Cosmos Café [4/9] - The Integral Egghead and the Freudian Caveman

To @patanswer @achronon @Michael_Stumpf @Douggins and let us not forget @madrush, and all other interested persons - the original inquiry: What the hell is going on? And how does that connect/relate to the human condition w/r/t our current experience? I offer this:
Let us say it is 50,000 years ago and you are with your group/clan/band/hoard/tribe consisting of 40 members, half male, half female, varying in age from <1 to 45. Your tribe has domesticated fire and has only rudimentary tools/technology—sticks, clubs, rocks, and bones. You are aware of only the world that you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. You are not aware of any other creatures like you, though there are stories/rumors told (mostly pantomimed) at night sitting around the fire. You can see the sky, the sun and moon, night and stars. They appear to move and come and go. You can feel and hear the wind. You can see, hear, smell, and feel storms—thunder, lightning, rain, and rainbows. Your life/existence consists mainly of eating, shitting, moving, sleeping and fucking, and avoiding predators, of becoming food.

One morning, at daybreak as the camp comes to life, one member of the band does not move. You poke them but nothing happens. The camp is comfortable with fresh water and food (small game, berries, nuts, seeds, etc.) close by. You all go about daily life. The lifeless body moves and changes color. In twelve hours rigor mortise sets in and the body becomes rigid, and then it begins to stink and decompose. Bugs and maggots may attack it and begin to eat it.

A thought occurs to you, What if that were me? You, along with some others, decide you must either move camp or get rid of the body. Someone suggests dragging the body to a cliff and pushing it over, but you say, “I don’t want to touch it, do you?” Still another member suggests covering the corpse with rocks. “Will that end the stench?” another asks. “What if we dig a hole and bury it? and then cover it with rocks?” yet another proposes. That is agreed. And then the thought reoccurs to you, What if that were me? You think, maybe my spirit, my essence, my me, is still inside? (the rotting body). You decide to put some thing—a weapon —in the pit with the body, just in case. You look at the other men gathered around the spectacle and you all nod at one another. Everyone kicks dirt into the pit and then covers the mound with stones.

That evening after eating, as the sun sets and the fire is lit, the women begin to hum and chant. The men sense the rhythm, and pick up sticks and begin to beat on the dead trees that were dragged around the fire pit, and then begin to howl, and jump and skip around the fire. The moon rises and lights the camp. Shadows of trees appear to join in. Later, while lying down and looking at the night sky, you see a shooting star and wonder … what if that were me?

I’ve spent a good deal of time in the wilderness, alone and with others, for days and weeks at a time with no outside connection, and sometimes with little modern gear. Sometimes with drugs. It’s not hard to imagine what human existence was like, back-in-the-day.


It could very well have happened that way somewhere. Or many-wheres.

In other places 50,000 years ago perhaps it was a little more complex:
Nicholas Peterson [Tribes and Boundaries in Australia (Canberra, 1976), cited in International Systems in World History, Barry Buzan and Richard Little (Oxford, 2000), pp. 119-123] suggests that a band of 40-50 odd persons “contains too few people to form a self-sufficient breeding unit.” There would need to be loose but regular contact with bands in neighboring territories (loose due to the extent of foraging land needed to sustain the group, regular because extreme isolation is not good in times of environmental scarcity, besides the recurrent need for mating partners to avoid in-breeding (a practice generally not seen until the emergence of agrarian royalty)).
Life is (relative to later times in history!) simple here, but not simply reduced to biological functions because also important is story-telling, the passing of necessary and entertaining information in creative, hard-to-forget nuggets, explanations of the motions of the sky and the life of the earth - and sometimes just because the kids want more from the wisdom of Gramps than the pull-my-finger routine. Awareness of the natural world would entail a deep knowledge of local flora and fauna as well as crucial in-group behavioral dynamics. The knowledge of fauna alone would at the very least complicate notions of how other creatures were like or unlike people.
Everyone in this hunting community would have likely seen a corpse before and know what it means. More importantly, there would be those in the group who would remember losing loved ones before.

One morning a member of the group does not stir at dawn. If she had not been old and known to be sick… if he had not been wounded in the hunt two days ago… this would be truly alarming and worrying. What happened? Did anyone find any insect/scorpion/snake bite marks? No?!? Then… what? Why?..
Perhaps it is time to move (from this somehow cursed) camp…

But from a collective, cultural standpoint, the question of questions that would accompany “What if that were me?” would be “Since that will be me one day, what happens next?”


TJ responded very much – but much more eloquently – along the lines that I was thinking. The key here, I believe, is the differentiation between “me” and “we”. The “me” of which you speak seems to be very much your own, current, modern, “me” and I’m not convinced that such a “me” was part of those individuals 50 kya. This is one of the points that Gebser worked hard to convey.

We know, also, that other animals, some simians and elephants, for example, are aware of death of members of their bands/families, but I don’t think we’re all that clear on how they may or may not relate that event to themselves. The general assumption is most likely that they don’t for we don’t ascribe individualized consciousness to these creatures.

Burying the dead, however as I have mentioned elsewhere has been ascribed to hominoid find in Spain – albeit controversial – dated 300 kya (homo heidelbergensis), that is at a time when speech was considered rudimentary at best (which is why some consider gesturing to precede speaking, though that gesturing may have been very immediate-context related). The first agreed burial site – in Israel – is dated at 100 kya, that is, mere homo sapiens. There is general agreement, I believe, that these ancestors were not mentating in the same ways we moderns do.

The point is, if the “we” is stronger than the “me”, then it seems to follow as TJ points out that a cultural consideration may be more fruitful than an individual one.


The little story I told (above) was not intended to be entirely accurate - only to be food for thought. @patanswer and so it is, about group size and mate access, story telling and so on, i.e. group (collective) behavior; and Wilber’s lower right, collective external, quad, Blue meme (In my meta-analysis whiteboard figure at top). Mate access and selection (Darwin’s ‘sexual selection’ was the other driving force of evolution) just might be the most potent, albeit unconscious, motivation of human behavior. Wilber’s lower left, internal collective, quad, Red meme. At some point in time (@achronon does it really matter if it was 50kya or 300kya?) when consciousness as we know it (self awareness, reflection, contemplation of cause and effect, etc.), emerged (was it a “leap” / gigantic mutation, or a drip, drip?) and someone or group of someones, questioned surprising (novel?) death. And birth for that matter. After all, birth was far removed from the sexual act. These are things I ponder, being the curious fellow I am.
Also, w/r/t the individual versus the collective, the me/we, the self/other consideration - that has been a central question, and conflict, since forever, yes? Altruism and narcissism, Self sacrifice versus self preservation? Who gets the oxygen first? Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?
As to TJ’s “question of questions”: I think that is the central thesis of TMT - that people do not want to believe that it (death) will happen to them - thus all the magical (Purple & Green) and mythical (Blue) thinking. AS for Orange, the eggheads / scientists / rational, well, we’re working on it, right? AI, space, freezing DNA etc. and on.
PS @Douggins, is there no youtube video of the cafe?


Not if Gebser is correct, which I believe he is. Consciousness as we know it today is not the same consciousness that was shared by our hominoid ancestors. His mutations speak directly to the differences in the nature of consciousness. To put it in Gebserian terms, 300kya was most likely archaic, but, there are times I think some magical structure was making itself known; at 50 kya we’re at our most recent forebears, the homo sapiens, who was, I tend to think, firmly ensconced in the magical structure. Consequently, I also think that these are differences that make a difference, as Bateson would say. The error, I believe, is in thinking that how we mentate today is how humans have always mentated. And being the curious person that I am, I wonder what it was like to perceive the world in a completely different way than we do today.

We’d be in a better position to discuss the nuances, of course, if it hadn’t taken us so long to come to a general consensus that “consciousness” – whatever it actually turns out to be – even exists. We should not forget that 20 years ago, the only “officially accepted” position was that it was an illusion and didn’t really exist. :woozy_face:


Knew I forgot something. I was away for a weekend and this one slipped into the cracks. My consciousness level at that time was equivalent to 50kya, in which I took my computer and chucked it like a stone to see what would happen with this strangely shaped techno-rock.

Processing the video now . . . but the editing process will take me another 50k years. Why the infinite gods put me in control of this stuff is beyond me. Should be up soon . . .maybe before your bedtime.


Well, it got me thinking, so I appreciated it! No need for any of us to be “entirely accurate” when the experts still disagree - we’re talking about a frightfully small amount of artifacts and bone fragments to explain a million years or so. I’m inclined to believe in a ‘drip, drip’ that looks like a ‘leap’ when you turn around and see highlighted peaks in an ocean of darkness.

I do think the “we” in evidence in studies of primitive (read: original or hunter-gatherer social organization) culture is significant. Plenty or scarcity, safety or danger, even birth and death, ‘happen’ to the tribe first - so great is the interdependency; at least I’m not convinced there was much of a contest at that stage between the “individual” and the collective, which really didn’t stop winning hands-down until, well, more mental structure concepts of the ego. Or so.

I, three, am a curious fellow. Do we know if “self awareness”, “reflection”, and “contemplation of cause and effect” all arrived at the same ‘time’ in consciousness emergence? We should probably discuss what each signifies…


And at this juncture, I would like to recommend for anyone who has an hour to listen to the Weird Studies podcast from 24 April, Jeffrey J. Kripal on ‘Flipping’ out of Materialism, which addresses more directly and more fundamentally than most of us might expect one of the the most basic points of this entire discussion.

Tip o’ the chapeau to @Michael_Stumpf for turning me on to this one … really one of their best talks that I’ve heard to date.


The Stuart Davis mentioned, appears as a “fictional” character in Boomeritis, and the real person was greatly influenced by Wilber, as it appears these folks were/are.


Just saying … Loudon Wainwright III - Motel Blues (1979) - YouTube

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I saw Stuart Davis the other night. He is still residing on the Earth, I can confirm. The discussion above reminds me of one of his classic songs:


I’ve got brains
like antique floors
I built each one
on the one before
I use all three
but they don’t agree

One of them
wants to love you
Another one
would love to club you
I guess my old natures
move like glaciers

The fish became a lizard
The shrew became an ape
Will the ape become an angel?
The higher that we climb
The more the ladder sways

I’m the bastard child
the one who got
the head of Einstein
and the soul of Pol Pot
there’s no compassion
but I can split the atom

Better give me a microscope
for a different eye
Better give me a telescope
for the inward sky
and a ladder leading
up from Eden


If Ramana Maharshi
came from clay
there’s more to evolution
than a little DNA

Cut off the moorings
to the inward ark
Aiming it into
a question mark

The fish became a lizard
The shrew became an ape
will the ape
become a Mother Teresa?
She came from clay
There’s more to evolution
than a little DNA


Thanks for that (the Stuart Davis song) @madrush. Not what I expected from the book, but said book was some time ago; and but, makes total sense to me. I’m very familiar with that style/genre but within a different “tribe”.
Here is a current interview continuing the the discussion of Egghead and Caveman - touching on many subjects and specifics that we’ve talked about in many of the cafes - including what I call “The Tom Brady effect”, i.e. killing from a distance.

Even though I’m not a big Robert Wright fan, this little clip was more tolerable than most because his guest was an interesting character with some reasonable ideas about, yes, a lot of topics that have been kicked around here in the Cafés.

Even though these two appear to be as about as mental-rational as you can get, there were a couple of points – for me, at least – worth noting:

  • Some of the exchange around “happiness” (which I get the feeling was sometimes conflated with “contentment”) was interesting in light of the “bliss” discussions that came up in our Aurobindo readings. Not being a heaven-on-earther myself, I sometimes find such discussions somewhat hair-splitting. But that’s just me.

  • Von Hippel’s noting that there are significant benefits to be gleaned from good, close relationships resonated well, as did his observation that high levels of (economic) inequality tend to lead to low levels of trust and social cooperation, hence to suboptimal relationships.

  • Von Hippel’s observation that the role money actually plays in happiness is much lower than most people think can’t be expressed often enough in our current money-manic situation. (Well, more in the US than perhaps in other countries.)

  • Also the brief exchange on the differences between electoral systems and their effect on who ends up in power was something I think it worth reflecting upon. (I think it is absolutely necessary to reinforce the observation that the US (and the UK) are becoming ever harder to take and in their developments, which does not bode well for the rest of the world.)

  • And my favorite segment was on “adversarial collaboration”. This is something one of my favorite philosophers/thinkers, R.G. Collingwood never tired of advocating and practicing. I’m not sure it’s coming back in vogue – well, come to think of it, he wasn’t all that welcome with in back in the early years of the previous century – but it is both necessary and long overdue.

To be honest, what bothered me most about the talk was the incessant dominance of cost/benefit thinking and analysis throughout. This is the only evolutionary motivation? I’m not convinced, but that framing is hard to take for a whole hour. At least the social psychologist acknowledged that he still believes there is such a thing called “society”, even if the primary argumentation was economic.

My favorite quote, however, was from von Hippel: “I grew up in Alaska, but spent my early adulthood in the US.” Just where was Alaska when he was growing up?

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