7. Forward and backward

Summary: As societies have become more skilled, improving materially and technically, spiritual and emotional experiences get less attention. The Easter Island saga shows there is no doubt that we lose certain problem-solving abilities while focusing primarily on technical achievement. Loss of creativity is a real phenomenon; it can be observed, charted, understood and reversed. It can be clearly identified as collateral damage in what Freud called "the attack on nature". Overspecialization and excessive logic often precede the decline of societies.


    We have considered that civilizations gradually diverge from an original, natural path and sometimes revert back to it. If overdevelopment has deprived them of the natural, spiritual aspects of their original cultures the decline is usually convulsive.
    The path taken by societies in their development and decline has a Y-shaped divergence, where the stem represents humans living closely dependent on nature, and interacting with it. Then the society and its supporting environment ‘diverge’ and humans pursue a direction of knowledge-based instrumentalism. Eventually natural creativity, intuition and problem-solving talents are exhausted. In the advanced stages of divergent failure, data collection replaces curiosity. When the Minoan ruins at Knossos, dating back to 1600 B.C. were excavated, a startling quantity of tablets were found containing inscriptions of bureaucratic data. Minoan society was probably eclipsed at its height by the more energetic Mycenae. In most societies that decline as the Minoans did, their divergent branches move too far apart, meaning that the society has a weak cultural relationship with its earlier, natural sensibility, and a preoccupation with organization. At that point the social organism collapses. It then reverts to a natural ‘chaotic’ state as did the Maya, or the Easter Islanders, for example. Alternatively like Athens, Rome or Britain, the community falls under the shadow of another society.