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Shredding Saharasia
A Response to Richard Morrock's "Review"*

by James DeMeo, PhD

* The following article appeared in the Journal of Psychohistory, 26(4):858-863, Spring 1999, in response to an error-filled distortion of my Saharasia findings, which appeared in the same issue.

Shredding Saharasia: A Response to Richard Morrock's "Review"

By James DeMeo, Ph.D.

Richard Morrock's "Review" of my book Saharasia constitutes a wholesale misrepresentation more suitable for the skeptic's press (where his anti-Reich credentials are well established) than for the Journal of Psychohistory. From his review, the reader would never know that, for example, Saharasia constituted the first ever geographical mapping of global cross-cultural data bases routinely found in academic libraries and widely used for social theory testing. Saharasia was originally accepted as a dissertation at the University of Kansas Geography Department in 1986, in a manner not unlike so many anthropology dissertations which employ similar cross-cultural data but without the maps. Morrock acknowledges "Wilhelm Reich's pioneering work in the field, typified by such books as The Mass Psychology of Fascism... and People in Trouble..." but from his review one would never know I had taken Reich's original sex-economic theory on the social origins of human neurosis (including sadistic, warlike, child-abusive, anti-female behavior) as the starting point for a very systematic global geographical and cross-cultural evaluation. Saharasia contains detailed chapters discussing such factors as male and female genital mutilations, infant cranial deformation and swaddling, patrilineal descent, marital residence, the couvade, polygamy, contraception, ritual widow murder, breastfeeding and denial of the breast, homosexuality, prostitution, incest and incest-taboo, high god religion, slavery, castes, and so forth, in painful detail and with exhaustive citations. But more importantly and for the first time, world maps are produced showing locations and incidence of occurrence. The mapping of such cultural data was my contribution to the understanding of human behavior, and they are the centerpiece of Saharasia. Notably, it is the maps which Morrock either ignores, or treats dismissively.

In fact, there is a significant global geographical pattern and structure imbedded in the anthropological literature on child-treatment, human sexuality and family life, as gathered in every university library and more specifically as summarized in tabular data bases such as R. Textor's Cross Cultural Summary and G.P. Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas. I undertook very systematic preliminary cross-cultural testing of these data bases, which respectively contain data on 400 and 1170 different aboriginal cultures, world-wide. The data, as organized according to Reich's sex-economic theory of human behavior, fully corroborated his ideas; when the data were mapped, I discovered a clear clustering of cultures with the most extremely armored and patristic, abusive, traumatic, neglectful, anti-sexual and violent characteristics in a region roughly defined by the large desert belt which stretches across North Africa, the Middle East, and into Central Asia: Saharasia.

A World Behavior Map was produced from those data, along with nearly 50 other maps on individual cultural characteristics, all showing probable overlapping source-regions from which the various patristic armored behaviors and social institutions arose, and suggestive of diffusion patterns by which they spread to distant regions outside of the Saharasian deserts. Since Saharasia is known to have been a relatively well-watered grassland-forest environment in ancient times, converting to harsh desert around 4000 to 3000 BCE, the specter of drought-induced famine and forced migrations was suggested as the mechanism for devastating early unarmored matristic culture (egalitarian, peaceful, child-positive, sex-positive) towards armored patrism. Older social institutions which protected babies and mothers, which preserved love between young people and constituted the core around which social organization was maintained, were utterly destroyed in those same drought-affected regions. New social organization developed in the wake of this widespread famine disaster, emphasizing pain over pleasure, and driven by sex-frustration and sadism, as is the case with much of the modern world today. Once anchored into character structure and social institutions, the mechanism for reproduction of armor in the next generation is removed from any connection to drought, desert or food supply. Famine and starvation are only the triggers which get the process going. The process was similar to, or worse than, what has been observed in more recent decades in drought-affected areas of Africa, where millions have died and where warfare is chronic.

A time-line was also established through an exhaustive survey of over 100 authoritative regional compendiums of archaeological and historical materials, and this established the causal connection between the environmental and social changes starting at c.4000 BCE. Prior to that date, evidence for human armoring and warfare is non-existent or ambiguous and debatable at best; legends of an early peaceful period to human prehistory appear to have a factual basis. For example, the large walls surrounding early Jericho are sometimes called "fortification walls", but without weapons of war and destruction layers, they could just as easily have been impoundments for protection of cattle from predators. Likewise, rock art depicting claimed circumcision or battles prior to c.4000 BCE are totally ambiguous, requiring a real stretch of the viewers imagination. Not so the evidence after the drying-up began at c.4000 BCE, which is completely unambiguous as to conflict, weapons of war, growth of authoritarian social hierarchy, destruction layers, land abandonment, mass migrations, and so forth. Saharasia required more than a decade of research and writing, and is exceedingly well documented, cited, and indexed, in painful and heart-breaking detail.

To Morrock, however, Saharasia is amateurish and error-filled speculation, conjured up and theoretically top-heavy. Did he read my book, or merely skim it in search of "ammunition" for a dismissive review? Here are a few corrections to his misrepresentations:

1. The terms unarmored Matrism and armored Patrism are explicitly defined in the Introduction of Saharasia.(p.5) Matristic culture is not "governed by women" as Morrock mis-states, nor are they confined to only pre-literate cultures. I cite examples of technically developed civilizations with largely matristic social organization late into ancient history, such as early Minoan, Harappan, and Anasazi societies, prior their respective disappearances from history.

2. Saharasia devotes a full chapter (p.179-196) to the subject of "Contraceptive Plant Materials Used By Sex-Positive Cultures", with over 100 citations from the anthropological or medical literature. Four pages of quotations from various anthropological reports were provided, so as to dispel the kind of prejudices contained in Morrock's Review. Malinowski, for example, wrote: "Some of the herbs employed in this (abortive) magic were mentioned to me, but I am certain that none of them possess any physiological properties...equally incorrect and fantastic is the belief in mysterious contraceptives." (Saharasia, p.181) Malinowski was explicitly told of the plants by the Trobrianders, but he relied upon medical authorities of his day who were extremely prejudiced against native and herbal medicine, and who had themselves no knowledge about how to control fertility with drugs or other medicines. This was decades before the birth-control pill. And Malinowski did report unwanted pregnancies, at 1% which is low by any standard. Some of the plant contraceptives have been tested in laboratories, showing clear contraceptive effects. All of this was fully discussed and cited in Saharasia.

3. I cite a number of historians who argue the early Romans -- prior to and during the early Roman Republic -- were significantly different from the later Imperial Rome of Augustus and Caesar. (p.299-300) I equally document and cite evidence on the brutal sadism and debauchery of Rome in those later times, dated from the Punic Wars onward, to provide a contrast. (p.303-306) In fact, Saharasia presents one of the most concise historical overviews of the excesses and debauchery in Imperial and later Christian Rome which can be found. Morrock, however, quotes one sentence out of context to make it sound like I am ignorant of these facts, or worse, that I personally approve of the later periods of Roman sadism. Nowhere do I "praise Caesar's countrymen" as Morrock claims, and his misrepresentation appears deliberate. His other sentences critical of the historical section of Saharasia are equally taken out of context and misrepresented.

4. Morrock says the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert are a "happy and emotionally uninhibited group" a statement with which I would generally agree -- but it is accepted the Bushmen were pushed into the Kalahari from wetter regions to the north and east, by the taller and patristic-aggressive Bantu peoples. (p.238, 245-246) Additionally, a central theme of Saharasia is the difference in vegetation, food availability and famine-frequency between the extremely harsh Saharasian Desert Belt and other semi-arid regions such as the Kalahari. I devote a full chapter to this desert-comparison issue, which Morrock apparently didn't read. (p.92-108)

5. Morrock raises some interesting questions about New World archaeology and history, some of which are addressed in Saharasia, albeit not so completely as was done for the Old World.(p.369-385) In Saharasia I openly speculated New World armored patrism might have originated by a similar desert-migration-famine mechanism as seen in the Old World, or by pre-Columbian contacts, or both. Mesoamerican armored patrism did not come from nowhere, and Saharasia presents several possible source regions. There was, for example, a general southward migration pattern into the Great Basin of North America of warlike, slave-taking, cranial-deforming nomad warrior groups who originated in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Some of the earliest of the Mesoamerican sites, with priestly and warrior castes, cranial deformation, pyramids, etc., are found along coastal Mexico, and similar influences appear to have spread northward in later centuries into other parts of North America. Similarly, the early ancestors of the Inca can be traced to coastal Pacific settlements suggestive of pre-Columbian contacts. In all cases, these early coastal settlements were ocean-looking and had little in common with neighboring agricultural villages. Rather than address the evidence I gathered to support these ideas, Morrock dismisses it all with contempt, calling the Harvard linguist Barry Fell (whom I cite) a "crank". Besides Fell, approximately 15 other major works brimming with evidence about material culture and linguistic elements were cited, connecting the Old World to the New World before Columbus. Fell was a top-notch scholar, and no "crank".

By the above examples, Morrock is dismissive and contemptuous of any evidence, or of anybody, who would provide anything which deviates from the most rigid "party line" of scientific orthodoxy. His final paragraph closes with an insulting insinuation aimed at myself, which also attempts to ingratiate himself to the editor: "Thanks to deMause's work, we are all too aware of the license sexual predators will take with children in the name of 'sexual liberation'." In this sentence, anyone who dares to openly state that childhood sexuality has a natural component unconnected to adult seduction is automatically cast into a stinking garbage heap swarming with pedophiles and child-rapists. Such libelous innuendo is extremely unethical and has no place in scientific discussions, but has become all too commonplace in today's censorious climate, especially by the so-called "skeptics".

The issue of childhood sexuality is central, however, as much so today as it was in the early 1900s when Freud, and later Reich challenged orthodox thinking. Let's be absolutely clear on these important points: Reich, DeMeo, and deMause have all written eloquently in defense of the child from crushing brutalization by adults, against the horrible treatments meted out to infants and children and women "in the name of god" and by other elements of the patriarchal authoritarian power-structure. We also all fully agree, Reichians and psychohistorians, on the totally pathological nature of adult seduction and/or rape of children, against which children must be fully protected. On that subject, we have no disagreement whatsoever, and share common ground. This is all spelled out in many clear and unambiguous articles in Reich's original writings, and in my Saharasia as well. The disagreement between Reichians and psychohistorians appears to be engaged, however, on the subject of natural childhood, adolescent, and premarital sexuality unconnected to any form of adult seduction or interference, and on the subject of maternal-infant bonding, body-pleasure and orgastic discharge as the mechanisms for the maintenance of a healthy, non-violent and un-neurotic character structure. It is an argument which goes back to the time of Reich's split from traditional psychoanalysis, and the abandonment of the libido theory by psychoanalysis. No small addressing of this very large and important subject in this Response will do better than what I have already given in Saharasia, and so I simply encourage the serious person, who is concerned with what is happening socially today, to read the book with an open mind.

Related Materials By James DeMeo:

- "Letter to Editor: Regarding Brian Griffith's Gardens of Their Dreams and Saharasia, The Ecologist, 32(2): May 2002.

- "Die Saharasia-Hypothese: Ursprünge menschlicher Gewalttätigkeit entdeckt", Zeit Geist, Stuttgart, 3:32-36, 2002.

- "Update on Saharasia: Ambiguities and Uncertainties about 'War Before Civilization'", Pulse of the Planet, 5:15-44, 2002.

- "The Geography of Genital Mutilations", in Constructing Sexualities: Readings in Sexuality, Gender and Culture, Suzanne LaFont, Editor, Prentice Hall, NY, 2003, p.120-126.

- "A 'Saharasian' Climate-Linked Geographical Pattern in the Global Cross-Cultural Data on Human Behavior" and "The Saharasian Desert Belt" in World Cultures, Vol.14, No.2, Spring 2004, p.111-143.

- "The Saharasian Origins of Patriarchal Authoritarian Culture", in The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, Christina Biaggi, Editor, Knowledge, Ideas and Trends Publisher, Conn., 2006. http://www.booktrends.com/social_issues.htm

- "Peaceful Versus Warlike Societies in Pre-Columbian America: What Does Archaeology and Anthropology Tell Us?", in Unlearning the Language of Conquest, Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America ,Four Arrows (Don Jacobs), Editor, Univ. Texas Press, 2006. http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/jacunl.html

- "Saharasia. Die Urspruenge patriarchaler authoritaerer Kultur in Verbindung mit Praehistorischer Wuestenbildung (Saharasia: The Origins of Patriarchy in Ancient Desertification)", in Gesellschaft in Balance: Dokumentation des 1. Weltkongresses fuer Matriarchatsforschung 2003 in Luxemburg (Societies in Balance: First World Congress on Matriarchal Studies), Editions Hagia, Winzer, Germany, 2006, p.230-248.

- Letter to Editor: "A Climate of Change", American Scientist, May-June 2006. http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/51205

The Saharasia book is now used as a primary textbook in a few classes at major universities, indicating a growing interest and acceptance within the scientific mainstream of my findings, as well as those of Wilhelm Reich upon whose ideas mine were firmly founded.

As a Postscript to the above material, the reader should also review my essay article discussing the Murdock anthropological data, and my use of them, which adds to what was previously given in the Saharasia book:

Maps From the Ethnographic Atlas Data
A Defense of the Cross-Cultural Codes and Data Base of G. P. Murdock
and the Quadruple-Blind Control Procedures Used in my Saharasia Research.
by James DeMeo, Ph.D.

Additional Articles and Materials:

* TO PURCHASE: Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World, by James DeMeo, Ph.D. 464+ pages, over 100 maps and illustrations, with comprehensive bibliography and index. NOW SHIPPING THE 2006 REVISED SECOND EDITION.
You can also purchase Saharasia from Amazon.com -- they obtain the book from us, so there is no advantage in time, and they will also charge a slightly higher price ($39 as compared to our $34). However, for destinations outside the USA, they often can offer a much better shipping rate. Be aware, if you purchase a used copy from them, it will probably be the first edition, and lack the additions and revisions of the second edition. (Most of those 2nd Edition changes are identified and can be obtained as PDF downloads from this webpage.

* The Anthropology/Archaeology Book section of the OBRL on-line bookstore. Scroll down on this page for the selection, which includes several titles on the issue of peaceful societies.

* The Orgone Biophysical Research Lab: James DeMeo's Research Website.

* The Saharasia web page.

* The Saharasia Today section of the OBRL on-line bookstore.

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