‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 2 The Threat of Terminal Alienation from Science’s Denial
Chapter 2:7 Further evidence of the three fundamental truths, as provided by religion, mythology, profound thinkers, and primatological and anthropological studies
And, tellingly, this awareness that humans did once live in a pre-conscious and pre-human-condition-afflicted peaceful, cooperative, selfless, loving ideal state is something all our religions and mythologies recognise. In addition to Moses’ account of Adam and Eve’s innocent heritage in the Garden of Eden, the Bible also contains a passage in Ecclesiastes that reads, ‘God made mankind upright [uncorrupted], but men have gone in search of many schemes [conscious understandings]’ (7:29), and the references Christ made to a time when God ‘loved [us] before the creation of the [‘upset’, ‘fallen’, corrupted] world’ (John 17:24), and a time of ‘the glory…before the [corrupted] world began’ (John 17:5). Taoist scripture also features a description of our distant forebears as being ‘the Men of Perfect Virtue’ (Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, 1987, p.227 of 325), while Zen Buddhism similarly speaks of the loss of an uncontaminated, pure state as a result of the intervening conscious mind, referring to ‘the affective contamination (klesha)’ or ‘the interference of the conscious mind predominated by intellection (vijñāna)’ (D.J. Suzuki, Erich Fromm, Richard Demartino, Zen Buddhism & Psychoanalysis, 1960, p.20). And prior to Plato and his vast contribution—including his two-horsed chariot account of ‘our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining in pure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned’, and his ‘reversed cosmos’ description of our species’ past ‘blessed and spontaneous life…[where] neither was there any violence, or devouring of one another, or war or quarrel among them…And they dwelt naked, and mostly in the open air…and they had no beds, but lay on soft couches of grass’—there was his aforementioned compatriot Hesiod, who, in his epic poem Works and Days, said of our distant ancestors that ‘When gods alike and mortals rose to birth / A golden race the immortals formed on earth…Like gods they lived, with calm untroubled mind / Free from the toils and anguish of our kind / Nor e’er decrepit age misshaped their frame…Strangers to ill, their lives in feasts flowed by…Dying they sank in sleep, nor seemed to die / Theirs was each good; the life-sustaining soil / Yielded its copious fruits, unbribed by toil / They with abundant goods ’midst quiet lands / All willing shared the gathering of their hands’ (c. eighth century BC).
The consistency of all these descriptions of how consciousness led to the corruption of our species’ original all-loving cooperative state has been borne out by the investigations of the author Richard Heinberg, who found that every human culture has a myth involving both the emergence of consciousness and a ‘fall’ from an original ‘Golden Age’ of togetherness and peace—from the major religions, to ‘races’ as isolated and diverse as the Eskimos, Aborigines, and Native Americans—summarising in his 1990 book Memories & Visions of Paradise (a well-researched collection of acknowledgments from mythologies and religions of our species’ innocent, Edenic past) that ‘Every religion begins with the recognition that human consciousness has been separated from the divine Source, that a former sense of oneness…has been lost…everywhere in religion and myth there is an acknowledgment that we have departed from an original…innocence and can return to it only through the resolution of some profound inner discord…the cause of the Fall is described variously as disobedience, as the eating of a forbidden fruit, and as spiritual amnesia [alienation]’ (pp.81-82 of 282). Yes, as Berdyaev recognised, ‘The memory of a lost paradise, of a Golden Age, is very deep in man’ (The Destiny of Man, 1931; tr. N. Duddington, 1960, p.36 of 310). So when John Milton titled his epic 1667 poem ‘Paradise Lost’, he was recognising the existence of this ‘deep’ ‘memory’ ‘in man’—as were the Australian Aborigines with their ‘memory’ of a ‘Dreamtime’. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau also expressed what we all do intuitively know is the truth when he wrote that ‘nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state’ (The Origin of Inequality, 1755; The Social Contract and Discourses, tr. G. Cole, 1913, p.198 of 269).
William Wordsworth was another who spoke honestly when he wrote, ‘There was a time when meadow, grove, and streams / The earth, and every common sight / To me did seem / Apparelled in celestial light / The glory and the freshness of a dream / It is not now as it hath been of yore / Turn wheresoe’er I may / By night or day / The things which I have seen I now can see no more // The Rainbow comes and goes / And lovely is the Rose / The Moon doth with delight / Look round her when the heavens are bare / Waters on a starry night / Are beautiful and fair / The sunshine is a glorious birth / But yet I know, where’er I go / That there hath past away a glory from the earth // …something that is gone / …Whither is fled the visionary gleam? / Where is it now, the glory and the dream? // Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting / The Soul [the instinctive memory of our species’ past all-loving, selfless, cooperative existence] that rises with us [that we are born with], our life’s Star / Hath had elsewhere its setting / And cometh from afar / Not in entire forgetfulness / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home / Heaven lies about us in our infancy! / Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy / …And by the vision splendid / Is on his way attended / At length the Man perceives it die away / And fade into the light of common day / …Forget the glories he hath known / And that imperial palace whence he came’ (Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, 1807). This beautiful description by Wordsworth of our original instinctive self or ‘Soul’ equates perfectly with that given by the poet Henry Vaughan when he wrote, ‘My soul, there is a country far beyond the stars’ (Peace, 1655). The sentiment is also reflected in the words of the polymath Sir Thomas Browne, who said, ‘We carry within us all the wonders we seek without us’ (Religio Medici, 1643, Sect.15), and in the poet Lord Byron’s observation that ‘Man is in part divine, A troubled stream from a pure source’ (Prometheus, 1816). With regard to Wordsworth’s reference to ‘God’, as outlined earlier and as will be explained in chapter 4:3, ‘God’ is our personification of the terrifyingly confronting truth of the teleological, integrative, order-of-matter-developing, cooperative, selfless, loving theme or direction or meaning of existence that our distant ancestors lived in accordance with, but which we no longer appear to. And like Laing, the prophet Isaiah recognised how upset/corrupted we humans have become, but was more specific about how it is a corruption of this integrated state we once lived in, writing that ‘From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sore…Your country is desolate…the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her’, and ‘the world languishes and withers…The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws [become divisively rather than integratively behaved]…In the streets…all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth’, and ‘This people’s heart has become calloused [alienated]; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes’ (Bible, Isa. 1, 24 & 6:10 footnote).
The consistency of these accounts is remarkable, but beyond what is revealed by myth, religion and profound thought, consider the evidence provided by our studies in anthropology and primatology. While fossils of our early ape ancestors who lived from 12 to 4 million years ago are rare, recent discoveries from this period are now providing proof of a cooperative past, which anthropologists are beginning to admit; for instance, C. Owen Lovejoy has written that ‘our species-defining cooperative mutualism can now be seen to extend well beyond the deepest Pliocene [well beyond 5.3 million years ago]’ (‘Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus’, Science, 2009, Vol.326, No.5949). In primatology, studies of living apes reveal that bonobos (Pan paniscus) are not only humans’ closest relatives, but an extremely gentle and cooperative species. While bonobos and chimpanzees (Pan troglodyte) both share around 99 percent of humans’ genetic material, the primatologist Frans de Waal points out that ‘the recent discovery [by neuroscientists Elizabeth Hammock and Larry Young in 2005] that bonobos and humans share genetic code in relation to affiliative [social, cohesive, loving, integrative] behavior that is absent in the chimpanzee’ indicates bonobos and humans are more closely related in terms of their social nature (‘Foreword by Frans B.M. de Waal’, The Bonobos: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, eds T. Furuichi & J. Thompson, 2008, p.12 of 327). The anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman has also shown that of bonobos and chimpanzees, bonobos are closer anatomically to our ancestors (‘Reconstructions reconsidered: chimpanzee models and human evolution’, Great Ape Societies, eds William C. McGrew et al., 1996, pp.293-304 of 352). As to their peaceful nature, many primatologists attest to it; consider this from Barbara Fruth: ‘up to 100 bonobos at a time from several groups spend their night together. That would not be possible with chimpanzees because there would be brutal fighting between rival groups’ (Paul Raffaele, ‘Bonobos: The apes who make love, not war’, Last Tribes on Earth.com, 2003; see <>). (The evidence of our cooperative past that is provided by anthropology, some of which is referred to above, and by the bonobos, will be documented in some detail in chapters 5:5 and 5:6, respectively.)
Of course, proof is also apparent in the relative innocence of existing so-called ‘primitive’ people, such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, who, according to DNA studies, are the oldest human population on Earth. While some people, such as Carl Jung and Erich Neumann, have sought to dismiss the idea of an innocent, Edenic past as nothing more than a nostalgia for the security and maternal warmth of infancy, and certainly ‘never an historical state’ (Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, 1949, p.15 of 493), the explorer and philosopher Bruce Chatwin bravely rejected this paradise-as-infancy theory and recognised the relative innocence of these ‘primitive’ ‘races’, writing that ‘Every mythology remembers the innocence of the first state: Adam in the Garden, the peaceful Hyperboreans, the Uttarakurus or “the Men of Perfect Virtue” of the Taoists. Pessimists often interpret the story of the Golden Age as a tendency to turn our backs on the ills of the present, and sigh for the happiness of youth. But nothing in Hesiod’s text exceeds the bounds of probability. The real or half-real tribes which hover on the fringe of ancient geographies—Atavantes, Fenni, Parrossits or the dancing Spermatophagi—have their modern equivalents in the Bushman, the Shoshonean, the Eskimo and the Aboriginal’ (The Songlines, 1987, p.227 of 325). The great South African philosopher, Sir Laurens van der Post (whom I consider to be the pre-eminent philosopher of the twentieth century) had an incredibly deep appreciation of the Bushmen, and when writing about the effect of our alienated, innocence-destroyed modern world on their relative innocence, he described how ‘mere contact with twentieth-century life seemed lethal to the Bushman. He was essentially so innocent and natural a person that he had only to come near us for a sort of radioactive fall-out from our unnatural world to produce a fatal leukaemia in his spirit’ (The Heart of the Hunter, 1961, p.111 of 233). As Plato said, in ‘this tradition [of the innocent earth-born man], which is now-a-days often unduly discredited, our ancestors, who were nearest in point of time to the end of the last [innocent] period and came into being at the beginning of this [corrupted period], are to us the heralds [of that earlier innocent age]’.
Note again that even in the earlier more innocent times that Plato lived in (recall in chapter 1 that alienation has been increasing from generation to generation ever since the human condition emerged), there was already a strong desire to ‘unduly discredit’ the truth that ‘our ancestors’ lived in a pre-human-condition-afflicted, ‘innocent’, ‘blessed’, ‘divine’, ‘upright’, ‘cleanly made’, ‘pure’, ‘noble’, ‘good’, ‘modest’, ‘honour[able]’, ‘spirit[ed]’, ‘simple and calm and happy’ state. Yes, given how extremely condemning and confronting the truth of our species’ cooperative, all-loving, innocent past has been while we couldn’t explain our present corrupted, ‘fallen’, ‘evil’, ‘ignoble’, ‘bad’, ‘crooked’, ‘terrible’, ‘unlawful’, ‘insolent’, ‘pride[ful]’, ‘lumbering’, ‘disorder[ly]’, ‘chaos’-causing, increasingly ‘forget[ful]’, ‘deaf’, threatening ‘universal ruin to the world’, ‘imprisoned in’ a ‘living tomb’ lives, it is not at all surprising that efforts have been made to ‘discredit’ this truth of an innocent ancestry as nothing more than nostalgia for the security of infancy—and by claiming that the Bushmen and other ‘primitive’ ‘races’ are more war-like and aggressive and less peaceful than the majority of the human race now. (This latter ridiculous claim that ‘advanced’ ‘races’ are, in effect, more innocent than ‘primitive’ ‘races’ is dealt with later in pars 205-208, and more fully in pars 862-868.) But, of course, as has been mentioned and will shortly be elaborated upon, the main way our innocent past has been denied has been to claim that our distant ancestors were no different from other animals, in ferocious competition with each other for food, shelter, territory and a mate.
Further to the numerous acknowledgments and recognitions of a pre-human-condition-afflicted, all-loving past, some of our greatest contemporary thinkers have also identified the rise of consciousness as being key to understanding and thus resolving our present corrupted, soul-devastated condition. In particular, the just mentioned Sir Laurens van der Post lifted description of the truth of our species’ innocent past and the enormous tragedy of our present consciousness-induced psychologically upset, corrupted state into the stratosphere of beautiful writing when he composed these words: ‘This shrill, brittle, self-important life of today is by comparison a graveyard where the living are dead and the dead are alive and talking [through our instinctive self or soul] in the still, small, clear voice of a love and trust in life that we have for the moment lost…[there was a time when] All on earth and in the universe were still members and family of the early race seeking comfort and warmth through the long, cold night before the dawning of individual consciousness in a togetherness which still gnaws like an unappeasable homesickness at the base of the human heart’ (Testament to the Bushmen, 1984, pp.127-128 of 176).
The South African naturalist Eugène Marais, the first person to study primates in their natural habitat, also got to the point of our condition being a psychologically embattled one when he focused on a conflict between our already established instincts and an emerging consciousness, saying, ‘The highest primate, man, is born an instinctive animal. All its behavior for a long period after its birth is dominated by the instinctive mentality…it has no memory, no conception of cause and effect, no consciousness…As the…individual memory slowly emerges, the instinctive soul becomes just as slowly submerged…For a time it is almost as though there were a struggle between the two’ (The Soul of the Ape, written between 1916-1936 and published posthumously in 1969, pp.77-79 of 171). Yes, the more our conscious mind became criticised by our ideal-behaviour-expecting instincts, the more we repressed that condemning instinctive awareness so that it is now ‘submerged’ into our subconscious. And after a lifetime spent hunting the cause of the human condition, the great Hungarian-English polymath Arthur Koestler similarly identified the emergence of consciousness as the catalyst for our condition: ‘the brain explosion gave rise to a mentally unbalanced species in which old brain and new brain, emotion and intellect, faith and reason were at loggerheads’ (Janus: A Summing Up, 1978, p.10 of 354).
Berdyaev was another who regarded consciousness as an intrinsically important consideration in the quest for self-understanding: ‘the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind is fundamental to the new psychology’ (The Destiny of Man, 1931; tr. N. Duddington, 1960, p.68 of 310). The very great English biologist Charles Darwin also recognised the acknowledgment of the emergence of consciousness as being ‘fundamental to the new psychology’; in fact, he used almost the same words, saying such acknowledgment will mean ‘Psychology will be based on a new foundation’. While it has been noted that Darwin’s seminal 1859 book ‘The Origin of Species contains almost no mention of the human species’ (Robert Wright, The Moral Animal, 1994, p.3 of 467), near the end of the final chapter he did write that ‘In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history’ (The Origin of Species, 1859, p.458 of 476). So while Darwin studiously avoided trying to explain human behaviour in The Origin of Species, he did at least recognise that for ‘Light’ to ‘be thrown on the origin of man and his history’ and a new meaningful, ‘important’ world of understanding to be ‘open[ed]’ up, ‘Psychology’ will have to ‘be based on a new foundation’ ‘of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation’—that it will need to recognise the involvement of the emergence of our ‘mental power’ of consciousness in creating our species’ unique ‘psycholog[icall]y’ troubled human condition. Yes, the key to understanding the origin of man’s ‘psychology’ is to recognise the ‘acquirement’ of our ‘mental power’ of consciousness.
(With regard to Darwin not addressing the issue of human behaviour in The Origin of Species—which was a stark omission given the book is titled The Origin of Species and the most important species we needed to understand the origin of was ourselves—it is true that 12 years after the publication of The Origin of Species Darwin did publish The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex in which he did make an attempt to look at the origins of our behaviour, but it was still only a tentative step in that all-important exploration. As I talk more about later in par. 485, the evidence suggests that while Darwin was honest enough to recognise that trying to address the issue of human behaviour meant addressing the issue of the human condition, he apparently didn’t feel secure enough to attempt it himself; in fact, when asked why he didn’t address human behaviour in The Origin of Species, Darwin even said, ‘I think I shall avoid the whole subject’ (Letter to A.R. Wallace, 22 Dec. 1857; The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, ed. John van Wyhe, 2002). The Cambridge academic Jane Ellen Harrison recognised Darwin’s reticence to deal with issues relating to our human situation when she wrote that Darwin ‘foresaw that his doctrine must have, for the history of man’s mental evolution, issues wider than those with which he was prepared personally to deal’ (‘The Influence of Darwinism on the Study of Religions’, Darwin and Modern Science, ed. A.C. Seward, 1909, ch.25). But as we are going to see in this chapter, many who purport to be biologists, such as E.O. Wilson, have shown no such scruples about trying to explain human behaviour when they couldn’t confront the human condition. Indeed, they haven’t been interested in explaining human behaviour at all, only in using their claimed stature as a biologist to invent a way to avoid the issue of the human condition!)
Yes, any truthful analysis of our human condition, its origins and its amelioration requires a ‘fundamental’, ‘new’, honest ‘foundation’ in thinking that recognises the involvement of our conscious mind in our species’ departure from an original, cooperative, loving state, as well as the psychosis and neurosis it has produced in us. It has to acknowledge that our condition is a ‘psycholog[ical]’ one—that our conscious mind is deeply psychologically troubled, that we are a psychotic and neurotic, immensely alienated species. This is the point Laing was emphasising when he wrote that ‘Our alienation goes to the roots. The realization of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life.’