In his investigation of ultimate realities, the author introduces us to a panoramic sweep of history beginning with the creation of the cosmos and its subsequent productions of matter, life, spirit and mind. The main theme of Dr. Godwin's book is of origins and intimately ties in evolution with the mind of man. The book's hypothesis is that historical facts have their ultimate beginnings in psychohistory. He believes that without a psychological foundation, history becomes sterile and incomplete and therefore is an essential element which the author has placed in the service of understanding both individual psychopathology as well as societal culture. Interspersed with copies of the engravings of Gustave Doré, Godwin plunges into the philosophical depths of birth, life, humans, mind, spirit and death. |
The first two sections of the book detail the commonly accepted theories of how the cosmos came to be and how life could have arisen from nonlife. Both pro and con arguments are given for the theories of the autogenesis of life. Book 3 is entitled, Psychogenesis: The Presence of Mind and it is this section which is emphasized in this review. The author observes that evolution, by its very nature, must be restricted by our sensory inputs to those incidents and learning experiences which were essential to understanding and surviving in our environment. Because of evolution and its choosing mechanism of natural selection, we could only learn what we needed to know in order to survive. Anthropological finds show that about 40,000 years ago we became able to contemplate our own selfhood and that ability began a burgeoning of self reflection. We were able to transcend the information acquired from our limited sensory inputs and begin to create and understand philosophy and art. The very rudiments of human culture had begun. What changes allowed early man to develop an appreciation of art and continue to refine this appreciative ability during these stages of evolution?
As man became conscious of his own self and capable of making decisions other than the automatic instinctive responses of other animals, a leap forward had been made. Undoubtedly, self-ruminations produced the first incipient existential philosophers as they knew with certainty that they would die someday. A proof that mankind was capable of introspection was the graphic art which slowly began to flourish about 40,000 years ago. This development could not have been the result of evolution alone. Dr. Godwin asks, How could an aesthetic appreciation be the result of natural selection because what would be its Darwinian survival value?
Forty thousand years ago, as today, the only way a new born infant can become enriched in mind and spirit is by experiencing a nourishing human environment - one which meets all of its needs. Godwin quotes Allan Shore:
The author believes that there is a need for a clearer explanation for the rapid rise of the beginnings of what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, called the "psychozoic era." As presented in One Cosmos Under God, the author's clear theoretical explanation of how we, as pre-hominids became human, proved to be an intriguing detective story.
Dr. Godwin discusses the probable origins of language, graphic arts as well as music, and decides that evolution in itself can account for none of these developments. We are walking around with the same brain which our ancestors had over 40,000 years ago. This means that it was a non biological evolutionary cause which formed our early ability to produce and appreciate the fine arts. Remarkably, this hypothesis holds that this developmental leap is ongoing and happened often - both on an individual and collective basis.
As an example, the author discusses feral children who raised themselves completely apart from other humans and who therefore lack human characteristics - even the ones which very young children seem to possess. Our species only has a potential to become a human; wild animals lack that genetically permitted ability. Dr. Godwin writes, "(W)e are the only species that comes into the world with an almost infinite potential that may or may not be fulfilled, depending upon the familial and cultural environment we happen to encounter."2
[There have been a number of experiments to determine if children raised in the absence of language would be able to speak. In the 13th century, Frederick II, Emperor of Germany, devised an experiment to discover the natural "language of God," and raised dozens of children in silence. He surmised that the language might be Hebrew, but no language emerged; all subjects died in childhood.3]
The author explains how our potential may be reached or, more typically, can be thwarted to some degree:
"Strange as it may sound, immature babies interact with mothers in such a way as to use them as an 'auxiliary cortex' for the purpose of 'downloading programs from her brain into the infant's brain." 4 The brain of the infant, "'when coupled with the mother's allows for a brain organization that can be expanded into more coherent and complex states of consciousness."'5 "Of note, this 'downloading' mostly occurs in the nonverbal right brain, which develops earlier than the syntactically organized left brain, and is dominant during the first two or three years of life. Furthermore, recent research indicates that early experience lays down many deep connections between the right brain and the emotional limbic system, so that it is fairly clear that the 'unconscious' is located in the right brain. The right brain is where early traumas take root, where disowned parts of the self reside undetected by language and logic, where the parents' unconscious conflicts are imported, where the deepest psychosomatic representations of oneself endures . . . and where 'mind parasites' and other ghostly psychotoxins hide out."6
The mind parasites are not just the psychological effects of repressing early trauma. These mind parasites result in actual physical changes to the brain. The process can result in a type of dementia which makes it difficult or impossible to learn with the result that their development can get stuck in earlier time periods. The "tuning" process of the infant's mind occurs on an individual basis. The "unconscious" is where is stored processes of "mindreading" - the ones which went awry. Here is the place where the misery of one's history calls home.7
For the mother, the birth of her baby can be the trigger which sometimes begins the unconscious reliving of her own deposit of mind parasites received when she was an infant. The only way the mother can be tuned to her baby's needs is to tap into her own early feelings. If her needs were not met, it becomes difficult for the mother to meet her own baby's needs. The intergenerational transmission of neurosis thus becomes open. Usually, a mother mothers the way she was mothered. You cannot give what you did not get.
Predominately, it is in relationships where these old feelings are acted out. What is more intimate and therefore more powerful than the relationship between a mother and her baby? Dr. Godwin writes that LaBarre recognized that "(p)arents are a serious adaptive problem for the infant"8 The couples' offspring not only gets his parent's DNA but through the early home environment also "inherits" their parent's mind parasites.
In order to see how this transmission of a mother's earlier feelings occurs to a new born baby, the author examines the period when the African apes' progenitors became physically separated from their fellow species. Godwin writes that our brain is the same brain which was our ancestor's brain at least 130,000 years ago. An event - the vertical collapse of tectonic plates in the Great Rift Valley in Africa separated the pre-human stock into two separate genetic pools. Those to the west of the valley eventually became the ancestors of the apes and monkeys, while the harsher conditions east of the valley were forged by evolution and eventually produced our ancestors. Living in a landscape with fewer trees these hominids needed their hands less for climbing trees and could begin an evolutionary ascent. One important reason was that their hands became available for the holding and caring of infants.
The new environment of the eastern most treeless plains forged survival skills and as our brain size increased and bi-pedalism developed (also, so our hands could be free to care for the infants), we, unlike our cousins to the East had to be born much more prematurely.
Another feedback factor which was the cause of neotany was a rapid increase in brain size. Evolution had to make a compromise between allowing a fetus to be born early, versus being born after becoming more mature but risking the life of the mother. [Physician Nils Bergman and Developmental Psychologist, Aletha J. Solter, Ph.D., believe that the female of our species in becoming upright, could not have had a much larger pelvic opening or there would be a spillage of the viscera due to gravity9 ]
This necessary "too early" birth is what allowed us the capacity to eventually acquire both good and bad human characteristics. Human babies have an extremely long dependency period unlike other mammals because we are still developing fetuses when born. But this evolutionary necessity - this malleability of the brain of the undeveloped fetus - was also the key factor in our ability to acquire culture. Godwin quotes LaBarre: ". . . (L)earning in turn demands malleable, labile, instinct poor, dependent, immature animals, so that there is a circular and cumulative feedback in this cultural-physical process. . . ."10 . The more helpless the baby became, the more important it was for the mother to develop very particular abilities to nurture, otherwise the newborn would not live; the helplessness of the baby became the spur for evolutionary development of culture and intelligence because the inadequate parents failed to reproduce. As earlier and earlier births occurred, babies naturally were born less well developed than before and more and more helpless while their mother's, at the same time, had to become more and more intelligent and attuned to them in order for them to survive11
Thus, it is the situation of being born early and in need of our mother's constant love and care or lack thereof which makes us human. It also explains the origins of culture as well as cultural variations. The mother had to be as adept at her job as the father was in supplying food and shelter for his family. With the larger, better developed brain, these hominid infants were able to experience care as love. As adults we continue to seek the same type of loving, or less than loving relationship, we originally had with our mothers.
This necessary early birth is what made us able to eventually acquire human characteristics. But this evolutionary necessity - this pliability of the brain of the undeveloped fetus also explains how we were able to acquire culture. The more helpless the baby became, the more important it was for the mother to develop very specific abilities to nurture, otherwise the baby would not live. For this reason, the helplessness of the baby became the spur for evolutionary development of culture and intelligence as the inadequate parents failed to reproduce while the mother's mind parasites interfered with her evolutionary survival.
More than anyone could have predicted, observational and experimental research of infants interacting with their mothers has turned out to be the most fertile source for the generation of heuristic hypotheses about not only early development but also psychic dynamics.1
There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love; . . . nothing more precious because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life. . . . It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things -- even divine things.12
In addressing why human nature varies among homo sapiens, Dr. Godwin, proposes as his response to the perennial nature vs. nurture debate by using all explanations available but emphasizes that it was our neotany and the need for a nurturing mother that left us susceptible to "mind parasites."
Although evidence of the mind parasites is everywhere present in human history, for example, in the form of ubiquitous demons, evil spirits, witches, and other psychological projections -- no one has taken it upon themselves to write a similar book about their historical impact on human affairs, in part because nowadays no one knows just how to regard them.13
Even though the parasites exist in an ontological chasm their persistence is remarkable and most would have to ultimately affirm the truth of their existence. The defense mechanism of projection is the result of their existence by all of us aimed at "others." But projection is often insufficient for well being and sometimes feelings demand the only solution as action.
Some mind parasites are more troublesome than others. These are the ones that are more deeply burrowed into our personalities. Like biological parasites they can kill their hosts or at a minimum make life intolerable. They are particularly hostile to established intimate relationships because they persistently unconsciously remind their hosts of their relationships they much earlier experienced with their parents, in particular, their mother.
Occasionally, when we able to open our I's, we receive insights and understand for a brief moment. But, feelings usually triumph over insightful knowing. It is as though even certain knowledge counts for naught. Even when most needed, often the insights cannot be used. The goal is keeping the parasitically triggered feelings at bay. But this is easier said than done even though the alternative is too horrible and uncomfortable to contemplate. Here lie the sources of mental anguish and of mental illness.
Godwin believes that he might be accused of looking at history from the viewpoint of a psychologist rather than a historian. Like everyone else, historians have a viewpoint, he believes - one based on their own agenda. So as not to have this weakness, history should be based on ultimate or final causes of historical events. There always will be incidental causes which are not the direct causes of events. Dictatorship assures agendas while liberty promises growth. As the author writes, "Humans evolve only under conditions of liberty constrained by law, oriented toward the true, the good, and the beautiful."14
It is, however, the persistence of mind parasites which is the continuing inhibitor of our reaching our full talents and happiness. "Both individually and as a species, we become 'human' to the degree to which we purge ourselves of the self-serving entities that have no business taking up space in our minds and which prevent us from claiming our divine birthright."15
These psychological projections, ghosts, demons and spirits continue to haunt us. Godwin feels that if a survey were made of the world populace, more would believe in these disincarnate creatures than would not. Unfortunately, it is easier to project these entities as witches, vampires, and bad objects, than to feel the origin of their existence in our infancy and early childhood.
"Every perverse but 'righteous' social movement throughout history shares this dynamic, from Aztec human sacrifice to Christian inquisitions, from apologists of slavery to Islamic jihads, from the fascist Right, to the Marxist Left."16 The appeal of such social movements is powerful to parasite-infested individuals, which comprise all of us to one degree or another. And as the symptoms are acted out by the infected ones, they are clearly recognized by others who are infected with the same strain of psychotoxin. None of us are completely free.
The author recognizes that not everyone will agree with his theory of history. He chides academia for refusing to make judgment calls about the superiority of one cultural belief over another's. Again, he quotes LaBarre, "To be sure culture is an adaptation; but it is sometimes adaptive not to outer realities but to inner tensions. That is, culture is a defense mechanism - partly valid technologically, partly anxiety-allaying magic. . . . " 17
Godwin believes that often what is adopted by a culture is totally unreasonable and illogical. Many cultural practices are simply a method of "containment of anxiety-provoking mind parasites, handed down from one generation to the next."18 "People are racist and sexist in good part because such reduction of other people to objects helps contain anxiety and the tendency to panic."19 "History and life-history are both in part events to be recovered from, through unearthing and re-viewing forgotten premises behind the bitterly defended false answers. . ."20.
The aim of One Cosmos under God, Dr. Godwin writes, is revealing the truth that ". . . something primarily psychological has been interfering with out post-biological evolution for the past 30 or 40,000 years, and that it is the same thing that interferes with our individual evolution: mind parasites."21
Human sacrifice from its very beginnings has had a close relationship with religion. Originally it was a way of propitiating various gods and asking for successful future harvests. "(C)ertain cultures, such as the Aztec, existed only for the sake of mind parasites (rather than vice versa) completely revolving around the ritual slaughter of thousands upon thousands of victims . . . in order to "feed" a voracious sun that might extinguish at any moment without a continuously supply of human blood."22
Oftentimes, it was an infant who was sacrificed to soothe one's introjected demons. History, at times, seemingly most of the times, was the story of mankind at his degradated worse. Grotstein is quoted: "the sacrifice of human infants was a natural 'curative' remedy for ancient man."23 The further back we go in time the more we find periods, "during which collective and cathartic acts of violence could be counted on to bring a period of social chaos to an end and, in doing so, to convince its participants and sympathetic observers of the truth of the myth that justified the violence."24
During the early stages of hominid evolution, violence was held in check by animal instinct, before mind parasites began to become more powerful:
(I)magine what an immense relief it must have been for ancient peoples to discover that a powerful god was in control of the violence that, as they knew so well, might otherwise range out of control at any moment. We think of religion as a pious and respectable affair; we are horrified to find that it began in delusion and murder. But we must realize that both its delusions and its murders were vast improvements over the recurring waves of homicidal delirium by which the proto-human world must have been deluged once violence could no longer be controlled instinctively and before collective episodes of it produced the first religions.25
The love which a parent has for a child is not an "inborn" genetically controlled feature but rather the result of the slow improvement in child rearing over the millennia. Even after the fall of the Roman empire, it took centuries for the civilizing effect to take hold, as the practice of infanticide continued, despite Church prohibitions. " . . . (O)n the whole, babies and young children appear to have been left to survive or die without great concern in the first five or six years."27
In the late middle ages, the obsessions with demons, revenge, and hellfires continued. Naturally, there were exceptions, but in general. "mind parasites" continued their havoc and parents treated their children the way they had been treated. These entities also revealed themselves wrapped in the folds of religious symbols. The fear of punishment in hell, the anger and indifference of the Christian God, (to those who had angry and indifferent parents) and of lesser beings such as devils and witches, cast long depressing shadows over Europe.
But it is not just then, it is also even now, that particular mind parasites result in the incredible beliefs that are present in some parts of the world. The author examines a number of such beliefs which show that horrific and sadistic cultural behaviors are still occurring.
The levels of child care which would explain the prevalence of particular toxic parasites is quite variable. "The bottom line is that some cultures are better than others at allowing humans to actualize their potential."28 . There exists in all cultures a natural shaping or molding of what the consensus of opinion is of what is required of a member of that particular culture both individually and culturally. The shared belief creates a solidarity within its membership.
How much general acceptance would there have been in the South before the civil rights movements for the position that segregation was an injustice? The last sentence was mine but the following ones are by Dr. Godwin: "It is a little disconcerting to realize that we were shaped by natural selection not to know truth, but to subordinate truth to group loyalty. . . .29 To say that all cultures are not only good, but equally good, is no more valid than to suggest that all families are equally good with respect to the goal of creating healthy and happy children, a statement most of us know to be insupportable. And yet, the vast majority of anthropologists continue to say it."30
Dr. Godwin believes that, at birth, one's true self has a "blueprint" for development but that mind parasites do not allow for self-actualization and some of us actually psychologically die before we are born. "Every culture is a bar to the exercise of free rationality."31 Perhaps, membership in such a culture is not worth the losing of one's potential self and the effort to belong does not compensate for the unknown loss which will be endured.
"(T)he unconscious is actually the past in the present; it is that portion of the past that we were unable to psychologically metabolize when it occurred, so that it is continually projected onto current situations and relationships, resulting in the past being thoroughly conflated with the present, interior self with the external world." 32
The solution? We must bore into the magic mountain which lies ahead of us, behind us and inside of us. 33 The author writes that "the only way out is in." He believes that there are a number of ways in , but that 'SOME DISASSEMBLY IS REQUIRED." (author's emphasis.) He believes that eventually we will arrive. Most will arrive "feet first" but first must tolerate much suffering, disillusionment and death. However, that way is not necessary. The best way is "heart first" which requires that we learn Truth. It's a hidden Way but many have made the journey.34
The author believes that by following the spirit we will find a way out - a way of transcending our conscious self. But this is not a religious venture as religion can become a source of mind parasites. Instead of reading about mystical experiences, the author encourages us to go to their source. One should "avoid 'pastorized' milk and drink directly from the sacred cow."35, he writes. One may learn about religion by studying doctrine, but knowledge of things spiritual require that one have the experience. The author believes that religion will have a future only if that future encompasses accepting the truths of scientific discoveries. Religion must be able to accommodate science and not the other way around. This is so because science continues to add upon knowledge; not so religion.
However, Godwin believes that all of the major religions contain fundamental spiritual truths and can all be used to transcend one's self.
Even when ancient civilization was at its summit, like in ancient Greece and Rome, in actuality fundamentally emotion and cultural life was not much better than before as even Plato believed that anxiety was caused by demonic possession. "(D)iagnosis consisted in identifying the god (that is, the parasite) responsible for the problem ."26 so divinations, sacrifices and prayers could be offered to prevent calamities. The perfect society envisioned by "The Republic" dealt with harsh penalties for disabled children - often death as unwanted infants were unceremoniously disposed of by exposure. Greek and Roman gods, like their parents, were considered cruel and at times indifferent to the plight of their supplicants. Christianity was a turning point in western civilization, as this religion was against infanticide and for the better treatment of women.
- Schore, A., (2003). Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self. p. 3, New York: W W. Norton & Company : quoted in Godwin, op.cit., p. 112.
- Godwin, Robert W., (2004). One Cosmos under God, The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit, Paragon House, St Paul Minnesota, p. 111.
- Schore, op. cit., p. 13 : quoted in Godwin. op. cit., p. 112.
- Schore, op. cit., p. 41 : quoted in Godwin, op. cit., p. 112.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 112-113. (Colin Ross originally used the term, "mind parasites."
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 117.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 119.
- Bergman, Nils. (2201) Kangaroo Mother Care video : Solter, Aletha J. (2001) The Aware Baby, Shining Star Press, Coleta, California.
- Labarre, W. (1991), p. 38 : Shadows of Childhood, Norman OK, Univ. of Oklahoma Press quoted in Godwin, op. cit., p. 129.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 131.
- Powell, R. (2002) Meditations on the Tarot, p. 549 : quoted by Godwin, p. 132)
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 140.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 137.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 139.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 142.
- LaBarre, W. (1954), p. 226, The Human Animal, Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press : quoted in Godwin, op. cit., p. 147.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 147.
- Sagan, E., (1988), p. 52, Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, New York, Basic : quoted in Godwin, op.cit., p. 148.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 150.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 154.
- Edgerton, R. (1992) p. 92, Sick Societies, New York: Free Press : quoted by Godwin, op. cit., p. 154.
- Grotstein, J (2000) p. 247-242, Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream?, Hillsdale, NJ, Analytic Press, quoted by Godwin, op cit., p. 155.
- Bailie, G. (1997), p. 13, Violence Unveiled, New York: Crossland : quoted by Godwin, op. cit., p. 156.
- Bailie, G. (1997), p. 127 ibid.: quoted by Godwin, op. cit., p. 157.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 160.
- Tuchman, B. (1978) A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf : quoted in Godwin, op. cit., p. 163.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 167.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 168.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 169.
- LaBarre, W. (1970). p. xv, The Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion: Garden City, NY, Doubleday and Company: quoted in Godwin, op. cit., p. 178.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 179.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 3.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 188.
- Godwin, op. cit., p. 191.