Anthropology of the Mind – the rise of a new Homo
Anthropology is the study of Humankind and Cultures and Anthropology of the Mind is a new field of research in Anthropology which dedicates itself to the study of consciousness. It subscribes to Universalism: all peoples are fully and equally human. For me consciousness is the capacity that allows me to connect with myself, others and the universe. For Prof Chris Knight it is awareness. Human consciousness is distinctively social. Buddhists will tell you it has eight stages and it is a sort of record of everything. But the truth is that no one
knows for certain. Despite the fact that every day thousands of scientists and
monks alike all over the world work towards either understanding it or
attaining it. Consciousness is one of Humankind’s holy grails still.
Certainly in our circles consciousness has become a buzz word. Shift of consciousness this, awareness that, conscious partying, and
the list goes on. Since the Greek
philosophers Plato and Aristotle who studied the relationship between mind and
soul, humans have wondered about consciousness. Consciousness is the ultimate
lotus flower for the spiritual being. In consciousness we have deposited all
our hope of redemption and salvation. And we don’t even know what it is or how
it works! Isn’t it ironic?
But let’s return to anthropology for a moment. How has this science that claims to study Man, not have looked at consciousness
before? The study of consciousness per se within anthropology sprung up in
the second half of the twentieth century. One could say anthropology has looked
into the evolution of consciousness before, but from the vantage point of human
evolution. A good example of this is the work of Richard Leaky in ‘The
origin of Humankind’ where he dedicates a whole chapter to the origin of
the mind and says ‘the origin of human consciousness, some time within the last
2.5 million years, was the third event’ that ‘marks the history of life on
earth’. I would argue the study of shamanism and native mythology in particular
can also be considered an early study of consciousness in anthropology. ‘The
Raw & the Cooked’ by Lévi-Strauss is the perfect example of
such an attempt.
However, Anthropology of the Mind was purposely created in order to look at consciousness in a completely different manner from
which anthropology has conducted its research and engaged with the public so far.
Traditionally an anthropologist goes to the ‘field’ (or chosen culture), lives
there for a couple of years and then comes back and writes a mammoth piece
about it. Only a few hundred people will ever read it if (s)he’s lucky largely
because only academics or really curious people will ever go to the trouble of
reading such accounts. Anthropology of the Mind however, collects its data
through specially devised installations located in places such as art
exhibitions and festivals. The idea behind this is to create the field as opposed
to going to it. Like this the data is collected and transmitted simultaneously.
One leaves their own definition of consciousness on the wall and can
immediately see others definitions. At the end all the data is collated and the
word pattern that emerges is analysed and compared with previously discovered
patterns. In time a map of all the data is created making it possible to
examine the overall word pattern evolution through time and space. The first of
such installations was placed at The Brain Unravelled exhibition in London in September 2009. Expect
to see it at some of the UK festivals this coming summer.
For much anthropology is still an intellectual project. Meaning, it’s great to exercise your grey matter but when it comes to
real engagement with the public it’s outside its remit. Anthropologists are
mere observers. Anthropology of the Mind
represents a new phase in Anthropology. It’s rather like a metaphor for the
stage which human consciousness evolution is at. So look out for this new Homo
who will be asking you what you think consciousness is. This person is not
really after an answer. This person is out there to make you think. The new
Homo sapiens are ones who are in touch with nature and apply centuries of
knowledge accumulation to create a sustainable future. There is only one way
this world will change: through action. And action is geared by thoughts.
Antropologia da Mente/ Antropologia da Consciencia