Vision, from the latest adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War, has an interesting cerebral moment when he proposes his equation. The equation is mathematical in how it states that the catastrophes in the world are proportional to the increase in enhanced humans. This fits in the context of the MCU, in the sense that The Avengers have had to deal with numerous catastrophes, while enhanced humans do seem to be increasing. It’s an interesting observation, at the very least, on par with Lex Luthor’s metahuman thesis in Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It’s cool when science fiction can delve into mathematical formulations and the science of situations. In fact, an underpinning to Vision’s equation is complexity theory: Complexity increases as more and more interacting parts become part of the picture. Or, put more succinctly and simply, systems tend to become more complex as time passes.
I have a vision. I’m not sure what that vision is, it’s something I’ve been working on for a while, though, as I’ve taken my lumps and taken my bumps and bruises as a thinker and an intellectual. I think my vision is one of expansive consciousness, of expansive thought, of an expansive mind. I think one of the reasons why these superhero movies have stood out to me recently is because they’ve dropped in these deeply cerebral concepts in the midst of chaos and confusion. They come like moments of clarity. They come like enlightenment.
My vision is indeed an expanded consciousness, and there’s something about Vision’s equation and Lex Luthor’s metahuman thesis that carry the possibility of sure expansion. This is because they describe a universe that is evolving and changing, and specifically, complexifying. This is because these moments in the films depict a world that is going to evolve and expand, whether we like it or not.
What does this have to do with the mind, though, and the question of the mind expanding, of my vision? That’s a valid question, and I’m still thinking through it, but I would say if the world is expanding, then why can’t the mind expand as well?
Last night I was in an interesting argument about the impossibility of enlightenment. I was talking to a committed materialist. Their claim went essentially like this: Enlightenment isn’t possible, because knowledge doesn’t work with breakthroughs and expansions. He essentially rejected any notion of enlightenment, because he said that enlightenment can’t exist when knowledge is a constant process that remains stable and gradual, without any moment of climax. Knowledge is a fabrication.
I thought this was interesting, of course, because it entailed a rejection of Buddhist enlightenment, an idea that I find valuable to how I perceive the world: namely, the idea that you can have a great awakening because you reach a point where you realize something and your life can never be the same again, hence why it becomes enlightenment. But more importantly, it derailed my own theories of “a breakthrough,” in the nature of Einstein, for instance. I understood the criticism that the idea of enlightenment or a breakthrough evokes the Western narcissism of the genius, but I thought this was far from my point.
This person went on to further criticize enlightenment by comparing it unfavorably to scientology, whereas you reach certain levels of understanding, but how that’s essentially bogus.
In short, it was a rejection of expanded consciousness.
But I still stand by a notion of expanded consciousness, even with all the difficulties. Speaking from a neurobiological perspective, expansion of the mind is, or at least seems, possible. Just think of neuroplasticity, for instance, or the way in which we can help the neurons fire in new ways. This is a neural account of expanded consciousness, but I think it’s an important one, especially for a materialist.
I was, with this conversation, trying to solve one of my own riddles. I was asking how one could, essentially, push their mind beyond their limitations. My argument went loosely as follows: We acknowledge that the mind is internal, and we acknowledge that it has limitations, limitations that prevent it from breaking out of its mold and prevent it from doing any true or deep thinking. This could take the form as biases, but not always. Sometimes it’s just simply ignorance, of not knowing, or not having the information at hand. Anyway, because the mind is limited, we have to assume that there must be a way to complexify the mind, there must be a way to let the mind grow. I had to scrap my comparison to enlightenment in favor of a tree growing, in the favor of growth in general, to not seem conceited in my argument. But the point was the same, and the question was the same: What can we do to break past the built-in limitations of our own mind, an important question that I will continue to ask until I know, until I find the answer I’m seeking.
Do I have any proto-theories, you might be wondering, of how we expand consciousness? I remember listening to another person describing how expansion of consciousness is by becoming more and more connected with the external world. For me, this was exactly what I was hoping for, and yet it also seemed like a normative goal. I have sought interconnectedness with the universe for a long time, now, and the resistance from the external world, the resistance of the external world to stretch and bend to this desire has led to me to become extremely internal and to doubt the validity of action, to internalize everything and express everything in some formulation or equation or thesis.
This is important because it’s a direction consequence of how my life has gone. I find the world increasingly unsafe and increasingly dangerous. As the number of enhanced humans continues to grow exponentially, the complexity and chaos increases, and so does the danger.
I’m disappointed that my ideas were rejected on such a quick whim, but I find it necessary to the process of refinement. Perhaps that process is precisely the point, the way in which you expand consciousness: You have your own mind knocked down repeatedly. Certainly, this has been true in my life, due to my label of mental illness. The mental healthcare system has forced me to retreat to my mind in order to find some kind of security and safety and understanding, because they have openly stigmatized it and described it as void and null.
Indeed, the search for truth and knowledge is important to me. I have good reason to think that the search for truth is a process, as any process philosopher or even relativist would say, but the process is itself expansion. But I think there must come a point where it’s not so much about adaption, and finding ways to let your mind adapt to harsh external conditions, and being placed in an environment where you can actually grow and find the enlightenment you seek. I think this is difficult, because the conditions that allow for our mental growth are uncertain and have many variables, but I think it’s not an unreasonable wish.
Indeed, I have found frustrations with making everything internal. But I’ve also found it helpful. So then, you might be wondering, where does this leave me?
It leaves me feeling curious. It leaves me feeling doubtful of the capacity of my own mind to break past its limitations, but also hopeful that at least asking the question is part of that process of expansion. For my vision of expansion to come to fruition, I have to start by making the attempt. In a world that seems focused on making everything intensely subjective and thus definitively irrefutable, or on the other extreme end making it absolute and scientific due to the process of irrefutable proof, you can feel torn about finding some kind of middle ground or more importantly, finding enlightenment and meaningful truth at all, because either way, it’s seemingly relative and wishy-washy or absolute and yet devoid of purpose and meaning. I am not, just to be clear, then, looking for a descriptive explanation of reality. I’m looking for a metaphysical one.
And is this vision possible? Well, obviously, I see something, like Gurdjieff. Obviously I see some possibility, even if it’s in the concise equation of Vision. I see the possibility of expansion, and because I see the possibility, I can find a way to push past what I’ve been told and what I’ve continually been told, and find a way to grow.
And that’s all you can hope for when you’re searching for something real, true, and genuine.