Please note, you can access a sample of the first 20 or so explanatory, and first 20 or so inspirational WTM Emails (including this and your previous WTM Emails) at the end of this WTM Email. Wednesday’s explanatory emails and Friday’s inspirational emails are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.
This is inspirational WTM Email 52
The ‘instinct vs intellect’ is the obvious and
real explanation of our condition, as all these
great thinkers evidence
Biologist Jeremy Griffith is not the first person to identify the instinct vs intellect rudiments of the human condition. Throughout history great thinkers have recognised that the answer to our troubled human condition lay in understanding an inevitable clash that must occur between our already established instincts and newly emerged conscious mind. Such thinkers include Moses and Plato, and more recently Eugène Marais, Nikolai Berdyaev Arthur Koestler, Erich Neumann, Paul MacLean, Julian Jaynes and Christopher Booker.
This list demonstrates how apparent these elements are when someone is prepared to think honestly and truthfully about our condition — and one that also exposes how patently dishonest E.O. Wilson’s Multilevel Selection theory is because it doesn’t recognise this clash. As described in WTM Email 37, Wilson tries to argue that we have both selfish and selfless instincts which are sometimes in conflict, when the truth is our instinctive nature is to be unconditionally selfless and not at all selfish (see WTM Email 19), and that it’s the emergence of our self-adjusting conscious mind in the presence of these altruistic instincts that caused our psychologically upset condition. The truth is Wilson’s dishonest explanation of the human condition is an attempt to evade the human condition, not confront and solve it.
Indeed, rather than confronting and explaining our species’ psychologically conflicted condition, Wilson, the Harvard University-based biologist, has attempted to nullify the subject with a non-psychological account of it. To explain more fully his dishonest explanation of the human condition, Wilson’s Multilevel Selection theory proposes that together with supposed competitive, so-called ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘must-reproduce-your-own-genes’, selfish instincts, we humans also have operating at another level some cooperative, selfless ‘moral’ instincts derived from so-called ‘group selection’. And so, as described in WTM Email 37, he says, ‘The dilemma of good and evil was created by multilevel selection’. What Wilson has done with his psychosis-avoiding dismissal of the human condition as nothing more than two different instincts within us that are sometimes at odds, is truly sinister. It is nothing less than the final great push to have the world of lies with all its darkness take over the world — and prevent the real, psychosis-addressing-and-solving, instinct vs intellect (rather than Wilson’s false instinct vs instinct) explanation of the human condition from ever seeing the light of day.
As is explained in first-principle biological terms in Jeremy’s book FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition (and briefly summarised in WTM Email 5), our ’good’ and ‘evil’ conflicted lives are the result of an underlying battle between our original instinctive self and our newer conscious self. The conscious mind was unjustly criticised by our instincts for acting independently of them — in effect, defying them — and until our mind could understand why it had to defy the instincts, all it could do was retaliate against that criticism, try to prove it wrong, and block it out; i.e. we became psychologically upset angry, egocentric and alienated sufferers of the human condition.
And it’s Jeremy’s ability to explain WHY the conflict between our instincts and intellect occurred that sets him apart from those great thinkers listed above, because while they could identify the instincts and intellect as being responsible for creating the human condition, only Jeremy has found the clarifying, redeeming and reconciling explanation of the nature of that struggle — the explanation that at last brings peace to our divided selves, and transforms the human race.
What follows are the recognitions of the elements involved in the human condition from some of history’s greatest thinkers; followed in turn by an explanation of Jeremy’s final, clarifying insight that frees humanity from its bondage.
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In identifying the role of instinct and intellect in producing the human condition, the South African naturalist Eugène Marais was on the right track when he recognised that ‘The great frontier between the two types of mentality is the line which separates non-primate mammals from apes and monkeys. On one side of that line behaviour is dominated by hereditary memory, and on the other by individual causal memory…The phyletic history of the primate soul can clearly be traced in the mental evolution of the human child. The highest primate, man, is born an instinctive animal. All its behaviour for a long period after birth is dominated by the instinctive mentality…it has no memory, no conception of cause and effect, no consciousness…As the new soul, the soul of 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). Further, Marais identified that what caused ‘the pain of consciousness’ (ibid. p.90 & 91), ‘mental gloom’ (p.92), ‘pessimism and lack of joyousness…mental misery’ (p.93) — in fact, was behind humanity’s ‘march towards the madhouse’ (My Friends the Baboons, 1939, p.9 of 124), its march towards terminal levels of alienation — was the emergence of consciousness; that it ‘is due to…some kind of suffering inseparable from the new [conscious] mind which…it [man] has acquired in the course of evolution’ (The Soul of the Ape, p.98); that ‘human consciousness [is]…the whole and only cause of this quality of psychological suffering’ (ibid. p.101). In The Soul of the White Ant, Marais also recognised that the ‘instinct…is incapable of deviation from a certain fixed way of behaving…This inherited memory is in every respect a terrible tyrant’ (p.45). He further realised that ‘the so-called “subliminal soul” in man — the “subconscious” mentality — is none other than this old “animal” [instinctive] mentality which has been put out of action by the new mentality’ (The Road to Waterberg and other essays, p.149).
We can recognise much of Jeremy’s Adam Stork analogy (see WTM Email 5) in Marais’s description: of becoming conscious and, as consciousness emerged, a ‘struggle’ with the inflexible, ‘tyran[nical]’ instincts erupting. Marais not only acknowledged the elements of instincts and conscious intellect involved in the human condition, he was considering how the two elements interacted. Had he pursued and developed his insight into the emerging ‘struggle’ between the inflexible, ‘tyran[nical]’‘instinctive soul’ or ‘hereditary memory’ and the new ‘conscious’ ‘memory’-based, ‘cause and effect’-understanding, ‘individual causal memory’, he could have realised, as Jeremy did, that the good reason why the conscious intellect had to defy the tyrannical instincts was because the conscious mind had to search for understanding of ‘cause and effect’, and further that it was that particular guilt-producing ‘struggle’ that caused the upset competitive, aggressive and selfish, corrupted human nature. (.)
The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev was also approaching the truth when he wrote that ‘man is an irrational, paradoxical, essentially tragic being in whom two worlds, two opposite principles, are at war’ (The Destiny of Man, 1931, p.49), and in describing these two principles, writing that, ‘The human soul is divided, an agonizing conflict between opposing elements is going on in it…the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind is fundamental for the new psychology’ (ibid, pp.67-68). Yes, the ‘two opposite principles’ at war in man are not, as Wilson proposes, selfish and selfless instincts within us, but our ‘conscious and the subconscious mind’. Berdyaev might as well have been thinking of Wilson when he wrote, ‘Philosophers and scientists have done very little to elucidate the problem of man’ (ibid, p.49). (.)
The German psychologist Erich Neumann 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’. (.)
The key question remains, however: why did the ‘elaboration’ of ‘the conscious’ self cause it to ‘fly apart’ from the ‘unconscious’ instinctive self?
In the 1950s the American neurologist Paul MacLean developed his theory of ‘the triune brain’, which states that humans are a mentally unbalanced species because of an inadequate coordination between our emotional old brain and our cognitive new brain. MacLean proposed that humans have not one brain but three, each originating from a different stage of our evolutionary history. He said there is the inner original reptilian brain that comprises the brainstem and cerebellum, which he said tends to be rigid, compulsive and ritualistic, intent on repeating the same behaviours over and over. Then there is the middle ‘limbic’ brain, which he said comprises the amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus and is prominent in lower mammals and is concerned with emotions and instincts, in particular feeding, fighting, fleeing and sexual behaviour. And thirdly he said there is the outer neo or cerebral cortex brain of higher mammals, which is concerned with reason, invention and abstract thought. MacLean said that ‘the three evolutionary formations might be imagined as three interconnected biological computers, with each having its own special intelligence, its own subjectivity, its own sense of time and space, and its own memory, motor, and other functions’ (The Triune Brain in Evolution, 1990). Because of the independence between these three brains MacLean saw them as frequently being dissociated and in conflict, with the lower limbic system that rules emotions even capable of hijacking the higher mental functions when it so chooses. However, MacLean failed to explain what is it about the different intelligences and resulting subjectivities and senses of time and space and memories that actually causes the conflict between these two particular brains. (.)
The Hungarian-born British scientist-philosopher Arthur Koestler identified the elements of instinct and intellect involved in the human condition and sought an explanation for how they might have produced the human condition by referring to Paul MacLean’s concept that ‘the brain explosion [in humans] 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). As the author Bruce Chatwin described it, ‘At a public lecture I listened to Arthur Koestler airing his opinion that the human species was mad. He claimed that, as a result of an inadequate co-ordination between two areas of the brain — the “rational” neocortex and the “instinctual” hypothalamus — Man had somehow acquired the “unique, murderous, delusional streak” that propelled him, inevitably, to murder, to torture and to war’ (The Songlines, 1987). (.)
The American psychologist Julian Jaynes put forward a theory of the breakdown of what he called the ‘bicameral mind’ in his 1975 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Author Rob Schultheis provides this good summary of Jaynes’s 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’ (Bone Games, 1985). Using Schultheis’s 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 his 2005 book, The Seven Basic Plots, the English journalist Christopher Booker wrote that ‘There is nothing with which stories are more intimately concerned than the conflict between ‘dark’ and ‘light’…consciousness has become separated from its instinctive unity with nature. And…the further we move away from that unity the more confused and lost we become’ (p.700). And with regard to that ‘conflict’, in the section of his book titled ‘Ego versus the unconscious’, Booker wrote that ‘there intrudes [into the instinctive state]…that other component [of ego consciousness] which is continually urging them away from this [instinctive] unity of purpose…resulting in a state of constant tension’ (p.550).
But again, there remains the key question to be answered of why was ‘consciousness’ ‘continually urging them away from this [instinctive] unity’ and causing this ‘tension’?
What was missing in all these variously truthful and thus variously insightful and accurate attempts to delve into the problem of the human condition was the clarifying, redeeming and reconciling explanation of the nature of the ‘struggle’, ‘tension’ and ‘conflict’ between our instincts and our consciousness that caused them to become at ‘loggerheads’, and ‘fly apart’. After all, as was stated above and is pointed out in chapter 2:6 of FREEDOM, even Moses’s Genesis story of the Garden of Eden contains the truth that our corrupted, ‘fallen’ condition occurred when our conscious mind emerged from an original, presumably instinctive, idyllic state (), and Plato recognised there was a conflict between our instincts and conscious intellect in his famous ‘two horsed chariot analogy’ (), but the degree of insight apparent in these descriptions didn’t liberate humanity from the human condition. No, what was needed was the clarifying insight about the particular ‘distinction’ between our instincts and intellect that caused the psychologically upset state of our ‘good-vs-evil’-conflicted condition. This critical ‘distinction’, that Jeremy has now provided, is that the gene-based refinement system is only capable of orientating a species, whereas the nerve-based refinement system has the potential to understand the nature of change.
To present Jeremy’s explanation in more detail.
Nerves were originally developed for the coordination of movement in animals, but, once developed, their ability to store impressions — what we refer to as ‘memory’ — gave rise to the potential to develop understanding of cause and effect. If you can remember past events, you can compare them with current events and identify regularly occurring experiences. This knowledge of, or insight into, what has commonly occurred in the past enables you to predict what is likely to happen in the future and to adjust your behaviour accordingly. Once insights into the nature of change are put into effect, the self-modified behaviour starts to provide feedback, refining the insights further. Predictions are compared with outcomes and so on. Much developed, and such refinement occurred in the human brain, nerves can sufficiently associate information to reason how experiences are related, learn to understand and become CONSCIOUS of, or aware of, or intelligent about, the relationship between events that occur through time. Thus consciousness means being sufficiently aware of how experiences are related to attempt to manage change from a basis of understanding. (Much more is be explained about the nature and origin of consciousness in .)
The significance of this process is that once our nerve-based learning system became sufficiently developed for us to become conscious and able to effectively manage events, our conscious intellect was then in a position to wrest control from our gene-based learning system’s instincts, which, up until then, had been in charge of our lives — instincts being ‘a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Basically, once our self-adjusting, self-managing intellect, or ability to ‘reason’, emerged it was capable of taking over the management of our lives from the instinctive orientations we had acquired through the natural selection of genetic traits that adapted us to our environment.
Moreover, at the point of becoming conscious the nerve-based learning system should wrest management of the individual from the instincts because such a self-managing or self-adjusting system is infinitely more efficient at adapting to change than the gene-based system, which can only adapt to change very slowly over many generations. HOWEVER, it was at this juncture, when our conscious intellect challenged our instincts for control, that a terrible battle broke out between our instincts and intellect, the effect of which was the extremely competitive, selfish and aggressive state that we call the ‘human condition’.
And in short, it was only this clarifying explanation of the nature of that struggle between our instincts and our consciousness that could give us the redeeming ability to explain why our conscious mind had to defy our instincts, and, by so doing, reveal that we — in the sense of we being our fully conscious, thinking self — are good and not bad after all, which ends the criticism from our instinctive self and brings reconciling peace to our conflicted and divided selves or nature or condition.
So while the thinkers acknowledged in this email did not find the redeeming and reconciling clarifying explanation of the nature of the struggle between our instincts and intellect, they do evidence that Jeremy’s instinct vs intellect explanation is the great world-saving FREEDOM-bringing breakthrough we have so desperately sought; and, in doing so, they also expose E.O. Wilson’s supposed explanation for the dangerously dishonest excuse it is.
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Jeremy’s clarifying explanation of the difference between instincts and intellect is presented in detail in . And you can read much more about those thinkers who have recognised the role of instinct and intellect in producing our condition in of Jeremy’s book Freedom Expanded: Book 1.
Discussion or comment on this email is welcomed — see below.
Please Note that a sample of the first 20 or so explanatory, and first 20 or so inspirational WTM Emails (including this and your previous WTM Emails) is available on our homepage at .
This sample includes (click on any to access directly):
These emails were composed during 2017 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood,
Fiona Cullen-Ward & Brony FitzGerald at the Sydney WTM Centre.