Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Beyond the "Fringe Archaeology" — part nine: the history within

Vajravarahi Mandala,
Tibet, 19th century
About the most extreme "fringe" equivalent to the "archaeological record" would have to Akashic records. The idea, which was derived from Buddhist writings by the Theosophist Helena Blavatsky in the nineteenth century, is that the universe has left a permanent record of everything that has taken place. I doubt that many archaeologists would give the idea even the slightest consideration, after all, the nineteenth century had a number of dotty ideas and there seems to have been a widespread public interest in holding seances and believing in fairies and elves and so on in that time.

In contemporary society, the Akashic records have been given a more scientific slant through two different models: the most widespread is its comparison to Carl Jung's Collective Unconscious. Jung developed his ideas through his intensive studies in alchemy which is full of classical and early Christian mythological imagery. He also looked deeply into eastern religions and his use of the mandala earned him some criticism from sceptics who wondered why the mind would be constructed according the the tenets of eastern mysticism. His answer to them all was simple: because eastern religious practices are inward-looking, they are likely to have developed methods that are sympathetic to the inner workings of the human mind. Jung would have his patients draw mandalas as part of their individuation process.

The second take on the Akashic records comes from the Hungarian philosopher of science, Ervin László in his book: Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of EverythingLászló's main point of departure is quantum mechanics, and while he has a chapter about consciousness, Jung is absent as a reference.

The two views do have a tenuous connection with epigenetics. László says (p. 47 second ed.):
"However, the classical Darwinian tenet regarding the isolation of the genome is not correct. There are many ways that the genome is affected by what happens to the organism. Through the "epigenome" (an array of chemical markers and switches located along the double helix of the DNA) even the way the organism is nourished affects how particular genes work: whether they are switched "on" or "off"."

Jung's patient, friend, and correspondent, Wolfgang Pauli had big problems with Darwin's idea of natural selection. For him, the mathematics just did not work at all (p. 27ff). See also, my blog entry on the topic. Later, epigenetics appears to have done much to resolve Pauli's problems and has even given at least some credit to the previously dismissed Lamarckianism.

Looking at the biological aspects of the Akashic records, can we possibly apply the idea to archaeology? We know that only certain "imprinting" takes hold in evolutionary epigenetics. Nature seems to take such incidents as missing the bus, losing a promotion or having a failed relationship as trivia having no real connection to our survival as a species. If I learn to play the piano, my subsequent offspring will gain no benefit from my efforts and will just have to take lessons, themselves. We can, however, imagine certain circumstances where man is faced with serious threats to survival where a few survive and we can imagine that such threats were not unique, but happened again and again according to natural environmental cycles. Epigenetics seems to be telling us that the methods of survival in such time became part of a genetic "subroutine" along the idea of the computer programing function of If.../Then. So that the survival traits of many people who lived through such times would not be wasted: a set of signals indicating similar circumstances would trigger a gene to be turned on or off and the actions of that gene will deliver a special package of directions to increase the chances of survival.

None of this could have any direct influence on the nature of a single archaeological site, but if a collection of similar sites were taken into consideration we might just approach some of the workings of evolutionary epigenetics. We do see similar interpretations of natural phenomenon within widely different and unconnected cultures and as we all share the same brain structures regardless of how our cultures differ, we can expect to share similar reactions to some of the same stimuli  — especially if these stimuli will have a great impact on whether we survive.


  1. Hope you are back to good health, John. Best wishes, Trefor

  2. Thanks, Trefor, I'm feeling great today and went for a long walk with the dog. It was like spring, 14 C and most of the snow and ice has vanished. We usually get a really cold spell in February, though.
    How's the exercise in patience going? ;-)