Accompanying the Metaphor

0-metaphorThe idea of evolution is often confused with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. This is in no small part because science representatives of evolutionary biology, such as Richard Dawkins, purposely confuse evolution with natural selection, usually linking Neo-Darwinistic interpretations of natural selection with evolution. This is further complicated by creationists or followers of intelligent design focusing exclusively on the theory of natural selection, interpreting the principles of that particular theory as identical with science’s understanding of evolution.

There is evolution and there are those theories we use to interpret evolution. It just so happens that many evolutionary biologists, creationists and members of the media don’t see a difference, or prefer we not see a difference. It seems to be in the interest of many individuals to muddy the difference between a theory and what a theory represents, to confuse a map and the territory.

When a metaphor seeks to represent not a particular experience, but an interpretation of an experience, the result is something like a metaphor of a metaphor. It is perhaps useful when we know that we are engaged in this particular process. A problem is that using metaphors to describe metaphors for experience is a whole lot of what being human is all about.

Maybe 4,000 generations ago, an eyeblink in evolutionary time, humans thought differently. Culture had not yet engaged. Language may still have been gestural. Our brains may still not have lateralized for speech. Most of us may have still been random-handed, like our great-ape cousins. Primary process consciousness may have been our night and day.

Primary process is a Freudian process, interpreted by Gregory Bateson to be the foundation animal consciousness, featuring one time, one place, no opposites. Primary process is the experience of an ever-present now, with little ability to estimate different times or to consider more than one location at any one time, and no ability to imagine something’s opposite. Trying to imagine something opposite results only in the appearance of that which is the thing you want to imagine the opposite of. Six different consciousnesses are associated with primary process: animal consciousness; human embryo and infant consciousness; human dream consciousness; the human unconscious; particular human altered states accessed through drugs and alcohol; and autism.

Humans, like our animal brothers and sisters, lived and breathed primary process. Something truly peculiar happened and humans evolved split consciousness. We could still access primary process, but our everyday existence featured an experience dramatically different from our sleeping nights. Split consciousness gave us the ability to exercise imagination and simultaneously have more than one time and more than one place and conceive of opposites; moreover, split consciousness was accompanied by primary process. We became both split and nonsplit beings in our daytime waking lives. Imagination and dissociation were mated with a tendency to experience the world in a way that merged a thing and what a thing represented.

Primary process does not differentiate. With primary process, a thing that represents, and a thing that is represented, are the same. In the world of dream, symbol and symbolized are merged.

We live deeply peculiar lives characterized by both extreme dissociation and compulsion to merge. This unique consciousness is understandable when approached evolutionarily. Humans feature two kinds of consciousness, and one of those two consciousnesses is unique. Accompanying this experience is our usual tendency to not exercise an ability to accompany the experience, or observe how exactly we engage in two kinds of consciousness. The result is that we often confuse the map with the territory.

As theories of evolution develop, the theorists, critics of theorists and the media describing combating viewpoints seem to specialize in forgetting that theories of evolution are metaphors for evolution. When theorists purposefully confuse evolution with a theory of evolution, when myth-believers purposefully confuse a personal experience with information that transcends personal experience, when the media focus only on describing battles instead of how battles came about, we are encouraged to confuse a thing and that which a thing represents. In other words, both science practitioners and myth-believers are often lodged in primary process and do not know it, so effortlessly are they engaged in dissociation.

This is the paradox of being human. While fully engaged in our imaginations, we often don’t notice when we are confusing a thing and what a thing represents. Able to be in multiple times and multiple places while seeing opposites, we at the same time merge two things that are different, experiencing them as the same.

There is a solution to the paradox. Identify with that part of us which is aware of, observes and patiently embraces our experience of being both split and nonsplit beings. Accompany self.

For some reason, a rather strange and astonishing result of accompanying split and nonsplit selves is an experience of compassion, interconnection and not being alone. Consider theorizing from a position where everything is relative. Map and territory are understood in the context of consciousness location. There is no truth, no answer, no right interpretation. There are no arguments. There is only sharing of experience.

The idea of evolution is often confused with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. To understand evolution, we need to accompany ourselves.

Proceed to author’s FREE book download on this subject (The book is called Evolution, Autism and Social Change). 10 minute introductory video here.

on 03/29/10 in featured, The Unconscious | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Clay says:

    Very interesting and illuminating. I’ll read this several times, to get the full message.

    Saw an interesting show last night on the Animal channel. They showed that a particular kind of monkey, (I forget which one), possessed the ability to lie! While the troop of his peers was wading about in a stream, looking for food, a non-dominant monkey sitting on a branch spied an egg that had fallen, and sunk to the bottom. He was afraid another would get to it first, and so gave the signal that meant “Snake!”, whereupon all the monkeys scrambled up the nearest branches, and looked all around for it. Meanwhile, he climbed down and got the egg!

    It seems that he had considered,”What if I…”

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