Comment on Man, Evolution, and Magic
31.07.09 at 4:59 am ·
“Again, this is obvious nonsense. It is totally impossible to picture the origin of magic except through some deliberate action of a man who knew what he was doing and why. This does not mean that we are forced ~o believe in magic-it may all be infantile superstition-but the point IS that no Neanderthal man, or any other man, could have stumbled on the idea unaided.”
A pigeon can do it for water (see “superstitious pigeon” experiment).
We look for patterns in chaos then we adapt our behaviors to our understanding.
A hunter is surrounded by stimuli and understanding patterns is a vital aspect for survival. Noticing too much patterns is less costly than noticing too less, and there you have your shaman.
These experiments by behaviorists are not the point, I fear. But, anyway, those old pigeons experiments are interesting.
The problem with Bennett is that we simply don’t know the facts of the case with ancient man.
30.07.09 at 6:04 pm ·
“We do not wish to belittle the admirable achievement of Mr. Carrington in giving an account of man’s arising and development in a single volume. ”
Hereward Carrington? His accounts of the Palladino seances are strong evidence for something which the establishment chooses to ignore:
I have no idea what Bennett was driving at here.
From Volume IV of The Dramatic Universe
Since we have commented today on Robert Wright’s debunking of shamans I thought it would be amusing to cite Bennett’s take on shamans, and the early appearance of ‘magic’ in primitive human species (not so primitive, a lot like us).
Bennett adopts an exotic and extreme version of the ‘design’ argument: much of the task of evolution is assisted by ‘demiurgic intelligences’, beings of pure ‘will’ with no physical bodies. This notion, which comes off as science fiction, is actually a derivative of Bennett powerful schema of ‘being function will’.
Whatever the case, I don’t endorse Bennett’s view here, but as a Darwin critic he is one of the most devastating because he adopts a constructive approach to human evolution and the question of consciousness. The idea of the spontaneous evolution of human consciousness (which Darwinists have never demonstrated, to say the least) thus becomes problematical.
In any case, I cannot say I endorse these views at all, but I do find them a challenge in the sense that the current regime of scientism is simply in an imaginary universe.
Bennett’s take on ‘magic’ could be wrong, but it still reminds us that there is something hard to explain about the outstanding traditions of magid, so-called.
Before we leave the childhood of mind, we must try to picture the way the Demiurgic Intelligences operated. They could not communicate with men except through the channel of mind and body. We have already decided that in the previous stage, when teaching was by Example and Imitation, the Demiurges had, first of all, to enter the newly created minds and teach them how to work. The same procedure at the second stage, where we now are, would not succeed unless means were found of impressing new ideas upon the already humanized minds. This was the origin of Magic.
All authorities agree that magic was the earliest cultural agent in human life: but no one can explain how magic started. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that the thought of claiming magical powers popped into the mind of some gifted Neanderthal youngster. One must make a determined effort to visualize the situation. Hunters are notoriously superstitious: why not Neanderthal hunters? Why should they not have had, spontaneously, notions of sympathetic magic and only later have looked among themselves for a suitable operator to perform the rites. Again, this is obvious nonsense. It is totally impossible to picture the origin of magic except through some deliberate action of a man who knew what he was doing and why. This does not mean that we are forced ~o believe in magic-it may all be infantile superstition-but the point IS that no Neanderthal man, or any other man, could have stumbled on the idea unaided. ‘*’ Those who think otherwise merely project their own mentality on to that of men who had no antecedent experience remotely 5embling our own. The evidence, which seems conclusive, that magic )peared before modern man, is as clear a proof as we can hope to find lat some higher intelligence intervened. The continuity of history hat we have observed all through our studies, requires that this inter¬lention should not have been made arbitrarily at one point only. It must have accompanied man throughout his slow march to the attain¬ment of Individuality. So far, then, from appearing as an inexplicable aberration, Magic is seen to be a necessary means for action by the Demiurgic Intelligence.
The technique is almost obvious. Demiurgic Intelligences took pos¬session of selected youths; and, by demonstrating magical powers¬such as predicting the weather and the movements of the herds on which the tribes depended for their food-were able to gain an ascendancy over the tribe. We have to this day, distant memories of this social structure in the Shamans of Siberia. There is good reason to believe that all stages of past history are reflected into the present. * The shaman and his followers believe that, by certain ritual practices, he can open himself to possession by a Great Spirit whose mouthpiece he becomes for so long as the state of possession persists. Most probably, shamanism has for centuries, if not millennia, become no more than the empty shell of a once authentic mode of action of the Demiurgic Power: though it is also likely that it has been grossly misunderstood by anthropologists.
The first magicians were authentic wonder-workers. They were men like the other men among whom they lived; but they were conscious of their Demiurgic Nature. Here we must recall that the nature of man is three-fold: the higher nature being on the level of the Demiurgic Essence. When the Demiurgic Intelligences entered men-whose minds his own nature and his situation in the world. He must certainly have been deeply conscious of his loneliness and apparent insignificance in a hostile or, at best, indifferent environment, where wit and cunning were his only weapons against the savage forces that sought to destroy him. To placate the wild beasts on which he preyed, and to help him overcome the panic which must often have assailed him when he contem¬plated his own precarious position, it is not surprising that he sought refuge in the supernatural.’ This passage makes no sense at all as an explanation of how it all started It is simply not permissible to say that Neanderthal man was ‘already quite capable of reflecting’ when the problem is to explain how the reflective faculty arose. It is not permissible to use terms like ‘deeply conscious’ or ‘supernatural’ without explaining how man could ever have formed the concept of the natural order, let alone the super¬natural. We do not wish to belittle the admirable achievement of Mr. Carrington in giving an account of man’s arising and development in a single volume. His approach to the subject of the human mind is not better or worse than that of other authorities: all equally miss the central point of explaining the genesis of mind.
Robert Wright tries to trash New Age spirituality, of which he is ignorant
Critizing gurus is our staple here, but we have to separate ourselves from hypesters like Wright.
Exposing New Age abuses is not so easy as taking potshots at shamanism
A passage, page 24, from Volume I of The Dramatic Universe.
I tried to consider how to summarize and/or leapfrog the methodology constructed by Bennett.
It is a very problematical set of ideas, for reasons that suddenly become obvious if we consider the following passage:
When a measure of discipline is introduced into the associative process, thinking tends to become logical. Since ancient times, logic has come to be identified with the rules according to which we make judgments as to the truth or falsity of propositions. These latter are the verbal forms in which ideas are confronted in pairs, whereas in ordinary associative processes there is no effectual confrontation. Logical thinking therefore represents an important step forward from automatic association. A special effort, requiring either an unusual stimulus or a long training is needed before a man is able effectually to entertain two complete in- dependent ideas at once and to see their mutual bearing. The result goes beyond the content of the ideas as they are immediately presented and can be called polar thinking. Two ideas, in so far as they are in¬dependent and ri-J.utually exclusive, form a dipole with its own field of force. Through the ability to experience this force-field, the trained logical thinker can make synthetic judgments within the limits of the ideas he is able to formulate. The difference between synthetic judg¬ments and automatic association consists in the presence of polar experience. For example, the words ‘being’ and ‘nothing’ stand for two independent concepts that, when entertained as one single act of con¬sciousness, appear at once both compatible and incompatible. The mental process whereby the two give ~ise to a third idea that harmonizes them without destroying their separate significance is called the dialectic. Hegel, for example, sees in ‘becoming’ a concept that reconciles ‘being’ and ‘nothing’.”” Any pair of independent ideas can be treated as a polar dyad. Thus ‘kingship’ and ‘liberty’ can be reconciled through the idea of ‘responsibility’, which can apply to both and yet is different from either.
Dialectical thinking is certainly of a different order from that which consists in the automatic association and comparison of ideas. Though difficult in its exercise, this form of thought is, nevertheless, extremely limited in its scope. Experience has shown that it is inadequate for finding answers to the practical problems of life, and, indeed, the great exponents of the dialectic-from Plato to Hegel and Marx-have proved unsatisfactory guides to practical life, whether private or public. The dialectic leads also to a defective linguistic form. Our usual language, though full of inconsistencies and ambiguities, can be adapted to the description of two-term systems. When the meanings of words and sentences are defined with special care, a logic is constructed that turns out to be the law of two-term systems. The procedure by which language is made to conform to these rules is, however, an unavoidable im¬poverishment. The ambiguities and inconsistencies of our ordinary speech are not a defect, and recognition of them is a reminder that experience has more dimensions than logic. Analytical and sceptical philosophers have, during a hundred generations, exposed the barrenness of two-term thinking, and it becomes necessary to examine the possi¬bilities latent in higher modes of thought. In seeking tb go beyond logic, we run the risk of falling from serious inquiry into fantastical speculation; but it is more profitable to make the attempt than to remain condemned to the sterility that has overcome philosophy through using forms of
• Cf. Hegel, Logic, trans. Wm. Wallace (Oxford, 1892), pp. 158-64.
thought that are inherently incapable of discovering anything that is new.
( c) Supra-logical Thinking
Supra-logical thinking is both relative and transcendental. It therefore requires more categories than the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ of logic-. The need to go beyond the ‘pairs of opposites’ is a recurrent theme of Eastern scriptures. P. D. Ouspensky, in his remarkable book Tertium Organum, called supra-logical thinking the ‘third canon of thought’, which, in the next epoch, was to supersede the logical dualism of the preceding age. The dialectic is at best a halfway-house to creative thought, for which at least three independent ideas must be entertained. Such triadic think¬ing, however, is beyond the ordinary power of the instrument with
<;which man has been endowed by nature. '*'
. Contemplation of the triad is not merely recognizing a third idea as the reconciliation of two contradictories,-but rather seeing in the union of the three an exemplification of the fu.ndamental relationship by which all experience is governed. So long as nothing more is at work than the primitive associating mechanism, to speak of the 'unity of the triad' conveys little meaning. In order to perceive this unity directly, a power _ of attention is required that comes only with a change of consciousness.
Such a change occurs so rarely, and in so few people, that, in the usual
studies of man and his nature, it is not taken into account.
Through failure to recognize either the extreme rarity or the extra..: ordinary power of triadic thinking, the usual histories of human thought cannot account for the authentic innovations that do, from time to time, occur in human understanding of the universal order.
Bennett unwittingly exposes one the deepest problems that haunts most spiritual movements and their concept structures.
By being systematic and thinking in terms of numerical systems (based on ordinal series) he constructs an interesting, if implicit, historical narrative, and shows why everyone is stymied by the result.
Human spirituality suffers a dilemma: man can only deal with logical thinking, while he is constantly being induced to transcend that for something larger. The results are invariably confusion.
Bennett constructs a complete numerology of ordinal series number, from the monad to the dodecad.
The result is intriguing, but never quite seems to work.
Bennett has actually made clear why: he speaks of three-term, four-term, etc, systems, but even the triadic level is vexed. Even the dialectic, pace Hegel, is confused. The distinction between the dialectic and the triadic, however, shows the cogency of Bennett’s attempt to be systematic. Students of Gurdjieff’s ‘law of three’ or Hegel’s dialectic are all confused, the reason being clear from Bennett’s misleading discussion.
The point here is that by the time Bennett reaches the dodecad, given the shaky foundations of the dialectic, or triadic, the results are mythological fantasy in a kind of science fiction.
Here’s another short quote from The Dramatic Universe, Chapter 1, Vol1, page 18
I think a few isolated citations from the text will in no way violate the principle of copyright that Mr. Bennett (son) has worried over here. If anything they will spark an interest in the text. We don’t plan to cite many more of these passages anyway.
Throughout the past two thousand five hundred years the spiritual history of mankind has been a quest for the Absolute. The ultimate values-truth, beauty, and the rest-have been pursued in absolute terms. Philosophy has demanded of its doctrines absolute self-consis¬tency, completeness, and adequacy. Science has sought for final prin¬ciples of explanation and for rigorous laws of nature possessing universal validity. Religious devotees could not bring themselves to believe in a God whom they could not regard as absolutely incomprehensible and yet absolutely good-absolutely powerful and yet absolutely merciful. Art looked for the ideal of an absolute beauty, and for forms that should be final and imperishable. In political and social life, men have looked for ideal forms of society in which absolute justice could be combined with perfect equality and complete freedom. Belief in the possibility of discovering absolute values has been the guiding principle not only of the Grreco-Roman civilization and those that have descended from it, but also of the Islamic, Hindu, and Far Eastern civilizations. It has been accepted as a dogma throughout the Megalanthropic Epoch.’*’ The motive behind the unquestioning acceptance of this dogma has been the desire to sustain man’s illusion that he stands at the centre of a world which he can know and master.
Bennett is one of the few people who came close to see what I call the ‘eonic effect’, but he mixed his ideas up to the point where that perception never quite gelled properly.
He does however see that a strange succession of epochs is occurring, although he gets the dates wrong because he is still thinking in terms of the cycles of the Great Year, which is outlandish.
Still, he correctly sees that a new era is beginning with modernity, in the succession to the Axial period.
But his idea of a Megalanthropic age is all wrong. He cleverly undermines modernity by making the new epoch start in the nineteenth century, and is thus able to put the rise of modernity in the previous epoch. Very confusing.
I think that it is incorrect in principle to give labels to these epochs, or to assign a key idea, e.g. that of the Absolute.
The point here is that the rise of modernity is clearly beginning much earlier in the sixteenth century, and by the nineteenth that transition is complete.
The point is important since the New Age movement is full of efforts to rig the definition of a New Age so that it includes only what various gurus wish it include, and omitting all the seminal developments up to the Enlightenment.
The whole scheme of New Age epochs is garbage.
Bennett is strangely transitional on this, and in the fourth volume begins to see the point of modern freedoms emerging.
Comment on The Immigration Revolution
There have been a lot of books on this subject, some quite recent: the issue is that unrestricted immigration is seeding disaster in Europe. This has been the object of many books, unfortunately on the right, e.g. Londonistan, While Europe Slept, The Decline Of Europe, etc…
The issue is the failure to institute at least some controls on immigration, and the resulting threat of Muslim majorities, resulting in loss of civil liberties, etc
It is hard to fathom the wretchedly bad social engineering that has gone on here.
24.07.09 at 5:59 pm ·
I certainly agree that there is an Islamic threat, but I think this thesis is mostly wrong for two reasons. Read the rest of this entry »
Darwiniana blog has had a few posts on the immigration question in Europe, and now a new book is out on the subject: Booknotes: the immigration revolution
This issue is slightly off topic for this blog, and it has become an issue for the hard right, with figures such as Robert Spencer, et al.
And yet the problems can’t be resolved by appeals to multiculturalism.
The issue is indirectly relevant here, because of the many who approached sufism naively, unaware of the calculated tactics against the West, just as with the immigration question.
Post on Islam, and modernization, with some commentary on the Sufi mystique.
Sharia in Holland
There was a whole series of posts on Islamophobia and related issues at Darwiniana.
We should be careful here that our topic is The Gurdjieff Con, but one of the significant issues for students of sufism is the hidden hostility to those who are not a part of Islam. Most real sufis would not countenance such a bias, but in fact it is omnipresent, a very strong component in the near universal failure of students of sufism (or the seemingly unrelated Gurdjieffianity!) to get anywhere.
Comment on ‘sufi gangsters’
You get us wrong, completely: we are not unhappy at all, but happy we found out the rigged game perpetrated by Gurdjieff, and his gang of slick-n-slimmy sufis.
Many never find out.
Your overestimation of Gurdjieff is prima facie evidence of fantasy, and wilful self-subjection to a pipe-dream peddled by a known shadow figure of no reliable reputation.
I got this link by email from the Abhinavagupta@yahoogroups.com email group ( a useful source of links, at times),The Hindutva view of History
19.07.09 at 8:09 am ·
Its hard to say whether people became gulliable AFTER getting involved with Fourth Way, or whether it tends to attract people who are, unconsciously, looking for authority figures who engage in chronic mystification.
When you have an entire group of people who share this tendency, it can create a psychological undertow, which creates powerful feeling of instant intimacy, and when all this is projected upon a leader who takes all this in, and fails to assist each person to make a conscious connection with their own best natures and reclaim into themselves what they projected out onto the leader…then there is trouble.
What gets me is how very many crooks were spawned by the Fourth Way system and that people stay in it for generations, as a kind of family disease.
Thats unfreedom, not freedom and a sign to this correspondant that the system existed only to empower a single leader and that because the leader needed followers, he (or she) was also wearing the same chains that the group was locked into.
18.07.09 at 8:48 am ·
This may be total co-incidence.
The other day, I was in a bookstore, and picked up a copy of a VERY old EJ Gold book, titled, Autobiography of a Sufi, published some time in 1976 or 1977. It has photos of Gold, of his wife of the time, creepy pen and ink drawings.
Even thirty plus years ago, EJ looked repulsive, as though molded from Crisco.
What caught my eye was that at the back of the book was yet another photo of EJ Gold.
Gold is sitting on a throne like chair, undressed except for perhaps a pair of shorts or loincloth. He’s bald, clean shaven, and because of his overall plumpness, looks eerily like a large baby wearing dark glasses.
Here’s the thing–I had to blink, hard, because that photo, the pose and the chair made it seem that EJ Gold was impersonating Da Free John.
I dont know if this was mere coincidence, or some peculiar inside joke.
But the man must have some sort of charisma, because otherwise, its hard to see how someone who was so eerily creepy looking, could have attracted a following.
18.07.09 at 9:21 am ·
Bennett was the one taken advantage of. And so, sadly, was Robert Graves.