1. About the formation of human knowledge
1.1. The context
Notwithstanding what believers in empire say (1) we do not create reality. We have to discover it. In other words the reality of the universe is not a creation of humanity. It exists independently of humanity. At best we can weigh momentarily on its features and its working in our nearby environment but in the longer run even our nearby environments adjust to the working of the whole universe and erase what the vanity of empire builders forced them to build so laboriously.
Inaccessibility of reality to human reason.
We better recognize, early on, the fact that the whole universe is immensely vast; so vast that its true nature is inaccessible to human reason. Yes we can access parts of the whole but the whole itself remains inaccessible. To give an idea of what inaccessibility means I'll refer to the picture that follows. This picture is a visualization of our galaxy the Milky Way which contains an estimated 100 to 400 billion stars. The little red dot is what our eyes are able to perceive by an extraordinary clear night. Now add to this the fact that the Milky Way is only one galaxy among an estimated 100 to 400 billion other galaxies in the observable universe…
Try to imagine the enormity of these words and of this image by zooming - from the position where you are yourself - to the far reaches of the universe in the video at the end of this post.
Some scientists may posit that science will one day come to the end of its quest and will procure us the understanding of the truth about the global reality in which we are such minuscule particles. But the fact remains that the only possible materialist and rational understanding that is available to particles of an ensemble is a vision from the inside of that ensemble and we already know that such an internal vision is limited to abstractions of the internal mechanisms within that ensemble.
In light of this we know that science has still a very long way to go before it masters the internal mechanisms of the global ensemble that contains us. There is no way of knowing for sure if science will ever reach such a mastery. What is already a certainty is that the scientific method is constrained within the internality of what we call our universe. But what about the mind and consciousness of that ensemble and its interactions with other ensembles? This is a matter that is, as a logical proposition, inaccessible scientifically to the particles inside the ensemble. That's where the limitations of science are becoming crystal clear.
Science originates from the self of each observer placed in his societal, historical and geographical context. All that each observer can possibly observe originates from within his own self that is fashioned by his context. This means that this observation is tainted by the limitations of the self. Some scientists reject this idea as a matter of principle. But by doing so they transform their limited observing “self” into their limitless observing “ego”. The reality is that the ego and its pretensions of limitlessness is nothing else than hubris that originates in the ideology of individualism that was born with power societies and affirmed and expanded by Modernity. And so the idea of scientific limitlessness is merely an ideological illusion.
But science is only one method of knowledge formation among other. Could another method of knowledge formation have access to the universal consciousness and thus to what the whole of reality is all about? I hope I'll be able to address that question by the end of this chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge.
Societal approximations of reality
Inaccessibility implies the unknown and humans don't like unknowns. They have no problems with unknown "unknowns" for the good reason that unknown "unknowns" simply don't pop up in their consciousness but they feel utterly ill at ease when faced with known "unknowns" such as those nagging questions resulting from the inaccessibility of the whole universe to the human mind.
Such known unknowns become obsessions that drive people in the throat of anxiety from where they search to escape at all costs. This is how societal groupings, along our entire history, have been seen coming in the picture by proposing approximations of reality, and of what the unknown is all about, to be shared by their citizens in order to sooth their anxiety. When shared by all citizens such approximations crystallize in a societal view of the world or a worldview that all consider as being the truth of the matter and this rewards those societies with higher levels of cohesion which, in turn, facilitate their reproduction from generation to generation.
Such approximations are steeped in how we perceive the constraints imposed on us by nature and our cultural adaptations to those constraints as well as the entire gamut of ways of doing and thinking of a specie or a society. In other words societal approximations are derived from the knowledge available at a given moment in a given society and are then shared over the long history by the citizens of that given society.
Being a societal affair approximations are bound to be uneven, variating from place to place, and evolving over time. Since approximations are not the real truth, but merely scaffoldings of existing perceptions and ideas in a given society at a given time, we could imagine that there could be as many approximations as there are societies. But this would be ignoring the particularities of the path traced by societal evolution.
Power societies matured and solidified their institutional build up with the establishment of empires that imposed their axioms of civilization to their citizens (2). Empires eventually collapsed and in the space that they left open emerged kingdoms that shared the territory of the gone empires. Those kingdoms inherited the axioms of civilization formalized by the preceding empire and also its worldview. Axioms are for the most part acting as inherited truths in the subconscious of the citizens while the worldview is the object of their rituals, customs, and the principles guiding their daily cultural activities understood as all their ways of thinking and doing in the present (culture, economics, politics, etc…).
So different kingdoms succeeding a vanished empire inherited the same axioms and the same worldview. Over time, after centuries of autonomous societal life, their worldviews integrated those cultural memes appearing in their geographical and societal context that succeeded to stick from generation to generation. Memes are new cultural traits appearing in a society but only a handful of them are surviving over time. Those that succeed to reproduce over the long haul are integrated in the worldview of that society and doing so are imprinting in its substance new shades of colors, new sound vibrations, new ideas and new ways of seeing and doing that start to differentiate their society from the others within the realm of the same civilization.
So we have a bunch of countries in Western Europe which succeeded the Roman empire and shared the Christian Catholic worldview for the next one thousand years. Over this thousand years period cultural memes started to differentiate their worldviews. The Christian reformation and booming commercial capitalism reinforced that differentiation and the set-up of the institutions of their nation-states accelerated it further. Language-wise the Southern countries built upon their inherited Roman roots while Northern countries built upon their Germanic roots. But each country developed its own path within the realm of the Roman or the Germanic era. Today, after nearly 50 years trying to unify within the European Union, the 6 founding members, while sharing the same axioms of civilization and seeing reality through the same black and white prism, are still feeling different due to the cultural divergence that built up in their worldview along the last 1500 years.
A similar process unites North-East Asian countries that share the same axioms derived from the Chinese civilization, its worldview, and language. But since sharing the attributes of the same civilization many centuries passed that differentiated their worldview and language. Sharing the same axioms of civilization those countries at a deep level share a common vision of reality but the historically accumulated differentiation in their worldview is complicating their relations.
The long history of homo-sapients delineates two eras.
1. tribal societies - animism:
This first era emerged as the result of a more sophisticated socialization that erupted after the completion of the last mutation of the human brain roughly 150-200 thousand years ago. That mutation was initially set in motion by a process that came to be understood as “the social brain hypothesis” that was formulated by Robin Dunbar.
The social brain hypothesis implies that there is a relation between group size and brain size. Group size, it has been observed, is dependent on grooming that is directly responsible for increases in the cohesion of societal groupings. Anthropologists generally accept that grooming takes approximately 20% of the individuals' time. Grooming started as a one on one inter-play which only allowed for trust to establish among a narrow segment of people and as a consequence societal groupings were limited to small bands of families. With the emergence of language grooming detached from the one on one inter-play to address a growing number of people and as a result groups expanded.
This increase in group size necessitated larger resources to ensure the survival of its members and this produced like a call for the mating process to select higher intelligence as a surer path to ensure the successful gathering of the necessary resources. That evolutionary process ultimately resulted in the selection of larger brains with more computation power. The resulting mutation of the human brain provoked the expansion of the prefrontal neocortex that concluded some 200,000 years ago (3) shaping modern man.
This involved more particularly the expansion of “the frontopolar patch of the prefrontal cortex designated as Broadmann area 10 which appears to have more than doubled its relative size in Homo sapiens compared to earlier hominin species”. Broadmann area 10 is “implicated in a growing body of neurological evidence with planning, foresight, and judgment” (3). Furthermore that expansion of the prefrontal neocortex was accompanied by the many-fold increase in the number of Von economico cells (VE). “Woodward and Allman have written an extended essay laying out the evidence for the role of Von Economo cells and various PFC regions in producing the phenomenon we know as intuition, which they claim is a form of subconscious decision biasing based on tacit or implicit knowledge.” (3).
So it is observed that both the rational conscious thought process as well as the intuitive subconscious thought process were greatly boosted at the maturation of this mutation. As George Mobus states “H. sapiens developed much more complex and elaborate cultures subsequent to the expansion of BA10. In other words, humans demonstrated a tremendous enlargement of the context to which they attend and a greater capacity to explore new possibilities (technologies, invention, new territories, etc). With this expansion of context came a new demand for increased capacity to learn and use much broader tacit knowledge; to develop intuitions over much larger scopes of time, space, and conspecifics. And since this involves adaptive behavior, the complexities of how to model conspecific behaviors, how to anticipate their actions by anticipating their mental states, became extremely recurrent” (3).
What happenend 150-200 thousand years ago was a determining moment in the evolution of Homo Sapiens. The expansion of the neo-cortex in the human brain allowed for a more complex thinking to emerge. Humans started to abstract principles from observed trends in the realm of nature and their understanding of phenomena grew rapidly which pushed their language capabilities to increase in tune with their growing accumulation of observations.
This resulted in easier verbal exchanges that, in turn, allowed for grooming larger number of individuals and societal groupings went from small bands to tribes. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar who originated “the social brain hypothesis” calculated that the new grooming capacity, that had been facilitated by the expansion of the neo-cortex, eventually maximized the group size of tribes around the golden number of some 150 individuals (3). The passage from groupings in the low tens to an order of 150 individuals (average) allowed for more hands to satisfy the group's needs which as a result freed much of the individuals' time.
It is generally estimated that tribesmen devoted no more than 10 hours a week, on average, to what we habitually call work. Much of their idle time was reserved to grooming and feasts that assembled the community solidifying the feeling of togetherness while eating, singing and dancing amidst an accumulation of sacred visual signs.
The growing accumulation of observations by the tribesmen further stimulated their curiosity and, through a process that is still not understood today, tribes finally delegated the task of accumulating knowledge to a “man of knowledge” who would spend his entire time trying to understand the working of reality in order to service the needs of all.
It has been observed that tribal societies are similar in their functioning and in their belief systems all around the world. That does not mean that they were one and the same. The differences in their environmental contexts shaped different forms, colors, and sounds but the substance of their beliefs was based on the long haul observation of the rhythms of nature that are largely identical everywhere on earth and so the abstractions derived from those observations were largely of a similar nature: all particles in the whole were seen interconnecting among themselves, all particles were perceived as being animated by the energetic flow that powers the universe which gave its conceptual root to the tribal worldview or animism, the here and now was perceived as a constant transformation from one polarity to the other (day and night, white and black, etc…).
Tribesmen were inducing such conclusions from their observations of the rhythms of nature and those rhythms being similar around the world their conclusions naturally ended up being similar. That's how we can say that their worldview shared the same traits anywhere around the whole world. These largely identical conclusions formed the substance of a worldview known as animism or tribal knowledge (4). In small groups ranging on average 150 people (120 to 180) all individuals know each other which generates a very high level of trust between all of them and fosters a feeling of total equality. This focused the attention of all tribesmen to dedicate themselves entirely to the well-being of the group.
In other words the ego was an unknown quantity in tribal societies. The self was indeed entirely devoted to the well-being of the group. This was not selflessness. It was the self gladly devoting itself to the well-being of the group because the individuals knew for a fact that their own well-being depended on the group's well-being.
In such a societal set-up the knowledge necessary to solve any encountered problems was the responsibility of the tribal "Man of Knowledge" or shaman as he was called in Eastern Siberia. Men of Knowledge are initiated through many years of secret apprenticeship and later on add incrementally to their knowledge base the results of their own observation and experimentation.
2. power societies – ideologies
The second era of human history emerged as a result of a technological innovation. Agriculture emerged from the combination of favorable conditions that set in as a result of a warming climate that melted much of the glaciers. The ensuing freeing of the land, and the flowing streams of molten ice, created the conditions for rich soil deposits in the estuaries that would provide an abundance of food which allowed to feed more mouths which, in turn, resulted in an increase in population that, in the end, destabilized the functioning of tribal societies.
This chain of events broke the tribal golden number and this unleashed the necessity of new answers to manage the functioning of much larger groups. These new answers manifested as institutions of power with a chief at their helm.
The emergence of the men of power terminated the reign of equality that was the major social characteristic of tribal societies. Inequality was born and humanity engaged on a new path where the men of power associated their self with ego as in egoism. This was the initial step on humanity's path toward individualism.
During that initial phase individualism was reserved to the men of power and their entourage while the citizens were encouraged to continue to live in the animistic tradition. Such a state of affairs was reproduced over thousands of years till the formation of empires when the men of power selected one of the existing religious or philosophic worldviews to be shared by all in order to glue the citizens minds.
While the enforcers of the chosen imperial worldview continued to encourage citizens, to reject the accumulation of richness and obedience and submission to the men of power and the men of knowledge, the imperial worldview perpetuated the past notion of selective individualism based on the idea that the emperor was the earthly representative of God. In that sense the emergence of empires has to be understood as resulting from a control of the citizenry that was made possible thanks to the association between men of power and men of knowledge.
It took thousands of years of trials and errors for men of power and men of knowledge to understand that their association was a necessity to ensure the reproduction of the imperial institutions of power. Such an understanding eventually resulted in kingdoms and empires that reproduced from generation to generation. That's the moment when civilizations emerged to last. But it is important to always remember that before civilization emerged power societies had been on a chaotic journey thousands of years long.
The transition from tribal groupings without ego and without power to the institutions of empires that reproduced over time is a period of history that is very badly known. This is unfortunate because these were the years when people experimented with the roots of what would later shape up as the worldviews of empires.
The emergence of the written language is finally what allowed information to reach us. But written language appears only around 2500 BC in Egypt, Sumer, and also China according to the latest archaeological discoveries that give the origin of the Chinese language at approximately the same period. What this all means is that there is a black hole of nearly 8,000 years between tribal societies and what we know about power societies through written matters.
The functioning of tribal societies is by now quite well understood, if not in its detailed historicity, at least we know the big lines about how people lived and how they reasoned. But after power set in, sometimes around 12,000 years ago or eventually earlier as a direct result of a warming climate that created the conditions for agriculture to emerge, we are indeed in the dark.
From the get go we can say that, apart from agriculture as a new economic mode, the most important difference between tribal societies and power societies resided in the nature of their worldview. In the case of animism we know for a fact that it was derived from the working of nature and that animism was voluntarily adhered to by free tribesmen. In the case of power societies the worldview resulted as an evolution of ideas justifying power and the grab of such power by a tiny minority. The resulting worldview had to be imposed on the citizens by manipulation and ultimately by force. Such a worldview is best named an ideology. China was the exception to this rule as I explained in “From Modernity to After-Modernity. (he axioms of civilizations” 1, 2 & 3).
Another major difference between animism and power societies resides in their attitude in the face of reality. Animism was highly pragmatic in the sense that all tribal decisions originated in the observations of the elements around them. The same can't be said about power societies that were faced with the necessity to find a justification for the power grab by a minority over the great majority. How has power been justified to take over from non-power tribal societies? In other words how could people who lived as equals and took the group's decisions on the base of a unanimous consent agree to let go all of that for a master and slave relation?
The first answers we find come from written matters carved on stone and tortoise shells or painted on pottery some 4500 years ago at the earliest which is some eight thousand years after the power build up started. So these first eight thousand years of power societies is largely unknown territory. It is nevertheless when the debates about power, the formation of religious worldviews, and the differentiation between men of knowledge and “artists” took place. The first written texts relate to the state of thinking reached at the end of these initial 8000 years. But we don't know how these ideas came to be what they were.
In other words the vast gap between the worldview of animism and the worldview narrated in the first written texts remains largely unexplained.
Each specie dreams up its worldview
As we have seen the Men of Knowledge generate approximations of reality that they share with the citizens of their societies. The sharing of a common worldview has the particularity to foster higher levels of trust between the citizens which increases societal cohesion. It glues the minds which solidifies a feeling of togetherness that, in turn, unifies their society and ensures its reproduction from generation to generation.
Yuval Noah Harari speaks about this glue as the human faculty to dream the world: “Any attempt to understand our unique role in the world by studying our brains, our bodies, or our family relations, is doomed to failure. The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively. This mysterious glue is made of stories, not genes. We cooperate effectively with strangers because we believe in things like gods, nations, money and human rights. Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money and no human rights—except in the common imagination of human beings”(5).
While agreeing with his description of the human societal glue I think that Yuval Noah Harari's view is a product of anthropocentrism and in this sense his view blinds him from seeing the interrelatedness of all particles that make up the whole of reality. Humans are not the only ones to dream up their world. All living creatures are in this together with the same kinds of limitations and binded by the same kind of “rules of the game of reality”.
Dreams of different species take different forms than human dreams but, in essence, they tackle the same thing which is approximating the world and thus enabling the individuals to cooperate effectively in their societies. The crux of the matter, for any specie, is indeed to ensure the cooperation of the individuals in order to secure the reproduction of their society which is an imperative condition for ensuring the reproduction of the specie. As goes for any very complex system the first task of a specie is to ensure, first and foremost, its survival through reproduction and only when this is attained can the specie or the system strive for more complexity.
Reproduction and complexification are basic rules of evolution that life is programmed to follow. Those rules are inscribed very deeply in the DNA of each specie and there is no margin for their individuals to stray out of the path traced by their DNA. What I mean to say here is that biology trumps culture. Cultural endeavor is indeed limited by what is possible within the realm of biology. In other words a dead man does not participate in the culture of his specie.
What this means is that culture has to be understood as the societal ways of doing and thinking that arise in the context of the given biological evolution of a species. It is in the trumping of culture by biology that differentiations between species eventually take place. Each specie is indeed not at the same point on the evolutionary path of life. We have seen how “The social brain hypothesis” and the mutation of the human brain allowed human groupings to grow in size while gaining higher capabilities of planning, foresight, and judgment. Most other species are still far from having reached such capabilities which explains the huge cultural differentiations between humanity and most other species.
As I wrote here above “The crux of the matter, for any specie, is indeed to ensure the cooperation of the individuals in order to secure the reproduction of their society”. This is valid for all species because this principle is inscribed in the principle of life as one of its master rules. It is in the implementation of that principle that differentiations occur. The reason for such differentiations lays first and foremost in different biological build-ups between species that preordain their potential cultural range as if each species' culture, in its large sense, was contained within the parameters of their biology.
The same mechanism is also at work in the differentiation between human societies and explains why Western societies, for example, have industrialized and developed as service economies while the rest of the world follows them at a distance. It also explains why a country as China is beating the West at its own game. What I mean to say here is that power societies, since their emergence, have been building-up different cultural environments that preordain the implementation of their strategies to strengthen societal cohesion.
By cultural environment I mean the interactions between the axioms of a civilization, its worldview and its culture, in the large sense, to be understood as the entirety of individual behaviors in the present (cultural, economic, political,…).
It is undeniable that humanity has used, what since Early-Modernity has been called the arts, as instruments to ensure the cooperation of the individuals in order to secure the reproduction of its societies. Tribal societies initiated this societal functionality of the arts and power societies followed suit. The common usage throughout history was for the Men of Knowledge to glue the minds of their fellow citizens by immersing them into the arts.
The human specie uses art to share its worldview
Art is a Western European concept that originates sometimes during Early-Modernity and with it came also the idea that artists possess some magical powers. But those magical powers were nothing else than the monetary reward to motivate image makers to escape the clergy. The representatives of religion had nearly total power and used terror to frighten their subjects into submission.
Early-Modernity was indeed the time of the Inquisition when deviants were burnt at the stake. Under religious times image makers were on the lowest level of the social ladder and their function was to illustrate the religious creed. The irruption of merchants on the scene was not seen with a positive eye by the church. Merchants were indeed in conflict with the church, among other, about the new payment instruments of long distance trade and the church finally sanctioned banking as an forbidden activity for Christians.
In such a context the image maker took a high risk for accepting to enter at the service of the merchants to illustrate their new values. So to attract the interest of the image makers the merchants had to propose them sufficiently high remunerations that would compensate for what was perceived as the risk they were taking. The appearance, of the word art and artist and the exceptionality attached to the artist, has to be understood as a direct result of the vastly increased social status that the artist gained from those high remunerations.
With power societies image makers were considered craftsmen and were bestowed the lowest social consideration. As we just saw this miserable condition ends with Early-Modernity. But what about the condition of the artist before the emergence of power institutions under tribal societies?
The man of knowledge or shaman was the "author" of visual signs about the meaning of reality that he wanted to share with his fellow tribesmen who then "recited" those signs as decoration of their textiles, their cooking ware, their tools, etc... During High-Modernity the works of the shaman have been qualified as art while the recitation of the tribesmen were qualified as craft.
What is interesting here is that the avant-garde, not only qualified the shaman's visual signs as art but also was very much influenced by their “primitive arts”. It is as if the avant-garde had intuitively understood that the man of knowledge and the artist were one and the same in “primitive arts”. But this should perhaps not come as a surprise. Indeed did they not implicitly invoke the status of men of knowledge by claiming that the artist henceforth had to illustrate reality at a deeper level than what had been done in Early-Modernity or under religious time?
But alas, at the difference with the shaman, the members of the avant-garde were no men of knowledge and their adventure could thus only end in disaster.
From what we just saw, since their inception approximately one hundred thousands years ago, the arts were attributed a societal function and that function was to solidify societal cohesion. But that societal functionality of the arts was never talked about. It was something like a given, as if there was a tacit agreement, that never was conceptualized. I think this is the reason why the aim of Modernism was never really questioned. Searching to represent deeper dimensions of reality implied indeed that:
Let us just add here that all forms of art, visual – music – dance, were sharing the same societal functionality but each according to their own specificity.
1. visual arts = convey meaning to the brain
Our eyes are visual sensors that capture images of our near environment. Those images are immediately transmitted to the brain for processing. The brain extracts the meaning of those images and, if it feels that an action is required to protect the integrity of the body, it transmits orders for an appropriate action to our organs. This is how the mind grows its memory or its catalog of knowings (database).
From this database of knowings, and the memory of what actions work, the mind emerges as the consciousness of the self. The mind soon starts ordering the data according to its own emerging priorities. This is what engages the mechanisms by which a specie finally sets foot on the long path toward consciousness with its different and successive stages of depth.
Visual signs are captured by the eyes and transmitted to the brain for analysis. Very early on the men of knowledge discovered that this specificity of visual signs allowed them to transmit meaning to the minds of their fellow tribesmen. The understanding of this mechanism consecrated the creation of visual signs as the most potent tool in the toolbox of the men of knowledge. The creation of visual signs became indeed their preferred tool to share their ideas and concepts with their fellow tribesmen.
That's how visual signs are all about shifting meaning to the human brain in anticipation of triggering expected actions. Decorations of stone tools are the oldest signs that were preserved for our modern eyes to see. They date not far from 1,000,000 years. The next oldest preserved signs are decorations on jewelry dating some 100,000 years. Then come sculptures dating some 30-50,000 years and next are cave paintings; the oldest dating some 30,000 years. Finally the earliest preserved hieroglyphic forms of written language (visual signs) started to appear some 5,000 years ago in Sumer and in China.
It was also observed since the dawn of time that, to possibly work, the strategy of triggering expected actions from the community necessitated visual signs whose form was attracting a maximum of eyeballs. Various forms of visual signs are not equally attractive to the eyes. What attracts a maximum of eyeball was called beauty. That term only started to get negative connotations very recently. But the fact remains that the point of visual signs is to pass meaning to the mind with the hope to trigger a given response from the community.
Unfortunately nowadays advertisers understand this fact a lot better than artists or the professional art talkers. It was very early on discovered that the form of visual arts has to be beautiful in order to catch a maximum of eyeballs and the content of visual arts has to be meaningful in order for the brain to possibly grow its knowings and the mind to catch new meaning.
Viewers look elsewhere if the work of art fails the test of beauty and the hunger of their mind will not be satisfied if the work of art fails the test of meaning.
2. music = induce feelings and predispositions
Music does not address meaning to the mind as visuals do. Music manipulates the feelings or the minds of the individuals. In other words it shapes peoples' mood and inclinations.
The power of sound vibration is tremendous. It can displace matter and re-order it according to its rhythm and harmonics (5). Some specific sounds have even the power to break glass!
Science does still not understand what exactly is going on in our bodies when we listen to music but this is no sufficient reason to reject the intuitive idea that music interferes with our cells, the working of our organs and the circulation of energy throughout our bodies which is resulting in a manipulation of our mood, our feelings, and inclinations. The fact is that music has the power to bring us high or to make us cry.
So music should be seen as an exercise at “manipulating” the mood and feelings in order to drive the community on certain paths. Driving people on certain paths is the strategy here. The shaman used music to shape the mood of his tribesmen to go hunt, or to go fight, or to enter in communion, or to prepare to dance and so on and on. Music thus entered the toolbox of the men of knowledge as an incredibly powerful means to maximize the effectiveness of their society in a wide range of domains.
Music was later used by armies, religions, and other institutions of power to manipulate their citizens to follow what their men of power wanted.
3. dance = illuminate the mind to meaning
Dance is about accompanying people further down the path that they are being driven on by music. But more particularly dance is a tool to awaken the mind to the deep meaning of visual signs or abstract concepts. The ultimate destination down the path of dance is the unlocking of a special state of mind that projects flashes of light illuminating the deep meaning, of visual signs or concepts, in the mind of the dancer. Once arrived at such a destination dance completely numbs the mind to the contingencies of the here and now and frees it to navigate new dimensions of meaning, about the working of reality, that were hidden till then.
Observers merely see dancing evolving in a trance that ends in convulsions. The real action of dance reveals flashes of meaning in the mind of the dancer. This can't be seen by others; it can only be experienced by those who dance.
All worldviews have used dance as a means for their believers to be enlightened. As such one could say that dance is like surfing on the mood shaping power of music to reach hidden dimensions of reality that open the mind to the deep meaning expressed in visual signs.
The men of knowledge did not invent the arts. They simply observed that the individuals returned again and again to certain practices that made them feel good. Opportunism is what advised them to adopt those practices in order to implement their strategies. After practicing such strategies over more than 100,000 years the whole field of those practices gained like an entrancing effect on humanity.
It's always important to remember that these strategies were about satisfying societal necessities but today, in Late-Modernity, this knowledge is unfortunately largely lost.
The unevenness of worldviews.
Not only are approximations about the working of reality not the truth about what reality is all about they are also fundamentally uneven. By this I mean that some approximations are necessarily better than others and such unevenness results in some societies reproducing over longer time-spans than others which, without any possible doubt, consecrates the higher 'quality' of their worldview in comparison with other.
This suggests that we should be able to measure the effectiveness of approximations or worldviews at expanding the lifespan of their societies. We know that we can't possibly measure their effectiveness at describing reality as such since the true nature of the reality of our whole universe is largely inaccessible to human reason. This is where pragmatism jumps to mind. If we can't attain an absolute measurement we should nevertheless be able to attain a relative measurement allowing us to classify worldviews based on their capability to expand the lifespan of societies.
As I will develop along this series of posts about theory such a measurement should be realized according to a worldview's effectiveness at maximizing the following parameters:
The formation of knowledge originates with the Men of Knowledge.
In power societies this also supposes the adoption by the Men of Power of one approximation at the exclusion of all other and then its imposition to all citizens.
In what follows, based on the criteria of classification I gave here above, I'll try to compare the following approximations or worldviews:
1. non-power or tribal societies – animism
2. power societies – Mythos and Logos in China
3. power societies – Mythos and Logos in the West
1. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We're history’s actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” on "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush" by Ron Suskind in the NYT October 17, 2004
2. Axioms of civilization: The axioms of civilizations. 1, 2, 3
3. Mutation of the brain and emergence of homo-Sapient. Much of my presentation derives from the work of:
3.1. Robin Dunbar on:
- the social brain hypothesis (“The Human Story: A New History of Mankind's Evolution” and “Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language”
- the Dunbar number (see 6)
3.2. Georges Mobus on:
- the expansion of the neo-cortex
- system theory
* Principles of Systems Science. Publisher: Springer.
Authors: Mobus, George E., Kalton, Michael C.
* Check the links to The Science of Systems.
In summary the evolution of the human brain generates the answer to manage higher levels of complexity. This does not require a reorganization of every part of the existing brain. The older parts are retained while physical add-ons compute new functions. The neocortex is the latest brain add-on. “The six-layer cortex appears to be a distinguishing feature of mammals; it has been found in the brains of all mammals, but not in any other animals. … The neocortex increased in size in response to pressures for greater cooperation and competition in early ancestors. With the size increase, there was greater voluntary inhibitory control of social behaviors resulting in increased social harmony” in Neocortex, Wikipedia
4. Animism: The ideas expressed here are a condensation of my understanding of the works of Marshall Sahlins, Pierre Clastres, Robin Dunbar, Brian Ferguson, Jared Diamond and many others.
5. “Mythos & Logos: Two Ways of Explaining the World” by Randy Hoyt in “Journey to the sea”
6. Dunbar number. See From Modernity to After-Modernity (5) Animism
7. Yuval Noah Harari: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. Harper 2015.
8. The power of music
9. WaitButWhy: The Fermi Paradox
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