Review, spiritual Evolution, George vaillant. An invaluable gold mine in a deadly minefield.
The gold, the life-saving truths found throughout this book are extraordinarily important. But the book is laced with landmines and unless one procedes carefully they will do themselves permanent damage.
George is an extremely useful probe for us, the right person at the right time to observe important developments in the realm of psychobiology. And thank goodness for that. But whereas he has a lifetime of observation he has little or no personal experience. By way of analogy , he has spent countless years observing those who climb sheer Rock faces and communicates that to a population who has never seen it. But not being a rock climber himself fatal it would be for his readers to proceed to the rock face on just what he says. And also it would be a mistake for the would-be rock climber to ignore what he does share.
The author of this review, James, for reasons no credit to himself, has spent a lifetime practicing, studying, exercising the capacity for unselfish love, living with the soul in charge, which is at the heart of what vaillant shares with us. To this lifelong practitioner, James, the gold nuggets throughout this book are invaluable to the extent that he has spent months studying what vaillant provided. But also months agonizing over the extraordinary errors also laced throughout the book.
Although it will seem that James has some desire to speak negatively about vaillant and the book this is not at all the case. The Nuggets that vaillant provides to us are so extraordinary valuable to the life of every individual, that the poisons that he also unintentionally introduces are that much more consequential and must be flagged.
Throughout the book vaillant authoritatively identifies the extraordinary intellectual failure that the field of psychology has been and continues to be, as evidenced by the recent vital progress being made by a few in the field and related fields of Neuroscience, ethology, primatology, cultural anthropology and the like.
Imagine that the field of psychology had ridiculed and even more so denied the human capacity for lust, anger, violence, intellectual Pursuit…. Flesh and head respectively. How incredibly bankrupt, correct? It has done the equivalent, not the equivalent, infinitely worse. It has violently denied the human capacity for unselfish love, Soul in charge, demonstrably the most important capacity to the survival of the human species over the Millennia and into the future. And the solitary source of the ultimate human emotional state, Joy. It has violently, violently, viciously denied, belittled, ridiculed the existence of such a thing.
George does us an invaluable service of laying out the studies in a variety of disciplines that indisputably indicate that in the human limbic system, the mammalian part of our brain, the inbuilt capacity and orientation to unconditional love is inbuilt not only in our species, especially in our species, but also to varying degrees throughout the mammalian Kingdom.
This aspect of the book is beyond invaluable. More than any other book I know if everyone read and grasped this aspect of the book it would change the world. No, that won't happen, but if it did, it would change the world.
But as the book stands if the book were read without supervision it would change and hence the futile effort of this review. In one sentence George brilliantly presents the truth of unconditional love, and then three sentences late later conflates it we lust, selfish love. And this pattern repeats itself over and over and over and over.
George does not grasp the importance of those gold nuggets. And he is willing to dilute his presentation trying to appeal to too many audiences and too many goals, particularly the religious communities around the world. He has the right, it is understandable, but we are out of time as a species, and each living individual is out of time to get it right.
At some time in the future I would like to have the time to present the detailed notes and analysis paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter that I have agonized over these last weeks. And one on one, if asked, I could do so. But for now the following will have to suffice, a quick assessment chapter by chapter of highs and lows.
Chapter 1. Positive emotion. George opens with a Majesterial encapsulation of the gold Nuggets that he strews throughout this book. It is a magnificent true story and the bottom line for him of the story is this: “Unselfish love (soul, heart) had conquered both Darwinian “selfish” genes and Kantian pure reason (flesh and head respectively). The transformative power of positive emotion had interceded. Positive emotions—not only
compassion, forgiveness, love, and hope but also joy, faith/trust, awe, and gratitude—arise from our inborn mammalian capacity for unselfish parental love. They emanate from our feeling, limbic mammalian brain and thus are grounded in our evolutionary heritage. All human beings are hardwired for positive emotions, and these positive emotions are a common denominator of all major faiths and of all human beings. Thus, this is, in some respects, a revolutionary book. I shall argue that thepositive emotions are not just nice to have; they are essential to the survival of Homo sapiens as a species.”
Had George tightly adhered to this in every paragraph of this book it would be the most important book on earth. Truly. Sadly, this is not the case. But the truth that human kind or the human individual needs to understand is in the quotation above, often substantiated throughout this book, most importantly with the scientific advances in the last 10 or 20 years richly documented here in. Substantiated most importantly by finding the organ, if you will, previously unknown, Limbic system, mamalian brain, the most important part of the triune brain. Most important organ for the human species survival past, present and for the few that will survive what a world dominated by head and flash, cerebral cortex and hypothalamus respectively, is in the final stages of destroying.
Proceed with this book if you can keep in mind, and measure every passage by, the quotation above which strikes right to the heart of the truth. The reader who does so will find the gold Nuggets richly strewn throughout this book and avoid the land minds. Otherwise, do not proceed.
Over all chapter one is fabulous, extremely constructive. But George can't seem to help himself. He clearly does not see with his limbic system what thank goodness his cerebral cortex has brought to us in this chapter as he blunders into, “If readers will permit me to define pleasure as the result of positive emotion rather than mere hedonism, then…” WTF? And George nowhere in the book evidences that he sees the centrality of this horrible deadly error. Pleasure is the neurological psychological reward provided by the nervous system when it senses that we are pursuing what our hypothalamus, our Reptilian Brain, our selfish brain wants. Joy being the exact opposite reward, when the nervous system senses that driven by our soul, our heart, our mammalian brain, our limbic system, we are attempting to serve those Among Us in need!
Chapter 2. The prose and the passion. With this chapter George gets off to a pretty wonderful start, “Only recently have scientists discovered that the compassion, joy, and unselfish love so important to religion and to the Neolithic mind are not irrelevant to science. You see, the
Neolithic (hunter-gatherer) mind that “natural selection built” was more like that of a four-year-old—all images, animism, magic, and emotion—than like that of a modern, highly educated adult. Dependence on the written word and the use of the scientific experiment to verify imagined cause and effect were still far in the future by the time that natural selection had completed the “hardware” of the Homo sapiens brain. Moreover,ever since our invention of new “software” like the printing press and the scientific method, we have had less and less respect for the superstitious, mystical brain that natural selection built.” Bravo! Except for the troubling mistaken quote from EO Wilson with which he begins and then goes back to after the quotation above. “Only recently have scientists rediscovered that the compassion, joy, and unselfish love so important to religion and to the Neolithic mind are not irrelevant to science. You see, the
Neolithic (hunter-gatherer) mind that “natural selection built” was more like that of a four-year-old—all images, animism, magic, and emotion—than like that of a modern, highly educated adult. Dependence on the written word and the use of the scientific experiment to verify imagined cause and effect were still far in the future by the time that natural selection had completed the “hardware” of the Homo sapiens brain. Moreover,ever since our invention of new “software” like the printing press and the scientific method, we have had less and less respect for the superstitious, mystical brain that natural selection built."The task of a thoughtful future humanity must be to correct the “misalignment” between our scientific and our emotional brains.” because he and Wilson think that somehow the cerebral cortex and the mammalian brain are equals in a successful human life or humanity is a species. But Time After Time After Time the wonderful examples that he introduces in this book are no such thing, they are the soul in charge, the heart, the limbic system, the mammalian brain in charge of the cerebral cortex and hypothalamus, Reptilian Brain. Nowhere does George evidence that he sees this although his examples scream it from the rooftops. And his examples are exactly correct.
A profound value of this book is that it brings us such important revealing research from the last 10 and 20 years. But our research is conducted by those like George who worship their cerebral cortex in charge so quite possibly never the available instrumentation will be used to reveal what the likes of Abraham Maslow saw so many decades ago. That the mammalian brain, now clearly identified, when activated brings to Bear the full spectrum of white light, all of the positive emotions, activated and put in charge in addition to things he does not speak of, wisdom, Vision, which he speaks of tangentially, creativity, inspiration which he says is of the cerebral cortex but it is not it is primarily with the limbic system in charge.
With few exceptions this chapter 2 is helpful and extraordinarily so in many cases. He courageously lays out the anatomy and existence of the limbic system. There is little to be careful of in this chapter except for where he says, “Emotions, like the smooth muscle of our viscera, cannot be controlled by conscious will.” So incredibly blind, and wrong. And almost by his own words, elsewhere in the book. Where he speaks of the capacity to focus, and by being self-aware, self-monitoring, and focusing on what we look at and how we conceptualize it we are choosing which part of the nervous system, head, flesh, or soul, to activate. How can he be so blind? He is cerebral man. It is.
But with this chapter George gives us back Far and Away the most important part of our nervous system, that which makes us human, that, when in charge, gives us joy, and Hope For The Individual or group that keeps it in charge. Thank you George.
Chapter 3. 3 evolutions. For the most part a lot of very helpful material. Useful to highlight three types of evolution important to humanity, genetic, cultural, the software if you will, and the individual aging, maturing process.
There are some significant landmines in this chapter however. Among overprivileged people like George, the elites that he views as the healthy human beings, probably the opposite is true, he assumes that mature morality comes with age. That may be correct. But more likely it is a reflection of the sickness of our culture, and structural changes. How much easier it is for his Elite study subjects in their Advanced age to be moral, when they have structured their Financial Security earlier in their years.
And what of a young Rachel Corrie? Still, like virtually all of psychology, the unhealthy population is studied for its extremes and the most positive of the unhealthy population is held up as the optimum. This is crazy. When will we start with the healthy individuals, like young Rachel, or young Greta? Maslow did.
And then this. “As developmentalist Carol Gilligan points out, we have no self to give “selflessly” away if at first we are not “selfish.”” What kind of culture-specific, unexamined, superficial garbage is this?
And in the final several pages of this chapter there is quite a bit more garbage. Be careful you don't step in it.
But it ends on a positive note. “what human evolution is all about. Over time, just as evolving humanity is better shielded by science from capricious famine and infant deaths, just so its faith traditions—once dependent on the protective but negative emotions of abject fear and righteous anger—can give way to the positive emotions of faith, love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, and awe—the positive emotions whose biologic underpinnings will serve as foci for the next seven chapters.”
Not that his attempt to save the religions should be lauded, it should not. They are cancerous Corpses and should be allowed to die.
And does George even realize that he is not speaking here of connecting the prose and the passion, but rather having the soul, the heart, the limbic system, the mammalian brain in charge?
……. Creator willing, to be continued......
January 3rd, 2019 note. The plan was to complete this review weeks ago. But it will be several weeks s till until it is ready to go. Higher priority than completing this has been assumed by attempting to basically master the invaluable work of Karen Armstrong in, the great transformation recommended in George's book. Also, work is being undertaken to internalized, grasp, and even memorize certain of the passages that scholarship indicates were actually said by the man Jesus 2000 years ago. Roughly 20% of the words and sayings and examples actually attributed to him.