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The Human Brain Is Exapted For Insight

Martin LeFevre:  It used to be said of people in the West, “we are all Greeks.” It meant that the creative explosion of the ancient Greek philosophers so stamped the Western mind that all subsequent peoples in Europe, the Americas and Aotearoa were of the same basic way of thinking.

That frame of mind led to the immense achievements of science and technology since the Enlightenment, which was also an inheritance of and inspired by the Greek creative explosion.

Now the Western mind, including the Enlightenment, has run its course. While politicians and pundits focus on the outermost expressions of an externalizing mindset, the inner erosion of humans worldwide increases, and the rot spreads as the ecological crisis intensifies.

It’s no coincidence that the world’s wealthiest and arguably most powerful man who doesn’t have his finger on a nuclear button is an unhinged externalizer who believes he’s building “a fully reusable rocket to colonize space before civilization crumbles.”

Therefore the question has become: Given that human civilization as a whole is caught in an out-of-control outer-directed worldview that the ancient Greeks set in motion, is there a true alternative?

To believe humankind will muddle through the present ‘polycrisis’ because we muddled through crises before is looking backward to the past rather than facing the present and future of humanity.

The earth will be the final arbiter, and the human species has already crossed the line in our dismantling and destruction of the intactness and diversity of planetary systems and species. As climate scientist Luciana Gatti declares, “What we were predicting to happen perhaps in two or three decades is already taking place…we are killing this ecosystem directly and indirectly.”

Collective psychological pathologies that have their roots in the evolution of symbolic thought have produced the ecological crisis. Searching for outer solutions to a problem that emanates from human consciousness exacerbates the problem and insures there will not be an adequate response.

To think that we can decimate this planet and colonize others, or merge with our technology on a barren earth, is the height of hubris and folly.

What about the spiritual inheritance of the East? Despite what Western Buddhists believe, we cannot turn to the inner creative explosion of India (which occurred at about the same time as the Greek intellectual explosion) because that fire has also burned out, replaced by reactionary tradition, idiotic nationalism and Western materialism.

Though they were once very different, the Western mind and the Eastern mind (the outer-directed mind and the inner directed mind) have become, in the last three or four decades, a distinction without a difference.

What’s left is globalized consumerism and self-centered activity. No wonder techno-fantasists dream of escaping the earth they have ravaged onto other planets, or into a hellish fusion with technology in “The Singularity.”

If the Earth is to remain a diverse and beautiful planet, and humanity is to survive and thrive, there has to be a new creative explosion, neither Western nor Eastern, Northern or Southern, but within human consciousness itself.

Awakening the latent capacity for insight within the individual (literally, non-divided human being) awakens the intelligence of insight in human consciousness as a whole to an unknowable degree. That’s why true meditation, which has nothing to do with methods, systems or traditions, is essential.

The Western Enlightenment, based on reason, is finished. To whatever degree it existed, Eastern enlightenment, based on doubt, questioning and meditation, has been overtaken by the Western mind and its external achievements and attractions. 

Meditation isn’t an escape from society and the world, but the wellspring of a new human being and a true civilization. Therefore a newfound understanding of meditation is the way ahead for the individual and humanity.

Meditation releases, through all-inclusive, non-directed attention to the movement of thought/emotion in the mirror of nature, the human brain’s latent capacity for insight.

The human brain is exapted for insight, but it’s up to the individual to liberate it, and ourselves.  



Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.