A response to: Da Vinci Code, part 4: One book, many arguments
I wasn’t suggesting that we should feel sorry for the decline of matriarchal societies or that their decline was a ‘mistake’. It’s difficult to say whether a progression on such a mass scale in history can even be labeled in such way. And I wholeheartedly agree with you, we need to focus on the present as well as to do the most to ensure a positive future. But your interpretation of McKenna is a little different then mine. He wasn’t calling for us to return to the past as such but rather to understand what the past meant and how those ideas could be very valuable to us. There are people out there who believe it is impossible for matriarchal societies to have ever existed. I do not dare to take such a leap of faith. Maybe, if people were persuaded that such societies did exist, we could be one step closer to creating a new and different society with similar values. Change does not occur smoothly in a state where change is not deemed possible. And we all know what it can be like when change occurs drastically.
I disagree with your claim that it is a mistake to link the state of old societies with human nature. Don’t societies reflect the state of their people? Doesn’t the way people perceive their nature effect their behavior? I also completely disagree that history is more bloody the further back you go. Of course you can name thousands of examples from torture to human sacrifice but you are looking at a small time scale and a relatively small number of people. Would you claim that most events were bloodier preceding the discovery of the new world and the subsequent slaughter of countless natives? How about the 50-65 million dead in World War II? The trouble is, it seems to me that you’re looking to the previous two thousand years as gauge for our world.
I propose we look even farther back, towards the emergence of modern man. We are animals yet there is no animal on this planet that engages in hostility with itself as frequently as we do. Why must we assume that as soon as we emerged from the primordial goo we began to fight with each other? Is it possible that there was a stage in our development where we simply existed with only occasional conflict with other tribes? Statistically there weren’t many of us around in earlier times; it’s hard for me to believe we slaughtered each other on sight.
Now, that is not to say that people ever lived without fear or violence completely. And as we sit comfortably by our computers, we have little to no idea of what is really happening out there. Possibly the major difference is that today we sit, wonder, and are reasonably concerned with the wellbeing of others around the world. This was probably not very common hundreds of years ago. But today we live in a bubble! Most of the world is not secure, villages are still being pillaged, and people are still being killed. This may never disappear, but I assure you that today they do not take the form of men on horses decapitating villagers. And I also think that we waste energy fighting conflicts which are the result of a worldview that we are afraid to abandon. A psychology imbued with fear serves a purpose. In a state where a vicious animal can jump out of nowhere or food is scarce, fear is an excellent evolutionary attribute. It keeps us on our toes, but to be in such a state constantly will lead to psychosis. Humankind is no longer a victim to a hostile world. On the contrary, many would agree that we have more control than ever before. It seems to me that this function of survival is losing its purpose so we’re trying to give it one.
Change will occur if we are ready or not, but if we want to initiate a proactive approach, we need to abandon our old framework. This post reminds me of something I read recently:
As Professor Arnold J. Toynbee indicates in his six-volume study of the laws of the rise and disintegration of civilizations, schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to weld together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death- the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. Within the soul, within the body social, there must be – if we are to experience long survival- a continuous “recurrence of birth” (palingenesia) to nullify unremitting reoccurrences of death. For it is by means of our own victories, if we are not regenerated, that the work if Nemesis is wrought doom breaks from the shell of our very virtue. Peace is then a snare; war is a snare change is a snare; permanence a snare. When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified- and resurrected; dismembered totally, and then reborn.
-Joseph Campbell ‘A Hero with a Thousand Faces’