Freedom: Expanded Book 1—The Old Biology
Part 4:7 Second Category of Thinker: Those who admitted the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition and who attempted to explain how those elements produced that upset psychosis
In Part 4:6 it was shown that throughout history there have been honest thinkers who did acknowledge the role of the elements of moral instincts and a corrupting conscious intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition.
While it was an immense contribution in its own right, the ability to describe the elements involved in producing the upset state of the human condition, which some exceptionally sound thinkers like Moses and Plato have done, ultimately got us nowhere in terms of being able to explain the human condition. What needed to be explained was how and why the two parts of ourselves clashed because only then would we finally be able to explain that there was a good reason for the clash and resulting upset. Insight into the how and why, however, depended on finding sufficient knowledge about the workings of our world to make that explanation possible. Science had to be invented and developed and it was that scientific enquiry that led to Darwin’s breakthrough idea of natural selection. As such, we now need to look at those individuals who went further and not only bravely admitted the involvement of these elements, but, in a display of even greater courage, also attempted to analyse and explain how the conflict between our moral instincts and corrupting conscious intellect produced the upset state of the human condition—and who did so with the benefit of knowing about Darwin’s idea of natural selection.
Nikolai Berdyaev’s admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition and attempt to explain how those elements produced that upset psychosis
In his 1931 book The Destiny of Man, in a chapter actually titled ‘The Origin of Good and Evil’, the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev (1874—1948) wrote that ‘The memory of a lost paradise, of a Golden Age, is very deep in man, together with a sense of guilt and sin and a dream of regaining the Kingdom of Heaven which sometimes assumes the form of a Utopia or an earthly paradise…We are faced with a profound enigma: how could man have renounced paradise which he recalls so longingly in our world-aeon? How could he have fallen away from it?…The exile of man from paradise means that man fell away from God…Not everything was revealed to man in paradise, and ignorance was the condition of the life in it. It was the realm of the unconscious…Man rejected the bliss and wholeness of Eden and chose the pain and tragedy of cosmic life in order to explore his destiny to its inmost depths. This was the birth of consciousness with its painful dividedness. In falling away from the harmony of paradise and from unity with God, man began to make distinctions and valuations, tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge and found himself on this side of good and evil…Man preferred death and the bitterness of discrimination to the blissful and innocent life of ignorance…Paradise is the unconscious wholeness of nature, the realm of instinct. There is in it no division between subject and object, no reflection, no painful conflict of consciousness with the unconscious’ (tr. N. Duddington, 1960, p.36 & 38 of 310). Further on he wrote that ‘man is an irrational, paradoxical, essentially tragic being in whom two worlds, two opposite principles, are at war…Philosophers and scientists have done very little to elucidate the problem of man’ (p.49). Further on still he wrote that ‘For a long time psychology was one of the dullest and most fruitless of sciences…It was as though psychologists could not find the lever which was to set their work in motion…The old psychologists were wrong in assuming that man was a healthy creature, mainly conscious and intellectual, and should be studied from that point of view. Man is a sick being, with a strong unconscious life…The human soul is divided, an agonizing conflict between opposing elements is going on in it…the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind is fundamental for the new psychology. Mental disorders are due to the conflict between the two’ (pp.67-68).
In these amazingly honest passages, Berdyaev is saying that the psychological rehabilitation of the human race could not begin until we were able to explain and thus understand the ‘agonizing conflict’ and resulting ‘painful dividedness’ ‘between’ our ‘conscious’ intellect and our now much-denied-and-repressed-and-thus-‘subconscious’ instinctive self or soul that once experienced a ‘Golden Age’ when we lived in ‘an earthly’ ‘harmony of paradise’ in ‘unity with God’ that was ‘the bliss and wholeness of Eden’, ‘the unconscious wholeness of nature, the realm of instinct’. Only with that ‘lever’ found could our ‘dream of regaining the [‘God[ly]’, ‘harmony’, ‘unity’ and ‘wholeness’ of the] Kingdom of Heaven which sometimes assumes the form of a Utopia or an earthly paradise’ be realised, as it now finally can.
Just as Moses recognised in his story of the Garden of Eden that taking the ‘fruit…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Gen. 3:3, 2:17) was ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’ (ibid. 3:6), because man ‘will [then] be like God, knowing [understanding] good and evil’ (ibid. 3:5), Berdyaev similarly saw that man ‘began to make distinctions and valuations, tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge’ ‘in order to explore his destiny to its inmost depths’. However, also like Moses, Berdyaev didn’t answer the question of why finding knowledge meant that man ‘fell away from God’; he didn’t explain why man ‘renounced paradise’ and ‘found himself on this side of good and evil’ ‘with a sense of guilt and sin’.
Berdyaev very perceptively recognised that ‘Mental disorders are due to the conflict between’ ‘the conscious and the subconscious mind’ and that ‘the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind is fundamental for the new psychology’ that will ameliorate or heal the ‘mental disorders’ that are ‘due to the conflict between the two’. In terms of what the all-important ‘distinction’ is, Berdyaev also accurately recognised that the ‘subconscious’ is a state of ‘ignorance’ while ‘consciousness’ involves being able ‘to make distinctions and valuations, taste…the fruit of the tree of knowledge’, but he didn’t explain what ‘the conflict’ actually was that arose from those ‘distinctions’—he didn’t explain that the instincts were only orientations that were, in effect, intolerant of the conscious intellect’s search for knowledge, its memory-based search for understanding of cause and effect, and that the intellect had to defy the instincts and that it was that defiance that was so upsetting and caused humans to become sufferers of ‘good and evil’. It was Darwin’s clarification that instincts are only orientations, not understandings, that made explanation of how the upset ‘evil’ state emerged possible—a clarification that Berdyaev, who lived after Darwin, had access to but personally wasn’t able to employ to explain why the conflict between the ‘ignorance’ of ‘the realm of instinct’ and the ‘reflect[ive]’, ‘distinctions’-recognising ‘conscious’ state occurred.
From reading Berdyaev’s books, it is clear he was thinking analytically, truthfully and accurately about the problem of the human condition, but ultimately he was unable to reach all the way to the bottom of the problem and realise what ‘the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind [that] is fundamental for the new psychology’ actually was, and when trying to explain the human condition if you miss by a little, you miss by a mile. As a result, Berdyaev’s thinking ended up complex and intellectual, basically confused, when the truth, if you stay on its course and reach it, is simple and straightforward. ‘Staying on its course’ doesn’t mean that a great deal of thinking is not required to find the simple truth; in fact, a great deal of thinking back and forth with ‘this’ idea and then ‘that’ idea is needed before the answer to a problem, the fully accountable, right idea, finally falls out.
The difficulty of ‘staying the course’ is that to keep on thinking back and forth about the particular problem of the human condition, as Berdyaev had clearly begun to do, has been an impossible task for almost all humans because the subject of the human condition has been so unbearably condemning and thus confronting and thus depressing for almost all humans. Berdyaev himself recognised that the stalling point to thinking effectively, especially about the issue of the human condition, was the need for an honest, denial-free, human-condition-confronting-not-human-condition-avoiding approach. In The Destiny of Man he wrote that ‘Knowledge requires great daring. It means victory over ancient, primeval terror. Fear makes the search for truth and the knowledge of it impossible. Knowledge implies fearlessness…it must also be said of knowledge that it is bitter, and there is no escaping that bitterness…Particularly bitter is moral knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil [which is the issue of the human condition]. But the bitterness is due to the fallen state of the world, and in no way undermines the value of knowledge…it must be said that the very distinction between good and evil is a bitter distinction, the bitterest thing in the world…Moral knowledge is the most bitter and the most fearless of all for in it sin and evil are revealed to us along with the meaning and value of life. There is a deadly pain in the very distinction of good and evil, of the valuable and the worthless. We cannot rest in the thought that that distinction is ultimate. The longing for God in the human heart springs from the fact that we cannot bear to be faced for ever with the distinction between good and evil…Ethics must be both theoretical and practical, i.e. it must call for the moral reformation of life and a revaluation of values as well as for their acceptance. And this implies that ethics is bound to contain a prophetic element. It must be a revelation of a clear conscience, unclouded by social conventions [most particularly unpolluted by the all-pervading attitude of denial]; it must be a critique of pure conscience’ (pp.14-16). Berdyaev knew the human condition had to be solved if the human race was to survive—as he said, ‘We cannot rest in the thought that that distinction is ultimate. The longing for God in the human heart springs from the fact that we cannot bear to be faced for ever with the distinction between good and evil’—however, he also recognised that solving it required ‘a prophetic’ ‘critique of pure conscience’ that was ‘unclouded by social conventions’ of denial. Only those who weren’t made to feel ‘worthless’ when thinking about the human condition—that is, only those who hadn’t been exposed to upset in their infancy and childhood and were thus relatively free or innocent of upset, only those with a ‘pure conscience’—could hope to ‘fearless[ly]’ face and investigate the issue of the human condition. Otherwise a ‘deadly pain’ from the ‘ancient [two million-year-old], primeval terror’ that trying to think about the human condition can cause would be encountered. Recall Carl Jung’s description of how encountering the ‘shadow’, the negative aspects of being human, could be a ‘shattering experience’ because it meant having ‘to gaze into the face of absolute evil’. Since the ideals are to be cooperative, loving and selfless, the competitive, aggressive and selfish nature of the upset human condition is, if we face the full truth of it, the diabolical opposite state to ideality—it is a ‘bitter’, apparently ‘evil’, ‘worthless’ state.
Without the explanation/defence for the human condition, trying to confront it meant having to admit you were ‘worthless’—a ‘shattering’, suicidally depressing conclusion for anyone to reach, which is why everyone who suffered from the upset state of the human condition wouldn’t allow themselves to go on that thought journey. Virtually everyone has been living deep inside Plato’s cave of denial of the issue of the human condition. Since no one who was upset would allow themselves to go near the realisation that they were ‘worthless’, it follows that virtually everyone has been living an extremely escapist, almost completely alienated artificial and superficial existence—which, with the defence for the human condition now found, can thankfully all end. No longer can ‘thinking’, as Quantock said, ‘get you into terrible downwards spirals of doubt’, or, as Camus said, lead to you becoming psychologically ‘undermined’. We can go anywhere in our thinking now without encountering ‘a deadly pain’. The ‘distinction between good and evil’ has, as Berdyaev hoped, finally been eliminated.
Since thinking truthfully about the issue of the human condition for those who were upset resulted in the ‘primeval terror’ and ‘shattering’ ‘deadly pain’ of the realisation that they were ‘worthless’, Berdyaev must have had a relatively well-nurtured upbringing and, as a result, been relatively sound and secure in himself—he must have been, to a degree, a denial-free, sound ‘prophetic’ thinker—to think about the issue of the human condition as deeply as he did, even though he evidently wasn’t sound enough to ‘stay on course’ and take his honest thinking all the way to the bottom of the problem. But at least Berdyaev survived the truthful thought journey that he did go on—others did not, as we will now see.
(Note, the process of rehabilitating the human race from its ‘painful’, ‘fallen’, ‘sick’ upset state through the ‘lever’ of ‘the new psychology’ of being able to explain how ‘the distinction between the conscious and the subconscious mind’ caused the ‘good and evil’-afflicted human condition is the TRANSFORMATION that was explained in Part 3:10 and which will be elaborated upon in Part 9 and described by those practicing it in Section 3 of Freedom Book 2.)
Eugene Marais’ admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition and attempt to explain how those elements produced that upset psychosis
The South African lawyer and naturalist Eugène Marais (1872—1936), who in the early 1900s was the first person to study primates in their natural habitat, was an exceptionally honest thinker. His ground-breaking observation of baboons was documented in his seminal book, The Soul of the Ape (written between 1916 and 1936, and published posthumously in 1969). If you immerse yourself in this title, and that of another of his books, The Soul of the White Ant (1937), you can sense that Marais was very unevasive: he did not live in Plato’s cave of denial because he spoke openly about ‘soul’, which is forbidden in denial-complying mechanistic science—as the psychologist Ronald Conway noted, ‘Soul is customarily suspected in empirical psychology and analytical philosophy as a disreputable entity’ (The Australian, 10 May 2000). The reason ‘soul’ has been ‘a disreputable entity’ is because, as stated in Part 4:4D, it represented the fourth most unbearably confronting truth for upset humans to have to face. We humans once lived in an utterly cooperative, integrative, selfless, loving, innocent ideal state, the instinctive memory of which we refer to as our ‘soul’. Unable to explain our present corrupted, non-ideal condition, the upset human race has had no choice but to deny the truth of our species’ soulful, cooperative, integrative, selfless, loving, innocent past. Marais was breaking the rules of denial by mentioning ‘soul’. In fact, denial-complying mechanistic science didn’t even allow use of the word ‘love’ and has no interpretation for it, even though ‘love’, like ‘soul’, is one of our most used words and recognised emotions—indeed ‘soul’ is one of the most recognised elements of our make-up. The linguist Robin Allott summarised mechanistic science’s attitude to love when he said, ‘Love has been described as a taboo subject, not serious, not appropriate for scientific study’ (‘Evolutionary Aspects of Love and Empathy’, Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 1992, Vol.15, No.4 353-370). As described in Part 4:4B (and this will be further explained in Part 8:1), love is the selflessness that holds wholes together, it is the very theme of existence, the most ‘serious[ly]’ important subject of all, as is the subject of our ‘soul’—but like ‘soul’, love has also been one of the most condemning and thus depressing and thus ‘disreputable’, ‘taboo’ subjects of all. What our soul really is, and what love really is, the upset human race didn’t want to know!
The problem with denying such ‘serious[ly]’ important issues as ‘soul’ and ‘love’ is that it completely undermines your ability to think effectively. You can’t build the truth from lies. Any thinking that went on in Plato’s cave of denial was extremely ineffective and thus superficial and mostly meaningless. The great danger, however—as Marais was to discover—with ‘fearless[ly]’ trying to think about such ‘serious[ly]’ important issues as ‘soul’ and ‘love’, and thus think effectively, was that it meant confronting the issue of the human condition and that, as Berdyaev and Jung warned, could lead to the ‘primeval terror’ and ‘shattering’ ‘deadly pain’ of realising you were ‘worthless’.
Marais ‘fearless[ly]’ pursued the human-condition-confronting issue of our species’ ‘communal’, ‘moral or altruistic’ instinctive self or soul. In 1926 he wrote: ‘I want to tell you something of our work…in comparative psychology. We set out to study the behaviour of our baboons, in the first instance…It was here we first came into contact with the communal mind. In time, we realized the troop was dominated by a psyche which resided in no single individual. It induced behaviour which, in the case of human society, we call “moral” or “altruistic”…It was the study of this communal mind which directed us to the termites’ (The Road to Waterberg and other essays, 1972, p. 145 of 175). Marais’ mention of his study of the ‘communal mind’ in ‘termites’ is a reference to another immensely truthful, integrative-meaning-confronting investigation that he undertook, which he described in The Soul of the White Ant. In that book he ‘fearless[ly]’ talked about the ‘group psyche or soul’ (p.50 of 154) of the termite colony, concluding with the revolutionary, integrative-meaning-recognising insight that a termite colony is a single organism—that ‘the termitary is a separate and perfect animal’ (ibid. p.64), a cooperative, fully integrated collection of parts like ‘our own bodies’ (ibid. p.60). (Note, the biological means by which ants, termites and bees integrated to form the individual that is the colony will be fully explained in Part 8:3.)
So Marais, through his observations of the baboons and termites and his great honesty—his truthful, effective thinking—was able to make some very penetrating insights. Indeed, in his Introduction to The Soul of the Ape, the renowned American anthropologist Robert Ardrey wrote the following of Marais: ‘As a scientist he was unique, supreme in his time, yet a worker in a science then unborn’ (p.7 of 171). While Marais was ‘the first man in the history of science to conduct a prolonged study of one of man’s primate relatives in a state of nature’ (ibid. p.12), the real frontier for science that was ‘then unborn’ that Marais pioneered was his study of ‘the evolutionary origins of the subconscious mind in man’ (ibid. p.8). While, as Ardrey pointed out, Sigmund Freud ‘presented us with the concept of the unconscious mind’ (ibid. p.24-25), it was Marais who set out on the discovery of ‘the evolutionary origins of the subconscious mind in man’. In fact, Ardrey referred to Marais as the ‘prophet’ ‘of biology’s new challenge’ to be ‘concern[ed] with’ ‘the behaviour of men’ (ibid. p.32-33). Use of the description ‘prophet’ for someone seeking to understand ‘the behaviour of men’ was intuitively accurate because, as Berdyaev said, truthful thinking about the question of the immorality of our human behaviour or ‘ethics is bound to contain a prophetic element. It must be a revelation of a clear conscience, unclouded by social conventions’ of lies/denial.
The power of Marais’ honest, relatively denial-free, ‘prophetic’, insightful thinking is particularly evident in the inroads he made into the all-important issue of the ‘origins of’ the immoral ‘behaviour of men’, namely the issue of the human condition—and, in the process, into ‘the evolutionary origins of the subconscious mind in man’. In The Soul of the Ape Marais wrote that ‘The great frontier between the two types of mentality is the line which separates non-primate mammals from apes and monkeys. On one side of that line behaviour is dominated by hereditary memory, and on the other by individual causal memory…The phyletic history of the primate soul can clearly be traced in the mental evolution of the human child. The highest primate, man, is born an instinctive animal. All its behaviour for a long period after birth is dominated by the instinctive mentality…it has no memory, no conception of cause and effect, no consciousness…As the new soul, the soul of the individual memory slowly emerges, the instinctive soul becomes just as slowly submerged…For a time it is almost as though there were a struggle between the two’ (pp.77-79). In The Soul of the White Ant Marais also recognised that the ‘instinct…is incapable of deviation from a certain fixed way of behaving…This inherited memory is in every respect a terrible tyrant’ (p.45). He further realised that ‘the so-called “subliminal soul” in man—the “subconscious” mentality—is none other than this old “animal” [instinctive] mentality which has been put out of action by the new mentality’ (The Road to Waterberg and other essays, p.149). Again, we can recognise much of the Adam Stork analogy in this description, of becoming conscious and, as consciousness emerged, a ‘struggle’ with the inflexible, ‘tyran[nical]’ instincts erupting. Marais not only acknowledged the elements of instincts and conscious intellect involved in the human condition, he, like Berdyaev, was considering how the two elements interacted. Had he pursued and developed his insight into the emerging ‘struggle’ between the inflexible, ‘tyran[nical]’ ‘instinctive soul’ or ‘hereditary memory’ and the new ‘conscious’ ‘memory’-based, ‘cause and effect’-understanding, ‘individual causal memory’, he could have realised, as I did, that the good reason why the conscious intellect had to defy the tyrannical instincts was because the conscious mind had to search for understanding of ‘cause and effect’, and further that it was that particular guilt-producing ‘struggle’ that caused the upset competitive, aggressive and selfish, corrupted human nature.
Again, to miss the truth by a little was to miss it by a mile, and Marais’ thinking ended up confused and lost—moreover, in thinking so honestly but not reaching the full truth, Marais was left dangerously exposed to depressing self-confrontation and resulting self-doubt. Indeed, Sir Laurens van der Post was warning of the dangers of the unbearable depression that lay in wait if you attempted to look into the human condition when you were not sound enough to do so, when he wrote that ‘He who tries to go down into the labyrinthine pit of himself, to travel the swirling, misty netherlands below sea-level through which the harsh road to heaven and wholeness runs, is doomed to fail and never see the light where night joins day unless he goes out of love in search of love’ (The Face Beside the Fire, 1953, p.290 of 311).
In his thinking about what caused ‘the pain of consciousness’ (The Soul of the Ape, p.90 & 91), ‘mental gloom’ (p.92), ‘pessimism and lack of joyousness…mental misery’ (p.93)—in fact, thinking about humanity’s ‘march towards the madhouse’ (My Friends the Baboons, 1939, p.9 of 124), its march towards terminal levels of alienation—Marais did accurately recognise that human depression came with the emergence of consciousness; that it ‘is due to…some kind of suffering inseparable from the new [conscious] mind which…it [man] has acquired in the course of evolution’ (The Soul of the Ape, p.98); that ‘human consciousness [is]…the whole and only cause of this quality of psychological suffering’ (ibid. p.101). He also accurately recognised that our pre-conscious instincts were intruding into our conscious mind and causing ‘havoc’ and ‘delusional insanity’—causing the ‘pain’, ‘misery’ and ‘psychological suffering’ of the human condition—but he didn’t identify the right reason for how the intruding instincts were causing the distress. For example, he recognised that ‘Normal mental pain in man, generally speaking, is tidal in character. With sunrise…it is at its lowest ebb, to reach its highest flow in the evening’ (ibid. p.101), but to explain this he said that ‘All communal animals, for instance, are “selected” to feel this moment of depression at sunset in order to bring the troop closely together at their time of greatest danger. It can be easily understood how these centres, long submerged in man, can become confusingly active in consciousness. If for any reason they become functional again while the cortex is still active, they work havoc as delusional insanity…It is a real “possession”, a possession by his [an insane person’s] own ancient “animal” mind, which thrusts its activity through into his normal consciousness. Very few observers fail to recognize the essentially “animal-like” change which insanity entails’ (The Road to Waterberg and other essays, p.152-154). The truth is, in the mornings upset humans are generally fresh from a night’s rest—it’s when their happy, instinctive soulful state is closest to the surface. It’s only as the day wears on that the ‘mental misery’ of thinking about the imperfections of the human condition begins to dominate. Our ‘animal’ instincts are instinctive memories of a loving, happy, ideal state, and it was when this ‘ancient “animal” [ideal-behaviour-demanding] mind…thrusts its activity through [from its long psychologically blocked-out/denied and thus repressed, ‘subconscious’, ‘unconscious’ state] into…normal consciousness’ that ‘insanity’ occurred. Two million years living in a conscious state of horrific upset from criticism from our instincts has been the real nightmare in the human brain, not the welling up of an ancient instinctive fear of being attacked by predators once the sun went down.
I should say that when you have lots of love and generosity—lots of psychological security of self—the losses and difficulties encountered in life are not unbearable or destabilising. Baboons have not yet developed the fully nurtured, completely cooperative, integrated state that our Australopithecine ancestors developed and which bonobos are on the threshold of developing—baboon societies are, for instance, still patriarchal. So they are not as imbued with the security of self and certainty about the greater truth of the integrative potential of life that comes with being fully orientated to Integrative Meaning and its theme of unconditional selflessness or love as our Australopithecine ancestors were. This means baboons won’t cope with anxieties, such as about the danger of predators, as well as our Australopithecine ancestors would have. The point is, while there are some very good clues to be found about the origins of our species’ instinctive self or soul in the behaviour of baboons, they don’t provide anything like as good an insight into our soul’s origins as bonobos. Baboons are only in the very early stages of becoming integrated through nurturing.
Marais was close to the truth in blaming our ‘ancient “animal” mind, which thrusts its activity through into his normal consciousness’ for our ‘pain of consciousness’—because our ideal-behaviour-demanding, integratively orientated, moral instinctive conscience is what upset our ‘memory’-based, ‘cause and effect’-‘concept[ualising]’, conscious intellect—but he was wrong about how our ‘ancient “animal” mind’ made us so upset/‘insane’. (Note the ease with which Marais acknowledges that consciousness is simply a product of nerves’ ability to remember events and thus understand or conceptualise the relationship between cause and effect. As was described in Part 4:4C, truth-avoiding, mechanistic scientists have lived in denial of the true nature of consciousness because it meant having to confront the unbearable issue of the human condition.) Marais was thinking truthfully about the origin of our moral instincts when he talked about the ‘group psyche or soul’, the ‘communal mind’ which is ‘moral or altruistic’, but thinking about that truth, and many other truths related to Integrative Meaning and our present lack of compliance with it, could be suicidally depressing, and Marais did increasingly suffer from depression. He began taking drugs to try to escape the depression but, most tragically, did eventually commit suicide.
To elaborate, Marais courageously and accurately recognised that ‘If mankind wishes to escape the doom which now threatens its existence on earth [it must undertake]…the study of this evil [of the pain of consciousness]’ (My Friends the Baboons, p.10-11), however, doing so and thinking about human behaviour, namely the ‘pain of consciousness’ that is the issue of the human condition, led him to suicidal depression. It is true that a ‘world famous’ ‘Nobel Prize’-winning ‘European author’ ‘took half of Marais’s lifework and published it as his own’ and that this ‘plagiarizing’ (The Soul of the Ape, p.16-18) contributed to Marais’ despair, but the real reason behind the demons Marais faced was his truthful thinking. Some years ago an eminent scientist plagiarised my explanation of the human condition and while that was very disappointing and we achieved redress, never at any point did I feel devastated. Postulating about the causes of Marais’ suicide in his Introduction to The Soul of the Ape, Ardrey wrote that ‘Perhaps his tragic sense as a poet overcame the creative optimism of the scientist’ (p.44). The ‘tragic sense as a poet’ is about as close as the old, denial-complying world could come to acknowledging the ‘prophetic’, human-condition-confronting truthfulness of Marais’ thinking, which, again as Berdyaev and Jung warned, could lead to the ‘primeval terror’ and ‘shattering’ ‘deadly pain’ of realising you were ‘worthless’—although Ardrey did manage to refer to the ‘inner pain’ that came with having ‘overwhelming insight’ when he described Marais as being ‘the damned and the saved, with all his complexities of inner pain and overwhelming insight’ (ibid. p.29). And Marais himself did acknowledge ‘the dim and remote regions of the mind into which it [his enquiry] led me’ (ibid. p.20).
Ardrey honoured the ‘fearlessness’ of Marais’ thinking by dedicating his 1961 book African Genesis to his memory. Unfortunately, African Genesis is a book about how man is naturally an aggressive animal, which is a view Marais didn’t subscribe to—as mentioned, Marais’ great interest was in ‘the study of [the] communal mind’ ‘which in the case of human society, we call “moral” or “altruistic”’. As will be explained in Part 4:9, efforts to misrepresent our altruistic, moral soul as brutish and aggressive was a way of avoiding the issue of the human condition. I think Ardrey’s admiration of Marais was a subconscious love of a ‘fearlessness’ that he himself didn’t possess.
Trying to face down the truth about our corrupted human condition, as Marais so courageously attempted to do, but without having access to the explanation for the human condition, has been, as emphasised, a suicidally depressing prospect for virtually all humans. We can see that even for relatively sound people, as Marais must have been to even attempt to analyse the human condition, looking into the human condition has been an extremely dangerous exercise. Many who tried, like Marais and the scientist-philosopher Arthur Koestler, whose work we will look at next, eventually took their own lives. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875-1961) went mad when he tried to confront his deeper self and the issue of the human condition that resides there, requiring three years to get over the psychologically devastating effects of his journey—he did, however, unearth a lot of truth about the human condition through thinking in an honest, human-condition-confronting rather than a dishonest, human-condition-avoiding way. This extract from an article about Ronald Hayman’s 2000 biography of Jung, Life of Jung, describes the journey Jung undertook into his ‘unconscious counterposition’: ‘He [Jung] claimed to have acquired the knack of catching unconscious material “in flagrante”, and his  book Memories, Dreams, Reflections suggests his behaviour was heroic—that he was making a dangerous expedition into the unconscious for the sake of scientific discovery. Several dreams involved subterranean staircases and caverns, which suggested that his fantasies were located somewhere underground. In December 1913, he says, he decided to drop downwards. “I let myself fall. It was as if the floor literally gave way underneath me and I plummeted into dark depths”…It took about three years to recover from the breakdown…It was during Jung’s breakdown that he arrived at some of his most important concepts…Had it not been for his breakdown, Jung might never have developed the technique he called active imagination, based on conversations with his anima [the soulful, more female side of himself] and with fantasy figures. He told patients to draw or paint characters from dreams or fantasies, and to interrogate them. This was like praying to an internal god, “for there are answers inside you if you are not afraid of them”. It was a matter of “letting the unconscious come up”’ (‘An edited extract from Life of Jung’, Good Weekend mag. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Feb. 2000). Saying ‘there are answers inside you if you are not afraid of them’ is confirmation of what Berdyaev said, that ‘Knowledge requires great daring. It means victory over ancient, primeval terror. Fear makes the search for truth and the knowledge of it impossible. Knowledge implies fearlessness.’
Arthur Koestler’s admission of the involvement of our instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition and attempt to explain how those elements produced that upset psychosis
While the Hungarian-born British scientist-philosopher Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) didn’t, to my knowledge, recognise that we humans have moral instincts, he, nevertheless, belongs in this category because in every other aspect of his thinking he sought to confront and explain the human condition. The courage and integrity of his thinking is particularly apparent in how prepared he was to acknowledge that the issue of the human condition was the all-important issue that had to be addressed, that the dishonest approach of reductionist, mechanistic science had to be changed for a solution to the human condition to be found, and that the most important aspect of that change had to involve the recognition of Integrative Meaning.
In his 1978 book Janus: A Summing Up, Koestler wrote that ‘homo sapiens is not a reasonable being — for if he were, he would not have made such a bloody mess of his history…The first step towards a possible therapy is a correct diagnosis of what went wrong with our species’ (p.5 of 354).
Koestler courageously made the obvious, but almost universally denied, point that our ‘human condition’ is not the same as the non-human ‘animal condition’, writing that the murderous, paranoiac, duplicitous ‘symptoms of the mental disorder which appears to be endemic in our species…are specifically and uniquely human, and not found in any other species. Thus it seems only logical that our search for explanations [of our human condition] should also concentrate primarily on those attributes of homo sapiens which are exclusively human and not shared by the rest of the animal kingdom. But however obvious this conclusion may seem, it runs counter to the prevailing reductionist trend. “Reductionism” is the philosophical belief that all human activities can be “reduced” to — i.e., explained by — the behavioural responses of lower animals — Pavlov’s dogs, Skinner’s rats and pigeons, Lorenz’s greylag geese, Morris’s hairless apes…That is why the scientific establishment has so pitifully failed to define the predicament of man’ (p.19).
In seeking the ‘causes’ ‘of the human condition’ (pp.8, 9), Koestler identified the elements of instinct and intellect involved in the human condition and sought an explanation for how they might have produced the human condition by referring to the American neurologist Paul MacLean’s theory (which will be looked at next in Part 4:8) that human behaviour suffers from an inadequate co-ordination between the rational neocortex and the instinctual limbic areas of our brain—as Koestler described MacLean’s concept: ‘the brain explosion [in humans] gave rise to a mentally unbalanced species in which old brain and new brain, emotion and intellect, faith and reason, were at loggerheads’ (ibid. p.10). This recognition of humans having an old instinctive brain and a newer cognitive brain that are at ‘loggerheads’ was on the right track to explaining the human condition, but, as will be explained, the cause of the conflict was not at all correctly identified by MacLean. Not only that, MacLean ardently denied that our instincts have any moral authority, which, as we will see, reveals that he was seeking to avoid, not confront, the issue of the human condition. By contrast, while Koestler didn’t acknowledge we have moral instincts, he didn’t try to deny it and by so doing seek to avoid the issue of the human condition. In fact, Koestler was steadfast in his determination to try and confront the issue of the human condition—and in recognising that there may be merit in the instinct-versus-intellect part of MacLean’s theory, he was on the right, truthful path to explaining the human condition.
Koestler was always a brave, honest thinker. Bruce Chatwin, who we have already identified as a courageous thinker himself, made reference to Koestler’s honest recognition that our species’ present psychotic condition arose from a conflict between our instinct and intellect in his 1987 book The Songlines: ‘London, 1970: At a public lecture I listened to Arthur Koestler airing his opinion that the human species was mad. He claimed that, as a result of an inadequate co-ordination between two areas of the brain—the “rational” neocortex and the “instinctual” hypothalamus—Man had somehow acquired the “unique, murderous, delusional streak” that propelled him, inevitably, to murder, to torture and to war.’
In Janus, Koestler went on to complain of ‘the sterile deserts of reductionist philosophy’, asserting that ‘a correct diagnosis of the condition of man [had to be] based on a new approach to the sciences of life’ (p.20). He then set about establishing that ‘new approach’ by courageously acknowledging that ‘hierarchic organization is a fundamental principle of living nature’ (p.30)—using the diagram of the integrative development of order of matter to illustrate his point (pp.28-29). (A version of this diagram was included earlier in Part 4:4B.) Koestler wrote courageously of ‘the active striving of living matter towards [order] [p.223]’, of ‘a drive towards synthesis, towards growth, towards wholeness [p.224]’. He said, ‘the integrative tendency has the dual function of coordinating the constituent parts of a system in its existing state, and of generating new levels of organization in evolving hierarchies [p.225]’. On the origin of the ‘integrative tendency’ he explained that ‘One of the basic doctrines of the nineteenth-century mechanistic world-view was Clausius’ famous “Second Law of Thermodynamics”. It asserted that the universe was running down towards its final dissolution because its energy is being steadily, inexorably dissipated into the random motion of molecules, until it ends up as a single, amorphous bubble of gas with a uniform temperature just above absolute zero: cosmos dissolving into chaos [p.222] …It was in fact a physicist, not a biologist, the Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger, who put an end to the tyranny of the Second Law with his celebrated dictum: “What an organism feeds on is negative entropy” [p.223] …Negative entropy is thus a somewhat perverse way of referring to the power of living organisms to “build up” instead of running down, to create complex structures out of simpler elements, integrated patterns out of shapelessness, order out of disorder. The same irrepressible building-up tendency is manifested in the progress of evolution [p.223].’
I should mention that Koestler tried to cope with the fact that Integrative Meaning confronts us with our selfish, disintegrative behaviour by saying we have a responsibility to both maintain self and maintain the whole, but the truth is that ideally the priority always has to be the whole. The real justification for our selfish nature is the instinct versus intellect explanation of the human condition.
Koestler emphasised the stalled situation of all of science, but of biology and psychology in particular, when he said that the human-condition-issue-avoiding, integrative-meaning/God-shunning, whole-view-evading, details-only-focused, blind attitude of reductionist, mechanistic science has ‘taken the life out of biology as well as psychology’, writing in Janus that ‘although the facts [of the integration of matter] were there for everyone to see, orthodox evolutionists were reluctant to accept their theoretical implications. The idea that living organisms, in contrast to machines, were primarily active, and not merely reactive; that instead of passively adapting to their environment they were…creating…new patterns of structure…such ideas were profoundly distasteful to [Social] Darwinians, behaviourists and reductionists in general [p.222] …Evolution has been compared to a journey from an unknown origin towards an unknown destination, a sailing along a vast ocean; but we can at least chart the route…and there is no denying that there is a wind which makes the sails move…the purposiveness of all vital processes…Causality and finality are complementary principles in the sciences of life; if you take out finality and purpose you have taken the life out of biology as well as psychology [p.226].’
In trying to confront and explain the human condition, and in boldly recognising the extremely confronting truth of Integrative Meaning, Koestler was clearly an exceptionally brave and, by inference, a remarkably sound, prophetic thinker. In fact, he was frequently described as a ‘prophet’, and it was even said of him that ‘It’s undeniable that Koestler had one of the most highly developed messiah complexes of the twentieth century’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Dec. 1986). Although the term ‘messiah complex’ is often used derogatively, ‘messiah’ in dictionaries means ‘liberator’ and since what is required to liberate humanity from the human condition is, as Berdyaev said, the ‘fearless’ preparedness to confront the issue of the human condition, Koestler was certainly messianic—although of course the real messiah or liberator of humanity is science because it found the understandings of the way our world works, in particular the nature of the gene and nerve based learning systems, that made explanation of the human condition possible. We can even tell from the ‘Janus’ title of his book on the ‘Summing Up’ of his life that Koestler’s life’s work was bravely focused on the issue of the two-faced, good-and-evil, human-condition afflicted state of humanity—‘Janus’ being the Roman deity depicted with two faces fixed in opposing directions.
But while Koestler was obviously an exceptionally courageous and a remarkably sound thinker, he, like Marais before him, was eventually overwhelmed by the truths he was confronting, committing suicide in 1983. While it is true that at the time of his death Koestler was suffering from debilitating diseases, the agony of looking into the human condition no doubt played a significant part in his demise, as this review by Michael Pollak of the 1983 book Arthur Koestler: The story of a friendship, written by Koestler’s close friend George Mikes, recognised: ‘In the end, Arthur Koestler was crushed by overpowering physical pain, by Parkinson’s disease and leukaemia. Combined with mystical self-doubts and overwhelming pessimism, his burden became too much and he gathered up colossal self-discipline to carry out a suicide pact with his wife Cynthia’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Jan. 1984).
In his recent biography of Koestler, Michael Scammell included this accurate description of him: ‘Koestler was the embodiment of an uncompromised, unafraid, international idealism’ (Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic, Michael Scammell, 2009, p.211 of 689). The ‘international idealism’—the ideal state, ‘the memory of a lost paradise’ that the human race has been striving to ‘regain’, as Berdyaev described it—is a world free of the corrupted state of the human condition. Scammell noted that Koestler even dubbed his yearning for this absolute state as ‘absolutitis’ (pp.75, 409).
I should mention that Koestler bequeathed his estate to establishing a school for the study of the paranormal. Yes, we humans are so alienated there is a world of sensitivity we have lost access to, so it was another illustration of Koestler’s honesty of thought that he tried to stimulate study of our repressed sensitivities and awarenesses. As Berdyaev said, ‘Man is a sick being, with a strong unconscious life’. It is this ‘strong unconscious life’ that we have lost access to.
In summary, there have been a few brave adults who tried to think truthfully about the issue of the human condition despite not being sound enough to do so and while they managed to make penetrating insights into the dilemma of the human condition, some, namely Marais and Koestler, eventually paid the enormous personal price of suicidal depression.