Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Braided History of Human Psychology, Biology, Society (old outline from college)

I wish to attempt to short circuit and reexamine some ancient strands of our culture/primate heritage: language, vision and consciousness. Our vision creates smoothly bounded objects and our language names and separates them out of experience. Our consciousness isolates them in time and stills their movement.

Primates: the tribe that thirsted for miracles.

The creatures that primates began to get involved with: flowers, fruits, colors, all intertwined in the forest canopy called us out into great creativity.

Let us now focus on the local dances around some of these bizarre solutions; the primates. I will look at three simultaneous developments that occurred. Developments in their ecology, attention structures, and mental life.

What happened with primates then is that their range of ecological interactions began to diversify, reaching a peak of flexibility in the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors right before agriculture sprung up. These bands commonly played their ecosystems very nimbly and flexibly, picking amongst hundreds of plant and animal species for food and craft depending on the seasons and availability. This must have given these early cultures a very intimate and complex ecological sensitivity. Perhaps see early meso-american art.

Then curiously they pulled in their ecological tendrils and agricultural patterns began to spread like wildfire to the point where except for the very affluent among us, most agricultural populations interacted predominantly with less than a dozen species. At least as far as food was concerned.

This system is unstable.

It repeatedly collapses and spreads.

Agricultural life also developed strange living patterns in which geometrically, our cultures began to become isolated from complex raging ecosystems. Especially the intellectuals in the cities and desert monasteries. The intimate and complex ecological sensitivity began to disappear.

While all this was happening, the development of primate attention structures went in and out of phase with their ecology. Attention was continually contracting. Up to five prehensile limbs, three dimensional dynamic environment, nocturnal existence primarily communicating by sound and touch, and smell.

Then loose the prehensile tail,

become diurnal,

communicate by vision, facial expression,

a space before the eyes develops where the two front limbs can manipulate objects,

then loose the prehensile feet, two dimensional environment, the space before the eyes worked on by the hands or occupied by another's face becomes predominant.

This space becomes internalized. The conscious, alone, individual develops. The Ego.

Neoteny. Learning. Culture. Adults that play.

Archetype librarians.

Third strand. Somewhere along the way we end up with a hell of a lot of brain. Some consequences.

This brain became the substrate in which these internalized spaces could develop.

Evolution had another structure to work with which was sensitive to miracles: culture.

Most incredible however, was that within each individual an entire evolving ecosystem of interacting ideas was possible.

And the time in which it takes to come up with solutions is minutes to years instead of millennia.

We forget to respect the wisdom of the DNA librarians.

These three strands intertwining within the relatively short time of a few million years. Problems were bound to come up.

One of the most dramatic problems was that of learning to cope with the shift in the level of who solves problems, who is sensitive to miracles from the ecosystem to the culture to the individual. (see Hebrew scriptures)

From cosmological time to cultural time to an individual's life time. These shifts occurred so quickly that our species has made quite a mess out of piecing together the story of how ecosystems, cultures, states, economies, and minds really think, create, and pray. Mythic resonance of time scales.

Myth of isolated conscious willed self enclosed in a sack.

Myth of causative agents.

Lose understanding of complex threads and cycles of flow and causation in ecosystems. towards logic.

When such a system becomes ill, when we have an emotion or experience we fix it on an object. (the dev of emotion spaces in the body. Jaynes)

We imagine a monster Causes the illness.

We instantiate that monster in something real.

We kill it.

When such a system is beset by an accident we mistakenly pin the horror of its fall on an evil causative agent rather than its fragility and the complexity of its sustenance.


The trading city state as interface (dissipative structure)

Mesopotamian civilization

Spires with spreading tendrils reaching up towards God


The king sacrifices his life for the city

Gilgamesh. Kings no longer willing to sacrifice themselves

War between cities. Tendrils recoil from each other.

Empire. The sack. The carefully guarded boundaries.

Empires collapse

Myth of self

Thera incident.


Jews, Greeks, Persians

Myth of causative agents


Mistaken ideas about sin.

Jaynesian consciousness

Distancing from Earth

Loss of respect for stuff

ignorance of Earth's ways

Christian amalgam

Dark ages





Post WWII Western malaise

Forgetting the Archetype Librarians



God as challenge


Newton allowed for the miraculous in his thought






Dynamical systems theory



Systems theory in family therapy.

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