Shakespeare, Goethe, and Faulkner were myriadminded. That is my own ideal objective.
MYRIADMINDEDNESS: A Radical Change in the Way Human Beings Think By David Madden First Public Lecture on Myriadmindedness: ”YWCA Connections”: Baton Rouge Business and Professional Women November 2, 1999 [Note: This talk was derived from almost a hundred pages of exploration of MYRIADMINDEDNESS-a simplification of an extremely complex concept. Because the work is still exploratory, I am offering the talk now as an “in the mean time” statement of the basic idea and its possibilities, not omitting even my directions to myself in delivering the talk. I intend to offer a full statement, description, and proposal very soon. I have devoted most of my energy to finishing my novel in progress LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN [in which I have moved from the macrocosm of the American Civil War in my last novel, SHARPSHOOTER, to the microcosm of the bridge-its creation in the 12th Century and its history, focusing on plague and fire in the 17 Century.]
I “called you all here this morning,” so to speak, to describe and to advocate a total revolution—to change
the way human beings think.
None of us will live to see the end of this revolution—it’s goal is to make human beings myriadminded.
From the stone age to today, human beings have been monominded, or singleminded. I deliberately chose
“Connections” as the first group to whom I would publicly describe this revolution—a revolution I have
already started. I chose you because women such as you may have a greater predisposition and potential
than men to take the first giant step for mankind toward myriadmindedness; you think throughout any
given day aboutmore kinds of problems than most men do. I will not presume to enumerate those
problems—each of you as an individual knows what the problems are.
When I told a friend only the topic of my talk, she said, “myriadmindedness, oh, that’s me! people
make fun of my scatterbrainedness.” I told her that was not really what I meant by the term. She told me
what her husband once lovingly said to her: “Honey, you’re not scatterbrained. You’re just broadcasting
on all channels at once.” I told her that his comment was a little closer to what I meant.
Myriadmindedness is a very complex subject about which I will speak to you as clearly as I can.
I will notgo very deeply into myriadmindedness itself; I will only describe the first step that I will
take toward myriadmindedness.
The first step that I will take in this revolution is based on ways our minds already work. I will
soon conduct a breakthrough workshop with executives of a major corporation, possibly Microsoft,
based on threemodes of consciousness that already function in three kinds of activities each day
of our lives.The three modes are: emotion, imagination, and intellect.
Thinking is not solely an intellectual activity. We all know, but seldom consider, the fact that when
we thinkabout a problem or a proposition, our emotions and our imaginations always, to varying degrees,
come intoplay, and that emotion and imagination contribute to and influence the intellectual problem
solving process.As monominded beings, we regard these three modes of consciousness as occurring separately.
But with theconscious and unconscious minds interacting, these three modes actually operate simultaneously.
Again, we are almost never conscious of that simultaneity. Each mode operates most clearly in one of three
kinds of activities, which I will now describe. Please help me get in focus for you a clear sense of how we
human beings, around the globe, now think.
To demonstrate to yourself the functioning of our three primary modes of consciousness—emotion,
imagination, and intellect--  recall that today, even though it is only high noon, you have experienced
yourown personal story, emotionally, another person’s story imaginatively, and many people’s story
intellectually.Let’s look at these three modes and these three activities one at a time.
Recall specifically one event in your own personal story that occurred this morning in your subjective
Recall that you probably told your story to somebody.
When you tell your own story to yourself, subjectively, and sometimes then tell it to someone else,
objectively, that is what we will call my story.
The mode of consciousness that comes most into play is emotion.
 Now recall that this morning you imagined an event in someone else’s personal story
or you listened to someone tell her story.
When you imagine, subjectively, and/or listen, objectively, to someone else’s story, that is what
we will call your story.
The mode of consciousness that comes most into play is imagination.
 The third mode and the third kind of activity are the least often and least fully practiced.
Recall that this morning you thought about two to five other people, dead or alive, in the past or
in the present, here or elsewhere in the world.
When your mind objectively reaches out to encompass several people, places, or events, that
is what we will call their story.
The mode of consciousness that functions most is intellect.
Again, every day, every human being functions in these three modes—emotion, imagination, and
intellect—in these three kinds of activities—my story, your story, their story.
The major fact to stress is that no one consciously goes through this three part process. Every human being
goes through this process as automatically as we drive a car. I will teach the members of the workshop how
to become conscious of this process, how to develop skills for controlling, improving, and more effectively
using this common process. These three modes operating in these three activities constitute in great part our
humanity. Emotionally developing my story develops a person’s selfhood; imagining your story develops a
person’s capacity for empathy, compassion, and love (or hate); their story develops a person’s capacity for
interaction with the community of mankind, and for gathering facts and understanding those facts in a
political, social, and philosophical framework.
We take the first step in the revolution in the way human beings think when we move from functioning
unconsciously in these three modes to analyzing consciously how they operate and then moving on to a
deliberate practice in these modes. The workshop I intend to conduct will do exactly that. The goal of step
one is to develop a more powerful level of functioning in those three modes and these three activities.
The consequences will be different for different people. For you, as professional women, for instance, the
consequences would be a greater emotional sense of self, an improved ability to interact imaginatively with
people one on one, and an improved, more complex intellectual ability to respond to the demands and
problems that arise in every sector of your everyday lives.
But what I have just described is merely the first, simplest, and easiest step that I will take in this
revolution to change the way human beings think.
This first step—the workshop I have described—improves our conscious life. The second step will move into
our unconscious life. Our conscious life is sluggish and is singleminded; our unconscious life moves very fast
and is myriadminded. Our conscious mind operates mechanically and sequentially: first this, then that, then the
other. But in our unconscious mind all the elements are always operating organically and simultaneously.
What comes out of my unconscious into my conscious mind comes one thing at a time, like a boxcar, and is
hooked onto the long train of boxcars that moves very slowly over the landscape of my life, from crossing to
To reach for another simile, the conscious mind is like the single bright star that we see in a night sky that is
otherwise overcast. The unconscious mind is a clear sky swarming with stars. The revolution I am conducting
will move step by step, in my lifetime, God willing, from that single star of consciousness to two stars in five
years, to three in ten years, to maybe four in twenty, and then beyond my lifetime, in less than thirty years, to
the little dipper, then the big dipper, then in hundreds of years this revolution will move on to a conscious
mind for which the milky way itself is an apt metaphor.
But in the meantime, will you do an exercise with me to create a mere impression, in only a few minutes, of
this progression from singlemindedness to myriadmindedness? Let’s shut our eyes, please. Imagine a globe
map of the world, with the United States turned toward us, as if we are astronauts in a spaceship, looking
out a round window, upon the earth, in deep twilight. Now, do you see a single light come on in a lighthouse
at Cape Hatteras? Do you see it, sweeping across the incoming waves? Okay, that single light is a metaphor
of the state of human thinking at the present moment. Keeping that light burning, now do you also see a
lighthouse on the coast of Massachusetts? See it? Okay, the two lighthouses, with their lights sweeping
simultaneously over the seascape, are a metaphor for the second step in the revolution. Now, keeping those
two lights burning, do you see a third lighthouse on the coast of Nova Scotia, its light sweeping over
the stormy waves? Hold it, all three lighthouses, their lights simultaneously, as a metaphor for the third step,
five years from now, in the revolution.
But we are still too confined to the conscious mindset. To imagine our greater ability to feel, imagine, and
think when we find a methodology for bringing the unconscious mind closer to the conscious mind, see,
one by one, lighthouses all up and down the west coast, on down the coast of Mexico, Central America,
South America down to Cape Horn.
Let’s not stop there. Keeping all those lights in your conscious mind, call your unconscious mind into play,
turn that globe around and see all the lighthouses that light up the deep twilight on the other side of the
world from us here in baton rouge. What you see now is a metaphor of myriadmindedness at work.
Singlemindedness is the innate ability of human beings to think about one thing or problem at a time.
Myriadmindedness is the learned ability of human beings to think about more than one thing or problem
simultaneously. Today, no conscious mind can practice simultaneity consciously. The key words are
simultaneity as opposed to sequentially, organic as opposed to mechanical. Simultaneity is a human
potential,the basis for which exists now in the unconscious, and the realization of which may come as a
result of the learning process I intend to create. A major tool in that learning process is the computer and
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two ideas in the mind as
thetime and still retain the ability to function.” He and the rest of mankind have failed to pass that test. Even
thecomplex minds of geniuses have functioned the way the mind of mankind has always functioned since
the stone age: singlemindedly, mechanically, in sequences, one idea at a time. For instance, many people
would say that the poet Coleridge was myriadminded. Coleridge referred to Shakespeare as “our
myriad-minded Shakespeare,” and others have called Goethe, the author of Faust, myriad-minded.
One might think of James Joyce as myriad-minded. The term first caught my attention when I heard a
Yugoslavian woman on a panel with me at a conference in Paris speak of William Faulkner as myriad-minded.
I immediately seized the term to describe what I had envisioned way back in 1986 as the mission of the
United States Civil War center which I created and directed at LSU for almost a decade: to use the Internet
to study the single but multifaceted subject of the Civil War from the perspective of every conceivable
profession, occupation, ethnic group, and academic discipline. I think I can suggest to you what I mean
by myriadmindedness as a revolution in human thinking when I declare that neither Coleridge, Shakespeare,
Goethe, James Joyce, William Faulkner, nor the interdisciplinary web-site of the United States Civil War
Center, nor I, its former director and inventor of the theory of myriadmindedness, has achieved
myriadmindedness. The key missing element is conscious training over a many years in the techniques of
thinking about more than one problem or idea at a time, simultaneously.
We revolutionaries work in secrecy, so if I told you explicitly what, in this early stage, the actual method is,
my business partners would have to—frown upon me very severely. But I will give you a rough example that
may apply to many of you. You may ask yourself: “How can I perform my three different roles in life—career
woman, mother, wife—and still retain the ability to function?” Today, you would deal with the problems of
each role separately, single-mindedly, and then you would try to reach a common solution for the problems
posed by each of those three roles. You will probably admit frustration and perhaps failure.
Now let’s imagine that I have taken the first step, then the second, then the third step in the development my
methodology for achieving true myriadmindedness. If you have undergone the training successfully you will
think through the problems of those three roles simultaneously. You will think with the aid of a computer
screen that enables you to keep three separate activities going simultaneously. It is the juxtaposition of
these three lines of thought proceeding simultaneously that will stimulate your unconscious, your intuition,
your emotions, your imagination, your intellect faster, more deeply, more complexly than the present
singleminded process. You will reach into every conceivable area of human knowledge because the
myriadmind is receptive to and able to navigate among all realms of thinking. The end result is not
just a simple solution, but a whole galaxy of possibilities that are at once exciting and practical.
To achieve myriadmindedness, we will need far more than these few minutes together, this morning, far
more than the first workshop I intend to conduct soon as possible. We will need a methodology. We
need a methodology derived from a biologist’s understanding of the brain as an organ. We need the
psychologist’s understanding of how the brain works as it learns and thinks and what the brain’s
potential is forShakespeare, Goethe, and Faulkner were myriadminded. That is my own ideal objective.
Last Updated 2/5/10
© 2010 David Madden