Dance (and song), brain size, testosterone levels, play, sexuality and cooperative behavior are so closely tied as to be undifferentiated when discussing human evolution.  All are closely allied and reinforcing each other, waxing and waning according to the same dynamic of maturation rates influencing social structure driving neoteny.

There is another aspect of the dance/sex evolutionary trajectory–an aspect opaque to an academic understanding of this multivariable process–the possible effects of consciousness itself on our evolution in relation to how consciousness evolved in humans.  This aspect is difficult to explore because the spiritual perspective is not useful in scientists’ world views.  Yet familiarity with an idea of spirit, using an “as if” frame, provides a possible way to understand how we evolved; it could shed light on another facet or perspective on this multidisciplinary, ongoing event.

How we came to be might make deeper sense if we posit the possibility of who we are as a manifestation of spirit or consciousness.

The desire to feel part of something larger than the self, like sex, has a huge impact on the behavior of human beings.  Humans move toward experiences of spiritual oneness because the experience confers such powerful feeling bonuses.  The same with sex.  Sex, like spiritual experience, is deeply satisfying and, of course, feels extremely good.  The dance/sex dynamic of human evolution cannot be easily differentiated from an urge toward spiritual experience, with the desire for sex and the experience of oneness both resulting from the dance/sex experience.  The rituals of community sound-making, dance and sex are profound spiritual experiences characterized by a loss of individual awareness into a larger communal identity.  The dance/sex loop nurtures the experience of our human progenitor individual away from purely self-motivated action to community-oriented action by offering an experience, a spiritual experience, of identity with something larger than the self.

Different writers have explored a social context that supports the dynamic that we are detailing here.  Chris Knight, a Marxian anthropologist, has discussed in detail an evolving aboriginal orientation that revolves around monthly rituals featuring dance, song and sex–rituals acting as the cement of social relationships–rituals created and maintained by a matrifocal, promiscuous social structure characterized by females ovulating in synchrony and providing sex in exchange for meat brought back by males.  Jane Goodall observed adult male chimpanzees participating in proto-rituals, demonstrating to other members of their band when confronted with the overwhelming power of a thunderstorm and at another time a waterfall.  Proto-ritual evolved to actual ritual propelled by experiences of feeling part of something larger than the self.  The arts of dance and sound-making were the media in this process.  Sex was the payoff.

It may seem like a large assumption that the human experience of feeling part of something larger than the self, intuiting the presence of spirit or larger consciousness, means that the larger consciousness does exist.  Just as we experience consciousness as a feature of our own existence, for many the experience of the larger consciousness is just as direct an experience.  To note the effects of this directly perceived reality on a theory of evolution might be useful.  Yet this experience of a larger consciousness is not a consensus reality.  To ground a theory on information that is limited in availability is neither prudent nor scientific.

It’s important not to take god too seriously.  It’s also useful not to take too seriously theories that don’t take consciousness seriously.

Other features, characteristics or accompanying myths associated with god are not being explored as necessary to this exposition.  It is simply that we as individuals are self-aware, that we are often aware of the larger consciousness that is greater than ourselves and that the relationship between the two might be useful to understanding how we evolved as a species.

If we hypothesize that a larger consciousness already existed before and during human evolution, and if we hypothesize that human beings evolved partly by a desire to experience this larger consciousness, then human individual identity or separateness from this larger consciousness had to be evolving at the same time.  We might estimate that the further from an experience of spirit that we evolutionarily wandered, the deeper our cravings to reunite.  There is this hidden dynamic potentially feeding the dynamo of our unfolding.  The bigger our brains, the more facile we became with the manipulation of mental space and time and the deeper our craving grew for less individual identity and a reuniting with the larger consciousness.

Here’s my point.

It is possible that a major factor in our evolving so quickly was the tension between independent mental life and interdependent, larger consciousness.  The quicker our brains grew, the more we were compelled to engage in the process that resulted in larger brains.  In a very real sense, we became addicted to experiencing separateness from the larger consciousness in order to have the deeply satisfying experience of reuniting with the larger consciousness.  This addiction process might be at the root of what it is to be human.  Hence, the craving for altered states and alcoholism is a distinguishing feature of our species.  The addictive qualities of the courtship process as it manifests in our attachment to romance is another facet of this dynamic.  The obsessive aspect of the artistic process as it searches for moments of integration shows this effect from another angle.  The deep craving of the neurotic for an opportunity to feel whole, the desire to feel happy–these feelings are at the foundation of what it is to be human.  It is possible that these feelings made us human.  These feelings might be at the center of how we evolved.

So there you have it.  Dance, sex, rapid brain growth, neotenous trajectory, cooperative behavior, spiritual accompaniment–dancing and sound-making in a communal content–human bodies, brains and minds all changing.

Spirit may or may not have played a part in our evolution.  Still, it is possible that our deep desire to feel part of something larger than ourselves as expressed through ancient dance-and-sex-driven matrifocal societies may have informed how humans came to be.


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