Thought, Truncated becoming Total

Any natural event that is within collective experience can be interpreted by the mind as being “natural”; that is not to say we react to the event in a natural manner, it is rather when we (consciously or unconsciously) say to ourselves “this happened because it’s the way things work.” It is through the same faculty that we can investigate and explain the means by which natural events occur. In utilizing this faculty to search for rational explanations in nature we adopt the scientific habit of mind, a habit which has been chiefly promoted over the past few centuries. Like all problem solvers, scientists during this time have used the lens they interpret the world by to understand the workings of nature, and in such usage the scientific habit of mind has brought about explanations to countless limited inquiries. Unfortunately, this strict way of thinking is hopelessly truncated, for it ignores the lens itself and focuses only on that which the lens is allowing to be understood.

It is, however, not at all surprising that people should forget about the mind itself when thinking, for C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist, scholar, and professor at Cambridge University from 1955- 1963, states in Miracles “the fact which is in one respect the most obvious and primary fact, and through which alone you have access to all the other facts, may be precisely the one that is most easily forgotten-forgotten not because it is so remote or abstruse but because it is so near and obvious” (41). For example: A man engrossed in the melodic undulation of a symphony is in no way attending to the fact that his ears are hearing, but purely to the music. In other words, because it is so blindingly usual, he is in no way intrigued by his ability to hear, and is, consequently, not concerned at all with the mechanism by which he hears. His neglect is also partially due to the fact that what he hears so urgently invites his full attention. Furthermore, why should he want to attend to a concept so seemingly mundane when there is a symphony at hand? It would, after all, be hardly pleasing to do so. Perhaps to the problem solver, the symphony of nature beckons his attention in the same way; and in his exclusively outward fixation, all else, including his own thought, is lost on him. In either case, the very reason the fact of the mechanism has remained so remote is because of the mechanism’s obvious function.

Still withstanding, in ignoring the mind itself (the device by which they came to understand nature in the first place) many scientists ever since the sixteenth century have come to adopt a purely naturalistic view of truth, and C.S. Lewis tells us why that was surely bound to happen:

“The deeply ingrained habit of truncated thought, what we call the scientific habit of mind, was indeed certain to lead to naturalism, unless this tendency were continually corrected from some other source. But no other source was at hand, for during the same period men of science were coming to be metaphysically and theologically uneducated” (42).

In the outward fixation of their minds the naturalists ignored the implications of their own thinking and, ironically, inferred only natural truths by means of a completely unnatural faculty. Because of his own conditioning the naturalist will surely insist that the mind itself is natural, but that assertion will leave him in a very awkward position indeed.

By definition of being a part of nature (or to be clearer we may say the universe as a whole), anything natural can, given enough knowledge, be explicable by the scientific habit of mind, or as it now commonly called “the scientific method”. However, if you ask the naturalist to apply scientific method to his own mind (whatever the mind might be), he will find it quite impossible to do so; for when you attempt to scrutinize the processes of your own mind, you realize the mind you are using to scrutinize is the very mind you are putting under scrutiny. It is therefore self-refuting, and consequently inexplicable through natural terms. Such is an argument for a direct influence than can be nothing less than separate from what we understand nature to be. This is a step toward total thought, an inference that can only be made once we accept that the faculty we use to define nature (and to make the inference in the first place) cannot be itself, definitely natural. Nature cannot define nature.

To take the act of thinking into account is to take the philosophical and metaphysical approach. For the naturalists, thought that is truncated through specificity is the correct method for their particular inquiries. However, C.S. Lewis (1947) tells us that in turning to total thought we must establish a complete philosophy that takes all facts into account: and thinking about the fact of thought itself is part of total thought (p 41). A philosophy is a way of understanding our entire experience; and in that entirety understanding itself must be understood. But the understanding of understanding isn’t, indeed cannot be, a naturalistic one (for the very reason I previously put forth). We can make the inference that the definer (the mind) cannot be a part of the definition (nature) simply because it isn’t. Else the inference wouldn’t exist. It’s the reason I can make any inference, even the inference that I make inferences. But the causation of headaches isn’t in my repertoire, so here I will leave your minds to consider your own thoughts.

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