"Just as the individual slips between sleep and waking, reaching different intensities of awareness during the day, generations and epochs also fluctuate between levels of consciousness and unconsciousness. Advertisements, popular entertainment, public architecture are natural expressions of the unconscious desires of the "dreaming collective."
...The creation of the modern Western consciousness required a violent repression of our archaic heritage. That heritage includes the ability to explore sacred and magical realms through spontaneously occurring trance states, through rituals of initiation, or through the visionary compounds found in certain plants. For many thousands of years, direct knowledge of the sacred was a natural and universal part of human existence, as it remains today in tribal cultures. With the rise of the modern state and the Church, interaction with mystical realities was alienated from the masses and explicitly demonized. Communion with the sacred was reserved for the priests. During the Inquisition, cavorting with the spirits of nature or contacting the souls of the dead became heresies. The punishment for these crimes was severe.
The dialectical process that created the possessive mind-set of the capitalist and the "rational" outlook of the technocrat required destruction of the premodern vestiges of communal and animistic beliefs, whether these beliefs were found in isolated pockets of Europe or in the indigenous populations of the New World. This destruction was part of the process that Karl Marx described as the alienation of all our physical and intellectual senses into one sense: the sense of having. Of course, "the sense of having" is not really a sense – it is an illusion of fulfillment that seems to extend outside the self.
Modernism caused a profound shift in the way we use our senses. In his book Myth and Meaning, Levi Strauss admitted his initial shock when he discovered Indian tribesman were able to see the planet Venus in daylight, with the naked eye – "something that to me would be utterly impossible and incredible." But he learned from astronomers that it was feasible, and he found ancient accounts of Western navigators with the same ability. "Today we use less and we use more of our mental capacity than we did in the past," he realized. We have sacrificed perceptual capabilities for other mental capabilities – to concentrate on a computer screen while sitting in a cubicle for many hours at a stretch (something those Indians would find "utterly impossible and incredible"), or to shut off multiple levels of awareness as we drive a car in heavy traffic. In other words, we are brought up within a system that teaches us to postpone, defer, and eliminate most incoming sense data in favor of a future reward. We live in a feedback loop of perpetual postponement. For the most part, we are not even aware of what we have lost...
The modern consciousness is awake to materialism, to the incorporeal "sense of having," to the mechanistic worldview and the scientific method of empirical observation. Its antithesis is the archaic mind, alive to the world of the senses, in close contact with the sacred as it is revealed through the natural world, through dreams and visions. For this kind of consciousness, as Henry Miller once put it, "The goal of life is not to possess power but to radiate it.""
- Daniel Pinchbeck