|It is perfectly natural that man himself should |
be the most unintelligible part of the universe.
MAN HIMSELF is the last frontier. The so-called hard sciences, the sciences dealing with objects, atoms and molecules to stars and galaxies, or with numbers, energies, fields and innumerable abstractions, are nearing a degree of perfection unimagined in the wildest fantasies of the medieval alchemists. Yet sciences dealing with man himself, despite the confident tomes warping the shelves of our libraries and bookstores, remain in a state of rapid evolution, to put it kindly. There are even fundamental differences of opinion as to why the study of humankind is so difficult.
Nowhere among the sciences of man do we find controversy and confusion more rampant than in the study of the mind. Some, who profess to study only the hardest of objective facts, have proposed that the mind is nothing but a computer program. Another school of thought would eliminate mind altogether. For several decades the academic tyranny of Behaviorism made it practically obscene even to mention such words as consciousness, belief, intention or free will in a scientific journal, a state of affairs which stifled progress in psychology for half a century. Now it seems, as Jimmy Durante was fond of remarking, "everybody wants ta' get inta' de act." Several top-rate books and a great many articles have recently appeared, taking up such subjects with a vigor typical of the aftermath of some prohibition or repression, in this case a repression of ideas whose development in the work of such pioneers as William James came to a halt at the beginning of the 20th Century.
It is not my intention to berate the many authors and researchers who have struggled with such problems over the past several decades. They have faced the most difficult problems ever faced in the scientific search for truth, and hard results have been difficult to achieve. Such wide-open fields in fact provide, and have historically provided the greatest opportunity for the scientific revolutionary, who should well know the risks involved in exploring uncharted territory. But I do wish to stress that with all the so-called progress that 20th Century science has achieved, there remains a rather large and important area of understanding that is still in the stone-age of development: man's understanding of himself; and it is the difficulty of the subject, not the intelligence of the professors which is the problem.
With difficult subjects however, we often find with hindsight that fairly obvious leads were ignored at critical periods of research: a few strange ideas advanced by some outsider or non-expert, or some heresy proposed by an iconoclast, seemingly to cause dismay and discord and without serious value to ongoing work. Or perhaps anomalous experimental results were cast aside, ignored as irrelevant or the result of some undetermined experimental or methodological error. All great truths begin as blasphemies, noted George Bernard Shaw. As established experts in a field seldom publish blasphemies, we might learn something from history and pay more attention to outsiders, non-experts and the like, for if their suggestions really are worthless, this should not be difficult to prove, if the theories and models of the established discipline are in order and working efficiently. The historian of science Thomas Kuhn pointed out that scientific revolutions are almost always initiated by young workers, or those new to the field they revolutionize. It may be objected that the non-expert has insufficient grasp of the fundamentals, or is not fluent enough to distinguish superficial anomalies in a field from important ones, or is lacking in a command of the accumulated technique of the discipline thus making the likelihood of his work being the catalyst for an ensuing scientific revolution negligible. Such objections would be significant in well-developed sciences: we would not expect a non-chemist to revolutionize even a small corner of the field of chemistry, or a truck driver to provide deep new insights in quantum mechanics. But in a field in which a generally agreed paradigm seems a far-distant dream, a field still in the stone-age of development, the outsider, or a well-read amateur, may well be in a position to supply the key to revolution. For one thing, he has no great intellectual investment in one competing school of thought or another. In a field of study ripe for fundamental change where reputations and careers are on the line, we might expect the entrenched experts to be the least likely candidates to introduce revolutionary hypotheses.
In the following pages I propose a rather wide-ranging theory concerning man, his mind and brain, behavior, his evolution and anthropology, his sociology and psychology, religion and apostasy, myth and metaphysic, sciences and certainties, and it will already be obvious that no writer can possibly be an expert in such a wide selection of topics. But my theory may amount to more than armchair speculation if I have discovered and developed one of the important clues largely ignored by the experts, one of the leads which with hindsight will be seen to have provided the key to a revolution in understanding. Of course my lack of expertise in the subjects I need to examine must predictably lead to criticism from the professionals; no doubt I abuse their terminologies and misinterpret some of the finer points of their disciplines, or worse. But I believe that the errors noted will be, for the most part, technicalities, or simply part of the ongoing controversy in a given field and inconsequential to the overall theory I will present.
In constructing this theory, and in the present description of the results of my inquiries, I have tried to live up to the view expressed by Aldous Huxley, when he saw his position as one of bridge-builder between areas of knowledge that had previously been too separated or independent, one body of knowledge ignoring or even rejecting another for no reason other than tradition, or as a result of the peculiarities of the way in which students become trained and indoctrinated in a field. Thus the durability of the theory I have shaped will be a function not of the accuracy of fine details which will have to be filled in or corrected over time, but of the overall concept of the theory and its ability to combine and predict: Combine disparate aspects of present understanding and predict future observations and trends in this primary area of man's search for truth. And if it is a good theory, it may also provide an understanding which could assist in improving the condition of man, the relationships between his societies and nations, and the increasingly fragile bond linking him with his only available home, the planet Earth.
I have tried to write a book which will not only hold the interest of a wide audience, but contribute to understanding both by professionals and laymen alike. Thus there are some autobiographical passages, hopefully entertaining and illustrative of yet another, hidden side of the cultural and social upheaval of the 1960's, but the story line is also the history of the ideas which led to the theory and so is intended as an enticement for the non-technical reader to think about some scientific subjects he has probably very little knowledge of, or interest in. For professional readers, or those laymen who already are following some of the current debates in the subjects dealt with here, I have tried to construct the more technical parts of the book so that they flow smoothly, and are unencumbered by the myriad definitions and explanations that would be essential for the non-technical reader. For him, I can recommend that the more difficult passages may safely be quickly scanned, and the terms and ideas expressed therein may be better understood by referring to the Glossary provided at the end of the book. But a thorough understanding of some of the more technical evidence for the theory should not be necessary to grasp its overall intent or scope.
Although it is customary at the beginning of a book to thank the friends and co-workers who have contributed to the author's completion of his task, the many persons who have been instrumental to my own work shall remain unnamed with the exception of other authors whose works are listed in the bibliography. I will not single out any names here for special thanks either, as I have had very limited contact with them except through their published works. Reasons for these conditions should soon become obvious from what is to follow.
Chapter 1 | Table of Contents