A Thought Adventure

Monday, December 7, 2015

26. Newly Conscious Man

Awakening to a conscious apprehension of the world is no doubt a mixed experience. At the same time as their species has mutated into a smarter, more complex form of life than that of all the others, our forebears must learn to use faculties that up to now have lain dormant (like judgment, discipline and responsibility for the choices they make). Here they are, still part of earth and yet on a strangely elevated plane, forced to listen to a different drummer--one that no longer calls them to passive obedience but to sovereign action. And only now does it strike them, perhaps with the force of a sledge-hammer, how utterly dependent they are on guidance from outside.

The conscious mind also makes a rift in their sense of wholeness. Becoming aware of their individuality, and of two distinctly different sexual identities, forces them to leave behind their vertical and childlike bonds with mother.They must now establish altogether different, horizontal and more adult bonds with their peers.

In Genesis, this is metaphorically described as the Fall. Once their “eyes are opened” after having eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. Quite comically, the authors of the Old Testament, who can’t see Nature’s own plan in this event, make God into a petulant old patriarch, angry and vindictive for being deprived of his dictatorial powers. (Something that becomes even funnier when we realize that God is only a male counterpart to the ancient Great Goddess, in whose name the matriarchs are speaking.)

Need for guidance.
The time of miracles has given way, once and for all, to the time of human trial and error, and people are bound to feel both doubt and conflict. With their first glimpse of the inherent duality of things comes the suspicion that something else may be hidden behind appearances. Lost is all absolute certainty, vanished forever the conviction of doing things right. I therefore think that fear may be as normal in the psychology of newly conscious man as in that of the child: both feel small, feeble and helplessly dependent.

Assuming that the process of becoming conscious is first accomplished in the leaders, I think the population at large only learns about it by watching them and their novel and fascinating ways from afar. Even if the ordinary man is in awe of those favored few who get the first chance in history to exhibit a definite will, set their own goals and implement them, he most likely prefers to stick to the old, unifying Mother figure whose omnipotence he questions as little as an infant does its mother‘s.

But I also think that when finding themselves alone and without guidance in an unknown world, our ancestors feel an urge to overcome separateness--to somehow make themselves stronger by transcending their individual existence and achieve union with others. The birth of consciousness, I therefore suggest, is also the birth of our need for love, and the striving to fulfill this much overlooked--and as it seems forever unmet--need what history is all about.

Furthermore, I imagine that their subjects’ absolute trust in them inflates the leaders’ egos and tempts them to abuse it. Instead of encouraging the process of individuation I think the matriarchs decide to nip it in the bud. And--alongside their own fear--this attitude makes our ancestors succumb to what Neumann speaks of as uroboric incest, or the tendency of the budding ego towards voluptuous self-dissolution in the unconscious. Rather than seize the opportunity to exercise a will of their own, they choose to return to the womb and be dissolved in the union with Mother. (The uroborus, we recall, is a circular snake biting its own tail, an image used in mythology to symbolize wholeness, the first stage in the growth of consciousness.)

The desire of the leaders to deny their subjects the use of a conscious mind thus meets the need of the subjects to shrink from the responsibility entailed in it.

A still unanswered question
Can the lure of 'uroboric incest' be the ultimate reason why we still hold on to the childish belief that a supreme parental personality keeps the universe under control--rather than impersonal physical forces? And that it's this parent who fulfills our wishes, not we ourselves? Can it also be why many in the 20th century West rushed into totalitarianism (state communism, fascism, nazism) at the advent of democracy and the slackening grip of religion? Were freedom and autonomy still so burdensome that they had to flee into new dependencies and submissions? And is there even a similar need for outside assurances behind the current rush to immerse ourselves in new technologies and an unfettered consumerism? You tell me.

For a sum-up of the Malevolent Matriarchy (which I guess lasted anywhere from 3000 to 5000 years) and the marks it left not only on the male psyche but on all humanity, see next post.

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