© 1987 by Charles Laughlin. Published by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Cover art by Judith Young.

[Updated 8 June 03]

Daily practical living is naive. It is immersion in the already-given world, whether it be experiencing, or thinking, or valuing, or acting. Meanwhile all those productive intentional functions of experiencing, because of which physical things are simply there, go on anonymously. The experiencer knows nothing about them, and likewise nothing about his productive thinking. The numbers, the predicative complexes of affairs, the goods, the ends, the works, present themselves because of the hidden performances; they are built up, member by member; they alone are regarded. Nor is it otherwise in the positive sciences. They are naivetes of a higher level. They are the products of an ingenious theoretical technique; but the intentional performances from which everything ultimately originates remain unexplicated. To be sure, science claims the ability to justify its theoretical steps and is based throughout on criticism. But its criticism is not ultimate criticism of knowledge. The latter criticism is a study and criticism of the original productions, an uncovering of all their intentional horizons; and thus alone can the "range" of evidences be ultimately grasped and, correlatively, the existence-sense of objects, of theoretical formations, of goods and ends, be evaluated.

Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations


An Ibis In the Tree is based upon a series of lectures I gave during two graduate seminars on structuralism during 1986 at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. The seminar lectures and discussions were taped and only a handful of copies of this photocopied document have heretofore been in existence.

The intent of the series was a reflection from the mid-1980s upon the decade and a half of development of biogenetic structural theory as a prolegomenon to the study of both human freedom and futurology. It is my view that one cannot understand such issues as determinism vs. free will in anything like a modern scientific way until one comes to lodge the seat of consciousness squarely in the body/brain. Furthermore, until one sees clearly the ways in which consciousness is entrained in enculturation such that symbols may penetrate into and evoke percepts, attention, cognitive associations, ego loops and other aspects of experience, one has little hope of transcending the tyranny of semantically-loaded phenomena over consciousness. Awareness of the structures of experience is the only key to freedom.

The earliest statements of biogenetic structuralism are to be found in the volume of that title (Laughlin and D'Aquili 1974) and in several papers dating to the early 1970's (D'Aquili 1972, D'Aquili and Laughlin 1974, Laughlin 1972, 1973). It is significant that our theoretical concern has, from the beginning, been with structures underlying phenomena, institutions and practices crucial to an understanding of religion (D'Aquili 1982, 1983, D'Aquili and Laughlin 1975, D'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979, Laughlin et al. 1983). Indeed, with the exception of related tangents into such concerns as the philosophy of science (Rubinstein and Laughlin 1977, Rubinstein, Laughlin and McManus 1984) and adaptation (Laughlin and Brady 1978), biogenetic structuralism has concerned itself primarily with topics relevant to the study of freedom. We have focused our attention on symbolism (Laughlin and Stephens 1980, Laughlin, McManus and Stephens 1981, Webber 1980, Webber and Laughlin 1979, Webber, Stephens and Laughlin 1983, Rubinstein 1983), ritual (D'Aquili 1983, D'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979, Laughlin and McManus 1982, Laughlin et al. 1983), and topics relative to transpersonal experience in shamanic and religious traditions (D'Aquili 1982, Laughlin 1984, 1985, 1986, Laughlin and Richardson 1986, Laughlin, McManus and Shearer 1984, Laughlin, Chetelat and Sekar 1985, Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1984, MacDonald, Cove, Laughlin and McManus 1986).

All of these issues are addressed in the course of these lectures, but my principal thrust is to emphasize the possibilities and limitations inherent in the biopsychological nature of our species. In particular, the possibilities and limitations to freedom and alternative futures is seen to be inherent in the orthogenetic unfolding of knowledge on the planet, and the capacities for knowing mediated by an increasingly complex nervous system. These reflections have the advantage of being derived post hoc from the vantage point of mature contemplation (i.e., a reconstitution of the theoretical view after completing the Husserlian epoche). At the same time, there is nothing final, or even definitive, about the ideas presented in these lectures. Anything but final, in fact, for it is part and parcel to our understanding of cognition that its products are fallible, partial, and thus (frankly speaking) lies. Useful lies for all of that, but only if we never come to believe them in any static way, and allow our egos to become bound up in identifying with them. Biogenetic structuralism is thus an unfolding understanding of the relations of brain, culture and consciousness, and will essentially never be complete -- should never become complete.

An Ibis In the Tree was transcribed from tape and extensively edited by Judy Young . She also designed and executed the fabulous cover (reproduced above). I owe her a great debt of gratitude. I wish to thank the members of the seminars for their keen interest in biogenetic structuralism, and for the many provocative questions asked (duly marked "Q" in the text) during the course of the lectures. Many thanks to: David Bartlett , Peter Coon , Kie Delgati , Kaj Kangas , Laurie Leclair , Michael Ling , Shawn Malone , John Monette , Grier Owen , Mark Rannells , Karen Richter and Steven Strang . I hope I fed them half as well as they fed me.


PREFACE   (above)

Chapter 1:   Structuralism and the Brain  

Chapter 2:   Traps and Tenets 

Chapter 3:   Mature Contemplation

Chapter 4:  The Biogenetic Structural Project 

Chapter 5:  Culture and the Brain 

Chapter 6:  Ritual Control of Experience

Chapter 7:  Toward a Transpersonal Anthropology

Chapter 8:  Meditation and Contemplation

Chapter 9:  The Study of Freedom