The Psychopathic Infrastructure
As someone who has had to work on and explore landscapes a lot over the years, particularly ancient ones, I nearly always came away from Bronze Age and Neolithic sites haunted by a sense of mystery. I’m hardly alone in this. People write books in their thousands on subjects such as Stonehenge and Avebury, as if prompted to by a need to make sense of these mysteries; and people all over the world respond by wanting to read about these various theories and explanations. Or at least watch them on the History Channel. There have been several ‘final explanations’ for the architecture at Stonehenge for instance, but the more interesting studies on all these sites, at least to my mind, acknowledge that there is much they do not understand.
Whereas there are numerous theories for each site, often pointing out connections with eclipses and the seasons, for instance, I was often puzzled by what inner forces could compel people to pool such enormous collective effort
to establish these sites; and, also, why these particular places. Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, shown above, is an an obvious defensive position, and has a particular ambience that draws visitors; but other places, such as the Rollright Stones here are not in such obvious strategic positions.
I am not going to enter into all the arguments about stone circles here, but want to remain with the question: what inner forces could compel people to create these beautiful, often quite complex structures in these particular locations? We are looking particularly at those sites created in the Bronze Age or earlier. Wittenham Clumps, for example, was built in the late Bronze Age and is almost out of those parameters, whereas the Rollright Stones were earlier in 2500-2000 BC, well within them.
My reason for wishing to comprehend something of the inner forces at play here was largely because I had done a lot of research at university on such things in the modern age. I had come to the conclusion that we are living today in the midst of what I call a Psychopathic Infrastructure. Here (Ecopsychosis) is a PDF copy of the original essay on the subject, in case you are interested in the details and sources, but in a nutshell here is my theory: About 1 in 150 people are born psychopathic. What that means is that they are incapable of feeling any empathy at all for others. As they grow up, they learn to imitate emotions without actually feeling them, in order to fit in. It should be emphasised here that most psychopaths are not killers, despite how the media portrays them; but they are interested, obsessively, in power and will do anything to get it. Our current social structures actually favour them, particularly within corporations. What this means is the psychopath will invariably rise to the top, pretty much unchallenged. Here I should warn not to jump to conclusions – some world leaders could indeed be psychopathic – a few recent ones come to mind – but the real power may not lie on the public stage, but behind it.
Once I started to work out just how our society functions in these terms, a lot of things became clear, including the architecture of the last hundred years or so. These tall thrusting structures are indicative of ambition, greed, and – let’s face it – phallic power; and responsible for creating a soul-less landscape where the only thing that matters is winning. We have created a world without magic.
There are numerous architects (like Christopher Day for example) who work and publish books in order to counteract this decline into a cold, unfeeling landscape but they are few and far between; and architecture is compelled by deeper forces that most architects rarely seek to understand, though the more creative ones are often blocked and frustrated by unimaginative and short-sighted decisions made by councils and funding bodies.
I’ve done a lot more research since writing the essay (which now seems woefully incomplete) but I was perplexed by one question continually. I had, to my own satisfaction at least – and many people seemed convinced when I explained the idea – shown how psychopaths are essentially running the world, and how we have fallen into line behind them for a very long time: but what about before? If the Psychopathic Infrastructure exists now, what preceded it? The missing link was to be found in the controversial and renowned book ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ by Julian Jaynes. This book proved to be a goldmine, explaining a lot of what puzzled me in the past. Not only regarding the creation of particular structures and temples in particular places around the world during the Bronze Age and earlier, but even the strange language of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’.
There is too much to explain here – even googling Jaynes will only give you a glimpse of what the book offers – but, in another nutshell: Jaynes argues that early human beings were what we would today call schizophrenic i.e. listening to and obeying voices that they could hear within their own minds. This Schizophrenic Infrastructure was every bit as complex and multi-layered as our society today, albeit with very different inner forces compelling people to do what they did. These inner voices were accepted unconditionally. As one of numerous examples, when Achilles confronts Agamemnon in ‘The Iliad’, asking why he did something atrocious, Agamemnon simply replies ‘Because the gods told me to,’ and Achilles accepts this totally. Imagine if someone put forward such an argument today! (‘I smacked him in the face, Your Honour, because Apollo told me to.’)
The shift from this ‘bicameral’ society took place at different periods in the Earth’s history, but in the Middle East it was marked by the extremely violent and oppressive rising of the Assyrian Empire from about 1380 BC. Prior to that, Jaynes also points to the birth of writing – i.e. the externalisation of our inner world – in Babylon in about 1790 BC.
There is a scarcity of evidence about what actually happened during the Bronze Age. I asked a local historian once about the Bronze Age inhabitants on Dartmoor, and he was unusually candid, saying: ‘We know there they were here, then they weren’t, and that’s about it’. So we can’t know very much for sure, but once I processed Jaynes’s considerable tome, a lot about it made sense to me and it felt right. At last, I had a working theory on what preceded the hidden forces in our current society, granting some sort of explanation as to why particular places were chosen and what was built there. Even strange evidence such as the huge bluestones in Stonehenge being transported all the way from Wales, made sense. You would do such a thing, no matter the effort involved, if the gods told you directly in your head to do so.
To finish – and I have to finish here at some point – it is worth pointing out that it is not a question of one Infrastructure favouring another. Each were appropriate for their time, and had different advantages for that time. Without the decline of the Schizophrenic Infrastructure, for instance, we could not have had the rise of consciousness globally that flowered so incredibly in what has been called the Axial Age, when Buddha, Lao Tzu, and the Greek philosophers emerged between 800 and 200 BC. And, hey, would we have anything like all the machines that make our lives so interesting today, without the Psychopathic Infrastructure to support their development?
The real issue for me is now how to recognise and counter the destructive tendencies of a society’s infrastructure.
In our current predicament, it is worth remembering that a civilisation that is capable of giving us towering chimney stacks spewing fumes into the atmosphere is also capable of extraordinary achievements, both scientific and artistic. To illustrate the latter, I have here selected the atrium of the British Museum (I don’t have a lot of photographs of beautiful modern architecture, as it turns out), a place which ironically houses a lot of material from the pre-Psychopathic Era.
My final question, as I – like so many others – am drawn again and again to the evocative landscapes and artefacts of earlier civilisations, is what will remain for others in the future to come and appreciate?