Volumes have been written concerning that ancient element of social evolution, commencing around 3500 BC, with the discovery of the first idiographic writing in the Middle East, known as civilisation. Yet still the question lingers: how do we define the attribute and process that in fact defines us, i.e. mind? Response to this question has, in the past, assumed many forms and guises, at the heart of which lie a variety of basic well-defined and organised shaping operations and processes. This entails a brain possessing the capacity to store and retrieve and which in turn is, as we have seen, the basis of both short and long-term memory.
From this multiplicity of rich endowments, man has been able to form his “gestalten`* in the form of ‘maps’ of the past and a plan for the future. Without either of these twin essentials, this present world and the universe to which it belongs could never have been ‘joined up’ by meaning and purpose. The outcome of this accomplishment, although unseen, is readily identified. It takes the form of self-awareness, at the heart of which is conscious thought, identity, feeling, motivation and intentionality, moving us on toward an increasing potential for ever-improving lifestyle and enhanced well-being.
On the fringes of and immediately outwith the perceptual scope and span of moment-by-moment awareness and activity, reside a ‘ supporting cast’ of what at first sight appear to be less coherent and more fragmentary aspects of mind. This takes the form of subliminal thought, feeling, perception and imagery etc. and beyond that even, immeasurable influences, which although being unconscious and thus never (at that precise moment of conscious awareness) entering the flow of thought and activity – do nevertheless constantly bring their influence to bear to further facilitate mode and direction. Taken together, this inextricable mix of what it is that identifies, perceives, thinks, feels, remembers, imagines, wills and determines, vastly transcends the limitations, inhibitions and restrictions of a ‘time and space’ body.
It has been estimated that somewhere between five and 10 million species of organisms do presently share this earth as their home. This in turn represents, maybe less than one per cent of that entire existence of species forming part of the earth’s geological history. Still there exists but one lineage that has advanced to the pinnacle of intelligence and culture: that is man. Thus our inheritance in the form of genes and experience have prescribed and determined the process and pathway of development. So, in ancient times, man learned to adapt to his environment and thus to survive. He learned how to support himself and his dependants and to provide as best he could for the future. As the story of life began steadily to unfold and as mind evolved at undetermined points in the history of evolution, man grew to absorb the culture into which he was born.
The summation of decisions and events in each succeeding generation ensured not only the flow of but the necessary additions/subtractions to existing culture. This process guaranteed the continuance/renewal/mutations of and in ongoing life, compatible, that is, with experience in the form of survival and appropriate evolvement. So we now witness how it is that the population, as well as the fabric and substance of its cultural framework, evolves genetically. To summarise the above paragraphs; biological processes exerted – and continue to exert – influences leading to the creation, management and shaping of culture, which in turn effects the necessary changes in biological processes.
*German word referring to the manner in which the whole may be perceived as more than the sum of it’s parts. ©SB