Don Lotter
UC Davis Experimental College Course
A History of Western Culture's Relationship with the Environment
Taught each quarter from 1989-1995 (26 quarters)

(This was written in 1990.)

In this course we cover the development of some of the major forces in Western (i.e. European) consciousness that influence the way we interact with the environement and with other cultures.  The course covers periods from the Upper Paleolithic through contemporary post-modern thought as influenced by quantum physics.  This course is an exploration, yet all points of lecture are referenced to scholarly works.  I focus on giving students a few important conceptual tools to take away and work with in the future.

The theme of the course is that there is an entire side of the collective Western psyche, the "resonance mode", that has been repressed for over 2,000 years.  This is the mode of the shaman, the diviner, the witch.  It is believed to be deeply connected to the earth and to the body, i.e. somatic.  We look at the work of Plato and the development of Christianity as major reference points in the loss of the resonance mode of mind, and the ascendance of the "analogical" (i.e. dualistic - making a map of the universe) mode that characterizes Western culture today.  The contemporary recovery of the resonance mode is occurring from several distinctly different directions, and is vehemently opposed by the forces of religious fundamentalism.

The analogical, or mapmaking, mode of mind is the basis of  the current Western paradigm of science and religion. We examine the reasons why the loss of the resonance mode took place, especially its ecological and cultural origins, as well as how it happened that resonance was rejected and lost rather than kept in balance with the analogical. The loss of spiritual connection to the environment was one manifestation of the rejection of the resonance mode; another was the pervasive inculcation of sex-as-sin (the myth of original sin).  

We examine some of the historical events, people, and myths that served to reinforce this repression, plus various ways in which the repressed but not dead resonance mode has manifested itself in social upwellings throughout Western history, i.e. the Romantic poets of the 18th century, or the "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" of the '60's, the the environmental and organic farming movement.  Discarding the analogical mode (i.e. science) in order to regain the resonance mode would be a mistake. I advocate the rescue of resonant modes of the mind in Western culture while keeping the important aspects of the analogical mind.

Finally, we examine how quantum physics, the most deconstruction-proof of disciplines, and at the extreme end of the analogical-analytical mode, has, through mathematics, uncovered the resonance mode in ways that simply cannot be dismissed as hocus-pocus (a term commonly used by scientists and the media when referring to the experience of non-ordinary reality). The theories of quantum physics lay a new basis for listening to much of what mystics, NewAgers, poets and shamans have to say, and have been saying for millennia.

Topics in the course:
Some important patterns in hominid evolution
    - toolmaking: human objectification of the environment
    - human vs. animal cognition: why do we have analogical models and paradigms?
    - the function of ritual: temporarily dissolving the cognitive model in order to resonate with the world rather than observe it
Upper Paleolithic: subsistence strategies and gender
    - hunting, nomadism, and the cult of the male in the Steppes
    - gathering, horticulture, and the cult of the female
    - the megafaunal extinctions: weakening of the cult of the hunter, the female comes to the center of prehistoric European culture
    - divining the universe: ritual, cyclicity, resonance and the body
Plato's paradigm shift: the ascent of the male
    - the rise of the nomad warriors: population growth, resource allocation, and warfare
    - the Greeks: Plato, duality, analogy, the ego, the male
    - negotiating the universe: divining vs. analyzing
    - fear and suppression of the resonance way: why?
Orthodox Christianity and the entrenchment of anti-resonance forces
    - monotheism and pre-Christian myths
    - Gnosticism vs. Orthodoxy
    - the loss of the body as channel to the divine and its replacement by the church - 3 fundamental myths still driving us
    - St. Augustine, the myth of original sin, and the loss of the body
Renaissance, Enlightenment, Science, and reactions
    - beginnings of American culture: fundamentalism and Romanticism at odds
    - Puritan asceticism: further entrenchment of anti-resonance forces
Upwellings of resonance seeking consciousness
    - cult of Virgin Mary 11th century - feminine
    - 18th century Romantic
    - environmental and organic farming movements
    - "drugs, sex, and rock&roll" of the '60's
The Postmodern and quantum world
    - Einstein and Bohr: the foundations of the Cartesian/Newtonian world crumble
    - Freud and Jung: opening the trap door in the House of Consciousness
    - the mind boggling findings in quantum physics and consciousness: resonance returns through the back door
    - John Bell gives mathematical proof
    - the physiology of the resonance mode: Stan Grof, Michael Persinger
    - the physics and experimental verification of the resonance mode: Robert Jahn and the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR) lab
Resonance in other cultures: Africans, Native Americans, Chinese - how we can learn from them

Don Lotter /