Charles Konia, M.D.
Reprinted from the Journal of Orgonomy, Vol. 38 No. 1
The American College of Orgonomy
A bioenergetic understanding of thought will be a major factor in eliminating the prevalent misconceptions regarding the primacy of thought in human life. The function of thought will then be placed in its proper perspective within the whole range of human activity.
The following is a summary of some of the conclusions that were presented in an earlier article (1):
• The perception of excitation gives rise to contact.
• Thinking originates from the perception of bodily sensations and emotions.
• The brain integrates the various elements of bodily contact that give rise to thought.
• Logical reasoning is derived from sustained contact with organ sensations and emotions.
• Thinking serves to protect life by sensing the self and the environment.
• The communication of thought through speech involves the integration of the organs of the speech apparatus with the whole organism.
This article places these concepts in their functional and orgonometric context.
There is a distinction between ideas and cognition. “Idea” is a more inclusive term that denotes the numerous ways in which organ sensations and emotions are sensed. For example, it is possible to have a musical idea (for a composer), a visual idea (for an artist), a mathematical idea (for a mathematician), or a cognitive idea or thought (for a scientist). Also, a distinction must be made between isolated elemental thoughts and sustained thinking. This distinction is necessary to comprehend certain forms of pathological thinking. Schizophrenics, for example, are capable of brilliant flashes of isolated thought but are often unable to develop their thoughts to fruition in a rationally reasoned manner. This disturbance is referred to as a “thought disorder” and is responsible for the learning disorders that are a common symptom in schizophrenia.
Since thinking is based on the presence of consciousness, understanding the origin and function of consciousness must precede an understanding of thought.
In an earlier article, neurophysiological evidence was presented showing that physiological arousal reactions (consciousness) can be elicited from direct stimulation of the reticular formation of the brain stem (2). The reticular system includes the central core of the brain stem and extends forward into the caudal diencephalon. The properties of this system are quite unique, consisting of a network of neurons in which excitation passes freely from cell to cell. These neurons are polysensory (they can be excited by more than one type of stimulus). The cortical response to reticular stimulation is low voltage, fast activity. This response is accompanied by a state of alertness (consciousness) in the experimental subject.
All the great sensory nerve trunks of the body (the specific sensory fibers) as they travel rostrally to the specific projection areas of the cerebral cortex send collateral fibers into the polysynaptic neural network of the non-specific reticular system. Here, sensory impulses from throughout the body converge and diverge in all directions making functional contact with sensory fibers from other parts of the body. Pooling of sensory impulses within the reticular system are at a maximum.
From this and other experimental neurophysiological evidence, it is possible to conclude that the integration of the excitatory sensory impulses within the reticular system constitute the objective (somatic) basis for the subjective (psychic) aspect of consciousness. Penfield arrived at the same conclusion. He states: “There can be little doubt… that it is the reticular system, with its diffuse and separate projections to the cortex which is the central controlling mechanism for the state of consciousness.” (3)
Reich independently provided a solid functional energetic foundation for understanding these neurophysiological findings and conclusions (4). He made a crucial distinction when he separated the function of perception from that of consciousness. He noted that consciousness appears as a higher function that develops much later than perception. Furthermore, he stated that the degree or clarity of consciousness depends on the biophysical integration of the innumerable elements of perception into one single experience of the self. This process of integration begins at birth and is sufficiently developed at around one year of age when the component sensori- motor systems of the organism become organized and the young child begins to move in a unitary fashion. It is at this time that consciousness first appears.
Reich’s hypothesis is supported by a wealth of neurophysiological evidence. From an ontogenetic standpoint, consciousness first appears in humans when the cephalocaudal integration of the developing child is fairly complete. This integration is effected by a vast proliferation of neuronal dendrites and synaptic contact between neurons.
The Origin and Function of Thought
Reich’s bioelectric experiments into the origin of emotion and sensation also provide a clue to the understanding of thought (5). By showing that pleasurable emotion and sensations are accompanied by a positive deflection, and anxiety and other dysphoric feelings are accompanied by a negative deflection of the recording electrode at the skin’s surface, he provided strong evidence that emotions and sensations originate in the body. In the presence of consciousness, these perceptions are then integrated in the brain.1 Reich concluded that the positive and negative deflections of the recording electrode indicate, respectively, outward and inward directions of bioenergy movement: outward in pleasure and inward in anxiety. These directions of energy movement also correspond to qualitatively different states in thought processes: pleasurable thoughts and feelings correspond to outward, unimpeded movement and anxious thoughts and feelings to inward movement.
Since thinking is a function of consciousness, the same bioenergetic functions that underlie consciousness must also govern thinking. Under certain conditions, excitation from organ sensations and emotions that travel rostrally is perceived in the brain in the form of thoughts and other ideas. In the conscious state, the brain integrates the elemental perception, emotion, and sensation. The integration of the perceptual function in the brain is the reason that thought seems to originate in the head and not in the entire organism. Thoughts originate from the transformation of emotional and sensory excitation into perception in the brain. The visual system is a major component of the brain’s perceptual function. The biophysical expression of the eyes during introspective thinking reveals this function of the visual system.
To read the complete article, please reference the Journal of Orgonomy, Vol. 38 No. 1.