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The Childhood of Humanity
Copyright ©2001 by 21st Century Education, Inc
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This essay establishes the epistemological basis for doylic memory in the childhood of humanity.
In the early stages of human evolution we had no cognitive memories, but we had spiritual or super-sensory abilities instead.(1) Humans could look at a person and see their history and future written as it were in the auras and images that surrounded them spiritually. Humans could feel directly spiritual realities and they could hear directly the ethereal music of the spheres. These capabilities accompanied humanity's native and original clairvoyance. It was also a time when their human brains, before the development of the neocortex had only dim pattern recognition of the things of the visual world, but had the capability of storing reactions to dangerous things so that humans were able to know how to react quickly to protect themselves, what we might call a bodily memory. This combination of clairvoyance and natural reactions made language un-necessary as much of what humans receive from each other today via language was received directly by unerring spiritual perception.
The advent of the neocortex brought humans a new ability, made it possible for humans to have a new kind of memory: cognitive or conceptual memory, which is the ability to store an event in visual and auditory form with the associated smells, tastes, and bodily states that occurred during the event. This new cognitive memory greatly expanded our ability to recall events that occurred in the physical world in images and sounds for weeks, years, decades, an entire lifetime. But that new capability was not without a price: as our new cognitive memory geared up, our ability to see the spiritual world, to feel spiritual realities directly, to hear the ethereal music of the spheres faded. We began to harvest the surface of things. Around this time the mists that covered the Earth precipitated from the air, raising the levels of the seas and clarifying the air, so that human vision became more useful. We were out of the fog and into the clear air. Where formerly we depended upon spiritual vision to perceive humans and other objects through the dense air, now we were able to view humans and objects clearly from a distance. At the same time, our ability to perceive the spiritual auras, the images of the past and future that hovered around a person, began to fade.
With the new neocortex came the ability to recall and duplicate sounds, particularly the more and more complicated ones that we and others made with our vocal apparatus. Given the fading of the spiritual sights and sounds that had filled our days with the information we needed to get along in the world, we were forced into learning to communicate with each other using our vocal apparatus. In place of the spiritual memories that hovered out there around the person we were with at any one time, memories were stored within ourselves that arose whenever we were around the person. For the first time we were able to remember events that had happened the last time we were with a person. To assist our communication, the neocortex and our new cognitive memories made it possible for us to create our first spoken language. That is how it came about that we today are able to remember events in full living color complete with the sounds and words of the events for weeks, months, and even an entire lifetime. That's how we came to be the humans that we are today.
But along the way, something was lost, something precious. Something that we didn't want to lose, but lose it we did. Something slipped away from us. Our evolution was inexorable, but as something slipped away, something else was added to compensate for the loss.
Our human ancestors did what any human would do today when they experienced something important was slipping away: they endeavored to remember it in every way they could. They replaced the direct experience of the spiritual reality they had formerly experienced with a semblance of the experience. This is very difficult to describe not because these semblances are so rare as to require one to look in some far-off country or wilderness, but because they are so pervasive, they appear wherever we look today. One need not look further than a woman with her make-up on. Previously the internal health of a woman's body was visible to super-sensible sight which everyone had. There was no need for make-up; in fact, if make-up had been around, no one would have used it as the images from the spiritual or super-sensible realities would have overwhelmed the make-up and it would have never been seen. Hats worn for decoration are another artifice that calls to mind the auras that naturally existed around people's head in earlier times. Indian headdresses with brilliant colored feathers all arrayed around the wearer are excellent examples of how the spiritual auras of earlier days were incorporated into external surface decorations many years ago.
Whereas previously European warriors going into battle would be perceived spiritually as having colored auras like flames spouting out from their head, as the perception of their spiritual plumes began to fade, the warriors used brightly colored feathers to replace the spiritual plume, to strike the same fear in the hearts of their foes that formerly was possible without an external plume.(2) They came to use external colors on their bodies to show what was formerly spiritually visible directly.(3) They used their voices to instill fear with battle cries that formerly could be experienced as a spiritual reality. And to ensure that those who were no longer able to harvest the inner realities would be able to remember those events, those battles in which their ancestors died for their homeland, they taught themselves to create configurations of incisions in clay tablets to represent those events, daubs of dye on papyrus, flourishes of ink on parchment. In other words, they invented writing as a means to recall with their external senses on the surfaces of clay tablets, papyrus sheets, and parchment scrolls what had once been directly readable in the spiritual realities of the place and the people who participated in the event.
Soon external decorations of our bodies, our clothes, and our homes took the place of what had been directly visible in our spiritual realities. Talking and gestures became our way of communicating to one another. Writing and pictures became our way of recording memories of previous events, of communicating our thoughts and ideas of things that never were but might be, the future. And music became our way of communicating the feelings that once we experienced directly from the spiritual world accompanied by an ethereal music. Humans found ways to pluck stretched strings to recreate some of the rhythmic sounds, blowing through hollow tubes to recreate flowing tones, and through brass tubes to recreate the strident blaring sounds of the ancient battlefields. Music was invented to recreate in the sensory world what had once existed in the spiritual world in which, in earlier times, humans had fully participated.(4)
All of humanity lived through these spiritual times. It was the childhood of humanity. A small child comes into the world today experiencing these spiritual realities of earlier times in the first years of its life, the same realities that all humans of the time experienced for their entire lifetime. Our youngest children today show us our earliest ancestors. They demonstrate to us how those ancestors understood the world by direct spiritual experiences of the beings and places within the world. Our little children live in what we label imaginary worlds, as if to say they don't exist, but they are reality for those under three years of age. In their world, their reality, they perceive spiritual realities. In their world they have real friends that they play with, that they talk to, and that no adult can see or hear. This is not because their childhood reality doesn't exist, but because most adults have passed the portal of childhood, beyond which that reality does not exist except as dim memories.(5) This is what happens today when children grow up.
And all too soon our children grow up. By three years old, they are talking, learning to write things, drawing, singing songs, laughing playing, and are well on their way to becoming adults. By five they are miniature adults ready to move into kindergartens, schools away from home, encounter strangers in their new classmates, and deal with the outside world as an independent being for the first time.
In those first and most precious five years, our children grow through the early stage of humanity. They move from direct spiritual experience of the insides of people, places, and thing to indirect harvesting of the external appearances of things. This is no mean feat. They have to be carefully taught.(6) Becoming an adult means leaving behind an enormous ability that has helped a child survive to the age five: their ability to perceive directly the insides of the world around them as a direct spiritual or super-sensible readlity. Suddenly, by age five, that ability has shrunk to nothing and whole new abilities have grown up to replace them, abilities that are a paltry substitute for the living participation in the spiritual realities that they have replaced. One example of how inadequate the substitutes are is to ask oneself, "Is it possible to hide your feelings in front of a child?" Words might do the trick for an adult, but the child knows something is bothering you, they can perceive it as emanations around you.
Where are those wonderful feelings of awe and majesty that we felt as a child when everything was "appareled in celestial light"? When we marveled at our first butterfly? When we felt love as a palpable presence flow into our hearts as our blessèd mother leaned over our crib to admire us? When we felt the exhilaration of standing upright for the first time? When we felt the great love and warmth pouring from the Sun upon us as we sat in delicious green clover on a summer day?
Where have all the wonderful feelings of childhood gone? Surely they have not been lost forever or else how could we react so strongly now as we think about them? (7)
Those directly felt and experienced spiritual realities were stored in the same portions of our human brain that were available to our human ancestors in their time, in the time before we had developed our neocortex. In these structures that we might call our ancestral brain, what physiologists call the root brain, those spiritual realities of our childhood are stored. Those experiences stored in our ancestral brain are available to rise to the surface at any time given the proper stimulus and fill our daily lives with the fullness of our childhood at a moment's notice. The xylophonic jingle of the ice cream truck can transport any adult to a childhood revery of hot summer days and frosted ice cream bars handed out by the large man in the white uniform as he extracted them from the cool dark opening in the back of his multi-colored truck. Never were precious coins so willingly exchanged as for those icy treats.
But as Joseph LeDoux points out in Footnote 5 above, we also store unpleasant events from childhood like fears, phobias, anger, and anxiety of all kinds. If we are in the room when our mother sees a roach and she shouts out in fear, that direct experience that we have of her fear permeates our body and our body's response to that direct experience of another's fear will stored in our primitive bodily memory. These body responses or physical body states, rightly understood, are the substrate of all good feelings, emotions, and fear states that we have as human beings. They are stored in childhood and available given the appropriate stimulus to be re-created at any time in our later life. As an adult we have these early recordings of our body's response to our direct experiences of the super-sensory world before five years old, and we have cognitive memories that recorded the events that occurred to us post-five years old.
In summary, the basis of our ability to have both cognitive memory and feelings as an adult lies in the two-layered structure of our brains. Cognitive memory, which is what most people mean when they use the term memory, is provided by our neocortex, the newest and outermost layer of the human brain. Feelings and emotions, or doylic memory, are stored in the root brain or brain stem region, the oldest and innermost area of our human brain, what might be called our ancestral brain. The complex phrase ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny means simply that what our ancestors experienced in the childhood of humanity as adults, our children experience today during their early years of childhood. To understand that great truth and all its implications is a task that still lies in our future.(9)
One thing that has puzzled me over the years is this: I have some friends who are into psychic phenomena and who claim to continue their speed tracing back to before they were born. They claim that some doyle or the other goes back to a previous lifetime. This morning the thought came to me of a way that it would be possible for doyles to be transmitted between lifetimes. I'd like to share my tentative thoughts on how it would be possible.
First, let me be clear about what is not possible: It is definitely not possible for a doyle to be stored in a human being prior to conception. It is unlikely as I point out several places above in this essay that any doyle could be stored before one is about three months past conception in the womb.
What is possible, as I explain in various places, is that very young children, under three years of age and younger, perhaps all the way into early stages of gestation in the womb, have supersensible sight corresponding to the clairvoyance of very early, prehistorical humankind. With such sight, a young child could see a face that he had seen during his previous lifetime and have a feeling in this lifetime that corresponds to the feeling he had about that face in that earlier lifetime. When later in his current life, he encounters a similar face, he could recover that feeling first encountered by a face during a previous lifetime. It could be a feeling of repulsion or attraction, a bad feeling or a good feeling. When the small child, infant, or fetus has that experience, there will be a doyle stored corresponding to that feeling. This feeling was accessed supersensibly using abilities that each one of us reading this have likely completely lost as we grew older and have likely forgotten that we ever had the ability to do that at all. If it is possible for very young humans to have supersensible sight as evidence indicates, then such doyles from a previous lifetime can be propagated into one's current lifetime.
And yet we know that every feeling experienced by a child under the age of five years old will be stored as a doyle and will be recapitulated for the rest of its life when the appropriate doylic trigger arises. (Unless the doyle is traced, of course.)
Thus it would be possible for someone's claim that a particular doyle was carried over from a previous lifetime to have some validity. What would not be possible is for that person to trace back before birth to find the doyle. The doyle will have been stored in that person between conception and age five during a supersensible experience of an event from a previous incarnation. The doyles from such an event would thus be imminently traceable without going back before conception.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. I first came to this understanding after an extensive study of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual science. This concept of his comes up in many places in his books, but here's one quote from his book Cosmic Memory - Prehistory of Earth and Man that I read and reviewed in 1998:
[pages 256, 257] It is not even considered remotely possible that there could be a trueexperience of supersensible worlds, and that the feelings of fear and love then cling to the reality which is given by this experience, just as no one thinks of water when in danger of fire, of the helpful comrade in the peril of combat, if he has not known water and comrade previously.
Footnote 2. I first had this insight into the function of helmet plumes when I read this item on page 63 of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile Or On Education:
When during the farewell of Andromach and Hector, the little Astyanax, frightened by the plume waving on his father's helmet, fails to recognize him, flings himself on his nurse's bosom, and extracts from his mother a smile mingled with tears . . .
Note how in the excerpt below that similar spiritual plumes in ancient rock carvings are misinterpreted as parts of a costume, as if ancient people wore costumes the way we do today. Rightly understood, our costumes of today are attempts to recreate the direct vision of the spiritual realities of our ancestors. From "Muzzinabik and Manitou: Towards a Re-Membering of the Human Being", a lecture given by Kevin Dann on 9 November 1998 at St. Michael's College:
A year later, in his History of Eastern Vermont, local historian Benjamin Hall published this illustration, along with his opinion that the carvings were "specimens of the rude and uncultivated attempts of a now decaying race to express their ideas, no matter how unimportant those ideas may have been. . ." Hall's drawing, better than the cut from Schoolcraft, showed the "six rays or feathers" which extended from the head of the central figure of the petroglyph, which Hall interpreted as symbolizing "excellence or power." Four of the other heads had these rays, and on a separate rock nearby, another single head was topped by 7 or 8 rays. Hall speculated that the rays recorded the costumes - headdresses - of the ancient people. Schoolcraft, despite being told by Ojibwa mdawlinno that many petroglyphs were keekeenowins -magical glyphs - agreed with local folklore that held the rock pictures to depict "the ancient Indian record of a battle-scene."
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Footnote 3. This external use of color on the bodies is well-illustrated in the recent movie with Mel Gibson, Braveheart.Return to text directly before Footnote 3.
Footnote 4. From my A Reader's Journal review of Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield:
"A stanza from a poem by Samuel Hoffenstein (c 1933) has been a favorite of mine since 1958:
This quatrain neatly summarizes the process of moving away from participation and the resultant hollowing-out of the meaning of words and life till only an antiseptic paper shell remains. My faint fires of realization of the poem's meaning have been stoked into a roaring blaze by Barfield's insights into the process called participation."Return to text directly before Footnote 4.
Footnote 5. The great English poet, William Wordsworth, wrote on this subject in his
Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood thus:
Footnote 6. "They have to be carefully taught." is a line from a song in South Pacific, a musical and movie from the mid-20th Century. This teaching is often unconscious as this example from the monkey kingdom shows in this excerpt from my review of The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux, "It had long been thought that monkeys have an inherited fear of snakes, so that the first time a monkey saw a snake it would act afraid and protect itself. However, Mineka showed that laboratory-raised monkeys are in fact not afraid on the first exposure to a snake. Most of the earlier work had involved testing of the young monkeys in the presence of their mothers. If the young monkey is shown the snake when separated from its mother, it doesn't act afraid. It appears that the infant learns to be afraid of the snakes by seeing its mother acting afraid." This is evidence to support the acquisition of fears from one's early caregivers.Return to text directly before Footnote 6.
Footnote 7. ibid. footnote 5 In this verse Wordsworth asks where our supersensory sight has gone.
In this one he reminds us that some embers of our direct spiritual sight as a child yet live within us:
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Footnote 8. Outside of a small percentage of exceptional people who can remember earlier experiences down to birth, there is only minor overlap of the two types of memory around the five-year-old time mark. With that exception, it is generally true that after five, no new physical body states are stored, and before five new bodily states are stored as they occur. On the other hand, for cognitive memories: after five cognitive memories are stored, and before five no cognitive memories are stored. Freud coined the expression childhood amnesia to refer to this noticeable lack of cognitive memories before five.Return to text directly before Footnote 8.
Footnote 9. While reviewing and proofing my latest review, Review 1. of An Outline of Occult Science, I had the following insight about how the physical, etheric, astral and Ego bodies of Steiner's Spiritual Science, described therein, play a role in the doylic and cognitive memory processes described in doyletics. A detailed description of these four bodies can be found in the above mentioned review.
The etheric body enters the egg at conception by virtue of the mother's etheric body pervading the egg and the subsequent fetus. The etheric body first entered the human being's physical body during the Old Sun stage of evolution, which would correspond to the earliest stage of fetal development in the womb.
The astral body, however, entered the human body during the Old Moon stage and this corresponds, so far as I can see, to about the stage in the womb when the limbic structure of the fetus has developed, or about 2 or 3 months into the human gestation process. The limbic structure got its name from limbus which refers to a covering distinguished by its color or structure. The limbic region was the primitive cortex of the human brain, with limited storage abilities, and it had to be supplemented by the cortex and neocortex in modern times for our cognitive and conceptual abilities to arise. Note that we stop any speed traces at this time which during the backward walk down the time marks amounts to TIME MARK -7 months before birth for the very good reason that no emotions, feelings, or doyles could have been stored before that time.
The simultaneous appearance of the astral body and the human capability of having feelings and emotions in the macrocosmic time of evolution corresponds to the appearance of feelings and emotions during the microcosmic evolution or ontogenesis of a single human being.
Let me pare down the sesquipedalian words into short words:
A baby first feels emotions in the womb at the same growth point when in past ages adult human beings had reached the same growth point and first felt emotions.
What happened to humans way back then was this, I hypothesize:
With the additional capability provided by the newly evolved limbic structures of the root brain, especially the amygdala, the possibility existed for the human brain to record feelings, emotions, and a great variety of other physical body states for later recapitulation during the prehistorical human being's adult life. The ability to quickly recognize and react to the shadow of a cave lion approaching was an essential ability required for surviving during those times for our ancestors. The amygdala/limbic region made it possible for a new level of survivability to occur. Note that there was no Memory Transition Age of five years old, nor at any age for that matter. The reason is that the ability to store cognitive memories had to await a further growth and development of the outer brain, which was yet an evolutionary step away. The bones and stones record tells us about these people with the deeply receding foreheads and we label them "Neanderthals" because the first skeleton of this evolutionay epoch was discovered in the Neander Valley of Germany. [Thal = valley in German]. As humans evolved further their skulls became more vertical and culminated in the Cro-Magnon humans, whose skull size and capacity increased greatly, signaling the presence of the neo-cortex, the outer shell of the brain which is known to store what are normally only called "memories" but which we call in doyletics, "cognitive memories" to distinguish them from "doylic memories" (the ones stored in and recapitulated from the amygdala/limbic region, ie, doyles).
With the advent of the neo-cortex, the phenomenon we call the "Memory Transition Age" or MTA came into being. One can only guess that in the first Cro-Magnon people, the MTA was originally much higher than five years old, perhaps 21 to 30 --- no one can know this as the bones and stones cannot tell us anything about the allocation of portions of the brain, only it's size and capacity. But as the neo-cortex developed, more and more of the brain development occurred while in the womb. At some point the size of the fully developed brain exceeded the capacity of the female human's pelvic girdle and something had to been done. If the head could not fit through the pelvic girdle which is all hard bone structure, the baby would be still-born, every baby would be still-born. Perhaps many were until "pre-mature births" began to happen. By being born "pre-maturely" these infants could pass through the pelvic girdle because their birth size was small enough. This is how the problem was solved evolutionarily speaking. Soon all human births were "pre-mature." And they have continued to be "pre-mature" up to the present day, where we call them "normal births".
The human brain today continues to grow past the normal 9 months of gestation for another three years and doubles in mass during that time. The majority of the weight and capacity is due to the addition of the convoluted layers of the outer brain we are all familiar with which constitute the neo-cortex. It is there that the "cognitive memories" are stored. These first three years of our childhood growth, I hypothesize, correspond to the evolutionary span of time between the Neanderthals with their sloped-back foreheads and the Cro-Magnons with the more vertical foreheads (indicating room for the larger brains sporting the newly developed neocortex).
If we go back in our imagination and watch the progression, we can see that for Cro-Magnon humans, as they moved forward in evolutionary development, the neocortex got bigger and the age at which cognitive memories were possible became younger and younger, until we arrive finally in our current time when the onset of cognitive memory capability happens around five years old.
At five years old, the growing human being today enters the growth point corresponding to the macrocosmic stage of Earth evolution, at which time the Ego or "I am" arrived as a human capability, and provided humans with the capability to record the instantaneous real-time images and sounds of an event (already provided for them by the astral body) for later recall by what we call "memories" but we mean by this "cognitive memories" — those voluntary images we can retrieve upon demand, consciously for the most part.
With this short presentation the evolutionary phases of Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Science are aligned with what is known by Natural Science, particularly that newest natural science, the science of doyletics.Return to text directly before Footnote 9.