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The Meme

Meme image from external linkJournal of Memetics
meme: A term coined by Richard Dawkins, who defines it as "a unit of cultural inheritance, hypothesized as analogous to the particulate gene and as naturally selected by virtue of its 'phenotypic' consequences on its own survival and replication in the cultural environment."
ref.external linkGlossary - Rupert Sheldrake on-line
The term "Meme" was proposed by the popular science writer external linkRichard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene.  As with other visionary scientific ideas, such as James Lovelock's Gaia and Thomas Kuhn's Paradigm, it then took on a significance and importance far beyond that of it's original conceiver.  Such more respectable (but still not 100% accepted) scientific ideas as Gaia. Paradigm, and Meme, have combined with somewhat less respectable but equally valid ideas like Collective Unconscious (Jung) and the less well known Morphogenetic Field (external linkSheldrake) and 100% respectable (but not necessarily 100% valid) mainstream science to form a mythological matrix for our age.

What then is a meme?

Basically, a meme is the socio-cultural equivalent of a gene, a way of thinking or believing about the world that is passed down from one generation to the next.  For example, the belief in God is a meme, a way of understanding reality that is meaningful to the individual yet at the same time taught and pushed in sunday schools etc.

The meme has made its appearance in two different  science fiction novels: John Barnes Kaleidoscopic Century, and Paul J McAuley Fairyland.  In each the meme is portrayed in a very different manner, but each is in it's own way frighteningly real.

There are two possible explanations of memes - the orthodox scientistic one which you will find everywhere else on the Web, and the unorthodox metaphysical-occult one that I invented just for the heck of it.  These two need not clash.  The scientific can represent the tip of the iceberg, whilst the occult represents the inner workings of the phenomenon.

An Occult Interpretation of the Meme
The Meme - the Scientific Theory

I tie memes in not so much with genes (as in the scientistic darwinian explanation) as with paradigms (in the Kuhnian sense), Jungian archetypes, and Sheldrakian Morphogenetic fields.   Basically, a meme can be understood as the cultural/sociological form an unconscious archetype takes when it manifests in the collective conscious.  When a meme becomes established in the world of science or academia it becomes a paradigm - an accepted orthodoxy.  In the world a religion a meme is a belief.   Ultimately every meme is also a morphogenetic field within the human internal link - parent nodenoosphere.

all of which gives us the following cycle of ideas

psychic reality
Thought- forms
psycho-physical interface formative causation

physical-social reality

One could even suggest a taxonomy of memes, a noospheric analogue to the biospheric/genetic systematic classification of living organisms.  Unfortunately the standards for classification would vary according to the belief-system (i.e. according to the meme!) employed.  As with teh world of subatomic particles, every meme would generate (bootstrap into existence) other memes, and a sort of Heisenberg uncertainty principle would prevent a certain knowledge.  But hey, is anything certain?  Remember the parable of the blind men and the elephant?

Having said all this, we move on to looking at some memes.  It should be pointed out though that just because something is listed as a meme does not belief in God, or atheism, does not mean it is wrong (nor does it mean that it is right!).  A meme, I propose,  is simply a unit of human understanding, right or wrong is irrelevant.

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page uploaded 30 October 1998