Parents are the true gods.
The gods first arose inside the infant brain, which is predestined to seek the all-powerful parents, without whom babies would perish at birth. Do humans ever outgrow this stage of super-dependence? Psychology says yes; human behavior says no.
If one of us encounters an unconscious person we first try to get a response; we want the person’s eyes to open, and to hear the person say, “Where am I?” or “What happened?” In return we ask, “Are you okay?” This may be a request for a medical report, but what we most desire is that set of coordinates that certifies our presence in the world: Our name, the names of the people to whom we “belong”, and how to contact them. Simple, and yet these few bits of information join the individual to the community of human beings.
Human infants are born with instinctual responses, such as suckling, but identity and self-awareness must be activated and constructed over a 12-18 year period of extended gestation – childhood. In western cultures these “requirements of adulthood” are considered to be somewhat flexible and personal, whereas conservative societies impose strict class and gender roles on individuals. Strict behavioral boundaries support the structure of traditional societies.
Word language is inseparable from the process of creating a “conscious” human being: use of words to structure thought is conscious thinking: “being conscious” is a “product” of verbal language.
Visual thinking / intuition are unconscious processes; “intuitive” simply means non-verbal. Modern social humans are so dependent on word language that they dismiss the obvious: Nature has “invented” a stupendous variety of systems to process information and facilitate communication! These systems are what we call LIFE in its myriad forms.
A child is told who it is, where it belongs, and how to behave, day in and day out, from birth throughout childhood (and indeed, throughout life.) In this way culturally-approved patterns of thought and behavior are imparted, organized and strengthened in the child’s brain. Setting tasks that require following directions (obedience) and asking children to ‘correctly’ answer questions along the way, helps parents and society to discover if the preferred responses are in place.
I don’t remember blurting out “Cogito ergo sum!” in school one day. Achieving awareness of my existence was a misty process, a journey taken before I knew myself. Identity (which is not the same as personality) does not pre-exist; it is constructed. Long before a baby is conceived and born, family and society have composed an identity and a comprehensive world picture for it. The majority of those who belong to a religion or a social class are members by accident of birth, not by choice. We are born into cultures and belief systems; into versions of reality invented by humans long departed.
“The Gods” are ancestors who have been compressed by time and “ritual memory” into symbolic beings who retain the “all-powerful” status of parents.
Consciousness is not a thing that is stuffed into the human body, neither is it a bump on the brain, nor a patch of color on a brain scan. Consciousness is a phenomenon that might more correctly be called co-consciousness, since what we refer to in everyday terms is our ability to respond to other human beings using word language.
How many of the memories that we assume to be our own are provided by the family? Do you remember your first birthday? Years later, you may be told a narrative and be shown photos of yourself at a party and these images become your memories, as if you had been present as a conscious being, but at one year of age, you were not.
Even with basic information in place, and hoped-for responses forthcoming, children can be frustrating for adults to deal with, because young children are not fully able to interpret language and may be slow to respond, to which adults often react negatively and with anger. Adults are impatient for a child to use language as an adult would – that is, to be conscious. We could use the phrase ‘a brain accessible to others’ to characterize a conscious state. Failure of a child to ‘pay attention’ drives adults crazy, whether it’s ‘willful disobedience’ or the child is developmentally AWOL.
To the adult, a child’s immediate attention confirms a successful connection. Words may preface or follow other types of communication, or simply serve to get the child’s attention if he or she is out of “eye contact”. In Western culture, the goal is “obedience” to words – remote control.
Obedience to commands conveys a willingness to follow the rules, but children are young animals in need of physical experience that develops healthy bodies and engages curiosity. The words we bombard them with may not have the desired effect. It is better to demonstrate what it is we want from them; children learn through imitation, which requires adults to slow down, use visual cues and to model proper behavior, something many are not willing to do.
The human need for reciprocity is the tip of the iceberg. Our need for connection to others results in the projection of consciousness onto every object in the universe, from rocks, trees, rivers, mountains, lakes, springs, planets, stars and the moon, to the universe itself. Like perpetual children, we wait expectantly for advanced (adult) beings from distant galaxies to contact us. We see signs and miracles in the least coincidences. Humans are capable of relationships with automobiles, slot machines, animated characters, stuffed animals and body parts.
The need to project human purpose and intent onto objects in the environment, a necessary step for development of a child’s awareness of its surroundings, does not go away, but persists in adults as unquestioned ‘magical’ patterns of thought. Modern people need the reassurance of being connected and protected by parental figures that continue to watch over them throughout life just as early humans needed ‘adult’ guidance from the wisdom of the elders and ancestors who preceded them. The gods are very ancient ancestors who by necessity are conflated into single all-powerful beings – no one can hope to remember them as individuals.
Helpless is a scary way to begin life: being born incomplete is the price of premature birth – which is every human birth.
Supernatural thinkers are not daunted by scientific explanations of phenomena, but neither are scientists exempt from magical thinking. The scientific mind also desires to find a pre-existing “cosmic consciousness” – a super mind – a Theory of Everything. Our search for alien life (even a single microbe would do) is an extension of the search for the “ultimate eternal parents”.