Re: SOC: The Monkey God (Was: Cannot prove nor disprove a soul.)

From: Matthew Gream (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 07:39:10 MST

Hash: SHA1

Damien Broderick wrote:

> At 08:01 AM 22/01/00 EST, Greg Burch wrote:
> [`god' is the supposed silverback in primates hard-wired to attribute
> intention to any action in the world]
> >I'm sure this idea has been put forward by someone else before.
> I rather think so. Nicely summarised, though.
> There are some small difficulties in making it predictive rather than
> retro-interpretative. Australian aboriginal cultures, arguably holding the
> longest continuity in their belief structures of any living
> humans, did not
> have a big god, and many of their ancestor `spirits' (or metaphysical
> hypostatisations, or something) were animals, boulders, etc. Most of the
> constellations are primal animals, narrativised in anthropomorphic terms
> but clearly the birds and beasts of the important local ecologies: a
> gigantic mnemonic and instructional system for a pre-literate hunter
> gatherer lifestyle. I think this actually goes to support Greg's model, or
> the mind-twitch that underlies it: our reflex to attribute motive and
> purpose to brute events in the world, especially those that are violent,
> crucial to life, or simply eye- and ear-catching - perhaps the basis also,
> therefore, of art and music.

Cool, I get to relate some speculation resulting from a class assignment on
art, belief and experience in Maori culture taken last year. They, as with
many primitive cultures, have an animistic view of the world, where all
things have 'mana' (spiritual essence), and some things are 'tapu'
(forbidden, or must be 'accessed' according to taught procedures). The
procedures and rules are taught by elders, effectively the high priests. If
you do not act in accordance to these social rules, then you incur the wrath
of society itself (i.e. sort of revenge/discipline) and your own self
imposed wrath (i.e. you have contradicted your internal principles and
framework of morality).

For fun, relate the concepts of 'mana' to 'spirit/sentience/consciousness',
and relate 'protocols of access' to 'respect/ethics/laws/legislation/etc,
and relate high priests to 'philosopher kings/priests/gods/etc', and relate
plato ideas of basic education/morality/etc and training minds in ideas of
social good/bad so that if they violate their internal structure of mind,
they lose integrity and stability. This sits upon the belief, in some ways,
that the mind is little more than an extremely complex organic engine, which
over time has developed to hold an internal 'sentience' that is just as
easily uploadable into another medium (well, if the medium can support it,
it might be easy for a small brained animal, but not a complex brained

Anyway, one of the important conclusions is that this process builds up a
cosmological belief system used to preserve and promulgate the culture of
the society. For instance, wood carving (which is a high status symbol of
the skill of the society) can only be carried out by those appropriately
trained. People of lesser skill, will do tasks of lesser skill. Also, in the
way that many individuals attach their need for meaning to an external
belief system, these symbols satisfy the societies members need for meaning
and unanswered questions (e.g. the origins of the island, due to the gods).
There is a common problem of people using external frameworks and belief
systems to retain structure/integrity of mind!

Also, as it is a fertility based religion, the father (Papa) and mother
(Rangi) gods were responsibile for giving birth to childen (lesser gods)
which split the heavens and created the earth. The children are involved in
many narrative myths that describe all aspects of the society. It is also
believed that individuals are in some way descended from the gods, and
therefore must live up to the gods and their ancestors (and, therefore
elders) in order to preserve the continuance of society for themselves and
their children/bretheren.

You could argue that it is an application of a primarily western framework
of experience (platoish construction) to this primitive society, but there
is much evidence that supports the notion that it is a very cleverly
constructed belief system used to maintain and preserve the society. In many
ways, there are also very interesting parallels between it, and contemporary
society and science. Potentially the question then is, where is the tear in
the fabric to break out of contemporary science to see a new world view ?


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