This essay originally appeared in Journal of Social and Evolutionary
Systems 15(2): 187-215, 1993.
The Evolution of Expressive Culture
David G. Hays
Abstract: The capacity for integration of personality and formation of character changes in cultural evolution. Mechanisms of ego defense arisewith literacy, and mechanisms of reorganization arise in and after the Renaissance. Expressive culture, consisting of religions, magics, arts, and entertainments, etc., differentiate correspondingly. At present, levels of art, entertainment, and diversion can be distinguished by the demands they make on their audiences, and by their effects. Neurologically, the problem may be to bring cortical goals, such as the need for beauty, truth, love, and justice into concordance with animal goals, such as the need for security, sustenance, sex, and sociality. The difficulty of this problem is reflected in the prevalence of perversions.
. . . their variety in animation exhilarates; you are interested without knowing how to label the emotion . . . I think that this direct enjoyment of dancing as an activity is the central aspect of ballet style that Balanchine has rediscovered [Denby 1949, p. 116].We have no call to be surprised if the philosophers, historians, and psychologists of the modern world neglect our emotional life, nor even to be much amazed by Freud's extraordinary assertion that psychoanalysis has little to say about the emotions. For indeed the central fact about the emotional life of the West is neglect, disregard, and systemic suppression.
When our remote ancestors began to experience awareness, they must quickly have realized that they had to deal with an enormous problem that originated within themselves. Their impulses to rape, murder, dominate--take what appealed from whoever possessed it--these impulses were unpredictable, uncontrollable, inexplicable, a torment to the conscious soul. And they were likewise destructive to social life. A community of such persons cannot long endure, and in community there is strength. For fifty thousand years, more or less, our ancestors have done the best they could to pull themselves together--to integrate the impulsive life of the animal with the contemplative life of the angelic higher self. To that end they have created art and entertainment, ritual and religion, philosophy, and psychology. They have also fallen, many times and in spite of their efforts, into perversions.
In America at the end of the twentieth century, two opposed tendencies are apparent. The disregard of emotions, which has become stronger and stronger during the last five hundred years, is opposed by a movement to religions, magic, drugs, sexual freedom, and the bodily delights of neo-athleticism. This movement, which began as a revolution in the 1960s, is changing--perhaps collapsing, perhaps reorganizing on a more solid foundation. Whether or not it continues, it has been a harbinger of the end of Western success through emotionlessness. The future does not belong to emotionless cultures; the West must accept emotion or surrender the future.
When situations such as this one arise, the need for understanding becomes urgent. If free emotionality is a horror, then yielding emotional purity in hope of gaining the future is selling one's real mess of pottage for an illusory birthright. If, on the other hand, the evolution of cognitive powers has reached a level that makes it possible for ordinary individuals to maintain 'artistic control' over emotional expression, then the acceptance of impulse, and with that a leading role in future history, is a double gain. The issue is significant; it is also intricate, and to achieve understanding will require a substantial effort. The concepts and evidence have to be drawn from the several sciences that study our species as a psychic, biological, and social entity. This paper can at most offer a sketch of a framework for investigations yet to be made.
Ballet: Impulse and Artistic ControlWork toward the writing of this paper began ten years ago, when I moved to New York City and started attending performances of the New York City Ballet. A semiotician specialized in ballet had told me that this company was unquestionably the best in the world. Arlene Croce, reviewing a new ballet by George Balanchine, Robert Schumann's Davidsbundertanze , in The New Yorker (1980), hinted that the work was somehow more than a ballet [Endnote 1]. For several years I attended almost all of the 130 repertoire performances that the company gives in New York; thereafter, my frequency slowly diminished to roughly twenty performances a year.
The recognition that Balanchine holds about the same place in the history of ballet that Michelangelo or Leonardo holds in the history of plastic arts came quickly [Endnote 2]. Hubert Saal set Balanchine "beside Picasso and Stravinsky" and concluded that "his most awesome achievement was that he elevated ballet almost single-handedly from a place below the salt to a seat at the head of the table" (Newsweek , May 9,1983, quoted by Buckle & Taras, 1988, p. 326). To put the matter more directly, he converted a somewhat disreputable amusement into an art (After all, the female dancers are practically nude, and frequently take positions with their legs spread far apart, the bodies grossly exposed).
Balanchine's working career was long (Taper 1963/1984): born in 1904, he began making ballets in Russia in 1920,, and made ballets in New York until 1982; he died in 1983. During that time, techniques for training the body advanced remarkably: In athletics (Mandell 1984), gymnastics, circus, and also in dance. Around 1900, I have heard, ballet dancers took several musical beats to move into a position, which they then held in tableau [Endnote 3]. Taper (p. 360) quotes Balanchine: "If present-day critics and audiences could actually see Apollo as it was performed in 1928, 'they would laugh their heads off at how it used to be.'" At the peak of his career, Balanchine made dances in which there was no time between steps for preparation; other choreographers still allowed a pause between movements so that the dancer could shift from the end pose of one movement to the start pose of the next, but not he. Reynolds (p. 98) quotes Maria Tallchief on Firebird (1949): "it was practically impossible. The variation contained many low, fast jumps, near the floor, lots of quick footwork, sudden changes of direction, off-balance turns, turns from pointe to pointe, turned-in, turned-out positions, one after another. It was another way of moving . . . There was no time."
In London, G. B. L. Wilson, a critic, wrote in Dance News that Balanchine offended. "Similarly our hips must always be level--to be otherwise is an affront to sensibility. And when we see one of Mr. Balanchine's girls raise her leg vertically and raise her hip to get it there, a shiver of horror runs through the audience". Balanchine's reply, to Alexander Bland of The Observer , was that in England, "if you are awake it is already vulgar." Mr. Bland was not amused. (The story is told by Taper, p. 370.) Certainly in ballet before Balanchine the shoulders, pelvis, and backbone were generally held in stiff alignment, whereas Balanchine's dances require twists and curves of many kinds [Endnote 4].
Before Balanchine, dancers might move their legs and hold their arms in fixed position; or move their arms and keep their legs still or in a simple repetitive motion. Balanchine requires his dancers to coordinate, in elaborate ways, movements of trunk, arms, legs, and hands. Among the effects that he achieves, some are powerfully sexual. Looking at the City Ballet on stage, one has the impression that every muscle in every body in the company is at all times executing exactly the movement that Balanchine intended. One may also have the impression that the dancers are weightless and perfectly free to move as they please--although they are in fact working near the limit of human endurance under absolute discipline.
Thus a great genius, working in a period when the material--human neuromusculature control--was rapidly improving, took advantage of better technical control to achieve higher artistic control, and took advantage of artistic incorporate material which, without control, would have been pornographic [Endnote 5].
But this discussion leaves untouched the central question: Why and how does ballet achieve its powerful effect? At a typical performance of the City Ballet, a large part of the audience are naive. They are not familiar with the pieces being danced; many have never seen them before (the intake of breath that can be heard when the curtain rises on an effective stage set is evidence enough). They are not much expert in the art; the accounts that are published in newspapers and magazines are generally superficial, often in my judgment missing the essence of the work altogether. Audiences give ovations for performances that seem to me mediocre. Yet the difference in the crowd between entrance and exit is almost tangible. Watching the ballet has changed their mood in a favorable way. Is such a change to be seen between those entering and leaving a great museum of painting or sculpture?
A clue appears in a work that is highly idiosyncratic in both substance and form, Peter A. Bucknell's (1979) Entertainment and Ritual 600 to 1600. He deals only with England, and says (p. 189):
The 'magic' contained in these dances was something that even the dancer could not explain or understand. Because there was something outside the world around him which only dancing seemed to contact--like private prayer-so dancing was pursued in secret.In secret, but not in solitude. The people of a village would go into the woods at night to dance together, as the people of bands and villages have danced, probably, through the whole history of our species. Bucknell quotes Stubbes (Anatomy of Abuses , 2nd ed, 1583) to the effect that two-thirds of the girls who spend the night in the woods around the Maypole are "violated" (p. 185). Such activities are not acceptable to Catholic religion, or to the Anglican Church that followed it in England; and the Church was inordinately powerful in England at the time. But, reports Bucknell, the Church could not stop these dances (p. 186).
My intention is not to emphasize the sexuality; it is the 'magic' that I think most important [Endnote 6]. Balanchine captured that magic, brought it under artistic control, and the New York City audience comes into contact with something "outside the world around." For an audience that probably cannot achieve that contact by prayer, the effect is truly spectacular. Without the artistic control, and the creative genius, Balanchine's predecessors and contemporaries achieved effects of a much lower order.
So now I must ask, what is that 'magic', what is it outside the world around us, how can we achieve artistic control and so have freedom of emotional expression and the accompanying rewards at our personal disposal? How can the genius of Balanchine become the routine of everyone's everyday life? Or is emotion only to be "recollected in tranquillity" (Wordsworth, 1800) by civilized persons? Must we look into our animal selves through the filter of art, constructed only by the rare genius who immolates himself to produce it, or dare we look directly?
The Conflict of Angel and ApeIn 1970, Paul D. MacLean published an analysis of the human brain into three parts, thus, a 'triune' brain These parts were reptilian, old mammalian, and new. Without, I hope, doing much violence to either party, we can associate MacLean's reptilian brain with Freud's Id, the "It" that cannot itself be conscious but has a powerful effect on the contents and movements of conscious thought [Endnote 7]. The reptilian brain, unlike the Id, is a concrete thing that can be dissected out. By its substance and configuration, it resembles the brain of our reptilian ancestors. Note that it is larger than the brain of a reptile; we are more reptilian than the snakes. Being a neural thing, it is capable of triggering activity, both in the parts of the brain to which it is connected and in the body. When its actions trigger a specific pattern of activity in the more modem parts of the brain, I say that it has fixed a 'mode'. But what of movements?
Charles Darwin wrote a book (1872/1979) about The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Chapter III begins thus:
We now come to our third Principle, namely, that certain actions, which we recognise as expressive of certain states of the mind, are the direct result of the constitution of the nervous system, and have been from the first independent of the will, and, to a large extent, of habit. . . . Of course every movement which we make is determined by the constitution of the nervous system; but actions performed in obedience to the will, or through habit, or through the principle of antithesis, are here as far as possible excluded. Our present subject is very obscure, but, from its importance, must be discussed at some little length; and it is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance. (p. 66)Darwin's "states of the mind" are modes for me, and I shall turn to them next. First, however, let us take an example of movement (this one stands out because most of Darwin's examples concern pain, fear, and rage) (pp. 75-76):
Under a transport of Joy or of vivid Pleasure, there is a strong tendency to various purposeless movements, and to the utterance of various sounds. We see this in our young children, in their loud laughter, clapping of hands, and jumping for joy; in the bounding and barking of a dog when going for a walk with his master; and in the frisking of a horse when turned out into an open field. Joy quickens the circulation, and this stimulates the brain, which again reacts on the whole body. . . . It deserves notice, that it is chiefly the anticipation of a pleasure, and not its actual enjoyment, which leads to purposeless and extravagant movements of the body, and to the utterance of various sounds. We see this in our children when they expect any great pleasure or treat; and dogs, which have been bounding about at the sight of a plate of food, when they get it do not show their delight by any outward sign, not even by wagging their tails.Eating a plate of ice-cream (or dog food) is almost impossible if one bounds about; and furthermore, I suggest, the anticipation and the consummation are in different modes. Darwin concludes (p. 350):
On the other hand [as against certain habituated movements], many of the effects due to the excitement of the nervous system seem to be quite independent of the flow of nerve-force along the channels which have been rendered habitual by former exertions of the will. Such effects, which often reveal the state of mind of the person thus affected, cannot at present be explained; for instance, the change of colour in the hair from extreme terror or grief,--the cold sweat and the trembling of the muscles from fear,--the modified secretions of the intestinal canal,--and the failure of certain glands to act. (p. 350)Not every one of Darwin's facts is credible to me. (He reports, at second hand, loss of hair color in a man during the hour before his execution). And by and large his explanatory mechanisms are inadequate by the standards of contemporary neurology. Nevertheless, his broad scheme makes sense to me, and fits into both MacLean's theory of a reptilian brain and my views about ballet.
If the cavorting of a child anywhere in time, space, and culture is recognizable at a glance; and if the cavorting of the child resembles that of horse or dog; then ought we not agree with Darwin that the cavorting is in "the constitution of the nervous system"? That is to say, the pattern of movement is genetically fixed; a program of behavior, a fixed or modal action pattern [Endnote 8], is carried by the genome and realized during growth of the embryo. And if we do agree, then ought we not place these patterns of action in MacLean's reptilian or old mammalian brain? As these ancient components evolved, they may well have acquired new patterns; but the new patterns would have to be like the original in several respects: they must be triggered by simple analyses of the perceptual field and internal state, they must be composed of simple movements, and they must have very high capacity to execute on appropriate occasions regardless of conscious intent or "will." How many of us can avoid trembling or sweating when severely frightened? And how difficult it to constrain a child from cavorting when it feels appropriate to the child but not to the parent. Adults in the West have so perfected the control of impulse that the reader may even doubt the intensity with which the reptilian brain can urge behavior, and the amount of effort that everyone in the West, the reader included, expends every day in impulse control. I shall return to this point after presenting modes and modal switching.
The concept of mode comes from a paper by Kilmer, McCulloch, and Slum (1969). Warren McCulloch was a brilliant mathematician, and the paper had a formal object. But it introduced the idea that animals switch into modes, and while in a given mode focus their perceptions and actions toward a single purpose. Several of the modes that they listed belong to bathroom or bedroom, but among the others are grooming and nursing. Grooming is social behavior, and is to be seen in our species as well as in others. Nursing concentrates the attention of mothers at all levels, except for those mothers among us who can continue a technical conversation while giving the nipple to their young. Eating is a mode; but we have so far lost the custom of eating in eating mode that a brilliant chef once had to demand, or so it is said, that those who ate his food refrain from business conversation while eating. Etiquette is either the artistic control that permits us to eat in eating mode without giving mutual offense, or the artificial shell that blocks us out of eating mode, and which it is may vary over times and places. William L. Benzon once suggested, in private communication, that grace before meals facilitates the switch into eating mode.
Other modes, which seem to have no ancient source, are reading, talking, doing arithmetic, and so on. An opera singer, in a recital that I attended in Buffalo, talked to her audience; then turned her head toward the floor and folded her hands while the pianist played introductory bars; and then sang. Her pause, suggesting withdrawal, may have facilitated her switch into the mode necessary for singing. Stage fright, which seems to occur during the final preparations for performance, may be a sign of modal switching; if so, it is one of many hints that the process of switching is threatening and disorienting.
A modern interpretation of modes (Benzon and Hays, 1988, p. 297) would have it that, in a given mode, a specific combination of areas of the brain is active:
The idea that differential activation of various brain areas subserves modal commitment is made particularly vivid by recent techniques for displaying patterns of blood flow in the cortex (Lassen, Ingvar & Skinhoj, 1978), which show differences in patterns of neocortical activation according to such behavioral modes as voluntary movement, speaking, reading silently, reading aloud.The cortex is powerful for analysis (both digital or "linear" and figural or "holistic") and for planning. In a village or any larger community, cortical work is necessary to obtain a mate. The reptilian brain may somehow influence the selection of goals: The cortex cannot plan to obtain a mate and plan to obtain a higher salary all at once, and the Id puts sex before money. But as Darwin said, "Our present subject is very obscure, . . . and it is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance."
What may be a little less obscure is the capacity of the reptilian brain for getting into consummatory modes once the consent of a mate has been obtained. Grooming and sexual modes would then be appropriate:
Modes [such as these] are effected by facilitating information processing in those areas of the brain which are most relevant to the corresponding behavior and by turning control over to the appropriate neural centres (such as the limbic system and its evolutionary precursors; MacLean, 1978; Olds, 1977; Pribram, 1971). (Benzon and Hays 1988:297)Broadly speaking, the most primitive part of the brain, the reticular formation, seems to be like a person who knows where to go but cannot drive; the solution is to catch a taxi and give the driver the address. So the older part of the brain is the passenger, the newer part is the vehicle; and this relationship seems to hold for several levels, each older part nested within a newer part. The "motivational" relationship between levels can be formulated, then, in a vehicular principle (this concept is the product of conversations between Benzon and me). During the last few years, a good many clues have been turned up about the means that passenger components can use in setting the modes of their vehicles--via hormones, for example, that appear from time to time in the brain:
It has long been inferred that the sex steroids sensitize certain constellations of neurons for participation in patterning the experience and expression of sexual forms of behavior. In terms of computers it was as though these substances allowed the organism to switch programs for a special set of operations. (MacLean 1990, p. 345)The number of hormones is large, as might be expected for such an elaborate business as the conduct of life on earth.
The natural event, apparently, would be for the older parts of the brain to influence the higher parts to formulate and carry out plans for getting a mate, and then for lower parts (above the reticular formation but below the cortex) to be given control to execute their genetically inherited programs, their modal action patterns, for grooming and sexual intercourse. This does not appear to be the actual course of events for some persons in modern Western culture. Instead, the higher parts seem often to retain control when they should surrender it, to manage tasks for which they have no modal action patterns--to 'simulate' the activity of the lower area.
We have become accustomed in this century to the idea that the higher part of the brain might suppress the impulses of the lower, and that psychopathology can be the result. But mostly we assume that the higher, or angelic, part simply blocks sexual activity altogether. Celibacy is understandable in these terms, and a doctrine of sublimation as the driving force of art has received widespread acceptance. But my point is that, as the eater may take nourishment without entering the eating mode, so the sexual partner may carry out the act to completion without switching into sexual mode. The origins and consequences of this phenomenon are my next topic. For I believe that the most bitter conflicts in human experience are not conflicts between competing goals of the same level (as discussed by Powers, 1973, pp. 253-259), but the conflicts between reptilian and modern brain--between reticular formation and limbic system on the side of the ape, and cortex on the side of the angels.
Angelic Purpose: Cortical GoalsThe problems that appeared as soon as our ancestors became aware of problems or anything else had not disappeared by the time Shakespeare wrote his sonnet 129 on "Lust in Action" (Benzon, 1981). The man he described was driven by impulse into sexual activity, and one imagines him obtaining a mate by means little short of rape. But immediately after gratification he feels the weight of conscience. He is displeased with himself, but when the cycle is complete it begins again; he cannot quell his impulses any more than the Church could stop the night-time dances in the woods. Thus the lusty Elizabethan, whose free-and-easy life is perhaps an invention of later, better-controlled but less gratified, romantics who had not understood enough of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare wrote as England was passing from the cognitive systems found in "Rank 2" to those of "Rank 3" (Benzon and Hays, 1990). Rank 2 is literate; Rank 3 can routinely perform mental arithmetic. In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare has a Clown who suffers from the difficulty of acquiring arithmetic:
Let me see: every 'leven wether tods; every tod yields pound and odd shilling; fifteen hundred shorn, what comes the wool to?The Kittredge note says that the phrase beginning 'leven wether tods may be paraphrased "eleven wethers (castrated rams) will yield a tod (28 lbs.) of wool)". But the notes fail to explain that compters were small stones moved about on a board marked in spaces to help arithmetic (from which practice comes the word "counter" for the merchant's bench). The issue of arithmetic was, presumably, topical at that time. Rank 3 produced science, rational bureaucracy, the industrial revolution; all beyond the capacity of Rank 2 thought.
Rank 3 also produced Victorian morality [Endnote 9] and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (Sloan Wilson, 1955), equally beyond Rank 2. The changes are so broad and deep as to defy summary; think of the new conception of government embodied in the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen . Think of the laws of war and the Geneva Convention , lending for the first time protection to the civilian who was, earlier, a free target for rape and rapine, torture, and murder by any passing army; and leading also to restriction on the torture and murder of prisoners. Think of nation states, social security, universal high school education and widespread college education. Think of anti-trust laws and progressive income tax to redistribute income, raising the standard of living of the poor. The world does not operate in accordance with these high standards (see the UN Development Program's annual Human Development Report for estimates), but the standards are rarely contested in modern countries and they are obeyed to an extent that only the most optimistic could have foreseen.
The everyday behavior of the average person in a country managed (in significant part) by Rank 3 thinkers seems to me on the whole morally superior to what is found in countries managed by Rank 2 thinkers. In spite of extensive, shrill publicity given to crime in the streets of New York, much of the city is still safer for a woman alone at night than, I think, any part of London in 1600. One is less likely to suffer injury or humiliation here and now than one was there and then. Rank 3 manages to control its violent impulses [Endnote 10].
Given the power and urgency of those impulses, generated in the oldest part of the brain, the primary psychodynamic problem of our conscious species is to find a modus vivendi. The modern cortex has the neurological linkages necessary to control the impulses, to cut them off from overt behavior and even from consciousness. But mechanisms had to be invented, making use of those connections. With each rank of cognitive evolution, the power and subtlety of the mechanisms that can be constructed and executed routinely has risen. The quest for mechanisms is driven, in the large, by the necessity of social life for a species that has a poor life expectancy in isolation. In the small, what drives the quest is a set of cortical goals that has been revealed, little by little, in the course of cognitive evolution.
For Rank 3, it is possible to recognize that each quadrant of the cerebral cortex has its own genetically determined goal. The system of thought at this rank can sort out cortical modes with enough precision to permit each of these goals to manifest itself. In Rank 2, the goals were less distinctly visible; in Rank 4, the goal structure of the cortex may someday be seen far more clearly. For the moment, we can see that we have innate cravings for beauty, truth, love, and justice; and that we are ready to undertake adventure, play, love, and work to attain those goals (respectively).
To say that a biological species has an innate goal is to suggest that some dire consequence would be inevitable without it. Without the water that animals crave, their internal environments go awry and death follows. Without the sexual activity that animals above a certain evolutionary level all seek, their species would disappear. Without beauty, truth, love, and justice, the delicate information-processing activities of the human brain go out of kilter and the system crashes. Not all system crashes are immediately lethal, but they reduce the likelihood of leaving progeny; so nature selects for systems with these goals. To put the matter somewhat differently, beauty, truth, love, and justice are measures of the effectiveness of the intellection that must meet the practical requirements of physical, social, and internal systems.
The concept of "will" that Darwin uses is not much evident in contemporary psychological theory, but I do not hesitate to characterize the cortex as functioning in the manner of control systems (Powers, 1973). This cybernetic concept is not in any sense ethereal; it is necessary to the engineering of all the advanced equipment that we are proud of, from radio receivers to spaceships. Every control system is an assembly of parts so linked as to achieve a purpose. The purposes of our cybernetic machines are determined by engineers; we may assume that many purposes of the cerebral cortex are determined by cultures, and that only the facts of cultural evolution limit what these purposes may be. But we have no reason to deny the existence of genetic mechanisms that determine high-level goals in the cortex, prior to the acquisition of any culture whatsoever. In fact, the acquisition of culture would seem to presuppose the goal of acquiring it.
The cortex is well supplied with channels of input from both the interior of the body (including the brain) and the external environment. Thus, the cortex can detect a person nearby, a trembling in the limbs, and a mood of yearning. The modern person, on such an occasion, processes all that input against a background of personal and vicarious experience, reaching the conclusion "I desire" or "I love" that nearby person. But what if the brain concludes that beauty, truth, love, and justice would not be properly achieved by sexual intercourse with a person who is available and prompts the reptilian impulse? Self-condemnation follows, and the impulse is stifled.
By some such interaction as this, the cortex and the reptilian brain are at cross-purposes. Their goals are different, their analyses of any momentaneous situation are different, and all too often one says "Act!" while the other condemns action. (The reptilian brain may oppose action if it is afraid, while the cortex deems action feasible and necessary.) For fifty thousand years, this dilemma has persisted; it antedated culture, and seems to me to have given as much impetus as any other source gave to the drive toward formation and enhancement of culture; the one certainty on earth is that one must live with oneself until death, and the dilemma that I am investigating is precisely how to do that.
The consequence of failure to compromise the conflict between ape and angel is, if the ape wins, self-condemnation, and if the angel wins, the pain of frustration that transmutes into cruelty, self-destruction, and other perversions. In only a few of us has either side ever won the battle permanently; those few are called saints, devils, ascetics, mystics, psychopaths, sociopaths, and so on. Almost all of us fit, to some degree, the pattern of Shakespeare's sonnet: Able to achieve neither perfect release nor perfect self-mastery.
The Evolution of Beauty
The profound affinity between play and order is perhaps the reason why play . . . seems to lie to such a large extent in the field of aesthetics. Play has a tendency to be beautiful [Huizinga, 1955, p. 10].Endnote 11]. What this means is that chanting was readily available; it needed only the omission of the cognitive overlay, and omission is easy. Wailing together after a death, singing together before sex, and boasting (wordlessly) together before a fight would mobilize the sociality that is one of our most salient biological characteristics. Although cultures of this rank have been described by Western visitors who came to them before much of other cultures had filtered in, I know of no source for the statement that I must now make, for discussions of inward experience are very little to be found in the ethnographic literature. I speculate, therefore, that sociality, aroused by rhythmic vocalization with the whole band in a single mode, yielded for the individual participant a sense of inner integrity, and gave sanction for release of the most powerful impulses--sex, rage, and grief--with some degree of social selection of targets. In Rank 1, society is the sole source of personal coherence.
Movement requires a different account. Our species emerged with modal action patterns from its ancestry, and with a rather new capacity for direct guidance of movement by the cerebral cortex. The eye-hand coordination that we exploit in all skilled doing requires cortical involvement, because no lower level can make a sufficiently refined analysis of visual input. Nor, I think, can lower levels generate such a great diversity of fine, exactly controlled movements (cf. Calvin, 1983). Modal action patterns of grooming, nursing, sexual coupling, and so on, provide no generalized basis for manipulation and navigation (bipedal walking). A flow of sound can be modulated to carry any information whatsoever, but the specific actions of emotional modes cannot be exploited in the formation of a repertoire of skills.
Human adult manipulation and navigation are therefore not overlaid on antecedent modal patterns as speech is overlaid as a modulation on the antecedent vocal call system. There is, however, a contrary possibility: That movements which, released in full, would constitute the modal action patterns of emotional modes, can be released in part as modifiers of cortically controlled movements. These movements are, in my opinion, the source of the spatiotemporal curves that Manfred Clynes (1970; cf. 1982) elicited in association with the words "love, sex, anger, reverence, grief, joy." He called these curves essentic forms [Endnote 12]. His technique read the curves from pressure exerted by a forefinger; Darwin wrote of jumping with joy, an event familiar to everyone. I have the impression that Darwin and Clynes were observing behaviors generated from a single source, but restricted to the finger by neural gates in Clynes's setup.
Dancing in Rank 1 might therefore be either the emission of an essentic form, or the modulation of gross body movements by an essentic form, by all the members of a group at once. What seems most plausible to me at this time is that both of these, and mixtures of them, have occurred. The result, in any case, would be stimulation of the sense of sociality.
Two other capacities of the nervous system are relevant. One is synchrony (William Condon & Sander, 1974a, 1974b). Our species can come in on the beat without a conductor, quickly and easily, and does so in the course of ordinary social conversation, beginning on the first day of life. A human listener moving a hand or foot times the movements to the beat of the speaker. Looking at couples moving about in public spaces, I have observed a high proportion walking in step. Both singing and dancing together heighten social synchrony; and I speculate that synchrony is the main channel of awareness of sociality.
And there is also the fundamental significance of cycle time in the nervous system. Each of Clynes's essentic forms has a characteristic duration. For heartbeat or breathing to speed up or slowdown a little has emotional significance. The rate of repetition of dance steps or chant syllables must be tied closely to these biologically determined rates.
Rank 1 cultures have produced clay figurines, sculptures in wood and soapstone, trinkets of metal, and other objects. Gombrich (1960/1969) interprets these as replications, not representations, of nature [Endnote 13]. The clay animal has, in a magical sense, the same significance as the living animal.
In brief, then, the participant in Rank 1 culture has scant information processing techniques for the analysis of perception, the formulation and execution of movements, and the interpretation of experience. Such a person undergoes modal switches with little capacity to control them and little understanding of them; what control exists is mainly in the group and not the individual. To maintain the sense of a continuous self is not easy (Benzon suggests, privately), and some of their lore is directed to that end. But fears and confusions are hard to manage, and failure leads to perversions: warfare between small neighboring groups, torture, cruel tattooing of young boys, disfigurement of male and female genitalia, and so on through a long repertoire. Cannibalism is a disputed topic, but headhunting and human sacrifice are not disputed at all. One study, much criticized, has it that in some eighty percent of Rank 1 cultures, some thirty percent of males die violently in youth, and the sex ratio is balanced by female infanticide (Divale, 1970). An example ready to hand concerns the Yir Yoront of Australia:
During the 1930's their raiding and fighting, their trading and stealing of women, their evisceration and two- or three-year care of their dead, their totemic ceremonies continued apparently uninhibited by western influences. In 1931 they killed a European who wandered into their territory from the east, . . . In 1934, the anthropologist observed a case of extra-tribal revenge cannibalism [Sharp, 1952/1965, p. 72].Sharp, the author of a 1934 ethnography of these people, is presumably himself "the anthropologist" cited.
Taking all these unpleasant facts as a measure of the inadequacy of Rank 1 methods of personality integration, and assuming that the internal experience that drove this behavior was as unpleasant for them as their conduct is for us, we can well conclude that many persons had strong reason to think out better ways of living. Rank 1 made two essential contributions to human progress: First, it maintained over a very long period a rate of population growth that forced humanity to spread over the entire useable surface of the earth, displaying the competence required for survival in a long sequence of new environments; that broad range enhanced the species's hope of long-term survival. Second, as population density rose at the center, Rank 1 cultures found a way of producing enough food for survival; and when the density was high enough, Rank 2 emerged. Given the cognitive and emotional limitations of Rank 1, these achievements are among the most laudable in all history.
The Competition of Love and BeautyIn comparing Rank 2 with Rank 1, we can make a long list of differences. Rank 2 did (and does) live by agriculture; lives in cities and their environs; writes; uses the wheel and the plow; keeps domesticated animals for meat and to pull the plow and cart; makes and fires clay pots; uses metal tools; and eventually grinds its corn and presses its grapes and olives with the power of water or animals.
What interests me here, however, is the appearance (in the Mediterranean basin) of Hebrew religion and of Greek philosophy and an All appeared after writing was well established and after a form of governance that Leslie White (1959) called the church-state had superseded, in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece, the familistic governance of chiefdoms. The paramount chief of a group of villages is a big father; the great one in a church-state is a god-king, a living idol--who may, however, lead the worship of a stone idol greater than himself. This vast generalization from family ties expands the sense of sociality, but gives only a finite sense. The transformation made by the Hebrews and the Greeks opened the sense of sociality up to infinity.
The Mosaic Commandments have, in the perspective of conflict between angel and ape, a new look. Traditional thought, I believe, would have it that Moses imposed on an unwilling people a set of virtues that would quell their unruliness and, as some suppose, make them governable. Instead, I suggest, he provided a justification for the cortical goals that they felt but could not so well express. Like other charismatic leaders, he told them that they must do what they wanted to do but could not justify doing. If one drools for a thing, the Id impulse is to take it; but the cortical goal of justice is not met by stealing. The ancient Hebrews had no more awareness of cortical goals than does the modern sociobiologist. Moses says, "Thou shalt not steal," attributing the commandment to a powerful God, and thus warrants the self-restriction. Mosaic religion aids personality integration by setting limits. The impulse to sex is confined to marriage, the impulse to violence is confined to enemies of the nation, and so on. Eventually, the prophet says that "Thou shalt love . . . thy neighbor as thyself (Leviticus 19:18) and Jesus enunciates the Golden Rule. Early Judaism seems to be a religion of justice, developing over a millennium toward a Christianity of love. Both suggest a capacity to focalize cortical activity beyond the capacity of Rank I. The justice of Judaism is connected, appropriately as I see it, with a recognition of work To work with expectation of a just reward is satisfying, and that was the outcome promised. To work without expectation of reward is also satisfying; love is satisfied by the welfare of the loved one. The Judeo-Christian system is oriented to the life of the individual in society.
Among the cortical goals, love and justice stand in opposite quadrants, love in the right front and justice in the left rear. (The arguments to support this speculation are not clear enough to publish [Endnote 14].) That a culture struggling to sort out its cortical functions would discover one goal and proceed to the one diametrically opposed seems to me plausible.
In Greece, during this period, two inventions occurred. One, as Gombrich puts it, was mimesis. The mimetic maker separated reality from fiction as none had done before. Furthermore, the Greeks began to pose their statues in action, to put expressions on faces. These are great novelties, and suggest to me--but not to Gombrich, who rejects any thought of evolution --that the Greeks were achieving new capacities for analysis of perception as well as new manual skill. The other Greek invention was philosophy. It was not science; certainly no Greek had a modern conception of the relationship between theory and observation. Plato took reality to be as hard to perceive as Christian Heaven; his theoretical domain was more real to him than the world perceived. If we today might say that the domain of ideals is to the world around us as fiction is to reality, he made the analogy the other way around.
The significant aspect of Greek philosophy, however, is that they thought of doing it. They thought of using verbal argument to deal with problems of nature and of conduct. They formulated a concept of The Good--many concepts, I suppose. But with their concentration on truth and beauty, the Greeks show an orientation to nature rather than to society.
Greek culture emerged with a continuing debate between poet and philosopher. The cortical goal of truth belongs to the left front quadrant, beauty to the right rear. Like the Hebrews, the Greeks fixed their attention on a pair of diametric opposites.
The Hebrews with their new religion, and the Greeks with their distinction between reality and fiction, seem to me to be sharpening the capacities of a kind of cortex that exists in each quadrant, or corner, of the cortex. As tissue, it is called "tertiary"; as component of a cognitive system, its function is "gnomonic". In Cognitive Structures (1981) I proposed a superordinate level; subsequent unpublished work led me to a more specific proposal: Cognition occurs on three levels, gnomonic, episodic, and systemic. Only on the episodic level is cognitive material marked with respect to time and place. The systemic level might be likened to dictionary or thesaurus. The highest, timeless level, gnomonic, contains the axioms of the whole system. Beauty, truth, love, and Justice are gnomonic goals. The sense of infinity and eternity, which may have arisen among the Greeks and is with us still, shows a vague consciousness of the gnomonic, as the sense of horror shows a vague consciousness of the reptilian. Neither gnomonic nor reptilian is accessible to awareness, but we do succeed in giving verbal formulation to their contents by metaphors arising in introspection or meditation. Psychoanalysis looks more to the reptilian; mysticism looks more to the gnomonic.
In Rank 1, the contents of the gnomonic level is revealed in proverbs. Rank 2 educates the gnomonic level, and indicates its content in the verbalizations of philosophy and theology.
The expressive culture of Rank 2 in India takes other routes.
More in harmony with the passive other-worldliness of the Indian masses are physical activities that are private and demand extreme self-discipline. Some peculiar Indian physical activities are intended to help the individual to subjugate the external aspects of existence to the spiritual and timeless. Some yoga exercises such as the lotus position or standing on the head may appear to westerners as if intended to be showy, but the object of these and more spectacular exercises is to transcend the body by conquering its everyday limitations. Similarly, certain ancient Indian breathing exercises have as their purpose to deprive the brain temporarily of oxygen and so to induce visions of a universe apart from and superior to the ordinary world of the flesh. However fetchingly sensual classical Indian dance may appear to the western observer, its practitioners are not celebrants of sweaty physical effort, but communicators in refined symbolic language of traditional myths. It might be observed here that many esthetes of our own time analogously misobserve sun-illuminated medieval European stained glass windows. Most traditional Indian dances, like the windows at Chartres, are intended to be more vividly instructive by obliterating with beauty the spectators' mundane critical intelligence [Mandell, 1984, p. 90].The gnomonic is recognizable in "the spiritual and timeless." The use of oxygen deprivation is a reminder that the brain is a biological entity; its operation can be influenced by perceptions, actions, and chemical intrusions. The tension between ape and angel is everywhere apparent in the paragraph quoted above. And the obliteration of "critical intelligence" by beauty is close to my thesis.
Another manifestation of gnomonic content is the making of things which cannot be consumed to satisfy a physiological need, or used in the process of providing consumables. Although the word "art" is ordinarily used to cover all of what I intend here, the painting and sculpture of Europe from the Renaissance through the middle of the twentieth century has unique characteristics that warrant giving it a name of its own, and none is better than "art." For the moment, let us call the desirable but economically useless things of Rank 1 "pre-art," and those of Rank 2 "proto-art."
In the sixth century B.C. in Greece, there were the Dionysian dances:
In many towns of Greece, every alternate year, Bacchanalian assemblies of women gather together and it is the custom for maidens to carry the thyrsus [which bore a phallic symbol] and to revel together, honouring and glorifying the god; and for married women to worship the god in organized bands and to revel in every way to celebrate the presence of Dionysus, imitating the Maenads who of old, it is said, constantly attended the god [Diodorus, 1st century B.C., quoted by Bland, 1976, p. 23].One can feel the magic here, as in England before its Renaissance. Pisistratus, who ruled Athens from 560 B.C. to about 527 B.C., constructed City Dionysia in 534 B.C. (Aylen 1985). During this time, Thespis inserted prologues and interludes into dance drama. A single person spoke the text.
In the fifth century B.C., the Greek drama reached a higher level than this; Aeschylus obtained the services of a second actor, and Sophocles of a third. Their plays were partly danced: "the center of the mystery that is the Athenian theater lies in the dance" (Aylen, 1985, p. 19). Drama was not without its magic, not sharply differentiated from religion: "the Athenian theater of the fifth century . . . was a totality of experience, in which religion, poetry, and theatricality were inseparable: every play was an act of moral and political commitment; every play was an act of worship, and it was through this that every aspect of theater was held in balance with all the others" (Aylen, 1985, p. 20). Attendance was obligatory, and participation a duty. Drama emerged slowly from rituals of dance and chant [Endnote 15].
Nor did Christianity begin as an austere rite. Bucknell writes that early bishops led the dance in the church choir (p. 31), and that St. Augustine, in the fourth century A.D., noted the dance of Jesus, still a sacred rite of initiation (p. 191). Today's Holy Rollers may be our best illustration of what it was like to be a Christian in the early centuries.
As the Greeks elaborated the content of the gnomonic level, and in that way made it possible to control more precisely the content of episodic and systemic levels--in common parlance, became rational--they created a new situation. Among them, some acquired the culture of Rank 2; the majority, of course, did not. Ceremonies, spectacles, and every part of expressive culture had to be, for the majority, essentially no more complex than in Rank 1. Insofar as persons bearing the new Rank 2 culture took part in the preparation of events or objects for the majority, the content might be different from anything in a Rank 1 society--but not essentially more sophisticated. The most plausible speculation I can find is that the dances and drama of the majority in Rank 2 continued to seek the magic as before.
But the texts prepared by Rank 2 writers for Rank 2 readers included, as I see it, some that eschewed the magic. Instead these texts sought to transmit, to inculcate, to fix in the minds of readers the new system of thought of Rank 2. And among these texts with "higher" purposes, some were didactic but some were proto-art, written for emotional effect. With Rank 2 processes of cognition, one could control impulse more effectively. Did the poet know that? Certainly not. Did the poet feel that? Quite possibly. The processes in the reader, or in the spectator at the most advanced drama, might consist of the pity, terror, and catharsis that Aristotle identified. The construction of Rank 2 literature is simpler than that of Rank 3; and the reactions of the reader or auditor are simpler. Let us put it that verbal proto-art induces a mode, or a sequence of modes, or a modal conflict; and resolves what it has aroused. By metaphorical interpretation, the audience can arrive at a better conceptual grasp of emotional life, and in fantasy execute modal action patterns that are prohibited in Rank 2 life. Catharsis is a powerful experience, but it is not the magic.
Rank 2 is tainted with perversion. Religion is intolerant; tortures, at their zenith in the Spanish Inquisition (late in time, but still Rank 2); religious warfare between Christians and Muslims or between Protestants and Catholics (among many opposed pairs); Puritanical repression of communities by unbending elders; restrictions on abortion, on contraception, and on the distribution of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS (for the thinking of Rank 2 remains powerful in the world today); and forced conversion of pagans, with no concern whatsoever for side effects (as disgust with nudity led missionaries to stop Polynesians from daily bathing, and increased the spread of disease). Celibacy itself must be counted as a perversion. The treatment of children, under the doctrine of original sin (and other doctrines, for that matter), was never tender and understanding. The perversion is not specific to religion; witness the spectacles of Rome (Twitchell, 1989).
When Rank 2 thinkers acquire political power in the modern world, we call them authoritarian The ordinary person with Rank 2 character is dependent, psychically, on the great leader. The Rank 2 leader, in turn, regards the ordinary person as incapable of thought, of analysis and planning, of reaching valid decisions. Overtly, the requirement is strict obedience. Within the cognitive and emotional system of the individual, the effect is constriction of possibilities. Personality must be integrated within the limits of whatever is locally permissible.
Since religion is intrinsically a phenomenon of Rank 2, it follows that religions are authoritarian and constrictive of personality. The character of a Rank 2 religious person is stronger than that of a Rank 1 person; the constriction is not so strict in Rank 2. Nor is the perversion of Rank 2 so broad and deep as in Rank 1. In Athens, it is said, one could move about freely without a weapon. Trust extended further; commerce spread and grew in volume.
The achievement of Rank 2 was to bring knowledge of the whole world, of utterly different cultures, together in one place. That place was Europe, and the time was the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. China had locked itself up; India had never gotten itself together; and the Mediterranean basin had failed to hold itself together in the face of invasions and disasters. When Europe came out of the Dark Ages (which were Dark in Europe in spite of what has been written in their defense), it rose from Rank 1 through Rank 2 to Rank 3 in a few hundred years.
Endnote 16]. Artists there and then learned to see in a new way, and began the construction of illusionist painting (Gombrich). In the sixteenth century, observation and mathematics coalesced in science. But it was not until the eighteenth century that psychopolitical advances fixed a new way of life.
To live as a thinking person in an incomprehensible world is a parlous condition. Until science began to formulate its general explanations, that parlous condition was the condition of our species. Simple knowledge makes an emotional difference. But the change between Rank 2 and Rank 3 goes deeper than simple knowing; after all, if knowledge were required for emotional stability, few of us would be better off than our remote ancestors. We do not know, most of us, very much of physical, chemical, or biological theory. What we know is that others do know. The world is neither animate like ourselves, every plant and stone inhabited by a spirit that must be propitiated before we can eat a vegetable or build a wall, nor the immediate manifestation of God's will, susceptible of miraculous and hence unpredictable alteration at God's whim. The world, science teaches us, is consistent, coherent, and stable. Nature may make leaps, according to the latest theories, but the strong belief that nature did not make leaps gave our ancestors for three hundred years the courage to extend themselves in many dimensions.
Arithmetic, as we infer from brain scans, is a cortical mode. Before the decimal system and its algorithms for addition and the rest came to Europe, from the Arabs through Florence, after 1200, there was no such mode in the West. A new cortical mode involves the cooperative activation of patches of tissue that have not worked together before. Perhaps the modes that go with reading and with arithmetic can be imitated; those who learn to read may have not just the one mode of reading but a whole family of modes analogous to the reading mode; and those who learn arithmetic may acquire the capacity for learning of another family of modes. This speculation reaches far beyond any data known to me, but there are by now many studies of the differences between literate and nonliterate persons, cultures, and eras.
The difference in the West between Rank 2 and Rank 3 is far greater than the difference between Rank 1 and Rank 2. With Rank 3 there come periods of peace, but also periods of intense warfare (about which I have something to say, below). Industry is born. Disease is partially controlled, by sanitation and medicine. Famine is reduced Length of life increases; the middle years, from ten to sixty, are freed from the fear of immediate death. Nations form, and organize education; over the centuries, the percentage of the population educated to any level increases. The treatment of children improves; awareness that children are different from adults, and that their needs are different, appears and diffuses. Individuals come to think of themselves as persons, with decreasing regard to their positions in families. The possibility of improving one's life by taking effort arises and is recognized
The leaders of Rank 3 government and other organizations exhibit a capacity for planning and adherence to long-term goals that Rank 2 lacked. Some of them recognized that their positions were justified by their contributions to the general welfare, not their own private gain and not the welfare of their caste.
Early in its reawakening, Europe brought together the very different worldviews of Judeo-Christian and Greek philosophies. The effect of overlaying the systems of love-justice and truth-beauty was to realize the modern four-quadrant scheme of cortical goals. Crossing left-front-right-rear with right-front-left-rear could reasonably be expected to produce that result. Science (truth), political economy (justice), religion (love), and art (beauty) are institutions devoted to these goals.
The achievement of Rank 3 was to improve the material welfare of large populations, and to make the world's knowledge available to everyone on Earth, in principle if not in fact. But these achievements are incomplete; the population of the Earth at the end of the twentieth century is distributed, according to processes of cognition, among the three ranks, and the distribution varies from country to country. Welfare, freedom, and cognitive level vary together [Endnote 17].
Accordingly, performances and objects made to give pleasure are offered today in three distinct categories which I shall call art, entertainment, and diversion.
Art began with the Renaissance. Craftsman and artist came then to be distinct roles, and secular purposes obtained toleration. The manner of art was representational; when the alternatives of abstraction and expressionism were invented in the twentieth century, art gave birth to its successor, and more or less died. There remains an audience for art, the ones who visit the Metropolitan Museum, the ones who buy recordings of Beethoven's symphonies. The proper recipient of art is one capable of self-reorganization (Powers 1973, pp. 179-189); for such a person, art yields epiphany. A work of art is made to be coherent, but its coherence must not be too easily accessible if it is to have its proper effect. The recipient must expend the necessary effort, perhaps with considerable discomfort, in order to be rewarded with realization of the work's coherence and, in the same moment, of the coherence of the self. For a moment the ape and the angel fit together as smoothly as yin and yang For such moments do artists and their audience tolerate the pains and risks of creation and re-creation.
Entertainment has lower goals. Talented persons with Rank 3 cognitive capacity have invented genres accessible to Rank 2 recipients, genres quite different from those of Rank 2 cultures. Certain actors, comedians, dancers, cabaret singers, and such deserve to be called entertainers. Because the Rank 2 personality is not capable of reorganization--except perhaps with psychoanalysis--the goal has to be maintenance of the defense systems. The pressure of the ape, the reptilian brain, is unremitting. To satisfy the angel, Rank 2 builds defenses; and the person living in a Rank 3 culture builds defenses that were not available earlier. But the defenses tend to crumble under pressure, and require steady rebuilding. A good play, a lovely song, a film of the right sort can help. Examples are Frank Sinatra, Oklahoma!, Jack Benny, Gone with the Wind, and the spy novels of John Le Carre. The motion picture industry, from about 1930 to the late 1940s, was primarily devoted to entertainment [Endnote 18]. Indeed, the motion picture industry--Hollywood--in the 1920s may be the original source of entertainment; and if it is, then Charles Chaplin must be recognized as its Edison. For the right audience, the end of entertainment is satisfaction.
Diversion is lower again. Diversions are made with such simple and obvious coherence that anyone can understand without much effort, even adolescents. The goal of diversion is to convince the recipient that defense is not necessary, according to one of several (false) principles. The free release of impulse is a glorious way to live, according to one principle. Rambo and his aggressive, violent ilk never block the impulse to kill or maim. Sexuality, in another genre, is unrestricted by thought of love. A second principle avers that there is no ape; or, shall we say, some are angels and some are apes, and the audience is composed of angels. The impulses that the audience senses and considers evil are projected onto a Blob or a mass murderer, criminal, spy, wrestler, or other antagonist. The protagonist may kill, but reluctantly in these genres. What set Le Carre apart from the standard spy writer was his admission of negative qualities in Britain; his predecessors had projected all evil onto the other side. A third principle promises easy resolution of internal problems for those who follow social dictates: "and they lived happily ever after," once they resolved a trivial misunderstanding and married. Yet another principle sentimentally accepts the impossibility of happiness and success. The tragedies of soap opera lead neither to Aristotelian catharsis nor to Shakespearean epiphany, but merely to the recognition of another hopeless entanglement. Here is the realm of Schadenfreude, of "there but for the grace of God."
The person who is brought to ecstasy by a work of art wants nothing more for a while. The person who gets satisfaction from an entertainment does not ask for another immediately. But the television set, an endless source of diversion, is never turned off. One diversion leads only to another. The internal state of the recipient is little improved, only palliated.
Short of perfect integration, each of us will need diversion occasionally, and entertainment frequently. The person who seeks only diversion loses art's opportunity for growth. We are not born with Rank 3 processes of cognition. Children need simple materials, but materials that prepare them for reorganization in a Rank 2 pattern. Adolescents need materials of an intermediate kind, but materials that prepare them for reorganization in a Rank 3 pattern. Diversions do not serve.
The question of evil has never been answered in a way that I can accept. Perhaps we can do better by considering evil a malfunction specific to complex systems, or to our own complex system with its specific components. With complexity always comes the risk of breakdown, as every automobilist knows. And evolution always delivers its surprise packages without operating instructions. The other mammals learn to operate their systems by "playing" while young (not in the sense that play is a cortical mode in our species, of course) [Endnote 19]. We inherited that way of learning, but it does not suffice. We invented formal schooling, and Sunday schools, to augment what came in the genetic package, but we are still developing the curriculum. We are probably still misusing ourselves, with the same kind of result that an overbold and undertrained driver gets from an automobile. Anxiety, says MacLean, "may be categorized as the unpleasant general affect that accompanies alerting for, and anticipation of, potentially harmful future events" (1990, p. 531). It seems to me that we anticipate harmful outcomes just when we are not prepared to cope with them. A person breaks down in the face of threat beyond his or her competence.
Our breakdowns tend to certain forms because we contain the aggressive and defensive mechanisms that our ancestors needed, back to the remote past, to avoid extinction. We have the capacity to dominate groups of our own kind, to drive away strangers of our own kind who intrude on our territory, to kill predators and prey (to avoid being eaten, while ourselves eating). Activated on their natural occasions, these are not evil tendencies. But the resident of a modern city only rarely has to defend his apartment against an intruder; leadership of working groups is today best determined by knowledge and skill, not by biological dominance. The capacities remain, and are seen most often on unnatural occasions.
Another peculiarity of our species can be found in the mechanisms of language and, more generally, of social interaction. Feedback is necessary in the management of complex processes. To speak, one needs a model of the hearer that can interpret what one says and feed the result back for verification To listen with understanding, one needs a model of the speaker, against which to test one's own interpretation of what is being said. These models are fluid; they change during conversation, becoming, more accurate over time. But they are subject to pathology; when infected with one's own negative qualities, they begin to appear evil. Thus projection is part of being human; when we are paranoid, projection protects us against negative self-evaluation while giving the world a negative tone.
Now suppose that someone projects strong negative qualities on another person; the natural action, then, must be to attack that person, verbally or even physically. To others, the attack seems unjustified and perhaps cruel, even evil. Only the attacker senses the negative qualities that justify defense or punishment. All concerned in such an episode have the same set of cortical goals: beauty, truth, love, and justice. The attacker may reconcile his or her behavior with those goals, or may be uncomfortable but nevertheless compelled to act. The one who is attacked will try to reconcile the pain with those goals, assuming as always that others share them; the victim may well come to feel guilty of some violation that would justify the attack. The onlooker may deem the attacker evil, or accept the negative evaluation of the victim and derive from the episode some of the benefits that the attacker gets.
Hold the nose of any air-breathing animal, human or other, and the animal will begin to struggle. The mechanisms that routinely obtain sustenance, security, sociality, and sex are backed up by others that emit more and more vigorous behavior when needs are thwarted. What happens in a human being in one of the many thwarting situations that cultures create? We are able to aim our vigorous behaviors in many directions; but sometimes we become cruel to ourselves or to others.
Some of the cultures that have appeared on Earth have been systematically cruel; indeed, a great many have been--that is to say, they have raised their children to carry out cruel practices routinely, and to consider those practices right and respectable. In the twentieth century, several powerful nations have adopted cruel cultures. Nazi Germany is most infamous. The Nazi who practiced cruelty, not spontaneously but as a craft to which he was assigned by the state, may have been no sadist. If there were persons who conducted torture in work mode and not by reptilian impulse, then they did indeed make evil banal (this may be Hannah Arendt's meaning, but examination of her book leaves me uncertain [Endnote 20]).
Cruelty, some sexual variations, eating to excess or not eating, and a good many other practices deserve to be called perversions because they solve problems in the small at the cost of severe damage in the large. If all sapients are created equal, the rights of victims count for as much as the rights of attackers. The attacker's psychic economy may run smoothly at the expense of the victim's welfare; or the attacker may destroy him/herself in the long run while coping temporarily. The world has vast experience with perversions, experience which many still disregard. Self-deception is still as easy as ever, it seems.
The phenomenon of warfare occupies such a prominent segment of human history, both in the living and in the retelling, that it is ordinarily assumed to be natural and appropriate. National boundaries today were fixed by warfare in the past; political leaders have very often achieved prominence first in warfare, and many have used military force to take and hold political power. Whole populations have chosen warfare as the necessary means to their most highly valued ends. The occasions, purposes, methods, scope, and frequency of warfare have changed with cultural evolution (Wright 1942, Otterbein 1970); the more modern warmakers have been more rational than the earlier were. But one may ask whether war was ever the rationally advantageous choice for a polity, whether the aggressor or the defender. The collapse of the Muscovite empire (the Soviet Union and its client states) reminds us that dictatorial conquerors are incapable of creating thousand-year empires. The acceptance of defeat without combat would have led to a better outcome than was achieved in many wars if not in all; costs would have been incurred, but only temporarily.
Why, then, do sapients choose combat? My answer to this question, that they do so perversely, casts aspersions on the whole pantheon of national heroes. I recognize adventure as a mode that culminates in the experience of beauty, but I do not see mortal combat as the only activity suitable to this mode; art is an adventure, along with exploration of Earth and space, training wild animals, mountaineering, and so on. The characteristic of warfare is not that one puts one's life at risk, but that one threatens to kill fellow sentients. To recognize a President's willingness to kill as being of the same kind as an armed robber's seems to me intellectually more honest than any argument that purports to distinguish the two.
The great ones of the present and the past cannot be revered, although some of them can be admired. Although I judge that their wars and other reprehensible actions were perverse, I am not so sure that they could have been avoided. The world we live in was obtained at a horrible cost, but the cost was paid. Most of our ancestors did the best they knew how. We can only do the same, applying our best efforts to the discovery of our own perversions.
In warfare the killer and the killed belong to different polities; only the members of one's own polity have been admitted as fully human. The range of admission has widened from rank to rank, and it may be that Rank 4 will admit the common humanity of all sapients. While I do not expect my arguments to change the course of events, I do predict that a Rank 4 culture, if it comes into full existence, will reject warfare more firmly than any before.
Coda: Toward a Fourth RankThe preceding section makes obvious that many perversions conceal themselves behind the rubrics of politics, art, business, and romance. An object or event presented as art should be coherent, even if its coherence is obscure to any but the initiated. Its coherence should tend to elicit a sense of the coherence of the self in recipients, if only in the healthy initiated recipients. An object or event that broadcasts incoherence is a manifestation of perversion; it is not art. A theater of the absurd is, on its face, itself absurd, although it may be that the facade is meant to confuse only the uninitiated. The sense of coherence and meaningfulness is not paralleled by some sense of incoherence and meaninglessness. The first promotes health and effectiveness, fulfillment and inner well being; the latter promotes breakdown, not integration of a higher order [Endnote 21].
Yet the twentieth century has been a time of transition, and transitions are not easy. Three ranks of cognitive capacity and cultural evolution are complete; a fourth rank may be taking shape. If not, then a time of darkness is likely to come next. In times of transition, children are not raised in a way that makes adult integration on the new level as easy as it will later become. They come to maturity with a congeries of incompatible materials in their heads, and no generally accepted cultural pattern to adopt. With luck, some make it; at first, perhaps, only in narrow technical domains, but later larger and larger fractions of the population arrive at the new way of understanding the whole of life. The most fortunate among us may just now be achieving such integrity.
In this context, let me turn once more to ballet. Around the beginning of the century, thinking about time began to change. Motion pictures were conceived and made real. Time-and-motion studies began, and used photographs exposed long enough to record the path of a small light during the course of a complete action. Painters began to try to capture temporal phases in a single canvas. Just at this time, Balanchine began to study ballet. His perception and conception of movement was perhaps in the new vein, different from his predecessors'.
On this interpretation, Balanchine's "art" is quintessentially of the twentieth century. But is it art? We still use the word "science" to identify the study of nature with instruments and mathematics, but serious work in our time is deeply different from the science that prevailed from the time of Copernicus, say, to 1895. Has art, which belongs to Rank 3, been superseded? Did structure, goals, and audience change when the representational manner gave place to impression and abstraction? When harmony gave place to the atonal?
Balanchine's pieces are variously called abstract, pure, or plotless. They are certainly not emotionless, although some pieces seem to present no emotion other than reverence (or awe)--the emotion that Denby could give no name to. If they are of a new kind, not art but something unnamed as yet, then it is all the more remarkable that little children watch them in fascination. As a new rank forms, early work is often cold; to achieve a result of a new kind, the worker gives up what was commonplace in the old kind. Older ballet told stories; Balanchine does not exactly tell stories, but he sometimes suggests them. In Scotch Symphony, the leading ballerina wears a tutu and all the other dancers wear kilts. Man and woman dance together and are separated by a group of men. Without narration or mime, a generic plot comes across.
With better trained dancers, Balanchine could make tighter sequences, and he knew how to form sequences effectively. He could make new combinations of movements over the parts of a dancer's body, and across the whole company. He used these new capacities to arouse more powerfully the modal action patterns of the audience; and once the audience acquired the skill of watching, and the courage to be so moved, he obtained the response and the recognition that he had earned--but development of an audience began in the 1920s and did not cross a threshold until 1947.
And so we continue. Perversity, incoherence, and constriction cover most of the world. The minority that can free itself, maintain dignity, and find fulfillment in work, play, adventure, and love is still small but seems to be growing The creative, productive, and organizational powers of those whose emotions are under control but not repressed is great enough to give them the future. Unless the barbarians once more overrun civilization, the world is moving toward a new stage [Endnote 22].
1. "There are scarcely any dance steps... Instead, we see dancing used as an extension of a dramatic situation: steps are repeated over and over or protracted into poses or connected not by other steps but by walks, runs, hesitant gestures, glances. ... [Like] a series of short, probing conversations. ... the dancers begin to develop the psychological dimensions of real characters." Croce (1980), p. 66.
2. "The Ford Foundation has declared by the bestowal of nearly $6 million that the dance technique and style preferred by George Balanchine are so superior to any others existing in this country that they should be developed to the virtual exclusion of all others." Allen Hughes was patently irritated, but his remark was, at the time almost literally correct (New York Times , Dec. 12, 1963, quoted by Dunning, 1985, p. 108)
3. This assertion was heard by Janet A. Hays about 1975 in a talk given by the Joffrey Ballet. I have not found a published source.
4. "Grace a'heritage de Fokine qui decorseta la danse classique, il a su introduire une souplesse dans les lignes, une fantaisie dans les pas et une invention perpetuelle dans les enchainements,tout en maintenant l'extreme rigueur et l'absolue cIarte de l'inspiration." I translate: "Thanks to the heritage of Fokine, who uncorseted the classical dance, he knew how to introduce a suppleness in the lines, a fantasy in the steps and a perpetual invention in the sequences, all the while maintaining extreme rigor and absolute clarity of inspiration" (Babilée 1952, p. 2). Isadora Duncan is also sometimes given credit for inspiring more sinuous dance.
5. Bournonville, in Copenhagen about 1870, developed technique and style requiring intricate footwork in a rapid tempo, but was not imported elsewhere well into the twentieth century (Bruhn & Moore, 1961). Whatever Balanchine learned in Leningrad from the work of Petipa and Fokine, he found in western Europe a barren situation. Berthe Bernay, dancer in the Paris Opera, wrote in 1890: "J'ai souvent remarque que, meme a la ville, le danseur s'observait davantage que Ia danseuse. II marche en scene incontestablement mieux que cette derniere. Cela tient-il au costume qui, decouvrant Ies formes de l'homme plus que celles de la femme, l'oblige a prendre plus particulierement soin de ses mouvements? C'est possible" (pp. 176-177). I translate: "I have often noticed that, even in the street, the male dancer presents himself better than the female. He walks on stage incontestably better than she. Does that follow from costume which, uncovering the form of the man more than that of the woman, obliges him to take special care of his movements? It's possible." Dancers who cannot walk beautifully!
Serge Lifar (1954), speaking of 1909 when Diaghilev opened his Ballets Russes in Paris, says "Such was the state of affairs that it would almost have been possible for a choreographer to produce a ballet... by telephone!" [Three periods in original.] The choreographer could only list the steps. And Boulos (1939), deploring the situation in that year, wrote, "For each time a variation is not composed of the traditional sequence glissade - cabriole - assemblé- - entrechat - six - préparation - pirouettes - they shout 'heresy'" (p. 265). Dancers embellished the choreography with their leaps and twirls: "Moreover, these steps added by the dancers are generally those most applauded by the public because they are those which best display the qualities of the executant" (p. 266); Boulos does not deplore these insertions.
6. That there is a magic in the dance is a familiar conceit; the word appears in texts and at least one book title. As far as I know, no explication has been offered in a framework comparable to the one that I employ.
7. "In terms of Freudian psychology, I suggested that 'the visceral brain is not at all unconscious (possibly not even in certain stages of sleep), but rather eludes the grasp of the intellect because its animistic and primitive structure makes it impossible to communicate in verbal terms'" (MacLean 1990, p. 266, quoting his 1949, p. 348. MacLean emphasizes his debt to Papez, 1937, for the original formulation of a "visceral brain" as the mechanism of emotion.)
8. Martin & Bateson (1986, pp. 39~0), explain: "(Highly stereotyped, species-characteristic behavior patterns were referred to by early ethologists as 'fixed action patterns.' However, the term 'modal action pattern,' or just 'action pattern,' is now preferred since even these types of behavior pattern do show some variability: see Barlow, 1977; Bekoff, 1977; Dawkins, 1983.)"
Hess (1973, p. 29) says that "The ethologists have restricted the term instinctive to the so-called fixed-action patterns of the kind discovered as taxonomic characters by Whitman and by Heinroth and exemplified by the straight movement of the greylag goose's bill toward the nest". The goose never uses feet or wings to move a lost egg back into the nest, but only its bill. Whitman (1899) and Heinroth (1910) antedate Lorenz (1935,1937).
Lea (1984, pp. 21-23) lists characteristics of action patterns; his captions are stereotypy, universality, independence of individual experience, ballisticness (no midcourse control), singleness of purpose, and "The existence of known trigger stimuli". I am by no means prepared to argue that the expression of emotion in human beings has all of these characteristics.
Lieberman (1991, p. 22) writes that "Many of the gestures and postures that higher primates such as squirrel monkeys use for communication are still controlled by the basal ganglia; these displays are analogous to displays that lizards use to challenge competitors. ... The basal ganglia also appear to be implicated in many of the nonvocal displays that signal or accompany emotion..." The basal ganglia belong to the reptilian brain; MacLean writes of it as "integrating the somatic and autonomic displays used in prosematic, social communication" (1990, p. 567).
9. The modes now confined to bedroom and bathroom were removed from public view in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. See Elias (1978, 1982), which I cite from Zuboff (1988), pp. 26-30.
10. "The [medieval] documents suggest unimaginable emotional outbursts in which--with rare exceptions--everyone who is able abandons himself to extreme pleasures of ferocity, murder, torture, destruction, and sadism" (Fontaine, 1978, p. 248, cited from Zuboff, 1988, p. 27).
In the United States in the l940s, "[Elton] Mayo [an industrial psychologist] expected those in administrative positions to be able to free themselves from emotional involvement... The implication was that managers could understand workers' nonlogic (or psycho-logic) in a way that workers themselves could not" (Zuboff 1988, p. 234; she cites Mayo, 1945, and commentary by Bendix 1974.) I detect an awareness of the difference between Rank-2 cognition (the workers) and Rank-3 cognition (the managers), although 1 might not agree with Mayo's inferences and conclusions.
11. "Vocalizations, by contrast, may have served a primarily emotional role..." (Corballis, p. 164). I have recently made the same proposal (Hays 1991, Sec. 4.1). The first mammalian vocalization, according to MacLean (1990, p. 397), was the infant's separation cry.
12. Descartes listed emotions: wonder, desire, anger, fear, sorrow, joy, and affection. Aware of these, MacLean listed six "main affects," namely, searching, aggressive, protective, dejected, gratulant, and caressive (1960a; 1990, p. 437). Clynes's list is not so very different MacLean asserts that "the study of psychomotor epilepsy also provides the invaluable information that affective feelings are genetically constituted" (1990, p. 452).
13. Gombrich's Chapter III, pp. 93-115, is called "Pygmalion's Power". Chapter IV begins: "If I had to reduce the last chapter to a brief formula it would be 'making comes before matching' Before the artist ever wanted to match the sights of the visible world he wanted to create things in their own right" (p. 116).
14. Although the argument for assigning particular goals to particular quadrants is still beyond me, the reader may be comforted by a few remarks about known properties of cortex
The left-right differences are widely discussed at present. The left is more effective with digital, logical operations; language is largely supported there. The right is more effective with physiognomic, figural operations; facial recognition and spatial orientation are supported there.
Front-back differences have been known for longer. The front is the motor region, and supports planning of complex operations. The rear is the perceptual region. In language, Roman Jakobson said that the front is syntagmatic (grammar), the rear paradigmatic (thesaurus).
Thus we have:
LEFT RIGHT Linguistic, digital Spatial, physiognomic FRONT Motor Truth; play Love REAR Perceptual Justice; work Beauty; adventure
15. The origin of drama, and especially of tragedy, in the Dionysian dance rituals was suggested by Aristotle, expanded by Nietzsche, given some technical support by Murray (1913), and worked out in detail by Pickard-Cambridge (1927). This sequence is stated clearly by Else (1967), who believes that its content is not correct. He states his "assumptions-he [the reader] may call them biases if he prefers" on p. 7:
1) Whatever may have happened elsewhere, in Polynesia Peloponnese, it is Athens alone that counts.Lacking the expertise to assess Else's argument, I can only note that he seems to be in the minority, and remark that gaiety is not necessarily the Dionysiac emotion, nor "magic", as I intend it here, quite the same as possession or ecstasy. 1 hope that I can allow "creative leaps" by Thespis and Aeschylus, and cognitive invention by every playwright beginning with them, without rejecting all continuity from Dionysian rites to tragedy. Murray (1927, quoted by Else, p. 108), wrote that "In plays like Hamlet or the Agamemnon or the Electra ... we have also, I suspect, a strange unanalyzed vibration below the surface, an undercurrent of desires and fears and passions, long slumbering yet eternally familiar, which have for thousands of years lain near the root of our most intimate emotions..." For me, this argues continuity; but Else comments that "This, and not a ritual form, is what the Greek tragedian (no doubt unconsciously) presupposed and worked with."
16. "Florence in the Quattrocento: . . . western capitalism in the long run created a new art of living, new ways of thinking: it developed side by side with them." Florence was "precocious and abnormal" (Braudel 1982, p. 578). "Leon Battista Albetu... wrote the first three Libri della Famiglia in Rome, in about 1433-1434; the fourth was completed in Florence in 1441. [Werner] Sombart [an economic historian] finds in these books a new climate: praise of money, recognition of the value of time, the need to live thriftily-all good bourgeois principles in the first flush of their youth" (Braudel 1982, p. 579).
17. Very few persons achieve a uniform level of maturity in professional skills, personal relations, and emotional strength The typical educated person has components at each of the ranks available in his or her environment. The distribution of cognitive rank across the population of a country can be estimated from the distribution of educational levels there.
18. A good example of motion picture as entertainment is Duel in the Sun , released in 1946. The producer was David O. Selznick, the director King Vidor; the central action occurs among characters played by Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, and Gregory Peck. The girl is described as a half-breed, with an Anglo father and a Mexican (Indian) mother. The men are sons of a wealthy and powerful Texas cattleman. Coming into the household, the girl attracts both men. (As a half-breed, she can be a mixture of angel and ape.) The younger (Cotten) is educated, restrained, and gentle; he becomes engaged to a similar young woman and offers brotherly protection to the half-breed. The older brother (Peck) is said to be spoiled. He seduces the half-breed girl, kills a man who would marry her, and shoots to kill his brother. Recognizing that he will shoot again and succeed, the girl engages the killer in the title duel; dying, he says that he loves her.
The morals of this movie are:
(a) A woman of propriety does not feel sexual desire.The film is made well enough to produce catharsis. If it achieves a coherence that can be reflected in the viewer's cognitive and emotional system, that coherence is invisible to me. Its morals appear to support such common psychodynamic defenses as denial.
Support for the notion that Hollywood invented entertainment comes from a (to me) surprising source, Neal Gabler's (1988) history of Jewish power in the industry. Several first or second generation immigrants from central and eastern Europe, raised in poverty, became heads of studios. To compensate for their exclusion from the American upper class, "they would fabricate their empire in the image of America... They would create its values and myths, its traditions and archetypes. It would be an America where fathers were strong, families stable, people attractive, resilient, resourceful, and decent. This was their America, and its invention may be their most enduring legacy" (p. 6); "in a sense, they colonized the American imagination" (p. 7). The body of this book is at the level of gossip, and the idea is not original with Gabler. Whether or not he is correct in his assertion that outsiders ran Hollywood, and only outsiders would bother to concoct the myth (p. I 19), he is surely correct in his description of the vision that Hollywood projected. Many films released by Hollywood between 1925 and 1955 were mere diversion; a fair proportion were perverse. None, I think, were art But some were entertainment, purporting to demonstrate what could be achieved by persons of strong character.
19. MacLean (1990) cites Groos (189611915) as originating the notion that animal play consists in the acting out of instincts before they are needed. He cites himself (1978 etc.) for the notion that play improves "harmony in the nest" and "affiliation among members of social groups" (p. 397). The latter is relevant to my thesis.
20. Evil is often imagined to be elegant, clever, or aristocratic. In Gounod's Faust , Mephistopheles introduces himself with
"Ne suis-je pas mis a ta guise?("Have I not assumed your form? A sword at my side, a feather in my hat, a full purse, a rich cloak on my shoulder; in short, a true gentleman!" Barbier & Carre 1859; translation by DGH.)
Eichmann, leader of the Holocaust, turned out to be a dull bureaucrat. Banality is conventionality, predictability, conformity to a familiar type. Arendt (1963-1964) uses the expression "banality of evil" in her last sentence, and perhaps not before. As best I can judge, she means to emphasize the inferiority of Eichmann to Mephistopheles.
21. After science died, around 1900, what followed proved superior in explanatory power. Likewise, in my opinion, the best of the work of painters and sculptors since impressionism has been superior to Art in the sense that it induced deeper, further-reaching reorganization in the healthy, initiated audience. That a portion of 20th-century work is perverse is another issue. But I wish to emphasize that Balanchine's ballets are, at least, Art, and sometimes more than that. The remarkable aspect of Balanchine's oeuvre is that he did not give up emotional power in order to work at a new rank.
References and Related Literature22. The list of references below is not limited to works that I have consulted in preparing this paper. It includes also works that are cited by my sources and necessary for the reader. Substantial work on dance by anthropologists, which the reader might deem relevant, is not cited.
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Barbier, I. & Carre, M. (1859) Faust. Paris. Cited from the score published by G. Schirmer, Inc., New York,
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Bendix, R. (1974) Work and Authority in Industry. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Benzon, W. L. (1981) "Lust in Action: An Abstraction." Language and Style , 14 , 251-270.
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Benzon, W. L. & Hays, D. G. (1990) "The Evolution of Cognition." Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 13 , 297-320.
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Boulos. (1939) "The Evolution of the Academic Dance." The Dancing Times, n.s. 345, 265-268, 272 (June). Translated from the French by W. G. Hartog.
Braudel, Fernand (1982) Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-l8th Century. Vol. 2: The Wheels of Commerce. Harper & Row, New York, 1982. Translated by Sian Reynolds. Originally published by Librairie Armand Colin, Paris, 1979, as Les Jeux de l'Echange. The title of the book (Jeux) refers to games, speculation.
Bruhn, E. & L. Moore (1961) Bournonville and Ballet Technique: Studies and Comments on August Bournonville's Etudes Choreographiques. New York: The Macmillan Co.
Buckle, R. & Taras, I. (1988) George Balanchine, Ballet Master. New York: Random House.
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Corballis, M. C. (1991) The Lopsided Ape: Evolution of the Generative Mind. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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I thank William L. Benzon for valuable discussions over many years; Janet A. Hays for suggestions; Martha Mills for a close reading of a manuscript; Shirley A. Bradfield for permission to watch her making dances; Marianne Schapal for early encouragement; and the New York Public Library, in particular the Dance Collection at Lincoln Center. John M. Roberts published many papers on expressive culture; reading them strengthened my interest in the topic.
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