a neotenous new year to you

“Growing young
is a process that has played
a fundamental role
in the evolution of the human species

& in the development
of every human being who has ever lived.  

Moreover, its significance & its ramifications for the future of each of us & of humanity in general are so staggering that an understanding should be part of everyone’s equipment.  

Yet as a scientific principle it is known to only a few scientists; others – the vast numbers of human beings whose lives might be changed by the application of this principle – are ignorant of it.

the truth about the human species is that
in body, spirit, feeling & conduct
we are designed to grow & develop
in ways that emphasize
rather than minimize
childlike traits;
we were never intended to grow “up”
into the kinds of adults
most of us have become”

In this work that I do, my passion is about healing often via the medium of human truth/honesty. I feel the two are intimately connected, & stagnation & apathy are the price of avoidance.

This article is mainly comprised of the words of a man called Ashley Montagu from his book Growing Young (1981).

It contains immensely healing concepts.  I have chosen excerpts that I hope speak to the missing part of you that is calling for healing.

That part is the child.

The child is & always has been, the direct target of Western trauma.  That is why now, as adults we are pretty damn useless – because we were …


… ‘taken out’, as children.

Nations rise & fall by what they do to their children – you were one once – why did what happened to you, happen?

At the opening to this article we found these words.

“the truth about the human species is that in body, spirit, feeling & conduct we are designed to grow & develop in ways that emphasize rather than minimize childlike traits; we were never intended to grow “up”.”

“Why would that be”, you ask, “Whatever traits they have, I (surely) already have too”?

Take a look:

Curiosity is one of the most important; imaginativeness; playfulness; open-mindedness; willingness to experiment;

flexibility; humor; energy; receptiveness to new ideas; honesty; eagerness to learn; & perhaps most pervasive & the most valuable of all, the need to love.  All normal children, unless they have been corrupted by their elders, show these qualities every day of their childhood years.

They ask questions endlessly … They watch & listen.  They want to know everything about everything.  They can keep themselves busy with the simplest of toys … 

… they play games endlessly …… They accept change without defensiveness.  When they try to do something & fail, they are able to try to do it another way, & another until they find that it works.  They laugh … from sheer exuberance & happiness.  

Unless they suspect they may be punished for it, they tell the truth; they call the shots as they see them.  And they soak up knowledge & information like sponges; they are learning all the time; …

every moment is filled with learning.  

Apart from you yourself who of course still retains all these traits (denial is a BIG part of trauma), how many adults do you know who live like that?

Surely you have noticed they live like this:

They tend to stop asking those questions that will elicit information … Most adults draw back from the unfamiliar  … Nor can most adults content themselves with simple playthings enriched by the imagination …

… Most adults have lost, too, the ability to laugh from sheer happiness … Most adults have lost their ability to tell the simple truth; many appear to have lost the ability to discern a simple truth in the complex morass they live in.

Perhaps the saddest loss of all is the gradual erosion of the eagerness to learn …

… This hardening of the mind – psychosclerosis – is a long distance from a child’s acceptance & flexibility & open-mindedness.

There are many ways, (all taken advantage of) to kill the child.

Childhood was seen as a difficult period that was unfortunately necessary for the production of mature, no-nonsense adults, & the entire effort of the education & training of children was …

aimed at making adults of them as soon as possible … Imagination was frowned upon – feared, even – curiosity was derided (“Curiosity killed the cat”), free playfulness & humor were discouraged …

… open-mindedness was thought to be heretical, & honesty was often considered simple rudeness.  As for the most precious of all childlike qualities, the eagerness to learn, it was accepted by adults only so long as the subject of the learning was …

… a “proper” one.”

Why would something so fucked up as the education system be created?

“Anthropologists, psychologists, other social scientists & even some educators have begun to recognize that children are not simply small imperfect-adults who must be dragged as early as possible into the adult-behaving world.  We know that children are developing human beings …

… who will continue developing all their lives if they are not prevented.  And now we begin to see that the goal of life is to die young – as late as possible.”

Can the attributes of the child really be so important?

“In 1926 [Louis Bolk] pointed out that …  adult humans exhibit many physical traits that are …

… also features of the human fetus.  This is not so true of other animals.  He listed flat-facedness, minimum body hair, large brain size, structure of hands & feet, the form of the pelvis, & a number of additional physical characteristics that change in other animals but that in human beings persist into adulthood. Bolk called this principle “fetalization“.  Fetalization was effected by the retardation of the rate of development.

The importance of this slow development, or retardation, was seen by J.B.S.Haldane, as a major evolutionary trend in human beings.  In 1932 he underscored the fact that the essential feature of the latest stage of human evolution has not been the acquisition of new features but rather …

… preservation of embryonic & infantile traits that had been developed when the organisms were in the womb sheltered from violence … [he] further proposed that if human evolution is to continue along the same lines, “it will probably involve a still greater prolongation of childhood & retardation of maturity.”

Konrad Lorenz, German ethologist, writing in 1950, maintained that by far the more important features in the history of human evolution are not physical but behavioural.  He drew heavily on the ideas of German sociologist Arnold Gehlen … that the unique & outstanding human trait is that of remaining in an unending state of development.  The speciality of humans is nonspecialization, versatility, they have remained free to change as change is required …

… by whatever environment they encounter; they are able to develop special traits to meet special needs.”

But am I wasting my time & energy
trying to get through to
frozen adults
who worship their
prison of adulthood?

Frozen women imprisoned in their skin.

Calcified men who live in fear of emotion.

“It is a curious fact that humans are the only creatures who weep …  during emotional distress or joy … Indeed, at every point, at every stage, in every sector of human history, the outstanding characteristic humans have been called upon to exhibit has been sympathy, fellow-feeling, cooperation

… the crying adult becomes a child, & thereby tends to induce caring responses. Even callous males may find it difficult to resist a weeping female.  Emotional weeping in grief & sympathy constitutes a homeostatic mechanism designed to

restore the organism to equilibrium.  We often weep tears of joy at some celebration or reunion of those we love.  The Andaman Islanders make weeping an essential part of every social ceremony.  When friends meet after a separation of a few weeks or longer, they greet each other by sitting down, one of the lap of the other, with arms around each other’s necks, weeping & wailing for two or three minutes, till they are tired.”

“The emotional distress of which weeping is usually the external manifestation demands a delicacy of response of a peculiarly human kind

… It is, therefore, probable that weeping has exercised a humanising effect upon humans as individuals, as persons & also upon the human group as a community … it seems likely … the flow of tears – has played a powerful role in the evolution of humans as compassionate creatures … in such cultures, in which weeping is considered normal, healthy behaviour, there seems to be a great deal more human warmth, reflecting a more sensitive involvement in humanity in general.”

Interestingly, biology itself suggests we are meant to be allowed to weep …

“The very fact that humans possess prominent noses suggests that they might do well to weep, or at least humidify them more often”

Just how fucked up could a world become when it has emotionally killed its children?

“that extraordinary genius …

… William Kingdon Clifford (1845 – 1879) pointed out that the first condition of mental development is “that the mind should be creative rather than acquisitive“…  a race that is “plastic & capable of change, may be regarded as young & vigorous, while a race which is fixed, persistent in form, unable to change, is as surely effete, worn out, in peril of extinction … it is quite possible for conventional habits of thought to get such power that progress 

 is impossible

I see … so your saying quite, quite, quite fucked.

But I just don’t have time for all that childish shit, I have WORK to do – it’s a nice sentiment – we’ll get round to it when the important things are sorted.

“The extent to which the child has played a role in the development of humanity has been severely neglected.  The true worth of a people, it has been said, is that seen through the eyes of its children.  Awareness of the true nature of the child & of the …

important role the child is capable of playing in the furtherance of mental health – indeed the very survival of our species – is … a requisite first step.”

Among non-literate people children are generally greatly valued & cared for

The devaluation & debasement of children seems largely peculiar to the cultures of the modern world.

non-aggressive, cooperative behaviour is

characteristic of fetus, infant & child.  In the evolution of humankind there is little doubt that nonaggressive behavior has been at the highest selective premium … That human beings have always been capable of anger, rage, & violent behavior can scarcely be doubted, but such behavior is usually the reaction to specific environmental conditions

…  not the spontaneous expression of internally generated effects.”

Stop it I don’t want to change my thinking – this would be too hard to do.  How can caring for children matter so much. They’re tough & anyway they have to “LEARN”.

“It is of more than ordinary interest to note that four scientists without any knowledge of one another’s work (in three cases at least), arrived at precisely the same conclusion … concerning the length of the gestation period: …

… the idea that the human infant when born has completed only half its gestation, the other half having to be completed outside the womb … Babies must live in an atmosphere very different from that of ordinary everyday living, & its main principles of isolation & security closely resemble gestation itself …

… It is indeed an exterior gestation.”

It is not been adequately understood  how very immature the human newborn is, & how long his immaturity lasts … 

… Owing to this failure on the part of civilised peoples, the needs of the human infant during this precarious period of his development have simply not been recognized

If this has been understood for such a long time, we have to question Western trauma birthing.

“Contemporary obstetrics, with few exceptions, still treats pregnancy & childbirth as if they were diseases

… on the assumption that it is better to treat it as such in order to be prepared for the complications that may develop … An event that should be approached as a celebration & a ceremony is transformed into a technological medical procedure in which virtually every human need is outraged.”

We can begin to see how trauma in the West is systematically & cold-bloodedly begun at birth.

Then this ongoing trauma creates a people who are simply not capable of paying the hefty emotional costs required in the nurture of healthy human beings.

In many ways we are emotionally bankrupt.

For his adequate healthy development the human infant requires, beyond all else, a great deal of tender loving care.  Health at the very minimum is the ability to love, to work, to play, & to think soundly

… Love is the active process of conferring survival in a creatively enlarging manner upon the other, the communication to the other, by demonstrative acts of profound involvement in his welfare, giving him all the support, sustenance, & stimulation that he requires …

for the fulfillment of his potentialities for being the kind of human being that you are being to him, that he can depend on you whenever he is in need, that you will never commit the supreme treason of letting him down when he most stands in need of you …  

It is in this way that one learns to love, simply by being loved.

You may think these are scary times & love must take a back seat as we focus on  ‘survival’ …

In the evolution of humanity love has played a highly important role.  Except, however, for rare thinkers such as Charles Sanders Pierce & Petr Kropotkin, the roles of love & cooperation in human evolution have been wholly neglected.  In an unloving & alienated world wracked by strife & violence, such an idea appeared both unreal & ludicrous. There can be, however, little doubt that …

no early population of human beings could have survived had it not been for the dominant role that love & cooperation played in holding them together.

It is, in a very real & not in the least paradoxical sense, even more necessary to love than it is to live, for without love there can be no healthy growth or development, no real life.  The neotenous principle for human beings – indeed, the evolutionary imperative – is to live as if to live & love were one.

“Wow I never thought about it like that before”, you say.

Not only females, but males also, will often gather round the mother & infant & beg to be allowed to hold it.  This is almost a universal response among humans, except in some parts of the world there is what amounts to an unspoken tabu on males displaying anything resembling the interest in children customarily exhibited by women.  This is …

especially the case among the English speaking peoples of the world, in which the dehumanised & dehumanising gender role the male is expected to play calls for an abstention from behavior that is considered feminine.

Once again, we find practices that further (& further) remove a race of people from equilibrium & herd them into trauma.

In many nonliterate cultureschildren are seldom out of the arms of some adult or older child.  A great deal of cuddling goes on from the earliest days of life … Lorna Marshall writes of the gatherer-hunter Bushmen of Botswana:

The !Kung never seem to tire of their babies.  They dandle them, kiss them, dance with them, & sing to them.  The older children make playthings of the babies.  The girls carry them around … The boys also carry them, give them rides & drag them on karosses (a favorite game).

There are so many ways we do not see children or their value.

“We have often had descriptions of the unconditional love that infants receive in nonliterate societies from their parents, but though evidence is abundantly available it is seldom mentioned that children are also a great source of love for other children

not only their siblings, but all children.”

Try this on for size – though it might make you feel a little uncomfortable at first.

“The subtle alchemy by which love is transmuted in the child into what it most requires for bodily as well as well as behavioral development may defy complete explanation … caring for the infant consists primarily in satisfying his needs.  Such caring constitutes the commencement of the socialization of the person, preparation for participation in the social group.  As the child matures & socialization continues …

… the child becomes more & more dependent rather than more free, & this social binding continues throughout life.  It is this social bonding of early life that the person is designed to maintain, indeed to grow & develop, in all the days of his life.”

“This view of development of the person cannot be too strongly emphasized … The conventional view of the socialization of the person as developing toward greater & greater autonomy or individuality is seriously misleading

… Of course every person has a unique personality in the sense that it is never identical to that of any other.  Such differences are important … It should, however, be understood that every one of those differences has developed under the influence of specific socializing factors, & were it not for the creative action of those socializing factors, the functional-structural differences that characterize each person would not exist

Every person is socially bound to the group in which he has been socialized.  In a sense the “individual” is a myth … in any evaluation of a human being as a social organism it should be clear that he is as organically bound to others as if he were one of a number of cells comprising a colonial organism. Even physically & physiologically, humans are neither dissociated nor do they carry on a separate existence in any but an arbitrary sense. Even the emotionally arid psychopath is unable to do without others.”

“In the land of “Rugged American Individualism,” in which the focus in the conditioning of the child has been to turn him into a person who conforms to the stereotype of ….

… the “successful individual,” large numbers of persons are produced who, in the midst of the lonely crowd, live in an isolated narcissism that eventually leads to a chill … There are millions of them, & the damage they do underscores the myth of the individual … 

… namely that it neglects to teach the moral obligation of independent thought, the responsibility to challenge unsound ideas & conventions, the right to protest, the bounden duty to object. This is an essential aspect of health. Blind submission to a group has always utterly vitiated personal development & progress in humanity.

The enforced emotional isolation in the lives of every person in the West, is I think at the heart of our sickness – we do not know how to connect & so we suffer the most abysmal turmoil, alone.

“In the concept of “the individual” we have created separateness where separateness does not exist – where, in reality…

… the genuine condition is relatedness … a creature apart from a social group is little more than an organic being … The person is to a large extent a set of social interrelationships.  As Bogardus has put it, “As a result of intersocial stimulation he moves up from the biological level.  The interstimulation that occurs between him & the members of the group … explains him more than any other method of approach can do”.”

“Both the fallacy of absolute individuals & the excess of individualism, wrote the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, are vicious.”

“And as Gutking put it, “To think in terms of absolute individuals – absolute individuals are but things – is the outgrowth of our obsession with acquisitive urges. To think in terms of relations is human & paves the way toward the solidarity of mankind.”

“The important point for us to recognize is that the “individual” represents a reaction or response pattern that makes him part of a whole of which he always remains an integral & important constituent … The person is a product of a field of biological & social forces, & every person constitutes a part of that field all his life.”

“Each acts as he does, not because he is an independent individual, but because he is a dependent-interdependent person, bound to his social group by ties that impel him to maintain his relationships according to the requirements, in each case, sanctioned & demanded by the group.  This does not mean the person is without free will … but it is a will that functions largely within the limits & conditions determined by his own past experience within the culture of his own social group.

None of this implies that the group is superior to the person.  The obligation of the group, at whatever level, is to the person, to do everything in its power to maximise his potentialities

& preserve his integrity as a person, a unique person.  The obligation of the person to the group is to contribute toward the development of himself & of other persons.  The person is not to be conceived of as living for the group, or the group solely for the person; each serves the needs of the other.”

The long history of endemic horror that has pervaded the Western world concerning the nature of the child is only today being very slowly corrected.  There are still millions among us who believe that children are naturally depraved … This view of the child, to which many still subscribe, was an article of faith among the Calvinist-Puritan ancestors of contemporary believers:

“The Young child which lieth in the cradle (is) both wayward and full of afflictions: and though his body be but small, yet he hath a great heart, and is altogether inclined to evil . . . . If this sparkle be suffered to increase, it will rage over and burn down the whole house. For we are changed and become good, not by birth, but by education  ~Robert Cleaver and John Dod, A Godly Form of household Government, 1621

It is time for change – for our own good.

It is time for healing.

I’m seeing again & again how possible that is.  But we need to see how screwed our civilisation has been & begin to acknowledge the terrible emotional traumas that we, the lucky ones in the West, have endured in, & often because of, isolation.

If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it — the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.” ~ William Kingdon Clifford

I think when we start to see our own blockages, we begin to heal our world(s).

I was on the Celtic Rebels radio show last Sunday
looking at the traumatising of the West

He’s done a brave write-up –
which includes a link to the show.

December 31, 2011. Uncategorized.


  1. Katherine replied:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks so much for sharing the excerpts from “Growing Young” and adding your own perspective as well. Children really do have a lot to teach us and we are silly to think that just because we are bigger and have been around a bit longer, that we should automatically know all the answers.

    It is time to re-teach ourselves how to be childlike, resilient, adventurous, forgiving, and regain that sense of wonderment and curiosity in the world around us. We must remember to focus on the positive and the “little things”, while being willing to change the things that we do not like, rather than accepting them as truths or living in denial.

  2. Pete Wagner replied:

    What a wonderful world it could be.

  3. Michael Skaggs replied:

    Thanks for the hard work Alex, and putting this together very well! I trust you had FUN doing it :-)

    Now I know why I never wanted to get up to go to school!! Forced indoctrination systems, bastards.

    To be in the heart of the Western World, trying to maintain some child-like qualities, I’m often frowned upon as a “geek” or “crazy” or people snicker and say “your weird”. To which I laugh and say “yes, yes I am!”

    Look forward to your Rebellion on the 1st!


  4. Mick replied:

    Oh Alex, this brings up so much, doesn’t it? In civilised ‘modern’ societies, with high literacy (written wordiness) and strict ‘caste’ systems, weren’t children treated as chattels, commodities? This debasement has been going on a long, long time. For starters, the fact that once a girl has started her period she is considered of child bearing age, and consequently ripe for fucking. The sexualization of children and the acceptance of paedophilia was a norm in our much lauded classical empires. The east was no different. Now we reach a peak, with lady gaga leading the way.

    Old, but still pertinent, from Douglas Adams:

    Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy, lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-million miles is an utterly insignificant blue-green planet whose ape-descended lifeforms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has, or had, a problem which was this: Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper… which is odd, because on the whole, it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy… And so the problem remained. And lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable – even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

  5. alex robinson replied:

    A pleasure Katherine
    I think you make an excellent point – we do have to ‘re-teach’ ourselves – we were educated/trained out of this, it does not come back automatically just because we realise what we have lost – we have to go back to being a work in progress, instead of being adult/’finished’:

    “fin•ished  adjective
    condemned, doomed, or in the process of extinction”

    now, that just doesn’t sound healthy does it? :]


    Cheers Pete – so very true :]

    Heya Michael – thank you for thanking me for the hard work – it was awful, all that bloody typing :], but I knew it was pure gold & needed to be re-membered.

    Keep being a weirdo, I love you that way :]

    Great points Mick
    Children have too long been marketed to parents as expensive, demanding, time-consuming, irritating ‘possessions’ – this seems to allow parents to believe that after all THEIR hard work they are entitled for compensation when the child has grown – the child must now ‘pay up’. Nature would have become extinct eons ago were that the truth.

    I wish you a very, very childish new year :]

  6. effel replied:

    Can’t wait for the show :D
    So much information lies in the words. Etymologically, child means burden, not that hard to see the crafters’ hand at work. In french, they are enfants (seems pejorative in english) and in german kinder.

  7. lugh replied:

    You’ve latched onto something important here. This is how destructive the inversion doctrine of the priest class is.

    • alex robinson replied:

      Thanks effel
      Great point about the naming & lovely to see the caring in the German word.

      very best to you

      lugh – thank you so much, that was amazing – I bet anyone who watches that is absolutely sure that they would never act that way,we so easily judge others while maintaining our idealised illusion of ourselves. I hope I would be as ‘humane’ as the animals are, but I know I still lack their humanity – it is something I am working on.

      thanks & very best to you

  8. Shane replied:

    Hey Alex. Just wanted to comment on the brilliant article and show you had on Sunday night with Rebel. Also, I wanted to send some words of encouragement, as I’m really looking forward to your four-hour takeover in two weeks. More focus needs to be made on healing, as everyone seems to be [too] busy pointing fingers.

    I hope the new year is treating you kindly.

  9. amina replied:

    Thank you so much Alex your words are an healing balm to me me. Blessings to you always.

  10. yourcharacterisyourfate replied:

    looking forward to your show miss alex :)
    Quite a trail of bread there…


  11. alex robinson replied:

    Hi Shane – glad you enjoyed & thanks for your words of encouragement for ‘Occupy Rebel Path’ :] – just kidding – we are all immensely grateful to him for what he is allowing us to do, its is a hugely generous gesture.

    very best to you

    Many thanks amina – I am so pleased to hear that, yet I bow to your intention to heal for that will be the driving force in your life that allows you to create that.

    very best to you

    Thanks Ducky :)

  12. Biggi replied:

    Hi Alex,
    Thank you for this interesting article.
    Working in a nursing home I see some of the residents and their behavior. I often think to myself they had to grow up fast when they were children and now they have all the time in the world to do things they were not allowed to do when they were younger. For example: singing many hours a day, trying to stumble people and getting a kick out of it, talking or mumbling for hours on end and many more things.

  13. Julie Conway replied:

    Hey Alex

    It’s meJulie from WA. I have lost all of my contacts when my computer crashed in August 2011. Would it be possible for you to email me on so we can reconnect.

    Cheers and all the best.

    Julie :)

  14. alex robinson replied:

    Thanks Biggi – what a great idea & yet another reason to honour childhood – I think Ashley Montagu’s idea is that the greatest antidote to aging is maintaining childhood as long as possible – what a different world it would be if we thought that way.

    very best to you

    Heya Julie :] tried sensing to that email address & it came back – have you got another?

  15. JW replied:

    Sort of in relation to your point about dishonoring children, a post on “Ugly” renaissance babies:

    • alex robinson replied:

      Very interesting JW – I’ve seen so many of those renaissance babies, noted they were visagedly challenged & never thought to think further. Painting was “early-media” & very mind-shaping, thus we may wonder why they chose to depict infants looking far from babyish & a lot more like older children, men or dwarfs.

      Thought provoking, thanks!

  16. Max replied:

    My brother pointed a few times out that, in general, renaissance paintings look frightening.

    • alex robinson replied:

      But Max, it’s art, so it’s all right, it has deep meaning, you just need to probe further to get to it :]

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