Hunter Gatherer Minds

  • Hunter Gatherer Minds

    Posted by Clifford Jekel on March 30, 2024 at 2:48 pm

    Pardon me if I missed this idea in TMAHE. Perhaps then someone can point me to the section. Reading Against the Grain by James Scott. Chapter 2 speaks of the impact of the agricultural revolution on animal species and follows the line of thought that we domesticated ourselves as much as our animals during this transition. There are significant physiological markers related to this transition but there are also habits-of-mind shifts that occur. This passage got me thinking about the hemispheres. I am paraphrasing …

    “It is no exaggeration to say that hunting and foraging are (in terms of complexity) as different from cereal grain farming as cereal grain farming is in turn removed from repetitive work on a modern assembly line. Each step represents a substantial narrowing of focus and a simplification of tasks.”

    In TMAHE terms, this passage might as well say “The agricultural and industrial revolutions forced us to over-use our left hemispheres.”

    I could go a hundred ways with this but am curious how it strikes others.

    Clifford Jekel replied 3 months, 3 weeks ago 3 Members · 3 Replies
  • 3 Replies
  • Don Salmon

    March 30, 2024 at 3:19 pm

    I think you’re right on the mark – in a way.

    Two things:

    (1) From the viewpoint of most contemplative philosophies, particularly Indian, the reverse is actually the case. That is, it’s not that an outer action shaped our consciousness, but that Consciousness (not human, but Divine) was shifting, and the results showed up in the human mind AND human behavior.

    (2) I’ve been saying this on this channel since it’s inception, have rarely been successful in getting it across, but as a clinical psychologist whose main work has been teaching various forms of attention, I would say at least practically speaking, we NEVER use one particular form of attention to the exclusion of another.

    Also, the overall state of consciousness is radically different from age to age (as poet Owen Barfield pointed out, the “matter” that physicists study today didn’t really exist 500 years ago!!!)

    So the kind of selective, narrow focused attention that was emphasized some 10,000 years ago, is radically different from the same form of attention today. Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart is coming out in August with what promises to be the best book on philosophy of mind ever written: “All Things Are Full of Gods.” Hart points out, as does Jean Gebser and Owen Barfield and Sri Aurobindo and countless others, that in the age of myth which began some 10 thousand years ago, fairies and subtle beings and devas and all kinds of things we think of as superstition were commonly perceived. It was understood that lightning, for example, WAS caused by the Gods, which is NOT in contradiction to the scientific “explanation” (which is really a description and not an explanation at al)

    Well, I just wanted to post a few radical suggestions. the world is infinitely more complex and more strange than our modern science and most modern philosophy (at least, the abstract kind we wrongly label “materialist”) even dream of.

  • Whit Blauvelt

    March 30, 2024 at 4:32 pm

    Clifford, That’s a brilliant question — the economic deployment of consciousness, and the productive viability of different modes in different environments.

    Something that Laura Otis in her book, Rethinking Thought, brings up is that Broca’s area (one of the LH modules long associated with language) has been shown in recent research also to be involved in sequencing which isn’t of language.

    In terms of the question you bring up here, hunting and gathering isn’t just a matter of focus on the objects sought, but on the paths to where they can be found. Paths are inherently sequential in our traverse. Language also takes paths.

    Basic agriculture also depends on paths — paths which just like hunting and gathering are relative to the path of the seasons. But as hunting or gathering or farming scale up to larger groups of people, where the leaders need to be skilled at finding the paths in the world, other members of the group become more concerned with following the paths as given them in the leaders’ words.

    So it may not just be LH/RH balance being affected here, but the balance of use of Broca’s area, and the question of whether the individual is the master chef, working directly and largely beyond language, or the helpers, strictly charged with following the verbal recipes — and with anticipating what the boss will say in extending those recipes, even beyond what’s yet been said.

    “Just following orders,” of course, can exemplify the worst of humanity. And yet, we do want recipes — even recipes for correcting the imbalance McGilchrist points to.

  • Clifford Jekel

    March 30, 2024 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks Don and Whit,

    Don- I do not discount the eastern idea of the priority of consciousness (especially Divine) in the path of humanity. I am allergic to the rank materialistic bias in much that I read – though of course physical realities are not only effects but also causes. I have not been able read most of Bently-Hart’s work it is just over my head. But I find him accessible when interviewed. Hopefully he will do a book tour 😂

    Whit- I think you are absolutely on point to emphasize the various paths. Interestingly that Ancient Greek method for memorizing a speech using loci might leverage the brain proximity of verbal and sequencing functions you referenced.

    For my own case, I am trying to use lifestyle to hunter-gather myself by expanding my daily context landscape. I hope through this the “Master” will bring my emissary to heel. Some concrete steps include developing multiple small channels of income, including crafts, storytelling, music making and other things that I ignored low those 30 years (while I was trying to make enough money to put three kids through private school and college) is one thing. Developing more intentional exercise and liturgical practices is another.

    All the best,


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