Thursday, 21 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 2: the cultural evolutionary process

Religious symbols
graphic: Ratomir Wilkowski
This episode is dedicated to Julie Ginn.

"[111] These organizations or systems are “symbola” (σύμβολον = confession of faith) which enable man to set up a spiritual counterpole to his primitive instinctual nature, a cultural attitude as opposed to sheer instinctuality. This has been the function of all religions. For a long time and for the great majority of mankind the symbol of a collective religion will suffice. It is perhaps only temporarily and for relatively few individuals that the existing collective religions have become inadequate. Wherever the cultural process is moving forward, whether in single individuals or in groups, we find a shaking off of collective beliefs. Every advance in culture is, psychologically, an extension of consciousness, a coming to consciousness that can take place only through discrimination. Therefore an advance always begins with individuation, that is to say with the individual, conscious of his isolation, cutting a new path through hitherto untrodden territory. To do this he must first return to the fundamental facts of his own being, irrespective of all authority and tradition, and allow himself to become conscious of his distinctiveness. If he succeeds in giving collective validity to his widened consciousness, he creates a tension of opposites that provides the stimulation which culture needs for its further progress."

Jung, C. G., Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche: On Psychic Energy (p. 59). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Evolution is the continuous adaptation to new conditions and societies evolve through an influx of new ideas brought by individuals or (mostly small) groups. if the arriving group is too large, there can be an "island" of an unchanging culture, or the arriving culture might replace what is already there. In such cases, any change is usually due to an individual within the society who, through various circumstances, becomes distinct. It is no coincidence that the most important scientific discoveries have been made by individuals and not groups; It is no coincidence that most religions have been started by individuals, and descending from a core religion this also applies to sects. One example of many is Christianity with Jesus Christ as its originator, and Martin Luther starting another branch much later. However, if we go back further we can see that Christianity was also a branching of Judaism that incorporated aspects of the Greek mystery religions especially Dionysianism (Dionysos in one form was "twice-born" or "resurrected" and, much earlier, the same characteristic was embodied in the Egyptian Osiris myth.

If we go back far enough, the individual starts to vanish, but this is most likely the lack of perception rather than any reality. We can get an idea of this lack of perception in the traditional founding of Taoism by Lao Tse who is credited with composing the Tao Te  Ching, It is generally believed that Lao Tse was not an actual individual and the Tao te Ching was a compilation of different Taoist texts. Taoism, itself evolved from the School of Yin Yang which was based on the most ancient of all Chinese Texts, the I Ching, which became much more than a system of divination and is also understood as a binary system of the nature of individual and societal changes. Jung, himself often used the I Ching until he found that he knew the answers before the results were delivered. Like all religions in their original state, the I Ching utilizes metaphors. It is only in relatively modern times that (mainly western) religions have absorbed historicity as not only a concept but a necessity. To unite the world views, historicity is a phenomenon of Logos as opposed to Mythos, and these equate, respectively, to Yang and Yin. We can also find a physics correlate to cultural evolutionary change within the differences between kinetic and static energy and the characteristics of the former.

Looking at various cultures through history, we can see them as a number of wheels each rotating at different speeds and the faster the wheel is rotating, the faster is its evolutionary change brought about by the influx of communications of varied ideas (kinetic energy). A culture that is unchanging is held together through static energy, the sort of energy that holds an atom together. The problem here being that society has never achieved the efficiency of a hydrogen atom and just as people are unable to evolve matter through atomic fusion, and can only currently destroy that cohesion through atomic fission, static societies always come to an end, Sometimes with a bang, sometimes with a whimper. They are "selected out" by evolution.

Individuals united by their opposite characteristics, and working together thus can achieve the most remarkable evolutionary changes in a culture. Each single individual, for this to happen, must be able to reconcile and use their own "tensions of opposites".

John's Coydog Community page

No comments:

Post a Comment