Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct

By Theodore R. Sarbin | Go to book overview

type" ( 1928, p. 113). Like his remote mammalian ancestors, Neanderthal succumbs finally to the temptation to specialize.

But nearby stands Cro-Magnon, much as the first primate stood to the mammals: with a "high-domed and well-filled brain" ( 1926, p. 299) and unspecialized body. Derived from a yet more primitive parent stock which was evolving in either Asia or Africa, "the arrival in Europe of these men of modern type ought surely to be regarded as the greatest event in history" ( 1916, p. 325), for its signifies "the appearance upon the earth of men capable of formulating plans and of reasoning, men of imagination, and endowed with an artistic sense" (p. 324). With the Cro- Magnon people come the first geniuses. "Thus the new spirit of Man and modern Man himself are revealed in the Upper Palaeolithic Period" ( 1924,. p. 90). But with the invention of agriculture in the following Neolithic period comes the ruler, and, after him, the "tyranny of tradition." And so we might expect to see the demise of civilization.

But in closing we meet another figure, whom we met in our opening passage. For it is the archeologist, in Elliot Smith as in Freud, who holds the keys to the past and thus to the human future. It is the scientist, insightful and skilled, who triumphs over tyranny. Still, looking ahead, we see that the investigator too will be defeated. Despite the struggles carried against the forces of prejudice by people like Galileo, Watt, and Lister, in time their truths become conventions. And so science finally fails to liberate and becomes one more instrument for human enslavement. However, Elliot Smith does not see this paradox or the paradox of his own efforts. Yet it is clear that in constructing his genealogy, he is in the grip of those forces which displease him. Locked between rarely opened covers, he remains in the temple of tradition.


REFERENCES

Freud S. 1961. Civilization and its discontents. New York: Norton.

Landau M. 1984. "Human evolution as narrative". American Scientist, 72, 262-268.

Landau M., D. Pilbeam, and A. Richard. 1982. "Human origins a century after Darwin". BioScience, 32, 507-512.

Smith G. E. 1903. "On the morphology of the brain in the Mammalia, with special reference to that of the Lemurs, recent and extinct". Transactions of the Linnaean Society, 8, 319-432.

Smith G. E. 1916. "Men of the Old Stone Age". American Museum Journal, 16, 319- 325.

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