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Alfred de Grazia
Department of Politics, New York University

Palaeo-anthropology has reached a stage of agitation perhaps unparalleled since the nineteenth century discoveries of palaeolithic man. Serious questions of chronology have been raised. On the one hand, it appears that hominids have been long on Earth, perhaps even five million years by certain radiodating, and have used tools for just as long a time. On the other hand, the end of the ice Age has been pushed ever nearer to the present, and with it many of the early creations of man, so that speculation upon a neolithic revolution of mind and culture flourishes. That is, human nature is proposed both to be extremely old and extremely young.

A second prominent question concerns the nature of invention. increasingly we understand that every human "invention" or practice that is a "first" cannot be called first if only because every invention is a complex of usages requiring a species that is functioning holistically. An elaborated club requires a tool for its making, a sense of design, a visualized succession of futures in which it may be used, a notion of property, a hierarchy of force, and a directed memory. Add a firehearth with its myriad implications and you have a culture.

If palaeochronology is correct even in general, and I am not sure that it is a Homo of hammer and fire appeared exceedingly early. But, if so, then why the hundreds of thousands or millions of years of stagnation? If a club, why not a panzer division and an automated whaling expedition in the next two thousand years thereafter?

It may be that the datings are quite wrong. Or perhaps Homo has undergone sharp genetic change on one or more occasions in the middle of his long course of life. Or maybe some set of profound experiences propelled him into the modernity of the neolithic age.

Without addressing itself to the first two possibilities, this paper argues the last of them. It maintains that mankind was goaded to leap into modernity by a series of horrendous environmental changes. These events of the sky and earth closed down the age of palaeolithic hammer-plus-fire people and introduced modern humans in their stead. A furious socialization and inventiveness possessed an already acculturated people.

The transformation, according to this theory, must have forcefully involved as leading elements in its development the systems of human fear and human memory.



By our third year of life we are already communicating catastrophic experiences to others. If we have not yet been catechized by religion, we may have learned to chant of catastrophe by means of fables. We may have heard repeatedly of Chicken-Licken (alias Chicken Little, Henny-Penny, "The End of the World"), and we wish to join the procession of animals that hope to be sheltered from the falling sky, seeking the protection of the king (authority), fearful lest the fox (a wicked force) eat us up in his cave, or hopeful that an owl (knowledge) will tell us that we are only imagining disaster (dreaming). This same story, with some variations, is found in many cultures. The same mental process and types of output are found everywhere. People sense fear, share it with others, and treat its symptoms by means of fable.


Psychology has long tried to pinpoint a "primal fear" or "primal anxiety" that seems to be born with us or infects us soon thereafter. The fear seems to originate very early; else why would we as infants be so eager to enter upon our therapy through chant and fable? Such therapy appears to be attachable to any object, outside or within the developing organism. By "attachable" (or should we use the term "displaceable"?) and by object," we mean that early fear can be stimulated by, and subjectively perceived as caused by, a hand, bottle, spasm, sight, noise, lifting or sinking in space, or whatever may occupy, overlay or reinforce certain neural paths that course among our glands, brains, and organs; the fear appears to have a preexisting depository somewhere within us. It has been observed to be more intense among infants who were not handled, than among those who were moved about and played with.

Close observers of the experiences of infants can see that a practically undifferentiated combination of organs may respond to stimuli in all major categories of life thrusts. The earlier in life that stress is applied the more quickly the total development of the organism. Stress stimulates the organism's hypothalamus and pituitary glands, as well as its spinal cord and celiac plexus, and the aforesaid glands release hormones (ACTH) into the blood stream that activate the adrenal cortex to release more hormones that accelerate metabolism. The system functions a few days after birth. In these senses, there is no reason to deny the assertion that primal fear may be hereditary or even pre-natal.

We may categorize the life-thrusts as centered upon control of the environment, affection, and well being (ingestion and excretion); that is, operationally, reactions to stimuli and stress can be placed into these three groupings. Later on, these categories branch out: well-being ramifies into purely organic health and the symbol system connected with it and into far-flung- economic systems with their symbols; affection spreads over an area of sexuality, respect, and altruism; control is refined into power and knowledge. The categories need not be defined here, but are merely illustrative. Behavioral patterns (and institutions) emerge from, cluster about, and fixate upon such categories. For example, infantile sexuality gives rise to sexuality, then to family control, or control of attendant's response, also to dominance, and to hierarchy - with all of their differentiated patterns from place-to-place and person-to-person. "No two snowflakes are quite alike." Here, too, we need not go farther.


Primal fear, we must admit, is observed in animals, whether infant or adult. When we say of a person "she jumped like a startled doe" we begin metaphorically what could be a minute comparison of all respects in which mammals respond to events with fearful behavior. We go to accounts of disasters, which may be read into fossil palaeontology or come from histories of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods. We note such facts as, or see that, animal and humans flee alike and together into caves to avoid flood and fire. Mammals, like people, become desperate with hunger, become aggressive and seductive with sexual lust, and learn to exploit their environments.

But now we come to that well-worn concept: "the range of response." The range of searching and reacting is very much greater among humans, marvelously greater, and even "qualitatively" greater. Human behavior is immensely expanded; furthermore, by imagination in the "hall of mirrors" that symbolism furnishes.

We discover that we have large brains. We think, "Here is the source and solution. The one unique trait of humans!" Our vastly superior range of behavior results from a capability for cerebral reflexes on a grand scale. We can gain more impressions, store more, classify them more flexibly and finely, and use them more logically to solve problems.

Our triumph is short lived. The human of today does not have a larger brain than do various fossil skeletons that were unearthed in an environment of deprivation and squalor comparing badly with the hives of bees and the houses of beavers. Yet this style of life lasted for many thousands of years. For that matter, a number of living groups and members of groups seem to be only one step ahead - largely in symbolism we mark - from the mammals around them. Moreover, we must admit that we cannot solve the most important problems that beset all animals - food, death, and survival of the species. We have solved them "in our minds" perhaps, but perhaps the animals have, too. Actually we must beg the question to proceed further. We have to say "Granted our preferences, we are the best animal on earth to achieve them." That is, we like what we like. Very well. What is it that we wish to achieve. And then we say what any animal would say if it could speak: "Self-fulfillment! We wish to be all that we might be. That is, healthy, loving, and wise. With such variations of these themes as our species can enjoy."

Well, then, where is the place for primal fear in this scheme of things? Primal fear is the uncomfortable feeling that we are about to be denied some or all of all that we want, beginning with life itself, the prerequisite to health and all else. We have never been successful as a group in becoming healthy, loving and wise. Our failures in each generation, and the failures of those who train us, make us fearful.

With these obvious statements of fact, have we not solved the problem of the origin and transmission of primal fear?


We wonder how far this simple solution has carried us. The application of invention and administration to human societies has certainly erased fears, at some times and places and in certain areas of life more than in others. We write books, build skyscrapers, land on the Moon, muster armies, plough the land deeply and neatly with machines, and compound billions of aspirin tablets. True, we suspect that some of these activities and others as well have only in part to with becoming healthy, loving, and wise. Often our activities seem to resemble a dog chasing its tail, or more abstractly, they suggest a vicious cycle.

We suspect that a great deal of what we do, of what we achieve, of how we fulfill our desires to be healthy, loving, and wise - indeed all of our history shows it - is not to become healthy, loving, and wise, but just the opposite: to suffer, to hate, and to suppress knowledge! We choose very often the bad, if not for "us" then for "others" (a mere non-psychological and pragmatic distinction); we make the bad look good; diabolism, in a word. We can identify this diabolism, the evil principle of life, as a product of the primal fear. Possibly Freud's "death - instinct" can be indicated as its product, as well.

How do we operationalize the concept "fear"? How many stones of the Cathedral of Notre Dame were laid by fear? Whatever stimulates in an organism reactions of chemical and perceived malaise, avoidance, and hostility produces fear. The greater the scope and intensity of the stimulus (which we may call deprivation, also) the greater the fear and anxiety.

The word "fear" more precisely denotes any one or a combination of chemical and behavioral activities of the organism the sheer enumeration of which would consume pages. The list grows, as more and more activities may be observed, in combination with others, to be prompted to some degree by fear. B. F. Skinner, for instance, once he acquired a keen perception of aversive training in all aspects of life, was driven to total reconstruction of society, a Walden II, where alone may all the interacting primitive mechanisms of society be avoided and substituted for by positive reinforcement of desired behavior.

Both stimulus and response may be social and/ or personal, and either or both may be conscious and/ or unconscious. Much of the time we find ourselves telling someone, "You don't know what's bothering you," which is all very well, provided that we know what is bothering him and can prove it. Down, down, we are led - and back, back!


Fear is stored as a potential response. The word "stored" is convenient but we cannot mean by it that a fear-bank is located somewhere in the organism like a slab of fat or a quart of blood. Presently, a fear-bank is a fear-capacity, that is: a capacity of a system to respond chemically and behaviorally faster, more intensively, and more extensively to a fear-producing stimulus, plus a corresponding capacity to perceive fear-stimulating events in the environment ever more finely.

The response is physically connected with objects identified by the person as the same or similar. But the identifications are not easy and automatic. The logic is not according to a rational "is" but is experiential. One proceeds analogically and culturally. One is subject to the categories of mind, gland, and anatomy in general in matching a personal historical event of fear with a present cause now of fear. But to these are added social or "racial" or collective fears. One is subject simultaneously to indoctrinated matching of the historically experienced fear with the presently socially identified cause of fear which may or may not be (for many reasons) the "true" cause of the present fear here and now.

Suppose that we call the emotional load of historical and catastrophic and present fear the "affect" of fear, thinking of it as a kind of fear-depot. In what way, if any, may we say the stored affect is hereditarily transmitted, as well as socially transmitted? If we exclude chemical, radioactive and viral materials from the term "history," a historical experience appears to be incapable of having a genetic impact on an organism that is yet to be conceived. The organism is unaffected at conception by the impact and effect of historical experience. A child is not frightened by a bomb that his mother heard long before he was conceived, but by stories of its fearfulness.

Still the organic setting of the fear mechanism is inherited. Therefore, one's personal history, whatever the person experiences that is structurally analogous to the ancestral social experience will be organically experienced with

The same types of symptoms and affect. In other words, a maze of sensible and intelligible tracks is set up genetically, and is the natural system to be used for analogous experiencing by the person or for training purposes by the group as it organizes ancestral group experiences (as symbolized) and new future experiences (as interpreted). (This general condition varies within unknown limits according to individual constitutional sensitivities to fear.)


We may recall now several principles that have occurred to us thus far:

a) The areas of fear coincide with the areas of life (the ubiquity of fear).

b) The greater the scope and intensity of the deprivation over the areas of life, the greater the fear (the fear/ deprivation covariation).

c) The greater the fear, the greater the storage of fear-affect (fear-bank).

d) Any new experience of deprivation calls into being as response the affect that is anatomically and socially determined to be analogous (the analogous fear-response).

e) The greater the stored affect, the greater the new fear. (The over-response to fear).

Now I would suggest another principle that is not, in my opinion, difficult to accept:

f) The banking of fear-affect (of anatomical and/ or social origins) is not confined strictly to a set of analogous areas of responses (the displacement of fear).

For example, anatomically there is no reason to believe that there is a distinctive mechanism in the adrenal medulla that regulates the flow of the potent drug, adrenaline, according to prescriptions marked neatly "to be used for sexual use only" or "use only in case of food deprivation," or "reserved for screaming bombs." The neural instruction to the gland is general: "Emit a little" or "Emit a lot," and there follows various juggling measures by other organs to handle the flow of adrenalin, hopefully advancing the body to a postulated, fictional "equilibrium".

The brain, especially the "higher" control centers in small crises (as perceived) and the "lower" control centers in great crises (as perceived), does manage to institute some kind of "cause-effect" or "stimulus-logical response" relation. So do many other more archaic elements of the body.

However, we must add another principle:

g) The greater the stored fear-affect and the greater the present experienced deprivation, the greater the overflow of responding affect that had been stored in remote "illogical" "unanalogous" life-areas (Excessive fear-displacement).

Take, as one of many available illustrations, the expression, "When he thought he was about to die, his whole life flashed before him." In a most traumatic experience, it may occur that every area of life becomes instantly relevant, connected, and impressed. Specialization, in fear as in other areas of experience, must surrender to generalization in the face of crisis. Crisis mobilizes: psychologically, organically, and socially.


Once more, we recall something already said, in order to fashion yet another principle. We said that historically humankind has been, if not a failure, then only a restricted success. The more marvelous and burgeoning our creations, the more reason we are given to believe that the very exuberance of our endeavors is itself a fatal sign that we have achieved little in the eternal struggle against fear. We have not become healthy, loving and wise.

h) Humankind has stored up too much fear to become healthy, loving, and wise (unhappiness through fear overload).

Wherever one is pricked by fear, the fear generalizes and is related to other areas of life. One does not have to experience on "one's own account" more than a minimum of fear-inducing experience. Most known societies have elaborate institutional and artistic machinery for building and reinforcing fears without the need of experiencing deprivations beyond the minimum. Societies carry an over-load of fear, which impresses generation after generation; hence individuals suffering frustrations must ordinarily respond with fears in a generalized rather than specialized, causally-connected way.

If this is true, what areas of life are to be held responsible for providing humankind with its most excruciating and enduring terrors? Would it be in the struggle for food? In the search for love? In the understanding of oneself and nature? Or what?

Let us speculate upon the history of these needs since the age of the hominids. Every single being who has ever lived has had a number of crises or encounters, many of them deprivational and frustrating, in all three areas. But meanwhile' in most cases, he has enjoyed certain indulgences, and he has seen that others, enjoying momentarily either better or worse experiences, are not overly agitated by his personal experiences. Whether the human race is five million or fifteen thousand years old, a continuous, varied lifetime of experiences has enveloped the individual human being.

At all times deprivation result in structural personal affect-deposits and social deposits. For example, the birth throes are agonizing for mother and infant. The anatomy registers the terror upon the infant for life, with some variance of intensity. The society encourages the mother and attendants to reduce infant pain as much as possible, and helps the mother by various rites and medicines through her agony. So with diseases, famine, sex rivalry, accidents, and conflicts.

If human existence had been nothing but these frustrations, would man be what he is today? No, we say. For he has suffered these always as an ordinary sensitive mammal. Could they have accumulated bit by bit in our customs and institutions to give us ultimately an overcharge of fear? Again we point to a largely unprogressive, artless primeval history.

But add now the experiences of local earthquakes, local storms, local volcanic eruptions and occasional meteorite falls. Would these be enough to create a person who in several thousand years moved from idiot to savant? Since these, too, have been among the eternal fund of human experiences, we must a priori deny them major effect.


However, consideration of these shocking experiences suggests that if a much greater disaster were visited upon the human species, inflicting severe deprivations of food, light, air, water, heat, affection, property, and control, extending simultaneously to practically all humans and animals, and suggesting in many ways an immense life force in human and/ or animal form, then such a disaster would bring about a massive social fear which, on top of the uniformly accruing fears, might overload the total fear-affect-bearing capacity of the human race for thousands of years. That a series of such disasters occurred in the period of the dawn of civilization seems to be highly probable. We may cite here not only the striking documentation published by Immanuel Velikovsky from religious myths and secular histories of the earliest times, but also the researches of the Renaissance and Enlightenment scholars such as Giordano Bruno and Nicolas-Antoine Boulanger, surveys of Claude Schaeffer on the comparative stratigraphy of the Near and Middle East, and the ever-mounting geological evidence of widespread destruction in Holocene times, much of which was also compiled by Velikovsky. Humanity was literally born in an epoch of disasters, and it may be correct to say that man was created by disasters.

That is to say, by principle: i) Natural catastrophes must be the origins of the overload of fear-affect that has driven man to create most of his goods and evils, his arts, and his institutions (the catastrophic fear).

And, if we accept this idea, we place it with our other principles, and say:

j) The super-experience, the super-fear, spills its affect upon other areas of life and makes them develop in multitudinous ways, all of them under the influence, the style, and the behavioral conditioning of the primal fear (the cultural ubiquity of the catastrophic fear). This catastrophic element, the "Disaster-factor," overruns all other life areas and affects them all. The catastrophic "D-factor" becomes the most widely employed model for the design of life - of religions, of governments, of transportation and commerce, of sex practices and of conflict and war. That it has been until now the least obvious and the most unconscious of human fear-burdens does not negate its presence or diminish its quantity. Its deeply buried and fully generalized character contributes to the difficulty of discovering and elaborating its origins and operations.

Since D-affect has been most pronounced in the development of affects in all value areas of life, the accumulated D-affect is greater than any single source of fear and continues to supply chemicals and behaviors when these other sources are stimulated. In this sense, then, a person today responds to the disasters of several - thousand years ago. There have been 77 reproductive generations of 33 years each since the last catastrophe located by Velikovsky in -686. Calculated as Memorial or Mnemonic generations of 60 years, that is, the years between a child and an old story-teller of the clan, the elapsed time is 44 generations. One is responding today to D-events of 44 generations of collective remembering and reburial. One does so even when one (or an intimate observer) would claim that he is responding only to fear of assault, rape, thunder, hunger, punishment or whatever.

A "D-event" is both general and terrible. It supplies these two qualities. Because it is general, it can be associated with all affect-types, that is, with areas of health, affection, knowledge, etc. Because it is terrible it provides a substantial part of the "D-analogous affect" stored in relation to such affects. Thus ordinary behaviors, then, cannot be natural; they are already constructed of D-affect and loaded with D-associations that are drawn upon habitually. Sex is not sex; commerce is not commerce; war is not war. They are all this at a higher level of affect. Very ancient catastrophes at the dawn of human nature continue to have pronounced effects upon a very wide range of behaviors making it difficult even to speak of a pure event in love, commerce, conflict, and science.



Fear stands in a reciprocal relation to memory. Each exists in the other and builds upon the other. Memory is more than an instrument of fear. It is created by fear and yet alone makes possible the constructive (destructive) elaboration of fear.

The science of remembering and forgetting - what shall it be called - mnemonology? its scope ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime; from the "'psychopathology of everyday life," as Freud put it, to the "'collective amnesia" that Velikovsky asserts of ancient catastrophes and that German educators observe as they try to teach the history of Nazism. it must deal with myths such as the Love Affair of Ares and Aphrodite in Homer's Odyssey that mask world disasters, and with nursery songs that mask the murders of kings.

We may quote what Katherine Elwers Thomas found when she explored The Real Personages of Mother Goose:

The lines of Little Bo-Peep and Little Boy Blue, which to childish minds have only quaint charm of meaning, which suggest but the gayest of blue skies and rapturous-hearted creatures disporting in daisy-pied meadows, hold in reality grim import. Across all this nursery lore there falls at times the black shadow of the headman's block and in their seeming lightness are portrayed the tragedies of kings and queens, the corruptions of opposing political parties, and stories of fanatical religious strife that have gone to make world history.

For instance, the child sings of "four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie." And "When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing." Now, "Wasn't that a tasty dish to set before the King?" The child is singing of actual history that was never heard or learned, of an incident in the grim struggle between the English Crown and the Church, during which, to appease the greed and hostility of the King, twenty-four deeds of Church land were sealed into a pouch of dough and delivered to his castle. in old slang, the "dough" was handed over; in new slang, the "bread." Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer, in his Genealogy of the Gods, writes of Memoria, daughter of Uranus, the first great sky god:

In Pieria, Memoria, ruler of the hills of Eleuther, gave birth to the Muses out of union with Zeus, son of Chronos, and thus the forgetting of ills and a rest from sorrow.

The Theogony was composed after -729, that is, during or after an era of troubled skies; but it was a mythical work "reporting" on events that had occurred hundreds and thousands of years before.

A functional psychology rests in the quoted passage. "Remembering" was no mere scratching of experience upon a tabula rasa of the mind. Memoria or Mnymosyne or "Recollector" is the mother of history (Cleo). She has as her progeny the means of controlling herself, for Zeus is the ordering paternal force. There are nine (some said three or five) muses governing the arts and sciences - dancing, music, and singing, but also history and astronomy. They will lend human memory its possibilities of selective attention, delusion, illusion, abatement, extension, a shadowing and heightening - all that is necessary to achieve that combination of remembering and forgetting which makes social life possible on a level that is higher than the level of non remembering or total amnesia. Significantly, Memoria is the daughter of Uranus, who was the grandfather of Zeus; she is no mere sprite. Her Eleuthrian Hills are the realm of freedom, so she governs freedom.

Without further ado, we may assert that the muses were created "by Zeus" to control the human memory so that humans should forget their catastrophes, and in so doing get surcease from sorrows. And that the muses will achieve this by transforming events through art and song, through myth. The memory of disasters is doctored "by Zeus" ultimately to brainwash humanity and to present the new order of heaven as proper, "law abiding," and beautiful. Hesiod, reciting this profound truth, goes on to describe how the muses work, reminding us of a combined team for domestic propaganda and psychological warfare. As a result, all the arts and sciences have been manipulated by the muses. What we know of the catastrophes must come from a "natural history" - geology, biology, physics and astronomy - and a politics, philosophy, and theology that have been censored by the muses. Additionally, we must obtain our historical material from myth, song, dances, and drama that were similarly screened. It is well to insist upon this premise, whether we come to the problem from an acquaintanceship with the natural sciences or the social sciences. The gods, and especially Jupiter-Zeus, who seems under various names to have developed the patterns of anthropological psychology among most cultures, have required this premise of us.


In a prescient passage Friedrich Nietzsche (Genealogy of Morals, 1887) stabs into the heart of the matter. He asks, "How can one create a memory for the human animal? How can one impress something upon this partly obtuse, partly flighty mind, attuned only to the passing moment, in such a way that it will stay there?"

And continues, "One can well believe that the answers and methods for solving this primeval problem were not precisely gentle; perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole prehistory of man than his mnemotechnics. 'If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in; only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory' - this is a main clause of the oldest (unhappily also the most enduring) psychology on earth. One might even say that wherever on earth solemnity, seriousness, mystery, and gloomy coloring still distinguish the life of man and a people, something of the terror that formerly attended all promises, pledges, and vows on earth is still effective: the past, the longest, deepest, and sternest past, breathes upon us and rises up in us whenever we become 'serious'. Man could never do without blood, torture, and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself; the most dreadful sacrifices and pledges (sacrifices of 'the first-born among them), the most repulsive mutilations (castration, for example), the cruelest rites of all religious cults (and all religions are at the deepest level systems of cruelties) - all this has its origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics."

Unfortunately, after this amazing passage, Nietzsche collapses. Although he immediately goes hunting for the acts that provoked such mnemotechnics, he shoots a little rabbit: the primitive forms of contract between buyers and sellers. In order to trade, men had to keep promises; in order to ensure obligations, the failure to repay had to be punished severely: thus the genealogy of morals.

We are reminded of Sigmund Freud's alternate route to fundamental error: that in the Oedipal conflict and the slaying of the father, man achieved a (bad) conscience and the need to justify and to punish. The Oedipus myth has much breadth and staying power, but a still greater and universal fear had to be imposed to support its recollection. And it is difficult to conceive of anything more grand and durable than the catastrophes attendant upon the Holocene period of Earth history.

We assert therefore that man's memory itself, the prototypical remembering, is a consequence of catastrophe more than of any other incidental or habitual interest of humanity.


All memory occurs under conditions that guarantee its imperfection. Given its mode of creation, remembering must function compatibly. No datum will enter the mind photographically. Rather the inputs will be screened not only by the senses, which themselves, in large part, perceive because of their prior social condition, but by the willingness to admit only censored data.

This holds true, as many careful studies have shown, for the most non-controversial and trivial kinds of experiences. Who says remember says select; who says memory, says forgetting.

By the time of Homer, for example, numerous natural disasters had befallen humanity. The perfect ease of the Song of Demodokos in the Odyssey of Homer about an adulterous love among the gods attests to an approaching achievement of "perfect imperfection": nothing of the original truth need be omitted, so well under control are the conditions creating imperfections. We are on our way to the climax of artistic sublimation.

The concept of "accurate memory" is a useful fiction. We are even compelled to say that it is a theocratic fiction. For the content of what is remembered is in the broadest sense religiously and politically determined. The Homerids, reciting thousands of lines from memory, were the practitioners and teachers of "accurate memory" as defined to protect society against its anxieties. The ideal canons of registering and remembering set by modern science are evidence in themselves that "you cannot trust your memory" and "independent observers have to confirm the same facts." But also the establishment of scientists as a social system lays down the rules of what is to be watched for, what is to be ignored, and what is to be distorted.

The intensity of remembering is directly proportional to the gravity of a trauma. By intensity we mean sharpness, detail, and durability in conscious and unconscious form. By gravity we mean how deeply and adversely one is affected in the major regions of his life: his physical being, his cherished ones, his group, his wealth, his control, his beliefs about the good and the true. Machiavelli said to the rulers: it is better to be feared by the people than to be loved, if you cannot be both. Fear and anxiety drove primeval humanity to invent and to organize so that it could predict and control the world, and thereupon its fears. Fear mixed itself early with love, and produced the continuous ambivalence of sexuality that is exhibited throughout the most ancient literatures.

The most intense memories are likely to occur without "willing" them. This is understandable once we consider that no one will seek to subject himself to the conditions that produce painful memories. But one will try to will a pleasant memory. How many times do people think, "I shall never forget this beautiful sunset ... I shall always remember this kindness ... I shall never forget this orgasm," only to lose their grasp of the memory shortly thereafter. If a person remembers "a kind act" done to him long ago, it is in the context of a generally unkind and fearful environment of acts. The most that can be done to "will" the memory is to tie it consciously and unconsciously to disasters and especially to institutionalize the disasters so that the group will continuously reenact them. All great historical religions are based upon these psychological operations.

The most intense memories are most likely to be unavailable to the conscious mind, and to be buried in dreams and myths. In these anxiety suppressing and anxiety-controlling mechanisms, the dream and myth language is likely to approach as close as possible to the ultimate universal, traumatic experiences, without becoming unbearable: it rides on the tracks of birth throes, sexual copulation, death scenes, violence, and conflict, including of course, all the conventional transformations of these materials into religious and political activities, routines, and institutions. This "step-down" principle works on the depth of a burial, and it brings about the selection of the next less traumatic kind of material as the screen for the more traumatizing type.

The speed of remembering is proportional to the intensity of the trauma. "The experience burned itself indelibly upon my mind," one says. A single experience is enough to cause remembering, if it is grave. If too grave, physical collapse occurs, and no further memorization is possible.

At the other extreme, in the absence of fear, interest, or even recognition, an abundance of knowledge moves, as they say of the classroom, "from the notes of the teacher to the notes of the student without passing through the mind of either."

The phenotypes of the myth are functions of the archetypes of the cultural personality. This is merely to say that the kind of story told, together with its details, are characteristics of the culture.

For instance, the Love Song of Demodokos in the Odyssey has Ares and Aphrodite (Mars and the Moon) trapped in adultery by Hephaistos, the smith god, or Vulcan, whom I identify with Pallas Athena. I place the story in the late 7th Century before the present era, 44 memorial generations ago. Some more ancient pre-Greek and proto-Greek cultures practicing group marriage would have had to find a different plot and details to screen the reiteration of the Moon and Mars encounter. It is characteristic of our partially Greek-born culture, and a proof of our cultural ancestry, that the adulterous love triangle, descended from the Greeks, is still a favorite artistic theme.


Forgetting is subject to the same rules as remembering. That is, amnesia is activated in the same way as memory. If we think of our list of rules of remembering, we substitute forgetting for remembering, and we get the following rules of forgetting.

Like remembering, forgetting is guaranteed to occur under all conditions, and to be imperfect, never complete. Nor is forgetting accurate: it is ragged, affected by many particular causes. If the popular metaphor speaks of the stream of memory, we can speak as well of the stream of forgetting. Forgetting occurs proportionate to the gravity of the trauma, and forgetting occurs without willing to forget.

The most intense forgetfulness is most likely to be available to the conscious mind; we must admit, "we cannot recall what it is that we have forgotten," when the thing forgotten is a matter of grave threat to the mind.

Forgetting, too, speeds up with the intensity of the trauma. For this reason we can believe that events that occurred perhaps only a generation before Homer, or even in his lifetime, might achieve a complete aesthetic screen at his hands. Let us imagine what may have happened in a typical disaster of the "Age of Mars," that is in the 8th and 7th centuries. I use here a model that I have developed in a forthcoming book, but if you will, you can transfer the scene to Krakatoa in 1883 or Nagasaki in 1945. Immanuel Velikovsky has discovered a mass of particulars that he has grouped and recounted in Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval.

An ordinary person is alerted and examines the sky with a foreboding of evil. A brilliant speck grows larger from day to day. He is told that it has done so before, with terrible consequences. The memory is already excited. Calendars are studied and worked over. Oracles are consulted. All group efforts are mobilized to control the menace: rituals of subservience and devotion; the stricter punishment of any suspected deviants in all areas of law and conduct; the destruction of enemies if they can be promptly engaged; the sacrifice of more and more valuable properties and persons.

Relentlessly the menace approaches. The sky is full of lights, shapes and turbulences. The Earth begins to respond - to live, to move, to split open, to smoke, to blow up strong winds, to shriek, to take fire. Thunderbolts strike down up n all sides. Our hero watches. He is exceedingly frightened, as are his family and neighbors. There may be a pandemonium in which he faints or is struck dumb; he may scramble into a temple or house or cave; he will cover his head. The young will observe more of the scene than the old.

The disaster occurs in successive kinds of turbulence, in all the various destructive - forms of earth, air, fire, and water, the primordial elements. Animals, both tame and wild, crowd in upon people, terrified, unsavage, unhungry. Eardrums are blown in or sucked out. Some are struck blind, others gassed. Strange objects and life forms drop from the sky. The sky reels. The waters gyrate madly and rush to and fro. The vista is one of universal destruction. There is nowhere to go. Cohorts disappear. Strangers appear. The survivors regroup after each incident. They are partially paralyzed with fear and despair, partly striving for survival and control.

'What god is angry? ' they wonder, if they don't already know. What other gods can they appeal to and how? What trait of a god should they address themselves to? The most important religious and political decisions of their lifetimes are made; the most sacred instruments and skills of the immemorial past are called upon in the crisis. Nothing, nobody, will ever persuade them to behave differently, or their children, or, if they can help it, their descendants into the eternal future. When the disasters subside, the survivors are crazed. They must regroup, recollect their thoughts, and do something about the memory. This is not a task for an astronomer sitting in the air-conditioned hall of a giant telescope in Arizona. Not for a sober historian. It is a task for any surviving priest-rulers: "We have been visited by gods and messengers of gods. The figures they strike in the sky are their various apparitions when destructive and punitive. Good gods and spirits fight evil ones. Our conduct displeases them: we must strengthen our observance of rituals; purify ourselves; expiate our sins; sacrifice ever more precious possessions; kill more enemies; control the libertarian; guard the names by which we call a god; and remind ourselves forevermore of the events of these days while we watch for their eventual recurrence."

Again history is quickly subverted; indeed, it has never existed in a value-free, fully detailed form. Instead memorial activities are planned by the community that will register whatever intensity on the memorial-screen is sufficient to suppress the pain of the memory of the original experience plus all preceding related and similar traumatic experiences.

We cannot be too explicit. No sooner is a disaster experienced than it is remembered; no sooner remembered than it is forgotten. All the rules about remembering are rules of forgetting.

What? Are we to believe that memory is a forgetting and to forget is to remember? We seem to be approaching this paradox; if it is not indeed an absurdity. Yet, if we resolve the paradox, we shall better understand the great mystery of myth, which bids us remember ferociously in order the more firmly and securely to forget.

The paradox disappears with one fact, well appreciated. The fact is that a memory can enter the mind, but can rarely leave it. Except by organic lesion, there is little 'forgetting. ' The biological system can scarcely throw off a memory; it can readily manipulate it.

What we call forgetting is the internal bookkeeping system of memory. From conception to death and dissolution, the system will always show a net profit. But, like many a bookkeeping system in commerce, memorial bookkeeping has numerous ways of casting the balance so as to conceal the surplus. It is with the forgotten material that the mind works to create myth, art, and hypothesis. The concept of forgetting is needed to describe the handling of the transactions of memory that permit consciousness, instrumentally rational conduct, and normal behavior.

Where is the balance cast that makes these two opposites indeed opposite? It is the functional machinery of the mind, where opposites are coined according to the needs of the moment.

Whatever stabilizes the organisms's "normalcy" is chosen; and the organism forgets conveniently. A kind of mnemonic homeostasis occurs. But the forgotten, the fearfully forgotten, becomes the Disaster-affect overload whose palaetiology was discussed in the first part of this paper, with its "good" and "bad" results.

Now the principles of the memory system may be elicited and put before you, as was done earlier with the principles of the fear system.

a) Human memory was created and subsequently sustained by catastrophic D-Fear.

b) Memory potentiates the constructive and destructive elaboration of fear out of its primeval and subsequent tracks through the forms of the arts and sciences.

c) Memory (including history or group memory) is intrinsically imperfect and a reciprocal of forgetting (amnesia).

d) Memory and amnesia increase directly with the severity of a trauma.

e) Less fearful memories surface to consciousness to function as blocks to the surfacing of more fearful memories.

f) The act of forgetting is a human mental device that functions unconsciously to balance the complex transactions between repression and recall. This process may be called mnemonic homeostasis.


Given the fear and memory systems of humanity, is there some therapy that could rid a culture of its great fear and at the same time maintain a distinction between "good" and "bad"? We have seen that anatomical and social conditioners of fear and memory complement and supplement each other, first in permitting, then encouraging, then finally demanding the D-factor pattern of human development. A theory of genetic traits (post-human acquired) or of genetic mutation is probably not necessary to explain the eternal play of good/ evil, and indulgence/ deprivation. Neither, we stress, is it useful to postulate primeval economic encounters (Nietzsche) or primeval sexual encounters (Freud) or archetypes (Jung) as the origins of conscience and civilization. The ways in which such encounters are carried on are the work partly of themselves and of each other, but in large part of great prehistoric natural disasters, involving, perforce, changes in the conditions of the skies as well as of life on earth. Ruefully, we must admit: The creation myths are more right than we have been in their exposure of what made us human.

The prospects of personal therapy and public policy for the "Disaster-affect overload" are not bright. Obviously, if our analysis is correct, we are ill prepared to meet present fears on a one-to-one basis. Rather, we must overreact continuously, instead of reacting in proportion to the need to act and in relation specifically to proven causes. Furthermore, the worse the crisis, the greater the tendency to act non-rationally and over-generally - to fire all guns of our ship at once in all directions.

Moreover, to our disappointment, if we observe social and religious movements that have caught hold of the principle of "fear-affect reduction" as a way of fulfilling people's souls and making them happier, such as the Quakers or Buddhists, we remark upon two unfortunate concomitant and probably causally-related behaviors. In the first place, such movements are themselves invariably subjected to severe social threats and deprivations in their efforts to free an obsessed society from fear. Hence, often they become too loaded down with fear themselves to be, as they desire to be, much less to cure the society. The paranoia, hysteria, and rigidity in the behavior of peace-seeker movements have not escaped comment.

Secondly, the arts and sciences, whether we speak of boiling a tasty soup or solving an abstract problem, are intricately meshed with the fear-producing institutions of society and their fear-laden histories. Therefore, fear-reducing movements tend to, and perhaps must, tear down the fabric of what is defensively genial as well as what is diabolic and fearful in a society. The Cultural Revolution of Red China, 1967-69, which attacked rigid and bureaucratic individuals and institutions, is a case in point. Even if we were to receive a lesser fear-load as a result of their activity, we would also receive a more barren culture.

Obviously there is much need for philosophy and social invention to address themselves to these two problems if a fearless benevolence is to be developed in the human race. The flamboyantly denominated Homo sapiens sapiens needs to be replaced by breeding and by cultural reconstruction. The new Homo humanitatis would lack a fear-overload and possess a pragmatic spirit.


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