Thanks for the clarifications. I’ll have to look into the early Neolithic period more when I return to my account of the link between the stages of our individual and collective developments. The evidence of Neolithic cultures is relatively scant, so we’re mainly speculating as to the extent to which they were egalitarian. Those societies represent a transition from the pragmatic egalitarianism of hunter-gatherer life to the corrupt hierarchies of theocratic civilizations. Thus, I’d expect them to be partly egalitarian and partly hierarchical. Some more evidence against their egalitarianism is found in the first two links below.

The Guardian article is particularly interesting. It points out that farmers weren’t guaranteed a surplus of crops, because of the risk of drought and famine. Indeed, there were societal collapses in the Neolithic period for that reason. Thus there was an enormous risk in the transition. Something compelling had to motivate the shift to the hard work needed for farming. My hypothesis, that subconscious disgust for the wilderness grew, due to increasing, culture-based pride in our godlike egos, helps explain why the transition would have happened despite the great dangers.

The article also points out that the degree of social inequality depends on the extent of the surplus of crops: the greater the surplus, the greater the social specialization and inequality. We should expect, then, that the surpluses increased as the farming techniques improved. The earliest Neolithic civilizations would have been pioneers who hadn’t yet mastered farming techniques, just as the earliest stone-blade carvers hadn’t perfected the art of making axes.

Obviously, my overall philosophy would have to change if it turned out that mystics are correct, our egos are illusions, and we’re all identical with a deity that underlies all natural things. I’d maintain that the language used to formulate that identification breaks down (as mystics recognize), and that the religious experience of the union may itself be an illusion, a trick of the brain.

But I don’t entirely rule out some such mystical surprise. What we’re talking about here is the question of ultimate explanations, and I’m pretty agnostic about them. I don’t think it makes much sense to ask for a “theory” of everything, since the theory would have to posit conditions that would likewise need to be explained by something else. “Absolute theory or explanation” is oxymoronic. As I argue in “Reason, Attitude, and Ultimate Reality” (link below), what matters more than what we believe about the cause of the Big Bang or whether the apparent multiplicity of nature is really just one simple mind is our attitude towards the evident mystery of such absolutes, the mystery being due to the limits of human cognition and to our capacity to cast doubt on anything.

In short, I’d lump mysticism in with the cosmicist’s point that the whole of the universe is a horrific unknown. What sort of people should we be in light of that superhuman unknown? Should we invent gods and grovel before them? Should we revolt in arrogance, viewing nature as raw material to be used for our self-aggrandizement? These questions interest me more than metaphysical or theological story-telling.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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