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Roger W. Wescott

In its most literal sense, prehistory is the record of everything that happened prior to the beginning of documentation.  It follows that the origin of the universe, of our galaxy, and of the solar system are among the puzzles of prehistory.  So are the origin of terrestrial life, of the animal kingdom and of the various zoological taxa to which the human family belongs–vertebrates, mammals and primates.

In practice, however, prehistory is generally considered the predocumentary record of humanity.  Humanity, in turn, is construed as meaning the family Hominidae, especially the genus Homo, and, above all, the species sapiens.  In this essay, I will focus primarily on that part of prehistory which covers the period of human existence.  But, because our species, like all others, is embedded in a space-time matrix, I will draw, as need arises, on the records of both the pre-human and the human past.

Uniformitarianism and Prehistory

For the past century-and-a-half, evolutionary theory has been dominated by the school of thought known as uniformitarianism, or actualism.  Uniformitarians contend that the rule of intellectual parsimony (better known as "Occam's razor") is best satisfied by the assumption that the forces which molded our planet and its inhabitants in the past are no different from those which mold it today.  Since the most obvious of these forces today are such processes as erosion and sedimentation, we must assume, say the uniformitarians, that they predominated throughout prehistory.  Given enough time, they remind us, erosion and sedimentation can turn mountains into plains and seas into land.

My inclination, however, is to turn their reasoning around.  A planet whose global processes are now, and have long been, predominantly uniformitarian is one which would not be expected to look like our contemporary Earth.  To begin with, one would expect its rotational axis to be parallel with that of its governing body, the Sun, rather than tilted at more than 23° from the solar axis.  Because of its lack of axial tilt, one would expect our planet to have no seasonal alternations between summer and winter, or between wet and dry periods.  In short, one would expect its climate to be uniform.

On such a uniformistic planet, one would have no reason to expect 12-mile differences of altitude between the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean and the Himalayan Mountains of South Asia.  Furthermore, since there exists enough water to cover the Earth's entire surface to a depth of two miles, were it truly spherical one would expect that to be the Earth's actual condition. (Polar flattening, occasioned by rotation, might be expected to deepen the global ocean in some places more than in others, but nowhere to permit land to break the oceanic surface.) Consequently, one would not expect to encounter plants, snails, insects, or terrestrial vertebrates such as man.

Paleontologists, of course, would expect to find no fossil dinosaurs, mammoths, or moas.  They could reasonably expect to find no fossils at all, since fossilization is an exceptional, rather than a uniformistic, process.  Geologists, even if endowed with futuristic diving and drilling gear, could not count on finding earth strata, such as those that mark off geological eras, periods and epochs because there is no evidence of any uniformitarian process that produces global stratification.

Even if we grant that the interaction of water, organic compounds and small-scale electrical discharges could be expected, in the normal course of events, to produce life, there is no evidence that such life would diversify phyletically, producing the million or more species of organisms found today.  No new species has appeared in the course of recorded history.  The most that one might expect to find in the way of biota in a wholly uniformitarian world is an astronomically large population of microorganisms of a single species.

Prehistory and Catastrophism

Since the time of Georges Cuvier, paleontologists have agreed that most of the organic taxa of the past are now extinct.  Familiar examples of such extinct taxa are trilobite arthropods, seed-fern plants and oreopithecian apes.  The only extinctions known during the historical period are of species whose demise was brought about, directly or indirectly, by human agency.  Familiar examples of man's non-human victims are the passenger pigeon, the Irish elk and the dodo.

To a catastrophist, stratification, speciation, fossilization and natural extinction all constitute evidence of gross planetary disturbance.  So do seasonality, topographic variability and the existence of dry land in the form of irregularly distributed continents and islands.  So, finally, does the periodic occurrence of gigantism, as among Cretaceous Texas pterosaurs with 50-foot wingspreads.  Since such creatures were anatomically ill-equipped for walking, yet would be, by current aerodynamic assessment, even less capable of flying, the only reasonable explanation of their presumptive locomotory viability is ecological.  Environmental conditions during the later Mesozoic Era must have been such as to permit gigantic batlike animals to fly.  As a catastrophist, it seems to me that there are only two plausible ecological situations which would allow for flight on this scale.  One of these is an atmosphere substantially denser than ours; the other is gravity substantially weaker than ours.  While it is difficult to choose between these alternatives, it is clear that neither can readily be fitted into a uniformitarian model of gradualistic planetary development.

The chief argument used by uniformitarians against the preceding interpreta­tion of strata, fossils and topographic irregularity is chronological.  Radiometric dating, they say, shows that the Earth is billions of years old.  And, since it is evident that gradual erosion can level a mountain range just as effectively as can sudden subsidence, the only scholarly conclusion is to opt for the gradualistic model, which fits Earth's eonic antiquity, rather than for the catastrophic model, which does not.

The flaw in this radiochronological argument is the same as the flaw in the chief argument for natural selection: logical circularity.  In its Spencerian formulation, Darwinian evolutionism asserts "the survival of the fittest."  Darwinians explain survival by fitness while presenting survival as evidence for fitness.  In much the same way, radiometric dating is held to support uniformitarian theory, despite the fact that radiometric results are valid only under uniformistic conditions!  The rate at which any radioactive substance changes, isotopically or elementally, into another substance is determined by the electrochemical conditions that surround it.  When these conditions are constant, so is the rate of change.  When these conditions are not constant, neither is the rate of change.

The rate of change is, in all probability, dependent on the amount of energy being injected into a bielemental system.  A disturbance as slight as an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption, might accelerate the conversion process.  A disturbance as gross as an asteroid impact, or a close encounter with another planet, would almost certainly do so.  In the latter case, the radiological "clocks" could run wild, registering a year in an hour or a millennium in a year.  My assumption is that they have repeatedly done so, with the result that all dates prior to the 6th century BC must be regarded as representing, at best, a relative serration, without significance in terms of absolute time.

The Anomalous Ape

Of all the puzzles of human prehistory, the most striking, on the face of it is the remarkable difference in appearance between man and his nearest living relatives, the great apes of Africa and Asia.  Along with man's un-apelike appearance go, correspondingly, un-apelike physiological and behavioral characteristics.  Combining anatomical with functional traits, we find human uniqueness within the primate order clustering in four areas: posture, head, skin, and urogenital organs.

1.  Man is the only primate whose legs are longer than his arms and who habitually walks erect.  Functionally, however, he pays for his bipedal gait with backache, hernia and other dislocations of the trunk.

2.  Man is the only primate with subcutaneous fat under the skin and little hair over it.  While he is not the only primate who swims, he is the only Hominoid who does, and is the only primate with bradycardia–automatic slowing of the heartbeat when diving or swimming under water.

3.  Man is the only primate with a cranial capacity of over 1,000 cubic centimeters and canine teeth that do not project beyond his incisors or premolars.  And he is the only primate with voluntary control of both breathing and vocalization.  Voluntary breath control permits him to remain under water without inhaling and voluntary voice control permits him to talk.  His large brain presumably facilitates not only speech but also the manipulation of fire and the creation of artifacts.

4.  Man is the only primate with a protrusive bust, elongated genitals and cushion-like buttocks.  He is also unique in his order for performing predominantly ventral coitus and having no seasonal restrictions on mating.

For me, the best explanation for these anomalous Hominid deviations from the Hominoid norm is the thesis advanced since 1960 by Alister Hardy, Carl Sauer and Elaine Morgan: During the Pliocene Epoch, which preceded the Pleistocene Ice Age and followed the Miocene radiation of Old World apes, our ancestors led a semi-aquatic existence along the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Wading would explain our erect stance; swimming, our hairless but padded skin; and diving, our bradycardia and breath control.  The bust would have given aquatic infants something to cling to while suckling, in place of lost fur.  Longer genitals would have kept silt and water out of the cervical and uterine area.  Cushiony buttocks would have facilitated sitting on rocky beaches.  And ventral copulation is typical of marine mammals but unknown among purely terrestrial mammals of any order.  This fact strongly suggests that, before they became grassland hunters during the pluvial Pleistocene, our ancestors underwent bodily reshaping as shoreline or lakeside scavengers during the equitable Pliocene.

Protohistoric Problems

Human prehistory can hardly be said to have begun during the long and well-forested Miocene, simply because there were as yet no Hominids.  Our ancestors, presumably of the Dryopithecus type, may be assumed to have been furry, quadrupedal, herbivorous tree dwellers.

If, as I believe, aquatic habits and habitats led to the Pliocene separation of Hominids from Pongids, it seems reasonable to refer to this as the epoch of human prehistory par excellence.  Human beings, though putatively alive and active, left no traces, skeletal or artifactual, of their lives.  We may only guess that they resembled their fossil Old World relatives, Ramapithecus and Oreopithecus.

In the Pleistocene, however, human remains, both skeletal and artifactual, begin to appear.  By the Upper Pleistocene, in fact, graphic industry, ranging from mortuary cosmetics to cave painting, is evident.  While not fully historic, as in the later Holocene, neither is the Pleistocene as traceless as the earlier Pliocene.  To indicate the intermediate status of the human record during this epoch, we may refer to the Pleistocene as protohistoric–this was a time during which man left his mark, if not his signature.

By the Middle Pleistocene, man had become both a carnivore and a cannibal.  The evidence for carnivory comes from the choplines left by stone cutting tools on animal bones.  The evidence for cannibalism comes from the artificially enlarged foramina magna of Homo erectus skulls.

With the introduction of agriculture came human sacrifice and the practice of burying retainers alive in the tombs of newly deceased rulers.  The sacrificial victims were smothered, drowned, cut to pieces, or burned to death.  The ostensible reason for these seeming atrocities was that, in the gross tectonic disturbances which took place during Pleistocene glaciations, large numbers of people had died in all these ways.  Performed on a small scale, with community concurrence, such killings were presumably apotropaic–calculated, as appeasement offerings, to ward off far worse misfortunes.

An equally mysterious development from this same agricultural period is the megalithic complex.  On every continent except Australia, large stone structures were erected by obscure means for equally obscure purposes.  These structures range in type from the rude cromlech of Stonehenge in England to the sharply delineated pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.  Beyond a general impression that megaliths have both astronomical and religious significance, there is little agreement about them.  The effort that went into erecting them, however, was clearly immense.  They were probably intended both to help anticipate celestial disturbances and to outlast those disturbances.

Another tantalizing protohistoric phenomenon is the existence, throughout the Americas, of fragmentary evidence suggesting both trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific contact between the two hemispheres before the time of Scandinavian and Iberian settlement.  This evidence consists of Canaanite inscriptions, Roman coins, Oceanian crops, bas-reliefs of elephants and, above all, representations of African and East Asian faces.  While there is too little of this evidence to be conclusive, there is too much of it for contact between the hemispheres to be disregarded.  I believe that the apparent links were real but are sparse today because of catastrophic breaks in the sea routes, occasioned by a deepening of the oceans or a stiffening of the winds that blow across them.

Savage Behavior

In the popular sense of the word, savage, equated with the adjective cruel, seem to epitomize savagery through such protohistoric practices as cannibalism and human sacrifice.  In the 19th century, however, anthropologists began using savage in a technical sense–to mean preliterate or preurban–as these terms apply to contempo­rary peoples who live by foraging or small-scale farming.

Since there is much in preliterate life that is cruel, there is nothing invidious about using the term savagery to refer, simultaneously, to preliteracy and cruelty-­provided we acknowledge the equal, if differently manifested, cruelty of civilized life.  Among the more widespread cruelties of preliterate life are: adolescent initiation, ritual mutilation and head hunting.

The professed purpose of Initiation is to separate youngsters from childhood and from maternal dependence.  The means of accomplishing this goal, however, are social isolation, physical abuse and psychological intimidation.

Ritual mutilation, though it may begin in infancy and affect any part of the body from head to foot, tends to peak at initiation time and focus on the genital organs.  My interpretation of initiatory mutilations and Ordeals is that they recapitulate the catastrophic events which repeatedly Mutilated so many of our ancestors during the Pleistocene Epoch and initiated the world we know.  The genital focus of initiatory surgery may reflect a Pliocene situation in which erotic activity was more frequent and less restricted than in later times, with the result that it came to be thought of as the misbehavior for which a battered humanity was receiving celestial punishment.

Headhunting is common among the preliterates of Eurasia, Africa, Oceania and South America.  Hunted heads, once severed, may be mutilated, eaten, shrunk, or carried as trophies.  Head-hunting is reminiscent of North American scalping, Mexican ball-games (in which losers were executed), and the ancient Central American practice of carving stone spheres and placing them atop hills or mountains.  In all these cases, human heads were, because of their relative sphericity, apparently identified with displaced celestial bodies–either planets in abnormal earth-approach­ing orbits or meteorites bombarding the terrestrial surface.

Psychoanalysts assure us that cruelty, however wanton it may appear to its victims, is always motivated and that its primary motive is usually fear.  This analysis helps us make sense of the fact that so many contemporary preliterates exhibit "superstitious" fear–not only of comets and eclipses but even of rainbows and sunsets.  The catastrophist explanation of these fears is that, during periods of mutual planetary approach, terrestrial sunlight has been eclipsed by large celestial bodies, comets have devastated the Earth and the atmosphere has taken on a persistently ruddy or polychrome-like glow.

The Pan-Human Trauma

It is easy for us to recognize irrational elements in protohistoric and preliterate behavior when we do not share the behavior in question, as in the case of human sacrifice or initiatory mutilation.  There are, however, similar types of behavior which we do share, if only because they appear to have become human universals.

One of these universals is chimetic imagery–a persistent tendency to visualize and (if only half-seriously) verbalize about creatures unknown either among living species or from the fossil record: dragons, unicorns, mermaids and the like.  Although it is possible that chimeras of this type have made an ephemeral appearance on the Earth as teratogenic results of mutations induced by catastrophe, it is more likely that they are theriomorphic versions of nebular or cometary shapes seen in the sky during times of cataclysm.

Another such universal is funerealism, the ritualization of death and of practices relating to the dead.  Human corpses are never disposed of by merely sanitary methods but are invariably cremated, buried, immersed in water, or exposed on an elevation–always in a ceremonial manner.  Such means of disposal are probably stereotyped reenactments of the kinds of death suffered naturally by a majority of the population during fire storms, earthquakes, floods or sudden tectonic uplifts resulting from interplanetary encounters.

But the treatment of corpses is not the only thing hedged about with ceremonial observances.  Both verbally and behaviorally, everything to do with death and the dead must be handled with circumspection.  It is taboo, as is the complemen­tary phenomenon of childbirth.

Everything, in fact, that has to do with the body and its functions is surrounded by prohibitions.  The body may not be touched casually.  It should not be viewed unclothed (even if clothing is only a waistband, necklace, or bracelet).  Both its ingestive and its excretory processes require avoidance behavior: Every people bans certain foods, denying that they constitute food at all, and all treat adult excretion as private, if not secret, behavior.

Of all forms of carnality, the most heavily tabooed is, of course, sexual behavior.  Even among those protohistoric and preliterate societies which portrayed ithyphallism or enjoined public coitus, such behavior was, to judge by the evidence, never simply a manifestation of relaxed permissiveness.  It was highly ritualized activity, regarded as indispensable to the fertility of the earth, without which food might fail and the community starve.

Taboo is prohibition invested with a sense of horror at the thought of violation, perhaps best defined as non-hedonic, non-utilitarian prohibition.  A hedonic prohibition, such as forbidding a child to touch a hot stove, prevents pain; a utilitarian prohibition, such as forbidding drivers to pass red lights, prevents accidents.  Most taboos, however, do not prevent pain or inefficiency (except in the secondary sense that their violators would be communally punished or immobilized).  If anything, they increase discomfort and delay fulfillment of basic needs and wishes.  But the fear underlying them is so compelling that, if the strict social rules allaying the fear are disregarded, collective panic may ensue.

Yet another universal of human behavior is psychopathy, a type of mental illness characterized by the acting out of conflicts and disregard for established social norms.[2]  Of the various forms of psychopathy, the most dramatic is schizophrenia, mental disorders, usually chronic, which impair functioning and are characterized by psychotic symptoms involving disturbances of thought, perception, feeling and behavior.[3]  Schizophrenics, though relatively unresponsive to their social surroundings, are subject to influences unfelt by others, causing, for example, delusions of persecution or of control by an external agency.[4]  Socially less disabling mental disorders are the neuroses, emotional disorders due to unresolved conflicts, primarily characterized by anxiety, which do not involve gross distortions of external reality.[5]  Two common forms of neurosis are anxiety, an unpleasant and overriding inner emotional tension that has no apparent identifiable cause, and phobia, an obsessive, persistent, unrealistic fear of an object or situation, such as claustrophobia, fear of closed spaces.[6]  I believe that all psychopathies may be regarded as residual fears of actual past disasters.  But, since these disasters have occurred infrequently in the personal lives of the individual sufferers involved, the catastrophist explanation requires assumption of a collective unconscious mind of the kind postulated by Carl Jung.

Civilized Distress

Civilized peoples share the compulsive miseries described above as universally human and have added new, perhaps more oppressive refinements to this legacy.  Of these, the most obvious is elaborate institutionalism.  It can be argued that preliterate societies have only two basic institutions–ceremonial marriage, legitimizing the family, and ancestral rites, defining the community.  Literate societies, however, add at least two other institutions–church and state, each staffed by a hierarchy of priests and rulers.

Besides organized religion and governmental bureaucracy, there is one other institution found in every known urbanized society but in only a scattering of preurban societies.  This universal, demanding its own hierarchy of commanders and commanded, is war.  Where human sacrifice killed people by the dozen or the hundred, war does so by the thousand or the million. (And, in the event of thermonuclear conflict, it may do so by the billion.)

Progressive Dissociation

The link between psychopathy and institutionalism is provided by dissociation, or social and psychological separation.  During the relatively uneventful Pliocene Epoch, there was, we may assume, a comparatively harmonious association between species and individuals, both Hominid and non-Hominid.  But successive Pleistocene catastrophes fragmented this biopsychic unity, alienating organism from organism and group from group.  Among our ancestors, it led to a split between the sacred and the secular and between word and deed, permitting hypocrisy and fostering deception.  Each successive cataclysm, moreover, produced shifts in ethos, leading, for example, first to the sacralization and then to the desacralization of maternity, of animality and of sexuality.  In no case, however, was either exaltation or debasement a matter of option.  Cannibalism, for example, was either periodically enjoined or permanently forbidden.  Neither engagement in it nor abstention from it appears to have been a casual matter, left to personal preference or individual choice.

Ethological Considerations

As their root word indicates, the terms, "ethos," "ethics" and "ethology" once referred to the conduct, or behavior of both animals and human beings.  Today, the first two refer to human behavior only, the last to animal behavior only.

However, the terms "ethical" and "ethological" may (without recourse to the "new" sociobiology) be construed as partially overlapping in reference, since it is highly unlikely that traumata, widespread enough to distort human behavior, would leave the behavior of animals–particularly higher animals–unaffected.

Building, therefore, on mythical evidence (to be detailed and explained below) as well as on data from comparative psychology, I infer that, prior to the Pleistocene disturbances, some of the characteristics of animal behavior now regarded as from time immemorial were either rare or non-existent.

Among these traumatically-induced innovations, I believe, were the following:

1.  Cyclicity, such as alternations between diurnal and nocturnal activity or between estrus and sexual latency;

2.  Xenophobia, or hostility toward other communities;

3.  Periodic overpopulation, functioning as double insurance against sudden extinction;

4.  Migration, occasioned by the frequent destruction of habitats or exhaustion of food sources;

5.  Hunting–that is, aggressive predation as opposed to unhurried scavenging; and

6.  Ritualism, or the obligatory use, for communicative purposes, of displaced feeding or mating movements.

Planetary Relocation

One of the behavioral splits referred to above as dissociative is the distinction, which goes back at least to Sumerian times, between religion (expressed in myth and manifest in ritual) and science (applied as technology and practiced as engineering).  During the past century, this split has widened to chasm-like proportions.  Under the influence of uniformitarian theory, the scientific picture of our past as one of historic progress and prehistoric evolution has become incompatible with the picture, provided by the mythologies of every continent, of a human past divisible into the principal periods–a relatively changeless Golden Age, followed by a highly changeable Time of Troubles, itself divisible into subperiods.

My response to this contradiction is to follow the scientific picture of our past, with respect to the fully historic period of recent millennia, but to prefer the mythic picture of protohistoric times.  I reject prehistoric gradualism–the current scientific consensus–because I believe it to be based on repressed emotional denial of past catastrophes and unconscious fear of future ones. (Prior to "Darwin's century," I think, scientists were better able to accept past catastrophes because such catastro­phes were offset by religious consolations, which scientist has since weakened to the point of ineffectuality.)  I suspect that we will remain intellectually dissociated until such time as we can re-integrate mythic with scientific thought.

Returning, however, to the mythic account of our past: Most of the world's mythic traditions describe a primal and paradisiacal age in which the following conditions existed:

1.  The zenith of the sky was perpetually occupied by a huge and seemingly immobile luminary, variously known as "the cosmic egg" and "the sun of night," which was the focus of universal admiration but which disappeared in a disaster. (In scientific terms, this would mean that our solar system once contained two stars; that the Earth was then an astrosynchronous satellite of the smaller star; but that this star exploded in a nova.)

2.  The terrestrial climate was uniformly moist and warm.  There was no winter and no night.

3.  Vegetation was lush; therefore, protracted searches for food were rare.

4.  Terrain irregularities were mild and infrequent.  There were many shallow bodies of water and no deep or stormy oceans.

5.  Conflict between individuals and species was minimal and rarely injurious.  Carnivores were scavengers rather than predators.

6.  Human social structure was matricentric.  Paternity was either unknown or disregarded.  The "masculine" virtues of aggressiveness and bellicosity were superfluous, while the "feminine" virtues of tenderness and nurturing were so common as to be taken for granted.

7.  Death, as we know it, did not occur. (Although Methuselah-like longevity may have been one source of the tradition of deathlessness, it probably stems, primarily, from a vanished collective consciousness, such that individual death was neither feared nor regretted.)

After this situation ended due to the destruction of the "lesser sun," the Earth and its inhabitants fell from the "higher sky" into a "lower sky." (In scientific terms, the Earth was catapulted from what are now called the Jovian planets into a closer solar orbit.  It tilted and began to rotate, producing diurnal and seasonal cycles.)

The sky and its inhabitants were then periodically transformed.  When that happened, the Earth suffered flooding, conflagration, tremors, freezes, bombardments and detonations, accompanied by grievous loss of life, both human and non-human. (The nova that shifted the Earth's orbit shifted that of several other planets.  Before they settled into the orbits which we now observe, the planets made repeated, close approaches to one another, with devastating results.)

Cultural Evolution as Recapitulation

After the loss of their Pliocene paradise, our forebears were so frightened, shocked and bewildered that they dissociated themselves not only from nature around them but also from nature within them, which they now perceived as threatening.  One result was the self-contradictory emotion of ambivalence–simultaneously desiring and rejecting the desire, all the while remaining unaware of the inner conflict.  They were at once nostalgic for the lost paradise and determined to master post-lapsarian misfortunes by inflicting them on the external world.  Sometimes their ideas were purely paradisiacal, as in the case of the promise of a heavenly life after death; sometimes their behavior was patently catastrophic, as in the case of unrestricted warfare of the type that obliterated Carthage.  Usually, however, cultural innovations proved to be Janus-faced, partially reviving the lost order while simultaneously reinforcing the destructive processes that put an end to that order.

Examples of such ambiguous developments are: Paleolithic mastery of fire, which restored the warmth of the Pliocene luminary at the cost of burning trees (and sometimes houses or even people); Neolithic domestication of plants and animals, which restored the archaic plentitude of species, but did so exploitatively; Bronze Age urbanization, which reinstated the form of the lost planetary order but created an increasingly unnatural human environment; and Iron Age imperialism, whose objective was a universal state reminiscent of the archaic cosmos, but whose means of realizing that goal were brutally coercive.

Puzzles, Solved and Unsolved

The catastrophist paradigm is far from new.  It was espoused in the last century by Georges Cuvier and Ignatius Donnelly, and in this century by Claude Schaefer and Immanuel Velikovsky.  Though ignored or disparaged by most contemporary scientists, it goes further than any other, I think, to explain those prehistoric data that remain most puzzling.

Nonetheless, there are puzzles of prehistory that yield no more easily to catastrophism than to uniformitarianism or to any other diachronically-oriented rapid rate of growth during the Pleistocene Epoch.  By way of explanation, it is not enough to say that man needed the brain to survive the rigors of the Ice Age.  Many small-brained, and some, literally, brainless organisms also survived it and are now thriving.

Another unsolved puzzle is incest prohibition, observable in the form of incest-avoidance, in both wild and captive chimpanzees as well as in historical and contemporary humanity.  Neither instinct alone nor institutionalization alone accounts for it.  Nor does the threat of biological degeneration, since this is far from assured, in either theory or practice.

One of the greatest prehistoric puzzles for naturalistically-minded, modern intellectuals is supernaturalismNeanderthalers seem to have believed in discarnate souls–ghosts of both men and animals.  And most of their successors, at least since Neolithic times, seem also to have believed in gods, spirits, elves and various other powerful beings.  The naturalistic explanation of these beings as wishful projections of human needs is unconvincing, since supernaturals appear as to be equally as malevolent as they are supportive.  Instead of asking why some people feel the presence of such beings, a better question may be why scholars generally do not.  Are they, perhaps, more susceptible than others to traumatically-induced, ontological blindness?


(For Venus from Saturn)

Be done with death, my dearest.
Now, with the sun, be born.
Celestial choirs invest you
This universal morn.

O swim the blue of heaven,
And wade the green of earth;
Seek in the deepest ocean
Ever newer birth!

I see you rise and conquer,
My newly nascent child,
In planetary voyage
The interstellar wild.

What ever was, you will be.
What's soon to come, you are.
How many gods embrace you,
My twice-born evening star!

Roger W. Wescott

[1] This Article will appear in the forthcoming book, Question Marks of the Past, ed., Jaroslav Malina (VLHKA 10, 602-00 Brno, Czechoslovakia).

[2] "Personality Disorders," The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, ed.  Robert Berkow, M.D., 16th edition (Rahway, New Jersey: Merck & Co., Inc., 1992), p. 1546.

[3] "Schizophrenic Disorders," The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, ed.  Robert Berkow, M.D., 16th edition (Rahway, New Jersey: Merck & Co., Inc., 1992), p. 1614.

[4] Ibid., pp. 1616-1617.

[5] Spread the Words: A Layman's Guide to Mental Health Language (American Psychiatric Association, 1988), p. 13.

[6] Ibid, pp. 4,15.

[7] Reprinted from The New Worlds Review (Lakeville Connecticut: May, 1971)

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