Freedom Expanded: Book 1––The Old Biology
Part 4:8 Third Category of Thinker: Those who recognised the involvement of the elements of instinct and intellect in the psychosis of our human condition, but who avoided the issue of the human condition by denying we have moral instincts
With the examples set by Marais and Koestler, we can now see very clearly how dangerously, suicidally depressing it has been for virtually all humans trying to confront and think honestly about the issue of the human condition. It is now very clear why virtually everyone has been committed to avoiding the subject—a practice we will see undertaken in earnest in the remaining two categories of approaches to the all-important issue that had to be solved of the human condition.
The third variety of thinkers who recognised instinct and intellect as the key elements involved in our human predicament includes those who, while acknowledging the elements, denied that we humans did once live in an innocent, cooperative, harmonious, loving state. These thinkers were, in fact, not trying to confront the human condition, but avoid it.
Erich Neumann’s recognition of the involvement of the elements of instinct and intellect in the psychosis of our human condition but avoidance of the issue of the human condition by denying we have moral instincts
Erich Neumann (1905-1960), an analytical psychologist who has been described as Carl Jung’s most gifted student, also recognised the battle and rift between humans’ already established non-understanding, ‘unconscious’, instinctual self and our newer ‘conscious’ intellectual self. In his 1949 book The Origins and History of Consciousness, Neumann wrote that ‘Whereas, originally, the opposites could function side by side without undue strain and without excluding one another, now, with the development and elaboration of the opposition between conscious and unconscious, they fly apart. That is to say, it is no longer possible for an object to be loved and hated at the same time. Ego and consciousness identify themselves in principle with one side of the opposition and leave the other in the unconscious, either preventing it from coming up at all, i.e., consciously suppressing it, or else repressing it, i.e., eliminating it from consciousness without being aware of doing so. Only deep psychological analysis can then discover the unconscious counterposition’ (p.117 of 493). In saying that once the instinct and intellect ‘fly apart’ it is ‘Only deep psychological analysis can then discover the unconscious counterposition’, Neumann was recognising that you couldn’t get back to the innocent state and all the truths that reside there if you were living in denial of all the truths associated with the innocent state. Having denied all those truths you were in no position to think effectively—and for most people if they wanted to try to think truthfully and thus effectively, as Carl Jung did, they faced terrible inner demons—a ‘primeval terror’, as Berdyaev described the horror of facing the issue of the human condition.
Having recognised that denial blocks access to the truth Neumann, hypocritically, went on to adopt just such denial. He avoided the issue of the human condition by denying that we humans did once live in a cooperative harmonious state—a paradisal, ‘Golden’, ‘Garden of Eden’, innocent state from which we have departed, or as Berdyaev said, ‘fallen’ from. While Neumann and a number of other analysts of our human situation, such as Carl Jung, Ken Wilber and Carl Sagan, did recognise the involvement of the elements of instinct and intellect in our unique human situation, they dismissed the idea that we humans did once live in a cooperative, harmonious, peaceful, loving state as nothing more than a nostalgia for the security of infancy—in fact, as nothing more than ‘a metaphor for the womb’ (Memories & Visions of Paradise, Richard Heinberg, 1990, p.194 of 282). For example, in The Origins and History of Consciousness, Neumann wrote that ‘The dawn state of perfect containment and contentment was never an historical state’ (p.15), this time ‘before the coming of the opposites’ was ‘a prenatal time’ in ‘the uroborus’ or ‘the maternal womb’ (pp.12-13). Ken Wilber, the popular ‘new age’, ‘human potential’ advocate, similarly wrote that ‘mankind did not historically fall down from Heaven; it fell up and out of the uroborus’ or womb (Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution, 1981, p.298-299 of 372). The truth is that this time when we lived in a cooperative harmonious state did exist—it was an historical state.
As stated, apart from a few like Berdyaev, Marais and Koestler, these thinkers weren’t trying to confront and explain the human condition—they were actually trying to avoid the issue by denying that we have an instinctive moral conscience that was acquired during a time when our ancient Australopithecine ancestors lived in an utterly cooperative state. Their strategy was to maintain that there is no basis for our moral conscience, hence no guilt, hence no real confrontation with the issue of the human condition. Shortly, in Part 4:12, we will see how this same tactic for avoiding having to truthfully confront the issue of the human condition by maintaining there is no basis for our moral conscience was taken to the extreme by biologists, one of whom actually dismissed our moral conscience as nothing more than ‘a euphemism’! The big difference between the presentations put forward by the biologists who will be mentioned in Part 4:12 and that put forward by Neumann is that at least Neumann recognised that there was an underlying psychosis involved in our human situation that had to be explained, despite the ultimate dishonesty of his attempt to do so.
As initially emphasised, you could never reach the truth about the human condition from a position of denial, and that is why these thinkers who denied our moral soul couldn’t get to the full truth about the human condition. The impasse and stalling point has been the inability to confront the issue of the human condition.
Julian Jaynes’ recognition of the involvement of the elements of instinct and intellect in the psychosis of our human condition, but avoidance of the issue of the human condition
While his analysis of our human situation was flawed in a different way to that of Neumann’s efforts, the American psychologist Julian Jaynes’ (1920-1997) theory of the breakdown of what he called the ‘bicameral mind’ (as presented in his 1975 book, The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) should be included in this Part on those thinkers who recognised the elements of instinct and intellect in the psychosis of our human condition, but avoided the issue of the human condition.
In his 1985 book Bone Games, the American author and journalist Rob Schultheis provided this good summary of Jaynes’ theory: ‘According to Jaynes, humankind was once possessed of a mystical, intuitive kind of consciousness, the kind we today would call “possessed”; modern consciousness as we know it simply did not exist. This prelogical mind was ruled by, and dwelled in, the right side of the brain, the side of the brain that is now subordinate. The two sides of the brain switched roles, the left becoming dominant, about three thousand years ago, according to Jaynes; he refers to the biblical passage (Genesis 3:5) in which the serpent promises Eve that “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”. Knowing good and evil killed the old radiantly innocent self; this old self reappears from time to time in the form of oracles, divine visitations, visions, etc.—see Muir, Lindbergh, etc.—but for the most part it is buried deep beneath the problem-solving, prosaic self of the brain’s left hemisphere. Jaynes believes that if we could integrate the two, the “god-run” self of the right hemisphere and the linear self of the left, we would be truly superior beings’.
Using Schultheis’ terms, Jaynes did recognise that there was a time when ‘modern consciousness’ ‘did not exist’ and humans were purely ‘intuitive’ and that later the logical, ‘conscious’ ‘brain’ usurped management from and ‘killed’ the ‘old’ ‘prelogical’, ‘radiantly innocent’, ‘god-run’ ‘intuitive’, instinctive ‘brain’. However, it wasn’t a switching of dominance from the more lateral and imaginative right side of our brain to the more sequential, logical left side of our brain that caused the upset, corrupted, alienated, sensitivity-destroying human condition, but rather the difference in the way genes and nerves process information.
In the human brain, one side (the right) specialises in general pattern recognition while the other specialises in specific sequence recognition. One is lateral or creative or imaginative while the other is vertical or logical or sequential. One stands back to ‘spot’ any overall emerging relationship while the other goes right in to take the heart of the matter to its conclusion. We need both because logic alone could lead us up a dead-end pathway of thought. For example, we can imagine that for a while our thinking mind could have assumed that the most obvious similarity between fruits was that they were brightly coloured. However, with more experience the similarity that proved to have the greatest relevance in the emerging overall picture was their edibility. Similar processes occurred in genetic ‘thinking’. Dinosaurs seemed like a successful idea at one stage, but due to changing influences, possibly the effects of a massive meteorite hitting Earth, they ultimately proved to be a wrong idea, prompting ‘nature’ to back off that avenue of approach and take up another, namely the development of warm-blooded mammals. When one thought process leads to a dead-end our mind has to back track and find another way in: from the general to the particular and back to the general, in and out, back and forth, until our thinking finally breaks through to the correct understanding. The first form of thinking to wither during alienation was imaginative thought because wandering around freely in your mind all too easily brought you into contact with unbearable truths such as Integrative Meaning. On the other hand, if we got onto a logical train of thought that at the outset did not raise criticism of us there was a much better chance it would stay safely non-judgmental. Children have always had wonderful imaginations, but often not as adults—the reason being that children had yet to learn to avoid free/open/adventurous/lateral thinking; they had yet to resign themselves to living in denial of the issue of the human condition. Edward de Bono, who attempts to re-train people to use their imagination and has popularised the process under the term ‘lateral thinking’, once said that ‘often the pupil who is not considered bright will be the best thinker’ (The Australian, 3 March 1975). Because mental cleverness is what led us to defy our instincts, it follows that the cleverer we were, the sooner we challenged our instincts and became upset and alienated. Cleverness and alienation have been linked, hence the less clever have tended to be the least alienated and thus the most truthful and thus the best thinkers.
Jaynes truthfully recognised that humans have lost access to a seemingly magical, all-sensitive, and inspired original instinctive self, but to try to explain it by claiming, as he did, that the capacity for self-awareness and introspection emerged with the development of language and then writing only some 3,000 years ago, and that prior to that people were not capable of introspection—that, for example, the writers of the Iliad and sections of the Old Testament lacked the ability to be self-aware—is absurd. The denial-based, immensely alienated upset state of the human condition is a deeply ancient condition. All the psychosis and its resulting upset in us that led us to using sex as a way of attacking the innocence of women, to covering our lust-inspiring naked bodies with clothes, to hunting animals because their innocence unjustly condemned us, to women seeking to adorn their bodies to make them more sexually attractive, to men becoming so angry that they went to war against each other, to the emergence of humour to lighten the load of the extraordinary extent of the dishonesty in our lives, etc, etc, all reveal, if we are prepared to be even slightly honest, that the upset state of the human condition is an extremely ancient, in fact two-million-year-old, condition.
Jaynes’ theory does not represent a profound analysis of the human condition. In fact, it is so superficial as to be dishonest and human-condition-avoiding. So although Jaynes doesn’t deny our all-sensitive and loving moral soul like Neumann did, his treatise does belong in this category of those who recognised the elements involved of instinct and intellect but avoided the issue of the human condition.
Robert A. Johnson’s recognition of the involvement of the elements of instinct and intellect in the psychosis of our human condition but avoidance of the issue of the human condition
In his 1974 book He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, the American Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson (1921-) described the agony of adolescents having to resign themselves to a life of denial of the unconfrontable issue of the human condition. In doing so, Johnson recognised the ‘unconscious perfection’ of the pre-conscious ‘Eden’ state that humans had to suffer the ‘pain’ of leaving in order to eventually achieve ‘a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer’ worlds. He wrote: ‘It is painful to watch a young man become aware that the world is not just joy and happiness, to watch the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith, and optimism. This is regrettable but necessary. If we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, there can be no heavenly Jerusalem…According to tradition, there are potentially three stages of psychological development for a man. The archetypal pattern is that one goes from the unconscious perfection of childhood, to the conscious imperfection of middle life, to conscious perfection of old age. One moves from an innocent wholeness, in which the inner world and the outer world are united, to a separation and differentiation between the inner and outer worlds with an accompanying sense of life’s duality, and then, hopefully, at last to satori or enlightenment, a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer once again in harmonious wholeness…we have to get out of the Garden of Eden before we can even start for the heavenly Jerusalem, even though they are the same place. The man’s first step out of Eden into the pain of duality gives him his Fisher King wound…Alienation is the current term for it’ (pp.10-11 of 97). (The ‘Fisher King’ is a character in the great European legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. The ‘Fisher King’ and his ‘wound’ is explained in paragraph 1263 of FREEDOM.)
Johnson has here accurately described the psychological journey that the human race has had to go on from ‘innocent wholeness, in which the inner world and the outer world are united, to a separation and differentiation between the inner and outer worlds with an accompanying sense of life’s duality…to satori or enlightenment, a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer once again in harmonious wholeness’ through the finding of understanding of the human condition. But that is not Johnson’s meaning. He’s not talking about the actual finding of understanding of the human condition that leads to the end of the human condition, but of individual humans arriving at an intuitive reconciliation of the imperfections of human life as it has existed under the duress of the human condition. He is counselling young men about the journey they have to go on, telling them they have to strive towards eventually achieving a mature, sophisticated, somewhat peaceful appreciation that life isn’t meant to be ideal but is part of some greater struggle the human race is yet to complete—which is actually to endure the upset state of the human condition until we found the understanding of it that would ameliorate it, but that objective isn’t made clear by Johnson. However, in giving his counsel, what Johnson has unintentionally done is describe the actual nature of that journey. He has inadvertently described the ‘tradition [of the]…three stages of psychological development for a man [including of the human race as a whole]…from the unconscious perfection of [the individual’s and humanity’s] childhood, to the conscious imperfection of [the individual’s and humanity’s] middle life, to conscious perfection of [the individual’s and humanity’s] old age’.