From Modernity to After-Modernity (34)

Book 3. Divination

1. the future emerges in a given context

1.1. The quasi-Worldview of Modernity

1.1.2. Power ideologies mold the minds

In “Book 2. Volume 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.1. The context.  I defend the thesis  that the nature of reality is largely inaccessible to humanity (1). I further wrote that “We better recognize, early on, the fact that the whole universe is immensely vast; so vast that its true nature is inaccessible to human reason. … Inaccessibility implies the unknown and humans don't like unknowns. They have no problems with unknown "unknowns" for the good reason that unknown "unknowns" simply don't pop up in their consciousness but they feel utterly ill at ease when faced with known "unknowns" such as those nagging questions resulting from the inaccessibility of the whole universe to the human mind. Such known unknowns become obsessions that drive people in the throat of anxiety from where they search to escape at all costs. This is how societal groupings, along our entire history, have been seen coming in the picture by proposing approximations of reality, and of what the unknown is all about, to be shared by their citizens in order to sooth their anxiety. When shared by all citizens such approximations crystallize in a societal view of the world or a worldview that all consider as being the truth of the matter and this rewards those societies with higher levels of cohesion which, in turn, facilitate their reproduction from generation to generation.”

While the narratives of worldviews are often presented, as the only truth about what reality is all about, the fact is that they are not really the truth but merely human reflections or approximations of reality. In ”Book 2. Volume 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.1. The context” I wrote the following “Some scientists may posit that science will one day come to the end of its quest and will procure us the understanding of the truth about the global reality in which we are such minuscule particles. But the fact remains that the only possible materialist and rational understanding that is available to particles of an ensemble is a vision from the inside of that ensemble and we already know that such an internal vision is limited to abstractions of the internal mechanisms within that ensemble.
n light of this we know that science has still a very long way to go before it masters the internal mechanisms of the global ensemble that contains us and there is no way of knowing for sure if science will ever reach such a mastery. What is already a certainty is that the scientific method is constrained within the internality of what we call our universe. But what about the mind and consciousness of that ensemble and its interactions with other ensembles? This is a matter that is, as a logical proposition, inaccessible scientifically to the particles inside the ensemble. That's where the limitations of science are becoming crystal clear.
Science originates from the self of each observer placed in his societal, historical and geographical context. All that each observer can possibly observe originates from within his own self that is fashioned by his context. This means that this observation is tainted by the limitations of the self. Some scientists reject this idea as a matter of principle. But by doing so they transform their limited observing “self” into their limitless observing “ego”. The reality is that the ego and its pretensions of limitlessness is nothing else than hubris that originates in the ideology of individualism that was born with power societies and affirmed and expanded by Modernity. And so the idea of scientific limitlessness is merely an ideological illusion.”

In light of science’s limitation within the internality of what we call our universe, and in view of the further limitations of the self, we can affirm with certainty that worldviews are ideations, or stories/narratives to make sense of something that is inaccessible. We have seen earlier that worldviews arose to answer the need to soothe the individuals’ anxiety that is arising from facing the unknown. This individual necessity is also neatly answering the need to increase the levels of societal cohesion in order to perpetuate societies and ultimately the species. So it is safe to say that the role of worldviews is to ensure the individuals’ and the species’ well-being and in that sense they have to be viewed as absolutely necessary societal components. They act as first mover cohesion builders. Looked at from another angle it also appears evident that societies can’t survive without the sharing by their individual atoms of a common worldview.

History furthermore teaches us that, when looked at from a worldview perspective, the societal history of humanity divides roughly in 2 eras:

  1. non-power tribal societies, whose worldviews were animism, thrived over the span of tens of thousands of years
  2. power-societies, whose worldviews initially were religions or philosophies, later gave way to Modernity. Power societies stabilized at the earliest some 5,000 years ago and so on the scale of the long history they appear to be still in their adolescence while for the observer of Late-Modernity they already appear in their late stage of life just before death.

The fact of the matter is that what distinguishes non-power animism from power worldviews is the nature of the adherence of the citizens to the worldview. Non-power tribal animism was willingly shared without any exception by all while power worldviews were imposed by the men of power to the reluctant members of their societies which routinely resulted in the overthrow of the institutions of power. In this sense we come to understand that tribal societies were fundamentally strong and resilient while power societies are weak and fragile and their fragility furthermore is seen increasing with their increasing levels of complexity. What has to be retained here is that:

  1. non-power societies subscribe to a worldview through unanimous decision making, and so no institutional action and no punishment for not adhering to the worldview, are ever required
  2. power societies subscribe to a worldview through the molding of the citizens’ minds by the propaganda of their center of power which means that institutions, and punishment for non-obedience, are required to implement the sharing of a common worldview by the citizenry.

Power worldviews, or ideologies, initially were imposed primarily through brute force. But the brute force exercised by the center of power was never a match for rebellions of individual atoms at the periphery. This observation explains why it took Milena for early kingdoms and empires to stabilize and reproduce. The transition from tribal societies to empire has indeed been a very long and messy process as I have extensively laid out in “About Early Kingdoms and Empires”, “Imperial stabilization” and more particularly in “Book 2, Volume 4. 4.7. About the institutions of governance”.

Only after the men of power understood that brute force was ineffective at perpetuating their reign did they eventually align with men of knowledge, who consented to their power, in order to impose an ideological story to glue the mind of all. Such narratives tricked their citizens into acceptance of their rule. Propaganda originates indeed with the alliance of power and knowledge. It is the manipulation of the minds into believing that the ideation narrative, or the ideology conceived of by the men of knowledge and imposed by the men of power, is the sole truth out there about what reality is all about. Propaganda acts along the following lines:

  • the minds are being manipulated to believe that the narrative conveyed is the only truth out there and instilling fear has always been the easiest route to subjection under the pretext of the omnipotence of an all mighty god. This has been an integral part of the axiom of dualism at the origin of the civilizations that took their roots in the Tri-ContinentalArea. In contrast the rare civilizations that succeeded to absorb animism were more pragmatic and, as in China, they tended to recourse to reasoned approaches of governance as Confucianism for example whose objective was to ease the production of the citizens daily lives while keeping a balanced society.
  • the minds that, for whatever reason, are not sensitive to the propaganda are being threatened with harsh punishments for not complying and so they most often feel forced to convert to the narrative of the men of knowledge that is being imposed by the men of power.
  • a harsh punishment was meted out to those who refused to bow. The punishment, at best was the exclusion of the group and, at worse was a death sentence. Not much has changed in Late-Modernity. For sure propaganda has been greatly refined and the arts have been requisitioned to act as instruments of popular conversion. But while the punishment for not complying, appears more benign, it is nevertheless very successful at breaking opposition. As the word marginalization suggests those who do not comply are relegated to the margins where their isolation from societal action induces a feeling of disenfranchisement in their minds that increases their levels of anxiety which lead them strait into depression. These are all pathogenic factors that, according to the scientific literature, increase the risk of death by as much as 46% (2). This should dispel once and for all the idea that modern propaganda has a benign impact on peoples’ physical lives.
The existence of a punishment, for not adhering to the ideology of the men of power, furthermore implies that the sharing of such an ideology is not an easy task. It also implies that other ideologies are eventually competing with the ideology of the men of power to catch the attention of the citizens. The threat of competing ideologies instills fear in the minds of the men of power that they could possibly one day lose their privileges. This is what motivates them to impose their worldview to all with force as a last resort.

This conclusion begs the question “how could free tribal people possibly have accepted to leave behind the freedom procured by non-power societies for the submission to power societies?”. How in the world could individuals willingly have abandoned their freedom and shared belief in the pragmatism of animism to convert to a state of subjection and obedience to the ideologies of the men of power?

This is not something that took place overnight from one day to the next. The transition from non-power to power societies has indeed been a very long process that started sometimes along the tortuous path of changing climates that impacted very profoundly all life forms. At the end of the “younger Dryas” average temperatures are seen to have increased by nearly 10 degrees Celcius in Central Greenland where the glaciers’ ice stored the memory of past climates. Average temperatures were certainly not that extreme everywhere on earth but were sufficient to somehow result in an explosion of life all around the globe. A warming climate unleashed the thriving of the flora and fauna. Human life got suddenly easier and populations slowly started to increase. The following table illustrates the sudden turn for the better at the end of the “Younger Dryas”. It also shows that the following 10,000 years have had the improbable chance of experiencing particularly stable temperatures and it finally illustrates the radical departure from that stability which has set in very recently...

Graph by Laodan. An adaptation from the following:
(graphs given in Geologic temperature record + the graph given by Graham Hancock in Ancient Extinction Revealed).

Scientists who specialize in the study of human “pre-history” have for a very long time believed that power resulted as a consequence of a causal chain starting with –the agricultural revolution that would have impulsed – a demographic growth which destabilized tribal societies and called for – new structures of governance. It is certainly a fact that demographic statistics show a progressive increase in population over the next Milena following the agricultural revolution but this in no way proves that power resulted as a direct consequence from the agricultural revolution.

New discoveries in Anatolia's Gőbekli Tepe disprove indeed such a thesis where archaeologists unearthed a sanctuary site that was built prior to agriculture (3).  Gőbekli tepe is, as of today, the oldest known man made structure. This sanctuary was built some 13,000-11,000 years ago, and perhaps even earlier, by hunter-gatherers before agriculture emerged. It covers an area roughly 90,000 square meters. Such a monumental construction could not have been realized without the organization of a large labor force which suggests that the members of multiple tribes must have collaborated over an extended period of time.

What directly springs to mind here is that some form of tribal organization based on the exercise of power must have existed to oversee the activities of “workers” from multiple tribes in order to possibly organize the kind of large workforce that would have been necessary to complete such gigantic works over extensive periods of time. But this idea contradicts the traditional scientific view that power emerged as a necessity to organize the larger groupings that resulted from the demographic growth caused by agriculture. So what are we to make of this situation?

To make sense of this contradiction let’s go back to “Book 2. Volume 4. Governance and societal evolution. 4.7. About the institutions of governance” where I develop a non-agricultural model of societal transition from non-power tribes to empires. In substance what I show is that tribes have always had their own mechanisms to cope with destabilizing demographic realities. This conclusion was reached from studies, about the dynamics of contemporary small groups, that indicate their spontaneous adaptation to size variations. In summary, while trying to maximize the efficiency of the group in the tasks involved in its “raison d’être”, its participants unconsciously limit its size (4) to an average of 150 also known as the “Dunbar Number”. This average means that there is an upper limit at 180-200 participants due to factors relating to the building of the necessary trust between the participants and a lower limit at 100-120 participants due to factors that relate to the work efficacy of the group in producing the goods necessary for the survival of its members.

When reaching its upper limit the group splits and when reaching its lower limit the group tries to grow by uniting with individuals of other groups. This spontaneous demographic balancing of the size of tribal groups has also to be related to the general context in which the societal transition from tribes to empire takes place:
  • a warming climate, at the end of the “Younger Dryas” (5) attracted the fauna to the alluvial plains where the flora grew exuberant
  • humans followed the fauna and literally landed in alluvial plains where they adapted to their new context of abundance
Estimates of tribal population densities, before the agricultural revolution set in, vary wildly from 0,004 per Sq. km. to 1 per Sq. Km (6). For the sake of visualizing how tribal distribution operated in real life let’s imagine that in the alluvial plains of the Upper Paleolithic densities were in the range of 0.1 per Sq Km. This would imply that on average the territory of one tribe would thus have totaled some 1,500 Sq Km. This figure is an approximation based on Martin Wobst’s model and does not pretend to accurately reflect the demographic reality on the ground in the upper-paleolithic. This approximation is solely meant to allow us to gain a visualization of the process by which tribal societies absorbed population growth. What immediately springs to mind is that the real size of the alluvial plains necessarily limited the total number of tribal groups.

At a population density of 0.1 per Sq Km the 15,000 Sq Km of the alluvial plains in Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates would have been completed occupied by merely 10 tribes… What this implies is that when the population of Mesopotamia started to growth the tribal mode of governance was very fast destabilized with a near immediate need for power institutions in order to manage the growing population.

In this particular context agriculture procured an answer accommodating a rising population with a limited territory. Such a technological answer not only satisfied population growth in a limited territory it also procured power institutions with the rationale to feed a continually growing population while also appearing to feed the growth in power of these same power institutions. In contrast, disposing of 1,5 to 2 million Sq Km of alluvial plains China would have had the potential to accommodate a total of 1000 to 1300 different tribes… which suggests that, within the territory of present-day China, the tribal model of governance could have absorbed a growing population over many Milena following the initial emergence of power in the Middle-East.

In conclusion, whatever was the real figure of tribal density, the fact is that the smaller the size of the alluvial plains the more rapidly the process of expansion by way of splitting tribes reached its absolute limit. In the smaller alluvial plains the pressure of demographic growth led necessarily to an early occupation of the entire territory and so arose the early necessity of newer forms of governance based on power.

Herein lays the best explanation, we have to this day, for the differentiation between the diverging societal paths taken in the TriContinentalArea (Middle-East) and in China. This also explains the mechanisms by which power could easily have predated agriculture in the site of Gőbekli Tepe. Practically the following lessons follow these conclusions:
  1. in the TriContinentalArea (fertile crescent) the population growth, through the mechanism of splitting tribes, must very rapidly have overwhelmed the relatively small sizes of its alluvial plains. And once the entire territory of an alluvial plain was occupied by tribes the only way to handle further population growth was by recoursing to new methods of food production that relied on the occupation of smaller portions of the territory than what tribes traditionally used to need. In other words, from very early on, the limited size of the alluvial plains in the Fertile Crescent imposed the necessity of a smaller territorial footprint... which was encouraged with the emergence of new forms of governance based on power that were at once, – better adapted to managing the organization of ever larger societies, – highly motivate to push agriculture as a means to increase their own level of power through centralization of the food reserves. This explains how, in the Fertile Crescent, the transition from tribal non-power societies to power societies started very soon after the climate stabilized some 12-10,000 years ago. This mechanism has also to be set in the context of a very narrow territory that was at the intersection of 3 colossal land masses which suggest traffic from the one to the other which, in turn, suggests conflicts and ideological ruptures... which explains why animism was abandoned very early on to be replaced by newer narratives.
  2. In the territory of present-day China the immense size of the alluvial plains acted like a shock absorber on population growth and tribal societies could thus absorb population growth, by splitting and expanding their territorial occupation, over far longer periods of time. And so we begin to understand why in China the transition from tribes to empire started very late indeed. In comparison to the Fertile Crescent, where power emerged very rapidly after the completion of the “Younger Dryas” sometimes 11,600 years ago, in the territory of present-day China power only emerged some 5-4,000 years ago. In other words, in the territory of present day China, the tribal worldview of animism could be perpetuated in continuity because, – the sheer vastness of its alluvial plains allowed the tribal model to absorb demographic growth over Milena. Furthermore tribal animism was not challenged by a competitor worldview from the outside and for this very reason it could perpetuate in continuity. This explains how it was eventually adopted by the empire...

What is particularly interesting at this juncture is to observe that a tribal mechanism was at play that created the conditions for power to emerge well before the agricultural revolution was starting to set in. I analyze this mechanism in “Book 2. Volume 4. Governance and societal evolution. 4.7. About the institutions of governance” (7).  In short during their retreats in the “underworld” far from their fellow-tribesmen the men of knowledge of neighboring tribes were not only pursuing the transmission of their knowledge to their apprentices they were also trying to increase their own knowledge through rituals mastered by the twins among them. Twin wo(men) of knowledge were kind of master wo(men) of knowledge and the respect shown by all for them acted as a powerful symbol of the knowledge unification of all present at the retreat.

As symbol of the unity, of the knowledge of the participants at the retreat, the daily ways of doing and thinking of the tribes of the twin wo(men) of knowledge (culture) gradually unified the populations of multiple tribes over an expanding territory. This stage of development consecrated the expansion of one tribe’s culture over an expanding territory made of multiple tribes. In the TransContinentalArea this cultural unification was completed very early on for the good reason that the wo(men) of knowledge of all the tribes occupying the alluvial plains participated in the initial retreats. In China multiple centers of cultural unification appear simultaneously that eventually merged over the following Milena.

This tribal cultural unification was symbolized by the persons of “twin wo(men) of knowledge”. This was not an exercise of power but a spontaneous rallying around twins who were perceived to be mastering a superior knowledge. This whole process of unification was thus based on the utilitarian notion that the twins’ superior knowledge would be helping to minimize the suffering while maximizing the pleasure of all tribesmen. This unification around the symbol of the twins helps us to understand how pre-agricultural and pre-power societies were eventually able to erect very large construction works at Gőbekli Tepe and in all probability in many other places that are still hidden from archaeological sight.

Cultural unification around a human symbol representing superior knowledge was also differentiating the “twin wo(men) of knowledge” from the other “wo(men) of knowledge” and more certainly from the their tribesmen. Psychology explains how differentiation practiced over very long time-spans leads necessarily to a deepening differentiation and the establishment of power with its privileges and the need to control the population in order to perpetuate the institutions ensuring the privileges of the few men of power.

But power on its own was never sufficient to perpetuate institutions over the generations. Propaganda is what ensured the stabilization and perpetuation of power societies and allowed for the emergence of empire. Only after the empire succeeded to overwhelm the minds of its citizens with its ideology could its institutions reproduce and perpetuate over the generations. In the end the ideologies devised by the men of knowledge and the propaganda imposed by the men of power on peoples’ minds is what broke the spell of the ever occurring cycle of emergence/collapse of power institutions that plagued the whole transition from tribes to empire.

Later with the adoption of the 4 core traits of Modernity the minds succumbed ever further... this time to the reason at work within capital and later to rationalism. In practical terms this means that power imposes on humanity to obey the diktats of its ideologies in all aspects of societal and individual life.

Under the rule of empire obedience was still limited to the obligation to accept the differentiation between the rulers and the ruled which attributed the privilege of taxation to the rulers living in Early Cities. In comparison Modernity largely expanded the reach of its control of the minds. The wildest move came with urbanization when self sufficient farmers were made to believe that their lives would improve considerably by abandoning their self-sufficiency to serve as slaves in factories. Their loss of autonomy was painted as a huge progress that confers the benefit of consumerism. Add to that a coat of consumer bling and you begin to understand how the minds were anesthetized to their ensuing state of dependence. The idea that to pay for these goods, one has to sell his body and mind, was indeed astutely camouflaged under shining bling. Amazingly humans have the same weakness as crows for everything that shines.

Under Modernity this weakness has been used, and continues to be used, as a bait to pull people into consumerism and submission. But more generally we observe that this whole process of imposing ideologies though propaganda takes multiple forms that directly impact on peoples’ daily lives.


1.  See “Book 2. Volume 1. About the formation of human knowledge.

2.  See Loneliness actually hurts us on a cellular level”in Vox by Brian Resnick. 2017-01-30.
“Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and heart disease — it literally breaks our hearts. A 2015 meta-review of 70 studies showed that loneliness increases the risk of your chance of dying by 26 percent.(Comparethat to depression and anxiety, which is associated with a comparable 21 percent increase in mortality.)”

3.  Check this excellent National Geographic documentary on the discoveries at Gőbekli Tepe.

4.  It is generally agreed that 150 individuals is the average small human groups naturally tend to attain. This is known as the “Dunbar Number”. Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University.

5. The Younger Dryas is the last glaciation period that spanned between c. 12,980 to c. 11,600 years ago when world average temperatures were nearly 10 degrees Celsius lower than the temperatures at the dawn of the industrial revolution.

6. Tribal population densities: “wobst's population model” gives an estimate of 0.004 to 0.008 per Sq Km at the early stages of long distance migration that reached densities of 0,02 per Sq Km some 30,000 years ago. Wobst also indicates that archeology gives higher densities in the alluvial plains of the upper paleolithic. See Boundaries of paleo social systems by Martin Wobst (free pdf).

7. Concerning the tribal mechanisms of knowledge formation see“Book 2. Volume 1. 1.2. non-power societies = tribes & animism”.

Video of note    The Century of the Self (Full version. Nearly 4 hours) 

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