The Sekhmet Hypothesis

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The Sekhmet Hypothesis was first published in 1995 by author Iain Spence. It suggested a possible link between the emergence of youth culture archetypes in relation to the 11 year solar cycles. The hypothesis was published again in 1997 in ‘Towards 2012’ and covered in 1999 in ‘Sleazenation’ magazine. Spence eventually abandoned the idea as not based in scientific fact, pointing to Strauss-Howe generational theory as a better model of social change.

The origins of the hypothesis can be traced back to philosopher Robert Anton Wilson’s book, ‘Prometheus Rising,’ in which he makes a singular correlation between the archetype of the flower child with the mood of friendly weakness. Spence extended the comment into a study of various youth archetypes and linked in their behavior to transactional analysis (a theory of human interaction). The idea of linking pop culture to the solar cycles had been influenced from remarks made by modern occultist Peter J. Carroll, in his book, ‘Psychonaut.’ Sekhmet is the Egyptian goddess of the sun.

By 2000, Spence had dismissed the solar side of the hypothesis, suggesting it had no scientific basis. He demonstrated how he believed the dates of solar maximum did not correlate with any heightened activity of youth culture. He then simplified the hypothesis as a study of the four life scripts (friendly weakness, hostile weakness, friendly strength and hostile strength) and their possible relationship to cultural youth trends. This scaled down hypothesis suggests that the flower children of the sixties and the mellow side of reggae culture presents a collective mood of ‘friendly weakness’ (‘I’m not okay, you’re okay’) while punk culture and certain aspects of rap culture present an archetype of ‘hostile weakness’ (‘I’m not okay, you’re not okay’). In the late eighties and nineties, rave culture along with early drum and bass supposedly presents a mood based mainly on ‘friendly strength’ (‘I’m okay, you’re okay’). The hypothesis suggests that most people are not hardwired to any particular life script and likewise young people are generally fluid enough to move between different pop trends with ease and some humor. Grunge for example is viewed as an atavistic hybrid, drawing on elements of both punk and hippie culture.

The ‘street archetypes’ of the hypothesis are compared to the dream symbolism of Ezekiel’s quaternity in the Christian Bible. Ezekiel is said to have had a vision of the winged man (angel), the bull, the lion and the eagle. The same quaternity was later incorporated into illuminated manuscripts such as the ‘Book of Kells.’ Spence has corresponded flower power and late reggae culture (Bob Marley, cannabis use, dub, dreadlocks) to the gentle angel; the rebellious mood of early rap and punk culture to the sullen bull and the leonine strength of drum and bass and rave culture to the proud lion.

Comic book writer Grant Morrison used Spence’s idea in his ‘Invisibles’ and ‘New X-Men’ series, but he and and Spence have split views on the subject of hostile strength (‘I’m okay, you’re not okay’) played out through youth culture. Morrison suggests that the trend has come and gone with the film ‘The Matrix’ (1999) along with commanding symbolism in the nu metal scene. Spence meanwhile suggests that the mood is yet to materialise within pop culture as a major trend but acknowledges that hostile strength symbolism has already emerged through the more commanding aspects of hip hop, gabber and metal sub-cultures.

The hypothesis suggests that teenagers recapitulate infancy and childhood through pop culture. This process supposedly leads to the manifestation of social archetypes. Spence proposes that the life scripts evolve in infancy in a set sequence from the state of friendly weakness, an idea already proposed by Thomas Harris in his book, ‘I’m Okay, You’re Okay’ in 1970. The life scripts are thought to evolve in the sequence of friendly weakness (at birth), hostile weakness (infancy), friendly strength and then lastly the commanding behaviour of hostile strength, some time in late childhood. There is however still some argument as to the sequence and timing of the scripts. Unlike Harris, Spence argues that hostile strength does not have to be ‘demonized or criminalized’ as a mood, claiming that it is only one part of a balanced quaternity of behavior. Spence also draws on children’s fiction to illustrate the ‘four timeless scripts’ referring for example to the four main characters in the ‘Wind in the Willows’ and the four children in ‘The Polar Express.’

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