Book Review: The Fall

 

The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era, by Steve Taylor

This is a great book to read if you are questioning what on Earth has become of humanity.

Why do we think the way we do? What have we lost? What do we need to rediscover if we are to survive on Earth? Is there another option to the atrocities that  civilisation brings with it, be it war, greed, suffering, crime, homelessness, depression and inequality’?

The author Steve Taylor is a psychologist. I love to read books like this that are by scientists, it feeds the theorist in me. That part of me that is looking for reason, and if someone is a scientist then they have trawled through all the evidence and are often presenting a life times worth of work.

We are born into a world where we are told that war, genocide, mass murder, atrocious inequality between the rich and the poor is the only way, and completely normal. Steve presents his theory that this trait of humanity is not ‘normal’ at all. It was born out of a single culture which existed in the Sahara region of the world around 6,000 years ago. Something happened at that time, in that place which caused those people to disassociate themselves from their bodies, each other and nature, dominate other cultures and eventually take over the whole world. That something was climate change, and with an increase intensity of heat and lack of water, in just 200 years a group of people emerged very different to anything the world had ever seen before.

This group of people have been extremely successful in spreading their way of living throughout the world to bring us to this current time, where we are at the brink of extreme crisis. In less than 100 years, if things do not change, this now very large group of people will wipe out the entire of the human species and much of the rest of life on Earth too.

Steve Taylor presents his work in three sections. Part one looks at the history of the fall. He begins by presenting evidence of what is knows as The Golden Age, a period where cities needed no defensive walls, where men and women enjoyed equal status and individuals experienced a sense of psychological well-being and connection to the cosmos. Then he shows that a transformation began around 4,000 BCE due to dramatic changes in climate in central Asia and the Middle East. He refers to this as the Ego Explosion, and explains how this group of people spread ‘civilisation’ across the world, eradicating the indigenous way of life.

In Part two of the book Steve Taylor presents the psychological problems which resulted from this change, and they will not be a surprise to you. They are  aloneness, ego-chattering, perpetual sleep, and fear of death which lead to an underlying unhappiness. He talks of ways in which culture avoids these, such as embracing distractions, materialism and seeking status.

He finishes the book by looking at what he terms ‘The Trans-Fall Era’ in Part three, where he presents evidence for a gradual shift in consciousness which has been taking place over the last 1500 years, and in particular since the eighteenth century in several waves. He offers a positive view that there is indeed a shift taking place, and we can choose whether we want to be a part of it or not. He presents a number of contributing factors to this shift, one of which is connecting with nature, and re-finding our wildness.

“Away, away from men and towns.
To the wild wood and the downs
Where the soul need not repress it’s music”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822

This book has cleared up a number of questions I have been seeking answers to for many years. A must for anyone who is trying to make sense of our world in order to find a way through the madness to a new way, or I should say an old way of living on Earth.

Book reviewed by Nicola Smalley