History and Consciousness
Course IX: Deconstructing Historical Consciousness
Course Outline: This course examines the connection between history and consciousness…. and specifically, how historical narrative influences our conscious existences in the present day in a “loop” sense. This includes the three main approaches of historical consciousness, and based on the understanding of history as a function of narrative control rather than an objective, truthful or even factual recount of past events. If you have not yet taken Courses I-VIII, we recommend going back and doing so in order to understand the references we make to them when discussing history and consciousness.
What is History?
What is the connection between history and consciousness? It is a popular opinion that history is nothing more than an account of past events that have little or no tangible bearing on the present or the future because all three are distinct states of both 4-dimensional spacetime and physical consciousness. It is widely assumed that as humankind has moved on from the past, it has evolved itself into a higher state of being compared to the one it existed in during “primitive” or “ancient” times.
This belief is called “Teleology.” And the discipline of history, in large part, is responsible for structuring this belief in easily digestible narratives. The job of historians, so it is said, is to gather records of the past and then tell a factual story from those records. Like their counterparts in the hard and medical science (Courses V and VII), historians have worked very hard over the years to legitimize their fields of study in an objective sense.
in other words, historians have classically assumed the role of objective observers of an event, situation, culture or civilization. This allows them to recount a narrative that actually took place as it was recorded…. instead of one that is tinged with subjective bias based on the molecules of emotion of the person recording the primary account, as well as that of the person who comes along, sometimes centuries or millenia later, to make sense of the account in a re-contextualized manner.
However, just like every other construct that relies on human beings for population and perpetuation, the connection between the past view of history and consciousness today is directly correlational to a historian’s ability to admit his or her own biases, as well as how those biases influence the awareness of the people who read their accounts/recounts of the past in the present day.
This state of awareness is what separates simply “doing history” from “thinking historically.” While “doing history” simply entails witnessing or recounting events as (we think) they occurred, “thinking historically” involves measuring how our own biases influence our accounts/recounts, and how these accounts/recounts can influence the consciousness of others as a result. We call this “Historical Consciousness.”
The Three Types of History
There are three types of history. The type or types of history a historian engages in play an inseparable part in determining his or her level of historical consciousness, as well as the consciousness of those who rely on him or her for their own knowledge of events. The three types of history are “Reconstructionism,” “Constructionism” and “Deconstructionism.” Let’s take a moment to discuss the three types of history now….
- Reconstructionism is belief that daily phenomena —or events, situations, experiences and interactions human beings intake as everyday reality can be recorded or recounted in an objective sense. Reconstructionists believe there is such thing as absolute truth, and a good historian can piece objective facts together to form a truthful narrative from all available accounts and sources. Just like materialist science, reconstructionists view personal bias as the archenemy of objectivity because said bias, (and especially biases that do not agree with the historian’s own) impede upon the rational, independent and impartial investigation of reality. In the words of the late British Historian Edward Hallett Carr, reconstructionist history relies on the fact that “the historian, in virtue of the urge to understand the past, is simultaneously compelled, like the scientist, to simplify the multiplicity of his answers, to subordinate one answer to another, and to introduce some order and unity into the chaos of happenings and the chaos of specific causes.”
- Constructionism is the belief that daily phenomena may not be recounted in an objective sense, but the historian can gather enough subjective accounts to reach an objectively factual state nonetheless. In this way, constructionists acknowledge that multiple parties on varying sides of an event will formulate their own facts based on their own subjective biases. However, constructionists still believe that causal analysis and social contextualization of biases from all sides ultimately leads a historian to create a narrative based on objective fact that also can lead to a greater meaning than the parties experiencing the initial phenomenon could based on their posturing in the situation. In the words of historians Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, “what (constructionist) historians do best is is to make connections with the past in order to illuminate the problems of the present and the potential of the future.”
- Deconstruction does not deny the existence of objective facts, per se. However, unlike reconstructionism and constructionism, deconstructionists contend that the inevitability of subjectivity means human beings unavoidably impose bias on any potential facts. This is why deconstructionists do not join the quest for factual inquiry into historical events, nor do they put any stock in a the factuality of historical narratives. Instead, deconstructionist historians see the inaccessibility of objective facts as an opportunity to look inward on the quest for personal understanding, meaning and ultimately, empowerment where reality and consciousness are concerned. In the words of historian Alun Munslow, deconstructionist consciousness understands that, “Narrative claims to represent the complexities and realities of the past, but because it is a story form it must be the creation of the historian’s perspective.”
In history and consciousness terms, whereas reconstructionists and, to a slightly lesser extent constructionists, believe the job of a historian is to “do history” in an objective sense, Deconstructionists understand “thinking historically” is the only reliable method for historical inquiry. As a result, they choose to focus their attention on the role of metaphor and narrative in historical accounts, as well as in their own interpretations of those accounts. This is why deconstructionism an incredibly important tool for cultivating Psychoenergetic Consciousness…. which relies on a critical, holistic understanding of ourselves in relation to others and our multidimensional Universe-at-large. It is also essential for undoing thousands of years of subjective bias masquerading as reconstructionist historical accounting.
The Roots of Historical Bias
The beginnings of modern day historical consciousness begin with two Ancient Greeks, Herodotus and Thucydides. Both of these men were responsible for taking history out of the realm of mythology and into the arena of (assumed) fact collecting. Before them, most of the accounts we find from people like Homer ascribed phenomena and events to gods and goddesses rather than human and natural processes. This transition from “mythos” (superstition) to “logos” (logic) represented what many historians consider the roots of modern historical accounting.
Despite this transition, historical consciousness was tainted from the beginning by both mens’ subjective biases. Thucydides, an Athenian citizen and general, recorded the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta during the 5th century BCE. According to Thucydides, “It will be enough for me if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will…. be repeated in the future.”
As noble and honorable as this sounds, Thucydides crafted his narrative from a very self-interested position with honor and reputations at stake. Before he wrote his account, he was exiled for presiding over the one-sided loss at the battle of Amphipolis in 424 BCE. He was also biased by his close association with fellow general Pericles. This is why he lauds Pericles for his military acumen, even when various other sources criticize him for short-sighted vision that did not take into account how the financial costs of his battle strategies would endanger Athens in the years that followed.
Herodotus, on the other hand, did not attempt to hide his bias nearly as well as Thucydides. To Herodotus, there were two types of people: Those who were (and spoke) Greek and everyone else. Or, in his own words when describing native Pelasgian tribes, “It seems to me, the Pelasgian people, so long as it spoke a language other than Greek, never grew great anywhere.” Herodotus believed the Greek language signified civilization, and people who spoke all other languages were, as he called them, “barbarians.” This word actually comes from Herodotus’ claim that any other language sounded like someone unintelligibly saying “bar-bar-bar” over and over again.
Deconstructing History: Orientalism
Modern day historians continue to carry the torch of historical bias under the guise of objectivity and logic. In an industrialized society like the United States, the assumption underlying mythos and logos is that abandoning religious superstition for logical scientific inquiry represents a trend toward a more intelligent level of internalized thought on par with that of Western academics, scientists and scholars. Of course, the irony here exists in Course V’s critical assessment of how religiously superstitious the roots of modern materialist scientific inquiry actually are.
Nonetheless, the phrase “intelligent level of thought” is an assumed characteristic of modernly developed nations only. Or, as former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger stated in his essay ‘Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy,’ the West maintains the standard of intelligence for the rest of the world because the West is:
“Deeply committed to the notion that the real world is external to the observer, that knowledge consists of recording and classifying data, the more accurately the better. Cultures, which escaped the early impact of the Newtonian thinking, have retained the essentially pre-Newtonian view that the real world is almost completely internal to the observer. Consequently, empirical reality has a much different significance for many of the new countries than for the West because in a certain sense they never went through the process of discovering it.”
To Kissinger, a society initiating its own Scientific/Industrial/Capitalist Revolution(s) creates/heightens intelligence by allowing human beings within it to “evolve” consciousness from a process of externalization to a product of internalization. However, as we discussed in Course IV, internalization actually represents an evolutionary step backward by pruning away the balance of physical and non-physical consciousness to a solely physical existence. It is important to understand that this belief is part of a much larger subjectively biased movement called “Orientalism.”
Orientalism is a social-cultural power dynamic that presumes Western (or “Occidental”) superiority over all other nations, especially Africa and the Middle East. This power dynamic wields inordinate influence over narratives concerning officially sanctioned knowledge and accomplishments of other cultures past and present. Or, and to put it simply, “West Means Best” in any discussion of cultural or ideological plurality. Orientalism results from:
- The employment of political control over forms of metaphor (religious, scientific, etc.) coming from other cultures not conforming to officially sanctioned narratives in our own
- An academic/literary tradition of normalizing events, civilizations and achievements, practices and knowledge within modern society’s subjectively biased philosophical framework
Kissinger demonstrated the first avenue of orientalism for us. The second avenue is found in academic curricula written with biases disproportionately favoring the modern Western world. For example, in a Cornell University text titled Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths and Personal Practice, the authors (who are all Egyptologists) use the book’s introduction to share what they feel the major differences are between the United States and Ancient Egypt. Three of the most notable ones include:
- We reject magic, they did not
- We have a cannon of scripture, they did not
- We hold omnipotence and omniscience to be necessary attributes of divinity (God), they did not
These differences are solely the product of Orientalist thinking breeding a perceptual superiority complex. Let’s take a cursory, yet contextually critical look at these three differences to prove this point:
- We reject magic? Turn on the television at any given time to become instantly immersed in a world of magic and make believe that convincingly shapes many people’s everyday lives. There are talking teddy bears selling cookies, and beer cans that turn old women into young, attractive girls when guys pop their tops. Psychologically speaking, people use memories of emotional attachments to these images when deciding what products to eventually try. We even have politicians who openly pray to various iterations of the Judeo-Christian God in hopes he will intervene in the affairs of government and society.
- No cannon of scripture? One of the oldest known religious texts in the world, “The Pyramid Texts,” comes from an Ancient Egyptian pyramid that dates back to at least 4500 years ago. Archaeologists have unearthed countless fragments of religious scripture from temples, tombs, homes and every other gathering place for the living and the deceased. By the Roman occupation, Egypt was home to largest library in the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria, which housed anywhere between 400,000-700,000 scrolls across a sprawling campus of halls and auditoriums. Based on this contextual evidence, the lack of one mass-prescribed “tell-all” canon of scripture (like the Bible) can just as easily indicate religious complexity as it can simple-minded disorganization.
- Omnipotence and Omniscience? This is the academic version of Kissinger’s political argument favoring internalization over externalization. Despite the bevy of research indicating omnipotence and omniscience (i.e. objectivity) are not possible to achieve in a consciousness sense, they are still claimed to be integral parts of the inquiry process by physicists, historians and other academics. However and in this sense, the authors infer “omnipotence and omniscience” apply just as much to the researcher-led inquiry process itself as it does to any religious idea of God. Of course, Newton rested his theories and research on this belief. Over the past 400 years, this same platform has provided Western scholars of all disciplines with a pulpit from which to marginalize or ridicule any theories or research, either inter or intra-culturally, that do not fit within officially sanctioned metaphor and narrative.
Orientalism’s main shortcoming is functional thinking, improperly reducing and incorrectly simplifying ancient civilizations. Or in perceptual terms, a functionally trained scholar describing religious processes and practices in Ancient Egypt is like a blind person describing the color/feather pattern of a bird they can only hear, or a deaf person describing that bird’s tonal frequencies when they can only see it.
In both cases, unless the person in question is pre-learned in the consciousness characteristics of that bird, he or she will not be able to define and relate the bird’s characteristics in an accurate manner in his or her present state. The same can be said for many Western historians who, like Harvard Professor Ruth Hubbard stated (Course V), have classically been “predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds.”
Orientalism explains why civilizations like Egypt must remain teleologically inferior in the narratives to our modern industrialist society. It also explains why many historians refuse to entertain evidence that pushes the timeline for civilization back beyond the confines of that laid forth in the Judeo-Christian bible, which is still used as a (more-or-less) de facto guide for how humankind evolved from primitive hunter gatherers to industrialized societies.
For example, in the mid-1990’s world-renowned MIT geologist and associate professor of natural science at the College of General Studies at Boston University, Robert Schoch, went to Egypt to date the Sphinx. He found various anomalies, including replaced stone blocks and water erosion evidence that led him to surmise the Sphinx was actually constructed around 5000 BCE, and possibly as early as 7000 BCE…. or between 2500 and 4500 years older than the accepted historical timeline states. This also corresponds with a time when Egypt experienced more rainfall and less desertification than it does currently.
However, the majority of Egyptologists, who are not experts in geology like Schoch, adamantly refute his claims. Not because they have any actual scientific evidence to prove Schoch is wrong, but because Schoch’s hypothesis calls into question the assumption that the currently accepted historical timeline is based much more on subjective cultural and religious bias than objective history and therefore (be default) science.
Deconstructionist Consciousness: Pearl Harbor
The same biased viewpoint of historical inquiry applies to accounts of events and nations much more recent than those the Cornell Egyptologists studied. In Course V, we displayed an image of a Boston Post newspaper headline from December 8,1941 declaring the “Japs Declare War on US” in response to the Japanese military’s attack on Pearl Harbor the previous morning. Far from being objective, the slang word “Japs” was (and still is) considered a derogatory term toward people of Japanese descent. In this regard, the Boston Post was not delivering an objective news story, but a subjectively biased account of an event based on the side of the (collective, cultural) “tracks” its sources, employees and readers were on when those bombs were dropped.
To add deconstructionist consciousness to this, let’s take the Japanese historical viewpoint about why Pearl Harbor occurred into account. Although Pearl Harbor is still widely viewed as an unjustified display of aggression that came totally out of the blue, the reality is not nearly as simple as the narrative. Just like America, Pre-WWII Japanese industry relied on raw materials like rubber, tin, steel and oil in order to function and grow. The 1930’s saw a worldwide depression that impacted raw material production and procurement worldwide. To its own citizens as well as governments worldwide publicly, the United States had spent the 1930’s publicly adopting a policy of passive non-involvement where global affairs were concerned.
However, this policy did not seem to privately apply with Japan. By June 1940, the plethora of political differences between Japan and the United States resulted in President Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress passing the Export Control Act. This legislation prohibited “strategic minerals and chemicals, aircraft engines, parts and equipment” to Japan. Within a few months’ time, Roosevelt added copper, brass and iron. By spring of 1941, Roosevelt banned all crude oil imports to the Japanese nation. American allies, including the Netherlands had also pledged to stop selling Japan oil and other raw materials.
By the time the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor later that year, its industrial sector was on life support. It had already viewed America and its allies as bullies for decades at that point, going back to an Allied formulated embargo against Japanese military growth following World War I. The additional embargoes left the entire Japanese economy on the edge of disaster. In this context and in the annals of Japanese history, Pearl Harbor was not an unprovoked act of aggression against a passive nation. Rather, it was a retaliatory act for years of American/Allied political actions and economic sanctions meant to stifle military and industrial growth that left Japan on the brink of societal collapse.
This take on history in no way purports the belief that Japan was right and the United States was wrong, or vice versa, as Reconstructionism would demand the case to be one way or the other. Rather, it simply drives home the fact that narrative is nothing more geographically and culturally relative fallacies of metaphorical logic —instead of factually accurate, reliable lenses a human being can view reality and experience consciousness through. Of course, governmentally and societally, the United States and Japan have moved beyond these events to form a mutually beneficial relationship. But what happens when narratives detailing past events of inequality and oppression are still influencing that same inequality and oppression in the present day?
Living the Past in the Present: Native Cultures
Devaluing the link between history and consciousness can have catastrophic effects. In Course VI, we discussed how science influences culture, and how culture influences people within a society…. as well as how a society can then exert influences on other societies (in the case of global agribusiness). Of course, each member of any given culture has his or her own subjective biases based on any and all personalized experiences throughout their lives.
However, and just like the Pearl Harbor narrative we discussed above, larger shared metaphors and narratives serve to manufacture a feeling of conscious similarity (or camaraderie) in the members of any society. This is especially the case when those members are of a similar cultural and religious background, like Newton, Descartes, Bacon, Locke, etc. Similarities serve to supersede personal subjective differences and serve to maintain order, structure and control within said society. In this regard, individual members of a society come to similarly perceive what is possible in reality and conversely, what is not.
For example, primary accounts from Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan and James Cook indicate that the native cultures each explorer encountered seemed consciously impervious to the presence of large seagoing vessels as they pulled up to natural harbors in different parts of the Americas. Specifically, Joseph Banks, a botanist aboard Cook’s ship, described his perception of one such encounter with the dominant culture in the geographic area Cook’s ship was surveying:
“The ship passed within a quarter mile of them (the natives) and they scarce lifted their eyes from their employment. I was almost inclined to think that attentive to their business and deafened by the noise of the surf they neither saw nor heard her (the ship) go past them. Not one was once observed to stop and look towards the ship; they pursued their way in all appearance entirely unmoved by the neighborhood of so remarkable an object as a ship must necessarily be to people who have never seen one.”
Columbus related a similar account upon returning to Europe about native inhabitants in the West Indies not engaging with his approaching ships and crew until the point that, at least according to him, they were able to reconcile the existence of the ships and his crew with their own existing perceptions of reality. During her life, Dr. Pert frequently employed Columbus’s tale to support what her research into molecules of emotion clinically validated: That what we think we see in front of our eyes is based as much, if not more on our own prior experiential reality, than it is on objective reality existing outside of our heads in the first place.
Christopher Columbus: Courageous explorer who discovered a new world, or cold-blooded murderer who ushered in decades of systematic oppression and inhumane enthnic cleansing? Only your subjective historical consciousness can answer this question.
Not only is this phenomena based on personal experiences of each societal adherent, it is also based on the shared metaphors and narratives of the society bonding adherents together in camaraderie. Of course, this instrumentalist framework for consciousness is also what Dr. Barry (Course IV) came to understand after her experience that morning with the wild turkeys at her backyard bird feeder.
This also why even though the European seagoing vessels metaphorically represented exploration and evolution to those who sailed them, those same vessels took on a drastically different meaning to the indigenous inhabitants of what explorers called the “New World.” After all, for the diverse groups of human beings occupying that world, those same ships came to metaphorically represent oppression, injustice, inequality and the death of their societies in irreparable ways. Or, in the words of Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano:
“In 1492, the natives discovered they were Indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that the Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a King and Kingdom from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented the guilty and the dress, and had sent to be burnt alive who worships the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and the Rain that wets it.”
However, these “historical accounts” do not end in the past. Rather, they have fundamentally influenced, and continually perpetuated the past 500+ years of unequal and oppressive relations between indigenous people and (who many of them still refer to as) invaders of their land. 500 years in, and we are able to witness firsthand how the past is still affecting the present for the descendants of those who the European seafarers encountered.
To put the past into a present day context, let’s consider 500+ years of death marches across the county, forced living on reservations, taking children from their families and imprisoning them in “Indian Schools” that aimed to make indigenous young ones “white” in spirit if not body. This included cutting boys’ long hair because it was considered uncivilized, and beating them when they spoke their native languages, which were considered barbaric…. to the point that over 90 different languages once spoken by the diverse societies in what is now the United State alone are extinct.
Today, the only real socio-political power indigenous groups have is building casinos nationwide, which represents the height of internalized, materialist individualism, in order to bring in currency so they can compete in the same Gospel of Wealth as their invaders. All of this for a culture that, for thousands of years up to 500 years ago, was happily externalized, wholly empowered and exclusively anti-materialist in every way conceivable.
The rates of poverty among native cultures are higher than any other group in the United States. Substance abuse rates are also inflated versus all other groups. An argument can be made that the reason for this is the fact that these groups, and the group that perpetrated the atrocities on them, are still living within a “consciousness loop of the past,” where cultural genocide did not end at a certain epoch, nor is it confined to the narrative in a book. Rather, this history is still being lived, because the past and the present are not distinctly separate states of consciousness by any means historically or otherwise.
History and Future Consciousness
History and consciousness is not only limited to past and present either. In Course VI. we introduced educational curriculum in the United States as a means for narrative control based on societally biased information over 100 years ago now. This has not changed. In early 2016, the Texas state board of education (SBOE) approved a textbook for its Mexican American Studies (MAS) curriculum that, according to the 54-page retort filed by a large group of historians and educators, had 68 factual errors, 42 interpretive errors, and 31 omission errors.
It also contained racist undertones denoting Mexican-American people as lazy, cultural separatists (much like Tom Horne’s argument against Arizona’s Latino Studies Program in Course VI). Despite admonishment from the oversight group, the SBOE initially only made one change to a passage declaring English as the officially authorized language of the United States.
Although this particular historical curriculum was scrapped in 2016 and therefore, did not make it to press, many others from Texas have over the years. This includes curricula rationalizing the Atlantic Slave Trade as “bringing millions of workers” to support the infrastructure of American plantations, and stating the 10 Commandments had an influence on the Constitution of the United States. The impact of this curricula might appear limited in scope to just Texas schools, but it is not. This is because the same curricula used in Texas’ school system end up in upwards of 47 other states’ classrooms shortly thereafter.
Historically, large states like California, Texas and New York have wielded an inordinate amount of influence over textbook publishing trends. With fairly recent budgetary issues scaling back education funds in California and New York, Texas has taken the lead. This is important to understand because, and according to Josh Rosenau of the National Center of Science Education, “What happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. All of these books, once they get through the process in Texas, are going to show up in other states.”
Textbook publishers cater to large markets like the three mentioned above because they buy the largest amount of merchandise. The smaller markets (all 47 of them) must choose their textbooks from a catalog created for a large state like Texas. Even though there might be a choice between several different curricula on the surface, every one remains a narrative device that transmits subjectively biased metaphors.
Of course, these biased narrative devices are not only perpetuating bias in the present, they are also being effectively used to shape the consciousness of generations of American children of all backgrounds…. with the aim of molding future consciousness based on the proliferation of past biases both individually and collectively speaking.
Whether you know it or not, rethinking history and consciousness is a huge step toward cultivating your own quantum mind power. Just how so? Well, although in the English language “quantum” usually appears as a noun (i.e “a discreet quantity of energy”), its adjective definition —that of a “sudden, important change,” is incredibly apropos for describing our inherent abilities to make fundamentally significant strides forward in consciousness if we begin to question the foundation our biases rests upon currently.
Likewise, although “deconstruction” is normally used to define and analyze the meaning existing underneath the surface of something (be it the words in a textbook or the actions of a person reading that textbook), it contains tremendous significance for the journey we embark upon by choosing to seek existential meaning in and around our everyday lives.
This makes “Quantum Deconstruction” the process of threshing out meaning in our perception of ourselves, as well as the Universe-at-large —in order to cultivate sudden, important changes in our states of consciousness and ultimately, our substantive human existences. We can do this is by questioning everything we are taught based on who taught it, why it is important to know, and to what end learning it really serves. Quantum deconstruction can also help us become better neighbors to our human brethren near and far alike, and better stewards for the planet we all occupy and share in kind.
In Course X, we expand on our discussion about history and consciousness by delving into how consciousness and religion have influenced societies and people both modern and ancient alike. This includes how religions encode multiple levels of understanding to explain physical and non-physical consciousness depending on the initiatory level of an adherent….
If you have any questions about how Deconstructing History and Consciousness can help us become compassionate neighbors to our fellow human beings near and far alike, please reach out to us directly….