, evocation would operate through “preferential pathways”—that is, through the pathways in which the track is progressively created.
Memory and Learning
It known that for simple types of learning, the medulla is enough for the task, but in more complex learning the subcortex acts, and for large areas of storage, the cortex. Learning is understood as conditioning in the sense that, under certain repetitive conditions., the animal or man responds in the way it is being conditioned or taught to. In the case of man this is not so simple, because of the human being’s complex mechanisms of understanding and comprehension. But in any case, learning something requires the reiteration of the mnemic imprint so that it can later arise as a response. In the processes of memory and learning there are different cases, such as the deciphering of signals to retain the concept, or the association with similar, contiguous or contrasted images; the simple motor reflexes that are repeated and associated to others, with all of these forms allowing for numerous combinations. The basic mechanics is: to relate an unconditioned reflex (hunger, for example) with a conditioning stimulus (light, for example), in such a way that, upon relating an artificial stimulus, there is a conditioned response. In this simple task, which can grow in complexity, the brevity or reiteration of the conditioning, the insistence that leads to saturation or blockage., is important. When the reflexes are directed at something specific, we speak of “discriminated reflexes;” when they are conditioned for speedy response, “immediate reflexes;” and when conditioned for a slow response, “retarded reflexes.”
It is known that the conditioning is more effective when there is a reward, or when there is an alternative of reward-punishment, pleasure-displeasure. There is an “elusive reflex” which leads to the avoidance of unpleasant situations and a state of alert or of vigilance which can be considered an “orientation reflex.” When the conditioning is aimed not only at responding, but also at operating in the world, we refer to the “Operative reflex.” In general, habituation and contradictory stimuli cause the reflex response to weaken. Originally it was thought that the cortex was at the base of the reflexes; but later it was seen that what was acting was the great base of the sub-cortical, thalamic and infrathalamic structure (observations with EEG). Electroencephalographic experiments also showed how, in the presence of an unknown object, there was detection of secondary evoked responses. This made the inference possible, with evidence in memory as well, of the constant structuring activity of the consciousness. The relationship between learning and vigil is fundamental for complex recordings, but it is variable in other aspects, as for example: A sudden memory can awaken a sleeping person, or a stimulus that would automatically be recognized in vigil is not recognized in semisleep. Abrupt sensory data can awaken a sleeping person, but so can the disappearance of habitual stimuli, or the noticeableness of one particular stimulus among others. These variable relationships have led to the thought of the existence of an information “analyzer” located in the area of the cortex, so as to make all the appropriate distinctions. Such an “analyzer” would be a factor of importance in the psychism’s coordination.
C. Levels of Consciousness
The brain is the apparatus that is responsible for the dynamic of the levels. It carries out this work with diverse components, the most noteworthy of which are the following:
Sensitive Pathway (Classic). A nerve bundle that ascends along the stem, carrying sensory impulses directly to the Cortex. During its ascent it branches out toward the cerebellum and the FRF, which process the information, distributing it in the sub-cortex before sending it, via the thalamus, also to the cortex.
Brain Stem. Connects the spinal cord (collector of impulses from the entire organism) to the brain, which in turn is connected to the cerebellum. Anatomically contains the reticular formation and, functionally, the centers that regulate vegetative functions such as heartbeat, breathing and digestion.
Firing Reticular Formation (FRF). Does not constitute an anatomical unit, but rather a mass of tissue formed by a fine network of fibers and neurons of structures that are very different amongst themselves. They are located longitudinally in the center of the stem and in the midbrain. All the fibers that come from the senses go through the FRF, which in turn connects with all the parts of the subcortex (via the hypothalamus) and the cortex (via the thalamus). Analyzes and assesses sensory information. In combination with the other subcortical centers, it transmits “nonspecific” (sensory) impulses, which modify the reactivity of the cortex. From our interest, it appears as the center of gravity of the alternating circuit of the levels of consciousness.
Hypothalamus. Located above the stem, it is a nervous-endocrine nucleus connected to the cortex through the thalamus and to the hypophysis through numerous capillaries and nerve fibers. With these last, a structure of neurohormonal interstimulation is formed, through which the hypothalamus integrates and coordinates diverse autonomous vegetative functions conjointly with the entire hormonal system. In itself it coordinates the information (especially cenesthetic information) among the different encephalic zones.
Hypophysis. Endocrine gland composed of an anterior pituitary lobe, an intermediary part (both made of glandular tissue) and a posterior lobe (of nervous tissue), each performing different functions. It is stimulated and regulated by hypothalamic hormones. Through the hypothalamus (feedback), it connects with the cerebrum and the nervous system in general. On the other hand, it regulates and controls the entire hormonal system through the blood (and more specifically, stimulates the thyroid, gonads and suprarenals, and such functions as growth, diuresis and vascular pressure, among others).
Thalamus. This is a transmitter of information coming from the cortex and sub-cortex. A center of control and integration of impulses, and re-elevator of tension
Limbic System. Old system of nervous regions located in the subcortex, seat of the emotion al functions and of vital functions such as nutrition,, the vegetative function in general and, in part, the sexual function. This structure of emotion al-vegetative functions is the explanation for psychosomasis. It includes the hypothalamus, aside from other structures of importance.
Cortex. The most external brain layer (two millimeters thick) or grey matter (neuronal bodies). Controls the limbic center, sensation and movement in general (motor localization) and is the base of the “superior or thinking functions” (intellectual) given by multi-related localizations of response control and coordination, based on the recovery of present sensorial and memory information.
The subcortex encompasses the limbic system, hypothalamus, thalamus and midbrain. The white matter is a mass of connective fibers (axons) between the subcortex and the cortex (gray matter).
The Functioning of the Levels of Consciousness
The nervous system receives information on the changes in the external and internal environments through the sense organs. Given these changes, it makes adjustments through mechanisms that are response effectors, including changes in hormonal secretion, and these mechanisms are expressed through the action of the centers.
Through neuronal chains, the different sensitive pathways carry impulses from the sense organs to specific sites of interpretation and coordination in the cerebral cortex. Aside from these conductor systems there is another entry system, the firing reticular formation (FRF), a transmitter-modulator of impulses that come from all the senses (non-specific behavior) which is located in the brain stem’s central axis. This modulation of the sensory impulses will be related to our theme—the levels of consciousness. The first evidence that the brain (cerebral mass) regulates the generation of sensory impulses or their transmission in the specific pathways was the observation that stimulation of the FRF inhibits the transmission in diverse nuclei and sensory nervous pathways. This demonstrated the existence of cerebral mechanisms that are capable of increasing or decreasing the volume of sensory contribution, by means of effects over their pathways or over the sensory organs themselves. Additional effects on the sensory contribution were observed in experiments on electrical stimulation of the FRF, in which adrenaline was released, which makes the receptor thresholds drop and increases nervous transmission capacity (in the synapses), a mechanism that is also present in states of alert or emergency.
At the same time, more complex experiments revealed a second function of the FRF, when it was observed that its activity maintained the state of vigil, whereas its inhibition or destruction yielded indicators of sleep or coma. With the definition of the FRF’s regulating and modulating action over the contribution and distribution of sensory impulses in the brain, their central role became clear in maintaining—or inhibiting—the brain (cortical) activity characteristic of the vigilic level.
Finally, added to the above is a similar action of the FRF over the response stimuli that come from the brain to the body. These stimuli also pass through the FRF and receive a “facilitating” or a “suppressing action,” depending on the level. In this way the FRF’s role in maintaining each level’s inertia, and the rebound of stimuli that would modify the level, is clarified even more.
As a result, the FRF shows itself as the center of gravity in the regulation of the different levels of consciousness. The levels, in turn, correspond to degrees of growing integration of the central nervous system’s functions, which coordinate and regulate the sensory system, the autonomous system, and the other organic systems in conjunction with the glandular system. Such functions are found in the cerebrum represented by structures of increasing complexity that range from primitive autonomous vegetative localizations, to the limbic emotion al, and to the intellectual localization in the cortex. Each integrated fraction or level will correspond to a new level of consciousness.
As we know, in principle these levels can be of sleep, semisleep and vigil. Through the EEG we can have a register of the electric activity that each one generates, calling them “delta,” “theta,” “alpha” and “beta,” respectively, depending on their intensity and amplitude. These states are subject to daily cycles (largely dependent on the light) and vegetative biorhythms, and also vary with age. In synthesis, according to the sensory information on the environment, the organism’s internal state and hormonal reinforcement, different levels of activity and integration of the reticular functions arise in order to maintain a state of alert vigil; the functions of the limbic-midbrain circuit that intervene in the maintenance of vegetative (homeostatic) equilibria, and in the regulation of instinctive and emotion al behavior; and finally, the cortex in charge of the so-called superior functions of the nervous system, such as learning and language.
In neurophysiological terms, the levels of consciousness correspond to different levels of work of the central nervous system, which are determined by the integration of increasingly more complex nervous functions that coordinate and regulate the peripheral and autonomous nervous systems, and the other organic systems as a whole, with the glandular system. In the dynamic of the levels of consciousness, this intermediate factor of amplitude in the work performed by the nervous system is combined with an external factor given by the characteristics of the sensory impulses, and with a synthetic internal factor given by the nervous “transmission capacity.” The brain’s electrical activity (the reflection of its level of work) fluctuates between 1 cycle/sec (delta state) in the case of sleep, up to a maximum indeterminate frequency, considering in this case a functional limit of 30 cycles/sec (beta state), corresponding to active vigil.
Working Range. Each level of work (theta, delta, alpha and beta states) corresponds to the predominance or the presence of a higher percentage, of a type of frequency (wave) and microvoltage in comparison to the others. Finally, these levels are generally subject to the daily cycles that are typical of sleep, semisleep and vigil. It should be pointed out that, with age, the dominant wave in repose varies, accelerating until it reaches the alpha pattern in the adult.
A sensory stimulus generates impulses that reach the cortex conjointly, through the FRF and sensory paths. These impulses process slowly through the FRF (due to its multiple synaptic relays) until reaching vast zones of the cortex, while those which follow the sensory paths are propagated with great speed (only two to four synapses) up to the specific primary areas of the cortex. The stimuli that produce awakening in the cortex (of synchronization) frequently produce hypersynchrony in the limbic system (specifically the hippocampus). It goes without saying that the diminishing of external sensory stimuli (darkness, silence) predisposes to sleep; that the systems of tensions and climates make it difficult (the presence of adrenaline, for example); that low tone (fatigue for example) induces it. In any case, the action of stimuli should be considered (from the point of view of the levels of consciousness) quantitatively and qualitatively. The following would be considered as characteristics of the sensory afferent impulses: their nature or specificity (receptor), their frequency, duration, extension and action potential. Later, the sensory impulses that ascend along the specific pathways also reach the FRF on its ascending path, which modulates and regulates them according to their current state of activity. On the other hand, general chemical information arrives through the bloodstream, reaching the FRF as well as the rest of the brain’s nervous and glandular structures.
a) Sleep. When the FRF is inhibited (concomitantly with a low general vegetative tone, little neurotransmitter activity, and low-intensity and/or low-quality impulses), it also exerts an inhibitory action over the brain structures, especially the cortex. In addition, the FRF acts as a suppressor or inhibitor of ascendant sensory impulses (and in some cases, of the sensory organs themselves), determining a predominance of the internal (cenesthetic) information over the external information (from the environment).
Passive sleep. In this level, the suppressor activity of the FRF blocks the cortical and limbic functions and diminishes those of other subcortical structures, reducing the work of the brain to its most primitive functions. This corresponds to a level of sleep without images, with a low-frequency EEG delta pattern. In sum, this level integrates the brainstem-limbic circuit, in which the impulses do not excite the cortex.
Active sleep. At regular, distanced intervals, the thalamic-cortical circuit is activated, which is added on to the preceding interval and produces short periods of sleep with reveries, which in turn produce time zones of activity (desynchronizations) in the delta waves, recognized externally through rapid eye movement (REM).
b) Semisleep. An intermediate progressive level in which the FRF is activated, disinhibiting the subcortical structures and gradually integrating to the limbic system and the cortex. This effect is reinforced by the hypothalamic-cortical feedback that is established. Simultaneously unblocks the specific sensory pathways, which brings about an unstable balance between the external and internal information and increases the brain’s work, starting from the moment of passage or “awakening.” The EEG pattern is high frequency and low voltage and is called Theta. All the brain structures have been integrated, but their level of activity is not complete and nervous transmission (synaptic) capacity is as yet relative.
c) Vigil. The FRF integrates and “facilitates” the sensory and associative impulses, while maintaining the state of excitation of the cortex, which predominates over the subcortical functions, just as the impulses from the external senses predominate over the internal senses. The transmission capacity has considerably increased. Though attenuated, subcortical activity continues, which will explain in part the basis of numerous psychological phenomena such as reveries and the reverie nucleus.
Transformation of Impulses
The brain presents different levels, which we organize as follows:
a) The Circuit’s Center of Gravity: The FRF, which modulates and regulates, in a non specific way the contribution of sensory and associative impulses, the excitability of the cortex and the efferent of response.
b) Coordinator of Stimuli: The cortex, which basically operates as localization of the motor and intellectual functions, and the subcortex, which operates as localization of the vegetative (instinctive) and emotion al (behavioral) functions. They transform the specific complex impulses and relate them by elaborating response-effector impulses, which are also specific and complex.
c) Processors of Stimuli: The brain stem, cerebellum and midbrain are nervous nuclei of confluence of impulses that produce an initial simple processing, elaborating reflex autonomous responses that are likewise simple. The other nervous structures appear basically as being connective pathways that are conductors of impulses. They are: the stem and midbrain (in their fibrous portions), thalamus and white matter. The specific pathways allow, at the cortical level, discriminative sensory perception (the intellectual function as such), while the FRF performs functions related to the levels of consciousness, among them that of “waking up,” without which functions said sensory discrimination and the production of effective responses would be impossible.
The impulses coming from the different points of the brain also pass through the FRF, in its descending part, which regulates and modulates the impulses according to their state of activity. Other efferent pathways will be given by the hypophysis and the blood stream and the direct fibers of the hypothalamus as the brain’s connection valve with the glandular system and the organism in general, for effecting the organized responses in a coordinated way.
a) Sleep: In both types of sleep (passive and active) the efferent impulses are inhibited or suppressed by the FRF, especially when they compromise functions (motor ones, for example) that would modify the level. The brain, from the sub-cortex, maintains the vegetative and basic functions in a latent state at the minimal rhythm that corresponds to this moment of energetic regeneration and recuperation.
b) Semisleep: The most notable efferent variation, in this case, is the one that corresponds to the moment of waking up, in which the brain sends stimuli that strongly activate all the organic functions, increasing the overall volume of nervous circulation. Two basic chemical mechanisms participate here, which are the massive discharge of adrenaline (which in feedback activates the entire brain’s nervous transmission capacity, and particularly the FRF), and the change in the sodium-potassium ratio.
c) Vigil: The “cortical fire” produced by the FRF in this level, its action as a “facilitator,” and the integration of all the functions of the central nervous system liberate efferent brain stimuli, which, through the pathways described, will maintain all the functions proper to this state, the latter being expressed in the familiar form by all the centers. A case in point: It is observed that when the attention is concentrated at a specific object, some of the modulating mechanisms of the FRF are set in motion. The result is that, in part, the narrowing of the field of presence in this case is due to the fact that some of the incoming stimuli are “turned off” before they reach the cortex. As in this case, there are many other cases of central cerebral control of the sensory contribution (kinesthesia, for example). Also within the system of alert, there are cortical areas that (transforming and coordinating memory impulses) emit impulses of response that provoke awakening upon disinhibiting the FRF, but without producing any movement at all.
Chemical (Neurohormonal) Aspect of the Mechanics of the Levels
The endocrine system regulates and coordinates the body’s diverse functions through the hormones secreted by the glands into the blood stream. Glandular participation in the phenomenon of the levels of consciousness is regulated from the hypothalamus (neuro-gland), the cerebral localization of the vegetative center. The hypothalamus acts indirectly via the hypophysis, and in cases such as those of alert or emergency, it does away with the hypophysis and sends efferent impulses directly to the glands that are involved in the elaboration of responses that the situation in the environment requires. The most significant case is the double safety circuit that it establishes with the suprarenal glands in the secretion of adrenaline. The thyroid gland (thyroxin) and the gonads appear in the circuit as being secondary. This relationship with the hormonal system will be of interest to us in terms of its participation in the determinant brain activity of the levels of consciousness. We then consider the substances that act in a direct way over the various cerebral structures, and/or the connective fibers’ transmission capacity. When we attend to these substances in their action as synaptic mediators and their degree of concentration in the different brain structures, we obtain another point of view. The modifications in the balance between sodium and potassium, blood sugar (insulin) level, the metabolism of calcium and the thyroid and parathyroid secretions, among others, appear as chemical feedback providers of vital importance in the dynamic of the levels of consciousness. The fall in the levels of glucose, calcium, potassium, and the depletion of the presence of adrenaline, are all related to marked functional disequilibria within each level, and in extreme cases produce mental and emotion al stress. In contrast, their equilibrated metabolism will also correspond to an adequate integration of each level’s work. On the other hand (and as secondary aspects), it is observed that any increase in blood pressure is matched by an increased excitability of the reticular formation and, consequently, of its activating function. Simultaneously, there is also a concomitance between a rise in level (reticular and general brain activation) and the supply of oxygen, which is at its maximum point at the moment of awakening.
The neurological “control keys” are located mainly in what we call the cerebrospinal apparatus, which is made up of the brain mass and the spinal cord. The endocrine system’s intervention is important, which, in connections such as that between the hypothalamus-hypophysis, determines an intimate relationship between both systems. However, in this work, the neurological action is accentuated. If we view the senses as having the general characteristic of “bringing in” information from an environment (whether external or internal), then the centersbecome structured systems of response, even if one of them predominates in front of a given stimulus. Thus, the intimate emotion al-vegetative-sexual connection will mean that, though one of them may operate predominantly over the others, the others will also be compromised. The endocrine aspect will act above all in the slow response systems, sustaining its activity in an inertial way, besides maintaining a constant level of activity that will be mobilized in an increasing or decreasing direction, depending on opportunity and type of response required, and always in relationship to the nervous system. This last will have fast response characteristics and will tend to rapidly break or reestablish the equilibrium.
Referring now to the “centers of control,” we can divide them into three groups according to their localization: those with purely cortical localizations, with subcortical, and those with mixed localizations. Thus we locate the intellectual centerin the cortex, the vegetative and the emotion al in the subcortical part, and the motor and sexual in both the cortex and subcortex. The order of exposition is as follows: vegetative, sexual, motor, emotional and intellectual.
Working Range: From the point of view of its activity, we identify: The regulation of temperature, reflexes of thirst and hunger; reactions of defense and regeneration; regulation of the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems; and metabolic activity of the functions of locomotion and reproduction.
Organ: Mainly the hypothalamus. It is made up of various nuclei and is located in the brain stem, beneath the thalamus. Very close by and underneath it is the hypophysis, a gland it directly connects with.
Afferent Pathways, Transformation, Efferent Pathways:
a) Afferent Pathways: The hypothalamus receives from: the reticular formation, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the thalamus, the lenticular nucleus, the olfactory bulb and nervous fibers with sensory impulses.
b) Transformation: We take as an example the reflex of ‘doing’: when the hypothalamus registers the reduction in the concentration of C1Na in the blood through the osmoceptors and chemoceptors, it increases its production of the antidiuretic hormone (ADH) elaborated by the hypothalamic supraoptic nuclei and that is also stored by the neuro-hypophysis. When said hormone is released into the blood stream, it produces reactions in the kidney, which contribute to water retention. Another example: when there is a drop in the concentrations of corticol and corticosterone in the blood stream, the hypothalamus stimulates the release of ACTH from the adenohypophysis. In turn, the ACTH stimulates the suprarenal gland’s release of glucocorticoids.
c) Efferent Pathways: In complementation with the hypophysis and through it, via the blood stream to the thyroid gland, suprarenal cortex and gonads. Via the nervous pathway to the suprarenal medulla and through the hypothalamic-reticular fibers, to the reticular formation of the tegument, and from there to the motor nuclei of the bulb and the medullary motor neurons. To the hypophysis from the supraoptic nuclei.
Synthesis: We basically consider the vegetative center as a regulator of vital functions that operates mechanisms of equilibrium. and servo-regulation.
Working Range: As to its activity, we refer the sexual center to the sexual act itself, as corresponding to “charge and discharge.”
Organ: Important points are: the gonads, the spinal center, the structure hypothalamus-hypophysis, and the cortical localization in the occipital lobe.
Afferent Pathways, Transformation, Efferent Pathways:
a) Pathways of diffused tactile origin encompassing the erogenous zones and touch in general; b) pathways of the genital apparatus that are also tactile, but of a concentrated and precise type; c) pathway that encompasses sensory-perceptual, mnemic and cortical-subcortical-cenesthetic associative stimuli. The first two in part make up the short spinal reflex, and besides this, travel through the spinal cord, passing through the thalamus and the reticular formation to go on to the cortex. Afferent pathways of an endocrinal type: These have to do with the production and maintenance of a constant though cyclical level of sex hormone secretion, mobilized according to opportuneness. Here the hypothalamus-hypophysis-gonads (with the participation of other glands) configure a structure of the main secretor elements.
b) Transformation: Complex in character, with the intervention of the following: (1) a short medullary reflex; (2) the activity of medullary motor neurons which create longer reflexes, combined with the preceding type; (3) the nervous crossovers at the subcortical level; (4) the cortical projections and their interconnections.
c) Efferent Pathways: Two possibilities can be considered: (1) the sexual act itself; (2) when fertilization occurs and the gestation process proceeds. Here we’ll consider the first case. Coming from the cortical-subcortical interconnection, bundles from the autonomous system descend through the spinal cord that will excite the genital apparatus, facilitating the feedback loop of stimulus-transformation-excitation, with a simultaneous increase in the activity until a threshold of tolerance is reached, in which the discharge is produced.
Synthesis: We locate the sexual center as operating within the mechanisms of the reproductive function. In the individual this activity is the expression of the species’ instinct of preservation with its mechanisms: sexual act, fertilization, gestation and birth.
Working Range: The individual’s mobility in space, which consists of voluntary and involuntary movements in which the skeletal and muscular systems act, coordinated by and with the nervous system.
Organ: The motor center which coordinates these activities is found at the level of: (a) the cortex, in the pre-frontal lobes of the cortex, the center of voluntary movements; (b) the spinal cord, acting as the center of involuntary movements, short reflex-arcs, and as the connective between the receptors and the cortex; (c) the cerebellum, which coordinates movements (balance).
Afferent Pathways, Transformation, Efferent Pathways:
At an initial level we will study the short reflex system.
a) Afferent Pathways: From the receptor via the sensitive fiber to the pre-spinal ganglion which acts as a retensor, to the medulla where the first transformation takes place.
b) Efferent Pathways: From the medulla to the post-spinal ganglion and through the neuromotor fiber to the effector. In the second level we find: From the receptor, via the afferent path, to the medulla; from here, via the neuromotor fibers (pyramidal and extra-pyramidal bundles) to the cortex, passing through the cerebellum. The second transformation occurs in the cortical locations and goes out through the efferent pathways to the hypothalamus connected with the hypophysis, to the medulla, and from there to the effector, in this case the muscles.
Synthesis: The motor center is a transformer of electro-nervous sensory stimuli, which gives responses of mobility to the individual, for adaptation to the environment and survival.
Emotion al Center
Working Range: Corresponds to what we habitually recognize as feelings, moods, passion (with its motor implications) and intuition. Intervenes as the “like” or “dislike” that can accompany any activity.
Organ: We locate the main activity in the limbic center, which is located in the deutencephalon or rhinencephalon and is composed of: the septum (septal nuclei of the hypothalamus), the anterior nuclei of the thalamus, the hippocampal gyrus, the anterior part of the hippocampus and the amygdala.
Afferent Pathways, Transformation, Efferent Pathways:
a) Afferent Pathways: The principal afferent pathways are the olfactory path, which connects directly to the amygdala, and the sensory fibers, which arrive to the limbic center through the reticular formation. Also, fibers that come from the cortex, frontal and temporal lobe and the hippocampus, reach the amygdala. From the olfactory bulb, one of its branches also goes to the septum.
b) Transformation: The afferent stimuli (impulses) produce chemoelectric modifications in the limbic center, which have as response an immediate viscero-somatic modification (structural relationship with the hypothalamus), including the cortical areas. The activity of the limbic center in turn integrates a structural emotion al-vegetative-sexual expression.
c) Efferent Pathways: These modifications are not only expressed internally, at the chemo-electric and hormonal level, but they also modify the individual’s behavioral activity. One element that this clearly expresses is motor activity. In addition, from the limbic center fibers are projected through the hypothalamus, which are sent to the autonomous bulbar centers and to the brain stem’s reticular formation, and from here via the somatic motor neurons, the corresponding organs are innervated, as well as the muscles.
Synthesis: The emotion al center’s activity can be defined as “synthetic” —integrating not just its specific area with its own neurohormonal characteristics, but also elements of the vegetative and sexual operations. Its location and connections (thalamus-hypothalamus-reticular formation) allows us to understand its diffused activity even in cases of “non-emotional” characteristics, and its prolonged action beyond the initial impulse.
Working Range: Learning activities in general, the relations between data, elaboration of responses (beyond the reactive responses), the correlation of stimuli from different sources.
Organ: We localize this center in the cerebral cortex, made up of gray matter. It is usually divided into three layers, from the inside toward the outside: archicortex (phylogenetically the oldest layer); paleocortex (the intermediate layer); neocortex (the most recent layer). It is superficially divided in turn in correspondence with the four cerebral lobes: frontal, in the anterior part; parietal, in the middle upper part; temporal, in the middle lower part; and occipital, in the posterior part.
Afferent Pathways, Transformation, Efferent Pathways:
a) Afferent Pathways: The principal afferent pathways are those that make up the sensitive pathways, and they are afferent to what is called the sensory cortex, which predominates in the parietal and occipital lobe and, to a lesser degree, in the temporal and frontal lobes. The following are afferent: the thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, reticular formation and cerebellum.
b) Transformation: We get an idea about this point upon observing the cortical interconnections. In general terms, we find one of the complex functions in the parietal lobe in the case of stereognosis (tactile recognition without sight), in which an adequate reception of the stimulus (transmission) is required. This information is synthesized and compared to similar previous sensory mnemic tracks so as to recognize a given object.
c) Efferent Pathways: Aside from the intercortical connections, the efferent pathways are generally directed toward the subcortex and mainly to the caudate nuclei; the protuberance and cerebellum; the midbrain; the thalamus; the reticular formation and the mammillary bodies (hypothalamus).
Synthesis: We note in this center a maximum specialization in man with respect to the rest of the mammals and the other species. Its main function of association and elaboration, together with the characteristic of deferring its response to stimuli, would seem to give a general idea about this center.