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Neel Burton – Hypersanity Thinking Beyond Thinking – Opening Lines

Neel Burton – Hypersanity Thinking Beyond Thinking – Opening Lines

NEEL BURTON [00:00:06] Hello, my name’s Neel Burton, I’m the author of Hypersanity Thinking Beyond Thinking. So Hypersanity, Hypersanity. What is Hypersanity? So it’s not a common or accepted term, but neither did I make it up. I first came across it while training in psychiatry in a book by the Scottish psychiatrist Ardie Lange. And in this book called The Politics of Experience, Lange presents madness as a voyage of discovery that can open out onto a free state of higher consciousness. So that’s what Hypersanity is, a free state of higher consciousness. Now, if there is such a thing as Hypersanity, then sanity is not all it’s cracked up to be, right. A state of dullness and dormancy with less vital potential even than madness. But what if as well as madness, there was another route to Hypersanity, one that was less frightening, less damaging, less distressing. What if as well as a back doorway, madness. There was also a royal road strewn with petals and sprayed with perfume.

NEEL BURTON [00:01:27] So. Madness. Sanity. According to Lange, we can go mad and that could lead to Hypersanity. But what if there was another way to hypersalinity? And this is my book, Hypersanity. It’s a book about thinking. And thinking is barely taught in our education system, in our schools and universities, which is actually quite astonishing. So I’m a psychiatrist, a medical specialist. I’ve spent over 20 years in formal education. And during all that time, the emphasis has always been fairly and squarely on facts, accumulation, on knowledge acquisition. Today, I’ve forgotten most of these facts, and though I’m only middle-aged. Many are already out of date and some are highly questionable. But what I do use every day, all the time is my ability to think, to think critically, to think creatively. So we’re not spending enough time on thinking. But more than that, we don’t really understand what thinking involves. So in our culture, in our society, we tend to think of thinking. Largely in terms of reasoning and we tend to think of reasoning largely in terms of logic. So in my book, I begin the first few chapters, examine logic and reason, their forms and their flaws, starting with the basics of argumentation. But because there’s much more to thinking than mere logic and reason. The book branches out to explore related concepts like intelligence, knowledge, truth and alternative non-rational forms of cognition, such as emotion, imagination and inspiration. And I’d like to talk about each of these three in turn. Just to show you why they’re so important and what we’re missing out on.

NEEL BURTON [00:03:58] So emotion with the decline of religion and traditional structures, our emotions play an increasingly important role in our lives. So it has forever been said that we are led by our emotions. We are ruled by our emotions. But this today is truer than ever, more than religion, more than tradition. It’s our emotions that determine our choice of partner. Our choice of profession. Our choice of politics. And also our relation to things such as money, sex and God. Nothing can make us feel more alive than our emotions or more human than our emotions or hurt us more. What about imagination? Imagination is the highest form of thought. Almost divine in its reach. With enough imagination, we could identify and solve all of our problems with enough imagination. We would never have to work again, or at least not for money, with enough imagination we could win over and defeat anyone we wanted to. But today our imagination is so poor that we haven’t even imagined what it would be like to have that kind of imagination.

NEEL BURTON [00:05:11] So I’m a psychiatrist. I’ve had a fairly solid education, and I’m very grateful for that. But one thing my education didn’t do for me is cultivate my imagination. So I’ve been in recent years, I’ve been trying to recover the bright and vivid imagination that I left behind in primary school. And for that, I’ve been doing just three things, all of them very simple, or at least very simple to explain. Number one, I’ve certainly been trying to be more aware of the importance of imagination. Number two, I’ve been trying to make more time for sleep and idleness because that’s the fertile ground in which imagination can grow. And thirdly, finally, I’ve been trying to take inspiration from the natural world, which I find endlessly inspiring. And that brings me nicely onto the third thing that I wanted to talk to you about, which is inspiration. Now think back to your most inspiring teacher at school for me, a French teacher who read who teared up as he read to the class from a novel by Marguerite Duras. The teachers who touched our hearts, the teachers that changed the course of our lives, are not those who assiduously taught us the most facts or fastidiously covered every single point on the syllabus. But those who open this up to ourselves and to the world, for me, the best education consists not in being taught, but in being inspired. And I would rather inspire a single person than teach thousands. So in conclusion, our schools, our universities, our wider society emphasises knowledge overthinking and doesn’t quite understand what thinking is. It reduces it to reasoning and it reduces reasoning to logic. This has caused a lot of problems for us and it’s continuing to cause a lot of problems. So what we can do is make more time and space for thinking and try to develop alternative forms of non-rational cognition like the ones I’ve been talking about emotion, imagination, inspiration that we can use to supplement, supplant, support our reasoning and that can return us to wholeness. Thank you.