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The African Psychological Lineage on Dream States, Family Dynamics, The Unconscious and Beyond

Edward Bruce Bynum, Ph.D.
Director of Behavioral Medicine
University of Massachusetts Health Services, Amherst, MA


Recent discoveries in Anthropology and Genetics have combined with some perenials of human experience to recast our understanding of dreams and family life in a new context. The fact that all humans dream and that most live a significant portion of their lives in some dimension of emotionally meaningful family consciousness is woven into an enfolding field of interconnected relationships called The Family Unconscious. Dream life and family psychodynamics enfold each other over time and generations with powerful implications for symptom choice and defensive style. In this sense it is an Africanist notion in that family consciousness is understood to enfold not only the present generation and its psychoenergetic matrix of images, affects and ideas, but also the "time flows" incorporate several generations in the past and one generation in the future. That the first Homo Sapiens Sapiens were Africoid further deepens thereality for an African basis for the entire generation of the human family as well as the deeper corridors of the individual unconscious. A fuller understanding of this allows us to grasp the emerging dynamics of consciousness in states of mind that transcend ego consciousness. Modern neuroscience and quantum relativistic physics are perfectly at home with this Afrocentric paradigm Personalism.

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Swept up into the Maelstrom of paradigmatic changes on all fronts, cultural, scientific and geopolitical, we hold in the midst of this hurricane to some universals of human experience. We embrace and sometimes unconsciously cling to some notion of family connectedness in our personal identity. Familial consciousness is rooted in our biology as a species as it is in all the higher primates. We also all dream. Not only the primates, but all the mammals, including whales and dolphins, dream. In both cases this genetic, biosocial and somatic schema of relationships, over time, within and between organisms gives rise to a luminous matrix of interconnected points and wavefronts that unfold meaning and coherence in our day to day lives (Bynum, 1993). Another universal is the more recent realization that biogenetically speaking we are all descendants of a single African female of some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago, the so-called mitochondrial DNA mother of humanity (Vigilant et al, 1991) and in our deepest psyche carry some of her legacy in thought, blood and genetic structure. She was the prototype for the rest of us and her consciousness permeates our psychodynamics and even psychopathology (Bynum, 1994).
     There has been some controversy over her location, but the preponderance of evidence points to an African genesis (Templeton, 1991; Hedges, Kumar and Tamura, 1991). Some have already recognized the implications of this for modern science and religion (Forbes, 1992). The backdrop of these universals sets the evolutionary stage for a new theory of dreams. Family consciousness of all kinds moves through our lives, both darkening and illuminating our motivations, urges and dynamics. Like dreams, these familial processes are older and deeper than individualist consciousness and send roots spiralling into the primordial structure and process of the human psyche. On the deepest level this psyche influences the body and the body also influences the psyche. Both perhaps unfold from a deeper more subtle order of consciousness that at its root is African in origin as are all its present day world wide racial and ethnic permutations (Bynum, 1993; 1984). The collective unconscious at the bottom is the African unconscious.
     In this new vision the streams of dream life and family life enfold and interconnect with each other. The universe of matter, energy, persons and things becomes woven into an essentially conscious and living universe that is subtly imbued with personhood in the Asantian sense (Asante, 1988). This African template of Homo Sapiens Sapiens is crucial from both paleological and genetic perspectives for it forms the genetic, morphological and anthropological basis for the study of human consciousness from a truly multicultural perspective, not merely a Eurocentric one with other people grafted on to it. A dark neuromelanin nerve tract that is biogenetically rooted in all of us has in its unfoldment since the earliest hours of embryogenesis, the template of human consciousness. This template is suffused with darkness and enfolds the emerging dynamics of mind and light. The original Homo Sapiens Sapiens were dark and Africoid and this reality is a deep repression but lives in our dreams.
     This new perspective allows us to view the history of dream interpretation and its psychosomatic implications from Africa, Asia, Europe and Ancient America in a wider context. It documents that the workings of the dynamic unconscious on dreams and symptom production were known to the Kemetic Egyptians of 3000 BCE and that they consciously employed it in their clinical and religious work. They referred to it as the all black underworld of the Amenta (King, 1990) and the primeval waters of NUN (Hournung, 1986). They literally invented biological psychiatry and were aware of the dynamics of the neuromelanin nerve tract and light (King, 1990). Ages later, some West African civilizations, especially the Yoruba, formalized a variant of the dynamic unconscious in philosophy and medicine centuries before Freud (Morakinyo, 1983). Other branches of the human family such as Native Americans also had strikingly similar ideas. Their group-familial consciousness and their sense of Personalism pervading the universe had a definite influence on their interpretation of dreams and waking state occurrences. The new approach we are exploring here is really an ancient one in that it reveals the profound influence of family dynamics on dream phenomena and vice-versa in a clinical and scientific way. Clinical research is primary in Families and the Interpretation of Dreams(Bynum, 1993). There are chapters on the biology of dreaming and neuromelanin, recent laboratory findings, the cross cultural history of dream interpretation, especially in Kemetic Egypt and the Kiasporic peoples of West Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. This includes their Mythopoetic and religious practices and the psychospiritual dynamics of certain dream control disciplines such as Lucid dreaming and Yoga Nidva. The emphasis is on dream dynamics from a Personalism paradigm. The Personalism paradigm is quite comfortable with many tenets of quantum-relativistic physics (Bohm, 1957; 1980; 1987) and the frontiers of neuroscience, especially in their 'emergent' position that higher order consciousness and life are primary or supervenient over matter and lower order brain functions (Pribram, 1981; Sperry, 1980). Given the quantum interconnectedness of distant systems or nonlocality and Bell's theorem, the status of matter and information in this sentient universe is inherently trans-temporal and transspatial. Everything on some level is alive. Indeed biology and consciousness may have a more fundamental status than physics in the world process thus underlying the West African maxim that "God is Life". The Personalism perspective weaves these together demonstrating that it, like Western materialism and Eastern meditative models, is perfectly at home with the current scientific enterprise just as it has been since its earliest days. The study of human consciousness has always been about the study of light and intelligence. In that sense the roots of scientific psychology are Transpersonal and always have been since early Kemetic times (Bynum, 1992).
     The clinical lens focuses family unconscious dynamics on dream content during pregnancy, in ACOA family constellations, in medical illness, in death and in conditions of paranormal occurrences, in each way highlighting the interplay of influence between the dream, the unconscious and family psychodynamics. The family unconscious (Taub-Bynum, 1984) is seen to be an extended and interconnected field of relationships, a matrix of recurrent transactional patterns of images, ideation, affect and events over time between significant others that, like any other wavefront, influences behavior and symptom choice. It is a multigenerational phenomenon whose "time flow" enfolds not only the present generation, but like the West African tradition, the generation yet to be born and up to five generations in the past (Mbiti, 1969). A deeper look in this direction gives rise to the real but as yet scientifically unfamiliar phenomena that occur in 'possession' trance states and psychospiritual disciplines of illumination.
     Personalism must not be confined to philosophy, literature and political science but taken in the very heart of science. About this time in the last century, in the 1890's, a group of scientists, philosophers and physicians brought together biology, certain trends in Jewish mysticism and then current models in physics. The result was psychoanalysis which revolutionized 20th century thought and still casts a long shadow over psychology. That was about the rediscovery of the unconscious mind. We are in a similar situation with respect to quantum-relativistic physics, neuroscience, African Personalism and evolutionary neurobiology as seen in the Neuromelanin nerve tract unfoldment of the CNS during embryogenesis. This neuromelanin unfoldment, including its hormonal and potential quantum mechanical biological superconductivity process (Barr, 1983), influences psychopathology and personality development as well as transcendental states of 'unitative conscious experiences' (Bynum, 1994). That world that is beyond the ego and the individual unconscious which one enters in trance, in 'possession', in meditation and in religious ecstacy is the superconscious state of transcendental consciousness. Like hypnosis, the study of dreams, especially from a truly multicultural and genetically Afrocentric perspective, will cast a warm expansive and inclusive light over the emerging horizon of the next millennium. The spiritual is everywhere reemerging in psychology and from the get-go the clinical and scholarly lineage of African-American psychology has embraced the psychospiritual dimensions of human life. This bodes well for our future.


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