What history really tells us about the birth of Jesus

Robyn J. Whitaker, University of Divinity

I might be about to ruin your Christmas. Sorry. But the reality is those nativity plays in which your adorable children wear tinsel and angel wings bear little resemblance to what actually happened.

Neither does your average Christmas card featuring a peaceful nativity scene. These are traditions, compilations of different accounts that reflect a later Christian piety. So what really happened at that so-called “first Christmas”?

Firstly, the actual birth day of Jesus was not December 25. The date we celebrate was adopted by the Christian church as the birthday of Christ in the fourth century. Prior to this period, different Christians celebrated Christmas on different dates.

Contrary to popular belief that Christians simply adapted a pagan festival, historian Andrew McGowan argues the date had more to do with Jesus’s crucifixion in the minds of ancient theologians. For them, linking Jesus’s conception with his death nine months prior to December 25 was important for underscoring salvation.

The inn

Only two of the four gospels in the Bible discuss Jesus’s birth. Luke recounts the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, the couple’s journey to Bethlehem because of a census and the visit of the shepherds. It features Mary’s famous song of praise (Magnificat), her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, her own reflection on the events, lots of angels and the famous inn with no room.

The matter of the inn with “no room” is one of the most historically misunderstood aspects of the Christmas story. ACU scholar Stephen Carlson writes that the word “kataluma” (often translated “inn”) refers to guest quarters. Most likely, Joseph and Mary stayed with family but the guest room was too small for childbirth and hence Mary gave birth in the main room of the house where animal mangers could also be found.

Hence Luke 2:7 could be translated “she gave birth to her firstborn son, she swaddled him and laid him in the feeding trough because there was no space for them in their guest room.”

The wise men

Matthew’s gospel tells a similar story about Mary’s pregnancy but from a different perspective. This time, the angel appears to Joseph to tell him that his fiancée Mary is pregnant but he must still marry her because it is part of God’s plan.

Where Luke has shepherds visit the baby, a symbol of Jesus’s importance for ordinary folk, Matthew has magi (wise men) from the east bring Jesus royal gifts. There were probably not three magi and they were not kings. In fact, there is no mention of the magi’s number, there could have been two or 20 of them. The tradition of three comes from the mention of three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Notably, the magi visit Jesus in a house (not an inn or stable) and their visit is as late as two years after the birth. Matthew 2:16 records King Herod’s orders to kill baby boys up to the age of two based on the report about Jesus’s age from the magi. This delay is why most Christian churches celebrate the visit of the magi on “Epiphany” or January 6.

Notably absent from these biblical accounts is Mary riding a donkey and animals gathered around the baby Jesus. Animals begin to appear in nativity art in the fourth century AD, possibly because biblical commentators at the time used Isaiah 3 as part of their anti-Jewish polemic to claim that animals understood the significance of Jesus in a way that Jews did not.

When Christians today gather around a crib or set up a nativity scene in their homes they continue a tradition that began in the 12th century with Francis of Assisi. He brought a crib and animals into church so that everyone worshipping could feel part of the story. Thus a popular pietistic tradition was born. Later art showing the adoration of the baby Jesus reflects a similar devotional spirituality.

A radical Christmas

If we pare back the story to its biblical and historical core – removing the stable, the animals, the cherub-like angels, and the inn – with what are we left?

The Jesus of history was a child of a Jewish family living under a foreign regime. He was born into an extended family living away from home and his family fled from a king who sought to kill him because he posed a political threat.

The Jesus story, in its historical context, is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power.

While there is nothing wrong with the devotional piety of Christian tradition, a white-washed nativity scene risks missing the most radical aspects of the Christmas story. The Jesus described in the Bible had more in common with the children of refugees born on Nauru than the majority of Australian churchgoers. He too was a brown-skinned baby whose Middle-Eastern family was displaced due to terror and political turmoil.

Christmas, in the Christian tradition, is a celebration of God becoming human as a gift of love. To enjoy adorable, albeit a-historical, nativity plays and all the other wonders of the season is one way of delighting in this gift.

The ConversationBut if we nostalgically focus on one baby whilst ignoring the numerous babies who suffer around the world due to politics, religion and poverty, we miss the entire point of the Christmas story.

Robyn J. Whitaker, Bromby Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Trinity College, University of Divinity

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Office staff terrified after dyslexic co-worker organises Secret Satan

A group of office workers have succumbed to the nameless dread of the damned today after their dyslexic co-worker inadvertently organised a Secret Satan event for Christmas.

The annual event, which, is intended to be ‘a bit of a laugh’ and help staff bond over a few cheap mystery gifts with the possible opportunity for harmless flirting, has instead resulted in a river of blood and nightmarish visions out of the corner of the eye.

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Sounds of Silence IV

by Majik

The sound of music can have a beneficial effect as discussed previously in Sound of Silence II. It is suggested by Joachim Ernst-Berendt and others that modern tuning methods ‘twelve-tone equal temperament’  adopted by western cultures from about the 16th century mistunes all consonant intervals except the octave. This it is suggested leads to emotional effects such as fear, suppressed emotions, resulting in dis-ease.

Nikola Tesla, the great genius and father of electromagnetic engineering, had once said, “If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would hold a key to the universe”. The 3, 6, and 9 are the fundamental root vibrations of the Solfeggio frequencies.

Albert Einstein stated: “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” All matter beings vibrate at specific rates and everything has its own melody. The musical nature of nuclear matter from atoms to galaxies is now finally being recognized by science.

It is said that Solfeggio music, an ancient tuning method, overcomes these discordances and promotes a dialogue with the body and soul restructuring emotional discordance promoting better health, more peaceful approaches to the problems of life and quality rest and sleep time. The ancient six-tone scale is thought to have been used in sacred music including over 150 Gregorian Chants.

The main six Solfeggio frequencies are:

396 Hz – Liberating Guilt and Fear

417 Hz – Undoing Situations and Facilitating Change

528 Hz – Transformation and Miracles (DNA Repair)

639 Hz – Connecting/Relationships

741 Hz – Expression/Solutions

852 Hz – Returning to Spiritual Order

It is said that the original tones originated with a hymn to John the Baptist but this is doubtful, others say that it was developed by Guido d’Arezzo (c. 991 AD – c. 1050 AD), a Benedictine monk. This avenue too has its own controversies. In the mid-1970s a Dr Joseph Puleo, a physician and leading herbalist is said to have re-discovered the secret tones using the Pythagorean method of numeral reduction. We know from previous discourses that each tone has it’s own unique potential and so we have Ut, Re, Mi Fa, Sol, La, which were taken from the first stanza of the Hymn to John the Baptist.

Ut queant laxis Resonare fibris

Mira gestorum Famuli tuorum

Solve polluti Labii reatum

Sancte Iohanne

Literal translation from Latin: “In order that the slaves might resonate (resound) the miracles (wonders) of your creations with loosened (expanded) vocal chords. Wash the guilt from (our) polluted lip. Saint John.”

In other words, so people could live together in peace and communicate in harmony about the miracle in their lives, and how God blessed them to produce this “magic”, people’s true unpolluted spiritual natures required revelation. The above text seems to suggest that Solfeggio notes open up a channel of communication with the Divine.

UT – 396 Hz – turning grief into joy, liberating guilt & fear

RE – 417 Hz – undoing situations & facilitating change

MI – 528 Hz – transformation & miracles, repairing DNA

FA – 639 Hz – relationship, connecting with spiritual family

SOL – 741 Hz – expression/solutions, cleaning & solving

LA – 852 Hz – returning to spiritual order


The information given above is hotly contested especially as to the origin of the music and to its antiquity. In fact, some claims made on blog sites are easily debunked and rely on the views of others like urban myths. My own opinion is that it is not as old as many suggest but is more likely to be a product of the 20th century. A recommended dissertation is from Youtube

Now that we have some understanding of the tones and uses of Solfeggio we should know how to use them. Basically this is the easy part, Listen!. There are many sources on the web for this music including youtube. Being a natural sceptic I sometime ago acquired some and began to play it during my normal sleep cycle. I found a deeper sleep that was trouble free and restorative. Listen at least three times a week as an experiment. I will be interested in the results so use the comment section.

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Sounds of Silence III

by Majik

Today we are having a brief look at sounds, some of their affects and possibly how they can be used for our betterment. For me, an easy way to understand the importance of sound to human beings is to start with the first months of gestation. The idle and inner ear are practically of adult size by the 5th month and is the first sensory organ to evolve suggesting that sounds affect the rest of the developmental stages. Of course, this has been researched by a number of studies one of which used the Brahms Lullaby, the stringed version, on premature infants. The results were faster weight gain, fewer complications and earlier release from hospital.

As some are unconscious to the discord of sound we experience as sound can produce both beauty and inspiration, health and wellbeing, or it can be destructive as the story of the seven trumpets destroying a city in the bible relates. Through sound then it is possible to change our brainwaves, heartbeat, DNA and respiration rhythm by using sound to reintroduce sympathetic resonance that can heal.

Music then as we have seen above has an important role to play in the health both formative and ongoing of human beings. In fact, it pertains to every life form on this planet. Plants grow better to some types of music. Whales and Dolphins sing it along with other animals in the way of the natural communications they make. It makes sense then that sound has been employed throughout history as a therapy. Who has not changed the type of music they are listening to because it does not suit their mood? It also connects all cultures on earth. The Greek god Apollo was the god of both music and medicine. Music has been used then by all cultures as a healing therapy, the Indians of the Americas with song and dance, Ancient Egypt in the temples, in the Bible to vanquish evil spirits, the Greeks, Aesculapius who cured mental illness with song, Plato, Aristotle, claimed it affected the soul and emotions, and Hippocrates who played music also for his patients.

We know now that everything almost to our perceptions are how we interpret waves of energy. Sound then reaches our ears and is converted to electrical signals that call on our bodies to make a response and in doing so alters our emotions, releases hormones and other chemicals that affect our bodies, moods and trigger other responses such as memory and a smile, even anger.

Healing then with sound is like I mentioned with the previous article a matter of entrainment. Healing a particular body part then is a matter of playing the sounds in the frequencies that relate to it. Epigenetics simply means the study of the control mechanisms of DNA. It is what determines how hereditary traits such as athleticism, intellectual capacity and human resilience can be radically altered in just three generations instead of the hundreds that the drooling Darwinists would have the human race believe it takes to adapt DNA sequences.

By combining epigenetics with the manipulation of resonance fields the potential is there to breed a very select master race whose whims are catered to by a vast slave race of idiots.

Since the 1970s this has involved the binaural beat. This is said to combine the two hemispheres of the brain creating a third internal tone.

A quick search of the web will result in many differing methods of healing with music, from binaural beats, Bonny Method, Dalcroze Eurythmics and of course Mantra and guided meditation

I prefer meditation. Using my voice as an instrument as it seems to be a quality of my own vibration, it can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, calms the mind and reduces tensions and stress. There a lot of different ways of using your voice whether it be in affirmation, prayer chant, or mantra to name a few. I this regard though I am attracted by an ancient Egyptian legend stating that knowledge of our true tone is powerful and should never be shared.

Healing by sound is a topic that has many inputs and is only in its infancy and requires much more research. This direction as we know is not promoted by mainstream scientific research mainly from lack of funding, not interest. Whether you are looking at an alternative method of healing or simply trying to maintain good health it is well worth the effort to look further and find something that suits you.

Next time we are going on a brief journey into a different tone, Solfeggio, a music for the soul…

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Sounds of Silence II

by Majik

The sounds we don’t hear, in the common context, that may affect us and life on this planet have a large and varied audience and promote a large following of new age websites and youtube videos. One of these is the Schuman Resonance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schumann_resonances, which it is touted has the capacity to entrain with certain mind vibrations and effect conscious states such as meditation and sleep patterns.

It is generated by lightning strikes that create a standing field between the earth and the ionosphere. It is important to note when one discusses Schumann at 7.83 Hz, one must be cognizant that Schumann Resonance encompasses an entire range of frequencies from .01 to well over 100 Hz. When awake, the human brain usually resonates at anywhere between 6-20 hertz per second; Theta brainwaves resonate between 4-7Hz and are little understood by mainstream science, Alpha between 8-12Hz occur during relaxation and Beta, above 12Hz, occur during problem-solving.  It is the higher amplitude in the frequency scale below 15 Hz that keep our brain-waves entrained to low stress-free states where adequately sound sleep during the night is possible.

Tampering with resonance fields can be either extremely harmful or extremely beneficial to the human race. Electrophysicist Professor Konstantin Meyl in collaboration with the Cancer Research Centre at the University of Heidelberg has already used resonant electrodynamic fields to alter the malignancy of cancer cells.

As soon as a higher amplitude frequency is introduced, the biological organism will attempt to entrain (tune) itself to this ‘louder’ signal. It is called FFR or the Brain’s Frequency Following Response and this is an important concept to keep in mind when reviewing the information below.

Traditionally Schumann Resonance was known to include peaks at 7.83, 14.1, 20.3 and higher.

In a now famous experiment, a professor R Wever of the Max Planck Institute placed some students underground and deprived them of all magnetic fields. This was maintained for a period of four weeks during which the student’s circadian rhythms diverged and that the suffered emotional stress and migraine headaches. These symptoms disappeared when the subjects were briefly exposed to 7.8Hz. Astronauts to complained of these symptoms begging the question has NASA installed generators to compensate for the lack of the Schumann Resonance in spacecraft? At the moment there is no firm evidence either way.

It is also interesting that the Ancient Chinese teachings tell us of two environmental signals that we need, one from above, Yang, and one from below, Yin. These might well be the Schumann Wave and the weaker waves emitting from the earth, perfect health comes from balancing these.

The dance of balance is then the Art like Tai Chi in the Chinese Tradition, however, each culture does have its own methods. The modern world then is by the amount of different frequencies generated interfering with the balance of all living creatures making it more difficult to entrain with our natural environmental frequencies.

Scientific research has recently determined how the human body receives and uses the important information from the Earth’s field. Apparently, we have 7 billion crystalline magnetite’s in the human brain. Additionally, the DNA and the pineal gland are meant to receive guiding information from the band of electromagnetic frequencies that extends from the Earth’s crust to the ionosphere (Schumann Resonances). In addition, there is evidence for a whole new type of medicine in which DNA can be influenced and reprogrammed by words and frequencies cutting out and replacing single genes. Only 10% of our DNA is being used for building proteins. It is this subset of DNA that is of interest to western researchers and is being examined and categorized. The other 90% are considered “junk DNA.”

Remembering that we evolved as did all life on this planet vibrating with the same pulse of life that generated from the planet and the solar system and that we generate a similar function, an entrainment with the place in the cosmos we call home. Modern technology, in frequency generation, appears to be threatening this relationship in many ways as far as our health is concerned. Many researchers are now saying that an increase in violence, certain mental illness including a greater number of psychopathically inclined people as well as the increases in general illnesses are a product of our environment which is no longer is in tune with the resonances of life.

These articles on sound, I hope, have opened a new understanding of healing and broadened the meaning of medicine, as well as pollution and damage to our environment. In the next, I plan to introduce healing from sound and mention some ways that it is being used to our detriment as a society.

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Blocks are still the best present you can buy children for Christmas

Kym Simoncini, University of Canberra and Kevin Larkin, Griffith University

With Christmas looming, many people will be considering what present to buy for their children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and friends. Soon, if not already, we will be reading lists of the top trending presents for 2017. These lists will no doubt include, and may even be totally dominated by all the latest gadgets and devices.

The purpose of these lists is to attempt to persuade parents of young children if they want to give their child the best start in life, and all the advantages for doing well later at school, they need to purchase the latest technology.

Read more: ‘Digital play’ is here to stay … but don’t let go of real Lego yet

Missing from these Christmas lists, but what should actually be at the very top in terms of learning, are blocks. Blocks have been part of children’s play for a long time. But there’s still no other toy that compares in promoting all areas of children’s development. Any early childhood teacher can easily identify all the areas block play develops including fine motor, social, language and cognitive skills.

Blocks develop spatial reasoning skills

As children experiment by stacking, balancing, or building with blocks, they need to share, respect other children’s constructions, ask for desired blocks and describe what they are creating. Perhaps more importantly, children develop problem solving skills, creativity and imagination in creating their masterpieces. Finally, let’s not forget persistence where children try again and again to build the tallest tower or most elaborate castle.

Kids learn to play and work together when using blocks.

Less well known is that blocks also foster spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning is the ability to mentally manipulate objects or to think in a way that relates to space and the position, area, and size of things within it. We use spatial reasoning skills in everyday life when we read maps, pack the car for holidays, assemble flat pack furniture or cut cake into equal slices.

Spatial reasoning skills are linked to mathematics skills. Children who have good spatial skills tend to have better maths skills. Many people are unaware of the research, but early mathematics skills are a better predictor of later school success than either early reading or social-emotional skills. Block play helps children understand many mathematical concepts in number, measurement and geometry. During block play children count, measure, estimate, pattern, transform, and learn about symmetry.

Perhaps most surprising to readers will be the research that shows spatial reasoning skills are the best predictor of whether children will end up in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related career. Spatial skills are especially important in STEM related jobs where people are required, for example, to create or read X-ray and ultrasound imaging, engineering and architectural designs, or cross sections of heating and plumbing systems.

Blocks also help develop spatial language

Block play also fosters spatial language. When children play with blocks they hear and produce more words related to spatial reasoning including things such as beneath, above, next to, behind, and so on.

One study showed block play elicited more spatial language than any other type of play. The other types of play included playing with puppets, playing house, shops, school, zoos, chefs and throwing a ball.

Other research that looked at spatial language showed the more spatial words children heard, the more spatial words they produced and the better they performed on spatial tasks. In this study, researchers looked at language relating to the spatial features and properties of objects such as the dimensions of objects (such as how big small, wide, tall), the forms of shapes (for example rectangle, circle, square) and other spatial properties (like bent, pointy, curved).

Different blocks for different ages and stages

The best way to get your kids playing with blocks is to play along with them.

There are a wide variety of choices for blocks for children including MegaBloks for really young children, Duplo, wooden blocks or waffle blocks for preschoolers, and Eco bricks and Lego for older children.

These age guidelines are suggestions only. My ten and fourteen year old daughters will still play with the wooden blocks. Much of the reason blocks are such enduring toys is due to the fact they’re “loose parts”. That is, they can be moved, arranged, combined, taken apart, and put together in any number of ways. Frobel, the father of kindergarten, created ten gifts for children of which six were blocks.

The best way to engage children in block play is to play alongside them and show your interest and enthusiasm in block building. My friend has a ritual of playing half an hour every afternoon with Duplo with her three young boys aged five, three and one. She says it’s her favourite time of day.

Read more: Can toys really be ‘educational’? Well that depends on the parents

The ConversationSo, when those lists appear in your inbox or on social media, just remember the best toy of all is likely to be missing.

Kym Simoncini, Assistant Professor in Early Childhood and Primary Education, University of Canberra and Kevin Larkin, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

“It’ll snow on the Sahara before we lower rents”, pledges real estate agent

Artist’s impression of a real estate agent

Real estate agent, The Eternally Puissant Annabelline Stealmore-Lifeblood, has boldly claimed that it’ll be a bloody cold day in the Sahara before considering reducing the unfeasibly high rents.

Stealmore-Lifeblood, who lists Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab as a favourite bedtime read on her Faceache page, made the bold claim that snow would lie over the Sahara desert before she considered the community and its long-term prosperity above her desire to claw in more money and hold court over decent folk with low to average incomes and families to support.

After a thick fall of snow blanketed the famous desert overnight, scientists who were asked to explain the phenomenon suggested that “Stealmore-Lifeblood is such an anathema to both God and nature that both have suspended normal operation to fuck her over”.

When asked if they were expecting any long term effects from the snowfall, they confirmed that they had observed a permanent increase of pressure in the dangerously throbbing vein just above her temple.

“Oh shit”, the potty-mouthed panjandrum and denizen of despair exclaimed when told of the snowfall.

“I didn’t think it would actually snow in the desert”, she continued.

“What would Selwyn Raab have to say? I will be seeking illegal advice” she added.

Stealmore-Lifeblood later confirmed that rents would remain at the current obscenely inflated rates while her interests remained compatible with the dying town’s iniquitous overlords, all the while silently encouraged by a toothless and passive community.

Still, if nothing else, we can run pictures of the snowfall in the desert and say it proves there’s no such thing as global warming.

Northern grandmother gets sprouts on

A GRANDMOTHER in Lancashire has begun boiling the vegetables for her Christmas dinner.

84-year-old Blackburn resident Susan Traherne prepared the sprouts and cabbage last night so she could get them boiling first thing this morning.

Confirming that the saucepan was now simmering, she said: “There is a simple rule with veg which I learned in domestic science class during the war – two days boiling per ounce, plus an extra week to be on the safe side.

“If you cannot eat them without putting your teeth in, then they are raw as far as I am concerned.

Mrs Traherne explained that after the vegetables had been cooking for 12 days she would drain off some of the water to add to her gravy.

She said: “I will then thicken the gravy with cornflour until it is solid enough to be sliced with a bread knife.”

What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind?

What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind?

File 20171120 18561 18u1oqs.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
from www.shutterstock.com

David A Oakley, UCL and Peter Halligan, Cardiff University

Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it’s that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every day.

Most experts think that consciousness can be divided into two parts: the experience of consciousness (or personal awareness), and the contents of consciousness, which include things such as thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, intentions, memories and emotions.

It’s easy to assume that these contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a new research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, we argue that this is a mistake.

We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.

Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.

Not just a suggestion

If this sounds strange, consider how effortlessly we regain consciousness each morning after losing it the night before; how thoughts and emotions – welcome or otherwise – arrive already formed in our minds; how the colours and shapes we see are constructed into meaningful objects or memorable faces without any effort or input from our conscious mind.

Consider that all the neuropsychological processes responsible for moving your body or using words to form sentences take place without involving your personal awareness. We believe that the processes responsible for generating the contents of consciousness do the same.

Our thinking has been influenced by research into neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as more recent cognitive neuroscience studies using hypnosis. The studies using hypnosis show that a person’s mood, thoughts and perceptions can be profoundly altered by suggestion.

In such studies, participants go through a hypnosis induction procedure, to help them to enter a mentally focused and absorbed state. Then, suggestions are made to change their perceptions and experiences.

For example, in one study, researchers recorded the brain activity of participants when they raised their arm intentionally, when it was lifted by a pulley, and when it moved in response to a hypnotic suggestion that it was being lifted by a pulley.

Similar areas of the brain were active during the involuntary and the suggested “alien” movement, while brain activity for the intentional action was different. So, hypnotic suggestion can be seen as a means of communicating an idea or belief that, when accepted, has the power to alter a person’s perceptions or behaviour.

The personal narrative

All this may leave one wondering where our thoughts, emotions and perceptions actually come from. We argue that the contents of consciousness are a subset of the experiences, emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are generated by non-conscious processes within our brains.

This subset takes the form of a personal narrative, which is constantly being updated. The personal narrative exists in parallel with our personal awareness, but the latter has no influence over the former.

The personal narrative is important because it provides information to be stored in your autobiographical memory (the story you tell yourself, about yourself), and gives human beings a way of communicating the things we have perceived and experienced to others.

This, in turn, allows us to generate survival strategies; for example, by learning to predict other people’s behaviour. Interpersonal skills like this underpin the development of social and cultural structures, which have promoted the survival of human kind for millennia.

So, we argue that it is the ability to communicate the contents of one’s personal narrative –– and not personal awareness – that gives humans their unique evolutionary advantage.

What’s the point?

If the experience of consciousness does not confer any particular advantage, it’s not clear what its purpose is. But as a passive accompaniment to non-conscious processes, we don’t think that the phenomenon of personal awareness has a purpose, in much the same way that rainbows do not. Rainbows simply result from the reflection, refraction and dispersion of sunlight through water droplets – none of which serves any particular purpose.

Our conclusions also raise questions about the notions of free will and personal responsibility. If our personal awareness does not control the contents of the personal narrative which reflects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and decisions, then perhaps we should not be held responsible for them.

In response to this, we argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society. As such, they are built into the way we see and understand ourselves as individuals, and as a species. Because of this, they are represented within the non-conscious processes that create our personal narratives, and in the way we communicate those narratives to others.

The ConversationJust because consciousness has been placed in the passenger seat, does not mean we need to dispense with important everyday notions such as free will and personal responsibility. In fact, they are embedded in the workings of our non-conscious brain systems. They have a powerful purpose in society and have a deep impact on the way we understand ourselves.

David A Oakley, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, UCL and Peter Halligan, Hon Professor of Neuropsychology, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Realising Mungarrawuy’s legacy – Galarrwuy Yunupingu and the Gumatj clan forge a new future in north-east Arnhem Land

And Galarrwuy Yunupingu? He’s about to turn 70, but still keeps a sharp eye on development and is guiding every step taken. He has straddled the whole of the Northern Territory’s history of self-government, been public enemy number one, and respected elder number one, sometimes at the same time. He has hosted every prime minister since Whitlam and none claim to have bettered him.

The Gumatj clan and its leaders are etched into the DNA of the Northern Territory. From early Yolngu resistance to pastoralists in the 1930s through the campaigns against the Gove bauxite mine that led to the Land Rights Act, through Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s quarter century chairmanship of the Northern Land Council, his deceased brothers leadership of the Yirrkala School and the Yothu Yindi band, to the establishment with other Yolngu of the Dhimurru Rangers and the Garma Festival, the brilliance of the blind musician G Yunupingu, or the paintings of the Yunupingu sisters emanating from Buku Larrnggay Art Centre.

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