From my experience, the study of Velikovsky’s Cultural Amnesia (CA) theory can lead to much inspiration. It seems to me that many people find this inquiry stimulating, but for various reasons don’t get very far, or end up feeling out on a limb. It is somewhat a private endeavor, due to the many challenges that it presents to our individual worldviews. The inquiry is psychological in nature, already a red flag for many. It is necessarily speculative, and often without signposts.
CA has many layers of meaning, but has primarily been understood as the psychological complex of memory suppression due to trauma. This forgetting is a defense mechanism to protect the psyche from becoming overwhelmed. Most of us understand this basic concept. At its simplest, Velikovsky pointed to this process as the main underlying reason that humanity hasn’t properly been able to recollect its catastrophist past.
His most ignorant critics lampooned him: “Oh, so you claim that there were all these catastrophes, but then people forgot them. How convenient.”
This kind of statement reflects greatly on the emotional maturity of his critics. These people are children.
Most people get this far with the concept, but don’t take it deeper. The next layer is to understand that suppression of fearful memory is not without consequence. The psyche always pays a price. This is where neuroses and psychosis comes into play. Discomforting symptoms bubble up periodically and threaten to destabilize the person or system. Nothing stays repressed forever. A good example are people that suffer from PTSD. The skeletons in the closet are always a short nightmare away.
Neurotic symptoms erupt periodically until such time that the trauma is re-experienced and worked through. Fortunately, the human urge for healing directly meets the urge to keep the pathology sequestered. Thus we have repetition compulsion and all manner of processes that invite us to revisit the original tragedy. The resulting gestalt can go well, or it can go badly. When it goes badly, we see people changing roles from victim to perpetrator in order to express their repressed emotions. Tyrants and despots play this out by subjecting the masses to depredation.
As a psychologist (trained as a psychotherapist) I am aware of the neuroses and psychoses that individuals can express. The trauma complex is the key to unlocking the secrets, but is a place most people are unwilling to tread. It is what I call, “self-secret,” the doors only open to those brave souls who are willing to go against the grain. It is like the dysfunctional family with its hidden secrets of incest. All the children in the family know who is getting raped and live with this undercurrent of stress. There is awareness of it happening, but it is driven as deep into the subconscious as possible. In later years, the grown children having moved away from the parental abuse, can no longer remember the events and are often in complete denial. A wall goes up and this is for protection. The same is true for any grave catastrophic memories that threaten to overwhelm the psyche. It is easy to extrapolate this into a sociological context as Velikovsky did. The memories are buried, and the recall is filtered heavily. The degree of terror, pain, sorrow, and depression that our ancestors experienced in the face of a world turned upside down is something that few can touch into emotionally. How many of us can do this? Most of us turn away.
Another layer to the CA narrative is the recognition of the process of sublimation. This is a partial sequestering of fearful memory, turning the memory into something else to make it more palatable for later recall. This is where it gets interesting. This is the basis for all kinds of alternative interpretations of events in order to change the meaning to make it less threatening. This is more obvious on the sociological level, seeing how culture and religion evolve by constructing new belief systems. If we can change the story we can eventually convince ourselves it never happened, or was less intense than originally thought, or had a better outcome than we remembered, or why don’t we just boil it down to a resonant name like Blockbuster and sell some innocuous DVDs with the perky memory of the end times.
This sublimation allows us to recall the original traumatic event in a safe way, but still gives us access to that once upon a time awe-full/awful experience that we like to remember from time to time. Standing apart from the past trauma, ie. celebrating the Day of the Dead, we can make fun with it.
I think this is what we have been dealing with in response to the Age of Catastrophe. The classical Greeks did a most excellent job in helping the populace to safely touch back into memories of catastrophe, and to create healthy catharsis in the satisfying repetition of myths that offered new outcomes. Was this not the role of early Greek theater, and the job of the mystery schools? Hasn’t the job always been to distance ourselves from traumatic memory and put a new spin on things? Let’s make nursery rhymes!
Following this realization through, what then is the most important thing for us to do? It is no less than inventing a paradigm of eternal stability for our planetary and solar system in order to assuage those subconscious fears of a cosmos coming unhinged once again.