Systems Psyche: Its Structure, Operation and Possible Molecular Links


AK Mukhopadhyay, 2016

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The psyche stands, connects and operates in between consciousness and matter. Traditionally, the psyche has been considered to have a monolithic structure composed of mind or consciousness. From a robust common sense experience and from the experience of those engaged in inward Olympics with mind this paper theoretically dissects the constituent members of the psyche and their autonomous operations and interaction. From the insight of its polylithic character the paper develops a new description of Systems Psyche. The model, sandwiched between consciousness and matter, comprises of a complex relational matrix of five operations with a stratified and hierarchically nested labyrinthine structure and process. The probable footprints of the operations at molecular synaptic level have been suggested, which merit further research for developing a concrete picture. These molecular connections could emerge as the basis of developing a systems science accommodating systems biology with systems psychology under the umbrella of consciousness, which remains active from the top. A beneficial spin off is a new way of classifying psychological and psychiatric disorders.




The psyche, the organic apparatus for cognition emotion (feelings) and decision-making is the essence of the being. Top-down, the somatic dynamics (behavior) is determined essentially by psycho dynamics. In reverse, bottom-up, the bodily dynamics influences the state of the psyche. The psyche evolves with time. The process of evolution of embryonic psyche to its mature adult form may be called its ontogeny, which recapitulates the entire phylogeny in its entire development. The evolution of


Homo sapiens to some new species, something more complex, something remarkably better, often called Homo spiritualis, is essentially a psychic evolution. Psyche is the conveyer of the Spirit (unconditional consciousness) to the somatic systems and is the conduit of the somatic body to the spirit world. Psyche is the nature of consciousness and this nature is in dynamic communication with nature investigated in physical science. Psycho-spiritual and psychosomatic are therefore two facets of one coin. The question is what is this coin? What it is made of? How this non-physical entity connects the ‘physical’ with the ‘spiritual’? Do we have any model of it or its dynamics?


The traditional model of the psyche consists of mind or consciousness, even without having a clear distinction between the two. The possessor of the psyche, the lord of the psyche, the ‘self’, has not been given credible position in the model.


The relationship between information and mind has not been deciphered. So is also the relationship between mind and self. Is the organ psyche a property of only living organism? If so, what is its relationship with ‘life’? On the backdrop of such plethora of questions, over last few decades there is an enormous input of knowledge from empirical analytical phenomenology (for example, on the role of self) and transpersonal psychology (for examples, non-locality and trans-temporality of mind, out-of– body experiences, autoscopy etc).


The varieties of psychedelic and spiritual experiences have contributed to the complexity in the knowledge of psyche. Cognitive neuroscience has emerged as one of the frontier disciplines. Molecular biology, genomics and epigenomics of dementia have been under serious investigation. The discipline of psycho-neuro-immunology has been flourishing. The neuroscience has been looking for the neural fabrics of mind and the cell biologists have been searching for mind within the cell. Evidence for cellular cognition suggested an existing bond between psyche and life without any role of the brain. Even in physical science particularly in quantum physics, the role of consciousness in observation and measurement has been recognized although whether this is due to influence of mind, self or consciousness of the observer is yet to be decided. In addition, the computer science has taken over the information processing function of mind with unimaginable speed and flawlessness while the discipline of robotics has been taking over miniscule of the functions of ‘self’ and intelligence associated with it. The attempts of “mind-uploading” on signal network or global sensor have brought physical scientists closer to human psyche.


Doesn’t this scientifically charged emerging milieu call for a new comprehensive model of the psyche that can withstand, incorporate and assimilate these new inputs of evidence-based knowledge in the open market of scientific research? We are challenged with the question, what is this non-physical psyche that is being dealt with in psychological science? Are all events in the inner world of us run by the ghost(s) in the machine (brain)? If psyche is organic, what could be its operational mechanics like? How does the psyche do multidimensional multitasking, although not completely free of any error? Is the psyche made up of really only one stone, as a monolith? Or, does it have a polylithic structure with multiple operations and operators? Is it possible to develop a systems science with the constituents of psyche? And next, is it possible to place the systems psyche within the systems biology? How the systems psyche could be connected with the science of consciousness? Where in the psyche do the ultimate motivational factors work?


This paper addresses some of these questions and builds up a new definition and description of the psyche as systems. It dissects out the fundamental elementary members of the psyche, examines their individual and collective operations and develops a structured model on the basis of its operators’ relational matrix. The proposed model retains the core scientific identity and rigor of the discipline of Psychology and Psychiatry. Deeply rooted into the primacy of consciousness the proposed model places psyche within the systems science as a whole, without reducing anything and excluding almost nothing available in the knowledge systems.


The Psyche: The Renaissance in its recent conceptual understanding


The definition of the psyche as given in wikipedia, ranges from the mind to angel to eros and the spirit. The psyche has long been considered monolithic, composed of mind or consciousness. Even when a neuroscientist of Sir John C. Eccles’ status transcends materialism and enters the domain of non-physical psyche, he proposes hypothetical existence of the unit of psyche, the “psychon”, a unit for mental activity in his work [1]. There is no further analysis of whether this non-physical unit really indivisible? Or, does it have several components?


Let us look and examine the usual responses from several educated medical doctors, on the question what is meant by the psyche! “The psyche is mind!” “The psyche is feelings!” “The psyche is consciousness!” “The psyche is self!” “The psyche is the epiphenomenon in information processing system within the brain!” “The psyche is the condensed ‘life’ of the individual!” “The psyche is the ‘soul’!” All these responses seem right, but incomplete since each of these descriptions is only on one facet or one fundamental aspect of the psyche. When all the responses are considered together for one unified account, the psyche does not appear as structurally monolithic. The comprehensive image of the psyche appears polylithic in structure consisting of several ontological entities like Consciousness, Mind, ‘Self’, ‘Life’ and Information, each having its specific operational processes. There are five distinct pieces that constitute the whole puzzle. This conceptualization has concurrence with the experience of millions of practitioners engaged in yoga and meditation, an inward Olympics with this puzzle of consciousness.


None of these ontological entities as mentioned above is either physical or localizable. All of them are, however, organic and having intention and therefore contribute towards causality. Our brain could be considered their ‘home’, for their lodging, and operations. There are natural scientists who trace the existence and function of the psyche to plants, brain-less worms, unicellular organisms such as bacteria [2], genes, and even into the deeper recess of nature. Michael Pollan [3] in his books The Omnivore’s Dilemma[3] and The Botany of Desire [4] addresses the issues like whether the plant can sense, learn, remember and even react in ways that would be familiar to humans! Several Astrophysicists invoke ‘mind’ in deeper recess of nature. For example, Roger Penrose in The Emperor’s New Mind [5] and Stephen Hawking saying, “Mind of God is at the boundary of the universe”, and Max Tegmark [6] finding some structure in Multiverse level IV, which can mindfully operate. As early as 1987, the author [7] wrote a chapter on Psychology of a Cell in his book The Dynamic web of Supracortical Consciousness. In 2011, there is another work available, titled Geneopsych [8], relating primary instincts of all living organisms to primary properties of DNA molecules.


It seems that wherever a defined and integral conglomeration of consciousness, mind, self, life and information could be identified it is possible to locate and identify there an operational mechanics of the psyche. This new development differs from well-known and old panpsychism, where there is mind (or consciousness) everywhere. In contrast to panpsychism, the new emerging model of the psyche is discrete in nature. This property of discreteness comes from its polylithic nature with constituent like ‘self’. Unlike, consciousness, life and mind or even information, self could not be found everywhere, even by panpsychist! Self is discrete and is the representative of consciousness within self-organizing systems. This fact raises the possibility of developing a systems science the psyche.


The model of the psyche proposed here is organic, polylithic and is an ever-open complex syncitium of five ontological entities with their defined operations. The psyche could be brain-confined as well as brain-independent.


Why Polylithic structures appear as Monolithic?


The psyche in spite of having a polylithic structure appears and operates as monolith as evident from its unified behavioral response. Physiologically it responds with unity as a whole, as if functionally it is one. We would be seeing that all of the constituents of the psyche have individual operation and together they have a collective operation. Collective operation in unity makes the psyche appear as monolith. The closest biological simile, which can be cited to understand the essence of this polylithic-monolithic debate, is a cell-syncitium where all the constituent cells of the syncitium act in unison for the purpose it is meant for (e.g. myocardium). More simply, an unicellular organism or a cell with constituents of several organelle like nucleus, mitochondria, lysosome, Golgi apparatus etc. enclosed within a cell membrane responds as one, in unity, despite different organelles have been continuing their independent operation with autonomy. All operate within the ambit of oneness of the whole. That the psyche is structurally polylithic but output-wise (i.e., functionally) monolithic in its physiological state could be the description nearest to its true nature.


Characteristic of the Science of Psyche


None of consciousness, mind, self and life could be objectively observed, reduced, or measured even within Planck’s scale of nature, 10-32 cm, Planck’s length and 10-43 sec, Planck’s time. Therefore, unlike the physical science, the science of the psyche could not be objective, reductivistic or positivistic. Also, contrary to the claim of several pragmatic quantum physicists, the psyche is not amenable to quantum physics. It is because the psyche operates from beyond the Planck’s scale of nature. On the other hand the reported shift [9,10] of several constants established by Max Planck, might be explained by the enhanced cognitive ability (psychic ability) due to continued evolution of the human psyche and the brain.

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