M E C H A N I S M S O F M A N N E R A N D M Y S T I C I S M
All brain mechanisms, from genetic specificity and environmental through learning and drive, to sleep itself, may be summarized as systems functioning so as to maintain the organism in a state of continuous harmonic interaction with its environment, a dialectic in which the individual acts upon, and reacts to, changes in the environment. The life of the individual is a product of a continuous tension between these antitheses. But the implicit assumption in what has preceded is that, for the majority of individuals and under the majority of circumstances, the tension is a satisfactory one, so that action on, and reaction to, the environment are adequate.
This assumption is manifestly untrue. If an individual does not, or cannot, accommodate to an environment, it may well be that it is the environment that is at fault and it is that which needs changing. When the majority of individuals in a particular class or social group fail in a like manner to accommodate to their environment, then there is a high probability that it is the environment which is faulty. In making the statement that most individuals are not accommodating to their environment, we may indeed be stating, not that the individuals are sick, but that the environment to which they are forced to continue to attempt to accommodate is sick. The only way of curing this may well be to change society, either on the micro-sale of the particular circumstances of the individual, or on the macro-scale of a total transformation of the whole society.
It is important to note the effects of environment are directly measurable in terms of brain structure, bio chemistry and performance. The existence of long-term environmental effects on brain structure and performance is an indication of the interaction of the two. The extent to which brain structure and biochemistry is state-dependent, being continuously modified in response to changed environmental circumstances. This leads us to ask the question, turning it into a prescription for social action’ How can we improve the environment of all children so that their brains can develop to the maximum?