Hope you don’t mind my diving right in, it’s a deep pool. Our grasp of the Universe boils down to three axioms; 1)The universe exists, 2)consciousness is our faculty of grasping that, and 3)in the process of that grasping we discover identity: that that which exists, exists as some thing and not at the same time some other thing.
Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.
They are axioms, because they can not be broken down any further, they are implied in everything you can say and do, and they can not be refuted without resorting to their use.
They are, and they are there at all times, no matter the state of Human development, they are the key foundations of the operations of our mind, and are beneath all we are and all we seek to be. Without the reality of this triune structure, nothing Poetic, Religious or Scientific, exists or can exist.
Human beings evolved in someway or another over the course of a million or so years, and for at least 100,000 years (probably more, but we have record to that point), we existed in recognizable appearance to modern humans. But that appearance, I believe, was a visual similarity only, inside, what makes us recognizably Human, as opposed to very clever and able apes, was not there, and would not be there, or at least appear and leave a recognizable trace of its development, until about 40,000 years ago.
It is from those literally unknown times, when humanity consisted of the associations of packs of clever apes, that is the level of humanity which is discoverable by, and no further, through studies such as biological and experimental psychology; stimulus response studies, the effects of synaptic responses – all very remarkable facts of our neural system, but they take us only up to and no further, than that level we reached in roving bands of clever apes about the savannah’s or wherever it was that we walked upon. The vaunted ‘discoveries’ of experimental psychology, or the stimulus response of ‘attitudes’ and ‘values’ as explanations of consciousness and psychology which Allotetraploid so enjoys, and which our moderns so proudly claim as new and ideal revelations of social evolution … are what we as a species overcame and left behind 40,000+ years ago.
The sad truth is that the so-called ‘Moderns’ are only the latest in Primitives.
What we recognize as Humanity, was created, was evolved, was brought into being – artificially, through our own conscious grasp of some higher abstractions, and when that happened, Then it
let there be light!
As light isn’t reducible to the components of a light bulb, they are only the requirements for it, life itself isn’t reducible to chemical reactions, chemical reactions are only the requirements for it. So too, consciousness isn’t reducible to life, life is only the requirement for it, and civilization and civilized people in the manner recognized, cherished and taken for granted by us, isn’t reducible to mere consciousness, consciousness is only the requirement for our civilized world to exist – it is not equivalent to it.
Somewhere between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago, something developed in humanity that was Humanity. I suspect that after our minds gathered enough words, possibly with the addition of (my unverifiable bet) past and future tense, but however the opening occured it, I suspect that it enabled our consciousness access to our full mental faculties and the ability to grasp our own thoughts, and the change that that wrought, in the lives of those who experienced it, must have made all of the changes and transformations we’ve seen in the last century pale in comparison.
At the risk of heresy, I don’t think that the distinctive feature of our brains that makes us us, is completely unique to us. Huh? There is no end to the ‘discoveries’ that scientists hungrily make almost on a daily basis that lab animals such as chimps hug, act for the benefit of others, ‘talk’, ’problem solve’, ’ count’, etc, but I think that while we do do those things better, it isn’t the doing of them that is unique to us, but the depth with which we can do them. The open-ended potential that allows unending self structuring is, I think, our trick pony. Our minds organization around concepts – created by, and representing not only what was seen in the world (but through our ability to intentionally create them) what is imagined internally, allowed us to see into reality and ourselves at the same time, it allowed us to organize information indefinitely, without being thrown by the shear size and quantity of information being dealt with.
This can sort of be seen at work by placing three manila folders upon a table, maybe labeled "Poetics", "Philosophy", Science" , they can easily be seen, reordered and opened via language, and even though each contains numerous papers and also contains several additional manila envelops, and within each, numerous more documents and numerous more file folders, etc, etc etc, they are easily grasped and manipulated through the use of the file within a folder within a folder structure. We can take this another step towards MS Windows, by placing on many of the folders, images, pictures to recognize them by, Icons – and add to that a myriad of seemingly incidental associations of memory & emotion, and we begin to see the structure of our unconsciousness as well, consisting of those ever-present, but not always seen, relationships.
So our mind not only had what must have been a very early invention of language, the ability to represent things, it also enabled us to discuss those things, not just in the flat fashion of papers horizontally strewn about the table top, but in depth, and with depth, arranging and grasping material Vertically at the same time they are ordered Horizontally. Grasping those three folders which are laid flat upon the table, is at the same time to grasp their contents in a vertical manner, and with depth readily available, deeper and deeper, as you grasp, discover, and look deeper into them. The process can, and perhaps does, go on infinitely, though no single mind would be able to grasp all of the detail, it is still able to grasp it all via the outer folders, conceptually, Vertically.
Something else this made possible, was the ability to not only tell about what was visibly seen, but to tell about what happened, in a way that included not only horizontal facts, but to pass on a Vertical sense, to convey a sense of actually having been there - to pass on a semblance of experience, that most difficult of attainments, via words in story.
Where prior to the Poetics of story, to teach someone to hunt, you had to have someone who knew how to hunt, had survived hunting, take someone with them on a hunt, to watch and memorize the steps of hunting. Because of the nature of hunting, the need for unobtrusive amounts of people, and people already skilled in silence, this meant that teaching someone to hunt was exceedingly difficult, and a proposition of years - and if the chain was broken - the teacher killed - life was a dangerous proposition always in jeopardy.
With the discovery of Story, suddenly massive amounts of information was able to be conveyed en masse, via the story, and the ability to convey the substance of those folders via campfires or mothers milk, enabled people to grasp reality, gain mastery of it, and to slowly create depth into themselves which matched that of how they managed reality.
That existence exists, grasping it is what our consciousness does, and what we grasp is not only what it is, but the act of bringing it into ourselves - recreating reality in all of its depths within us - enabled us to begin grasping the never ending information that is the world, and the never ending depths that is ourselves.
These stories gave us huge power to confront and dominate the world, and even gather an importance in many respects, more valuable to the growing community of people, than perhaps individual people might have to that community. In short, they were worth dying for, because they made living possible, and living for those stories, made your life potentially greater than it otherwise could or would be.
As these stories grew, and their file folders grew in quantity and depth, so did their ability to be contained within others, and eventually, I think, it became obvious that they should also be contained within One. The file cabinet of all that is, just as the three axioms are our grasp, irreducible to, but undeniably of, One world, they are our best grasp of IT ALL.
As our discovering and filing of files and folders deepens, WE came into being as the Humans which we would recognize to be Humans. We began to not only pass on those stories, but to identify ourselves as those who told particular types of tales, and we began to tell the story in ways other than only words, we began to convey them through actual physical imagery, through artistic objects, and finally paintings, such as in the caves of Lascaux.
I've heard it argued that what we are, now, today in the West, people with a grasp of Self, didn't exist a few thousand of years ago, does not in fact exist now in places such as stone age cultures of New Guinea, etc, or even five hundred years ago in the West... yet I can see that in many ways, it did exist with the Greeks of Aeschylus’s day or hundreds of years later in Rome with Cicero and Virgil and Livy - their stories, plays, philosophies, their deeper understanding uploaded into them the upgraded Human 2.0 program that was on a par with modern man – lacking only a service pack, and it seems to me, that one of the burning revelations of that service pack, Christianity, was that it pointed out the existence and importance of YOU, of a Self that exists within you and is important to a Greater Self within you.
To my way of thinking, WE, as humans, our self awareness, and grasp of ourselves and the world, does always exist, has always existed, even 40,000 years ago - but whose existence and realization is only implied within our structure. We are implications logical to developing from those three axioms, a One that isn't fully realized into us, until consciously brushed up against, dusted off, and clearly identified and practiced. Potentially, anyone at anytime can become all we are now, or will be 40,000 years from now (and probably with an equivalent rearview disdain) – if any community of infertile parents from our time went back 40,000 years and raised a temporally local children, they would match and be of the culture which the parents transmitted to them.
Break that sequence however, interrupt the transmission of those stories and manners, and the volatile RAM memory of Humanity 2.0 or Humanity 2.1 or some future cultural Humanity 3.0 – will be lost, the deep storied understanding which imbues us, defines and is defined by us - will be lost. When that identification, and system of filing and transmitting data and its relations which are conveyed and maintained through the structure of our stories - when that transmission breaks - then the upgraded modules and service packs are lost – or non-techily, the dust gathers again and the ancient structures and works of art recede into mere bumps and ridges in the landscape awaiting the spades and brushes of the critical awareness to reveal again the intricacies of finely wrought sculpture. Those who claim the Judeo/Christian self, but neglect the Greco/Roman – are less than they otherwise could be – they lack density, integration and substance.
As our identification of our ideational documents improves, and our ability to order, to disentangle our files and folders progresses, we better grasp the actual existence and structure of reality, and our internal ideal representation of it improves as well. Reason, in its pre-upgraded state, is the natural faculty or edge of cleverness, the stool that enabled us to rise over our fellow apes, and the rest of the animal world, it enabled our relatively frail bodies to exert our control over them. That natural ability in its raw state is the result of our physical development, the reality of our horizontally evolved selves, our stimulus/response, animal like natures. But in its original equipment form, it only comes with one leg.
It was not enough to lift us above that level. We, with the three legged stool of Reason we (can) enjoy today, is a creation of that poetic leap far above that of our clever one legged Reasoning forebears. Adding the Poetic leg to our stool enabled us to climb above the level of conceptual-auto-impressions and reflexive data filing and retrieval, to manually, conceptually creating and grasping the world into our imaginations, that has created Humanity, independently of pure nature. Any Wild Boy case history will demonstrate the truth of this. Without our stories, without the proper transmission of our stories, parent to child, community to person and person to community, we - the Humanity we know and love (!) would cease to exist, just as it ceases for any child raised without human interaction - we revert back to our natural state of clever animals, one with the forest about them and little or nothing of what we would recognize as Human within them.
We are creatures of self made soul, making use of cultural poetic shareware to import and inscribe ever more substance into ourselves. The better our stories not only convey all that our community is, but ability to understand and control reality, then it also enables us to understand each other and poetically evolve the structure and depth of our filing systems - and further develop newer and more consciously created and evolved understandings of ourselves.
Poetics were a fabulous benefit, but also a danger. The world is. We see it, we experience it. I reject the Kantian notion that we are ‘never able to grasp reality as it is”. Within the range our senses are sensitive to it, we get it wholly and completely as it is. We are not blind because we have eyes to see, deaf because we have ears to hear, ignorant because we have a mind to know. Yes, our perception of the world is within a defined range, such as our perceivable light wave range stops at the visible, to us, red range, yeah, true, true, but the very fact that we know that, gives truth to the lie that we can’t know it.
We also can assume through our poetics, there to be or not be additional facts and meanings which are not there accept within our assumptions. This is where the Greeks, as with Aristotle’s logic, made such a breakthrough – with it we could verify whether or not our senses and assumptions jibbed and was in fact, warranted.
The inestimable contribution of the Greeks advanced understanding of Poetics through Tragic Drama, Philosophy and History, enabled Humanity to make another advance outwards and inwards. The inestimable value of a formalized system of Logic as perfected by Aristotle, enabled huge advances, without that, we would not be. It gave us a way to not only deepen our filing systems via its natural iconic-imagistic filling methods, but to extend our self made evolution another level, giving us the ability to mark, identify, and cross-file our system of folders and files - to cross relate and self correct our system of filing and of thinking. The direct result of this, and that responsible for our modern world, was Science. Without that, we simply would not be.
The error of science however, is its tendency to think that IT is THE containing folder of our knowledge, rather than one of many contained within others – it is a way of navigating and ordering our system, it is not the system, or even THE way of navigating it. Sciences inability, or refusal to see, that it is even more artificial, and far more brittle, than the poetic iconic-imagistic organizing of our files, and though it can exist within our poetic filing system, can be secure in its more clarified grasp of reality, when it attempts to remove the imagistic stickers from our conceptual filing system, it doesn’t see that it removes with them their hidden image-mapped system of links and gno-how with which our stories create our culture, and then the order decays and that which keeps us together, which creates community, and which creates and orders ourselves, falls apart, the files are emptied into a flattened horizontal pile, nothing structured within anything else, and we fall apart.
Now, I don't say that early man, certainly not men 40,000 years ago grasped this, in this way or likely in any way similar, but I do believe that it is a natural implication of our minds, and the way we grasp reality, of our conceptual structure, that it is implied in our very being. It evidences itself to those who do, and who are capable of looking, and guided by that implicit structure, our knowledge is structured by, and reveals it, and us, to us, in every thought and idea we have. Even error, depends upon the same structure, and honest examination of reality, will eventually correct misapprehensions.
Our knowledge, reveals us to ourselves, and our relation to reality - and its reliability requires that there be a relation to how things actually are. Obviously, those file folders, and the documents within them, can be miss filed. People are free to mistake folders for files, and files for folders, and even insist on trying to scatter all upon the floor and deny the existence of the folders and their relation to themselves - but they can't do that without also using the structure and ideas which they are so busily rejecting.
Few things are more amusing than watching a mega anarcho-leftist consciously denying the existence of consciousness, declaring the invalidity of Logic, through the use of logical arguments, or declaring that "There is no such thing as Truth! It's the Truth! There is no Truth!" One is reminded of Monty Pythons skit from the Holy Grail, the Knights of Ni! locked into eternal damnation for hearing and saying the forbidden word "It"
Arthur: No, it is far from this place.
Knights of Ni: AAAAH! AAAAAH!
Head Knight: Stop saying the word! The word the Knights of Ni cannot hear!
Arthur: Oh, stop it!
Head Knight: AAH! He said it again! AAAH! I said it! OOOOH! I said it again! That's three "it"s!
...and so on.
In just such a way, they deny the existence of our way of knowing the world, of our way of knowing ourselves. They deny, and through that denial are perhaps no longer capable of even detecting, conceptual hierarchy, of higher Truth. They grab onto all the artifacts of modern Western Culture, the results of our long and deepward journey, and attempt to swing them about as if they can continue to work without their meaning being understood. As if something like a constitutional representative republic can endure without a firm grasp of all the facts and meanings resulting from three thousand years of discovery and understanding which went into creating it. As if creating laws which are unlawful, can long uphold a system based upon Law. As if an education that does not Educate, can produce a people civil enough to govern, when they haven’t been educated sufficiently enough to be able to stand on their own. As if they can make claims to higher purposes, without any regard for what is highest within themselves or within their culture.
Discard the religious, discard the poetic, discard the stories, discard the manners and civilities, discard the roles and habits of a culture – and you discard civilization. At that point you’d better be prepared to live contained within that stimulus and response world which will be all that remains of what once existed as this world. And it will remain to a new, and much later group of people to rediscover the implications of the existence we are conscious of facing.
The poetic doesn’t exist to tell us what to do, it exists to give us the perspective to be able to grasp the world and see for ourselves what to do. It is the space within which we think, and without which, our thought becomes cramped and lacking in depth. The poetic forms, the religious tales give a location for timeless consideration – they give a place for the establishment of that which will remain timeless to refer to and guide you for all your time. Without them, you are lost in the flatland of the moment.
At some point, for me at least, this contemplation of the three axioms, and of consciousness as such, it's singular existence above the flat material world, leads me to suspect that it doesn't only begin and end with our lives, but extends into our lives as the structure becomes able to host it. Life is, and consciousness is thickest where there is the structural depth capable of supporting that depth.
I suspect that Consciousness is like a light blazing outside of a ball, we are like pinholes that allow that consciousness to stream into the interior of the ball. Perhaps in some way that is ungraspable, as two dimensions are to one, three are to two, or some fourth or fifth dimension to our three dimensions, that ball is not only what radiates the light outward, but is the structure of the ball, an unending stream of light on the outward side, and penetrating into its center, through the openings of life….
Yes speculation, a poetic representation, a two dimensional sketch of a perceived three dimensional world to which we are blind to. But I swear… we do bump around in it, and though we can not see what we touch, it seems that we do sense something in that inner reach towards further inwards, it seems to me, sometimes it manages to reach outside the ball.
But here's what I also hasten to state. These reaches inwardly outwards, are experienced as individual excursions for private consumption and contemplation, describing as they do our personal experiences of that which we all can reach towards… but privately. They may be interesting – to me, but incomprehensible to you. They do not provide for the building of a common world. They are for our personal stretching of hands out in darkness to touch and feel, but as we can convey nothing but impressions of such a thing, and so it is for us alone. The poetic, the religious, is that basic distillation or thought and idea that can be communicated to, and grasped – by the outer folder – by all within a community, and with which each can grasp it in hand and as they are able, open up the folders, read what is inside, look into the inner folders, and the folders within the folders, and see their interpretations of the pinholes of light, in manners which seem sensible to them, while still being able to have a common communication with the others in their community and culture.
We discard those timeless structures at our peril.
Be that all as it may be, reality is, and our existence and betterment inwards and outwards, depends upon our clearly and honestly grasping and dealing with it. It requires that we identify and distinguish between our files and our folders, and that we not make the basic logical mistake, of comparing a document within a third level-in folder, with a first level folder, as if there were no folders separating them. A literal interpretation of the Bible or of any other religion or myth, does just this, and whether the error is made by believer or non-believer, it is just as much an error, wrong, and detrimental to all involved – a journey gone awry.
That such an understanding, and adherence to reality and its structure outside and within us, is not followed very often by either scientists, or religionists, merely means that we either do not yet have all of the materials gathered and identified necessary to easily understand it all, or we are engaged in too many other misfilings, so as to make as yet impractical all of the file managing, sorting and structuring that is necessary to be done, before we will routinely be able to make those necessary distinctions, and so cast disbelieving glances towards either form of the literalist statement.
Apocalypse, that dreaded foreshadowing which every culture and religion (consciously religious or secular) anticipates, the destruction of the world, is probably better thought of expressed as the destruction of the ‘Words with which we know’, and with the loss of the stories we know through them, the world we know would vanish and come to an end.
Ultimately however, I AM is implicate in the axiomatic triune structure of our brains, and given enough time, someone will become some One again, will grasp a higher level abstraction, and slowly, with their applied free will and expanded worlds of poetic story, civilization would eventually be reborn anew.
But eventually can be a very, very, very long time. Pull up a stool and have a seat.
In short, it is Still earlier than we think.