A brief history of the (human) mind

Humanity may have taken great strides in science and technology, but it has also put itself on a path of self-destruction, believes the author

The globe as a bomb

Last year Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous scientist alive, made headlines yet again when he predicted that humans might destroy planet Earth beyond repair within the next 100 years. He mentioned such man-made problems as nuclear war, climate change, and genetically engineered viruses among top possible causes for our downfall. This is not the first time that the scientist has warned humanity of causing self-destruction.

Hawking’s prophecy reminded me of a joke: A man was galloping away on a horse as if in a great hurry to reach somewhere. Along the way, a friend of this man saw him racing away. Curious, he shouted, “Where are you going?” The man on the horse replied, “I wish I knew! Ask the horse!”

To me, this joke is our story—the story of humanity. The man represents the whole humanity and the wayward horse is the collective mind energy that is now totally out of control, taking all of us to no destination in particular but all the while pretending to be on an important assignment.

How the human mind evolved

Hawking’s best-selling book A Brief History of Time attempts to explain the origin and evolution of the universe, the big bang, black holes, wormholes and other cosmic ideas. But what explains the history of the mind? According to me, the following could very well be a brief history of the human mind:

At the onset, the mind in humans evolved as a wonderful instrument that enabled us to improve our lives. Unfortunately, along the way we allowed the mind to become more important than life itself. Prior to the evolution of the human mind, we lived in response to, and harmony with, our environment. Our problems were more immediate—like physical safety from predatory animals, shelter for protection against harsh weather and finding food. As the mind developed thinking abilities, we conquered all our survival problems. Soon, we started using the mind to further improve our general conditions. Soon the mind helped us take great strides, and humans began to trust it more and more until we lost our sense of self and got completely identified with it.

Once the human mind was in the commanding position, it started to solve problems that didn’t exist. Ever since, that’s what humanity has been doing—solving problems that don’t exist [I call them mind-made problems] and creating more problems in the process. That, in a nutshell, is the brief history of the human mind.

Our madness is not funny

When I look at the world today, I can’t help but wonder about the crazy state of affairs. We have enough resources to end world hunger and wipe off poverty from the world. We have a real chance of lasting peace—survival not being an issue; we have no reason to fight wars. But we are determined to fight other humans for some false sense of supremacy, even if that means destroying ourselves in the process.

Unless we stop it, it is very likely that our insane mind energy will cause us to blow ourselves up.

Can we do something about it? Yes, we can. The first step is to recognise that we are not the mind. We need to seize back control from our mind, which is an amazing servant but a terrible master. We need to relegate it to its original serving position and refuse to entertain any ideas and thoughts that lead to separation from fellow humans and our environment.

Every individual that unplugs from the dominant mind energy raises hopes that we will outlast doomsday predictions. Sure, it’s not easy but it’s worth the effort. And if enough of us successfully free ourselves from the clutches of the mind, a shift will take place in the collective consciousness of humankind. If that happens, we will finally begin to enjoy the real benefits of mind-made advances… peacefully and happily ever after.

This was first published in the February 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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