The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight
An Excerpt – by Thom Hartmann
Whatever our worldview, we collect evidence that we’re right… Sigmund Feud [believed] that what our civilization refers to as a “healthy ego” is, in fact, “a shrunken residue” of what we had experienced early in life when the ego experienced a “much more inclusive” and “intimate bond” with the world around it.
[*] Many psychologists say that one result of this “shrinking process” is that the third most common cause of death for Americans between 15 and 27 years of age, According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, is suicide.This shrinking into separateness, this breaking of the intimate bond with the world around us, this separating ourselves into isolated “boxes”, was largely unknown for the first 100,000 years or more of human history. It is still today largely unknown for tribal people around the world, which, among those who have little contact with Younger Culture people, have a suicide rate so low as to often be unmeasurable…
This disconnection from nature has been at the core of ‘civilized’ human experience since the formation of the first such “civilization” seven millennia ago. It was celebrated by Aristotle in his writings on how the universe and natural world were merely collections of simple particles (atoms) that humans could manipulate once they understood them, and refined by Descartes who argued that the entire universe was a giant machine, and this machine-like nature echoed all the way down to the smallest level.
If we could just figure out where the levers and switches were, we could always figure out a way to control the machine. We withdrew from the natural world and created an artificial world around us, in our cities and towns, which is quite alien from that in which we first evolved. As time went by we decided for ourselves that various things were right and wrong with the rest of the planet, and set about organising things “out there” to comply with our needs “in here”.
We placed our planet at the centre of the universe and ourselves at the top of the hierarchy of our world. Our Younger Culture religions and philosophers proclaimed, both explicitly and implicitly, that all of creation is made only for man. Galileo even went so far as to propose that if humans were not present to observe the world, it would cease to exist…
From this story, this view of the world - that our man-made cities are civilized and the natural world is wild and people who live in it are primitive and uncivilized or savages – we have developed a psychology which acknowledges and praises only itself and its own culture and has lost contact with the real physical world and its extraordinary powers and mysteries.
When the early European/American settlers fanned out across the prairies and killed every buffalo they could find, the Native Americans watched in shock and horror at what they considered a senseless act of insanity. How could the settlers take the life of the plains? How could they parcel up the flesh of Mother Earth? How could they be so crazy as to cut down every tree in sight?
The settlers looked at the “Indians” and thought they were crazy to not take and eat all the buffalo they could. How could they have sat on this valuable resource for ten thousand years and not have used it? They had to be savages, uncivilized half-humans who didn’t have the good sense to know how to use nature’s bounty for the good of the human race.For a while, this worked for the conquering “Americans”.
Just as Gilgamesh could cut down the cedars of Lebanon, just as the Greeks could destroy their own forests, just as Americans could strip half their topsoil from the land, the rapid consumption of “out there” to satisfy the needs of us “in here” worked for more than a few generations.No more, as we’re seeing in the “early warning system” of the Third World.
Like a company burning through its startup capital, our consumption of our surroundings seemed to work fine, until it ran out.In our inner cities people are afraid to drive with their doors unlocked or windows down, on our farms where dioxin or PCP-laced waste is spread across food plants as fertilizer, in our hospitals where the primary waste from the manufacture of nuclear weapons (Yttrium) is being promoted as an experimental “cure” for cancers (which are caused in large part by the air and food and drugs of our civilization) – in all these places we see that this world we have created can work only for a very few.
It is the nature of hierarchical, dominator systems to always end up that way.Older Cultures are older because they have survived for tens of thousands of years. In comparison, younger cultures are still an experiment, and every time one has been attempted (Sumeria, Rome, Greece), however great its grandeur, it has self-destructed, while tribes survive thousands of years.Younger Cultures are built on a foundation which is psychologically and spiritually ill; Freud’s “shrunken residue” of the true and historic beauty of human life lived in intimate connection with the natural world. Increasingly, we live in isolation, in “boxes” – and suffer for it.
What it’s like to be in touch with the world again
In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,[†] Columbia University Professor Julian Jaynes puts forth the concept that in prehistoric times (more than 7,000 to 10,000 years ago) people actually heard the voices of the gods. When they looked out into the natural world, they saw fairies and sprites and spirits and other entities.This was because, Jaynes posits, the two hemispheres of the brain were more fully connected, so that the auditory regions of the left hemisphere were directly connected to the hallucinatory regions of the right hemisphere (Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas) which, in modern people, are normally only active during dreaming or in schizophrenics. Because of this direct connection, Jaynes suggests what we now call hallucinations probably were a common part of the everyday experiences of ancient peoples.
It was the rise of the Mesopotamian city/state empire, Jaynes suggests, and its use of written language which was largely responsible for the breakdown of this connection between the two hemispheres of the brain, causing all of us except the occasional mystic or schizophrenic to lose contact with much of the right hemisphere during normal waking consciousness.Jaynes’ arguments are persuasive, particularly when they draw on historical record and contemporary neurology. If his perspective is accurate, then we would expect that people living today the same way that humans did 10,000 years ago would live in a world alive with spirits and energies and voices. When those people are removed from that world and “civilized” by learning to read and write, they would quickly (in as little as one generation, perhaps within an individual’s life-span) lose contact with that other world.Another view is advanced by Terrence McKenna in Food of the Gods.
[‡] McKenna believes that the reconnection of the bicameral mind in cultures ancient and modern was and is brought about by the ingestion of certain plant substances. Hallucinatory plants are used by numerous cultures to open the doors to the world of the gods, McKenna points out. He even goes so far as to suggest that the rigidity, pain and sterility of modern life is largely the result of our having lost access to those worlds because of the regulation and control of these substances which once grew throughout humanity’s habitat. McKenna proposes that the use of these plants helped catalyze the birth of human consciousness in early primates.
This, in turn, spurred the development of the thinking and mystical brain/mind, and gave the human species the mental power to set about replacing the plants with its own ways of controlling the mystical or divine experience, principally through the force of law promoted by organised religions… Regardless of the techniques or method, there is a consensus among [Jaynes and McKenna] and others that ancient and “modern primitive” people share the ability to see, feel, and hear something which we in modern western society generally do not.
When the Shoshone looked about for food, he listened to what the land told him, the voices of the animals and the plants and the Earth itself. They showed and told him where his day’s meal would be coming from, and also what types of ceremony would be appropriate to thank the world for this gift.
Contrast this with how European kings lived in the Middle Ages, and how the dominator mindset of that era has led us into an ironically unaware pseudo-“Information Age” and, perhaps unwittingly, into what the Australian aborigines call “the great forgetting.”Our minds and our cultures created our situation. There’s great insight in understanding this, and power in realising how much of a role we can play in redefining the future of the planet for ourselves and our children.
An excerpt from The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight – Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation, by Thom Hartmann, Bantam Books
The aforementioned works of those great change agents McKenna and Jaynes (who was thoroughly and shamefully vilified by the establishment after his ground-breaking work first appeared) are also highly recommended by the New Illuminati.
Image by R. Ayana - http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/4760574314_bfc332532c_b.jpg
[*] Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud
[†] Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1990
[‡] Bantam/Doubleday/Dell 1993
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