The symbol of our earliest known religions, back when goddesses ruled the world, was the serpent. The goddess had several familiars or manifestations. The serpent was unique.

“The snake is life force, a seminal symbol, epitome of the worship of life on this earth. It is not the body of the snake that was sacred, but the energy exuded by this spiraling or coiling creature which transcends its boundaries and influences the surrounding world. This same energy is in spirals, vines, growing trees, phalluses, and stalagmites, but it is especially concentrated in the snake, and therefore more powerful. The snake was something primordial and mysterious, coming from the depths of the waters where life begins. Its seasonal renewal in sloughing off its old skin and hibernating made it a symbol of the continuity of life and of the link with the underworld.” Marija Gimbutas, 1989

Over tens of thousands of years, the snake transformed into the dragon. The Western dragon is the serpent demonized by Indo-Europeans who conquered goddess culture. In India, Indo-Europeans demoted serpent deities to a lower caste, suppressing the serpent gods in myth and story. Farther East, the serpent was deified and made magical by the Chinese, yet stripped of its matrifocal origins. Destroyed, subjugated and assimilated, serpent-worshipping goddess peoples live on in their symbol’s transformations.

There is perhaps no better symbol for our species evolution than this symbol of ancient culture, a symbol that has experienced an evolution of its own.

Still, there are other ways to trace the meandering path of our societal history than by the stories and symbols that those peoples leave behind. You can explore those ancient people themselves, the original serpent people. These are the people we call autistic. We are going back in time to before the African Diaspora, when language was still an unfamiliar art. Unfamiliar to the males. It was the females that learned to speak first.

There are four times as many autistic males than autistic females. This disparity is a riddle that has stumped investigators for many years. Approaching societal evolution as a winding serpentine path of physiological/neurological transformations, we can trace changes in hormonal constellations that reveal a history of our species. That history suggests that autistic females are even more ancient than autistic males. To find females not yet facile with language requires further windings back in time.

Autism is the evidence of our evolutionary origins, back when language was brand new. I’m not suggesting autistic people are less evolved than contemporary, normal people. It seems to me that our evolutionary future has more than a little to do with the gifts that the autistic bring us from the past. I am suggesting that our bodies are riding a roller coaster, serpentine time machine that is bringing into contemporary times peoples from the past. Autistic males from perhaps 75,000 years ago, autistic females from maybe 150,000 years ago. There are four times more males than females because the further back in time you go, the less frequently those people can emerge.

Three powerful factors have converged to draw these people to us from ancient times. 1) In the past 25 years, there have been radical changes in sexual selection as our concept of the ideal partner has transformed. Western females now select for characteristics that an autistic male features to an extreme. 2) As racial and ethnic barriers dissolve, the children reveal features closer to the last time the divergent branches were the same. 3) Environmental factors are compelling massive maturational delay.

We have not evolved down any kind of straight path but have wondered back and forth as criteria for the perfect mate has changed. That pathway has been indelibly etched within our genes. These three factors have sent us tumbling into the past to create babies with long histories before they’re born.

Our stories tell us much of how we were created. The symbols, like maps, reveal the path. Our oldest stories and images go back to Africa. But now, like the aboriginal stories, our past and our future are feeling like they are converging. It’s as if we are entering mythic times where the brand new is also, literally, the unutterably ancient. The ancient Ouroboros, as a symbol, makes sense again.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 6:09 am and is filed under 10-Autism, Autism, Causes of Autism, Dragons, Myth/Story, Ontogeny, Ouroboros, Sexual Selection, Sexual Selection/Social Structure, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
3 Comments so far

  1. A on February 27, 2009 9:43 am

    You say there are more autistic males than females. I have read that Aspergers presents differently in girls than in boys, and using the diagnostic criteria based on boys has resulted in girls going undiagnosed. Could this be the case?

  2. Andrew on February 28, 2009 8:57 am

    I hypothesize that Aspergers females do present differently than males, with a complementary opposite hormonal constellation. See http://www.neoteny.org/?p=325. This makes diagnosis challenging.

  3. Debenhams page on September 6, 2017 3:46 am

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    Tail Swallower: Origins of Autism – Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism – how they all connectat Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social t…

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