A Synnomic Evolution of Language:
Historical Unfolding of Language Functions From Natural, to Mythical to Logical Thinking
[ I could not find the original hyperlink post on the internet for Passeos's article. I took it out of my archive to post it here. This is a good brief outline, synnomic model, that Passeo constructs from the "Symbols of Transformation" by Jung to grasp the evolution of thinking from the origins of an original telluric-text / supra-linguistic / hypo-logical (intra-psychic-biopocentric: personal myth/ biosmemiotic "con-textural-inscription" / telluric ideology /onomatopoeic) to our historical isolation in a hyper-text / hyper-logical (inter-psychic-anthropomorphic: shared mythology/ technical-logical /political ideology /ultra-artificial-aesthetic) now alienated from the collective Biocentric Telos-Psychie of Earth. Below this outline I added two more of Passeo's essays (#13 and #6) to extend some of his thoughts behind the outline. I think he has helped simplify the discussion--I hope. If this outline possibly attracts you please read Jorge Conesa Sevilla: "The Singularization of Reality..." which does a further exposition of the concepts in this outline.-MEC ]
We semioticians owe too much. We are always in obligation to the copious foundational ideas of too many writers. Maintaining an original stance and perspective in semiotic writing is as difficult as being a creative historian without the risk of changing history itself. Depending on what we happen to be writing about on a given day, semiotic writing is as my friend Jorge L. Borges used to say, "una labor intensa de anotaciones interminables de historia, leyenda, y antigüedades." But two semioticians, whether they knew themselves as such or not, who need to be showcased more often are Sigmund Freud and Carl. G. Jung. Our footnotes about their important work need to be larger than they are today.
I will concentrate on the contributions of C. G. Jung in this review. From Jung we have the same problem of deciding what to borrow, change, critique, and save as enduring and relevant to semiotics. In his Symbols of Transformation, Jung begins the first chapter, appropriately enough with a theory of language, speech and thought. In fact the entire book is a semiotic treatise aimed at tracking the mythical origins of thought in circumvention of "directed thinking" or thinking with language. In this sense, this entire text is relevant to semiotics. This much is obvious to several semioticians who have discovered, talked about, and continue to expand this connection. Here I do not want to critique Jung but my aims are to save his linguistic structural model in as simple a way I can, in order to facilitate further discussion among ourselves.
Jung himself is caught in the act of semiotic discovery by selecting voices and ideas congruent with his notions of the mythical and of dreaming as the source for the mythical. Thus we cannot give all the credit to Jung for these dichotomies and distinctions but we can applaud his intense scholarship in gathering the materials for our use and reflection. For the purposes of simplicity and summary, I refer the reader to Jung's book and to the dated references he uses but are still relevant today.
The model he presents is summarized and expanded, by me, on the figures, 1a and 1b, below. [Figure 1a & b in "Hablo, Hablas," 1980-JC.] These figures also include additional and modern terms so that the scholar can bridge the classical as well as the contemporary terminology, conveniently, in a single image. The first figure tracks in four columns what I have labeled generically as a synnomic progression. The first column labels this progression with terminology used by Jung and his references. I have also included and emphasized the synnomic progression in psychological terms. The second column that was not in Jung but comes via Heiddeger and Paul Sheppard (1967 and Personal Communication), tracks an ecopsychological-to-nature-alienated progression. The third column tracks the aim of this intellectual historical perspective of language function and the fourth and last column tracks the synnomic progression proper of language with respect to its function relations.
[Translator's Note: Instead of the original figues I have rendered this information in a textual rather than tabular format. JC.]
A Synnomic Evolution of Language:
Historical Unfolding of Language Functions From Natural, to Mythical to Logical Thinking
a) Stages; b) Nature-Thought Affiliation; c) Aim; d) Function
a)Supra-Linguistic(or Hypological) Language: Intra-psychic and Personal Mythology
b) Telos: A high degree of consiliency between thought, words, action, and natural existence. DreamThinking
c) Onomatopoeic: Natural imitation and literal relation; personal identification with the natural
d) Synnomic Function of Stage I: More Intra-relational than Inter-relational, but Inter-relational with nature and the natural; subjective and personal
a)Ancient-Linguistic Language: Inter-psychic and Shared Mythology
b) Logos: Partial meaning knowledge of quanta of words meanings. The beginning of formulaic (esoteric) and non-democratic language and meanings.
c) Scholastic: Philosophy and religion as science. Everyday living is more and more dependant on priestly rituals
d) Synnomic Function of Stage II: Decontextualized signs but still mythical Increasing borrowing and infiltration of foreign terms and beginning of separation from telluric sources
a) Hyper-linguistic(or Hyperlogical) Language: Exo-psychic; Instantaneous and
Mass-shared phenomenology (Spinoza's Amanuensis)
b) Gerere: Speaking fluency, for fluency's sake and the amassing or accumulation of quantities of knowledge without necessarily a synthesis
c) Polis: Political and technical sciences separate from Logos and Telos
d) Synnomic Function of Stage III: Abstract arbitrary sign, technical languages, propaganda, singularization of complexity and experience. Inter-relational in large scales with diminishing meaning impact.
To this figure and model we need to add three transitional phases in order to further summarize and accommodate almost the entire gambit of treatises that propose linguistic origins or track the development and function of speech. These transitional phases are the Shamanic, the Rhetorical, and Transcendental as seen in Figure 1b [Translator's Note: Instead of the original figues I have rendered this information in a textual rather than tabular format. JC.]:
Transitional Phases Between a Synnomic Progression
a) Phase; b) Where (between stages); c) Aim; and d) Synnomic Function
a) Phase 1: Shamanic
b) Between Stages I and II
c) The Shaman as a valid Proxy for the natural or the supernatural.
d) Spiritual specialist and mediator between social, natural, and spiritual realms
a) Phase 2: Rhetorical
b) Between Stages II and III
c) The Storyteller, Poet, or Orator as a collective memory. Aesthetics as Proxy for nature
d) A repository of stories, language, proper uses of language, and encyclopedic function.
a) Phase 3: Transcendental
b) BEYOND STAGE III
c) The Mystic- Scientist. Ecology and ecopsychology as a consilient force: New Inte-rrelatedness. The realization that the 'proxy' is itself an alienating force. Communal and shared responsibility
d) Natural laws and habits prove more difficult to describe in science categories. A move toward the ecumenical. Statistical know-how forces a move toward interdisciplinary dialogue.
Before we proceed to highlight, deconstruct, or apply this monumental synthesis let's pause for a second a read from Jung the following:
"The secret of cultural development is the mobility and disposability of psychic energy. Directed thinking, as we know it today, is a more or less modern acquisition which earlier ages lacked."
"It would be a ridiculous and unwarranted presumption on our part if we imagined that we [modern mind, and people] were more energetic or more intelligent than the men of the past—our material knowledge has increased, but not our intelligence. This means that we are just as bigoted in regard to new ideas, and just as impervious to them, as people were in the darkest days of antiquity. The centre of gravity of our interest has switched over to the materialistic side, whereas the ancients preferred a mode of thought nearer the fantastic type. To the classical mind everything was still saturated with mythology, even though classical philosophy and the beginnings of natural science undeniably prepared the way for the work of "enlightenment."
Now let's begin our work. It is clear from these and other passages that Jung (and Freud) believes in a connection, via dream experiences at least, to an ancestral mind. In Jung's analysis there is no such thing as a "primitive" mind if by that we mean lower thought capacity. Therefore, the only difference is one of synnomic function, or a difference in the mode and aim of language that culminates in intra- or interpersonal transactions. To put it differently, a synchretic or "primitive" thought-language mode is compact and existentially intimate as compared to the synnomic uses of language in increasingly larger social groups. Here a discrete or objective language modality is more prevalent simply because, it more efficient and because the increased affiliation toward the material and the increased polis, living in closed quarter, demands a direct and oversimplified approach to communication. The paradox for Jung and others is that Dreaming is and will always be rooted in Stage I. Therefore dream interpretative methodology in psychoanalysis is truly the only avenue left to investigate how this primal mind is doing in the midst of an unnatural world. The natural or primal mind, Telos, never lies. Confabulation belongs to the realm of civilization to Logos and to Polis. Confabulation is also the begining of neurosis.
The transitional phases that I have included are also an empirical test of Jung's model since one can easily determine if a group of humans, using their own language, need an existential proxy, in order to relate to nature OUT THERE. If they do and the proxy is a nature-wise family member or a shaman, we can still describe these humans as maintaining a credible intra-psychic connection with nature.
The model also predicts a break down in the quality of semiosis, a degeneration of both inter- and intra psychic relations that the scholars within a given stage or phase may not see. That is, the primacy of language per se, within a purely anthropocentric milieu that excludes nature at large may be seen as a SIGN that the human sign reigns supreme and absolute. This is a perspective that, if not recognized, excludes biosemiotics. This morbidity and exclusive view of the SIGN is slowly being deconstructed in linguistics and semiotics.
Phase III is an ideal or a utopia because we have not lived this progression yet, or if encountered, it looks like patchwork and is limited in its ability to transform a global community so that anti-ecological and selfish trends are effectively and permanently curtailed. The ubiquitous realization of Phase III is further challenged by the break down of civilizations that are anachronistic and antagonistic to one another. So, it is not just the material complexity of a singular polis or the materialistic attitudes of its citizens that prevent the implementation of ecological integration and ideals.
In other essays I have argued that a separation from Telos implied in Stages II and III readily invite the barbaric or a search for transcendental or ecumenical solutions. That is, it is their initial or outright alienation from Telos, exacerbated by the stranger proxies, that opens the door for an infusion of the barbaric as a correcting force both in language and in existence. The barbaric stands as a return to the dignity and truth of self-reliance and to a lost intimacy with natural existence. More importantly, with the implosion of closed sign systems and the encountering of natural laws and habits that contradict a cherish Logos that co-habits with the materialistic trends, the same hyper-linguistic forces seek transcendence and liberation and conspire with the incoming barbarian to shake things up a bit. The flower power and sexual revolution that we have just experienced is an example of this "treason" within.
Given what Jung believes about the purity and the wellness-holism of the ancestral mind, then we must remind ourselves that the barbaric as a force representing or fighting for Telos can never be called "infantile". The barbarians can be said to be naive or innocent but never infantile because this derogation implies a misbehaving from a superior developmental platform, which as we have seen, cannot be found in successive stages. Only the doings of Stage III, WE as we existing today, can be called infantile. The reason for this is that only an infant can, as Piaget suggests, be material-driven, or perceptually bound by the glitter of surface reality. It is not surprising then that the anthropological literature conveys ample examples and narratives of natural peoples' commentary about us: we are backward, we are childlike, we spoil the world, we trash our own house, we don't even speak with a language that signifies deep enough, that describes accurately.
In Chapter Two I will continue sharing with you some of the implications that I see, if my expansion of Jung's model is adequate, about the emerging field of ecopsychology as a deconstruction of mainstream and politicized psychology. More importantly, I will write about the bridge that we must built between ecopsychology and biosemiotics in order to transcend our own illusions about language and present psychology. As a prelude to this connection I would be taking a look at Spinoza's probable description of language and civilization at Stage III as a parrot philosopher, reproducing foreign texts for which he/she has no knowledge: an Amanuensis. To the extent that Spinoza believes that words originate in the body as opposed to OUT THERE, then the first synnomic dialoge is between the body and language, is biosemiotic. But to the extent that the body moves in natural spaces authentically, words are also grounded on the authentic; ecosemiotic. But if the body moves with the additonal difficulty of excess adipose tissue, is protected by civilized ways, hides away from natural processes, rhythms and ways, words become synthetic as well. Amanuensis would be my code to refer to unduly anthropocentric stages of language development, or to semiotics and semioticians who have lost their way in synthetic text; have imploded into text sui generesis. ©
13) Is Perverted Human Semiosis A Cyclical Event?,
From "Hablo, Hablas" (1980) ©
By Enrico Passeo
Earlier I made the claim that my expanded version of Jung's Synnomic language-thought model predicts a breakdown of human semiosis from natural and grounded to the hyper-logical or to the ultra artificial. Another way of saying this is that synnomic evolution moves from biosemiotics to anthropocentric semiotics, or worse, as Spinoza suspected, to the condition of an Amanuensis, civilization using a groundless language as a parrot philosopher, reproducing foreign texts for which he/she has no knowledge of. We'll get to Spinoza's ideas about language later. For now, let's continue our exploration of our earlier essay and claim and look for evidence for cyclical synnomics.
The title and question for this essay, qualifies semiosis as human and "perverted" insofar the scholastic gains made in Stage II are continued into Stage III and result in the study of and obsession with sign systems sui generesis. But, these discoveries, mathematics and logic for example, soon run into trouble, hence my name "perverse", when someone points out that we are speaking about closed sign systems that might have simplistically, under-represented natural laws or habits: our minds, our languages and their origins. Specifically, it is a perversion in my mind to speak of Mathematics as if it was THE language of nature or god's language. Mathematics is neither, is a human invention. We do not know whether beings in other worlds utilize mathematics as a noetic system. The SETI astronomers seem to think so. But, it is equally conceivable that the sensory-perceptual-cognitive systems of sentient beings in other planets bring them closer, an immediate and intuitive access, to natural laws or habits thus eliminating the need for mediating sign systems to comprehend these realities. Equally true, let's not forget, that the visual artist and the musician also make similar claims about pictures or music being nature's or god's language. Either all this semiosis is arbitrarily perverse, or god is a multi-signing phenomenon.
Stages one through three with intervening phases, also one through three, reflect this disintegration: an obsession with the sign or a particular sign system (usually one's favorite language) and being forgetful about telluric origins of communication with predictable psychic and societal consequences. If language no longer stands for a real Telluric connection, then it can be easily abstracted to the point that EARTH and natural processes are inconsequential abstractions to humankind. Henceforth, the slippery road down towards dehumanization, alienation, or modern brutality in order to feel something natural, are not far off.
Additionally in this essay, I am proposing that there are reasons to believe that this synnomic evolution is also cyclical. As an European born, I do not have to look farther than the history of the European continent with alternating Neanderthal, Paleolithic and Neolithic invaders and counter-invaders; civilized- proper and barbaric pauper, many times over; into Rousseau, decapitations and Hitler and superman ideals, a cold war and back to flower people, Tarzan and druid worship; to make this point. This is both a horrific and fascinating counter punctual dance or march of yin yang epochs of alternating back-to-nature and basics to logos and polis, back and forth. Additionally, we can look to Mayan and Egyptian societies and history and find similar analogies. The Mayans in particular, may have been very keen to these cosmic cycles but in the end their entire civilization reverted back to shamanism and small scale interpersonal dynamics, magic mushrooms and marginal jungle subsistence.
North Americans have incorporated the "barbaric" into the puritan languages and strict religions of England and Spain. Tomatoes, tobacco, chilies, and chocolate did some spicing, but native languages, telluric philosophies and manners of thought did it too. As a consequence of this recent brush with the barbarian, the old world, stereotypically, treats these Americans as unrefined newcomers, as juvenile and abrupt. However, the exported American "culture" is also embraced by co-conspirators, internally, by "treason-within" despite the protest of puritans.
As if these examples were not enough, for all these alternating epochs one can find avatars, prophets, heroes of all kinds, priests, etc. etc., all recognizable individuals and their deeds amply recorded who function as the three types of proxies named in the three synnomic phases. No semiotician can observe so much historical bloodshed and energy and deduce that countless of humans have been in the habit of killing, defending, changing, challenging, transcending, without language being implicated in these transitions and impacted as well.
I on the other hand, am making the bolder claim that language "remembers" a telluric past and forces civilized semiotics back to its origins. Why could this be the case? What is the gain in semiotic regression? Language will always do so, regress to the Telluric, because the ecological unconscious, as both Freud and Jung observed, is already embedded in ancestral modes that exist always in an eternal present tense in the unconscious. The first and original ground of experience is to be found in intimate relations with a real and authentic world (natural), why then wouldn't a function of this original MIND, language, want to do the same? Move the synnomic needle too much toward Logos and Polis and the human mind and its organically based language with Onomatopoeic origins "feels" marginalized, accused, accosted, barraged, insulted, and tricked; a stranger in a strange synthetic land. Then, language cannot stand it anymore and rebels with rock-and-roll, poetry, or tango!
The anthropologist and semiotician Levi-Strauss almost ends his famous Tristes Tropiques with a curious chapter entitled, "A Little Glass of Rum" and I will let the reader find the footnote that explains this title as an additional pun to our synnomic story. In this chapter he writes:
"In Martinique, I had visited rustic and neglected rum-distilleries where the equipment and the methods used had not changed since the eighteenth century. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, in the factories of the company that enjoys a virtual monopoly over the whole of the sugar production, I was faced by a display of white enamel tanks and chromium piping. Yet the various kinds of Martinique rum, as I tasted them in front of ancient wooden vats thickly encrusted with waste matter, were mellow and scented, whereas those of Puerto Rico are coarse and harsh. We may suppose then, that the subtlety of the Martinique rums is dependent on impurities the continuance of which is encouraged by the archaic method of production."
Even though Levi-Strauss makes this example into something I am not ready to deal with in here, synnomic balance, this passage can be made into an analogy to the synnomic evolution and perversion we have been talking about. Namely, that Telos, as the Martinique rum, because it is grounded on the organic and the natural tastes better than the "civilized" and hyper-technological Logos or Polis rum. His example also speaks to the diversity of methods in the many refineries and tastes connected with the traditional production ways. That is, with civilization also comes the loss of individuality and multiplicity of expression and the prevention to synnomic inter-psychic relations. If language was like rum, then we could say that a language rooted in Telos is multifaceted and signifies expansively in contrast to the monopoly of purism and singular views.
Telos is rum from Martinique and we long to taste its exotic origins because we instinctively know it is better for us, more authentic. Polis (and Logos) is Puerto Rican rum, and other than the inexperienced teenager who is beginning to drink who drinks that white and insipid stuff anyway?
An earlier essay about barbarism as a correcting force in civilization and the one that showcases an experience by American naturalist and poet Thoreau suggest additional examples of the solution that Levi-Strauss wants us to consider: balance. The topic of a semiotic/synnomic compromise or balance will be addressed singly. ©
6) Nature is Stolen From The Human Mind by Formulaic Language,
From "Hablo, Hablas" (1980) ©
By Enrico Passeo
Psychoanalysts like Jung and Fromm were concerned with the emergence of an unauthentic personality when they spoke of a false persona “who” captures the possibility or the totality of self and the process of individuation. Using this vehicle of a persona capturing or engulfing a more real potential self one can imagine that this substitution takes place also at the linguistic level. That is, the person assimilates formula-like phrases that substitute for a real and deeper evaluation of experience, words, images and self-concepts.
The convenient labels that describe the persona, emerge behavioristically, by contingency of space and context, without thought or criticism, to add credence to the incomplete metamorphosis. Enter civilization and writing; books freeze experience to a few pages, one language (a purist and conventional use of language). The singular language is further controlled by a few, by a privileged class of humans. Then, humanity is disowned from this magic, nature-at-large, to the extent that civilizations demand conformity and a conventional use of the sign. Language is ritualized and looses it fresh and creative connection with the world out there.
This effect is compounded when the social animal invents a supernatural “society in the sky”, a transcendental and golden capital in the sky, a top-down patriarchic (usually) hierarchy, to validate power and dominate on earth. The human animal is so genetically a social being that needs to fabricate this projection in order to appease the fear of living and dying alone, a self-aware animal lost in creation. The fear of being this singularity is a powerful magnet and the inevitable genesis of civilizations. Oatmeal and humans clump unnecessarily, in larger and larger piles.
Within these civilizations, part of the ritual of language is to convey, preserve, and ensure that certain myths are maintained and pass down to future generations. The telling of these myths further encapsulates language into regular and archaic forms that only a privileged class of individuals, priests and politicians, are privy to. Dissent, or worse, heresy, is any perceived attack to this aristocracy, that comes in the form of new dialects, the telling of new myths, or by individuals having access to the original matrix of creativity: dwelling in the natural space.©
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