There is a not politically correct notion that the individuals that make up ancient aboriginal societies are different from contemporary humans.  It is usually assumed that they are different as in less evolved, less intelligent or less capable.  It depends on whom you talk to or what you’re reading.

The American philosopher Ken Wilber attempts to take this issue head on, repackaging the 100-year-old four-fold parallelism that equates human evolution, societal evolution, individual ontogeny and an individual’s psychology.  Wilber does not frame the differences between an individual in an aboriginal society vs. an individual in modern society in negative terms, but seeks to unpack the features of various stages of growth and show how these stages manifest on a number of different scales.  Growth, transformation, evolution, all these aspects of how life manifests over time, display pattern.  Those patterns can be described.  Ken Wilber seeks to describe how those patterns manifest in human society.

My personal focus is the influence of sexual selection on social structure mediated by changes in the rates of maturation.  The patterns I focus on are very specific.  Still, I focus on biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience, the four-fold parallelism.  Wilber is more general in his approach, preferring to show THAT there is a connection rather than HOW the connection operates.  Wilber also focuses heavily on religion and spirituality.  I pretty much stick with Zen.

I’ve written a little bit on similarities between Hopi and Trobriand Islander language structures.  Both have a heavy emphasis on the present tense and both are matrifocal societies.  Two societies a pattern does not make.  So, my research assistants, Rosanna and Elia, are conducting a survey of almost one hundred matrifocal or matrilineal societies across the world, looking for patterns.  The variables we’re tracking are not often studied or noted in the societies we’re exploring.  I want to know rates of left-handedness, twinning percentages, disease and condition proclivities and languages with tense anomalies.

It would also be interesting to know their mythological motifs, myth structures, rituals, societal bans, morays and varying idiosyncrasies.  That’s how I got into this almost 14 years ago.  Fascinated by the origin of dragon myths, I ended up studying ancient serpent myths, finding myself studying ancient matrifocal societies.  Seeking to understand the nature of the transition to our contemporary patrifocal societies from our hypothetical matrifocal roots is how I ended up studying human evolution.  It was through our stories that I began that journey.

At this point in my studies, I’m thinking there IS a major difference between the humans living in our still existing, ancient matrifocal aboriginal societies and what we would call modern humans living in the industrialized world.  I suspect these differences have a neurological, physical and behavioral foundation.  I also suspect that an exploration of the relationship between primary process, which might also be called dream consciousness (one time, one place, no negatives), and autism might be useful as we seek to understand autism and conditions characterized by maturational delay.

If our matrifocal aboriginals experience waking life in some ways like we experience dream, if primary process is familiar to their waking experience or at least very accessible, then perhaps these aboriginals can offer us some wisdom and perspective regarding the surge of individuals familiar with primary process in waking life in the modern world, what we call autism.

It may not be politically correct to equate aboriginals with autistics, but consider that if there is a relationship, then the relationship suggests that a portion of modern society is drifting back to where we started mere tens of thousands of years ago.

Consider that modern times may be crossing a line whereby our future may have much in common with our past.  This might suggest our evolution may be more characterized by a spiral than a linear pathway.  We may be swooping around to a position with much in common with the last time we rounded this bend on the spiral highway.

Our aboriginal colleagues may be in a position to teach us some important things about autism, beginning with:  How do you raise an autistic child?  If a society facile with a landscape characterized by primary process might be integral to a child’s feeling at home within autism, then perhaps we should be observing tribal society closely.

Estimating which society is more advanced becomes an odd notion in our unique, transforming world where time seems in some ways to be changing its direction.


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 at 7:18 am and is filed under 10-Autism, Autism, Autism & Society, Social Structure, Society, Somali Autism & Ethnicity, Unconscious. 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. | Origins of Autism on May 21, 2009 7:37 am

    […] posted a piece today titled, Aboriginal Primary Process and Contemporary Autism. The short essay suggests that the Freudian concept of primary process, applied to particular […]

  2. Creoles, Aboriginal Identity and Autism | Neurodiversity on February 11, 2010 9:08 am

    […] are other variables in play.  In the piece Aboriginal Primary Process and Contemporary Autism, I noted the possible effects of specific child rearing practices that could encourage children not […]

  3. Paulene Angela on March 5, 2010 10:42 am

    Very interesting post, I can only comment as a mother, I’ve always felt that my beautiful and very special son was born in the wrong time of history and would have excelled greatly living in a typical tribal community existance. I suspect that he has come here to learn, know wonder he shows fear as he is faced with modern day industrial egoistic tribes.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Share your wisdom