The Patterning Instinct

After five years of intensive research, I’ve begun writing the draft of a book that will be entitled The Patterning Instinct: A Cognitive History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning.  It will incorporate and integrate all the themes covered in my two blogs, Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex and Finding the Li.

As  I write each chapter, I intend to share what I’ve written with readers of my blogs, and invite any constructive comments.  Click on the table of contents below to read any section, either as a blog post or pdf file.

Introduction [pdf version ]

Chapter 1. The Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex [pdf version]

Chapter 2. So What Really Makes Us Human? [pdf version]

Chapter 3: The Magical Weave of Language [pdf version]

Chapter 4: The Rise of Mythic Consciousness [pdf version]


  1. Steadfast said,

    My readings overlaps some of yours. What you’ve written is most interesting.
    I have a problem with the ‘tyranny’ metaphor. For one, the pfc isn’t alone – doesn’t have a singularity and not all things to do with consciousness and attention are located there. Secondly, the notion of a tyrant is negative – (definitely so in your ‘external’ pfc i.e. the cultures of the world at different times in the world). I do not see what the pfc does in conjunction with other components of the brain – the cingulate, thalamus, insula – as tyrannous.
    Next, you frequently use the term ‘spirituality’ or ‘spiritual’. What is it? Where does one find it? Does it have substance?. I grew up within a devout Roman Catholic environment. Spiritual was a term used there as a synonym to the other hocus pocus and like the rest of the hocus pocus theistic rumblings and christology, the term ‘spiritual’ has to go the way of the Dodo. No that’s not right. The Dodo did once exist as a substance, a thing. Spirituality is not even hot air. So, why do you use the term and what do you mean by it?
    Next, you’ve captured a meaning for the Chinese concept of ‘li’. You need to explore that more. They way you leave it, pregnant as in an egg, has a concept in 12th 13th century Chinese thought and you seem to be wanting to bleed something from that in to 21st century. It’s not working for me. The contexts of then and now are too distant. Also, the Li in its context, in my reading, is somewhat akin to Spinoza’s ‘god’ or ‘being’ in the European (Christendom’s) context of same time period.
    Next, you’ve dropped in that barbed German concept of the Axial Age. That seems to be to be one of those observations – or part observations – looking for a cause; backwards thinking. If you are wanting to comment on synchronicity in diverse movements historic then explore that. I liked the ‘Axial; Age’ idea when I first heard of it but found it to be legless but a curious observation from mid 19th century Germany.

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