An anthropologist’s take on the collective subconscious

This past thanksgiving, I engaged an anthropologist in a conversation about our species’ evolution in the physical vs. spiritual/emotional/collective subconscious plane. It’s something that I blogged about a while ago (*read here*) and now had the opportunity to follow-up on over thanksgiving dinner.

According to anthropologist Carol, there came a breaking point in the history of our species when there was no longer enough food and space for us and apes to co-exist in the same habitat. So, we decided to leave the safety of the forest, and begin hunting in the planes. However, being out in the open planes left us vulnerable to attacks from predators. Since children, the elderly, and mothers with small children were most vulnerable to these attacks we needed to come up with a collective solution if we wanted to survive as a species. It was not a matter of individual survival, but a shift towards ensuring the survival of our group. Our eventual solution was to have the most physically fit individuals in our pack leave the safety of cover and bring back the spoils of their hunts for those who stayed behind. As a result of this, we as a species developed the capacity to share, which is apparently a trait that only we display. The closest any other species comes to sharing is when apes display “reciprocity.” When a group of apes comes across a jackpot of fruit, they become excited and start to make really loud noises. This informs other apes in the area that food is there, and they come and join the feast. Later on, when a different group of apes comes across a different mother-load of fruit, they return the favor by also making loud noises to inform other apes around them about what they found.

Flash forward to today. The depletion of our resources and desecration of our Earth is pushing us to think about the collective survival of the human race. Through this, we are starting to develop more of an awareness of our connection to each other and the earth. According to Carol, this stressor is also pushing us to think about our collective existence as a species, and to shift away from just thinking about ourselves as individuals.

Hmmmmmmm. Emotional, spiritual and psychic development has its roots in the physical… I’m going to need to give this some more thought. Maybe it’s time to re-visit Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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