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Reading a dictionary of mythology today, and I was struck by the way humanity has of creating pantheons : small, tight communities of quarrelsome and warring deities, titans, demigods etc. And of course, real history is often not much better. Small communities of quarrelsome and warring kings and princes and emprerors. Or to zoom into the internet. Small communities of quarrelsome and warring hackers and bloggers.

OK, so mapping social spaces is built in to the human brain. And other things can be mapped onto and indexed by this social space. Science? Sure, it's all about the quarrels and alliances between Galileo and Newton and Leibniz. Theories are typically indexed by the name of the discoverer. Philosophy? Ditto. Political discussions ... a fortiori.

I thought of this before, when I was trying to understand IndividualRecognition. I believed that the idea of individual (in the social sense), was the first kind of objective, re-identifiable thing we had evolved a concept of. And later on, humans adapted this idea to cope with other things. This is why in many "primitive" cultures so many abstract qualities : war, love etc. are personified by gods. Hard to point at things like seasons have gods. Individual objects such as the sun and earth and sea have gods. In some cultures, objects represent their owners. You affect someone by sticking pins in something that belongs to them. (Damn! Forgotten the name of this phenomenon! It isn't Anthropomorphism, though I should really be using that word more around here too.)

Could this be an echo of a time when social conspecifics were the main conceptual tool for continuous things, and we indexed other things to those people?

I'm suddenly reminded of a conversation with a serious Marxist who was criticising Optimaes on the grounds that ideas could only be changed by power. In his conception of history, ideas weren't changed in people's minds, through persuasion. But by groups, who hold particular beliefs, winning power. As the victorious group changes, so the idea changes.

Contrast Popper : ideas die in our stead

Pantheonistic thinking appeals to children. Learning a small (toy) society and the relations within it, is part of the play of growing up. There's a sense of achievement as you start to understand the system. Look at StarWars and MarvelComics. You sell shed-loads of plastic action figures by inventing a pantheon of characters and their tightly interacting stories. Maybe SoapOperas too.

Clearly TheCultOfCelebrity

Are ConspiracyTheories an example of Pantheonistic Thinking? Or are they a more sophisticated social network oriented mapping. Maybe the hallmark of a pantheon is that it should really have around 10-20 major characters. And everything fits into this. (Compare RossMayfieldsCreativeNetwork)

Wheras the exhileration of ConspiracyThinking is that you integrate a much larger swathe of history into a larger, more complex social network.

Contrast :

See also :

  • Pantheons can give rise to narratives (OnNarrative)
  • Thinking about And other things can be mapped onto and indexed by this social space. reminds me of AddressableThings