In what will be called the “first level” of thinking, the brain simply absorbs information from its sensors (predominantly the eyes, and then the ears for humans). First-level thought amounts to little more than a general awareness of one’s surroundings. Cassirer writes about this mental activity as follows. “In the realm of mythic conception” . . . (which preceded the use of words and language) . . . “thought does not confront its data in an attitude of free contemplation, seeking to understand their structure and their systematic connections, and analyzing them according to their parts and functions, but is simply captivated by a total impression. Such thinking does not develop the given content of experience; it does not reach backward or forward from that vantage point to find ‘causes’ and ‘effects,’ but rests content with taking in the sheer existent.”
Animals, certainly, have this ability. Most mammals mainly comprehend their environment visually, as we do, but many obtain the same kind of awareness predominantly through a different sense—that which has become their most highly developed one. Bats, we know, rely upon their ears, much more than their eyes, to build instantaneous mental pattern-pictures of their surroundings. Dogs are likely to develop odour maps of their territory.
First-level thinking is restricted to this kind of activity; the mental equivalent of simply displaying information within the brain. It exists only as temporary neural ion flows that form patterns, none of which become associated with previously stored patterns, for memories are not needed to generate this kind of awareness. These experiences never (unless linked to other memories during subsequent second-level thinking activities and recalled as an impression of some kind) form part of any permanent memory.
This is predominately located in a specific area of the brain, a sensory strip along the top center of your brain. Others forms of worldly awareness may exist however, much like earthworms response to light or even a venus-fly-trap's response to touching it's hairs, all transmitted chemically.
- Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth, translated by Susanne K. Langer (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1953), 57.
- Savants (see later) are likely exceptions to this generalization; many explanations of their exceptional capabilities depend upon their being able to access an almost perfect memory of things seen or heard.