Thinking can only be done on models

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These words only mean that anyone capable of reaching his or her thinking will encounter a reality, which is made of a system constructed in certain ways and not others, is located in the mind and uses mental material although they are believed to have also another reality.

In fact, at the end of the study the statement becomes tautology. But not at the beginning. This is so mainly because it is not so easy to scrutinize one’s thinking and find its constituents and dynamics, and to have enough experience of models and model making to recognize some resemblances and equivalences.

Each reader is invited to propose the examples which will supplement those we are allowed to bring forward in a writing as short as this one and find out directly whether it is true that one’s thinking, in spite of all its powers, is only as good as one’s choice of premises, one’s methods of work, one’s intellectual endowment, one’s capacity to relate to what one perceives of and in, the challenges, one’s determination to squeeze as much as possible from the model emerging in one’s mind.

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Whatever I write is a transmutation of what I think and since I use a language to express myself, I can encounter at once at work in my mental reality, the energies of which I can be aware. I can therefore notice that my thinking uses one substratum or more and find out what it is or what they are.
For instance, if I find that I use images and that these are products of my mind, susceptible of transformations, I can relate to these and take note of what happens.

Of course, there are many many things I do automatically and I do not need to be aware of, although in a number of cases I could become aware of them. So long as I am not aware, I cannot say whether I use a model or not. But as soon as I become aware, I can. For such reasons some people can enlighten themselves and others about how they think and what that means for example in terms of energy transformations or displacements.

By being watchful for the necessary durations (their frequencies and locations on the chronological time line) one can increase the value and significance of the findings. Watchfulness is a personal instrument more reliable in fundamental matters than recording instruments, since recordings don’t read themselves, and the watchful person both receives data and looks at them with a searching and varying mind which is not part of physical instruments.

In fact, every instrument is the objectivation of a mental instrument whose awareness must precede the making of a physical one and objectify those selected awarenesses which are part of the study or investigation. The order is clear: first, become aware of something, then, discover the attribute of the resulting awareness and finally give that attribute a reality accessible to others as it is to oneself. In different cases, these three rough steps can be replaced by sequences of steps molded closer to the realities allowed to reach one’s awareness than the broad net above. Thus a model is generated and refined by further scrutiny. The latter is talked of as “thinking.”

Once we make ourselves sensitive to the above, we become conscious of the all-prevading recourse to models in all our thinking and from that to our participation in the creation of reality.
Even if it is very difficult and rare to develop one’s watchfulness to the point that everything which takes place within is taken into account, such development may be a prerequisite of any real progress in any field. On top of a sensitivity to the contents of one’s thought and an ability to make more and more of it explicit, there is room for an inner observer who watches all the appearances involved and seeks the realities behind them.

This tiering of awarenesses is a special spiritual experience uniquely individual and needed in order to progress at all in this fleeting and rarefied reality called one’s inner life. The various tiers are not more than instantaneous or temporary objectifications called in for the purpose of making oneself aware of the realities generated. Then, the self decides on whether to make such awarenesses more permanent by allocating to them energies in more permanent form, or to erase them by withdrawing the allocated mental energy. It is still possible that a minute amount of energy is left behind as a testimony of the move taken. This belongs to what is one’s memory.

In the inner dialogues recognized by the self as “thinking,” one becomes aware that the mental energy used is so small and so mobile that it generally escapes notice. “Thinking” is then considered as belonging to the responses attributed to “nature,” as one’s somatic functionings do. This, of course, is not so and can be proved at once for areas where a certain expertise is needed just to enter into even a superficial and clumsy dialogue. In the areas where we have some familiarity with the subject there is need for cultivated sensitivity to start one off and keep on track.

A study of “models and thinking” shows that we are concerned at the same time with the effects of familiarity, which blur the issues, and with our clumsiness when we consider a new challenge, which discourages us from being open to it and to tackle it. But we also can notice that our model is somehow inadequate for the job we need to consider now and instead of running away from this knock at the door we open up and wish to revise our model so as to accommodate the new item.

Inadequacy can force revision but not necessarily in all cases. For example, when we ask the question, “What is the shape of the earth?” we have to put together a number of facts or observations which do not appear to belong necessarily to each other; if we manage to see that the attribute of roundness must be cardinal for the model we give ourselves and end up sure that the earth is similar to a sphere and we endow it with great circles called meridians passing through the poles and circles perpendicular to the axis of the poles, putting all the points on them at the same latitude, we gain a model very useful for thinking as geographers or mariners. But as architects wanting to erect a new big building, that model is useless because unnecessary. The plot of land for the building must be thought of as a fraction of a plane, not of a sphere.

It is the purpose of the finality of the thinking which will force the choices of attributes which are retained to create the model. A model is a mental construct compatible with the dynamics found in thinking. Conversely some explicit question mobilizing some thinking trend will indicate the need for an altered model. For instance, once we doubt the obviousness of Euclid’s axiom (on the uniqueness of the parallel to a straight line from a point outside it) we attempt to discover which are the non-Euclidean models permissible and do our thinking on them. Once we understand that there is a choice about whether a given operation can be commutative or not, we can start thinking of commutative or noncommutative algebras, themselves being models.

The French philosopher Condillac, of the 18th century, suggested that we look at Man as a blank statue which is molded by the impacts from the outside world — a model of Man which excludes attributes like the will or awareness — and soon becomes quite useless if we want to understand most of men’s spontaneous manifestations. Such a model hampers thinking and condemns itself. Still philosophers keep it alive as a possibility for their thinking.

The complex model for health we are going to embark on is so much identified with our thinking that we cannot claim more for either than what their joined cooperation allows. This at least is clear to me.

Author: Caleb Gattegno

Read the whole article in the Newsletter: A Working Model for Health (PDF) or (Issuu) Vol. XVI N° 2-3-4 December/February/April 1987.

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“Thinking can only be done on models” in A Working Model for Health by Caleb Gattegno is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. The copyright holder is Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.