“It’s part of our unconscious mind that is shared with other humans, common to all humankind, and stems from latent memories from our ancestral past, even prehistoric past. Jung proposed that evolution has innately imprinted our minds with certain predispositions, archetypes. For example, anxieties such as fear of the dark, fear of death, and even fear of failure might come from this preconditioning. Perhaps in your grandfather’s case, his dreams are trying to bring out some ancestral traumatic event. Freud, on the other hand, would call his dreams ‘wish fulfillment.’ There is a forbidden or repressed wish, which may be a result of guilt or taboos imposed by society or family. The dream is the way to transform that wish in a nonthreatening way. It’s an attempt to resolve the repressed conflict.”

                                                                               Dr. Beverly Fontaine, May 2021

The Big Bear Fear

What is instinct?  How do we have certain survival behaviors from the time we are young before we have ever been in danger?  How do we know to be afraid of what we may never have seen before?  The famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung proposed we inherit at birth an assemblage of images and knowledge which we are unaware of.  However, at certain moments these ancient memories or engrams arise into our consciousness.  Dreams for examples.  Moments of danger where we need to act or die.

The Selfish Genome and the Meme

In 1986, Clinton Richard Dawkins published a revolutionary book on evolution, The Selfish Gene.  He proposed our genomes seek to preserve themselves by copying their structures and therefore are selfish in nature.  In this endeavor to survive, the gene will contain mechanisms that will best reproduce and protect itself.

These mechanisms extend beyond physical or chemical manifestations that allow this genome to out reproduce other competitive genomes.  For ultimately behavior is also a survival mechanism and thus behavior that gave a competitive reproductive advantage would be coded into the genome. He termed these coded behaviors “memes”.  These could be ideas, beliefs, and or behaviors which are transmitted from one generation to another which allow the descendants of the genome to prosper.

Transmission of these memes could be accomplished through the genetic coding of the nervous system.  So why could not the collective unconscious of Carl Jung be the expression of ancient memes which act to protect us?  Dawkins also proposes that the “selfish gene” is capable of altruism in that unselfish acts can ultimately help the gene achieve competitive reproduction through social cooperation.

Memes and Religion

In a 1991 follow-up paper, Dawkins proposed that religion was a virus of the mind – a meme which promotes survival benefits to the genome.  In 2006, Daniel Dennett expands upon this thinking in his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon where he pulls together elements of anthropology, archeology, biology, and psychology to explain the origins of religious belief.  He uses the analogy of a group of basketball players to explain the evolutionary fitness benefit of cooperation.  A group of “selfish” individuals would score less points than a group of “unselfish” ones who effectively played together.  The latter would have more fans, more attendance at their games and therefore thrive.  The former would eventually pass away from their lack of success.

Dennett compares religious society to the cooperative unselfish players in a successful basketball team.  He proposes a concept of “intentional stance” where an individual is pre-disposed to believe that an event has a specific causal source.  For example, seeing an arrow falling from the sky a person is pre-disposed to believe that arrow was shot into the air by someone even though one did not see the archer.  The same can be said for religious belief in that individuals can be pre-disposed to believe in a great being, a greater divinity, is the unseen causal agent for many unexplainable phenomena.

In 2010, Sue Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine, professed in an essay that she no longer believed Dawkin’s ‘virus of the mind’ to be true.  She cited recent data that showed religious belief to be correlated with greater reproductive success and more importantly happier and healthier than secularists.  Although the religious meme as proposed by Dawkins could lead to detrimental effects as would a virus, Blackmore likens the religious meme to bacteria, which can be both helpful and healthy as well as detrimental.

The Matriarch Matrix – A tale of the transmission of culture and messages across 12,000 years

At the origin of this epic story, a woman of great inner strength survives the traumatic ordeals of slavery to a race of giant warriors.  This matriarch finds solace in her faith which is further strengthened by her encounter with “the object”.  Her faith and beliefs which allowed her to survive and strive, she passes to her children as they would to theirs.  Through memes and genes, her influence reaches Peter and Zara in the 2021 who must wrestle with what they uncover as it challenges all they know to be true in their world.

The Matriarch Matrix puts Peter Gollinger, a scientific atheist like Dawkins, Dennett, and Blackmore, up against two people of deep faith, Father Jean-Paul Sobiro, a Jesuit, and Zara Khatum, a devout Sufi Kurd.  Who will change who in this story?  Is the selfish genome stronger than faith in God?

“Peter, we believe the answer is buried deeply in your subconscious. Only you and Alexander show a close enough DNA match with the originators to exhibit what Jung might have called an ancient repressed memory, handed down through time in your genes. These ancient memories drive your response to the collective unconscious, the afflicted dreams you wrestle with each night. We believe we may be able to activate this repressed memory or image. Our Mei was tasked to work with you to allow your subconscious to be expressed.”          Father Jean-Paul Sobiros, May 2021

 

Further Reading:

“Empirical study of associations between symbols and their meanings: Evidence of collective unconscious (archetypal) memory”, D.H. Rose et. al., J. of Analytical Psychology 1991, 36, 211-228.

“The Selfish Gene “, Richard Dawkins, Jan 1976, Oxford University Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Cui Bono? A Review of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett”, J Exp Anal Behav. 2007 Jan; 87(1): 143–149.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1790880/

“Why I no longer believe religion is a virus of the mind”, Sue Blackmore, The Guardian, September 16, 2010.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/16/why-no-longer-believe-religion-virus-mind

photo licensed from depositphoto.com

 

Ancient Memories, Collective Unconscious, and the Selfish Gene
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