VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
7. Systems History: Personal and Planetary Individuation
Sabloff, Jeremy, et al, eds. The Emergence of Premodern States: New Perspectives on the Development of Complex Societies. Santa Fe: SFI Press, 2018. Santa Fe Institute anthropologists collect conference papers about endeavors to detect and quantify the presence and exemplary effect of nature’s innate self-organizing dynamics even in such primate to hominid to homo sapiens groupings. For example see Cultural Genotypes and Social Complexity by Scott Ortman, Systematic Comparative Approaches to the Archaeological Record by Laura Fortunato, and Toward a Theory of Recurrent Social Formations by Peter Peregrine.
Sanderson, Stephen, ed. Civilizations and World Systems. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1995. Learned essays in search of ways to characterize the changing rise and fall of human cultures.
The Alphabet Versus the Goddess.
New York: Viking,
Leonard Shlain (1937-2009) surgeon, renaissance person, traveler, wise author here chronicles how the advent of atomistic,discrete written letters ushered in a patriarchical, left brain dominance over a prior iconic, maternal, right brain age. This long historical spiral is only lately reaching compensation by the rise of visual, graphic media. The book cites such polarities as Dionysius/Apollo, Cuneiform/Marduk, Sappho/Ganymede. Although the thesis is stretched, its message is that human passage may be best understood and healed in terms of the feminine and masculine archetypes. Dr. Shlain's earlier classic Art & Physics (Morrow, 1991) made this class on a wider scale from cosmology to consciousness, our reality as most distinguished by this gender complementarity.
Shryock, Andrew and Daniel Lord Smail, eds.
Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present.
Berkeley: University of California Press,
While admittedly not of “big” cosmic expanse, Shryock, a University of Michigan anthropologist and Smail, a Harvard historian, with colleagues that include Mary Stiner and Clive Gamble, trace a credible trajectory from our present Holocene back to the hominid and primate Miocene Era some 5 million years ago. Per the quote, from our late vantage an embellished continuity, with recurrent nested network themes, accrues beyond the past version of “ontogeny, genesis and the Fall.”
The goal of this book is to offer a set of tools – patterns, frames, metaphors – for the telling of deep histories. These include kinshipping, fractal replication, exchange, hospitality, networks, trees, extensions, scalar integration, and the spiraling patterns of feedback intrinsic to all coevolutionary processes. Skillfully deployed, these frames and the narratives and evidence they create offer a dynamic of connectedness that can render deep time accessible to modern scholarship, thereby bringing the long ages of human history together in a single story. (xi)
Smail, Daniel Lord. On Deep History and the Brain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. We quote here from the publisher’s website, but found the work to be somewhat not up to the hype.
This brilliant and beautifully written book dissolves the logic of a beginning based on writing, civilization, or historical consciousness and offers a model for a history that escapes the continuing grip of the Judeo-Christian time frame. Daniel Lord Smail argues that, in the wake of the decade of the brain and the bestselling historical work of scientists like Jared Diamond, the time has come for fundamentally new ways of thinking about our past. He shows how recent work in evolution and paleohistory makes it possible to join the deep past with the recent past and abandon, once and for all, the idea of prehistory. Making an enormous literature accessible to the general reader, he lays out a bold new case for bringing neuroscience and neurobiology into the realm of history.
Spier, Fred. Big History and the Future of Humanity. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. The University of Amsterdam historian is a founding The University of Amsterdam historian is a founding contributor to this movement to situate and root our worldly sojourn in its stellar, galactic, and cosmic environs. From this late retrospect, a few millennia of recorded events can be integrated with a temporal continuity casting back billions of years to singular origins. As noted in Thermodynamics of Life, an overarching vectorial theme, with much reference to Eric Chaisson, appears to be an increase in energy transduction and its resultant scales of animate complexity.
Spier, Fred. The Ghost of Big History is Roaming the Earth. History and Theory. 44/2, 2005. An essay review of David Christian’s book Maps of Time by the professor of world history at Amsterdam University who is one of the few advocates of this expansive view which joins cosmos and humankind. Check Spier via Google for more info and links to some Russian work in this regard.
Spinney, Laura. History as Science. Nature. 488/24, 2012. A report on the innovative ideas of University of Connecticut historian Peter Turchin that by way of the new sciences of nonlinear mathematics we may discern within the seemingly serial chaos of human events, yet the presence of reliable patterns, which then augur for general laws. The full article can be found on Turchin’s website Cliodynamica http://cliodynamics.info, after Clio the Greek muse of history, along with much more material in support.
Swimme, Brian and Thomas Berry. The Universe Story. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. Noted more in Current Vistas, the later chapters on Human Emergence, Neolithic Village, Classic Civilizations and the Rise of Nations, written by the cultural historian Thomas Berry, convey an historic turn from an original feminine milieu to a dominant masculine paradigm with its destructive, potentially terminal consequences.
Targowski, Andrew. The Limits of Civilization. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Scientific, 2016. Noted more in Complementary Civilizations, the Western Michigan University professor of computer information systems and global citizen philosopher provides another volume of luminous cultural and environmental guidance.
Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind. New York: Harmony Books, 1991. One of the most concise, insightful, well-written accounts of the history of Western philosophy. Tarnes argues this project has been a wholly masculine intellectual quest to recover its lost feminine ground and recreate an Edenic earth. The book was reviewed earlier in Part II, World Philosophy.
For the evolution of the Western mind has been driven by a heroic impulse to forge an autonomous rational human self by separating it from the primordial unity with nature…Whether one sees this in the ancient Greek subjugation and revision of the pre-Hellenic matrifocal mythologies, in the Judaeo-Christian denial of the Great Mother Goddess, or in the Enlightenment’s exalting of the coolly self-aware rational ego radically separate from a disenchanted external nature, the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine - on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman. (441-42)
Tehranian, Majid. Towards a Fourth Civilization: The Dawning of the Informatic Age. Global Dialogue. 3/1, 2001. An overview of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001) whose imperative rapprochement may be achieved through an appreciation of a living biosphere Gaia and its cerebral noosphere. The journal issue is devoted to a search for commonalities between Western, Asian, and Islamic cultures.
The Fourth Civilization calls for a new cosmology more in tune with the common destiny of humanity facing global problems that stubbornly demand global solutions. (123)