The Human Condition Documentary Proposal—Part 2 Soul
Recognition of Humans’ Fully Integrated, Cooperative Past
The overwhelming evidence is that it was through nurturing, the process of love-indoctrination and the accompanying mate selection of cooperativeness that humans were able to develop an instinctive orientation to behaving unconditionally selflessly—develop an aptitude for ‘runaway kindness’ as Miller so bravely acknowledges. The instinctive memory of this time, of living completely cooperatively, is what we term our soul.
Mechanistic science has for the most part complied with humanity’s need to live in denial of the extremely confronting and dangerously depressing truth that our ancient ancestors lived innocently, sensitively and cooperatively ‘in God’s image’. Science has traditionally maintained the view that our forebears were competitive, survival-of-the-fittest-driven, reproduce-your-own-genes-at-all-cost, selfish and aggressive ‘wild’, ‘primitive’ ‘savages’ and ‘brutes’. One notable exception has been the work of renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey. The 1977 book Origins, which Leakey co-wrote with Page 46 of
Print Edition Roger Lewin, features the following denunciation of this mechanistic viewpoint: ‘We emphatically reject this conventional wisdom [that war and violence are in our genes]…the clues that do impinge on the basic elements of human nature argue much more persuasively that we are a cooperative rather than an aggressive animal…With the growth of agriculture and of materially-based societies, warfare has increased steadily in both ferocity and duration…We should not look to our genes for the seeds of war’ (ch.9). Another very recent exception is anthropologist Robert W. Sussman. Discussing The Origins and Nature of Sociality, the 2004 book he co-editored with Audrey R. Chapman, Sussman says that ‘instead of being genetically predisposed to competition and aggression, humans—and perhaps other animals as well—have a biological foundation for unselfish social interaction’ (Washington University in St. Louis News & Information at http://news-info.wustl.edu).
The concept of a soul in humans has especially proven an anathema for denial-complying, mechanistic science—despite the fact that ‘soul’ is one of the most commonly used words and we frequently talk of ‘the child within’ and of having a ‘conscience’ and an ‘inborn sense of morality’. As psychologist Ronald Conway acknowledged, ‘Soul is customarily suspected in empirical psychology and analytical philosophy as a disreputable entity’ (The Australian, 10 May 2000). Of course the concept of love, the central aspect of our soul, has also been an anathema for mechanistic science; as Robin Allott said, ‘Love has been described as a taboo subject, not serious, not appropriate for scientific study’ (Evolutionary Aspects of Love and Empathy, Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 1992, Vol.15, No.4 353-370).
The extent of humans’ denial of their integratively-orientated, loving instinctive self or soul can be gauged from the fact that it has been pushed so far beyond our conscious awareness, has been so psychologically repressed, that it now resides deep in our subconscious. From there this ‘collective unconscious’ self, as psychoanalyst Carl Jung termed our shared-by-all instinctive self, emerges only in dreams and on other occasions when our conscious self is subdued, such as when praying or meditating. As Jung wrote: ‘The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche [soul], opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego consciousness’ (Civilization in Transition, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol.10, 1945).
While traditional science has largely ignored the existence of a time in humanity’s past when humans lived innocently, in a loving, harmonious and cooperative state, there is ample recognition of this period in the mythologies and religions of the world. Possibly the most widely recognised phrase in Christian mythology is ‘the Garden of Eden’, the biblical state in which humans once lived before our so-called ‘fall from grace’. Greek mythology contains references to a ‘golden age’ in humanity’s past, as seen in Theogony, written by the renowned 8th century Greek poet, Hesiod: ‘When gods alike and mortals rose to birth / A golden race the immortals formed on earth / Of many-languaged men: they lived of old / When Saturn reigned in heaven, an age of gold / 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 / The hand’s, the foot’s proportions still the same / Strangers to ill, their lives in feasts flowed by / Wealthy in flocks; dear to the blest on high / 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’ (tr. Elton).
In The Songlines (1987), the explorer and philosopher Bruce Chatwin wrote: ‘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, Page 47 of
Print Edition Parrossits or the dancing Spermatophagi—have their modern equivalents in the Bushman, the Shoshonean, the Eskimo and the Aboriginal’ (p.227 of 325).
In The Heart of The Hunter, Laurens van der Post acknowledged that ‘There was indeed a cruelly denied and neglected first child of life, a Bushman in each of us’ (1961, p.126 of 233). D.H. Lawrence recognised that ‘In the dust, where we have buried / The silent races and their abominations [their confronting innocence] / We have buried so much of the delicate magic of life’ (Son of Woman: The Story of D.H. Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, 1931, p.227 of 402). As mentioned, Jean-Jacques Rousseau acknowledged that ‘nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state’ (The Social Contract and Discourses, 1755; tr. G.D.H. Cole, pub. 1913, Book IV, The Origin of Inequality, p.198 of 269).
In Phaedo, written so long ago now in approximately 360BC, Plato acknowledged that humans are born with not only what we now refer to as a ‘conscience’, an ability to recognise what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour, but with an awareness of what is beautiful and what is not. He talked about humans having ‘knowledge of these standards…these absolute realities, such as beauty and goodness…before our birth, and possessed it when we were born, we had knowledge, both before and at the moment of birth, not only of equality and relative magnitudes, but of all absolute standards. Our present argument applies no more to equality than it does to absolute beauty, goodness, uprightness, holiness, and, as I maintain, all those characteristics which we designate in our discussions by the term “absolute” ’. Plato linked our innate awareness of ‘these absolute realities, such as beauty and goodness’ with our soul, saying, ‘it is logically just as certain that our souls exist before our birth as it is that these realities exist…[and our] soul is in every possible way more like the invariable [absolute entities] than the variable [non-absolutes].’ With a clarity not often seen in contemporary, extremely denial-complying, alienated works, Plato said the ‘soul resembles the divine’ (tr. H. Tredennick). Since the divine, ideal, heavenly state is living in accordance with integrative meaning then humans once lived in that state—and will be able to again return to it now that the dignifying, liberating understanding of the human condition has been found (see Part 4 of this series).
William Wordsworth’s awesomely truthful poem, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1807), contains the line: ‘But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home’. It is worth including more of this poem because of its acknowledgment of humans’ past uncorrupted, alienation-free innocent state: ‘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.’ Wordsworth proceeded to describe how nature and the innocence of youth reminded him of this lost paradise: ‘Thou Child of Joy / Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy! / Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call / Ye to each other make; I see / The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee / …While Earth herself is adorning / This sweet May-morning / And the Children are culling / On every side / In a thousand valleys far and wide’. He is then reminded of his loss of innocence and the alienation that has set in, adding: ‘But there’s a Tree, of many, one / A single Field which I have looked upon / Both of them speak of 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 that rises with us, 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 / Page 48 of
Print Edition And fade into the light of common day / …Forget the glories he hath known / And that imperial palace whence he came.’
Memories & Visions of Paradise, a remarkably brave book by Richard Heinberg, contains evidence from many mythologies of the existence of an integrated, cooperative past in humanity’s journey to enlightenment. The following is a sample from the 1990 edition: ‘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…the cause of the Fall is described variously as disobedience, as the eating of a forbidden fruit, and as spiritual amnesia’ (pp.81—82 of 282).
The crucial question of why humans departed from innocence, ‘fell from grace’, became corrupted, buried their all-sensitive, loving soul will be addressed in Part 4 of this proposed documentary series.
However, before we look at that all-important issue we first need to address how and why consciousness emerged in humans. This particular question of consciousness is the subject of Part 3 of this proposed documentary series.
The Human Condition Documentary Proposal, written by Jeremy Griffith.
First published November 2004 by WTM Publishing & Communications Pty Ltd (ACN 103 136 778).
Copyright © Fedmex Pty Ltd (ACN 096 099 286) November 2004.
All rights reserved.