ORGANISM AND SUPERORGANISM: ENTOMOLOGY AND COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS IN H. G. WELLS

Matthew Wraith

Abstract


Abstract. H. G. Wells saw the First World War as a way to realise his long-cherished dream of a single unified World State. I propose that one can detect within, behind and beyond this already fairly ambitious project, an even more ambitious one. It was not enough that the population of the world should cohere together into a single state, but that it should cohere together into a single organism. At this time, there were ideas afoot in the biological sciences suggesting a zoological model for this unity. Figures like Wilfred Trotter, Maurice Maeterlinck and William Morton Wheeler were looking at the gregarious behaviour of many animals, insects especially, and suggesting that insect colonies could be seen as a single ‘super-organism’, with a single collective intelligence. The single consciousness that the entomologists were hypothesising was an explicitly decentralised intelligence, it was not locatable in any single individual within the collective, but was instead an all-pervasive, emergent entity.

Wells was obsessed, throughout his life, with ideas about the group mind and the collective act of thinking generally. The First World War provoked him to a series of sharp polemics and sustained mediations on the need for a unification of human thought. However, Wells, in his wartime writings, was still committed to the notion that this unification required centralisation. He could never quite conceive of a purely distributed intelligence. A better example of a superorganismic consciousness might be looked for in his earlier scientific romances, including The First Men in the Moon and The War of the Worlds.


Full Text:

PDF

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.