Consciousness and evolution in Bennett
It might be of interest to compare/contrast Bennett and Julian Jaynes on consciousness.
It might help to look at the basic framework for Bennett’s views, which are not anywhere near standard science at this point: he brings in a mythology of cosmic beings (demiurge, cosmic individuality, …) that put him in the realm of science fiction, and he also considers ‘consciousness’ to be a ‘cosmic energy’ in a domanin behind life, consciousness being the lowest in a tetrad: consciousness, creativity, being the two lowest.
His scheme remains of interest, despite its outlandish character, if only because it ought to be possible to translate his thinking into what might at least theoretically be a coherent ‘upside down scientism’. Whatever the case, it is a reminder that the evolution of consciousness is REALLY hard, and beyond out current understanding, even in principle.
The stage of hominization, then, is the stage of consciousness being injected into man by demiurgic cosmos, followed by soul formation in relation to the creative energy….
Weird stuff. I don’t believe a word of it, and it is a highly schematic set of concepts, but it is a provocative to standard views, including those of the Intelligent Design movement, who refuse to answer to questions about who these designers are. Bennett has a whole zoo of them.
The point here is that consciousness appears at the point of hominization, and is different from what Bennett calls ‘sensitivity’, which is what we normally call, wrongly according to Bennett, ‘consciousnesss’.
This is a challenge to Jaynes who thinks that consciousness appears very late, almost within the last few millennia. Clearly that is problematical, but as we will see even Bennett has a take on this after his own fashion.
The place of mind is at one of the two great discontinuities of the
Natural Order-the other being the transition from inert matter to
living forms. Historically, the appearance of mind is an event equal in
significance to the appearance of life. This is generally agreed, but its
importance is obscured by the tendency to regard evolution as a con-
tinuous process in which each new development emerges out of those
that came before.
The elements of mind were certainly present before the appearance
of the mental structure of man. Sensitivity developed throughout the
Cainozoic Era and produced a vast pool of differentiated and refined
sensitive energy (E 5) with qualities suitable for forming human minds.
Consciousness (E 4) was also present-not localized in living beings,
but rather as a field of universal energy, concentrated in the Demiurgic
Intelligences, but otherwise without organization.
Mind is not simply a degree of complexity within a continuous process
of complexification as de Chardin and other evolutionary theorists
suppose. It is a structure of a special kind that differs from others. It
has properties that are not observable elsewhere. This does not mean
that mind is a ‘special creation’ outside of the evolutionary process, but
rather that it is a major point of discontinuity reached and, in its
turn, transcended by the discrete steps or jumps which can be found in
all developmental processes. The arising of mind required a very special
step, namely, coalescence into organized structures of the energies of
life and the cosmic energies within the transition region E 4-E 5. Until
this connection was made there were no personal minds and there
could be neither Self-hood nor Individuality within the Biosphere.
In the pre-mental stages, many of the attributes of mind were clearly
present in combinations of the sensitive and automatic energies.
Less specific attention has been devoted in the foregoing pages to the
automatism within life than this important property merits. Every
animal uses automatic energy (E 6) to coordinate its functional activity.
The automatic energy must in the process acquire a certain degree of
structuring-though not of the same kind as the experiential impregna-
tion of sensitivity. The immense field of animal instinct which we have
scarcely glanced at, is most easily made comprehensible by supposing
that the automatic energy can produce patterns of activity that are
transmitted by heredity and yet not reducible to physico-chemical
mechanisms. We can conclude from such a hypothesis that habits of
life repeated over a very large number of generations will ‘organize’
the automatic energy of a given animal genus. This may well be the
simplest expression of the neo-Lamarckian thesis. Be that as it may, we
should not find it difficult to agree that, in one form or another, the
behaviour patterns of the hominid Australopithecus had been well
organized by prolonged practice in the use of tools and probably also
of non-verbal communication. The development of the hands alone
would bring about a high degree of organization of automatism. The
refinement of sensitivity in addition would pass beyond the limitations
of fixed instinctive behaviour to reach the power to acquire skills by
practice. This again would bring Australopithecus to the threshold of
There remains the third and most significant element: conscious-
ness (E 4). In our scheme of energies, consciousness belongs to the
Tetrad of Cosmic Energies. It is not one of the vital energies and it is
not necessary for life. We cannot demonstrate that animals are without
consciousness, but we can very easily prove to ourselves that a great part
of our own lives-including nearly all our vital activity-proceeds with-
out the participation of consciousness. ‘*’ The clear recognition that con-
sciousness is something over and above the pattern of life is the key to
understanding the problem before us. After all, the study of the mind is
a problem of psychology; or rather it is the whole problem of psycho-
logy. Psychology begins and ends with mind. Therefore, we must
necessarily turn to psychology in order to study the genesis of mind.
Thus it happens that we are better equipped to understand how man’s
mind arose than how his body evolved. But for this, we must really
know mind. Mind can be understood by mind. We cannot recognize
mind through bodily behaviour. And it is impossible to tell whether
a man is conscious at a given moment, though it is not difficult to say
whether or not his sensitivity is concentrated or dispersed.
These observations apply to all kinds of men, at all ages and of every
degree of culture or lack of culture. The distinction between sensitivity
and consciousness is an objective property of existence, and it is totally
independent of time and place. It must, therefore, have obtained when
man first became man as completely as it does in our experience today.
Once this cardinal point is established, we are bound to conclude that
the mind of man could not have come into existence by the processes
of life alone. This should not surprise anyone, since it is universally
agreed that man is a new kind of phenomenon. The difficulty has lain
hitherto in reconciling the undoubted fact that the human organism
has evolved out of an animal organism with the conviction that man is
different in kind, and not merely in degree, from any animal we know.
We can now see that the difference is not in the organism, but in the
mind, of man; and that it consists in the presence of conscious energy
(E 4) associated with the sensitivity (E 5) that man shares with the other
It remains to consider how consciousness entered.
If it did not come from the Autonomic World, that is, by the develop-”
ment of life itself, it must have come from the Hypernomic World. The
means for this were already available-the Demiurgic Intelligences.
We shall picture an injection of consciousness into the premental sensitiv-
ity of selected Australopithecines. This can be pictured as a kind of
‘possession’ by the Demiurgic Intelligence, whereby a pre-human
could begin to think in a human manner. Once the contact was made,
men with true minds could begin to breed and transmit the mental
structure by heredity.
We must now attempt to describe the genesis of personal minds.
The Demiurgic Intelligences had seen that the Predestined Moment
for the arising of mind was approaching. A vast pool of suitably refined
and differentiated sensitive energy had been produced during the
Golden Age of the Mammals. The australopithecine finally selected
to be the vehicle for the advent of mind had developed the requisite
automatisms of head and eye. They were endowed with a quantum of
sensitive energy more free of the automatism of behaviour-patterns
than ever before. Under the influence of the Demiurgic Intelligences,
operating through consciousness, they acquired skills, thereby producing
a rudimentary organization of the sensitivity in preparation for the direct
impact of the conscious energy. Sexual selection was guided by the
demiurges who also channelled their innate curiosity into exploring the
use of tools.
At this stage we must mention the Universal Individuality. No
lesser will can be the master of Creative Energy (E 3) which is only
two stages removed from the Prime Mover, or Transcendental Energy
(E I), that sustains all existence. The Universal Individuality does not
transform, but rather maintains, the Cosmic Harmony” through the in-
strumentality of the Demiurgic Powers.’] At this point, two mutually
conflicting requirements arise: on the one hand, thinking beings able
to act within the natural order are needed to assume responsibility for
the evolution of bye; and, on the other, intelligent beings are needed who
are capable of attaining Individuality and thereby transmitting the Plan
of Creation from the hyparchic future to the present moment. These
two needs are quite distinct. Mind can develop without soul-though
not completely-and soul can develop without mind-though not
effectively. In our study of the Spiritualization of Fact and the Realiza-
tion of Value, we distinguish two series of essences, one static and the
other dynamic. * The one culminates in the Cosmic Harmony which
can be conceived as the perfection of Mind and the other in the Ultimate
Realization which is the perfection of Soul.
Mind has thus a two-fold cosmic significance. It is the self-ordering
principle within existence by reason of its place between sensitivity and
consciousness. This combination makes possible a two-fold awareness
of what is and what might be and hence of responsible action. Mind is
also linked with creativity (E 3) and automatism (E 6). Creativity
makes soul-formation possible and hence union with the Individual-
ity, which can exercise its will in creative action. Automatism makes the
power of presence possible, without which mind can only dream.
The ordering activity of mind enters at an earlier stage of evolution
and we find it present for a very long period of time before man began
to acquire soul-powers. This raises the question of the place of the
Personal Individuality in the absence of soul. The situation is not like
that of the human child as we know it today, for we have the soul-stuff
in us from conception. tIt is also different from that of the idiot or
defective mindless human adult. The minds of early men were the
minds of ‘thinking animals’ incapable of transforming into souls. The
state of the Personal Individuality could only have been within the
hyparchic future; and this is an important conclusion for it suggests
that the Individuality remained united with the Universal Individuality
and yet could exert a creative influence upon the mind. This may be
the origin of the traditional belief in the pre-existence of souls in Para-
dise, which would need to be modified only by substituting the non-
existential Individuality for the unformed Soul. This condition must
have continued for long ages until the mind reached the degree of
maturity needed for soul-making.