Hugh M. Lewis
Superman has long been a mythological archetype of many
different cultures. It is a human of supernatural origins and a human
upbringing who exhibits superhuman physical strengths and abilities, which he
uses in a series of trials and contests with monsters, villains, Gods and with
other men. Behind Superman is always a female seductress who threatens to rob
him of his powers. The Hebrews had their Samson, the Greeks had Hercules.
Ancient Mesopotamian civilization had Gilgamesh, the Indian had Arjuna. There
have been many variants of this common theme, and the point of variation upon
a common theme is as important as the understanding of the essential structure
of the theme itself.
It was Frederick Nietzche who gave to western rational
philosophy the contrast between Superman and the slave, superman being the
superior man who was the goal of evolutionary 'survival of the fittest'.
Recent German ideology capitalized upon this mythological theme as a core
archetype of their superior civilization which was rooted in their genetic
history, and a unified, strong nation was mobilized under a fanatical leader
to go to war with the world to conquer and dominate it militarily.
In this instance we have a clear example of how the power
of a mythological theme can be used to foster collective ideological illusion
around which shrewd and cunning leaders may mobilize the people of an
'ethno-nation' for fanatical action. 'Understanding kills action, for in order
to act we require the veil of illusion…' (Frederick Nietzche, The Birth of
All cultures have their different hero myths. We have whole
pantheon and Halls of Fame devoted to the greats of baseball, football and
basketball. We have political heroes and folk heroes, we have war heroes,
scientist heroes and even industrialist heroes. Heroes become the stuff of
which legends and children's day dreams are made of and from our legends come
the justification of the greatness of our cultural traditions and the object
lessons for how we spend our lives. Now we have a whole movie industry which
regularly creates and recreates these hero myths in living color, to give our
collective illusions a substantial sense of perceptual realism, however two
dimensional and electronic. And film and TV creates its own legends, stars,
great directors and great roles which provide us with yet other pantheons of
Oscar winners, wax museums and parades.
Humans seem to need heroes to serve as role models of
exemplary behavior and superhuman feats and as paragons of our cultural values
and virtues. They are the semi-human props for our everyday illusions and the
superhuman solutions for our existential problems. Everyone loves a winner and
no one wants a loser.
In our daily performances and enactments of our cultural
values, in our recreations of our mythological characters, supermen and
heroes, we can see clearly how myth may both serve to reflect and to
regenerate our cultural traditions and inform our lives and our daily
destinies with special significances of which we may quite unselfconsciously
aware. For us they are reflective of our cultural orientations, but they are
frequently not reflexive of our own realities.
We sometimes seem to so need our hero myths and legends
that we are quite willing to completely disregard the kernel of historical
truth lying at the center of the story in order to better enjoy the flesh of
the fruit grown around it. In our culture, we consume our heroes as we consume
our junk food and our material possession, to use them up at our convenience
and then discard forever the pithy remnants into the junk heaps of our buried
and forgotten history.
It has been the study of culture history which has provided
us with an intellectual window onto this cultural process of mythology, hero
making and consuming, the illusion and superhuman spirit of ideology it
cultivates and the sense of history that’s inevitably left behind. It is the
study of culture history which best answers our 'why' questions about the
happenings of history and the events of culture, because it allows us to paint
the sense of holism and animation that imbibed a people with a collective
purpose and orientation and gave to their culture the breath of history.
Culture history elucidates the integrity and synergism of a people within a
given period and place, and shows how its mythology is related to its language
and psychology, and how its history and ideology is related to its mythology
and how its sense of civilization, its sense of individual self, gender,
class, and even its ecology and experiences of its environment are conditioned
through and by its mythology. It also shows how this mythology is also rooted
in its geography, its ecology, its economy, its sociality, its customs and
manners, its politics and its history. In short within the study of culture
history everything is somehow related to everything else, however indirectly
or remotely or superficially.
For those students of culture who would seek to know a
foreign people, or even to study themselves, the firm foundation of the
understanding of the people's culture history is of paramount and prerequisite
importance in the contextualizing and grounding of their studies, no matter
how scientific, specific, a historical or sociological. It is foolish for such
students to conduct research of any kind without a well rounded appreciation
of the language, culture and history of the people whom they study. Without
such culture historical understanding, such researcher's inevitably fall prey
to either the mythologies of the people's that they've ignored, to their own
culture historical mythologies that they have ignored reflexively in
themselves, or else the results of their studies will stand apart from the
whole fabric of human consciousness itself, as something disconnected,
irrelevant and worst of all, trivial--of little or no value at all in any
culture historical framework.
The culture history of a people is similar to the people's
own 'ethno-history' or 'folk history' except that culture history comprehends
this insider's frame of reference as well as the outsider's frame of reference
, within a dialectic of views that leads to its synthesis. Culture history
stays with no single viewpoint, but seeks a wide variety of perspectives in
its encompassment of the contexts of mind in which a particular people are
situated. Because an infinite number of such viewpoints are potentially
possible, the program of culture history is never finished, its images and
stories of a people never complete.
Several key themes characterize the study of culture
history and distinguishes it as separate from other kinds of studies of
people. These themes are:
Mythology; culture history is preeminently a study of
mythology--its common themes, variations, ranges, histories and 'structures'.
Tradition; culture history is basically a study of a
people's common or separate sense of tradition, how it relates to their
histories, folklore, mythologies, customs and character.
Language; culture history seeks to study language in its
many modes and mediums of expression, especially from the standpoint of its
semanticity, its pragmatics and its metaphorical connotations and connections.
Customs and values; culture history seeks to understand a
people's cultural orientations, values and how these cohere to give cultural
life consistency and efficacy, customs and constraints, rituals and ceremonies
which surround, explicate or deviate from such value systems and cultural
Stereotypes; culture history seeks to comprehend and
understand the kinds of 'stereotypes' are used within a grouping of people or
are used about such people. Culture history can be said to deal in
stereotypes, in the dialectics of their social cultural construction and
Social structure; somewhat surprisingly, culture history,
to be complete, must understand the regular patternings of political,
economic, social and religious behaviors of people, as these 'structures'
interrelate functionally and organizationally to give a long lasting and
pervasive sense of 'structure' common to a collectivity of people.
Cultural geography; the landscape, environment, ecology,
means of adaptation are all necessary to a complete picture of a group's
Integration; culture history attempts an inquiry into the
systemic and symbolic integration of a people's culture historical realities,
to demonstrate the many possible interrelationships with in a collectivity of
Variation; culture history attempts to understand the many
historical and geographical variations of the cultural themata around which a
grouping of people are organized, as well as the individual ranges of
variation between individual' within groupings and the ranges of variation of
culture histories of different groupings of people.
Civilization; civilization is construed as culture
historical process which gives to a grouping of people a collective
consciousness of being distinct and unique. Civilizations may be great or
Collective representations; religious beliefs, attitudes,
symbolisms, superstitions which informs a people of their culture historical
identity and of the identity of others.
'Mentality'; culture history has always been a study of
human 'mentality' as this may be different or similar between groupings of
people in time and place--to understand the basis of these differences and
History; culture history is the study of the 'culture of
history' and the 'history of culture' as well as the study of 'meta-history'
as a dialectic between 'stories of people's past' and 'people's past itself'.
Culture; culture history is also, simultaneously a study of
human culture as an organizing metaphor for the pan human phenomena and
experience of things cultural--and of its many thematic variation in time and
place as well as the 'continuum' of pan human 'culture' in the 'structure of
the long run'.
Contextuality; culture history is an attempt to
contextualize and understand the inherent background contextuality of time and
place in which a people are situated. Contexts are relational frameworks which
provide a sense of the interrelationships and interrelatedness of people
within social and natural environments through time.
In the study of culture history no kind of knowledge or
information is beyond its purview of importance. The aim of such study is
always comprehensive in seeking a compendium of understanding about any
grouping of people. As such psychology and phenomenology are also valuable
perspectives of a culture historical approach, as would be physical
anthropology or sociology or even sociobiology. The culture historical
paradigm is encompassing and non-exclusive in its orientation. As such it is
also necessarily generalistic and unparticularistic in its synthesis.
The notion of what is 'general' is better restated as an
issue of 'generalia' (things in general; general principles or terms) have
referring mainly to ideas, notions, terms, and systems of such things.
'General' is defined as 'the whole; the total; that which comprehends all or
the chief part; opposed to particular.' or as 'applicable to or involving the
whole or every member of a group. 2. Widespread; prevalent. 3. Not restricted
or specialized. 4. True or applicable in most but not all cases. 5. Not
precise or detailed. 6. Diversified…' In this context general might also be
referred to as 'generality' or as 'generality' defined as 'the quality or
state of being general. 2. The main body; the hulk, the greatest part…3. An
idea or expression of a general, indefinite and vague nature; a general
statement or principle' or as 'generally' as 'in general; extensively though
not universally; most frequently but not without exceptions. 2. Without
detail; in the whole, taken together' or in terms of 'things generalizable' or
'General' then has several interrelated connotations of
theoretical, philosophical, metaphysical, comprehensive and universality of
meaning--'as broadly based, deeply significant, as widely applicable as
possible'. Comprehensive generality as a way of comprehending holistically an
undifferentiated human reality is preferable over a notion of strict
universality with the connotations of 'absoluteness, completeness, finality or
Being general and a generalizing study, it is also a study
of generalization about human reality. Culture history tends to speak of
groupings of people as if they were whole and in a sense complete, and to some
extent isolated and independent of an outside world. There is a search for an
overall pattern of configuration of culture about some central archetype or
model or paradigm. The classic conception of culture historical study has been
the depiction of a culture as a wheel with spokes which radiate from a central
hub or axis around which the wheel of culture turns. Each of its spokes is an
aspect of that culture which converges towards a center.
But the generalizing nature of culture history is both its
greatest strength and its greatest weakness, and this seems to hook it upon
the horns of an unresolvable dilemma which 'stems from the chastening insight
that no culture can be mapped out in its entirety, but no element of this
culture can be understood in isolation…' (Gombrich, page 41)
It must be understood that the study of generalization in
culture history is a necessary way of proceeding toward a holistic
understanding of culture history. Generalizations based on patterns of
phenomena are formulated in order to then be 'de-constructed', reevaluated and
reconstructed. Though this process theoretically never ends, through it we are
provided with a multiplicity of possible patterns and generalizations from
which themselves certain meta-order paradigms emerge in the generalistic
understanding of a group of people. It is not the generalizations themselves
which are important, except as vehicles of understanding, but it is
appreciation of the people and a grasp of mind which characterizes their group
that is the final aim of culture history.
From this standpoint, culture history must be understood as
a dialectical methodology which always poses a paradigmatic thesis to then
contrapose antithetical counterexamples or exceptions through which
conjunction yields a synthesis of mind. The important concerns are not the
thesis or anti-thesis, or even the synthesis itself, but the act of the
dialectical process itself in revealing mind and human reality. The culture
history stands outside of the terms of the dialectic, while still enacting the
dialectic, and studies the unfolding of the process in its entirety from an
uninvolved distance which allows the student to step outside of the
hermeneutic circle of ideology and history, and to become reflexive about this
hermeneutic circle as well as about his/her own dialectical involvement in it.
There then occurs in the study of culture history a fusion
of horizons between the student and the people whom he studies, a kind of
identity of difference which allows cultural generalizations to be made and to
stand for themselves without an involvement in the hermeneutic history of
their production. These generalizations remain as necessary vehicles of the
hermeneutic process, but do not stand as ideological props, paradigms of power
or as mythological charters.
Culture history is the study of mythology which is itself
situated in mythology. It is a study of ideology which is itself situated in
ideology. It is a study of structure, history, culture, mentality which is
itself situated in these 'things'. The only hope of escaping this paradox is
by its own reflexive transcendence that steps beyond the parameters of its
dialectic. In the process culture history becomes meta-paradigmatic and
relatively a-mythological mythology, or de-ideologized ideology. We move from
structure to anti-structure and then back again but in the process stop midway
between the extremes to discover a middle ground of meaning which exists from
the tension of the dialectical extremes.
Culture history proceeds to make generalizations about the
cultures and histories of people which then eventually become associated with
racial epitaphs and ethnic ideologies. And yet culture history does not stop
because of these associations and distanciation of 'surplus' meaning. The
danger of reification of subjectivity constituted realities are surpassed by
the knowledge and appreciation gained by the process, knowledge and
appreciation which eventually goes to undermine the very reifications upon
which it was founded.
The dialectical process itself is one of a
'collectivizing/relativizing' perspective or orientation in which symbolism of
identity and difference become configured and contextualized in relation with
the world. These are processes inherent to our understanding of human reality
and are not to be denied except at unnecessary cost to ourselves in terms of
our failure to realize more fully human reality.
It may be asked what the net result of this process is in
the world. It leads neither to the deflation of ignorance nor to the progress
of human enlightenment. It may only be said that it is mostly pursued for its
own sake, for learning what it means to be more fully human in a greatly
inhumane world. In other words, the pursuit of the study of culture history
does not seek justification beyond itself, beyond its own process of
study--its justification is found in its own appreciation and understanding of
what it means to be a human being in the world, in its own terms of this
meaning of being human. Humans do it because they are human, whether they do
it well or not.
From this standpoint, culture history can be understood as
both a methodology of the study of the processual patterning of mind as it has
become evinced during the cultural development of humankind, and a systematic,
if not inevitable, consequence of the functional patterning of mind itself.
Culture history becomes both an representation and a reflection of mind, both
an expression of mind and the movement towards its reflexive understanding in
the world. It has as its basis the study of how mythology contributes to the
understanding of how mind works in the historical and cultural development of
humankind upon earth.
Culture history provides a super organic approach which
allows us to capture the synergism of human reality--it provides a
meta-paradigmatic framework of conception which transcends the dichotomization
of reality by framing such dichotomies in terms of its dialectic.
The culture history approach directly confronts the
philosophical/theoretical problematics of history as an inherently
relativizing and particularizing process, and the related problem of ideology
as a collectivizing and universalizing process. Culture history is informed
within a dialectic between history and ideology--how ideology entails an
implicit denial of history and a rewriting of the past to suit the purpose of
the present--how history in the making entails a working out of ideology as
the unintended consequences of its self fulfillment.
Culture history as an updated and revised paradigm is a
necessary antidote to the modern syndrome of an earthbound world view which
prevents us from seeing the most common basic differences and similarities
between ourselves as individual human beings and as members of humankind as a
single geo-biological species, and which would allow us to come to terms with
our present predicament in a global environment and to adapt to it in a more
realistic and human manner.
One of the most important aspects of the culture historical
approach is that it follows a central place for the individual in a broader
scheme of generalizations about the world--it allows us to look at cultural
and historical processes in a holistic and relativistic manner without losing
sight of the key roles always played by individual actors upon the stage. This
is perhaps the greatest paradox of the culture historical approach--it begins
with generalization only to end in particular persons. This tends to run
counter from more 'empirical' social sciences which claim to start inductively
with particular individuals and to eventually build up to generalities. It is
a fact that in almost every theory of the social sciences, including
psychology, there is no room left for fitting the individual, independently
acting person, at the hub of the Hegelian wheel.
It has been culture history that has given us the
ideologies and theories of cultural relativism and determinism, the 'world
view' problem, theories of diffusionism and by logical extension,
acculturation, theories of cultural configurationalism and dynamics, and
'culture and personality' studies which purport to demonstrate how culture is
reflective of the predominant personality orientation of its people, and of
notions of the primitive versus civilized mentality and about 'collective
representations'. It has also lead to the development of Hegelian dialectics,
structuralist and post structuralist critical theory, existentialism,
hermeneutics and phenomenology.
Its study has been received with much ambivalence within
western academic circles in which sciences are the predominant paradigms.
Culture history remains associated with the humanities as its temporality of
perspective is held to be one of 'pattern' recognition, or of
'Geisteswissenschaft' versus the spatially oriented positivistic
'naturwissenschaft' of science.
Much of the ambivalence centers around the inherent
paradoxicality of the dialectical nature of the study of culture history and
in the promotion of its 'strong' ideologies versus the power of suggestion of
its 'weak' theories. The dialectic of culture history begins with the
recognition of this paradigm which then process to the deconstruction of this
paradigm through further study, and then the reconstruction of the original
patterning upon which the paradigm was founded. Part of the dilemma of this
process is that the 'original pattern' is also destructed in the critical
process of deconstruction and that the reconstructed paradigm is based upon a
derivative but different pattern. This confers upon its dialectics a sense of
always trying to catch up with reality, of being one step behind the actual
unfolding of events, and of trying to keep its feet firmly on the ground of
human reality. Its ontological status is derivative of and dependent upon the
ongoing ontological status of human reality. As such, there is in its studies
a sense of time lag separating its paradigm from the real patterning of
events--it is a depiction of yesterday and yesteryear which can ultimately
never be demonstrated as either true or false. This also renders it
susceptible to the mistaken identity between past and present, of ideological
reification of the past in the present or of its superimposition upon the
realities of the present. Through culture history we can learn from our past,
so as not to make the same mistakes in our future, but we can also make the
past our master and our future a slave to the past.
The dialectical process of paradigm construction,
deconstruction and reconstruction is an ongoing one that needs to be kept
apart from the actual movements and turning of events. It never yields a
complete or ultimate or perfect paradigm--the aim of its dialectic is the
production of multiple paradigms about the central axis of dialectical
development. This confers upon its dialectic a sense of directionality and of
its own ontology, but one which is only reflexive of the real ontology of
To the extent that the dialectics of culture history are
rooted to the ongoing experiences of the past, then it can be said to serve as
a collective memory of mind, and that it is a memory which is always limited
in its re-constructive capacity and therefore always selective. Its editing
function of selectivity, of what elements to focus upon serve as important and
which kinds to exclude, renders its dialectic fundamentally a normative
function of human evaluation, interpretation, decision making.
Its editing function also tend to render the past in terms
which are of service to the needs of the present, as well as to promise that
any such paradigm must always remain partial and imperfect and therefore soon
to be replaced by yet another paradigm, as present sets of needs change.
Social science which are grounded in a spatial framework of
synchronicity of elements and stable continuity of structure implicitly held
to be uninfluenced by historical events or process of change, are also
actually all tied to an selective editing function of events of the past, and
therefore always partial and imperfect. No paradigm producing study of
patterning of human reality is not so tied to the past. This makes social
sciences susceptible to the same influences of ideology and to criticism on
this ground as culture history. The important difference is that culture
history should at least reflexively recognize its own partiality and bias of
ideology, whereas with the social sciences, for the most part, this bias is
usually invisible or implicitly denied by the superimposition of an
unempirical 'rational structure' which is separate from its history. In other
words, social science are no less ideological than culture history is, to the
extent that they study the same basic events and experiences of the past and
suffer the same lag between past constructions and present de-constructions.
The difference is that when reading social science, there is no sense of past,
but only a sense of frozen, permanent present fixed by structure. Without
acknowledging its own ideological and ontological status, social science is
more susceptible to the influence of ideology than is culture history and more
tied to the needs of the present.
From a social science standpoint, even history itself
becomes structured in the sense that it is seen as a diachronic series of
events or processes which are the result of the mechanistic function of an
unchanging social structure. It is this kind of ideology which looks for
strict causality between past and present and through the statistical
determinism upon our sense of past experiences to be pre-determinative through
its dialectic rather than post determined in the modus tollens sense of
present consequents confirming past antecedents. It also leaves a broader
margin of self organizing criticality in its less particularistic and more
generalizing framework. Its inherent holism guarantees that its histories will
always tend to be multiply determining and determined in a non-exclusive
It is the inherent, explicit openness of the study of
culture history as a system of inquiry into human reality which is its chief
and primary advantage.
A great deal has been written about the relativity of culture, language,
cognition and history and yet relativism remains poorly defined and largely
misunderstood as an alternative paradigm of rationalism. It is also often
confused with its strong ideological form of determinism which creates
fictitious little culture gardens the life of which are completely independent
of outside influence and yet this is precisely contradictory to the genuine
significance of relativism, that everything, no matter how bound, is always
related to and configured against a larger background of contextual
It is the relative contextuality of an particular place and period which
renders its understanding culture historically different from the
understanding of other points in time.
It is this relational contextuality which allows the study of culture
history to remain an open system of inquiry, for whatever its paradigmatic
definitions these are always to be understood within a more open and
indefinite contextuality which always surrounds it.
Because contextual relations are always changing the general relativity of
a particular place and period is always different from that of any other. When
a statement is made that something is relative, it must always then be asked
'relative to what?' Relativeness is never absolutely determined and never
determines absolutely, but relative is always relative and indefinitely
determined in relation to something else. This is part of the dialectical
process of culture history--to frame the understanding of something particular
within a more indefinite and generalistic context of understanding.
The value of the relativism in the culture historical understanding of
human reality is precisely that it provides us with an non-absolutistic
framework for the understanding of difference and dynamics in the processual
patterning of mind--it enables us to deal with change in a more realistic and
less idealistic fashion as a part of a larger, encompassing context.
Relativism also helps to cultivate a general attitude of open mindedness
which is essential to the study of culture history--it provides a
'generalizing' framework for understanding human reality.
Cultural configuration was an effort to find persistent and
generally predominant patterns of a grouping of people in a place and
period--these patternings were held to be somehow 'essential' in the culture
historical understanding of culture. It is no accident that such
configurationalism turned to the purported general psychology of the
individual in order to understand the core of this patterning, as such
psychology was held to be 'essential' to culture historical ethos. The exact
psychological mechanisms involved varied and were left indefinite, but the
general theme was always that early patterns of childhood socialization and
enculturation of cultural values and norms produced a predominant personality
type which tended to reinforce and replicate the norms and values of a
particular cultural orientation and this predominant personality conferred the
unique and peculiar flavor to a distinctive cultural orientation. This
'configuration' defined the normative boundaries individual variation. If
people's psychological pre-dispositions fit the general pattern, they had a
greater likelihood of successful adaptation, on the other hand if their
character varied or deviated too far from the normative center, then they
might well suffer marginalization or persecution.
This configurationalism was never so much 'wrong' so much
as it was over simplifying of cultural realities. All cultural orientations
has a 'core' value culture which mutually fit certain psychological character
traits more than others, but this perspective emphasize culture as the
'multiplication of uniformity' and tended to ignore the degree of individual
variation tolerated within a culture--the 'organization of diversity'. Taken
to their extreme such studies led to 'National Character Stereotypes' whose
profiles were based on somewhat specious and spurious theories of
socialization and superfluous understandings of the evaluative complexities of
any and all culture.
Such studies also tended to presume an a-priori culture
historical 'baseline' which as left tacit to the studies themselves as
something taken for granted. A baseline is a starting point, a line of
demarcation or departure, usually rather arbitrarily chosen, from which
change, convergence or divergence, however relative, can be measured. The fact
of the matter is that there are few if any non-arbitrary baselines or bottom
lines in the demarcation of contexts in human reality or in human history.
But we need our generalist stereotypes whether they are the
archetypical 'peasant' or 'savage' or 'village' or 'tribe' or 'city', however
implicit and taken for granted as the thetic starting points of our
dialectical synthesis of a people in a given place and period. It is better
that our culture history attempt to explicate these bottom line stereotypes or
'pre-paradigms' or 'Gestalts of collective mind' rather than to leave them as
implicit only as so often is the case in social sciences. These pre-paradigms
or 'proto-patterns' form the prerequisite ground upon which we can then
reconfigure our generalistic understanding. It is important that we actually
return to and amend our original preconception many times over which allows us
to fashion a more accurate rendering of what it is we see in reality. By
explicating these preconceptions, culture history adopts a reflexive attitude
towards its own understanding of reality.
An essence then, may and usually does, involve systematic
relationships between many descriptive elements; these relationships
themselves contribute to the essential definitions of the related parts. We
may then speak of about the horizon of a book (as opposed, say, to the horizon
of the spoken word), of nineteenth century landscapes, of universality life,
of the Renaissance in Italy, provided, however, that in all these cases we can
show that there is a single essential structure to the phenomena. I believe we
can even speak of the horizon of atoms and elementary particles--but more
about this below. We can have apodicity about the structure of the horizon
only in the reflective attitude, because only in this attitude can we be
reflectively aware of the full range of profiles to which an essence refers.
(Patrick Heelan, 1983: page 10)
The fact that culture history eventually amends, or else
replaces, its preconceived models with newer ones is called 'learning' and it
allows full the elaboration of a fuller more complete range of profiles and a
more sophisticated and elaborate model (or sense of essence) that what existed
Culture historical configurationalism of the
interrelationships and inter-relatedness of culture and character is not wrong
in its direction, so much that it has so far been simplifying in its aim. The
inter-relatedness between culture and character is much more complex and
contextually involving than is realized, but within such studies there is much
room for the formulation, elaboration and alteration of basic stereotypes of
culture historical configurations that has yet been realized.
It is important to understand that culture and character
are interrelated in many different ways upon many different levels within
different contexts of understanding. Archetypes of culture historical
configurations are the key paradigms of their understanding. They are
composite symbolisms made up of many different elements--they tend to focus
upon and become embodied within and personified by certain character profiles.
People may or may not try to live up or approximate such stereotypes according
to how they construe them and come to understand them within their own
individual contexts. It is likely that their understanding of culture history
is much more complex, yet more straight forward, than anyone yet realizes. Any
one culture may offer more than one kind of archetype or have a set or series
of configurations which allow different people a whole range of options. It
may be that there are rarely central or predominant archetypes but several
competing ones or a plethora of possible paradigms waiting to be 'vitalized'
by people. But culture historians must proceed with one at a time, exhaust the
profiles of each, and then move on to the next.
We all need our heroes, but we need them all differently.
Culture is our organizational metaphor for comprehending
all those varieties of experience and diverse phenomena for which we would
otherwise not have a name for, and yet which make up so much of our lives.
Culture is our conceptual recognition of the patterns that happen in our
experiences of human reality. We do not organize this phenomena about our own
definition of culture, but we fit our understanding of what we call culture to
our own self organizing patterns of our environments and experiences. This
patterning is epiphenomena on mind, as it works through us in our own mental
templates of 'culture' and as it works through our experiences of our
environments as contexts of culture. Our cultural templates serve to order and
reinforce our organization of culture, and cultural phenomena provide the
evidentiary ground of experience by which we construct our templates. Mind
exists as the basis and product of this interrelation between our selves and
our environmental contexts of our phenomenal experiences--between ourselves
and our worlds.
As such, the patterning of culture is always ephemeral as
well as dialectical. It evolves as we evolve within evolving environments.
Mind mediates our sense of self and our sensing of the environment.
Cultural dynamics has been the name given to the culture
historical study of how culture works within groupings of people. It sees that
people are socialized and enculturated as children into their cultural ethos.
Sanctions in adulthood reinforce these cultural orientations and it is in
adulthood when adults deliberately alter or break with given cultural
constraints. This is the process of the production and transmission of culture
through time and across space. Cultures are composites of many aspects, of
which there are focal aspects which become more highly elaborated. It is in
the focal areas of a culture that there is greater variation and elaboration,
and a culture tends to drift and change in the direction upon which is
focused. Cultures drift along given directions until they run into other
drifting cultures and have 'historical accidents'.
An understanding of the processes of culture change
underlies the understanding of variable cultural forms. 'cultural forms are
the expression of unique sequences of historic events but they are the result
of underlying processes that represent constants in human experience.'
(Herskovits, 1964:page 231)
Cultural dynamics as a way of understanding the
'mechanisms' of culture change are a point of entry to the problems of change
in culture history, yet as it was elaborated by Melville Herskovits it remains
a rather simplistic device for understanding the multiple permutations of
human culture history. It is referenced against a baseline of stable and
conservative pattern--'patterned structure, regularized form…as the designs
taken by the elements of a culture, which, as consensus of the individual
behavior patterns manifest by the members of a society, give to this way of
life coherence, continuity and distinctive form.' (Herskovits, 1947:page 202)
The problem is that culture history must study change from
a relativistic standpoint as continuous and contextual. In this sense cultural
environments and its elements provide the substrate upon which individuals
regular reconfigure their designs along certain broader paradigmatic
parameters or cultural context of available or possible schemata and 'frames'
from which an individual's or a group may continuously 'construct' and
'reconstruct' their culture along a dialectical pathway directed by tradition.
Change happens within a cultural continuum of many small cycles that begin
with the birth of each individual and end with their death.
It is the overall robustness of the larger cultural context
of a grouping which gives a distinctive culture its consistency, conservation
and stability of patterning. The elements of this context change, but overall
at a much slower rate and individuals work to refashion these elements, but in
the process slowly modify them as well.
Change is influenced simultaneously both from within a
culture by its constituent members and outside of a culture by relations with
other cultures and with the natural environment.
We must come to understand that culture is similar to
language in that all people share a pan human capacity for language and a
common 'deep' structure which is rooted in mind, which allows all cultures to
be mutually intelligible and translatable, and yet culture as the patterning
of mind is highly variable across space and through time, and continues to
vary with only few fixed constraints.
To see then history as our recognition of the unfolding
process of mind as largely self organizing process is to acknowledge amidst
our efforts to discover a deep structural dynamics of historical process all
the many unintended consequences and local details which render such structure
as best vague and most general, highly relative and always contextual.
Human histories have largely been political histories, the
areas of greatest power having predominant influence over the control and
directionality of change. In this sense change has largely been relative power
in human history.
In the context of the idiographic phenomenological
experience of the individual, historical process must be seen at a level of
local face to face, interpersonal interactions between different people. From
a bottom line, empirical standpoint, this is the basis for the construction of
history. Group history incorporates all those relations bound by a grouping in
a particular period and place, including those external influences and
relations with other groups or outsiders.
People form networks in time and across space. These
networks overlap and reintegrate or segregate. Social networks are the
grindstone of human history. These networks are the weave of culture history
with the worf of time and the weft of space.
Such networks provide maps and avenues which individuals,
in their daily rhythms and streams of consciousness, learn how to navigate and
manipulate. People interact within multiple networks and this meta-level of
interactions, 'pseudo events' confers a higher order of social integration.
In a most general sense, culture history is always complete
and total, always comprehending the full extent of all social networks of all
peoples across the world and throughout history, as these are mostly
interconnected and overlapping.
To see how networks, in their process and patterning, and
in their interpersonal negotiations and transactions and individual
enactments, interrelated and cohere to articulate social structure, cultural
praxis and historical dynamics and in their instantiation come to reflect the
contextuality, relativity and the patterning and process of mind, is to
understand in the most empirical way possible how history moves and culture
The culture historical study of social, interpersonal
networks as 'events' of mind, leads to a related study of the historical
patterning of social movements as a basis for understanding the dynamic
patterning and processes of the mythological paradigms of mind. Social
movements begin small, with but a few casual prophets, and , if successful,
emerge large. This growth from small to a large scale, the history of social
movements within larger culture historical contexts, the biographies of its
founders and subsequent leaders and the psychology of its members, the basis
for its organization, the stages of transition through which they pass, the
reasons for its stagnation, demise and death, the process of splinter groups
branching away, provides, when coupled with the study of networks, an in-depth
look at how culture historical process actually 'happens'.
Social movements here is used most generally, to encompass
virtually every form or kind of corporate human organization, or ad hoc mass
movement or spontaneous social event, which exists or had existed, including
religious, ideological, secular, national, revolutionary, peasant revolutions,
criminal organizations, etc. All such movements entail certain common
attributes and characteristics which provide a sense of 'on going' structure
to the process of culture historical development.
Civilization is the pan human process of culture historical
development. It represents the unfolding of mind. Civilization is not culture
historically specific, but rather it is general. It happens to all cultures,
and encompasses cultural groupings of people within larger culture historical
frames. It happens to and around cultural groupings. Civilizations are
inter-group phenomena--large scale patterns of group relations which become
'great traditions' which unite states into nations, nations into regional
empires, and regions into world civilizations.
Civilization as process is largely a function of power, and
is similar to the process of inter-group acculturation with which it is
Civilization is always defined relativistically in regard
to its centers of power or its mainstreams of development. It is to be
understood in the metalogical idiom of mind in terms of relational human power
structures within the context of human culture history. Within this context,
there are many sub-groupings, some of which are more interconnected and
interrelated than others which are relatively isolated. At any point in time,
tracing the lineaments of structural interrelationships within the whole
continuum of culture, there can be identified 'cultural complexes' possessing
a center of gravity and a definite patterns of structural growth.
Another problem confronted by culture history has been the
elucidation of 'mind' as different kinds of 'mentality' as evidenced by
beliefs, world views, superstitions, collective representation, attitudes and
reason. There has been a basic dichotomy between the primitive mentality and
the civilized mind, between the Dionysian and Appollonian, between the
pre-logical and the rational, the concrete and the abstract.
There have been different versions of this common theme,
one such version seems to have some historical substance. There seems to be a
fundamental difference of 'mentality' between predominantly 'oral' cultures
which have an oral tradition of transmission and 'literate' cultures which
have a literate tradition of transmission. These basic differences of
mentality are reflected in basic configurational differences of culture and
character as well. The development of writing and especially of printing,
entailed major revolutions of human consciousness which brought with it, among
other things, the development of historical civilization that was no longer
bond by a tradition of oral recitation.
Just how important this single set of difference are had
become a matter of some speculation, and what this means for the study of
culture history remains to be determined, but it is one clear instance of the
culture history of the development of mind.
The principle paradox of the study of culture history is
the understanding of change in human reality--how it happens, why it happens,
and what happens. Culture history seeks to understand change not in order to
discover means of exerting control over it as a form or instrument of power,
rather merely for the sake of its understanding in our lives--how it
influences us in cultural historical contexts and how we characteristically
adapt to it or fail to as human beings.
Change always presents us with paradox, because it is
continuous and always relative. In our attempts to control change, change
"This is how we escape from our second apparent
dilemma and rest comfortably on both its horns. Culture is both stable and
ever-changing. Cultural change can be studied only as a part of the problem of
cultural stability; cultural stability can be understood only when change is
measured against conservatism…perhaps the basic difficulty arises from the
fact that there are no objective criteria of permanence and change…"
(Herskovits, 1947:page 20)
The basis of the study of culture history is the
philological enterprise of hermeneutical exegesis--the systematic explication
of signs, symbols and language in its culture historical context. Culture
history is an open, unbound sense is the study of human mind or of frames of
mind as these are the hermeneutical points of view or profiles of the
'horizons' of individuals, as these are manifest through time and across
space, through the excoriation of identity and the determination of basic
difference in a relational context.
"A world though singular in that it applies
exclusively to a particular community at a particular place and period, is not
the only world: Worlds are historical and anthropological, differentiated by
peoples, times, places and perhaps professions. A world is always
inter-subjective, the shared space of a historical community with a particular
culture that uses a common language and a common description of reality."
(Patrick Heelan, 1983:page 11)
Hermeneutics involves the systematic elucidation of
contextual relations and the encompassing of the multiple interpretations or
'profiles' of a phenomena.
Culture history does not see the study of cultures as
analytically separable from the study of history. All cultural phenomena are
historical in an idiographic sense and all of history is cultural in a
contextual-relational sense. Culture history studies the interface between
space and time, culture and history, people and their environments, as these
become articulated and mediated through human experience. Nor does culture
history see the study of physical human phenomena as analytically separable
from the study of the mind and metaphysical meanings structures as both
interpenetrate one another. Culture history is synthesizing and
integrating--it looks for whole patterns and general processes of change.
Culture history also steps outside of the boundaries of 'normal' consciousness
through the breaking of these boundaries.
The cultural continuum exists across space and through
time, and there is in the last analysis no clear separation between the
spatial and temporal dimensions of its occurrence. Any culture and all
cultural groupings have a locationally fixed center of gravity--a central
place from which it spreads across space and lasts through a duration of time
before disappearing into something else. Through our science tends to
analytically separate these dimensions of understanding into 'synchronic' and
'diachronic', with such profound consequences for the final form of our
thinking, in actuality the universe of cultural phenomena exists upon a single
spatio-temporal unidimensionality of mind. This is reflected in the symbolic
universe by the inter-translatability of spatial metaphors into temporal terms
and vice versa. Space can be converted into a matter of time, and time into a
process of space.
The spatial temporal unidimensionality of the cultural
continuum leads us to look at the symbolic universe as composed of a uniform
and universal cloth of culture history, the fabric of which is composed of
interwoven threads of space and time--the worf and weft of human consciousness
and culture. The cultural continuum is a huge edgeless tapestry, made up of an
endless series of collages of cultures consisting of recognizable patterns and
distinctive designs. This seamless cloth of culture is always unfolding at the
future edge of the present moment--at the here and now. It may become wrinkled
or folded over upon itself or stretched out very tightly. Rips and holes may
form in it in which there is a general vacuousness of culture history.
Space time unidimensionality of the cultural continuum and
the symbolic universe becomes the fabric of culture history as both a
collective state of mind, a 'universal frame of human consciousness' and as
the symbolic fabric and textuality of the cultural continuum itself. Symbolic
space time becomes the object and subject of culture historical understanding,
and culture historical understanding becomes the universal frame of symbolic
Culture history becomes the study of the symbolic
inter-translation between synchronic and diachronic 'modalities' of human
'beingness' in the world, of 'mind' and its reflections and projections in
Death is the only absolute horizon of the culture
historical continuum and of our symbolic universe--it is the ultimate unknown
which mind cannot see beyond. But there are other relative horizons of
knowledge and understanding of mind--ever receding toward which our symbolic
universe spreads but which it never reaches or surpasses. Infinity and
eternity are two things which we cannot directly know--we cannot know
definitively the origins of the culture historical continuum itself in our
collective past, nor will we ever know the total range of its variation
through time and space. There are also many other relative horizons of our
knowledge and understanding--our own humanness imposes a natural horizon to
our understanding of other non-human beings, our culture and language limits
our understanding of other cultures and languages and our own mind of
beingness limits our knowing of other's minds of beingness.
Culture historical horizons are something different from
spatio-temporal boundaries. Spatio-temporal boundaries are always relative in
terms of continuous degrees of separateness or distance between beings in
space or time--spatio-temporal boundaries are always physically real, the
result of being situated in space and time, whether as an individual or as a
particular cultural grouping. Spatio-temporal boundaries always have a
quantitative continuity about them--they always exist in the same physical
universe. Culture historical horizons may exist in the same symbolic universe,
but are characterized by a qualitative discontinuity of different orders of
beingness within the same time-space framework.
Culture historical horizons overlap with spatio-temporal
boundaries in regions of the symbolic universe in which matters of social
distance between self and other, or culture historical distances between
different groupings, become expressed in spatio-temporal terms as well. This
is a kind of phase harmonization between boundaries of being and horizons of
mind which has periodicity and a regularity. These regions of overlap create
channels of movement and change which give to mind its momentousness and to
culture history its momentum.
CIVILIZATION AND STYLIZATION
For Alfred Kroeber, the process of growth, atrophy, decay
and disintegration of civilization are only analogical metaphors of
superorganicism--they only resemble organic process of biological growth and
decay. Kroeber located three co-occurring components of civilizations--a body
of 'cultural content', adequate adjustment to environmental problems and to
social structuring and a release of 'so called' creative energies more or less
subject to shaping by the factor of style. These components are holistically
integrated into a unique 'nexus or system of style patterns'. Creative
processes are the 'growing' points of civilization, stylizing civilization but
never determining of civilization. Though the understanding of civilization is
'a generically and genuinely historical one', historiographical methods hardly
reveal the structure and content of civilization except as 'events of
history', the changes of structure and content as 'institutional events'.
"To summarize. To the historian, civilizations are
large, somewhat vague segments of the totality of historical events which it
may sometimes be convenient or useful to segregate off from the remainder of
history, and which tend to evince certain dubiously definable qualities when
so segregated. To the student of culture, civilizations are segments of the
totality of human history when this is viewed less for its events, and less as
behavior and acts, than as more enduring produces, forms and influences of the
actions of human societies. To the student of culture, civilizations are
segregated or delimited from one another by no single criterion: partly by
geography, partly by period; partly by speech, religion, government, less by
technology; most of all by those activities of civilization that especially
concerned with value and the manifest qualities of style. This is an area of
subject matter peripheral to the historian, but increasingly in his view.
Culture is most easily conceived as a static generalization of collective
behavior suppressing event in favor of non-transitory form. Yet it is
increasingly evident that no civilization is actually static. It always flows.
Like style, it is a qualitative, structured form in process. The form and
structure possessed by civilizations invite a comparative morphology. Yet the
forms are always in process means that they are also historic phenomena and
must be viewed historically. To the point at which historical examination and
morphological inquiry seem most fruitfully to interact is in the phenomena of
culmination which civilizations share with styles. (A. L. Kroeber, An
Anthropologist Looks at History; page 17)
Kroeber viewed the historical development of civilizations
as a form of socio-cultural process which 'means the relation of pattern to
pattern within successive developmental stages of civilization, these
civilizations themselves being viewed each as a total unit and ultimately also
in comparison with one another.' (1963;page 27) The most important
characteristic of the endogenous process of civilizations are the stylizations
it achieves, its unique forms of cultural expression. Style is the most
distinctive attribute of a civilization, giving it form and continuity. 'A
style may be provisionally defined as a system of coherent ways or patterns of
doing certain things.' (1963;page 66) The developmental cycle of a
civilization is signified by the developmental life cycle of its styles:
"The characteristic forms of culture which are
non-repetitive, plastic and creative, are its styles. Styles are characterized
first by internal consistency, second by the property of growth and third, by
a quality of irreversibility: they can develop but they cannot 'dis-develop'
or turn back. All three of these qualities--consistency, growth and
irreversibility--are characteristic also of organisms; though this similarity
is only analogous, since organisms are animals or plants functioning through
physiology and heredity, whereas styles are social products of the one species
of organism, man. Civilizations contain more or less repetitive elements in
which the qualities of style are present only feebly or transiently; but they
nor only do also contain styles, but on their creative dynamic side they
consist characteristically of styles. They may be described accordingly as a
collection or association of styles, and in proportion as this association is
integrated, we can usually regard a civilization as a sort of super style, or
master style, possessing some degree of overall (WORD?????PAGE 303) and being
set, faced or sloped in a specific or more or less unique direction.
A civilization would presumably partake of the qualities of
the styles of which it is composed. Besides the consistency of coherence which
we have just mentioned, civilizations should then also show the property of
growth, and this property they are indeed generally credited with. Finally
civilizations might share with styles the property of irreversibility and this
is the problem we have set ourselves to inquire into." (Kroeber,
The culture historical development of civilization refers
then to two dialectically interrelated processes, the 'push' of endogenous
processes of socio-cultural stylization, and the 'pull' of exogenous process
of acculturation. Together this dialectic of the development of civilization
may be referred to as culture historical dynamics. Acculturation is the
process of external, extensive evolution of the environmental contexts of
civilization which impinge upon particular cultural groupings to cause change
and adaptation and to constrain the directions of such changes.
STRATIFICATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Stratification of consciousness is the culture historical
consequence of the development of world view as orientations and paradigms of
power in the world. It occurs as a separation of symbols into multiple,
hierarchical levels of taxonomies of increasing generality or descending
particularity and is reflected by the symbolic 'embedding' and layering of
ideas in both our collective experiences and our collective environments.
Stratification of consciousness leads to a polarization of
human reality, and a dichotomous bifurcation between the real and the ideal,
the rational and the empirical, the term and the thing, and a subsequent
confusion of ontological, phenomenological status between these separate
worlds of consciousness. There occurs reification of ideas and the abstraction
of concrete things.
Stratification of consciousness also results in an
arbitrary or collectively customary, relative prioritization and
hierarchicalization of values, significances, relations and interests in the
world. This has resulted in a false distinction between primitive and
civilized frames of mind, between rational and magical modes of thought and to
a false separation between 'natural' and 'cultural'.
Stratification of consciousness is the result of the
radical shift from a primarily extensive frame of mind and beingness in the
world, informed by natural linguistically, to a predominantly intensive world
view of non-being informed by a rational linguisticality.
The rise of principles of power, hierarchy, control,
authority and corporateness are a reflection and a consequence of the
stratification of consciousness in the world.
MOMENTOUSNESS OF MIND AND THE MOMENTUM OF CULTURE HISTORY
The corporate super-organicism of mind confers to it a kind
of momentousness--a universal significance of value and meaning and a sense of
'purpose' which goes beyond the mere summation or economization of its
'ideas'. As a social phenomena it exists 'larger than life'--always greater
than the individual ideas which compose it. This larger than life quality is
not, though a super organic integrity in the same irreducible sense that
individual ideas are--it is not a higher consciousness or a different plane of
order or transcendent plan of being. It is 'self organizing' in the sense of
approaching a super criticality of interrelationship of ideas--a systemic
level of self organization beyond which it tends to have 'super critical
events'--haphazard, random but predictable 'happenings'.
This momentousness of mind confers upon the unfolding of
culture history a certain irreversible momentum--an inertia of movement which
must be overcome in order to deflect or shift the direction of change or
development of culture historical process. This momentum confers upon culture
historical process a certain predictable directionality and inevitability of
change which tends to impel and overwhelm the most counter movements or
efforts at resistance. It is the great flood of human history which sweeps in
its tidal power all things down its channels. The momentousness of mind
expresses this momentum if culture history in terms of its 'important and
decisive events'--it confers upon this momentousness of mind a directionality
in the sequencing of 'one event leading to another'.
Momentousness of mind and the momentum of culture history
tend to counter balance each other past a point of criticality--the super
criticality of mind checks or breaks the unfolding momentum of culture
history, just as the momentum of the culture historical stream tends to sweep
the momentousness of mind along with it--Events of mind renders the unfolding
of culture history ultimately unpredictable with a sense of random chaos in
the course of events.
The directionality of culture history may be easily
deflected or shifted by momentous events of mind--a slight deflection may have
dramatic and cataclysmic consequences which may radically alter the culture
historical stream, which in turn leads to dramatic 'changes' of mind which are
a structural reorganization or revolution of mind.
The momentousness of mind confers upon the momentum of
culture history a sense of self fulfilling prophecy, of fate, destiny or
divine intervention. The momentum of culture history confers upon the
momentousness of mind a sense of Divine Will or Divine Plan, a sense of Spirit
in the unfolding events of the moment.
METALANGUAGE AND THE TAPESTRY OF CULTURE HISTORY
A meta-language must be both beyond language, or transcend
any particular language, and also be about that language, or refer to any or
all particular languages. That a philology of mind must consist of a coherent
and consistent meta-language and be fundamentally culture historical in
orientation is de to the culture historical embededness of language which a
'meta-language' must both transcend and be about. It is no wonder that
hermeneutic philosophy and critical theory should be so steeped in its own
kind of esoteric and impenetrable jargon in attempt to analyze the rhetorical
power of language--to speak about language in its own terminology is to be
unable to transcend the logos of its terms--it is to remain entangled in
Wittgenstein's language games. A scientific linguistic approach--a phonetic
alphabet of universal transcription and a phonemic structural analysis of a
language--effectively transcends the language but in its objectification
cannot refer back to the meaning structures which are intimately connected to
culture historical context and give that language living relevance. A
scientific meta-language is at best a third, culture historically situated,
language of it own, which cannot be about any other language except in its own
terms. It becomes a positivistic 'Esperanto' instead of a language of
inter-translation or inter-mediation between two languages--it begs the
problem of direct translation between two languages by interposing an indirect
translation to and from a third language.
A genuine meta-language must be about and in terms of the
universal fabric of culture history itself--the common cloth of mind itself in
terms of its spatio-temporal translatability and symbolic inter-textuality
common to all languages. It is not necessarily a universal grammar or 'deep
structure'--but it basis is in the equivalence of complexity and
sophistication acquisition and performance--what has been loosely referred to
as the 'psychic unity of humankind'. A genuine meta-language depends upon the
fact of mutual translatability of all human languages as well as upon the
universal symbolic integrity of human languages--as living systems of symbolic
mediation of human reality. It is about and in terms of spatio-temporal
symbolic universals in human culture history.
It is fitting that the unfolding tapestry of human culture
history--the evolution of mind--be described and interpreted in
meta-linguistic terms which reveal the embedded pre-understandings implicit in
our own situated languages and which transcend the boundaries of other culture
historical groupings as well. What is called for is a systematic 'destruction
of the familiar' and the discovery of universal symbolisms inherent in all
INDIVIDUAL AS BASIC CULTURE BEARER
The fundamental unit of culture historical analysis is not
the culture as an isolatable entity, but the individual human being as the
culture bearer. Wherever or whenever we look at 'cultures' we see people
acting, transmitting, interrelating, talking, etc. 'Cultures' are relatively
fixed in place and time--cultures flow through space and time via people as
the basic carriers. Cultural groupings may migrate as unities, but they must
come into conflict with or displace some other cultural grouping in space and
time, or else lose their distinctive identity. But such groupings do so as
collectivities of people sharing the same cultural orientation. When cultures
disintegrate they do so in terms of its individual constituency dissolving
common cultural bonds. People as individuals transmit culture or pass between
cultural boundaries, taking p new cultural identities. People are the primary
agents of culture change, and the principle agency of cultural conservation
and transmission. And all people have culture historical provenience which
always serve to situate them in place and time.
Individuals as culture carrying 'units' are irreducible
'integrities' (individual personalities) which always have a 'dual identity'
defined introspectively in terms of 'self identity' and extro-spectively in
terms of other identity or social status role identity. We may further reduce
individuals in categorically classified, purported universal bundles of
traits--intelligence, strength, emotionality, health, skills, innate abilities
and we may use such schemes as interpersonal and cross cultural systems of
nomothetic classification and comparison--this is frequently done in many
ways. But in doing so we concomitantly destroy by analytical dissection the
synthetic idiographic integrity and culture historical tapestry composed of
individual's interrelationship in shared cultural environments as discrete
units of culture historical analysis. This sub-individual analysis is
precisely what the 'progressive' social sciences (linguistics included) have
for the most part done, and this is precisely where they have mostly failed in
their attempts to come to terms with human reality. Individual human beings
symbolically learn and transmit culture in certain common ways which
characterize their humanness--ways which cannot be systematically reduced to
trans-personal trait complexes without loosing sight of the super organic
structure of such symbology.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND UNCONSCIOUS
Consciousness is symbolic enactment--the active process of
experiencing environments. Consciousness is the act of walking through the
forest, of seeing the individual trees of the forest. The forest itself is the
domain of the unconscious. To refer to the 'unconscious' as a 'thing' which
exists in our heads is somewhat of a misnomer. It is better to call it
'unconsciousness' as the sense or state of being unconscious--the lack of
conscious awareness. As long as the 'unconscious' is construed as a 'deep
structure' rooted in the human brain, it will remain a reductionistic and over
determining reification. Synonymous to 'unconsciousness' is the contextual
relations of the world and of beingness in the world--it is the universal
context of experience, which always 'backgrounds' or relates the act of
experience to everything which remains unexperienced but experienceable. The
forest of the unconscious is the universe of experience, the sea through which
we swim like fish.
Collectively, conscious and the unconscious become the
'known and the unknown'--and we must separate the 'unknown' of the unconscious
from the 'unknowable' of non-consciousness. What is unknowable is not the
unconsciousness, but defines the boundaries of the unconscious. Bringing
things into consciousness is an act of 'learning'--of making known by
separating the unknown from the unknowable.
Consciousness is the process of 'minding and mattering'--of
thinging and relating--unconsciousness is always implicit and indirectly
inferred from consciousness. It is important to note that this
'contextualization' of the unconsciousness liberates mind from Freudian
libidinal chains and from 'structuralists 'rational categories'--the
'unconscious' as 'nothing but' the analytical components of the human psyche,
but unconsciousness as 'something more' potential synthesis of mind.
This entails that there is no precise way of separating
internal constructs of meaning from external embodiments--unconsciousness is a
passive possibility--the expression of non-beingness which is rooted to the
environment of experience as to the experience of environment.
Unconsciousness is composed symbolically as possible
experience. Waking consciousness is the self determining experience of
beingness in the world--dreaming consciousness is the unconsciously determined
experience of non-beingness.
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
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Last Updated: 08/25/06