Conflict and contradiction
Dualism is fundamental to the human experience. Much of what we experience appears to be divided into two opposed or contrasted aspects, conceptually at least.
Good and evil, day and night, summer and winter. Being and non-being, happiness and misery, health and sickness. Security and danger. Love and hate.
Our affective responses, or emotions, can also produce the extreme dualism of fear or joy.
While the natural world can provide the stimulus, as with the wild beast from which we may need to flee, the more likely source of the circumstances leading to fear or joy is the semantic environment - that is, the community in which we live. Wild beasts may frighten us briefly before we escape from them or ward them off, but our fellow humans can cause us the greatest fear and the greatest joy.
Unfortunately for many of us, it is fear rather than joy that we have to consider from our fellow humans.
A popular proverb which could not be more wrong is
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
As most of us must be aware, our cruel semantic world has ensured that name-calling, or malicious gossip, or accusation, or false allegation, can not just ruin us, but indeed plunge us into the greatest state of fear and even desperation.
To the point where suicide is a preferred option
Much of the reflection which now follows is an attempt to overcome fear and to achieve joy.
John Milton visits Galileo
One of the most dramatic, if not momentous, meetings between two humans has gone almost unnoticed, although it may yet become more fully celebrated. In July 1638, during a Grand Tour, the great poet, John Milton, visited Galileo who was under house arrest at his villa in Arcetri just outside Florence.
Milton would shortly produce the greatest description of what humankind regards as the first fall in Paradise Lost. From that great work, one might assume that he was unaware that the man he was visiting in sympathetic support had already given impetus to a second great fall, if not an even greater one.
This was the displacement of humankind from the centre off the universe and possibly from under the direct attention of God. One night just 17 years before Milton's visit, Galileo had climbed onto a rooftop and turned the newly developed telescope onto the starry skies, with what were to become terrifying consequences for us all.
Paradise Lost, was begun by a blind and impoverished Milton in 1658, 20 years after that meeting, but, despite his admiration for Galileo, the great poem expresses the geocentric view that the Earth sits at the centre of the universe with God and Heaven above.
The first fall
The fall from a state of grace, known as the Garden of Eden, as presented in Paradise Lost, is a beautiful allegorical representation of a real and profound loss, which had already been experienced by humanity, but it was a first fall rather than the only great fall, because it was experienced in the transition from a natural environment to a semantic one. Although lions and tigers can stalk us in the natural world, far worse terrors can beset us in the semantic one where we make our meanings. It is also the world of dogmas, doctrines and inquisitions, at times a cruel and unforgiving place, especially for those chosen as scapegoats, whether they be Jew, Communist, or sexually inappropriate.
Our historical move from a dominantly natural world into the semantic one also gave rise to a great lesion or sense of loss. Milton's is perhaps the most poetic and dramatic account of humankind's archetypal expulsion from a paradise. Another is that of the, largely unknown, British writer and physicist, Lancelot Law Whyte, who died in 1972. and who wrote of the transition causing a severe intellectual dualism, an 'inner dislocation', or a dissociation. He believed that it had been boosted mainly by European culture and is being maintained and worsened by it. Thus we can see it as predominantly Western. It appears to be at a critical state in our times. We could call it our divided state.
Each of us is less than in harmony with our nature, certainly less than what we could be. More precisely perhaps we are divided beings, suffering from this dissociation, rather than simply experiencing a natural or semantically-created separation or division between two parts of our nature, both as individuals and as a group. This division or split is between our deliberate and our spontaneous natures.
But much more than the division or dissociation can be suffered in our semantic world for it is here, now far from the early natural community, that we experience true loss, displacement, abandonment and shaming.
Consider the lilies of the field. Yes, but like the dumb animals, they are not aware of, or suffer, isolation and loneliness.
At some point in our evolution, a new element developed within, or was introduced into, our emerging consciousness. This was awareness, discussed more fully later.
Teilhard de Chardin appears to use the word 'entitative' in the sense of a being 'considered by itself'. Through awareness we are not just intellectually conscious but capable of considering our state, the possible reasons for our existence and even our possible ultimate purpose and destiny. We are also capable of intense aspiration and longing.
So was the introduction of awareness into our emerging consciousness the insertion of an element of the process of creation, of the divine, creating our souls? If so, is Christian belief in God becoming man through a Christ a manifestation of that process or even a point marking its completion? The dawn of awareness may have begun with the construction of the great megalithic monuments such as Newgrange and Stonehenge.
Whatever sense of loss already existed within the human consciousness from the 'fall' or transition from the natural world, may have been greatly heightened by an enhanced awareness of our separateness from the centre of cosmic intelligence, creation itself or the divine.
This separateness was worsened when a man climbed onto a roof to use a new gadget to look at the night sky.
The second fall
Bad as the displacement's affect on our divided nature has been, as the initially heady discoveries of Galileo and his contemporaries were expanded by modern astronomers and physicists, the awful realization of the extent of our displacement and loneliness in the immensity of what appeared to be an uncaring universe began to overwhelm us.
Our sophisticated communications devices, at work now for more than half a century, have failed to make any contact with the rest of the universe and we have gone from believing that we were at its centre to seeing ourselves as an isolated race unable to control excesses that could bring about our own destruction. We yearn for contact with other aware beings, preferably benign and more advanced than we, who might save us from ourselves and who might renew our faith in a caring Divinity. As the lonely individual can be cast out or feel displaced from the community of his fellow humans, so the human race feels displaced out into some edge of a vast universe, where others either do not know we exist or do not care.
In the later section titled 'The crucible of misery', we consider the most displaced of all - the lepers we create through our inquisitions.
An even greater fall?
The cosmological viewpoint presented here is based on the assumption of an even greater 'fall', although separateness may be a more apt description of it. This may be making an even bigger contribution to our sense of displacement than the two historical falls. If we accept the cosmological view that our consciousness is linked with or part of the consciousness of the process of creation, this suggests that we, that is - the conscious parts of us, have been separated as part of a divine plan or as an experiment of Creation. Thus our great longing for unity, for a return to an even earlier garden of Eden.
As will be seen by those who progress through these pages, the fall or falls from a state of oneness, or from at least a state of belonging, introduced a destructive element into the human consciousness - that of fear.
All that now follows could be described as an attempt to eliminate or transcend fear.
We live in fear
We live in fear. It is ingrained in individuals and in the group consciousness and the group unconscious. We evolved in a natural world full of threats from the environment in the form of dangerous wild animals and the potential for geological and climatic catastrophes. We successfully learned to deal with and survive most of these. Our first great achievement was the conquest of fear in this natural world. This, alas, did not on its own bring harmony.
Through our intelligence and ingenuity, we also created a complex and far more cruel and dangerous semantic world, in which we made our ideologies, doctrines and dogmas, our rules and regulations and even our meanings. This was built against the background of our dissociated state, which expressed itself by channelling extremism, fanaticism and fear into the ideologies and the laws we enacted. The ideologies were also amenable to class and tribal variation, facilitating repression and war and even inquisitions and genocide.
Underpinning the brutal side of our semantic development was our deep-seated fear. Fear itself became a weopen of the police state and of every totalitarian regime.
Perhaps the true Original Sin, creating or accompanying the first Fall, at the heart of Christianity and Judaism, was fear resulting from the first great loss and consequent separation, the fear which has since evolved into a fear of any separation from a longed-for oneness. When this fear is experienced within a group ideology it can be transformed into cruelty and hatred, disavowed and projected onto perceived enemies and scapegoats. The cure for personal and group fear becomes the instilling of fear into others, who become our enemies or a despised class.
Our fear, our existing sense of banishment, can also cause us to commit the most deadly act of violence and hatred against others who we judge to have 'sinned' against our norms, that of casting them forth even from the group in which they had already experienced this background fear into a desert of loneliness where they are separated even from their families and from all those who may have cared for them and they now become pariahs, social lepers, outcasts.
There can hardly be a greater punishment and when, as is so often, unwarranted, a greater injustice.
The crucible of misery
The nations and races suffering the greatest displacement were those no longer enjoying the divine interface and mediation service offered by an acceptable church. In the West, the Church was debased by the very same inquisition it had codified and launched against the crimen exceptum of heresy. The terrible machine of the Inquisition, possibly the most evil manifestation of our acquired semantic environment or 'civilized state', was adopted by totalitarian and police states, using other crimen exceptum,such as witches, Jews, Commies and, finally, the one which ironically destroyed the Church itself - child sex abuse.
Western societies, especially the English-speaking countries, already more displaced than others through the European traditions which had worsened the dissociation, through their loss of a credible Church or religion, and their lack of extended families and sense of caring community, continued to employ the mechanisms of the Inquisition against what they perceived as inappropriate behaviour constituting a crimen exceptum. Picture the crucible of misery into which the Western 'pervert' or heretic is now cast. Note that he or she is more likely to be regarded with hatred than with compassion. Hatred fanned from within the hater, through confusion and disavowal, and projected onto a scapegoat.
So, now we have moved from a state where whole nations and communities have suffered displacement to one where individuals within them are cast out even from communion with their fellow men and women, in the US, for example, even from homes where they can live.
Let us try to more fully comprehend the nature and extent of this state or place, which can be described both as the land of despair and the true valley of the shadow of death. It can be described as 'the crucible of misery'. In this state one experiences the nightmare of knowing selfhood in possible solitude, with the awful prospect of total loss of companionship. Whatever God one might have had, the real terrors of the valley of the shadow of death are of losing all loving contact with other people, who may be one's only link with God.
Thomas Merton describes this place so well: It was 'as if I had been emptied by death' and 'advanced beyond all horizons' into 'a country where centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And everywhere in that centre was one thing only - my self, and only my self, in dreadful selfhood'.
In the section on our limited faculties, there is a line, which says, 'Imagine then if there was a buried human faculty, which in extraordinary circumstances could be activated to allow access to, or experience of, part of the great unknown, for example those great other dimensions - - -.'
The chemistry in the crucible of misery can create a process of transformation, and, by activating a hitherto inaccessible inner faculty, open up a new avenue of divine communication and create the compound of hope. Thus, the most hopeless of those of us already displaced, stripped of everything, can become the ones who are most blessed.
There is a great rift in the human psyche, because humankind is suffering from a separation between its deliberate or rational nature and its instinctive and spontaneous nature. The British philosopher, Lancelot Law Whyte, called it ‘dissociation’, in the sense of a break or a lesion. Richard Wagner also acknowledged it in his final work, Parsifal. It is at the root of many of today’s obsessions and is bringing much grief to individuals and society.
Another affect of this dissociation is that by concentrating on our ‘rational’ side or making moral judgements using inadequate information or awareness (as in mob hysteria) and trying to suppress or ignore our instinctive side, we think or attempt to be aware, in what we might call frozen snapshots, biased labels or doctrinaire beliefs, as distinct from a more unified awareness that reflects the flow that embraces us and our world.
The dissociation is expressed dramatically through human sexuality which today also exhibits an exaggerated form of the more general dissociation or dualism by being criminalized at the same time as we are all being increasingly eroticized. In the forty years since Lancelot Law Whyte died, the obsessions and social distortions he feared from the dualism have worsened. Human sexuality can be selected as a human issue where the dualism can be both examined and dealt with. Whyte recommended this approach but did not follow it through.
In our unhappy and distorted state, many of us, not all of course, need to disavow our hated and often seemingly obscene desires and project them onto others and there is no better object for this than the bogeyman. We’ve always had bogeymen, such as heretics, witches and homosexuals, but for as long as there was an identifiable different and more important enemy to hate, such as the Soviets during the Cold War, the bogeymen did not appear to get out of control. A new bogeyman to emerge recently, however, was the ordinary adult male transmogrified into the rapacious (and raping) ‘woman and child abuser’ by victim feminists. In addition to bogeymen we had bouts of public hysteria and moral panics, Salem, the recent satanic abuse scares and UFO abductions, the last of which also appeared to have the objective of sex abuse.
When the Berlin Wall came down and signalled the end of the Cold War, we lost the big bogeyman of the Soviet enemy. Almost in the same year, 1989, the world saw the first big sex abuse moral panic that was through American channelled globalization to sweep the world. It was the public trial phase of the US Mc Martin pre-school sex abuse scandal, the first of many to come and possibly the beginning of the child sex abuse moral panic. Now the victim feminism that began the moral panic or set out its conditions was joined by a much more powerful ally – the need for a new bogeyman. All the erotophobic sadism that was once foisted upon homosexuals and other ‘monsters’ now began to migrate onto ‘paedophiles’. And with ordinary men now regarded as potential abusers, if not rapists, by a feminist ideology that was invading virtually all educational establishments and becoming a normal part of everyday life and work, no man was safe from accusation.
The latent and often patent self-hatred smouldering within many of us, stoked by the dissociation and the contradictions it imposed upon us, was channelled into a malignant misanthropy ironically known as ‘child protection’, child protection being the vehicle for the ‘othered’ misanthropy. The concept of the ‘child’ itself became a signifier, the object signified being the ‘abused child’, or one likely to be abused if not at all times protected from paedophiles – that is, any man that might be one. In fact by now many saw children through the eyes of the ‘paedophile’, who probably never really existed except in a tiny minority.
One development, made possible by a combination of moral panic and legislative creep and aided by disingenuous individuals and groups seeking influence and power, has been the emergence and rise of a new fascism based on social behaviour, heavily orientated towards sexual activities. The fascists are the new moral leaders who legislate for and monitor and police us, principally in matters of sexual behaviour, but also in how we talk or write about race or religion or minority groups. The empowering of ordinary police to investigate many of our sexual inclinations or activities has given them authority away beyond their abilities to understand what they are investigating. The new fascist administration is made up of legislators, the already tainted, if not corrupted, legal profession, the judiciary, the police and a host of social workers, probation officers and ‘experts’. There is an enormous disproportion in power between these 'guardians' and the citizens they claim to police. One example is that if accused of a sex crime, one finds it close to impossible to find either a defence solicitor or a defence expert witness. The latter tend to work only for the prosecution and the former tend not to want that kind of client.
As in all triumphalist fascist regimes, through a compliant media those in power easily obtain a public veneration bought by preaching about their cause - that of witch catching, jew-baiting, paedo-smashing in which both bully and ardent public admirer appear to be enjoying a form of obscene sadism.
Genocide occurs when there is an enormous disproportion in power between aggressor and victim. In the American gulag that plans for and overseas the programme for the labelling, naming, shunning, hounding and displacement of ‘sex offenders’ there are officials with enormous power. Ironically, the ‘offenders’ are the victims. The gulag also is made up of politicians, police and media. The genocide, however, is directed at (by now millions of) mainly male individuals spread throughout all walks of life and all communities, very like Salem where no one was safe either.
There exist both an individual and group unconscious and we have good reason to believe that we communicate with each other through that unconscious and that some of us at least even know things in our unconscious that our conscious is not yet aware of. Mass beliefs and hysteria work through the group unconscious. The literary critic, Leo Bersani, once noted that our unelected sexual rulers can sustain their domination on a populist basis simply because the most effective messages to transmit are the ones which are already there - the ones hiding in the unconscious, which can only be 'seen' when they are painted onto to an 'outsider' who is then considered 'not us.' For example, grand-standing and creating legislation and extra police powers to control the monsters that lurk in our unconscious.
The great physicist/philosopher, David Bohm, who is discussed in more detail in the section on the Interiority, suggests that ignorance can be evil and that the ignorance of humanity is a matter of closed mindedness, the 'darkness in the human brain'. He sees it as the human ego closed to the Universal Mind, to the supreme intelligence who communicates through the mode of insight.
The most common manifestation of the dissociation is fear.