Wednesday 10 October 2007

Talking- The Origins of Collective Consciousness

One of the topics of human history where there is still no general agreement, is actually quite an important one.
Unless we know the answer, we cannot REALLY assess our history.

We have a pretty good idea of when Man started to eat meat.
When he learnt to make fire.
When he learnt to sculpt.

But interestingly, not when he started to communicate.
How old is language?

Some think it is very old indeed.
Some think Homo Erectus, and certainly Neanderthal man could talk.

Others think it is much younger, a solely Homo Sapiens phenomenon, maybe no older than the Aurignacian.

So it could be older than 300,000 years.
Or younger than 40,000.
Does it matter?
Of course.

Because that is when our history begins.
That is when our collective consciousness begins.

We need to KNOW what humanity remembers.
Because with the coming of speech, comes the ability of man to remember beyond his own lifetime.

We don't remember the First World War ourselves.
But no human being will ever forget it.
At a deeper level, though we do not know it, is collective unconsciousness.
The things our parents communicate to us, without really explaining why, but because of something they remember, something they lived through, but we never will.

So what does humanity remember?

Looking back at the legends of humanity, what memories are contained within?

Certainly, the end of the last Ice Age.
The melting of ice sheets, the submergence of large areas by increased sea levels, the huge changes in climate, resonate somewhere in the myths of most peoples. Passed on surely, around the campfires of the first true villages, by the first agriculturalists, millenia before these garbled memories were written down?

Was the mastodon remembered?
Was the sabre-tooth tiger remembered?

Did early American peoples recount tales of the strange beasts they once competed against before they extincted?
And did these tales change over the millenia beyond recognition?

How much of Homo Sapiens early encounters with Neanderthals survives in the beliefs of most early peoples in Elves, Dwarves, or other beings like us, but yet not us?

How many primitive Gods carry the name of a mortal man who stunned his contemporaries so much, that his people could never forget him?
Maybe the man who first showed his tribe how to make a bow?

When did a caveman first tell a cavewoman, that the Moon belonged to them?

When did a caveman first listen to another caveman, slowly nodding, as he comprehended something, without needing to be shown?

We need to know these things. Because everything that happened before speech, was simply the past.
When Man started to speak, then History truly began.


Anonymous said...

Will we ever remember the future ?

Anonymous said...

My own belief is that it is there 'now' as the past is there 'now' locked in the chronological solid.

Speech can give us 'memory' as can understanding fossil records - except that the latter helps us to remember times before there was speech.

What is prescience ? Do you think it exists ?

I do.

Anonymous said...

I like this, thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was an interesting subject but I`m not sure about the way you approach it .

The usual discussion is about when conciousness evolved and indeed if it made any difference Its a startling fact that human beings indistinguishable from us exsited for at least 20,000 yeasr before there is any detecible civilisation

Thats why the Atlantis myth has a modern currency as well as ideas about previous lost worlds .

What I like is the poetic sweep though its incredibly diffrent for a blog and a great read

Anonymous said...

Yes and no to our history beginning with speech.

I think it more truly began, for us anyway, when writing began.

For as you have said spoken transmission of events can be changed from generation to generation such that it in no way resembled what really happened. But when it is written down and later people can see it, it becomes a little more reliable, although perhaps even that is just a snapshot of that person's perception. For another contemporary writer with a totally different view may not have writings which survived. Isn't that what historians do? Sift through documents of the period trying to evaluate what really happened.

One of the great things to my mind is how science has filled in so much of our history through archeological and anthropological studies of early man and in some cases confirmed early writings.

An interesting post as always Crushed.

Anonymous said...

wow i can hardly remember yesterday which is why I blog. So that later on I can go back and say, oh yeah!I wish my famliy were more like the Mormans who keep a diary from early on to their deaths. What a great treasure for their family to come. Not that anything I blog about could be contrused as history making events but it is to me!

Anonymous said...

According to Wikepedia,
'There is considerable speculation about the language capabilities of ancient hominids. Some scholars believe the advent of hominid bipedalism around 3.5 million years ago would have brought changes to the human skull, allowing for a more L-shaped vocal tract. The shape of the tract and a larynx positioned relatively low in the neck are necessary prerequisites for many of the sounds humans make, particularly vowels. Other scholars believe that, based on the position of the larynx, not even the Neanderthals had the anatomy necessary to produce the full range of sounds modern humans make.'

I agree that when man started to speak history began. We started to know someone's account of events, accuate or not and we started to really pay attention to our past. We can learn from the past and let it inform our present.

Anonymous said...

E-K- You haven't turned Hindu, have you?
You don't believe time travels in a circle?

I think prescience exists, though not quite the way you imply.
Well, actually perhaps closer to the way you imply than properly be discussed here.
It goes back- again- to my thermodynamic determinist view of the universe.

As in, the universe sees it's route, and being in tune with it, sometimes you pick up on it.

Lady M- Glad you like it. This was one of my 'reserve' posts.
I think it is a question which we do need to find answers too.
Linguists put 90% of languages descending from a common language approx 15,000 years ago.
Exactly what that implies is hard to say.

Newmania- 40,000 years ago, at least. Of course, we are only looking here at morphological points.
I still maintain that we HAVE evolved since then- but mainly in how our brains process.

The question is, what is consciousness? As far as I see it, the difference betwen our processes, and a dogs, are more of degree, not kind, yet we are closer related to mice.
What is that threshold?
To me, being able to articulate thought. That really has to be the start of meaningful consciousness, the way WE interpret it.

Otherwise, I class EVERYTHING as conscious.

jmb- This is what I meant about myth- they probably really are distorted folk memries, distorted beyong recognition, where every hardship has been translated into a true struggle, helped by the support of 'gods'.

It's worthy of notice, that records of the shadow cabinet elections of 1928 are lost to history, that's how easy history is lost.

Poody- Of course it is history. it affects events to come. Every life makes a difference, one way or another. Smiling at the person who serves you at the corner shop, may mean they decide against their decision to take their life that night. And means they meet Mr Right. And have children.
One of whom, may discover the cure to cancer.

Alexys- Exactly. It was when we moved from being not just INtelligent, but EXtelligent.

When Mankinds knowledge became immortal.
Something that didn't die with the organism that carried it.

Anonymous said...

Ummm- when we have a generation of people who don't understand or remember communism- I would disagree with you about folks remembering WWI...
very sad- the problem is that so many humans don't have a collective conscious.
They are mostly trying to find a purse to match the one Paris has-

Anonymous said...

I often do a lot of thinking about the importance of language-- probably because so much of what we do is inherently tied up in it. I agree-- how do we tell of the past more than what we can demonstrate without words?

What I also think is fascinating is how we have such a hard time conceiving of consciousness without language, hence all the debates over animal consciousness. I believe such a think exists, but I have no idea how to conceive of it without language.

Anonymous said...

wow, awesome writing and ideas here. great read crush

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought (one I never thought of before!). Not just language, though, but writing. Language has to be passed down, so you need survivors. But with writing (like the way the egyptians started out; with pictures and stuff); include a sort of picture dictionary with your manuscript and entomb it, and someday someone might find it and understand... I'm a firm believer in the importance of keeping records - so history won't be forgotten...