Cycles of Consciousness?

"The chief difference between the man of the archaic and traditional societies and the man of the modern societies with their strong imprint of Judaeo-Christianity lies in the fact that the former feels himself indissolubly connected with the Cosmos and the cosmic rhythms, whereas the latter insists that he is connected only with History." (Mircea Eliade, The Myth of Eternal Return: Or, Cosmos and History. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, pgs xiii - xiv, 1954 (1991).

"...cultures must have narratives and will find them where they will, even if they lead to catastrophe. The alternative is to live without meaning, the ultimate negation of life itself." (Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pg. 173, 1992.)

"...the last mask comes of only with death... the writer's mask and the reader's are less removable than those of the oral communicator and his hearer. For writing itself is an indirection. Direct communication by script is impossible. This makes writing not less but more interesting, although perhaps less noble that speech. For man lives largely by indirection, and only beneath the indirections that sustain him is his true nature to be found." (Walter J. Ong, Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pg. 80, 1977)

"...how do you fight fragmentation? It's not easy...fragmentation grows to the extent that people no longer identify with their political community...and it is fed, too, by the experience of political powerlessness. And these two developments mutually reinforce each other. A fading political identity makes it harder to mobilize effectively, and a sense of helplessness breeds alienation. There is a potential vicious circle here, but we can see how it could also be a virtuous circle. Successful common action can bring a sense of empowerment and also strengthen identification with the political community." (Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pg. 118, 1991, italics added.)

"What's is gonna be boy, 'Yesss...' or 'Nooo...'" (Meatloaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light. III. Praying for the End of Time," In: Bat Out of Hell)

It's not, of course, claimed that human consciousness is directly caused or controlled by climate. On the contrary, postmodern consciousness, with its alienation and freedom, depends (in addition to its bases in the body/brain and the universe), on an elaborate 'civilizational scaffolding' that continuously fosters and supports it. That culturally generated societal scaffolding is postmodern consciousness' weak link, what makes it vulnerable to large-scale, unexpected abrupt global climate change. Take away the external supports for a long enough period of time, especially in the context of unmitigated chaos and suffering, and the human need for meaning may - perhaps quite rapidly - rediscover involuntary participation as the obvious and "natural" alternative to the alienated lifestyles (i.e., 'sins') of the past, which by this time will be felt to have led to the disaster. Walter J. Ong (pg. 40, 1977) expressed this fact well:

"Mass spoken languages not anchored in writing and print would in the course of time splinter into dialects which would soon evolve into separate languages. And they could not even have come into existence without the kind of diversified thinking and of visual control which only writing and print make possible."

I am working on my PPT slides and notes for this talk and will post them as soon as they are ready. Meanwhile, here is the abstract of the paper I presented at the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness meeting, Tucson, AZ, April, 2000. The "strategy" for stabilizing embodied human consciousness, which is referred to below, is pretty simple. We must recognize abrupt global climate change as a strictly impersonal aspect of reality with regard to which we have only two options: engage with it in the best ways that we are capable of imagining or risk becoming its slaves. Unfortunately, although this is a simple strategy its cost is likely to be considered to be too high by most individuals. That is because it's success requires that many individuals attain, as TS Elliot observed, "a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything."

Name: S. David Stoney, Ph.D.______________________________________________    

Title of Paper: Entrainment of Embodied Human Consciousness to Cyclic Climate Pattern

3 Keywords Climate; Human consciousness; Cyclic patterns                                                    

Recent geophysical data indicate that climate often "flickers," with abrupt (decade or less) transitions between brief warm and cold states superimposed on longer glacial/interglacial cycles. I hypothesize that, for some peoples, embodied human consciousness (EHC) is linked to the long-term climate cycles. The hypothesis states that the bimodal nature of EHC, with one pole in quantum wholeness and another in the brain, in conjunction with the human need for meaning, causes EHC to oscillate between two modes. During glacial periods the participatory mode dominates: one's self-identity and sense of meaning derive primarily from a felt sense of mystical interconnection with one's social group and the world. During interglacial periods an alienated mode becomes dominant: one's self-awareness is individuated, meaning is externalized and quantified, and one's sense of interconnection is weak. A strategy for breaking the hypothesized cyclic dependence of consciousness on climate is presented.

Last modified 03/16/02