TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Where do our thoughts come from?

Have you ever wondered where your thoughts come from? Is it simply a matter of the hard wiring of the brain? For example, when an idea comes to you suddenly, where did it come from? Is there more to this than we currently understand?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 4 2011: Consider the universe to be an infinite pool of water (call that god if you wish).

    Now, think of a hula hoop floating in the pool. That's your mind.

    Next, imagine a pebble dropped in the pool and the ripples entering into the circle of water enclosed by the hula hoop and bouncing around in that circle of water and merging with the ripples generated from pebbles previously dropped in the water.

    That's where thoughts come from.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Mar 4 2011: Thanks Birdia. Nice running into you here.
    • Mar 4 2011: Great analogy - thanks Tim. So, you are saying that thoughts are not necessarily internal or of one's self. They may be influenced (if not created) by external factors and are integrally tied to another consciousness, perhaps what we believe to be God.
      • thumb
        Mar 4 2011: I really don't get hung up on god. If you want to call the totality of the universe god (basic pantheism), I don't have any problem with that. But really in that case "belief in god" is a tautology. If god is everything and anything exists, then god exists. Period. Plus I don't know of any modern religions which don't consider god to be omnipotent. If matter is energy and god is all energy then god is everything.

        But yes there is an internal aspect. Our nature and our experience create a situation where even the subtlest of outside stimuli can set up resonances which make it to our consciousness.
        • thumb
          Mar 6 2011: even the Buddha remained silent when asked if there was a soul...
        • Mar 6 2011: Sunita, I would like to hear more about this. What do you think his silence meant?
        • thumb
          Mar 8 2011: dear Julie, I think there are some questions which have different answers depending on the person asking. 

          For a seeker at a certain level of awareness, he needs to hear that there is a soul and he wants an explanation of how the soul "gets" to heaven. In some ways, it would be irresponsible to deny him this answer because it is the path he needs to travel. Thoughts are the vehicle by which we get to the next stage of awareness.

          For some other seekers e.g. Yogis in the Himalayas, they are ready to accept the nature of nothingness and that our perception and manifestation of the universe and the nature are illusory and can be controlled (i.e. they can perform miracles). Ideas and thoughts can be seeded and suggested through their powers.

          Some of them would understand that going back, back, back beyond our karmic bundle of memories inclinations attachments, well beyond the soul, beyond consciousness, there is nothingness.

          When the Buddha was asked this question, it was almost like a trick question. I found this online, about the doctrine of no-soul, which was very useful: http://www.mahabodhi.org/intro/anatta.htm
        • Mar 10 2011: Sunita, very eloquently stated - thank you. I think what this highlights is that our belief systems are important simply because it is the belief that has value - whether it is the reality or not.
        • thumb
          Mar 11 2011: Could it be that even before our belief systems arose e.g. in the case of young children which haven't developed their sense of self or animals (elephants) who can collaborate to get food or if you so believe, where there was a different belief system as in our past lives, that our thoughts arose from the bundle of memories which is our soul?

          Put another way, if we can witness our thoughts arising, who is witnessing this activity? If it is our mind which creates these thoughts, is it our soul which observes this? If so, how does the soul "think"?

          If we could unravel our levels of awareness far back enough, when we were just a mass of energy, where did that very first "impulse" come from?

          I read once that when in deep meditation, ancient Hindu seekers heard the "noise" of the universe, the planets rushing past each other, which was the universal mantra Om. Was the very first impulse the simple act of observation of this sound? Did this create the distinction between the Listener and That Which Was Being Heard? Was this the genesis of all "thoughts" which only serves to augment our separation from that which we observe?

          Our thoughts can influence other beings around us e.g. pets which know when their owner is returning home. If so, is the separation between persons an artificial distinction? Is it possible that from that very first "observation" of something, we wrongly considered it apart from us and ever since then, we have Thought of all differences - people, animals, races, languages - as being separate from us.
      • thumb
        Mar 6 2011: Sunita: Either you're comparing me to the Buddha, or mocking me, or mockingly comparing me to the Buddha. I can't figure out which. Thanks for stimulating your way into may consciousness in any case.
        • thumb
          Mar 8 2011: But Tim, I liked your answer:if God is everything and and everything exists, then God exists. 

          Because the converse also applies: if everything doesn't exist and has arisen out of our ignorance, then God doesn't exist either. Most of us are not ready for this description of our reality. 

          I also liked: "the subtleness of outside stimulii" - i believe this was how the universe began.. 

          What is our nature and experience? Or perhaps, what is a reply to the oft-asked Zen question "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" If there is no response to action or thought or stimuli, if there is no Do-er, if there is no Seer, what is there? - there is nothingness.

          That is why the Buddha remained silent: yes, people perceive there is a soul because it is our reality which has grown out of our own ignorance but no, there isn't a soul because if there is no ignorance, no sense of "self" would arise.
    • thumb
      Mar 6 2011: So, a paragraph is a couple of sentences, which are structured from random words, that collide and create several thoughts which in turn form an idea?

      I like it Tim
    • Mar 8 2011: Thoughts come from an infinite pool of water, yes,I agree,but who can explaine, why they've chosen my hula hoop?l
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2011: i believe that it depends where your hula hoop is ,how far is it from the source of the ripple,how big is it and how much it's willing to be open to be impacted by the ripples..

        so thoughts dont choose the hula hoops,hula hoops find the thoughts : )
        • Mar 9 2011: Thank you, Ahmad, that's where I led to,we find our thoughts or to be more precise, create them,we shape them via language out of our prior knowledge, experiences, memories...and God knows what else. I think, thoughts don't come from anywhere, they are property of human mind.The image of the pool is compelling though, it's knowing, the void, our minds are floating there circled out by metal frame, hence our ego limitation. To enter the void, the hula hoop must pass out of existence, then you will really know, but there will be no you and there will be no thoughts. "Those who know, can;t speak".....That's what I think inside my hula hoop, of course I could be wrong.
    • Mar 11 2011: I always had the opposite idea. Thoughts and actions emanate from us, creating ripples in the universe. Strong ideas have large ripples and travel farther than weak ideas, which have small ripples. The ripples are constantly running into each other. The stronger ideas are hopefully beneficial to humanity, but obviously this is not always the case.
      • Mar 12 2011: Hi, Dave, I don't think your idea is opposite, I'm afraid we are talking about different things here. Or different stages of the same interactive course. Human mind is not capable of enventing anything new, I truelly believe so, because everything already is and always has been. Only a few, whose mind is wide open can have a glimpse, a spark of awareness, shape it into a thought and share... and only then,what you've described may happen, though I don't quite agree with the idea of judgment, and , sorry, have no hope for the "beneficial for humanity" ideas gain more chances to survive.
        • thumb
          Mar 13 2011: Yes, thoughts do emanate from 'us' because we work on them - give them form and construct. Yet the conscious desire to know came before the thought itself. In this way humans are really just relays - like magnets we attract conscious soup into our sphere and depending on our personal energy equilibrium we then 'attract' through electro magnetic energy the patterns of cosmos or ingredients that can then become 'thought'. Thought is an ownership of a construct - a label. The more we give the construct thought and emotion the more real it becomes. This in turn insights and incites us to take action - to do something about the thought held from the first desire or urge. In this way our thought becomes materialized. Because we are a sub species of Planet Earth and reside within the magnetic shield - all is drawn down in gravitational pull to centre core. As humans we are just receptors of this phenomena - we receive the energy and through desire and urge translate into thought. These are neuron impulses that send signals into the body regarding survivor resilience. So the thought might be around 'eat, love, pray' - or traditionally fight-flight responses. Depending on how much negativity is in our field from prior thoughts we give energy to - they act as obstacles - which is why new age self help books always teach us to clear chakras and think positive. As magnets we attract only one stream of consciousness - but our energy field will help determine the shape that thought forms and builds. If it is negative it can result in physical sickness. At the same time as receiving consciousness that become thoughts through our crown chakra and intellect - we are also receiving energy directly upwards from Gaia's internal magnetic core. This corresponds to life force nourishment that feeds us into adulthood. We are very specialised towards Mother Nature's cycles. We are really just here to serve her as are other plants and species.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.