The Global Barkada and the Evolution of Consciousness

Fred Abraham [1]

Sir! Goddess [2] of our noetic transformation [3,4] Neither leader nor teacher, but icon of our commitment to our salvation, to the tao of self-enlightenment [5]. Warrior [6] of the mind, and challenger of our complacency as students of the mind, fertilizer to the seeds of our imagination, may our efforts, our curiosity, and our desire to learn be worthy of your confidence, your dedication, your love.

Can it be true, if Jerison (1991, pp 4-8, 13-24), the speaker for the dominator culture of science, is right in claiming that the brain evolved for the reconstruction of reality so that we can maneuver and survive in our environment, that those same brain capacities can sustain the remarkable evolution of thought and being that Thompson (1996) talks about in his book, Coming Into Being? Is it not enough of a stretch of the imagination to think that a perceptual-action machine like the brain can be capable of learning, reasoning, creativity, dreaming, and all those things that Calvin (1996, e.g., p 20) claims the neocortical machine can do by being blessed with dynamical nonlinearity as it behaves in a Darwinian or evolutionary fashion, its hexagonal macrocolumns shifting their patterns of activity within an interactive play between thought, brain, and environment? Does Rapp's pictures of dynamical (chaos) trajectories show a picture of greater complexity of these network patterns as the brain does a cognitive task compared to the lower dimensional activity in resting mental activity? Do not the research of Raichle and Squire, Givens, and Gray also support Calvin's picture of evolutionary networks in the brain, based on the same macrocolumns mentioned by Jerison (p 27) as well as Calvin? (see Flaherty, 1993, pp 108-110, 125-126, for these other references).

Can these same brain processes be the basis of not only the co-evolution of language, culture, and all other complex mental activity, including the mystical and religious experiences and management of states of consciousness mentioned by Thompson? [7] Are these revealed in myth, folktales, and the great religious and cultural epics such as the Gilgamesh, the Enuma Elish [8], the Iliad, the Ulahingan, the I Ching, the Ramayana, the Rig Veda, the Mahabarata, and the Tao Te Ching? Do they do so without further genetic evolution of the brain, or do they probably involve what Lumsden & Wilson (1983) claim [9], that culture and brain have continued to evolve beyond that claimed by Jerison, and that complex social behavior, including that of our religions, have their basis in such complex co-evolution?

If there has been a struggle of the masculine and feminine in the history of human culture and consciousness, does this have a basis in genetic differences in brain? Probably, but mainly at limbic and hypothalamic levels which interact with other neuroendocrine systems, and thus phylogenetically very old brain, at least reptilian aged, and probably not as Lumsden and Wilson might claim, in terms of possible neocortical and frontal cortical levels of brain. That is, the co-evolution is based only in terms of general features, not on specific, higly localized mechanisms or circuites innately dedicated to each comples behavior. But that raises the issue of archetypes and Jung's concepts of anima-animus, and the debate over whether Jung's concepts of the collective unconsciousness, archetype, anima-animus, and so on, have a genetic foundation, in which some archetypes would by phylogenetically very old. They would have to be if Jerison's claim that the brain is basically genetically set by 200,000 years ago is true [10].

All this brings us to our final question, or rather, Thompson's final question. In his final chapter he recapitulates his theme brought up in chapter 1 where he first claims that we are undergoing a difficult bifurcation to the noetic stage of civilization, and he his very critical of culture as being on the wrong path with its emphasis on science and technology and pop culture, a favorite postmodern theme. In the final chapter, he focuses on the Tao Te Ching, and claims that Chinese culture long ago made the same wrong choice in choosing the way of Ming Confucianism rather than Taoism. So I want to pose the following thesis as a central issue for our course:

Can the export of Philippine barkadism help save the world?

McLuhan (1964) and Thompson, and other postmodern writers (Benjamin, 1973; Baudrillard, 1983; Poster, 1989) all talk about the global village and the mode of communication (TV, the internet, fax and phone, etc) and about the homogenization of culture, and its reliance on entertainment and technology. We are embarking on a research project in Psychology 86 & 220 that focuses on the psychology of the self-determination of career and study, and using the internet in that study. The study involves asking the question of whether the large family prototype of the Philippines and the barkada life style might be somewhat in conflict with the Western type of individualization that makes for more self-determined life trajectories. We are looking at the effect of the internet and cross-cultural conversations on this process. We are asking can we synthesize the best of both approaches without having to abandon one in favor of the other. The same thing can be asked for the course of human civilization. Can our use of the internet help pave the way for a good balance between bakardian cooperation and individual creativity, choice, and self-determination? We start with a project to look at the effect of the internet on us, but this is an interactive process, and we just might develop answers to how we can affect the future course of civilization. Can we help save it from the cultural decay about which Thompson and other postmodern writers are concerned? Can we create a viable internet barkada and model our future? Shall we try?



F. D. Abraham (1996). The dynamics of creativity & the courage to be. In W. Sulis & A. Combs (Eds.), Nonlinear dynamics in human behavior. Studies of nonlinear phenomena in life science, vol. 5. Singapore: World Scientific.

Ralph H. Abraham, Chaos, Gaia, Eros. Harper, 1994.

Baudrillard, Simulations, Semiotext(e), 1983.

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", in Hannah Arendt (Eds.), Illuminations, Fontana/Collins, 1973.

William H. Calvin, The Cerebral Code, Mit, 1996.

Allan Combs, The Radiance of Being, 1996.

Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, Harper, 1987.

Barbara Engler, Personality Theories: An Introduction (3rd ed.), Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Thomas H. Flaherty et al. (Eds.), Mind and Brain. Time-Life, 1993.

Harry J. Jerison. Brain Size and the Evolution of Mind. American Museum of Natural History, 1991.

Charles J. Lumsden & Edward O. Wilson, Promethean Fire. Harvard, 1983.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McGraw-Hill, 1964.

Karl H. Pribram "Quantum Information Processing in Brain Systems and the Spiritual Nature of Mankind". Frontier Perspectives, 1996, 6 (1), 7-16.

Karl H. Pribram, Brain and the Composition of Conscious Experience. Preprint, Radford University, 1997.

Robin Robertson, A Beginner's Guide to Jungian Psychology, Nicolas-Hays, 1992.

Robin Robertson, A Beginner's Guide to Revelation, Nicolas-Hays, 1994.

William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being. St Martin's, 1996


    1. Specimen/demonstration paper, Topic 1, The Evolution of Consciousness, Psych86&220, Silliman University, Dumaguete, Philippines, Dec. 1, 1997. To show not clarity of prose, but integration of several sources onto a theme. return
    2. These terms establish various polarities, the tensions of which contribute to the co-creation of the evolution of human culture and consciousness. The first is the asymmetry between the addressee and the addressor pretend teacher and student respectively), which is quickly resolved in the next sentence to a cooperative, more symmetrical relationship. Another is the cosmological polarity between the self and the universe, and yet another between the self and society. These are also part of a co-creative cooperative relationship. The last, and most obvious is the yin-yang of gender, whose co-creativeness is the principal subject of Thompson's last chapter (Thompson, 1996, pp 247-260). Thompson appropriates the term 'noetic' from Buddhistic traditions that emphasize nonlinear, dynamical bifurcations of the mind in forms of knowing. return
    3. The transformation to the electronic, planetized, and participatory forms is the last, and current stage in the McLuhan-Thompson five-stage evolution of human culture and consciousness. The first stage, the oral, mentions evolutionary evidence based on endocasts as in Jerison. Jerison talked about the last evolution of homo brain encephalization occuring after the onset of Homo sapaiens about 250,000 years ago after which the brain stopped evolving (about 200,000 years ago, where Thompson's story begins. (Jerison, 1991, pp 72-75; Thompson, 1996, pp 3-4.) return
    4. We avoid the more sterile and less familiar term 'bifurcation' here from dynamics (chaos theory). Thompson is committed to the term, as am I, but it is a bit intrusive for the present inquiry. Thompson also notes that human culture has had too orderly a geometric and hierarchical, more Confucian than Taoist, nature for much of the past 6,000 years, but we have seen from the Chaos Video that the new geometry can express the complexity of our interactive universe quite well, and the attractors and fractals can remind us of the beauty of order within disorder in nature. The tug-of-war between order and human domination of nature, and chaos, the feminine, the underground, the goddess, as sources of fear generating the need to control them and submit them to our control, is the subject of two other great recent books, Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade (1987), and R. Abraham's Chaos, Gaia, Eros (1994), both of which point to the need for a new cooperative culture, just as Thompson requests in his final chapter. return
    5. Again, by combining the Western psychological, philosophical, and social emphasis on self with the Eastern religio-philosophical emphasis on surrender of self to the cosmos, this tension of co-creative opposites is emphasized. See Engler, 1995, Personality Theories, especially chapters on the ego psychologists, the humanist and existential psychologists, and the final chapter on Bhuddistic psychology-philosophy-religion (1995). return
    6. The warrior image, while representing the masculine or animus or dominator part of the psyche, has been used from time immemorial to describe and emphasize metaphorically the anima-animus struggle in the unity and co-creativity from the process of the interplay of oppositions. The Bhagavad Gita has its protagonist Arjuna going into battle to fight clansmen, while his charioteer, Krishna (Thompson talks of the humanization of deities, chap. 10 in the Ramanaya, another Vedic/Hindi folklore). Heraclitus used the warrior's bow and arrow for his discussion of unity from opposites, and Bhuddism uses the warrior image as well. It is interesting to note that Thompson's last chapter, entitled in part, "The Road Not Taken", was taken from a poem by Robert Frost about self-direction, self-fulfillment, and freedom of choice. Frost wrote it for a friend, pretty much as Krishna's poetry to Arjuna, urging his friend to go fight in World War I. return
    7. See Pribram (1996, 1997), for discussions of these possibilities, including the involvement of quantum theory. return
    8. An example of the evolution to a high level of abstract thought is in "The Babylonian Enuma Elish [which] is fascinating precisely because it enable us to see this transition from the arithmetic to the geometric mentality. The Enuma Elish appears around 1750 B.C.E. and ends up in its final codification in the library of Ashurbanipal in the seventh century B.C.E. The text starts out with the usual enumeration of the generation of the gods, and it has the typical lists and repetitiveness, but the conclusion of the text celebrates the achievement of form in the construction of the city of Babylon. Marduk builds Babylon out of the dismembered remains for the goddess Tiamat. The form of the city is an expression of the power of geometry to repel chaos, and it reveals the triumph of mind over matter, male over female." (Thompson, p 177.). Thompson despairs this cultural "advance", exemplified by the development of mathematical thought. He concludes, "So we can see this movement from nature to culture is homeomorphic to the Rig Veda's movement from female to male, from milk to semen." (Thompson, p178.) return
    9. Lumsden and Wilson, chaps 1 and 10. Prometheus was a Greek god (a Titan) who acted a messenger between the Gods and humans but stole the fire of the Gods and gave it to humans. It is thus an example of what Thompson characterizes as the descent of the divine to the human (chap 10) as well as the aspiration of the human to the divine. Not surprisingly, this myth comes in Gebser's age of mythology (Thompson, chap 1, pp 14-15). Thompson, chap 10, pp 215-218. return
    10. Other sources of reading on Jung can be found in Engler, Robinson (1992, 1994), and Combs. See also footnote 4, as the books by Eisler and Abraham mentioned there also deal with cultural bifurcations based on gender issues. return