Critical & Creative Thinking 05The eureka experienceTheme:brain development, higher capacities, eureka-insight, human potentialSummaryDiscussionTranscriptRelated Insights
In this section Joe describes this experience and what is required. 1. A body-mind well cultivated to receive the insight. 2. Passionate inquiry, study, research, trying to find the answer. 3. A period of complete frustration when the search, trying ends. 4. Wammo – the insight arrives.Coming
I would like to say that there is a higher state of formal operational thinking within our own system. And for this, I'm going to talk about the really great high peaks of scientific and creative thinking that have gone on. And we refer to these as the eureka experience. Now here, in the eureka experience, we still have a very strong element of the savant syndrome. You’ll see why when we get into it. But in this eureka experience, and lots of people have written on this, Jerome Brunner wrote on it, Peter McKellar wrote on this, loads of people have written on the eureka experience and fascinating, it was absolutely fascinating. I will give a brief example.
My favorite example right now, and I always have been coming across favorite examples, Gordon Gould, in 1957, awarded the Nobel Laureate for discovery of the laser. Notice discovery of the laser, not invention of the laser, discovery of it. And his account of it is, one weekend, he was in a do-nothing time, you know, just doing nothing on a weekend, when suddenly the whole concept of the laser appeared in his mind as one single flash. Boom, here it came, the entire thing. And he said, I was stunned, I was electrified. He was overwhelmed by the enormity, the magnitude of this single image that hit him in that split second. And he said, I spent the rest of the weekend writing madly, trying to get down on paper all of the implications, all of the ramifications, the whole spelling out of what I saw in that one split instance, which was something that had never existed before in history. Something that does not exist in the whole universe except as we bring it about by ordering reality in a certain way, and that was the laser. He spent the whole rest of the weekend writing out about it. And then eventually, we have the laser, which lies at the base, the foundation of an enormous amount of what's happening in present day technology.
Let's look at the eureka process itself. Now, I have talked about this many a times, but let’s just examine it right quickly. We find generally this pattern follows. Now, with Gordon Gould, Gordon Gould made this statement. He said, he then looks back and he said, where did this idea come from? See, it's so totally new. He was totally unprepared for it. He didn't expect it. It was a bolt out of the blue. Where did it come from? He said, well on reflection I realized I had spent years, and years, and years studying physics and optics. And then I had spent 20 years working with physics and optics and the optics of physics and so forth. And he said, I realized in all those years I had been feeding them to the hopper of my mind, all the bricks and mortar of this magnificent edifice that was suddenly presented to me. Well, but where is it coming from? From his mind? No, it breaks into his mind out of what? He doesn't know and no one else does, really.
But let's look again at the whole eureka process as it ordinarily unfolds. The first thing is you must be seized by a passionate possibility, seized by a possibility. And to be seized by a possibility means passionate seizure. Generally, the scientist suddenly sees the possibility of something and it entrains him. He goes into single drive to get it and will spend years working on it. Many of them never get it at all, never anything comes from it. And then, what, the filling in of the details, the search for materials needed to realize the possibility. Got it? The search for materials to realize the possibility. This might take years, and years, and years. You'll have to go through the entire body of knowledge and all possibility that can be rigged up and even invented, looking for the materials that might give him the content for his possibilities to become real. And then finally, he will exhaust, or she, it happens of course with women, will exhaust the source of possibilities. And a period of exhaustion of possibility and a plateau of stagnation comes in. Stagnation.
We have exhausted all the possibilities. We can't make it work. We can’t get the content to make the possibility real. And at some point of this stagnation, the individual either quits or temporarily tries to get away from the whole thing. And at that moment of clearing the decks by no longer involving the mind in the process, in the pursuit, at that moment of clearing the decks, when the mind is least expecting it, the answer arrives out of the blue, always as a bolt out of the blue, and always catching the individual totally by surprise.
Furthermore, the answer, when it arrives, generally bears no resemblance at all to any of the materials searched for and gathered throughout all those years. Then what was all the search necessary to do? Why have to go through all that if the final answer arrives, bears no relationship to it and gives birth to the possibility in a way that the individual could never have dreamed of, why then the necessity for all this preparation? To prepare the soil of the mind until it's able to receive the answer and translate the answer into the common domain. Because the answer always arrives in a symbolic, metaphoric form. Did he see lasers and all the possibilities of it? No. He saw this blinding image of possibility fulfilled. He then had to translate what he saw in that single instance into the common language of physics and objects.
So, the final thing, the clearing of the decks, the arrival of the answer out of the blue, and the final most critical point is the translation of it into the common domain. And that took him all weekend and then years of work after that before the laser becomes an actual reality. Let's look at Hamilton briefly. Back in the 19th century, William Hamilton, the great mathematician, was seized by the passionate idea of what he called the Quaternions, a certain form of mathematics. It didn't exist, but he thought it could exist.
He searched for the materials for 15 years. His wife said over and over he would go intensely sigh, "I've got it! I've got it! I'm right on the threshold. All these years I've worked and it's coming" and nothing would happen. And he'd go into despair and he'd say "Here I've wasted 5 years of my life. I'll never fool with it again," but then he would come back the next day, "Ah, I think I see where I made a mistake" and he would launch off. And for years again, this passionate, intense, sole interest in this and pursuit of this possibility, the search for material, and finally, after 15 years he said to his wife, "I have wasted my life, I've wasted my greatest years, the answers impossible, it can't be done, I quit finally once and for all. Let's go for a walk." And as they cross over a little foot bridge, going into Dublin, over a little creek, on top of the bridge is my completely???, the mystery is all over with. The answer arrives and one split second, in one split second he saw it. They called that the "Quaternions Bridge" from then on. But it took him 15 additional years to translate it fully into the language of mathematics and this is the basis of the majority of modern mathematics, the Quaternion Theory. Einstein said every great idea followed exactly this pattern.Coming