Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet (inspired by the movie) completed 2009

In, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes elaborates a theory on the nature of pre-modern consciousness, the bicameral mind. At this point in human consciousness there was language, but people didn’t have the power of self narration… they couldn’t say, yesterday I did this, tomorrow I will do this, I am doing this. The skills necessary for survival had been accumulated slowly and passed on thru mimicry. The chief or king would impart commands for the activities necessary for the maintenance of the community attending to crisis in the manner passed down from the previous generation. The theory suggests that totems were used to aid the king in attaining a meditative trance to experience an auditory hallucination of the advice imparted by the previous king for this maintenance and meeting crisis… that as populations grew, communities began to bump into each other, resulting in conflict and war, something new in the experience of these bicameral kingdoms. Previous to this, carved reliefs would show the king beseeching a deity seated in a throne; at a certain point these carvings show the king before an empty thrown. With the new crisis no amount of meditation would produce a solution… god had abandoned them. In such breakdowns like that experienced by the Assyrians… these societies became paranoid and desperate with fear. Carvings show the king holding lions suspended by the tail as trophies. No doubt having experienced atrocity they learned to wield that fear and capacity for atrocity to meet these new challenges.

Living in Englewood I saw the same pattern starkly, and gained the sight to see its more subtle manifestations elsewhere. The fruits of our society are paraded before all, but on the street in Englewood, the gods have gone. There is no answer to the question, ‘how do I get there from here.’ Instead, there is gratuitous violence, intimidation and humiliation. Fear rules, intimidation becomes the primary tool to meet challenges until it falls short of the purpose and violence becomes necessary. Life becomes a reaction to that fear and threat, but these survival strategies don’t unlock the promise of the greater society they only trap their adherents in smaller and smaller backwaters. The only ones benefiting being our living steles, celebrities–and the industries which produce them–pushing these dead-end survival strategies.

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