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Instances, Classes, See Also, Object in Names
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object:Maps of Meaning text
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MAPS OF MEANING:
THE ARCHITECTURE OF
BELIEF
ROUTLEDGE (1999)

Jordan B. Peterson, Ph.D.

PDF Version with Figures
May 2002


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PREFACE: DESCENSUS AD INFEROS ___________________________________________________________ 7
CHAPTER 1: MAPS OF EXPERIENCE: OBJECT AND MEANING ___________________________________ 15
CHAPTER 2: MAPS OF MEANING: THREE LEVELS OF ANALSIS__________________________________ 28
2.1. Normal and Revolutionary Life: Two Prosaic Stories__________________________________________ 29
2.1.1. Normal Life _________________________________________________________________________ 31
2.1.2. Revolutionary Life ____________________________________________________________________ 35
2.2. Neuropsychological Function: The Nature of the Mind ________________________________________
2.2.1. The Valence of Things_________________________________________________________________
2.2.2. Unexplored Territory: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology __________________________________
2.2.3. Exploration: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology _________________________________________
2.2.4. Explored Territory: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology ____________________________________

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2.3. Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience __________________________ 80
2.3.1. Introduction _________________________________________________________________________ 81
2.3.2. The Enuma elish: A Comprehensive Exemplar of Narrative Categorization _______________________ 93
2.3.3. The Dragon of Primordial Chaos ________________________________________________________ 115
2.3.4. The Great Mother: Images of the Unknown, or Unexplored Territory ___________________________ 124
2.3.5. The Divine Son: Images of the Knower, the Exploratory Process ______________________________ 145
2.3.6. The Great Father: Images of the Known, or Explored Territory ________________________________ 153
CHAPTER 3: APPRENTICESHIP AND ENCULTURATION: ADOPTION OF A SHARED MAP __________ 175
CHAPTER 4: THE APPEARANCE OF ANOMALY: CHALLENGE TO THE SHARED MAP _____________ 188
4.1. Introduction: The Paradigmatic Structure of the Known______________________________________ 189
4.2. Particular Forms of Anomaly: The Strange, the Stranger, the Strange Idea & the Revolutionary Hero 197
4.2.1. The Strange ________________________________________________________________________ 197
4.2.2. The Stranger________________________________________________________________________ 199
4.2.3. The Strange Idea ____________________________________________________________________ 201
4.2.4. The Revolutionary Hero_______________________________________________________________ 216
4.3. The Rise of Self-Reference, and the Permanent Contamination of Anomaly with Death ____________ 225
CHAPTER 5: THE HOSTILE BROTHERS: ARCHETYPES OF RESPONSE TO THE UNKNOWN ________ 244
5.1. Introduction: The Hero and the Adversary _________________________________________________ 244
5.2. The Adversary: Emergence, Development and Representation _________________________________ 247
5.2.1. The Adversary in Action: Voluntary Degradation of the Map of Meaning________________________ 256
5.2.2. The Adversary In Action: A Twentieth Century Allegory ____________________________________ 269
5.3. Heroic Adaptation: Voluntary Reconstruction of the Map of Meaning __________________________
5.3.1. The Creative Illness and the Hero _______________________________________________________
5.3.2. The Alchemical Procedure and the Philosophers Stone ______________________________________
5.3.2.1. Introductory Note ________________________________________________________________
5.3.2.1.1. Part One____________________________________________________________________
5.3.2.1.2. Part Two ___________________________________________________________________
5.3.2.2. The Material World as Archaic Locus of the Unknown _______________________________
5.3.2.3. Episodic Representation in Medieval Christendom ______________________________________
3.3.2.4. The Prima Materia _______________________________________________________________
5.3.2.5. The King of Order _______________________________________________________________
5.3.2.6. The Queen of Chaos ______________________________________________________________
5.3.2.7. The Peregrination ________________________________________________________________
5.3.2.8. The Conjunction _________________________________________________________________

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5.4. Conclusion: The Divinity of Interest _______________________________________________________ 346
5.4.1. Introduction ________________________________________________________________________ 347
5.4.2. The Divinity of Interest _______________________________________________________________ 353

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Figure 1: The Domain and Constituent Elements of the Known
Figure 2: The Metamythological Cycle of the Way
Figure 3: Normal Adaptation
Figure 4: Revolutionary Adaptation
Figure 5: The Ambivalent Nature of Novelty
Figure 6: Emergence of "Normal Novelty" in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior
Figure 7: Emergence of "Revolutionary Novelty" in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior
Figure 8: The Motor and Sensory Units of the Brain
Figure 9: The Regeneration of Stability from the Domain of Chaos
Figure 10: The Motor Homunculus
Figure 11: The Twin Cerebral Hemispheres and their Functions
Figure 12: The Multiple Structure of Memory
Figure 13: Abstraction of Wisdom, and the Relationship of Such Abstraction to Memory
Figure 14: Conceptual Transformation of the Means/Ends Relationship from Static to Dynamic
Figure 15: Bounded Revolution
Figure 16: Nested Stories, Processes of Generation, Multiple Memory Systems
Figure 17: The Constituent Elements of Experience
Figure 18: The Positive Constituent Elements of Experience, Personified
Figure 19: The Birth of the World of Gods
Figure 20: The "Death" of Apsu, and the (Re)Emergence of Tiamat as Threat
Figure 21: "World" of Gods: Hierarchical Organization
Figure 22: The Enuma elish in Schematic Representation
Figure 23: The Battle between Osiris and Seth in the Domain of Order
Figure 24: The Involuntary Descent and Disintegration of Osiris
Figure 25: The Birth and Return of Horus, Divine Son of Order and Chao
Figure 26: Voluntary Encounter with the Underworld
Figure 27: Ascent, and Reintegration of the Father
Figure 28: The Constituent Elements of Experience as Personality, Territory and Process
Figure 29: The Uroboros - Precosmogonic Dragon of Chaos
Figure 30: The Birth of the World Parents
Figure 31: The Constituent Elements of the World, in Dynamic Relationship
Figure 32: Novelty, the Great Mother, as Daughter of the Uroboros
Figure 33: The Spontaneous Personification of Unexplored Territory
Figure 34: Unexplored Territory as Destructive Mother
Figure 35: Unexplored Territory as Creative Mother
Figure 36: The "Heavenly Genealogy" of the Destructive and Creative Mothers
Figure 37: The Exploratory Hero as Son of the Heavenly Mother
Figure 38: The Metamythology of the Way, revisited
Figure 39: Castle, Hero, Serpent and Virgin: St. George and the Dragon
Figure 40: The Process of Exploration and Update, as the Meta-Goal of Existence
Figure 41: Order, the Great Father, as Son of the Uroboros
Figure 42: Explored Territory as Orderly, Protective Father
Figure 43: Explored Territory as Tyrannical Father
Figure 44: The "Heavenly Genealogy" of the Tyrannical and Protective Fathers
Figure 45: The Exploratory Hero as Son of the Great Father
Figure 46: The "Death" and "Rebirth" of the Adolescent Initiate
Figure 47: The Paradigmatic Structure of the Known
Figure 48: The Known: Nested Groups and Individuals
Figure 49: The Fragmentary Representation of "Procedure and Custom" in Image and Word
Figure 50: The "Dual Death" of the Revolutionary Hero
Figure 51: The Crucified Redeemer as Dragon of Chaos and Transformation
Figure 52: The Socially Destructive and Redemptive "Journey" of the Revolutionary Hero

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Figure 53: The (Voluntary) Descent of the Buddha
Figure 54: The World-Tree as Bridge between "Heaven" and "Hell"
Figure 55: The World-Tree and the Constituent Elements of Experience
Figure 56: Genesis and Descent
Figure 57: The Devil as Aerial Spirit and Ungodly Intellect
Figure 58: The Vicious Circle of the Adversary
Figure 59: The Constituent Elements of Existence, reprise.
Figure 60: The Emergence of Christ from Group Identity and Chaos
Figure 61: World-Tree of Death and Redemption
Figure 62: The Alchemical Opus as "Normal Story"
Figure 63: The Alchemical Opus as "Revolutionary Story"
Figure 64: The Wolf as prima materia, Devouring the Dead King
Figure 65: Dragon of Chaos as "Birthplace" of Christ and the Lapis
Figure 66: The Alchemical Opus as Myth of Redemption
Figure 67: The Restitution of [Christ] the Mystic Apple to the Tree of Knowledge
Figure 68: The Eternal Return of the Boddhisatva

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I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 13:35)

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PREFACE: DESCENSUS AD INFEROS
Something we cannot see protects us from something we do not understand. The thing we cannot see is
culture, in its intrapsychic or internal manifestation. The thing we do not understand is the chaos that gave
rise to culture. If the structure of culture is disrupted, unwittingly, chaos returns. We will do anything
anything to defend ourselves against that return.

... the very fact that a general problem has gripped and assimilated the whole of a person is a guarantee
that the speaker has really experienced it, and perhaps gained something from his sufferings. He will then
reflect the problem for us in his personal life and thereby show us a truth. 1

I was raised under the protective auspices, so to speak, of the Christian Church. This does not mean that my
family was explicitly religious. I attended conservative Protestant services during childhood with my
mother, but she was not a dogmatic or authoritarian believer, and we never discussed religious issues at
home. My father appeared essentially agnostic, at least in the traditional sense. He refused to even set foot
in a church, except during weddings and funerals. Nonetheless, the historical remnants of Christian
morality permeated our household, conditioning our expectations and interpersonal responses, in the most
intimate of manners. When I grew up, after all, most people still attended church; furthermore, all the rules
and expectations that made up middle-class society were Judeo-Christian in nature. Even the increasing
number of those who could not tolerate formal ritual and belief still implicitly accepted still acted out
the rules that made up the Christian game.
When I was twelve or so my mother enrolled me in confirmation classes, which served as introduction
to adult membership in the Church. I did not like attending. I did not like the attitude of my overtly
religious classmates (who were few in number), and did not desire their lack of social standing. I did not
like the school-like atmosphere of the confirmation classes. More importantly, however, I could not
swallow what I was being taught. I asked the minister, at one point, how he reconciled the story of Genesis
with the creation theories of modern science. He had not undertaken such a reconciliation; furthermore, he
seemed more convinced, in his heart, of the evolutionary viewpoint. I was looking for an excuse to leave,
anyway and that was the last straw. Religion was for the ignorant, weak and superstitious. I stopped
attending church, and joined the modern world.
Although I had grown up in a Christian environment and had a successful and happy childhood, in
at least partial consequence I was more than willing to throw aside the structure that had fostered me. No
one really opposed my rebellious efforts, either, in church or at home in part because those who were
deeply religious (or who might have wanted to be) had no intellectually acceptable counter-arguments at
their disposal. After all, many of the basic tenets of Christian belief were incomprehensible, if not clearly
absurd. The virgin birth was an impossibility; likewise, the notion that someone could rise from the dead.
Did my act of rebellion precipitate a familial or a social crisis? No. My actions were so predictable, in a
sense, that they upset no one, with the exception of my mother (and even she was soon resigned to the
inevitable). The other members of the church my community had become absolutely habituated to the
increasingly-frequent act of defection, and did not even notice.
Did my act of rebellion upset me, personally? Only in a manner I was not able to perceive, until many
years later. I developed a premature concern with large-scale political and social issues, at about the same
time I quit attending church. Why were some countries, some people, rich, happy and successful, while
others were doomed to misery? Why were the forces of NATO and the Soviet Union continually at each
others throats? How was it possible for people to act the way the Nazis had, during World War Two?
Underlying these specific considerations was a broader, but at the time ill-conceptualized question: how did
evil particularly group-fostered evil come to play its role in the world?
I abandoned the traditions that supported me, at about the same time I left childhood. This meant that I
had no broader socially constructed philosophy at hand, to aid my understanding, as I became aware of
the existential problems that accompany maturity. The final consequences of that lack took years to become

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fully manifest. In the meantime, however, my nascent concern with questions of moral justice found
immediate resolution. I started working as a volunteer for a mildly socialist political party, and adopted the
party line.
Economic injustice was at the root of all evil, as far as I was concerned. Such injustice could be
rectified, as a consequence of the re-arrangement of social organizations. I could play a part in that
admirable revolution, carrying out my ideological beliefs. Doubt vanished; my role was clear. Looking
back, I am amazed at how stereotypical my actions reactions really were. I could not rationally accept
the premises of religion not as I understood them. I turned, in consequence, to dreams of political utopia,
and personal power. The same ideological trap caught millions of others, in recent centuries caught and
killed millions.
When I was seventeen I left the town I grew up in. I moved nearby and attended a small college, which
offered the first two years of undergraduate education. I involved myself there in university politics
which were more-or-less left wing at that time and was elected to the college board of governors. The
board was composed of politically and ideologically conservative people: lawyers, doctors, and
businessmen. They were all well (or at least practically) educated, pragmatic, confident, outspoken; they
had all accomplished something worthwhile and difficult. I could not help but admire them, even though I
did not share their political stance. I found the fact of my admiration unsettling.
I had attended several left-wing party congresses, as a student politician and active party-worker. I
hoped to emulate the socialist leaders. The left wing had a long and honorable history in Canada, and
attracted some truly competent and caring people. However, I could not generate much respect for the
numerous low-level party activists I encountered at these meetings. They seemed to live to complain: had
no career, frequently; no family, no completed education nothing but ideology. They were peevish,
irritable, and little, in every sense of the word. I was faced, in consequence, with the mirror image of the
problem I encountered on the college board: I could not admire many of the individuals who believed the
same things I did. This additional complication furthered my existential confusion.
My college roommate, an insightful cynic, expressed skepticism regarding my ideological beliefs. He
told me that the world could not be completely encapsulated within the boundaries of socialist philosophy. I
had more or less come to this conclusion on my own, but had not admitted so much in words. Soon
afterward, however, I read George Orwells Road to Wigan Pier. This book finally undermined me not
only my socialist ideology, but my faith in ideological stances themselves. In the famous essay concluding
that book (written for and much to the dismay of the British Left Book Club) Orwell described the great
flaw of socialism, and the reason for its frequent failure to attract and maintain democratic power (at least
in Britain). Orwell said, essentially, that socialists did not really like the poor. They merely hated the rich.2
His idea struck home instantly. Socialist ideology served to mask resentment and hatred, bred by failure.
Many of the party activists I had encountered were using the ideals of social justice, to rationalize their
pursuit of personal revenge.
Whose fault was it, that I was poor or uneducated and unadmired? Obviously the fault of the rich,
well-schooled and respected. How convenient, then, that the demands of revenge and abstract justice
dovetailed! It was only right to obtain recompense from those more fortunate than me.
Of course, my socialist colleagues and I werent out to hurt anyone quite the reverse. We were out to
improve things but we were going to start with other people. I came to see the temptation in this logic, the
obvious flaw, the danger but could also see that it did not exclusively characterize socialism. Anyone who
was out to change the world by changing others was to be regarded with suspicion. The temptations of such
a position were too great to be resisted.
It was not socialist ideology that posed the problem, then but ideology, as such. Ideology divided the
world up simplistically into those who thought and acted properly, and those who did not. Ideology enabled
the believer to hide from his own unpleasant and inadmissible fantasies and wishes. Such realizations upset
my beliefs (even my faith in beliefs), and the plans I had formulated, as a consequence of these beliefs. I
could no longer tell who was good and who was bad, so to speak I no longer knew who to support, or
who to fight. This state of affairs proved very troublesome, pragmatically as well as philosophically. I
wanted to become a corporate lawyer had written the Law School Admissions Test, had taken two years
of appropriate preliminary courses. I wanted to learn the ways of my enemies, and embark on a political

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career. This plan disintegrated. The world obviously did not need another lawyer, and I no longer believed
that I knew enough to masquerade as a leader.
I became simultaneously disenchanted with the study of political science, my original undergraduate
major. I had adopted that discipline so I could learn more about the structure of human beliefs (and for the
practical, career-oriented reasons described previously). It remained very interesting to me when I was at
junior college, where I was introduced to the history of political philosophy. When I moved to the main
campus at the University of Alberta, however, my interest disappeared.. I was taught that people were
motivated by rational forces; that human beliefs and actions were determined by economic pressures. This
did not seem sufficient explanation. I could not believe (and still do not) that commodities natural
resources, for example had intrinsic and self-evident value. In the absence of such value, the worth of
things had to be socially or culturally (or even individually) determined. This act of determination appeared
to me moral appeared to me to be a consequence of the moral philosophy adopted by the society, culture
or person in question. What people valued, economically, merely reflected what they believed to be
important. This meant that real motivation had to lie in the domain of value, of morality. The political
scientists I studied with did not see this, or did not think it was relevant.
My religious convictions, ill-formed to begin with, disappeared when I was very young. My confidence
in socialism (that is, in political utopia) vanished when I realized that the world was not merely a place of
economics. My faith in ideology departed, when I began to see that ideological identification itself posed a
profound and mysterious problem. I could not accept the theoretical explanations my chosen field of study
had to offer, and no longer had any practical reasons to continue in my original direction. I finished my
three-year bachelors degree, and left university. All my beliefs which had lent order to the chaos of my
existence, at least temporarily had proved illusory; I could no longer see the sense in things. I was cast
adrift; I did not know what to do, or what to think.
But what of others? Was there evidence anywhere that the problems I now faced had been solved, by
anyone, in any acceptable manner? The customary behavior and attitudes of my friends and family
members offered no solution. The people I knew well were no more resolutely goal-directed or satisfied
than I was. Their beliefs and modes of being seemed merely to disguise frequent doubt and profound
disquietude. More disturbingly, on the more general plane, something truly insane was taking place. The
great societies of the world were feverishly constructing a nuclear machine, with unimaginably destructive
capabilities. Someone or something was making terrible plans. Why? Theoretically normal and welladapted people were going about their business prosaically, as if nothing were the matter. Why werent
they disturbed? Werent they paying attention? Wasnt I?
My concern with the general social and political insanity and evil of the world sublimated by
temporary infatuation with utopian socialism and political machination returned with a vengeance. The
mysterious fact of the cold war increasingly occupied the forefront of my consciousness. How could things
have come to such a point?
History is just a madhouse
its turned over all the stones
and its very careful reading
leaves you little thats unknown
I couldnt understand the nuclear race: what could possibly be worth risking annihilation not merely of
the present, but of the past and the future? What could possibly justify the threat of total destruction?
Bereft of solutions, I had at least been granted the gift of a problem.
I returned to university and began to study psychology. I visited a maximum security prison on the
outskirts of Edmonton, under the supervision of an eccentric adjunct professor at the University of Alberta.
His primary job was the psychological care of convicts. The prison was full of murderers, rapists, and
armed robbers. I ended up in the gym, near the weight room, on my first reconnaissance. I was wearing a
long wool cape, circa 1890, which I had bought in Portugal, and a pair of tall leather boots. The
psychologist who was accompanying me disappeared, unexpectedly, and left me alone. Soon I was
surrounded by shoddy men, some of whom were extremely large and tough-looking. One in particular
stands out in my memory. He was exceptionally muscular, and tattooed over his bare chest. He had a

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vicious scar running down the middle of his body, from his collarbone to his midsection. Maybe he had
survived open-heart surgery. Or maybe it was an ax wound. The injury would have killed a lesser man,
anyway someone like me.
Some of the prisoners, who werent dressed particularly well, offered to trade their clothes for mine.
This did not strike me as a great bargain, but I wasnt sure how to refuse. Fate rescued me, in the form of a
short, skinny, bearded man. He came up to me said that the psychologist had sent him and asked me to
accompany him. He was only one person, and many others (much larger) currently surrounded me and my
cape. So I took him at his word. He led me outside the gym doors, and out into the prison yard, talking
quietly but reasonably about something innocuous (I dont recall what) all the while. I kept glancing back
hopefully at the open doors behind us as we got further and further away. Finally my supervisor appeared,
and motioned me back. We left the bearded prisoner, and went to a private office. The psychologist told me
that the harmless-appearing little man who had escorted me out of the gym had murdered two policemen, in
cold blood, after he had forced them to dig their own graves. One of the policemen had little children, and
had begged for his life, on their behalf, while he was digging at least according to the murderers own
testimony.
This really shocked me.
I had read about this sort of event, of course but it had never been made real for me. I had never met
someone even tangentially affected by something like this; had certainly not encountered anyone who had
actually done something so terrible. How could the man I had talked to who was so apparently normal
(and so seemingly inconsequential) have done such an awful thing?
Some of the courses I was attending at this time were taught in large lecture theaters, where the students
were seated in descending rows, row after row. In one of these courses Introduction to Clinical
Psychology, appropriately enough I experienced a recurrent compulsion. I would take my seat behind
some unwitting individual and listen to the professor speak. At some point during the lecture, I would
unfailingly feel the urge to stab the point of my pen into the neck of the person in front of me. This impulse
was not overwhelming luckily but it was powerful enough to disturb me. What sort of terrible person
would have an impulse like that? Not me. I had never been aggressive. I had been smaller and younger than
my classmates, for most of my life.
I went back to the prison, a month or so after my first visit. During my absence, two prisoners had
attacked a third, a suspected informer. They held or tied him down and pulverized one of his legs with a
lead pipe. I was taken aback, once again, but this time I tried something different. I tried to imagine, really
imagine, what I would have to be like to do such a thing. I concentrated on this task for days and days and
experienced a frightening revelation. The truly appalling aspect of such atrocity did not lie in its
impossibility or remoteness, as I had naively assumed, but in its ease. I was not much different from the
violent prisoners not qualitatively different. I could do what they could do (although I hadnt).
This discovery truly upset me. I was not who I thought I was. Surprisingly, however, the desire to stab
someone with my pen disappeared. In retrospect, I would say that the behavioral urge had manifested itself
in explicit knowledge had been translated from emotion and image to concrete realization and had no
further reason to exist. The impulse had only occurred, because of the question I was attempting to
answer: how can men do terrible things to one another? I meant other men, of course bad men but I
had still asked the question. There was no reason for me to assume that I would receive a predictable or
personally meaningless answer.
At the same time, something odd was happening to my ability to converse. I had always enjoyed
engaging in arguments, regardless of topic. I regarded them as a sort of game (not that this is in any way
unique). Suddenly, however, I couldnt talk more accurately, I couldnt stand listening to myself talk. I
started to hear a voice inside my head, commenting on my opinions. Every time I said something, it said
something something critical. The voice employed a standard refrain, delivered in a somewhat bored and
matter-of-fact tone:
You dont believe that.
That isnt true.
You dont believe that.
That isnt true.

10


The voice applied such comments to almost every phrase I spoke.
I couldnt understand what to make of this. I knew the source of the commentary was part of me I
wasnt schizophrenic but this knowledge only increased my confusion. Which part, precisely, was me
the talking part, or the criticizing part? If it was the talking part, then what was the criticizing part? If it
was the criticizing part well, then: how could virtually everything I said be untrue? In my ignorance and
confusion, I decided to experiment. I tried only to say things that my internal reviewer would pass
unchallenged. This meant that I really had to listen to what I was saying, that I spoke much less often, and
that I would frequently stop, midway through a sentence, feel embarrassed, and reformulate my thoughts. I
soon noticed that I felt much less agitated and more confident when I only said things that the voice did
not object to. This came as a definite relief. My experiment had been a success; I was the criticizing part.
Nonetheless, it took me a long time to reconcile myself to the idea that almost all my thoughts werent real,
werent true or, at least, werent mine.
All the things I believed were things I thought sounded good, admirable, respectable, courageous.
They werent my things, however I had stolen them. Most of them I had taken from books. Having
understood them, abstractly, I presumed I had a right to them presumed that I could adopt them, as if
they were mine: presumed that they were me. My head was stuffed full of the ideas of others; stuffed full of
arguments I could not logically refute. I did not know then that an irrefutable argument is not necessarily
true, nor that the right to identify with certain ideas had to be earned.
I read something by Carl Jung, at about this point, that helped me understand what I was experiencing. It
was Jung who formulated the concept of persona: the mask that feigned individuality.3 Adoption of such
a mask, according to Jung, allowed each of us and those around us to believe that we were authentic.
Jung said:
When we analyse the persona we strip off the mask, and discover that what seemed to be individual is
at bottom collective; in other words, that the persona was only a mask of the collective psyche.
Fundamentally the persona is nothing real: it is a compromise between individual and society as to what
a man should appear to be. He takes a name, earns a title, exercises a function, he is this or that. In a
certain sense all this is real, yet in relation to the essential individuality of the person concerned it is only
a secondary reality, a compromise formation, in making which others often have a greater share than he.
The persona is a semblance, a two-dimensional reality, to give it a nickname.4
Despite my verbal facility, I was not real. I found this painful to admit.
I began to dream absolutely unbearable dreams. My dream life, up to this point, had been relatively
uneventful, as far as I can remember; furthermore, I have never had a particularly good visual imagination.
Nonetheless, my dreams became so horrible and so emotionally gripping that I was often afraid to go to
sleep. I dreamt dreams vivid as reality. I could not escape from them or ignore them. They centered, in
general, around a single theme: that of nuclear war, and total devastation around the worst evils that I, or
something in me, could imagine:
My parents lived in a standard ranch style house, in a middle-class neighborhood, in a small town in
northern Alberta. I was sitting in the darkened basement of this house, in the family room, watching TV,
with my cousin Diane, who was in truth in waking life the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A
newscaster suddenly interrupted the program. The television picture and sound distorted, and static
filled the screen. My cousin stood up and went behind the TV to check the electrical cord. She touched
it, and started convulsing and frothing at the mouth, frozen upright by intense current.
A brilliant flash of light from a small window flooded the basement. I rushed upstairs. There was
nothing left of the ground floor of the house. It had been completely and cleanly sheared away, leaving
only the floor, which now served the basement as a roof. Red and orange flames filled the sky, from
horizon to horizon. Nothing was left as far as I could see, except skeletal black ruins sticking up here
and there: no houses, no trees, no signs of other human beings or of any life whatsoever. The entire
town and everything that surrounded it on the flat prairie had been completely obliterated.
It started to rain mud, heavily. The mud blotted out everything, and left the earth brown, wet, flat and
dull, and the sky leaden, even grey. A few distraught and shell-shocked people started to gather

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together. They were carrying unlabelled and dented cans of food, which contained nothing but mush and
vegetables. They stood in the mud looking exhausted and disheveled. Some dogs emerged, out from
under the basement stairs, where they had inexplicably taken residence. They were standing upright, on
their hind legs. They were thin, like greyhounds, and had pointed noses. They looked like creatures of
ritual like Anubis, from the Egyptian tombs. They were carrying plates in front of them, which
contained pieces of seared meat. They wanted to trade the meat for the cans. I took a plate. In the center
of it was a circular slab of flesh four inches in diameter and one inch thick, foully cooked, oily, with a
marrow bone in the center of it. Where did it come from?
I had a terrible thought. I rushed downstairs to my cousin. The dogs had butchered her, and were
offering the meat to the survivors of the disaster. I woke up with my heart pounding.
I dreamed apocalyptic dreams of this intensity two or three times a week for a year or more, while I
attended university classes and worked as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on in my mind.
Something I had no familiarity with was happening, however. I was being affected, simultaneously, by
events on two planes. On the first plane were the normal, predictable, everyday occurrences that I shared
with everybody else. On the second plane, however (unique to me, or so I thought) existed dreadful images
and unbearably intense emotional states. This idiosyncratic, subjective world which everyone normally
treated as illusory seemed to me at that time to lie somehow behind the world everyone knew and
regarded as real. But what did real mean? The closer I looked, the less comprehensible things became.
Where was the real? What was at the bottom of it all? I did not feel I could live without knowing.
My interest in the cold war transformed itself into a true obsession. I thought about the suicidal and
murderous preparation of that war every minute of every day, from the moment I woke up until the second
I went to bed. How could such a state of affairs come about? Who was responsible?
I dreamed that I was running through a mall parking lot, trying to escape from something. I was
running through the parked cars, opening one door, crawling across the front seat, opening the other,
moving to the next. The doors on one car suddenly slammed shut. I was in the passenger seat. The car
started to move by itself. A voice said harshly, there is no way out of here. I was on a journey, going
somewhere I did not want to go. I was not the driver.
I became very depressed and anxious. I had vaguely suicidal thoughts, but mostly wished that everything
would just go away. I wanted to lay down on my couch, and sink into it, literally, until only my nose was
showing like the snorkel of a diver above the surface of the water. I found my awareness of things
unbearable.
I came home late one night from a college drinking party, self-disgusted and angry. I took a canvas
board and some paints. I sketched a harsh, crude picture of a crucified Christ glaring and demonic with
a cobra wrapped around his naked waist, like a belt. The picture disturbed me struck me, despite my
agnosticism, as sacrilegious. I did not know what it meant, however, or why I had painted it. Where in the
world had it come from?5 I hadnt paid any attention to religious ideas for years. I hid the painting under
some old clothes in my closet and sat cross-legged on the floor. I put my head down. It became obvious to
me at that moment that I had not developed any real understanding of myself or of others. Everything I had
once believed about the nature of society and myself had proved false, the world had apparently gone
insane, and something strange and frightening was happening in my head. James Joyce said, History is a
nightmare from which I am trying to awake.6 For me, history literally was a nightmare. I wanted above all
else at that moment to wake up, and make my terrible dreams go away.
I have been trying ever since then to make sense of the human capacity, my capacity, for evil
particularly for those evils associated with belief. I started by trying to make sense of my dreams. I couldnt
ignore them, after all. Perhaps they were trying to tell me something? I had nothing to lose by admitting the
possibility. I read Freuds Interpretation of Dreams, and found it useful. Freud at least took the topic
seriously but I could not regard my nightmares as wish-fulfillments. Furthermore, they seemed more
religious than sexual in nature. I knew, vaguely, that Jung had developed specialized knowledge of myth
and religion, so I started through his writings. His thinking was granted little credence by the academics I
knew but they werent particularly concerned with dreams. I couldnt help being concerned by mine.

12


They were so intense I thought they might derange me. (What was the alternative? To believe that the
terrors and pains they caused me were not real? Nothing is more real than terror and pain.)
Much of the time I could not understand what Jung was getting at. He was making a point I could not
grasp; speaking a language I did not comprehend. Now and then, however, his statements struck home. He
offered this observation, for example:
It must be admitted that the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious can often assume
grotesque and horrible forms in dreams and fantasies, so that even the most hard-boiled rationalist is not
immune from shattering nightmares and haunting fears.7
The second part of that statement certainly seemed applicable to me, although the first (the archetypal
contents of the collective unconscious) remained mysterious and obscure. Still, this was promising. Jung
at least recognized that the things that were happening to me could happen. Furthermore, he offered some
hints as to their cause. So I kept reading. I soon came across the following hypothesis. Here was a potential
solution to the problems I was facing or at least the description of a place to look for such a solution:
The psychological elucidation of [dream and fantasy] images, which cannot be passed over in silence
or blindly ignored, leads logically into the depths of religious phenomenology. The history of religion in
its widest sense (including therefore mythology, folklore, and primitive psychology) is a treasure-house
of archetypal forms from which the doctor can draw helpful parallels and enlightening comparisons for
the purpose of calming and clarifying a consciousness that is all at sea. It is absolutely necessary to
supply these fantastic images that rise up so strange and threatening before the minds eye with some
kind of context so as to make them more intelligible. Experience has shown that the best way to do this
is by means of comparative mythological material.8
It has in fact been the study of comparative mythological material that made my horrible dreams
disappear. The cure wrought by this study, however, was purchased at the price of complete and often
painful transformation: what I believe about the world, now and how I act, in consequence is so much
at variance with what I believed when I was younger that I might as well be a completely different person.
I discovered that beliefs make the world, in a very real way that beliefs are the world, in a more than
metaphysical sense. This discovery has not turned me into a moral relativist, however: quite the contrary.
I have become convinced that the world-that-is-belief is orderly: that there are universal moral absolutes
(although these are structured such that a diverse range of human opinion remains both possible and
beneficial). I believe that individuals and societies who flout these absolutes in ignorance or in willful
opposition are doomed to misery and eventual dissolution.
I learned that the meanings of the most profound substrata of belief systems can be rendered explicitly
comprehensible, even to the skeptical rational thinker and that, so rendered, can be experienced as
fascinating, profound and necessary. I learned why people wage war why the desire to maintain, protect
and expand the domain of belief motivates even the most incomprehensible acts of group-fostered
oppression and cruelty and what might be done to ameliorate this tendency, despite its universality. I
learned, finally, that the terrible aspect of life might actually be a necessary precondition for the existence
of life and that it is possible to regard that precondition, in consequence, as comprehensible and
acceptable. I hope that I can bring those who read this book to the same conclusions, without demanding
any unreasonable suspension of critical judgment excepting that necessary to initially encounter and
consider the arguments I present. These can be summarized as follows:
The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We describe the
world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however
myth, literature, and drama portray the world as a forum for action. The two forms of representation
have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have not yet formed a clear picture of their respective
domains. The domain of the former is the objective world what is, from the perspective of
intersubjective perception. The domain of the latter is the world of value what is and what should be,
from the perspective of emotion and action.

13


The world as forum for action is composed, essentially, of three constituent elements, which tend to
manifest themselves in typical patterns of metaphoric representation. First is unexplored territory the
Great Mother, nature, creative and destructive, source and final resting place of all determinate things.
Second is explored territory the Great Father, culture, protective and tyrannical, cumulative ancestral
wisdom. Third is the process that mediates between unexplored and explored territory the Divine Son, the
archetypal individual, creative exploratory Word and vengeful adversary. We are adapted to this world
of divine characters, much as the objective world. The fact of this adaptation implies that the
environment is in reality a forum for action, as well as a place of things.
Unprotected exposure to unexplored territory produces fear. The individual is protected from such fear
as a consequence of ritual imitation of the Great Father as a consequence of the adoption of group
identity, which restricts the meaning of things, and confers predictability on social interactions. When
identification with the group is made absolute, however when everything has to be controlled, when the
unknown is no longer allowed to exist the creative exploratory process that updates the group can no
longer manifest itself. This restriction of adaptive capacity dramatically increases the probability of
social aggression and chaos.
Rejection of the unknown is tantamount to identification with the devil, the mythological counterpart
and eternal adversary of the world-creating exploratory hero. Such rejection and identification is a
consequence of Luciferian pride, which states: all that I know is all that is necessary to know. This pride is
totalitarian assumption of omniscience is adoption of Gods place by reason is something that
inevitably generates a state of personal and social being indistinguishable from hell. This hell develops
because creative exploration impossible, without (humble) acknowledgment of the unknown constitutes
the process that constructs and maintains the protective adaptive structure that gives life much of its
acceptable meaning.
Identification with the devil amplifies the dangers inherent in group identification, which tends of its
own accord towards pathological stultification. Loyalty to personal interest subjective meaning can
serve as an antidote to the overwhelming temptation constantly posed by the possibility of denying
anomaly. Personal interest subjective meaning reveals itself at the juncture of explored and unexplored
territory, and is indicative of participation in the process that ensures continued healthy individual and
societal adaptation.
Loyalty to personal interest is equivalent to identification with the archetypal hero the savior who
upholds his association with the creative Word in the face of death, and in spite of group pressure to
conform. Identification with the hero serves to decrease the unbearable motivational valence of the
unknown; furthermore, provides the individual with a standpoint that simultaneously transcends and
maintains the group.
Similar summaries precede each chapter and subchapter. Read as a unit, they comprise a complete but
compressed picture of the book. These should be read first, after this preface. In this manner, the whole
of the argument I am offering might come quickly to aid comprehension of the parts.

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CHAPTER 1: MAPS OF EXPERIENCE: OBJECT AND MEANING
The world can be validly construed as forum for action, or as place of things.
The former manner of interpretation more primordial, and less clearly understood finds its
expression in the arts or humanities, in ritual, drama, literature, and mythology. The world as forum for
action is a place of value, a place where all things have meaning. This meaning, which is shaped as a
consequence of social interaction, is implication for action, or at a higher level of analysis implication
for the configuration of the interpretive schema that produces or guides action.
The latter manner of interpretation the world as place of things finds its formal expression in the
methods and theories of science. Science allows for increasingly precise determination of the consensuallyvalidatable properties of things, and for efficient utilization of precisely-determined things as tools (once
the direction such use is to take has been determined, through application of more fundamental narrative
processes).
No complete world-picture can be generated, without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one
mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains
insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of the mythological world-view tend to regard the statements of
their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical fact, even though such statements were generally
formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the scientific
perspective who assume that it is, or might become, complete forget that an impassable gulf currently
divides what is from what should be.
We need to know four things:
what there is,
what to do about what there is,
that there is a difference between knowing what there is, and knowing what to do about what there is
and what that difference is.
To explore something, to discover what it is that means most importantly to discover its significance
for motor output, within a particular social context, and only more particularly, to determine its precise
objective sensory or material nature. This is knowledge, in the most basic of senses and often constitutes
sufficient knowledge.
Imagine that a baby girl, toddling around in the course of her initial tentative investigations, reaches up
onto a counter-top to touch a fragile and expensive glass sculpture. She observes its color, sees its shine,
feels that it is smooth and cold and heavy to the touch. Suddenly her mother interferes, grasps her hand,
tells her not to ever touch that object. The child has just learned a number of specifically consequential
things about the sculpture has identified its sensory properties, certainly. More importantly, however, she
has determined that approached in the wrong manner, the sculpture is dangerous (at least in the presence of
mother); has discovered as well that the sculpture is regarded more highly, in its present unaltered
configuration, than the exploratory tendency at least (once again) by mother. The baby girl has
simultaneously encountered an object, from the empirical perspective, and its socioculturally-determined
status. The empirical object might be regarded as those sensory properties intrinsic to the object. The
status of the object, by contrast, consists of its meaning consists of its implication for behavior.
Everything a child encounters has this dual nature, experienced by the child as part of a unified totality.
Everything is something, and means something and the distinction between essence and significance is
not necessarily drawn.
The significance of something specified in actuality as a consequence of exploratory activity
undertaken in its vicinity tends naturally to become assimilated to the object itself. The object, after all,
is the proximal cause or the stimulus that gives rise to action conducted in its presence. For people
operating naturally, like the child, what something signifies is more or less inextricably part of the thing,

15


part of its magic. The magic is of course due to apprehension of the specific cultural and intrapsychic
significance of the thing, and not to its objectively determinable sensory qualities. Everyone understands
the child who says, for example, I saw a scary man; the childs description is immediate and concrete,
even though he or she has attributed to the object of perception qualities that are in fact context-dependent
and subjective. It is difficult, after all, to realize the subjective nature of fear, and not to feel threat as part of
the real world.
The automatic attribution of meaning to things or the failure to distinguish between them initially
is a characteristic of narrative, of myth, not of scientific thought. Narrative accurately captures the nature
of raw experience. Things are scary, people are irritating, events are promising, food is satisfying at least
in terms of our basic experience. The modern mind, which regards itself as having transcending the domain
of the magical, is nonetheless still endlessly capable of irrational (read motivated) reactions. We fall
under the spell of experience whenever we attribute our frustration, aggression, devotion or lust to the
person or situation that exists as the proximal cause of such agitation. We are not yet objective, even in
our most clear-headed moments (and thank God for that). We become immediately immersed in a motion
picture or a novel, and willingly suspend disbelief. We become impressed or terrified, despite ourselves, in
the presence of a sufficiently powerful cultural figurehead (an intellectual idol, a sports superstar, a movie
actor, a political leader, the pope, a famous beauty, even our superior at work) in the presence, that is, of
anyone who sufficiently embodies the oft-implicit values and ideals that protect us from disorder and lead
us on. Like the medieval individual, we do not even need the person to generate such affect. The icon will
suffice. We pay vast sums of money for articles of clothing worn or personal items used or created by the
9
famous and infamous of our time.
The natural, pre-experimental, or mythical mind is in fact primarily concerned with meaning which
is essentially implication for action and not with objective nature. The formal object, as conceptualized
by modern scientifically-oriented consciousness, might appear to those still possessed by the mythic
imagination if they could see it at all as an irrelevant shell: as all that was left after everything
intrinsically intriguing had been stripped away. For the pre-experimentalist, the thing is mostly truly the
significance of its sensory properties, as they are experienced in subjective experience in affect, or
emotion. And, in truth in real life to know what something is still means to know two things about it:
the first is its motivational relevance; the second is the specific nature of its sensory qualities. The two
forms of knowing are not identical; furthermore, experience and registration of the former necessarily
precedes development of the latter. Something must have emotional impact before it will attract enough
attention to be explored and mapped in accordance with its sensory properties. Those sensory properties
of prime import to the experimentalist or empiricist are meaningful only insofar as they serve as cues for
determining specific affective relevance or behavioral significance. We need to know what things are not
to know what they are but to keep track of what they mean to understand what they signify for our
behavior.
It has taken centuries of firm discipline and intellectual training, religious, proto-scientific, and
scientific, to produce a mind capable of concentrating on phenomena that are not yet or are no longer
immediately intrinsically [instinctively (?)] gripping to produce a mind that paradoxically regards real as
something separable from relevant. Alternatively, it might be suggested that all the myth has not yet
vanished from science, devoted as it is to human progress, and that it is this nontrivial remainder that
enables the scientist to retain undimmed enthusiasm, while he endlessly studies his fruitflies.
How, precisely, did people think, not so very long ago, before they were experimentalists? What were
things, before they were objective things? These are very difficult questions. The things that existed prior
to the development of experimental science do not appear valid either as things, or as the meaning of
things, to the modern mind. The question of the nature of the substance of sol the sun (to take a single
example) occupied the minds of those who practiced the pre-experimental science of alchemy for many
hundreds of years. We would no longer presume even that the sun has a uniform substance, unique to it,
and would certainly take exception to the properties attributed to this hypothetical element by the medieval
alchemist, if we allowed its existence. Carl Jung, who spent much of the latter part of his life studying
medieval thought patterns, characterized sol:

16


... the sun signifies first of all gold, whose [alchemical] sign it shares. But just as the philosophical
gold is not the common gold, so the sun is neither just the metallic gold nor the heavenly orb.
Sometimes the sun is an active substance hidden in the gold and is extracted [alchemically] as the
tinctura rubea (red tincture). Sometimes, as the heavenly body, it is the possessor of magically effective
and transformative rays. As gold and a heavenly body it contains an active sulphur of a red colour, hot
and dry. Because of this red sulphur the alchemical sun, like the corresponding gold, is red. As every
alchemist knew, gold owes its red color to the admixture of Cu (copper), which he interpreted as Kypris
(the Cyprian, Venus), mentioned in Greek alchemy as the transformative substance. Redness, heat, and
dryness are the classical qualities of the Egyptian Set (Greek Typhon), the evil principle which, like the
alchemical sulphur, is closely connected with the devil. And just as Typhon has his kingdom in the
forbidden sea, so the sun, as sol centralis, has its sea, its crude perceptible water, and as sol coelestis
its subtle imperceptible water. This sea water (aqua pontica) is extracted from sun and moon....
The active sun-substance also has favourable effects. As the so-called balsam it drips from the sun
and produces lemons, oranges, wine, and, in the mineral kingdom, gold.10
We can barely understand such a description, contaminated as it is in its entirety by imaginative and
mythological associations, peculiar to the medieval mind. It is precisely this fantastical contamination,
however, that renders the alchemical description worth examining not from the perspective of the history
of science, concerned with the examination of outdated objective ideas, but from the perspective of
psychology, focused on the interpretation of subjective frames of reference.
In it [the Indian Ocean, in this example] are images of heaven and earth, of summer, autumn, winter,
and spring, male and female. If thou callest this spiritual, what thou doest is probable; if corporeal, thou
11
sayest the truth; if heavenly, thou liest not; if earthly, thou hast well spoken. The alchemist could not
separate his subjective ideas about the nature of things that is, his hypotheses from the things
themselves. His hypotheses, in turn products of his imagination were derived from the unquestioned
and unrecognized explanatory presuppositions that made up his culture. The medieval man lived, for
example, in a universe that was moral where everything, even ores and metals, strived above all for
12
perfection. Things, for the alchemical mind, were therefore characterized in large part by their moral
nature by their impact on what we would describe as affect, emotion, or motivation; were therefore
characterized by their relevance or value (which is impact on affect). Description of this relevance took
narrative form, mythic form as in the example drawn from Jung, where the sulphuric aspect of the suns
substance is attributed negative, demonic characteristics. It was the great feat of science to strip affect from
perception, so to speak, and to allow for the description of experiences purely in terms of their consensually
apprehensible features. However, it is the case that the affects generated by experiences are real, as well.
The alchemists, whose conceptualizations intermingled affect with sense, dealt with affect as a matter of
course (although they did not know it not explicitly). We have removed the affect from the thing, and
can therefore brilliantly manipulate the thing. We are still victims, however, of the uncomprehended
emotions generated by we would say, in the presence of the thing. We have lost the mythic universe of
the pre-experimental mind, or have at least ceased to further its development. That loss has left our
increased technological power ever more dangerously at the mercy of our still unconscious systems of
valuation.
Prior to the time of Descartes, Bacon and Newton, man lived in an animated, spiritual world, saturated
with meaning, imbued with moral purpose. The nature of this purpose was revealed in the stories people
told each other stories about the structure of the cosmos, and the place of man. But now we think
empirically (at least we think we think empirically), and the spirits that once inhabited the universe have
vanished. The forces released by the advent of the experiment have wreaked havoc within the mythic
world. Jung states:
How totally different did the world appear to medieval man! For him the earth was eternally fixed and
at rest in the center of the universe, encircled by the course of a sun that solicitously bestowed its
warmth. Men were all children of God under the loving care of the Most High, who prepared them for
eternal blessedness; and all knew exactly what they should do and how they should conduct themselves

17


in order to rise from a corruptible world to an incorruptible and joyous existence. Such a life no longer
13
seems real to us, even in our dreams. Natural science has long ago torn this lovely veil to shreds.
Even if the medieval individual was not in all cases tenderly and completely enraptured by his religious
beliefs (he was a great believer in Hell, for example), he was certainly not plagued by the plethora of
rational doubts and moral uncertainties that beset his modern counterpart. Religion for the pre-experimental
mind was not so much a matter of faith as a matter of fact which means that the prevailing religious
viewpoint was not merely one compelling theory among many.
The capacity to maintain explicit belief in religious fact, however, has been severely undermined in
the last few centuries first in the West, and then everywhere else. A succession of great scientists and
iconoclasts has demonstrated that the universe does not revolve around man, that our notion of separate
status from and superiority to the animal has no empirical basis, and that there is no God in heaven (nor
even a heaven, as far as the eye can see). In consequence, we no longer believe our own stories no longer
even believe that those stories served us well in the past. The objects of revolutionary scientific discovery
Galileos mountains on the lunar orb; Keplers elliptical planetary orbits manifested themselves in
apparent violation of mythic order, predicated as it was on the presumption of heavenly perfection. The
new phenomena produced by the procedures of experimentalists could not be, could not exist, from the
perspective defined by tradition. Furthermore and more importantly the new theories that arose to make
sense of empirical reality posed a severe threat to the integrity of traditional models of reality, which had
provided the world with determinate meaning. The mythological cosmos had man at its midpoint; the
objective universe was heliocentric, at first, and less than that later. Modern man no longer occupies center
stage. The world is, in consequence, a completely different place.
The mythological perspective has been overthrown by the empirical; or so it appears. This should mean
that the morality predicated upon such myth should have disappeared, as well, as belief in comfortable
illusion vanished. Friedrich Nietzsche made this point clearly, more than a hundred years ago:
When one gives up Christian belief [for example] one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian
morality.... Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one
breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one
has nothing of any consequence left in ones hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know,
cannot know what is good for him and what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows. Christian
morality is a command: its origin is transcendental; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticize; it
possesses truth only if God is truth it stands or falls with the belief in God. If [modern Westerners]
really do believe they know, of their own accord, intuitively, what is good and evil; if they
consequently think they no longer have need of Christianity as a guarantee of morality; that is merely
the consequence of the ascendancy of Christian evaluation and an expression of the strength and depth
of this ascendancy: so that the origin of [modern] morality has been forgotten, so that the highly
14
conditional nature of its right to exist is no longer felt.
If the presuppositions of a theory have been invalidated, argues Nietzsche, then the theory has been
invalidated. But the theory survives. The fundamental tenets of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition
continue to govern every aspect of the actual individual behavior and basic values of the typical Westerner
even if he is atheistic and well-educated; even if his abstract notions and utterances appear iconoclastic.
He neither kills, nor steals (or, if he does, he hides his actions, even from his own awareness), and he tends,
in theory, to treat his neighbour as himself. The principles that govern his society (and, increasingly, all
others15) remain predicated on mythic notions of individual value intrinsic right and responsibility
despite scientific evidence of causality and determinism in human motivation. Finally, in his mind even
when sporadically criminal the victim of a crime still cries out to heaven for justice, and the conscious
lawbreaker still deserves punishment for his or her actions.
Our systems of post-experimental thought and our systems of motivation and action therefore co-exist in
paradoxical union. One is up-to-date the other, archaic. One is scientific the other, traditional, even
superstitious. We have become atheistic in our description, but remain evidently religious that is, moral
in our disposition. What we accept as true, and how we act, are no longer commensurate. We carry on, as if

18


our experience has meaning as if our activities have transcendent value but we are unable to justify this
belief intellectually. We have become trapped by our own capacity for abstraction: it provides us with
accurate descriptive information, but serves to undermine our belief in the utility and meaning of existence.
This problem has frequently been regarded as tragic (it seems to me, at least, ridiculous) and has been
thoroughly explored, in existential philosophy and literature. Nietzsche described this modern condition as
the (inevitable and necessary) consequence of the death of God:
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market
place, and cried incessantly, I seek God! I seek God! As many of those who do not believe in God
were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter.
Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he
afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances. Whither is God he cried. I
shall tell you. We have killed him you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this?
How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What
did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we
moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continuously? Backward, sideward, forward, in
all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we
not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all
the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the
grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of Gods decomposition? Gods too
decompose.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all
murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned
has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean
ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness
16
of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it?
We find ourselves in an absurd and unfortunate situation when our thoughts turn, involuntarily, to
consideration of our situation. It seems impossible to believe that life is intrinsically, religiously
meaningful. We continue to act and think as if, however as if nothing fundamental has really changed.
That does not change the fact that our integrity has vanished.
The great forces of empiricism and rationality and the great technique of the experiment have killed
myth, and it cannot be resurrected or so it seems. We still act out the precepts of our forebears, however,
although we can no longer justify our actions. Our behavior is shaped (at least in the ideal) by the same
mythic rules thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not covet that guided our ancestors, for the thousands of
years they lived, without benefit of formal empirical thought. This means that those rules are so powerful
so necessary, at least that they maintain their existence (and flourish, and expand their domain) even in
the presence of explicit theories that undermine their validity. That is a mystery and here is another:
How is it that complex and admirable ancient civilizations could have developed and flourished,
initially, if they were predicated upon nonsense? (If a culture survives, and grows, does that not indicate in
some profound way that the ideas it is based upon are valid? If myths are mere superstitious proto-theories,
why did they work? Why were they remembered? Our great rationalist ideologies, after all fascist, say, or
communist demonstrated their essential uselessness within the space of mere generations, despite their
intellectually compelling nature. Traditional societies, predicated on religious notions, have survived
essentially unchanged, in some cases, for tens of thousands of years. How can this longevity be
understood?) Is it actually sensible to argue that persistently successful traditions are based on ideas that are
simply wrong, regardless of their utility?
Is it not more likely that we just do not know how it could be that traditional notions are right, given
their appearance of extreme irrationality?
Is it not likely that this indicates modern philosophical ignorance, rather than ancestral philosophical
error?

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We have made the great mistake of assuming that the world of spirit described by those who preceded
us was the modern world of matter, primitively conceptualized. This is not true at least not in the
simple manner we generally believe. The cosmos described by mythology was not the same place known to
the practitioners of modern science but that does not mean it was not real. We have not yet found God
above, nor the Devil below, because we do not yet understand where above and below might be found.
We do not know what our ancestors were talking about. This is not surprising, because they did not
17
know, either (and it didnt really matter that they did not know). Consider this archaic creation myth
from Sumer the birthplace of history:
So far, no cosmogonic text properly speaking has been discovered, but some allusions permit us to
reconstruct the decisive moments of creation, as the Sumerians conceived it. The goddess Nammu
(whose name is written with the pictograph representing the primordial sea) is presented as the mother
who gave birth to the Sky and the Earth and the ancestress who brought forth all the gods. The theme
of the primordial waters, imagined as a totality at once cosmic and divine, is quite frequent in archaic
cosmogonies. In this case too, the watery mass is identified with the original Mother, who, by
parthenogenesis, gave birth to the first couple, the Sky (An) and the Earth (Ki), incarnating the male and
female principles. This first couple was united, to the point of merging, in the hieros gamos [mystical
marriage]. From their union was born En-lil, the god of the atmosphere. Another fragment informs us
that the latter separated his parents.... The cosmogonic theme of the separation of sky and earth is also
18
widely disseminated.
This myth is typical of archaic descriptions of reality. What does it mean to say that the Sumerians
believed that the world emerged from a primordial sea, which was the mother of all, and that the sky and
the earth were separated by the act of a deity? We do not know. Our abysmal ignorance in this regard has
not been matched, however, by a suitable caution. We appear to have made the presumption that stories
such as these myths were equivalent in function and intent (but were inferior methodologically) to
empirical or post-experimental description. It is this fundamentally absurd insistence that, above all, has
destabilized the effect of religious tradition upon the organization of modern human moral reasoning and
behavior. The world of the Sumerians was not objective reality, as we presently construe it. It was
simultaneously more and less more, in that this primitive world contained phenomena that we do not
consider part of reality, such as affect and meaning; less, in that the Sumerians could not describe (or
conceive of) many of those things the processes of science have revealed to us.
Myth is not primitive proto-science. It is a qualitatively different phenomenon. Science might be
considered description of the world with regards to those aspects that are consensually apprehensible or
specification of the most effective mode of reaching an end (given a defined end). Myth can be more
accurately regarded as description of the world as it signifies (for action). The mythic universe is a place
to act, not a place to perceive. Myth describes things in terms of their unique or shared affective valence,
their value, their motivational significance. The Sky (An) and the Earth (Ki) of the Sumerians are not the
sky and earth of modern man, therefore; they are the Great Father and Mother of all things [including the
thing En-lil, who is actually a process that in some sense gave rise to them].
We do not understand pre-experimental thinking, so we try to explain it in terms that we do understand
which means that we explain it away, define it as nonsense. After all, we think scientifically so we
believe and we think we know what that means (since scientific thinking can in principle be defined). We
are familiar with scientific thinking, and value it highly so we tend to presume that that is all there is to
thinking (that all other forms of thought are approximations, at best, to the ideal of scientific thought).
But this is not accurate. Thinking also and more fundamentally is specification of value is specification of
implication for behavior. This means that categorization, with regards to value determination (or even
perception) of what constitutes a single thing, or class of things is the act of grouping together according
to implication for behavior.
The Sumerian category of Sky (An), for example, is a domain of phenomena with similar implications
for behavioral output, or for affect; the same can be said for the category of Earth (Ki), and all other mythic
categories. The fact that the domain of the Sky has implications for action has motivational
significance makes it a deity (which is something that controls behavior, or at least that must be served).

20


Comprehension of the fact that such a classification system actually has meaning necessitates learning to
think differently (necessitates, as well, learning to think about thinking differently).
The Sumerians were concerned, above all, with how to act (with the value of things). Their descriptions
of reality (to which we attribute the qualities of proto-science) in fact comprised their summary of the
world as phenomena with meaning as place to act. They did not know this not explicitly any more
than we do. But it was still true.
The empirical endeavor is concerned with objective description of what is with determination of what
it is about a given phenomena that can be consensually validated and described. The objects of this process
may be those of the past, the present, or the future, and may be static or dynamic in nature: a good scientific
theory allows for prediction and control of becoming (of transformation) as well as being. However, the
affect that an encounter with an object generates is not a part of what that object is, from this
perspective, and therefore must be eliminated from further consideration (along with anything else
subjective) must be at least eliminated from definition as a real aspect of the object.
The painstaking empirical process of identification, communication and comparison has proved to be a
strikingly effective means for accurately specifying the nature of the relatively invariant features of the
collectively apprehensible world. Unfortunately, this useful methodology cannot be applied to
determination of value to consideration of what should be, to specification of the direction that things
should take (which means, to description of the future we should construct, as a consequence of our
actions). Such acts of valuation necessarily constitute moral decisions. We can use information generated in
consequence of the application of science to guide those decisions, but not to tell us if they are correct. We
lack a process of verification, in the moral domain, that is as powerful or as universally acceptable as the
experimental (empirical) method, in the realm of description. This absence does not allow us to sidestep the
problem. No functioning society or individual can avoid rendering moral judgment, regardless of what
might be said or imagined about the necessity of such judgment. Action presupposes valuation, or its
implicit or unconscious equivalent. To act is literally to manifest preference about one set of possibilities,
contrasted to an infinite set of alternatives. If we will live, we must act. Acting, we value. Lacking
omniscience, painfully, we must make decisions, in the absence of sufficient information. It is, traditionally
speaking, our knowledge of good and evil, our moral sensibility, that allows us this ability. It is our
mythological conventions, operating implicitly or explicitly, that guide our choices. But what are these
conventions? How are we to understand the fact of their existence? How are we to understand them?
It was Nietzsche, once again, who put his finger on the modern problem, central to issues of valence or
meaning: not, as before how to act, from within the confines of a particular culture, but whether to
believe that the question of how to act could even be reasonably asked, let alone answered:
Just because our moral philosophers knew the facts of morality only very approximately in arbitrary
extracts or in accidental epitomes for example, as the morality of their environment, their class, their
church, the spirit of their time, their climate and part of the world just because they were poorly
informed and not even very curious about different peoples, times, and past ages they never laid eyes
on the real problems of morality; for these emerge only when we compare many moralities. In all
science of morals so far one thing was lacking, strange as it may sound: the problem of morality itself;
what was lacking was any suspicion that there was something problematic here.19
This problem of morality is there anything moral, in any realistic general sense, and if so, how might it
be comprehended? is a question that has now attained paramount importance. We have the technological
power to do anything we want (certainly, anything destructive; potentially, anything creative); commingled
with that power, however, is an equally profound existential uncertainty, shallowness and confusion. Our
constant cross-cultural interchanges and our capacity for critical reasoning has undermined our faith in the
traditions of our forebears perhaps for good reason. However, the individual cannot live without belief
without action and valuation and science cannot provide that belief. We must nonetheless put our faith
into something. Are the myths we have turned to since the rise of science more sophisticated, less
dangerous, and more complete than those we rejected? The ideological structures that dominated social
relations in the twentieth century appear no less absurd, on the face of it, than the older belief systems they
supplanted; they lacked, in addition, any of the incomprehensible mystery that necessarily remains part of

21


genuinely artistic and creative production. The fundamental propositions of fascism and communism were
rational, logical, statable, comprehensible and terribly wrong. No great ideological struggle presently
tears at the soul of the world, but it is difficult to believe that we have outgrown our gullibility. The rise of
the New Age movement in the West, for example as compensation for the decline of traditional
spirituality provides sufficient evidence for our continued ability to swallow a camel, while straining at a
gnat.
Could we do better? Is it possible to understand what might reasonably, even admirably, be believed,
after understanding that we must believe? Our vast power makes self-control (and, perhaps, selfcomprehension) a necessity so we have the motivation, at least in principle. Furthermore, the time is
auspicious. The third Christian millenium is dawning at the end of an era when we have demonstrated, to
the apparent satisfaction of everyone, that certain forms of social regulation just do not work even when
judged by their own criteria for success. We live in the aftermath of the great statist experiments of the
twentieth century, after all, conducted as Nietzsche prophecied:
In the doctrine of socialism there is hidden, rather badly, a will to negate life; the human beings or
races that think up such a doctrine must be bungled. Indeed, I should wish that a few great experiments
might prove that in a socialist society life negates itself, cuts off its own roots. The earth is large enough
and man still sufficiently unexhausted; hence such a practical instruction and demonstratio ad absurdum
would not strike me as undesirable, even if it were gained and paid for with a tremendous expenditure of
human lives.20
There appears to exist some natural or even dare it be said some absolute constraints on the manner
in which human beings may act as individuals and in society. Some moral presuppositions and theories are
wrong; human nature is not infinitely malleable.
It has become more or less evident that pure, abstract rationality, for example, ungrounded in tradition
the rationality which defined Soviet-style communism from inception to dissolution appears absolutely
unable to determine and make explicit just what it is that should guide individual and social behavior. Some
systems do not work, even though they make abstract sense (even more sense than alternative, currently
operative, incomprehensible, haphazardly evolved systems). Some patterns of interpersonal interaction
which constitute the state, insofar as it exists as a model for social behavior do not produce the ends they
are supposed to produce, can not sustain themselves over time, or even produce contrary ends, devouring
those who enact them and profess their value. Perhaps this is because planned, logical and intelligible
systems fail to make allowance for the irrational, transcendent, incomprehensible and often ridiculous
aspect of human character, as described by Dostoevsky:
Now I ask you: what can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with such strange qualities?
Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing but bubbles of
bliss can be seen on the surface; give him economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to
do but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation of his species, and even then out of sheer
ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would
deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all
this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he
will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself as though that were so necessary that men
still are men and not the keys of a piano, which the laws of nature threaten to control so completely that
soon one will be able to desire nothing but by the calendar.
And that is not all: even if man really were nothing but a piano-key, even if this were proved to him
by natural science and mathematics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would purposely do
something perverse out of simple ingratitude, simply to gain his point. And if he does not find means he
will contrive destruction and chaos, will contrive sufferings of all sorts, only to gain his point! He will
launch a curse upon the world, and as only man can curse (it is his privilege, the primary distinction
between him and other animals), may be by his curse alone he will attain his object - that is, convince
himself that he is a man and not a piano-key! If you say that all this, too, can be calculated and
tabulated, chaos and darkness and curses, so that the mere possibility of calculating it all beforehand

22


would stop it all, and reason would reassert itself, then man would purposely go mad in order to be rid
of reason and gain his point! I believe in it, I answer for it, for the whole work of man really seems to
consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key! It may be at
the cost of his skin, it may be by cannibalism! And this being so, can one help being tempted to rejoice
that it has not yet come off, and that desire still depends on something we dont know?21
We also presently possess in accessible and complete form the traditional wisdom of a large part of the
human race possess accurate description of the myths and rituals that contain and condition the implicit
and explicit values of almost everyone who has ever lived. These myths are centrally and properly
concerned with the nature of successful human existence. Careful comparative analysis of this great body
of religious philosophy might allow us to provisionally determine the nature of essential human motivation
and morality if we were willing to admit our ignorance, and take the risk. Accurate specification of
underlying mythological commonalities might comprise the first developmental stage in the conscious
evolution of a truly universal system of morality. The establishment of such a system, acceptable to
empirical and religious minds alike, could prove of incalculable aid in the reduction of intrapsychic, interindividual and intergroup conflict. The grounding of such a comparative analysis within a psychology (or
even a neuropsychology) informed by strict empirical research might offer us the possibility of a form of
convergent validation, and help us overcome the age-old problem of deriving the ought from the is; help us
see how what we must do might be inextricably associated with what it is that we are.
Proper analysis of mythology, of the type proposed here, is not mere discussion of historical events
enacted upon the world stage (as the traditionally religious might have it), and it is not mere investigation
of primitive belief (as the traditionally scientific might presume). It is, instead, the examination, analysis
and subsequent incorporation of an edifice of meaning, which contains within it hierarchical organization
of experiential valence. The mythic imagination is concerned with the world in the manner of the
phenomenologist, who seeks to discover the nature of subjective reality, instead of concerning himself with
description of the objective world. Myth, and the drama that is part of myth, provide answers in image to
the following question: how can the current state of experience be conceptualized in abstraction, with
regards to its meaning? [which means its (subjective, biologically-predicated, socially-constructed)
emotional relevance or motivational significance]. Meaning means implication for behavioral output;
logically, therefore, myth presents information relevant to the most fundamental of moral problems: what
should be? (what should be done?) The desirable future (the object of what should be) can only be
conceptualized in relationship to the present, which serves at least as a necessary point of contrast and
comparison. To get somewhere in the future presupposes being somewhere in the present; furthermore, the
desirability of the place travelled to depends on the valence of the place vacated. The question of what
should be? (what line should be travelled?) therefore has contained within it, so to speak, three
subqueries, which might be formulated as follows:
1) what is? what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience?
2) what should be? to what (desirable, valuable) end should that state be moving?
3) how should we therefore act? what is the nature of the specific processes by which the present state
might be transformed into that which is desired?
Active apprehension of the goal of behavior, conceptualized in relationship to the interpreted present,
serves to constrain or provide determinate framework for the evaluation of ongoing events, which emerge
as a consequence of current behavior. The goal is an imaginary state, consisting of a place of desirable
motivation or affect is a state that only exists in fantasy, as something (potentially) preferable to the
present. (Construction of the goal therefore means establishment of a theory about the ideal relative status
of motivational states about the good.) This imagined future constitutes a vision of perfection, so to
speak, generated in the light of all current knowledge (at least under optimal conditions), to which specific
and general aspects of ongoing experience are continually compared. This vision of perfection is the
promised land, mythologically speaking conceptualized as a spiritual domain (a psychological state), a
political utopia (a state, literally speaking), or both, simultaneously.
We answer the question what should be? by formulating an image of the desired future.

23


We cannot conceive of that future, except in relationship to the (interpreted) present and it is our
interpretation of the emotional acceptability of the present that comprises our answer to the question what
is? [what is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience?].
We answer the question how then should we act? by determining the most efficient and self-consistent
strategy, all things considered, for bringing the preferred future into being.

What
SHOULD BE
ct
ct
ct
A
A
A
d
d
l
l
ou Shou hould
h
S
S
e
e
e
W
W
W
w
w
Ho How
Ho

What
IS
Figure 1: The Domain and Constituent Elements of the Known.
Our answers to these three fundamental questions modified and constructed in the course of our social
interactions constitutes our knowledge, insofar as it has any behavioral relevance; constitutes our
knowledge, from the mythological perspective. The structure of the mythic known what is, what should
be, and how to get from one to the other is presented in Figure 1: The Domain and Constituent
Elements of the Known.
The known is explored territory, a place of stability and familiarity is the city of God, as profanely
realized. It finds metaphorical embodiment in myths and narratives describing the community, the
kingdom, or the state. Such myths and narratives guide our ability to understand the particular, bounded
motivational significance of the present, experienced in relation to some identifiable desired future, and
allow us to construct and interpret appropriate patterns of action, from within the confines of that schema.
We all produce determinate models of what is, and what should be, and how to transform one into the
other. We produce these models by balancing our own desires, as they find expression in fantasy and
action, with with those of the others individual, families and communities that we habitually encounter.
How to act, constitutes the most essential aspect of the social contract; the domain of the known is,
therefore, the territory we inhabit with all those who share our implicit and explicit traditions and beliefs.

24


Myths describe the existence of this shared and determinate territory as a fixed aspect of existence
which it is, as the fact of culture is an unchanging aspect of the human environment.
Narratives of the known patriotic rituals, stories of ancestral heroes, myths and symbols of cultural
or racial identity describe established territory, weaving for us a web of meaning that, shared with others,
eliminates the necessity of dispute over meaning. All those who know the rules, and accept them, can play
the game without fighting over the rules of the game. This makes for peace, stability, and potential
prosperity a good game. The good, however, is the enemy of the better; a more compelling game might
always exist. Myth portrays what is known, and performs a function that if limited to that, might be
regarded as paramount in importance. But myth also presents information that is far more profound
almost unutterably so, once (I would argue) properly understood. We all produce models of what is, and
what should be, and how to transform one into the other. We change our behavior, when the consequences
of that behavior are not what we would like. But sometimes mere alteration in behavior is insufficient. We
must change not only what we do, but what we think is important. This means reconsideration of the nature
of the motivational significance of the present, and reconsideration of the ideal nature of the future. This is
a radical, even revolutionary transformation, and it is a very complex process in its realization but mythic
thinking has represented the nature of such change in great and remarkable detail.
The basic grammatical structure of transformational mythology, so to speak, appears most clearly
revealed in the form of the way (as in the American Way of Life). The great literary critic Northrop
Frye comments upon the idea of the way, as it manifests itself in literature and religious writing:
Following a narrative is closely connected with the central literary metaphor of the journey, where we
have a person making the journey and the road, path, or direction taken, the simplest word for this being
way. Journey is a word connected with jour and journee, and metaphorical journeys, deriving as they
mostly do from slower methods of getting around, usually have at their core the conception of the days
journey, the amount of space we can cover under the cycle of the sun. By a very easy extension of
metaphor we get the days cycle as a symbol for the whole of life. Thus in Housmans poem Reveille
(Up, lad: when the journeys over/ Therell be time enough to sleep) the awakening in the morning is
a metaphor of continuing the journey of life, a journey ending in death. The prototype for the image is
the Book of Ecclesiastes, which urges us to work while it is day, before the night comes when no man
can work....
The word way is a good example of the extent to which language is built up on a series of
metaphorical analogies. The most common meaning of way in English is a method or manner of
procedure, but method and manner imply some sequential repetition, and the repetition brings us to the
metaphorical kernel of a road or path.... In the Bible way normally translates the Hebrew derek and the
Greek hodos, and throughout the Bible there is a strong emphasis on the contrast between a straight way
that takes us to our destination and a divergent way that misleads or confuses. This metaphorical
contrast haunts the whole of Christian literature: we start reading Dantes Commedia, and the third line
speaks of a lost or erased way: Che la diritta via era smarita. Other religions have the same metaphor:
Buddhism speaks of what is usually called in English an eightfold path. In Chinese Taoism the Tao is
usually also rendered way by Arthur Waley and others, though I understand that the character
representing the word is formed of radicals meaning something like head-going. The sacred book of
Taoism, the Tao te Ching, begins by saying that the Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao: in
other words we are being warned to beware of the traps in metaphorical language, or, in a common
Oriental phrase, of confusing the moon with the finger pointing at it. But as we read on we find that the
Tao can, after all, be to some extent characterized: the way is specifically the way of the valley, the
direction taken by humility, self-effacement, and the kind of relaxation, or non-action, that makes all
action effective.22
The way is the path of life, and its purpose.23 More accurately, the content of the way is the specific path
of life. The form of the way, its most fundamental aspect, is the apparently intrinsic or heritable possibility
of positing or of being guided by a central idea. This apparently intrinsic form finds its expression in the
tendency of each individual, generation after generation, to first ask and subsequently seek an answer to the
question what is the meaning of life?

25


The central notion of the way underlies manifestation of four more specific myths, or classes of myths,
and provides a more complete answer, in dramatic form, to the three questions posed previously [what is
the nature (meaning, the significance) of current being?, to what (desirable) end should that state be
moving? and, finally, what are the processes by which the present state might be transformed into that
which is desired?] The four classes include:
(1) Myths describing a current or pre-existent stable state (sometimes a paradise, sometimes a tyranny);
(2) Myths describing the emergence of something anomalous, unexpected, threatening and promising
into this initial state;
(3) Myths describing the dissolution of the pre-existent stable state into chaos, as a consequence of the
anomalous or unexpected occurrence;
(4) Myths describing the regeneration of stability [paradise regained (or, tyranny regenerated)], from the
chaotic mixture of dissolute previous experience and anomalous information.

What
SHOULD BE

What
SHOULD BE

t
ct
ct
Ac
ld A ould uld A
u
o
h
o
h
e S e Sh
eS
w W ow W ow W
o
H
H
H

t
ct
ct
Ac
ld A ould uld A
u
o
h
o
h
e S e Sh
eS
w W ow W ow W
o
H
H
H

What
IS

int
De egra
sce tion
An
o
nt
m
Inf
orm alou
ati s
on

Re

Dis

int
e
As gra
ce tio
nt n

What
IS

CHAOS:
The Unknown

Figure 2: The Metamythological Cycle of the Way
The meta-mythology of the way, so to speak, describes the manner in which specific ideas (myths)
about the present, the future, and the mode of transforming one into the other are initially constructed, and
then reconstructed, in their entirety, when that becomes necessary. The traditional Christian (and not just
Christian) notion that man has fallen from an original state of grace into his current morally degenerate
and emotionally unbearable condition accompanied by a desire for the return to Paradise constitutes a
single example of this meta-myth. Christian morality can therefore be reasonably regarded as the plan of
action whose aim is re-establishment, or establishment, or attainment (sometimes in the hereafter) of the

26


kingdom of God, the ideal future. The idea that man needs redemption and that re-establishment of a
long-lost Paradise might constitute such redemption appear as common themes of mythology, among
members of exceedingly diverse and long-separated human cultures.24 This commonality appears because
man, eternally self-conscious, suffers eternally from his existence, and constantly longs for respite.
Figure 2: The Metamythological Cycle of the Way schematically portrays the circle of the way,
which begins and ends at the same point with establishment of conditional, but determinate moral
knowledge (belief). Belief is disruptible, because finite which is to say that the infinite mystery
surrounding human understanding may break through into our provisional models of how to act, at any
time, at any point, and disrupt their structure. The manner in which we act as children, for example, may be
perfectly appropriate, for the conditions of childhood; the processes of maturation change the conditions of
existence, introducing anomaly where only certainty once stood, making necessary not only a change of
plans, but reconceptualization of where those plans might lead, and what or who they refer to, in the
present.
The known, our current story, protects us from the unknown, from chaos which is to say, provides our
experience with determinate and predictable structure. The unknown, chaos from which we are protected
has a nature all of its own. That nature is experienced as affective valence, at first exposure, not as
objective property. If something unknown or unpredictable occurs, while we are carrying out our motivated
plans, we are first surprised. That surprise which is a combination of apprehension and curiosity
comprises our instinctive emotional response to the occurrence of something we did not desire. The
appearance of something unexpected is proof that we do not know how to act by definition, as it is the
production of what we want that we use as evidence for the integrity of our knowledge. If we are
somewhere we dont know how to act, we are (probably) in trouble we might learn something new, but
we are still in trouble. When we are in trouble, we get scared. When we are in the domain of the known, so
to speak, there is no reason for fear. Outside that domain, panic reigns. It is for this reason that we dislike
having our plans disrupted. So we cling to what we understand. This does not always work, however,
because what we understand about the present is not always necessarily sufficient to deal with the future.
This means that we have to be able to modify what we understand, even though to do so is to risk our own
undoing. The trick, of course, is to modify and yet to remain secure. This is not so simple. Too much
modification chaos. Too little modification stagnation (and then, when the future we are unprepared for
appears chaos).
Involuntary exposure to chaos means accidental encounter with the forces that undermine the known
world. The affective consequences of such encounter can be literally overwhelming. It is for this reason
that individuals are highly motivated to avoid sudden manifestations of the unknown for this reason
that individuals will go to almost any length to ensure that their protective cultural stories remain intact.

27


CHAPTER 2: MAPS OF MEANING: THREE LEVELS OF ANALSIS
Human beings are prepared, biologically, to respond to anomalous information to novelty. This
instinctive response includes redirection of attention, generation of emotion (fear, first generally
speaking then curiosity), and behavioral compulsion (cessation of ongoing activity, first generally
speaking then active approach and exploration). This pattern of instinctive response drives learning
particularly, but not exclusively, the learning of appropriate behavior. All such learning takes place or
took place originally as a consequence of contact with novelty, or anomaly.
What is novel is of course dependent on what is known is necessarily defined in opposition to what is
known. Furthermore, what is known is always known conditionally, since human knowledge is necessarily
limited. Our conditional knowledge insofar as that knowledge is relevant for the regulation of emotion
consists of our models of the emotional significance of the present, defined in opposition to an idealized,
hypothetical or fantasied future state. We evaluate the unbearable present in relationship to the ideal
future. We act, to transform where we are into where we would like to be.
When our attempts to transform the present work as planned, we remain firmly positioned in the domain
of the known (metaphorically speaking). When our behaviors produce results that we did not want,
however that is, when we err we move into the domain of the unknown, where more primordial
emotional forces rule. Small-scale errors force us to reconstruct our plans, but allow us to retain our
goals and our conceptualizations of present conditions. Catastrophic errors, by contrast, force us not only
to re-evaluate our means, but our starting-points, and our ends. Such revaluation necessarily involves
extreme emotional dysregulation.
The domain of the known and the domain of the unknown can reasonably be regarded as
permanent constituent elements of human experience even of the human environment. Regardless of
culture, place and time, human individuals are forced to adapt to the fact of culture (the domain of the
known, roughly speaking) and the fact of its ultimate insufficiency (as the domain of the unknown
necessarily remains extant, regardless of extent of previous adaptation). The human brain and the
higher animal brain appears therefore to have adapted itself to the eternal presence of these two
places; the brain has one mode of operation, when in explored territory, and another, when in
unexplored territory. In the unexplored world, caution expressed in fear and behavioral immobility
initially predominates, but may be superseded by curiosity expressed in hope, excitement and, above all,
in creative exploratory behavior. Creative exploration of the unknown, and consequent generation of
knowledge, is construction or update of patterns of behavior and representation, such that the unknown is
transformed from something terrifying and compelling into something beneficial (or, at least, something
irrelevant). The presence of capacity for such creative exploration and knowledge generation may be
regarded as the third, and final, permanent constituent element of human experience (in addition to the
domain of the known and unknown).
Mythological representations of the world which are representations of reality as a forum for action
portray the dynamic interrelationship between all three constituent elements of human experience. The
eternal unknown nature, metaphorically speaking, creative and destructive, source and destination of all
determinant things is generally ascribed an affectively ambivalent feminine character (as the mother
and eventual devourer of everyone and everything). The eternal known, in contrast culture, defined
territory, tyrannical and protective, predictable, disciplined and restrictive, cumulative consequence of
heroic or exploratory behavior is typically considered masculine (in contradistinction to mother
nature). The eternal knower, finally the process that mediates between the known and the unknown is
the knight who slays the dragon of chaos, the hero who replaces disorder and confusion with clarity and
certainty, the sun-god who eternally slays the forces of darkness, and the word that engenders creation
of the cosmos.

28


2.1. Normal and Revolutionary Life: Two Prosaic Stories
We tell ourselves stories about who we are, where we would like to be, and how we are going to get there.
These stories regulate our emotions, by determining the significance of all the things we encounter and all
the events we experience. We regard things that get us on our way as positive, things that impede our
progress as negative, and things that do neither as irrelevant. Most things are irrelevant and that is a
good thing, as we have limited attentional resources.
Inconveniences interfere with our plans. We do not like inconveniences, and will avoid dealing with
them. Nonetheless, they occur commonly so commonly, in fact, that they might be regarded as an
integral, predictable, and constant feature of the human environment. We have adapted to this feature
have the intrinsic resources to cope with inconveniences. We benefit, become stronger, in doing so.
Ignored inconveniences accumulate, rather than disappear. When they accumulate in sufficient
numbers, they produce a catastrophe a self-induced catastrophe, to be sure, but one that may be
indistinguishable from an act of God. Inconveniences interfere with the integrity of our plans so we
tend to pretend that they are not there. Catastrophes, by contrast, interfere with the integrity of our whole
stories, and massively dysregulate our emotions. By their nature, they are harder to ignore although that
does not stop us from trying to do so.
Inconveniences are common; unfortunately, so are catastrophes self-induced and otherwise. We are
adapted to catastrophes, like inconveniences, as constant environmental features. We can resolve a
catastrophe, just as we can cope with an inconvenience although at higher cost. As a consequence of this
adaptation, this capacity for resolution, catastrophe can rejuvenate. It can also destroy.
The more ignored inconveniences in a given catastrophe, the more likely it will destroy.

Enough has been learned in the last half-century of inquiry into intellectual and emotional function to
enable the development of a provisional general theory of emotional regulation. Description of the role
reaction to novelty or anomaly plays in human information processing is clearly central to such a theory. A
compelling body of evidence suggests that our affective, cognitive and behavioral responses to the
unknown or unpredictable are hardwired; suggests that these responses constitute inborn structural
elements of the process of consciousness itself. We attend, involuntarily, to those things that occur contrary
to our predictions that occur in spite of our desires, as expressed in expectation. That involuntary
attention comprises a large part of what we refer to when we say consciousness. Our initial attention
constitutes the first step in the process by which we come to adjust our behavior and our interpretive
schemas to the world of experience assuming that we do so; constitutes as well the first step we take
when we modify the world, to make it what we desire, instead of what it is currently.
Modern investigation into the role of novelty in emotion and thought began with the Russians E.N.
Sokolov, O. Vinogradova, A.R. Luria (and, more recently, E. Goldberg) who adopted an approach to
human function that is in many ways unique. Their tradition apparently stems from Pavlov, who viewed the
reflex arc as a phenomenon of central importance, and from the Marxist intellectual legacy, which regarded
work creative action as the defining feature of man. Whatever the specific historical precedents, it is
most definitely the case that the Russians have regarded motor output and its abstract equivalents as the
critically relevant aspect of human existence. This intellectual position distinguished them, historically,
from their western counterparts, who tend(ed) to view the brain as an information-processing machine, akin
to the computer. Psychologists in the west have concentrated their energies on determining how the brain
determines what is out there, so to speak out there, from the objective viewpoint. The Russians, by
contrast, have devoted themselves to the role of the brain in governing behavior, and in generating the
affects or emotions associated with that behavior. Modern animal experimentalists most notably Jeffrey
Gray25 have adopted the Russian line, with striking success. We now know, at least in broad outline, how
we respond to those (annoying, irritating, frightening, promising) things that we do not expect.
The pioneering Russian psychophysiologist E.N. Sokolov began work on the reflex basis of attention
in the 1950s. By the early 60s, this work had advanced to the point where he could formulate the
following key propositions first:

29


One possible approach to analyzing the process of reflection is to consider the nervous system as a
mechanism which models the external world by specific changes that occur in its internal structure. In
this sense a distinct set of changes in the nervous system is isomorphic with the external agent that it
reflects and resembles. As an internal model that develops in the nervous system in response to the
effect of agents in the environment, the image performs the vital function of modifying the nature of
behavior, allowing the organism to predict events and actively adjust to its environment.26
and second:
My first encounter with phenomena which indicated that the higher divisions of the central nervous
system form models of external agents involved the study of reactions to novel [stimulus features. I
characterized these reactions as] orienting reflexes. The peculiar feature of the orienting reflex is that
after several applications of the same stimulus (generally five to fifteen) the response disappears (or, as
the general expression goes, is extinguished). However, the slightest possible change in the stimulus is
sufficient to awaken the response.... Research on the orienting reflex indicates that it does not occur as a
direct result of incoming excitation; rather, it is produced by signals of discrepancy which develop when
afferent [that is, incoming] signals are compared with the trace formed in the nervous system by an
earlier signal.27
Sokolov was concerned primarily with the modelling of the events in the objective external world
assuming, essentially, that when we model, we model facts. Most of the scholars who have followed his
lead have adopted this central assumption, at least implicitly. This position requires some modification. We
do model facts, but we concern ourselves with valence, or value. It is therefore the case that our maps of
the world contain what might be regarded as two distinct types of information sensory, and affective. It is
not enough to know that something is. It is equally necessary to know what it signifies. It might even be
argued that animals and human beings are primarily concerned with the affective or emotional
significance of the environment.
Along with our animal cousins, we devote ourselves to fundamentals: will this (new) thing eat me? Can
I eat it? Will it chase me? Should I chase it? Can I make love to it? We model facts there is no doubt
about that. But we model facts to keep track of meaning. We may model facts, and it is no doubt useful to
do so. We must model meanings, however, in order to survive. Our most fundamental maps of experience
maps which have a narrative structure portray the motivational value of our current state, conceived of in
contrast to a hypothetical ideal, accompanied by plans of action, which are our pragmatic notions about
how to get what we want.
Description of these three elements current state, future state, and means of mediation constitute the
necessary and sufficient preconditions for the weaving of the most simple narrative, which is a means for
describing the valence of a given environment, in reference to a temporally and spatially bounded set of
action patterns. Getting to point b presupposes that you are at point a you cant plan movement in the
absence of an initial position. The fact that point b constitutes the end-goal means that it is valenced more
highly than point a that it is a place more desirable, when considered against the necessary contrast of
the current position. It is the perceived improvement of point b that makes the whole map meaningful
that is, affect-laden; it is the capacity to construct hypothetical or abstract end points, such as b and to
contrast them against the present that makes human beings capable of using their cognitive systems to
modulate their affective reactions. 28
Narratives mediate between belief and emotion. Normal narratives tell us where we are, where we are
going, and how we are going to get there. Revolutionary narratives, by contrast, describe the process by
which normal narratives are transformed, when that becomes necessary. There is no strict qualitative
distinction between the two narrative types, as we shall see, later; it is more a matter of degree.
Nonetheless, they may be usefully considered as separable entities, for the purposes of introductory
explication (as the extremes of a continuum might be regarded as opposites, for the sake of argument).
The domain mapped by a functional narrative (one that, when enacted, produces the results desired)
might reasonably be regarded as explored territory, as events that occur there are predictable. Any
place where enacted plans produce unexpected, threatening or punishing consequences, by contrast, might
be regarded as unexplored territory. What happens there does not conform to our wishes. This means

30


that a familiar place, where unpredictable things start happening, is no longer familiar (even though it
might be the same place with regards to its strict spatial location, from the objective perspective). We
know how to act in some places, and not in others. The plans we put into action sometimes work, and
sometimes do not work. The experiential domains we inhabit our environment, so to speak are
therefore permanently characterized by the fact of the predictable and controllable, in paradoxical
juxtaposition with the unpredictable and uncontrollable. The universe is composed of order and chaos
at least from the metaphorical perspective. Oddly enough, however, it is to this metaphorical universe
that our nervous system appears to have adapted.
Although the work of Sokolov and his colleagues29 has generated a substantial amount of interest in the
West, its effect on modern theories of human motivation and affect has been more limited than appears
appropriate. The present discussion has been designed to rectify that situation, and to expand upon
Sokolovs initial ideas, to the degree that is presently empirically and theoretically justifiable. What
Sokolov discovered, to put it bluntly, is that human beings (and other animals, far down the phylogenetic
chain) are characterized by an innate response to what they cannot predict, do not want, and can not
understand. Sokolov identified the central characteristics of how we respond to the unknown to the
strange category of all events that have not yet been categorized. The notion that we respond in an
instinctively patterned manner to the appearance of the unknown has revolutionary implications. I would
like to begin this discussion in a manner somewhat removed from normal scientific discussion, but
appropriate to the topic at hand: by telling two stories.
2.1.1. Normal Life
If problems are accepted,
and dealt with before they arise,
they might even be prevented before confusion begins.
In this way peace may be maintained.30
You work in an office; you are climbing the corporate ladder. Your daily activity reflects this superordinate
goal. You are constantly immersed in one activity or another, designed to produce an elevation in your
status, from the perspective of the corporate hierarchy. Today, you have to attend a meeting that may prove
vitally important to your future. You have an image in your head, so to speak, about the nature of that
meeting, and the interactions that will characterize it. You imagine what you would like to accomplish.
Your image of this potential future is a fantasy but it is based, insofar as you are honest, on all the
relevant information, derived from past experience, that you have at your disposal. You have attended
many meetings. You know what is likely to happen, during any given meeting, within reasonable bounds;
you know how you will behave, and what effect your behavior will have on others. Your model of the
desired future is clearly predicated on what you currently know.
You also have a model of the present, constantly operative. You understand your (somewhat
subordinate) position within the corporation, which is your importance relative to others above and below
you in the hierarchy. You understand the significance of those experiences that occur regularly while you
are during your job: you know who you can give orders to, who you have to listen to, who is doing a good
job, who can safely be ignored, and so on. You are always comparing this present (unsatisfactory)
condition to that of your ideal, which is you, increasingly respected, powerful, rich, and happy, free of
anxiety and suffering, climbing towards your ultimate success. You are unceasingly involved in attempts to
transform the present, as you currently understand it, into the future, as you hope it will be. Your actions
are designed to produce your ideal designed to transform the present into something ever more closely
resembling what you want. Your are confident in your model of reality, in your story; when you put it into
action, you get results.
You prepare yourself mentally for your meeting. You envision yourself playing a centrally important
role resolutely determining the direction the meeting will take, producing a powerful impact on your co-

31


workers. You are in your office, preparing to leave. The meeting is taking place in another building, several
blocks away. You formulate provisional plans of behavior designed to get you there on time. You estimate
travel time at fifteen minutes.
You leave your office, on the twenty-seventh floor, and you wait by the elevator. The minutes tick by
more and more of them. The elevator fails to appear. You had not taken this possibility into account. The
longer you wait, the more nervous you get. Your heart rate starts increasing, as you prepare for action
(action unspecified, as of yet). Your palms sweat. You flush. You start berating yourself for failing to
consider the potential impact of such a delay. Maybe you are not as smart as you think you are. Your model
of yourself begins to undergo a revision. No time for that now: you put such ideas out of your head, and
concentrate on the task at hand.
The unexpected has just become manifest in the form of the missing elevator. You planned to take it to
get where you were going; it did not appear. Your original plan of action is not producing the effects
desired. It was, by your own definition, a bad plan. You need another one and quickly. Luckily you have
an alternate strategy, at your disposal. The stairs! You dash to the rear of the building. You try the door to
the stairwell. It is locked. You curse the maintenance staff. You are frustrated and anxious. The unknown
has emerged, once again. You try another exit. Success! The door opens. Hope springs forth from your
breast. You still might make it on time. You rush down the stairs all twenty-seven floors and onto the
street.
You are, by now, desperately late. As you hurry along, you monitor your surroundings: is progress
towards your goal continuing? Anyone who gets in your way irritates you differently-abled elderly ladies,
playful, happy children, lovers out for a stroll. You are a good person, under most circumstances at least
in your own estimation. Why, then, then do these innocent people aggravate you so thoroughly? You near a
busy intersection. The cross-walk light is off. You fume and mutter away stupidly on the sidewalk. Your
blood pressure rises. The light finally changes. You smile, and dash forward. Up a slight rise you run. You
are not in great physical shape. Where did all this energy come from? You are approaching the target
building. You glance at your watch. Five minutes left: No problem. A feeling of relief and satisfaction
floods over you. You are there; in consequence, you are not an idiot. If you believed in God, you would
thank Him.
Had you been early had you planned appropriately the other pedestrians and assorted obstacles
would not have affected you at all. You might have even appreciated them at least the good-looking ones
or may at least not have classified them as obstacles. Maybe you would have even used the time to enjoy
your surroundings (unlikely), or to think about other issues of real importance like tomorrows meeting.
You continue on your path. Suddenly, you hear a series of loud noises behind you noises reminiscent,
for the sake of argument, of a large motorized vehicle hurtling over a small concrete barrier (a barrier much
like a kerb). You are safe on the sidewalk or so you presumed, a second ago. Your meeting-fantasies
vanish. The fact that you are late no longer seems relevant. You stop hurrying along, instantly, arrested in
your path by the emergence of this new phenomenon. Your auditory system localizes the sounds in three
dimensions. You involuntarily orient your trunk, neck, head and eyes towards the place in space from
which the sounds apparently emanate.31 Your pupils dilate, and your eyes widen.32 Your heart-rate speeds
up, as your body prepares to take adaptive action once the proper path of that action has been specified.33
You actively explore the unexpected occurrence, once you have oriented towards it, with all the sensory
and cognitive resources you can muster. You are generating hypotheses about the potential cause of the
noise even before you turn. Has a van jumped the kerb? The image flashes through your mind. Has
something heavy fallen from a building? Has the wind overturned a billboard or street sign? Your eyes
actively scan the relevant area. You see a truck loaded with bridge parts heading down the street, just past a
pothole in the road. The mystery is solved. You have determined the specific motivational significance of
what just seconds ago was the dangerous and threatening unknown, and it is zero. A loaded truck hit a
bump. Big deal! Your heart slows down. Thoughts of the impending meeting re-enter the theatre of the
your mind. Your original journey continues, as if nothing has happened.
What is going on? Why are you frightened and frustrated by the absence of the expected elevator, the
presence of the old woman with the cane, the carefree lovers, the loud machinery? Why are you so
emotionally and behaviorally variable?

32


Detailed description of the processes governing these common affective occurrences provides the basis
for proper understanding of human motivation. What Sokolov and his colleagues essentially discovered
was that the unknown, experienced in relationship to your currently extant model of present and future, has
a priori motivational significance or, to put it somewhat differently, that the unknown could serve as an
unconditioned stimulus.
What is the a priori motivational significance of the unknown? Can such a question even be asked?
After all, the unknown has not yet been explored by definition. Nothing can be said, by the dictates of
standard logic, about something that has not yet been encountered. We are not concerned with sensory
information, however nor with particular material attributes but with valence. Valence, in and of itself,
might be most simply considered as bipolar: negative or positive (or, of course, as neither). We are familiar
enough with the ultimate potential range of valence, negative and positive, to place provisional borders
around possibility. The worst the unknown could be, in general, is death (or, perhaps, lengthy suffering
followed by death); the fact of our vulnerable mortality provides the limiting case. The best the unknown
could be is more difficult to specify, but some generalizations might prove acceptable. We would like to be
wealthy (or at least free from want), possessed of good health, wise and well-loved. The greatest good the
unknown might confer, then, might be regarded as that which would allow us to transcend our innate
limitations (poverty, ignorance, vulnerability), rather than to remain miserably subject to them. The
emotional area covered by the unknown is therefore very large, ranging from that which we fear most to
that which we desire most intently.
The unknown is, of course, defined in contradistinction to the known. Everything not understood or
not explored is unknown. The relationship between the oft- (and unfairly) separated domains of
cognition and emotion can be more clearly comprehended in light of this rather obvious fact. It is the
absence of an expected satisfaction, for example, that is punishing, hurtful34 the emotion is generated as a
default response to sudden and unpredictable alteration in the theoretically comprehended structure of the
world. It is the man expecting a raise because of his outstanding work the man configuring a desired
future on the basis of his understanding of the present who is hurt when someone less deserving is
promoted before him ( one is best punished, after all, for ones virtues35). The man whose expectations
have been dashed who has been threatened and hurt is likely to work less hard in the future, with more
resentment and anger. Conversely the child who has not completed her homework is thrilled when the
bell signalling class end rings, before she is called upon. The bell signals the absence of an expected
punishment, and therefore induces positive affect, relief, happiness.36
It appears, therefore, that it is the image of a goal (a fantasy about the nature of the desired future,
conceived of in relationship to a model of the significance of the present) that provides a good part of the
framework determining the motivational significance of ongoing current events. The individual uses his or
her knowledge to construct a hypothetical state of affairs, where the motivational balance of ongoing events
is optimized: where there is sufficient satisfaction, minimal punishment, tolerable threat, and abundant
hope, all balanced together properly over the short and longer terms. This optimal state of affairs might be
conceptualized as a pattern of career advancement, with a long-term state in mind, signifying perfection, as
it might be attained profanely (richest drug dealer, happily married matron, chief executive officer of a
large corporation, tenured Harvard professor). Alternatively, perfection might be regarded as the absence of
all unnecessary things, and the pleasures of an ascetic life. The point is that some desirable future state of
affairs is conceptualized, in fantasy, and then used as a target point for operation in the present. Such
operations may be conceived of as links, in a chain (with the end of the chain anchored to the desirable
future state).
A meeting (like the one referred to previously) might be viewed by those participating in it as one link in
the chain which might hypothetically lead to the paradisal state of corporate Chief Executive Officer (or to
something less desirable, but still good). The (well-brought-off) meeting, as subgoal, would therefore have
the same motivational significance as the goal, although at lesser intensity (as it is only one small part of a
large and more important whole). The exemplary meeting will be conceptualized in the ideal like all
target states as a dynamic situation where, all things considered, motivational state is optimized. The
meeting is imagined a representation of the desired outcome is formulated, and a plan of behavior
designed to bring about that outcome is elaborated and played out. The imagined meeting is fantasy, but

33


fantasy based on past knowledge (assuming that knowledge has in fact been generated, and that the planner
is able and willing to use it).
The affective systems that govern response to punishment, satisfaction, threat and promise all have a
stake in attaining the ideal outcome. Anything that interferes with such attainment (little old ladies with
canes) will be experienced as threatening, and/or punishing; anything that signifies increased likelihood of
success (like an open stretch of sidewalk) will be experienced as promising37 or satisfying. It is for this
reason that the Buddhists believe that everything is Maya, or illusion:38 the motivational significance of
ongoing events is clearly determined by the nature of the goal towards which behavior is devoted. That
goal is conceptualized in episodic imagery in fantasy. We constantly compare the world at present to the
world idealized in fantasy, render affective judgment, and act, in consequence. Trivial promises and
satisfactions indicate that we are doing well, are progressing towards our goals. An unexpected opening in
the flow of pedestrians appears before us, when we are in a hurry; we rush forward, pleased at the
occurrence. We get somewhere a little faster than we had planned, and feel satisfied with our intelligent
planning. Profound promises or satisfactions, by contrast, validate our global conceptualizations indicate
that our emotions are likely to stay regulated, on the path we have chosen. Trivial threats or punishments
indicate flaws in our means of attaining desired ends. We modify our behavior accordingly, and eliminate
the threat. When the elevator does not appear at the desired time, we take the stairs. When a stop-light
slows us down, we run a bit faster, once it shuts off, than we might have otherwise. Profound threats and
punishments (read: trauma) have a qualitatively different nature. Profound threats or punishments
undermine our ability to believe that our conceptualizations of the present are valid and that our goals are
appropriate. Such occurrences disturb our belief in our ends (and, not infrequently, in our starting points).
We construct our idealized world, in fantasy, according to all the information we have at our disposal.
We use what we know to build an image of what we could have and, therefore, of what we should do. But
we compare our interpretation of the world as it unfolds in the present to the desired world, in imagination,
not to mere expectation; we compare what we have (in interpretation) to what we want, rather than to what
we merely think will be. Our goal-setting, and consequent striving, is motivated: we chase what we desire,
in our constant attempts to optimize our affective states. (Of course, we use our behavior to ensure that our
dreams come true; that is healthy adaptation. But we still compare what is happening to what we want
to what we desire to be not merely to what we cold-bloodedly expect.)
The maps that configure our motivated behavior have a certain comprehensible structure. They contain
two fundamental and mutually interdependent poles, one present, the other, future. The present is sensory
experience as it is currently manifested to us as we currently understand it granted motivational
significance according to our current knowledge and desires. The future is an image or partial image of
perfection, to which we compare the present, insofar as we understand its significance. Wherever there
exists a mismatch between the two, the unexpected or novel occurs (by definition), grips our attention, and
activates the intrapsychic systems that govern fear and hope.39 We strive to bring novel occurrences back
into the realm of predictability, or to exploit them for previously unconsidered potential, by altering our
behavior, or our patterns of representation. We conceive of a path connecting present to future. This path is
composed of the behaviors required to produce the transformations we desire required to turn the
(eternally) insufficient present into the (ever-receding) paradisal future. This path is normally conceived of
as linear, so to speak, as something analogous to Thomas Kuhns40 notion of normal science, wherein
known patterns of behavior operating upon an understood present will produce a future, whose desirability
is an unquestioned given.
Anything that interferes with our potential means, to a specified end, is punishing or threatening, in the
rather trivial sense described previously. Encounter with punishments or threats of this category merely
oblige us to choose an alternative mean, from among the number we generally have present. A similar
situation obtains for promises and satisfactions. When a means produces the end desired (or furthers
progress along that path) we experience satisfaction (and hope as an interim end accomplished also
signifies increased likelihood of success, farther out in the future). Such satisfaction brings our particular
behaviors to an end; we switch goals, and continue into the future. Modification of our means, as a
consequence of the motivational significance of the outcomes of those means, might be considered normal
adaptation. The structure of normal adaptation is schematically portrayed in Figure 3: Normal Life. We
posit a goal, in image and word, and we compare present conditions to that goal. We evaluate the

34


significance of ongoing events in light of their perceived relationship to the goal. We modify our behavioral
outputs our means when necessary, to make the attainment of our goal ever more likely. We modify our
actions within the game, but accept the rules without question. We move in a linear direction from present
to future.

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

or
r
ior
i
o
v
v
i
a
a
v
h
h
eha
Be of Be
f
B
of
e o nce
c
e
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e
e
en
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Se
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e
e
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lan lann
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A
A
AP
What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Figure 3: Normal Life
2.1.2. Revolutionary Life
The revolutionary model of adaptation again, considered akin to Kuhns41 revolutionary science is more
complex. Let us presume that you return from your meeting. You made it on time and, as far as you could
tell, everything proceeded according to plan. You noticed that your colleagues appeared a little irritated and
confused by your behavior, as you attempted to control the situation, but you put this down to jealousy on
their part to their inability to comprehend the majesty of your conceptualizations. You are satisfied, in
consequence satisfied temporarily so you start thinking about tomorrow, as you walk back to work. You
return to your office. There is a message on your answering machine. The boss wants to see you. You did
not expect this. Your heart rate speeds up a little: good or bad, this news demands preparation for action.42
What does she want? Fantasies of potential future spring up. Maybe she heard about your behavior at the
meeting, and wants to congratulate you on your excellent work. You walk to her office, apprehensive but
hopeful.
You knock, and stroll in jauntily. The boss looks at you, and glances away somewhat unhappily. Your
sense of apprehension increases. She motions for you to sit, so you do. What is going on? She says, I have
some bad news for you. This is not good. This is not what you wanted. Your heart rate is rising
unpleasantly. You focus all of your attention on your boss. Look, she says, I have received a number of

35


very unfavorable reports regarding your behavior at meetings. All of your colleagues seem to regard you as
a rigid and overbearing negotiator. Furthermore, it has become increasingly evident that you are unable to
respond positively to feedback about your shortcomings. Finally, you do not appear to properly understand
the purpose of your job, or the function of this corporation.
You are shocked, beyond belief paralyzed into immobility. Your vision of the future with this
company vanishes, replaced by apprehensions of unemployment, social disgrace and failure. You find it
difficult to breathe. You flush, and perspire profusely; your face is a mask of barely suppressed horror. You
cannot believe that your boss is such a bitch. You have been with us for five years, she continues, and it
is obvious that your performance is not likely to improve. You are definitely not suited for this sort of
career, and you are interfering with the progress of the many competent others around you. In consequence,
we have decided to terminate your contract with us, effective immediately. If I were you, I would take a
good look at myself.
You have just received unexpected information, but of a different order of magnitude than the petty
anomalies, irritations, threats and frustrations that disturbed your equilibrium in the morning. You have just
been presented with incontrovertible evidence that your characterizations of the present and of the ideal
future are seriously perhaps irreparably flawed. Your presumptions about the nature of the world are in
error. The world you know has just crumbled around you. Nothing is what it seemed; everything is
unexpected and new again. You leave the office in shock. In the hallway, other employees avert their gaze
from you, in embarrassment. Why did you not see this coming? How could you have been so mistaken in
your judgment?
Maybe everyone is out to get you.
Better not think that.
You stumble home, in a daze, and collapse on the couch. You cant move. You are hurt and terrified.
You feel like you might go insane. Now what? How will you face people? The comfortable, predictable,
rewarding present has vanished. The future has opened up in front of you like a pit, and you have fallen in.
For the next month, you find yourself unable to act. Your spirit has been extinguished. You sleep and wake
at odd hours; your appetite is disturbed. You are anxious, hopeless and aggressive, at unpredictable
intervals. You snap at your family, and torture yourself. Suicidal thoughts enter the theatre of your
imagination. You do not know what to think, or what to do: you are the victim of an internal war of
emotion.
Your encounter with the terrible unknown has shaken the foundations of your world-view. You have
been exposed, involuntarily, to the unexpected and revolutionary. Chaos has eaten your soul. This means
that your long term goals have to be reconstructed, and the motivational significance of events in your
current environment, re-evaluated literally: revalued. This capacity for complete revaluation, in the light
of new information, is even more particularly human than the aforementioned capability for exploration of
the unknown and generation of new information. Sometimes, in the course of our actions, we elicit
phenomena whose very existence is impossible, according to our standard methods of construal (which are
at base a mode of attributing motivational significance to events). Exploration of these new phenomena,
and integration of our findings into our knowledge, occasionally means reconceptualization of that
knowledge43 (and consequent re-exposure to the unknown, no longer inhibited by our mode of
classification).44 This means that simple movement from present to future is occasionally interrupted by a
complete breakdown and reformulation: is occasionally interrupted by re-constitution of what the present is
and what the future should be. The ascent of the individual, so to speak, is punctuated by periods of
dissolution and rebirth.45 The more general model of human adaptation conceptualized most simply as
steady state, breach, crisis, redress46 therefore ends up looking like Figure 4: Revolutionary Adaptation.
The processes of revolutionary adaptation, enacted and represented, underly diverse cultural phenomena,
ranging from the rites of primitive initiation47 to the conceptions of sophisticated religious systems.48
Indeed, our very cultures are erected upon the foundation of a single great story: paradise, encounter with
chaos, fall and redemption.

36


What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

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What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:

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The Unbearable Present

CHAOS:
The Unknown

Figure 4: Revolutionary Adaptation
A month after you were fired, a new idea finds its way into your head. Although you never let yourself
admit it, previously, you didnt really like that bloody job. You only took it because you felt that it was
expected of you. You never put your full effort into it, because you really wanted to do something else
something other people thought was risky, or foolish. You made a bad decision, a long time ago. Maybe
you needed this blow, to put you back on the path. You start imagining a new future one where you are
not so secure, maybe, but where you are doing what you actually want to do. The possibility of
undisturbed sleep returns, and you start eating properly again. You are quieter, less arrogant, more
accepting except in your weaker moments. Others make remarks, some admiring, some envious, about
the change they perceive in you. You are a man recovering from a long illness a man reborn.
2.2. Neuropsychological Function: The Nature of the Mind
It is reasonable to regard the world, as forum for action, as a place a place made up of the familiar,
and the unfamiliar, in eternal juxtaposition. The brain is actually composed, in large part, of two
subsystems, adapted for action in that place. The right hemisphere, broadly speaking, responds to novelty
with caution, and rapid, global hypothesis-formation. The left hemisphere, by contrast, tends to remain
in charge when things that is, explicitly categorized things are unfolding according to plan. The right
hemisphere draws rapid, global, valence-based metaphorical pictures of novel things; the left, with its
greater capacity for detail, makes such pictures explicit and verbal. Thus the exploratory capacity of the
brain builds the world of the familiar (of the known), from the world of the unfamiliar (the unknown).

37


When the world remains known and familiar that is, when our beliefs maintain their validity our
emotions remain under control. When the world suddenly transforms itself into something new, however,
our emotions are dysregulated, in keeping with the relative novelty of that transformation, and we are
forced to retreat, or to explore once again.
2.2.1. The Valence of Things
...anyone who considers the basic drives of man.... will find that all of them have done philosophy at some
time and that every one of them would like only too well to represent just itself as the ultimate purpose of
existence and the legitimate master of all the other drives. For every drive wants to be master and it
attempts to philosophize in that spirit.49

It is true that man was created in order to serve the gods, who, first of all, needed to be fed and
clothed.50
We can make lists of general goods and bads, which might appear reasonable to others, because we tend to
make judgments of meaning in a relatively standard and predictable way. Food, to take a simple example,
is good, assuming it is palatably prepared, while a blow on the head is bad, in direct proportion to its force.
The list of general goods and bads can be extended with little effort. Water, shelter, warmth, and sexual
contact are good; diseases, droughts, famines and fights are bad. The essential similarities of our judgments
of meaning can easily lead us to conclude that the goodness or badness of things or situations is something
more or less fixed. However, the fact of subjective interpretation and its effects on evaluation and
behavior complicate this simple picture. We will work, expend energy, and overcome obstacles, to gain a
good (or to avoid something bad). But we wont work for food, if we have enough food at least not very
hard; we wont work for sex, if we are satisfied with our present levels of sexual activity, and we might be
very pleased to go hungry, if that means our enemy will starve. Our predictions, expectations, and desires
condition our evaluations, to a finally unspecifiable degree. Things have no absolutely fixed significance,
despite our ability to generalize about their value. It is our personal preferences, therefore, that determine
the import of the world (but these preferences have constraints!).
The meaning we attribute to objects or situations is not stable. What is important to one man is not
necessarily important to another; likewise, the needs and desires of the child differ from those of the adult.
The meaning of things depends to a profound and ultimately undeterminable degree upon the relationship
of those things to the goal we currently have in mind. Meaning shifts when goals change. Such change
necessarily transforms the contingent expectations and desires that accompany those goals. We experience
things personally and idiosyncratically, despite broad interpersonal agreement about the value of things.
The goals we pursue singly the outcomes we expect and desire as individuals determine the meaning of
our experience. The existential psychotherapist Viktor Frankl relates a story regarding his experiences as a
Nazi death camp inmate, which makes this point most strikingly:
Take as an example something that happened on our journey from Auschwitz to the camp affiliated
with Dachau. We became more and more tense as we approached a certain bridge over the Danube
which the train would have to cross to reach Mauthausen, according to the statement of experienced
traveling companions. Those who have never seen anything similar cannot possibly imagine the dance
of joy performed in the carriage by the prisoners when they saw that our transport was not crossing the
bridge and was instead heading only for Dachau.
And again, what happened on our arrival in that camp, after a journey lasting two days and three
nights? There had not been enough room for everybody to crouch on the floor of the carriage at the same
time. The majority of us had to stand all the way, while a few took turns at squatting on the scanty straw
which was soaked with human urine. When we arrived the first important news that we heard from older
prisoners was that this comparatively small camp (its population was 2500) had no oven, no

38


crematorium, no gas! That meant that a person who had become a Moslem [no longer fit for work]
could not be taken straight to the gas chamber, but would have to wait until a so-called sick convoy
had been arranged to return to Auschwitz. This joyful surprise put us all in a good mood. The wish of
the senior warden of our hut in Auschwitz had come true: we had come, as quickly as possible, to a
camp which did not have a chimney unlike Auschwitz. We laughed and cracked jokes in spite of,
and during, all we had to go through in the next few hours.
When we new arrivals were counted, one of us was missing. So we had to wait outside in the rain and
cold wind until the missing man was found. He was at last discovered in a hut, where he had fallen
asleep from exhaustion. Then the roll call was turned into a punishment parade. All through the night
and late into the next morning, we had to stand outside, frozen and soaked to the skin after the strain of
our long journey. And yet we were all very pleased! There was no chimney in this camp and Auschwitz
was a long way off.51
Nothing produces terror and fear like a concentration camp unless the camp encountered is better than the
camp expected. Our hopes, desires, and wishes which are always conditional define the context within
which the things and situations we encounter take on determinate significance; define even the context
within which we understand thing or situation. We presume that things have a more-or-less fixed
meaning, because we share a more-or-less fixed condition with others at least with those others who are
familiar to us, who share our presumptions and world-views. Those (culturally-determined) things we take
for granted and which are, therefore, invisible determine our affective responses to environmental
stimuli. We assume that such things are permanent attributes of the world; but they are not. Our situations
and, therefore, our contexts of interpretation can change dramatically, at any moment. We are indeed
fortunate (and, generally, oblivious of that fortune) when they do not.
It is not possible to finally determine either how or whether something is meaningful, by observing the
objective features of that thing. Value is not invariant, in contrast to objective reality; furthermore, it is not
possible to derive an ought from an is (this is the naturalistic fallacy of David Hume). It is possible,
however, to determine the conditional meaning of something, by observing how behavior (ones own
behavior, or someone elses) is conducted in the presence of that thing (or, in its absence). Things
(objects, processes) emerge into subjective experience, at least as a consequence of behaviors. Let us
say, for the sake of example, that behavior a produces phenomenon b (always remembering that we are
talking about behavior in a particular context). Behavior a consequently increases in frequency. It can be
deduced, then, that phenomenon b is regarded as positive, by the agent under observation, in the
particular context constituting the observed situation. If behavior a decreases in frequency, the opposite
conclusion can be reasonably reached. The observed agent regards b as negative.
The behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner52 originally defined a reinforcer as a stimulus which
produced a change in the frequency of a given behavior. He was loathe to become concerned with the
internal or intrapsychic whys and wherefores of reinforcement, preferring instead to work by
definition. If a stimulus increased the rate at which a given behavior was manifested, it was positive. If it
decreased the rate of that behavior, it was negative. Of course, Skinner recognized that the valence of a
given stimulus was context-dependent. An animal had to be food-deprived (in normal parlance,
hungry) before food, for example, could serve as a positive reinforcer. And, as the animal being fed became
less food-deprived, the valence and potency of the reinforcer food decreased.
Skinner believed that discussions of an animals (or a humans) internal state were unnecessary. If you
knew an animals reinforcement history, you could determine what stimuli were likely to have positive or
negative valence. The fundamental problem with this argument is one of parsimony. It is impossible to
know an animals reinforcement history particularly if that animal is as complex and long-lived as a
human being. This is tantamount to saying, you must know everything that has ever happened to that
animal; analogous to the old determinist claim that if you knew the present position and momentum of
every particle in the universe, you could determine all future positions and momenta. You cant know all
present positions, etc. the measurement problems are insurmountable, and the uncertainty principle makes
it impossible anyway. Likewise, you dont have access to the reinforcement history, and, even if you

39


did, measuring it would alter it. (I am not making an formal uncertainty claim for psychology; just
drawing what I hope is a useful analogy).
Skinner addressed this problem by limiting his concern to experimental situations so simple that only
immediate reinforcement history played a context-determining role. This implicit limit enabled him to
sidestep the fundamental issue, and to make inappropriate generalizations. It didnt matter how a rat related
to his mother, six months earlier, if you could make him food-deprived enough. The (short-term) fact of
the food deprivation, for example, overrode individual rat differences at least in the experimental
condition under question and could therefore usefully be ignored. Similarly, if you starve human beings,
you can be reasonably sure that they will become concerned with food. However, even in this extreme case,
you cannot predict how this concern will manifest itself, or what (ethical) considerations might play an
intermediate, or even determining, role. Alexander Solzhenitsyn examined this very problem during the
time he spent in the Soviet Gulag Archipelago (the Soviet prison camp system):
At the Samarka Camp in 1946 a group of intellectuals had reached the very brink of death: They were
worn down by hunger, cold, and work beyond their powers. And they were even deprived of sleep. They
had nowhere to lie down. Dugout barracks had not yet been built. Did they go and steal? Or squeal? Or
whimper about their ruined lives? No! Foreseeing the approach of death in days rather than weeks, here
is how they spent their last sleepless leisure, sitting up against the wall: Timofeyev-Ressovsky gathered
them into a seminar, and they hastened to share with one another what one of them knew and the
others did not they delivered their last lectures to each other. Father Savely spoke of unshameful
death, a priest academician about patristics, one of the Uniate fathers about something in the area of
dogmatics and canonical writings, an electrical engineer on the principles of the energetics of the
future, and a Leningrad economist on how the effort to create principles of Soviet economics had
failed for lack of new ideas. From one session to the next, participants were missing they were already
in the morgue.
That is the sort of person who can be interested in all this while already growing numb with
approaching death now that is an intellectual!53
Past experience learning does not merely condition; rather, such experience determines the precise
nature of the framework of reference or context that will be brought to bear on the analysis of a given
situation. This cognitive frame of reference acts as the intermediary between past learning, present
experience, and future desire. This intermediary is a valid object of scientific exploration a phenomenon
as real as anything abstracted is real and is far more parsimonious and accessible, as such a
phenomenon, than the simple non-interpreted (and non-measurable, in any case) sum total of
reinforcement history. Frameworks of reference, influenced in their structure by learning, specify the
valence of ongoing experience; determine what might be regarded, in a given time and place, as good, bad,
or indifferent. Furthermore, inferences about the nature of the framework of reference governing the
behavior of others (that is, looking at the world through the eyes of another) may produce results that are
more useful, more broadly generalizable (as insights into the personality of another), and less
demanding of cognitive resources than attempts to understand the details of a given reinforcement
history.
Valence can be positive, or negative, as the early behaviorists noted. Positive and negative are not
opposite ends of a continuum, however not in any straightforward way.54 The two states appear
orthogonal, although (perhaps) mutually inhibitory. Furthermore, positive and negative are not simple:
each can be subdivided, in a more or less satisfactory manner, at least once. Positively valued things, for
example, can be satisfying or promising (can serve as consummatory or incentive rewards, respectively55).
Many satisfying things are consumable, in the literal sense, as outlined previously. Food, for example, is a
consummatory reward to the hungry which means that it is valued under such circumstances as a
satisfaction. Likewise, water satisfies the man deprived of liquid. Sexual contact is rewarding to the lustful,
and warmth is desirable to those without shelter. Sometimes more complex stimuli are satisfying, or
rewarding, as well. It all depends on what is presently desired, and how that desire plays itself out. A mild
verbal reprimand might well foster feelings of relief in the individual who expects a severe physical beating
which is to say, technically, that the absence of an expected punishment can serve quite effectively as a

40


reward (it is in fact the form of reward that the tyrant prefers). Regardless of their form, attained
satisfactions produce satiation, calm and somnolent pleasure, and (temporary) cessation of the behaviors
directed to that particular end although behaviors which culminate in a satisfactory conclusion are more
likely to be manifested, in the future, when instinctive or voluntary desire re-emerges.
Promises, which are also positive, might be regarded as more abstractly meaningful than satisfactions,
as they indicate potential, rather than actuality. Promises cues of consummatory rewards, or satisfactions
indicate the imminent attainment of something desired, or potentially desirable. Their more abstract
quality does not make them secondary or necessarily learned, however, as was once thought; our
response to potential satisfaction is often as basic or primary as our response to satisfaction itself.
Promises (cues of satisfaction) have been regarded, technically, as incentive rewards, because they induce
forward locomotion which is merely movement towards the place that the cue indicates satisfaction will
occur.56 Curiosity,57 hope58 and excited pleasure tend to accompany exposure to cues of reward (and are
associated with subsequent forward locomotion).59 Behaviors that produce promises like those that result
in satisfactions also increase in frequency, over time.60
Negatively valued things which have a structure that mirrors those of their positive counterparts can
either be punishing, or threatening.61 Punishments a diverse group of stimuli or contexts, as defined
immediately below all appear to share one feature in common (at least from the perspective of the theory
outlined in this manuscript): they indicate the temporary of final impossibility of the implementation of one
or more means, or the attainment of one or more desired ends. Some stimuli are almost universally
experienced as punishing, because their appearance indicates reduced likelihood of carrying through
virtually any imaginable plan of obtaining almost every satisfaction, or potential desirable future. Most
things or situations that produce bodily injury fall into this category. More generally, punishments might be
conceived of as involuntary states of deprivation (of food, or water, or optimal temperature,62 of social
contact63); as disappointments64 or frustrations65 (which are absences of expected rewards66), and as
stimuli sufficiently intense to produce damage to the systems encountering them. Punishments stop
action, or induce retreat or escape (backward locomotion),67 and engender the emotional state commonly
known as pain or hurt. Behaviors, which culminate in punishment and subsequent hurt, tend to extinguish
to decrease in frequency, over time.68
Threats, which are also negative, indicate potential, like promises but potential for punishment, for
hurt, for pain. Threats cues of punishment are stimuli that indicate enhanced likelihood of punishment
and hurt.69 Threats are abstract, like promises; however, like promises, they are not necessarily secondary
or learned.70 Unexpected phenomena, for example which constitute innately recognizable threats
stop us in our tracks, and make us feel anxiety.71 So, arguably, do certain innate fear stimuli like
snakes.72 Behaviors that culminate in the production of cues of punishment that create situations
characterized by anxiety tend to decrease in frequency over time (much like those that produce immediate
punishment).73
Satisfactions and their cues are good, simply put; punishments and threats are bad. We tend to move
forward74 (to feel hope, curiosity, joy), and then to consume (to make love, to eat, to drink), in the
presence of good things; and to pause (and feel anxious), then withdraw, move backwards (and feel pain,
disappointment, frustration, loneliness), when faced by things we do not like. In the most basic of situations
when we know what we are doing; when we are engaged with the familiar these fundamental
tendencies suffice. Our actual situations, however, are almost always more complex. If things or situations
were straightforwardly or simply positive or negative, good or bad, we would not have to make judgments
regarding them; would not have to think about our behavior, and how and when it should be modified
indeed, would not have to think at all. We are faced, however, with the constant problem of ambivalence in
meaning, which is to say that a thing or situation might be bad and good simultaneously (or good in two
conflicting manners; or bad, in two conflicting manners).75 A cheesecake, for example, is good when
considered from the perspective of food deprivation or hunger, but bad when considered from the
perspective of social desirability and the svelte figure that such desirability demands. The newly toilettrained little boy who has just wet his bed might well feel simultaneous satisfaction, at the attainment of a
biologically vital goal, and apprehension, as to the likely interpersonal socially-constructed consequence of
that satisfaction. Nothing comes without a cost, and the cost has to be factored in, when the meaning of
something is evaluated. Meaning depends on context; contexts stories, in a word constitute goals,

41


desires, wishes. It is unfortunate, from the perspective of conflict-free adaptation, that we have many goals
many stories, many visions of the ideal future and that the pursuit of one often interferes with our
chances (or someone elses chances) of obtaining another.
We solve the problem of contradictory meanings by interpreting the value of things from within the
confines of our stories which are adjustable maps of experience and potential, whose specific contents are
influenced by the demands of our physical being. Our central nervous systems are made up of many hardwired or automatized subsystems, responsible for biological regulation for maintaining homeostasis of
temperature, ensuring proper caloric intake, and monitoring levels of plasma carbon dioxide (for example).
Each of these subsystems has a job to do. If that job is not done, within a certain variable span of time, the
whole game comes to a halt, perhaps permanently. Nothing gets accomplished then. We must therefore
perform certain actions by necessity if we are to survive. This does not mean, however, that our
behaviors are determined at least not in any simplistic manner. The subsystems that make up our shared
structure responsible, when operative, for our instincts (thirst, hunger, joy, lust, anger, etc.) do not
appear to directly grip control of our behavior, do not transform us into driven automatons. Rather, they
appear to influence our fantasies, our plans, and alter and modify the content and comparative importance
of our goals, our ideal futures (conceived of in comparison to our unbearable presents, as they are
currently construed).
Each basic subsystem has its own particular, singular image of what constitutes the ideal, so to speak
of what constitutes the most valid goal, at any given moment. If someone has not eaten in several days, it
is highly likely that his vision of the (immediately) desirable future will include the image of eating.
Likewise, if someone been deprived of water, she is likely to make drinking her goal. We share
fundamental biological structure, as human beings, so we tend to agree, broadly, about what should be
regarded as valuable (at least in a specified context). What this means, essentially, is that we can make
probabilistic estimates about those things that a given individual (and a given culture) might regard as
desirable, at any moment. Furthermore, we can increase the accuracy of our estimates by programmed
deprivation (because such deprivation specifies interpretive context). Nonetheless, we can never be sure, in
the complex normal course of events, just what it is that someone will want.
Judgment regarding the significance of things or situations becomes increasingly complicated when the
fulfillment of one biologically-predicated goal interferes with the pursuit or fulfillment of another.76 To
what end should we devote our actions, for example, when we are simultaneously lustful and guilty, or
cold, thirsty, and frightened? What if the only way to obtain food is to steal it, say, from someone equally
hungry, weaker and dependent? How is our behavior guided, when our desires compete which is to say,
when wanting one thing makes us likely to lose another, or several others? There is no reason to presume,
after all, that each of our particularly specialized subsystems will agree, at any one time, about what
constitutes the most immediately desirable good. This lack of easy agreement makes us intrinsically
prone to intrapsychic conflict, and associated affective (emotional) dysregulation. We manipulate our
environments, and our beliefs, to address this conflict we change ourselves, or the things around us, to
increase our hope and satisfaction, and to decrease our fear and pain.
It is up to the higher cortical systems the phylogenetically newer, more advanced executive77
portions of the brain to render judgment about the relative value of desired states (and, similarly, to
determine the proper order, for the manifestation of means78). These advanced systems must take all states
of desire into account, optimally, and determine the appropriate path for the expression of that desire. We
make decisions about what is to be regarded as valuable, at any given time, but the neurological subsystems
that keep us alive, which are singularly responsible for our maintenance, in different aspects, all have a
voice in those decisions a vote. Every part of us, kingdom that we are, depends on the healthy operation
of every other part. To ignore one good, therefore, is to risk all. To ignore the demands of one necessary
subsystem is merely to ensure that it will speak later with the voice of the unjustly oppressed; to ensure that
it will grip our fantasy, unexpectedly, and make of the future something unpredictable. Our optimal paths
therefore, must be properly inclusive, from the perspective of our internal community from the
perspective of our basic physiology. The valuations and actions of others, additionally, influence our
personal states of emotion and motivation, as we pursue our individual goals, inevitably, in a social context.
The goal, writ large, towards which our higher systems work must therefore be construction of a state
where all our needs and the needs of others are simultaneously met. This higher goal, to which we

42


all theoretically aspire, is a complex (and oft-implicit) fantasy a vision or map of the promised land. This
map, this story this framework of reference, or context of interpretation is the (ideal) future, contrasted
necessarily with the (unbearable) present, and includes concrete plans, designed to turn the latter into the
former. The mutable meanings that make up our lives depend for their nature on the explicit structure of
this interpretive context.
We select what we should value, from among those things we must value. Our selections are, therefore,
predictable in the broad sense. This must be, as we must perform certain actions in order to live. But the
predictability is limited. The world is complex enough not only so that a given problem may have many
valid solutions, but so that even the definition of solution may vary. The particular most appropriate or
likely choices of people, including ourselves, cannot therefore be accurately determined beforehand (not
under normal circumstances, at least). Nonetheless despite our final and ineradicable ignorance we act
judging from moment to moment what is to be deemed worthy of pursuit; determining what can be ignored,
at least temporarily, during that pursuit. We are capable of acting and of producing the results we desire
because we render judgment of value, using every bit of information at our disposal. We determine that
something is worth having, at a given time and place, and make the possession of that thing our goal. And
as soon as something has become our goal no matter what that something is it appears to adopt the
significance of satisfaction (of consummatory reward). It appears sufficient for something to be truly
regarded as valuable, for it to adopt the emotional aspect of value. It is in this manner that our higher-order
verbal-cognitive systems serve to regulate our emotions. It is for this reason that we can play that we can
work towards merely symbolic ends; for this reason that drama and literature79 (and even sporting events)
can have such profound vicarious effects on us. The mere fact that something is desired, however, does
not necessarily mean that its attainment will sustain life (as a true satisfaction might) or that pure regard
will make something into what it is not. It is therefore necessary (if you wish to exist, that is) to construct
goals models of the desired future that are reasonable, so to speak, from the perspective of previous
experience, grounded in biological necessity. Such goals take into account the necessity of coping with our
intrinsic limitations; of satisfying our inherited biological subsystems; of appeasing those transpersonal
gods, who eternally demand to be clothed and fed.
The fact that goals should be reasonable, broadly speaking, does not necessarily mean that they will be,
or that they have to be (at least in the short term) or that what constitutes reasonable can be easily or
finally determined. One mans meat is another mans poison; the contents of the ideal future (and the
interpreted present) may and do vary dramatically between individuals. An anorexic, for example, makes
her goal an emaciation of figure that may well be incompatible with life. In consequence, she regards food
as something to be avoided as something punishing, or threatening. This belief will not protect her from
starving, although it will powerfully affect her short-term determination of the valence of chocolate. The
man obsessed with power may sacrifice everything including his family to the attainment of his narrow
ambition. The empathic consideration of others, a time-consuming business, merely impedes his progress
with regards to those things he deems of ultimate value. His faith in the value of his progress therefore
makes threat and frustration even of love. Our beliefs, in short, can change our reactions to everything
even to those things as primary or fundamental as food and family. We remain indeterminately
constrained, however, by the fact of our biological limits.
It is particularly difficult to specify the value of an occurrence when it has one meaning, from one frame
of reference (with regards to one particular goal), and a different or even opposite meaning, from another
equally equally or more important and relevant frame. Stimuli that exist in this manner constitute
unsolved problems of adaptation still present us with a mystery, which is what to do in their presence
(whether to pause, consume, stop, or move backwards or forwards, at the most basic of levels; whether to
feel anxious, satisfied, hurt, or hopeful). Some things or situations may be evidently satisfying or punishing
at least from the currently extant framework of reference and can therefore be regarded (valued, acted
towards) in an uncomplicated manner. Other things and situations, however, remain rife with contradictory
or indeterminate meanings. (Many things, for example, are punishing in the short term but satisfying or
promising in the medium to long term.) Such circumstances provide evidence that our systems of
valuation are not yet sophisticated enough to foster complete adaptation demonstrate to us
incontrovertibly that our processes of evaluation are still incomplete:

43


A brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley, approaching a fork in the track. The brain is
hooked up to the trolley in such a way that the brain can determine which course the trolley will take.
There are only two options: the right side of the fork, or the left side. There is no way to derail or stop
the trolley, and the brain is aware of this. On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker,
Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If Jones lives he will go on
to kill five men for the sake of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a
bridge that the orphans bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans who will be killed
would have grown up to become a tyrant who made good, utilitarian men do bad things, another would
have become John Sununu, a third would have invented the pop-top can.
If the brain in the vat chooses the left side of the track, the trolley will definitely hit and kill another
railman, Leftie, and will hit and destroy ten beating hearts on the track that would have been
transplanted into ten patients at the local hospital who will die without donor hearts. These are the only
hearts available, and the brain is aware of this. If the railman on the left side of the track lives, he, too,
will kill five men in fact, the same five that the railman on the right would kill. However, Leftie will
kill the five as an unintended consequence of saving ten men: he will inadvertently kill the five men as
he rushes the ten hearts to the local hospital for transplantation. A further result of Lefties act is that the
busload of orphans will be spared. Among the five men killed by Leftie is the man responsible for
putting the brain at the controls of the trolley. If the ten hearts and Leftie are killed by the trolley, the ten
prospective heart-transplant patients will die and their kidneys will be used to save the lives of twenty
kidney transplant patients, one of whom will grow up to cure cancer and one of whom will grow up to
be Hitler. There are other kidneys and dialysis machines available, but the brain does not know this.
Assume that the brains choice, whatever it turns out to be, will serve as an example to other brains in
vats, and thus the effects of its decision will be amplified. Also assume that if the brain chooses the right
side of the fork, an unjust war free of war crimes will ensue, whereas if the brain chooses the left fork, a
just war fraught with war crimes will result. Furthermore, there is an intermittently active Cartesian
demon deceiving the brain in such a way that the brain is never sure that it is being deceived.
Question: Ethically speaking, what should the brain do?80
We cannot act in two ways at one time cannot move forwards and backwards, cannot stop and go,
simultaneously. When faced with stimuli, whose meaning is indeterminate, we are therefore placed in
conflict. Such conflict must be resolved, before adaptive action may take place. We can actually only do
one thing, at one time although we may be motivated by confusing, threatening, dangerous or
unpredictable circumstances to attempt many incommensurate things simultaneously.
2.2.2. Unexplored Territory: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology
The dilemma of contradictory simultaneous meanings can only be solved in one of two related ways
(although it can be avoided in many others). We can alter our behaviors, in the difficult situation, so that
those behaviors no longer produce consequences we do not desire or cannot interpret. Alternatively, we can
reframe our contexts of evaluation (our goals and our interpretations of the present), so that they no longer
produce paradoxical implications, with regards to the significance of a given situation. These processes of
behavioral modification and reframing constitute acts of effortful revaluation, which means thorough,
exploratory reconsideration of what has been judged previously to be appropriate or important.
Things or situations with indeterminate meanings therefore challenge our adaptive competence; force us
to revaluate our present circumstances, and alter our ongoing behaviors. Such circumstances arise when
something we have under control, from one perspective, is troublesome or otherwise out of control from
another. Out of control means, most basically, unpredictable: something is beyond us when our
interactions with it produce phenomena whose properties could not be determined, beforehand. Unexpected
or novel occurrences, which emerge when our plans do not turn out the way we hope they would, therefore
constitute an important perhaps the most important subset of the broader class of stimuli of
indeterminate meaning. Something unexpected, or novel, necessarily occurs in relationship to what is

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known is always identified and evaluated with respect to our currently operative plan [which is to say that
a familiar thing, in an unexpected place (or at an unexpected time) is actually something unfamiliar]. The
wife of an adulterous husband, for example, is familiar to him, perhaps, when she is at home. The fact of
her, and her behavior, constitutes explored territory, so to speak. She is an entirely different sort of
phenomenon, however, from the perspective of affect (and implication for behavioral output), if she makes
an unexpected appearance at his favorite motel room, in the midst of a tryst. What will the husband do, in
his wifes presence, when she surprises him? First, he will be taken aback, in all likelihood then he will
concoct a story, that makes sense of his behavior (if he can manage it, on such short notice). He has to think
up something new; has to do something he has never done before. He has to manage his wife, who he
thinks he has fooled his wife, whose mere unexpected presence at the motel is proof of her endless
residual mystery. Our habitual patterns of action only suffice for things and situations of determinate
significance by definition: we only know how to act in the presence of the familiar. The appearance of the
unexpected pops us out of unconscious, axiomatic complacency, and forces us (painfully) to think.
The implications of novel or unpredictable occurrences are unknown, by definition. This observation
carries within it the seeds of a difficult and useful question: what, is the significance of the unknown? It
might seem logical to assume that the answer is none something unexplored cannot have meaning,
because none has yet been attributed to it. The truth, however, is precisely opposite. Those things we do not
understand nonetheless signify. If you cant tell what something means, because you dont know what it is,
what then does it mean? It is not nothing we are in fact frequently and predictably upset by the
unexpected. Rather, it could be anything and that is precisely the crux of the problem. Unpredictable
things are not irrelevant, prior to the determination of their specific meaning. Things we have not yet
explored have significance, prior to our adaptation to them, prior to our classification of their relevance,
prior to our determination of their implication for behavior. Things not predicted, not desired, that occur
while we are carrying out our carefully designed plans such things come loaded, a priori, with meaning,
both positive and negative. The appearance of unexpected things or situations indicates, at least, that our
plans are in error, at some stage of their design in some trivial way, if we are lucky; in some manner that
might be devastating to our hopes and wishes, to our self-regard, if we are not.
Unexpected or unpredictable things novel things, more exactly (the class of novel things, most
particularly) have a potentially infinite, unbounded range of significance. What does something that
might be anything mean? In the extremes, it means the worst that could be (or, at least, the worst you can
imagine) and, conversely, the best that could be (or the best you can conceive of). Something new might
present possibility for unbearable suffering, followed by meaningless death might present threat virtually
unbounded in significance. That new and apparently minor but nonetheless strange and worrisome ache
you noticed this morning, for example, while you were exercising might just signify the onset of the
cancer that will slowly and painfully kill you. Alternatively, something unexpected might signify
inconceivable opportunity for expansion of general competence and well-being. Your old, boring, but
secure job unexpectedly disappears. A year later, you are doing what you really want to do, and your life is
incomparably better.
An unexpected thing, or situation, appearing in the course of goal-directed behavior, constitutes a
stimulus that is intrinsically problematic: novel occurrences are, simultaneously, cues for punishment
(threats) and cues for satisfaction (promises).81 This paradoxical a priori status is represented schematically
in Figure 5: The Ambivalent Nature of Novelty. Unpredictable things, which have a paradoxical character,
accordingly activate two antithetical emotional systems, whose mutually inhibitory activities provide basic
motivation for abstract cognition, whose cooperative endeavor is critical to the establishment of permanent
memory, and whose physical substrates constitute universal elements of the human nervous system. The
most rapidly activated82 of these two systems governs inhibition of ongoing behavior, cessation of currently
goal-directed activity;83 the second, equally powerful, but somewhat more conservative,84 underlies
exploration, general behavioral activation,85 and forward locomotion.86 Operation of the former appears
associated with anxiety, with fear and apprehension, with negative affect universal subjective reactions to
the threatening and unexpected.87 Operation of the latter, by contrast, appears associated with hope, with
curiosity and interest, with positive affect subjective responses to the promising and unexpected.88 The
process of exploring the emergent unknown is therefore guided by the interplay between the emotions of
curiosity/hope/excitement, on the one hand, and anxiety, on the other or, to describe the phenomena from

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another viewpoint between the different motor systems responsible for approach (forward locomotion)
and inhibition of ongoing behavior.

Hope

PROMISE

NOVELTY

THREAT

Anxiety
Figure 5: The Ambivalent Nature of Novelty

The ambivalent unknown that is, novelty comes in two forms, so to speak (as alluded to earlier).
Normal novelty emerges within the territory circumscribed by the choice of a particular end-point or
goal (which is to say, after getting to specific point b has been deemed the most important possible
activity, at this time and in this place). Something normally novel constitutes an occurrence which leaves
the current departure point and goal intact, but that indicates that the means of achieving that goal have to
be modified. Let us say, for example, that you are in your office. You are accustomed to walking down an
unobstructed hallway, to get to the elevator. You are so used to performing this activity, that you can do it
automatically so you often read while walking. One day, while reading, you stumble over a chair
someone left in the middle of the hallway. This is normal novelty. You dont have to alter your current
goal, except in a temporary and trivial manner; you are not likely to get too upset by the unexpected
obstacle. Getting to the elevator is still a real possibility, even within the desired time-frame; all you have
to do is walk around the chair (or move it somewhere else, if you are feeling particularly altruistic). Figure
6: Emergence of Normal Novelty in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior provides an abstracted
representation of this process of trivial adaptation.

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What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Hope/Pleasure
Promise
Predicted Outcome

e
enc
u
q
e
d S vior
e
n
lan
eha
AP
of B

se
hoo e
e
C
/
u
tin
enc
rate
Con uence Gene Sequ
New
Seq
Unpredicted Outcome
Threat (promise)
Anxiety

(hope)

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Figure 6: Emergence of Normal Novelty in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior
Revolutionary novelty is, by contrast, something altogether different. Sometimes the sudden
appearance of the unexpected means taking path b to grandmas house, instead of path a. Sometimes
that appearance means emergent doubt about the very existence of grandma. Here is an example: I am
sitting alone in my office, in a high-rise building, alone at night. I suddenly fantasize: I am going to take
the elevator down three floors and get something to eat (more accurately, hunger suddenly grips my
imagination, and uses it for its own purposes). This fantasy constitutes a spatially and temporally
bounded image of the ideal future an actual possible future, carved out as a discriminable (and thus
usable) object, from the infinite domain of potential possible futures. I use this definite image to evaluate
the events and processes that constitute the interpreted present, as it unfolds around me, as I walk towards
the elevator (on my way to the cafeteria). I want to make reality match my fantasy to subdue my
motivation (to please the gods, so to speak). If the unexpected occurs say, the elevator is not operating
the mismatch temporarily stops me. I replace my current plan with an alternative behavioral strategy,
designed to obtain the same end. This means that I do not reconfigure the temporally and spatially bounded
map that I am using to evaluate my circumstances that I am using to regulate my emotions. All I have
to do is change strategy.
I decide to take the stairs to the cafeteria. If the stairs are blocked by construction, I am in more serious
trouble. My original fantasy go down to the cafeteria and eat was predicated on an implicit
presumption: I can get downstairs. This presumption, which I wasnt really even aware of (which might be
regarded as axiomatic, for the purposes of the current operation), has been violated. The story go
downstairs to eat only retained its function in an environment characterized by valid means of betweenfloor transportation. The existence of these means constituted a given I had used the elevator or the stairs
so often that their very presence took on the aspect of a justifiably-ignored constant. Once I had mastered

47


the stairs, or the elevator once I had learned their location, position, and mechanisms I could take them
for granted, and presume their irrelevance. Predictable phenomena (read thoroughly explored, and
therefore adapted to) do not attract attention do not require consciousness. No new behavioral
strategies or frameworks of reference must be generated, in their presence.
Anyway: the elevators are broken; the stairs are blocked. The map I was using to evaluate my
environment has been invalidated: my ends are no longer tenable. In consequence, necessarily, the means
to those ends (my plans to go to the cafeteria) have been rendered utterly irrelevant. I no longer know what
to do. This means, in a non-trivial sense, that I no longer know where I am. I presumed I was in a place I
was familiar with indeed, many familiar things (the fact of the floor, for example) have not changed.
Nonetheless, something fundamental has been altered and I dont know how fundamental. I am now in a
place I cannot easily leave. I am faced with a number of new problems, in addition to my unresolved
hunger at least in potential (will I get home, tonight? Do I have to get someone to rescue me? Who
could rescue me? Who do I telephone, to ask for help? What if there was a fire?). My old plan my old
story (I am going downstairs to get something to eat) has vanished, and I do not know how to
evaluate my current circumstances. My emotions previously constrained by the existence of a temporarily
valid plan re-emerge, in a confused jumble. I am anxious (what will I do? What if there was a fire?),
frustrated (Im certainly not going to get any more work done tonight, under these conditions!) angry
(who could have been stupid enough to block all the exits?), and curious (just what the hell is going on
around here, anyway?) Something unknown has occurred, and blown all my plans. An emissary of chaos
to speak metaphorically has disrupted my emotional stability. Figure 7: Emergence of Revolutionary
Novelty in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior graphically presents this state of affairs.

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Hope/Pleasure
Promise
Predicted Outcome

e
enc
equ r
S
d
e
io
lann Behav
AP
of

se
e
hoo e
tinu
c
te/C
Con ence enera equen
u
S
G
q
e
w
S
Ne
Unpredicted Outcome
Threat (promise)
Anxiety

(hope)

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Dis

int
De egra
sce tion
An
o
Inf malo nt
orm
u
ati s
on

CHAOS:
The Unknown

Figure 7: Emergence of Revolutionary Novelty in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior

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The plans we formulate are mechanisms designed to bring the envisioned perfect future into being. Once
formulated, plans govern our behavior until we make a mistake. A mistake, which is the appearance of a
thing or situation not envisioned, provides evidence for the incomplete nature of our plans indicates that
those plans, and the presumptions upon which they are erected, are in error, and must be updated (or,
heaven forbid, abandoned). As long as everything is proceeding according to plan, we remain on familiar
ground but when we err, we enter unexplored territory.
What is known, and what unknown, is always relative, in a manner of speaking, because what is
unexpected depends entirely upon what we expect (desire) on what we had previously planned and
presumed. The unexpected constantly occurs because it is impossible, in the absence of omniscience, to
formulate an entirely accurate model of what actually is happening, or of what should happen; because it is
impossible to determine what results ongoing behavior will finally produce. Errors in representation of the
unbearable present and the ideal, desired future are inevitable, in consequence, as are errors in
implementation and representation of the means by which the former can be transformed into the latter.
The infinite human capacity for error means that encounter with the unknown is inevitable, in the course of
human experience; means that the likelihood of such encounter is as certain, regardless of place and time of
individual existence, as death and taxation. The (variable) existence of the unknown, paradoxically enough,
can therefore be regarded as an environmental constant. Adaptation to the existence of this domain must
occur, therefore, in every culture, and in every historical period regardless of the particulars of any given
social or biological circumstance.
Deviations from desired outcome constitute (relatively) novel events, indicative of errors in
presumption, either at the level of analysis of current state, process, or ideal future. Such mismatches
unpredictable, nonredundant, or novel occurrences constantly comprise the most intrinsically meaningful,
interesting elements of the human experiential field. This interest and meaning signifies the presence of
new information, and constitutes a prepotent stimulus for human (and animal) action.89 It is where the
unpredictable emerges that the possibility for all new and useful information exists. It is during the process
of exploration of the unpredictable or unexpected that all knowledge and wisdom is generated, all
boundaries of adaptive competence extended, all foreign territory explored, mapped and mastered. The
eternally extant domain of the unknown therefore constitutes the matrix from which all conditional
knowledge emerges. Everything presently known to each, everything rendered predictable, was at one time
unknown to all, and had to be rendered predictable beneficial at best, irrelevant at worst as a
consequence of active exploration-driven adaptation. The matrix is of indeterminable breadth: despite our
great storehouse of culture, despite the wisdom bequeathed to us by our ancestors, we are still
fundamentally ignorant, and will remain so, no matter how much we learn. The domain of the unknown
surrounds us, like an ocean surrounds an island. We can increase the area of the island, but we never take
away much from the sea.
2.2.3. Exploration: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology
The unfamiliar exists, as an invariant feature of experience, no less than the familiar. We remain ignorant,
and act while surrounded by uncertainty. Just as fundamentally, however, we always know something, no
matter who we are, or when we live. We tend to view the environment as something objective, but one
of its most basic features familiarity, or lack thereof is something virtually defined by the subjective.
This environmental subjectivity is non-trivial, as well: it is certainly the case that mere interpretation of a
phenomenon can determine whether we thrive or sicken, live or die. It appears, indeed, that the
categorization or characterization of the environment as unknown/known (nature/culture, foreign/familiar)
might be regarded as more fundamental than any objective characterization if we make the presumption
that what we have adapted to is, by definition, reality. For it is the case that the human brain and higher
nervous systems, in general have specialized for operation in the domain of order, and in the domain
of chaos. And it is impossible to understand the fact of this specialization, unless those domains are
regarded as more than mere metaphor.
We normally use our conceptions of cognitive processes to illuminate the working of the brain
(normally use our models of thought to determine what must be the case physiologically). However,

49


neuropsychological investigation has advanced to the point where the reverse procedure is equally useful.
What is known about brain function can be used to illuminate our conceptions of cognition indeed, of
reality itself) can be used to provide those conceptions with suitable objective constraints.
Enlightenment thought strove to separate reason and emotion; empirical investigations into the
structure and function of the brain given great initial impetus by the consequences of that separation
have demonstrated instead that the two phenomena are mutually interdependent, and essentially integral.90
We live in a universe characterized by the constant interplay of yang and yin, chaos and order: emotion
provides us with an initial guide, when we dont know what we are doing, when reason alone will not
suffice.91 Cognition, by contrast, allows us to construct and maintain our ordered environments, and keep
chaos and affect in check.
The brain may be usefully regarded as composed of three primary units motor, sensory, and affective
or as constituting a matched pair of hemispheres, right and left. Each manner of conceptual subdivision has
its theoretical advantages; furthermore, the two are not mutually exclusive. We will attend to the
description of the units, portrayed schematically in Figure 8: The Motor and Sensory Units of the
Brain, first.

Motor Unit
Primary Zone (Motor Strip)
Secondary Zone (Premotor Strip)
Tertiary Zone (Prefrontal Cortex)

Sensory Unit
Sensory Area: Primary Zone
Sensory Area: Secondary Zone
Auditory Area: Primary Zone
Auditory Area: Secondary Zone
Visual Area: Primary Zone
Visual Area: Secondary Zone
All Areas: Tertiary Zone

Figure 8: The Motor and Sensory Units of the Brain
Most neocortical (and many subcortical) structures have attained their largest and most complex level of
development in homo sapiens. This is true, in particular, of the motor unit,92 which comprises the anterior
or forward half of the comparatively newer neocortex (and which is composed of the motor, premotor and
prefrontal lobes). This level of heightened development accounts in part for increased human intelligence,
behavioral versatility and breadth of experience, both actual and potential, and underlies our capacity to
formulate plans and intentions, organize them into programs of action, and regulate their execution.93

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The sensory unit,94 which comprises the posterior half of the neocortex (and which is composed of the
parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes), is responsible for the construction of the separate worlds of our
sensory systems (primarily sight, hearing and touch) and for their integration into the unified perceptual
field that constitutes our conscious experience.95 The sensory unit processes the information generated in
the course of the actions planned by the motor unit, and builds the world of the recognizable and familiar
out of that information.
The limbic unit, finally phylogenetically ancient, tucked under the folds of the neocortex
compares96 the nature of behavioral consequences, as they occur, with a dynamic model, extant in fantasy,
of what was supposed to occur of what was desired to happen. It is therefore signalling of motivational
significance, or affective importance, that constitutes what is perhaps the major responsibility of the limbic
system that, and the (integrally related) inculcation and renewal of memory [integrally related, as it is
significant events that transform knowledge, that are stored in memory (more accurately, that alter
memory)]. This process of signalling necessarily involves comparison of the undesirable present, as
currently understood, with the ideal future, as currently imagined. The capacity to generate such a contrast
appears dependent upon operations undertaken deep within the comparatively ancient central portion of the
brain particularly in the tightly-integrated structures known as the hippocampus97 and amygdala.98 The
nature of this comparative process can perhaps best be understood, in introduction, through consideration
of a phenomenon known as the event-related cortical potential.
The brain constantly produces a shifting pattern of electrical activity in the course of its operations. The
electroencephalogram (the EEG) provides a rough picture of that pattern. The individual undergoing EEG
examination has electrodes placed in an array on his scalp. These electrodes allow the patterns of electrical
activity, generated in the course of neurological activity, to be detected, monitored and, to some degree,
localized. (The brain produces enough electrical activity to be detected through the skull and tissue
surrounding it, although the interference produced by that surrounding tissue makes evaluation of the EEG
difficult). The rather limited capacities of EEG technology have been greatly extended by the analytic
capacities of the computer. The cortical event-related potential is a measure of brain activity derived by
computer from EEG recordings averaged at different delays after the subject being evaluated has been
presented with some sort of stimulus. The nature of this stimulus may vary. In the simplest case, it is
merely something sensory, like a tone presented repeatedly through stereo headphones. In more complex
cases the event-related potential is monitored following presentation of a stimulus with affective valence
which means following something that must be discriminated, recognized, or otherwise evaluated.99
Perhaps the simplest way to produce an event of this sort is to randomly and rarely insert a tone that differs
in frequency into a repetitious sequence of otherwise predictable tones (although the stimulus might just as
easily be visual or tactile). These odd-ball events are characterized by (relative) novelty (novelty is
always relative) and evoke a pattern of cortical electrical activity that differs from that produced by the
predictable tones. Any event that has specific or known implications for alteration in ongoing behavior will
also produce a potential like the odd-ball.
The averaged cortical event-related potential produced by infrequent or otherwise meaningful events is a
waveform with a characteristic time-course and shape. Most attention has been paid to elements of this
waveform that occur within the first half-second (500 milliseconds) post-stimulus occurrence. As the first
half-second passes, the polarity of the waveform shifts. Peaks and valleys occur at different, more-or-less
standard times (and in essentially predictable locations) and have therefore been identified and named.
Event-related potentials (ERPs) are negative (N) or positive (P) depending on polarity, and numbered
according to their occurrence in time. The earliest aspects of the ERP (<200 msec) vary with change in the
purely sensory quality of an event. The waveforms named N200 (negative 200 msec) and P300 (positive
300 msec), by contrast, vary with the affective significance and magnitude of the stimulus, and can even be
evoked by the absence of an event that was expected, but that did not appear. The psychophysiologist Eric
Halgren states:
One may summarize the cognitive conditions that evoke the N2/P3 as being the presentation of stimuli
that are novel or that are signals for behavioral tasks, and thus need to be attended to, and processed.
These evoking conditions and functional consequences are identical to those that have been found for
the orienting reflex.100

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Halgren considers the N2/P3 and the autonomic orienting reflex different parts of an overall organismic
reaction complex evoked by stimuli that merit further evaluation,101 and terms this overall response pattern
the orienting complex. A substantial body of evidence suggests that the amygdalic and hippocampal
systems are critically involved in production of the N2/P3 waveforms, although other brain systems also
participate. (It is also of great interest to note that an additional waveform, the N4, is produced when human
experimental subjects are exposed to abstracted symbols with integral significance, such as written, spoken
or signed words and faces, in a meaningful context.102 In such a context, the N4 occurs after the N2 but
before the P3, and increases in magnitude as a function of the difficulty of integrating the word with the
context in which it appears. The amygdala and hippocampus are also directly responsible for the production
of this waveform and, therefore, for contextual synthesis, which is a vital aspect of the derivation of
meaning, which is significance for behavior, given the desire to attain a particular goal.)
The processes that reveal themselves behaviorally in the orienting complex and electrophysiologically in
the N2/N4/P3 waveform appear to play a central part in the manifold processes we experience (and
understand) as consciousness. Another psychophysiologist, Arne Ohman,103 has posited that orienting
initiates a sequence of controlled processing, which is difficult, slow, accompanied by awareness,
sequential and generative (and which is referred to as exploratory behavior in this document), contrasted
with automatic processing, which is habitual, unconscious and immediate (and which occurs in
explored territory). The orienting complex is apparently only manifested when a given experimental
subject becomes aware of some relationship between sensory input and motor action. Likewise, the
N2/P3 waveform appears only when the experimental stimulus utilized has captured the subjects attention
and reached his or her awareness.104 Consciousness (affiliated tightly with orienting, for the purposes of
the present argument) therefore appears as a phenomenon critically involved in and vital to the evaluation
of novelty appears vital to placement of the unpredictable into a defined and determinate context, as a
consequence of behavioral modification, undertaken in the territory of the unknown. This means that
consciousness plays a centrally important role in the generation of the predictable and comprehended
world from the domain of the unexpected. Such response, placement and generation remains forever
mediated by the twin forces of hope/curiosity and anxiety forces produced, non-coincidentally, by the
same structures that govern reflexive orientation and exploratory motor output.
The constant and universal presence of the incomprehensible in the world has forced adaptive
response from us has elicited such response from all creatures like us, with highly developed nervous
systems. We have evolved to operate successfully in a world eternally composed of the predictable, in
paradoxical juxtaposition with the unpredictable. The combination of what we have explored and what we
have still to evaluate actually comprises our environment, insofar as its nature can be broadly specified
and it is to that environment that our physiological structure has become matched. One set of the systems
that comprise our brain and mind governs activity, when we are guided by our plans when we are in the
domain of the known. Another appears to operate when we face something unexpected when we have
entered the realm of the unknown.105
The limbic unit generates the orienting reflex, among its other tasks. It is the orienting reflex, which
manifests itself in emotion, thought and behavior, that is at the core of the fundamental human response to
the novel or unknown. This reflex takes a biologically-determined course, ancient in nature, primordial as
hunger or thirst, basic as sexuality, extant similarly in the animal kingdom, far down the chain of organic
being. The orienting reflex is the general instinctual reaction to the strange category of all occurrences
which have not yet been categorized is response to the unexpected, novel or unknown per se, and not to
any discriminated aspect of experience, any specifically definable situation or thing. The orienting reflex is
at the core of the process that generates (conditional) knowledge of sensory phenomena and motivational
relevance or valence. Such knowledge is most fundamentally how to behave, and what to expect as a
consequence, in a particular situation, defined by culturally-modified external environmental circumstance
and equally-modified internal motivational state. It is also information about what is, from the objective
perspective is the record of that sensory experience occurring in the course of ongoing behavior.
The orienting reflex substitutes for particular learned responses when the incomprehensible suddenly
makes its appearance. The occurrence of the unpredictable, the unknown, the source of fear and hope,
creates a seizure of ongoing specifically goal-directed behavior. Emergence of the unexpected constitutes
evidence for the incomplete nature of the story currently guiding such behavior comprises evidence for

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error at the level of working description of current state, representation of desired future state, or
conception of the means to transform the former into the latter. Appearance of the unknown motivates
curious, hopeful exploratory behavior, regulated by fear, as means to update the memory-predicated
working model of reality (to update the known, so to speak, which is defined or familiar territory). The
simultaneous production of two antithetical emotional states, such as those of hope and fear, means conflict
and the unexpected produces intrapsychic conflict like nothing else. The magnitude and potential
intensity of this conflict cannot be appreciated under normal circumstances, because under normal
circumstances in defined territory things are going according to plan. It is only when our goals have
been destroyed that the true significance of the decontextualized object or experience is revealed and such
revelation makes itself known first in the form of fear.106 We are protected from such conflict from
subjugation to instinctive terror by the historical compilation of adaptive information generated in the
course of previous novelty-driven exploration. We are protected from unpredictability by our culturallydetermined beliefs, by the stories we share with those who are like us. These stories tell us how to presume
and how to act, to maintain the determinate, shared and restricted values that compose our familiar worlds.
The orienting reflex the involuntary gravitation of attention to novelty lays the groundwork for the
emergence of (voluntarily-controlled) exploratory behavior.107 Exploratory behavior allows for
classification of the general and (a priori) motivationally-significant unexpected into specified and
determinate domains of motivational relevance. In the case of something with actual (post-investigation)
significance, relevance means context-specific punishment or satisfaction, or their putatively secondorder equivalents: threat or promise (as something threatening implies punishment, as something
promising implies satisfaction). This is categorization, it should be noted, in accordance with implication
for motor output, or behavior, rather than with regards to sensory (or, formalized, objective) property.108
We have generally presumed that the purpose of exploration is production of a picture of the objective
qualities of the territory explored. This is evidently but only partially true. However, the reasons we
produce such pictures (are motivated to produce such pictures) are not usually given sufficient
consideration. Every explorable sub-territory, so to speak, has its sensory aspect, but it is the emotional or
motivational relevance of the new domain that is truly important. We only need to know that something is
hard and glowing red as a means of keeping track of the fact that it is hot, and therefore dangerous that it
is punishing, if contacted. We need to know the feel and look of objects so that we can keep track of what
can be eaten, and what might eat us.
When we explore a new domain, we are mapping the motivational or affective significance of the things
or situations that are characteristic of our goal-directed interactions within that domain, and we use the
sensory information we encounter, to identify what is important. It is the determination of specific meaning,
or emotional significance, in previously unexplored territory not identification of the objective features
that allows us to inhibit the novelty-induced terror and curiosity emergence of that territory otherwise
automatically elicits. We feel comfortable somewhere new, once we have discovered that nothing exists
there that will threaten or hurt us (more particularly, when we have adjusted our behavior and schemas of
representation so that nothing there is likely to or able to threaten or hurt us). The consequence of
exploration that allows for emotional regulation (that generates security, essentially) is not objective
description as the scientist might have it but categorization of the implications of an unexpected
occurrence for specification of means and ends. Such categorization is what an object is, from the
perspective of archaic affect and subjective experience. It is of course also the case that the orienting reflex,
and the exploratory behavior that follows its manifestation, allows for the differentiation of the unknown
into the familiar categories of objective reality. However, this ability is a late development, historically
speaking emerging only four hundred years ago109 and cannot therefore be considered basic to
thinking or evaluation. Specification of the collectively apprehensible sensory qualities of something
generally considered, in the modern world, as the essential aspect of the description of reality merely
serves, to state it once again, as an aid to the more fundamental process of evaluation; merely serves to
determine the precise nature of relevant or potentially relevant phenomena.
When things are going according to plan that is, when our actions fulfill our desires we feel secure,
even happy. When nothing is going wrong, the cortical systems expressly responsible for the organization
and implementation of goal-directed behavior remain firmly in control. When cortically-generated plans
and fantasies go up in smoke, however, this control vanishes. The comparatively ancient limbic

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hippocampal and amygdalic systems leap into action, modifying affect, interpretation, and behavior. The
hippocampus appears particularly specialized for comparing the (interpreted) reality of the present, as it
manifests itself in the subjective sphere, with the fantasies of the ideal future constructed by the pre-motor
unit (acting in turn as the higher-order mediator the king, so to speak of all the specialized subsystems
that compose the more fundamental or primary components of the brain). These desire-driven fantasies
might be regarded as motivated hypotheses about the relatively likelihood of events produced in the course
of ongoing goal-directed activity. What you expect to happen really, what you want to happen, at least in
most situations is a model you generate, using what you already know, in combination with what you are
learning while you act. The hippocampal comparator110 constantly and unconsciously checks what is
actually happening against what is supposed to happen. This means, that the comparator contrasts the
unbearable present, insofar as it is comprehended (because it is a model, too), against the ideal future, as
it is imagined; means that it compares the interpreted outcome of active behavior with an image, in
imagination, of the intended consequences of that behavior. Past experience skill and representation of
the outcome of skill; memory, as it is applied governs behavior, until error is committed. When
something occurs that is not intended when the actual outcome, as interpreted, does not match the desired
outcome, as posited the hippocampus shifts mode, and prepares to update cortical memory storage.
Behavioral control shifts from the cortex, to the limbic system apparently, to the amygdala, which
governs the provisional determination of the affective significance of unpredictable events, and has
powerful output to centers of motor control.111 This shift of control allows the activation of structures
governing orienting, heightened intensity of sensory processing, and exploration.
The higher cortex controls behavior until the unknown emerges until it makes a mistake in
judgment; until memory no longer serves until the activity it governs produces a mismatch between what
is desired, and what actually occurs. When such a mismatch occurs, appropriate affect (fear and curiosity)
emerges. But how can situation-relevant emotion attach itself to what has by definition not yet been
encountered? Traditionally, significance is attached to previously irrelevant things or situations as a
consequence of learning which is to say that things mean nothing until their meaning is learned. But no
learning has yet taken place, in the face of the unknown and yet, emotion reveals itself, in the presence of
error. It appears, therefore, that the kind of emotion that the unpredictable arouses is not learned which is
to say that the novel or unexpected comes preloaded with affect. Things are not irrelevant, as a matter of
course. They are rendered irrelevant, as a consequence of (successful) exploratory behavior. When they are
first encountered, however, they are meaningful. It is the amygdala, at bottom, that appears responsible for
the (disinhibited) generation of this a priori meaning terror and curiosity.
The amygdala appears to automatically respond to all things or situations, unless told not to. It is told
not to is functionally inhibited when ongoing goal-directed behaviors produce the desired (intended)
results.112 When an error occurs, however indicating that current memory-guided motivated plans and
goals are insufficient the amygdala is released from inhibition, and labels the unpredictable occurrence
with meaning. Anything unknown is dangerous and promising, simultaneously: evokes anxiety, curiosity,
excitement and hope automatically and prior to what we would normally regard as exploration or as (more
context-specific) classification. The operations of the amygdala are responsible for ensuring that the
unknown is regarded with respect, as the default decision. The amygdala says, in effect if you dont
know what it signifies, you bloody well better pay attention to it. Attention constitutes the initial stage of
exploratory behavior, motivated by amygdalic operation composed of the interplay between anxiety,113
which impels caution in the face of novelty-threat, and hope, which compels approach to noveltypromise.114 Caution-regulated approach allows for the update of memory, in the form of skill and
representation. Exploration-updated memory inhibits the production of a priori affect. On familiar ground
in explored territory we feel no fear (and comparatively little curiosity).
The desired output of behavior (what should be) is initially posited; if the current strategy fails, the
approach and exploration system is activated,115 although it remains under the governance of anxiety. The
approach system (and its equivalent, in abstraction) generates (1) alternative sequences of behavior, whose
goal is the production of a solution to the present dilemma; (2) alternative conceptualizations of the desired
goal; or (3) re-evaluation of the motivational significance of current state. This means (1) that a new
strategy for attaining the desired goal might be invented, or (2) that a replacement goal, serving the same
function, might be chosen; or (3) that the behavioral strategy might be abandoned, due to the cost of its

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implementation. In the latter case, the whole notion of what constitutes reality at least with regards to
the story or frame of reference currently in use might have to be reconstructed. This most troublesome
state of affairs is schematically presented in its successful form in Figure 9: The Regeneration of
Stability from the Domain of Chaos. 116

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Hope/Pleasure
Promise
Predicted Outcome

e
enc
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Promise
Predicted Outcome

(promise)

Anxiety

Unpredicted Outcome

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Threat

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(hope)

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int
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orm ou
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Re

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The Unbearable Present

CHAOS:
The Unknown

Figure 9: The Regeneration of Stability from the Domain of Chaos
Exploratory activity culminates normally in restriction, expansion, or transformation of the behavioral
repertoire. In exceptional, non-normal circumstances that is, when a major error has been committed
such activity culminates in revolution: in modification of the entire story guiding affective evaluation and
behavioral programming. Such revolutionary modification means update of modeled reality, past, present
and future, through incorporation of information generated during exploratory behavior. Successful
exploration transforms the unknown into the expected, desired and predictable; establishes appropriate
behavioral measures (and expectations of those measures) for next contact. Unsuccessful exploration, by
contrast avoidance or escape leaves the novel object firmly entrenched in its initial, natural, anxietyprovoking category. This observation sets the stage for a fundamental realization: human beings do not
learn to fear new objects or situations, or even really learn to fear something that previously appeared
safe, when it manifests a dangerous property. Fear is the a priori position, the natural response to
everything for which no structure of behavioral adaptation has been designed and inculcated. Fear is the
innate reaction to everything that has not been rendered predictable, as a consequence of successful,
creative exploratory behavior undertaken in its presence, at some time in the past. LeDoux states:
It is well established that emotionally neutral stimuli can acquire the capacity to evoke striking
emotional reaction following temporal pairing with an aversive event. Conditioning does not create new
emotional responses but instead simply allows new stimuli to serve as triggers capable of activating

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existing, often hard-wired, species-specific emotional reactions. In the rat, for example, a pure tone
previously paired with footshock evokes a conditioned fear reaction consisting of freezing behavior
accompanied by a host of autonomic adjustments, including increases in arterial pressure and heart
rate.117 Similar responses are expressed when laboratory rats are exposed to a cat for the first time, but
following amygdala lesions such responses are no longer present,118 suggesting that the responses are
genetically specified (since they appear when the rat sees a cat, a natural predator, for the first time) and
involve the amygdala. The fact that electrical stimulation of the amygdala is capable of eliciting the
similar response patterns119 further supports the notion that the responses are hard-wired.120
Fear is not conditioned; security is unlearned, in the presence of particular things (stimuli) or contexts,
as a consequence of violation of explicit or implicit presupposition. Classical behavioral psychology is
wrong in the same manner our folk presumptions are wrong: fear is not secondary, not learned security
is secondary, learned. Everything not explored is tainted, a priori, with apprehension. Any thing or
situation that undermines the foundations of the familiar and secure is therefore to be feared.121
It is difficult for us to formulate a clear picture of the subjective effects of the systems that dominate our
initial response to the truly unpredictable, because we strive with all our might to ensure that everything
around us remains normal. Under normal conditions, therefore, these primordial systems never operate,
with their full force. It might be said, with a certain amount of justification, that we devote our entire lives
to making sure that we never have to face anything unknown, in the revolutionary sense at least not
accidentally. Our success in doing so deludes us, so to speak, about the true nature, power, and intensity of
our potential emotional responses. As civilized people, we are secure. We can predict the behaviors of
others, around us (that is, if they share our stories); furthermore, we can control our environments well
enough to ensure that our subjection to threat and punishment remains at a minimum. It is the cumulative
consequences of our adaptive struggle our cultures which enable this prediction and control. The
existence of our cultures, however, blinds us to the nature of our true (emotional) natures at least to the
range of that nature, and to the consequences of its emergence.
Experimental examinations of the orienting reflex have not shed much light on our true potential for
emotional response, in the past, because they generally took place under exceptionally controlled
circumstances. Subjects evaluated for their responses to novelty are generally presented with stimuli that
are only novel in the most trivial the most normal of manners. A tone, for example, which differs
unpredictably from another tone ( or which appears at a relatively unpredictable time) is still a tone,
something experienced, more-or-less, a thousand times before, and something experienced in a lab, in a
hospital or university, under the jurisdiction of trustworthy personnel, devoted to minimizing the anxietyprovoking nature of the experimental procedure. The controlled circumstances of the experiment (which
are, in fact, the implicit and therefore invisible theoretical presumptions of the experiment) have led us to
minimize the importance of the orienting reflex, and to misunderstand the nature of its disappearance.
Orienting signifies attention, not terror, in the standard lab situation, and its gradual elimination with
repeated stimulus presentation is regarded as habituation as something boring, akin to automatic
acclimation, adjustment, or desensitization. Habituation is not a passive process, however at least at
higher cortical levels of processing. It just looks passive, when observed under relatively trivial
circumstances. It is in reality always the consequence of active exploration and subsequent modification of
behavior, or interpretive schema. The (relatively) novel target laboratory tone, for example, is investigated
for its underlying structure by the cortical systems involved in audition. These systems actively analyze the
component elements of every sound.122 The subject is lead to expect or predict one sort of sound, and
gets another. The unexpected other has indeterminate significance, in that particular context, and is
therefore regarded as (comparatively) meaningful threatening and promising. The unexpected tone is
presented repeatedly. The exploratory subject notes that the repetitions signify nothing, in the context that
defines the experimental situation (nothing punishing, satisfying, threatening or promising), and ceases to
react. He has not merely habituated to the stimuli. He has mapped its context-dependent significance,
which is zero. This process appears trivial because the experimental situation makes it so. In real life, it is
anything but boring.
Classical work conducted on animal emotion and motivation has taken place under circumstances
reminiscent of the artificially constrained situations that define most work on human orienting. Animals,

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usually rats, are trained to be afraid or to inhibit their behavior in the presence of a neutral stimulus
paired repeatedly with a punishment [a stimulus whose motivational valence is negative, in the supposed
absence of learning (or, at least, in the absence of interpretation)]. The rat is placed in the experimental
environment, and is allowed to familiarize himself with his surroundings. The neutral stimulus he is
faced with might be a light; the unconditioned stimulus, an electric shock. The light goes on; the floor of
the rats cage is briefly electrified. This sequence occurs repeatedly. Soon the rat freezes as soon as the
light appears. He has developed a conditioned response, manifesting behavioral inhibition (and fear,
theoretically) to something that was previously neutral. Procedures of this sort effectively produce fear.
Their implicit contextual constraints or axioms of these procedures, however, lead researchers to draw odd
conclusions about the nature of the acquisition of fear.
Such experiments first imply that fear in a given situation is necessarily something learned. Second, they
imply that fear exists, as a consequence of exposure to punishment, and only because of that exposure. The
problem with this interpretation is that the rat was inevitably afraid as soon as he was placed in the new
experimental environment even though nothing terrible had yet happened there. After he is allowed to
explore, he calms down. It is only then that he is regarded as normal. The experimenter then jars the rat
out of his acquired normalcy by presenting him with something unexpected, and painful the
unconditioned stimulus, in conjunction with the neutral stimulus. He then learns to be afraid. Really
what has happened is that the unexpected occurrence forces the rat to re-attain the state he was in (or that
same state, in an exaggerated manner) when he first entered the cage. The fact of the electric shock, in
conjunction with the light, indicates to the rat (reminds the rat) that he is, once again, in unexplored
territory. His fear, in unexplored territory, is just as normal as his complacency in environments he has
mapped, and which hold no danger. We regard the calm rat as the real rat because we project our
misinterpretations of our own habitual nature, onto our experimental animals. It is as D.O. Hebb states:
[The urbanity characterizing ourselves,] the civilized, amiable, and admirable part of mankind, well
brought up and not constantly in a state of fear depends as much on our successfully avoiding
disturbing stimulation as on a lowered sensitivity [to fear-producing stimuli]. [T]he capacity for
emotional breakdown may [well] be self-concealing, leading [animals and human beings] to find or
create an environment in which the stimuli to excessive emotional response are at a minimum. So
effective is our society in this regard that its members especially the well-to-do and educated ones
may not even guess at some of their own potentialities. One usually thinks of education, in the broad
sense, as producing a resourceful, emotionally stable adult, without respect to the environment in which
these traits are to appear. To some extent this may be true. But education can be seen as being also the
means of establishing a protective social environment in which emotional stability is possible. Perhaps it
strengthens the individual against unreasonable fears and rages, but it certainly produces a uniformity of
appearance and behavior which reduces the frequency with which the individual member of the society
encounters the causes of such emotion. On this view, the susceptibility to emotional disturbance may not
be decreased. It may in fact be increased. The protective cocoon of uniformity, in personal appearance,
manners, and social activity generally, will make small deviations from custom appear increasingly
strange and thus (if the general thesis is sound) increasingly intolerable. The inevitable small deviations
from custom will bulk increasingly large, and the members of the society, finding themselves tolerating
trivial deviations well, will continue to think of themselves as socially adaptable.123
Our emotional regulation depends as much (or more) on the stability and predictability of the social
environment (on the maintenance of our cultures) as on interior processes, classically related to the
strength of the ego or the personality. Social order is a necessary precondition for psychological stability: it
is our companions, and their actions (or inactions) that primarily stabilize or destabilize our emotions.
A rat (a person) is a complacent creature, when it is in explored territory. When it is in unexplored
territory, however, it is anything but calm. A rat moved from its home cage to a new and unknown
environment a new cage, for example will first freeze (even though it has never been punished, in the
new situation). If nothing terrible happens to it (nothing punishing, threatening, or additionally
unpredictable) it will begin to sniff, to look around, to move its head, to gather new information about the
intrinsically frightening place it now inhabits. Gradually, it starts to move about. It will explore the whole

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cage, with increasing confidence. It is mapping the new environment for affective valence. It wants to
find out is there anything here that will kill me? Anything here I can eat? Anyone else here someone
hostile, or friendly; a potential mate? The rat is interested in determining whether the new place contains
anything of determinate interest to a rat, and it explores, to the best of its capacity, to make that judgment.
It is not primarily interested in the objective nature of the new circumstances a rat cannot actually
determine what is objective, and what is merely personal opinion. Nor does it care. It just wants to know
what it should do.
What happens if an animal encounters something truly unexpected something that should just not be,
according to its current frame of reference or system of belief? The answer to this question sheds
substantial light on the nature of the orienting reflex, in its full manifestation. Modern experimental
psychologists have begun to examine the response of animals to natural sources of mystery, and threat.
They allow the animals to set up their own environments, realistic environments, and then expose them to
the kinds of surprising circumstances they might encounter, in real life. The appearance of a predator, in
previously safe space (space previously explored, that is, and mapped as useful or irrelevant) constitutes
one type of realistic surprise. Blanchard and colleagues describe the naturalistic behavior of rats, under
such conditions:
When a cat is presented to established mixed-sex groups of laboratory rats living in a visible burrow
system, the behaviors of the subjects change dramatically, in many cases for 24 hours or more.124 The
initial active defensive behavior, flight to the tunnel/chamber system, is followed by a period of
immobility during which the rats make 22 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, which apparently serve as alarm
cries, at a high rate.125 As freezing breaks up, proxemic avoidance of the open area gradually gives way
to a pattern of risk assessment of the area where the cat was encountered. Subjects poke their heads
out of the tunnel openings to scan the open area where the cat was presented, for minutes or hours
before emerging, and when they do emerge, their locomotory patterns are characterized by [behaviors
that theoretically reduce their visibility and vulnerability to predators] and very short corner runs into
and out of the open area. These risk assessment activities appear to involve active gathering of
information about the possible danger source,126 providing a basis for a gradual return to nondefensive
behaviors.127 Active risk assessment is not seen during early post-cat exposure, when freezing and
avoidance of the open area are the dominant behaviors, but rises to a peak about 7-10 hours later, and
then gradually declines. Nondefensive behaviors such as eating, drinking and sexual and aggressive
activity tend to be reduced over the same period.128129
The unexpected appearance of a predator, where nothing but defined territory previously existed,
terrifies the rats badly enough so that they scream about it, persistently, for a long period of time. Once
this initial terror abates which only occurs if nothing else horrible or punishing happens curiosity is
disinhibited, and the rats return to the scene of the crime. The space renovelized by the fact of the cat has
to be transformed once again into explored territory as a consequence of active modification of behavior
(and representational schema), not by passive desensitization to the unexpected. The rats run across the
territory contaminated by the presence of the cat, to find out if anything dangerous (to running rats) still
lurks there. If the answer is no, then the space is defined, once again, as home territory (which is that
place where commonplace behaviors produce desired ends). The rats transform the dangerous unknown
into familiar territory, as a consequence of voluntary exploration. In the absence of such exploration, terror
reigns unchecked.
It is just as illuminating to consider the responses of rats to their kin who constitute explored
territory in contrast to their attitude towards strangers, whose behavior is not predictable. Rats are
highly social animals, perfectly capable of living with their familiar compatriots in peace. They do not like
members of other kin groups, however; will hunt them down and kill them. Accidental or purposeful
intruders are dealt with in the same manner. Rats identify one another by smell. If an experimenter removes
a well-loved rat from its familial surroundings, scrubs it down, provides it with a new odor, and returns it to
its peers it will be promptly dispatched, by those who once loved it. The new rat constitutes
unexplored territory; his presence is regarded as a threat (not unreasonably) to everything currently
secure.130 Chimpanzees perfectly capable of killing foreign devils (even those who were once familiar)
act in much the same manner.131

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2.2.4. Explored Territory: Phenomenology and Neuropsychology
When we explore, we transform the indeterminate status and meaning of the unknown thing that we are
exploring into something determinate in the worst case, rendering it non-threatening, non-punishing; in
the best, manipulating and/or categorizing it so that it is useful. Animals perform this transformation in the
course of actual action, which is to say that they construct their worlds by shifting their positions and
changing their actions in the face of the unknown, and by mapping the consequences of those shifts and
changes in terms of their affective or motivational valence. When an animal encounters an unexpected
situation, such as a new object placed in its cage, it first freezes, watching the object. If nothing terrible
happens, while it is immobile nothing punishing, or additionally threatening it moves, slowly and at a
distance, monitoring the thing for its reactions to these cautious exploratory activities. Perhaps the animal
sniffs at the thing, or scratches at it trying to determine what it might be good (or bad) for. It maps the
utility and valence of the object, conceived in relationship to its ongoing activity (and, perhaps, to possible
patterns of activity in the future). The animal builds its world of significances from the information
generated in the course of as a consequence of ongoing exploratory behavior. The application of
experimental search programs, drawn primarily from the reservoir of learned (imitated) and instinctual
behavior, or manifested as trial and error, involves behavioral alteration (exploration, play) and subsequent
transformation of sensory and affective input. When an animal actively explores something new, it changes
the sensory quality and motivational significance of that aspect of its experience, as a consequence of its
exploratory strategy. This means that the animal exhibits a variety of behaviors in a given mysterious
situation and monitors the results. It is the organized interpretation of these results, and the behaviors that
produce them, that constitute the world, past, present and future, of the animal (in conjunction with the
unknown, of course which constantly supersedes the capacity for representation).
It is not too much to say that the animal elicits the properties of the object, sensory and affective, (or
even brings them into being) through its capacity for creative investigation. 132 Animals that are relatively
simple compared, say, to higher-order primates, including man are limited in the behaviors they
manifest by the structure of their physiology. A rat cannot pick anything up, for example, to examine it in
detail and does not in addition have the visual capacity to focus intensely on the kinds of tiny features we
can perceive. Higher-order nonhuman primates have a more developed grip, however, which enables more
detailed exploration, and, in addition, have a relatively sophisticated prefrontal cortex. This means that such
primates can evoke more features from the world, directly, and that they are increasingly capable of
modelling and acting. The prefrontal cortex is the newest part of the motor unit, and grew out of the
direct motor control centers, in the course of cortical evolution.133 More sophistication in development of
the prefrontal centers means in part heightened capability for abstract exploration, which means
investigation in the absence of actual movement, which means the capacity to learn from the observation of
others and through consideration of potential actions before they emerge in behavior. This means
increasing capability for thought considered as abstracted action and representation.134 Action and
thought produce phenomena. Novel acts and thoughts produce new phenomena. Creative exploration,
concrete and abstract, is therefore linked in a direct sense to being. Increased capacity for exploration
means existence in a qualitatively different even new world. This entire argument implies, of course,
that more complex and behaviorally flexible animals inhabit (construct, if you will135) a more complex
universe.
Humans possess cortical development prefrontal and otherwise that is unique in terms of its great
mass and, more importantly, in terms of its structure. Various indices of development have been used to
signify the nature of the relationship between the brain and intelligence. Sheer mass is one measure, degree
of surface convolution another. The former measure is contaminated by size of animal. Larger animals tend
to have more absolutely massive brains. This does not necessarily make them smarter. Brain mass corrected
for body size constitutes the encephalization quotient, a common rough measure of animal intelligence.136
Degree of surface convolution constitutes an additionally useful measure. The grey matter of the brain
which theoretically does much of the work associated with intelligence occupies the brains surface,
which has been dramatically increased in area by folding. Some representatives of the cetacean family
(dolphins and whales) have encephalization quotients similar to and brain surfaces more convoluted than

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mans137 although the thickness of the cetacean neocortex is about half that of the human.138
Consideration of this high level of nervous development has led to speculation about the potential
superhuman range of cetacean ability.139 However, it is structure and organization of cortex, not simply
mass, or even relative mass, or even surface area, that most clearly defines the nature and reach of a
species experience and competence. More particularly, it is embodiment of the brain that matters. Brain
structure necessarily reflects embodiment despite the archaic presumption of the independence of spirit
and matter (or soul and body, or mind and body) because the body is, in a primary sense, the environment
to which the brain has adapted.

Figure 10: The Motor Homunculus
The body is specifically represented in the neocortex. This representation is often given schematic form
as the homunculus, or little man. The homunculus was discovered by Wilder Penfield,140 who mapped
the surface of the cortices of his neurosurgical patients, by stimulating them electrically, painstakingly,
point after point. He did this to find out what different sections of the brain were doing, so that he could do
the least damage possible, when attempting to surgically treat epilepsy or cancer or other forms of brain
abnormality. He would probe the surface of the brain of one of his (awake) patients with an electrode
(patients undergoing neurosurgery are frequently awake, as the brain feels no pain) and monitor the results,
either directly, or by asking the patient what he or she experienced. Sometimes such stimulation would
produce visions, sometimes elicit memories other times, produce movement or sensations. Penfield
determined, in this manner, how the body was mapped onto the central nervous system how it was
incarnated, so to speak, in intrapsychic representation. He established, for example, that homunculi come in

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two forms, motor and sensory the former associated with the primary zone of the motor unit; the latter
associated with the primary zone of the sensory area of the sensory unit. It is the motor form represented
schematically in Figure 10: The Motor Homunculus which is of most interest to us, because our
discussion centers on motor output. The motor homunculus is a very odd little creature. Its face
(particularly mouth and tongue) and hands (particularly thumbs) are grossly disproportionate to the rest of
its body. This is because comparatively large areas of the motor (and sensory, for that matter) cortex are
given over to control of the face and hands, which are capable of an immense number of complex and
sophisticated operations. The motor homunculus is an interesting figure. It might be regarded as the body,
insofar as the body has anything to do with the brain. It is useful to consider the structure of the
homunculus, because it is in some profound way representative of our essential nature, as it finds
expression in emotion and behavior.
It is the most outstanding characteristic of the motor homunculus, for example the hand, with its
opposable thumb that is simultaneously the defining feature of the human being. The ability to
manipulate and explore characteristics of objects, large and small restricted as a general capacity to the
highest of primates sets the stage for elicitation of an increased range of their properties, for their
utilization as tools (for more comprehensive transformation of their infinite potential into definable
actuality). The hand, used additionally to duplicate the action and function of objects, also allows first for
imitation (and pointing), and then for full-blown linguistic representation.141 Used for written language, the
hand additionally enables long-distance (temporal and spatial) transfer of its ability to another (and for the
elaboration and extension of exploration, during the process of writing, which is hand-mediated thinking).
Even development of spoken language, the ultimate analytic motor skill, might reasonably be considered an
abstract extension of the human ability to take things apart, and then to reassemble them, in an original
manner. Interplay between hand and brain has literally enabled the individual to change the structure of the
world. Consideration of the structure and function of the brain must take this primary fact into account. A
dolphin or whale has a large, complex brain a highly developed nervous system but it cannot shape its
world. It is trapped, so to speak, in its streamlined test-tube like form, specialized for oceanic life. It cannot
directly alter the shape of its material environment in any complex manner. Its brain, therefore, is not likely
prepared to perform any traditionally creative function (indeed as one would suspect lacks the
sophisticated structuring characteristic of primate brains142).
It is not just the hand, however, that makes the crucial human difference, although it is the most obvious,
and perhaps the most important, single factor. It is more a style or melody of adaptation that characterizes
the individual human being. This style is adaptation for exploration of the unknown, within a social context
for the (speech-mediated) creation, elaboration, remembrance, description and subsequent
communication of new behavioral patterns, and for the representation of the (frequently novel)
consequences of those patterns. The hand itself was rendered more useful by the development of vertical
stance, which extended visual range, and freed the upper body from the demands of locomotion. The fine
musculature of the face, lips, and tongue over-represented, once again, in the motor homunculus helped
render subtle communication possible. Development of explicit language extended the power of such
communication immensely. Increasingly detailed exchange of information enabled the resources of all to
become the resources of each, and vice versa. That process of feedback greatly extended the reach and
utility of the hand in fact provided every hand with the ability, at least in potential, of every other hand,
extant currently or previously. Evolution of the restricted central field of the eye, which has input expanded
10,000 times in the primary visual area, and is additionally represented, interhemispherically, at several
higher-order cortical sites,143 was of vital importance to development of visual language, and enabled close
observation, made gathering of detailed information simpler. Combination of hand and eye enabled homo
sapiens to manipulate things, to a degree qualitatively different from that of any other animal. The
individual can discover what things are like, under various, voluntarily produced or accidentally
encountered (yet considered) conditions upside down, flying through the air, hit against other things,
broken into pieces, heated in fire, and so on. The combination of hand and eye allowed human beings to
experience and analyze the (emergent) nature of things. This ability, revolutionary as it was, was
dramatically extended by application of hand-mediated, spoken (and written) language.
The human style of adaptation extends from the evidently physical to the more subtly psychological, as
well. The phenomenon of consciousness, for example arguably the defining feature of man appears

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related in some unknown fashion to breadth of cellular activation in the neocortex. Bodily features with
large areas of cortical representation are also therefore more thoroughly represented in consciousness (at
least in potential). This can be made immediately evident to subjective awareness merely by contrasting the
capacity for control and monitoring of the hand, for example, with the much-less-represented expanse of
the back. Consciousness also evidently expands or sharpens during the course of activities designed to
enhance or expand adaptive competence during the course of creative exploration. Processing of novel or
otherwise interesting sensory information, associated with the orienting complex, heightened awareness
and focused concentration, activates large areas of neocortex. Similarly, increased cortical mobilization
takes place during the practice phase of skill acquisition, when awareness appears required for development
of control. The area of such engagement or mobilization shrinks in size as movement becomes habitual and
unconscious, or when sensory information loses interest or novelty.144 Finally as we have noted before
intrinsic pleasure of an intense nature appears to accompany activation of the cortical systems activated
during psychomotor exploratory activity, undertaken in the face of the unknown. The operation of these
systems appears mediated in part by the neurotransmitter dopamine145 involved in producing subjective
and behavioral response to cues of reward, in the form of hope, curiosity and active approach.
Human beings enjoy capacity for investigation, classification and consequent communication, which is
qualitatively different from that characterizing any other animal. The material structure of Homo sapiens is
ideal for exploration, and for the dissemination of the results thereof; spiritually psychologically man is
characterized by the innate capacity to take true pleasure in such activity. Our physical attributes what we
are (the abilities of the hand, in combination with the other physiological specializations of man) define
who we are, and enable us to endlessly elicit new properties from previously stable and predictable
elements of experience. The object any object serves us as a source of limitless possibility (or, at least,
possibility limited only by the capacity for exploratory genius exhibited at any particular moment). Simple
animals perform simple operations, and inhabit a world whose properties are equally constrained (a world
where most information remains latent). Human beings can manipulate take apart and put together
with far more facility than any other creature. Furthermore, our capacity for communication both verbal
and nonverbal has meant almost unbelievable facilitation of exploration, and subsequent diversity of
adaptation.
Thinking might in many cases be regarded as the abstracted form of exploration as the capacity to
investigate, without the necessity of direct motoric action. Abstract analysis (verbal and nonverbal) of the
unexpected or novel plays a much greater role for humans than for animals146 a role that generally takes
primacy over action. It is only when this system fails partially or completely in humans or when it plays a
paradoxical role (amplifying the significance or potential danger of the unknown through definitive but
false negative labelling) that active exploration (or active avoidance), with its limitations and dangers,
becomes necessary. Replacement of potentially dangerous exploratory action with increasingly flexible and
abstracted thought means the possibility for growth of knowledge without direct exposure to danger and
constitutes one major advantage of the development of intelligence. The abstract intelligence characteristic
of the human being developed in parallel with rapid evolution of the brain rapid shift in quantity and
quality. We can communicate the results and interpretations of our manipulations (and the nature of the
procedures that constitute that manipulation) to each other, across immense spatial and temporal barriers.
This capacity for exploration, verbal elaboration and communication of such in turn dramatically heightens
our capacity for exploration (as we have access to all communicated strategies and interpretive schemas,
accumulated over time, generated in the course of the creative activity of others). In terms of normal
parlance, this would mean merely that we have been able to discover more aspects of the world. It seems
to me more accurate, however, to recognize the limitations of this perspective, and to make room for the
realization that new procedures and modes of interpretation literally produce new phenomena. The word
enables differentiated thought, and dramatically heightens the capacity for exploratory maneuvering. The
world of human experience is constantly transformed and renewed as a consequence of such exploration. In
this manner, the word constantly engenders new creation.
The capacity to create novel behaviors and categories of interpretation in response to the emergence of
the unknown might be regarded as the primary hallmark of human consciousness indeed, of human being.
Our engagement in this process literally allows us to carve the world out of the undifferentiated mass of
unobserved and unencountered existence a form of existence which exists only hypothetically, as a

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necessary fiction; a form about which nothing can be experienced, and less accurately stated. We carve
out the world as a consequence of our direct interactions with the unknown most notably, with our hands,
which enable us to manipulate things, to change their sensory aspects and, most importantly, to change
their importance to us, to give them new, more desirable value. The capacity for dextrous manipulation is
particularly human, and has enabled us to radically alter the nature of our experience. Equally particular,
however, is our capacity for abstract exploration, which is thought about action (and its consequences), in
the absence of action (and its consequences). The manner in which we conduct our abstracted exploration
appears as tightly linked to the physiological structures of our brains as the manner in which we move,
while exploring. In novel circumstances, our behavioral output is mediated by the systems that govern fear,
and appropriate inhibition, and hope, and appropriate activation. The same things happen when we think
abstractly even when we think about how others think.147
Animal exploration is primarily motor in nature. An animal must move around an unfamiliar thing or
situation to come to any understanding of it to determine its affective relevance and sensory nature. This
process of moving around experimentally appears as a consequence of the interaction between the mutually
regulatory or inhibitory evaluative systems whose responsibilities are identification of potential danger, or
threat, and potential satisfaction, or promise. In the human case, each of these systems apparently comes, in
the course of normal development, to dominate one of our twinned cortical hemispheres: the right governs
response to threat (and to punishment), while the left controls response to promise and, perhaps (although
much less clearly) to satisfaction.148 This basically means that the right hemisphere governs our initial
responses to the unknown, while the left is more suited for actions undertaken while we know what we are
doing. This is in part because everything thoroughly explored has in fact been rendered either promising or
satisfying (or, at least, irrelevant). If threat or punishment still lurks somewhere that is, somewhere we
must be our behavioral adaptation is, by definition, insufficient (and the unexpected has not been
vanquished). We have been unable to modify our actions to elicit from the environment really, from the
unknown those consequences we wish to produce.
Richard Davidson and his colleagues have been investigating the relationship between different patterns
of cortical electrical activity and mood states, in adults and children. Davidson et al. have concluded that
the twin hemispheres of the human brain are differentially specialized for affect at least with regards to
their frontal regions. Signs of positive affect (like genuine smiling in infants) are accompanied by
heightened comparative activation of the left frontal cortex. Negative states of affect (like those occuring in
chronic depression), by contrast, are accompanied by heightened activation of the right frontal
hemisphere.149 Substantial additional evidence exists to support this general claim. To put it most
fundamentally: it appears that the twin hemispheres of the brain are differentially specialized (1) for
operation in unexplored territory, where the nature and valence of things remains indeterminate, and (2) for
operation in explored territory, where things have been rendered either irrelevant or positive, as a
consequence of previous exploration. Our brains contain two emotional systems, so to speak one
functions when we do not know what to do, and initiates the (exploratory) process that creates secure
territory; the other functions when we are in fact secure. The fact of the presence of these two subsystems,
but not their locale, has been known for a good while; Maier and Schnierla150 and Schnierla151
hypothesized more than five decades ago that mechanisms of withdrawal and approach (characteristic
of animals at virtually all levels of the evolutionary scale) provided the foundation for motivation, as such.
The nature of these two systems can best be understood by relating emotional state to motor activity, as we
have done previously.
Each hemisphere, right and left, appears to have what might be described as a family of related
functions, portrayed in Figure 11: The Twin Cerebral Hemispheres and their Functions. The right
hemisphere, less language-fluent than its generally more dominant twin, appears specialized for the
inhibition and extinction of behavior (and, therefore, for the production of negative emotion), for
generation and manipulation of complex visual (and auditory) images, for coordination of gross motor
actions, and for rapid and global recognition of patterns.152 The right hemisphere appears to come on-line
when a particular situation is rife with uncertainty appears particularly good at governing behavior when
what is, and what to do, has not yet been clearly specified.153 It might be posited, in consequence, that this
hemisphere is still under limbic control since the limbic system is responsible for detecting novelty and
initiating exploratory behavior. This archaic control mechanism would then drive the processes of

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imagistic hypothesis generation that constitute the processes of abstract exploration fantasy we use to
give determinate (and oft-bizarre) form to the unknown.

Left Hemisphere
Operation in
Explored Territory
Positive Affect
Activation of Behavior
Word Processing
Linear Thinking
Detail Recognition
Detail Generation
Fine Motor Action

Right Hemisphere
Operation in
Unexplored Territory
Negative Affect
Inhibition of Behavior
Image Processing
Holistic Thinking
Pattern Recognition
Pattern Generation
Gross Motor Action

Figure 11: The Twin Cerebral Hemispheres and their Functions
The left hemisphere, by contrast, appears particularly skilled at linguistic processing and
communication, at detailed, linear thinking, at fine motor skill, and at the comprehension of wholes in
terms of their constituent elements.154 The left hemisphere particularly its frontal or motor (sub)unit
also governs approach behavior,155 in the presence of cues of satisfaction, is integrally involved in the
production of positive affect, and appears particularly good at carrying out practiced activities, at applying
familiar modes of apprehension. The left seems at its best when what is and what should be done are no
longer questions; when tradition governs behavior, and the nature and meaning of things has been fixed.
The dual specialization of the left for what has been practiced, and for what is positive can be
understood, in part, in the following manner: positive affect rules in known territory, by definition: a thing
or situation has been explored most optimally (and is therefore most well known) if it has been transformed
by behavioral adaptations manifested in its presence into something of determinate use (or satisfaction) or
into potential for such (into promise).
The right hemisphere, in contrast to the left, appears to have remained in direct contact with appears
specialized for encounter with the unknown and its terrors, which are apperceived in the domain of
instinct, motivation, and affect, long before they can be classified or comprehended intellectually. The right
hemispheres capacity for inhibition and extinction of behavior (for inducing caution during exploration,
for governing flight, for producing negative affect) ensures that due respect is granted the inexplicable (and
therefore dangerous) when it makes its appearance. The rights aptitude for global pattern recognition
(which appears as a consequence of its basic neurophysiological structure156) helps ensure that a
provisional notion (a fantastic representation) of the unknown event (what it is like, how action should be
conducted in its presence, what other things or situations it brings to mind) might be rapidly formulated.
The right hemisphere appears integrally involved in the initial stages of analysis of the unexpected or novel
and its a priori hypothesis is always this: this (unknown) place, this unfamiliar space, this unexplored
territory is dangerous, and therefore partakes in the properties of all other known dangerous places and
territories, and all those that remain unknown, as well. This form of information-processing a is b
is metaphor; generation of metaphor (key to the construction of narratives dreams, dramas, stories and

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myth) might well be regarded as the first stage of hypothesis construction. As situation-specific adaptive
behaviors are generated, as a consequence of exploration, this provisional labelling or hypothesis (or
fantasy) might well undergo modification (assuming nothing actually punishing or determinately
threatening occurs); such modification constitutes further and more detailed learning. Anxiety recedes, in
the absence of punishment or further threat (including novelty); hope occupies the affective forefront,
accompanied by the desire to move forward, and to explore (under the governance of the left hemisphere).
The right hemisphere appears capable of dealing with less determinate information; can use forms of
cognition that are more diffuse, more global,157 and more encompassing to come to terms initially with
what cannot yet be understood, but which undeniably exists. It uses its capacity for massive generalization
and comprehension of imagery to place the novel stimulus in an initially meaningful context, which is the a
priori manner of appropriate categorization. This context is defined by the motivational significance of the
novel thing, which is revealed first by the mere fact of novelty (which makes it both threatening and
promising) and then in the course of its detailed exploration and not by its objective sensory qualities (at
least not primarily). The right hemisphere remains concerned with answering the questions: what is this
new thing like? and this means what should be done in the presence of this unexpected occurrence?
not what is this thing objectively? What is the new thing like? (which is a question about its
fundamental nature) means is it dangerous, or threatening (first and foremost), satisfying or promising?
[although each of these basic categories of affective value can be subdivided more particularly (can it be
eaten? can it eat me? will it serve as mate?)]. Categorization according to valence means that the thing is
what it signifies for behavior.
The chaos that constitutes the unknown is rendered predictable is turned into the world by the
generation of adaptive behaviors and modes of representation. It is the process of novelty-driven
exploration that, in the individual case, produces such behaviors and strategies of classification. However,
we are not only individuals; we exist in a very complex social environment an environment characterized
by the constant exchange of information, regarding the means and ends of proper adaptation. The human
capacity for the generation of self-regulatory behavior and representation has been expanded immensely
expanded in some ways, beyond our own comprehension by our capacity for verbal and non-verbal
(primarily mimetic158) communication. We can mimic and learn from everyone who surrounds us, and
who we can directly contact. In addition, we can obtain information from everyone who can write
assuming we are literate or who could write, when they were alive. But there is more we can also learn
from everyone who can act, in the natural course of things, or dramatically, and we can also store the
behaviors of individuals we come into contact with (directly, by copying them; or indirectly, through the
intermediation of narrative and dramatic art forms). Furthermore, our capacity for copying for mimesis
means that we are capable of doing things that we do not necessarily understand (that is, cannot describe
explicitly). It is for that reason, in part, that we need a psychology.
Patterns of behavioral and representational adaptation are generated in the course of active exploration
and contact with the unknown. These patterns do not necessarily remain stable, however, once generated.
They are modified and shaped improved and made efficient as a consequence of their communicative
exchange. Individual a produces a new behavior; b modifies it, c modifies that, d radically changes
cs modification and so on, ad infinitum. The same process applies to representations (metaphors, say,
or explicit concepts). This means that our exploratory assimilative and accomodative processes actually
extend over vast periods of time and space (as anyone who has had a document-mediated conversation
with a great figure of the past is sure to appreciate). Some of this extension perhaps the most obvious
part is mediated by literacy. An equally complex and subtle element, however, is mediated by mimesis.
Patterns of behavioral adaptation and schemas of classification or representation can be derived from the
observation of others (and, for that matter, from the observation of oneself). How we act in the presence of
things, in their constantly shifting and generally social context, is what those things mean (or even what
they are), before what they mean (or what they are) can be more abstractly (or objectively) categorized.
What a thing is, therefore, might be determined (in the absence of more useful information) by examination
of how action is conducted in its presence which is to say that if someone runs from something it is safe
to presume that the thing is dangerous (the action in fact defines that presumption). The observation of
action patterns undertaken by the members of any given social community including those of the
observing subject therefore necessarily allows for the derivation and classification of provisional value

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schema. If you watch someone (even yourself) approach something then you can assume that the
approached thing is good, at least in some determinate context even if you dont know anything else
about it. Knowing what to do, after all, is classification, before it is abstracted: classification in terms of
motivational relevance, with the sensory aspects of the phenomena serving merely as a cue to recall of that
motivational relevance.159
It is certainly the case that many of our skills and our automatized strategies of classification are
opaque to explicit consciousness. The fact of our multiple memory systems, and their qualitatively
different modes of representation described later ensures that such is the case. This opaqueness means,
essentially, that we understand more than we know; it is for this reason that psychologists continue to
depend on notions of the unconscious to provide explanations for behavior. This unconsciousness the
psychoanalytic god is our capacity for the implicit storage of information about the nature and valence of
things. This information is generated in the course of active exploration, and modified often
unrecognizably by constant, multigenerational, interpersonal communication. We live in social groups;
most of our interactions are social in nature. We spend most of our time around others and, when we are
alone, we still wish to understand, predict and control our personal behaviors. Our maps of the understood
part of the world are therefore in large part maps of patterns of actions of behaviors established as a
consequence of creative exploration, and modified in the course of endless social interactions. We watch
ourselves act; from this action, we draw inferences about the nature of the world (including those acts that
are part of the world).
We know that the right hemisphere at least its frontal portion is specialized for response to
punishment and threat. We also know that damage to the right hemisphere impairs our ability to detect
patterns and to understand the meaning of stories.160 Is it too much to suggest that the emotional, imagistic
and narrative capabilities of the right hemisphere play a key role in the initial stages in the process of
transforming something novel and complex such as the behaviors of others (or ourselves) and the valence
of new things into something thoroughly understood? When we encounter something new, after all, we
generate fantasies (imagistic, verbal) about its potential nature. This means we attempt to determine how
the unexpected thing might relate to something we have already mastered or, at least, to other things that
we have not yet mastered. To say this unsolved problem appears to be like this other problem we havent
yet solved is a step on the way to solution. To say, here is how these (still essentially mysterious)
phenomena appear to hang together is an intuition, of the sort that precedes detailed knowledge is the
capacity to see the forest, though not yet differentiating between the types of trees. Before we truly master
something novel (which means, before we can effectively limit its indeterminate significance to something
predictable, even irrelevant) we imagine what it might be. Our imaginative representations actually
constitute our initial adaptations constitute part of the structure that we use to inhibit our responses to the
a priori significance of the unknown even as they precede the generation of more detailed and concrete
information. There is no reason to presuppose that we have been able to explicitly comprehend this
capacity in part because it actually seems to underly (to serve as a necessary or axiomatic precondition
for) our ability to understand, explicitly.
It appears that the pattern-recognition and spatial capacities of the right hemisphere appear to allow it to
derive from repeated observations of behavior images of action patterns that the verbal left can arrange,
with increasingly logic and detail, into stories. A story is a map of meaning, a strategy for emotional
regulation and behavioral output a description of how to act in a circumstance, to ensure that the
circumstance retains its positive motivational salience (or at least has its negative qualities reduced to the
greatest possible degree). The story appears generated, in its initial stages, by the capacity for imagery and
pattern recognition characteristic of the right hemisphere, which is integrally involved in narrative
cognition,161 and in processes that aid or are analogous to such cognition: the ability to decode the
nonverbal and melodic aspects of speech, to empathize (or to engage, more generally, in interpersonal
relationships), and the capacity to comprehend imagery, metaphor, and analogy.162 The left-hemisphere
linguistic systems finish the story: adding logic, proper temporal order, internal consistency, verbal
representation, and possibility for rapid abstract explicit communication. In this way, our explicit
knowledge of value is expanded, through the analysis of our own dreams. Interpretations that work
that is, that improve our capacity to regulate our own emotions (to turn the current world into the desired

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world, to say it differently) qualify as valid. It is in this manner that we verify the accuracy of our
increasingly abstracted presumptions.
The process of creative exploration the function of the knower, so to speak, who generates explored
territory has as its apparent purpose increase in the breadth of motoric repertoire (skill) and alteration of
representational schema. Each of these two purposes appears served by the construction of a specific form
of knowledge, and its subsequent storage in permanent memory. The first form has been described as
knowing how. The motor unit, charged with origination of new behavioral strategies when old strategies fail
(when they produce undesired results), produces alternate action patterns, experimentally applied, to bring
about the desired result. Permanent instantiation of the new behavior, undertaken if the behavior is
successful, might be considered development of new skill. Knowing how is skill. The second type of
knowing, which is representational (which is an image or model of something, rather than the thing itself)
has been described as knowing that163 I prefer knowing what. Exploration of a novel circumstance, event,
or thing, produces new sensory and affective input, during active or abstracted interaction of the exploring
subject and the object in question. This new sensory input constitutes grounds for the construction,
elaboration and update of a permanent but modifiable four-dimensional (spatial and temporal)
representational model of the experiential field, in its present and potential future manifestations. This
model, I would propose, is a story.
It is the hippocampal system which, as we have seen, is an integral part of the regulation of anxiety
that is critically involved in the transfer of information from observation of ongoing activity to permanent
memory,164 and that provides the physiological basis (in concert with the higher cortical structures) for the
development and elaboration of this mnestic representation. It is the right hemisphere, which is activated by
the unknown, and which can generate patterns rapidly, that provides the initial imagery the contents of
fantasy for the story. It is the left hemisphere that gives these patterns structure and communicability (as
it does, for example, when it interprets a painting, a novel, a drama, a conversation or a dream). The
hippocampus notes mismatch; this disinhibits the amygdala (perhaps not directly). Such disinhibition
releases anxiety and curiosity, driving exploration. The right hemisphere, under these conditions of
motivation, derives patterns relevant to encapsulation of the emergent unknown, from the information at its
disposal. Much of this information can be extracted from the social environment, and the behavioral
interactions and strategies of representation emergent properties of exploration and communication that
are embedded in the social structure. Much of this information is still implicit that is, coded in
behavioral pattern. It is still knowing how, before it has been abstracted and made explicit as knowing
what. The left-hemisphere gets increasingly involved, as translation up the hierarchy of abstraction
occurs.
Knowing-how infovmation, described alternatively as procedural, habitual, dispositional, or skilled, and
knowing-what information, described alternatively as declarative, episodic, factual, autobiographical, or
representational, appear physiologically distinct in their material basis, and separable in course of phyloand ontogenetic development.165 Procedural knowledge develops long before declarative knowledge, in
evolution and individual development, and appears represented in unconscious form, expressible purely
in performance. Declarative knowledge, by contrast knowledge of what simultaneously constitutes
consciously accessible and communicable episodic imagination (the world in fantasy) and subsumes even
more recently developed semantic (linguistic) knowledge, whose operations, in large part, allow for
abstract representation of the contents of the imagination, and communication thereof. Squire and ZolaMorgan166 have represented the relationship between these memory forms according to the schematic of
Figure 12: The Multiple Structure of Memory.167 The neuroanatomical basis of knowing how remains
relatively unspecified. Skill generation appears in part as the domain of the cortical pre/motor unit;
storage appears to involve the cerebellum. Knowing what, by contrast, appears dependent for its
existence on the intact function of the cortical sensory unit, in interplay with the hippocampal system.168
Much of our knowing what, however our description of the world is about knowing how, which is
behavioral knowledge wisdom. Much of our descriptive knowledge representational knowledge is
representation of what constitutes wisdom (without being that wisdom, itself). We have gained our
description of wisdom by watching how we act, in our culturally-governed social interactions, and by
representing those actions.

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Memory

Procedural

Declarative

Episodic

(Propositional)

Semantic

Figure 12: The Multiple Structure of Memory
We know how, which means how to act to transform the mysterious and ever-threatening world of the
present into what we desire, long before we know how we know how, or why we know how. This is to say,
for example, that a child learns to act appropriately (assuming it does) long before it can provide abstracted
explanations for or descriptions of its behavior.169 A child can be good, without being a moral
philosopher. This idea echoes the developmental psychologist Jean Piagets notion, with regards to child
development, that adaptation at the sensorimotor level occurs prior to and lays the groundwork for the
more abstracted forms of adaptation that characterize adulthood. Piaget regarded imagistic representation
as an intermediary between sensorimotor intelligence and the (highest or most abstract) stage of formal
operations; furthermore, he believed that imitation the acting out of an object served as a necessary
prerequisite to such imagistic representation (portrayal in image or word, instead of behavior). The process
of play appears as a higher-order, or more abstract form of imitation, from this perspective. Piaget presents
two main theses:
The first is that in the field of play and imitation it is possible to trace the transition from sensory-motor
assimilation and accomodation to the mental assimilation and accomodation which characterize the
beginnings of representation.... [The second is that] the various forms of representation interact. There is
representation when an absent model is imitated. There is representation in symbolic play, in
imagination and even in dreams, the systems of concepts and logical relations, both in their intuitive and
operational forms, implies representation.170
Piaget believed that imitation could be described in terms of accomodation: ... if there is primacy of
accomodation (matching of behavior) over assimilation (altering of schemas)... the activity tends to become
imitation.171 This implies that the imitating child in fact embodies more information than he understands
(represents). He continues: representation... can be seen to be a kind of interiorized imitation, and
therefore a continuation of accomodation.172 [With regards to the three-memory-system model (which
Piaget is of course not directly referring to): ... even if there were justification for relating the various
stages of mental development to well-defined neurological levels, the fact remains that, in spite of the

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relative discontinuity of the structures, there is a certain functional continuity, each structure preparing for
its successors while utilizing its predecessors.173]
What can be said of children appears true, more or less, phylogenetically: our cultures (which we absorb
as children, through the processes of imitation) consist primarily of patterns of activity, undertaken in a
social context. As parents are to children, cultures are to adults: we do not know how the patterns we act
out (or the concepts we utilize) originated, or what precise purposes (what long term goals) they
currently serve these patterns are in fact emergent properties of long-term social interactions.
Furthermore, we cannot describe such patterns well, abstractly (explicitly, semantically) even though we
duplicate them accurately (and unconsciously) in our behavior (and can represent them, episodically, in our
literary endeavors). We do not know why we do what we do or, to say the same thing, what it is that we
are (all ideological theories to the contrary). We watch ourselves, and wonder; our wonder takes the shape
of the story or, more fundamentally, the myth. Myths describing the known, explored territory, constitute
what we know about our knowing how, before we can state, explicitly, what it is that we know how. Myth
is, in part, the image of our adaptive action, as formulated by imagination, before its explicit containment in
abstract language; myth is the intermediary between action, and abstract linguistic representation of that
action. Myth is the distilled essence of the stories we tell ourselves about the patterns of our own behavior
and about the inevitable consequences of those patterns, as they play themselves out in the social and
impersonal worlds of experience. We learn the story, which we do not understand (which is to say, cannot
make explicit), by watching. We represent the action patterns we encounter in action that is, in ritual
and in image, and word: we act, then represent our behavior, ever more abstractly (ever more explicitly,
consciously).
The central features of our (socially-determined) behavior thus become key elements characters in
our stories (just like the procedural elements of the emergent games of interacting children become explicit
rules later in development). The generation and constant refinement of these stories, told and retold over
centuries, allows us to determine ever more clearly just what it is that proper (and improper) behavior
consists of, in an environment permanently characterized by the interplay between security and
unpredictability. We are extremely (uncontrollably) imitative, appallingly social, and interminably
exploratory. These characteristics allow us to generate and communicate represented images, and,
simultaneously, serve as the focal point of inquiry for those images. Our capacity for creative action frees
us, constantly, from the ever-shifting demands of the environment. The ability to represent creative
action to duplicate observed creativity in our own actions, and to represent that creativity in detail and
essence allows everyone to benefit from the creative action of everyone else (at least everyone with
whom communication might conceivably take place). The fact of our sociability ensures that our adaptive
behaviors are structured with the social community in mind at least in the long run and increases our
chances of exposure to creative intelligence. We observe others acting, in a manner we find admirable, and
duplicate their actions. In this manner, we obtain the skills of others. Our capacity for abstraction allows us
to take our facility for imitation one step farther, however: we can learn to imitate not only the precise
behaviors that constitute adaptation, but the process by which those behaviors were generated. This means
we can learn not only skill, but meta-skill (can learn to mimic the pattern of behavior that generates new
skills). It is the encapsulation of meta-skill in a story that makes that story great.
Our imitative proclivity, expressed in behavior, appears to find its more abstracted counterpart in the
ability to admire, which is a permanent, innate or easily acquired constituent element of our intraspsychic
state. This capability for awe, this desire to copy, often serves to impel further psychological and cognitive
development. The worshipful attitude that small boys adopt towards their heroes, for example, constitutes
the outward expression of the force that propels them towards embodying, or incarnating (or even
inventing) oft ill-defined heroic qualities themselves. The capacity for imitation surfaces in more abstract
guise in the human tendency to act as-if174 to identify with another to become another, in fantasy
(which means, to ritually identify with or unconsciously adopt the story of another). (This means the
ability to adopt someone elses goal, as if it were yours.175) The capacity to act as if expresses itself in
admiration (ranging in intensity from the simple respect accorded a competent other, to abject worship)
and, even more abstractly, in ideological possession. No independent instinct necessarily needs to be
postulated, to account for this mimetic ability (although one may well exist): all that may be necessary is
the capacity to observe that another has obtained a goal that is also valued by the observer (that observation

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provides the necessary motivation), and the skill to duplicate the procedures observed to lead to such
fulfillment.
Mimetic propensity, expressed in imitative action, provides for tremendous expansion of behavioral
competence176; allows the ability of each to become the capability of all. Precise duplicative facility,
however, still retains pronounced limitations. Specific behaviors retain their adaptive significance only
within particular, restricted environments (only within bounded frames of reference). If environmental
contingencies shift (for whatever reason), the utility of strategies designed for the original circumstance
(and transmitted through imitation) may become dramatically restricted, or even reversed. The capacity for
abstraction of imitation which is, in the initial stages, capability for dramatic play overcomes the
specific restrictions of exact imitation, elaborating reproduction of particular acts, removing the behavior to
be copied from its initial specific context, establishing its first-level declarative representation and
generalization. Play allows for the permanent extension of competence and confidence through pretence,
which means through metaphoric and symbolic action (which is semantic use of episodic representation),
and for natural expansion of behavioral range from safe, predictable, self-defined contexts, out towards the
unknown world of experience. Play creates a world in rule-governed fantasy in episodic or imagistic
representation in which behavior can be rehearsed and mastered, prior to its expression in the real world,
with real-world consequences. Play is another form of as-if behavior, that allows for experimentation
with fictional narratives: pretended descriptions of the current and desired future states of the world, with
plans of action appended, designed to change the former into the latter. To play means to set or to
fictionally transform fictional goals. Such fictional goals give valence to phenomena that would, in
other contexts, remain meaningless (but valence that is informative, without being serious). Play allows us
to experiment with means and ends themselves, without subjecting ourselves to the actual consequences of
real behavior and to benefit emotionally, in the process. The goals of play are fictional; the incentive
rewards, however, that accompany movement to a fictitious goal these are real (although bounded, like
game-induced anxieties). The bounded reality of such affect accounts, at least in part, for motivation to play
for the intrinsic interest that accompanies play (or immersion in any dramatic activity).
Play transcends imitation, in that it is less context-bound; it allows for the abstraction of essential
principles from specific (admirable) instances of behavior allows for the initial establishment of a more
general model of what constitutes allowable (or ideal) behavior. Elaboration of dramatic play into formal
drama likewise ritualizes play, abstracting its key elements one level more, and further distills the vitally
interesting aspects of behavior which are representative (by no mere chance) of that active heroic/social
(exploratory and communicative) pattern upon which all adaptation is necessarily predicated. Theatrical
ritual dramatically represents the individual and social consequences of stylized, distilled behavioral
patterns, based in their expression upon different assumptions of value and expectations of outcome.
Formal drama clothes potent ideas in personality, exploring different paths of directed or motivated action,
playing out conflict, cathartically, offering ritual models for emulation or rejection. Dramatic personae
embody the behavioral wisdom of history. In an analogous fashion, in a less abstract, less ritualized
manner, the continuing behavior of parents dramatizes cumulative mimetic history for children.
Emergence of narrative which, paradoxically, contains much more information than it explicitly
presents further disembodies the knowledge extant latently in behavioral pattern. Narrative presents
semantic representation of play, or drama of essentially abstracted episodic representations of social
interaction and individual endeavor and allows behavioral patterns contained entirely in linguistic
representation to incarnate themselves in dramatic form on the private stage of individual imagination.
Much of the information derived from a story is actually already contained in episodic memory. In a sense,
it could be said that the words of the story merely act as a retrieval cue for information already in the
mnestic system (of the listener), although perhaps not yet transformed into a form capable either of explicit
(semantic) communication, or alteration of procedure.177 178 It is for this reason that Shakespeare might be
viewed as a precursor to Freud (think of Hamlet): Shakespeare knew what Freud later discovered but
he knew it more implicitly, more imagistically, more procedurally. (This is not say that Shakespeare was
any less brilliant just that his level of abstraction was different.) Ideas, after all, come from somewhere
they do not arise, spontaneously, from the void. Every complex psychological theory has a lengthy period
of historical development development that might not be evidently linked to the final emergence of the
theory.

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Interpretation of the reason for dramatic consequences, portrayed in narrative generally left to the
imagination of the audience constitutes analysis of the moral of the story. Transmission of that moral
that rule for behavior, or representation is the purpose of narrative, just as fascination, involuntary seizure
of interest, is its (biologically-predetermined) means. With development of the story, mere description of
critically important (and therefore compelling) behavioral/representational patterns becomes able to
promote active imitation. At this point the semantic system, activating images in episodic memory, sets the
stage for the alteration of procedure itself. This means establishment of a feedback loop, wherein
information can cycle up and down levels of consciousness with the social environment as necessary
intermediary transforming itself and expanding as it moves. Development of narrative means verbal
abstraction of knowledge disembodied in episodic memory and embodied in behavior; means capability to
disseminate such knowledge widely and rapidly throughout a communicating population, with minimal
expenditure of time and energy; means intact preservation of such knowledge, simply and accurately, for
generations to come. Narrative description of archetypal behavioral patterns and representational schemas
myth appears as an essential precondition for social construction and subsequent regulation of complexly
civilized individual presumption, action and desire.
It is only after behavioral (procedural) wisdom has become represented in episodic memory, and
portrayed in drama and narrative, that it becomes accessible to conscious verbal formulation (procedural
knowledge is not representational, in its basic form) and to (potential) modification, in abstraction.
Knowing how information, generated in the course of exploratory activity, can nonetheless be transferred
from individual to individual, in the social community, through means of imitation. Piaget points out, for
example, that children first act upon objects, and determine object- properties in accordance with these
actions, and then almost immediately imitate themselves, turning their own initial spontaneous actions into
something to be represented and ritualized.179 The same process occurs in interpersonal interaction, where
the other persons action rapidly becomes something to be imitated, and then ritualized (and then abstracted
and codified further). A shared rite, where each persons behavior is modified by the other, can therefore
emerge in the absence of consciousness of the structure of the rite; however, once the social ritual is
established, its structure can rapidly become described and codified (presuming sufficient cognitive ability
and level of maturation). This process can in fact be observed during the spontaneous construction (and
then codification) of childrens games.180 It is the organization of such games and their elaboration,
through repeated communication that constitutes the basis for the construction of culture itself.
Behavior is imitated, then abstracted into play, formalized into drama and story, crystallized into myth
and codified religion and only then criticized in philosophy, and provided, post-hoc, with rational
underpinnings. Explicit philosophical statements regarding the grounds for and nature of ethical behavior,
stated in a verbally comprehensible manner, were not established through rational endeavor their framing
as such is (clearly) a secondary endeavor, as Nietzsche recognized:
What the scholars called a rational foundation for morality and tried to supply was, seen in the right
light, merely a scholarly expression of the common faith in the prevalent morality; a new means of
expression for this faith.181
Explicit (moral) philosophy arises from the mythos of culture, grounded in procedure, rendered
progressively more abstract and episodic through ritual action, and observation of that action. The process
of increasing abstraction has allowed the knowing what system to generate a representation, in
imagination, of the implicit predicates of behavior governed by the knowing how system. Generation of
such information was necessary to simultaneously insure accurate prediction of the behavior of others (and
of the self), and to program predictable social behavior through exchange of abstracted moral (procedural)
information. Nietzsche states, further:
That individual philosophical concepts are not anything capricious or autonomously evolving, but grow
up in connection and relationship with each other; that, however suddenly and arbitrarily they seem to
appear in the history of thought, they nevertheless belong just as much to a system as all the members of
the fauna of a continent is betrayed in the end also by the fact that the most diverse philosophers keep
filling in a definite fundamental scheme of possible philosophies. Under an invisible spell, they always
revolve once more in the same orbit; however independent of each other they may feel themselves with

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their critical or systematic wills, something within them leads them, something impels them in a definite
order, one after the other to wit, the innate systematic structure and relationship of their concepts.
Their thinking is, in fact, far less a discovery than a recognition, a remembering, a return and a
homecoming to a remote, primordial, and inclusive household of the soul, out of which those concepts
grew originally: philosophizing is to this extent a kind of atavism of the highest order.182
The knowing what system, declarative (episodic and semantic), has developed a description of knowing
how activity procedure through a complex, lengthy process of abstraction. Action and imitation of
action developmentally predates explicit description or discovery of the rules governing action. Adaptation
through play and drama preceded development of linguistic thought, and provided the ground from which it
emerged. Each developmental stage action, imitation, play, ritual, drama, narrative, myth, religion,
philosophy, rationality offers an increasingly abstracted, generalized and detailed representation of the
behavioral wisdom embedded in and established during the previous stage. The introduction of semantic
representation to the human realm of behavior allowed for continuance and ever-increasing extension of the
cognitive process originating in action, imitation, play, and drama. Language turned drama into mythic
narrative, narrative into formal religion, and religion into critical philosophy, providing for exponential
expansion of adaptive ability. Consider Nietzsches words, yet again:
Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal
confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; also that the moral (or
immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had
grown.183
The procedural system provides (constitutes?) memory for behavior. Such memory includes imitative
representation of behaviors generated spontaneously in the course of creative individual action, whose
precise circumstance of origins have been lost in the mists of history, but which have been integrated into a
consistent behavioral pattern, over time integrated into culturally-determined character. Integration
means active balance of competing subjectively-grounded motivational demands within the context of the
social environment; means internalization of socially-regulated behavioral expression of subjective desire.
Such internalization constitutes construction of a value (dominance) hierarchy determination of the
relative contextual propriety (morality) of imitated or otherwise incorporated patterns of action. Such
construction inevitably precedes episodic or semantic representation of the basis of the construction,
although such second-order representation, once established, becomes capable (indirectly) of modifying
procedure itself (as what is imagined can then be acted out). This is the loop that feeds the development of
explicit consciousness itself: procedure is established, then represented, then altered in abstraction, then
practiced; the procedure changes, as a consequence of the abstracted and practiced modification; this
change in turn produces an alteration in its representation, and so on, and so on, from individual to
individual, down the chain of generations. This process can occur externally, as a consequence of social
interaction, or internally, as a consequence of word and image-mediated abstract exploratory activity
(thought). This interactive loop and its putative relationship to underlying cognitive/memory structures
is represented schematically in Figure 13: Abstraction of Wisdom, and the Relationship of Such
Abstraction to Memory. (Only a few of the interactions between the stages of knowledge are indicated,
for the sake of schematic simplicity.)
Behavioral knowledge is generated during the process of creative exploration. The consequences of such
exploration the adaptive behavioral patterns generated are imitated, and represented more abstractly.
Play allows for the generalization of imitated knowledge, and for the integration of behaviors garnered
from different sources (one good thing to do may conflict in a given situation with another; good things
to do therefore have to be ranked in terms of their context-dependent value, importance or dominance).
Each succeeding stage of abstraction modifies all others, as our ability to speak, for example, has expanded
our capacity to play. As the process of abstraction continues and information vital for survival is
represented evermore simply and efficiently what is represented transforms from the particulars of any
given adaptive actions to the most general and broadly appropriate pattern of adaptation that of creative
exploration itself. This is to say: individual acts of heroism, so to speak (that is, acts of voluntary and
successful encounter with the unknown) might be broadly imitated; might elicit spontaneous imitation. But

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some more essential (prototypical184) feature(s) characterize all acts of heroism. With increasing
abstraction and breadth of representation, the essential features comes to dominate the particular. As
Eliade185 points out: traditional (that is, nonliterate) cultures have a historical memory that may be only
three generations long that is, as long as the oldest surviving individual is old. Events that occurred
previous to this are telescoped into something akin to the aboriginal Australians dreamtime: into the
trans-historical period when ancestral heroes walked the earth, and established the behavioral patterns
that constitute the present mode of being. This telescoping is the mythologization of history and is very
useful, from the perspective of efficient storage. We learn to imitate (and to remember) not individual
heroes not the objective historical figures of the past but what those heroes represented: the pattern of
action that made them heroes. That pattern is to say it once again the act of voluntary and successful
encounter with the unknown: the generation of wisdom through exploration. (I am not trying to imply,
either, that the semantic or episodic memory systems can directly modify procedure; it is more that the
operations of the semantic/episodic systems alter the world, and world-alterations alter procedure. The
effect of language and image on behavior is generally secondary mediated through the environment but
is no less profound for that).

Creative Exploration
Generation of Adaptive Behavior
Imitation of Adaptive Behavior
Play
Ritual
Drama
Narrative
Mythology
Religion
Philosophy

Procedural Memory
Episodic Memory
Semantic Memory

Figure 13: Abstraction of Wisdom, and the Relationship of Such Abstraction to Memory
The fact that the many stories we live by can be coded and transmitted at different levels of
abstraction, ranging from the purely motoric or procedural (transmitted through imitation) to the more
purely semantic (transmitted through the medium of explicit ethical philosophy, say) makes comprehension
of their structure and inter-relationships conceptually difficult. This difficulty is compounded by the fact
that different stories have different spatial-temporal resolutions, that is, that we may be governed at one

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moment by short-term, simple considerations and at the next by longer-term, more complex considerations.
Someone married might think, for example, I find my friends spouse particularly attractive; I would like
to make love to him or her, evaluating that individual, positively and then, immediately, correct: My
friends spouse flirts too much for his or her own good, and looks like a lot of trouble. Perhaps both these
viewpoints are valid. It is certainly not uncommon for the same stimulus to possess competing valences.
Otherwise as I said before we would never have to think.
Every apprehensible phenomenon has a multitude of potential uses and significances. It is for this reason
that it is possible for each of us to drown in possibility. Even something as simple as a piece of paper is not
simple at all except insofar as implicit contextual determinants make it appear so. Wittgenstein asks:
Point to a piece of paper. And now point to its shape now to its colour now to its number (that
sounds queer). How did you do it? You will say that you meant a different thing each time you
pointed. And if I ask how that is done, you will say you concentrated your attention on the colour, the
shape, etc. But I ask again: how is that done?186
A kitchen knife, for example: is it something to cut up vegetables, at dinner? Something to draw, for a still
life? Something to cut up vegetables, at dinner? A toy, for mumblety-peg? A screwdriver, to fix a shelf?
Or, perhaps an implement of murder? In the first four cases, it possesses a positive valence. In the last
case, it is negative unless you are experiencing a frenzy of rage. How is its essential functional and
affective multiplicity reduced to something singular and, therefore, useful? You cant fix the shelf and
make dinner at the same time, and in the same place. You may need to do both, at some point, however
and this means that you must maintain the multiple uses and valences as possibilities (whatever that
implies). This means that you must (1) decide on one course of action, and eliminate all the rest, yet (2)
retain the others, for future consideration to ensure that your range of possible actions remains as broad
as possible.
How is this ever-present competition to be ameliorated? How might the process of amelioration be
considered, with regard to the additional complicating fact of the multi-level embodiment and abstraction
of stories? So far we have considered the ends and the means of a given framework of reference (a
story) as qualitatively different phenomena echoing a dilemma that pervades ethics, as a field of study.
The end or goal of a given planned sequence of behavior constitutes an image of the desired future,
which serves as point of contrast, for the unbearable present. The means by which this end might be
attained comprises the actual behavioral steps that might be undertaken, in pursuit of such desirable change.
This seems a very reasonable perspective, in that at any given moment means and ends might be
usefully distinguished. Where we are going is evidently different than how we will get there. This
conceptual utility is only provisional, however and the fact of the means/end distinction actually
obscures more detailed and comprehensive description. Means and ends plans and goals are not
qualitatively different, in any final sense, and can be transformed, one into the other, at any moment. Such
transformation occurs, in fact, whenever a problem arises: whenever the unknown manifests itself, in the
course of our ongoing behavior. It is in this manner that we switch spatial-temporal resolution (change
set or shift our frames of reference), in order to re-evaluate our actions, and re-consider the propriety of
our wishes.
Our stories our frames of reference appear to have a nested or hierarchical structure. At any
given moment, our attention only occupies one level of that structure. This capacity for restricted
attention gives us the capability to make provisional but necessary judgments about the valence and utility
of phenomena. However, we can also shift levels of abstraction which means, can voluntarily focus our
attention, when necessary, on stories that map out larger or smaller areas of space-time (excuse the
Einsteinian reference, but it is in fact accurate in this case, as our stories have a duration, as well as an
area). When necessary means depending on the status of our current operations. For example: you are in
the kitchen; you want to read a book in your study. An image of you reading a book in your favorite chair
thus occupies the ends or desired future pole of your currently operational story (contrasted with the
still-too-illiterate you of the present time). This story might have a conceived duration of, say, ten
minutes; in addition, it occupies a universe defined by the presence of a half-dozen relevant objects (a
reading lamp, a chair, the floor you have to walk on to get to your chair, the book itself, your reading

74


glasses) and the limited space they occupy. You make it to your chair. Your book is at hand. You reach up
to turn on the reading light flash! the bulb burns out. The unknown that is, the unexpected, in this
context has just manifested itself. You switch set. Now your goal still nested within the reading a
book story is fix the reading lamp. You adjust your plans, find a new bulb, and place it in the lamp.
Flash! It burns out again. This time you smell burnt wire. This is worrisome. The book is now forgotten
irrelevant, given the current state of affairs. Is there something wrong with the lamp (and, therefore at a
slightly more general level with all future plans, that depend on that lamp)? You explore. The lamp
doesnt smell. Its the electrical outlet, in the wall! The plate covering the outlets is hot! What does that
mean? You shift your apprehension up several levels of spatial-temporal resolution. Maybe there is
something wrong with the wiring of the house, itself! The lamp is now forgotten. Ensuring that your house
does not burn down has suddenly taken priority. How does this shift in attention occur?

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

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(1)

What Should Be:

What Is:

The Ideal Future

The Unbearable Present
What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future
What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

(2)

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present
What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present
What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present
What SHOULD BE:
The Ideal Future

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What IS:
The Unbearable Present

What Should Be:

What Is:

The Ideal Future

The Unbearable Present
What Should Be:

(3)

The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Figure 14: Conceptual Transformation of the Means/Ends Relationship from Static to Dynamic
Figure 14: Conceptual Transformation of the Means/Ends Relationship from Static to Dynamic
presents a tripartite schematic, designed to take us from the state where we conceptualize means and ends
as distinct, to the state where we see them as isomorphic elements, given distinct status only on a
provisional basis. Subdiagram (1) is familiar, and represents the normal story, composed of present state,
desired future state, and three of the various means that might be utilized, in order to transform the former
into the latter. This subdiagram is predicated on the presumption that many means might be used to get
from point a to point b; in truth, however, only one means (the most efficient or otherwise desirable)
will be employed at any one time. (We only have one motor output system, after all and, therefore, one
consciousness?) Subdiagram (2) is a transformed version of (1), showing that the plans of (1) can

75


better be conceptualized as stories, in and of themselves showing that a big story (one that occupies a
large spatial-temporal domain) is actually composed of nested little stories. Subdiagram (2) is still
predicated on the presumption that a number of smaller stories might be used as means for a larger end. If
your company is failing, you might fire half your employees, branch out into a new product line, or cut the
salaries of your upper management. Each of these approaches all designed for the same purpose are
clearly different (and complex) in their internal structure. You might do more than one thing but if two
of these multiple things conflict, one will have to be made subordinate to the other. Plans (and ends) are
granted comparative importance, and organized accordingly (in a structure that, by the way, is very much
like a dominance hierarchy). This state of affairs where the relative importance of (potentially competing)
plans has been fixed is represented, in subdiagram (3), which will be our representation of choice, for the
remainder of this discussion.187
At any given place and time, we are considering only a fixed number of variables, as means and ends.
This is absolutely necessary, as action requires exclusion, as much (or more) as inclusion.188 However,
those things we consider as relevant variables (and their status as relevant, or not) have to be mutable.
We have to decide, yet retain the capacity to alter our decisions. Our prefrontal cortex critical to goaldirected action189 appears to allow us this freedom: it does so, by temporally sequencing events and
actions,190 by considering contextual information and using that consideration to govern behavior,191 and
by shifting set.192 It performs this multiplicity of operations, I submit, by considering one thing, then
another, as the currently-operative consummatory reward as the goal towards which behavior is to be
devoted, as the desired future against which the unbearable present, in the form of emergent
experience, is to be compared and evaluated. The structure in Figure 14, subdiagram (3), is a multilevel,
nested structure, composed of interdependent goals and plans interdependent goals and plans that, in
totality, comprise the life-story. This conceptualization helps explain the idea of a step along the way
(a stairway or ladder to Heaven, metaphorically speaking).193
Each step each substory has the same structure (but not the same content) as all those stories
above and below. This means that all the elements of a good story might be expected to mirror, in
some profound manner, all the other elements: that a story, like the world itself, might be read (and read
correctly) at multiple and multiply informative levels of analysis. This gives good stories their
polysemous quality. It is for this reason that Frye can state:
One of the commonest experiences in reading is the sense of further discoveries to be made within the
same structure of words. The feeling is approximately there is more to be got out of this, or we may
say, of something we particularly admire, that every time we read it we get something new out of it.194
A phenomenon that constitutes a goal at one level might be regarded as an incentive reward at the
next, since the attainment of subsidiary goals are preconditions for the attainment of higher-level goals (this
implies that most consummatory rewards will simultaneously possess an incentive aspect). The cognitive
operations dependent upon the intact prefrontal cortex can move up and down these levels, so to speak,
fixating at one, and allowing for determinate action, when that is deemed most appropriate (making the
others implicit at that place and time); reorganizing and reconstituting the levels and their respective
statuses, when that becomes necessary. Figure 15: Bounded Revolution sheds light on this process and,
simultaneously, on the conundrum of relative novelty. How can a thing be radically new, somewhat new,
somewhat familiar, or completely familiar? The simple answer is a given phenomenon (a thing or
situation) can have its utility and/or meaning transformed at one level of analysis, but not at another. This
means that novelty can be bounded; that something can be new in one manner, but remain familiar at
another. This upper familiar level provides walls of security; provides the stable structure within which
necessary change can occur, without catastrophe.
Here is an exemplary story: I am an undergraduate. I want to be a doctor. I am not sure exactly why,
but that question has never become relevant (which is to say, my desire is an implicit presumption an
axiom of my behavior). I did well in high school. I have good marks in university, as a pre-med student. I
take the MCAT. I fail: twentieth percentile. Suddenly and unexpectedly I am not going to be a doctor.
The walls come tumbling down. My emotions, which were held in check by the determinate valences my
ongoing story gave to experiential phenomena, now (re)emerge, viciously in chaos. I am a depressed and
anxious wreck. As I recover, I re-evaluate my life. I am discplined and have good academic skills. I like

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university; I like working with people. Many of the upper-level stories necessary upon which the doctor
story was implicitly predicated are still intact, and do not need modification. Farther up the hierarchy,
then! maybe, for the first time. We do not question a story, when it is working! If it produces the desired
results, it is correct! Why did I want to be a doctor? For monetary security. Because it was expected of me
(for reasons of tradition my father was a doctor). For reasons of status. Because I could appease the
suffering of others, and be a good person. So hierarchical organization [this takes (or even is) thought]:
(1) I want to help people; (2) I need some monetary security; (3) I would like to stay in the health
profession; (4) perhaps status is not as important as I thought (and might therefore be sacrificed, to
appease the angry gods, and restore order to the cosmos). I will become a medical technician; or maybe
even a nurse. I can still be a good person, even if Im not a doctor and, perhaps, that is the most
important thing of all. Reorganization completed. Utility of experiential phenomena re-established.
Emotional integrity and stability re-attained. Good thing I didnt do myself in!

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

The Ideal Future
What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Should Be:

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

The Ideal Future

What Is:

What Should Be:

The Unbearable Present

The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

The Unbearable Present

What Is:

Re

Dis
int
D egr
An esce ation
o
nt
m
Inf
orm alou
ati s
on

int
e
As gra
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nt n

The Unbearable Present

CHAOS:
The Unknown

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Figure 15: Bounded Revolution
It is interesting and instructive to consider Eastern representations of reality (that is, of the
cosmos) in light of this conceptualization. Reality is made up of nested interpretations, that give
determinate form to objects (as implements) and to the valence of those objects. Every interpretation,
however, is subject to transformation, at every level. This constant (and necessary) transformation, in
conjunction with the fact of at least transient (and necessary) stability, makes up the world. Mircea Eliade
describes the Indian version of the doctrine of the eternal return the endlessly nested, cyclical nature of
the universe (conceived of as the totality of experience, and not as objective reality):

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A complete cycle, a mahayuga, comprises 12,000 years. It ends with a dissolution, a pralaya, which is
repeated more drastically (mahapralaya, the Great Dissolution) at the end of the thousandth cycle. For
the paradigmatic schema creation-destruction-creation-etc. is reproduced ad infinitum. The 12,000
years of a mahayuga were regarded as divine years, each with a duration of 360 years, which gives a
total of 4,320,000 years for a single cosmic cycle. A thousand such mahayugas make up a kalpa (form);
14 kalpas make up a manvantara (so named because each manvantara is supposed to be ruled by Manu,
the mythical Ancestor-King). A kalpa is equivalent to a day in the life of Brahma; a second kalpa to a
night. One hundred of these years of Brahma, in other words 311,000 milliards of human years,
constitute the life of Brahma. But even this duration of the gods life does not exhaust time, for the gods
are not eternal and the cosmic creations and destructions succeed one another forever.195
Every novelty-inspired, exploration-driven learning experience has a revolutionary element; it is just
that those reconstructions that involve stories with very limited sizes (that is, spatial-temporal areas) only
release a proportionate amount of emotion. The normal/ revolutionary dichotomy is, therefore, not valid
it is always a matter of degree. Small scale irritations require minor life-story modifications. Large-scale
catastrophes, by contrast, undermine everything. The biggest disasters occur when the largest stories that
we play out are threatened with dissolution, as a consequence of radical environmental transformation.
Such transformation may occur in the natural course of things, when an earthquake or similar act of God
takes place; may be generated internally, as a consequence of heretic action; or may emerge when the
foreign devils emissaries of chaos threaten our explored territories (our nested stories, our cultural
stability). In the latter case, we may well turn to war as an alternative deemed emotionally desirable, in
comparison to the overwhelming existential threat posed by the (potential) destruction of our large-scale
stories.
Our stories are nested (one thing leads to another) and hierarchically arranged [pursuit a is
superordinate to pursuit b (love is more important than money)]. Within this nested hierarchy, our
consciousness our apperception appears to have a natural level of resolution, or categorization. This
default resolution is reflected in the fact, as alluded to previously, of the basic object level. We see
some things naturally; that is, in Roger Browns terminology, at a level that gives us maximal information
with minimal cognitive effort 196. I dont know what drives the mechanism that determines the appropriate
level of analysis. Elements of probability and predictability must play a role. It is, after all, increasingly
useless to speculate over increasingly large spatial-temporal areas, as the number of variables that must be
considered increases rapidly, even exponentially (and the probability of accurate prediction, therefore,
decreases). Perhaps the answer is something along the lines of the simplest solution that does not generate
additional evident problems wins which I suppose is a variant of Occams razor. So the simplest
cognitive/exploratory maneuver that renders an unpredictable occurrence conditionally predictable or
familiar is most likely to be adopted. This is another example of proof through utility if a solution
works, (serves to further progress towards a given goal) then it is right. Perhaps it is the frontal cortex
that determines what might be the most parsimonious possible context, within which a given novel
occurrence might be evaluated. So the notion would be that a novel occurrence initiates an exploratory
procedure, part of which is devoted to determining the level of analysis most appropriate for conducting an
evaluation. This would involve the shifting of stories. Also: a given stimulus is obviously not evaluated
at all possible levels of analysis, simultaneously. This would constitute an impossible cognitive burden. It
seems that the cortex must temporarily fixate at a chosen level, and then act as if that is the only
relevant level. Though this maneuver, the valence of something can appear similarly fixed. It is only this
arbitrary restriction of data that makes understanding and action possible.
We are adapted, as biological organisms, to construe our environment as a domain with particular
temporal and spatial borders that is, as a place of a certain size, with a fixed duration. Within that
environment, conceived of as that certain size and duration, certain phenomena leap out at us, and cry
out to be named.197 Whenever those natural categories of interpretation and their associated schemas of
action fail us, however, we have to look up and down the scale of spatial-temporal resolution. We do this
by looking at the big picture, when we have to, or by focusing in on details that may have previously
escaped us. Both the details and the big picture may be considered as dwindling or trailing off into,
first, the unconscious (where they exist as potential objects of cognition) and then, the unknown

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(where they exist as latent information or as undiscovered facts). The unconscious may then be
considered as the mediator between the unknown, which surrounds us constantly, and the domain that is so
familiar to us that its contents have been rendered explicit. This mediator, I would suggest, is nothing but
those metaphoric, imagistic processes, dependent upon limbic-motivated right-hemispheric activity, that
help us initially formulate our stories. Figure 16: Nested Stories, Processes of Generation, and Multiple
Memory Systems helps explain the idea of this unconscious the broadest span stories, which are
determined by complex social interactions, are episodic (imagistic) or even procedural (only manifested in
socially-modified behavior) in nature. There is a very narrow window of expressible frames of reference
conscious stories. Just ask any young child or unsophisticated adult to describe the rationale for
their behaviors.
Every level of analysis that is, every definable categorization system and schema for action (every
determinate story) has been constructed, interpersonally, in the course of exploratory behavior and
communication of the strategies and results thereof. Our natural levels of apprehension that is to say,
the stories that most easily or by default occupy our attention have contents that are relatively accessible
to consciousness that is, to explicit verbal/semantic formulation and communication. The higherlevel stories that cover a broader expanse of spatial-temporal territory are increasingly complex and,
therefore, cannot be as simply formulated. Myth steps in to fill the breach.

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Creative Behavior
Imitation
Procedural Memory
Play
Ritual
Drama
Episodic Memory
Myth
Religion
Literature
Philosophy
Semantic Memory
Rationality
Empiricism

Figure 16: Nested Stories, Processes of Generation, and Multiple Memory Systems

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2.3. Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience
Myth represents the world as forum for action. The world as forum for action is comprised of three
eternally extant constituent elements of experience, and a fourth that precedes them. The unknown,
the knower, and the known make up the world as place of drama; the indeterminate precosmogonic
chaos proceeding their emergence serves as the ultimate source of all things (including the three
constituent elements of experience).
The precosmogonic chaos tends to take metaphorical form as the uroboros, the self-consuming serpent,
who represents the union of matter and spirit, and the possibility of transformation. The uroboros serves as
primal source of the mythological world parents (the Great Mother, nature, deity of the unknown,
creative and destructive; the Great Father, culture, deity of the familiar, tyrannical and protective) and of
their Divine Son (the Knower, the generative Word, the process of exploration).
The ancient Mesopotamian creation myth the Enuma elish provides a concrete example of the
interplay of these personalities. This myth features four main characters, or sets of characters; Tiamat,
the feminine dragon of chaos, primordial goddess of creation (the uroboros and the Great Mother are
conflated, as is frequently the case, in this myth); Apsu, Tiamats husband and consort; the elder gods,
children of Tiamat and Apsu; and Marduk, sun-deity and mythic hero. Tiamat symbolizes the great
unknown, the matrix of the world; Apsu the known, the pattern that makes regulated existence possible. The
elder gods symbolize the common psychological attributes of humanity (the fragments or constituent
elements of consciousness), and constitute a more thorough representation of the constituent elements of
the patriarchal known; Marduk greatest of the secondary deities represents the process that
eternally mediates between matrix and regulated existence.
The original union of Tiamat and Apsu brings the elder gods into being. These gods carelessly kill
Apsu, upon who they unconsciously depend. Tiamat re-appears, with a vengeance, and decides to
destroy everything she has created. Her children send one volunteer after another out to overpower her.
All fail. Finally, Marduk offers to do battle. He is elected as king as the greatest of gods, as the
determiner of destinies and voluntarily confronts Tiamat. He cuts her apart, and creates the cosmos
from her pieces. The Mesopotamian emperor who ritually embodies Marduk acts out this battle during
the festival of the New Year, when the old world is renewed.
The Enuma elish expresses in image and narrative the idea that the psychological function giving order
to chaos (1) creates the cosmos and (2) should occupy a superordinate position, in the intrapsychic and
social domains. The ideas contained in this myth are given more elaborated expression in later Egyptian
works of metaphysical speculation, which more directly address the idea of the heroic renewal of culture.
The three constituent elements of experience and the fourth who proceeds them can be viewed, at a
higher level of resolution, as seven universal characters (who may take on any of a variety of culturespecific identities). Myth describes the interactions of these characters. The great dragon of chaos the
uroboros, the self-devouring serpent might be conceptualized as pure (latent) information, before it is
parsed into the world of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the experiencing subject. The uroboros is the stuff
of which categorical knowledge is composed, before being that knowledge; it is the primary element of
the world, which is decomposed into cosmos, surrounding chaos, and the exploratory process which
separates the two.
The bivalent Great Mother (second and third characters) is creation and destruction, simultaneously
the source of all new things, the benevolent bearer and lover of the hero; the destructive forces of the
unknown, the source of fear itself, constantly conspiring to destroy life. The bivalent divine son (fourth and
fifth) is the sun-god, the hero who journeys to the underworld to rescue his incapacitated ancestors, the
messianic son of the virgin mother, savior of the world and, simultaneously, his sworn adversary,
arrogant and deceitful. The bivalent Great Father (sixth and seventh) is the wise king and the tyrant,
cultural protection from the terrible forces of nature, security for the weak, and wisdom for the foolish.
Simultaneously, however, he is the force who devours his own offspring, who rules the kingdom with a
cruel and unjust hand, and who actively suppresses any sign of dissent or difference.
Terrible, chaotic forces lurk behind the facade of the normal world. These forces are kept at bay by
maintenance of social order. The reign of order is insufficient, however, because order itself becomes

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overbearing and deadly, if allowed unregulated or permanent expression. The actions of the hero constitute
an antidote to the deadly forces of chaos, and to the tyranny of order. The hero creates order from chaos,
and re-constructs that order, when necessary. His actions simultaneously ensure that novelty remains
tolerable and that security remains flexible.
Mephistopheles: Congratulations, before you part from me!
You know the devil, that is plain to see.
Here, take this key.
Faust: That little thing? But why?
Mephistopheles: First grasp it; it is nothing to decry.
Faust: It glows, it shines, increases in my hand!
Mephistopheles: How great its worth, you soon shall understand.
The key will smell the right place from all others:
Follow it down, it leads you to the Mothers! 198
2.3.1. Introduction
Reasonable and informed observers at least since the time of Frazier199 have established the widespread
spatial and temporal dispersion of cosmogonic stories, tales of heroism and deceit, rituals of initiation, and
standard imagistic representations, such as the virgin and child. These stories, tales, rituals and images
often differ in detail, and temporal ordering; sometimes, however, they are simply the same. It is possible
that this similarity might be the consequence of dissemination, from a single source, hundreds of centuries
ago. This hypothesis, however, does not explain why standard stories are remembered, once disseminated,
and transmitted down the generations, with little structural alteration. It is reasonable to presume that, over
the long run, our species forgets everything that is useless: we do not forget our myths, however
indeed, much of the activity broadly deemed cultural is in fact the effort to ensure that such myths are
constantly represented and communicated.
Carl Jung attempted to account for the apparent universality of world-interpretation with the hypothesis
of the collective unconscious. Jung believed that religious or mythological symbols sprung from a
universal source, whose final point of origin was biological (and heritable). His collective unconscious
was composed of complexes, which he defined as heritable propensities for behavior or for classification.
The Jungian position, which is almost never understood properly, has attracted more than its share of
derision. Jung was not privy to our knowledge of the mechanisms of inheritance (a limitation necessarily
shared by all the members of his generation); the idea of collective memories appears impossible
Lamarckian from the modern perspective. Jung did not really believe that individual memories
themselves could be transmitted, however although his writings, which are very difficult, do not always
make this clear. When he speaks formally of the collective unconscious, he is at pains to point out that it is
the possibility of categorization that is inherited, and not the contents of memory, itself. However, he
frequently writes as if the contents, as well, might be inherited.
The general irritation over Jungs heritable memory hypothesis has blinded psychologists and not
just psychologists to the remarkable fact that narratives do appear patterned, across diverse cultures. The
mere fact that all cultures use what are clearly and rapidly identifiable as narratives (or at least as
rites, which are clearly dramatic in nature) in itself strongly points to an underlying commonality of
structure and purpose. It might still be objected: attempts to attribute comprehensible patterning to such
narratives cannot be demonstrated, without a theory of interpretation, and that theory may be merely
reading in patterns, where none actually exist. The same objection can, of course, be applied and
applied validly to literary interpretation, the study of history, dream analysis, and anthropology. Cultural

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phenomena cannot be understood, except from a cultural perspective. This fundamental problem (among
others) makes verification of theories in the domain of value difficult.
Nonetheless to live, it is necessary to act. Action presupposes belief and interpretation (implicit, if not
explicit). Belief has to be grounded in faith, in the final analysis (as the criteria by which a moral theory
might be evaluated have to be chosen, as well). There is no reason, however, why such faith cannot be
informed, and critically assessed. It seems reasonable to presume that cross-cultural analysis of systems of
belief, and their comparison with the essentially literary productions of the humanities, might constitute a
means to attain such information. This was Jungs approach. The causal mechanism he constructed to
account for what he found that is, the collective unconscious appears fundamentally untenable, from
the modern empirical perspective (although the idea is much more complex, and much less easily
dismissable, than generally conceded). This does not mean that we should dismiss his methodology, nor
deride his otherwise valuable insights. Great modern minds, working in areas outside of psychology, have
also concluded that stories have universal structures.
How can the fact of patterned stories archetypal stories, if you will be reconciled with the apparent
impossibility of inherited memory content? We might turn our attention to the phenomenon of language,
and the processes of its storage and transmission, to find an answer. The human linguistic ability appears
to have a relatively specific biological basis. Other animals do not have language, in their natural states,
and cannot be taught language, at any sophisticated level. Human children, by contrast even when
severely intellectually impaired pick up language easily, and use it fluently, naturally, and creatively.
Language-use is an intrinsic characteristic of Homo Sapiens, and the structure of language itself appears
biologically grounded. Nonetheless, human languages differ. A native Japanese speaker cannot understand
a native French speaker, although it might be evident to both that the other is using language. It is possible
for two phenomena to be different, at one level of analysis, and similar at another.
The question might be asked: upon what databank, so to speak, does a child draw, when he or she learns
to talk (read, write)? The child listens to those around her. She is not explicitly taught how to talk,
although some explicit teaching takes place. Her biological propensity encounters a cultural reality: the
existence of language, in the culture. Her parents serve as primary intermediaries of culture: they embody
language in their behavior, and transmit it to her, during their day-to-day activities. Nonetheless, they
cannot be said to be the creators of language, although they may use it idiosyncratically even
creatively. It is the capability for human linguistic activity whatever that is that is the creator. The
cumulative consequences of this capability, expressed over centuries, have modified the behavior of all the
individuals who compose a given linguistic culture. Identifiable individuals serve as the temporary
agents of embodied memory for the entire culture, at any given locale and point in time; nonetheless, the
loss of a given individual poses no threat to the knowledge of the culture. This is because language is
remembered that is, embodied in the behavior of all those who speak. Children pick up language by
interacting with adults, who embody language. Thus, they learn to speak, and learn to know they have
language, and even to observe and study the fact that they have language.
The same holds true of moral behavior, and of the belief that underlies it. Adults embody the
behavioral wisdom of their culture for their children. Children interact with adults, who serve as cultural
emissaries. Obviously, a given adult may be a better or worse representative just as a parent may be
more or less literate. However, a bad example can be as exemplary as a good example; furthermore,
children are rarely limited, in their exposure, to a single hero. If there are no other adults around in fact,
they ar+e inevitably present by proxy, in entertainment: in ritual, drama, literature, and myth. The
behavioral patterns that make up our stories might therefore be regarded as stored in our (social)
behavior. This implies that such patterns may be abstracted from that behavior, at any time. The collective
unconscious is, from this perspective, embodied behavioral wisdom, in its most fundamental form is the
cumulative transmitted consequences of the fact of exploration and culture on action.
Our capacity for abstraction allows us to derive the constituent elements of successful adaptation
itself, from observation of behavioral patterns that are constantly played out in the world as it actually
exists. The behavioral patterns that constitute adult interaction, for example, are exceedingly sophisticated
conditioned to the last gesture by centuries of cultural work. We can extract images of these patterns;
such images just as sophisticated as the behaviors they represent constitute the building-blocks for our
stories, and for our self-understanding. (The admirable adult an identifiable individual keeps her house

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tidy and neat, reconciles her warring brothers, and learns hard lessons, when such learning is necessary.
The archetypal hero makes order out of chaos, brings peace to the world, and restructures society, when it
has become rigid and anachronistic.) The collective unconscious that constitutes the basis for shared
religious mythology is in fact the behavior the procedures that have been generated, transmitted,
imitated, and modified by everyone who has ever lived, everywhere. Images of these behaviors and of the
transcendent place where they occur (the universe of chaos and order) constitute metaphors, symbolic
images. Metaphors mediate between our procedural wisdom, and our explicit knowledge; constitute the
imagistic declarative point of transition between the act and the word.
We have spent hundreds of thousands of years watching ourselves act, and telling stories about how we
act, in consequence. A good story has a universal quality, which means that it speaks a language we all
understand. Any universally comprehensible language must have universal referents, and this means that a
good story must speak to us about those aspects of experience that we all share. But what is it that every
human being shares, regardless of place and time of birth? Is it reasonable to posit that anything might
remain constant, for example, across the centuries that separate us from our stone-age ancestors; across the
ideological and religious barriers that divide the inhabitants of our modern nations? Our distant
predecessors lived much closer to nature, and the problems that beset them seem far removed from our
current daily struggles. The great difference between us and them seems analagous in distance, if not
precisely in kind, to that obtaining between the varied cultural worlds of today to the great gap that still
divides the Hindu religious mystic, for example, from the Manhattan investment banker. It is not surprising
that a world characterized by such different human lives might remain rife with constant intergroup conflict
not surprising, as well, that we might seem to have outgrown our traditional wisdom. But are there
fundamental presuppositions we might agree upon might share in spite of our differences?
Most objects of experience have some properties in common, while varying with regards to others.
Generally, the similarities and the differences are both significant. So it is with individuals, and with
cultures. We seem peculiarly aware of our differences, however, and not of our similarities. Even groups of
people who share much in common, at least from the perspective of more distant outsiders the Irish
Catholics and Protestants spring to mind appear sufficiently conscious of those factors that make them
unique in their social affiliation. We are much less naturally capable of apprehending our similarities. I
think this is in part because we are not built to focus on the predictable and familiar. Our attention
gravitates naturally towards those aspects of our environments, natural and social, that contain information.
The similarities of the Serb and the Croat are hidden from each other, so to speak, by a wall of habituation
but the differences stand out profoundly.
To ask the question what is it that two or more discriminable beings or things or situations might
share? is really to ask at what levels of analysis might two or more things be considered the same? and
at what levels different? It is the particulars of our individuality our specific time and place that
differentiate us from one another. What unites us is the fact of those particulars, however the fact that we
each have a specific time and place and the implications of that fact for the nature of our existence. Our
lives are open to possibility, but remain eternally bounded by disease, death, and subjugation to social
structure. As mutable, limited, social beings, we are all engaged in a massive, cooperative and competitive
endeavor. We do not understand the rules that govern this endeavor, in the final analysis; cannot state
explicitly why it is that we do what we do. Our democratic constitutions, for example which contain the
most fundamental axioms of the body of law that we imitate (that governs our behavior) are
inextricably embedded in the conception of natural rights (which is to say, is embedded in a statement of
faith: we hold these truths to be self-evident). We are all, in consequence, imitating a story that we dont
understand. This story covers the broadest possible expanse of time and space (at least that expanse
relevant to us), and is still implicitly contained in our behavior (although represented, in part, in episodic
imagery and semantic description). This partially implicit containment constitutes our mythology, and our
ritual, and provides the upper-level, unconscious frames of reference within which our conditional and
expressible individual stories retain their validity.
It is impossible to properly appreciate the nature of the categories of the mythological imagination
without developing some understanding of the process of categorization. The act of categorization enables
us to treat the mysterious and complex world we inhabit as if it were simpler as if it were, in fact,
comprehensible. We perform this act of simplification by treating objects or situations that share some

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aspect of structure, function or implication as if they were identical. People are very good at categorizing
so good, in fact, that the ability is taken for granted, and appears simple. It is not so simple, however.
Neither the rules that underly categorization, nor the act itself, have proved easy to describe. Roger
Brown, the eminent psycholinguist, states:
Until about 1973, psychological experiments on category formation conceived of human categories on
the model of a proper set. Triangles are a proper set, which means that members of the triangle class
are precisely definable in terms of a conjunction of attributes true of all members of the set, and of no
nonmembers. A triangle is a closed three-sided figure. From the fact that a clear definition exists, it
follows that membership in the set is not a matter of degree; one triangle is no more essentially
triangular than any other. An entity either is or is not a triangle.
In retrospect, it is amazing that psychology was for so long able to think of real-life categories as
proper sets. We ought to have worred more over the extreme difficulty everyone has in defining
anything natural, and natural, as used here, includes not only dogs and carrots but also artifacts like
chairs, cars, and pencils. I know you can tell one when you see one, but just try listing the attributes that
are true of all dogs and of no cats or wolves or hyenas, or of all the carrots and no radishes or turnips, or
of all chairs and no small tables, hassocks, benches or slings.200
In the natural state, so to speak, human beings do not think like logicians or even like empiricists. It
takes training to think like that. In the absence of such training, we still think, however; but more
subjectively like unreasonable, idiosyncratically emotional beings, who inhabit bodies of particular
size, with particular and constrained properties. Our natural categories which are the groupings we
generate spontaneously do not consist solely of the consensually apprehensible properties shared by the
things and situations we encounter. Neither are natural categories tightly bounded their borders are fuzzy,
and they overlap. The construction of proper sets is possible obviously, since they exist and the ability
to construct and use such sets has proved useful, in a broad variety of manners. Nonetheless, the capability
that underlies such construction appears relatively new, phylogenetically speaking and seems at
dependent at least in part on the ability to think empirically and to regard things objectively. In the absence
of such ability which requires specialized training (or, at least, immersion in a culture like ours where
such thinking has become commonplace) people naturally incline towards the development of what has
been described (recently) as the cognitive model. Cognitive models are characterized by a number of
interesting and distinctive properties (as paraphrased, in part, from George Lakoff201):
1) They are embodied with regards to their content, which essentially means that they can be used,
without necessarily being defined; means that they are implicit in action, without necessarily being explicit
in description. Two things classified within the same cognitive model are two things that evoke the same
behavior, and can therefore be regarded, at least from the perspective of action, as one thing. If you are
utilizing a cognitive model, and someone asks you to describe its content (What makes a dog?) you
might say, I cant say, but I know one when I see one. You know that a dog is, for example, something
friendly, something to be petted, and something to play with although such knowledge does not comprise
everything that makes up what you regard as dog. Most of the concepts you use are in fact embodied, at the
most basic of levels are in fact habitual, procedural, motoric, behavioral. You can use them without
thinking. Those that are not can only be applied slowly, with full conscious attention, and with effort.
2) They are characterized by basic-level categorization and basic-level primacy. These terms mean,
respectively, that the phenomena most naturally apprehensible to the human mind perceptible as a
whole, or gestalt; nameable, communicable, manipulable, memorable serve as the material for initial
categorization, and that those initial categories provide the basis for the development of more abstract
concepts (even for the comparison point for determining what we consider abstract). Most naturally
apprehensible means learned and named first (generally with short names); means conceptualized in terms
of or at the level of distinctive action in association with characteristic behaviors, such as petting for the
category cat, and smelling for the category flower. Our basic-level categories reflect our structure, as
much as the structure of the external world: we most accurately conceive of those things that most simply
present themselves to us. The higher and lower levels of category that surround these naturally
apprehensible basic-level phenomena might be regarded, in contrast, as achievements of the imagination,

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to use Roger Browns phrase.202 We perceive the cat, for example, and infer the species that contains the
cat, or the subtype that makes it Siamese. Our basic-level categories generally occupy the middle of our
conceptual hierarchies: we generalize when we move up, and specialize, when we move down.
3) They may be used in metonymic, or reference-point reasoning. Metonymic reasoning is symbolic, in
the psychoanalytic or literary sense. Metonymic means interchangeable, and more. The metonymic
properties of the objects in a cognitive model means that any or all of those objects can stand for any or
all of the others. This capacity makes sense, since all of the objects in a given category are by definition
regarded as equivalent, in some non-trivial sense (most generally, in terms of implication for action). The
human capacity for metaphor, aesthetic appreciation, and allusion seems integrally related to the capacity
for metonymic reasoning, and the use of richly meaningful cognitive models.
4) They are characterized by membership and centrality gradience. Membership gradience implies
degree of membership, which is to say that an ostrich, for example, is a bird, but perhaps not so much of a
bird as a robin because the robin has more properties that are central to the category bird. A thing can be
a better or worse exemplar of its category; if it is worse, it can still be placed firmly within that category.
5) They contain phenomena associated as a consequence of familial resemblance, a term used first in
this context by Ludwig Wittgenstein.203 Things with familial resemblance all share similarities with a
potentially hypothetical object. The prototypical Smith brother, to use a famous example,204 may have a
dark mustache, beady eyes, balding pate, thick horn-rimmed glasses, dark beard, skinny neck, large ears,
and weak chin. Perhaps there are six Smith brothers, in total, none of whom has all the properties of the
prototypical Smith. Adam Smith has a weak chin, large ears, balding pate, and skinny neck but no
glasses, mustache, or beard. Joseph, by contrast, has the glasses, mustache and beard but a full head of
hear, small ears, and a normal neck. Phineas has a receding hairline, beady eyes, and a dark beard and
mustache and so on, for George, Everett and Sam. None of the brothers precisely resembles one another
but if you saw them in a group, you would say those men are all brothers.
6) They give rise to the phenomena of polysemy a defining characteristic of myth. A polysemic story is
written and can be read validly on many levels. The phenomena of polysemy discussed in some detail
later in this manuscript arises when the relationship of objects within a particular cognitive model is
analogous in some sense to the relationship that obtains between cognitive models. Great works of
literature are always polysemic, in this manner: the characters within the story stand in the same
relationship to one another as things of more general significance stand to one another, in the broader
world. The struggle of Moses against the Egyptian pharaoh, for example to take a story we will consider
later can also be read as an allegory of the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor or, even more
generally, as the rebellion of the [world-destroying (flooding)] savior against society.
To say that two separable things belong to the same category is a tricky business. We presume, without
thinking, that we group things as a consequence of something about them, rather than as a consequence of
something about us. What do all chairs share in common, then? Any given chair may lack some of the most
common chair attributes, such as legs, or backs, or armrests. Is a tree-stump a chair? Yes if you can sit on
it. It isnt really something about an object, considered as an independent thing, that makes it a chair: it is,
rather, something about its potential for interaction with us. The category chair contains objects that serve
a function we value. Chairs may be efficiently sat upon at least in potential. Our action in the face of an
object constitutes an elementary but fundamental form of classification (constitutes, in fact, the most
fundamental of all classifications; the classification from which all abstracted divisions are derived). The
category of all things that make you want to run away when you look at them might be considered, for
example, a very basic form of construct. Closely related to this category, although slightly higher on the
hierarchy of abstraction, might be the category of all objects to be feared, or all objects that are
dangerous when approached in one fashion, but beneficial when approached in another.
It is a meaningful but irrational classification scheme of this sort that Jung described as a complex
one of the constituent elements of the collective unconscious: a group of phenomena, linked together
because of shared significance [which is (essentially) implication for action, or emotional equivalence].
Jung believed that many complexes had an archetypal (or universal) basis, rooted in biology, and that this
rooting had something specifically to do with memory. It appears that the truth is somewhat more
complicated. We classify things according to the way they appear, the way they act, and in accordance with
their significance to us, which is an indication of how to act in their presence and may mix any or all of

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these attributes, irrationally (but meaningfully), in a single scheme. We categorize diverse things in similar
manners, across cultures, because we share structure of memory, and physical form, manifested in
observable behavior; because we share perceptual apparatus, and motivational drive, and emotional state.
The imagination has its natural categories, dependent for their existence on the interaction between our
embodied minds and the world of shared experience; into these categories fall particular phenomena, in a
more-or-less predictable manner. Stories describe the interactions of the contents of the categories of the
imagination, which take embodied form, in the shape of dramatic characters. The characters have a
predictable nature, and play out their relationships in an eternally fascinating patterned fashion, time and
time again, everywhere in the world.
So: now we have the observation of commonality of structure, and a plausible theory to account for the
presence of that commonality. Perhaps it would be reasonable, then, to describe the nature of the universal
patterns in narrative while placing a variety of additional and stringent constraints on that description, for
the sake of caution (given the difficulty of verifying interpretive theories.) First, let us make the
description rationally acceptable, and internally consistent that is, let us find a way of making sense of
myth that does not conflict with the tenets of empiricism and experimental science, and that appears
applicable to stories derived from many different places, and many different times. Let us further make the
description simple, as a good theory should be simple so that remembering the interpretive framework is
much easier than remembering the stories themselves. Let us make it compelling, as well, from the
emotional perspective. Good theories have an affective component, sometimes described as beauty. This
beauty appears simultaneously as efficiency the same sort of efficiency that characterizes a well-crafted
tool and as what might be described as a window into possibility. A good theory lets you use things
things that once appeared useless for desirable ends. In consequence, such a theory has a general sense of
excitement and hope about it. A good theory about the structure of myth should let you see how a story you
couldnt even understand previously might shed new and useful light on the meaning of your life. Finally,
let us constrain the description by making it fit with what is known about the manner in which the brain
actually operates (and which was described previously); let us insure that the world of myth, as interpreted,
is the same world apperceived by the mind.
Operation within this set of constraints allows for generation of the following straightforward
hypothesis: the partially implicit mythic stories or fantasies that guide our adaptation, in general, appear
to describe or portray or embody the three permanent constituent elements of human experience: the
unknown, or unexplored territory; the known, or explored territory; and the process the knower which
mediates between them. These three elements constitute the cosmos that is, the world of experience
from the narrative or mythological perspective.
No matter where an individual lives and no matter when he is faced with the same set of problems,
or, perhaps, the same set of metaproblems, since the details differ endlessly. He is a cultural creature, and
must come to terms with the existence of that culture. He must master the domain of the known explored
territory which is the set of interpretations and behavioral schemas he shares with his societal
compatriots. He must understand his role within that culture a role defined by the necessity of
preservation, maintenance, and transmission of tradition, as well as revolution and radical update of that
tradition, when such update becomes necessary. He must in addition be able to tolerate and even benefit
from the existence of the transcendental unknown unexplored territory which is that aspect of
experience which cannot be addressed with mere application of memorized and habitual procedures; is that
part of the human environment which demands active, voluntary and courageous investigation. Finally,
he must adapt to the presence of himself must face the endlessly tragic problem of the knower, the
exploratory process, the limited, mortal subject; must serve as eternal mediator between the creative and
destructive underworld of the unknown and the secure, oppressive patriarchal kingdom of human culture.
We cannot see the unknown, because we are protected from it by everything familiar and unquestioned.
We are in addition habituated to what is familiar and known by definition and are therefore often
unable to apprehend its structure (often even unable to perceive that it is there). Finally, we remain ignorant
of our own true nature, because of its intrinsic complexity, and because we act towards others and ourselves
in a socialized manner, which is to say a predictable manner and thereby shield ourselves from our own
mystery. The figures of myth, however, embody the world visible and invisible. Though the analysis
of such figures, we can come to see just what meaning means, and how it reveals itself, in relationship to

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our actions. It is through such analysis that we can come to realize the potential breadth and depth of our
own emotions, and the nature of our true being; to understand our capacity for great acts of evil and great
acts of good and our motivations for participating in them.
Consider once again this archaic creation myth from Sumer:
So far, no cosmogonic text properly speaking has been discovered, but some allusions permit us to
reconstruct the decisive moments of creation, as the Sumerians conceived it. The goddess Nammu
(whose name is written with the pictograph representing the primordial sea) is presented as the mother
who gave birth to the Sky and the Earth and the ancestress who brought forth all the gods. The theme
of the primordial waters, imagined as a totality at once cosmic and divine, is quite frequent in archaic
cosmogonies. In this case too, the watery mass is identified with the original Mother, who, by
parthenogenesis, gave birth to the first couple, the Sky (An) and the Earth (Ki), incarnating the male and
female principles. This first couple was united, to the point of merging, in the hieros gamos [mystical
marriage]. From their union was born En-lil, the god of the atmosphere. Another fragment informs us
that the latter separated his parents.... The cosmogonic theme of the separation of sky and earth is also
widely disseminated.205
The sky and earth of the Sumerians are categories of apprehension, characteristic of the Sumerian
culture, and must not be confused with the sky and earth of modern empirical thinking. An and Ki
are, instead, the dramatically-represented Great Father and Great Mother of all things (including the son
who gives birth to them). This somewhat paradoxical narrative is prototypical; mythologies of creation
tend to manifest themselves in this pattern. In the Enuma elish, for example the oldest written creation
myth we possess the Mesopotamian hero/deity Marduk faces the aquatic female dragon Tiamat (mother
of all things, including Marduk himself), cuts her up, and creates the world from her pieces.206 The god
Marduk serves explicitly as exemplar for the Mesopotamian emperor,207 whose job is to ensure that the
cosmos exists and remains stable, as a consequence of his proper moral behavior, defined by his
imitation of Marduk. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is the Logos 208 the word of God that creates
order from chaos and it is in the image of the Logos that man [Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness (Genesis 1:26)] is created. This idea has clear additional precedents in early and late Egyptian
cosmology (as we shall see). In the Far East similarly the cosmos is imagined as composed of the
interplay between yang and yin, chaos and order209 that is to say, unknown or unexplored territory, and
known or explored territory. Tao, from the Eastern perspective, is the pattern of behavior that mediates
between them (analogous to En-lil, Marduk, and the Logos) that constantly generates, and regenerates,
the universe. For the Eastern man, life in Tao is the highest good, the way and meaning; the goal
towards which all other goals must remain subordinate.
Our narratives describe the world as it possesses broad but classifiable implication for motor output as
it signifies. We gather information about the nature of the world, as it signifies for behavior, by watching
ourselves and the others that compose our social groups act in the world. We derive conclusions about
the fundamental meanings of things by observing how we respond to them. The unknown becomes
classifiable, in this manner, because we respond to its manifestation predictably. It compels our actions,
and makes us feel. It frightens us into paralysis and entices us forward, simultaneously; it ignites our
curiosity, and heightens our senses it offers us new information and greater well-being, at the potential
cost of our lives. We observe our responses, which are biologically predetermined, and draw the
appropriate conclusions. The unknown is intrinsically interesting, in a manner that poses an endless
dilemma. It promises and threatens simultaneously. It appears as the hypothetical ultimate source of all
determinate information, and as the ultimate unity of all currently discriminable things. It surrounds all
things, eternally; engenders all things, and takes all things back. It can therefore be said, paradoxically, that
we know specific things about the domain of the unknown that we understand something about it, that we
can act toward and represent it, even though it has not yet been explored. This paradoxical ability is a
nontrivial capacity. Since the unknown constitutes an ineradicable component of the environment, so to
speak, we have to know what it is, what it signifies; have to understand its implication for behavior and its
affective valence.

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Explored territory is something altogether different. Habitual and familiar actions are useful there,
instead of the frightened, tentative or exploratory behaviors that serve where nothing is certain. Habits and
familiar actions exist, as a general rule, because they have been successful, because their implementation
suffices to transform what would otherwise be unexplored territory into a safe and fruitful haven. As we
have been at pains to demonstrate, the unknown does not lose its a priori motivational significance
promise and threat because of the passive process of habituation. Adaptation is always active.
Habituation, except in the most trivial of senses, is the consequence of successful creative exploration,
which means generation of behavioral patterns that turn the indeterminate meaning of something newly
encountered into something positive, at best neutral, at worst. Is fire dangerous, or beneficial? It depends
on how it is approached which is to say, fire has context-dependent potential for harm and for benefit.
Which of its many potentials fire actually manifests depends on what behavioral strategy is undertaken in
its presence. Fire heats our homes. Now and then when we are insufficiently conscious it burns one of
them down. What fire does which is to say, what it is, from the perspective of motivational significance
depends on how we treat it.
We have lost our fear of fire, not because we have habituated to it, but because we have learned how to
control it because we have learned to specify and limit its intrinsically ambivalent affective valence,
through modification of our own behavior, in its presence. Fire, insofar as we can control it, has been
rendered predictable, non-threatening even familiar, and comforting. All things we can control (which
means, can bend to our own ends) have been likewise rendered predictable by definition. The territory
of explored territory is therefore defined, at least in general, by security. Secure territory is that place
where we know how to act. Knowing how to act means being sure that our actions, undertaken in the
comprehend context of the present, will produce the results desired in the future. The affective
significance of the phenomena that comprise explored territory have been mapped. This map takes the
form of the story, which describes the valence of present occurrences, the form of the desired future, and
the means that might serve usefully to transform the former into the latter. Any territories our stories serve
to render beneficial constitute home ground.
Home ground explored territory is that place where unfamiliar things do not exist. Many of the
things we encounter, however perhaps most are other people. This means that explored territory is
also that place where unfamiliar behaviors are not encountered. On familiar ground, we engage in those
activities that are habitual, alongside others, who are doing the same thing (who are pursuing the same
goals, whose emotions can be understood, whose beliefs are the same as ours, whose actions are
predictable). Much of what we know how to do is behavior matched to society is individual action
matched to, adapted to, modified by, the cumulative behavior of the others who surround us. Explored
necessarily means, therefore, where human activity has been rendered predictable, as well as where the
course of natural events can be accurately determined. The maps that make territory familiar
consequently consist in large part of representations of behavior personal behavior, which we manifest,
and the behavior of others, which we constantly encounter, and to which we have adjusted our personal
actions. Likewise, we map our own behaviors, and those of others because such behaviors comprise a
large part of the world. We do not always understand what we do, however our actions cannot be said to
be explicitly comprehended. Our behavioral patterns are exceedingly complex, and psychology is a young
science. The scope of our behavioral wisdom exceeds the breadth of our explicit interpretation. We act, and
teach, and yet do not understand. How can it be, that we can do what we cannot explain?
We have already seen that we can represent what we do not understand that we derive knowledge
about the nature of the unknown (about the fact that it is eternally frightening and promising), by watching
how we behave in its presence. We do something similar, with regards to the social world, and the
behaviors that compose it. We watch how others act, and imitate, and learn to act, in consequence;
furthermore, we learn to represent the social world which is explored territory, in large part by
watching the actions that take place in it; by exploring the social world itself. These representations are first
patterns of actions, then stories once the nature of the behavioral patterns have been identified, and
represented in a declarative manner. A good story portrays a behavioral pattern with a large expanse of
valid territory. It follows, therefore, that the greatest of all stories portrays the pattern of behavior with the
widest conceivable territory.

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We imitate and map adaptive behaviors behaviors that efficiently reach a desired end so that we can
transform the mysterious unknown into the desirable and predictable; so that the social and non-social
aspects of our experience remain under our control. The particular behaviors we imitate and represent,
organized into a coherent unit, shared with others, constitute our cultures; constitute the manner in which
we bring order to our existence. Our maps of adaptive behavior contain descriptions of the world in which
that behavior is manifested contains descriptions of explored and unexplored territory as well as
representations of the behaviors themselves. The stories mankind tells about the past, personal and
historical, constitute expressions of the content of the declarative memory system, which is the system that
knows what. Stories are generally told about animate objects, motivated, emotional beings, and might be
regarded as descriptions of behavior, including antecedents, consequences, and contexts. Stories contain
portrayals of the outputs of the procedural system which is the system that knows how and inferences
(explicit and implicit) about the existence and nature of factors (implicit, nonverbal, nondeclarative
presuppositions), motivational and emotional, that guide and govern such output. The knowing what
system therefore contains a complex sociohistorically-constructed (but still somewhat unconscious)
verbal and imaginative description of the actions of the knowing how system. This description takes
narrative form. Capacity for such representation emerges as the consequence of a complex and lengthy
process of development, originating in action, culminating in production of capacity for abstract cognition.
The episodic system, which generates representations of the experiential world, contains an elaborate
model of the phenomenological world, composed in large part of encountered human behaviors, generated
by the other and the self the most complex and affectively relevant phenomena in the human field of
experience. This representation takes imaginative, dramatic, then narrative, mythic form, as the model is
constructed in fantasy, then described by the semantic system. Narrative/mythic reality is the world,
conceived of in imagination, comprising imagistic representation of the behavioral pattern central to
morality, played out in an environment permanently characterized by the interplay of the known and the
unknown. This reality is the world as place of action, and not as place of objective things.
All the worlds a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.210
Before the emergence of empirical methodology which allowed for methodical separation of subject
and object in description the world-model contained abstracted inferences about the nature of existence,
derived primarily from observations of human behavior. This means, in essence, that pre-experimental man
observed morality in his behavior and inferred (through the process described previously) the existence
of a source for that morality in the structure of the universe itself. Of course, this universe is the
experiential field affect, imagination and all and not the objective world constructed by the postempirical mind. This prescientific model of reality primarily consisted of narrative representations of
behavioral patterns (and of the contexts that surround them), and was concerned primarily with the
motivational significance of events and processes. As this model became more abstract as the semantic
system analyzed the information presented in narrative format, but not understood man generated
imaginative hypotheses about the nature of the ideal human behavior, in the archetypal environment.
This archetypal environment was (is) composed of three domains, which easily become three characters:
The unknown is unexplored territory, nature, the unconscious, dionysian force, the id, the Great Mother
goddess, the queen, the matrix, the matriarch, the container, the object to be fertilized, the source of all
things, the strange, the unconscious, the sensual, the foreigner, the place of return and rest, the maw of the
earth, the belly of the beast, the dragon, the evil stepmother, the deep, the fecund, the pregnant, the valley,
the cleft, the cave, hell, death and the grave, the moon (ruler of the night and the myterious dark),
uncontrollable emotion, matter, and the earth.211 Any story that makes allusion to any of these phenomena
instantly involves all of them. The grave and the cave, for example, connote the destructive aspect of the
maternal pain, grief and loss, deep water, and the dark woods; the fountain in the forest (water and woods
in their alternative aspect), by contrast, brings to mind sanctuary, peace, rebirth, and replenishment.
The knower is the creative explorer, the ego, the I, the eye, the phallus, the plow, the subject,
consciousness, the illuminated or enlightened one, the trickster, the fool, the hero, the coward; spirit (as

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opposed to matter, as opposed to dogma); the sun, son of the unknown and the known (son of the Great
Mother and the Great Father).212 The central character in a story must play the role of hero, or deceiver;
must represent the sun (or, alternatively, the adversary the power that eternally opposes the dominion of
the light).
The known is explored territory, culture, appollinian control, superego, the conscience, the rational, the
king, the patriarch, the wise old man and the tyrant, the giant, the ogre, the cyclops, order and authority and
the crushing weight of tradition, dogma, the day sky, the countryman, the island, the heights, the ancestral
spirits, and the activity of the dead.213 Authority and its danger play central roles in interesting tales,
because human society is hierarchical, and because the organized social world is omnipresent. Authority
and power manifest themselves, implicitly or explicitly, in all human relationships; we cannot live have
never lived without others. The fact of power relationships and authority constitutes an eternally
challenging and necessary constant of the human domain of experience.
The unknown is yang, cold, dark and feminine; the known yin, warm, bright and masculine; the knower
is the man living in Tao, on the razors edge, on the straight and narrow path, on the proper road, in
meaning, in the kingdom of heaven, on the mountaintop, crucified on the branches of the world-tree is the
individual who voluntarily carves out the space between nature and culture. The interpretation of words in
relationship to these prototypes (unknown, knower, known) is complicated by the fact of shifting meaning:
earth, for example, is unknown (feminine) in relationship to sky, but known (masculine) in relationship to
water; dragon is feminine, masculine and subject simultaneously. This capacity for meanings to shift is not
illogical, it is just not proper.214 Meaning transforms itself endlessly with shift in interpretive context is
determined in part by that context (that frame of reference, that story). The same word in two sentences
one ironical, for example, the other straightforward can have two entirely different, even opposite,
meanings. Likewise, the sentence taken out of the context of the paragraph may be interpreted in some
fashion entirely foreign to the intent of the author. Admission of the property of context-dependent
meaning is neither illogical, nor indicative of sloppy reasoning, nor primitive merely recognition that
context determines significance. The fact of context-dependence, however, makes interpretation of a given
symbol difficult particularly when it has been removed from its culturally-constructed surroundings or
milieu.
The unknown, the known and the knower share between them tremendous affective bivalence: the
domain of nature, the Great Mother, contains everything creative and destructive, because creation and
destruction are integrally linked. The old must die, must be destroyed, to give way to the new; the
mysterious source of all things (that is, the unknown) is also their final destination. Likewise, the domain of
culture, the Great Father, is simultaneously and unceasingly tyranny and order, because security of person
and property is always obtained at the cost of absolute freedom. The eternal subject, man, the knower, is
equally at odds: the little god of earth is also mortal worm, courageous and craven, heroic and deceitful,
possessed of great and dangerous potential, knowing good and evil. The unknown cannot be described, by
definition. The known is too complicated to be understood. The knower the conscious individual human
being likewise defies his own capacity for understanding. The interplay between these ultimately
incomprehensible forces nonetheless constitutes the world in which we act, to which we must adapt. We
have configured our behavior, accordingly; the natural categories215 we use to apprehend the world reflect
that configuration.
The Tao existed before its name,
and from its name, the opposites evolved,
giving rise to three divisions,
and then to names abundant.
These things embrace receptively,
achieving inner harmony,
and by their unity create
the inner world of man.216
The mythological world which is the world as drama, story, forum for action appears to be
composed of three constituent elements, and a fourth that precedes, follows and surrounds those three.
These elements, in what is perhaps their most fundamental pattern of inter-relationship, are portrayed in

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Figure 17: The Constituent Elements of Experience. This figure might be conceptualized as three disks,
stacked one on top of another, resting on an amorphous background. That background chaos, the
ultimate source and destination-place of all things envelops the world, and comprises everything that is
now separate and identifiable: subject and object; past, present and future; conscious, and unconscious;
matter and spirit. The Great Mother and Father the world parents (unexplored and explored territory,
respectively; nature and culture) can be usefully regarded as the primordial offspring of primeval
chaos. The Great Mother the unknown, as it manifests itself in experience is the feminine deity who
gives birth to and devours all. She is the unpredictable as it is encountered, and is therefore characterized,
simultaneously, by extreme positive and extreme negative valence. The Great Father is order, placed
against chaos; civilization erected against nature, with natures aid. He is the benevolent force that protects
individuals from catastrophic encounter with what is not yet understood; is the walls that surrounded the
maturing Buddha and that encapsulated the Hebrew Eden. Conversely, however, the Great Father is the
tyrant who forbids the emergence (or even the hypothetical existence) of anything new. The Archetypal
Son is the child of order and chaos of culture and nature and is therefore clearly their product.
Paradoxically, however as the deity who separates the earth (mother) from the sky (father), he is also the
process that gives rise to his parents. This paradoxical situation arises because the existence of defined
order, and the unexplored territory defined in opposition to that order, can only come into being in the light
of consciousness, which is the faculty that knows (and does not know). The Archetypal Son, like his
parents, has a positive aspect, and a negative aspect. The positive aspect continually reconstructs defined
territory, as a consequence of the assimilation of the unknown [as a consequence of incestuous (that is,
sexual read creative) union with the Great Mother]. The negative aspect rejects or destroys anything it
does not or will not understand.

The Dragon of Chaos

The Great Mother
The Great Father

The Archetypal Son

-

-

+ +
Hero

Adversary

Order

Tyranny

Destruction

Creation

-

+

Figure 17: The Constituent Elements of Experience

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Figure 18: The Positive Constituent Elements of Experience, Personified 217 portrays the Vierge
Ouvrante, a fifteenth century French sculpture, which represents the constituent elements of the world in
personified, and solely positive form. Personification of this sort is the rule; categorical exclusion or
inclusion in accordance with valence (all bad elements; all good elements) is almost equally common.
All positive things are, after all, reasonably apprehended as similar, or identical likewise, all negative
things. It is for this reason, in part, that the terror of the unknown, the tyranny of the state, and the evil
aspect of man are contaminated with one another for this reason that the devil and the stranger are
easily perceived as one. The Vierge Ouvrante is a strange work, from the standard Christian perspective,
as it portrays Mary, the mother of God, as superordinate to God the Father and Christ the son. That
superordinate position is perfectly valid, however, from the more general mythological perspective
(although not exclusively valid). Each constituent element of experience can be regarded as progenitor, or
as offspring, with regard to any other (as the world parents give birth to the divine son; as the divine son
separates the world parents; as order is a derivative of chaos; as chaos is defined by order). So the most
familiar Christian sequence of generation (which might be God Mary Christ) is only one of many
valid configurations (and is not even the only one that characterizes Christianity).

Figure 18: The Positive Constituent Elements of Experience, Personified

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The world of experience, in total, is composed of the known explored territory in paradoxical
juxtaposition with the unknown unexplored territory. Archaic notions of reality presuppose that the
familiar world is a sacred space, surrounded by chaos (populated, variously, by demons, reptiles, spirits and
barbarians none of whom are really distinguishable). The world of order and chaos might be regarded as
the stage, for man for the twin aspects of man, more accurately: for the aspect that inquires, and explores
(which voluntarily expands the domain and structure of order, culture) and for the aspect that opposes that
inquiry, exploration and transformation. The great story is, therefore, good vs. evil, played out against the
endless flux of being, as it signifies. The forces of good have an eternal character (in the same way that
Platonic objects are represented, eternally, in supracelestial space); unfortunately, so do the forces of evil.
This eternality exists because all members of the species Homo Sapiens are essentially equivalent, equal
before God: we find ourselves vulnerable, mortal creatures, thrown into a universe bent on our creation and
protection and our transformation and destruction. Our attitude towards this ambivalent universe can
only take one of two prototypical forms: positive or negative. The precise nature of these two forms (which
can only be regarded as complex personalities) and of the background against which they work
constitutes the central subject matter of myth (and, dare it be said, the proper subject matter of the
humanities and fine arts).
Analysis of a series of myths the series which, I would argue, underlies Western civilization itself
should make these points painfully self-evident. We will begin with a discussion of the Enuma elish. This
Mesopotamian creation story, which was elaborated in detail and complexity over the course of numerous
centuries, is the most ancient complete cosmogonic myth at our disposal. We turn from the Sumerians, to
ancient Egyptian cosmology; then, from these specific examples to a more general discussion of
mythological representation.
2.3.2. The Enuma elish: A Comprehensive Exemplar of Narrative Categorization
Creation myths are generally considered primitive or superstitious attempts to perform the magic of modern
science. We assume that our ancestors were trying to do the same thing we do when we construct our
cosmological theories, and describe the generation of the objective world. This presumption is wrong. Our
ancestors were not as simple-minded as we think they were, and their theories of the generation of the
cosmos were not merely primitive science. Archaic theories of creation attempted to account for the
existence of the world, as experienced in totality (which means, including meaning), and not for the
isolated fact of the material world. The world as experienced in totality is made up of the material things
we are familiar with, and the valences we consider epiphenomenal; of the objects of experience, and the
fact of the subject, who does the experiencing. The world brought into being in archaic myths of creation is
phenomenological, rather than material includes all aspects of experience, including those things we now
regard as purely subjective. The archaic mind had not yet learned how to forget what was important.
Ancient stories of the generation of the world therefore focus on all of reality, rather than on those distant
and abstracted aspects we regard as purely objective.
Science might be considered description of the world with regards to those aspects that are
consensually apprehensible or specification of the most effective mode of reaching an end (given a
defined end). Narrative myth, most fundamentally can be more accurately regarded as description of
the world as it signifies (for action). The mythic universe is a place to act, not a place to perceive. Myth
therefore describes things in terms of their unique or shared affective valence, their value, their
motivational significance. If we can tell (or act out) a story about something, we can be said to have
mapped that thing, at least in part. We tell stories about the unknown, and the knower, and the known, and
can therefore be said, somewhat paradoxically, to have adapted to the unpredictable, to the fact that we can
adapt to the unpredictable and to explored territory itself, where everything has been rendered secure.
Although the unknown is truly unknown, it can be regarded as possessed of stable characteristics, in a
broad sense. These characteristics are revealed in the actions we undertake in response to the appearance
of unexpected things.
The world as experienced is composed of all the things we are familiar with, and have classified in
accordance with their relevance, and all the things we are unfamiliar with, which have a relevance all of

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their own, and of the process that mediates between the two, which turns the unfamiliar into the familiar
and, sometimes, makes the predictable strange. The domain of the unfamiliar might be considered the
ultimate source of all things, since we generate all of our determinate knowledge as a consequence of
exploring what we do not understand. Equally, however, the process of exploration must be regarded as
seminal, since nothing familiar can be generated from the unpredictable in the absence of exploratory
action and conception. The domain of the known created in the process of exploration is the familiar
world, firm ground, separated from the maternal sea of chaos. These three domains comprise the
fundamental building blocks of the archaic world of myth. We briefly discussed an archaic Sumerian
creation myth, previously, describing the world as the consequence of the separation of the cosmic
parents, An (Sky) from Ki (Earth) by En-lil, their son and god of the atmosphere. The ancient Egyptians
regarded the situation similarly:
Like so many other traditions, the Egyptian cosmogony begins with the emergence of a mound in the
primordial waters. The appearance of this First Place above the aquatic immensity signifies the
emergence of the earth, but also the beginning of light, life, and consciousness. At Heliopolis, the place
named the Hill of Sand, which formed part of the temple of the sun, was identified with the primordial
hill. Hermopolis was famous for its lake, from which the cosmogonic lotus emerged. But other localities
took advantage of the same privilege. Indeed, each city, each sanctuary, was considered to be a center
of the world, the place where the Creation had begun. The initial mound sometimes became the cosmic
mountain up which the pharaoh climbed to meet the sun god.
Other versions tell of the primordial egg, which contained the Bird of Light..., or of the original
lotus that bore the Child Sun, or, finally, of the primitive serpent, first and last image of the god Atum.
(And in fact chapter 175 of the Book of the Dead prophesies that when the world returns to the state of
chaos, Atum will become the new serpent. In Atum we may recognize the supreme and hidden God,
whereas Re, the Sun, is above all the manifest God....) The stages of creation cosmogony, theogony,
creation of living beings, etc. are variously presented. According to the solar theology of Heliopolis, a
city situated at the apex of the Delta, the god Re-Atum-Khepri [three forms of the sun, noontime,
setting, and rising, respectively] created a first divine couple, Shu (the Atmosphere) and Tefnut, who
became parents of the god Geb (the Earth) and of the goddess Nut (the Sky). The demiurge performed
the act of creation by masturbating himself or by spitting. The expressions are naively coarse, but their
meaning is clear: the divinities are born from the very substance of the supreme god. Just as in the
Sumerian tradition, Sky and Earth were united in an uninterrupted hieros gamos until the moment when
they were separated by Shu, the god of the atmosphere [in other similar traditions, Ptah]. From their
union were born Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nephthys [who will be discussed later].218
Primordial myths of creation tend to portray the origin of things as the consequence of one or more of
two related events. The universe was symbolically born into being, for example, as a result of the action of
a primeval hermaphroditic deity. Alternatively, it arose from the interaction of somewhat more
differentiated masculine and feminine spirits or principles (often the offspring of the most primordial god)
emerged, for example, from the interplay of the sky, associated (most frequently) with the father, and the
earth (generally but not invariably granted a female character). Imagery of the latter sort remains latently
embedded in the oldest (Jahwist) creation myth in the familiar Old Testament book of Genesis. The Jahwist
story begins in the fourth stanza of the second chapter of Genesis, and describes the masculine God
breathing life (spirit) into the adamah, mother earth, thereby creating the original (hermaphroditic) man,
Adam.219 In alternative, more actively dramatic accounts such as that of the Enuma elish, the Babylonian
creation myth the creative demiurge slays a dragon, or a serpent, and constructs the universe out of the
body parts. The two forms of story, very different on the surface, share deep grammatical structure, so to
speak; utilize metaphors that are closely associated, psychologically and historically, to drive their
fundamental message home:
In the Babylonian creation hymn Enuma elish [(when above220), circa 650 B.C., in its only extant
form; derived from a tradition at least two thousand years older] the god of the fresh-water sea, Apsu,
was killed and his widow Tiamat, goddess of the bitter or salt waters, threatened the gods with
destruction. Marduk, the champion of the gods, killed her and split her in two, creating heaven out of

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one half and earth out of the other. Similarly, the creation in Genesis begins with a firmament
separating the waters above from the waters below, but succeeding a world that was waste (tohu) and
void, with darkness on the face of the deep (tehom). The Hebrew words are said to be etymologically
cognate with Tiamat, and there are many other allusions in the Old Testament to the creation as a killing
of a dragon or monster.221
It is easy, or, at least appears easy, to understand why the pre-experimental mind might frequently have
associated the creation of everything with femininity with the source of new life through birth (most
evidently, the cause and concrete origin of all living things). The role of the male in the original creation
the part played by the masculine principle, more precisely is comparatively difficult to comprehend,
just as the male role in procreation is more subtle. Nonetheless, the most widely disseminated of creation
myths and, arguably, the most potent and influential essentially reverses the standard pattern of mythic
origin, and places particular emphasis on the masculine element. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, creation
depends on the existence and action of Logos, mythically masculine discriminant consciousness or
exploratory spirit, associated inextricably with linguistic ability with the Word, as St. John states (in what
was perhaps designed to form the opening statement of the New Testament, structurally paralleled with the
beginning of Genesis222):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any
thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness
comprehended it not. (John 1:1-4).
The explicit stress placed by the Judeo-Christian tradition on the primacy of the word and its metaphorical
equivalents makes it somewhat unique in the pantheon of creation myths. The early Jews were perhaps the
first to clearly posit that activity in the mythically masculine domain of spirit was linked in some integral
manner to the construction and establishment of experience as such. It is impossible to understand why the
Judeo-Christian tradition has had such immense power or to comprehend the nature of the relationship
between the psyche and the world without analyzing the network of meaning that makes up the doctrine
of the Word.
There exists clear psychological precedent for the philosophy of the early Jews (and the later Christians)
in the Mesopotamian and Egyptian schools of metaphysical speculation in their rituals, images and acts of
abstract verbal representation. The Mesopotamian creation myth, which we will consider first the Enuma
elish portrays the emergence of the earliest world as the consequence of the (sexual, generative, creative)
union of the primal deities Apsu and Tiamat. Apsu, masculine, served as the begetter of heaven and earth,
prior to their identification as such (before they were named). Tiamat, she who gave birth to them all,223
served as his consort. Initially, Apsu and Tiamat existed (?) indistinguishably from one another, still
mingled their waters together,224 when no pasture land had been formed, and not even a reed marsh was
to be seen; when none of the other gods had been brought into being, when they had not yet been called by
their name, and their destinies had not yet been fixed....225 Their uroboric union served as the source from
which more differentiated but still fundamental structures and processes or spirits issued: at that time,
were the gods created with them.226 The precosmogonic egg inhabited by Tiamat and Apsu gave rise
to the initial world of gods. This process is portrayed schematically in Figure 19: The Birth of the World
of Gods.

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"B
i
th rth"
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Go of
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"World" of Gods

APSU:
Husband of Tiamat

"S

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(C

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Un

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TIAMAT:
Goddess of CHAOS

The Precosmogonic
"Egg"

Figure 19: The Birth of the World of Gods.
The Mesopotamian gods like deities everywhere present somewhat of a mystery to the modern mind.
Archaic cultures are rife with deities. We seem unable to locate them now. They do not seem part of the
objective external world. It is tempting, therefore, to regard such beings as imaginative constructions as
personifications of subjective affective or emotional states or drives; as the incarnated form of subjective
experience. The term personification, however, implies a voluntary act connotes the conscious use of
metaphor, on the part of the individual driven to represent and knowing that he is representing. There is no
indication, however, that it is an act of conscious creation that gives rise to the pre-experimental deity; in
fact, in fact, the opposite appears more true: it is the action of the deity that gives rise to creative endeavor,
as such, on the part of the creating subject. The god must therefore be more than the subject; more than the
subjects original narrative conception of himself.
The phenomena that we would now describe as emotions or motive forces, from the perspective of our
modern, comparatively differentiated and acute self-consciousness, do not appear to have been experienced
precisely as internal in their original form. Rather, they made their appearance as part and parcel of the
experience (the event, or sequence of events) that gave rise to them, and adopted initial representational
form in imaginative embodiment. The modern idea of the stimulus might be regarded as a vestigial
remnant of this form of thinking a form which grants the power of affective and behavioral control to the
object (or which cannot distinguish between that which elicits a response, and the response itself). We no
longer think animistically, as adults, except in our weaker or more playful moments, because we attribute
motivation and emotion to our own agency, and not (generally) to the stimulus which gives proximal rise to
them. We can separate the thing from the implication of the thing, because we are students and
beneficiaries of empirical thinking and experimental method. We can remove attribution of motive and

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affective power from the object, and leave it standing in its purely sensory and consensual aspect; can
distinguish between what is us and what is world. The pre-experimental mind could not (can not) do this, at
least not consistently; could not reliably discriminate between the object and its effect on behavior. It is that
object and effect which, in totality, comprise a god (more accurately, it is a class of objects and their effects
that comprise a god).
A god, so considered more specifically, a potent and powerful god; one with a history constitutes the
manner in which a group or family of stimuli of isomorphic motivational significance reveals itself to or
grips the collective (communicated) imagination of a given culture. Such a representation is a peculiar mix
(from the later, empirical viewpoint) of psychological and sociological phenomena and objective fact
an undifferentiated mix of subject and object (of emotion and sensory experience), transpersonal in nature
(as it is historically-elaborated construction and shared imaginative experience). The primitive deity
nonetheless serves as accurate representation of the ground of being, however, because it is affect and
subjectivity as well as pure object (before the two are properly distilled or separated) because it is
primordial experience, rather than the mere primordial thing.
The original children of Tiamat and Apsu the elder gods should therefore be regarded as
embodiments of the archaic transpersonal intrapsychic phenomena that give rise to human motivation, as
well as those aspects of the objective world that activate those intrapsychic systems. The Sumerians
considered themselves destined to clothe and feed such gods, because they viewed themselves as the
servants, in a sense, of what we would call instinctive forces, elicited by the environment. Such
forces can be reasonably regarded as the Sumerians regarded them as deities inhabiting a supracelestial
place, extant prior to the dawn of humanity. Erotic attraction, for example a powerful god has a
developmental history that predates the emergence of humanity, is associated with relatively innate
releasing stimuli (those that characterize erotic beauty), is of terrible power, and has an existence
transcending that of any individual who is currently possessed. Pan, the Greek god of nature,
produced/represented fear (produced panic); Ares or the Roman Mars, war-like fury and aggression. We
no longer personify such instincts, except for the purposes of literary embellishment, so we dont think of
them existing in a place (like heaven, for example). But the idea that such instincts inhabit a space
and that wars occur in that space is a metaphor of exceeding power and explanatory utility. Transpersonal
motive forces do wage war with one another over vast spans of time; are each forced to come to terms with
their powerful opponents in the intrapsychic hierarchy. The battles between the different ways of life
(or different philosophies) that eternally characterize human societies can usefully be visualized as combat
undertaken by different standards of value (and, therefore, by different hierarchies of motivation). The
forces involved in such wars do not die, as they are immortal: the human beings acting as pawns of
the gods during such times are not so fortunate.
Back to the Enuma elish: The secondary/patriarchal deities of the Mesopotamian celestial pantheon
including the couples Lahmu and Lahamu and Kishar and Anshar arose as a direct consequence of the
interactions of the original sexualized unity of Tiamat and Apsu, the most primal of couples. This
undifferentiated precosmogonic egg (a common metaphor in other creation myths) contains an alloy of
order (the masculine principle) and chaos (the feminine principle). This alloy is the world
parents, locked in creative embrace (is spirit and matter, conceived alternatively, still one thing).
Tiamat and Apsus union gives rise to children the primordial instincts or forces of life who, in turn,
engender more individualized beings. The Enuma elish itself does not spend much time fleshing out the
specific characteristics of these forces of life, as it is concentrating on a more general story. Lahmu and
Lahamu and Kishar and Anshar are incidental characters, serving only as intermediaries between the real
protagonists of the drama Marduk, a late-born individual-like god, and Tiamat, his turncoat mother.
Kishar and Anshar therefore serve only as progenitors of Anu, who in turn begot Ea,227 his likeness, the
master of his fathers,228 broad of understanding, wise, mighty in strength, much stronger than his
grandfather, Anshar,229 without rival among the gods his brothers.230
The elder gods, in totality, serve to reproduce and to noisily act. Their incessant racket and movement
upsets the divine parents; disturbs the inner parts of Tiamat.231 So Tiamat and her husband Apsu conspire
to devour their children. This is a common mythological occurrence; one echoed later in the story of
Yahweh, Noah and the Flood. The gods give birth to the cosmos, but ceaselessly attempt to destroy it.

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Ea catches wind of his parents plot, however, however, and slays Apsu adding insult to injury by
building a house on his remains (and by naming that house Apsu, in mockery or remembrance). Into this
house he brings his bride, Damkina, who soon gives birth to Marduk, the hero of the story, the wisest of
the wise, the wisest of the gods,232 filled with awe-inspiring majesty.233 When Ea saw his son:
He rejoiced, he beamed, his heart was filled with joy.
He distinguished him and conferred upon him double equality with the gods,
So that he was highly exalted and surpassed them in everything.
Artfully arranged beyond comprehension were his members,
Not fit for human understanding, hard to look upon.
Four were his eyes, four were his ears.
When his lips moved, fire blazed forth.
Each of his four ears grew large,
And likewise his eyes, to see everything.
He was exalted among the gods, surpassing was his form;
His members were gigantic, he was surpassing in height.
Mariyutu, Mariyutu:
Son of the sun-god, the sun-god of the gods!234
Marduk is characterized by the metaphoric associates of consciousness. He has exaggerated sensory
capacities; his very words are characterized by creative and destructive power (by the transformative
capacity of fire). He is the sun-god, above all, which means that he is assimilated to (or, more accurately,
occupies the same categorical space) as sight, vision, illumination, enlightenment, dawn, the
elimination of darkness, and the death of the night.
In the midst of all this action war-plans, death, birth Anu (Marduks grandfather, Eas father) busies
himself with the generation of the four winds. His work raises waves upon the surface of the waters
occupied by Tiamat, and the (previously unidentified) primary/matriarchal subdeities that (apparently)
accompany her there. This new intrusion troubles her beyond tolerance, upset as she was already is at the
noise of her offspring and death of her husband. She decides to rid the universe of the irritant
(secondary/patriarchal) elder gods, once and for all, and begins to produce horrible soldiers, to aid her in
battle:
... bearing monster serpents
Sharp of tooth and not sparing the fang.
With poison instead of blood she filled their bodies.
Ferocious dragons she clothed with terror,
She crowned them with fear-inspiring glory and made them like gods,
So that he who would look upon them should perish from terror.235
The angry Tiamat the unknown, chaos, in its terrible or destructive aspect produces eleven species of
monsters to aid her in her battle including the viper, the dragon, the great lion, the rabid dog, the
scorpion-man and the storm-demon and elects the first born, Kingu by name, to reign over them all,
giving him the tablet of destinies236 to signify his ascension and dominion. The story continues:
After Tiamat had made strong preparations,
She made ready to join battle with the gods her offspring.
To avenge Apsu, Tiamat did this evil.
How she got ready for the attack was revealed to Ea.
When Ea heard of this matter,
He became benumbed with fear and sat in silent gloom.
After he had reflected on the matter and his wrath had subsided,
He went to Anshar, his [great]grandfather.
And when he had come into the presence of Anshar, his [great]grandfather.
He communicated to him all that Tiamat had planned.237

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It was Ea, you might remember, who killed Apsu. Now, although Apsu isnt well described in the Enuma
elish, it is clear that he is the masculine consort of Tiamat. The masculine consort of the goddess of the
unknown is inevitably the god of the known (or his progenitor and dependent, the knower). It is the
known that serves as protection from the unknown whether this is understood or not. Ea kills Apsu,
which means that he unconsciously strips himself of protection.
Ea might therefore be reasonably regarded as representative of that part of humanity eternally (and
ignorantly) contemptuous of tradition and willing to undermine or destroy that tradition, without
understanding its necessity or nature. Those unconsciously protected from the outside world by the
walls of culture may become irritated by the limitations such walls represent, and incautiously pull them
down. This act of destruction, disguised as a blow for freedom, lets the terrible unknown flood back in. The
Great Mother is a terrible force, in the absence of patriarchal protection. The Enuma elish makes this
vital point, implicitly. This state of affairs is represented schematically in Figure 20: The Death of
Apsu, and the (Re)Emergence of Tiamat as Threat.

"World" of Gods

Th

rea

The "Patriarchal World"

"B
i
th rth"
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Go of
ds

t
TIAMAT:
Goddess of CHAOS

APSU:
Husband of Tiamat

"S

ex

(C

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Un

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tiv

ion

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TIAMAT:
Goddess of CHAOS

The "Matriarchal World"

The Precosmogonic
"Egg"

Figure 20: The Death of Apsu, and the (Re)Emergence of Tiamat as Threat.
Anshar is terribly upset by the news of Tiamats anger. He asks Ea, who defeated Apsu, to stand against
Tiamat. Ea fails, deservedly, and Anshar sends Anu in his stead. He is routed as well, and returns,
overcome by terror. In desperation and final hope, Anshar and Ea call on Marduk, the young sun-god:
Ea called Marduk to his private room;
He advised him, telling him the plan of his heart:
Marduk, consider my idea, hearken to thy father.
Thou art he, my son, who relieves his heart;
Draw nigh into the presence of Anshar, ready for battle;

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Speak and stand forth; when he sees thee, he will be at rest.
[Marduk] was glad at the word of his father;
He drew nigh and stood before Anshar.
When Anshar saw him, his heart was filled with joy;
He kissed his lips, his fear was removed.
Anshar, be not silent, but open thy lips;
I will go and accomplish all that is in thy heart!
What man is it who has brought battle against thee?
Tiamat, who is a woman, is coming against thee with arms!
My father, creator, be glad and rejoice;
Soon thou shalt trample upon the neck of Tiamat!
Yea, my father, creator, be glad and rejoice;
Soon thou shalt trample upon the neck of Tiamat!
Anshar answers:
My son, who knowest all wisdom,
Quiet Tiamat with thy holy incantation. 238
Marduks magic words (remember, he speaks fire) are clearly and reasonably portrayed as one of the
most powerful weapons in the battle against the forces of chaos. Anshar continues:
On the storm chariot quickly pursue the way!
[...]... turn her back!
The lord was glad at the word of his father;
His heart exulted, and he said to his father:
Lord of the gods, destiny of the great gods,
If I am indeed to be your avenger,
To vanquish Tiamat and to keep you alive,
Convene the assembly and proclaim my lot supreme [emphasis added].
When ye are joyfully seated together in the Court of Assembly,
May I through the utterance of my mouth determine the destinies, instead of you.
Whatever I create shall remain unaltered,
The command of my lips shall not return, ... it shall not be changed.239
Alexander Heidel who provided the translation of the Enuma elish cited here comments:
Marduk demands supreme and undisputed authority as the price for risking his life in combat with
Tiamat. When therefore the gods, at the New Years festival [see discussion below], convened in the
Court of Assembly, they reverently waited on Marduk, the king of the gods of heaven and earth, and
in that spirit they decided the destinies. The gods, indeed, continue to determine destinies long after
Marduk has received the powers he here desires240; but the final decision rested with Marduk, so that in
the last analysis it was he who decided the fates.241
This is an example of the hierarchical organization of the gods, a concept frequently encapsulated in
mythology, and one we shall return to later. All the original children of Tiamat are potent and impersonal
elder gods, psychological forces the deities that eternally rule or constitute human motivation and
affect. The question of the proper ordering of those forces (who, or what, should rule?) comprises the
central problem of morality and the primary problem facing human individuals and social organizations.
The Sumerian solution to this problem was the elevation of Marduk the sun-god who voluntarily faces
chaos to the position of king (and the subjugation of the other gods to that king):
Anshar opened his mouth
And addressed these words to Kaka, his vizier:
Kaka, my vizier, who gladdenest my heart,

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Unto Lahmu and Lahamu I will send thee;
Thou knowest how to discern and art able to relate.
Cause the gods my fathers to be brought before me.
Let them bring all the gods to me!
Let them converse and sit down to banquet.
Let them eat bread and prepare wine.
For Marduk, their avenger, let them decree the destiny.
Set out, O Kaka, go, and stand thou before them.
What I am about to tell thee repeat unto them.
Anshar, your son, has sent me.
The command of his heart he has charged me to convey,
Saying: Tiamat, our bearer, hates us.
She held a meeting and raged furiously.
All the gods went over to her;
Even those who ye have created march at her side.
They separated themselves and went over to the side of Tiamat;
They were angry, they plotted, not resting day or night;
They took up the fight, fuming and raging;
They held a meeting and planned the conflict.
Mother Hubur [Tiamat], who fashions all things,
Added thereto irresistible weapons, bearing monster serpents
Sharp of tooth and not sparing the fang.
With poison instead of blood she filled their bodies.
Ferocious dragons she clothed with terror,
She crowned them with fear-inspiring glory and made them like gods.
So that they might cause him who would look upon them to perish from terror,
So that their bodies might leap forward and none turn back their breasts.
She set up the viper, the dragon, and the lahumum
The great lion, the mad dog, and the scorpion-man,
Driving storm demons, the dragonfly, and the bison,
Bearing unsparing weapons, unafraid of battle.
Powerful are her decrees, irresistible are they.
Altogether eleven kinds of monsters of this sort she brought into being.
Of those among the gods, her first-born, who formed her assembly,
She exalted Kingu; in their midst she made him great.
To march at the head of the army, to direct the forces,
To raise the weapons for the engagement, to launch the attack,
The high command of the battle,
She intrusted to his hand; she caused him to sit in the assembly, saying:
I have cast the spell for thee, I have made thee great in the assembly of the gods.
The dominion over all the gods I have given into thy hand.
Mayest thou be highly exalted, thou my unique spouse!
May thy names become greater than those of the Anunnaki!
She gave him the tablet of destinies, she fastened it upon his breast, saying
As for thee, thy command shall not be changed, the word of thy mouth shall be dependable!
Now when Kingu had been exalted and had received supreme dominion,
They decreed the destinies of the gods, her sons, saying:
May the opening of our mouths quiet the fire-god!
May thy overpowering poison vanquish the opposing night!
I sent Anu, but he could not face her.
Ea also was afraid and turned back.
Then Marduk, the wisest of the gods, your son, came forward.
His heart prompted him to face Tiamat.

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He opened his mouth and said to me:
If I am indeed to be your avenger,
To vanquish Tiamat and to keep you alive,
Convene the assembly and proclaim my lot supreme.
When ye are joyfully seated together in the Court of Assembly,
May I through the utterance of my mouth determine the destinies, instead of you.
Whatever I create shall remain unaltered,
The command of my lips shall not return void, it shall not be changed.
Hasten to me then and speedily fix for him your destiny,
That he may go to meet your powerful enemy!242
The hierarchical organization of the gods is represented schematically in Figure 21: World of
Gods: Hierarchical Organization, which portrays Marduk as the superordinate personality or pattern
of action, designed to transform the unbearable present into the desired future. The Enuma elish states,
essentially: when things are normal, any god might rule. However, in the case of a true crisis, everyone
turns to the sun-god (the embodiment of consciousness). Perhaps it is reasonable to presume, therefore,
that he should always reign supreme. The formulation of this hypothesis was a work of unsurpassed
genius, and a decisive move in the history of the Western mind.

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Marduk
What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

God "b"

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

God "c"

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Figure 21: World of Gods: Hierarchical Organization
The vizier Kaka goes on his way, as commanded, and spreads the word among the (secondary/
patriarchal) elder deities, who assemble to contemplate the upcoming battle:

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They entered into the presence of Anshar and filled the Court of Assembly;
They kissed one another as they came together in the assembly;
They conversed and sat down to a banquet.
They ate bread and prepared wine.
The sweet wine dispelled their fears;
Their bodies swelled as they drank the strong drink.
Exceedingly carefree were they, their spirit was exalted;
For Marduk, their avenger, they decreed the destiny.
They erected for him a lordly throne-dais,
And he took his place before his fathers to receive sovereignty.
Thou art the most important among the great gods,
Thy destiny is unequaled, thy command is like that of Anu.
Marduk, thou art the most important among the great gods.
Thy destiny is unequaled, thy command is like that of Anu.
From this day onward thy command shall not be changed.
To exalt and abase this shall be thy power!
Dependable shall be the utterance of thy mouth, thy command shall not prove vain.
None among the gods shall infringe upon thy prerogative.243
The gods place the starry garment of the night sky244 in their midst. At the command of Marduks
mouth on his word it appears; at his command, it disappears, as the night sky on the passage of the
sun. 245 Marduk is clearly part of the pantheon who eternally vanquish the dragon of the night. The story
continues:
When the gods his fathers beheld the power of his word,
They were glad and did homage, saying: Marduk is king!
They bestowed upon him the scepter, the throne, and the royal robe;
They gave him an irresistible weapon smiting the enemy, saying:
Go and cut off the life of Tiamat.
May the winds carry her blood to out-of-the-way places.
After the gods his fathers had determined the destiny of [Marduk],
They set him on the road the way to success and attainment.246
Marduk gathers his armaments bow, club, and lightning sets himself ablaze, and fashions a net to
enclose Tiamat. He is a master of fire, and armaments which is to say, a master of the technology that
serves most fundamentally to transform the unknown and terrifying world into the comforting,
productive and familiar. He is able to bind the unknown; to limit its sphere of action, and to bring it
under control. He raises the winds, and the storm to aid him, using the forces of nature against nature itself.
He dresses himself in a terrifying coat of mail, and wears terror-inspiring splendor on his head. Prepared
carefully in this manner, and fortified against poison, he takes the direct route to Tiamat. He confronts
novelty voluntarily, at a time of his choosing, after careful preparation, and without avoidance. His mere
appearance strikes terror into the heart of Kingu and his legion of monsters (just as Christ, much later,
terrifies the Devil and his minions). Marduk confronts Tiamat, accuses her of treachery, and challenges her
to battle.
When Tiamat heard this,
She became like one in a frenzy and lost her reason.
Tiamat cried out loud and furiously,
To the very roots her two legs shook back and forth.
She recites an incantation, repeatedly casting her spell;
As for the gods of battle, they sharpen their weapons.
Tiamat and Marduk, the wisest of the gods, advanced against one another;
They pressed on to single combat, they approached for battle.247

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Marduk fills Tiamat with an evil wind, which distends her belly. When she opens her mouth, to
devour him, he lets an arrow fly, which tears her interior, and splits her heart. He subdues her, completely,
casts down her carcass, and stands upon it. His voluntarily encounter with the forces of the unknown
produce a decisive victory. He rounds up her subordinates including Kingu, who he deprives of the tablet
of destinies and binds them with netting. Then he returns to Tiamat:
The lord trod upon the hinder part of Tiamat,
And with his unsparing club he split her skull.
He cut the arteries of her blood
And caused the north wind to carry it to out-of-the-way places....
He split her open like a mussel into two parts;
Half of her he set in place and formed the sky (therewith) as a roof.
He fixed the crossbar and posted guards;
He commanded them not to let her waters escape.
He crossed the heavens and examined the regions.
He placed himself opposite the Apsu, the dwelling of Ea.
The lord measured the dimensions of the Apsu,
And a great structure, he established, namely Esharra [Earth].248
Marduk then constructs the heavenly order, fashioning the year, defining the twelve-sign zodiac,
determining the movement of the stars, the planets and the moon.249 Finally, he deigns to create man (out of
Kingu, the greatest and most guilty of Tiamats allies), so that upon him shall the services of the gods be
imposed that they may be at rest250; then, he returns the gods allied with him to their appropriate celestial
abodes. Grateful, they deliver him a present:
Now, O Lord, who hast established our freedom from compulsory service,
What shall be the sign of our gratitude before thee?
Come, let us make something whose name shall be called Sanctuary.
It shall be a dwelling for our rest at night; come, let us repose therein!251
The dwelling is Babylon, center of civilization, mythic sacred space, dedicated in perpetuity to Marduk.
The mythic tale of the Enuma elish describes the nature of the eternal relationship between the
(unknowable) source of all things, the gods who rule human life, and the subject or process who
constructs determinate experience, through voluntary encounter with the unknown. The full story
presented in the Sumerian creation myth is presented, schematically, in Figure 22: The Enuma elish in
Schematic Representation. Tiamat is portrayed, simultaneously, as the thing that breeds everything (as the
mother of all the gods); as the thing that destroys all things; as the consort of a patriarchal spiritual
principle, upon who creation also depends (Apsu); and, finally, as the thing that is cut into pieces by the
hero who constructs the world. Marduk, the last-born child of instinct, is the hero who voluntarily faces
the creative/destructive power that comprises the place from which all things emerge. He is the martial
deity, role-model for the culture of the West, who violently carves the unknown into pieces, and makes the
predictable world from those pieces.
This tale contains within it a complex and sophisticated notion of causality. None of its elements exist
in contradiction with one another, even though they lay stress on different aspects of the same process.
Something must exist, prior to the construction of identifiable things (something that cannot be imagined,
in the absence of a subject). That thing might usefully be portrayed as the all-devouring mother of
everything. The particular, discriminable, familiar elements of human experience exist as they do,
however, because the conscious subject can detect, construct and transform them. The son-heros role in
the birth of things is therefore as primal as the mothers, although this part is somewhat more difficult
to comprehend. Nonetheless, the Sumerians manage the representation, in narrative form. It is a relatively
small step from this dramatic/imagistic portrayal of the hero to the most explicit Christian doctrine of
Logos the creative Word (and from there to our notion of consciousness).

104


What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Emperor
What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:

World of Gods

"Birth" o
f
the God
s

The "Patriarchal World"

APSU:
Husband of Tiamat

"S

ex

(C

TIAMAT:
Goddess of CHAOS

ua

rea

Un

En
the coun
U te
Th nkno r wit
rea
wn h
t

Creation o
f
the Worl
d

The Unbearable Present

l"

tiv

ion

e)

TIAMAT:
Goddess of CHAOS

The Precosmogonic
"Egg"

The "Matriarchal World"

Figure 22: The Enuma elish in Schematic Representation
The mythic tale of Marduk and Tiamat refers to the capacity of the individual to explore, voluntarily,
and to bring things into being, as a consequence. The hero cuts the world of the unpredictable unexplored
territory, signified by Tiamat into its distinguishable elements; weaves a net of determinate meaning,
capable of encompassing the vast unknown; embodies the divine masculine essence, which has as its
most significant feature the capacity to transform chaos into order. The killing of an all-embracing monster,
and the construction of the universe from its body parts, is symbolic (metaphorical) representation of the
central, adaptive process of heroic encounter with the undifferentiated unknown, and the construction or
generation of differentiated order as a consequence. It is this process, emulated by the emperor of
Mesopotamia (who ritually embodied Marduk), that served as the basis for his authority and, indeed, that
serves to undergird the idea of lawful authority, to the present day. The Mesopotamian emperors
identification with the most divine of all the deities (according to the judgment and election of those
selfsame powers) lent him power, and served to maintain social and psychological order among his people.
Furthermore, the Mesopotamian emperor stood in the same relationship to his people as Marduk stood to
him: as ritual model for emulation, as the personality whose actions served as pattern for all actions
undertaken in the kingdom as the personality that was the state, insofar as the state defined and brought
order to interpersonal interactions (which, after all, is its primary function). Babylon was therefore
conceptualized as the kingdom of god on earth that is, as a profane imitation of heaven. The emperor
served this imitated heaven as the imitator of Marduk, at least insofar as he was conservative, just,
courageous and creative. Eliade comments on the sacrality of the Mesopotamian sovereign, and describes
the rituals designed to maintain that sacrality:

105


At Babylon the Enuma elish was recited in the temple on the fourth day of the New Year festival. This
festival, named zagmuk (beginning of the year) in Sumerian and akitu in Akkadian [note: the
Sumerians and Akkadians united to form Babylon], took place during the first twelve days of the month
of Nisan. It comprised several sequences, of which we will mention the most important: (1) a day of
expiation for the king, corresponding to Marduks captivity; (2) the freeing of Marduk; (3) ritual
combats and a triumphal procession, led by the king, to the Bit Akitu (the house of the New Year
festival), where a banquet was held; (4) the hieros gamos [mystical marriage] of the king with a
hierodule [ritual slave/prostitute] personifying the goddess; and (5) the determination of destinies by the
gods.252
The meaning of some terminology, and the nature of the latter two sequences, must be clarified here:
First [with regards to (4)], it should be noted that hieros gamos means mystical marriage the
marriage of the king, and the queen or goddess. This marriage provides dramatic representation of the
union of the exploratory tendency (incarnated by the king) with the positive aspect of the unknown,
incarnated by the hierodule. Marduk (the king) is originally shut up, signifying his temporary
disappearance (see the description of Osiris, below) during the normal or day-to-day operations of the state.
He is freed, to meet Tiamat; he does so, in sexual union. This sexual (read: creative) union the
juxtaposition of the process of knowing, embodied by the king (Marduk), with the unknown, embodied by
Tiamat (incarnated by the hierodule) is what gives rise to the generation of new information and patterns
of adaptation. The process of generating knowledge is therefore assimilated to the domain of sexual union,
as the primordial creative process. The deity of chaos, or the unknown, appears most generally as feminine
(and as half negative, and half positive) once the initial division between order and chaos has been
established. The attribution of femininity to this deity, so to speak, occurs most fundamentally because the
unknown serves as the matrix from which determinate forms are borne. The negative attribution (Tiamat
serves as example) exists because the unknown has a destructive aspect; the positive (the hierodule here,
Isis in the Egyptian myth of Osiris, Mary in Christianity) because the unknown is also creative or
generative.
Second [with regards to (5)], it should be noted that the king (in his incarnation as god) served to
determine destinies because he was both hero ritual model for emulation and absolute ruler. As such,
he literally controlled individual destinies, serving as he did, practically and in representation, as the most
powerful individual in society, and the most dominant strategy in the hierarchy of behavioral adaptation.
What he could not determine, by law, however, he was to provide by example (as the body of laws, as
embodiment of past wisdom, is insufficient to deal with the challenges of the present). This idea is
developed much more explicitly by the Egyptians, as we shall see. Back to Eliades story:
The first sequence of this mythico-ritual scenario the kings humiliation and Marduks captivity
indicates the regression of the world to the precosmogonic chaos. In the sanctuary of Marduk the high
priest stripped the king of his emblems (scepter, ring, scimitar and crown) and struck him in the face.
Then, on his knees, the king uttered a declaration of innocence: I have not sinned, O lord of the lands, I
have not been negligent regarding thy divinity. The high priest, speaking in Marduks name, replied:
Do not fear.... Marduk will hear thy prayer. He will increase thy dominion.
During this time the people sought for Marduk, supposed to be shut up in the mountain (a formula
indicating the death of a divinity)... [in consequence of a descent] far from the sun and light.
When the world regresses to precosmogonic chaos, it is always the case that the hero is missing.
The hero is, after all, incarnation of the process by which chaos is transformed into order. If chaos has the
upper hand, it is by definition because of a current paucity of heroism. It can be said, therefore, that the reappearance of the Great Mother, in her terrible guise, the death of the Great Father (who serves as
protection from his creative and destructive wife), and the absence of the hero (who turns chaos into order)
all represent different ways of telling the same story the story which describes a life-threatening
imbalance in the powers of the constituent elements of experience. Eliade continues, describing the
rediscovery or reemergence of Marduk:

106


Finally, he was delivered, and the gods assembled (that is, their statues were brought together) to
determine the destinies. (This episode corresponds, in the Enuma elish, to Marduks advancement to the
rank of supreme god.) The king led the procession to the Bit Akitu, a building situated outside of the city
[outside the domain of civilization, or order]. The procession represented the army of the gods
advancing against Tiamat. According to an inscription of Sennacherib, we may suppose that the
primordial battle was mimed, the king personifying Assur (the god who had replaced Marduk). The
hieros gamos took place after the return from the banquet at the Bit Akitu. The last act consisted in the
determination of the destinies for each month of the year. By determining it, the year was ritually
created, that is, the good fortune, fertility, and richness of the new world that had just been born were
insured....
The role of the king in the akitu is inadequately known. His humiliation corresponds to the
regression of the world to chaos and to Marduks captivity in the mountain. The king personifies the god
in the battle against Tiamat and in the hieros gamos with a hierodule. But identification with the god is
not always indicated; as we have seen, during his humiliation the king addresses Marduk.
Nevertheless, the sacrality of the Mesopotamian sovereign is amply documented....
Though the king recognized his earthly begetting, he was considered a son of god ... This twofold
descent made him supremely the intermediary between gods and men. The sovereign represented the
people before the gods, and it was he who expiated the sins of his subjects. Sometimes he had to suffer
death for his peoples crimes; this is why the Assyrians had a substitute for the king. The texts
proclaim that the king had lived in fellowship with the gods in the fabulous garden that contains the Tree
of Life and the Water of Life.... The king is the envoy of the gods, the shepherd of the people,
named by god to establish justice and peace on earth....
It could be said that the king shared in the divine modality, but without becoming a god. He
represented the god, and this, on the archaic levels of culture, also implied that he was in a way he
whom he personified. In any case, as mediator between the world of men and the world of the gods, the
Mesopotamian king effected, in his own person, a ritual union between the two modalities of existence,
the divine and the human. It was by virtue of this twofold nature that the king was considered, at least
metaphorically, to be the creator of life and fertility.253
Marduk, in his manifestation as Namtillaku, is also the god who restores to life254 who can restore all
ruined gods, as though they were his own creation; The lord who by holy incantation restore[s] the dead
gods to life.255 This idea echoes through ancient Egyptian theology, as described below. Marduk is
Namshub, as well, the bright god who brightens our way256 which once again assimilates him to the sun
and Asaru, the god of resurrection, who causes the green herb to spring up.257 Whatever Marduk
represents is also considered central to creation of rich abundance,258 to mercy,259 and justice,260 to familial
love,261 and, most interestingly, to the creation of ingenious things from the conflict with Tiamat.262
[!!!] He was in fact addressed by fifty names by the Mesopotamians. Each name signified an independent
valuable attribute or property (likely at one time separate gods), now regarded as clearly dependent for its
existence upon him, and what his pattern of action signified. It seems evident that the attribution of these
fifty names to Marduk parallels the movement towards monotheism described in the Enuma elish itself
(with all the gods organizing themselves voluntarily under Marduks dominion) and occurring in
Mesopotamian society, at the human and historical level. It might be said that the Mesopotamians came to
realize (in ritual and image, at least) that all the life-sustaining processes that they worshipped in
representation were secondary aspects of the exploratory/creative/rejuvenating process embodied by
Marduk.
A similar pattern of ritual and secondary conceptualization characterized ancient Egyptian society. In
the earliest Egyptian cosmology (circa 2700 B.C.), the god Ptah, a spiritualized manifestation of Atum, the
all-encircling serpent, creates by his mind (his heart) and his word (his tongue).263 Eliade states:
Ptah is proclaimed the greatest god, Atum being considered only the author of the first divine couple. It
is Ptah who made the gods exist....

107


In short, the theogony and the cosmogony are effected by the creative power of the thought and word
of a single god. We here certainly have the highest expression of Egyptian metaphysical speculation. As
John Wilson observes,264 it is at the beginning of Egyptian history that we find a doctrine that can be
compared with the Christian theology of the Logos [or Word].265
The Egyptians realized that consciousness and linguistic ability were vital to the existence of things
precisely as vital as the unknowable matrix of their being. This idea still has not fully permeated our
explicit understanding (since we attribute the existence of things purely to their material substrate)
despite its centrality to Christian thinking. The Egyptians viewed Ptah the spermatic word as the
original, or primordial (read heavenly king). As in Mesopotamia, essentially, he ceded this power, in the
earthly domain, to his successor, the pharaoh [his actual or literal son, from the Egyptian viewpoint (as
the Pharaoh was viewed as god)]. The creative power thus transferred was literally defined by the
c
Egyptians as the ability to put order (Ma at) in the place of Chaos.266 Eliade comments:
... it is these same terms that are used of Tut-ankh-Amon when he restored order after the heresy of
c
Akh-en-Aton, or of Pepi II: He put ma at in the place of falsehood (of disorder). Similarly, the verb
khay, to shine, is used indifferently to depict the emergence of the sun at the moment of creation or at
each dawn and the appearance of the pharaoh at the coronation ceremony, at festivals, or at the privy
council.
c

The pharaoh is the incarnation of ma at, a term translated by truth but whose general meaning is
c
good order and hence right, justice. Ma at belongs to the original creation; hence it reflects the
c
perfection of the Golden Age. Since it constitutes the very foundation of the cosmos and life, ma at can
be known by each individual separately. In texts of different origins and periods, there are such
c
c
declarations as these: Incite your heart to know ma at; I make thee to know the thing of ma at in thy
c
heart; mayest thou do what is right for thee! Or: I was a man who loved ma at and hated sin. For I
knew that (sin) is an abomination to God. And in fact it is God who bestows the necessary knowledge.
c
A prince is defined as one who knows truth (ma at) and whom God teaches. The author of a prayer to
c
Re cries: Mayest Thou give me ma at in my heart!
c

As incarnating Ma at, the pharaoh constitutes the paradigmatic example for all his subjects. As the
vizier Rekh-mi-Re expresses it: He is a god who makes us live by his acts. The work of the pharaoh
insures the stability of the cosmos and the state and hence the continuity of life. And indeed the
cosmogony is repeated every morning, when the solar god repels the serpent Apophis, though without
being able to destroy him; for chaos ( = the original darkness) represents virtuality; hence it is
indestructible. The pharaohs political activity repeats Res exploit: he too repels Apophis, in other
words he sees to it that the world does not return to chaos. When enemies appear at the frontiers, they
will be assimilated to Apophis [the god of primordial chaos], and the pharaohs victory will reproduce
Res triumph [emphasis added].267

The ideas of kingship, creativity and renewal are given a different and more sophisticated slant
in the central myth of Osiris, which served as an alternate basis for Egyptian theology. The story of
Osiris, and his son Horus, is much more complex, in some ways, than the Mesopotamian creation myth, or
the story of Re, and describes the interactions between the constituent elements of experience in
exceedingly compressed form. Osiris was a primeval king, a legendary ancestral figure, who ruled Egypt
wisely and fairly. His evil brother, Seth who he did not understand268 rose up against him. Figure 23:
The Battle between Osiris and Seth in the Domain of Order portrays this conflict as a war in the
(heavenly) domain of order. Seth kills Osiris (that is, sends him to the underworld) and dismembers his
body, so that it can never be found. Figure 24: The Involuntary Descent and Disintegration of Osiris
portrays Osiris involuntary descent and disintegration, and his quasi-existence in the underworld of
chaos.

108


-

ORDER

WAR

SETH

OSIRIS

+

Se
"C

xu

rea

Un

al

tiv

ion

e"

THE
UNDERWORLD

ISIS

+

CHAOS

Figure 23: The Battle between Osiris and Seth in the Domain of Order

-

ORDER

SETH
Inv
olu
n
an
d D tary
D
isi
nte esce
nt
gra
tio
n

THE
UNDERWORLD

-

OSIRIS

+
ISIS

CHAOS

+
Figure 24: The Involuntary Descent and Disintegration of Osiris

109


The death of Osiris signifies two important things: (1) the tendency of a (static) ruling idea, system of
valuation, or particular story no matter how initially magnificent or appropriate to become increasingly
irrelevant with time; and (2) the dangers that necessarily accrue to a state that forgets or refuses to admit
to the existence of the immortal deity of evil. Seth, the kings brother and opposite, represents the mythic
hostile twin or adversary who eternally opposes the process of creative encounter with the unknown;
signifies, alternatively speaking, a pattern of adaptation characterized by absolute opposition to
establishment of divine order. When this principle gains control that is, usurps the throne the rightful
king and his kingdom are necessarily doomed. Seth, and figures like him often represented in narrative
by the corrupt right hand man or advisor to the once-great king view human existence itself with
contempt. Such figures are motivated only to protect or advance their position in the power hierarchy, even
when the prevailing order is clearly counterproductive. Their actions necessarily speed the process of
decay, endemic to all structures. Osiris, although great, was nave in some profound sense blind, at least,
to the existence of immortal evil. This blindness, and its resultant incaution, brings about (or at least
hastens) Osiris demise.

-

ORDER
SETH

WAR
HORUS

+
Bir

th

"R

etu

an

rn"

THE
UNDERWORLD

d

-

OSIRIS

+
ISIS

CHAOS

+

Figure 25: The Birth and Return of Horus, Divine Son of Order and Chaos
Osiris has a wife, as befits the king of order. Isis, as Osiris mythic counterpart, is representative of the
positive aspect of the unknown (like the hierodule in the Mesopotamian New Years ritual). She is
possessed of great magical powers, as might be expected, given her status. She gathers up Osiris scattered
pieces, and makes herself pregnant, with the use of his dismembered phallus. This story makes a profound

110


point: the degeneration of the state or domain of order and its descent into chaos serves merely to
fructify that domain and to make it pregnant. In chaos lurks great potential. When a great organization
disintegrates falls into pieces the pieces might still usefully be fashioned into, or give rise to, something
else (perhaps something more vital, and still greater). Isis therefore gives birth to a son, Horus, who returns
to his rightful kingdom, to confront his evil uncle. This process is schematically represented in Figure
25: The Birth and Return of Horus, Divine Son of Order and Chaos.
Horus fights a difficult battle with Seth as the forces of evil are difficult to overcome and loses an
eye in the process. Seth is overcome, nonetheless; Horus recovers his eye. The story could quit there,
narrative integrity intact, with the now-whole and victorious Horus well-deserved ascension to the throne.
However, Horus does the unexpected, descending voluntarily to the underworld to find his father (as
portrayed schematically in Figure 26: Voluntary Encounter with the Underworld). It is representation of
this move reminiscent of Marduks voluntary journey to the underworld of Tiamat that constitutes the
brilliant and original contribution of Egyptian theology.

+
ORDER
Vo
wit lunta
r
ht
he y En
c
"U
nd ount
erw
e
orl r
d"

+
ISIS

THE
UNDERWORLD

-

HORUS
+
OSIRIS

CHAOS

+

Figure 26: Voluntary Encounter with the Underworld
Horus discovers Osiris, extant in a state of torpor. He offers his recovered eye to his father so that
Osiris can see, once again. They return, united and victorious, and establish a revivified kingdom. The
kingdom of the son and father is an improvement over that of the father or the son alone, as it unites the
hard-won wisdom of the past (that is, of the dead) with the adaptive capacity of the present (that is, of the
living). The (re)establishment and improvement of the domain of order is schematically represented in
Figure 27: Ascent, and Reintegration of the Father.

111


What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

HORUS

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

OSIRIS
What Is:
The Unbearable Present

ORDER

What Is:

Re As
in ce
th teg nt
e r
a
Fa at nd
i
th on
er o
f

The Unbearable Present

CHAOS

Figure 27: Ascent, and Reintegration of the Father
In the story of Osiris, the senescence/death of the father (presented as a consequence of the treachery of
Seth) is overcome by the mythic son, the hero who (temporarily) defeats the power of evil, and who
rejuvenates the father. Marduk, the Mesopotamian supreme god, is by comparison a straightforward hero:
he carves the familiar world from the unfamiliar. Horus, equally brave, is more complete, and more
sophisticated. He cannot remain content with his own ascension, feeling himself incomplete without his
father. He therefore journeys voluntarily into the underworld, releases the disintegrated forces of tradition
trapped there, and makes them part of himself. This pattern of behavior constitutes an elaboration of that
represented by Marduk or of Re, the Egyptian sun-god.
Marduk creates order from chaos. That capacity which is theoretically embodied in the form of the
Mesopotamian emperor lends temporal authority its rightful power. The same idea, elaborated
substantially, applies in Egypt. Osiris constitutes the old state, once-great, but dangerously anachronistic.
Horus partakes of the essence of tradition (he is the son of his father), but is vivified by an infusion of new
information (his mother, after all, is the positive aspect of the unknown). As an updated version of his
father, he is capable of dealing with the problems of the present (that is, with the emergent evil represented
by his uncle). Victorious over his uncle, he is nonetheless incomplete, as his youthful spirit lacks the
wisdom of the past. So he journeys into the unknown, where his father rests, lifeless that is,
uncomprehended; without embodiment or incarnation (in action) in the present. Horus unites himself with
his father, and becomes the ideal ruler the consciousness of present youthful life, conjoined with the
wisdom of tradition.

112


The dead Egyptian pharaoh that is, the ruler whose death preceded the ascension of the current
pharaoh was assimilated to (occupied the same categorial space as) Osiris. That meant he was regarded as
equivalent to the spirit that founded the state the archetypal creator-god or legendary ancestor whose
courageous actions had cosmogonic significance. The current ruler (who depended for much of his power
on the traditions of his predecessors, modified when necessary) was regarded as equivalent to Horus, and to
Re, the sun-god. The ruling pharaoh was therefore the power that generated order from chaos (as Re), and
the power that rejuvenated order, once it had degenerated into unthinking authoritarianism or too-rigid (and
blind) tradition. Furthermore, however, he was the rejuvenated Osiris (who was the dead pharaoh) so
he was tradition, given sight. The sophistication of this idea of reputable leadership creative power,
regenerative power, and revivified tradition cannot hardly be regarded as anything but remarkable. It is
also of overwhelming historical interest and modern relevance that the Egyptians increasingly came to
regard Osiris-Horus as an examplar, not just of the pharaoh, but of every individual in the kingdom. Eliade
states, with regards to later Egyptian burial practice:
The texts formerly inscribed on the walls of the hidden chambers in the pyramids erected for the
pharaohs are now reproduced inside the coffins of the nobility and even of totally unprivileged people.
Osiris becomes the model for all those who hope to conquer death. A Coffin Text proclaims: Thou art
now the son of a king, a prince, as long as thy heart (i.e., spirit) shall be with thee. Following Osiris
example, and with his help, the dead are able to transform themselves into souls, that is, into perfectly
integrated and hence indestructible spiritual beings. Murdered and dismembered, Osiris was
reconstituted by Isis and reanimated by Horus. In this way he inaugurated a new mode of existence:
from a powerless shade, he became a person who knows, a duly initiated spiritual being.269
This development might also be regarded as an illustration of the increasing psychologization,
abstraction and internalization of religious ideation: in the earliest stages of representation, deities are
viewed as pluralistic, and as individualistic and fractious members of a supracelestial (that is, transpersonal
and immortal) community. Later, they are integrated into a hierarchy, as the culture becomes more
integrated, more sure about relative valuation and moral virtue and a single god, with a multitude of
related features, comes to dominate. Development of monotheism thus parallels intrapsychic and
intracultural moral integration. As the average citizen identifies more and more clearly with this
monotheistic, integrated pattern, its external nature, as an attribute of the gods, recedes. It becomes more
clearly an attribute of the human being, per se rather than a characteristic of the extra-individual world
and more like what we would conceive of as a psychological trait. The gods subjective aspect his or her
intrapsychic quality becomes more evident, at least to the most sophisticated of intuitions, and the
possibility of personal relationship with the deity emerges as a prospect at the conceptual level of
analysis. The process is just begininng, in abstraction, in Mesopotamia and Egypt; as will be demonstrated,
it is the ancient Israelites who bring it most clearly to fruition, with potent and lasting effect. It does not
seem unreasonable to regard this development as a precursor to the Christian revolution, which granted
every individual the status of son of god, and of our modern notion of the human right, which is our
metaphysically-predicated presumption that everyone, regardless of earthly status, has a value to which
all temporal authority must bow.
The Egyptian pharaoh, like the Mesopotamian king, served as material incarnation of the process that
separates order from chaos; simultaneously, the pharaoh/king literally embodied the state. Finally, the
pharoah/king was the rejuvenator of his own father. The ideal pharaoh/king was therefore the
exploratory process that gave rise to the state, the state itself, and the revivifying (exploratory) process that
updated the state, when it was in danger of too-conservative ossification. This massively complex and
sophisticated conceptualization is given added breadth and depth by consideration of its psychological
element. The state is not merely cultural; it is also spiritual. As custom and tradition is established, it is
inculcated into each individual, and becomes part of their intrapsychic structure. The state is therefore
personality and social organization, simultaneously personality and social order conjoined in the effort to
keep the terror of chaos at bay (or, better still, united in the effort to make something positively useful of
it). This means that the hero/king who establishes, embodies and updates the social world is also the same
force that establishes, embodies and updates the intrapsychic world, the personality and that one act of

113


update cannot necessarily or reasonably be distinguished from the other. In improving the world, the hero
improves himself; in improving himself, he sets example for the world.
Initially, the personality of state was in fact a ritual human model (a hero) to observe and imitate (an
entity represented in behavioral pattern); then a story about such ritual models (an entity represented in
imagination), and, finally and only much later an abstract construction of rules describing the explicit
rights and responsibilities of the citizenry (an entity of words, the body of law). This increasingly
abstract and detailed construction develops from imitation to abstract representation, and comprises rules
and schemas of interpretations useful for maintaining stability of interpersonal interaction. It is the
establishment of these rules and schemas that gives determinate meaning to human experience, by bringing
predictability to all social situations (to all things encountered interpersonally). The same thing might be
said from the psychological perspective. It is incorporation of the personality of state dominated by the
figure of the hero that brings order to the inner community of necessity and desire; that brings order to the
generative chaos of the soul.
The Mesopotamian culture-hero/deity Marduk represents the capacity of the process of exploration (of
the unknown, eternally promising and threatening) to generate the world of experience; the Egyptian gods
Horus-Osiris represent the extended version of that capacity, which means not only generation of the world
from the unknown, but transformation of the pattern of adaptation which constitutes the known, when such
transformation becomes necessary.
Sometimes adaptation is merely a matter of the adjustment of the means to an end. More rarely, but
equally necessarily, adaptation is reconceptualization of what is known (unbearable present, desirable
future and means to attain such) because what is is known is out of date, and therefore deadly. It is the
sum of these processes that manifests itself in the Judeo-Christian tradition as the mythic Word of God (and
which is embodied in Christ, the Christian culture-hero). This is the force that generates subject and object
from the primordial chaos (and, therefore, which predates the existence of both); the force that engenders
the tradition that makes vulnerable existence possible, in the face of constant mortal threat; and the force
that updates protective tradition, when it has become untenable, and tyrannical, on account of its age.
The Sumerian and Egyptian myths portray ideas of exceeding complexity, in ritual (dramatic) and
imagistic form. This form is not purposeful mystification, but the manner in which ideas emerge, before
they are sufficiently developed to be explicitly comprehensible. We acted out and provisionally formulated
complete, impressionistic models of the world of experience (which was the world we always had to
understand), long before the contents of such models could be understood, in the way we currently
conceive of understanding.
Brief analysis of the Sumerian and Egyptian theologies, and of the relationship of those theologies to
political action, shed substantial light on the manner in which many of our most important modern ideas
developed (and on what those ideas actually mean). This understanding, derived from two or three specific
examples, can be further enhanced through more general discussion. We therefore turn our attention from
analysis of complete stories which have as their advantage a more compelling nature to detailed
description of the mythological characters whose essence and interactions constitute the world. The
totality of the world, which includes the significance of experienced things, as well as the things
themselves, is composed of what has been explored, and rendered familiar; what has yet to be encountered,
and is therefore unpredictable; and the process that mediates between the two. One final element must be
additionally considered: the state of being that includes or precedes the division of everything into these
three constituent elements. This state might be regarded as the true source of all things, subjects and objects
as the single ancestor and final destination of all. The complete mythological world of experience is
portrayed schematically as personality, territory and process in Figure 28: The Constituent Elements
of Experience as Personality, Territory and Process. Our discussion turns first to the diverse nature of
representations of the original, undifferentiated state the condition of primordial chaos and then to a
more elaborated description of its children the divine parents, nature and culture, and the divine son,
simultaneously child, primal creator, and eternal adversary.

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The Dragon of Chaos

Unexplored Territory

The Great Mother
The Great Father

The Archetypal Son

-

+

-

+
-

Explored Territory

Hero

Adversary

Order

Tyranny

Destruction

Creation

+

Exploration/Repression

Figure 28: The Constituent Elements of Experience as Personality, Territory and Process
2.3.3. The Dragon of Primordial Chaos
The source of things is the boundless. From whence they arise, thence they must also of necessity return.
For they do penance and make compensation to one another for their injustice in the order of time. 270
It might seem futile to speculate about the nature of that which existed prior to any experience, or that
which has not yet been explored. Futile or not, such speculation has occupied a good portion of mans
time, as he attempted to understand the mystery of his emergence, and of the world he found himself
occupying. It seems impossible to determine what it is that was before anything was; myth attempts that
task, despite its impossibility. It does so using the tool of metaphor. The metaphorical statements of myth
work because unknown or partially known things inevitably share characteristics of importance with
somewhat more thoroughly investigated, comprehended and familiar things. Two or more objects or
situations come to occupy the same mythological or categorical space, therefore, because they share similar
form, function, or capacity to induce affect and compel behavior. A mandrake root, for example, has the
nature of a man, symbolically speaking, because it has the shape of a man; Mars is a warlike planet because
it is red, and red, the color of blood, is associated indelibly with aggression; the metal mercury (and the
spirit that inhabits it) is akin to seawater because both may serve as solvents or agents of transformation;
the dark and the animal of the forest are the same, because they are both unfamiliar because they both
inhibit ongoing behavior, when they make their appearance; because they both cause fear. Metaphor links
thing to thing, situation to situation, concentrating on the phenomenological, affective, functional and
motivational features the linked situations share. Through such linkage, what might otherwise remain
entirely mysterious can begin to become comprehended that is, used.
Myths of the origin metaphorically portray the nature of the infinite potential that characterized being,
prior to the dawn of experience. This general symbolic construction takes many particular forms, each of

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which might be said to constitute a partial attempt to represent the unrepresentable whole. These particular
forms range in nature from the specific and concrete to the general and abstract, and are influenced in their
development by the environmental and cultural conditions obtaining at the time of their emergence. The
process of metaphorical representation provides a bridge and an increasingly communicable bridge
between what can be directly explored, experienced and comprehended, and what remains eternally
unknown.
Mythic symbols of the chaos of the beginning are imaginative pictures, whose purpose is representation
of a paradoxical totality a state, (which is already to say something too determinate) self-contained,
uniform, and complete, where everything now distinct resides in union: a state where being and non-being,
beginning and end, matter and energy, spirit and body, consciousness and unconsciousness, femininity and
masculinity, night and day remain compounded, prior to their discrimination into the separable elements of
experience. In this state, all conceivable pairs of opposites and contradictory forces exist together
within the all-encompassing embrace of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and altogether mysterious
God. This paradisal precondition, lacking nothing, characterized by absolute completion, exists in
contradistinction to the profane world, imperfect and partial, suspended unbearably in time and in space;
surrounds that world completely, like the night surrounds the day constitutes the beginning of things, the
fountainhead for everything and, similarly, the resting-place and destination point for all. William James
turned to poetry in his attempt to conceptualize this place:
No verbiage can give it, because the verbiage is other,
Incoherent, coherent same.
And it fades! And its infinite! AND its infinite!
Dont you see the difference, dont you see the identity?
Constantly opposites united!
The same me telling you to write and not to write!
Extreme extreme, extreme!
Something, and other than that thing!
Intoxication, and otherness than intoxication.
Every attempt at betterment, every attempt at otherment
is a
It fades forever and forever as we move.271
This state the totality of all things might be regarded as the objective world, in the absence of the
subject, although this conceptualization is too narrow, as primordial chaos also contains that which
evolves into the subject, when it is differentiated. What might be regarded as the standard objective
viewpoint is predicated on the idea that things as they are perceived exist regardless of the perceiver.
From a certain perspective, this is true. Things have a nature that appears independent of subjective
will, and follow their own laws of being and development despite our wishes. However, the job of
determining what a thing is in the absence of the subject is much more difficult than might initially be
imagined. It is certainly the case as we have seen that the value of an object can shift with shift in frame
of reference. It appears to be true, however, that what an object is is and of itself is also subject to such
shift. Any given object a table, say exists as a table because it is only apprehended in a very limited and
restrained manner. Something is a table at a particular and isolated level of analysis, specified by the nature
of the observer. In the absence of this observer, one might ask what is it that is being apprehended? Is the
proper level of analysis and specification subatomic, atomic or molecular (or all three at once)? Should the
table be considered an indistinguishable element of the earth upon which it rests, or of the solar system,
which contains the earth, or of the galaxy itself? The same problem obtains from the perspective of
temporality. What is now table was once tree; before that, earth before that, rock; before that, star. What
is now table also has before it an equally complex and lengthy developmental history waiting in front of
it; it will be, perhaps, ash, then earth, then far enough in the future part of the sun again (when the sun
finally re-envelops the earth). The table is what it is only at a very narrow span of spatial and temporal
resolution (the span that precisely characterizes our consciousness). So what is the table, as an
independent object free, that is, of the restrictions that characterize the evidently limited human
viewpoint? What is it that can be conceptualized at all spatial and temporal levels of analysis

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simultaneously? Does the existence of the thing include its interactions with everything it influences, and
is influenced by, gravitationally and electromagnetically? Is that thing everything it once was, everything
it is, and everything it will be, all at the same time? Where then are its borders? How can it be
distinguished from other things? And without such distinction in what manner can it be said to exist?
Question: what is an object, in the absence of a frame of reference? Answer: it is everything
conceivable, at once is something that constitutes the union of all currently discriminable opposites (and
something that cannot, therefore, be easily distinguished from nothing).
I am not saying that there are no such things as things that would of course be patently absurd. It is
also fully apparent that the things we apprehend are rule-governed the cosmos as we experience it is
orderly, and rationally comprehensible. What I am claiming is that objective things are in fact the product
of an interaction between whatever constitutes our limited consciousness and whatever constitutes the
unlimited background that makes up the world, in the absence of a subject. This is a stance informed by
mythology in particular, by myths of the origin.
Archaic myths describing the ultimate origin concern themselves with representation of the source, not
of objects, in the modern sense, but of subjects and the experience of those subjects (some part of which
can be regarded as objects). Such myths typically describe the genesis of the world of experience by
relating the existence of a primordial god, by portraying the division of this god into the world-parents,
and by detailing the separation of those parents by their own son. This is the division of the
hermaphroditic, all-encompassing, self-devouring-and-nourishing serpent of chaos into earth/matter and
sky/spirit, and the subsequent discrimination of those primordial opposing forces into identifiable aspects
of being. The Indo-European myth of Indra and Vrtra provides a representative example:
The central myth of Indra, which is, furthermore, the most important myth in the Rig Veda, narrates his
victorious battle against Vrtra, the gigantic dragon who held back the waters in the hollow of the
mountains. Strengthened by soma, Indra lays the serpent low with his vajdra (thunderbolt), the
weapon forged by Tvastr, splits open his head, and frees the waters, which pour into the sea like
bellowing cows (RV 1.32).
The battle of a god against an ophidian or marine monster is well known to constitute a widespread
mythological theme. We need only remember the struggle between Re and Apophis, between the
Sumerian god Ninurta and Asag, Marduk and Tiamat, the Hittite storm god and the serpent Illuyankas,
Zeus and Typhon, the Iranian hero Thraetona and the three-headed dragon Azhi-dahaka. In certain cases
(Marduk-Tiamat, for example) the gods victory constitutes the preliminary condition for the
cosmogony. In other cases the stake is the inauguration of a new era or the establishment of a new
sovereignty (cf. Zeus-Typhon, Baal-Yam). In short, it is by the slaying of an ophidian monster symbol
of the virtual, of chaos, but also of the autochthonous that a new cosmic or institutional situation
comes into existence. A characteristic feature, and one common to all these myths, is the fright, or a first
defeat, of the champion (Marduk and Re hesitate before fighting; at the onset, the serpent Illyunakas
succeeds in mutilating the god; Typhon succeeds in cutting and carrying off Zeuss tendons). According
to the Satapatha Brahmana (1.6.3-17), Indra, on first seeing Vrtra, runs away as far as possible, and the
Markandeya Purana describes him as sick with fear and hoping for peace.272
It would serve no purpose to dwell on the naturalistic interpretations of this myth; the victory over
Vrtra has been seen either as rain brought on by a thunderstorm or as the freeing of the mountain waters
(Oldenberg) or as the triumphs of the sun over the cold that had imprisoned the waters by freezing
them (Hillebrandt). Certainly, naturalistic elements are present, since the myth is multivalent; Indras
victory is equivalent, among other things, to the truimph of life over the sterility and death resulting
from the immobilization of the waters by Vrtra. But the structure of the myth is cosmogonic. In Rig
Veda 1.33.4 it is said that, by his victory, the god created the sun, the sky, and dawn. According to
another hymn (RV 10.113.4-6) Indra, as soon as he was born, separated the Sky from the Earth, fixed
the celestial vault, and hurling the vajra, tore apart Vrtra, who was holding the waters captive in the
darkness. Now, Sky and Earth are the parents of the gods (1.185.6); Indra is the youngest (3.38.1) and
also the last god to be born, because he put an end to the hierogamy [mystical union] of Sky and Earth:
By his strength, he spread out these two worlds, Sky and Earth, and caused the sun to shine. (8.3.6).

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After this demiurgic feat, Indra appointed Varuna cosmocrator and guardian of rta (which had remained
concealed in the world below; 1.62.1).
there are other types of Indian cosmogonies that explain the creation of the world from a materia
prima. This is not the case with the myth we have just summarized, for here a certain type of world
already existed. For Sky and Earth were formed and had engendered the gods. Indra only separated the
cosmic parents, and, by hurling the vajra at Vrtra, he put an end to the immobility, or even the
virtuality, symbolized by the dragons mode of being. [Indra comes across Vrtra not divided, not
awake, plunged in the deepest sleep, stretched out (RV 4.19.3)]. According to certain traditions, the
fashioner of the gods, Tvastr, whose role is not clear in the Rig Veda, had built himself a house and
created Vrtra as a sort of roof, but also as walls, for his habitation. Inside this dwelling, encircled by
Vrtra, Sky, Earth and the Waters existed. Indra bursts asunder this primordial monad by breaking the
resistance and inertia of Vrtra. In other words, the world and life could not come to birth except by the
slaying of an amorphous Being. In countless variants, this myth is quite widespread.273

CHAOS

Figure 29: The Uroboros Precosmogonic Dragon of Chaos

The primordial theriomorphic serpent-god is endless potential; is whatever comprises being prior to the
emergence of the capacity for experience. This potential has been represented as the self-devouring dragon
(most commonly) because this image (portrayed in Figure 29: The Uroboros Precosmogonic Dragon of
Chaos 274) aptly symbolizes the union of incommensurate opposites. The uroboros is simultaneously
representative of two antithetical primordial elements. As a snake, the uroboros is a creature of the ground,
of matter; as a bird (a winged animal), it is a creature of the air, of the sky, of spirit. The uroboros
symbolizes the union of known (associated with spirit) and unknown (associated with matter), explored and

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unexplored; symbolizes the juxtaposition of the masculine principles of security, tyranny and order with
the feminine principles of darkness, dissolution, creativity and chaos. Furthermore, as a snake, the
uroboros has the capacity to shed its skin to be reborn. Thus, it also represents the possibility of
transformation, and stands for the knower, who can transform chaos into order, and order into chaos. The
uroboros stands for, or constitutes, everything that is as of yet unencountered, prior to its differentiation as
a consequence of active exploration and classification. It is the source of all the information that makes up
the determinate world of experience and is, simultaneously, the birth-place of the experiencing subject.
The uroboros is one thing, as everything that has not yet been explored is one thing; it exists
everywhere, and at all times. It is completely self-contained, completely self-referential: it feeds, fertilizes
and engulfs itself. It unites the beginning and the end, being and becoming, in the endless circle of its
existence. It serves as symbol for the ground of reality itself. It is the set of all things that are not yet
things the primal origin and ultimate point of return for every discriminable object, and every
independent subject. It serves as progenitor of all we know, all that we dont know, and of the spirit that
constitutes our capacity to know and not know. It is the mystery that constantly emerges when solutions
to old problems cause new problems; is the sea of chaos surrounding mans island of knowledge and the
source of that knowledge, as well. It is all new experience generated by time, which incessantly works to
transform the temporarily predictable once again into the unknown. It has served mankind as the most
ubiquitous and potent of primordial gods:
This is the ancient Egyptian symbol of which it is said, Draco interfecit se ipsum, maritat se ipsum,
impraegnat se ipsum. It slays, weds, and impregnates itself. It is man and woman, begetting and
conceiving, devouring and giving birth, active and passive, above and below, at once.
As the Heavenly Serpent, the uroboros was known in ancient Babylon; in later times, in the same
area, it was often depicted by the Mandaeans; its origin is ascribed by Macrobius to the Phoenicians. It
is the archetype of the [greek phrase], the All One, appearing as Leviathan and as Aion, as Oceanus, and
also as the Primal Being that says I am Alpha and Omega. As the Kneph of antiquity it is the Primal
Snake, the most ancient deity of the prehistoric world. The uroboros can be traced in the Revelation of
St. John and among the Gnostics as well as among the Roman syncretists; there are pictures of it in the
sand paintings of the Navajo Indians and in Giotto; it is found in Egypt, Africa, Mexico, and India,
among the gypsies as an amulet, and in the alchemical texts.275
The uroboros is Tiamat, the dragon who inhabits the deep, transformed by Marduk into the world;
Apophis, the serpent who nightly devours the sun; and Rahab, the leviathan, slain by Yahweh in the course
of the creation of the cosmos:
Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
Shall the companions make a banquet of him? shall they part him among the merchants?
Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
Behold, the hope of him is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
Who can discover the face of his garment? or who can come to him with his double bridle?
Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.

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Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.
The flakes of his flesh are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.
His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.
When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.
He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.
Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.
Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.
He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.
He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.
Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride. (Job 41:1-34).
The uroboros is that which exists as pure unqualified potential, prior to the manifestation of such
potential, in the experience of the limited subject; is the infinite possibility for sudden dramatic
unpredictability that still resides in the most thoroughly explored and familiar of objects (things, other
people, ourselves). That unpredictability is not mere material possibility or potential; it is also meaning.
The domain of chaos which is where what to do has not yet been specified is a place characterized by
the presence of potent emotions, discouragement, depression, fear; a place characterized by rootlessness,
loss and disorientation. It is the affective aspect of chaos that constitutes what is most clearly known about
chaos. It is darkness, drought, the suspension of norms, and death.276 It is the terror of the dark of night,
which fills itself with demons of the imagination, yet exerts an uncanny fascination; it is the fire that
magically reduces one determinate thing to another; it is the horror and curiosity engendered by the
stranger and foreigner.
The urubobos the primordial matrix contains in embryonic form everything that can in principle
possibly be experienced, and the thing that does the experiencing. The great serpent (the matrix) is
therefore consciousness spirit, before it manifests itself and matter, before it is separated from spirit.
This great mythological idea finds its echo in certain modern theories of the development of the subject;
most particularly, among those entitled constructivist. The famous Swiss developmental psychologist Jean
Piaget claimed, for example, that the experiencing subject constructs himself in infancy, as a consequence
of his exploratory activity.277 He acts, and observes himself acting; then imitates the action, forming a
primordial representation of himself later, formulates a more abstracted model of his own actions. Thus
the subject is created from the information generated in the course of exploratory activity.
Contemporaneously, the world comes into being:
Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the
wilderness.
Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.
The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou has prepared the light and the sun.
Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. (Psalms 74:14-17).
Actions have consequences. The consequences of actions constitute the world the familiar world,
when they are predictable; the world of the unexpected, when they are not.
The state of the origin has been represented most abstractly as a circle, the most perfect of
geometric forms, or as a sphere, without beginning or end, symmetrical across all axes. Plato, in the
Timaeus, described the primary source as the round, there at the beginning.278 In the Orient, the world and
its meanings springs from the encircled interplay and union of the light, spiritual, masculine yang, and the
dark, material, feminine, yin.279 According to the adepts of medieval alchemy, discernible objects of
experience (and the subjects who experienced them) emerged from the round chaos, which was a spherical
container of the primordial element.280 The God of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, Alpha and Omega, the
beginning and the end, the first and the last (Revelations 22:13), places himself outside of or beyond

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worldly change, and unites the temporal opposites within the great circle of his being. The assimilation of
the origin to a circle finds narrative echo in myths describing Heaven as the end to which life is, or should
be, devoted (at least from the perspective of the immortal soul.) The Kingdom of God, promised by
Christ, is in fact re-establishment of Paradise (although a Paradise characterized by reconciliation of
opposing forces, and not regressive dissolution, into preconscious unity). Such re-establishment closes the
circle of temporal being.
The uroboric initial state is the place where all opposite things were (will be) united; the great selfdevouring dragon whose division into constituent elements constitutes the precondition for experience
itself. This initial state is a place free of problems, and has a paradisal aspect, in consequence; however,
the price that must be paid for uroboric paradise is being itself. It is not until the original unity of all things
is broken up until the most primordial of gods is murdered that existence itself springs into being. The
emergence of things, however, brings with it the problem of opposites a problem that must be solved,
optimally, without eliminating the fact of existence itself.

THE UNKNOWN/THE GREAT MOTHER
What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

The Queen
Tiamat
The Material World
The Land of the Dead
Dark Water
Unexplored Territory
Nature

The Night Sky
Isis
The Womb
The Forest
Barbarian Lands
Anomalous Occurences
The Grave

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

CHAOS
THE KNOWN/THE GREAT FATHER
The King
Apsu
The Ancestral Spirits
The Family
The City
Explored Territory
Culture

The Day Sky
Osiris
The Dead
The Village
The Nation
The Predictable
The Monument

Figure 30: The Birth of the World Parents
The uroboros is the unified parent of the known, the Great Father (explored territory and the familiar),
and of the unknown, the Great Mother (anomalous information and the unpredictable). It might be
regarded, as well, as the single androgynous grandparent of the hero, son of the night and the day, mediator
between the known and unknown, whose being constitutes a necessary precondition for the existence of
differentiated things (and who can, therefore, also be regarded as a causa prima). The world parents, Earth
and Sky, emerge when the uroboric dragon undergoes a first division. Figure 30: The Birth of the World
Parents presents the birth of the world in schematic form, insofar as it has been conceptualized by the
mythic imagination. The chaos that constitues totality divides itself into what has been explored, and what
has yet to be explored.
From the mythic perspective, this division is equivalent to the emergence of the cosmos and, therefore,
to creation or genesis itself. One thing is missing the fact of the explorer, and the nature of his

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relationship with what is known and what has yet to be known. With the birth of the explorer with his
construction from the interplay between culture and nature the entire world comes into being. This
emergence of experience is portrayed in Figure 31: The Constituent Elements of the World, in
Dynamic Relationship. The knower is simultaneously child of nature and culture, creator of culture (as a
consequence of his encounter with nature or the unknown world) and the person for whom the unknown
is a reality.

The Unknown
The Known
The Knower

Figure 31: The Constituent Elements of the World, in Dynamic Relationship
It is almost impossible to overestimate the degree to which the world parent schema of categorization
colors (or, alternatively, has been derived from) fundamental human presumption and activity. The world
is explored territory, surrounded by mystery; that mystery is experienced as undifferentiated but oftmenacing chaos. Everything that occupies such chaos is directly perceived as (not abstractly
conceptualized as) identical to it is directly perceived as unknown and anxiety-provoking. The foreigner,
therefore the occupant of the habitation of dragons (Isaiah 34:13) is naturally apprehended as an
agent of formless chaos. Eliade states:
One of the outstanding characteristics of traditional societies is the opposition that they assume
between their inhabited world and the unknown and indeterminate space that surrounds it. The former is
the world (more precisely, our world), the cosmos; everything outside it is no longer a cosmos but a sort
of other world, a foreign, chaotic space, peopled by ghosts, demons, foreigners (who are assimilated
to [undistinguished from, more accurately] the demons and the souls of the dead).281
Everything outside occupies the same categorical space as the dragon of chaos, or the terrible mother. The
early Indo-Europeans equated the destruction of enemies in battle to the slaying of Vrtra by Indra;282 the

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ancient Egyptians regarded the Hyksos, barbarians, as equivalent to Apophis, the serpent who nightly
devours the sun;283 and the archaic Iranians (Zoroastrians) equated the mythic struggle of King Faridun
against a foreign usurper the dragon Azdahak with the cosmogonic fight of the hero Thraetona against
Azi Dahaka, the primordial serpent of chaos.284 The enemies of the Old Testament Hebrews also suffer the
same fate: they are regarded as equivalent to Rahab, or Leviathan, the serpent overcome by Yahweh in his
battle to establish the world [Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee,
Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is
mine own, and I have made it for myself. (Ezekiel 29:3); also, Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath
devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a
dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out. (Jeremiah 51:34)]. Eliade
continues:
At first sight this cleavage in space appears to be due to the opposition between an inhabited and
organized hence cosmicized territory and the unknown space that extends beyond its frontiers; on
one side there is a cosmos, on the other a chaos. But we shall see that if every inhabited territory is a
cosmos, this is precisely because it was first consecrated, because, in one way or another, it is the work
of the gods or is in communication with the world of the gods. The world (that is, our world) is a
universe within which the sacred has already manifested itself, in which, consequently, the breakthrough from plane to plane has become possible and repeatable. It is not difficult to see why the
religious moment implies the cosmogonic moment. The sacred reveals absolute reality and at the same
time makes orientation possible; hence it founds the world in the sense that it fixes the limits and
establishes the order of the world.
All this appears very clearly from the Vedic ritual for taking possession of a territory; possession
becomes legally valid through the erection of a fire altar consecrated to Agni. One says that one is
installed when one has built a fire altar (garhapatya) and all those who build the fire altar are legally
established. (Shatapatha Brahmana, VII, 1,1,1-4). By the erection of a fire altar Agni is made present,
and communication with the world of the gods is ensured; the space of the altar becomes a sacred space.
But the meaning of the ritual is far more complex, and if we consider all of its ramifications, we shall
understand why consecrating a territory is equivalent to making it a cosmos, to cosmicizing it. For, in
fact, the erection of an altar to Agni is nothing but the reproduction on the microcosmic scale of the
Creation. The water in which the clay is mixed is assimilated to the primordial water; the clay that forms
the base of the altar symbolizes the earth; the lateral walls represent the atmosphere, and so on. And the
building of the altar is accompanied by songs that proclaim which cosmic region has just been created
(Shatapatha Brahmana I, 9, 2, 29, etc.). Hence the erection of a fire altar which alone validates taking
possession of a new territory is equivalent to a cosmogony.
An unknown, foreign and unoccupied territory (which often means unoccupied by our people) still
shares in the fluid and larval modality of chaos. By occupying it and, above all, by settling in it, man
symbolically transforms it into a cosmos through a ritual repetition of the cosmogony. What is to
become our world must first be created, and every creation has a paradigmatic model the creation
of the universe by the gods. When the Scandinavian colonists took possession of Iceland (land-nama)
and cleared it, they regarded the enterprise neither as an original undertaking nor as human and profane
work. For them, their labor was only repetition of a primordial act, the transformation of chaos into
cosmos by the divine act of creation. When they tilled the desert soil, they were in fact repeating the act
of the gods who had organized chaos by giving it a structure, forms, and norms.
Whether it is a case of clearing uncultivated ground or of conquering and occupying a territory
already inhabited by other human beings, ritual taking possession must always repeat the cosmogony.
For in the view of archaic societies everything that is not our world is not yet a world. A territory can
be made ours only by creating it anew, that is, by consecrating it. This religious behavior in respect to
unknown lands continued, even in the West, down to the dawn of modern times [and was reflected
recently in the planting of the flag on the moon, by the American astronauts.] The Spanish and
Portuguese conquistadors, discovering and conquering territories, took possession of them in the name
of Jesus Christ [the world-creating Logos].285

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A similar form of ritual and ideation dominates processes even as simple as the establishment of a
new building. In India,
before a single stone is laid, The astrologer shows what spot in the foundation is exactly above the
head of the snake that supports the world. The mason fashions a little wooden peg from the wood of the
Khadira tree, and with a coconut drives the peg into the ground at this particular spot, in such a way as
to peg the head of the snake securely down. If this snake should ever shake its head really violently, it
would shake the world to pieces.286 A foundation stone is placed above the peg. The cornerstone is thus
situated exactly at the center of the world. But the act of foundation at the same time repeats the
cosmogonic act, for to secure the snakes head, to drive the peg into it, is to imitate the primordial
gesture of Soma (Rig Veda II, 12, 1) or of Indra when the latter smote the Serpent in his lair (Rig Veda,
VI, 17, 9), when his thunderbolt cut off his head (Rig Veda I, 52, 10).287
Order explored territory is constructed out of chaos and exists, simultaneously, in opposition to that
chaos (to the new chaos, more accurately: to the unknown now defined in opposition to explored
territory). Everything that is not order that is, not predictable, not usable is, by default (by definition)
chaos. The foreigner whose behaviors cannot be predicted, who is not kin, either by blood or by custom,
who is not an inhabitant of the cosmos, whose existence and domain has not been sacralized is
equivalent to chaos (and not merely metaphorically equated with chaos). As such, his appearance means
threat, as his action patterns and beliefs have the capacity to upset society itself have the capacity to
dissolve and flood the world, and reinstitute the dominion of the uroboros.
2.3.4. The Great Mother: Images of the Unknown, or Unexplored Territory
The Mother of Songs, the mother of our whole seed, bore us in the beginning. She is the mother of all
races of men and the mother of all tribes. She is the mother of the thunder, the mother of the rivers, the
mother of trees and of all kinds of things. She is the mother of songs and dances. She is the mother of the
older brother stones. She is the mother of the grain and the mother of all things. She is the mother of the
younger brother Frenchmen and of the strangers. She is the mother of the dance paraphernalia and of all
temples, and the only mother we have. She is the mother of the animals, the only one, and the mother of the
Milky Way. It was the mother herself who began to baptize. She gave us the limestone coca dish. She is the
mother of the rain, the only one we have. She alone is the mother of all things, she alone. And the mother
has left a memory in all the temples. With her sons, the saviors, she left songs and dances as a reminder.
Thus the priests, the fathers, and the older brothers have reported.288
Representation of culture, the known, is simple, comparatively; is second-order abstraction, depiction of
that which has already been made subject to order. Representation of culture is encapsulation of that to
which behavioral adaptation has previously occurred; of those things or situations whose sensory
properties, affective implications and motivational significances have been and are presently specified.
Representation of the knower, the human subject, is also depiction of that which is constantly encountered,
in all interpersonal interactions, and in all self-conscious states: is portrayal of those aspects of an infinitely
complex set of data which have at least been experienced, if not exhausted. Representation of the unknown,
however, appears impossible appears as a contradiction in terms. How can what has not yet been
encountered be comprehended, understood, embodied, faced, or adapted to? But what has not been
encountered must be comprehended. The range of our experience continually supersedes the domain of our
determinate knowledge. We are therefore prone to constant contact with the unknown. It appears every
time we make an error; every time our presumptions are wrong every time our behaviors do not produce
the consequences we expect and desire. The absence of specific depiction, appropriate to inexplicable
circumstance, does not alleviate the necessity of appropriate action even though the nature of that action
cannot yet be specified. This means that the nature of the unknown, as such, must become represented, in
order to design action patterns, which are broadly suited for response to what cannot yet (and cannot
eternally) be predicted or controlled. We are in fact capable of a set of paradoxical abilities: we know what

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to do, when we do not know what to do; we know how to represent what to do, when we do not know what
to do; finally, we know how to represent what we have not yet encountered. These adaptive capacities
impossible, at first glance immensely further our capacity to behave, successfully, in the face of our
mysterious experience, and to communicate and broaden that capacity.
If an error in judgment, interpretation or behavior occurs, and something unexpected appears, that
unexpected thing has identifiable properties: it is dangerous, and promising. The danger is potential for
punishment, for frustration, for disappointment, for social isolation, for physical damage even for death.
Every moment of threat, however, is simultaneously a moment of opportunity. The change that upsets the
presently predictable and orderly also means potential for advancement into a more promising future. The
unexpected is information itself, information necessary for the constant expansion of adaptive competence.
Such information comes packaged in threat and promise. To gain the information promised, the threat must
be overcome. This process of necessary eternal overcoming constantly constructs and transforms our
behavioral repertoires and representational schemas.
Everything presently known about the subject and objects of human experience was at one time merely
the undifferentiated unknown which was far more than what yet remained to be discovered about the
collectively apprehensible sensory qualities of the world. The unknown may manifest itself in the
consensually validatable empirical realm, as an aspect of the material world; likewise, it may appear as new
significance, where none was evident before. What is known and familiar poses no threat and offers no
possibility beyond that which has been previously determined. The explored thing or situation has been
associated with behaviors that render it beneficial, in the ideal, or at least irrelevant. The omnipresent
unknown, by contrast, presents threat and promise infinite in scope, impossible to encapsulate, equally
impossible to ignore. The unknown, unexpected, or unpredictable is the source of all conditional
knowledge and the place that such knowledge returns to, so to speak, when it is no longer useful.
Everything we know, we know because someone explored something they did not understand explored
something they were afraid of, in awe of. Everything we know, we know because someone generated
something valuable, in the course of an encounter with the unexpected.
Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without
thinking about them.289 All things that we know no longer demand our attention. To know something is to
do it automatically, without thinking, to categorize it at a glance (or less than a glance), or to ignore it
entirely. The nervous system is designed to eliminate predictability from consideration, and to focus
limited analytical resources where focus would produce useful results. We attend to the places where
change is occurring; where something is happening that has not yet been modeled, where something is
happening that has not yet had behaviors erected around it where something is happening that is not yet
understood. Consciousness itself might be considered as that organ which specializes in the analysis and
classification of unpredictable events. Attention and concentration naturally gravitate to those elements in
the experiential field that contain the highest concentration of novelty, or that are the least expected, prior
to what might normally be considered higher cognitive processing. The nervous system responds to
irregular change, and eliminates regularity. There is limited information, positive and negative, in the
predictable. The novel occurrence, by contrast, might be considered a window into the transcendent
space where reward and punishment exist, in eternal and unlimited potential.
The unknown or unexpected or novel appears when plans go wrong: when behavioral adaptation or
interpretive schema fails to produce what is desired or to predict what occurs. The appearance of the
unexpected or unpredictable inhibits ongoing goal-directed activity, in the absence of conscious volition.
Concurrently with this inhibition of activity comes inexorable redirection of attention towards the
unexpected event. The unexpected grips behavior, and spontaneously generates antithetical affects, varying
in intensity with the improbability of the occurrence, creating heightened interest, fear, intense curiosity, or
outright terror. This motivational significance appears to have been experienced as an intrinsic feature of
the unknown, prior to the strict formal modern division of experiential world into empirical object and
subjective observer and is still fundamentally experienced in that manner today. Rudolf Otto, in his
seminal investigation into the nature of religious experience, described such experience as numinous,290 as
involuntarily gripping, as indicative of significance beyond the normal and average. The numinous
experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is capacity to invoke trembling and fear; and
mysterium fascinans capacity to powerfully attract, fascinate, and compel. This numinous power, divine

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import, is extreme affective relevance and concomitant direction of behavior by the (unknown) object. This
power is commonly considered by those subject to it as a manifestation of God, personification of the
unknown, and ultimate source of all conditional knowledge:
The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil
mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as
it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its profane, nonreligious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruptions up from the depths of the soul
with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport,
and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering.
It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into
something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling, and speechless
humility of the creature in the presence of whom or what? In the presence of that which is a mystery
inexpressible and above all creatures.291
Nothing that is not represented can be said to be understood not as we normally use that term.
Nonetheless, understanding of the unknown which cannot, in theory, be represented is vital to
continued survival. Desire to represent the unknown, to capture its essence, is in consequence potent:
potent enough to drive the construction of culture, the net that constrains the unknowable source of all
things. The impetus for representation of the domain of the unexpected arose (and arises) as consequence of
the intrinsic, biologically-determined affective or emotional significance of the unknown or novel world.
Representations of the unknown constitute attempts to elaborate upon its nature, to illuminate its emotional
and motivational significance (to illuminate its being, from the prescientific or mythic perspective). This is
categorization of all that has not yet been explored and represented, in the service of adaptation to that
which has not yet been understood. This is the attempt to formulate a conception of the category of all asof-yet uncategorized things, so that a useful stance might be adopted, with regards to that category.
The novel ceaselessly inspires thought, and allows itself to be entangled, yet inevitably transcends all
attempts at final classification. The unknown therefore provides a constant powerful source of energy for
exploration and the generation of new information. Desire to formulate a representation of that which
supersedes final classification and remains eternally motivating might well be understood as a prepotent
and irresistible drive. That drive constitutes what might be regarded as the most fundamental religious
impulse constitutes the culturally universal attempt to define and establish a relationship with God and
underlies the establishment of civilized historical order. The product of this drive, the culturally-constructed
complex, extant in fantasy the symbol, composed of communicable representation of all things constantly
threatening and promising to man affects and structures the experience of each individual, yet remains
impersonal, distinct and separate:
The living symbol formulates an essential unconscious factor, and the more widespread this factor is,
the more general is the effect of the symbol, for it touches a corresponding chord in every psyche. Since,
for a given epoch, it is the best possible expression for what is still unknown, it must be the product of
the most complex and differentiated minds of that age. But in order to have an effect at all, it must
embrace what is common to a large group of men. This can never be what is most differentiated, the
highest attainable, for only a very few attain to that or understand it. The common factor must be
something that is still so primitive that its ubiquity cannot be doubted. Only when the symbol embraces
that and expresses it in the highest possible form is it of general efficacy. Herein lies the potency of the
living, social symbol and its redeeming power.292
This dynamic representation might comprise part of the subjective experience of a myriad of people, and
therefore have its own biologically grounded, culturally-determined existence, independent of any given
person at any given time even to follow its own intrinsic rules of development yet fail to exist
objectively, as the objective is currently understood.
Ritualized, dramatic or mythic representations of the unknown the domain that emerges when error is
committed appear to have provided the initial material for the most primordial and fundamental aspects
of formalized religions. Appreciation of the nature of the unknown as a category developed as a

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consequence of observation of our inherent response to what we did not expect, manifested as predictable
pattern of affect and behavior: fear and curiosity, terror and hope, inhibition of ongoing activity and
cautious exploration, habituation and generation of novel and situation-specific appropriate behavioral
strategies. Two things are the same, from the empirical viewpoint, if they share collectively apprehended
sensory features. Two things are the same, from the metaphoric, dramatic, or mythical perspective from
the perspective of the natural category if they produce the same subjective state of being (affect or
motivation), or have the same functional status (which is implication for behavior). Experiences that share
affective tone appear categorizable in single complexes, symbolic in nature (from the standpoint of abstract
cognition) products of culture, which evolved in the social environment characteristic of ancestral homo
sapiens, and later, disappeared. Such complexes might play a useful role, in the promotion of general
adaptive behavior, in the face of feared and promising objects, in the absence of detailed explorationgenerated information, regarding the explicit nature of these objects.
These representations might be considered the consequence of first level representation of imitation, as
Piaget pointed out and then, later, the consequence of more abstracted second-order representation (of
symbolic understanding). Understanding can be reached, at the most inclusive, yet primary level, through
ritual and mimesis. An unknown phenomenon, gripping but incomprehensible, can yet be represented
ritually, can be acted out. Secondary representation of this acting-out constitutes the initial form of
abstract representation. To understand the lion, for example or the hunted beast it is first necessary to
become the lion, or the hunted beast to mimic, physically, and later to represent the mimicry in
imagination. It is in this manner that the son imitates the father, who he will later become. A childs
embodiment of the parent means his incorporation of the knowledge of the parent, at least insofar as that
knowledge is action. The child acts out his father, without understanding him and without understanding
the reasons for his acting out. It could be said, therefore metaphorically speaking that the imitating child
is possessed by the spirit of the father, like the father was possessed before him, in his period of childhood.
The spirit of the father may be conceived, in this representational schema, as an entity independent of the
particular father, or the particular son as something that manifests itself in imagination and in possession
of behavior generation after generation, in more-or-less constant and traditional form. Similarly, the
unknown, which might be considered object and subject simultaneously which manifests itself in the
perceptible world, in affect, and which grips behavior might well be regarded as (or manifest itself in
imagination as) a transpersonal entity (or as the result of the actions of a transpersonal entity). The ancestral
primordial hunter, terrified by something unknown in the bush, portrays his encounter with what
frightened him by acting out the unknown demon, when he returns to the village. This acting out is
simultaneously embodiment and representation is basic-level hypothesis regarding the nature of the
unknown, as such. Alternatively, perhaps, he fashions an image, an idol, of the thing and gives concrete
form to what until then is merely behavioral compulsion. The unknown first appears, symbolically so to
speak as an independent personality, when it cannot be conceived of in any other fashion, and later
appears as if it were a personality (in evidently metaphoric guise). Evidence for the adoption of
personality by representational or quasi-representational complexes is plentiful. 293 Such complexes
may construct themselves over the course of many centuries, as a consequence of the exploratory and
creative endeavors of many disparate individuals, united within the communicative network of culture.
It is in this manner, over vast stretches of time, that the transpersonal domain of the imagination
becomes populated with spirits. Jung described the space occupied by such spirits as the pleroma (a
gnostic term).294 The pleroma might be described as the subjective world of experience, in remembrance
the episodic world, perhaps, from the perspective of modern memory theory although representations
apparently collectively apprehensible under certain peculiar circumstances [like those of the Virgin Mary,
in Yugoslavia, prior to the devastating Serbian-Bosnian-Muslim war, or those of alien spaceships
(UFOs) during the cold war] also make their home there. The pleroma is the space in which heaven
and hell have their existence; the place where Platos supra-celestial ideals reside, the ground of dream
and fantasy. It appears to have a four-dimensional structure, like that of objective space-time (and of
memory295), but is characterized by a tremendous vagueness with regards to category and temporality. The
spirits which inhabit the pleroma, in its natural condition, are deities undifferentiated mixes of
subject and object, motivational significance and sensory aspect, elaborated into personified representations
by the efforts of many. This is merely to say that a representation is a social construct, with historical (even

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biological) roots like any idea and that the spirit who inhabits the imagination is not necessarily a
figment created by the person who has that imagination. The devil is not the product of the particular
Christian. It is more accurate to note that the figure of the devil or of Christ, for that matter inhabits the
mind of the Christian (and of all Christians), and that such habitation occurs as a consequence of
transpersonal social and historical processes, operating almost completely beyond the realm of individual
control. 296 The child, similarly, can not be said to create the monsters that inhabit his imagination. They
grow there, so to speak, and are then subjectively observed are fed by casual statements on the part
of adults, by action patterns the child observes but cannot explain, by emotions and motivational states that
emerge suddenly and unpredictably, by the fantasies in books, on TV, and in the theater.
Events or experiences that remain beyond the reach of exploration, assimilation and accomodation stay
firmly entrenched in or automatically ascribed to the domain of the unknown, threatening and promising.
The category of all events that cannot yet be categorized can nonetheless be modelled, through metaphoric
application of partially comprehensible yet affect-inducing occurrences, whose emotional relevance in
some way matches that of the unknown. Each of the specific things that signifies danger, for example or,
alternatively, the enhancement of life appears easily associated with every other specific thing,
characterized by the same property, as well as with novelty itself, which produces fear and hope as part of
its (subjectively) intrinsic nature. These experiences appear inter-associated on the basis of the similar
affective or behavioral states they inspire on the basis of the motivational effects they engender, prior to
development of habituation in course of exploratory behavior.297 The archaic limbic system has its own
method of classification, so to speak, experienced privately as emotion or as behavior spontaneously
undertaken manifested outside the realm of conditional abstract culturally-determined presumption.298
Everything novel encountered, avoided because of involuntary or willfully manifested fear or ignorance, is
potentially or actively linked with all that remains outside of individual competence and/or cultural
classification. Everything that produces fear may be subjectively considered one aspect of the same
(subterranean) thing. What is that thing?
The unknown, as such, surrounds all things, but exists only in a hypothetical state, and finds
representation in symbolic form as the uroboros, as we have seen. The disintegration or division of the
uroboros gives rise to all things, including the disorder or unpredictability that is defined in opposition to
what has been explored. This more narrowly defined domain of disorder or unpredictability which is the
unknown, as it is actually experienced (rather than as a hypothetical entity) tends to be portrayed as
something distinctly feminine, as the daughter of the great serpent, as the matrix of all determinate being. It
is useful to regard the Great Mother as the primary agent of the serpent of chaos as the serpents
representative, so to speak, in the profane domain. The serpent of chaos can be seen lurking behind the
Great Mother, as we shall see, and she often adopts reptilian (material) or bird-like (spiritual) features.
This relationship is schematically represented in Figure 32: Novelty, the Great Mother, 299 as Daughter of
the Uroboros. In the incarnation depicted, the Great Mother is Venus, goddess of fertility and love. As the
winged mother bird and matter she is spirit and earth at once; the wings might just as easily be
replaced by the icon of a snake, which would tie her figure more closely to the earth (and to the idea of
transformation). The capsule that surrounds her, for example frequently found enveloping Christ (as son
of the Divine Mother) or Mary (the Divine Mother herself) in late medieval and early Renaissance art is
the mandorla, or vesica pisces, the fishes bladder, which appears to have served as sexual/symbolic
representation of the source of all things since well before written history began.300
The uroboros and the figure of the Great Mother commonly overlap because the chaos comprising the
original state is hard to distinguish from the chaos defined in opposition to established order. Two things
that have no distinguishable features (as is the case for the two domains of chaos) are difficult to separate
from one another. The distinctions between the figures of the uroboros and the Great Mother are just as
important as their similarities, however. An immense difference obtains between the possibility of
something unknown, and an actual unknown (the difference between potential and reality). Eliade provides
an example of a careful attempt to disentangle the categories, drawn from Lao-Tzu:
In another cosmogonic fragment (chap. 25),. the Tao is denominated an undifferentiated and perfect
being, born before Heaven and Earth.... We can consider it the Mother of this world, but I do not know
its name; I will call it Tao; and if it must be named, its name will be: the Immense (ta). The

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undifferentiated and perfect being is interpreted by a commentator of the second century B.C. thus:
the mysterious unity [Hung-tung] of Heaven and Earth chaotically [hun-tun] constitutes [the condition]
of the uncarved block. Hence the Tao is a primordial totality, living and creative but formless and
nameless. That which is nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth. That which has a name is the
Mother of the ten thousand beings....301

Anxiety

Hope

THREAT

PROMISE

NOVELTY

CHAOS

Figure 32: Novelty, the Great Mother
The unknown, as such, is the thing in and of itself. By contrast, the unknown as encountered (by a
determinate subject, in a particular situation) is the matrix of all being the actual source of information
that, once explored and categorized, constitutes cosmos or order (and, for that matter, exploring agent).
Lao-Tzu also says in an attempt to further clarify the situation:
The divinity of the Valley does not die: it is the Obscure Female. The gate of the Obscure Female that
is the origin of Heaven and Earth.302
The unknown appears to be generally conceptualized or symbolically represented as female primarily
because the female genitalia hidden, private, unexplored, productive serve as gateway or portal to
the (divine) unknown world or source of creation, and therefore easily come to stand for that place.
Novelty and femininity share analogical or categorical identity, from this perspective: both constitute a
window, so to speak, into the world beyond. Woman, insofar as she is subject to natural demands, is not
merely a model for nature she is divine nature, in imagination and actuality. She literally embodies the

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matrix of biological being, and provides, as such, an appropriate figure for the metaphoric modelling of the
ground of everything. The female body constitutes the border between normal experience and the totality
from which all forms emerge. Infants come from mothers; this hypothesis, based upon direct observation,
accounts for the provisional source of particular individuals. The origin, per se, partakes of the same
essential ineffable nature partakes of whatever is characteristic of the (experienceable) mother, and of
other identifiable points of origin, which cannot be described or comprehended so easily (such as the caves
where ores grow and mature, or the ground where crops thrive). The matrix of all things is something
feminine, like the mothers of experience; is something with an endlessly fecund and renewed (maternal and
virginal) nature is something that defines fertility and, therefore, femininity itself. Things come from
somewhere; all things have their birthplace. The relationship of man writ large to nature, eternal mother,
endlessly mimics that of the particular child to his personal mother or, to be more accurate, the child and
the mother mimic life and the world.
The unknown as it can be encountered is female; and female, with paradoxical qualities. The Great
and Terrible Mother of All Things promises endlessly; she also threatens, absolutely. The outcome of an
encounter with the unknown which constitutes the necessary precondition for the generation of new
information (for generation of the cosmos and of the experiencing subject) cannot be specified
beforehand; something new might benefit, or destroy. Femininity shares emotional valence with novelty
and threat furthering the utility of the female as metaphoric grist because of the union that exists within
experience between creation of one thing, and destruction and transformation of another.303 The processes
of embryogenesis itself requires that blood change form, as the fetus thrives on the blood of its mother.
The act of birth itself is traumatic, painful, dangerous, and frightening, recapitulating the natural theme of
creation, transformation and destruction. Nourishment is linked integrally with death and terror, even from
the beginning, when the metamorphosis of blood into milk transforms the mother into food for the infant.
Nature is feminine, in addition, because of the isomorphic relationship that exists between childhood
dependency on maternal beneficience and caprice, and adult subjugation to biological reality. Human
infants are prepared, instinctively, to establish relationship with the mother, and to respond with vitality to
manifestation of maternal interest. Every individuals primordial world-experience is experience of mother
who is the world itself, in initial developmental stages (insofar as the world has any motivational
significance, whatsoever). (Indeed, for individuals who are sufficiently stunted in their psychological
development, the world never evolves into anything other than mother.304) Furthermore, the
ontogenesis of the individual, and the mother-child symbiosis, is comparable to the phylogenesis of
humanity, and the relationship of that humanity with or its dependence upon earth and sea. The
archetypal infantile situation, which extends back into time, prior to the establishment of culture itself, is
recapitulated in adulthood, with the maternal object of fear and respect, hope, love and gratitude abstracted
into experience itself.
The threatening aspects of the Great Mother gather metaphoric representation as chimeras of anxietyproducing places, animals, gestures, expressions and things. These elements diverse from the objective
perspective (from the standpoint of the proper set) nonetheless unite to produce an image of the everpresent potential danger inherent in anything unpredictable. The Great Mother unexplored territory is
the dark, the chaos of the night, the insect, ophidian and reptilian worlds, the damaged body, the mask of
anger or terror the entire panoply of fear-inducing experiences, commonly encountered (and imagined) by
Homo sapiens. A dynamic complex of such objects appears as the most subtle and exact representation
imaginable of the unknown something capable, simultaneously, of characterizing the active bite of the
snake, the life of fire, the sting of the scorpion, the trap of the spider the most suitable embodiment of the
manifest desire of natures vital transformative forces, generative of death, dissolution, destruction and
endless creation. Feared experiences, grounded in the inexplicable, acquire representation in fantasy, as
fear-producing spirits. These spirits, clothed in particular anxiety-provoking occurrences, give form to
aspects of experience that otherwise remain inexplicable beyond understanding, from the perspective of
conditional adaptation, action, and abstract thought, but impossible to ignore, from the standpoint of affect.
The personality of such beings constitutes the embodiment of incomprehensible, and often intolerable,
motivational significance comprises representation of the ground of violent emotional experience,
capable of inducing cognitive and behavioral possession, impossible to incorporate into the domain of
normal, culturally-established being. Figure 33: The Spontaneous Personification of Unexplored

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Territory presents one such figure, and its process of development, in comical form.305 Equivalent but more
serious dynamic representations of this type are deities, gods, borne of human experience, possessed of
quasi-objective transpersonal status like the Word manifestations of the unfamiliar, the other, the
unknown, and the unpredictable.

Figure 33: The Spontaneous Personification of Unexplored Territory
What can now be calmly described as an archaic symbol or god from the past may also reasonably be
considered as the manifestation of a primeval independent personality the unified embodiment in
ritual or imagination of some set of phenomena united by their affective or functional equivalence. These
personalities deities, to say it once again have with time lost affective and conceptual relevance, as a
consequence of the constant expansion of human adaptive capacity, and have become broken down into
less complex, more determinate aspects of experience. In their original form, however, these
representational personalities revealed themselves within the creative, compensatory experience of
exceptional individuals, beset by their own incomprehensible (although not purely idiosyncratic) personal
tragedy. Concrete realization of such manifestation transformation into an artistic production or potent
story, for example involuntarily seized the attention of peers, and inspired a sense of fascination and awe.
Centuries-long cultural elaboration of such production gave rise to the elaborated existence of
transpersonal beings, of transcendent power, who inhabited the space defined by the collective
imagination of mankind, and who behaved in accordance with the dictates of their own irrational, myth-

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predicated souls. These representations served as active images, detailing to everyone what was as of yet
explicitly unknown only partially known; pointed the way towards aspects of experience beyond the
grasp of conscious abstract apprehension, but not safe to ignore.
It is no simple manner for the limited subject to formulate an accurate representation of the unlimited
unknown, of nature, the ground of existence. The unknown is the matrix of everything, the source of all
birth and the final place of rest. It hides behind our personal identity and our culture; it constantly
threatens and engenders all that we do, all that we understand, and all that we are. It can never be
eliminated permanently from consideration, since every solution merely provides the breeding place for a
host of new problems. The unknown is Homo sapiens everlasting enemy and greatest friend, constantly
challenging individual facility for adaptation and representation, constantly pushing men and women to
greater depths and more profound heights. The unknown as Nature appears as paradoxical formidable
overwhelming power, applied simultaneously in one direction and its opposite. Hunger, the will to selfpreservation, drives living creatures to devour each other rapaciously, and the hunters have no mercy for
the hunted. Sexuality bends the individual will inexorably and often tragically to the demand of the species,
and existence maintains itself in endless suffering, transformation and death. Life generates and destroys
itself in a pitiless cycle, and the individual remains constantly subject to forces beyond understanding or
control. The desire to exist permeates all that lives, and expresses itself in terrible fashion, in uncontrollable
impulse, in an endless counterpoint of fecundity and decay. The most basic, fundamental and necessary
aspects of experience are at the same time most dangerous and unacceptable.
Empirical (classical) objects are either one thing, or another. Nature, by contrast the great unknown
is one thing and its (affective) opposite at the same time, and in the same place. The novel, primeval
experience was (and remains) much too complex to be gripped, initially, by rational understanding, as
understood in the present day. Mythic imagination, willing to sacrifice discriminatory clarity for
inclusive phenomenological accuracy, provided the necessary developmental bridge. The earliest
embodiments of nature are therefore symbolic combinations of rationally irreconcilable attributes;
monsters, essentially feminine, who represent animal and human, creation and destruction, birth and
cessation of experience. The analytical psychologist Erich Neumann who wrote a definitive,
comprehensive and useful book on the symbolism of the feminine states:
In the early phases of consciousness, the numinosity [that is, the emotional valence] of the archetype
exceeds mans power of representation, so much so that at first no form can be given to it. And when
later the primordial archetype takes form in the imagination of man, its representations are often
monstrous and inhuman. This is the phase of the chimerical creatures composed of different animals or
of animal and man the griffins, sphinxes, harpies, for example and also of such monstrosities as
phallic and bearded mothers. It is only when consciousness learns to look at phenomena from a certain
distance, to react more subtly, to differentiate and distinguish [this is a function of exploration and its
related abstract processes], that the mixture of symbols prevailing in the primordial archetype separates
into the groups of symbols characteristic of a single archetype or of a group of related archetypes; in
short, that they became recognizable.306
The terrible aspects of the primordial Great Mother have been represented, symbolized, in variety of
manners, but her underlying reality and essential ideation remain immediately recognizable. Neumann
states:
These figures are gruesomely alike. Their sheer frightfulness makes us hesitate, whether they represent
a skull, the head of a snake or hippopotamus, a face showing human likeness, or a head consisting of
two stone knives borne by a body pieced together from parts of snakes, panthers, lions, crocodiles, and
human beings. So great is the inhuman, extrahuman, and superhuman quality in this experience of dread
that man can visualize it only through phantoms. But all this and it should not be forgotten is an
image not only of the Feminine but particularly and specifically of the Maternal. For in a profound way
life and birth are always bound up with death and destruction. That is why this Terrible Mother is
Great, and this name is also given to Ta-Urt, the gravid monster, which is hippopotamus and
crocodile, lioness and woman, in one. She too is deadly and protective. There is a frightening likeness to

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Hathor, the good cow goddess, who in the form of a hippopotamus is the goddess of the underworld.
She has a positive aspect, and at the same time she is the goddess of war and death....
In the course of the later307 development of patriarchal values, i.e., of the male deities of the sun and
light, the negative aspect of the Feminine was submerged. Tday it is discernible only as a content of the
primordial age, or of the unconscious. Thus the terrible Ta-Urt, as well as the terrible Hathor, Isis,
Neith,a and others, can be reconstituted from their pictures that have been painted over, but cannot be
viewed directly. Only the monster Am-mit or Aman, which devours the souls condemned at the
judgment of the dead, points by its parallelism to the terrible aspect of Ta-Urt. Am-mit was described as
follows: Her forepart (is that of) crocodiles, her hinderpart (is that of) hippopotamus, and her middle (is
that of a) lion. The feminine, animal-mother character of this many-breasted creature is evident as is
that of the monster wielding the terrible knife, which guards one of the underworld gates through which
the souls of the departed must pass.
Am-mit devours the souls that have not withstood the midnight judgment of the dead in the
underworld. But her role has become subordinate, for the religion of Osiris and Horus with its mysteries
has now promised rebirth and resurrection to all human souls, and not only, as originally, to the soul of
Pharaoh. The certainty of magical success in following the path of the sun, which is communicated to
each man after death by the priests, has overlaid the primordial fear represented by Am-mit. But
originally she was the terrible ancestral spirit of the matriarchal culture, in which the Feminine takes
back what has been born of it just as among the primitive inhabitants of the Melanesian island of
Melekula or in the high culture of Mexico.308
The Terrible Mother challenges and threatens the individual, absolutely. She is goddess of anxiety,
depression, and psychological chaos goddess of the possibility of pain and death. She is horror, insofar as
horror can be imagined, and is the ground of that horror, beyond. She exposes and turns to her advantage
constant mortal vulnerability. She barters, paradoxically, offering continuance of life for sacrificial death.
She demands reconciliation, without offering the certainty of survival. She embodies the potential for
salvation, and the central problem of life; impels the individual, involuntarily, towards further expansion of
consciousness, or induces involuntary contraction, leading to death.309 The Great Mother impels pushes
(with certainty of mortality) and pulls (with possibility of redemption) development of consciousness, and
of self-consciousness. The identity of death with the unknown has permanently and incurably destroyed
any possibility of final habituation to adaptation to, more accurately the world of experience. Man is in
consequence the (incurably) anxious animal:
Thus the womb of the earth becomes the deadly devouring maw of the underworld, and beside the
fecundated womb and the protective cave of earth and mountain gapes the abyss of hell, the dark hole of
the depths, the devouring womb of the grave and death, and darkness without light, of nothingness. For
this woman who generates life and all living things on earth is the same who takes them back into
herself, who pursues her victims and captures them with snare and net. Disease, hunger, hardship, war
above all, are her helpers, and among all peoples the goddesses of war and the hunt express mans
experience of life as a female exacting blood. This Terrible Mother is the hungry earth, which devours
its own children and fattens on their corpses; it is the tiger and the vulture, the vulture and the coffin, the
flesh-eating sarcophagus voraciously licking up the blood seed of men and beasts and, once fecundated
and sated, casting it out again in new birth, hurling it to death, and over and over again to death.310
The terrible feminine has been represented by figures such as the chimera, the sphinx, the griffin, and
the gorgon, which combined and unified the most disparate, yet related, aspects of nature (those aspects
which, individually, intrinsically, inspire terror and deference). Gorgon-like figures and their sisters
appear commonly, throughout the world.311 As the Aztec Coatlicue, whose gruesome headdress was
composed of skulls, the Terrible Mother was goddess of death and dismemberment, object of sacrificial
homage. As Goddess of the Snake, she was sacred in ancient Crete, and worshipped by the Romans. Her
modern equivalents remain extant in Bali and India. Kali, Hindu Goddess portrayed in Figure 34:
Unexplored Territory as Destructive Mother 312 is eight-armed, like a spider, and sits within a web of fire.
Each of her arms bears a tool of creation, or weapon of destruction. She wears a tiara of skulls, has pointed,

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phallic breasts, and aggressive, staring eyes. A snake, symbol of ancient, impersonal power, transformation
and rebirth, is coiled around her waist. She simultaneously devours, and gives birth, to a full-grown man.
Medusa, Greek monster, with her coif of snakes, manifests a visage so terrible that a single exposure turns
strong men to stone paralyzes them, permanently, with fear.

Figure 34: Unexplored Territory as Destructive Mother
This gorgon is a late vestigial remnant, so to speak, of an early goddess, who simultaneously
embodied natures incredible productive fecundity and callous disregard for life. A neuropsychological
description of the brains response to the unexpected such as we presented earlier is one thing; the

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mythological representation is another. Consideration of the figure of the Great and Terrible Mother is
salutary; helps breed understanding of just what it is that our cultures that is, our ritual identification with
the dead protects us from. We are shielded from the terrors of our imagination (and from the things that
breed such terror) by the overlay of familiarity granted by shared frameworks of action and interpretation.
These walls serve their purpose so well that it is easy for us to forget our mortal vulnerability; indeed, we
generated those walls to aid that forgetting. But it is impossible to understand why we are so motivated to
maintain our cultures our beliefs, and associated patterns of action without gazing at and appreciating
the horrible figures generated by our ancestors.
The Great Mother, in her negative guise, is the force that induces the child to cry in the absence of her
parents. She is the branches that claw at the night traveler, in the depths of the forest. She is the terrible
force that motivates the commission of atrocity planned rape and painful slaughter during the waging of
war. She is aggression, without the inhibition of fear and guilt; sexuality in the absence of responsibility,
dominance without compassion, greed without empathy. She is the Freudian id, unconsciousness
contaminated with the unknown and mortal terror, and the flies in the corpse of a kitten. She is everything
that jumps in the night, that scratches and bites, that screeches and howls; she is paralyzing dismay, horror,
and the screams that accompany insanity. The Great Mother aborts children, and is the dead fetus; breeds
pestilence, and is the plague; she makes of the skull something gruesomely compelling, and is all skulls
herself. To unveil her is to risk madness, to gaze over the abyss, to lose the way, to remember the repressed
trauma. She is the molestor of children, the golem, the bogey-man, the monster in the swamp, the rotting
cadaverous zombie who threatens the living. She is progenitor of the devil, the strange son of chaos. She
is the serpent, and Eve, the temptress; she is the femme fatale, the insect in the ointment, the hidden cancer,
the chronic sickness, the plague of locusts, the cause of drought, the poisoned water. She uses erotic
pleasure as bait to keep the world alive and breeding; she is a gothic monster, who feeds on the blood of the
living. She is the water that washes menacingly over the ridge of the crumbling dam; the shark in the
depths, the wide-eyed creature of the deep forests, the cry of the unknown animal, the claws of the grizzly
and the smile of the criminally insane. The Great and Terrible Mother stars in every horror movie, every
black comedy; she lies in wait for the purposefully ignorant like a crocodile waits in the bog. She is the
mystery of life that can never be mastered; she grows ever more menacing with every retreat.
I dreamed I saw my maternal grandmother sitting by the bank of a swimming pool, that was also a river.
In real life, she had been a victim of Alzheimers disease, and had regressed, before her death, to a
semi-conscious state. In the dream, as well, she had lost her capacity for self-control. Her genital region
was exposed, dimly; it had the appearance of a thick mat of hair. She was stroking herself, absentmindedly. She walked over to me, with a handful of pubic hair, compacted into something resembling a
large artists paint-brush. She pushed this at my face. I raised my arm, several times, to deflect her
hand; finally, unwilling to hurt her, or interfere with her any farther, I let her have her way. She stroked
my face with the brush, gently, and said, like a child, isnt is soft? I looked at her ruined face and
said, yes, Grandma, its soft.
Out from behind her stepped an old white bear. It stood to her right, to my left. We were all beside
the pool. The bear was old, like little dogs get old. It could not see very well, and acted miserable and
unpredictably. It started to growl and wave its head at me just like little mean dogs growl and look just
before they bite you. It grabbed my left hand in its jaws. We both fell into the pool, which was by this
time more like a river. I was pushing the bear away with my free hand. I yelled, Dad, what should I
do? I took an axe and hit the bear behind the head, hard, a number of times, killing it. It went limp in
the water. I tried to lift its body onto the bank. Some people came to help me. I yelled, I have to do this
alone! Finally I forced it out of the water. I walked away, down the bank. My father joined me, and put
his arm around my shoulder. I felt exhausted, but satisfied.
The unknown never disappears; it is a permanent constituent element of experience. The ability to represent
the terrible aspects of the unknown allow us to conceptualize what has not yet been encountered, and to
practice adopting the proper attitude towards what we do not understand.
For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.

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I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.313
The positive aspect of the matrix of all being the twin sister of Kali, so to speak stands in marked
contrast to the Terrible Mother. The beneficial unknown is the source of eternal plenitude and comfort. It is
positive femininity, metaphorically speaking, that constitutes the ground for hope itself for the faith and
belief in the essential goodness of things necessary to voluntary maintenance of life and culture. The
beneficial sister has in consequence acquired breadth and depth of metaphoric mythic representation
equivalent to that of the Terrible Mother. The beneficient aspect of the matrix of all things the eternally
fecund virgin (because eternally renewed), the mother of the savior serves as the embodiment of the
helpful source; serves as constant aid to painful travail, tragic suffering, and existential concern.
Redemptive knowledge itself springs from generative encounter with the unknown, from exploration of
aspects of novel things and novel situations; is part of the potential of things, implicit in them, intrinsic to
their nature. This redemptive knowledge is wisdom, knowledge of how to act, generated as a consequence
of proper relationship established with the positive aspect of the unknown, the source of all things:
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for he will find her sitting at his gates.
To fix ones thought on her is perfect understanding,
and he who is vigilant on her account will
soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere
desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
and immortality brings one near to God;
so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom. [Wisdom of Solomon (of the Apocrypha), RSV 6:12-20].
also:
Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.
All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.
I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them;
but I did not know that she was their mother.
I learned without guile and I impart without grudging;
I do not hide her wealth,

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for it is an unfailing treasure for men;
those who get it obtain friendship with God,
commended for the gifts that come from instruction.
May God grant that I speak with judgment
and have thought worthy of what I have received,
for he is the guide even of wisdom
and the corrector of the wise. (Wisdom 7:7-15).
Wisdom may be personified as a spirit who eternally gives; who provides to her adherents unfailing
riches. She is to be valued higher than status or material possessions, as the source of all things. With the
categorical inexactitude characteristic of metaphoric thought and its attendant richness of connotation
the act of valuing this spirit is also Wisdom. So the matrix itself becomes conflated with that is, grouped
into the same category as the attitude that makes of that matrix something beneficial. This conflation
occurs because primal generative capacity characterizes both the source of all things and the
exploratory/hopeful attitudes and actions that make of that source determinate things. We would only
regard the latter the subjective stance as something clearly psychological (as something akin to
wisdom in the modern sense). The former is more likely to be considered external, from our
perspective something beyond subjective intervention. But it is the case that without the appropriate
attitude [Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For
every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
(Matthew 7:7-8)] the unknown is a sterile wasteland.314 Expectation and faith determine the response of
the unknown (as courageous approach eliminates anticipatory anxiety, and exploration makes the
unexpected something valuable). So the indiscriminate categorization characterizing these passages has its
worth.
We are motivated to protect the products of our exploration, our familiar territories, because unexplored
phenomena are intrinsically meaningful, and that meaning is apt to show itself as threat. The probability
that the meaning of unexplored territory will be threat, however, appears to be a function of the interpretive
context within which it makes its appearance. If the unknown is approached voluntarily (which is to say,
as if it is beneficial), then its promising aspect is likely to appear more salient. If the unknown makes its
appearance, despite our desire by contrast then it is likely to appear more purely in its aspect of threat.
This means if we are willing to admit to the existence of those things that we do not understand, those
things are more likely to adopt a positive face. Rejection of the unknown, conversely, increases the
likelihood that it will wear a terrifying visage, when it inevitably manifests itself. It seems to me that this is
one of the essential messages of the New Testament, with its express (although difficult-to-interpret)
insistence that God should be regarded as all-good.
The beneficial aspect of the unknown is something unavailable to the unworthy, something eternal
and pure; something that enters into relationship with those who are willing, from age to age and
something that makes friends of God. She is also something that may be conceptualized using sexual
symbolism: something that may be known, in the biblical sense. Joined with, as with a bride, she
produces all things that are good:
I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,
for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.
For in her there is a spirit that is intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
mobile, clear, unpolluted,
distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,
irresistible,
beneficient, humane,
steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,
all-powerful, overseeing all,
and penetrating through all spirits
that are intelligent and pure and most subtle.
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;

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because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Though she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom.
For she is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.
I loved her and sought her from my youth,
and I desired to take her for my bride,
and I became enamored of her beauty.
She glorifies her noble birth by living with God,
and the Lord of all loves her.
For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God,
and an associate in his works.
If riches are a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?
And if understanding is effective,
who more than she is fashioner of what exists? (Wisdom 7:22-8:6)315
The terrible unknown compels representation; likewise, the beneficial unknown. We are driven to
represent the fact that possibility resides in every uncertain event, that promise beckons from the depths of
every mystery. Transformation, attendant upon the emergence of change, means the death of everything old
and decayed means the death of everything whose continued existence would merely mean additional
suffering on the part of those still striving to succeed. The terrible unknown, which paralyzes when it
appears, is also succour for the suffering, calm for the troubled, peace for the warrior, insight and discovery
for the perplexed and curious is the redemptive jewel in the head of the toad or in the lair of the firebelching dragon. The unknown is the fire, that burns and protects the endlessly mysterious transcendent
object, that simultaneously gives and takes away. The positive aspect of the unknown, incarnated as the
many-breasted Greco-Roman Goddess Diana, or Artemis mistress of the animals is portrayed in Figure
35: Unexplored Territory as Creative Mother.316
Everything that contains, shelters and produces exists as source for the symbolic representation of
occupies the same category as this promising element. Fruit distinctive for its seed-bearing properties,
such as the pomegranate or poppy, provides appropriate motif for gravid containment. The pig stands as
representative of fertility, and the cow the holy beast of India as embodiment of principle of
nourishment. Shellfish stand for generation and fertility because of their vulva-like shape. Inanimate
items such as boxes, sacks, and troughs contain and shelter, while similar objects, such as the bed, the
cradle, and the nest are characterized by protective and therefore maternal function.317 Humanized
representations statuettes of nude goddesses, among the most ancient objects of art known318 appear to
represent fecundity and the productive countenance of nature, in anthropomorphic form. The creation and
subsequent appreciation of such figures perhaps aided individuals and societies in their efforts to clarify the
nature of the human relationship to the protective aspect of existence. Makers of such statuettes placed

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great emphasis on collective, impersonal features of generation, such as breasts, genitals and hips (features
whose functions remain largely outside voluntary control), but devoted little attention to features defining
self-conscious individuality like those of the face. Such figures apparently represented the vessel of life,
and were rendered in the image of woman, whose body generated human life, and nourishment for that life.
The body-vessel represented beneficial nature itself:

Figure 35: Unexplored Territory as Creative Mother
All the basic vital functions occur in this vessel-body schema, whose inside is an unknown. Its
entrance and exit zones are of special significance. Food and drink are put into this unknown vessel,
while in all creative functions, from the elimination of waste and the emission of seed to the giving forth

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of breath and the word, something is born out of it. All body openings eyes, ears, nose, mouth
(navel), rectum, genital zone as well as the skin, have, as places of exchange between inside and
outside, a numinous accent for early man. They are therefore distinguished as ornamental and
protected zones, and in mans artistic self-representation they play a special role as idols.319
The unknown, source of all determinate information, is simultaneously destructive and creative. The
terrible aspect of the Great Mother threatens everything with dissolution. Her positive sister is the
generative aspect of being. Figure 36: The Heavenly Genealogy of the Destructive and Creative
Mothers portrays the relationship between the two discriminable sisters, their derivation from the unified
but ambivalent unknown, and their ultimate descent from the dragon of chaos.

CHAOS

Anxiety

Hope

THREAT

PROMISE

NOVELTY

Figure 36: The Heavenly Genealogy of the Destructive and Creative Mothers
The ability to restrict the appearance of the Terrible Mother, and foster the realization of her
Benevolent Sister (that is, the ability to decrease threat, and maximize promise and satisfaction) might
well be regarded as the secret of successful adaptation. The existence of representations of the twin
aspects of the unknown allowed for practice in adaptation in the face of such representations allowed
for exposure of the individual, in imagination and action, in controlled fashion, to potently constructed
representations of those things that he or she was destined to fear most, was necessarily most vulnerable to,
but which could not be forever avoided. Similar rituals underly every form of successful modern

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psychotherapy. Modern treatment for disorders of anxiety, to take a specific example desensitization
involves exposing an individual, ritualistically, (that is, under circumstances rendered predictable by
authority) to novel or otherwise threatening stimuli (with appropriate reaction modelled by that authority.320
Such desensitization theoretically induces habituation; what is actually happening is that guided
exploration, in the course of behavior therapy, produces re-classification and behavioral adjustment (such
that the once-terrifying thing or once-again-terrifying-thing is turned (back) into something
controllable, familiar, and known). Voluntary exposure additionally teaches the previously-terrified
individual the non-trivial lesson that he or she is capable of facing the place of fear and prevailing. The
process of guided voluntary exposure appears to produce therapeutic benefits even when the thing being
avoided is traumatic321 when it might appear cruel to insist upon exposure and processing, from a
superficially empathic perspective.
The ritual of voluntary exposure fosters mimetic identification with the hero (whether this is explicitly
recognized, or not); teaches the individual that the courageous exploratory spirit can eternally prevail
over threat. It is this mimetic identification and its abstracted equivalents and consequences that account for
the increased general confidence and capabilities that tends to accompany exposure training. The
reclassification and behavioral adjustment, attendant upon therapeutic exposure, places the previously
terrible forces of the unknown back under the dominion of knowledge, into the domain of the known
expands explored territory into chaos places the Great Mother under the strictures of her consort,
culture, the Great Father. This is exploration-predicated creation of the cosmos from the precosmogonic
chaos, and the fostering of implicit identification with the Logos, the creative and redemptive Word.
Analysis of the much more dramatic, very widespread, but metaphorically equivalent phenomena of the
sacrifical ritual a rite whose very existence compelled one insightful author to argue for the essential
insanity of man322 provides additional insight into the nature of the ability to transform threat into
promise. We have already discussed the fact that the valence of an object switches with context of
interpretation. It is knowledge of this idea that allows for comprehension of the meaning of the sacrificial
attitude. The beautiful countenance of the beneficial mother is the face the unknown adopts, when
approached from the proper perspective. Everything unknown is simultaneously horrifying and promising;
it is courage and genius (and the grace of God) that determines which aspect dominates. The uncontrollable
strength, sexuality and bloodlust of the bull is the power which, when domesticated, serves to foster,
protect, and engender the herd. The devastating power of sudden explosive combustion is reliable and
efficient transportation when appropriately harnessed. The gorgon of Nature is helpmistress when
approached by the brave, the honest and the humble.
Primary religious rituals, serving a key adaptive purpose, predicated upon knowledge of proper
approach mechanisms, evolved to suit the space surrounding the primary deity, embodiment of the
unknown. The ubiquitous drama of human sacrifice, (proto)typical of primordial religious practice, enacted
the idea that the essence of man was something to be offered up voluntarily to the ravages of nature
something to be juxtaposed into creative encounter with the terrible unknown. The offering, in ritual, was
often devoured, in reality or symbolically, as aid to embodiment of the immortal human spirit; as aid to
incorporation of the heroic process. Such rituals were abstracted and altered, as they developed with the
nature of the sacrificial entity changing (with constancy of underlying ideation).
As late as 1871, in India for example the festival honouring the Great Mother, in the guise of
Durga323 or Kali, was accompanied by the daily slaughter of twenty buffalo, two hundred and fifty goats,
and two hundred and fifty pigs. The blood-drenched sand in the sacrificial pits was replaced twice a day
removed and buried in the earth to ensure fertility. The slaughter of animals is a relatively late development
from the psychohistorical viewpoint, and is generally preceded by, and stands in place of, the ritual
sacrifice of human victims. The indologist Heinrich Zimmer states:
In her hideous aspect (ghora-rupa) the goddess, as Kali, the dark one, raises the skull full of
seething blood to her lips; her devotional image shows her dressed in blood red, standing in a boat
floating on a sea of blood: in the midst of the life flood, the sacrificial sap, which she requires that she
may, in her gracious manifestation (sundara-murti) as the world mother (jagad-amba), bestow existence
upon new living forms in a process of unceasing procreation, that as world nurse (jagad-dhatri) she may
suckle them at her breasts and give them the food that is full of nourishment (anna-purna). An ancient

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conception, extending back as far as the Stone Age: Nature must at every step be given a helping hand;
even she can accomplish nothing by herself. She is no more self-sufficient than man. Nothing takes
place of itself, either in the cosmos or in human beings. Man must perform clamorous rites in order to
liberate the moon from the clutches of the eclipse, to dispel its demons; and if the sun is to be released
from its winter feebleness and rise ever higher with the rising year, a young girl, symbolizing the sun,
must swing higher and higher into the sky. In order to bear fruit and nurture life, the earth mother
demands to be fertilized and strengthened by potations of blood, the vital fluid.324
The mysterious and seemingly irrational sacrificial ritual actually dramatizes or acts out two critically
important and related ideas: (1) that the essence of man that is, the divine aspect must constantly be
offered up to the unknown, must present itself voluntarily to the destructive/creative power that
constitutes the Great Mother, incarnation of the unpredictable (as we have seen); and (2) that the thing
that is loved best must be destroyed that is, sacrificed in order for the positive aspect of the unknown
to manifest itself.
The former idea is predicated on the notion that the unknown must be encountered, voluntarily, for
new information to be generated, for new behavioral patterns to be constructed; the latter idea is
predicated on the observation that an improper or outdated or otherwise invalid attachment such as the
attachment to an inappropriate pattern of behavior, or behavior-derived belief turns the world into waste,
by interfering with the process of adaptation itself. Rigid, inflexible attachment to inappropriate things of
value indicative of dominance by a pathological hierarchy of values (a dead god) is tantamount to
denial of the hero. Someone miserable and useless in the midst of plenty just for the sake of illustration
is unhappy because of his or her attachments to the wrong things. Unhappiness is frequently the
consequence of immature or rigid thinking a consequence of the overvaluation of phenomena which are
in fact trivial. The neurotic clings to the things that make her unhappy, while devaluing the processes,
opportunities and ideas that would free her, if she adopted them. The sacrifice of the thing loved best to
appease the gods is the embodiment in procedure of the idea that the benevolent aspect of the unknown
will return if the present schema of adaptation (the ruling king) is sufficiently altered (that is, destroyed
and regenerated). An individual stripped of his identification with what he previously valued is
simultaneously someone facing the unknown and is, therefore, someone unconsciously imitating the
hero. The voluntary stripping of such identity makes the supplicant into a new man at least if the
sacrifice was genuine. This is not to say that such ideas cannot degenerate into meaningless, empty and
cruel ritual.
The intimate relationship between clinging to the past, rejection of heroism, and denial of the
unknown is most frequently explicated in narrative form (perhaps because the association is so complex
that it has not yet been made explicit). The following fairy tale a wake-up call, from the psychoanalytic
unconscious may serve as useful exemplar. It occurred spontaneously to me, in a single piece, while I
was trying to help a man I knew, who was undergoing a psychological crisis. His attachment to
unnecessary and superfluous material items was putting his future in serious danger, but he would not
admit this. I wanted to warn him that he would eventually pay a great price for his short-sightedness. He
ignored the story, however with predictable results.
Cock-a-doodle-doo
Once upon a time there was a man who had a long hard journey ahead of him. He was trudging along
the way, over the boulders and through the brushes, when he saw a little shiny gnome with big white teeth
and a black toupee sitting by the side of the road. He was drumming on a log with two white bones, and
humming oddly to himself. The little gnome said,
John why work so hard? Why walk so fast? Who knows if youll ever get there anyway? Come over
here. I have something to show you.
So John walked off the road. He was sick of walking, anyhow, because people kept throwing sticks and
stones at him. The little gnome said,
I have a shiny red jewel I would like to sell you. Cheap. Here it is, and from beneath his cloak he
pulled the biggest ruby that the man had ever seen. It must have weighed a hundred pounds, and it shone
like the sun.

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The gnome said, do you like it? It is an enchanted stone. What will you offer me for it? and the man
said, I dont have much much money. But I will give you everything I have. The gnome looked
displeased, so John added: I could pay some more monthly.
So the gnome accepted: Fair enough! Buy now pay later. Sounds good to me. Im all for the
installment plan.
So the man gave the gnome all his money, and promised to pay the rest later. And the gnome walked
back into the bush by the road, clacking his teeth and giggling and twitching.
The more the man thought about his ruby, and the great deal he got, the happier he became. He started
back on the road, with a light heart, but soon discovered that he couldnt make much progress, because a
hundred pounds was a lot to carry. He said to himself:
Why continue, anyway? I have what I want. Why dont I just stand here, holding my ruby and when
people walk by, they can see how well I have already done!
So he stopped. A little while later, one of his friends came along, and saw him standing there. His friend
said,
John, why dont you come along with me? I have just opened a new business, and I could really use
some help! Come along quick! It will be opening soon!
The man thought that sounded good, but his friend was in a hurry. Besides, couldnt he see the ruby?
How could he speed along beside him? Where would he put his jewel? So he said, thanks, but I have to
take care of my jewel. Maybe Ill see you later.
His friend looked at him like he was crazy but he was trying to get somewhere quick. So he just
shrugged a bit and said,Okay, John. See you later,and he sped on down the road.
A little while later, another friend came by, and he said, John! Nice to see you! I am going back to
school! There are lots of wonderful things to learn! Lots of great things to do! The world is full of unsolved
problems! I could use some company! Would you like to come along? and the man thought that sounded
pretty good but his friend looked like he was in a hurry. Besides, it was tiring, standing beside the road,
holding the jewel, and he needed all the energy he had for that. So he said to his friend thanks, but I have
to take care of my jewel. Isnt it beautiful? Maybe Ill see you later.
His friend looked at him like he was crazy but he was trying to get somewhere quick. So he just
shrugged and said, hope everything goes all right with you. See you later.
Many friends came and went, and the years went by. The jewel got heavier and heavier, but the man got
more and more attached to it. The only thing was, nobody seemed to notice how beautiful it was. People
would rush by, and talk about their plans
and
nobody had a ruby as big
and nobody seemed likely to get a ruby as big
so youd think that someone might have said something
something, at least, like
nice ruby, John. Sure wish I had one like that.
But it never happened.
Then one day someone new came down the road. He was bent over, and he was thin, and his hair was
grey, although he did not look that old. He was carrying a big dirty rock carefully in his arms, and he was
not making much progress.
The strange figure approached, and glanced up at John. Then he grinned, and said,
why are you standing there stupidly, with a big ugly rock in your tired old hands? You look pretty daft.
I bet you wish you had a big ruby, like the one I am carrying! and John thought this poor man is
deluded. He is carrying a rock it is me that has the ruby! so he said, excuse me sir, but you are sadly
mistaken. I am the one with the jewel. I met a little gnome by the side of the road, and he sold it to me. I am
still paying for it although not so very much! You are carrying a rock!
The tired stranger who looked pretty damn annoyed said, I dont know what game you are playing,
mister. You have a rock. I have a jewel. The little gnome you described sold it to me and he said it was
the only one! I have been carrying it for twenty years, and I will never let it go!and John said, but I have
been carrying mine for twenty years, too. It cant be just a rock!
Rock or jewel? On and on they argued.

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Suddenly out stepped the little gnome as if he had never left! Only this time he wasnt so little. He
was bigger, and redder, and menacing, and his laugh sounded like the rattling of chains.
Quit arguing, you two! Ive never seen a sight quite so pathetic. Youre carrying rocks both of you.
And if you ever would have had the sense to put them down for a second or two, you would have seen that!
"Oh well at least you were diligent. And I played a mean trick. I feel bad.
"So Im going to give you what you really deserve. Do you want what you really deserve? and John
and the thin stranger nodded eagerly. Finally, they thought.
You havent seen anything yet. Throw down your rocks!
So John and the thin stranger obeyed. Each rock split down the middle, when it hit the ground. Out
flowed a river of ravenous white worms, which rushed towards the men, and devoured them whole, while
they thrashed about and screamed.
Soon, nothing was left except a leg bone from each. The little gnome picked them up, and walked off
the road. He sat down by a hollow log, and started to drum.
He drummed, and he waited, and he hummed an odd little tune:
A picture of food
feeds the whole hungry clan
the image of good
makes the whole healthy man
Why walk the mile?
Why do the work?
Just smile the smile!
success
after all
is a quirk!
Life isnt real
thats the message I give
Its easy that way
plus
who wants to live?
It is ideas of the necessity of sacrifice that underlie, for example, the well-known but explicitly
incomprehensible ritual of Christian communion (more accurately, the ritual of the Christian communion
serves as the behavioral precursor for these explicit ideas). The Christian hero Christ is the spirit who
offers himself voluntarily to the cross, to the grave, to suffering and death, to the terrible mother. Such a
spirit is, above all, humble which is a very paradoxical term, in this context. Arrogance is belief in
personal omniscience. Heroic humility, set against such arrogance, means recognition of constant personal
error, conjoined with belief in the ability to transcend that error (to face the unknown, and to update fallible
belief, in consequence). Humble therefore means, greater than dogma (as the spirit of man is a higher
power than the laws which govern his behavior). Christs body (represented, in the communion ritual, by
the ever-resurrecting wheaten wafer), is the container of the incarnated spirit of the dying, reborn and
redemptive deity. This body is ritually devoured that is, incorporated to aid the ritual participants in
their identification with Christ, the eternally dying and resurrecting (sun) god. Construction of this awful
ritual meant furtherance of the abstract conceptualization of a permanent structural aspect of (every) human
psyche the heroic aspect, the Word as active, individually doomed, yet mythically eternal, destined to
tragic contact with threat and promise of unknown, yet constant participant in the creative adaptive
redemptive process.
The ritual act of exposure is held simultaneously to placate or minimize the cruel aspect of nature, and to
allow for establishment of contact with the beneficient. From the modern perspective, it might be said
(much more abstractly) that voluntary cautious, careful, exploratory encounter with the threatening and
unknown constitutes the precondition for transformation of that unknown into the promising (or at least the
mundane), as a consequence of shift in behavior or interpretation. We moderns interpret this change in
experience as alteration in subjective state. The pre-experimental mind, less capable of clearly
differentiating subject from object, more concerned with the motivational significance of the experience,

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observes instead that the fear-inducing character of the object has receded (as a consequence of the
courage of the explorer, or the benevolence of the thing in question).
Ritual sacrifice was an early (pre-abstract behavioral) variant of the idea of heroism, of belief in
individual power the acting out of the idea that voluntary exposure to the unknown (or dissolution of the
most favored thing) constituted a necessary precondition (1) for the emergence of the beneficial goddess
and (2) for continued successful adaptation. Incorporation of the sacrificial individual, in actuality (in ritual
cannibalism) or in religious ceremony (in the mass, for example) meant assimilation of the culture-hero;
comprised a preconscious attempt to embody the heroic essence, to fortify the constituent elements of the
community against paralyzing fear of death and darkness to fortify the individual and the social group
against fear of the unknown itself. The sacrificial ritual was acting out of the hero, before such acting out
could be represented in abstraction, in drama, in story. More abstract narrative representation of the target
of the heroic sacrifice then came to portray the emergence of the beneficient goddess, capable of
showering reward upon man, her eternal lover and child.
The spirit forever willing to risk personal (more abstractly, intrapsychic) destruction to gain redemptive
knowledge might be considered the archetypal representative of the adaptive process as such. The preexperimental mind considered traumatic union of this masculine representative with the destructive and
procreative feminine unknown necessary precedent to continual renewal and rebirth of the individual and
community. This is an idea precisely as magnificent as that contained in the Osiris/Horus myth; an idea
which adds additional depth to the brilliant moral hypotheses contained in that myth. The exploratory
hero, divine son of the known and unknown, courageously faces the unknown, unites with it creatively
abandoning all pretence of pre-existent absolute knowledge garners new information, returns to the
community, and revitalizes his tradition. It is to this more complete story that we now turn our attention.
2.3.5. The Divine Son: Images of the Knower, the Exploratory Process
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of
old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9).

The great androgynous dragon of chaos is also the mythic figure who guards a great treasure, hidden in the
depths of a mountain, or who conceals a virgin princess in his lair. He is the fire-breathing winged serpent
of transformation the undescribable union of everything now discriminated, who constantly schemes to
take back what he produced. The Great and Terrible Mother, daughter of chaos, destroys those who
approach her accidentally, incautiously, or with the inappropriate attitude, but showers upon those who love
her (and who act appropriately) all good things. The Great and Terrible Father, son of chaos, gives rise to
sons of his own, but then attempts to crush, or even to devour them: he is precondition for existence, but
impediment to its successful elaboration. What might possibly constitute the appropriate pattern of action
in the face of such permanent and multifarious contradiction?
The fundamental act of creativity in the human realm, in the concrete case, is the construction of a
pattern of behavior which produces emotionally-desirable results in a situation that previously reeked of
unpredictability, danger and promise. Creative acts despite their unique particulars have an eternally
identifiable structure, because they always takes place under the same conditions: what is known is
extracted, eternally, from the unknown. In consequence, it is perpetually possible to derive and re-derive
the central features of the meta-pattern of behavior which always and necessarily means human
advancement. Human beings are curious about the structure and function of everything, not least
themselves; our capacity to tell stories reflects our ability to describe ourselves. It has been said that Freud
merely recapitulated Shakespeare. But it was Freuds genius, despite his manifold errors, to bring what
Shakespeare portrayed dramatically up one level of abstraction, towards the philosophical (or even the
empirical). Freud moved information about behavior from the implicit narrative to the explicit theory (or, at
least, to the more explicit theory). Shakespeare performed a similar maneuver, like all story-tellers, at a
more basic level he abstracted from what was still behavioral, from what had not even yet been
captured effectively in drama.

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During exploration, behavior and representational schema are modified in an experimental fashion, in
the hopes of bringing about by ingenious means whatever outcome is currently envisioned. Such
exploration also produces alteration of the sensory world since that world changes with shift in motor
output and physical locale. Exploration produces transformation in assumption guiding behavior, and in
expectation of behavioral outcome: produces learning in knowing how and knowing what mode. Most
generally, new learning means the application of a new means to the same end, which means that the
pattern of presumptions underlying the internal model of the present and the desired future remain
essentially intact. This form of re-adaptation might be described as normal creativity, and constitutes the
bulk of human thought. However, on rare occasions, ongoing activity (specifically goal-directed or
exploratory) produces more profound and unsettling mismatch. This is more stressful (and more
promising), and necessitates more radical update of modelling necessitates exploration-guided
reprogramming of fundamental behavioral assumption and associated episodic or semantic representation.
Such reprogramming also constitutes creativity but of the revolutionary type, generally associated with
genius. Exploration is therefore creation and recreation of the world. The generation of new information
from contact with the unknown means the construction of experience itself; the destruction of previous
modes of adaptation and representation (previous worlds) means return of explored territory to the
unexplored condition that preceded it, and then its restructuring, in more comprehensive form. This is
encounter with the Great and Terrible Mother, and death and resurrection of the Son and the Father.
A new manner of dealing with (that is, behaving with regards to or classifying) an emergent unknown is
the gift of the hero a gift which demands to be given, which compels communication, either directly (say,
in the form of immediate imitation) or indirectly (in the form of abstract description, or narrative). There is
no real qualitative distinction between transformation of means, and transformation of ends (as we have
seen): what constitutes ends at a lower level of analysis becomes means at a higher level. It follows
that the gift of the hero constitutes normal and revolutionary adaptation, simultaneously normal
adaptation, as schemas of action and representation are extended, such that the unknown is rendered
beneficial; revolution, as the old is restructured, to allow place for the new. This restructuring is equivalent
to the establishment of peace the peace characterizing the mythic paradise, where the lion lays down with
the lamb. Such peace emerges as a consequence of the hierarchical organization of the gods of tradition
under the dominion of the hero. This means that the creative exploratory hero is also peace-maker, in his
complete manifestation:
I dreamed that I was standing in the grassy yard of a stone cathedral, on a bright sunny day. The yard
was unblemished, a large well-kept green expanse. As I stood there, I saw a slab of grass pull back
under the earth, like a sliding door. Underneath the door was a rectangular hole, that was clearly a
grave. I was standing on an ancient graveyard, whose existence had been forgotten. A medieval king,
dressed in solid armor, rose out of the grave, and stood at attention at the head of his burial site. Similar
slabs slid back, one after another, in numerous places. Out of each rose a king, each from a different
period of time.
The kings were all powerful, in their own right. Now, however, they occupied the same territory.
They became concerned that they would fight, and they asked me how this might be prevented. I told
them the meaning of the Christian wedding ceremony a ritual designed to subjugate the two central
participants to the superordinate authority of Christ, the Christian hero, and said that this was the way
to peace.
If all the great kings would bow, voluntarily, to the figure of the hero, there would be no more reason
for war.
Every unmapped territory that is, every place where what to do has not been specified also
constitutes the battleground for ancestral kings. The learned patterns of action and interpretation that vie for
application when a new situation arises can be usefully regarded, metaphorically, as the current
embodiments of adaptive strategies formulated as a consequence of past exploratory behavior as adaptive
strategies invented and constructed by the heroes of the past, unconsciously mimicked and duplicated by
those currently alive. Adaptation to new territory that is, to the unexpected therefore also means
successful mediation of archaic or habitual strategies competing, in the new situation, for dominance over

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behavioral output. Rank-ordering of these warring strategies that is, construction of a context-specific
behavioral dominance-hierarchy (which corresponds to the nested narrative model proposed earlier)
therefore constitutes adaptation, just as much as creation of new situation-specific behaviors or modes of
interpretation (which are inevitably composed, anyway, of bits and pieces of the past). The process of
exploration including its assimilative and accomodative aspects is therefore inevitably entangled with
the process of peace-making. Exploration, in a given situation, can hardly be regarded as complete, until
the tendencies and theories that struggle for predominance in that situation have been organized to make
internal (or externalized) conflict and emotional upheaval cease.
The exploratory hero, mankinds savior, cuts the primordial chaos into pieces, and makes the world;
rescues his dead father from the underworld, and revivifies him; and organizes the nobles occupying his
kingdom into an effective, flexible and dynamic hierarchy. There is no categorical difference between the
individual who explores, and the individual who reconstructs society, as a consequence of that
exploration. The assimilation of new information is an integral part of the exploratory process: an anomaly
has not been processed until the pre-existent interpretive schemas extant prior to its emergence have been
reconfigured to take its presence into account. Every explorer is therefore, by necessity, a revolutionary
and every successful revolutionary is a peacemaker.
We act appropriately before we understand how we act just as children learn to behave, before they
can describe the reasons for their behavior. It is only through the observation of our actions, accumulated
and distilled over the course of centuries, that we come to understand our own motivations come to
understand the patterns of behavior that characterize our cultures (and these are changing as we model
them). Active adaptation precedes abstracted comprehension of the basis for such adaptation. This is
necessarily the case, because we are more complex than we can understand and so is the world to which
we must adjust ourselves.
First we act, then we envision the pattern that constitutes our actions, then we use that pattern to guide
our actions. It is establishment of conscious (declarative) connection between behavior and consequences
of that behavior (which means establishment of a new feedback process) that enables man to abstractly
posit a desired future, to act in such a way as to bring that future about, and to judge the relevance of
emergent phenomena themselves, on the basis of their apparent relevance to that future. This ability
appears to be predicated on some developmental leap at least insofar as the guiding story has become
conscious (or represented in episodic or semantic memory, as opposed to remaining implicitly embedded,
so to speak, in behavior) and appears unlikely to characterize very young children (or animals, for that
matter). Jean Piaget solved the problem of the goal-like behavior in creatures not yet capable of abstract
conceptualization by presuming that goals are initially embedded in sensorimotor reflex operations,
which are instinctive. This essentially means that what is later story is first pattern the pattern, for
example, of the socially-modified behavior that constitutes human being. It is only later, as higher-order
(episodic or semantic) cognitive systems become activated that goals become explicitly imagined (and
that they can be considered, abstractly, before their enaction). So this means that it is possible to act in a
manner that looks as-if it were goal-directed, before goals as such have manifested themselves. Rychlak
describes Piagets observation: Children do not appear to be logicians at birth, conceptually interacting by
constructing schema from the outset. The initial constructions are being done biologically, and only at some
time later does the child schematize the reflexive patterns already underway.325
First comes the action-pattern, guided by instinct, shaped without conscious realization by the
consequences of socially-mediated rewards and punishments (determined in their structure and
locale by the current social mores, products of historical forces). Then comes the capacity to imagine the
end towards which behavior should be directed. Information generated from the observation of behavior
provides the basis for constructing fantasies about such ends. Actions that satisfy emotions have a pattern;
abstraction allows us to represent and duplicate that pattern, as an end. The highest level abstractions
therefore allow us to represent the most universally applicable behavioral pattern: that characterizing the
hero, who (eternally) turns the unknown into something secure and beneficial; who eternally reconstructs
the secure and beneficial, when it has degenerated into tyranny.
The myth of the hero has come to represent the essential nature of human possibility, as manifested in
adaptive behavior, as a consequence of observation and re-representation of such behavior, conducted
cumulatively over the course of thousands of years. The hero myth provides the structure that governs, but

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does not determine, the general course of history; expresses one fundamental preconception, in a thousand
different ways. This idea (analogous in structure to the modern hypothesis, although not explicitly
formulated, nor rationally constructed in the same manner) renders individual creativity socially acceptable,
and provides the precondition for change. The most fundamental presumption of the myth of the hero is
that the nature of human experience can be (should be) improved by voluntary alteration in individual
human attitude and action. This statement the historical hypothesis is an expression of faith in human
possibility itself, and constitutes the truly revolutionary idea of historical man.

Anxiety

Hope

THREAT

PROMISE

NOVELTY

CHAOS

Figure 37: The Exploratory Hero as Son of the Heavenly Mother
All specific adaptive behaviors (which are acts that restrict the destructive or enhance the beneficial
potential of the unknown) follow a general pattern. This pattern which at least produces the results
intended (and therefore desired) inevitably attracts social interest. Interesting or admirable behaviors
engender imitation and description. Such imitation and description might first be of an interesting or
admirable behavior, but is later of the class of interesting and admirable behaviors. The class is then
imitated, as a general guide to specific actions; is re-described, re-distilled, and imitated once again. The
image of the hero, step by step, becomes ever clearer, and ever more broadly applicable. The pattern of
behavior characteristic of the hero that is, voluntary advance in the face of the dangerous and promising
unknown, generation of something of value as a consequence and, simultaneously, dissolution and

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reconstruction of current knowledge, of current morality this behavioral pattern comes to form the kernel
for the good story, cross-culturally. That good story which is what to do, when you no longer know what
to do defines the central pattern of behavior embedded in all genuinely religious systems (furthermore,
provides the basis for the respect due the individual undergirding our conception of natural rights).
Representations of the uroboros, the dragon of chaos, and his daughter, the Great Mother, are symbolic
portrayals of the unknown. Mythological representation of the hero and his cultural construction are, by
contrast, examination and portrayal of who or what it is that knows, and of what it is that is known. The
creative/destructive feminine is the personality manifested in myth by everything unknown, threatening and
promising about and within existence. Myth tends to portray the generative individual consciousness
eternally willing to face this unknown power as masculine, in essence in contradistinction to unconscious,
impersonal, and unpredictable femininity, and in light of its seminal, active, fructifying nature.
The earliest stages of the development of the figure of the hero take the form of mythic
representations of the infant or adolescent, fully or partially dominated by potent maternal force.326 This
infant or adolescent is the specific individual, under the sway of the particular mother, and Homo sapiens,
the species, subject to nature. The generative individual consciousness as eternal son of the virginal
mother is represented in Figure 37: The Exploratory Hero as Son of the Heavenly Mother.327 In his
more mature form, the hero formerly son of the heavenly mother can be portrayed as lover of the
Great Mother [the mother whose body he enters into, in creative (sexual) union to die and reincarnate
(to fertilize and impregnate)]. The Great Mother is the holy prostitute, the whore of Babylon, as well as the
Virgin Mother, a maiden forever renewed, forever young, belonging to all men, but to no one man. Myth
commonly utilizes the (symbolically sexual) motif of heavenly incest the image of devouring or engulfing
encounter, rife with creative potential to represent union with the primordial feminine, to portray act of
creative (or destructive) encounter between the hero and the possibilities of life itself. This is knowledge
as sexual, creative act: the voluntary generative union of consciousness and chaos produces or revives
order and cosmos.

int
e
As gra
ce tio
nt n

Dis

Re

int
De egra
sce tion
nt
An
Inf omal
orm ou
ati s
on
Anxiety

Hope

THREAT

PROMISE

NOVELTY

CHAOS

Figure 38: The Metamythology of the Way, Revisited

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The mythology of the hero, in toto, depicts the development and establishment of a personality capable
of facing the most extreme conditions of existence. The heros quest or journey has been represented in
mythology and ritual in numerous ways, but the manifold representations appear in accordance with the
myth of the way, as previously described: a harmonious community or way of life, predictable and stable in
structure and function, is unexpectedly threatened by the emergence of (previously harnessed) unknown
and dangerous forces. An individual of humble and princely origins rises, by free choice, to counter this
threat. This individual is exposed to great personal trials, and risks or experiences physical and
psychological dissolution. Nonetheless, he overcomes the threat, is magically restored (frequently
improved) and receives a great reward, in consequence. He returns to his community with the reward, and
(re)establishes social order (sometimes after a crisis engendered by his return).
This most fundamental of stories is portrayed schematically in Figure 38: The Metamythology of the
Way, Revisited.328 Chaos breeds novelty, promising and threatening; the hero leaves his community,
voluntarily, to face this chaos. His exploratory/creative act quells the threat embedded in chaos, and frees
what is promising from its grip. Incorporation of this freed promise (this redemptive information)
symbolized by union with the virgin, or discovery of the treasure transforms the hero. His transformed
(enriched) behavior then serves his community as model. The group is therefore transformed and
restabilized in turn.
The ultimate or archetypal representation of the original threatened state is the unselfconscious (but
incomplete) paradise that existed prior to the fall of man. More prosaically, that state is the innocence
and potential of childhood, the glory of the past, the strength of the well-ruled kingdom, the power of the
city, the stability, wealth and happiness of the family. The most primordial threat is the sudden
(re)appearance or discovery of one of the manifestations of the Terrible Mother: a flood, an earthquake, a
war, a monster (some type of dragon), a fish, a whale anything unpredictable or unexpected, that
destroys, devours, traps, engulfs, dismembers, tortures, terrifies, weakens, mystifies, entrances, smothers or
poisons (this is a partial list). The hero, product of divine parentage and miraculous birth, survivor of a
dangerous childhood, faces the Terrible Mother in single combat, and is devoured. He is swallowed by a
great fish, or snake, or whale, and spends time underground, in the dark, in the winter, in the kingdom of
the dead, or in hell; faces a dragon, a gorgon, or witch, or a temptress is inundated by water, by fire, by
storm, by dangerous animals is tormented, buried alive, mesmerized, dismembered, disembowelled and
deluded. He defeats the monster, freeing those who had been previously defeated, and gains or regains a
lost or previously undiscovered object of value, a (virginal) woman or a treasure. Much older, much wiser,
he returns home, transformed in character, bearing what he has gained, and reunites himself triumphantly
with his community, which is much enriched or even utterly transformed by his fortune.329
The battle of the hero is a frequent motif in mythologically-inspired sculpture, drawing and painting. A
representative example is presented in Figure 39: Castle, Hero, Serpent and Virgin: St. George and the
Dragon.330 All of the elements of the meta-myth are portrayed in this drawing: the threatened
community, represented by the walled city or castle; the winged dragon, who has emerged from the
underworld (and whose lair is surrounded by the bones of the dead); the hero, armed with the sword, who
cuts the leviathan into pieces, and makes the world; and the virgin, freed from the dragons clutches, who
represents the benevolent, creative and fruitful aspect of the unknown. [The city is commonly portrayed on
a mountain, in such representations the serpent in a valley, or across a river. The battle takes place at
sundown (when the sun-deity encounters the dragon of the night).331]
Solar myths portray the journey of the hero, utilizing simultaneously the motifs of the dragon-fight and
the night sea-journey. In the typical solar myth, the hero is identified with the sun, bearer of the light of
consciousness, who is devoured nightly by the water-serpent of the West. In the night, he battles terribly
with this monster, and emerges victorious in the morning, rising renewed in the East:
In this sequence of danger, battle, and victory, the light whose significance for consciousness we
have repeatedly stressed is the central symbol of the heros reality. The hero is always a light-bringer
and emissary of the light. At the nethermost point of the night sea journey, when the sun hero journeys
through the underworld and must survive the fight with the dragon, the new sun is kindled at midnight
and the hero conquers the darkness. At this same lowest point of the year Christ is born as the shining
Redeemer, as the light of the year and light of the world, and is worshipped with the Christmas tree at

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the winter solstice. The new light and the victory are symbolized by the illumination of the head,
crowned and decked with an aureole.332

Figure 39: Castle, Hero, Serpent and Virgin: St. George and the Dragon

The Mesopotamian emperor and the Pharaohs of Egypt were solar gods, representatives of the
incarnated sun-deity, eternal victor of the unending battle between order and chaos, light and darkness,
known and unknown. In an allegorical sense, they might be considered the first true individuals at least
from the perspective of the Western historical tradition. The Egyptian people devoted their entire cultural
endeavor to glorification of their rulers motivated, unconsciously, by their participation in (their imitative
identification with) the essential god-stature of the Pharaoh. This idea was developed (abstracted and
generalized) further by the Greeks, who attributed to each male Greek a soul, and taken to its logical
conclusion by the Jews and the Christians, who granted every person absolute and inviolable individual
worth before [or (potential) identity with] God.
The Great Mother is embodiment of the unknown, of the novel. The hero her son and lover, offspring
of the mystical marriage is dramatic (first concrete behavioral, then imitative/imagistic, then verbal)
representation of the pattern of action capable of making creative use of that unknown. The potential for
expression of (and admiration for; representation of) that pattern constitutes a heritable characteristic of the
human psyche, expressed constantly in behavior, during the course of human cultural activity. Containment
of this pattern in dynamic image, in myth, follows centuries of observation, and generation of hypotheses,
regarding the core nature of Homo sapiens the historical animal. The development of such containment
followed a complex path of increasingly abstracted description and re-description of self and other.

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The hero is a pattern of action, designed to make sense of the unknown; he emerges, necessarily,
wherever human beings are successful. Adherence to this central pattern insures that respect for the process
of exploration (and the necessary reconfiguration of belief, attendant upon that process) always remains
superordinate to all other considerations including that of the maintenance of stable belief. This is why
Christ, the defining hero of the Western ethical tradition, is able to say I am the way, the truth, and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6); why adherence to the Eastern way (Tao) extant
on the border between chaos (yin) and order (yang) ensures that the cosmos will continue to endure.
Figure 40: The Process of Exploration and Update, as the Meta-Goal of Existence schematically presents
the highest goal of life, conceptualized from such a perspective: identification with the process of
constructing and updating contingent and environment-specific goals is in this schema given necessary
precedence over identification with any particular, concretized goal. Spirit is thus elevated over dogma so
to speak.

What Should Be:

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

The Hero

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

The Ideal Future

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

Tradition
1

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Should Be:

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
The Ideal Future

What Should Be:
What Is:

The Ideal Future

The Unbearable Present

What Is:

Dis
inte
gr
D
An esc ation
e
Info omalo nt
rm
u
ati s
on

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

Re

The Unbearable Present

int
e
As gra
ce tio
nt n

The Unbearable Present

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

What Is:

What Is:
The Unbearable Present

CHAOS:
The Unknown

What Is:

int
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es gratio
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orm ou
ati s
on

Re

Dis

int
eg
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The Unbearable Present

CHAOS:
The Unknown

Figure 40: The Process of Exploration and Update, as the Meta-Goal of Existence
We use stories to regulate our emotions and govern our behavior; use stories to provide the present we
inhabit with a determinate point of reference the desired future. The optimal desired future is not a
state, however, but a process the (intrinsically compelling) process of mediating between order and chaos;
the process of the incarnation of Logos the word which is the world-creating principle.333 Identification
with this process, rather than with any of its determinate outcomes (that is, with any idols or fixed frames
of reference or ideologies) ensures that emotion will stay optimally regulated and action remain possible

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no matter how the environment shifts, and no matter when. In consequence of such identification,
respect for belief comes to take second place to respect for the process by which belief is generated.
The hero is narrative representation of the individual eternally willing to take creative action, endlessly
capable of originating new behavioral patterns, eternally specialized to render harmless or positively
beneficial something previously threatening or unknown. It is declarative representation of the pattern of
behavior characteristic of the hero that eventually comes to approximate the story of the savior. Behind
every particular (that is, historical) adventurer, explorer, creator, revolutionary and peacemaker lurks the
image of the son of god, who sets his impeccable character against tyranny and the unknown. The
archetypic or ultimate example of the savior is the world redeemer, the Messiah world-creating-andredeeming hero, social revolutionary and great reconciliator. It is the sum total of the activity of the
Messiah, accumulated over the course of time, that constitutes culture, the Great Father, order itself
explored territory, the domain of the known. In the meta-stable society, however, the Father, though
healthy, is subordinate to the Son: all fixed values necessarily remain subject to the pattern of being
represented by the hero. In the City of God that is, the archetypal human kingdom the Messiah
eternally rules.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and
came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages,
should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom
that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).
2.3.6. The Great Father: Images of the Known, or Explored Territory
All particular adaptive behaviors (and interpretive schemas schemas of value) are generated over the
course of time by the eternal pattern of behavior described in mythic language as characteristic of the
archetypal hero, the sun-god. These behaviors and schemas accumulate over the centuries (as a
consequence of imitation and other forms of memory-communication), but do not necessarily agree, so to
speak. Our hard-won adaptive methods struggle for predominance, often violently, within a given
individual, between individuals within societies, and between societies. The problem of organization
therefore arises. How do you arrange your possibilities, once you have originated them or copied them
from someone else? How is it possible to make sense of the historical accretion of knowledge and wisdom?
After all, multiple opportunities for behavioral output exist, in any given situation; furthermore, the
possibility of interpretation makes even the situation mutable. How can competing possibilities the
multiplicity of potential choices be amalgamated into some sort of unity; the kind of unity that makes
mutual coexistence (and mutually beneficial coexistence) possible? How, in brief, is it possible to construct
and maintain a society?
Procedural knowledge, generated in the course of heroic behavior, is not organized and integrated within
the group and the individual as a consequence of simple accumulation. Procedure a, appropriate in
situation one, and procedure b, appropriate in situation two, may clash in mutual violent opposition in
situation three. Under such conditions intrapsychic or interpersonal conflict necessarily emerges. When
such antagonism arises, moral revaluation becomes necessary. As a consequence of such revaluation,
behavioral options are brutally rank-ordered, or, less frequently, entire moral systems are devastated,
reorganized and replaced. This organization and re-organization occurs as the consequence of war, in its
concrete, abstract, intrapsychic and interpersonal variants. In the most basic case, an individual is rendered
subject to an intolerable conflict, as a consequence of the perceived (affective) incompatibility of two or
more apprehended outcomes of a given behavioral procedure. In the purely intrapsychic sphere, such
conflict often emerges when attainment of what is desired presently necessarily interferes with attainment
of what is desired (or avoidance of what is feared) in the future. Permanent satisfactory resolution of such
conflict (between temptation and moral purity, for example) requires the construction of an abstract
moral system, powerful enough to allow what an occurrence signifies for the future to govern reaction to
what it signifies now. Even that construction is, however, necessarily incomplete, when considered only as

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an intrapsychic phenomena. The individual, once capable of coherently integrating competing
motivational demands in the private sphere, nonetheless remains destined for conflict with the other, in the
course of the inevitable transformations of personal experience. This means that the person who has come
to terms with him or herself, at least in principle, is still subject to the affective dysregulation inevitably
produced by interpersonal interaction. It is also the case that such subjugation is actually indicative of
insufficient intrapsychic organization, as many basic needs can only be satisfied through the
cooperation of others.
The problems posed by the future self whose still-potential existence has to be taken into account,
and used to govern action in the present are very similar to those posed by the existence of others, whose
affective responses are equally hypothetical (as they cannot be experienced, directly, but only inferred).
The properly socialized individual has been trained to grant this abstract other (future self and other
person) ontological status equivalent to the experienced self, however has been trained to use the
existence of that other as a guide to proper action and interpretation in the present. This means that for
the social being all individual actions come to evaluated with regards to their likely current and future
consequences, for the self and for the others likely affected. Such evaluation may take place directly that
is, as a matter of conscious deliberation; alternatively, the well-socialized individual may act as if he or
she thought the matter through, by remaining in well-trodden moral pathways (which have been established
under the cumulative historical pressure produced by the necessity of maintaining intrapsychic and social
order). The more-implicit information extant in the latter case is placed there as a consequence of the
exchange of emotional information, attendant upon given action patterns, in the potential absence of
explicit rationale: someone is informed by subtle scornful gesture, for example, that a given (theoretically
pleasurable and even evidently harmless) behavior is just not done which means is regarded by custom
as harmful, to the self and others, in some manner not easily observed but still important. It is such
arbitrary rules that constitute the implicit information coded in societal structure information not
necessarily placed there by rational means, not necessarily comprehended, in any declarative sense;
information nonetheless transmissible and representable in mythology, etc., as a consequence of extendedterm pattern-recognition and analysis.
The stories by which individuals live (which comprise their schemas of interpretation, which guide
their actions, which regulate their emotions) are therefore emergent structures shaped by the necessity of
organizing competing internal biological demands, over variable spans of time, in the presence of others,
faced with the same fate. This similarity of demand (constrained by physiological structure) and context
(constrained by social reality) produces similarity of response. It is this similarity of response, in turn, that
is at the base of the emergent shared moral viewpoint that accounts for cross-cultural similarity in myth.
This means, by the way, that such shared viewpoints refer to something real at least insofar as
emergent properties are granted reality (and most of the things that we regard without question as real are
precisely such emergent properties).
The reactions of a hypothetical first-born child to his or her newborn sibling may serve as concrete
illustration of the interactions between the individual, the interpersonal, and the social. The elder sibling
may be drawn positively to the newborn by natural affiliative tendencies, and curiosity. At the same time,
however, the new arrival may be getting a substantial amount of parental attention, sometimes in preference
to the older child. This shift of parental care often produces frustration, manifested in aggressive behavior,
on the part of the supplanted sibling. The older child will therefore become conflicted, internally, in
consequence of his affection for the new family member, curiosity about its nature, and irritation at the
creatures existence, demands, and influence on the (once) predictable interactions of the familial social
unit. The protective attitude of the parents, who restrict aggression on the part of the elder child, further
complicates things draws the additional requirements of the social unit into the already difficult situation.
How is the child to resolve his conflicts? He must build himself a personality to deal with his new
sibling (must become a proper big brother). This means that he might subordinate his aggression to the
fear, guilt and shame produced by parental adjudication, on behalf of the baby. This will mean that he will
at least act like a human being around the baby, in the direct presence of his parents. He might also learn
to act as if the aggressive reaction motivated by his shift in status is less desirable, in total, than the
affiliative response. His as if stance may easily be bolstered by intelligent shift in interpretation: he may
reasonably gain from his younger sibling some of the attention he is no longer paid by parents at least if

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he is diligent and genuine in his attempts to be friendly. He might also develop some more independent
interests, suitable to his new position as relatively mature family member. In the former, simplest case
(when he subordinates his aggression to fear), the child rank-orders his motivational states, as manifested in
behavior. In the latter, revolutionary situation, the child restructures the implicit presumptions that
originally gave rise to the conflict. Either way, the situation is resolved (re-storied) in the course of what
might reasonably be described as an internal war, accompanied, inevitably, by intense outbursts of pain,
fear and rage. The personality that emerges as a consequence of such a war is, at least in the revolutionary
case, something more like the hero than the personality that existed prior to the change in environmental
circumstances.
The situation of marriage provides an additional illustrative example, relevant to the adult situation. In
marriage, the desire for individual self-expression is necessarily limited by the desire for maintenance of
the intimate interpersonal relationship, and for adoption of the respectable social role that constitutes
such maintenance. The male, bachelor no more, may attempt to carry on his premarital mode of activity,
purely dependent on personal desire and whim, limited by whatever minimal necessary social obligations
he may have acquired previously. Soon he will discover, if he has taken an appropriately assertive partner,
that his (heretofore individualistic) wishes and desires produce conflict in his married life manifested in
interpersonal strife and consequent emotional dysregulation.
The clashes that commonly accompany establishment of a permanent affiliative relationship arise as a
result of the incompatibility of (implicit and explicit) individual moral presumptions and propositions, in
the interpersonal sphere (arise as a result of an interpersonal war of implicit gods). Such clashes may be
resolved in a variety of manners. One partner may, through judicious application of physical or
psychological punishment, render the other impotent, so to speak, and subordinate permanently
frustrated, miserable, anxious and hostile. The marriage may thus lose much of its value, or may dissolve
altogether. This does not constitute a solution merely regression, in the face of emergent anomaly, to
the pre-existent single personality. Alternatively, each partner may determine to take the other into
serious consideration, and re-arrange personal behavior (and emergent value) accordingly. This process
will not occur without capacity to engage in open conflict (to exchange information, realistically speaking)
or without the courage to voluntarily submit to the experience of negative emotion [including anxiety, guilt,
and shame, as previously unconscious (implicit) faults and insufficiencies come to light]. The mythic
subjugation of the partners in a marriage to the higher authority of Christ, the culture-hero, ritually
represented in the Christian marriage ceremony, constitutes symbolic aid to this process.334
Voluntary subordination of the personal wishes of both individuals to the higher moral order embodied
in the action patterns of the Christian savior means agreement, in principle (implicit or explicit) about the
nature of transcendent principles that can be referred to when mediation between incompatible desires and
presuppositions becomes necessary. This means that the personality constituted by the mystical union
of both partners in the marriage is supposed to approximate Christ is supposed to stand as an entity
superordinate to the less complete individuals who compose the married couple. This process of
voluntary subordination to a higher deity parallels the extended transpersonal historical process described
in the Enuma elish, with regards to the ascendance of Marduk. Through conflict (and cooperation), within
the container of the marriage, new moralities are created new patterns of behavior (and assumption and
expectation) manifested and internally represented. This process may be guided to a healthy outcome
through mutual participation in community-sponsored religious ritual. Alternatively, individuals may
succeed, or fail, in isolation.
Motivational states compete for predominance in the present, in the purely subjective and interpersonal
spheres, and also compete across time. What is fear-provoking now may be tolerated because it means less
punishment (or less fear, or more pleasure, or more hope) in the future, insofar as intelligence or custom
can make that judgment; similarly, the social group and the additional pressure it produces is tolerated
because the group comprises the most effective currently imaginable solution to the problem of
adaptation all things considered. This group the current embodiment of human custom is the
consequence of a battle between various ways of being fought across generations.
Although the battle for predominance that characterizes exchange of morally-relevant information can
easily be imagined as a war (and is often fought out, in reality, in the guise of genuine war), it is more
frequently the case that it manifests itself as a struggle between beliefs. In the latter case, it loss of faith,

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rather than life, that determines the outcome of the battle. Human beings can substitute loss of faith for
death partly because they are capable of abstractly constructing their territories (making beliefs out of
them) and of abstractly abandoning those territories, once they are no longer tenable. Animals, less capable
of abstraction, are also able to lose face, rather than life, although they act out this loss, in behavioral
routines, rather than in verbal or imagistic battles (rather than through argument). It is the capacity to
symbolically capitulate and to symbolically destroy that in large part underlies the ability of individual
animals to organize themselves into social groups (which require a hierarchical organization) and to
maintain and update those groups, once established. Much the same can be said for human beings (who
also engage in abstract war, at the procedural level, as well as in real war and argumentation).
Strong ideas produce profound displays of faith or, alternatively put: unshakeable displays of faith
are indicative of the strength of an idea. The strength of an integrative idea, or its pre-abstract procedural
equivalent, might be considered reasonably measured by its capacity to inhibit competing impulses
especially those motivated by fear. Dominance displays in groups of primates and other complex higherorder social animals provide a useful example of this. Most dominance disputes are settled before
escalation into physical aggression. It is the animal most capable of holding its ground in the face of
challenge in spite of threat, regardless of fear who is the likely victor in the case of such a dispute. The
capacity to maintain territorial position when challenged is therefore indicative of the degree to which
intrapsychic state is integrated with regards to current motivation [which means, indicative of how
convinced a given animal is that it can (should) hold its ground]. This integration constitutes power
charisma, in the human realm made most evident in behavioral display. The certainty with which a
position is held (whether it is a territorial position, dominance hierarchy niche, or abstract notion) insofar
as this can be inferred from observable behavior, such as absence of fear constitutes a valid indication
of the potential integrative potency of that position; constitutes an indication of how much the creature who
is holding the position believes in the rightness (justice, goodness) of his or her stance. The integrative
strength of beliefs of this type can be determined, accurately, through challenge (since the capacity to
withstand challenge is dependent upon that strength). This means that the ability of those who hold an idea
to withstand challenge without wavering constitutes one [non-empirical (?)] affective criteria for
determination of the truth of that idea or at least of its intrapsychic utility. Hence the power of the martyr
and the unwillingness of even modern totalitarians to allow their enemies to make public sacrifices of
themselves.
Rank-ordering of behavior in terms of comparative utility is (procedural, episodic or semantic) judgment
rendered upon value. Such judgment constitutes a decision about the nature of good and evil, from the
mythic or narrative viewpoint. Such determinations of value are decisions whose function is organization of
future-oriented present individual behavior, manifested in the (inevitably) social context, in accordance
with the wisdom of past experience. The content of mythically-transmitted behavioral schemas and their
value-predicated arrangements generally remains implicit, outside the domain of descriptive
comprehensibility, because of their exceedingly complex structure, which evolved through the action of
primarily non-declarative evolutionary processes. The emotional upheaval caused by simultaneous
application of non-commensurate behavioral or interpretive strategies provides the impetus for the
organization of those strategies. Such organization emerges as a result of the struggle for dominion,
intrapsychically or interpersonally emerges in consequence of a quasi-Darwinian struggle for survival.
Over the course of centuries, the actions of ancestral heroes, imitated directly and then represented in
myth, become transformed, simplified, streamlined and quickened reduced as it were ever more precisely
to their Platonic forms. Culture is therefore the sum total of surviving historically-determined
hierarchically-arranged behaviors and their second and third-order abstract representations, and more: it is
the integration of these, in the course of endless social and intrapsychic conflict, into a single pattern of
behavior into a single system of morality, simultaneously governing personal conduct, interpersonal
interaction and imagistic/semantic description of such. This pattern is the corporeal ideal of the culture,
its mode of transforming the unbearable present into the desired future, its guiding force, its central
personality. This personality, expressed in behavior, is first embodied in the king or emperor, socially
(where it forms the basis for sovereignty). Abstractly represented imitated, played, ritualized, and
storied it becomes something ever-more psychological. This embodied and represented cultural
character is transmitted through the generations, transmuting in form, but not in essence transmitted by

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direct instruction, through imitation, and as a consequence of the human ability to incorporate personality
features temporarily disembodied in narrative.
The integrative conflict of complex ideas, giving rise to the central character of culture, appears as a
process extending over untold centuries. This process represents itself, in mythology, as the battle of the
gods in heaven, which Eliade has described as the conflict between divine generations.335 Eliade
discusses Hittite/Hurrian and Canaanite mythology (circa 1740-1200 B.C.), and its relationship to similar
myths, in ancient Phoenicia and elsewhere. In the Hittite theogony, the relative sovereignty of the gods was
determined by war conducted between them:
The initial episode, Kingship in Heaven, explains the succession of the first gods. In the beginning,
Alalu was king, and Anu, the most important of the gods, bowed before him and served him. But after
nine years Anu attacked and vanquished him. Then Alalu took refuge in the subterranean world, and
Kumarbi became the new sovereigns servant. Nine years passed, and Kumarbi in his turn attacked Anu.
The latter fled, flying into the sky, but Kumarbi pursued him, caught him by the feet, and threw him to
the ground, after biting his loins. Since he was laughing and rejoicing over his exploit, Anu told him
that he had been impregnated. Kumarbi spat out what was still in his mouth, but a part of Anus virility
entered his body, and he became big with three gods. The rest of the text is badly mutilated, but it is
presumed that Anus children, with Teshub, the storm god leading them, make war on Kumarbi and
dethrone him.336
Eliade continues, drawing upon Philo of Byblos archaic Phoenician History:
the first sovereign [Phoenician] god was Elioun (in Greek, Hypistos, The Most High),
corresponding in the Hurrian/Hittite mythology to Alalu. From his union with Bruth there came into the
world Uranus (corresponding to Anu) and Ge (Gaea). In their turn, these two engendered four sons, the
first of whom, El (or Kronos), corresponds to Kumarbi. As the result of a quarrel with his wife, Uranus
tries to destroy his progeny, but El forges a saw (or lance?) for himself, drives out his father, and
becomes the sovereign. Finally, Baal (representing the fourth generation and corresponding to Teshub
and Zeus) obtains the sovereignty; exceptionally, he obtains it without combat....
It is important to emphasize at once the specialized and at the same time syncretistic character of
this myth, and not only in its Hurrian/Hittite version (in which, besides, there are a number of SumeroAkkadian elements). The Enuma elish 337 likewise presents (1) a series of divine generations, (2) the
battle of the young gods against the old gods, and (3) the victory of Marduk, who thus assumes the
sovereignty....
To sum up: all the myths that recount the conflicts between successive generations of gods for the
conquest of universal sovereignty justify, on the one hand, the exalted position of the last conquering
god and, on the other hand, explain the present structure of the world and the actual condition of
humanity.338
The gods are transpersonal forces instinctive and socially-modified comprising universal elements
of human experience. The organization of these gods, as a consequence of combat, is an abstracted and
poetic description of the manner in which emergent behavioral patterns and interpretive schemas moral
positions, so to speak fight for predominance, and therefore organize themselves, over the course of time.
The manner in which a given society has come to organize its behavioral hierarchies is implicit in its
mode of attributing to, or perceiving value in, objects (which is to say, implicit in its mode of restricting
the meaning manifested by objects to an acceptable range and magnitude). The brutally organized
consequence of the battle of the gods constitutes the tradition that structures the intrapsychic hierarchy of
values, regulates interpersonal interaction, and keeps individual emotion in check (as the consequences of
individual and social behavior, when guided by tradition, remain predictable). A given behavior,
manifested in the absence of another being, does not necessarily produce the same outcome when it plays
itself out in the presence of others. Two children and one toy is not the same situation as one child and one
toy (because, in a sense, the toy is not the same, not from the phenomenological perspective). The
behavioral tendencies of individuals undergo constant modification, in the social situation, because the fact

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of the society in the situation changes the motivational relevance of all the objects in the situation. Two
children with one toy have to come to an agreement, which is mutual modification of behavior, before the
toy can be what it is when encountered alone which is fun, rather than trouble.
The behavioral tendencies of individuals are mimicked action patterns which were originally established
as a consequence of heroic behavior, at some point in the past. The mutual interplay of action patterns in
the social world, however, results in their inevitable modification. Patterns of behavior those motivated
by aggression, for example, or love, or fear have a transpersonal basis, which accounts, in part, for their
personification as gods (or, for their existence as gods, from a more liberal interpretive perspective). It is
the constant clash of these gods that allows for their mutual co-existence, and their social organization. A
number of gods might operate simultaneously in the domain of a disputed toy, for example (in the
unknown territory brought about by the fact of something desirable, but singular, in a social
environment). The god of war (Ares, say, for the sake of argument) might emerge within one child, or
both in which case a fight will ensue. The winner assuming there is one may then be more likely to be
warlike, in the future, in a social situation characterized by ambiguity. The loser might have other thoughts
[may come, for example, to be dominated by Pan(ic) when faced with emergent toy-conflict with a stranger
(may come to cry and withdraw)]. Alternatively, in the optimistic case, one or both children may negotiate
a fair settlement, so both are satisfied, and neither hurt. The negotiation of a fair settlement
presupposes that each child treats the other as an object of value that is, as one who must be taken into
account in the course of behavioral decisions. This taking into account of others is recognition of their
implicit worth their basic human rights as (mythologically-equivalent) community members. Such
recognition is acted out, before it is understood and provides the basis for the organization of societies,
on a basis other than that of strength. Despite the lack of explicit understanding, however, the fact of
negotiation is indicative of identity with the hero (the eternal means to peace) as the hero is divine
peacemaker, in one of his many guises. The emergence of negotiation, during time of dispute, is therefore
both spontaneous incarnation of the savior, and source of information for the derivation of stories about
the nature of the hero (which are useful for future reference).
In the case of children, engaged in a dispute over toys: a parent who (for the sake of argument) allows
the stronger child preferential access to the desired object is making the moral claim that the thing and the
aggressive desire for the thing, which may well be conflated with the thing is something of higher value
than the emotional state or physical well-being of the defeatable other. The parent may also alternatively
require the children engaged in conflict to mediate between their competing demands, without reverting
to might makes right, and to construct for themselves a hierarchy of value governing behavior in the
chaotic situation defined by the mutually-desirable, but singular toy. It is the sum total of such
interactions, conducted in once-unexplored territory, hierarchically organized, that come to compose
culture.
In the case of broader society: the meaning of an object that is, the significance of that object for
emotional regulation and behavioral output is determined by the social consequences of behaviors
undertaken and inferences drawn in its presence. Thus internal motivational forces vie for predominance
under the influence of social control. The valence of erotic advances made by a given woman, for example
which is to say, whether her behavior invokes the goddess of love or the god of fear will depend on
her current position in a given social hierarchy. If she is single, and acting in context, she may be
considered desirable; if she is the presently-somewhat-too-intoxicated wife of a large and dangerous man,
by contrast, she may be placed in the category of something best run away from quickly.
When exploration culminates in punishment for example the exploratory tendency, matched to that
situation, will come under the inhibitory control of fear. When this subordination occurs as a consequence
of the investigation of a natural object, the interpretation would be that something has been learned about
the nature of the world (about that part of it which is dangerous, at any rate). The process is extended
complexly in the social sphere. A motivated pattern of action (even the motivated state itself) may come
under the inhibitory control of fear, because its behavioral expression within the social community results
in social rejection (or other interpersonally-mediated punishment). Thus it could be said that the structure
of the internal motivational state reflects the consequences of behavior undertaken in the nature and social
worlds or, more particularly, that there is an isomorphic relationship between the state of the internal
representation of motivational states and the external, social world. It is for this reason that a political state

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and a psychological state can be in some sense regarded as identical (and why individuals come so easily to
identify with their social groupings).
The culturally determined meaning of an object apprehended, originally, as an aspect of the object is
in fact in large part implicit information about the nature of the current dominance hierarchy, which has
been partially transformed into an abstract hypothesis about the relative value of things (including the self
and others). This is to say who owns what, for example, determines what things signify and who owns
what is dominance-hierarchy dependent. What an object signifies is determined by the value placed upon it,
manifested in terms of the (socially-determined) system of promises, rewards, threats and punishments
associated with exposure to, contact with, and use or misuse of that object. This is in turn determined by the
affective significance of the object (its relevance, or lack thereof, to the attainment of a particular goal), in
combination with its scarcity or prevalence, and the power (or lack thereof) of those who judge its nature.
In keeping with this observation, the existentialist psychotherapist Ludwig Binswanger observes that:
All metamorphoses of the egoistic in social instincts and thus, properly said, all metamorphoses of
evil into good drives and dispositions, occur, according to Freud, under compulsion. Originally, i.e., in
human history [such transformations occurred] only under external compulsion, but they [occurred]
through the bringing into the world of hereditary dispositions for such transformations and also through
their perpetuation and reinforcement during the life of the individual himself. Indeed, this whole
development takes the direction in which external compulsion is introjected, and which, in the case of
the human Super-ego, is completely absorbed. This transformation occurs, as we know, by the
admixture of erotic components: we learn to value being loved as an advantage by virtue of which we
may do without other advantages. Culture is thus attained through the renunciation of instinctual
gratifications and furthered by every new development which serves the purposes of renunciation.
In all this, we stand before the pure specimen of homo natura: bodily instinct, the gaining of pleasure
(sacrificing a lesser for a greater gain), inhibition because of compulsion or pressures from society (the
prototype being the family), a developmental history in the sense of ontogenetic and phylogenetic
transformations of outer into inner compulsions, and the inheritance of these transformations.339
Whether a particular behavioral strategy (planned or exploratory) produces a positive or negative
outcome in a particular situation depends, for social animals, on the nature of the social environment in
which it is manifested. Any given object capable of eliciting behavior is necessarily part of a social
context, among social animals; that social context plays an important role in determining the value of the
object. It is social-determination of value that helps make an object neutral, dangerous, promising, or
satisfying in large part, independently of the objective properties of the item in question. The sociallydetermined affective significance of the object is naturally experienced as an aspect of the object which
is to say that the charisma radiating from an Elvis Presley guitar is part of the guitar. This means that the
meaning of objects in a social context is actually information about the structure of that social context [as
well as part of the object (its magic) from the mythological or narrative perspective].
Identification of the context-dependent meaning of objects in the social environment, which is
determination of the behavioral patterns whose manifestation is appropriate in that situation, means
encounter with cultural structure designed to bring predictability to the ongoing flow of events.
Participation in the processes and representations comprising that structure (that is, adoption of social
identity) means heightened capacity to predict behavior of self and other and, therefore, capacity to
regulate emotion through the ebb and flow of life. Much potential unpredictability remains constrained
by the shared identity constituting culture. This social identity, which is a story about how things are and
how they should be things including the self and the other provides the framework that constrains the
otherwise unbearable a priori motivational significance of the ultimately unknowable experiential object.
The unknown surrounds the individual, like the ocean surrounds an island, and produces affect, compels
behavior, whenever it shows its terrible but promising face. Culture is constructed in spite of (in
cooperation with, in deference to) this omnipresent force, and serves as a barrier, quelling emotion,
providing protection against exposure to the unbearable face of God.
It is the conservative aspect of society that ensures that the past, as presently re-incarnated and
remembered, continues to serve as ultimate source of moral virtue and emotional protection. This

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remembered past is the mythical Father, echoed more abstractly in one person of the Christian Trinity.
The power of the past is given due recognition in the ritual of ancestor worship, for example, which is
motivated by desire to remain in communication with the dead (which is motivated, that is, by desire to
retain the wisdom, protective power and guiding hand of the dead). Such motivation comprised a force
sufficient to give impetus to the construction of megaliths massive stone testaments to the past in a
geographical zone stretching from western and northern Europe, through the Middle East, into Tibet and
Korea, from 4000 B.C. to the present day.340 The megaliths, like the modern necropolis or cemetery, are
cities of the dead, monuments and aid to memory and the continuity of culture. Eliade states:
Megaliths have a relation to certain ideas concerning existence after death. The majority of them are
built in the course of ceremonies intended to defend the soul during its journey into the beyond; but they
also insure an internal postexistence, both to those who raise them during their own lifetime and to those
for whom they are built after death. In addition, megaliths constitute the unrivaled connection between
the living and the dead; they are believed to perpetuate the magical virtues of those who constructed
them or for whom they were constructed, thus insuring the fertility of men, cattle, and harvests.341
also
By virtue of the megalithic constructions, the dead enjoy an exceptional power; however, since
communication with the ancestors is ritually assured, this power can be shared by the living.... What
characterizes the megalithic religions is the fact that the ideas of perenniality and of continuity between
life and death are apprehended through the exaltation of the ancestors as identified, or associated, with
the stones.342
What is cast in stone, so to speak, is remembered and what is remembered (in the absence of
permanent literate means of communication) is the value of culture, the significance of the discoveries of
all those whose exisence preceded the present time. The past, made metaphorically present in the form of
stone, is the mythical ancestor-hero is Osiris, the founder of the community. In traditional communities,
awe-inspired imitation of the actions of that primary personage, modified by time and abstracted
representation, retains primary force (retains potent force, even in revolutionary cultures such as our own).
The action of the pre-experimental man consists of ritual duplication, and simultaneous observation of
taboo action bounded by custom. When such a man endeavors to produce a particular end, he follows an
exemplary pattern. This pattern was established by his ancestral progenitors in a time, subsuming all
time, and in a divine (actually, communitarian-intrapsychic) space. His tradition, after all, is not merely
the force of the past it is that force, as it is exists and is represented in the present. What is remembered
takes on representation as a pattern as that pattern of behavior characteristic of the culture-creating
supernatural beings who lived prior to living recollection. This pattern is traditional behavior, as
established and organized by those who were capable of originating adaptation or, it could be said, as
established and organized by the immortal and central human spirit who constantly battles the fear of death
and creates the conditions that promote life:
... for the man of traditional societies everything significant that is, everything creative and powerful
that has ever happened took place in the beginning, in the Time of myths.
In one sense it could almost be said that for the man of archaic societies history is closed; that it
exhausted itself in the few stupendous events of the beginning. By revealing the different modes of
deep-sea fishing to the Polynesians at the beginning of Time, the mythical Hero exhausted all the
possible forms of that activity at a single stroke; since then, whenever they go fishing, the Polynesians
repeat the exemplary gesture of the mythical Hero, that is, they imitate a transhuman model.
But, properly considered, this history preserved in the myths is closed only in appearance. If the man
of primitive societies had contented himself with forever imitating the few exemplary gestures revealed
by the myths, there would be no explaining the countless innovations he has accepted during the course
of Time. No such thing as an absolutely closed primitive society exists. We know of none that has not
borrowed some cultural elements from outside; none that, as the result of these borrowings, has not
changed at least some aspects of its institutions; none that, in short, has had no history. But, in contrast

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to modern society, primitive societies have accepted all innovations as so many revelations, hence as
having a superhuman origin. The objects or weapons that were borrowed, the behavior patterns and
institutions that were imitated, the myths or beliefs that were assimilated, were believed to be charged
with magico-religious power; indeed, it was for this reason that they had been noticed and the effort
made to acquire them. Nor is this all. These elements were adopted because it was believed that the
Ancestors had received the first cultural revelations from Supernatural Beings. And since traditional
societies have no historical memory in the strict sense, it took only a few generations, sometimes even
less, for a recent innovation to be invested with all the prestige of the primordial revelations.
In the last analysis we could say that, though they are open to history, traditional societies tend to
project every new acquisition into the primordial Time, to telescope all events in the same atemporal
horizon of the mythical beginning.343
The social structure that emerges, over time, as a consequence of the battle of the gods, might be most
accurately likened to a personality (to the personality adopted by all who share the same culture). It is in
fact the personality of the dead heroes of the past (the hero as previously realized,) and is most
frequently symbolized by the figure of the Great Father, simultaneous personification of order and
tyranny. Culture binds nature. The archetypal Great Father protects his children from chaos; holds back
the precosmogonic water from which everything was derived, to which everything will return, and serves
as progenitor of the hero. The protective capacity of benevolent tradition, embodied in the form of political
order, constitutes a common mythological/narrative theme. This may be illustrated for our purposes
through consideration and analysis of a Polish folktale: The Jolly Tailor who became King.344 Nitechka, the
hero of the story, is a simple tailor. He courageously aids a wounded gypsy that is, acts humanely towards
an outsider, a stranger, a personified emissary of chaos. In return, the gypsy provides him with
redemptive information informs him that if he walks westward, he will become king. He acquires a
scarecrow the Count as a companion, and has a number of adventures with him. Finally, the two
travelers arrive at the town of Pacanow, and observe the proceedings there in great astonishment:
All around the town it was sunshiny and pleasant; but over Pacanow the rain poured from the sky as
from a bucket.
I wont go in there, said the Scarecrow, because my hat will get wet.
And even I do not wish to become King of such a wet kingdom, said the Tailor.
Just then the townspeople spied them and rushed toward them, led by the Burgomaster riding on a
shod goat.
Dear Sirs, they said, perhaps you can help us.
And what has happened to you? asked Nitechka.
Deluge and destruction threaten us. Our King died a week ago, and since that time a terrible rain has
come down upon our gorgeous town. We cant even make fires in our houses, because so much water
runs through the chimneys. We will perish, honorable Sirs!
It is too bad, said Nitechka very wisely.
Oh, very bad! And we are most sorry for the late Kings daughter, as the poor thing cant stop crying
and this causes even more water.
That makes it still worse, replied Nitechka, still more wisely.
Help us, help us! continued the Burgomaster. Do you know the immeasurable reward the Princess
promised to the one who stops the rain? She promised to marry him and then he will become King.
The basic plot is established. The tailor he who clothes, mends and ties is the hero. Although simple
(poor in outward appearance, humble, willing to take risks, helpful and kind), he has the capacity to
become King. He journeys to a town threatened by a deluge (by chaos, in the guise of return of the
primordial waters). This deluge began after the recent death of the King. The kings daughter benevolent
(young, beautiful, good) counterpart to the forces of the negative feminine (the unstoppable rain) appears
willing to unite with whoever saves the Kingdom. She represents the potential embedded in voluntarily
confronted chaos (yet is assimilated to her primordial partner, the Great Mother, by her rain-like tears).
Nitechka realizes that he must bring back pleasant weather. He ponders the situation for three long
days. Finally, he is granted a revelation:

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I know where the rain comes from!
Where from?
From the sky. [that is, from heaven]
Eh! grumbled the Scarecrow. I know that too. Surely it doesnt fall from the bottom to the top, but
the other way around.
Yes, said Nitechka, but why does it fall over the town only, and not elsewhere?
Because elsewhere is nice weather.
Youre stupid, Mr. Count, said the Tailor. But tell me, how long has it rained?
They say since the King died.
So you see! Now I know everything! The King was so great and mighty that when he died and went
to Heaven he made a huge hole in the sky.
Oh, oh, true!
The death of the King who is the ritual model for emulation [the figure who brings order or
predictability to interpersonal interaction undertaken among his subjects] means potential dissolution of
security and protection. The Kings death (his return to heaven, or to the kingdom of the dead) is
equivalent to the fracturing of a protective wall. The unknown, from which his subjects were protected,
pours through the breached wall. The kingdom risks inundation:
Through the hole the rain poured and it will pour until the end of the world [emphasis added] if the
hole isnt sewed up!
Count Scarecrow looked at him in amazement.
In all my life I have never seen such a wise Tailor, he said.
Nitechka orders the townspeople to bring all the ladders in the town, to tie them together, and to
lean them against the sky. He ascends the ladder, with a hundred needles, threading one:
Count Scarecrow stayed at the bottom and unwound the spool on which there was a hundred miles of
thread.
When Nitechka got to the very top he saw that there was a huge hole in the sky, as hole as big as the
town. A torn piece of the sky hung down, and through this hole the water poured.
This narrative fragment is particularly interesting, as it is apparent that the water is coming, somehow,
from behind the sky. The sky is utilized in mythology, in general, as a masculine symbol (at least the
day sky) and tends to be assimilated to the same natural category as the king. It appears to be damage to
the general structure of the masculine sky, produced by the death of a specific king, that constitutes the
breach through which precosmogonic material (in the form of water) is able to pour through. The death of
the king and the breach in the sky is equivalent in meaning to the death of Apsu, in the Enuma elish
the death that heralded the re-appearance of Tiamat. In this tale, however, Nitechka repairs the structure of
the sky (an act equivalent to the reconstitution of Osiris), instead of directly battling the dragon of
chaos:
So he went to work and sewed and sewed for two days. His fingers grew stiff and he became very tired
but he did not stop. When he had finished sewing he pressed out the sky with the iron and then,
exhausted, went down the ladders.
Once more the sun shone over Pacanow. Count Scarecrow almost went mad with joy, as did all the
other inhabitants of the town. The Princess wiped her eyes that were almost cried out, and throwing
herself on Nitechkas neck, kissed him affectionately.
The creative union of the hero with the benevolent aspect of the unknown is evidently approaching.
Nitechka was very happy. He looked around, and there were the Burgomaster and Councilmen
bringing him a golden scepter and a gorgeous crown and shouting:
Long live King Nitechka! Long live he! Long live he! And let him be the Princess husband and let
him reign happily!
So the merry little Tailor reigned happily for a long time, and the rain never fell in his kingdom.

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This fairy-tale constitutes a specific example of a more general type of story: that is, the story of the
god who binds.345 The god who binds might be Marduk, who encloses Tiamat in a net given to him by
his father, Anu in which case the binding is clearly benevolent (even world-engendering). Binding may
also be conceptualized as the prerogative of the sovereign, who binds his enemies that is, those who
threaten the stability of the kingdom with cords, ropes and legal strictures. Binding brings order, in short
but too much order can be dangerous. The closing line of The Jolly Tailor informs us that rain never falls
in the newly-established kingdom. While this might sound like a happy ending, to those who have been
recently inundated with water, it isnt so suitable a trick, if it engenders a drought. We may turn to another
literary example, to illustrate this point.
In the famous childrens novel A Wrinkle in Time, a small boy with magical powers becomes inhabited
by a powerful patriarchal extra-terrestrial spirit, while trying to rescue his father from dark powers
threatening the universe. While possessed, this boy Charles Wallace remarks to his sister:
youve got to stop fighting and relax. Relax and be happy. Oh, Meg, if youd just relax youd
realize that all our troubles are over. You dont understand what a wonderful place weve come to. You
see, on this planet everything is in perfect order because everybody has learned to relax, to give in, to
submit. All you have to do is look quietly and steadily into the eyes of our good friend, here, for he is
our friend, dear sister, and he will take you in as he has taken me.346
Everyone who inhabits the state dominated by the good friend behaves in a programmatic, and
identical manner. Anyone who differs is adjusted, painfully, or eliminated. There is no space for disorder
of any type:
Charles Wallaces strange, monotonous voice ground against her ears. Meg, youre supposed to have
some mind. Why do you think we have wars at home? Why do you think people get confused and
unhappy? Because they all live their own, separate, individual lives. Ive been trying to explain to you in
the simplest possible way that [in this state] individuals have been done away with. [here there is]
ONE mind. Its IT. And thats why everybody is so happy and efficient.
Nobody suffers here, Charles intoned. Nobody is ever unhappy.347
The (necessary) meaning-constraint typical of a given culture is a consequence of uniformity of
behavior, imposed by that culture, towards objects and situations. The push towards uniformity is a primary
characteristic of the patriarchal state (as everyone who acts in the same situation-specific manner has
been rendered comfortably predictable). The state becomes increasingly tyrannical, however, as the
pressure for uniformity increases. As the drive towards similarity becomes extreme, everyone becomes the
same person that is, imitation of the past becomes total. All behavioral and conceptual variability is
thereby forced from the body politic. The state then becomes truly static: paralyzed or deadened turned to
stone, in mythological language. Lack of variability in action and ideation renders society and the
individuals who compose it increasingly vulnerable to precipitous environmental transformation (that
is, to an involuntary influx of chaotic changes). It is possible to engender a complete social collapse, by
constantly resisting incremental change. It is in this manner that the gods become displeased with their
creation, man and his willful stupidity and wash away the world. The necessity for interchange of
information between known and unknown means that the state risks its own death by requiring an
excess of uniformity. This risk is commonly given narrative representation as the senescence and frailty of
the old King, or as the Kings mortal illness, brought on by lack of water (which is precosmogonic
chaos, in its positive aspect). Such ideas are well illustrated in the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale The
Water of Life: 348
There once was a king who was so ill that it was thought impossible his life could be saved. He had
three sons, and they were all in great distress on his account, and they went into the castle gardens and
wept at the thought that he must die. An old man came up to them and asked the cause of their grief.
They told him that their father was dying, and nothing could save him.
The old man said, There is only one remedy which I know. It is the Water of Life. If he drinks of it
he will recover, but it is very difficult to find.

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The two eldest sons determine to seek out the Water of Life, one after the other, after gaining their
fathers reluctant permission. They both encounter a dwarf, at the beginning of their journeys, and speak
rudely to him. The dwarf places a curse on them, in consequence of their pride, and they each end up stuck
fast in a mountain gorge.
The youngest son then sets out. He is humble, and has the right attitude towards what he does not
understand. When he encounters the dwarf, therefore who plays out the same role as the Gypsy woman in
The Jolly Tailor he receives some valuable information:
As you have spoken pleasantly to me, and not been haughty like your false brothers, I will help you
and tell you how to find the Water of Life. It flows from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted
castle.349 But you will never get in unless I give you an iron rod and two loaves of bread. With the rod
strike three times on the iron gate of the castle and it will spring open. Inside you will find two lions
with wide-open jaws, but if you throw a loaf to each they will be quiet. Then you must make haste to
fetch the Water of Life before it strikes twelve, or the gates of the castle will close, and you will be shut
in.
The story is making a point: when you dont know where you are going, it is counter-productive to
assume that you know how to get there. This point is a specific example of a more general moral: Arrogant
(prideful) individuals presume they know who and what is important. This makes them too haughty to
pay attention when they are in trouble too haughty, in particular, to attend to those things or people they
habitually hold in contempt. The drying up of the environment or the senescence of the king is a
consequence of a too-rigid too arrogant value hierarchy. (What or who can reasonably be ignored is
as much a part of such a hierarchy as who or what must be attended too.) When trouble arrives, the
traditional value-hierarchy must be revised. This means that the formerly humble and despised may
suddenly hold the secret to continued life350 and that those who refuse to admit to their error, like the
elder brothers, will inevitably encounter trouble). The story continues:
The Prince thanked him, took the rod and the loaves, and set off. When he reached the castle all was
just as the dwarf had said. At the third knock the gates flew open, and when he had pacified the lions
with their loaves, he walked into the castle. In the great hall he found several enchanted princes, and he
took the rings from their fingers. He also took a sword and a loaf which were lying by them.
The enchanted princes might be regarded as equivalent, in an important sense, to Osiris to the
ancestral hero, whose potential lay unutilized in the underworld, after his dismemberment by Seth. The
enchanted princes are ancestral forces, with magical powers (like the dead kings in the churchyard dream
we discussed earlier). The young princes voyage into the enchanted castle is equivalent to a voluntary
descent into the dangerous kingdom of the dead. His encounter with the dead ancestors allows him access
to some of their power (in the guise of their tools and other belongings). The young prince also encounters
the benevolent aspect of the unknown in the underworld, as might well be expected in her typical
personification:
On passing into the next room he found a beautiful maiden, who rejoiced at his coming. She embraced
him and said that he had saved her, and if he would come back in a year she would marry him. She also
told him where to find the fountain with the enchanted water, but she said he must make haste to get out
of the castle before the clock struck twelve.
Then he went on and came to a room where there was a beautiful bed freshly made, and as he was
very tired he thought he would take a little rest. So he lay down and fell asleep. When we woke it was a
quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, and ran to the fountain and took some of the water in a cup
which was lying nearby, and then hurried away. The clock struck just as he reached the iron gate, and it
banged so quickly that it took off a bit of his heel.
He rejoiced at having got some of the Water of Life, and hastened on his homeward journey. He
again passed the dwarf, who said when he saw the sword and the loaf, Those things will be of much
service to you. You will be able to strike down whole armies with the sword, and the loaf will never
come to an end.

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The sword and the loaf are the concrete forms taken by the possibility released during the Princes
heroic journey into the terrible unknown. The sword is a tool which might find its use in the battle with
negative forces. The loaf is magical, in the same manner as the loaves and fishes in the story of Christs
miraculous provendor:
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his
disciples to him, and said to them,
I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to
eat;
and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come
a long way.
And his disciples answered him, How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?
And he asked them, How many loaves have you? They said, Seven.
And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having
given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them
before the crowd.
And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set
before them.
And they ate, and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
And there were about four thousand people.
And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district
of Dalmanutha.
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him.
And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you,
no sign shall be given to this generation.
And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.
Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
And he cautioned them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of
Herod.
And they discussed it with one another, saying, We have no bread.
And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you
not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?
When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take
up? They said to him, Twelve.
And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up? And
they said to him, Seven.
And he said to them, Do you not yet understand? (Mark 8:1-21, RSV)
The hero provides food that never ends.
Back to the story: the dwarf tells the Prince where his brothers can be found warning him that they
have bad hearts, and should be left to their fate. The young Prince seeks them out, nevertheless, rescues
them, and tells them everything that has happened.
Then they rode away together and came to a land where famine and war were raging. The King thought
he would be utterly ruined, so great was the destitution.
The Prince went to him and gave him the loaf, and with it he fed and satisfied his whole kingdom.
The Prince also gave him his sword, and he smote the whole army of his enemies with it, and then he
was able to live in peace and quiet. Then the Prince took back his sword and his loaf, and the three
brothers rode on.
But later they had to pass through two more countries where war and famine were raging, and each
time the Prince gave his sword and his loaf to the King and in this way he saved three kingdoms.

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The tale takes this diversion to help drive home the general utility of what has been rescued from the
enchanted kingdom, where the princess dwells. The treasures released from that kingdom have a
powerful, protective, revitalizing capacity, no matter where they are applied.
The brothers continue homeward, but the older two deceive the younger on the voyage, exchanging the
true Water of Life for salt sea water (the arrogant elder brothers replace the benevolent aspect of the
Great Mother with her destructive counterpart). When he arrives at home, the younger son unwittingly
gives this poisonous water to his father making him sicker. The older brothers then heal the poisoned king
with the genuine but stolen Water, masking their evil souls with the appearance of benevolence, and
arrange to have their unfortunate sibling banished and killed. The huntsman assigned to do the killing
cannot bring himself to do it, however, and allows the young Prince to escape. Then the tide starts to turn.
The previous generous exploits of the young Prince are revealed, and the old King repents:
After a time three wagonloads of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son. They
were sent by the kings who had been saved by the Princes sword and miraculous loaf, and who now
wished to show their gratitude.
Then the old King thought, What if my son really was innocent? And he said to his people, If only
he were still alive! How sorry I am that I ordered him to be killed.
He is still alive, said the huntsman. I could not find it in my heart to carry out your commands.
And he told the King what had taken place.
A load fell from the Kings heart on hearing the good news, and he sent out a great proclamation to
all parts of his kingdom that his son was to come home, where he would be received with great favor.
In the meantime, the Princess is preparing for the return of the prince. She
had caused a road to be made of pure shining gold leading straight to her castle, and told her people
that whoever came riding straight along it would be her true bridegroom, and they were to admit him.
But anyone who came either on one side of the road or the other would not be the right one, and he was
not to be let in.
When the year had almost passed, the eldest Prince thought that he would hurry to the Princess, and
by giving himself out as her deliverer would gain a wife and a kingdom as well. So he rode away, and
when he saw the beautiful golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities to ride upon it, so he
turned aside and rode to the right of it. But when he reached the gate the people told him that he was not
the right bridegroom, and he had to go away.
Soon after the second Prince came, and when he saw the golden road he thought it would be a
thousand pities for his horse to tread upon it, so he turned and rode up on the left of it. But when he
reached the gate he also was told that he was not the true bridegroom, and like his brother was turned
away.
The two elder Princes are too bound up in their traditional thoughts of power, wealth and glory to
concentrate on what is of true importance. Because of their great respect for the gold that makes up the
road, they miss a great opportunity. Their over-arching admiration for material goods blinds them to the
possibility of establishing a relationship with the source of all good things in the guise of the princess
(playing a part similar to that of the Wisdom of Solomon). The youngest son makes no such mistake:
When the year had quite come to an end, the third Prince came out of the wood to ride to his beloved,
and through her to forget all his past sorrows. So on he went, thinking only of her and wishing to be with
her, and he never even saw the golden road. His horse cantered right along the middle of it, and when he
reached the gate it was flung open and the Princess received him joyfully, and called him her deliverer
and the lord of her kingdom. Their marriage was celebrated without delay and with much rejoicing.
When it was over, she told him that his father had called him back and forgiven him. To he went to him
and told him everything: how his brothers had deceived him, and how they had forced him to keep

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silence. The old King wanted to punish them, but they had taken a ship and sailed away over the sea,
and never came back as long as they lived.
The old King is dying for lack of water. He has two elder sons, who could rescue him, but they are narrowminded, traditional, materialistic, selfish and rigid. They lack proper spirit for the quest. The youngest
son a proper hero pays attention to what the sensible ignore, makes a voyage into the unknown, and
brings back what is needed. It is the journey of the hero that revitalizes the king. Osiris languishes in the
underworld regardless of past greatness without Horus.
It was the emergence of the heroic stance, mythically represented by man as equal in divinity to the
unknown or Nature, that provided the precondition for the generation of concrete behavioral adaptations to
the world of experience. Emergence of heroism meant construction of culture: historically-determined
procedural knowledge and communicable description thereof. Construction of culture is creation of the
mythic Great and Terrible Father, tyrant and wise king, as intermediary between the vulnerable individual
and the overwhelming natural world. This Father is the consequence of voluntary heroic action
temporally summed and integrated effect of creative exploratory behavior, constantly engendered and
interpersonally transmitted, in the face of the eternally threatening and promising unknown as well as
progenitor of those who take heroic action. This paradoxical child-and-father-of-the-hero is primarily
personality (procedure) and only secondarily abstracted first and second-order representation thereof
(and is most certainly not cumulative description of the objective world). That this is so can be seen, even
today, when the members of totalitarian cultures such as the modern North Korean collapse into genuine
hysteria as a consequence of the death of their leader, who is embodiment of order and determinate
meaning. Such tendencies are not restricted to those dominated by the totalitarian, either. Frye states:
The function of the king is primarily to represent, for his subjects, the unity of their society in an
individual form. Even yet Elizabeth II can draw crowds wherever she appears, not because there is
anything remarkable about her appearance, but because she dramatizes the metaphor of society as a
single body. Other societies have other figures, but there seems to be a special symbolic eloquence,
even a pathos, about the de jure monarch, whose position has been acquired by the pure accident of
birth, and who has no executive power. At the same time most societies have done away with
monarchical figures; charismatic leaders, dictators, and the like are almost invariably sinister and
regressive; the mystique of royalty that Shakespeares plays take for granted means little to us now; and
theologians talking about the sovereignty of God risk alienating their readers by trying to assimilate
the religious life to the metaphors of a barbaric and outmoded form of social organization. It is natural
that our news media should employ the royal metaphor so incessantly in telling us about what France or
Japan or Mexico is doing, as though they were individual beings. But the same figure was used in my
younger days, to my own great annoyance, to boost the prestige of dictators: Hitler is building roads
across Germany, Mussolini is draining the marshes in Italy, and the like. Those who employed this
figure were often democratic people who simply could not stop themselves from using the royal
metaphor. It seems as though the sovereign may be either the most attractive of icons or the most
dangerous of idols.351
The Great Father is a product of history or, is history itself, insofar as it is acted out and spontaneously
remembered intrapsychically instantiated during the course of socialization, and embedded in the social
interactions and specific object-meanings that make up a given culture. This culturally-determined structure
this inhibitory network, this intrapsychic representative of the social unit provides experiential
phenomena with determinate significance. This determinate significance is restricted meaning reduced
from the general meaning of the unknown, per se, to the particular and not relevance or import added to a
neutral background. The unknown manifests itself in an intrinsically meaningful manner: a manner
composed of threat and promise. The specific meaning of objects discriminated from unknown consists of
restrictions of that general significance (often, of restrictions to zero to irrelevance). Such restriction is,
however, purely conditional, and remains intact only as long as the culturally-determined model of
meaning itself maintains its functional utility (including credibility). Maintains its functional utility
means insofar as the culture posits a reasonable current description, a believable end goal, and a workable

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mode of transforming the former into the latter (workable for the individual, and for the maintenance and
expansion of the culture itself).

Safety

Stultification

TYRANNY

SECURITY

Order

CHAOS

Figure 41: Order, the Great Father, as Son of the Uroboros
Figure 41: Order, the Great Father, as Son of the Uroboros 352 schematically portrays the Great Father
as masculine offspring of precosmogonic chaos; as embodiment of the known, the predictable, the
familiar; as security and tyranny simultaneously. The Great Father is patriarchal society, tradition, pomp
and circumstance, military-industrial complex, and super-ego: demanding, rigid, unjust, dangerous and
necessary. He is ambivalent, in precisely the same manner as the Great Mother, his wife. In the guise of
literal father, he is protection for children, who are too immature and vulnerable to deal with the unknown.
More abstractly, he is the pattern of behavior the father represents, that becomes internalized during
maturation. The Great Father takes the infinite possibility of spirit that the infant represents and forges it
into something limited but actual. He is manner incarnate, ruling all social interactions.
Figure 42: Explored Territory as Orderly, Protective Father 353 presents the Great Father as wise King,
as security. The wise King maintains stability, not because he is afraid of the unknown, but because nothing
new can be built without a strong foundation. He is the adaptive routines, developed by the heroes of the
past, whose adoption by those in the present allows for control and safety. He is a house with doors; a
structure that shelters, but does not stifle; a master who teaches and disciplines but does not indoctrinate or
crush. He represents the tradition fostering cooperation among people whose shared culture makes trust
easy among people whose immediate familiarity banishes the fear normally produced by the other. The

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Great Father as Wise King keeps one foot on the Terrible Mother keeps the monsters of chaos locked up
in his dungeon or banished to the nether regions of the kingdom. He is the personality of dead heroes (that
is, the action patterns and hierarchies of value established through exploration in the past) organized
according to the principle of respect for the intrinsic value of the living or, it might be said. This makes
him the King who takes advice from his subjects who is willing to enter into creative interchange with
those he dominates, legally and to benefit from this advice from the unworthy.

Figure 42: Explored Territory as Orderly, Protective Father

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Knowledge of the necessity for such interplay between strong and weak emerged into explicit
Western consciousness not least through the actions of the ancient Hebrew prophets. The philosopher of
religion Huston Smith draws two examples from the Bible, to illustrate this point:
One is the story of Naboth who, because he refused to turn over his family vineyard to King Ahab, was
framed on false charges of blasphemy and subversion and then stoned; as blasphemy was a capital
crime, his property then reverted to the throne. When news of this travesty reached Elijah, the word of
the Lord came to him, saying,
[Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of
Naboth, where he has gone to take possession.
And you shall say to him, Thus says the LORD, Have you killed, and also taken possession? and
you shall say to him, Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth
shall dogs lick your own blood. (1 Kings 21:18:19 RSV)]
The story carries revolutionary significance for human history, for it is the story of how someone
without official position took the side of a wronged man and denounced a king to his face on grounds of
injustice. One will search the annals of history in vain for its parallel. Elijah was not a priest. He had no
formal authority for the terrible judgment he delivered. The normal pattern of the day would have called
for him to be struck down by bodyguards on the spot. But the fact that he was speaking for an
authority not his own was so transparent that the king accepted Elijahs pronouncement as just.
The same striking sequence recurred in the incident of David and Bathsheba. From the top of his roof
David glimpsed Bathsheba bathing and wanted her. There was an obstacle, however: she was married.
To the royalty of those days this was a small matter; David simply moved to get rid of her husband.
Uriah was ordered to the front lines, carrying instructions that he be placed in the thick of the fighting
and support withdrawn so he would be killed. Everything went as planned; indeed, the procedure
seemed routine until Nathan the prophet got wind of it. Sensing immediately that the thing that David
had done displeased the Lord, he went straight to the king, who had absolute power over his life, and
said to him:
[Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the
hand of Saul;
and I gave you your masters house, and your masters wives into your bosom, and gave you the house
of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.
Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah
the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of
the Ammonites.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have
taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.
Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take
your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the
sight of this sun.
For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, The LORD also
has put away your sin; you shall not die.
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you
shall die. (2 Samuel 12:7-14)]
The surprising point in each of these accounts is not what the kings do, for they were merely
exercising the universally accepted prerogatives of royalty in their day. The revolutionary and
unprecedented fact is the way the prophets challenged their actions.354
Smith concludes:

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Stated abstractly, the Prophetic Principle can be put as follows: The prerequisite of political stability is
social justice, for it is in the nature of things that injustice will not endure. Stated theologically, this
point reads: God has high standards. Divinity will not put up forever with exploitation, corruption and
mediocrity.355
The initially undeclarable constraint of respect for the weaker provides the precondition for the
emergence of abstract and statable principles of social justice. Societies that lack such constraint or that
come, over time, to forget the necessity of such constraint risk the vengeance of God:
Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.
So I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth, and Moab shall die
amid uproar, amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;
I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and will slay all its princes with him, says the LORD.
Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led
them astray, after which their fathers walked.
So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.
Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes
they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a
man and his father go in to the same maiden, so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar upon garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their
God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.
Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and who was
as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath.
Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the
land of the Amorite.
And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not
indeed so, O people of Israel? says the LORD.
But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, `You shall not
prophesy.
Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.
Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save
his life;
he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he
who rides the horse save his life; and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in
that day, says the LORD. (Amos 2:1-16 RSV)
Such societies are tyrannical. Tyrannical societies violate the implicit principles upon which society itself
is founded. This renders them self-defeating.356
Figure 43: Explored Territory as Tyrannical Father 357 presents the forces of tradition as sondevouring King. The conservative tendency of any culture, striving to maintain itself, can easily transform
into the deadening weight of absolute authority. The Great Father as tyrant destroys what he once was, and
undermines what he still depends upon. The tyrant is the force of everything that has been including
everything that once was good against everything that could be. This is the aspect of the Great Father that
motivates adolescent rebellion; that gives rise to ideological narratives attributing to society everything that
produces the negative in man. It is the Tyrannical Father who consumes his own children, and who walls
up the virgin princess in an inaccessible place. The Tyrannical Father rules absolutely, while the kingdom
withers or becomes paralyzed; his decrepitude and age are matched only by his arrogance, inflexibility, and
blindness to evil. He is the personification of the authoritarian or totalitarian state, whose goal is
reduction of all who are currently living to manifestation of a single dead past personality. When
everyone is the same, everything is predictable; all things are of strictly determinable value, and everything

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unknown (and fear-provoking) is hidden from view. Unfortunately, of course, every unpredictable and fearprovoking thing is also informative, and new information is vital to continued successful adjustment.

Figure 43: Explored Territory as Tyrannical Father
The Great Father in his dual guise is the taboo, the barrier set up against the intrusion of the dangerously
unpredictable, the floodgate that controls the ocean behind. He is protection for fools, and impediment to
genius, and precondition for genius, and punishment for fools. His ambivalence is unavoidable, and should
be recognized, for such recognition serves as effective antidote to naive ideologically-motivated utopian
thought. Anything that protects and fosters (and that is therefore predictable and powerful) necessarily has

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the capacity to smother and oppress (and may manifest those capacities, unpredictably, in any given
situation). No static political utopia is therefore possible, in consequence and the kingdom of god remains
spiritual, not worldly. Recognition of the essentially ambivalent nature of the predictable stultifying, but
secure means discarding simplistic theories which attribute the existence of human suffering and evil
purely to the state, or which presume that the state is all that is good, and that the individual should exist
merely as subordinate or slave. The king is a wall. Walls provide a barrier to the sudden influx of the
unknown, and block progress forward. One function presupposes the other (although either may certainly
come to dominate). Figure 44: The Heavenly Genealogy of the Tyrannical and Protective Fathers
portrays the relationship between the two discriminable aspects of the known, their derivation from the
unified but ambivalent known, and their original descent from the dragon of chaos.

CHAOS

Safety

Stultification

TYRANNY

SECURITY

Order

Figure 44: The Heavenly Genealogy of the Tyrannical and Protective Fathers
The Great Father is order, vs chaos; the past, vs the present; the old, vs the young. He is the ancestral
spirit whose force extends beyond the grave, who must be kept at bay with potent and humble ritual. He is
the single personality composed of the consequences of the eternal war between all the great heroes of the
past, and he stands over the developing individual, in the guise of the actual father, like a god. The Great
Father is the old emperor, now dangerously out of date a powerful warrior in his youth, now under the
spell of a hostile force. He is the eternal impediment to the virgin bride; the tyrannical father who wishes to
keep his fruitful daughter firmly under his control. He is the authoritarian who rules the land ravaged by
drought; is ruler of the castle in which everything has been brought to a standstill.

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The Great Father is protection and necessary aid to growth but absolute identification with his
personality and force ultimately destroys the spirit. Culture, career and role do not sufficiently exhaust the
possibilities of the individual. Figure 45 therefore portrays The Exploratory Hero scion of chaos and
order as Son of the Great Father. 358

Stultification

Safety

TYRANNY

SECURITY

Order

CHAOS

The Exploratory Hero as Son of the Great Father

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CHAPTER 3: APPRENTICESHIP AND ENCULTURATION: ADOPTION OF A SHARED MAP
Ideologies may be regarded as incomplete myths as partial stories, whose compelling nature is a
consequence of the appropriation of mythological ideas. The philosophy attributing individual evil to the
pathology of social force constitutes one such partial story. Although society, the Great Father, has a
tyrannical aspect, he also shelters, protects, trains and disciplines the developing individual and places
necessary constraints on his thought, emotion and behavior.
Subjugation to lawful authority might more reasonably be considered in light of the metaphor of the
apprenticeship. Childhood dependency must be replaced by group membership, prior to the development of
full maturity. Such membership provides society with another individual to utilize as a tool, and provides
the maturing but still vulnerable individual with necessary protection (with a group-fostered identity).
The capacity to abide by social rules, regardless of the specifics of the discipline, can therefore be
regarded as a necessary transitional stage in the movement from childhood to adulthood.
Discipline should therefore be regarded as a skill that may be developed through adherence to strict
ritual, or by immersion within a strict belief system or hierarchy of values. Once such discipline has been
attained, it may escape the bounds of its developmental precursor. It is in this manner that true freedom is
attained. It is at this level of analysis that all genuine religious and cultural traditions and dogmas are
equivalent, regardless of content: they are all masters whose service may culminate in the development of
self-mastery, and consequent transcendence of tradition and dogma.
Adoption of this analytic standpoint allows for a certain moral relativism, conjoined with an absolutist
higher-order morality. The particulars of a disciplinary system may be somewhat unimportant. The fact
that adherence to such a system is necessary, however, cannot be disregarded.
Apprenticeship is necessary, but should not on that account be glamorized. Dogmatic systems make
harsh and unreasonable masters. Systems of belief and moral action and those who are identified with
them are concerned above all with self-maintenance and preservation of predictability and order. The
(necessarily) conservative tendencies of great systems makes them tyrannical, and more than willing to
crush the spirit of those they serve. Apprenticeship is a precursor to freedom, however and nothing
necessary and worthwhile is without its danger.

We are all familiar with the story of benevolent nature, threatened by the rapacious forces of the corrupt
individual and the society of the machine. The plot is solid, the characters believable but Mother Nature
is also malarial mosquitoes, parasitical worms, cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The story of
peaceful and orderly tradition, undermined by the incautious and decadent (with the ever-present threat of
chaos lurking in the background) is also familiar, and compelling, and true except that the forces of
tradition, however protective, tend to be blind, and to concern themselves more with their own stability
than with the well-being of those subject to them.
We have all heard and identified with the story of the brave pioneer, additionally plough in hand,
determined to wrest the good life and the stable state from the intransigent forces of nature although we
may be sporadically aware that the intransigent forces shaped so heroically included the now-decimated
original inhabitants of our once-foreign landscape.
We all know, finally, the story of the benevolent individual, genuine and innocent, denied access to the
nourishing forces of the true and natural world, corrupted by the unreasonable strictures of society. This
story has its adherents, as well not least because it is reassuring to believe that everything bad stems
from without, rather than within.
These stories are all ideologies (and there are many more of them). Ideologies are attractive, not least to
the educated modern mind credulous, despite its skepticism particularly if those who embody or
otherwise promote them allow the listener every opportunity to identify with the creative and positive
characters of the story, and to deny their association with the negative. Ideologies are also powerful, and
dangerous. Their power stems from their incomplete but effective appropriation of mythological ideas.

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Their danger stems from their attractiveness, in combination with their incompleteness. Ideologies only tell
part of the story and they tell that part as if it were complete. This means that they do not take into
account vast stretches of the world. It is incautious to act in the world, as if only a set of its constituent
elements exist. The ignored elements conspire, so to speak, as a consequence of their repression and
make their existence known, inevitably, in some undesirable manner.
Knowledge of the grammar of mythology might well constitute an antidote to ideological gullibility.
Genuine myths are capable of representing the totality of conflicting forces, operating in any given
situation. Every positive force has its omnipresent and eternal enemy. The beneficial aspect of the
natural environment is therefore viewed in light of its capacity to arbitrarily inflict suffering and death.
The protective and sheltering capacity of society is therefore understood in light of its potent tendency to
tyranny and the elimination of necessary diversity. The heroic aspect of the individual is regarded in light
of the ever-lurking figure of the adversary: arrogant, cowardly, and cruel. A story accounting for all of
these constituent elements of reality is balanced, and stable, in contrast to an ideology and far less
likely to produce an outburst of social psychopathology. But the forces that make up the world as a forum
for action constantly war in opposition. How is it possible to lay a path between them, so to speak to
configure a mode of being that takes all things into account, without being destroyed in the process? A
developmental account of the relationship between the forces of the individual, society and chaos might
aid in the comprehension of their proper interplay.
I counselled an immature thirty-something-year-old man at one point during my service as a
psychological intern. He was always working at cross-purposes to himself, placing obstacles in his path and
then tripping over them. (This was the literal truth, upon occasion. He was living with his mother, after the
failure of his marriage. I suggested that he start cleaning up his life, by cleaning up his room which is a
more difficult step than might be casually presupposed, for someone habitually and philosophically
undisciplined. He placed a vacuum cleaner in the doorway of his bedroom, after getting about half-way
through the task. For a week he had to step over it but he didnt move it, and he didnt finish the job. That
situation could reasonably be regarded as a polysemic sample of his life). This person had sought help
because his disintegrated marriage had produced a son, who he loved (or at least wanted to love). He came
to therapy because he didnt want his child to grow up badly, as he had. I tried to scare him into behaving
properly, because I believed (and believe) that terror is a great and underutilized motivator. (Anxiety
which is ineradicable can work against you, or for you). We spent a long time outlining, in great detail,
the consequences of his undisciplined behavior, to that point in his life (no successful career, no intimate
relationship, an infant son thrust into a broken family) and the likely long-term future results (increasing
self-disgust, cynicism about life, increased cruelty and revenge-seeking, hopelessness and despair). We also
discussed the necessity for discipline that is, for adherence to a coherent and difficult moral code for
himself and for his son.
Of course, he worried that any attempt on his part to shape the behavior of his son would interfere with
the natural development and flowering of the childs innate potential. So it might be said, using Jungs
terminology, that he was an unconscious exponent, 359 for example, of the philosophy of Rousseau:
With what simplicity I should have demonstrated that man is by nature good, and that only our
institutions have made him bad!360
That is the Rousseau who repeatedly placed his own children in foundling asylums, because their
existence was inconvenient to him (and, we must presuppose, to the flowering of his intrinsic goodness).
Anyway the fervent hope of every undisciplined person (even an undisciplined genius) is that his current
worthlessness and stupidity is someone elses fault. If in the best of cases it is societys fault, then
society can be made to pay. This sleight-of-hand maneuver transforms the undisciplined into the admirable
rebel, at least in his own eyes, and allows him to seek unjustified revenge in the disguise of the
revolutionary hero. A more sickening and self-serving parody of heroic behavior can hardly be imagined.
One time my client came to me with a dream:
My son was asleep in his crib inside a small house. Lightning came in through his window, and bounced
around inside the house. The lightning was powerful, and beautiful, but I was afraid it would burn the
house down.

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Dream interpretation is a difficult and uncertain business, but I believed that this image was interpretable,
within the context of our ongoing discussions. The lightning represented the potential implicit in the infant.
This potential was an exceedingly strong and useful force like electricity. But electricity is only useful
when harnessed. Otherwise it burns down houses.
I cant say much about the outcome of this particular case, as internship contact with those seeking
psychological help tends to be restricted in time. My client seemed, at least, more negatively affected by his
immature behavior which struck me as a reasonable start; furthermore, he understood (at least explicitly,
although not yet procedurally) that discipline could be the father of the hero, and not just his enemy. The
dawning of such understanding meant the beginnings of a mature and healthy philosophy of life, on his
part. Such a philosophy was outlined in explicit detail by Friedrich Nietzsche despite his theoretically
antidogmatic stance.
Nietzsche has been casually regarded as a great enemy of Christianity. I believe, however, that he was
consciously salutary in that role. When the structure of an institution has become corrupt particularly
according to its own principles it is the act of a friend to criticize it. Nietzsche is also viewed as fervid
individualist and social revolutionary as the prophet of the superman, and the ultimate destroyer of
tradition. He was, however, much more sophisticated and complex than that. He viewed the intolerable
discipline of the Christian church, which he despised, as a necessary and admirable precondition to the
freedom of the European spirit a freedom he regarded as not yet fully realized:
Every morality is, as opposed to laisser aller, a bit of tyranny against nature; also against reason;
but this in itself is no objection, as long as we do not have some other morality which permits us to
decree that every kind of tyranny and unreason is impermissible. What is essential and inestimable in
every morality is that it constitutes a long compulsion: to understand Stoicism or Port-Royal or
Puritanism, one should recall the compulsion under which every language so far has achieved strength
and freedom the metrical compulsion of rhyme and rhythm.
How much trouble the poets and orators of all peoples have taken not excepting a few prose writers
today in whose ear there dwells an inexorable conscience for the sake of some foolishness, as
utilitarian dolts say, feeling smart submitting abjectly to capricious laws, as anarchists say, feeling
free, even free-spirited. But the curious fact is that all there is or has been on earth of freedom,
subtlety, boldness, dance, and masterly sureness, whether in thought itself or in government, or in
rhetoric and persuasion, in the arts just as in ethics, has developed only owing to the tyranny of such
capricious laws; and in all seriousness, the probability is by no means small that precisely this is
nature and natural and not that laisser aller.
Every artist knows how far from any feeling of letting himself go his most natural state is the free
ordering, placing, disposing, giving form in the moment of inspiration and how strictly and subtly he
obeys thousandforld laws precisely then, laws that precisely on account of their hardness and
determination defy all formulation through concepts (even the firmest concept is, compared with them,
not free of fluctuation, multiplicity and ambiguity).
What is essential in heaven and on earth seems to be, to say it once more, that there should be
obedience over a long period of time and in a single direction: given that, something always develops,
and has developed, for whose sake it is worth while to live on earth; for example, virtue, art, music,
dance, reason, spirituality something transfiguring, subtle, mad, and divine. The long unfreedom of the
spirit, the mistrustful constraint in the communicability of thoughts, the discipline thinkers imposed on
themselves to think within the directions laid down by a church or court, or under Aristotelian
presuppositions, the long spiritual will to interpret all events under a Christian schema and to rediscover
and justify the Christian god in every accident all this, however forced, capricious, hard, gruesom, and
antirational, has shown itself to be the means through which the European spirit has been trained to
strength, ruthless curiosity, and subtle mobility, though admittedly in the process an irreplaceable
amount of strength and spirit had to be crushed, stifled, and ruined (for here, as everywhere, nature
manifests herself as she is, in all her prodigal and indifferent magnificence, which is outrageous but
noble).

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That for thousands of years European thinkers thought merely in order to prove something today,
conversely, we suspect every thinker who wants to prove something that the conclusions that ought
to be the result of their most rigorous reflection were always settled from the start, just as it used to be
with Asiatic astrology, and still is today with the innocuous Christian-moral interpretation of our most
intimate personal experiences for the glory of God and for the salvation of the soul this tyranny,
this caprice, this rigorous and grandiose stupidity has educated the spirit. Slavery is, as it seems, both in
the cruder and in the more subtle sense, the indispensable means of spiritual discipline and cultivation,
too. Consider any morality with this in mind: what there is in it of nature teaches hatred of the laisser
aller, of any all-too-great freedom, and implants the need for limited horizons and the nearest tasks
teaching the narrowing of our perspective, and thus in a certain sense stupidity, as a condition of life and
growth.
You shall obey someone and for a long time: else you will perish and lose the last respect for
yourself this appears to me to be the categorical imperative of nature which, to be sure, is neither
categorical as the old Kant would have it (hence the else) nor addressed to the individual (what do
individuals matter to her?), but to peoples, races, ages, classes but above all to the whole human
animal, to man.361
This is the philosophy of apprenticeship useful for conceptualizing the necessary relationship between
subordination to a potent historically-constructed social institution and the eventual development of true
freedom.
A child cannot live on its own. Alone, it drowns in possibility. The unknown supersedes individual
adaptive capacity, in the beginning. It is only the transmission of historically determined behavioral
patterns and, secondarily, their concomitant descriptions that enables survival in youth. These patterns
of behavior and hierarchies of value which children mimic and then learn expressly give secure
structure to uncertain being. It is the group, initially in parental guise, that stands between the child and
certain psychological catastrophe. The depression, anxiety and physical breakdown that is characteristic of
early childhood separation from parents is the result of exposure to too much unknown and incorporation
of too little cultural structure. The long period of human dependency must be met with the provision of a
stable social environment with predictable social interactions, which meet individual motivational
demands; with the provision of behavioral patterns and schemas of value capable of transforming the
unpredictable and frightening unknown into its beneficial equivalent. This means that transformation of
childhood dependency means adoption of ritual behavior (even regular meal-and-bed-times are rituals) and
incorporation of a morality (a framework of reference) with an inevitably-metaphysical foundation.
Successful transition from childhood to adolescence means identification with the group, rather than
continued dependency upon the parents. Identification with the group provides the individual with an
alternative, generalized, non-parental source of protection from the unknown, and provides the group with
the resources of another soul. The group constitutes a historically-validated pattern of adaptation (specific
behaviors, descriptions of behavior, and general descriptions). The individuals identification with this
pattern strengthens him when he needs to separate from his parents, and take a step towards adulthood
and strengthens the group, insofar as it now has access to his individual abilities. The individuals
identification with this pattern bolsters his still-maturing ability to stand on his own two feet supports his
determination to move away from the all-encompassing and too-secure maternal-dependent world.
Identity with the group therefore comes to replace recourse to parental authority as way of being in the
face of the unknown provides structure for social relationships (with self and others), determines the
meaning of objects, provides desirable end as ideal, and establishes acceptable procedure (acceptable mode
for the attainment of earthly paradise).
Personal identification with the group means socialization, individual embodiment of the valuations of
the group primarily, as expressed in behavior. Group values constitute cumulative historical judgment
rendered on the relative importance of particular states of motivation, with due regard for intensity, as
expressed in individual action, in the social context. All societies are composed of individuals whose
actions constitute embodiment of the creative past. That creative past can be conceptualized as the
synthesis of all culture-creating exploratory communicative activity, including the act of synthesis itself.

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Myth comprises description of procedural knowledge; constitutes episodic/semantic representation of
cumulative behavioral wisdom, in increasingly abstracted form. Introduction of the previously-dependent
individual at adolescence to the world of ancestral behavior and myth constitutes transmission of culture
inculcation of the Great Father, historically-determined personality and representation of such as
adaptation to, explanation of, and protection against the unknown, the Great and Terrible Mother. This
introduction reaches its culmination with initiation, the primary ritual signifying cultural transmission the
event which destroys the unconscious union between child and biological mother.
The child is born in a state of abject dependence. The caring mother is simultaneously individual force,
and embodiment of impersonal biological beneficience is the eternal mythic Virgin mother, material
consort of God. The infant comes equipped with the ability to respond to this innately nurturing presence,
to develop a symbiotic relationship with his or her caregiver, and to grow increasingly strong. The
maturation of creative exploratory capacity which constitutes the basis for mature self-reliance appears
dependent for its proper genesis upon the manifestation of maternal solicitude: upon love, balanced
promotion of individual ability, and protection from harm. Tender touch and care seduces the infant to life,
to expansion of independence, to potential for individual strength and ability.362 The absence of such regard
means failure to thrive means depression and intrapsychic damage, even death.363
The maturing individual necessarily (tragically, heroically) expands past the domain of paradisaic
maternal protection, in the course of development; necessarily attains an apprehension whose desire for
danger, whose need for life, exceeds the capability of maternal shelter. This means that the growing child
eventually comes to face problems how to get along with peers, in peer-only play groups; how to select a
mate, from among a myriad of potential mates that cannot be solved (indeed, may be made more
difficult) by involvement of the beneficial maternal. Such problems might be regarded as emergent
consequences of the process of maturation itself; of the increased possibility for action and comprehension
necessarily attendant upon maturation. A four-year old, making the transition to kindergarten, cannot use
three-year old habits and schemas of representation to make his way in the novel social world. A thirteenyear old cannot use a seven-year old personality no matter how healthy to solve the problems
endemic to adolescence. The group steps in most evidently, at the point of adolescence and provides
permeable protective shelter to the child too old for the mother, but not old enough to stand alone. The
universally disseminated rituals of initiation induced spiritual death and subsequent rebirth catalyzes
the development of adult personality; follows the fundamental pattern of the cyclic, circular cosmogonic
myth. The culturally-determined rites and biological processes associated with initiation constitute absolute
destruction of childhood personality, of childhood dependence initial non-self-conscious paradisal
stability for necessary catalysis of group identification. Such rituals tend to be more complex and farreaching for males than for females. This is perhaps in part because male development seems more easily
led astray, in a socially-harmful manner, than female (adolescent males are more delinquent and
aggressive364) and in part because female transition to adulthood is catalyzed by nature in the form of
comparatively rapid maturation and the naturally dramatic onset of menstruation.
The group to which the initiate is introduced consists of a complex interweaving of behavioral patterns
established and subsequently organized in the past, as a consequence of voluntary creative communicative
exploration. The group is the current expression of a pattern of behavior developed over the course of
hundreds of thousands of years. This pattern is constructed of behaviors established initially by creative
heroes by individuals who were able and willing to do and to think something that no one had been able
to do or to think before. Integration of these behaviors into a stable hierarchy, and abstract representation of
them, in the course of a process beginning with imitation, and ending in semantic description, produces a
procedural and declarable structure whose incorporation dramatically increases the individuals behavioral
repertoire and his or her descriptive, predictive and representational ability. This incorporation which is
primarily implicit, and therefore invisible is identification with the group. Identification with the group
means the provision of determinate meaning, as the antidote to excruciating ignorance and exposure to
chaos.
A multitude of (specific) rituals have evolved to catalyze such identification. Catalysis often appears
necessary, as the movement to adolescence is vitally important, but psychologically challenging, involving
as it does voluntary sacrifice of childhood dependency [which is a valid form of adaptation, but
predicated upon (nondeclarative) assumptions suitable only to the childhood state]. Such transitional rituals

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are generally predicated upon enaction of the fundamental narrative structure the Way previously
presented. Ritual initiation, for example a ubiquitous formal feature of pre-experimental culture 365
takes place at or about the onset of puberty, when it is critical for further psychological development and
continued tribal security that boys transcend their dependency upon their mothers. This separation often
takes place under purposefully frightening and violent conditions. In the general initation pattern, the men,
acting as a unit (as the embodiment of social history 366), separate the initiates from their mothers who
offer a certain amount of more-or-less dramatized resistance, and some genuine sorrow (at the death of
their children).
The boys know that they are to be introduced to some monstrous power who exists in the night, in the
forest or cave, in the depths of the unknown. This power, capable of devouring them, serves as the
mysterious deity of the initiation. Once removed from their mothers, the boys begin their ritual. This
generally involves some mixture of induced regression of personality reduction to the state of
precosmogonic chaos, extant even prior to earliest childhood and induction of overwhelming fear,
accompanied by severe physical or spiritual hardship or torture. The initiates are often forbidden to talk,
and may be fed by the men. They may be circumcised, mutilated, or interred alive required to undergo
intense punishment, subjected to intense dread. They symbolically pass into the maw of the Terrible
Mother and are reborn as men, as adult members of the tribe, which is the historical cumulation of the
consequences of adaptive behavior. (Initiates often actually pass, literally, through the body of some
constructed beast, aided by the elders of the tribe, who serve as the agents of this deity367). When the rite is
successfully completed, the initiated are no longer children, dependent upon the arbitrary beneficience of
nature in the guise of their mothers but are members of the tribe of men, active standard-bearers of their
particular culture, who have had their previously personality destroyed, so to speak, by fire who have
successfully faced the worst trial they are likely ever to encounter in their lives.
The terror induced by ritual exposure to the forces of the unknown appears to put the brain into a state
characterized by enhanced suggestibility or, at least, by dramatically heightened need for order, by need
for coherent and meaningful narrative. The person who is in a state where he know longer knows what to
do or what to expect is highly motivated to escape that state, by whatever means are necessary. The
stripping away of a former mode of adaptation, engendered by dramatic shift of social locale (of context),
produces within the psyche of those so treated a state of acute apprehension, and intense desire for the reestablishment of predictability and sense. This acute apprehension is, as we have seen, the consequence of
the renovelization of the environment: sufficient challenge posed to the integrity of a previous
personality disrupts its structure, freeing phenomena previously adapted to from the grasp of familiar
action and valuation. The phenomena, thus free, then once again possess sufficient energy to
motivate their reconceptualization (that is, to make of that process of reconceptualization something
sufficient vital and important to stamp itself into memory into permanent incarnation as personality).
The ritually reduced and terrified initiates, unable to rely on the adaptive strategies utilized during
their childhood, desperately need new explanations and new patterns of behavior to survive in what is, after
all, a new environment. That new environment is the society of men, where women are sexual partners and
equals instead of source of dependent comfort; where the provision of food and shelter is a responsibility,
and not a given; where security final authority, in the form of parent no longer exists. As the childhood
personality is destroyed, the adult personality a manifestation of transmitted culture is inculcated. The
general initiatory narrative or ritual is presented schematically in Figure 46: The Death and
Rebirth of the Adolescent Initiate.
The comparatively more abstracted rite of baptism is predicated upon similar principles. Baptism is the
dramatic or episodic representation of the act or ritual of initiation or, at least, stands mid-way between
the entirely unconscious or procedural forms of initiation and their semantically abstracted symbolic
equivalents. Baptism is spiritual birth (rebirth), as opposed to birth of the flesh. The font of the church,
which contains the baptismal water, is a symbolic analog of the uterus368 (the uterus ecclesiastiae), which is
the original place that transforms precosmogonic chaos into spirit-embodied matter (into personality).
When the initiate is plunged into (now sprinkled with) baptismal water, he or she is symbolically reduced,
from insufficient stability to chaos; is drowned as a profane being, and then resurrected; is re-united
(incestuously, mythically speaking) with the Great Mother, then reborn formally into the community of the
spirit.369 Such abstracted reductions to death and symbolic reconstructions constitute ritualization and

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representation of the processes endlessly necessary to revitalization of the individual personality and the
social group. Eliade states:

CHAOS

Figure 46: The Death and Rebirth of the Adolescent Initiate
The majority of initiatory ordeals more or less clearly imply a ritual death followed by resurrection or a
new birth. The central moment of every initiation is represented by the ceremony symbolizing the death
of the novice and his return to the fellowship of the living. But he returns to life a new man, assuming
another mode of being. Initiatory death signifies the end at once of childhood, of ignorance, and of the
profane condition....
All the rites of rebirth or resurrection, and the symbols that they imply, indicate that the novice has
attained to another mode of existence, inaccessible to those who have not undergone the initiatory
ordeals, who have not tasted death. We must note this characteristic of the archaic mentality: the belief
that a state cannot be changed without first being annihilated in the present instance, without the
childs dying to childhood. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this obsession with
beginnings, which, in sum, is the obsession with the absolute beginning, the cosmogony. For a thing to
be well done, it must be done as it was the first time. But the first time, the thing this class of objects,

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this animal, this particular behavior did not exist: when, in the beginning, this object, this animal, this
institution, came into existence, it was as if, through the power of the Gods, being arose from nonbeing.
Initiatory death is indispensable for the beginning of spiritual life. Its function must be understood in
relation to what it prepares: birth to a higher mode of being.... [I]nitiatory death is often symbolized, for
example, by darkness, by cosmic night, by the telluric womb, the hut, the belly of a monster. All these
images express regression to a preformal state, to a latent mode of being (complementary to the
precosmogonic Chaos), rather than total annihilation (in the sense in which, for example, a member of
the modern societies conceives death). These images and symbols of ritual death are inextricably
connected with germination, with embryology; they already indicate a new life in course of
preparation....
For archaic thought, then, man is made he does not make himself all by himself. It is the old
initiates, the spiritual masters, who make him. But these masters apply what was revealed to them at the
beginning of Time by Supernatural Beings. They are only the representatives of these Beings; indeed, in
many cases, they incarnate them. This is as much as to say that in order to become a man, it is necessary
to resemble a mythical model.370
Groups are individuals, uniform in their acceptance of a collective historically-determined behavioral
pattern and schema of value. Internalization of this pattern, and the description thereof (the myths and
philosophies, in more abstracted cultures which accompany it), simultaneously produces ability to act in a
given (social) environment, to predict the outcomes of such action, and to determine the meaning of general
events (meaning inextricably associated with behavioral outcome). Such internalization culminates in the
erection of implicit procedural and explicit declarable structures of personality, which are more or less
isomorphic in nature, which simultaneously constitute habit and moral knowledge. Habit, the former case,
is a way of being, a general strategy for redemption in the natural and cultural spheres, shaped by the
social exchange of affect-laden information, mastered to the point of unconscious automaticity. Moral
knowledge wisdom, the latter case is fixed representation of the (previously) unknown; is generation
of capacity to predict the behavior of objects, other people and the self. The sum total of accurate
behaviorally-linked representation of the world as forum for action constitutes the structure which reduces
the manifold meaning of the experiential plenum to a restricted and therefore manageable domain. This
manifold meaning is anxiety, on first contact (or under uncontrolled, overwhelming or involuntary
conditions of exposure) anxiety, which would otherwise be generated in response to everything.
Interference with adolescent initiation-catalyzed group incarnation is therefore disruption of or failure to
(re)generate the structure providing for respite from unbearable existential anxiety.
A society works to the degree that it provides its members with the capacity to predict and control the
events in their experiential field works, insofar as it provides a barrier, protection from the unknown or
unexpected. Culture provides a ritual model for behavioral emulation, and heuristics for desire and
prediction provides active procedures for behavior in the social and non-social worlds, plus description of
processes in the social and non-social worlds, including behavioral processes. Incorporation of culture
therefore means fixed adaptation to the unknown; means, simultaneously, inhibition of novelty-induced
fear, regulation of interpersonal behavior, and provision of redemptive mode of being. The group is the
historical structure that humanity has erected between the individual and the terrible unknown. Intrapsychic
representation of culture establishment of group identity protects individuals from overwhelming fear
of their own experience; from contact with the a priori meaning of things and situations. This is the
intercession of the mythic Great Father against the terrible world of the Great Mother. This intercession is
provision of a specific goal-schema, allowing for the transformation of the vagaries of individual
experience into positive events, within a social context, in the presence of protection against the unbearable
unknown.
This historically-determined cultural structure is constructed of courageously engineered and creatively
integrated responses to situations that arise typically in the course of human experience, arranged in terms
of their relative importance, organized simultaneously to minimize intrapsychic motivational and external
interpersonal conflict, and to allow for continued adaptation. This (primarily non-verbal) sociallytransmitted structure of assumption, expectation and behavior is very stable, under most circumstances. It

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has seen everything, and done everything, so to speak, and cannot be easily undermined. In most situations,
it efficiently governs social interaction, general expectation, and organization of goal-directed behavior. In
its implicit imitative, dramatic, narrative form, it is exceptionally durable, and highly resistant to nave
social revolution.371 However, such stability is only advantageous in stable times. Under exceptional
circumstances when the environment shifts rapidly, for reasons independent of or dependent upon human
activity the historical personality must be altered, or even qualitatively reconfigured, to allow equally
rapid adaptation to take place. This process of re-arrangement is necessarily predicated upon disruption
(death) of the old order. Dissolution of the old order means (potential) return of the determinate meaning of
experiential objects to their pre-classified state of chaos simultaneously unbearably threatening and,
secondarily, infinitely promising. Apprehension of the inevitability of such dissolution however vague
constitutes one potent barrier to the process of creative re-adaptation.
The historical structure protects itself and its structure in two related manners. First, it inhibits
intrinsically rewarding but anti-social behaviors (those which might upset the stability of the group
culture) by associating them with certain punishment (or at least with the threat thereof). This punishment
might include actual application of undesirable penalties or, more subtly removal of right to serve as
recognized representative of the social structure. This means, in the latter case, forced individual forfeit of
identification with (imitation of, internalization of) said social structure (at least for the once-socialized),
and induction of overwhelming guilt or anxiety, as a consequence of goal loss, value dissolution, and
subsequent re-exposure to the novelty of decontextualized experience. It is the potential for such an
affectively-unbearable state that comprises the power of banishment, which can be used consciously by
societies to punish wrongdoers, or that can be experienced as a self-induced state, by individuals careless,
arrogant or ignorant enough to kill what supports them. 372
The culturally-determined historical structure protects and maintains itself secondly by actively
promoting individual participation in behavioral strategies that satisfy individual demand, and that
simultaneously increase the stability of the group. The socially-constructed way of a profession, for
example, allows the individual who incarnates that profession opportunity for meaningful activity in a
manner that supports or at least does not undermine the stability of the historically-determined structure
which regulates the function of his or her threat-response system. Adoption of a socially sanctioned
professional personality therefore provides the initiated-and-identified individual with peer-approved
opportunity for intrinsic goal-derived pleasure, and with relative freedom from punishment, shame and
guilt. Potentially upsetting competition between socially-sanctified ways of being, within a given social
group, is also subject to cultural minimization. Each of the many professions whose union comprises a
functioning complex society is the consequence of the heroic past activities which established the
profession, modified by the equally heroic activities that allowed for its maintenance and update (in the
presence of other competing activities and ever-changing environmental demand). Lawyer and
physician, for example, are two embodied ideologies, nested within more complex overarching narrative
schemas, whose domains of activity, knowledge and competence have been delimited, one against the
other, until both can occupy the same territory, without emergence of destructive and counterproductive
conflict. This is the organization of dead kings, so to speak, under the dominion of the hero: doctors
and lawyers are both subject to higher-order (legal) principles which govern their behavior such that one
can tolerate at least within reason the presence of the other.
The properly structured patriarchal system fulfills the needs of the present, while taking into account
those of the future; simultaneously, satisfies the demands of the self with those of the other. The suitability
of the cultural solution is judged by individual affective response. This grounding of verification in
universally constant affect, in combination with the additional constraints of stability and adaptability,
means inevitable construction of human groups and human moral systems with centrally identifiable
features and processes of generation. The construction of a successful group the most difficult of feats
means establishment of a society composed of individuals who act in their own interest (at least enough to
render their life bearable) and who, in doing so, simultaneously maintain and advance their culture. The
demand to satisfy, protect and adapt, individually and socially and to do so over vast and variable
stretches of time places severe intrinsic constraints on the manner in which successful human
societies can operate. It might be said that such constraints provide universal boundaries for acceptable
human morality. The nature of what constitutes such acceptability fosters direct conflict or debate, in terms

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of the details, but the broad picture is necessarily clear. That picture is presented and represented in ritual,
mythology and narrative, which eternally depict intrinsically meaningful themes, playing themselves out, in
eternally fascinating fashion. Nietzsche states:
That individual philosophical concepts are not anything capricious or autonomously evolving, but grow
up in connection and relationship with each other; that, however suddenly and arbitrarily they seem to
appear in the history of thought, they nevertheless belong just as much to a system as all the members of
the fauna of a continent is betrayed in the end also by the fact that the most diverse philosophers keep
filling in a definite fundamental scheme of possible philosophies. Under an invisible spell, they always
revolve once more in the same orbit; however independent of each other they may feel themselves with
their critical or systematic wills, something within them leads them, something impels them in a definite
order, one after the other to wit, the innate systematic structure and relationship of their concepts.
Their thinking is, in fact, far less a discovery than a recognition, a remembering, a return and a
homecoming to a remote, primordial, and inclusive household of the soul, out of which those concepts
grew originally: philosophizing is to this extent a kind of atavism of the highest order.373
Adoption of a particular way of being allows, concurrently, for determination of the meaning of objects,
and the morality of behaviors. Objects attain significance according to their perceived utility with regards
to their capacity to further movement away from the unbearable present towards the ideal future; likewise,
moral behavior is seen as furthering and immoral behavior as impeding or undermining such movement. Of
course, identification of what constitutes the basis for establishing the nature of morality or the comparative
value of objects is no simple matter. In fact, such judgment comprises the constant central demand of
adaptation. No fixed answer solution to this problem can be offered this question, the nature of the
highest ideal or the nature of the highest good because the environment which poses the query, so to
speak, constantly shifts, as time progresses (that shift constitutes, in fact, times progression). The constant
fact of eternal change does not eliminate the utility of all moral answers, however, as such answers must
be formulated, before any action or interpretation an take place. Time merely makes eternal nonsense of the
offer of fixed structure as solution fixed structure, that is, as opposed to process (in this case, the
patterned creative communicative process of generating adaptive structure).
Conflict, on the individual and social planes, constitutes dispute about the comparative value of
experiences, objects and behaviors. Non-declarative presumption a, upon which behavior a is
(hypothetically) predicated, becomes subjugated to presumption b, b to c, and so on in accordance
with some implicit scheme or notion of ultimate value which firsts manifests itself in behavior, and in
behavioral conflict, long before it can be represented episodically or semantically. It might be said that the
emergence of a scheme of ultimate value is an inevitable consequence of the social and exploratory
evolution of man. Cultural structure, incarnated intrapsychically, originates in creative action, imitation of
such action, integration of action and imitated action constitutes adaptive action and representation of
integrated pattern of action. Procedures may be mapped in episodic memory, and abstracted in essence by
the semantic system. This process results in construction of a story, or narrative. Any narrative contains,
implicit in it, a set of moral assumptions. Representation of this (primarily social) moral code in form of
episodic memory constitutes the basis for myth; provides the ground and material for eventual
linguistically-mediated development of religious dogma or codified morality. Advantages of such
codification are the advantages granted by abstraction per se ease of communication, facilitation of
transformation and formal declaration of (historically-sanctified) principles useful in mediation of
emergent value-centerd dispute. Disadvantages more subtle, and more easily unrecognized include
premature closure of creative endeavor, and dogmatic reliance on wisdom of the (dead) past.
Human beings, as social animals, act as if motivated by a (limited) system of more-or-less internally
consistent and integrated set of moral virtues even in the absence of the explicit (declarative)
representation of this system. The nature of these virtues, embodied in behavior, in their origin, have
become more and more conscious (more represented in declarative thinking and remembering) over the
course of socially-mediated human cognitive evolution. Nonetheless even at the present it is very
difficult to determine and explicitly state just what virtuous behavior consists of; to describe, with accuracy,
how it is that people should (and do) act to identify those ends towards which behavior should be
devoted, and to provide explicit and rigorous justification for such claims. A culture is, to a large degree, a

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shared moral code, and deviations from that code are generally easily identified, at least post-hoc. It is still
the case, however, that description of the domain of morality tends to exceed the capability of declarative
thought, and that the nature of much of what we think of as moral behavior is still, therefore, embedded in
unconscious procedure. As a consequence, it is easy for us to become confused about the nature of
morality, and to draw inappropriate, untimely and dangerous fixed conclusions.
The conservative worships his culture, appropriately, as the creation of that which deserves primary
allegiance, remembrance and respect. This creation is the concrete solution to the problem of adaptation:
how to behave? (and how can that be represented and communicated?). It is very easy, in consequence,
to err in attribution of value, and to worship the specific solution itself, rather than the source of that
solution. Hence the biblical injunction:
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or
that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that
hate me. (Exodus 20:3-5).
This arbitrary injunction exists in large part because much less explicit attention is generally paid (can
be paid, in the initial stages of abstract representation) to the more fundamental, but more abstract and
difficult, meta-problem of adaptation how is (or was) how to behave determined? or what is the
nature of the behavioral procedure that leads to the establishment of and rank-ordering of valid forms of
how to behave? (that leads to succesful adaptation, as such?) (and how can that be represented and
communicated?). The answer to the question what constitutes the highest value? or what is the highest
good? is in fact the solution to the meta-problem, not the problem, although solutions to the latter have
been and are at present constantly confused with solutions to the former to the constant (often mortal)
detriment of those attempting to address the former.
The precise nature of that which constitutes morality still eludes declarative exposition. The moral
structure, encoded in behavior, is too complex to completely consciously formulate. Nevertheless, that
structure remains an integrated system (essentially, a historically-determined personality, and
representation thereof), a product of determined efforts (procedural and declarative) devoted towards
integrated adaptation, and not a merely random or otherwise incomprehensible compilation of rituals and
beliefs. Culture is a structure aimed towards the attainment of certain (affectively-determined) ends, in the
immediate present and over the longer course of time. As such, a given cultural structure necessarily must
meet a number of stringent and severely constrained requirements: (1) it must be self-maintaining (in that it
promotes activities that allow it to retain its central form); (2) it must be sufficiently flexible to allow for
constant adaptation to constantly shifting environmental circumstances; and (3) it must acquire the
allegiance of the individuals who compose it.
The first requirement is so fundamental, even in the short term, that it appears self-evident. A culture
must promote activities that allow for its own maintenance, or it will devour itself. The second requirement
flexibility is more difficult to fulfill, particularly in combination with the first (in combination with selfmaintenance). A culture must promote activity that supports itself, but must simultaneously allow for
enough innovation so that essentially unpredictable alteration in environmental circumstance can be met
with appropriate change in behavioral activity. Cultures that attempt to maintain themself through
promotion of absolute adherence to traditional principles tend rapidly to fail the second requirement, and to
collapse precipitously. Cultures that allow for unrestricted change, by contrast, tend to fail the first, and
collapse equally rapidly. The third requirement (allegiance of the populace) might be considered a
prerequisite for the first two. A culture that lasts must be supported (voluntarily) by those who compose it.
This means, in the final analysis, that its mode of operation must remain verified by the sum total of
individual affect; means that those who constitute the group must remain satisfied by its operation must
derive sufficient reward, protection from punishment, provision of hope, and alleviation of threat to render
the demands of group maintenance bearable. Furthermore, the group solution must appear ideal in
comparison to any or all actual or imaginable alternatives. The compelling attractiveness of simplistic

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utopian ideologies, even in the skeptical twentieth century, is evidence for the stringent difficulty of this
final requirement.
In sub-optimal circumstances, the problem of protection for the developing individual and
maintenance of the protective, uniform social structure is solved by the permanent sacrifice of individual
diversity to the stability and identity of the group. This solution banishes fear effectively, in the short term,
but also eliminates necessary potential and the capacity for adaptive transformation. The suboptimal
solution to the problem of authoritarian or totalitarian danger, in turn, is denigration of the role of society,
attribution of evil to its effects, and degeneration of traditional skill and learning. This is sacrifice of the
Terrible Father, without recognition of the need for his resuscitation and is, therefore, an invitation to the
intrusion of chaos. The optimal solution to the problem of the necessity for group identification is, by
contrast, to be found in the philosophy of the apprenticeship: each individual must voluntarily subjugate
him or herself to a master a wise king whose goal is not so much maintenance and protection of his
own identity and status as construction of an individual (a son), capable of transcending the restrictions
of the group.
The optimal wise king to whom subordination might be regarded as necessary must therefore either be
an individual whose identity is nested within a hierarchy whose outermost territory is occupied by the
exploratory hero, or a group about which the same might be said. So the ideal group or master might be
conceptualized, once again, as Osiris (the traditions of the past) nested within Horus/Re (the process that
originally created those traditions, and which presently updates them). This means that the meta-problem
of adaptation what is the nature of the behavioral procedure that leads to the establishment of and rankordering of valid forms of how to behave? (that leads to succesful adaptation, as such?) has been
answered by groups who ensure that their traditions, admired and imitated, are nonetheless subordinate to
the final authority of the creative hero. So the highest good becomes imitation (worship) of the process
represented by the hero, who, as the ancient Sumerians stated, restores all ruined gods, as though they
were his own creation.374
Human morality is exploratory activity (and allowance for such), undertaken in a sufficiently stable
social context, operating within stringent limitations, embodied in action, secondarily represented,
communicated and abstractly elaborated in episodic and semantic memory. Such morality act and thought
is non-arbitrary in structure and specifically goal-directed. It is predicated upon conceptualization of the
highest good (which, in its highest form, is stable social organization allowing for manifestation of the
process of creative adaptation), imagined in comparison to the represented present. Such conceptual
activity allows for determination of acceptable behavior, and for constraint placed upon the meaning of
objects (considered, always, in terms of their functional utility as tools, in a sense, for the attainment of a
desired end).
The pathological state takes imitation of the body of the laws to an extreme, and attempts to govern
every detail of individual life. This total imitation reduces the behavioral flexibility of the state, and
renders society increasingly vulnerable to devastation through environmental transformation (through the
influx of chaotic change). Thus the state suffers, for lack of the water of life, until it is suddenly
flooded, and swept away. The healthy state, by contrast, compels imitation more in the form of voluntary
affiliation (until the establishment of individual competence and discipline). Following the successful
apprenticeship, the individual is competent to serve as his own master to serve as an autonomous
incarnation of the hero. This means that the individuals capacity for cultural imitation that is, his
capacity for subservience to traditional order has been rendered subordinate to his capacity to function as
the process that mediates between order and chaos. Each properly-socialized individaul therefore comes
to serve as Horus (the sun-king, the son of the Great Father), after painstakingly acquiring the wisdom of
Osiris.
The adoption of group identity the apprenticeship of the adolescent disciplines the individual, and
brings necessary predictability to his or her actions, within the social group. Group identity, however, is a
construct of the past, fashioned to deal with events characteristic of the past. Although it is reasonable to
view such identity as a necessary developmental stage, it is pathological to view it as the end-point of
human development. The present consists in large part of new problems, and reliance on the wisdom of the
dead no matter how heroic eventually compromises the integrity of the living. The well-trained
apprentice, however, has the skills of the dead, and the dynamic intelligence of the living. This means that

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he can benefit from even welcome inevitable contact with anomaly, in its many guises. The highest
level of morality therefore governs behavior in those spaces where tradition does not rule. The exploratory
hero is at home in unexplored territory is friend of the stranger, welcoming ear for the new idea, and
cautious, disciplined social revolutionary.

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CHAPTER 4: THE APPEARANCE OF ANOMALY: CHALLENGE TO THE SHARED MAP
Moral theories necessarily share common features with other theories. One of the most fundamental shared
features of theories, in general, is their reliance on extra-theoretical presuppositions. The extratheoretical presuppositions of explicit moral theorems appear to take implicit form in image and, more
fundamentally, in action. Moral behaviors and schemas of valuation arise as a consequence of behavioral
interaction undertaken in the social world: every individual, motivated to regulate his emotions through
action, modifies the behavior of others, operating in the same environment. The consequence of this mutual
modification, operating over time, is the emergence of a stable pattern of behavior, designed to match
individual and social needs, simultaneously. Eventually, this behavioral pattern comes to be coded in
image, heralded in narrative, and explicitly represented in words. In the integrated individual or the
integrated state action, imagination and explicit verbal thought are isomorphic: explicit and imagemediated beliefs and actual behaviors form a coherent unit. Verbal theories of morality (explicit rules)
match traditional images of moral behavior, and action undertaken remains in concordance with both. This
integrated morality lends predictability to behavior, constitutes the basis for the stable state, and helps
ensure that emotion remains under control.
The emergence of anomaly constitutes a threat to the integrity of the moral tradition governing behavior
and evaluation. Strange things or situations can pose a challenge to the structure of a given system of
action and related beliefs; can pose such a challenge at comparatively restricted (normal) or broader
(revolutionary) levels of organization. A prolonged drought, for example, at the social level or the
occurrence of a serious illness or disability, on the personal can force the re-construction of behavior
and the re-analysis of the beliefs that accompany, follow, or underlie such behavior. The appearance of a
stranger or, more commonly, a group of strangers may produce a similar effect. The stranger acts out
and holds different beliefs, using different implements and concepts. The mere existence of these anomalous
beliefs, actions and tools generally the consequence of prolonged, complex and powerful evolutionary
processes may be sufficient to totally transform or even destroy the culture which encounters them,
unprepared. Cultures may be upset internally, as well, as a consequence of the strange idea or,
similarly, by the actions of the revolutionary.
The capacity to abstract that is, to code morality in image and word has facilitated the
communication, comprehension and development of behavior and behavioral interaction. However, the
capacity to abstract has also undermined the stability of moral tradition. Once a procedure has been
encapsulated in image and, particularly, in word it becomes easier to modify, experimentally; but
also easier to casually criticize and discard. This capacity for easy modification is very dangerous, in that
the explicit and statable moral rules that characterize a given culture tend to exist for reasons that are still
implicit and fundamental. The capacity to abstract which has facilitated the communication of very
complex and only partially understood ideas is therefore also the capacity to undermine the very
structure that lends predictability to action, and which constrains the a priori meaning of things and
situations. Our capacity for abstraction is capable of disrupting our unconscious that is, imagistic and
procedural social identity, upsetting our emotional stability, and undermining our integrity (that is, the
isomorphism between our actions, imaginings, and explicit moral theories or codes). Such disruption
leaves us vulnerable to possession by simplistic ideologies, and susceptible to cynicism, existential despair,
and weakness in the face of threat.
The ever-expanding human capacity for abstraction central to human consciousness has enabled
us to produce self-models sufficiently complex and extended to take into account the temporal boundaries
of individual life. Myths of the knowledge of good and evil and the fall from paradise represent
emergence of this representational capacity, in the guise of a historical event. The consequence of this
event that is, the development of self-consciousness is capacity to represent death, and to
understand that the possibility of death is part of the unknown. This contamination of anomaly with the
possibility of death has dramatically heightened the emotional power and motivational significance of the
unknown, and led to the production of complex systems of action and belief designed to take that terrible
possibility into account.

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These complex systems of action and belief are religious. They comprise the traditional means of
dealing with the shadow cast on life by knowledge of mortality. Our inability to understand our religious
traditions and our consequent conscious denigration of their perspectives dramatically and
unfortunately decrease the utility of what they have to offer.
We are conscious enough to destabilize our beliefs, and our traditional patterns of action, but not
conscious enough to understand them. If the reasons for the existence of our traditions were rendered more
explicit, however, perhaps we could develop greater intrapsychic and social integrity. The capacity to
develop such understanding might help us use our capacity for reason to support, rather than destroy, the
moral systems that discipline and protect us.

4.1. Introduction: The Paradigmatic Structure of the Known
The known is a hierarchical structure, composed of walls within walls. The individual sits at the
middle of a series of concentric rings, composed of the integrated personalities of his ancestors, nested
(at least in the ideal) within the figure of the exploratory hero. The inner walls are dependent for their
protection for their continued existence and validity on the integrity of the outer walls. The farther
out a given wall, the more implicit its structure that is, the more it is incarnated in behavior and
image, rather than explicit in word. Furthermore, the farther out the wall, the older the personality,
the broader range of its applicability, and the greater the magnitude of emotion it holds in check. Groups
and individuals may share some levels of the known, but not others. The similarities account for shared
group identity, insofar as that exists; the differences, for the identification of the other with the forces of
chaos.
Rituals designed to strengthen group identity hold chaos at bay, but threaten individual identification
with the exploratory hero an identity upon which maintenance of the group ultimately depends. For the
sake of the group, therefore, the individual must not be rendered subservient to the group.
The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.
(One is unable to notice something because it is always before ones eyes.) The real foundations of his
enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. And this means: we fail to
be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and powerful.375
A moral system a system of culture necessarily shares features in common with other systems. The
most fundamental of the shared features of systems was identified by Kurt Godel. Godels Incompleteness
Theorem demonstrated that any internally consistent and logical system of propositions must necessarily be
predicated upon assumptions that cannot be proved from within the confines of that system. The
philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn specifically discussing the progress of science described similar
implicit-presumption-ridden systems as paradigmatic. Explicitly scientific paradigmatic systems the
focus of Kuhns attention are concerned with the prediction and control of events whose existence can be
verified, in a particular formal manner, and offer model problems and solutions to a community of
practitioners.376 Pre-experimental thinking which primarily means moral thinking [ thinking about the
meaning or significance of events (objects and behaviors)] also appears necessarily characterized by
paradigmatic structure.
A paradigm is a complex cognitive tool, whose use presupposes acceptance of a limited number of
axioms (or definitions of what constitutes reality, for the purposes of argument and action), whose
interactions produce an internally consistent explanatory and predictive structure. Paradigmatic thinking
might be described as thinking whose domain has been formally limited; thinking that acts as if some
questions have been answered in a final manner. The limitations of the domain or the answers to the
questions make up the axiomatic statements of the paradigm, which are, according to Kuhn, explicitly
formulated semantically represented, according to the argument set forth here or left implicit
embedded in (episodic) fantasy or embodied behavior. The validity of the axioms must either be accepted

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on faith, or (at least) demonstrated using an approach which is external to the paradigm in question (which
amounts to the same thing as faith, from a within-the-paradigm perspective).
In some regards, a paradigm is like a game. Play is optional, but, once undertaken, must be governed by
(socially-verified) rules. These rules cannot be questioned, while the game is on (or, if they are, that is a
different game. Children arguing about how to play football are not playing football. They are engaging,
instead, in a form of philosophy). Paradigmatic thinking allows for comprehension of an infinity of facts,
through application of a finite system of presuppositions allows, in the final analysis, for the limited
subject to formulate sufficient provisional understanding of the unlimited experiential object (including the
subject).
Human culture has, by necessity, a paradigmatic structure devoted not towards objective description of
what is, but to description of the cumulative affective relevance, or meaning, of what is. The capacity to
determine the motivational relevance of an object or situation is dependent, in turn, upon representation of
a (hypothetically) ideal state (conceived in constrast to conceptualization of the present), and upon
generation of an action sequence designed to attain that ideal. It is (stated, unstated, and unstatable) articles
of faith that underly this tripartite representation, and that keep the entire process in operation. These
articles of faith are axioms of morality, so to speak some explicit (represented declaratively, in image
and word), most still implicit which evolved in the course of human exploration and social organization,
over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. In their purely implicit states, such axioms are extremely
resistant to alteration. Once made (partially) explicit, however, moral axioms rapidly become subject to
endless careful and thoughtful or casual careless debate. Such debate is useful, for continuance and
extension of adaptation, but also very dangerous, as it is the continued existence of unchallenged moral
axioms that keeps the otherwise unbearable significance of events constrained, and the possibility for
untrammeled action alive.
A paradigmatic structure provides for determinate organization of (unlimited) information, according to
limited principles. The system of Euclidean geometry provides a classic example. The individual who
wishes to generate a desired outcome of behavior, as a consequence of the application of Euclidean
principles, is bound by necessity to accept certain axioms on faith. These axioms follow:
1. A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.
2. Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.
3. Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one end point
as center.
4. All right angles are congruent.
5. If 2 lines are drawn which intersect a 3rd in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is
less than two right angles, then the 2 lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended
far enough.377
It is the interaction of each of the five initial postulates which are all that necessarily have to be
remembered, or understood, for geometry to prove useful that gives rise to the internally consistent and
logical Euclidean structure we are all familiar with. What constitutes truth, from within the perspective of
this structure, can be established by reference to these initial postulates. However, the postulates themselves
must be accepted. Their validity cannot be demonstrated, within the confines of the system. They might be
provable from within the confines of another system, however although the integrity of that system will
still remain dependent, by necessity, on different postulates, down to an indeterminate end. The validity of
a given structure appears necessarily predicated on unconscious presuppositions the presupposition that
space has three dimensions, in the case of Euclidean geometry (a presupposition which is clearly
questionable).
It appears, in many cases, that the assumptions of explicit semantic statements take episodic or imagistic
form. The Euclidean postulates, for example, appear based upon observable facts (images of the world
of experience as interpreted). Euclid grounded his explicit abstract (semantic) system in observable
absolutes. It can be concretely demonstrated, for example, that any two points drawn in the sand can be
joined by a given line. Repeated illustration of this fact appears (acceptably) convincing as does,
similarly, (empirical) demonstration that any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a

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straight line. These postulates (and the remaining three) cannot be proved from within the confines of
geometry itself, but they appear true, and will be accepted as such, as a consequence of practical example.
What this means is that belief in Euclidean presumptions is dependent upon acceptance of practical
experience as sufficient certainty. The Euclidean draws a line in the sand, so to speak, and says the
questions stop here.
Similarly, it appears that what constitutes truth from the episodic perspective is predicated upon
acceptance of the validity and sufficiency of specific procedural operations. How a thing is represented in
episodic memory, for example which is what a thing is, insofar as we know what it is appears
dependent upon how it was investigated; appears dependent on the implicit presuppositions driving or
limiting the behavioral strategies applied to it in the course of creative exploration. Kuhn states:
Scientists can agree that a Newton, Lavoisier, Maxwell or Einstein has produced an apparently
permanent solution to a group of outstanding problems and still disagree, sometimes without being
aware of it, about the particular abstract characteristics that make those solutions permanent. They can,
that is, agree in their identification of a paradigm without agreeing on, or even attempting to produce, a
full interpretation or rationalization of it. Lack of a standard interpretation or of an agreed reduction to
rules will not prevent a paradigm from guiding research. Normal science can be determined in part by
the direct inspection of paradigms, a process that is often aided by but does not depend upon the
formulation of rules and assumptions. Indeed, the existence of a paradigm need not even imply that any
full set of rules exists.
He continues, in a footnote:
Michael Polyani378 has brilliantly developed a very similar theme, arguing that much of the scientists
success depends upon tacit knowledge, i.e., upon knowledge that is acquired through practice and that
cannot be articulated explicitly. 379
The Euclidean draws a line connecting two points in the sand, and accepts on faith the sufficiency of that
behavioral demonstration and the evident certainty of its outcome (in part, because no alternative
conceptualization can presently be imagined). Euclidean geometry worked and was considered complete
for centuries, because it allowed for the prediction and control of all those experienceable phenomena that
arose as a consequence of human activity, limited in its domain by past behavioral capacity. Two hundred
years ago, we did not know how to act concretely, or think abstractly, in a manner that would produce some
situation whose nature could not be described by Euclid. That is no longer the case. Many alternative, and
more inclusive geometries have been generated during the course of the last century. These new systems
describe the nature of reality the phenomena that emerge as a consequence of ongoing behavior more
completely.
All representations of objects (or situations, or behavioral sequences) are of course conditional, because
they may be altered unpredictably, or even transformed, entirely, as a consequence of further exploration
(or because of some spontaneous anomaly-emergence). The (anxiety-inhibiting, goal-specifying) model of
the object of experience is therefore inevitably contingent dependent, for its validity, on the maintenance
of those (invisible) conditions which applied and those (unidentified) contexts which were relevant when
the information was originally generated. Knowledge is mutable, in consequence as Nietzsche observed:
There are still harmless self-observers who believe that there are immediate certainties; for example,
I think, or as the superstition of Schopenhauer put it, I will; as though knowledge here got hold of its
object purely and nakedly as the thing in itself, without any falsification on the part of either the
subject or the object. But that immediate certainty, as well as absolute knowledge and the thing in
itself, involve a contradictio in adjecto, I shall repeat a hundred times; we really ought to free ourselves
from the seduction of words!
Let the people suppose that knowledge means knowing things entirely; the philosopher must say to
himself: When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, I think, I find a whole series of
daring assertions that would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to prove; for example, that it is I who
think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on

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the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an ego, and, finally, that it is already
determined what is to be designated by thinking that I know what thinking is. For if I had not already
decided within myself what it is, by what standard could I determine whether that which is just
happening is not perhaps willing or feeling? In short, the assertion I think assumes that I compare
my state at the present moment with other states of myself which I know, in order to determine what it
is; on account of this retrospective connection with further knowledge, it has, at any rate, no immediate
certainty for me.
In place of the immediate certainty in which the people may believe in the case at hand, the
philosopher thus finds a series of metaphysical questions presented to him, truly searching questions of
the intellect; to wit: From where do I get the concept of thinking? Why do I believe in cause and effect?
What gives me the right to speak of an ego, and even of an ego as a cause, and finally of an ego as the
cause of thought? Whoever ventures to answer these metaphysical questions at once by an appeal to a
sort of intuitive perception, like the person who says, I think, and know that this, at least, is true, actual,
and certain will encounter a smile and two question marks from a philosopher nowadays. Sir, the
philosopher will perhaps give him to understand, it is improbable that you are not mistaken; but why
insist on the truth? 380
The object always remains something capable of transcending the bounds of its representation; is
something that inevitably retains its mysterious essence, its connection with the unknown, and its potential
for the inspiration of hope and fear. The actual or transcendent object, in and of itself insofar as such
a thing can be considered is the sum total of its explored properties, plus that which remains unexplored
the unknown itself.
Our understanding of a given phenomena is always limited by the resources, temporal, economic and
technological, that we have at our disposal. Knowledge is necessarily contingent, although it is neither less
objective, necessarily, nor less knowledge, because of that. Our representations of objects (or
situations, or behavioral sequences) are currently accepted as valid, because they serve their purposes as
tools. If we can manipulate our models in imagination, apply the solutions so generated to the real world,
and produce the outcome desired, we presume that our understanding is valid and sufficient. It isnt until
we do something, and produce an unexpected outcome, that our models are deemed insufficient. This
means that our current representations of a given phenomena are predicated on the (implicit) presumption
that sufficient exploration of that phenomena has taken place. Sufficient exploration is a judgment
rendered as implied previously as a consequence of a sequence of action attaining its desired end
(what works is true). A procedure is deemed sufficient when it attains its desired end when it meets
its goal. The nature of that goal, archetypally, is establishment of or movement towards a paradisal state
characterized by stable, dynamic relief from (unbearable) suffering, freedom from (paralyzing) anxiety,
abundance of hope, and bountiful provision of primary reward the peaceful land of milk and honey, in
mythical language. This is merely to say that knowledge serves the ends of life, rather than existing in and
of itself.
Some contingent forms of knowledge behaviors, say, and schemas of value prove of lasting worth
(which is to say, produce the desired outcome across a broad range of contexts). These are remembered
stored in ritual and myth and transmitted down the generations. Over the course of time, they become
integrated with all other extant behaviors and schemas of value, in a hierarchy that allows for their various
expression. This hierarchy, as described previously, is composed of the actions and valuations of past
heroes, organized by other heroes into a stable social character, shared by all members of the same culture
(as the Christian church constitutes the symbolic body of Christ). This hierarchy has been and currently is
shaped by endless loops of affective feedback, as the means and goals chosen by each individual and the
society at large are modified by the actions and reactions of society and the eternally ineradicable presence
of the unknown itself. The resultant hiearchy of motivation can be most accurately characterized as a
personality as the mythic ancestral figure that everyone imitates, consciously (with full participation of
the semantic and eposidic system, rational thought and imagination) or unconsciously (in action only,
despite express disbelief). The hierarchically structured behavioral pattern (personality) that constitutes
culture comes, with the passage of time, to be represented secondarily, isormorphically, in episodic

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memory, and then coded explicitly insofar as current cognitive development makes that possible. The
explicit moral code is therefore predicated upon presumptions which are valid purely from the episodic
perspective; in turn, these episodic representations derive their validity from procedural knowledge,
designed to meet affective requirements, in the social community and in the presence of the unknown.
A moral philosophy, which is a pattern for behavior and interpretation, is therefore dependent for its
existence upon a mythology, which is a collection of images of behaviors, which emerge, in turn, as a
consequence of social interaction (cooperation and competition), designed to meet emotional demands.
These demands take on what is essentially a universally constant and limited form, as a consequence of
their innate psychobiological basis and the social expression of that basis. Hence (as implied previously)
the limited forms of myth. Northrop Frye states, in this regard:
I should distinguish primary and secondary concern, even though there is no real boundary line
between them. Secondary concerns arise from the social contract, and include patriotic and other
attachments of loyalty, religious beliefs, and class-conditioned attitudes and behaviors. They develop
from the ideological aspect of myth, and consequently tend to be directely expressed in ideological
prose language. In the mythical stage, they often accompany a ritual. Such a ritual may be designed, for
example, to impress on a boy that he is to be admitted to the society of men in a ritual for men only; that
he belongs to this tribe or group and not that one, a fact which will probably determine the nature of his
marriage; that these and not those are his special totems or tutelary deities.
Primary concerns may be considered in four main areas: food and drink, along with related bodily
needs; sex; property (i.e. money, possessions, shelter, clothing and everything that constitutes property
in the sense of what is proper to ones own life); liberty of movement. The general object of primary
concern is expressed in the Biblical phrase life more abundantly. In origin, primary concerns are not
individual or social in reference so much as generic, anterior to the conflicting claims of the singular and
the plural. But as society developes they become the claims of the individual body as distinct from those
of the body politic. A famine is a social problem, but only the individual starves. So a sustained attempt
to express primary concerns can develop only in societies where the sense of individuality has also
developed. The axioms of primary concerns are the simplest and baldest platitudes it is possible to
formulate: that life is better than death, happiness better than misery; health better than sickness,
freedom better than bondage, for all people without significant exception.
What we have been calling ideologies are closely linked to secondary concerns, and in large measure
consist of rationalizations of them. And the longer we look at myths, or storytelling patterns, the more
clearly their links with primary concern stand out.... This rooting of poetic myth in primary concern
accounts for the fact that mythical themes, as distinct from individual myths or stories, are limited in
number.381
The (explicit) moral code is validated by reference to the (religious, mythic) narrative; the narrative is
(primarily episodic) representation of behavioral tradition; the tradition emerges as a consequence of
individual adaptation to the demands of natural conditions, manifest (universally) in emotion, generated in
a social context. The episodic representation which is representation of the outcome of a procedure and
the procedure itself is predicated upon belief in the sufficiency and validity of that procedure; more
subtly, it has the same structure at least insofar as it is an accurate representation of behavior and
therefore contains the (implicit) hierarchical structure of historically-determined procedural knowledge in
more explicit form.
Over lengthy historical periods, therefore, the image ever-more-accurately encapsulates the behavior
and stories find their compelling essential form. Frye states:
The Bibles literary unity is a by-product of something else we might call it an unconscious byproduct if we knew anything at all about the mental processes involved. The earlier part of the Old
Testament, with its references to the Book of Jasher and the like, gives the effect of having distilled and
fermented a rich poetic literature to extract a different kind of verbal essence, and on a smaller scale the
same process can be seen in the New Testament.... The editorial work done on this earlier poetic
material was not an attempt to reduce it from poetry to a kind of plain prose sense, assuming that there is

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such a thing. This kind of sense implies a direct appeal to credulity, to the infantilism which is so
exasperating a feature of popular religious and other ideologies. What we have is rather an absorption of
a poetic and mythic presentation that takes us past myth to something else. In doing so it will elude
those who assume that myth means only something that did not happen.382
The second-order semantic codification is grounded in the episodic representation; tends, over time, to
duplicate the hierarchical structure of that representation; and is predicated upon acceptance of the validity
of the procedural and episodic memories. Semantic, episodic and procedural contents therefore share (in
the intrapsychically integrated, conscious, or psychologically healthy individual) identical hierarchical
structure, in their respective forms of action or representation. This integrated morality lends predictability
to individual and interpersonal behavior, constitutes the basis for the stable state, and helps ensure that
emotion remains controlled and regulated.

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Figure 47: The Paradigmatic Structure of the Known
Figure 47: The Paradigmatic Structure of the Known presents the personality of a typical western
individual in this case, a middle-class businessman and father. His individual life is nested within an
increasingly transpersonal, shared personality, with deep, increasingly implicit historical roots. The
smaller stories, nested within the larger, are dependent for their continued utility on maintenance of the
larger as the middle-class family, for example, is dependent for its economic stability on the capitalist
system, as the capitalist system is nested in humanistic western thought, as humanism is dependent on the
notion of the inherent value of the individual (on the notion of individual rights) and as the inherent

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value of the individual is dependent on his association, or ritual identification, with the exploratory
communicative hero. The more-encompassing, outer levels of organization may be extant purely in
behavior that is, the individual in question may have little or no explicit imagistic or semantic knowledge
of his historical roots, although he still acts out a historically-conditioned personality. It is certainly
possible, as well and is increasingly the norm for an individual to deny explicit belief in the validity
of the Judeo-Christian ethic, or the existence of any transpersonal exploratory hero whatsoever. This
denial, at the explicit (verbalizable) level of consciousness merely interferes with the integrity of the
personality in question. The procedural aspect that largely constitutes Judeo-Christian belief (for example)
and even ritual identification with the hero, to some degree (the imitation of Christ) almost inevitably
remains intact (at least in the case of the respectable citizen). The modern educated individual therefore
acts out, but does not believe. It might be said that the lack of isomorphism between explicit abstract
self-representation and actions undertaken in reality makes for substantial existential confusion and for
susceptibility to sudden dominance by any ideology providing a more complete explanation. Equally or
even more troublesome is the tendency of lack of explicit belief to manifest itself, slowly, in alteration of
imagistic representation and behavior (as ideas change actions, over time), and to invisibly undermine
intrapsychic and social stability.

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Figure 48: The Known: Nested Groups and Individuals
Groups and individuals may differ in their goals, values and behaviors at one level of analysis, while
sharing features in common at higher, more implicit levels. Figure 48: The Known: Nested Groups and
Individuals portrays three such groups although this number is arbitrary. Catholic, Protestant and Greek
Orthodox Christians, for example, might all be regarded as enveloped by their participation in the JudeoChristian personality; although they may well fight among themselves, at the drop of a hat (within the

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confines of that personality), they are liable to eagerly join forces, to eliminate a threat real or perceived
from Jews or Muslims. Within each of these three groups these three shared personalities there are
going to be differences and similarities, as well. Each community of believers is likely to have its separate
sects, separated from one another by a certain historical duration (and the alterations in value structure and
behavior that accompany such divergence). Finally, individuals within groups will diverge, too, according
to their individual interests and idiosyncratic beliefs. (Paradoxically, it is fidelity to these individual
characteristics that most truly unites all person in worship of the exploratory hero. This means that the
innermost level of personality organization that aspect which is truly unique, rather than shared is
also the outer level, upon which the stability of the entire structure depends.)
The emergence of anomaly the re-emergence of the Great Mother constitutes a threat to the
integrity of the moral tradition governing behavior and evaluation. It is for this reason that adjustment to
anomaly in the many mythologically-equivalent forms it takes is frequently resisted passively (by
failure to take it into account) and aggressively (by attempts to eradicate its source). Anomalies may have
their effect at different levels, as we have seen. The most profound threats undermine the stability of the
personalities that encompass the largest number of people, have the deepest historical roots, are most
completely grounded in image and behavior are most broadly applicable, regardless of situation (cover
the largest possible span of time and space). We seem aware, in some sense, of the danger of profound
anomalies perhaps because a substantial amount of negative emotion and abstract cognitive consideration
can be elicited merely through positing their possibility (what if we were threatened by the foreign
devils?). Our tendency to personally identify with our respective countries, say to foster and be proud of
our patriotism reflects knowledge that our personal integrity and security is integrally bound up, for
better or worse, with the destiny of our cultures. We are therefore motivated to protect those cultures to
defend our societies and ourselves against the return of the terrible Dragon of Chaos. [It is frequently the
case, however, that our attempts to bolster the security of part of our protective identity undermine our
stability at a higher-order of being. The American (British, Russian, Chinese) Way of Life, for example,
is a more visible (and less personally demanding) figure than the exploratory hero although it is also a
less critically important part of our core cultural and personal identities. This means that attempts to
increase the strength of the state at the cost of the individual are counter-productive, even though they may
serve to heighten the sense of order and regulate emotion in the short term. Patriotism or any similar
attempt at the strengthening of group identity must necessarily be bounded, in consequence, by
knowledge that the creative capacity of the individual must be regarded as supremely important
divine.]
The individual is protected from chaos in its full manifestation by the many walls that surround him.
All the space outside a given wall, however despite its probable encapsulation by additional protective
structures appears relatively dangerous to anyone currently within that wall. All outside territory
evokes fear. This equivalence does not mean, however, that all threats are equivalently potent just that
anything outside shares the capacity to frighten (or enlighten) anything inside. Challenges posed to the
highest levels of order are clearly the most profound, and are likely to engender the most thorough
reactions. Observation of response to such threats may be complicated, however, by the problem of time
frame: challenge posed to extremely implicit personalities may evoke reactions that extend over
centuries, in the form of abstract exploration and argumentation, revision of action, and war between
opposing alternative viewpoints (as in the case, for example, of the Catholic and Protestant Christians). The
fact that threats posed to the highest levels of order are the most profound is complicated, to say it
another way, by the implicitness of those levels, and their invisibility. Furthermore, the structures
nested within a given personality may have enough intrinsic strength to stand for a long while after the
outer walls that protected them and which truly provided them with structural integrity have been
breached and destroyed. The stability of a political or social structure once nested in a damaged religious
preconception might be likened to a building standing after an earthquake: superficially, it looks intact
but one more minor shake may be sufficient to bring it crashing down. The death of god in the modern
world looks like an accomplished fact and, perhaps an event whose repercussions have not proved fatal.
But the existential upheaval and philosophical uncertainty characteristic of the first three-quarters of the
twentieth century demonstrate that we have not yet settled back on firm ground. Our current miraculous

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state of relative peace and economic tranquility should not blind us to the fact that we have gaping holes in
our spirits.
The chaos hidden or given form by the establishment of temporal order may remanifest itself at any
time. It may do so in a number of guises, of apparent diversity. Any re-emergence of chaos, however
despite the reason may be regarded as the same sort of event, from the perspective of emotion,
motivational significance or meaning. This is to say that all things that threatens the status quo, regardless
of their objective features, tends to be placed into the same natural category, as a consequence of their
affective identity. The barbarian at the gates is therefore indistinguishable from the heretic within; both are
equivalent to the natural disaster, to the disappearance of the hero, and to the emergent senility of the king.
The re-emergence of the Dragon of Chaos whatever his form constitutes the unleashing of dangerous,
fear-producing (and promising) potential. The different guises of this potential, and the reasons for and
nature of their equivalence, constitute our next topic of discussion. The nature of the response evoked by
that potential heroic and otherwise comprise subject matter, after that discussion, for the remainder of
the book.
4.2. Particular Forms of Anomaly: The Strange, the Stranger, the Strange Idea, and
the Revolutionary Hero
Anomalous events share capacity to threaten the integrity of the known share ability to disrupt the
familiar and explored. Such events, while differing in their specific details and manner of manifestation,
tend to occupy the same natural category. Threats to the stability of cultural tradition emerge in four
mythologically inseparable manners: through rapid natural environmental shift, independent of
human activity; through contact with a heretofore isolated foreign culture; through application of novel
(revolutionary) linguistically or episodically-mediated critical skill the inevitable consequence of
increasing ability to abstract, learn, and communicate; and as a consequence of revolutionary heroic
activity.
The natural human tendency to respond to the stranger, the strange idea, and the creative individual
with fear and aggression can be more easily comprhended, once it is understood that these diverse
phenomena share categorical identity with the natural disaster. The problem with this natural
response pattern, however, is that the upsetting capacity of the anomalous is simultaneously the vital
source of interest, meaning and individual strength. Furthermore, the ability to upset ourselves to
undermine and revitalize our own beliefs is an intrinsic, necessary and divine aspect of the human
psyche: is part of the seminal Word itself.
The Word in its guise as painstakingly abstracted action and object can create new worlds and
destroy old; can pose an unbearable threat to seemingly stable cultures, and can redeem those that have
become senescent, inflexible and paralytic.
To those who have sold their souls to the group, however, the Word is indistinguishable from the
enemy.
4.2.1. The Strange
Transformation of environmental circumstances, as the consequence of purely natural causes, constitutes
the single most immediately evident cause for the deterioration of cultural stability. Prolonged drought,
floods, earthquakes, plagues natures most horrifying and arbitrary occurrences are capable of rendering
the most carefully adapted societies impotent at a single blow.
Natural disasters of this sort might merely be considered rapid transformation situations where
previously noted affectively relevant environmental relationships alter, faster than adaptive movement
keeps pace. This means that the insufficiency of cultural adaptation cannot easily be distinguished from
natural catastrophe. A society light on its feet, so to speak, is constantly in a position to adapt to the
unexpected even to the rapid and catastrophic unexpected even to transform such change into
something positively beneficial (consider, for the example, the post-war Japanese). The relationship

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natural disaster/cultural adaptation therefore constitutes the social analogue to that obtaining between
emotion and cognition: affect generated, in large part, as a consequence of novelty, always emerges
where something is not known (and is therefore always dependent on what is known); is always
experienced in relationship to some conceptualization of the present, the future, and the means to get from
one to the other. What constitutes novelty, then, is dependent on what is not novel, in a particular
circumstance. What constitutes trauma depends, likewise, on the behavioral repertoire and value-schema
available for use at the time of a given event or transformation. A blizzard that would incapacitate
Washington for a month barely makes the residents of Montreal blink.
Mythic representations of the rapid mutation of environmental contingency (portrayed as the
reappearance of the Great Mother or, more fundamentally, of the Dragon of Chaos) are in consequence
necessarily contaminated with images of the sterile, senescent, or tyrannical king, whose inflexibility
renders all inevitable environmental transformation deadly. When is a disaster not a disaster? When the
community is prepared to respond appropriately. Conversely, any minor change in the natural world might
be regarded as terminal, catastrophic and actually be so when the adaptive structure designed to fit that
world has become so authoritarian that any change whatsoever is reflexively deemed forbidden,
heretical.383 A society with this attitude such as the former Soviet Union is an accident waiting to
happen. An interesting example of the consequences of such inflexibility, on the personal scale, is offered
by Kuhn:
In a psychological experiment that deserves to be far better known outside the trade, Bruner and
Postman384 asked experimental subjects to identify on short and controlled exposure a series of playing
cards. Many of the cards were normal, but some were made anomalous, e.g., a red six of spades and a
black four of hearts. Each experimental run was constituted by the display of a single card to a single
subject in a series of gradually increased exposures. After each exposure the subject was asked what he
had seen, and the run was terminated by two successive correct identifications.
Even on the shortest exposures many subjects identified most of the cards, and after a small increase
all the subjects identified them all. For the normal cards these identifications were usually correct, but
the anomalous cards were almost always identified, without apparent hesitation or puzzlement, as
normal. The black four of hearts might, for example, be identified as the four of either spades or hearts.
Without any awareness of trouble, it was immediately fitted to one of the conceptual categories prepared
by prior experience. One would not even like to say that the subjects had seen something different from
what they identified. With a further increase of exposure to the anomalous cards, subjects did begin to
hesitate and to display awareness of anomaly. Exposed, for example, to the red six of spades, some
would say: Thats the six of spades, but theres something wrong with it the black has a red border.
Further increase of exposure resulted in still more hesitation and confusion until finally, and sometimes
quite suddenly, most subjects would produce the correct identification without hesitation. Moreover,
after doing this with two or three of the anomalous cards, they would have little further difficulty with
the others. A few subjects, however, were never able to make the requisite adjustment of their categories. Even at forty times the average exposure required to recognize normal cards for what they were,
more than 10 per cent of the anomalous cards were not correctly identified. And the subjects who then
failed often experienced acute personal distress. One of them exclaimed: I cant make the suit out,
whatever it is. It didnt even look like a card that time. I dont know what color it is now or whether its
a spade or a heart. Im not even sure now what a spade looks like. My God!385
Myth and literature constantly represent the parched kingdom, the society victimized (most
frequently) by drought which is the absence of water, concretely, and the water of life or spirit,
symbolically; represent the land scorched as a consequence of the over-prolonged dominance of the (oncegreat) ruling idea. This idea, in the narrative (and frequently, in actuality), is the king, the ancestral spirit,
representative of his people, made tyrannical by age, or pride, unbearable disappointment, or withering
under the influence of some wilfully misunderstood malevolent advising force. The development of such an
unpleasant and dangerous situations calls, of course, for the entrance of the hero the lost son of the true
king, raised in secrecy by alternative parents; the rightful ruler of the kingdom, whose authority was
undermined or who was supposedly killed during vulnerable youth; the proper heir to the throne, who had

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been journeying in far-off lands, and was presumed dead. The hero overturns the tyrant, and regains his
proper place; the gods, pleased by the re-establishment of proper order, allow the rain once more to fall (or
stop it from falling in dangerous excess). In a story of this type, the creative aspect of the unknown (nature)
is locked away, metaphorically, by the totalitarian opinion of the current culture. Such a state of affairs
might be represented, for example, by the sleeping princess, in the kingdom brought to a standstill (or by
some alternative variant of the existence of the treasure hard to attain386). Paralyzed by patriarchal
despotism387 (or, frequently, by fear of the Terrible Mother), the kingdom remains stagnant, while the
princess nature, in her benevolent guise waits for the kiss of the hero to wake. Her awakened and
revitalized beauty subsequently re-animates her people.
Rituals of the death and renewal of the king act out this transformation of cultural adaptation long before
the concept of rebirth can be rendered abstractly comprehensible. Frye states:
The hypothetical ritual studied in Frazers Golden Bough may be vulnerable enough in various
anthropological contexts, but as a mythical structure it is as solid as the pyramids. Here a king regarded
as divine is put to death at the height of his powers, for fear that his physical weakening will bring a
corresponding impotence to the fertility of the land he rules.... When sacrificed, the divine king is
immediately replaced by a successor, and his body is then eaten and his blood drunk in a ritual
ceremony. We have to make a rather violent effort of visualization to see that there are now two bodies
of the divine king, one incarnate in the successor, the other concealed in the bellies of his worshippers.
The latter causes the society to become, through eating and drinking the same person, integrated into a
single body, which is both their own and his.388
The extensive and universal corpus of dying and resurrecting god myths389 (acted in sacrificial ritual)
dramatize two notions. The first is that the actual ideas/patterns of behavior governing adaptation must die
and be reborn to ensure constant update of the techniques of survival. The second, more fundamental, is
that the hero the active agent of adaptation must eternally upset the protective structure of tradition and
enter into sacrificial union with the re-emergent unknown. Cosmological phenomena themselves act
out (are utilized as descriptive tools for, more accurately) this eternal drama: the sun (god), born in the
east, dies in the west, and passes into the underworld of night (into the lair of the dragon of chaos).
Nightly, ths sun-hero battles the terrible forces of chaos, cuts himself out of the belly of the beast, and is
reborn triumphant in the morning.
The master of the strange in its natural form is the hero in his technological guise (more particularly,
say, than in his role as social revolutionary). Marduk, who faced Tiamat in single combat, is a very focused
representative of mans mastery over nature. The pattern of action signified by this god that is,
courageous and creative approach in the face of uncertainty was regarded unconsciously by the
Mesopotamians as necessary, as stated previously, to the creation of ingenious things from the conflict
with Tiamat.390 The hero fashions defences out of nature to use against nature. This idea which underlies
mans cultural adaptation manifests itself naturally in the human psyche:
Spontaneous fantasy manifested August 10, 1997, by my daughter, Mikhaila (aged five years, eight
months) while playing prince and princess with Julian (her three-year old brother): Dad, if we killed
a dragon, we could use his skin as armor, couldnt we? Wouldnt that be a good idea?
The hero uses the positive aspect of the Great Mother as protection from her negative counterpart. In this
manner, the natural disaster is kept at bay, or better yet transformed from a crisis into an opportunity.
4.2.2. The Stranger
Arrival of the stranger, concretely presented in mythology, constitutes a threat to the stability of the
kingdom metaphorically indistinguishable from that posed by environmental transformation. The stable
meaning of experiential events, constrained by the hierarchical structure of group identity, is easily
disrupted by the presence of the other, who practically poses a concrete threat to the stability of the
present dominance structure, and who, more abstractly as his actions contain his moral tradition

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exists as the literal embodiment of challenges to the a priori assumptions guiding belief. The stranger does
not act in the manner expected. His inherent unpredictability renders him indistinguishable from the
unknown, as such, and to easy identification with the force constantly working to undermine order. From a
within-group perspective, so to speak, such identification is not purely arbitrary, either, as the mere
existence of the (successful) stranger poses serious threat to the stability of the general culture to its
ability to inhibit existential terror and provide determinate meaning to action.
When the members of one isolated group come into contact with the members of another, the stage is
therefore set for trouble. Each culture, each group, evolved to protect its individual members from the
unknown from the abysmal forces of the Great and Terrible Mother, from unbearable affect itself
evolved to structure social relationships and render them predictable, to provide a goal and the means to
attain it. All cultures provide their constituent individuals with particular modes of being in the face of
terror and uncertainty. All cultures are stable, integrated, hierarchically arranged structures predicated upon
assumptions held as absolute but the particular natures of these assumptions differ (at least at the more
comprehensible and conscious levels of analyses). Every culture represents an idiosyncratic paradigm, a
pattern of behaving in the face of the unknown, and the paradigm cannot be shifted (its basic axioms cannot
be modified), without dramatic consequences without dissolution, metaphoric death prior to (potential)
reconstruction.
Every society every culture provides protection from the unknown. The unknown itself is a
dangerous thing, full of unpredictability and threat. Chaotic social relationships (destructured dominance
hierarchies) create severe anxiety and dramatically heighten the potential for interpersonal conflict.
Furthermore, the dissolution of culturally-determined goals renders individual life, identified with those
goals, meaningless and unrewarding in instrinsic essence. It is neither reasonable nor possible to simply
abandon a particular culture, which is a pattern of general adaptation, just because someone else comes
along, who does things a different way, whose actions are predicated on different assumptions. It is no
simple matter to rebuild social relationships in the wake of the introduction of new ideas. It is no
straightforward process, furthermore, to give up a goal, a central unifying and motivating idea.
Identification of an individual with a group means that individual psychological stability is staked on
maintenance of group welfare. If the group founders suddenly, as a consequence of external circumstance
or internal strife, the individual is laid bare to the world, his social context disappears, his reason for being
vanishes, he is swallowed up by the unbearable unknown, and he cannot easily survive. Nietzsche states:
In an age of disintegration that mixes races indiscriminately, human beings have in their bodies the
heritage of multiple origins, that is, opposite, and often not merely opposite, drives and value standards
that fight each other and rarely permit each other any rest. Such human beings of late cultures and
refracted lights will on the average be weaker human beings: their most profound desire is that the war
they are should come to an end.391
Of course, the unstated conclusion to Nietzsches observation is that the war typifying the person of
mixed-race (mixed-culture, in more modern terminology) is the affectively-unpleasant precursor to the
more thoroughly integrated individual, who has won the war. This victor who has organized the
currently warring diverse cultural standpoints into a hierarchy, integrated once more will be stronger than
his uni-cultural predecessor, as his behavior and values will be the consequence of the more diverse and
broader ranging union of heretofore separate cultures. It is reasonable to presuppose that it was the
unconscious consideration of the potentially positive outcome of such mixing that led Nietzsche to the
revelation of the dawning future superman.392 It is not the mere existence of various previously-separated
presuppositions in a single psyche that constitutes the post-contact victory, however. This means that the
simplistic promotion of cultural diversity as panacea is likely to produce anomie, nihilism and
conservative backlash. It is the moulding of these diverse beliefs into a single hierarchy, that is
precondition for the peaceful admixture of all. This moulding can only be accomplished by war conducted
between paradoxical elements, within the post-contact individual psyche. Such a war is so difficult so
emotionally upsetting and cognitively challenging that the murder of the anomalous other in the
morally-acceptable guise of war frequently seems a comforting alternative.

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Fundamental threats can be posed very easily, between groups of people. Most concretely, foreign
behaviors are threatening, unpredictable in particular, terrifying in general because essential beliefs,
challenging beliefs, are most convincingly expressed through actions:
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways
are strange. (Wisdom 2:14-15 RSV)
A foreign man, a stranger, is threatening because he is not firmly fixed within a social hierarchy, and may
therefore behave unpredictably with unpredictable consequences for the social hierarchy. Signals of
safety and threat vary, or may vary, between members of different groups. Unpredictable means potentially
dangerous. More abstractly, what the stranger believes, specifically, threatens the integrated structure of
historically-determined belief, in general. This does not present a problem, when his foreign actions or
ideas do not produce fundamental conflict do not threaten key beliefs. When basic concepts are
threatened, however, the unbearable, terrible unknown once again rises up, and once firm ground begins to
give way.
4.2.3. The Strange Idea
Increasing ability to abstract makes previous learning, established through non-abstract means, increasingly
modifiable and increasingly vulnerable. In a way, this is the whole point of abstraction, and the very
capacity to learn. Words deceptively simple and harmless are sufficient to create disruption and
conflict, because Homo sapiens can verbalize his beliefs. It could be said, therefore with sufficient
rationale that a new idea is an abstract stranger (or, by the same logic, a natural disaster). It is for this
reason that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.
The process of increased abstraction allows for increasing self-understanding (self-consciousness) at
least in potential and for the prediction of the behaviors of others [which is a capacity integrally linked to
the development of self-consciousness (how would I behave in a situation like that?)]. In addition,
abstraction facilitates communication of morality (instruction in how to behave), by making it unnecessary
to wait around to watch until something important worth seeing and remembering actually happens.
The use of drama, for example which is the representation of behavior, in behavior and image allows us
to watch the interplay of issues of mortal consequence, without the actors or the observers actually
suffering that consequence.
The capacity to abstract has not come without price, however. The incautious, imaginative (and
resentful) can easily use their gift of socially-constructed intelligence to undermine moral principles that
took eons to generate and that have valid but invisible reasons for their presence. Such invisible
principles can be subjected to facile criticism, by the historically ignorant, once they take imagistic, written
or spoken form. The consequence of this criticism is the undermining of necessary faith, and the
consequence dissolution of interpersonal predictability, dysregulation of emotion, and generation of
anomie, aggression and ideological gullibility (as the naked psyche strives to clothe itself, once again).
The danger of such criticism can be more particularly appreciated, when the effect of what might be
described as cascade is considered. We can change our behaviors because we change how we think
although this is not as simple as is generally considered. We can change how we think, facilely, and
without regard for the consequences, partly because we do not understand why we think what we think
(because all the facts that govern our behavior are not at our conscious disposal) and because the effects
of that change are often not immediately apparent (may not be apparent for generations). The fact that
changes in tradition have unintended and often dangerous side-effects accounts for the conservatism of
most human cultures. Cascade means that threat to the perceived validity of any presupposition, at any
level (procedural, imagistic or episodic, explicit or semantic) threatens all levels simultaneously. This
means that the casual criticism of a given explicit presupposition can come, over time, to undermine
the unconscious imagistic and procedural personality and the emotional stability that accompanies it.
Words have a power that belie their ease of use.

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Increasing Explicitness

Semantic

Episodic

Procedural

Figure 49: The Fragmentary Representation of Procedure and Custom in Image and Word

Figure 49: The Fragmentary Representation of Procedure and Custom in Image and Word
provides a schematic representation of the organization of behavior and schemas of value in memory.
Customs that is, predictable and stable patterns of behavior emerge and are stored procedurally as a
consequence of constant social interaction, over time, and as a result of the exchange of emotional
information that characterizes that interaction. You modify me, I modify you, we both modify others, etc.,
in a cycle that involves thousands of individuals, over thousands of years. Most of this information is a
more-or-less permanent part of the social network (is part of the structure of society), but can become
represented in part or whole in image, and then more explicitly, in verbal code. The imagistic
representation of the morality constituting a given society is likely to be incomplete, as the complexity of
the patterns emerging consequential to the totality of social interaction exceeds (current) representational
capacity. The semantic representations perched above the images are likely to be even more incomplete.
This means that the verbal systems utilized in abstract thinking, for example, only contain part of the
puzzle, at best only have partial information regarding the structure of the whole. So, while some of the
rules governing behavior have become completely explicit, and understood, others will remain
partially implicit (and poorly understood). Some of these partially implicit rules are likely to exist for
completely implicit (and therefore completely invisible) reasons. It is rules like these on the ragged edge
of comprehension that are likely to attract ill-informed but nonetheless potentially devastating criticism.

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Abstract verbal intelligence may therefore pick holes in the absurd mythological structure that supports
it, without understanding either that it is supported, or that the act of undermining is existentially mortally
dangerous. It is easy to criticize the notion of the immortal soul, for example and the traditional forms
of morality that tend to accompany such a belief without realizing that there is much more to the idea
than meets the eye.
Cascade means that threat to the perceived validity of any presupposition, at any level generally
verbally mediated now becomes threat to that presupposition, and everything that rests on it, at all levels.
The socially-mediated capacity to abstract to reason and represent, in behavior, imagination and word
means that an ill-chosen action, fantasy or thought may have devastating consequences. This is true in
particular of the word, the magic word a-bra-ca-da-bra (a-b-c-d). One well-chosen phrase can change
everything (from each according to his ability...). The word, in a particular context (one established by
behavior and episodic representation) has a polysemous significance it excludes more (constrains more)
than it appears to and means more than it contains (considered as an isolated or decontextualized
element). It has this capacity in part because it is capable of referring to phenomena outside its domain, in
order to make itself understood (this is use of metaphor). The word brings to mind events and actions,
sequenced in a particular manner; it is the (imaginary presentation) of these events and actions that contains
(much of) the meaning the words merely act as cues for retrieval. The information retrieved is not
necessarily (yet) semantic; it may still remain embodied in episodic memory and procedure. The
polysemous quality of the meaningful word, which implies something for imagistic representation and for
the structuring of behavior, is what makes it potent and dangerous. An entire behavioral hierarchy can be
undermined by a well-chosen creative phrase, because the phrase brings with it, as integral part of an
integrated whole, moral presuppositions of entirely different, and perhaps logically (or at least apparently)
contrary nature.
There is an apocryphal story about a cosmologist, lecturing to a rural audience of laypeople in the late
1800s. He describes the basic structure of the solar system, laying emphasis on the fact that the earth floats
unsupported in space, endlessly circling the sun. After the lecture, an old woman approaches the podium
and says:
That was a very interesting story, young man. Of course, it is completely absurd.
Absurd, madam? the lecturer inquired. Whatever do you mean?
It is well known fact, replied the old woman, that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle.
Is that so, maam. What, then, does the turtle rest on?
Dont play games with me, young man, responded the matron. Its turtles all the way down.393
Douglas Hofstadter presented a similar idea, in a fictional discussion between Achilles, the Greek hero, and
a tortoise (of Zenos paradox fame):
Tortoise: ... For purposes of illustration, let me suggest that you consider the simpler statement 29 is
prime. Now in fact, this statement really means that 2 times 2 is not 29, and 5 times 6 is not 29, and so
forth, doesnt it?
Achilles: It must, I suppose.
Tortoise: But you are perfectly happy to collect all such facts together, and attach them in a bundle to
the number 29, saying merely, 29 is prime?
Achilles: Yes...
Tortoise: And the number of facts involved is actually infinite, isnt it? After all, such facts as 4444
times 3333 is not 29 are all part of it, arent they?
Achilles: Strictly speaking, I suppose so. But you and I both know that you cant produce 29 by
multiplying two numbers which are both bigger than 29. So in reality, saying 29 is prime is only
summarizing a FINITE number of facts about multiplication.
Tortoise: You can put it that way if you want, but think of this: the fact that two numbers which are
bigger than 29 cant have a product equal to 29 involves the entire structure of the number system. In
that sense, that fact in itself is a summary of an infinite number of facts. You cant get away from the
fact, Achilles, that when you say 29 is prime, you are actually stating an infinite number of things.
Achilles: Maybe so, but it feels like just one fact to me.

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Tortoise: Thats because an infinitude of facts are contained in your prior knowledge they are
embedded implicitly in the way you visualize things. You dont see an explicit infinity because it is
captured implicitly inside the images you manipulate.394
Jerome Bruners comments on triggers are equally apropos here. He gives the following sentences as
examples: Trigger: John saw/didnt see the chimera. Presupposition: There exists a chimera. Trigger:
John realized/didnt realize he was broke. Presupposition: John was broke. Trigger: John
managed/didnt manage to open the door. Presupposition: John tried to open the door. There exists a
virtually infinite number of presuppositions for every trigger. Bruner states: Obviously you cannot
press a reader (or a listener) to make endless interpretations of your obscure remarks. But you can go a
surprisingly long way provided only that you start with something approximating what Joseph Campbell
called a mythologically instructed community.395 The transmission of what is generally regarded as
spiritual wisdom is in fact able to take (to be reduced to) narrative form, precisely because the word in
the context of the story, which is description of episodic representation of events and behaviors has this
deceptively simple, yet infinitely meaningful triggering property:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard
seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh
a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took,
and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not to them:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I
will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 13:31-35).
It is not merely the story which is saturated with meaning; it is imagination, behavior and the practical
consequences of imagination and behavior, as well. The individual ideas, particular fantasies and personal
actions of individuals presuppose the culture from which they are derived. The word, in meaningful
context, is meaningful precisely because it provides information relevant to episodic representation, per se,
and because it has relevance which may not be consciously comprehensible or declarable for
behavior. Likewise, the behavior and fantasies of self and other in context are predicated upon
culturally-determined values and beliefs, and could be said, in a manner of speaking, to contain them. It is
for this reason that Jung could claim, with regards to the fantasies of a modern dreamer:
He is in fact an unconscious exponent of an autonomous psychic development, just like the medieval
alchemist or the classical Neoplatonist. Hence one could say cum grano salis that history could be
constructed just as easily from ones own unconscious as from the actual texts.396
Even the more concrete implement or tool like the word is not an artifact separable from the culture
in which it is produced. It is failure to comprehend this fact that dooms many well-meaning foreign aid
projects and, no less, the foreigners to which such aid is granted. Even something as simple as the
shovel or hoe presupposes the existence of a culture that has granted the individual dominion over nature
that has granted the individual the right to make the Great Mother subservient to the claims of man. This
notion constitutes the central idea of complexly civilized patriarchal culture, and emerges into
consciousness, against competing claims, with the greatest of difficulty:
An American-Indian prophet, Smohalla, of the tribe of Umatilla, refused to till the soil. It is a sin, he
said, to wound or cut, to tear or scratch our common mother by working at agriculture. And he added:
You ask me to dig in the earth? Am I to take a knife and plunge it into the breast of my mother? But
then, when I die, she will not gather me again into her bosom. You tell me to dig up and take away the
stones. Must I mutilate her flesh so as to get at her bones? Then I can never again enter into her body
and be born again. You ask me to cut the grass and the corn and sell them, to get rich like the white men.
But how dare I crop the hair of my mother?397

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Every society shares a moral viewpoint, which is essentially an identity composed of unquestioned
fidelity to a particular conception of reality (what is and what should be), and of agreement upon the
nature of those behaviors that may reasonably be manifested. All the individuals in a particular nation
agree, fundamentally, about the nature of the unbearable present, the ideal future, and the means to
transform one into the other. Every individual plays out that conceptualization, in terms of his or her own
actions, more-or-less successfully; more successfully or at least more easily when nothing unintended
arises to make the act of questioning necessary; less successfully, when the moral action does not produce
the proper consequence. Any assumption can be challenged. The most fundamental expectation of my
fantasies whatever they might be is that my assumptions are valid. Mismatch between what I desired
and what actually occurred constitutes evidences that one or more of my assumptions are invalid (but not
necessarily information about which one, or at what level). The outcome of such a mismatch is application
of other (assumption-predicated) patterns of action, and associated expectations (hypothesis generation),
associated with gathering of new information, through active exploration. The further down the hierarchy
of assumption that mismatch occurs, the more stressful the occurrence, the more fear is disinhibited, the
more motivation for denial, the more necessity for exploration, the more necessary reprogramming of
behavioral assumption and matching sensory expectation.
A truly unexpected event sequence upsets the implicit assumptions upon which the original particular
fantasy was predicated and not only that fantasy, but innumerable presently implicit others, equally
dependent for their existence upon those violated presuppositions. The inevitable consequence of such
violation is the breakdown of expectation, and consequent generation of fear and hope, followed by
exploration the attempt to adapt to the new environment (to behave appropriately to fulfill motivational
demands under new conditions and to map new conditions). This consequence requires the paralysis of
the old model, reversion of otherwise stably maintained affects to competition and chaos, and explorationguided reconstruction of order.
The more basic the level, the more that assumption is shared by virtually every conceivable fantasy. The
more basic the level undermined, the more anxiety and depression [and other motivation particularly (and
non-evidently) hope] released from containment; the more behavioral adaptation cast into disrepute the
more motivation for denial, deceit, fascistic readaptation, degeneration and despair the more wish for
redemption. The undermining and reconstruction of more basic levels is, as we have seen, a revolutionary
act, even in the scientific domain. The normal scientist works within the constraints of great models; the
revolutionary changes the models. The normal scientist accepts the (current) game as valid, so to speak, and
tries to extend its relevant domain. The revolutionary scientist, who alters the rules of the game themselves,
is playing a different game (with different and dangerous rules, from a within-the-game perspective). Kuhn
states:
The transition from a paradigm in crisis to a new one from which a new tradition of normal science can
emerge is far from a cumulative process, one achieved by an articulation or extension of the old
paradigm. Rather it is a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes
some of the fields most elementary theoretical generalizations as well as many of its paradigm methods
and applications. During the transition period there will be a large but never complete overlap between
the problems that can be solved by the old and the new paradigm. But there will also be a decisive
difference in the modes of solution. When the transition is complete, the profession will have changed
its view of the field, its methods, and its goals.398
The normal scientist is often antithetical to his more extreme (more creative/destructive) counterpart
like the good citizen opposes the heretic in part because alteration of the rules changes the motivational
significance of (previously valued) action and thought often, apparently, reducing it to zero (which means
that the revolutionary can completely destroy the significance of the career, past, present and future, of the
dedicated plodder); in part, because restructuring of the rules temporarily returns everything to a state of
(anxiety-provoking) chaos. Kuhn states:
... a paradigm is [even] prerequisite to perception itself. What a man sees depends both upon what he
looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see. In the

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absence of such training there can only be, in William Jamess phrase, a bloomin buzzin
confusion.399
That bloomin buzzin confusion the Great Dragon of Chaos, in case it needs to be said is not
affectively neutral: in fact, its affective significance, threat and promise, is perhaps all that can be
experienced of it, before it has been categorized.
Sometimes new information means mere lateral adjustment of behavior; so to speak the modification
of approach, within a domain where still defined by the familiar goal. Sometimes, however, the unknown
emerges in a manner that demands a qualitative adjustment in adaptive strategy: the revaluation of past,
present and future, and acceptance of the suffering and confusion this necessarily entails. Kuhn comments
on the effect (and affect) of emergent and persistent unknown in the domain of science. The pattern he
describes characterized all cognitive revolutions, including those that take place in the universe of (normal)
morality:
When... an anomaly comes to seem more than just another puzzle of normal science, the transition to
crisis and to extraordinary science has begun. The anomaly itself now comes to be more generally
recognized as such by the profession. More and more attention is devoted to it by the more and more of
the fields most eminent men. If it still continues to resist, as it usually does not, many of them may
come to view its resolution as the subject matter of their discipline. For them the field will no longer
look quite the same as it had earlier. Part of its different appearance results simply from the new fixation
point of scientific scrutiny. An even more important source of change is the divergent nature of the
numerous partial solutions that concerted attention to the problem has made available. The early attacks
upon the resistant problem will have followed the paradigm rules quite closely. But with continuing
resistance, more and more of the attacks upon it wIll have involved some minor or not so minor articulation of the paradigm, no two of them quite alike, each partially successful, but none sufficiently so to be
accepted as paradigm by the group. Through this proliferation of divergent articulations (more and more
frequently they will come to be described as ad hoc adjustments), the rules of normal science become
increasingly blurred. Though there still is a paradigm, few practitioners prove to be entirely agreed about
what it is. Even formerly standard solutions of solved problems are called in question.
When acute, this situation is sometimes recognized by the scientists involved. Copernicus
complained that in his day astronomers were so inconsistent in these [astronomical] investigations...
that they cannot even explain or observe the constant length of the seasonal year. With them, he
continued, it is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head and other members for his images
from diverse models, each part excellently drawn, but not related to a single body, and since they in no
way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.400 Einstein, restricted by current
usage to less florid language, wrote only, It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one,
with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built.401 And Wolfgang
Pauli, in the months before Heisenbergs paper on matrix mechanics pointed the way to a new quantum
theory, wrote to a friend, At the moment physics is again terribly confused. In any case, it is too
difficult for me, and I wish I had been a movie comedian or something of the sort and had never heard
of physics. That testimony is particularly impressive if contrasted with Paulis words less than five
months later: Heisenbergs type of mechanics has again given me hope and joy in life. To be sure it
does not supply the solution to the riddle, but I believe it is again possible to march forward.402403
Now, Kuhn drew a qualitative distinction between the normal and revolutionary modes of operation. No
such qualitative differences exist (although exemplars of the two types, drawn from the extreme poles of
the process of knowledge-production, can be easily be brought to mind). The distinction is more along the
lines of transformation of what the group wants to transform vs transformation of what the group would
like to remain stable with the revolutionary changing more than might presently be desired (for the
maintenance of the extant social hierarchy, for example). The transformation of what the group wants to
transform is a form of bounded revolution, as we have discussed previously. Bounded revolutions produce
positive affect. Revolutions that upset the bounds themselves which is what Kuhns revolutionary
scientist produces evoke fear (and denial, and aggression, as defence mechanisms). The

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revolutionary produces involuntary alteration in the articles of faith of the normal individual. It is this
capacity that makes him revolutionary, and necessary and feared and despised. It may be more generally
said that processes of discovery which upset large-scale space-time maps produces disruption of affect
on an equivalent scale (and that it is such large-scale disruption that we entitle revolution).
Mythologically-structured social and individual presumptions articles of faith provide the
environment in which a given culture-specific adaptive pattern retains its conditional validity. This prerational mythic environment is analogous in structure to the physical or natural environment itself as the
structure adapted to the environment rapidly becomes a constituent element of the environment itself, with
the same essential characteristics. (Or, to say it somewhat differently everything contained outside the
wall defining presently considered space is environment even though much of it is actually the
consequence of historical or even individual activity). Disruption of the pre-rational mythic
environment is just as catastrophic as disruption of the physical or natural environment (the two
disruptions may not really be distinguishable, in the final analysis). This means essentially that to give
serious consideration to anothers viewpoint means to risk exposure to indeterminate uncertainty to risk a
rise in existential anxiety, pain and depression; to experience temporally indeterminate affective, imagistic
and cognitive chaos. It is much more likely, in consequence, that a foreign viewpoint will appear evil, or
will come to be defined as such, with passage of time (especially during times rendered unstable
unbearably novel for additional alternative reasons). Once such definition occurs, application of
aggression, designed to obliterate the source of threat, appears morally justified, even required by duty. The
alternative or foreign viewpoint is in fact reasonably considered evil (although this consideration is
dangerously one-sided), when viewed in terms of its potential destructive capacity, from within the strict
confines of the historically-determined social-psychological adaptive structure. It is only within the domain
of meta-morality (which is the morality designed to update moral rules) that the strange may be tolerated
even welcomed.
The group, in its external social and intrapsychic incarnations, is the current expression of a form of
acting and thinking that has been given particular content over the course of thousands of years. These
particular contents, patterns of behavior (and their representations), were established initially by individuals
who faced the unknown and prevailed, who were able to do or think something that no one had been able to
do or think before. In this manner, heroic individuals create new assumptions and formulate new values.
The integration of these assumptions and values into the group, through the competitive process that begins
with imitation and ends with verbal abstraction, increases the permanent behavioral and abstract logical
repertoire of the individuals that form that group. The sum total of such behavioral patterns (and second
and third-order descriptions thereof), shared within a social group, constitutes that group. Groups are
predicated upon a collective, historically-determined structure of (abstractly represented) behavioral
patterns (and consequences thereof), which tends towards internal consistency, and stability over time.
Internalization of this behavioral pattern, and representations thereof, protects the individuals who compose
the group against fear of their own experience. The group is the culturally-determined hierarchical structure
of behavior and abstracted conceptualization thereof which inhibits fear of novelty, the Terrible Mother,
source of all nightmares. The group is the historical structure that humanity has erected between the
individual and the unknown. The group, in its beneficial guise, serves to protect the individuals who
compose it from threat and the unknown. The social establishment of how to behave, when presented with
a given situation, inhibits the paralyzing fear that situation would otherwise instinctively induce.
The group is also simultaneously the concrete historical expression of Homo sapiens unique heroic
thesis, as stated previously: that the nature of experience can be altered, for the better, by voluntary
alteration of action and thought. This central thesis is expressed in the myth of the way. Loss of
(previously extant) paradise initiates the redemptive activity, history; regain of paradise in the course or
as a consequence of proper behavior is its goal. This general pattern appears characteristic of all
civilizations, every philosophy, every ideology, all religions. The general idea that change may bring
improvement upon which all voluntary change is predicated is in itself based in the ideal upon the
assumption [on the (necessary) fiction] that through historical process perfection might be attained. This
myth even in its earliest ritual incarnation therefore provides the basis for the idea of progress itself.
The group, history incarnate, is the embodiment of a specific mode of being designed to attain perfection,
and contains the concrete expression of the goal of a people it is the objective and subjective realization

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of the mode by which they improve their tragic condition. History not only protects people from the
unknown; it provides them with rules for achieving what they desire most, and, therefore, for expressing
the (essentially undeclarable) meaning of their lives.
Human moral knowledge progresses as procedural knowledge expands its domain, as episodic memory
encodes, ever more accurately, the patterns that characterize that knowledge, and as the semantic system
comes to explicitly represent the implicit principles upon which procedural knowledge and episodic
representation of that knowledge rest and, of course, as the consequences of this second and third-order
representation alter the nature of procedure itself. Thus the democratic political theorist, for example, can
finally put into words the essence of religious myth after the myth had captured in image the essence of
adaptive behavior can talk about intrinsic right, as if that notion were something rational. This process
of increasing abstraction and representation is equivalent to development of higher consciousness
(especially if the ever-more enlightened words are in fact utopian wish transformed back down the
hierarchy to the level of action).
The major advantage of increased abstraction of representation apart from ease of communication is
increased adaptive flexibility: alterations in abstract thought can proceed as if as if a game, without
immediate practical consequences, positive or negative.404 The disadvantage of this adaptive flexibility is
the emergence of ability to constantly (and inappropriately, in most cases) undermine the a priori
presumptions of the game to call the rules into question; to dissolve impetus for action and to disinhibit
existential anxiety. A game is fun until the rules appear childish. Then the fun disappears. This might be
progress, in time. Until a new game appears, however, it is merely troublesome. The process of abstract
(semantic) inquiry is capable of undermining moral adaptation at each level semantic, episodic and
procedural simultaneously. This possibility might be regarded, once again, as a (destructive/beneficial)
side-effect of the ability to abstract.
The evolutionary construction of an adaptive social structure, simultaneously extant in behavior and in
semantic/episodic representation of that behavior, means abstraction and hierarchical organization of
knowledge hard-won in the physical battle for survival, and consequent capacity for immmediate
communication of that knowledge, in the absence of direct demonstration. Furthermore, it means potential
for alteration and experimentation in the abstract (in play, episodic and semantic), prior to application in the
real world. Acquisition of such ability the capacity for abstract creative thought, and social exchange
thereof means tremendous heightening of adaptive ability, as concepts constructed purely semantically
attain the capacity for alteration of episodic representation and procedure itself. Once the nature of morality
is coded semantically once the implicit hierarchically-structured presuppositions of behavior have been
rendered explicit they can be considered, debated, and altered in their essential nature. Such alteration is
capable of resonating, so to speak, down the cognitive chain to procedure itself. Likewise, alterations in
procedure are (and should be) capable of producing profound effects upon episodic and semantic
representation. This increased flexibility the result of a tremendously complex and lengthy historical
development is tremendously useful for the purposes of rapid adaptation and change, but also equally
facilitates conflict, social and intrapsychic. Such conflict emerges as a consequence of destabilization of
historical tradition.
It is the essential flexibility of the human brain, its very capacity to learn, and therefore to unlearn, that
renders Homo sapiens so appallingly susceptible to group and intrapsychic conflict. An animals behavioral
pattern its procedural knowledge is set; its way of being in the unknown cannot easily be altered in its
fundament. The assumptions and values by which an individual human being lives can, by contrast, be
threatened with a few well-chosen and revolutionary words, whose ease of communication belies their
elaborately complex evolutionary history, the depth of heroic endeavor necessary to their formulation, and
their extreme current potency. Sufficiently novel verbally-transmitted information may disturb semantic,
episodic and procedural paradigm simultaneously, although the totality of such effects may not become
manifest for years not infrequently, for generations.
Every culture maintains certain key beliefs, which are centrally important to that culture, upon which all
secondary beliefs are predicated. These key beliefs cannot be easily given up, because if they are,
everything falls, and the unknown once again rules. Western morality, western behavior, is for example
predicated on the assumption that every individual is sacred. This belief was already extant in its nascent
form, among the ancient Egyptians, and provides the very cornerstone of Judeo-Christian civilization.

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Successful challenge to this idea would invalidate the actions and goals of the western individual, would
destroy the western dominance hierarchy the social context for individual action. In the absence of this
central assumption, the body of western law formalized myth, codified morality erodes and falls. There
are no individual rights, no individual value and the foundation of the western social (and psychological)
structure dissolves. The Second World and Cold wars were fought largely to eliminate such a challenge.
For the man whose beliefs have become abstracted (and, therefore, more doubtful, more debatable), the
mere idea of the stranger is sufficient to disrupt the stability of everyday presumption. Tolstoy, in his
Confessions, recalls the impact of modern Western European ideas on the too-long static medieval culture
of Russia:
I remember that when I was eleven years old a high-school boy named Volodinka M., now long since
dead, visited us one Sunday with an announcement of the latest discovery made at school. The discovery
was that there is no God and that the things they were teaching us were nothing but fairy tales (this was
in 1838). I remember how this news captured the interest of my older brothers; they even let me in on
their discussions. I remember that we were all very excited and that we took this news to be both
engaging and entirely possible.405
This discovery, which was in fact the cumulative result of a very lengthy and traumatic Western
European cognitive process, had the capacity to undermine the most fundamental presuppositions of
Russian culture (as it had undermined those of the West):
... since ancient times, when the life of which I do know something began, people who knew the
arguments concerning the vanity of life, the arguments that revealed to me its meaninglessness, lived
nonetheless, bringing to life a meaning of their own. Since the time when people somehow began to
live, this meaning of life has been with them, and they have led this life up to my own time. Everything
that is in me and around me is the fruit of their knowledge of life. The very tools of thought by which I
judge life and condemn it were created not by me but by them. I myself was born, educated and have
grown up thanks to them. They dug out the iron, taught us how to cut the timber, tamed the cattle and
the horses, showed us how to sow crops and live together; they brought order to our lives. They taught
me how to think and to speak. I am their offspring, nursed by them, reared by them, taught by them; I
think according to their thoughts, their words, and now I have proved to them that it is all
meaningless!406
and eventually, inevitably, produced the following effects:
It happened with me as it happens with everyone who contracts a fatal internal disease. At first there
were the insignificant symptoms of an ailment, which the patient ignores; then these symptoms recur
more and more frequently, until they merge into one continuous duration of suffering. The suffering
increases, and before he can turn around the patient discovers what he already knew: the thing he had
taken for a mere indisposition is in fact the most important thing on earth to him, is in fact death.
This is exactly what happened to me. I realized that this was not an incidental ailment but something
very serious, and that if the same questions should continue to recur, I would have to answer them. And
I tried to answer them. The questions seemed to be such foolish, simple, childish questions. But as soon
as I laid my hands on them and tried to resolve them, I was immediately convinced, first of all, that they
were not childish and foolish questions but the most vital and profound questions in life, and, secondly,
that no matter how much I pondered them there was no way I could resolve them. Before I could be
occupied with my Samara estate, with the education of my son, or with the writing of books, I had to
know why I was doing these things. As long as I do not know the reason why, I cannot do anything. In
the middle of my concern with the household, which at the time kept me quite busy, a question would
suddenly come into my head: Very well, you will have 6000 desyatins in the Samara province, as well
as 300 horses; what then? And I was completely taken aback and did not know what else to think. As
soon as I started to think about the education of my children, I would ask myself, Why? Or I would
reflect on how the people might attain prosperity, and I would suddenly ask myself, What concern is it
of mine? Or in the middle of thinking about the fame that my works were bringing me I would say to

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myself, Very well, you will be more famous than Gogol, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Moliere, more famous
than all the writers in the world so what?
And I could find absolutely no reply.
My life came to a stop. I could breathe, eat, drink, and sleep; indeed, I could not help but breathe, eat,
drink, and sleep. But there was no life in me because I had no desires whose satisfaction I would have
found reasonable. If I wanted something, I knew beforehand that it did not matter whether or not I got it.
If a fairy had come and offered to fulfill my every wish, I would not have known what to wish for. If
in moments of intoxication I should have not desires but the habits of old desires, in moments of
sobriety I knew that it was all a delusion, that I really desired nothing. I did not even want to discover
truth anymore because I had guessed what it was. The truth was that life is meaningless.
It was as though I had lived a little, wandered a little, until I came to the precipice, and I clearly saw
that there was nothing ahead except ruin. And there was no stopping, no turning back, no closing my
eyes so I would not see that there was nothing ahead except the deception of life and of happiness and
the reality of suffering and death, of complete annihilation.
I grew sick of life; some irresistible force was leading me to somehow get rid of it. It was not that I
wanted to kill myself. The force that was leading me away from life was more powerful, more absolute,
more all-encompassing than any desire. With all my strength I struggled to get away from life. The
thought of suicide came to me as naturally then as the thought of improving life had come to me before.
This thought was such a temptation that I had to use cunning against myself in order not to go through
with it too hastily. I did not want to be in a hurry only because I wanted to use all my strength to
untangle my thoughts. If I could not get them untangled, I told myself, I could always go ahead with it.
And there I was, a fortunate man, carrying a rope from my room where I was alone every night as I
undressed, so that I would not hang myself from the beam between the closets. And I quit going hunting
with a gun, so that I would not be too easily tempted to rid myself of life. I myself did not know what I
wanted. I was afraid of life, I struggled to get rid of it, and yet I hoped for something from it.
And this was happening to me at a time when, from all indications, I should have been considered a
completely happy man; this was when I was not yet fifty years old. I had a good, loving, and beloved
wife, fine children, and a large estate that was growing and expanding without any effort on my part.
More than ever before I was respected by friends and acquaintances, praised by strangers, and I could
claim a certain renown without really deluding myself. Moreover, I was not physically and mentally
unhealthy; on the contrary, I enjoyed a physical and mental vigor such as I had rarely encountered
among others my age. Physically, I could keep up with the peasants working in the fields; mentally, I
could work eight and ten hours at a stretch without suffering any aftereffects from the strain. And in
such a state of affairs I came to a point where I could not live; and even though I feared death, I had to
employ ruses against myself to keep from committing suicide.
I described my spiritual condition to myself in this way: my life is some kind of stupid and evil
practical joke that someone is playing on me. In spite of the fact that I did not acknowledge the
existence of any Someone who might have created me, the notion that someone brought me into the
world as a stupid and evil joke seemed to be the most natural way to describe my condition.407
Group identity inculcated morality and accepted interpretation serves to constrain the motivational
significance of experiential phenomena. When that identity (which is predicated upon implicit or explicitly
held faith in a particular conceptualization of the way) is challenged, such constraints vanish. This
deconstruction of symbolically patriarchal custom and belief subjects the individual to intrapsychic war
of conflicting affect the clash of opposites, in Jungian terms subjugates him or her to unbearable
cognitive, emotional and moral conflict. Nietzsches comments on Hamlet, sicklied oer by the pale cast
of thought, are relevant in this context:
Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet.... Now no
comfort avails any more; longing transcends a world after death, even the gods; existence is negated

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along with its glittering reflection in the gods or in an immortal beyond. Conscious of the truth he has
once seen, man now sees everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence; now he understands what
is symbolic in Ophelias fate; now he understands the wisdom of the sylvan god, Silenus: he is
nauseated.408409
Dostoevskis tragically comic bureaucratic-personality-disordered protagonist (the metaphoric mouse)
in Notes from Underground reacts similarly, comparing his own (sophisticated) inability to respond
courageously to an insult, to that of lhomme de la nature et de la verite the natural, and therefore
truthful, yet comparatively unconscious (procedural) man:
Let us now look at the mouse in action. Suppose, for example, that it too has been insulted (and it will
almost always be subjected to slights) and desires revenge. Perhaps even more fury will accumulate
inside it than inside lhomme de la nature et de la verite because lhomme de la nature et de la verite,
with his innate stupidity, considers his revenge to be no more than justice, while the mouse, with its
heightened consciousness, denies that there is any justice about it. At last comes the act itself, the
revenge. The wretched mouse has by this time accumulated, in addition to the original nastiness, so
many other nastinesses in the shape of questions and doubts, and so many other unresolved problems in
addition to the original problem, that it has involuntarily collected round itself a fatal morass, a stinking
bog, consisting of its own doubts and agitations, and finally of the spittle rained on it by all the
spontaneous men of action standing portentously round as judges and referees, and howling with
laughter. Of course, nothing remains for it do but shrug the whole thing off and creep shamefacedly into
its hole with a smile of pretended contempt in which it doesnt even believe itself.410
The fictional characters of Shakespeare and Dostoevski respond like the flesh-and-blood man, Tolstoy, to
the same historically-determined set of circumstances to the death of god, in Nietzsches terminology,
brought about, inexorably, by continued development of abstract consciousness. The first modern man,
Hamlet and those who follow him, in art and in life characteristically respond like Nietzsches pale
criminal; like Raskolnikov, unable to bear the terrible beauty411 of their deeds. Nietzsche states:
Of what is great one must either be silent or speak with greatness. With greatness that means
cynically and with innocence. What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is
coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism.... Our whole European culture is
moving for some time now, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade, as toward a
catastrophe: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer
reflects, that is afraid to reflect.
He that speaks here has, conversely, done nothing so far but to reflect: as a philosopher and solitary
by instinct who has found his advantage in standing aside, outside. Why has the advent of nihilism
become necessary? Because the values we have had hitherto thus draw their final consequence; because
nihilism represents the ultimate logical conclusion of our great values and ideals-because we must
experience nihilism before we can find out what value these values really had.
We require, at some time, new values.
Nihilism stands at the door: whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?
Point of departure: it is an error to consider social distress or physiological degeneration, or
corruption of all things, as the cause of nihilism. Ours is the most honest and compassionate age.
Distress, whether psychic, physical, or intellectual, need not at all produce nihilism (that is, the radical
rejection of value, meaning, and desirability). Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations.
Rather: it is in one particular interpretation, the Christian moral one, that nihilism is rooted.
The end of Christianity at the hands of its own morality (which cannot be replaced), which turns
against the Christian God: the sense of truthfulness, highly developed by Christianity, is nauseated by
the falseness and mendaciousness of all Christian interpretations of the world and of history; rebound
from God is the truth to the fanatical faith All is false; an active Buddhism.

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Skepticism regarding morality is what is decisive. The end of the moral interpretation of the world,
which no longer has any sanction after it has tried to escape into some beyond, leads to nihilism.
All lacks meaning. (The untenability of one interpretation of the world, upon which a tremendous
amount of energy has been lavished, awakens the suspicion that all interpretations of the world are
false.)412
(That, in a nutshell, is cascade.)
Nihilism, alter-ego of totalitarianism, is response to experience of the world, self and other, rendered
devoid of certain meaning, and therefore allowed no meaning; is reaction to the world freed from the
(unconscious) constraints of habit, custom and belief; is response to the re-emergence of the terrible
unknown; is reaction of a spirit no longer able, as a consequence of abstract critical ability, to manifest
(unconscious or procedural) identity with the hero no longer able to muster belief in human possibility, in
the face of exposure to the most dreadful imaginable. Phenomena remain constrained in their (affective)
significance, at least partially, because the group (the dominance hierarchy) has reached agreement as to
their meaning (their implications for situation-specific action). When that hierarchy falls perhaps as a
consequence of emergent disbelief in central presumption nothing remains sacred. This process
becomes evidently manifest, from the empirical viewpoint, during a riot. When law and order are held
temporarily in abeyance [when the inhibitory force of imposed threat is relieved (when the dominance
hierarchy momentarily collapses)], those whose moral behavior remains predicated upon resentful
obedience fall prey to their own disordered affect, and explode in aggression, greed, hatred, and vengeful
destructiveness. This explosion [implosion (?)] is reduction to the precosmogonic continuum, from the
pre-experimental or mythic viewpoint413 is regression to the time and place prior to the division of things
into known and unknown. This can be viewed either as alteration in affect, or transformation of the
motivational significance of the phenomena whose apprehension motivates behavior. The objective mind
would postulate the former; the mythic mind, concerned with subjective reality, the latter. This form of
regression exists as precondition to creative restructuring. Semi-conscious (semi-declarative) apprehension
of this affect-laden state (manifest as paralyzing fear) exists (fortunately and catastrophically) as the
greatest impediment to change.
The dominance hierarchy of value, extant socially and intrapsychically, employs fear (and promise) to
regulate access to desired commodities to determine the net motivational significance of particular events
and processes. Any given phenomena is capable of inducing a variety of affective or motivational states. It
is (the socially and individually determined) outcome of competition between these (intrapsychic) states
that determines behavioral output. The internalized consequence of the external dominance hierarchy
which is the intrapsychic patriarchy, Freuds superego is knowledge of the net motivational relevance
of phenomena, within a particular society. This implies as stated previously that the (historicallydetermined) power structure of a given society could be inferred through analysis of the significance
granted technological and cognitive artifacts by the individuals within that society. What is desired depends
upon the goal towards which a given society moves. The goal is posited as valuable, initially, as a
consequence of the operation of unconscious presumptions, hypothetically preceding action. The value
presupposed by the action is then coded episodically, then, perhaps, formalized semantically. Someone
from a different culture values things differently; this difference is predicated upon acceptance of an
alternate goal-directed schema. The nature and presence of this difference may be inferred (will, in fact,
necessarily be inferred) from observation of foreign behavior, imagination and discussion even inferred,
perhaps, from exposure to cultural artifacts (which are generally granted the status of mere tools, which
is to say, implements of the way) or from cues as subtle as voice or procedural melody.414
Movement from one schema to another or from both to a hypothetical third, which unites both (which
might constitute the consequence of revolutionary heroic effort) presupposes dissolution (mutual or
singular) not mere addition (presupposes a qualitative shift, not a quantitative shift). Mythically, as
we have seen, this movement might be represented as descent from the precipice into the abyss, as the
collapse of the idol with feet of clay, as dissolution to constituent bodily or material elements, as journey to
the underworld or sea bottom, as sojourn through the valley of the shadow of death, as forty years (or forty
days) in the desert, as encounter with the hydra, as incest with the mother. When such a journey is

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undertaken voluntarily resources prepared adequately beforehand, faith in place chance of success
(return, reconstitution, resurrection, ascent) is substantially enhanced. When dissolution occurs accidently
when encounter with the unknown is unintentional,415 or avoided beyond its time of inevitable occurrence
intrapsychic or social catastrophe, suicide or war, becomes certain.
The goal towards which behavior is devoted serves as one pole of the cognitive schema which
determines the motivational significance of events. Members of the same culture share the same goal. This
goal consists of a hypothetical desired end-state, which exists in contrast to some conceptualization of the
present, and which can be attained through participation in a particular consensually-accepted and
traditionally-determined process. This schema is analogous in structure to the complete mythological
conception of the way, which includes a representation of the (troubled) present, a conception of the
(desired) future, and a description of methods (moral prescriptions and injunctions) for transforming the
former into the latter. Moral knowledge serves to further the way by reducing the infinite potential
motivational significance of particular events to the particular and determinate. This process of reduction is
social in nature events take on established meaning that is socially determined, shared. The affective
relevance of a given phenomenon which, most fundamentally, is its significance for goal-directed
behavior is a consequence of the operation of the goal-oriented schema, which finds partial expression in
establishment of a dominance hierarchy. A dominance hierarchy is a social arrangement which determines
access to desired commodities. In most cases, these commodities are cues for consummatory reward
experiences which signify movement towards, or increased likelihood of attaining, the desired goal.
Relative position in the dominance hierarchy at least in the perfectly functioning society is in itself
determined through social judgment. That judgment reflects appreciation of the value of a particular
individual. That value reflects how society views the ability of that individual to contribute to attainment of
the goal. This interpretation of course implies that the postulation of a given way necessarily, inevitably,
produces a hierarchy of value (since people and things will inevitably differ in their utility as means to the
desired end). Every phenomena, experienced within the confines of a particular society, is laden with
dominance-hierarchy and goal-schema relevant information. The value of any particular item or experience
is determined by the mythic foundation, upon which the entire society, consciously and unconsciously,
rests. This value is the magic of the object.
Schismatic activity, semantic, episodic, or procedural, might be considered the within-group equivalent
to arrival of an (abstracted or concrete) stranger. Cultural schisms emerge when once-predictable and
familiar individuals become possessed by novel behavioral notions, imagery or semantic formulations,
which present a challenge to presumptions deemed necessarily inviolable such as the (most dangerous,
authoritarian) presumption that all currently accepted presumptions are true. Medieval horror of heresy
and the drastic responses to such ideation defined as necessary by the Catholic guardians of proper thought
is rendered comprehensible as a consequence of consideration (1) of the protective function of intact
dogma and (2) of the methodological impossibility of disproving, so to speak, alternative mythicallyfounded narrative ideas, once postulated. The Christian church fragmented chaotically (and, perhaps,
creatively) and continues to do so with horrendous consequences, even under conditions where such
fragmentation was severely punished. This is not stated to provided justification for repression of creativity,
but to make the motivation for such repression understandable. Degeneration into chaos decadence
might be considered the constant threat of innovation undertaken in the absence of comprehension and
respect for tradition. Such decadence is precisely as dangerous to the stability and adaptability of the
community (and the individual) and as purely motivated by underground wishes and desires as
totalitarianism or desire for absolute order. The (continuing) absence of a generally accepted methodology
for peaceably sorting out relative value or validity of evident mythologically-predicated differences helps
ensure that savage repression will remain the frequently utilized alternative.
Rapid development of semantic skill (and its second-order elaboration into empirical methodology)
constitutes the third major threat to the continued stability of sociohistorically-determined adaptive cultural
systems (as well as the major factor in the complex elaboration of such systems). (The first two just a
reminder were rapid natural environmental shift, independent of human activity, and contact with a
heretofore isolated foreign culture). Literate individuals, members of cultures contained in express
theologies or (rational) philosophies, can more easily incarnate and/or abstractly adopt or provisionally
formulate different positions, with regards to the value of initial assumptions; can also verbalize the beliefs

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of other people, absorb them, and subject them to critical consideration or (theoretically) guileless
acceptance; are fated necessarily to be able to become many other people, in imitation, imagination, and
thought. Linguistically-mediated criticism of the predicates of behavior undermines faith in the validity of
historically-established hierarchical patterns of adaptation. The final emergent process of the
developmental chain of abstraction can be applied to undermine the stability of its foundation. The modern
and verbally-sophisticated individual is therefore always in danger of sawing off the branch on which he or
she sits.
Language turned drama into mythic narrative, narrative into formal religion, and religion into critical
philosophy, providing exponential expansion of adaptive ability while simultaneously undermining
assumption and expectation, and dividing knowledge from action. Civilized homo sapiens can use words to
destroy what words did not create. This ability has left modern individuals increasingly subject to their
worst fears. Nietzsche states:
Our Europe of today, being the arena of an absurdly sudden attempt at a radical mixture of classes, and
hence races, is therefore skeptical in all its heights and depths sometimes with that mobile skepticism
which leaps impatiently and lasciviously from branch to branch, sometimes dismal like a cloud
overcharged with question marks and often mortally sick of its will. Paralysis of the will: where today
does one not find this cripple sitting? And often in such finery! How seductive the finery looks! This
disease enjoys the most beautiful pomp-and-lie-costumes; and most of what today displays itself in the
showcases, for example, as objectivity, being scientific, lart pour lart, pure knowledge, free of
will, is merely dressed-up skepticism and paralysis of the will: for this diagnosis of the European
sickness I vouch.416
The intellectual developments which lead to the establishment of modern scientific methodology have
heightened the danger of this partially pathological tendency. The construction of a powerful and accurate
representation of the objective or shared world a logical conclusion of the interpersonal exchange of
sensory information, made possible by linguistic communication challenged belief in the reality of the
mythic world, which was in fact never objective, from the perspective of perception and sensation. The
mythic world was always affective, never objective although it was shared socially and contained
procedural information (and abstracted representation thereof), arranged hierarchically in terms of value,
embodied in non-verbal procedural and abstracted imagistic and semantic form. Representation of mythic
value in verbal format allowed for simple experimentation in ethics, in imagination (and then, often
tragically, in action), and for generation of naive but effective criticism regarding traditional foundations
for behavior. Nietzsche states:
For this is the way in which religions are wont to die out: under the stern, intelligent eyes of an
orthodox dogmatism, the mythical premises of a religion are systematized as a sum total of historical
events; one begins apprehensively to defend the credibility of the myths, while at the same time one
opposes any continuation of their natural vitality and growth; the feeling for myth perishes, and its place
is taken by the claim of religion to historical foundations.417
Freud maintained as an ideal nineteenth century empiricist that there is no other source of
knowledge of the universe but the intellectual manipulation of carefully verified observations that is,
what is called research and that no knowledge can be obtained from revelation, intuition or inspiration.
He says, furthermore, that there is no appeal beyond reason418 (grounded directly in observation, one
would presume). This description leaves no place for the primal role of affect (or even of sensation, for that
matter) in determination of wisdom what causes me (and others) pain is wrong, in the most basic (and
naive) form and also fails to address the issue of the source of scientific hypotheses in general (the
narrative process). Furthermore, pure knowledge of the sensory world what is, most fundamentally does
not include knowledge about how to adapt to or behave in that world (even though the gathering of such
information has obvious implications for such adaptation). Tolstoy states:
As presented by the learned and the wise, rational knowledge denies the meaning of life, but the huge
masses of people acknowledge meaning through an irrational knowledge. And this irrational knowledge
is faith, the one thing that I could not accept. This involves the God who is both one and three, the

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creation in six days, devils, angels and everything else that I could not accept without taking leave of my
senses.
My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a
denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more
impossible than a denial of life. According to rational knowledge, it followed that life is evil, and people
know it. They do not have to live, yet they have lived and they do live, just as I myself had lived, even
though I had known for a long time that life is meaningless and evil. According to faith, it followed that
in order to understand the meaning of life I would have to turn away from reason, the very thing for
which meaning was necessary.419
Mythic thinking, so to speak, is also based on observation but on observation of behavior in the world of
affective experience. This means (cyclical) observation of action predicated upon an (implicit or explicitly
formulated) theory of what should be, and derivation of procedural, episodic or semantic representations
thereof. This is knowledge, as well and appears, in the light of careful analysis, no more arbitrary than
empirical description of the objective world.
Perhaps it was necessary for science, struggling to escape from a cognitive world dominated by religious
and mythical thinking, to devalue that world, in order to set up an independent existence. That existence
has long been established, however but the process of devaluation, implicit and explicit, continues (even
in fields theoretically fall separate from the strictly empirical). Frye states:
Ever since Plato, most literary critics have connected the word thought with dialectical and
conceptual idioms, and ignored or denied the existence of poetic and imaginative thought. This attitude
continued into the twentieth century with I.A. Richardss Science and Poetry, with its suggestion that
mythical thinking has been superseded by scientific thinking, and that consequently poets must confine
themselves to pseudo-statements. The early criticism of T.S. Eliot, though considerably more cautious
than this, also exhibited an array of confusions clustering around the word thought. Since then there
has been a slowly growing realization that mythological thinking cannot be superseded, because it forms
the framework and context for all thinking. But the old views still persist, if in more sophisticated forms,
and there are still far too many literary critics who are both ignorant and contemptuous of the mental
processes that produce literature.420
Nietzsche states, similarly but with somewhat more scorn:
Every age has its own divine type of naivety for whose invention other ages may envy it and how
much naivety, venerable, childlike and boundlessly clumsy naivety lies in the scholars faith in his
superiority, in the good conscience of his tolerance, in the unsuspecting simple certainly with which his
instinct treats the religious man as an inferior and lower type that he has outgrown, leaving it behind,
beneath him him, that presumptuous little dwarf and rabble man, the assiduous and speedy head- and
handiworker of ideas, of modern ideas!421
Mythological thinking is not mere arbitrary superstition. Its denigration cascading even through literary
criticism, in recent years is not only unwarranted, but perilous. This is not to say that religious institutions
and dogmas are not prey to the same weaknesses as all other human creations. The ideas and patterns of
action that underlay and generated those institutions remain of critical importance, however remain
important for sustaining individual emotional stability, maintaining group tolerance, cohesion and
flexibility, supporting capacity to adapt to the strange, and strengthening ability to resist domination by
one-sided and murderous ideologies.
. The idea that we have superseded such thinking is a prime example of the capacity of the semantic
system to partially represent, and to thoroughly criticize. This is wrong, arrogant, and dangerous.
The group promotes an integrated pattern of behavior and conception of values. This is strength, in that
an integrated pattern provides one message, and therefore promotes unity and direction. It is also weakness,
in that integration stable, hierarchically organized structure is inflexible, and therefore brittle. This
means the group, and those who identify with it, cannot easily develop new modes of perception, or change
direction, when such change or development becomes necessary. Under stable environmental and social

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conditions, this is an advantage, as what worked in the past will continue to work in the present. However,
in times of transition, of rapid environmental transformation, of multi-cultural contact, of technological or
ideological advance, stability is not necessarily sufficient. The Russian neuropsychologist Sokolov stated
(as cited previously 422) One way to improve the quality of extrapolation [judgment of match between
intent and outcome] is to secure additional information; another method is to change the principles by
which such information is handled, so that the process of regulation will prove more effective. This
fundamental idea is embodied in mythology in the figure of the revolutionary hero. He is the fourth manner
in which threat to the stability of cultural tradition may be presented and, simultaneously: is solution to
the ever-recurring problem of such threat.
4.2.4. The Revolutionary Hero
The revolutionary hero re-orders the protective structure of society, when the emergence of an anomaly
makes such re-ordering necessary. He is therefore the agent of change, upon whose actions all stability is
predicated. This capacity which should make him a welcome figure in every community is exceedingly
threatening to those completely encapsulated by the status quo, and who are unable or unwilling to see
where the present state of adaptation is incomplete, and where residual danger lies. The archetypal
revolutionary hero therefore faces the anger and rejection of his peers, as well as the terrors of the
absolutely unknown. He is nonetheless the best friend of the state.
Analysis of the archaic ecstatic practice of shamanism prevalent throughout the immense area
comprising Central and North Asia423 sheds further light on the nature of the actions and typical
experiences of the revolutionary hero. Europeans who made initial contact with these tribal healers
frequently deemed them insane. The reverse was in fact true: the genuine shaman was the most sane man of
the tribe (that is, the man whose extent of adaptation was greatest). Furthermore, he served as primordial
unified ancestor of the lately differentiated or specialized creative agent: explorer, mystic, artist, scientist
and physician. The Asian shaman was master of religious life, embodiment and keeper of the sacred
doctrine, dominant authority and creator of culture.
The widespread practices and viewpoints of shamanism constitute a cohesive philosophy, so to speak,
embedded unconsciously in behavior and image. This ritual philosophy comprises a set of observations
about the nature of radical personality transformation, and practices designed to bring such alteration about.
Shamanism is devoted towards furtherance of the possibility of qualitative improvements in
consciousness or general adaptive ability; has captured the essence of such possibility in image, to
minimize the accompanying terror. Shamanism is prototypical of those religious practices designed to
modify human behavior and interpretation to induce and regulate the processes of spiritual mutation.
These practices are not merely cultural in nature. They originate in the observation of spontaneous
psychological transmutation a psychobiologically-grounded human capacity. Shamanic rituals are
therefore not merely anachronistic, without modern relevance, except as curiosity dictates but prime
exemplars of a process we must come to understand.
The shaman is not simply an archaic figure, an interesting anomaly from the dead past he is the
embodiment, in cultures we do not understand, of those people we admire most in the past. The phenomena
of the creative illness described in detail by Henri Ellenberger, in his massive study of the history of the
unconscious is alive and well in our own culture. Ellenberger described its characteristic elements:
A creative illness succeeds a period of intense preoccupation with an idea and search for a certain truth.
It is a polymorphous condition that can take the shape of depression, neurosis, psychosomatic ailments,
or even psychosis. Whatever the symptoms, they are felt as painful, if not agonizing, by the subject, with
alternating periods of alleviation and worsening. Throughout the illness the subject never loses the
thread of his dominating preoccupation. It is often compatible with normal, professional activity and
family life. But even if he keeps to his social activities, he is almost entirely absorbed with himself. He
suffers from feelings of utter isolation, even when he has a mentor who guides him through the ordeal
(like the shaman apprentice with his master). The termination is often rapid and marked by a phase of
exhilaration. The subject emerges from his ordeal with a permanent transformation in his personality
and the conviction that he has discovered a great truth or a new spiritual world.424

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Many of the nineteenth and twentieth century figures recognized unquestionably as great Nietzsche,
Darwin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Freud, Jung, Piaget were all additionally characterized by lengthy periods
of profound psychological unrest and uncertainty. Their psychopathology a term ridiculous in this
context was generated as a consequence of the revolutionary nature of their personal experience (their
action, fantasy and thought). It is no great leap of comparative psychology to see their role in our society as
analogous to that of the archaic religious leader and healer.

S

AO

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Figure 50: The Dual Death of the Revolutionary Hero
For the average tribal individual, initiation socially imposed signifies the death of childhood, and
reintegration on the level of social maturity. For the future shaman, initiation voluntarily undertaken
signifies the disintegration of socially-determined adult personality, and reintegration at the level of unique
individuality. This process is illustrated in Figure 50: The Dual Death of the Revolutionary Hero.
Those who undergo a second initiation suffer more deeply and profoundly from life than their peers; are, in
Jungs phrase, the most complex and differentiated minds of their age.425 These creative individuals
detect emergent anomaly, and begin the process of adaptation to it, long before the average person notices
any change in circumstance whatsoever. In his ecstasy the shaman lives the potential future life of his
society. This dangerous individual can play a healing role in his community because he has suffered more
through experience than his peers. If someone in the community (or the community itself) becomes ill,
breaks down begins the journey, so speak, to the land of the dead, the terrible unknown the shaman is
there to serve as guide, to provide rationale for current experience, to reunite the suffering individual with

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his community, or to renew the community to restabilize the paradigmatic context of expectation and
desire within which individual and social experience remains tolerable. The truly creative individual has
been there, and done that, and can therefore serve as a guide to others voluntary beginning or roughly
thrown into similar voyages.
The archaic shamanic initiate was commonly someone uniquely marked by fate, by the will of the
gods by particular heredity, magical (novel) occurrence in early childhood or later in life (birth in a
caul; survival of lightning strike), or by intrapsychic idiosyncrasy (epileptic susceptibility, visionary
proclivity).426 His unique personality or experiential history, in combination with presently extant social
conditions, doomed him to experience so anomalous that it could not simultaneously be accepted as
actually occuring as real and as possible within the confines determined by ruling social presumption.
The existence of this experience if admitted and processed therefore presented a potentially fatal
challenge to the perceived validity of the axioms currently underlying the maintenance of normal sanity
the sociohistorically determined stability of mutually-determined behavioral adaptation and experiential
significance. The existence of this distinct experience served as a gateway to the unknown, so to speak or,
as a floodgate, a portal, through which the unexpected could pour, with inevitably destructive and
potentially creative consequences. The shaman is the individual who chooses to meet such a flood, head on.
The shaman, the ecstatic in general equally, the revolutionary philosopher or scientist, true to himself
is characterized by stubborn adherence to his own idiosyncratic field of experience, in which occurrences
emerge, procedural, episodic or semantic in structure, that are foreign to the predictably socialized man,
and his prosaic moral expectation. The experiential range of the creative agent transcends the domain of the
current adaptive sufficiency of his culture, as it is extant socially and embodied and represented
intrapsychically. Rather than ignoring or failing to process such occurrences (which exist in contradiction
to or completely outside his conditional, socially-determined expectations), and acting as though they do
not exist, the creative individual (voluntarily) admits their reality, and submits himself to the dissolution of
his current (moral) world-view and pattern of action. This dissolution of personality, equivalent in episodic
representation to death, temporarily re-novelizes experience; furthermore, provides the precondition for
more inclusive resurrection of order, personal and social.
The future shaman is in fact tormented by the incomplete or self-contradictory state of his cultural
structure, as it is intrapsychically represented; is undergoing a breakdown induced by some aspect of
personal experience, some existential anomaly, that cannot be easily integrated into that structure. This
breakdown re-exposes him to the unknown previously covered, so to speak, by his culture. His
comportment during the period of incubation preceding his emergence as shaman is generally marked by
commission of acts considered characteristic, in modern and archaic culture alike, of serious mental
breakdown. He behaves idiosyncratically, seeking solitude, flying into fits of rage, losing consciousness,
living in the mountains or woods alone, and suffering from visions and periods of absent-mindedness. His
peers explain his odd behavior by possession. This experience of dissolution and re-exposure to chaos
accompanies intrapsychic subjugation to the operation of innate, involuntary [episodic, limbic, righthemisphere-governed (?)] mechanisms responsible for the deconstruction and renewal of conditional
knowledge. This operation manifests itself subjectively in structured mythic experience in spontaneous
personal experience, which adheres to the pattern associated with ritualized social initiation, and which
may also have served, originally, as its source.
The soul of the shaman is carried away by spirits habituants of the episodic realm and returned to
the place of the gods. This place exists outside of time and space itself, on the same plane of pleromatic
reality as the prehistoric and post-apocalyptic Paradise. Entry into this domain is preceded by complete
psychic disintegration, accompanied by horrifying visions of torture, dismemberment and death. The
shamanic initiate descends into the matriarchal hell that preceded and co-exists with creation, passing
through clashing rocks, or gates in the shape of jaws; he is reduced to a skeleton, while his disembodied
head observes the procedure; he has his internal organs removed or restructured; his bones are broken, his
eyes gouged out. He is devoured by a serpent, or a giantess; is boiled, roasted or otherwise reduced to his
essential and fundamental structure to his very bones. Eliade states:
The total crisis of the future shaman, sometimes leading to complete disintegration of the personality
and to madness, can be valuated not only as an initiatory death but also as a symbolic return to the

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precosmogonic Chaos, to the amorphous and indescribable state that precedes any cosmogony. Now, as
we know, for archaic and traditional cultures, a symbolic return to Chaos is equivalent to preparing a
new Creation. It follows that we may interpret the psychic Chaos of the future shaman as a sign that the
profane man is being dissolved and a new personality being prepared for birth.427
This disintegration is the removal of experience objects and processes from their socially-determined
state of provisional paradigm-governed significance, and their return to the affectively numinous unknown,
infinitely threatening and promising. Exposure to consequently renovelized experience constitutes the
affective and motivational core of the ecstatic experience, the basis for the religious experience (and the
experience of meaning) as such prior to its entrapment and canalization in dogma. Dissolution is
experienced in imaginal or episodic representation, as death an accurate conceptualization, death of
socialized personality: dissolution of the presently constituted intrapsychic representation and procedural
embodiment of action patterns historically constructed and currently deemed morally acceptable. The
justifiable terror consideration of the consequences of such decomposition induces constitutes a major
impediment to the pursuit of redemptive change constitutes a formidable barrier to intrapsychic
integration.
The shamanic process of transformation appears as the means by which cognitive systems are
updated, when necessary; the affect that is released, during the process, is necessarily part of the
experience. Every major step forward therefore has some of the aspect of the revolutionary descent into
madness; change shades qualitatively from the normal to the radical. The structure of this process
formulates itself easily into imagistic representation even among children, far too young to develop any
explicitly statable knowledge about such occurences.
The following dream was described by my daughter, Mikhaila (three years nine months old), about my
son, Julian (one year eleven months old) (October 5, 1995). Julian was in the process of toilet training and
rapid speech development, and was having some trouble controlling his emotions. Mikhaila liked to call
him baby. We had several discussions about the fact that he really wasnt a baby anymore. She told me
this story, while I was at the computer, so I was able to get it verbatim:
Mikhaila: Julians eyes falled out
and then
he falled into pieces
Dad: (what sort of pieces?)
Mikhaila: Julian pieces
and the bones falled out too
then
a hole got him
and there was water in it
and when he came out he was big
Mom: (Julian isnt a baby anymore?)
Mikhaila: No hes a big boy
and a bug with legs got him out
cause bugs can swim
and the hole was in the park
and it moved into the back yard
and he falled in it
a tree burned
and left the hole.
It was the partial dissolution of Julians previous infantile personality that was causing his emotional
distress. Mikhaila, upset by his trouble (and curious about the disappearance of her baby) was trying to
understand what her brother was going through. Her dream represented his transformation as a death and
rebirth: First his eyes fell out, then he fell into pieces, then his bones came out. Everything went into a
hole, which originally inhabited the nearby park. (The park by our house is 40 wooded acres; the children

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and I had gone in there at night, several times. They found it spooky, but exciting. For them, it was the
nearest manifestation of the unknown, outside explored and familiar territory prime locale for metaphoric
application as source of the hole, in which transformation takes place). The hole was full of water, whose
symbolism we have partially discussed (as the rejuvenating/destroying water of life). The bug with legs
that could swim was, I think, a theriomorphized representation of the very archaic intrapsychic systems
that guide or underly the transformation of more sophisticated cortical or personality structures. The notion
that a tree burned, and left the hole, is very complex. A tree, at minimum, is a complex structure that
emerges from basic material (from the ground). It is also commonly used as a metaphoric representative
of the essence of the individual human even of the nervous system itself.428 The tree in this case was
therefore also representative of Julian, but in a more impersonal way. It stood for, among other things,
the personality structures that were currently undergoing transformation.
Adaptive ability remains necessarily limited to the domain encompassed by a single set of principles a
single pattern of action, a single mode of apprehension in the absence of capacity to reconfigure present
conceptualizations of morality (morality: description of unbearable present, ideal future, and means of
transformation). Such limitation which is the inability to play games with the rules of the games means
dangerous restriction of behavioral and representational flexibility, and increased susceptibility to the
dangers posed by inevitable environmental shift (that is, by inevitable re-emergence of the dragon of the
unknown). Biologically-determined capacity for such dissolution and for its satisfactory resolution
provides the necessary precondition for the existence of human capacity for qualitative alteration in
adaptation. Resolution of crisis symbolic rebirth follows attendant upon initiatory dissolution,
dismemberment and death. Eliade states:
.. the initiatory operations proper always include the renewal of the organs and viscera, the cleaning of
the bones, and the insertion of magical substances quartz crystals, or pearl shell, or spirit snakes.
Quartz is connected with the sky world and with the rainbow; pearl shell is similarly connected with
the rainbow serpent, that is, in sum, still with the sky. This sky symbolism goes along with ecstatic
ascents to Heaven; for in many regions the candidate is believed to visit the sky, whether by his own
power (for example, by climbing a rope) or carried by a snake. In the sky he converses with the
Supernatural Beings and mythical Heroes. Other initiations involve a descent to the realm of the dead;
for example, the future medicine man goes to sleep by the burying ground, or enters a cave, or is
transported underground or to the bottom of a lake. Among some tribes, the initiation also includes the
novices being roasted in or at a fire. Finally, the candidate is resuscitated by the same Supernatural
Beings who had killed him, and he is now a man of Power. During and after his initiation he meets
with spirits, Heroes of the mythical Times, and souls of the dead and in a certain sense they all instruct
him in the secrets of the medicine mans profession. Naturally, the training proper is concluded under
the direction of the older masters. In short, the candidate becomes a medicine man through a ritual of
initiatory death, followed by a resurrection to a new and superhuman condition.429
The shaman travels up and down the axis mundi, the central pole of the world, the tree of life connecting
the lower, chthonic reptilian and the upper, celestial avian worlds with the central domain of man. This is
the constituent elements of experience conceived in an alternative but familiar arrangement, as heaven
above (father above), underworld/matter/earth below (mother below) conceived in the configuration
arranged originally by the cosmos-creating hero. The shamans success at completing the journey from
earth to the domain of the gods allows him to serve the role of psychopomp, intermediary between man
and god; to aid the members of his community in adjusting to what remains outside of conditional
adaptation, when such adaptation fails. The shaman therefore serves his society as active intermediary with
the unknown; as the conduit, so to speak, through which the unknown speaks to man; as the agent through
which the information which compels adaptive change flows. It is important to note that the shamans
journey into unknown lands must be bounded by return to the community for the voyage to be of value.
Otherwise, the prototypal ecstatic experience central to the shamanic vocation (and to creative thought
and action in general) is mere insanity; will be regarded socially and experienced intrapsychically as
such. Resolution is psychological reconstruction, reincorporation, rebirth on a higher level with
redemptive personal experience intact, but reintegrated in the corpus of current sociocultural myth and
history.

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The ineradicable anomaly that comprises an eternal aspect of existence periodically undermines the
stability the sanity of a subset of unfortunate but gifted individuals. Those who maintain their heads
during the journey into the underworld return contaminated by that underworld, from the perspective of
their compatriots with possibilities for re-ordering the world and, therefore, for maintaining sanity and
stable life. Such recovery is in essence the transformation of assumption and value individual, then
cultural. History is an invaluable storehouse of the creative experience and wisdom of the past. Past
wisdom is not always sufficient to render present potentiality habitable. If the structure of experience itself
was static and finite, like the past, all things would have been conquered long ago, and the lives of the
ancestors and their children would differ little in kind. But the structure of experience is dynamic and
infinite in possibility. The nature of experience itself varies with time. New challenges and dangers appear
out of the future, into the present, where none existed before. History, as description of the past, is
incomplete, as well as static. It must therefore exist in constant conflict with new experiences. The spirit
underlying the transmutation of culture resolves unbearable intrapsychic conflict with shattering revelation,
first to the individual, then to society at large. The creative individual dies metaphysically and, too
often, literally for those who follow him, instead of sharing the common destiny of his peers. Those who
bear the initial burden for the forward movement of history are capable of transforming personal
idiosyncrasy and revelation into collective reality, without breaking down under the weight of isolation and
fear. Such creativity is feared and hated and desired and worshipped by every human individual and by
human society in general. Creative individuals destroy old values, and threaten with chaos but also bear
light, and the promise of better things. It is in this manner that the sacrifice of the revolutionary savior
redeems and rekindles the cosmos.
The revolutionary hero is the individual who decides voluntarily, courageously, to face some aspect of
the still-unknown and threatening. He may also be the only person who is presently capable of perceiving
that social adaptation is incompletely or improperly structured, in a particular way who presently
understands that there still remain unconquered evil spirits, dangerous unknowns and threatening
possibilities. In taking creative action, he (re)encounters chaos, generates new myth-predicated behavioral
strategies, and extends the boundaries (or transforms the paradigmatic structure) of cultural competence.
The well-adapted man identifies with what has been, conserves past wisdom, and is therefore protected
from the unknown. The hero, by contrast, author and editor of history, masters the known, exceeds its
bounds, and then subjects it to restructuring exposing chaos once more to view in the process or pushes
back unknown frontiers, establishing defined territory where nothing but fear and hope existed before. The
hero overcomes nature, the Great Mother, entering into creative union with her; reorganizing culture, the
Great Father, in consequence. Such reintegration and resurrection is in essence the metamorphosis of
individual and then cultural moral presumption. Cumulative socially-mediated transmission of the past
consequences of such creation and intrapsychic reorganization constitutes group identity, culture itself, the
canon of assumptions and values that underlie behavior, the eternal shield against the terrible unknown.
The hero is the first person to have his internal structure (that is, his hierarchy of values and his
behaviors) reorganized as a consequence of contact with an emergent anomaly. His descent into the
underworld and subsequent reorganization makes him a savior but his contact with the dragon of chaos
also contaminates him with the forces that disrupt tradition and stability. The reigning status-quo stability
may be only apparent that is, the culture in its present form may already be doomed by as-of-yet not fully
manifested change. The hero detects the dragon, or at least admits to its presence, before anyone else, and
leads the charge. His return to the kingdom of threatened order may hardly be accompanied by praise,
however, since the information he now carries (or perhaps is) will appear disruptive and destructive long
before it proves redemptive. It is very easy to view the hero as the most profound danger to the state, in
consequence and this would in fact be true if the absolute stasis of the state did not constitute a more
fundamental danger. Figure 51: The Crucified Redeemer as Dragon of Chaos and Transformation 430
presents the savior as serpent, in keeping with his contamination by the unknown.431

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Figure 51: The Crucified Redeemer as Dragon of Chaos and Transformation

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Figure 52: The Socially Destructive and Redemptive Journey of the Revolutionary Hero
schematically presents the way of the savior. The individual troubled by anomalous and anxietyprovoking experiential data is suffering equally from the disintegration, rigidity or senility of the
society within. The choice to process such data that is, to mine it for significance, and to destabilize
the socially-constructed intrapsychic hierarchy of behavior and values, in consequence is equivalent,
mythologically speaking, to the descent to the underworld. If this descent is successful that is, if the
exploring individual does not retreat to his previous personality structure, and wall himself in, and if he
does not fall prey to hopelessness, anxiety and despair then he may return to the community, treasure in
hand, with processed information whose incorporation would benefit the remaining members of society. It
is very likely, however, that he will be viewed with fear and even hatred, as a consequence of his
contamination with the unknown particularly if those left behind are unconscious of the threat that
motivated his original journey. His contamination is nothing to be taken lightly, besides. If the exploratory
figure has in fact derived a new mode of adaptation or representation, necessary for the continued success
and survival of the group, substantial social change is inevitable. This process of change will throw those
completely identified with the group into the realm of chaos, against their will. Such an involuntary
descent into the underworld is a very dangerous undertaking, as we have seen particularly in the absence
of identification with the hero. This means that it is primarily those persons who have sold their soul to
the group who cannot distinguish between the hero and the dragon of chaos (between the hero and the
environmental disaster, the death of the king, the dangerous stranger, or the heretical idea).

Anxiety

Hope

THREAT

PROMISE

NOVELTY

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Figure 52: The Socially Destructive and Redemptive Journey of the Revolutionary Hero

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The more tyrannical the attitude, the more those who hold it hate and fear the hero, victim and
beneficiary of the creative illness:
Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he
reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.
Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous
man is Gods son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his
forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected. (Wisdom
2:12-13, 16-20)
The tyrannical attitude maintains society in homogeneity, and rigid predictability, but dooms it to eventual
collapse. This arrogant traditionalism, masquerading as moral virtue, is merely unexpressed fear of leaving
the beaten path, of forging the new trail the entirely comprehensible but nonetheless unforgivable
shrinking from destiny, as a consequence of lack of faith in personal ability and precisely equivalent fear of
the unknown. The inevitable result of such failure is restriction of meaning by definition, as meaning
exists on the border between the known and the unknown. Repression of personal experience which is
failure to update action and representation in the face of an anomalous occurrence means damming up the
river of life; means existence on the barren plain, in the paralyzed kingdom, in the eternal drought. It is
personal experience, anathema to the fascist, eternally superseding group categorization and the
interpretations of the dead personal experience that is novel and endlessly refreshing.
The security of predictable society provides an antidote to fear, but a too-rigid society ensures its own
eventual destruction. The future brings with it the unknown; inflexibility and unwillingness to change
therefore bring the certainty of extinction. Adaptive behavior is created and/or transformed by those driven
to resolve the tension inevitably existing between dynamic personal experience and society driven to
resolve the tension between what they know to be true and what history claims. Re-adaptation, during times
of crisis, does not necessarily constitute simple addition to the body of historical knowledge although that
is heroic endeavor as well. Full readaptation may necessitate revolutionary measures, partial or complete
reincarnation dissolution to constituent elements, and systemic reorganization. Such reorganization alters
the meaning of experience, and therefore, the mythology of history and being. If resolution is not reached
in time of crisis, mental illness (for the individual) or cultural degeneration (for the society) threatens. This
mental illness (failure of culture, failure of heroism) is return to domination by the unknown in
mythological terms, expressed as involuntary incest (destructive union) with the Terrible Mother.
The revolutionary hero opens himself up to the possibility of advancement to furtherance of his
cultures central myth by placing himself beyond the protective enclave of history and by exposing his
vulnerability to the terrible nature of reality. In psychological terms: the hero discovers the limitations of
history; discovers the nakedness of the father (Genesis 9:20-25). He must, therefore, challenge history, and
face what it had previously protected him from. Contact with the Terrible Mother means exposure to
absolute mortal vulnerability to the existence and consequences of ignorance, insanity, cruelty, disease,
and death. The revolutionary hero faces the reality of his vulnerability, and fights a battle with the terror
thereby generated.
The constant transcendence of the future continually serves to destroy the absolute sufficiency of all
previous historically-determined systems, and ensures that the path defined by the revolutionary hero
remains the one constant road to redemption. The revolutionary hero is embodiment and narrative
representation of the action of consciousness itself. This mythically masculine principle emerges from its
identity with chaos and culture, and stands as an independently divine phenomenon, equivalent in potential
strength to the destructive, generative, protective and tyrannical forces that make up human experience. The
hero is the individual who has found the third solution to his existential problems found the alternative
to decadence and authoritarianism. When faced with a paradox whose solution is impossible in terms of the
historical canon (that established axiomatically-predicated hierarchy of values and assumptions) he takes
inspired action and transcends his culturally-determined limitations. Instead of denying the existence of the

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problem and, therefore, tormenting those who cannot help but posit it the revolutionary hero accepts the
(apparently) impossible task of solution, and of reuniting the warring opposites. He admits the possibility of
successful solution, not because the problem can be minimized but because he believes human nature can
expand to meet it. Such belief faith provides the precondition for courage. His act of voluntary
transcendence re-exposes him to the brute force of the unknown (and to the anger of the social group), but
enables creative action. The heros ability to risk standing alone neither rejecting his culture because he is
ignorant of its value, nor running away from it in panic because of fear offers him the possibility of
attaining true stature, although not necessarily acclaim or popularity.
The true absolute in the individual, which can meet the absolute unknown, is the heroic aspect, which
cannot be made finally subject to tyranny and is not ruled by the past. This is the spirit that created
civilization, which must not be bound, within the individual, by abject subjugation to what has already
been. The man who stands outside of culture, necessarily, places himself against nature and the world. This
seems a hopeless position. But man knows little of his true potential and in that ignorance lies his hope:
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (Acts
4:11).
4.3. The Rise of Self-Reference, and the Permanent Contamination of Anomaly with
Death
The appearance of anomaly can be less or more upsetting. Small manifestations of the unknown disrupt
relatively small tracts of explored territory. Larger manifestations may disrupt all things previously
taken for granted even things invisible.
Upsetting manifestations of the unknown may occur as a consequence of outside forces, geological,
meteorological even cosmological. Similarly, social transformations may upset the stable and familiar.
Wars, revolutions, and migrations make the conditional nature of everything taken for granted evident once
more.
Internal transformations are just as likely to introduce instability. The process of maturation, in and of
itself, is sufficient to disrupt the previously stable and well-adapted personality and the little society of
the family. Crises in adaptation may be brought about in childhood, at the onset of schooling and first
independent contact with the unmediated social world. The hormonal changes and new social demands of
youth may likewise transform the happy and reasonable child into the depressed and hostile adolescent.
Some internal transformations are also natural and social events. The ever-expanding human
capacity for abstract thinking, for example, appears to be a consequence of biological and social forces,
working synergistically. The human brain has evolved exceptionally quickly, from the phylogenetic
perspective. The language-mediated interpersonal interaction characteristic of ever-larger human societies
has provided that rapidly developing biological capacity with data whose sophistication and breadth is
increasing exponentially. This means that the human mind increasingly manifests the capacity to upset
itself to produce revelations, so to speak, that knock gaping holes in the previously-sufficient adaptive
and protective social and intrapsychic structures.
The ever-expanding human capacity for abstraction has enabled us as a species, and as individuals
to produce self-models that include the temporal boundaries of existence. We have become able to imagine
our own deaths, and the deaths of those we love, and to make a link between mortal fragility and every risk
we encounter. Emergence of such capacity which re-occurs with the maturation of every new human
being introduces the most intractable anomaly imaginable into the developmental course of every life.
Myth represents the ever-recurring appearance of this representational ability this emergent selfconsciousness, the heritable sin of Adam as incorporation of the forbidden fruit, development of
knowledge of good and evil, and consequent expulsion from paradise. This appearance is an event of
cosmic significance, driving the separation of heaven and earth, making human experience something
eternally fallen, something ever in need of redemption.
The unknown has become permanently contaminated with death, for Homo sapiens. This contamination
has tremendously heightened our general motivation that is, our fear and curiosity as we are able to

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perceive the potentially mortal consequences of every anomalous event. Our cultural creations our great
societies, and the beliefs that accompany them can be profitably viewed as driven by our knowledge of
mortality, and by the energy (the heightened alertness and penetrating consciousness) such knowledge
inspires.
Our great transpersonal cognitive power, however, has not yet rescued us from the valley of the shadow
of death.

What man is found such an idiot as to suppose that God planted trees in Paradise, in Eden, like a
husbandman, and planted therein the tree of Life, perceptible to the eyes and sense, which gave life to the
eater thereof; and another tree which gave to the eater thereof a knowledge of good and evil? I believe that
every man must hold these things for images, under which the hidden sense lies concealed.432
The meta-mythology of the Way portrays the manner in which specific ideas about the present, the future,
and the mode of transforming one into the other are initially constructed, and then reconstructed in their
entirety, when such transformation becomes necessary. This meta-myth provides the deep structure linking
other classes of myths, including those describing the current or pre-existent stable state, those that portray
the emergence of something unexpected into that state, those that represent the dissolution of paradise, in
consequence, and those that describe the regeneration of stability. This cyclic pattern is essentially
characteristic of the development of consciousness, of the capacity to act and represent which is regarded
from the mythic perspective as akin to the creation of the world.
The previous place of stability, destroyed as a consequence of emergent anomaly, may be
apprehended either as the paradise that once reigned, from the perspective of the chaos engendered by its
collapse, or as the rigid and tyrannical past, from the perspective of revitalized and renewed order. Myths
of paradise and the fall typically describe the first dynamic elements of the way from the perspective of
the chaos presently reigning that is, from the position of the uncertainty and fear that characterizes
profane and worldly life. From this standpoint, human life is existence in the valley of the shadow of
death, contaminated by the unbearable and unreturnable gift of the knowledge of good and evil. Myths of
redemption that is, of the ascent from chaos, of the return to paradise, or of the flight to heaven are
tales designed to describe the process of remediation for the prehistoric fall. Such myths lay out a
morality whose incorporation or incarnation constitutes cure for the spiritual paralysis engendered by
emergent knowledge of death.
The idea of primeval paradise, then paradise lost of the origin of experience, the rise of
(self)consciousness, then permanent, heritable fall, descent from grace appears as a constant predicate of
human culture, distributed throughout the world. Even the most technologically primitive of people, whose
styles of existence were often mistaken for paradisal by the Europeans who first encountered them,
generally considered themselves fallen from an earlier condition of perfection. For them like us the
noble savage was an ancestral Adamic figure, who could communicate directly with God:
When Heaven had been abruptly separated from the earth, that is, when it had become remote, as in
our days; when the tree or liana connecting Earth to Heaven had been cut; or the mountain which used to
touch the sky had been flattened out then the paradisiac stage was over, and man entered into his
present condition. In effect, all [myths of paradise] show us primordial man enjoying a beatitude, a
spontaneity and freedom, which he has unfortunately lost in consequence of the fall that is, of what
followed upon the mythical event that caused the rupture between Heaven and Earth.433
The idea of paradise encompasses somewhat more than the previous place of stability. It is actually all
previous places of stability, concatenated into a single representation. Every previous place of stability
becomes in this manner order, as such, balanced perfectly with potential becomes existence without
suffering, in Eden or Paradise, in the walled garden of delight ( Eden, signifies in Hebrew delight, a
place of delight our own English word Paradise, which is from the Persian, pairi around, daeza
a wall, means properly a walled enclosure. Apparently, then, Eden is a walled garden of delight... 434).
Paradise is the place where the perfect harmony of order and chaos eliminates suffering, while bringing

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forth the necessities and pleasures of life without work or effort. Chaos and order are integrated,
perfectly, in the paradisal state.
Paradise therefore also partakes of the state of the cosmos before its division into the ever-warring
constituent elements of experience. This uroboric condition or state, conceptualized as a mode of being that
is free from or beyond opposition, is also by necessity that place or state of being where suffering a
consequence of limitation and opposition does not exist. This form of symbolic representation seems
somewhat paradoxical, as it is the dragon of chaos that generates dread anxiety, when it manifests itself
unexpectedly. However, context determines salience determines meaning in mythology as elsewhere.
The conditions of existence that is, the balance obtained by the forces of order, chaos and consciousness
not infrequently appear as intolerable, in and of themselves (in the state of anxiety and pain characterized
by severe grief or depression, for example). From this perspective, the state of non-being (equivalent to
identity with precosmogonic chaos) is the absence of all possibility of suffering. In the state of ideation
characterizing suicide, for example, the Great Mother beckons. A student of mine, who had undergone a
relatively severe crisis of identity, told me the following story:
I took a trip to the ocean. There were cliffs behind the beach. I was standing on one of the cliffs, looking
out over the water. I was in a depressed state of mind. I looked out to the horizon. I could see the figure
of a beautiful woman in the clouds. She gestured for me to come forward. I almost went over the edge,
before I came out of my fantasy.
My wife told me a very similar tale. When she was in late adolescence, feeling somewhat unsettled, she
took a camping trip on the sides of a deep river bank near her hometown. She stayed overnight on a bluff
overlooking a steep drop. In the morning, the fog came off the river, and filled the valley. She walked to the
edge, when she woke up:
I saw the clouds below me. They looked like a big, soft pillow. I imagined diving in, where it was warm
and comfortable. But part of me knew better.
The state of non-existence the state before the opening of Pandoras box can under many conditions
appear a state worth (re)attaining.
The common metaphor of Paradise as geographic place serves to concretize a complex state of affairs,
whose intrinsic nature would otherwise remain entirely beyond grasp serves to bring down to earth, so to
speak, the a priori conditions of the spirit, and render them initially comprehensible, at least in the
symbolic sense. Paradise as place or state is perfected interpersonal interaction the harmony of the lion
and the lamb as well as spiritual harmony (is the internal kingdom and the external kingdom
simultaneously united as the kingdom of God). Paradise is also the world, before it has become profane
before innocence is lost.
Myths of the paradise of childhood use the circumstances applying at the dawn of each individual life
prior to separation of mother and child as metaphor for the place of beginnings. The symbiotic
mother-child relationship comprises the union of elements that will in time become separate, and may
therefore be utilized as grist for the symbolic mill. The intimate union of two individuals at the beginning
of each life, after birth comprises a state that is one thing, and more than one thing, simultaneously. This
concrete example of a unity that is at the same time a plurality can be used in abstraction, to represent the
hypothetical pretemporal state itself, where everything that would be more than one thing still existed in
inseparable identity. This unity the unviolated original state tends to take on the affective evaluation of
perfection (since it is the place where there is no conflict, no separation of opposites).
Widespread iconic representations of the Holy Virgin Mother and Child, for example Christian and
non-Christian might be regarded as crystallized fantasies about the affective nature of the origin. In the
ideal mother-infant union, every desire remains absolutely bounded by love. The state of early childhood,
more generally, symbolizes freedom from conflict; symbolizes honest, innocent, idyllic human existence,
immersion in love, life before the necessary corruption of social contact, life preceding exposure to the
harshly punitive conditions of physical existence. Childhood represents (perhaps, is) existence prior to the
discovery of mortality, prior to apprehension of the temporal limits of subjective being represents,
therefore, existence without contamination by knowledge of death. This lack of contamination lends

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childhood experience an ideal quality, which easily comes to serve the mythic imagination as model for the
state of being that transcends the existential anxiety of adulthood. The child, father to the man, represents
the past of man; additionally, represents human potential, and mans eternal hope for the future. The
Hasidim believe, for example, that the Zaddik [the perfect, righteous man] finds that which has been lost
since birth, and restores it to man.435 In the Christian tradition, likewise, it is held that except ye be
converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 3:3).
Maturation means expansion of ability, differentiation of self and world, transformation of possibility into
actuality, but loss of potential as well, as anything developed develops in one direction, and not in any of
the innumerable alternates. Growth therefore also means decline, as each step towards adulthood is one step
closer to death.
The initial paradisal state is typically disrupted, in mythological representation, by some fateful act
undertaken by man by some act that places him in opposition to his heavenly source. Such opposition is
painful, and is often portrayed as a dreadful mistake or sin. It is nonetheless the case that the origin of
experience and history that is, the origin of being itself appears inextricably bound up with such
opposition, with differentiation from the origin. The initial paradisal state, although characterized by
absolute totality, nonetheless seems paradoxically flawed; suffers from an indeterminate form of nonexistence lacks reality itself:
There was something formless, yet complete, that existed before Heaven and Earth;
Without sound, without substance,
dependent on nothing, unchanging, all-pervading, unfailing.
One may think of it as the Mother of all things under Heaven.436
Such non-existence appears as an inevitable consequence of the absence of limitation, or of opposition.
This absence deprives whatever constitutes the origin of a point of reference, distinguishable from itself
and, therefore, deprives it of existence. As a place (as the previous state of innocent being), Paradise
retains a patina of carefree existence. This is diminished by the comparative unreality of that existence.
Things have not yet fallen apart in the Garden of Eden have not yet separated (completely) into their
constituent elements. Two things that cannot be discerned from one another are not two things, however,
and one thing with no discernible features whatsoever may not even be.
Paradise is the world, before it has become realized. In such a state, nothing suffers, and nothing dies,
because there is no defined one to suffer, no one aware of either the nature of subjective being, or the
meaning of such being, once it has become detached from the whole. The primordial ancestor,
simultaneously male and female, dwells in this unrealized place, prior to division into husband and wife;437
exists, unselfconsciously, even after that division:
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25).
To know nakedness and to be shamed by it is to understand exposure, weakness and vulnerability. To
be exposed before a crowd and the world is to have the essential frailty of individual being dramatically
and incontrovertibly demonstrated. To be unaware of nakedness to lack self-consciousness is to be
much less troubled, but also to be much less. The paradisal world of the child is much less much less
manifest, that is than the world of the adult. The child has fewer responsibilities, and fewer defined
concerns, than the adult. This lends childhood a glamour that mature existence lacks at least from a
certain adult perspective. But it is also the case that the child has a terrible vulnerability, which the adult
has transcended. The child does not explicitly perceive his vulnerability, and therefore does not suffer, until
that vulnerability tragically manifests itself. The adult, by contrast, knows he can be hurt, and suffers
constantly for that knowledge. His heightened consciousness self-consciousness, really means that he
can take steps to insure his healthy survival, however (even though he must in consequence worry for the
future). The world of the child is circumscribed, incompletely realized, but nonetheless vulnerable. The
paradisal world is incomplete, yet threatened, in the same manner.
It is primordial separation of light from darkness engendered by Logos, the Word, equivalent to the
process of consciousness that initiates human experience and historical activity, which is reality itself, for
all intents and purposes. This initial division provides the prototypic structure, and the fundamental

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precondition, for the elaboration and description of more differentiated attracting and repulsing pairs of
opposites:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of
God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4).
Light and darkness constitute mythic totality; order and chaos, in paradoxical union, provide primordial
elements of the entire experiential universe. Light is illumination, inspiration; darkness, ignorance and
degeneration. Light is the newly risen sun, the eternal victor of the endless cyclical battle with the serpent
of the night; is the savior, the mythic hero, the deliverer of humanity. Light is gold, the king of metals,
pure, and incorruptible, a symbol for civilized value itself. Light is Apollo, the sun-king, god of
enlightenment, clarity and focus; spirit, opposed to black matter; bright masculinity, opposed to the dark
and unconscious feminine. Light is Marduk, the Babylonian hero, god of the morning and spring day, who
struggles against Tiamat, monstrous goddess of death and the night; is Horus, who fights against evil, and
redeems the father; is Christ, who transcends the past, and extends to all individuals identity with the divine
Logos. To exist in the light means to be born, to live, to be redeemed, while to depart from the light means
to choose the path of evil to choose spiritual death or to perish bodily altogether.
Myth equates the origin of the universe of experience with the partition of light from darkness because
of the analogical or metaphorical identity between that separation and the mysterious differentiation of
conscious experience from unconscious non-awareness. Awareness and daytime experience are
inextricably united, like oblivion and the night. Darkness places severe uncontrollable external
transpersonal limitations upon waking human awareness, by eliminating or dramatically restricting visually
dependent temporal and spatial sensory extension. The blackness of the night brings with it the reemergence of the unknown, and the eternal human sense of subjugation to those terrors still
incomprehensibly embedded in experience:
When sacred Night sweeps heavenward, she takes
the glad, the winsome day, and folding it,
rolls up its golden carpet that had been
spread over an abysmal pit.
Gone vision-like is the external world,
and man, a homeless orphan, has to face,
in utter helplessness, naked, alone,
the blackness of immeasurable space.
Upon himself he has to lean; with mind
abolished, thought unfathered, in the dim
depths of his soul he sinks, for nothing comes
from outside to support or limit him.
All life and brightness seem an ancient dream
while in the substance of the night,
unravelled, alien, he now perceives
a fateful something that is his by right.438
External cosmic forces veil the day with the night. Similarly, and as a consequence of equally
uncontrollable and impersonal internal forces, consciousness vanishes, into sleep, in the night: 439
... the central metaphor underlying beginning is not really birth at all. It is rather the moment of
waking from sleep, when one world disappears and another comes into being. This is still contained
within a cycle: we know that at the end of the day we shall return to the world of sleep, but in the
meantime there is a sense of self-transcendence, of a consciousness getting up from an unreal into a
real, or at least more real, world. This sense of awakening into a greater degree of reality is expressed by

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Heraclitus... as a passing from a world where everyone has his own logos into a world where there is a
common logos. Genesis presents the Creation as a sudden coming into being of a world through
articulate speech (another aspect of logos), conscious perception, light and stability. Something like this
metaphor of awakening may be the real reason for the emphasis on days, and such recurring phrases as
And the evening and the morning were the first day, even before the day as we know it was established
with the creating of the sun.440
The temporary nocturnal state of nonexistence appears similar to the more permanent situation theoretically
prevailing prior (?) to the dawn of awareness as such, where there was no subject, no object, and no
experience at all but where the possibility of such things somehow lay dormant.
There is no suffering, in the Garden of Eden. In such a state things do not really exist. In consequence,
myth appears to have equated the establishment of the opposition necessary to being with the appearance
and evolution of the limited subject who serves creation as the mirror of God. In the mythic world, the
very existence of experience past, present and future appears dependent upon experience of the spatially
and temporally limited observer. Restricted in their manifestation in this manner that is, manifest in the
domain of individual experience things attain a brief, differentiated existence, before they crash into their
opposites, and vanish forever. An ancient midrash states, in this vein, that God and man are in a sense
twins.441 The modern physicist John Wheeler states, analogously:
In every elementary quantum process the act of observation, or the act of registration, or the act of
observer-participancy, or whatever we choose to call it, plays an essential part in giving tangible
reality to that which we say is happening. [Paradoxically]: The universe exists out there independent
of acts of registration, but the universe does not exist out there independent of acts of registration.442
From the standard perspective, objective things exist, in and of themselves. But this viewpoint eliminates
the necessity of the observer, who gives to all things a necessary vantage point who reduces indefinable
virtuality to extant actuality. Myth makes no such mistake, equating the very presence of being and
becoming with the emergence of consciousness and self-consciousness. 443 It is this equation that allows the
mythic imagination to place man at the center of the universe, and to draw an analogy between the principle
that makes order out of chaos, and the individual himself.
The mythic world the world, as it is experienced might in fact be considered an emergent property of
first-order self-reference; might be regarded as the interaction between the universe as subject, and the
universe as object. Myth equates the origin with the dawning of light, with the emergence of consciousness:
equates the universe with the world of experience; assumes that the real presupposes the subjective. This
idea seems exceedingly foreign to modern sensibility, which is predicated upon the historically novel
proposition that the objective material in and of itself constitutes the real, and that subjective experience,
which in fact provides source material for the concept of the object, is merely an epiphenomenal
appendage. However, it is the case that self-referential systems (like that consisting of being as subject and
object, simultaneously) are characterized by the emergence of unexpected and qualitatively unique
properties. The world as subject (that is, the individual) is an exceedingly complex phenomena more
complex, by far, than anything else (excepting other subjects). The world as object is hardly less
mysterious. It is reasonable to regard the interaction of the two as something even more remarkable. We
think: matter first, then subject and presume that matter, as we understand it, is that which exists in the
absence of our understanding. But the primal matter of mythology (a more comprehensive substance
than the matter of the modern world) is much more than mere substance: it is the source of everything,
objective and subjective (is matter and spirit, united in essence). From this perspective, consciousness is
fundamental to the world of experience as fundamental as things themselves. The matter of mythology
therefore seems more than superstition, that must be transcended seems more than the dead stuff of the
modern viewpoint.
The world of experience appears generated by the actions of consciousness by dawning awareness in
more than one stage. The purely conscious awareness which hypothetically exists prior to the
generation of active representations of the self that is, the mere division of object and subject still
retains essential unity and associated paradisal elements. Adam and Eve exist as independent beings,

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prior to their fall, but still commune with the animals, and walk with God. Sheltered in an eternally
productive garden, blissfully ignorant of their essential nakedness and vulnerability, they exist without
anxious care or toil. It is the emergence of second-order self-reference awareness of the self, selfconsciousness that finally disrupts this static state of perfection, and irreversibly alters the nature of
experience. (The development of consciousness the apprehension of the system by itself adds one
form of self-reference to the universal structure. Self-consciousness the apprehension of the subject by
himself appears to have added another.) The modern mind would consider nothing fundamental altered
by such internal transformation (as it considers consciousness epiphenomenal to reality). The
mythological mind adopts another stance entirely, presuming as it does that consciousness is allied
with the creator of things. From this viewpoint, cognitive transformations alter the structure of existence as
such; transform the very relationship between heaven and earth, creator and created; permanently alter the
cosmos itself. The modern materialist would consider such a theory arrogant and presumptious, to say the
least. Nonetheless, the great societies of East and West are predicated precisely upon such a viewpoint
upon myths of the origin and fall of man, characterized by uncanny structural parallel:
The father of Prince Gautama, the Buddha, savior of the Orient, determined to protect his son from
desperate knowledge and tragic awareness, built for him an enclosed pavilion, a walled garden of earthly
delights. Only the healthy, the young, and the happy were allowed access to this earthly paradise. All signs
of decay and degeneration were thus kept hidden from the Prince. Immersed in the immediate pleasures of
the senses, in physical love, in dance, and music, in beauty, and pleasure, Gautama grew to maturity,
protected absolutely from the limitations of mortal being. However, he grew curious, despite his fathers
most particular attention and will, and resolved to leave his seductive prison.
Preparations were made, to gild his chosen route, to cover the adventurers path with flowers, and to
display for his admiration and preoccupation the fairest women of the kingdom. The prince set out, with
full retinue, in the shielded comfort of a chaperoned chariot, and delighted in the panorama previously
prepared for him. The gods, however, decided to disrupt these most carefully laid plans, and sent an aged
man to hobble, in full view, alongside the road. The princes fascinated gaze fell upon the ancient
interloper. Compelled by curiosity, he asked his attendant:
What is that creature stumbling, shabby, bent and broken, beside my retinue?
and the attendant answered:
That is a man, like other men, who was born an infant, became a child, a youth, a husband, a father, a
father of fathers. He has become old, subject to destruction of his beauty, his will, and the possibilities of
life.
Like other men, you say? hesitantly inquired the prince. That means... this will happen to me?
and the attendant answered:
Inevitably, with the passage of time.
The world collapsed in upon Gautama, and he asked to be returned to the safety of home. In time, his
anxiety lessened, his curiosity grew, and he ventured outside again. This time the gods sent a sick man into
view.
This creature, he asked his attendant, shaking and palsied, horribly afflicted, unbearable to behold,
a source of pity and contempt: what is he?
and the attendant answered:
That is a man, like other men, who was born whole, but who became ill and sick, unable to cope, a
burden to himself and others, suffering and incurable.
Like other men, you say? inquired the prince. This could happen to me?
and the attendant answered:
No man is exempt from the ravages of disease.
Once again the world collapsed, and Gautama returned to his home. But the delights of his previous life
were ashes in his mouth, and he ventured forth, a third time. The gods, in their mercy, sent him a dead man,
in funeral procession.
This creature, he asked his attendant, laying so still, appearing so fearsome, surrounded by grief
and by sorrow, lost and forlorn: what is he?
and the attendant answered:

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That is a man, like other men, born of woman, beloved and hated, who once was you, and now is the
earth.
Like other men, you say? inquired the Prince. Then... this could happen to me?
This is your end, said the attendant, and the end of all men.
The world collapsed, a final time, and Gautama asked to be returned home. But the attendant had
orders from the princes father, and took him instead to a festival of women, occurring nearby in a grove in
the woods. The prince was met by a beautiful assemblage, who offered themselves freely to him, without
restraint, in song, and in dance, in play, in the spirit of sensual love. But Gautama could think only of
death, and the inevitable decomposition of beauty, and took no pleasure in the display.

The Walled Garden
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CHAOS

Figure 53: The (Voluntary) Descent of the Buddha

The myth of the Buddha is the story of individual development, considered in the ideal. The story opens
with Gautamas father, shielding his child from the dangers of the world much as any child in a healthy
family is shielded. As the young prince matures, however, and becomes increasingly curious he starts to
wonder about the world beyond. Children who develop within a safe and secure family grow into
individuals who can no longer be contained by that family. It is the good parent who fails, necessarily
who fosters a child who rapidly becomes so independent that mothering no longer suffices. Each foray
out into the world produces an increase in knowledge, and a commensurate decrease in the ability of the

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childhood family constellation and personality to map the world to provide acceptable patterns of
action and representation, for existence as a true individual. The future Buddhas encounter with his
intrinsic mortal limitations destroys his childhood paradise, tragically but propels him out into the world
as an independent being. This story can be portrayed, in the familiar manner, as in Figure 53: The
(Voluntary) Descent of t