Gregory Bateson – Quotes

snowpatternWhat is the pattern that connects all living creatures?

(Bateson, Mind and Nature, 1979, p.8)


‘But the bits and pieces of mind which appear before consciousness invariably give a false picture of mind as a whole. The systemic character of mind is never there depicted, because the sampling is governed by purpose.
We never see in consciousness that the mind is like an ecosystem – a self-corrective network of circuits. We only see arcs of these circuits.
And the instinctive vulgarity of scientists consists precisely in mistaking these arcs for the larger truth, i.e., thinking that because what is seen by consciousness has one character, the total mind must have the same character.
Freud’s personified ‘ego’, ‘id’, ‘super-ego’ are, in fact not, truly personified at all. Each of his components is constructed in the image of only consciousness (even though the component may be unconscious) and the ‘consciousness’ does not resemble a total person. The isolated consciousness is necessarily depersonified.
The whole iceberg does not have those characteristics which could be guessed at from looking only at what is above water. I mean: the iceberg does – mind does not. Mind is not like an iceberg.’ [Bateson, 1967]


‘The point is that, even before modern technology, something had to be done about the innate split between consciousness and the rest of the mind, because the unaided consciousness would always wreck human relations. Because the unaided consciousness must always combine the wisdom of the dove with the harmlessness of the serpent.
And I will tell you what they did in the old Stone Age to deal with that split.
Religion is what they did.
It’s that simple, and religion is whatever they could devise to beat into man the fact that most of him (and, analogously, most of his society and the ecosystem around him) was systemic in nature and imperceptible to his consciousness.
This included dreams and trances, intoxication, castration, rituals, human sacrifices, myths of all sorts, invocations of death, art, poetry, music and so on.
And of course, they did not and could not really say or know clearly what it was they were doing or why. And, often, it did not work.’

“What pattern connects the crab to the lobster, and the orchid to the primrose and all four of them to me? And me to you?…The pattern which connects is a metapattern. It is a pattern of patterns.” (Mind and Nature)

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