The Zodiac: Is Astrology real or unreal?

 

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As an undergrad I remember studying the research of Jean Piaget who observed children of all ages and came up with a comprehensive theory of cognitive and physical development in children. Though his conclusions were a little too rigid he did show the value of systematic observation.

The careful observations of Jung and Freud lead to a whole new way of looking at the psychology of human beings, therapeutic techniques and the interpretation of our often-enigmatic dreams. Though many of Freud’s ideas have not held up under close scrutiny and some of the claims of Jung have not been verifiable their scientific technique for exploring the human psyche has been very useful to the fields of psychotherapy and analytical psychology.

In grad school we learned a systematic technique for looking at classrooms and individuals to ascertain the etiology of problematic behaviors that could then be remediated through the development of a behavioral intervention strategy.

To a great degree the technique of careful, systematic observation leads to many interesting theories that can then be tested in the laboratory or in the field of the everyday.

So it should be no surprise that a field that’s been discredited by the scientific community in general may have had its ancient roots in observational strategy. Astrology was said to have begun somewhere in and around the 2nd millennium BCE (Before the Common Era) and practiced as a means of determining not only ones personality, but also their future and that all of this was determined by the location of the stars at the person’s birth.

So how did they come up with this? Well, probably through systematic observation. However, the belief that stars affect ones future has no scientific support though it has been researched from a number of different angles. Interestingly personality traits based on the time of year one was born has proven to have some validity. One can actually be influenced by the time of year they were born. This is especially true for whether we tend to be introverted or extroverted in nature. Large groups have been studied and found to have common personality traits within a certain birth time e.g. seasonal effects do seem to affect personality depending on when born. For example, people born between December and March seem to show high creativity and show up at a higher level in those who have been deemed celebrities *.

According to Psychology Today there have been a number of studies done that show possible connections between the time of year someone is born and certain personality traits and even to some small but statistically significant degree of certain metal health issues such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders **.

Jung though most likely not a believer in Astrology per se would probably agree that all the aspects and meaning given to the various symbols of the Zodiac are projections from the Psyche of humankind and therefor would have meaning regarding that Psyche. Jung also believed that we are lead by psychological motives, many unconscious but when the Astrologers reigned no one knew of psychology so they projected this idea onto the stars and their positions in time.

So there may be some partial and limited validity to the Zodiac and at least the seasonal aspects of that system on personality traits. Like other discoveries through systematic observation interesting correlations can present themselves, but frequently people carry them a little too far based on their cognitive biases.

Some people who have interests in the Zodiac will dream of certain signs and images of the Zodiac. These images are likely symbolic of certain aspects of the dreamer’s personality being revealed to them or certain wishes or desires for the waking world that are being projected into the dream. Though no connection has been found between the Zodiac and future events there seems to be an apparent connection experienced by many people, I believe this to be more on the order of an expectation effect, conscious or unconscious.

So what about the Moon and its effect? Seems as though no study supports any psychological connection though there is a little evidence that in the pre-light bulb era women’s menstrual cycle may have been affected by the full moon as well as the prevalence of male or female births depending on when the full moon presented itself. This possible connection doesn’t seem a factor any more, at least in developed countries, but during the eras when this connection was thought to be true it might have had some validity ***.

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*Deluca, GC, Disanto, G, et al. Seasonal Distribution of Psychiatric Births in England, PLOS One, 2012.

Adel, MM, et al. Favored Zodiac for Celebrity Babies, Journal of Social Sciences, 2014.

**Hayden, B.Y. (2011) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-decision-tree/201107/science-confirms-astrology

***http://hormonehoroscope.com/2014/08/hormone-horoscope-does-the-moon-affect-your-menstrual-cycle/

Peace of mind in a time where there isn’t any

heart_meditation_self_compassion_639_480_s_c1.jpgDreams of avoidance, running away from or running after; dreams of loved ones who have passed– grandma, grandpa, mom and dad, sister or brother, or best friend; dreams of when we were younger; dreams of flying, of being trapped, or alone in an empty town looking for a place of respite.

In a time of high stress and confusion they’re all dreams of searching for solace, comfort, support, and relief. They’re all dreams looking for peace of mind where there doesn’t seem to be any. For many their dreams include prayers to Jesus, God, or in the bringing of loved ones back again into their lives.

Many of us spend parts of our waking days reading the statistics of those who are infected and those who have died in our area, in our state, our country, and our world. But the numbers don’t seem to help nor do the empty promises of our leaders some of whom just seem to be mostly interested in themselves and how they look.

We sit alone with our frustrations, our anger, fears and grief for those we love and for the loss of security, morality, peace of mind, and in many cases the loss of livelihood. All is a cry for help in a time of great unknowns.

For many there is a natural attempt to hide from the pain and fear of it all or to rage at it or to understand it, but we can’t get away from it or understand it and raging only increases the sense of despair. We  can’t even get away from it in our sleep. We cannot evade our suffering for it is a part of us nor can we evade the suffering of others for in what is happening, we are all in this together and we know it. Blaming won’t fill the void nor will avoiding the fear and anxiety.

So, what to do?

Many have tried Zoom get-togethers, gardening, running, long walks, puzzles, video games and binge-watching old favorites on the nostalgia channels, the list is endless, but it hasn’t filled the need for the peace of mind we seek.

So, where does someone find peace of mind and solace when there doesn’t seem to be any?

Some who have written me have found it in the giving of grace, understanding and comfort to others– the leaving of cut flowers or a favorite meal on someone’s doorstep, calling a lonely shut-in, shopping for someone who cannot get out as easily, and calling to find out if they are in need. Though we are physically distancing it doesn’t mean we cannot grow closer to each other through our active caring for one another.

From my understanding of the human condition we need to acknowledge each others suffering as well as our own and not hide from it and that in doing so it will help to open the door and let the light shine into the shadows of our lives right now.

In short, many who have written me are finding the peace of mind, comfort and solace they need is in the giving of it to others. Go figure, when we give away what we don’t have to others we seem to get it back. Perhaps this a lesson we needed to learn during this time of separation, partisanship, and distancing especially in a country that prided itself in its unity by declaring to the world that its states and its people were “United” and that EVERYONE counted. Perhaps we need to act as though EVERYONE counts and in so doing get that we count. Many seem to be saying that to care and be cared for instead of making one another wrong may bring the peace of mind we crave.

On becoming real

 

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Pinocchio standing guard over my dream journal.

My most important lesson in life I learned from Pinocchio

In this time of seeming unreality I was reminded of the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet dreamed of becoming a real boy. The Blue Fairy promises him that if he is good and his heart is true and honest he will become a real boy. Of course he suffers all the wrong turns in his journey toward realness and many characters and circumstances try to steal parts of his soul along the way. He becomes lost, abused and alone at times but eventually he finds his way home by taking the ultimate risk to his life to protect his mentor and creator, the loveable old toy maker Geppetto, by being willing to sacrifice himself for love.

The story is a mirror of the path we are all on as we grow toward wholeness and self-actualization. I believe that at our core our hearts are true and that we can only experience this when we are willing to let go of our ego selves, to sacrifice our self-centeredness by the giving of our heart and mind to something other than our self and when we are willing to open to love.

Pinocchio is an allegorical tale of the Heroes Journey that we are all on, a journey toward reality and wholeness, awareness and redemption where we struggle, die to our old self, and are then resurrected anew. Nearly every story worth its salt has a hero, or heroine, striving for something of great value e.g. life, justice, a golden fleece, freedom, transformation, and/or redemption. Each is tried in the crucible of what life has to throw at them and all are convinced that to attain the goal will bring them wholeness and make them real.

We are all on Pinocchio’s Journey, all trying to find the gold of our core being. As we set out we look into all the nooks and crannies of life, down all its dark alleys, or pray to all its gods and Blue Fairies hoping that somewhere out there are the answers to becoming real. But with some luck and perseverance we can learn that the answer to becoming real has always been within us– that reality is a function of what’s in our hearts and not what is in some temple. Life can steal the parts of our self that we have given up to others so that we can feel safe, but Life cannot steal our heart for it is immutable.

The real you lies at your core being and is available to you when you give up your need for ego survival. This is the lesson of Pinocchio.

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For another story on becoming real see the following: https://thebookofdreamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/an-example-of-the-power-of-intentionality/

 

This is a new ad for the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting. For those who are either just starting out working with their dreams or those who are more familiar with the unconscious terrain of their dreams this book covers more than 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across more than 140 different countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all the possible meanings it can point the dreamer in a direction for exploration.

 

 

Loss of the Soul

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“Le Vol de l’âme”–by Louis Janmot (1814-1892). It is said that in a dream the soul of a man is symbolized as feminine and with women as masculine.

Because it is not the point of the article, I am not going to go into what the soul is or is not or where it goes when we die. When I speak of Soul Loss I’m speaking to what happens to our souls when we abuse them or when we injure them.

Whenever you’ve said to yourself, “I wish I were dead” we’ve sent a part of the soul to the land of the dead. Every time we give up on a dream or when we lose trust in ourselves we give up a part of our soul. When we play small in our life by giving in to our fears or pride or greed we injure the soul as well for the soul only wants to play large in everything we do. We are constantly banishing pieces of our soul.

In fact many of us cause harm to the soul through our self-destructive habits–drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, self-criticism, overeating, arrogance, etc..

But the soul also leaves us when grief has become so painful that we shut down or when fear becomes too great. Even certain life changes can bruise the soul such as a relationship break-up, a death in the family, or a change in jobs or life style.

Immigrants and refugees suffer this kind of damage when they leave their homes, especially when they are not leaving out of choice. This is of course compounded when their freedom destination has been blocked.

Soul loss is chronic in societies where there’s a small but dominant group of people who control the lives of others such as in autocratic, totalitarian or theocratic cultures or subcultures (this can happen here in the U.S. in villages, small towns, or in peoples homes with an oppressive element). It also happens in cultures and subcultures where opportunities are restricted on an ethnic, class or gender level, or where there is a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We also see it in cults or with the rigid dogma of some religious sects.

And some jobs are so stifling because of certain oppressive management practices that the soul begins to retreat to the darker parts of our being. The fact is that the soul thrives in creative environments where the individual’s independence is honored and nurtured.

Some say that only trauma will trigger soul loss but isn’t that what I’ve outlined above? Do not all these little traumas whittle away at our souls?

Have you suffered soul loss? It’s possible. Look closely at yourself for a moment do you, or have you, suffer(ed) from depression, constant anxiety, low energy and constant fatigue (any chronic sleep disturbance)? Does the world look gray around you regardless of the weather? Do you suffer low-self esteem, emotional numbness, helplessness or are caught up in and can’t let go of a negative past or some past event? Do you stress over many little things? Are you extremely overweight (or affected by some eating disorder), given up your dreams, or suffered or acted out abuse? Those who have suffered extreme abuse and who have been diagnosed with PTSD are on the rise globally.

Have you ever suffered a loss of self-esteem from a failure or at the hands of a bully personality? Most of us have and most of our negative soul-damaging experiences have been unavoidable. But it’s what we do afterward that can make all the difference to their healing. Often it’s the degree to which we let the hurts steal a part of our souls and when we go into agreement with our darker aspects that the loss was deserved that determines the depth and longevity of the experienced loss.

When we try to stuff the stink of soul loss i.e., suppress it or try to change it by adding perfume to it through a change of narrative the smell becomes buried but isn’t gone. It continues to foul our inner atmosphere until we bring it out of the darkened depths and into the light where we tell the truth about it without drama, judgments, and self-criticism.

Did you know that in some studies in the U.S. almost half the adult population has reported suffering some kind of childhood abuse (this includes neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse)? 1 Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident in their lives and that 28% of teens 14-17 have reported sexual victimization.2 Children who live with domestic violence regardless of whether the family is intact or not have a higher risk of abuse and I contend not only suffer psycho-emotional damage but soul loss as well.

But we do not lose our soul permanently or any part of it for that matter. What does happen is we lose touch with it and/or build up barriers to its expression. Meditation, dream work, creative expression, poetry, art, giving, and yoga are some means for healing a damaged soul.

In the fictional novel by R.J. Cole, “The Archipelago of Dreams” is an exploration of how damaged souls are healed in the spirit world.

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1deMouse, Lloyd, The Evolution of the Psyche and Society, Journal of Psycho-history v. 29, #1, 2002, pg.239

2 http://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics

Be Gentle with Your Dreams: An excerpt from Morpheus Speaks

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The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Be careful as you walk through the hidden forests of your dreams. They compose the unprotected essence of who and what you are. They are the messengers of your soul and your deeper self.

They harbor all your worries and fears, your dislikes and rejected aspects, your hopes and desires laid bare. They are born of the irrational, the imaginative, and the intuitive—a world of being as real and as informative as the rational world of science.

Both the outer masks that we all present to the world and the masks turned inward so that we don’t look too deeply at the mysterious inner self are stripped away during our sleep, allowing us to see our most beautiful faces and darkest shadows.

Through our dreams we get a glimpse of what God sees in each and every one of us without judgment or condemnation. Dreams are a grace unearned and a gift to those who learn to accept and interpret them.

Treat them with care, respect, and compassion, for they reveal the best of us and the worst of us. They represent our guide through life and the equilibrium and balance that all living creatures need in order to survive in what is often a chaotic world. Our dreams are our inner saviors.

Dreams reveal a truth about our emotional state of mind, our physical well-being, our psychological health, and our sense of the spiritual. They are our deepest connection with everything, one another, and God or the universal spirit.

Dreams create a nightly map to the experience of being human, and if read properly, they can guide us to worlds not dreamed of through the conscious mind. And they do all this uniquely for the dreamer who has them.

Interpreters can hold our hands briefly and point to the way of the psyche, but the individual needs to walk this path alone. It is about the person’s story and life narrative, and only he or she can know the true meaning of dreams.

In a way, how we interpret our dreams may be about how we interpret ourselves and how we think and imagine ourselves into being.

Knowing your personality type: Excerpts from Morpheus Speaks

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Available at Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Amazon

Looking for patterns within a single dream or across a number of dreams can be a useful way to decode the dream’s meaning.

Whether or not you are able to see a theme or pattern may be affected by your individual personality traits. Whether you are perfectionistic, possessive, image conscious, self-absorbed, secretive, anxious, engaging, scattered, self-confident, willful, easy going, or self-effacing these traits are at some level going to affect your interpretation of dream themes and patterns.

 

The more you know about your traits, the more you can spot what the pallet you’re using to create your dream picture looks like.

Knowing something about your emotional makeup is also going to help in understanding your waking world behaviors as well as your dreams.

There are several personality type indicators with each focusing on different foundational philosophies of personality and personality development. For the purpose of this book I’m highlighting two that I have the most experience with—The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram type indicator. Both will provide the user with rough, though usable information.

I’ve taken the liberty of sharing these links to sites that I believe to be useful:

 

 

Both these sites can be quite useful at an entry level to getting a handle on how you respond to the symbols, circumstances and events of your life and make the process and results of dream interpretation all that much richer and meaningful.

In both the books The Dragon’s Treasure and Morpheus Speaks I discuss in some depth some of the variables that affect our relationship to both the sleeping and waking consciousness.

Not only does your personality determine the symbols and the interpretation of those symbols, so does the extent to which you have immersed yourself in the beliefs of a religion and the values of a culture.

The Quran, the Christian and Jewish bible, the Vedas and other books of religion are used to interpret one’s life and to attempt the understanding of God, so why would they not influence your dreams? The danger in this is that rigidly narrow interpretations can sometimes only give you information about what you already know and not what you don’t know.

In any event, I’m not sure that the ‘self’ of the unconscious adheres to any religion, though it may use your belief as a way of communicating to you. This may add yet another layer of complexity to be unpeeled before getting at the small kernel of truth hidden within.

Don’t cast out the demon for he has something useful to tell you: A case for following your dreams

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From Narya Blackfyre

There is an uncontrolled and uncontrollable background world from which we are all born and out of which we motivate our lives. It is only through self-reflection, the art of transcending our conscious selves that we can discover a psychological resilience the likes of which the vast majority of people have never known or even knew was possible.

This is the art of reflecting on our experiences instead of being caught up in them. To do this we need to gain some distance from them. For example, we can experience being depressed and become so wrapped up in the experience that it’s like being caught in a never ending maze where we seem to wander aimlessly forever.

But transforming the experience from one of “being” depressed to the depression as being a signal that our approach to life has been outgrown and that a new approach needs to be developed can take us outside the experience and allow for a new perspective and change.

In short, by being our symptoms you can become lost, but by using the symptoms as signals of the psyche’s attempt to heal itself we can transcend, step out of, the maze of symptoms if only for a few moments but that few moments lets us know that there is an outside. As with everything else the symptoms aren’t what’s causing the imbalance e.g. depression, fear, anger they are only indicators that an imbalance exists. Too often we get caught up in our ego needs and forget that we are actually creatures of a much greater background world.

When we act as though we are our symptoms (fear, anxiety, depression, anger, powerlessness, jealousy, envy, etc.) we automatically try to avoid or cast out the demon. In other words, we try to reject rather than go into relationship with the symptom.

When we reject our feelings, our thoughts, or our unwanted memories we send the pains they cause into the dark cellars of our unconscious mind where they can fester and source all kinds of mischief in our lives. The art of reflection is the first step into dealing with our imbalances directly and one of the best ways of reflecting on our inner self is through the analysis of dreams. It is through our dreams that we can connect with that background world from which we all come.

In the dream it is the soul that reflects on itself while the ego sleeps rather than the daytime reflections of the ego upon itself that rarely produce any useful insight.

The dichotomous human: A world in imbalance

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In earlier blogs I have discussed the role of the archetypical symbols inherent in dreams. Carl Jung believed that an inherent dichotomy or dualist quality exists with human beings, if not all reality and that to lean too much one way or the other, that is to allow one aspect to dominate its opposite aspect, will create a destructive imbalance. This is true whether in human beings or in their societies, cultures and/or governments.

In short, Jung believed that what was needed in the world was balance between these dualist opposites. Because the world is dualistic, meaning for every A there’s a B, Masculine/feminine, up/down, conscious/unconscious, spirit/body, soul/ego, light/dark, or intuition/knowledge, rational/irrational, or liberal/conservative. Existence of one suggests the existence of its opposite i.e. they generate each other and cannot exist alone.

One of Jung’s favorite oppositions was the masculine/feminine (most likely one of yours as well). He used two mythical figures to describe these traits, Eros for the feminine and Logos for the masculine (labeling that I think of as being a bit sexist). Eros represents the intuitive, feeling (including mood), relationship, caring and playfulness. Logos represents logic, progress, reason, knowledge, and order. The world has for sometime been overwhelmed by a masculine dominated ego that has looked upon the emotional feminine as representing chaos and therefore the need for controlling it.

However, within each man is a feminine aspect that allows him to express the characteristics of caring, inclusiveness, thoughtfulness, emotional attachment and intuition. The more “masculine” (controlled by his masculine traits) a man becomes, and the more he represses his Eros qualities, the more likely that he will become unbalanced and fall prey to a lack of objectivity, literally losing touch with the “reality” he holds so dear. Hurt easily turns to anger and resentment because he can no longer see the reality. Contentment and security weakens and the overly masculine male begins to control his external world in ever increasingly violent ways. He is also cut off from meaning and is then forced to look for it in very bizarre ways e.g. through over-control, domination, drinking, lying, drugs, fighting, hyper-sexuality, and/or indulging in risky behaviors.

Women who are cut off from their masculinity frequently connect with men who show enough masculinity to compensate for their loss and will put up with a lot of abuse so as to not lose this compensating link with what they lack. This lack also may reinforce a woman’s greater attachment to family and home and suppress the urge to go outside the home to get her needs met, thus imprisoning her.

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People out of touch with or who repress the other aspects of their personality also tend to overestimate or underestimate the reality around them. In order to maintain control of a chaotic system they will ignore or demean certain aspects of their environment. Ignorance or rejection of their opposite aspects will also increase the number of errors they make when attempting to make decisions.

On the collective (national, worldwide) level, this imbalance seems to create an environment where men are dominant and women submissive. But both are unsatisfied in the arrangement. When unsatisfied (unbalanced), the male usually ups the masculine gradient for he knows little else and because, for him, the inner world either doesn’t exist, or is to be feared, so he tries to master his lack of satisfaction by controlling the outer world, through force and manipulation (yes the need to dominate and control is fear-based not power based). The female does the same often through passive aggressive force and manipulation.

So we’re all running around in a world searching for satisfaction, i.e. happiness, in all the wrong places and desperately trying to gain it through manipulation of the world around us. This is what happens when you leave everything up to the ego by detaching yourself from the spirit/soul. This is what happens when you cut yourself off from your opposite aspects. This is what happens when you treat half of yourself unequally.

 

You can’t find happiness through domination and control, or their

opposites: avoid-domination and avoid-control!

 

Happiness has the greatest success of being found through a personality that has discovered its opposite and has learned to integrate it into a whole and then project this wholeness into its relationships with others.

In my book The Archipelago of Dreams: The Island of the Dream Healer is a story about the imbalance in mankind and how one man finds an entry into the mysterious world of the Dream. Forced to let go of his Being he enters the Otherworld of the Spirit where at the potential cost of his life he will be challenged to right the imbalance and set a new course for mankind.

There’s a logic to dreams?

 

I’ve spoken of the logic of dreams before, or seeming lack of it. Things happen in dreams that follow no logic you would see in the waking world such as turning a corner and walking into your childhood home, the backyard of which sits on the edge of a great chasm (for those of you where that’s the norm, just ignore this example).

Some scientists suggest that this is proof that dream stories are but a failure of cognition, while others suggest that this is an extension of the cognitive process and allows for inspiration, creativity and religious expression. It could also be a little of both in that dreams become so singularly focused that details such as your childhood home still being in existence when it’s not are incidental to the theme of the dream. Long-term memories that may be affiliated with the theme are allowed to come to consciousness in a dream where the waking logic system has been suspended. This allows for greater participation on the part of the dreamer, whereas they would reject the event were it to show up in a waking state, or if not reject, then just imagine it as ‘pretend’ and not engage it as thoroughly. In a dream one can interact with the non-logical dream material in a way not possible in the awake state. In short, dreaming allows one to interact with deep and frequently hidden, emotional traces, but can only do so if the conscious logic system is shut off.

There is also the possibility that non-logical thoughts, or patterning, in dreams create symbols that when run through the logical waking state transforms them. Is the unconscious sending out symbols it knows will be interpreted in a certain way by the wakened dreamer, based both on their personal and collective archetypal images?

I’m a firm believer that nothing exists without a purpose, that God doesn’t add meaningless junk to the equation. As I’ve mentioned before the sleeping brain shuts down the prefrontal area that among other things regulates our experience and mediation of reality and helps us to develop a logos for what we experience. This shut down is what prevents us from ‘reacting’ to what we see within a dream (known as REM Atonia). It also helps us to “accept” the logos of the dream and to then participate in it.

Fundamentally, the neurophysiology of the sleeping brain allows for an expanded consciousness because that which is not focused on during the awake cycle can be accessed, analyzed, and synthesized by the subliminal self and added to the overall awareness that we call consciousness. God seems to have given us this expanded potential for consciousness. I wonder why after so many millennia we seem to not use this ability more to our advantage? It may be an answer as to why humanity goes so much faster in advancing its technology while its social abilities remain so slow to progress.