Saturday, December 8, 2012

Primitive Mentality


Invisible Forces
“…to the primitive, the surrounding world is the language of spirits speaking to a spirit. It is a language which his mind does not remember ever having learnt, but which the preconnection of its collective representations make quite a natural one.” (p60)

[And in comparison] Our experience is in the sum-total of a comparatively small number of data and infinitude of inferences. (p60)

The invisible force is what gives meaning and cause to the empirical reality before them. We, on the other hand, trace it in reverse. We try to find the cause based on the empirical evidence, whereas they already know why it happens. And, it’s not that one causes the other; it is just a manifestation of the influence, an expression of the invisible forces at work. There is no separation either temporally or causally between the invisible force and its ‘effects’ or expressions.

Mystic Causality
Invisible Forces, instead of existing on a line connecting two things/events, “float around” and “radiate”, present in several places at the same time, and invoke a “supplementary dimension” unknown to us, not exactly a spatial dimension, but rather a dimension of the sum-total of experience. [Can I call this ‘meaning’?] (p91)

Mystic causality does not provide ‘evidence’, but is beyond that. No evidence is required when one already ‘knows’ why a thing has happened. (p93)

[There is a rigid structure to the mindspace. It is not empty space, as in the conscious, modern mind. There is, then, no ‘free-thinking’]

[Levy-Bruhl states] Primitives make use of cause and effect, as evidenced in their construction of implements, such as traps. [He then asks] Does this not imply careful observation of cause and effect relationship? [But then counter-queries] Is possession of a means of activity the same as being able to analyze it?

I would further that the primitive does not ‘construct’ his implements. He is only following instructions, a composite genetic-memetic program, the effectiveness of which is never questioned but mindlessly accepted as absolute.


 “What is seen in dreams is, theoretically, true. To minds which have but slight perception of the law of contradiction, and which the presence of the same thing in various places at one and the same time does not perturb in the least, what reason is there for doubting these data more than any others. …Since nothing seems more natural to him than the communication between the seen and the unseen worlds, why should he mistrust what he sees in dreams any more than what he sees with his eyes wide open?” And they are even more valuable because of their mystic origin. (p101)

“It may happen that the primitive sees in dreams circumstances which are to occur later; these circumstances are both prospective, because he foresees their happening, and they are also retrospective, because he has seen them in a dream, and having seen them thus, to his mind they have already taken place. Such a thing is an impossibility to minds governed, as ours are, by the law of contradiction, for they have a clear representation of time unfolding in a unilinear series of successive moments. How can the same event occupy two different places in this series, at a distance from each other, and thus belong to the past and the future? Such an impossibility, however, puts no strain upon prelogical mentality. …Simultaneity of data cannot be coexistent in time or space with us…” (p105)

-on the multi-presence of a person-

A man dreams about another man stealing pumpkins from his garden. The man confronts the dream-thief, and responds to his declaration of innocence:
“If you had been there, you would have taken them.”
And so the ‘character’ was actually the will of the character… It doesn’t matter what you do…

“The dream is the expression of the spirit’s will.” (p119)

The prelogical mind exists in a pre-deceptional world…an individual cannot make-up a story about some missing pumpkins in order to score a few bucks from a gullible person; none of them is capable of doing that, and therefore they are incapable of not believing that someone did not do something they saw in a dream, for example.

[Levy-Bruhl states] If a man is pretending to be your friend, a dream may explain to you the deception being undertaken. [I take this to mean that the individual is incapable of concluding a deceptive act; only the dream can do that for him. In fact, for many of the Primitive Mind, the dream is authoritative.]


Primitive Mentality has a lack of foresight; they live in a timeless world. Hence, an omen doesn’t just reveal what will happen, it is evidence that it is already happening.

And so the Indians of New France say of the whites – how could you predict it (a lunar eclipse) if it was not you who caused it?

and the Overlap of Meme-Gene

The first Bicameral-Minded Man, Julian Jaynes

When the chiefs who have died became gods of their people, is this not the overlap of meme and gene? In the same way that fit genes select more fit genes by way of sexual reproduction and heredity, fit memes do the same, but by way of ancestor worship. It is not only the genes of the chief that are seen as valuable and worth reproducing, but his memes as well, his actions, behaviors, ‘thoughts’ etc…

Emphasis on ancestor worship in decision making is indicative of the transfer from genetic transmission to memetic transmission.

-from non-physical, unseeable things to objects and communicable ideas.

-from servitudinal participation with spirits to self-controlled, conscious participation with ideas.

The first Meme-Maker himself, Richard Dawkins

The primitive man has yet to separate from the transpersonal, that is all. No object-subject, no cause-effect between two distinct things (i.e. the ‘single-strand’). It is all one for them. They are a part, but not separate. Separation through objectification and analysis. Does the modern/pre-transhuman do the opposite through a lack of reverence for the origin of ideas (in the reblogging memeverse, for example) and by the preference of anonymity, is it not a desire to be in contact with everyone, everywhere, in real-time that takes this human back through a familiar transgression beyond the limits of relative human-ness, a familiar transition between a possibly ever-vacillating collective-individual cycle? The life of a star, in fact, is so similar to this change – condense, expand, condense, etc. And surely, as the star, this too dies out. Yet, and in the same way, the iron, wrought in the nuclear furnace goes on to do its thing in the formation of a planet. At what point is the iron no longer living the tail end of a star’s life? When is a human no longer so?

What is the irreducible constituent that is human? And if we don’t know what it is, how can we preserve it during the transition? For our knowledge is the gravity that holds us together, and our knowledge of ourselves will be the only thing left to collect us again on the other side. How will we recognize ourselves? Where does our knowledge go when we die? Surely it doesn’t have to die with us. Then, is it ever ours? I am beginning to think otherwise. If anything, it is ours as a race. Even that, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to believe.

“In the Bantu conception of the cosmos, the individual does not exist.” Organized collectivity, on the other hand, is, properly speaking, the only being which has a real existence.”
-R.P.H. Trilles, Le Totemisme des Fan, p369 (in Primitive, p402)


Primitive Mentality
Lucien Levy-Bruhl, 1923, trans 1966

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