Journal of Theoretics


Emotions: A Means of Studying Human Consciousness

Author:  William L. Smith

Abstract:  Emotions affect people's perceptions of reality, with the emotions that we experience on a daily basis appearing to be in response to external stimulus such as a stressor of some kind resulting in responses which ultimately result in some emotion being expressed, be it anger, fear, love, hate, disgust, pleasure, and so on.  Therefore, Meyer's (1933) contention that emotions are whales amongst fishes can be construed as cognitive dissonance.

Understanding that thoughts and emotion are energy that not only have physical external manifestations and internal effect mental/physical effects, but also a component which radiates out from an individual's electromagnetic field.  This latter component is often denied or misunderstood but plays a crucial to understanding the interplay of emotions.

This is a topic that needs to be researched, but criteria need to be devised for the creation of a device, and the interpretation of its human body electromagnetic field measurements.  Once such a device has been created and tested then studies may be started utilizing it in a structured and scientific manner.

Keywords:  emotions, consciousness, sympathetic nervous system, nerve, neurology.


Emotions, do indeed, take on lives of their own; they have their own energy. Samways (1992) and Griscom (1988, 1992) have gone into considerable detail regarding this. The solar plexus region of the human body has a particularly strong energy field radiating from it in comparison to other parts. It is also serviced by Cranial Nerve X, the vagus nerve, which feeds into the sympathetic nervous system, which can trigger responses of either fight or flight. 

So much of what we perceive, think and do is based upon emotions that it is highly illogical for researchers in the field of consciousness studies to ignore them, as Meyer (1933) would have wanted us to do. It would also deny the experience of acquiring a “hunch?

“When any physical process rises above the threshold of consciousness, it is the affective elements which as soon as they are strong enough, first become noticeable. They begin to force themselves energetically into the fixation point of consciousness before anything is perceived of the ideational elements 1 . ... They are sometimes states of strained expectation. ... Often there is vividly present ... the spectial affective tone of the forgotten idea, although the idea itself still remains in the background of consciousness. ... In a similar manner ... the clear apperception of ideas in acts of cognition and recognition is always preceded by feelings.?(Wundt, 1907, pp. 243-244, quoted in Zajonc, 1980. Nielsen, 1997, p. 1).

Emotions of love and hate, joy and fear, etc., are diametrically opposed to each other and provide the bases for either experiencing an ecstatic state or depression.  As Seligman (1991) has demonstrated with his research into unipolar depression and the concept of learned helplessness in response to an external stimulus (i.e., the loss of a job or of a loved one).  From a somewhat different perspective, Nielsen (1997) concurs:

“T&C [Tooby and Cosmides (1990)] propose a greater role for emotional mechanisms in the mental architecture than is usually encountered. They propose that ‘[a]ny controllable biological process that, by shifting its performance in a specifiable way, would lead to enhanced average fitness outcomes should come to be partially governed by emotional state?(1990, p. 412). These include goals, the setting of motivational priorities, the extraction of situation- or goal-relevant information from the environment, the categorization of current inputs in terms of current priorities, the perception of situation-relevant cues, and the memory of situation-/goal-relevant information. Most directly to the point of the current discussion, they suggest that ‘the entire structure of attention, from perceptual systems to the contents of high-level reasoning processes, should be regulated by emotional state?(1990, p. 413, italics added).?/p>

Taken in the broadest possible sense, T&C’s proposal implies that each and every behavior, being intrinsically motivated and emerging from a ranked set of goal structures within the organism, will be emotionally governed. One could, if one wished to be more conservative, read ‘emotionally governed?to mean that if one is in an emotional state, all of the above processes will be shifted into a special emotional processing mode. From a more liberal reading of this theory, one can conceive of every mode of processing as being equivalent to one particular internal configuration of motivational and goal structures, which in its particular way constrains ongoing processing. Valences will be built into every action, judgment, and decision according to the biases associated with contextually defined organismic desires and needs. Since all psychological processing is thought to spring from the motivational set of the organism (leaving aside how much of this set is determined by internal states and environmental contingencies and how much of it is under conscious control), any motivational set bears with it a particular emotional mode and results in a particular coloring of subsequent processing. Hence attention, I would suggest, is always emotionally regulated, always picking out the subjectively relevant features of the environment.

The caveat is this: Emotions, according to T&C, confer meaning to situations by signaling to the organism the significance of certain environmental features. Because these signals are elicited by cues whose significance derives from the structure of the environments of our evolutionary past, it is not always the case that our emotional reactions will be adaptive to current situations. Yet through the study of these reactions we can come to understand the ways in which our behaviors are governed by automatic mechanisms of evaluation and feeling (Nielsen, 1997, p. 5).

From this stimulus/stress, an emotional response is ultimately generated, as Oatley and Jenkins (1996) elucidate with their discussions of the FACS system and the Duchenne smile (Oatley & Jenkins, 1996, pp. 108- 109).  Figure 1 elucidates the interrelationship between our emotions, memory, how we relate to both our environment and to each other, and the scenarios in which psychopathology finds either fecund or stony ground.

Figure 1


Apparently, this is not something which other researchers into the nascent and burgeoning science of consciousness feel has been adequately dealt with. Watt (1998) discusses how theories of consciousness deal with the issue of emotions: 

  1. Most current theories of consciousness neglect many lines of evidence that emotion is a central organizing process for consciousness, compelling evidence found in four basic topical areas:
  1. The intrinsic relations between and deep interpenetration of three       neuropsychological global state functions that cannot be separated from the "hard problem" of consciousness and self (those three being affect, attentional, and executive functions);
  1. Putative neural network underpinnings of emotion (in a highly distributed limbic system) and their large intersections with the ERTAS systems (the extended thalamic reticular activating system) thought to subserve consciousness by supporting various forms of gating and binding of highly distributed neural activities in many parallel processing and dedicated modular neural systems in cortex;
  1. Current thinking about the neural correlates/etiologies and neurodevelopmental basis of clinical syndromes that are true "diseases of consciousness" (MPD-DID, autism, schizophrenia) and their implications for understanding the importance of emotion in the creation of a cohesive "global workspace;"
  1. Current research into neurodevelopmental issues, particularly the crucial initialization of affect and attachment at 2-3 months, and its possible role in bootstrapping thalamocortical systems and thereby enabling a "global workspace" for consciousness. (Watt, 1998, p. 2)

The purpose of this paper is, ultimately, to address this issue and thereby to provide stimulus for further research.



Our emotions have lives of their own as Griscom (1988) elucidates in her concept of what she calls the "emotional body" and details:  what it is, how it acts, how it influences our perceptions, etc. It is one of the four bodies which she says we as incarnate beings possess, the other three being the physical, mental and spiritual bodies (Griscom, 1988, pp. 5-23). Her healing work and training of facilitators at The Light Institute in Galisteo, New Mexico, is based upon this concept.

Griscom calls the emotional body "the emotional vehicle of consciousness which is an entity and [whose energy field] vibrates at a low frequency" (Griscom, 1988, p. 176). She also says this about it:

"The seat of the emotional body is in the solar plexus chakra, which is in the area of the stomach. Our emotions are registered by the solar plexus ganglia, which trigger the sympathetic nervous system of fight or flight. This alters the blood chemistry in the brain, and the vagus nerve [Cranial Nerve X] activates physiological responses which actually carry with them an electrical jolt. ... The jolt spreads itself out in widening arcs which characterize disillusion, shame and anxiety. The emotional body becomes addicted to these jolts. It begins to seek people and situations which will re-echo the original charge, even though we become desensitized or unaware of it on a conscious level," (Griscom, 1988, p. 14).

 Figure 2 below illustrates this concept  in broad terms.



Griscom is not the only person to say that emotions alter perception. Oatley and Jenkins (1996) concur:

?... Emotions and words have been shown to have substantial effects on other mental processes. They can affect perception, and they usually constrain attention to events relevant to the emotion," (Oatley & Jenkins, 1996, p. 283).

James (1890/1981) also concurs:

"Objects of rage, love, fear, etc., not only prompt a man to outward deeds, but provoke characteristic alterations in his attitude and visage, and affect his breathing circulation, and other organic functions in certain ways," (James, 1890/1981, p.1058).

Seligman's optimism questionnaire (Seligman, 1991, pp. 33-39) seeks to help people elucidate how they view their personal realities. He refers to this as "explanatory style," which Samways refers to as "self talk" (Samways, 1992, p. 60).  Seligman's questionnaire seeks to elicit from the reader how she views his/her current set of circumstances by categorizing responses on scales whose intent is to determine how personal, pervasive and persistent one's attitude is and therefore how one views one's reality.  Samways examines this same issue from the perspectives of how our self talk influences and relates both  to ourselves and to other people with whom we deal on a daily basis, bringing our perceptions of reality in line with reality, and how to manage conflicts within ourselves and with others (Samways, 1992, pp. 60-65, 66-69).

Take a look again at Figure 1 and compare it, now, to Figure 3 as found below. Note the similarities between (b) and (c) and what happens in response to stimulus/stress as presented in Figure 1. James (1890/1981) broadly supports this model:

Emotional reactions are often excited by objects [stimuli] with which we have no practical dealings, (James, 1890/1981, p. 1058).

Figure 3


What is crucial to understanding emotions is the fact that the human body is an aerial (Samways, 1992, pp. 47-50), with seven primary energy centres known as chakras located within the body and smaller ones (Griscom, 1992, p. 9) located elsewhere in the body.  There are also two chakras above the head (Griscom, 1992, p. 9) and energy meridians throughout the human body (Griscom, 1992, p. 7). Figure 4 illustrates the seven primary chakras.

Figure 4


A common form of measurement of electromagnetic field flux within the brain -- and, therefore, of conscious brain activity -- is the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG).  By measuring such flux, it is possible to get a picture of an individual's cerebral electric wave and thereby to ascertain whether or not someone in a comatose vegetative state is able to return to full consciousness, for instance (Xie, 1999), or if someone is either alive or dead, as lack of brain activity is one of several primary indicators of death (Machado, 1996).

The solar plexus chakra as depicted in Figure 4 is key to understanding that what we radiate out from ourselves is what other people and the cosmos pick up up on and react to. This is what Griscom has referred to as the seat of the emotional body (Griscom, 1988, p. 14). It is where we feel hate (Samways, 1992, audio cassette). And it is where the Russians have found the strongest electromagnetic field in the human body (Samways, 1996). When all this is integrated, it gives new meaning to the terms 'gut feeling' and 'gut reaction' because of the very physicality of emotion's  nature.



The understanding of emotions in the study of consciousness cannot and should not be ignored, because it is crucial to the understanding of consciousness itself.  It is crucial to this understanding because human beings experience them on a daily basis. They can be the causes of wars, they are the causes of marital and familial conflicts, and they are the fundamental element in experiencing moments of pleasure in our lives.

Emotions are intertwined with attachments to things and people, as Oatley and Jenkins (1996) covered in great detail when discussing Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation. They are also key to the diagnosis of psychopathology, as in the case of Borderline Personality Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, pp. 280-281).

Moreover, emotions radiate out from us in the form of a palpable energy field, which in turn, influences how others react to us at any given moment.

Therefore, to ignore the issue of emotions in the field of consciousness studies is to engage in cognitive dissonance over something that is inherent and intrinsic to humanity's everyday experience and thereby to imitate Meyer's (1933) hubris on the subject.  It needs to be studied from the perspective of electromagnetic field measurement in a far more sophisticated manner than what an EEG would permit. Consequently, a) criteria need to be developed for the quantitative measurement of the human body's electromagnetic field prior to b) the creation of the actual quantitative measurement device and c) experimentation along this line of takes place.


Addendum:  The author is interested in collaborating with others on the development of criteria for such a device, as well as development of the device itself and its subsequent use in experimentation for the study of emotions and their interrelationship with human consciousness. He can be contacted at



American Psychiatric Association (1994).  Diagnostic criteria from DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Greenfield, S. (1995). Journey to the centers of the mind. New York: W.H. Freeman Company.

Griscom, C. (1988). Ecstasy is a new frequency. New York: Simon & Schuster.

James, W. (1890/1981). The principles of psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Machado, C. (1996) A new definition of death based on the basic mechanisms of consciousness generation in human beings. Sent as an email attachment to the author, May 1998.

Meyer, M. (1933). That whale among the fishes -- The theory of emotions. The Psychological Review,  292-300.

Nielsen, L. (1997) The direction of attention by affect. Included as part of the University of Arizona's online conference on Consciousness, Emotion, and Cognitive Neuroscience, March 1998.

Oatley, K., and Jenkins, J. (1996) Understanding emotions. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 108-109.

Seligman, M. (1991). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. New York: A.A. Knopf.

Samways, L. (1992). Your mindbody energy. South Yarra, Victoria: Viking O'Neil.

Samways, L. (1992) Your mindbody energy -- Supplementary tapes. Tape 1, Side 2.

Samways, L. (1996). Telephone conversation with Louise Samways 28 November 1996. She said she did not recall precisely who had reported this and said she had her research on this stored away. Since Louise was late for work and had been kind enough to return the author's call from the previous day, the matter was not pressed.

Watt, D. (1998). Emotion, cognitive neuroscience, and consciousness studies: Towards an "Affective Neuroscience": Is emotion really one of the "Easy Problems"? Included as part of the University of Arizona's online conference on Consciousness, Emotion, and Cognitive Neuroscience, March 1998.

Xie, Z. (1999) The Origin and Function of the Cerebral Electric Wave and Clinical Implications,   Journal of Theoretics, Vol.1, No.5.

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