Brain New Mammalian Mind

QM and the Scary New Mammalian Mind of the 21st Century

Quadrune mind is a brain-based model of spiritual consciousness that describes three types of minds we have inherited from our evolutionary past: a behavioral reptilian-like mind, an emotional old mammalian-like mind, an intellectual new mammalian-like (primate) mind, as well as a mind only seen in human beings, our Human mind, which is capable of awe and universal love not seen in other animals.1

This blog will focus on the new mammalian mind. This mind is associated evolutionarily with group-based culture, morality, symbolic reasoning, tool-making, problem-solving, collaboration, and conflict. In developmentally unafflicted individuals, this mind becomes dominate during adolescence, often a period of free thinking and rebellion. The new mammalian mind values reason, knowledge, debates, modernity, relativism, and science. Those who are dedicated to an “ism” (liberalism, atheism, realism, patriotism, to name a few) are likely functioning from a new mammalian mentality.

How scary is the new mammalian mind of the 21st Century? Each of the three pre-Human mentalities functions in the world in different ways. Previous blogs have used the lives of three contemporary people to illustrate some of the traits of our three pre-human mentalities: reptilian (Donald Trump), old mammalian (Temple Grandin), and new mammalian (Tara Westover). It is important to note that each mentality is expressed in both healthy and unhealthy ways, depending on whether or not the individual developed to adulthood free from affliction or not. The dominance of one mind over another is relative; other minds interact with a dominant mind in various ways, positively and negatively. 

In the Tara Westover blog, we pointed out how cultural history parallels the stages of consciousness found in individual development. 2 We described how Westover’s continuing growth appears to be having a more positive outcome than did Western history, which saw passionate Romanticism reject the intellectual Age of Reason of the 18th century. During the Age of Reason, people overthrew the authority of the hierarchical church and created an aspirational declaration of an idealized egalitarian society. Some saw the apparently quickening pace of change as inspiring, but for others it led to great fear and uncertainty. Today we are living in an era in which people are pushing back against another intellectual age (namely, the growth of technology in our lives). Indeed, people have good reason to be scared by the new mammalian mind of the 21st century. 

Historically, the destructiveness of the reptilian mind has been constrained by rituals sanctioned by the institutional pillars of society, especially the church and king, which often joined in common cause. The sacred rituals of the church included torture and choreographed murder of “heretics,” but the stability of the dominant ruling classes, and its society, were preserved, sometimes for centuries.  

The old mammalian mind led to deadly conflicts between tribes, city-states, and kingdoms. Yet it was a source of unification among the “in” group of people—who were either protected or oppressed depending on one’s perspective—and helped preserve the culture across generations, again through the values of the ruling classes. 3

The unmoored new mammalian mind. The new mammalian mind is the last evolutionary mind of our animal ancestors that humans attain before leaping into the unknowable future of our evolutionary descendants. 

Developmentally healthy new mammalian-minded people are capable of processing incredibly complex issues. They imagine abstract possibilities in order to produce creative solutions to difficult real-life problems. In fact, the idea of “humanity” itself is an abstract concept that has been paid a great deal of attention by new mammalian-minded philosophers over the ages. People dominated by a healthy new mammalian mind are moral, ethical, and altruistic. In short, the healthy new mammalian mind has many positive capabilities that are particularly beneficial to society when used in service of Human-minded universal compassion. However, because of various afflictions of the brain4, relatively few of us reach the new mammalian stage of development in a healthy way. 

In its unhealthy form, the new mammalian mind can lead to mass devastation. The new mammalian mentality in its afflicted state appears to be dominant in the 21st century. Some of the new mammalian-minded traits that we see rising to the forefront of our age are abstract thinking, individualistic thinking, ideological thinking, business thinking, and intellectually snobbish thinking. As we shall see, all of these can have negative effects when manifested by an unhealthy new mammalian mind. 

Abstractification.5 The Age of Reason was a period of Western history in which the rational, intellectual new mammalian mind was culturally dominant. The new mammalian mind is above all else an abstracting mentality. It can take a reptilian-like behavioral consciousness devoted to rituals to a graven idol, and imagine invisible deities who can be asked for survival benefits in this life and a next one. The abstracting mind can also take the old mammalian-like emotional consciousness and expand its nurturing bond from the biologically immediate family to a dedication to an abstract ideal such as socialism or the Rotarian ethic of “service above self.” Paul MacLean discusses how our evolving brain is linked to concern for others in the interview on page 3 of the Study Guide. However, as MacLean also points out in this interview, the rational new mammalian mind “can be likened to a coldly reasoning computer, capable of devising wars and other cruel acts.”6 MacLean goes on to allude to the continuing evolution of the humanizing prefrontal cortex, which “for the first time in the world brings a sense of concern for the welfare of all living things.” This is the area of the brain that gives rise to the Human mind in the quadrune mind model. It is in this abstractified juncture—between a new mammalian mind that can see people symbolized as numbers on a spread sheet and a Human mind that has a sense of communion with all living things—in which humanity lives today. It is uncertain which mentality will dominate our global future.7

Individualism. The new mammalian mind is not encumbered by either devotion to tradition and ritual or loyalty to the clan. Without being anchored in proven cultural norms designed to train each generation on the behaviors necessary to maintain the homeostasis of the society, people are “free” to devise their own individual rules of conduct with a very narrow society of one to please. Without emotional bonds to the identity and survival of the group, people are “free” to hedonistically seek only the pleasures of their own entertainment. As part of this new mammalian-dominated era, technology has been developed in ways that provide the tools for us to live individualistic lives. Other human beings, animals, and the earth become abstract concepts not really connected to us. Our technology enables us to be “free” not to become Human. When we are separate from all other entities, it is far easier to avoid the Human imperative to take on the responsibility of caring for all other entities. 

Ideology is more important than people or truth. The dominant new mammalian mind of the 21st Century is clearly stuck in the “coldly reasoning computer” stage of consciousness, “capable of devising wars and other cruel acts.” However, the mind of a culturally powerful ideologue does not “cruelly” devalue other people’s lives as much as it “unvalues” anything, or anyone, that doesn’t serve his or her own ideological necessities. For example, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are desirable values only as they relate to the elite ideologue. The life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness ideals just don’t apply to anyone else. Rachel Maddow’s Blowout provides a graphic description of how such a mind acts out within powerful people, leading to political, social, economic, and environmental degradation on a global scale.8 The effects of oil money and production on governments and global climate, for example, make no impression with the people in the oil and gas industry and their exploitative policies. (Of course, reptilian and old mammalian mentalities can also be involved here, but not the Human mentality.)

It is this stunningly destructive new mammalian mind, totally segregated from the real-life consequences of its actions, against which the people are rebelling (in some ways as they rebelled during 19th century Romanticism). It is the lives of the masses, their families, and communities that suffer devastation from the cognitively and emotionally indifferent “policies” of the abstractified minds of the elites. The elites can sincerely believe in their innocence, because they don’t plan to devastate the world and people’s lives; they just can’t conceive of a meaningfully causal connection between their plans on paper and life on earth. (The elites who are aware, or completely unaware, of the pain and suffering they personally cause other people probably function from an old mammalian or reptilian mind, respectively. In either case, whether they recognize the other person’s suffering or not, they just don’t care.)

Nothing personal, it’s just business. Over the past several decades, the cold-minded power elites in the West have systematically striven to dismantle any organization they can that pursues a humanizing purpose of providing assistance and aid. They have pushed the “business model” onto human-oriented services such as medicine, education, government, and mental health. It’s not only that the business model doesn’t belong in these socially-oriented crafts, which require creative skill and personal relationships in the planning, making, and executing policy. But the business model, especially neoliberalism, doesn’t even belong in business.9 Even Jesus does not seem to be a fan of free market economics.10

Many business people, who operate from a fragmented mind, divide the world into two non-overlapping sections. (The dissociated mind is the source of all existing kinds of “sectarianization.” Sectarianization can only exist in the dissociated minds of our afflicted brains,11 not in the universe.) For people who are devoted to the abstract values of “business” as they understand them, they often have distinct codes of conduct for “business behavior” and “personal behavior,” which in their minds are not connected. A person can see himself as a loving family man, a good person of faith, and a valuable citizen of his country. At the same time he can eagerly pursue self-serving business goals that take homes away from other families, sell products they know are related to the deaths of babies, and pay lawyers large sums of money to evade paying taxes that would otherwise help the social fabric of his country stay stitched together.12 All of this he can do free from concern, because he is following the guidelines of “good business.” Business competition is just another example of nature, or God, rewarding the “winners,” and punishing the “losers,” just like on the Serengeti Plain. This kind of business is all about survival of the “fittest.”13 Business Insider even uses this animalistic model as an “inspirational quote” for human business dealings, dramatically illustrated by a large photograph! The earliest citation of “The Fable of the Lion and the Gazelle” is attributed to The Economist magazine in 1985—during the Reagan years. 

Intelligence is not wisdom. In the quadrune mind model of consciousness, intelligence and knowledge compose the “highest good” of the unawakened new mammalian mind14 That is, intelligence/knowledge is more important than character, decency, and other people. Such new mammalian-minded persons feel privileged to act contemptuously toward “uneducated” people. Non-experts’ opinions can be ignored. The ability to set abstract policies affecting someone’s life is considered more important and prestigious than the actual life affected by the policy.15 (Conversely, Tara Westover, who exhibits a healthier new mammalian mind, advocates for taking contempt out of the treatment of “unlettered” people.)

The formally educated snob gives “book learning” a bad name. It appears that much of the emotional backlash against education and science is not so much against education and science as it is against being treated contemptuously. 

Humanizing the new mammalian mind. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning is not enough to make an educated Human being. STEM is the kind of curriculum that appeals to, and is driven by, people who value “useful” knowledge over wisdom. The afflicted new mammalian-minded person cannot really understand wisdom. In order to humanize this mind, it must have lifelong “educational” exposure to the humanities, arts, literature, physical and emotional play, labor in the real world, and service to the lives of other people. STEM peddlers value “good citizens” who can work in society’s preferred occupations, which often support governmental, industrial, and corporate competitiveness in the political and financial worlds. (We use “STEM” as a general shorthand term for the new mammalian approach toward education, although in real life there are advocates of STEM who also value the humanities. The arts have been included by some, resulting in STEAM.) 

The Human being’s approach to intelligence and education is to see them as useful, or harmful, tools. How people use them is based on their character (i.e., level of consciousness) not on how high their IQ score is or what schools they attended. Human beings value education and expertise as resources for the only meaningful purpose our existence has: to be of service to the well-being of all life and the world, as long as we live. As Marian Wright Edelman says, “Service is the rent we each pay for living. It is not something to do in your spare time; it is the very purpose of life.”16

Additional Resources.

Greider, W. (1992). Who will tell the people: The betrayal of democracy. New York: Simon & Schuster. [Greider: “The decayed condition of American democracy is difficult to grasp, not because the facts are secret, but because the facts are visible everywhere. Symptoms of distress are accumulating freely in the political system and citizens are demoralized by the lack of coherent remedies.” People become demoralized when they realize that the unenlightened ruling elites consider the lives of the masses to have no value].

Heilbroner, R. L. (1999). The worldly philosophers: The lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers (rev. 7th ed.). New York: Touchstone. [This book provides a classic history of the capitalist mind, as evident in the quotations citied in the footnote. His obituary in The New York Times also shows that he understood economics in terms similar to how the quadrune mind model views its purpose. “A witty writer, he called himself a ‘radical conservative,’ an oxymoron suggesting that, like Don Quixote, he wanted to rush rapidly forward, break the mold—and end up right where he was. But in that he was only half joking. He did indeed want to conserve the basic separation of the national economy from the national government, as suggested by Adam Smith in the 18th century. But he believed, too, that when the economy was hit with severe recessions or high unemployment or yawning income gaps, for example, government had to intervene with public spending that stimulated economic activity and generated jobs and the construction of public works that contributed to higher living standards…. Although popular with students and the general reader, he was regarded by mainstream economists as a popularizer and historian whose insights made no great contribution to the study of the field. He, in turn, saw their reliance on mathematics and computer modeling as narrow in vision and as losing sight of the very purpose of economics — to help improve the well-being of people at work and of the society they work in.” Heilbroner criticizes modern economists’ avoidance of a complex understanding of how the economic system really works. As stated in the obituary: “The worldly philosophers,” Dr. Heilbroner said in a 1999 interview, “thought their task was to model all the complexities of an economic system—the political, the sociological, the psychological, the moral, the historical. And modern economists, au contraire, do not want so complex a vision. They favor two-dimensional models that in trying to be scientific leave out too much and leave modern economists without a true understanding of how the system works.”]

Lasch, C. (1991). The true and only Heaven: Progress and its critics. New York: W. W. Norton. [Lasch says of the eighteenth century that it was a time “when founders of modern liberalism began to argue that human wants, being insatiable, required an indefinite expansion of the productive forces necessary to satisfy them.” Consequently, he believes, that economic development became more important than spiritual stability. This choice of values is characteristic of the unhealthy new mammalian ideologue].

Lasch, C. (1995). The revolt of the elites and the betrayal of democracy. New York: W. W. Norton. [Lasch: “In the world view of Western philosophy, knowing came to be split off from doing, theory from practice, the mind from the body.” This sentence is a superb statement of the quadrune mind model’s description of the destructive, untethered-to-wisdom new mammalian mentality].

Mishra, P. (2017). Pankaj Mishra – Age of Anger – VPRO documentary – 2017. (Director: Shuchen Tan). [“The Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, was born and raised in India, but since 2006 is living in London. Pankaj Mishra published the book Age of Anger: A History of the Present in 2017. In Age of Anger, he tries to indicate where the ‘wave of paranoid hatred’, as he calls it, comes from. Against whom that anger is directed and where it has led to during the last decades.” The documentary describes how neoliberalism’s free-market economy, imperialism, and elitism, which appear to be among the forces of the new mammalian mind, act against the humanity of the masses (non-elites). Mishra addresses the effects of British imperialism at home and abroad, but his points relate to all imperialists. For example, Mishra states, “Power makes you provincial.” That is, power imbalance corrupts by its sectarianizing effects, which effectively isolate the lives of the elites from the lives of the masses]. 

  1. Visit pages 6 and 9 of the Study Guide for a longer list of the new mammalian mind’s traits.
  2. Compare pages 7 and 9 of the Study Guide.
  3. It is the old mammalian influence from our tribal days that persuade people to believe that earthlings would all be brought together by a small extraterrestrial invasion.
  4. See page 8 of the Study Guide.
  5. Grandin, T., & Johnson, C. (2005). Animals in translation: Using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior. New York: Scribner. [“Abstractification” is a term coined by Temple Grandin to describe the abstract mindset of deskbound governmental regulators of her livestock handling methods. They could not imagine from the written reports they read how her innovations could make sense. They would annually require Grandin to resubmit documentation to prove once again that her methods actually worked, were more humane with fewer injured cattle, and saved money (increased profits). She writes: “To put this type of project together you need a really good field staff that is in charge of things. But today the abstract thinkers are in charge, and abstract thinkers get locked into abstract debates and arguments that aren’t based in reality. I think this is one of the reasons there is so much partisan fighting inside government. In my experience, people become more radical when they are thinking abstractly.” (Pages 28-29). Emphasis in the original].
  6. See Paul MacLean’s interview on page 3 of the Study Guide.
  7. RSA: For a look at an extraordinary organization that was founded in 1754 during the original Age of Reason, and is working on an ambitious agenda for a 21st century global enlightenment, see The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). They state, “The RSA has been at the forefront of social change for over 260 years. Through powerful ideas, cutting-edge research and our 30,000-strong Fellowship, we’re a global community of proactive problem solvers, uniting people and ideas to resolve the challenges of our time.” Notable past fellows include Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Nelson Mandela, and David Attenborough. Learn more on their Wikipedia and JSTOR websites.
  8. Maddow, R. (2019). Blowout:  Corrupted democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on Earth. New York: Crown.
  9. For the many problems neoliberalism has caused capitalist societies, see “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems” by George Monbiot in The Guardian.
  10. Barnstone, W. (Ed.). (1984). The other bible: Jewish pseudepigrapha, Christian apocrypha, Gnostic scriptures, Kabbalah, Dead Sea Scrolls. (“The Gospel of Thomas,” page 305). Jesus said, “Businessmen and merchants will not enter the Places of my Father.”
  11. See page 8 of the Study Guide.
  12.  Heilbroner, R. L. (1999). The worldly philosophers: The lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers (rev. 7th ed.). New York: Touchstone. This book provides a classic history of the capitalist mind. Heilbroner makes several points concerning the way capitalists use people in the abstract sense without understanding their realities: “But the idea of abstract land or abstract labor did not immediately suggest itself to the human mind any more than did the idea of abstract energy or matter.” (page 18); “… labor could produce wealth wherever it performed….” (page 31); “In 1828, The Lion, a radical magazine of the times, published the incredible history of Robert Blincoe, one of eighty pauper-children sent off to a factory at Lowdham. The boys and girls—they were all about ten years old—were whipped day and night, not only for the slightest fault, but to stimulate their flagging industry.” (page 61); “…children who tended the machines round the clock for twelve or fourteen hours at a turn, cooked their meals on the grimy black boilers, and were boarded in shifts in barracks where, it was said, the beds were always warm.” (page 28); and “…at a Manchester factory in 1862 the average work week for a period of a month and a half was 84 hours!” (page 90).
  13. Badhwar, N. K., & Long, R. T. (2020). Ayn Rand. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP). [An in-depth discussion of Rand’s philosophy. There is much material here, but what seems to be specifically relevant to this blog is how the libertarian free-market adherents have drawn on her writings: “The free-market libertarian political movement, though largely disowned by Rand, drew—and draws—great inspiration from her moral defense of the minimal state, that is, the state whose only raison d’être is protection of individual rights.” SEP further states that Rand bases her theory of ethics upon the foundational belief that “survival is the source and final goal of all the actions of an entity, that which gives point to all its other values. For human beings, morality and happiness are both instrumental means to survival.” QM agrees that survival of self, group, or ideology drives the behaviors, emotions, and thoughts of the three pre-human minds, but not for Human consciousness, as “non-survivalists” have pointed out, according to SEP].
  14. See page 9 of the Study Guide.
  15. See the discussion of Grandin and Johnson in footnote #5.
  16. See more value statements on page 11 of the Study Guide.