Fair enough, but please take nothing I say as a “defense” or “apology” (in the philosophical-theological sense of the word) of Young (he can speak for himself and stand on his own). This is specifically a response to your kind request. (The interspersed quotes are there to help structure the flow.)
Although I’ve torn that mercilessly out of context, my initial reaction to this was: heh, heh, heh … I am not alone. I can, and do, sympathize with aversions to authorial attitude. Why do you think I had such difficulty with Sloterdijk who has even outdone my unbeloved French posties in this regard. But, as @patanswer already noted, it looks at first blush a lot less harsh than it really is. Young was and a scientist but he did not have much left over for scientism nor was he willing to acquiesce merely because his positions were not mainstream.
While there is no doubting on the one hand that the number 7 occurs often and poignantly in many unexpected places, we need to also recognize that there has been a long history of dismissing anything that even hinted at meaning in numbers, even though this was a large part of human culture and history for a a period of time that was orders of magnitude longer than the one in which we’ve been dismissive. He gives his reason for why 7, but I also know that he was very supportive of a young scholar who “borrowed” his model and for very different reasons claimed that 9 was the operative number. As it turns out, for what Young was doing, 7 worked better; for what the other guy was doing, 9 worked better, but neither of them ever claimed it-is-this-and-none-other. I believe the sevenness needs to be contextualized and not absolutized, that is all. In Ch XV he comes back to the idea of process in myth, providing us with, I find, a very different, yet insightful perspective on by-gone mentation, which in 1976 was considered hardly any more than primitive, childish, unenlightenment. (Campbell hadn’t made it on the scene yet to make myth respectable again.)
And, finally, in regard to your specific reactions:
Which is always your call whether you want to or not. Again, let’s face it, the attitude is the primary thing, and I have more than full appreciation for that. I braved out Sloterdijk to the end of volume I, but that is not something that I would ever expect anyone else to do.
But, having said all that, let me also say why I said and why I think Young is a must-read. It is not only because of what he says.
When the book first appeared in 1976, you didn’t write stuff like this without repercussions. Young is a scientist, a physicist by training, and one who realized that there were simply certain things you can’t do at certain points in history. His goal was to develop a theory of consciousness evolution (as the subtitle of his book asserts), and he purposely chose to solve an engineering problem (how to make helicopters fly) because he believed that if he succeeded, he’d have the wherewithal to pursue his real goal without having to depend upon the largess of those who otherwise wouldn’t give him the time of day. The scientific orthodoxy then was even more rabidly materialist than it is now. He succeeded and thereby avoided the otherwise certain censure that would follow, for science, for all its advantages, is not as open and generous as our idealized conceptions of it are.
Around that time, there were other physicists who were also risking and some of whom were experiencing marginalization, from Fritjof Capra to Jack Sarfatti to Fred Alan Wolfe, who were just too interested in consciousness for their own academic good. Capra and Wolfe found ways to work within the system, if you will, Sarfatti felt comfortable enough staying outside, and Young founded his own Foundation, then Institute for the Study of Consciousness to provide a forum for those who were interested in stretching the confinements of the then current scientific orthodoxy. He found a number of scholars and scientists who were willing to risk at least that much to work on ideas that are just now starting to find the respect and interest that they deserve … not because they are right, but because they are for the most part creative, open, and well-thought-through, providing runways, if you will, for others who are willing to put their own devices together for flying further. In other words, it was a very courageous book in its time.
Second, this was one of the first serious attempts to bring together science and consciousness studies. In 1976 consciousness was considered purely epiphenomenal, but it was nevertheless a phenomenon that science should have been studying, yet refused to. Most importantly, his book was a first attempt to bring together a hard science (in fact, the queen of sciences, physics) and a soft science together. This is precisely the kind of creativity that wish there were more of.
Third, the rather fantastic notion that light may be conscious is something I believe is worth thinking about, debating, and most importantly, discussing the implications of … across various domains. I doubt that it is provable one way or the other, but there is a lot of material here to talk about, to explore, and to relate to other things that we have experienced, learned, read, or may even believe.
Fourth, irrespective of its seven-fold nature, I think his process model itself is worth reflecting on and thinking about. It is a useful tool, or at least it has been for me, and there are others who have taken the model – abstracted from its initial purpose to describe consciousness evolution – and applied it to other domains. In other words, it is a way of talking and thinking about the important notion of process which is rarely explicitly but often implicitly presupposed in much modern thinking (Whitehead, de Chardin, etc.), hence it provides a more structured opportunity to talk about something that can get terribly abstract (and hence, vague) very quickly in more concrete terms.
And finally, given the age of the text and given all that has transpired since it first appeared – in science, philosophy, cultural history, psychology, and the current (I believe misguided) neuromania – there are many other issues that follow on from or are tangential to his approach … especially its open-endedness, the meaning of the trajectory he laid out, the nature and role of consciousness itself, or @patanswer’s own reaction of perhaps comparing and contrasting Young’s and Quigley’s seven-staged approachs … that would be worth exploring, which why I first suggested a kind of so-what seminar. I think Young would be very good candidate-text for precisely that kind of discussion.
But that’s just how I see him.