Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beyond 'the official culture'

"There is an Eastern tale which speaks about a very rich magician who had a great many sheep. But at the same time this magician was very mean. He did not want to hire shepherds, nor did he want to erect a fence about the pasture where his sheep were grazing. The sheep consequently often wandered into the forest, fell into ravines, and so on, and above all they ran away, for they knew that the magician wanted their flesh and skins and this they did not like.

At last the magician found a remedy. He hypnotized his sheep and suggested to them first of all that they were immortal and that no harm was being done to them when they were skinned, that, on the contrary, it would be very good for them and even pleasant; secondly he suggested that the magician was a good master who loved his flock so much that he was ready to do anything in the world for them; and in the third place he suggested to them that if anything at all were going to happen to them it was not going to happen just then, at any rate not that day, and therefore they had no need to think about it. Further the magician suggested to his sheep that they were not sheep at all; to some of them he suggested that they were lions, to others that they were eagles, to others that they were men, and to others that they were magicians.

And after this all his cares and worries about the sheep came to an end. They never ran away again but quietly awaited the time when the magician would require their flesh and skins."
- [Gurdjieff quoted by P.I. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous]

We ought to note particularly the fact that Evil Magician in the tale suggested to some men that they were "magicians."

In the present day, there are many "magicians" who promote the idea of "attaining cosmic consciousness." Ouspensky described "cosmic consciousness" as a "higher consciousness" possible for man. Gurdjieff remarked about it, and we have found much evidence to support his comments:

"I do not know what you call 'cosmic consciousness. It is a vague and indefinite term; anyone can call anything he likes by it. In most cases what is called 'cosmic consciousness' is simply fantasy, associative daydreaming connected with intensified work of the emotional center. Sometimes it comes near to ecstasy but most often it is merely a subjective emotional experience on the level of dreams."

The question is, of course, if this is the true state in which we live, how in the world did it get this way? Where did we go so wrong as a culture, as human beings?

We are all taught to avoid uncomfortable realities. Human beings - faced with unpleasant truths about themselves or their reality - react like alcoholics who refuse to admit their condition, or the cuckolded husband who is the "last to know," or the wife who does not notice that her husband is abusing her daughter.

Denial is a complex "unconscious defence mechanism for coping with guilt, anxiety and other disturbing emotions aroused by reality." 'States of Denial', (Cambridge: Polity Press; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), Stanley Cohen.
Denial can be both deliberate and intentional, as well as completely subconscious. An individual who is deliberately and intentionally denying something is acting from an individual level of lying, concealment and deception. What we are dealing with - in terms of the "Evil Magician" or the Predator of Don Juan - is denial that is subconscious and therefore organized and "institutional." This implies propaganda, misinformation, whitewash, manipulation, spin, disinformation, etc.

Believing anything that comes down the pike is not the opposite of denial. "Acknowledgement" of the probability of a high level of Truth about a given matter is what should happen when people are actively aroused by certain information. This information can be 1) factual or forensic truth; that is to say, legal or scientific information which is factual, accurate and objective; it is obtained by impartial procedures; 2) personal and narrative truth including "witness testimonies."

I should add here that skepticism and solipsistic arguments - including epistemological relativism - about the existence of objective truth, are generally a social construction and might be considered in the terms of the hypnotized man who has been programmed to think that there "is no truth."

Denial occurs for a variety of reasons. There are truths that are "clearly known," but for many reasons - personal or political, justifiable or unjustifiable - are concealed, or it is agreed that they will not be acknowledged "out loud." There are "unpleasant truths" and there are truths that make us tired because if we acknowledge them - if we do more than give them a tacit nod - we may find it necessary to make changes in our lives.

There are different kinds of denial. First, there is literal denial which is the type that fits the dictionary definition, the assertion that something did not happen or does not exist. This most often occurs in very painful situations where there are conflicts of love: the wife would say that the husband could not have molested his daughter, therefore the child must be making it up. This also seems to apply to denial of the state of our manipulated reality. Our love for our parents, our need for their approval, is often transferred to our peers, our employers, and the State. To think about stepping outside of the belief system that makes us "belong" is just too frightening. It assaults our deepest sense of security.

The second kind of denial is "interpretative." In this kind of denial, the raw facts that something actually happened are not really denied - they are just "interpreted." If a person is reasonably intelligent, and is faced with evidence of phenomena that do not fit into the belief system of one's family, culture, or peer group, there is nothing to do but to interpret - to rationalize it away. "Swamp gas" and the Planet Venus given as an explanation for UFOs are good examples. Another is Bill Clinton's "But I didn't INHALE" interpretation of his marijuana use. And then, there was the famous "I didn't have sex with Monica" interpretation.

The third kind of denial is termed by Cohen as implicatory denial where there is no attempt to deny either the facts or their conventional interpretation; what is ultimately denied are the psychological, political and moral implications that follow from deep acknowledgement. For example, the idea that America is being run by a madman with designs on the entire planet is recognized as a fact, but it is not seen as psychologically disturbing or as carrying any moral imperative to act.

Studies have established five different contexts of psychological denial:1) perception without awareness, 2) perceptual defense 3) selective attention, 4) cognitive errors and 5) inferential failures.

In 'States of Denial', Stanley Cohen remarks that "the scientific discourse misses the fact that the ability to deny is an amazing human phenomenon [...] a product of sheer complexity of our emotional, linguistic, moral and intellectual lives."

There is a little known fact about hypnosis that is illustrated by the following story:

A subject was told under hypnosis that when he was awakened he would be unable to see a third man in the room who, it was suggested to him, would have become invisible. All the "proper" suggestions to make this "true" were given, such as "you will NOT see so- and-so" etc... When the subject was awakened, lo and behold! the suggestions did NOT work.

Why? Because they went against his belief system. He did NOT believe that a person could become invisible.

So, another trial was made. The subject was hypnotized again and was told that the third man was leaving the room... that he had been called away on urgent business, and the scene of him getting on his coat and hat was described... the door was opened and shut to provide "sound effects," and then the subject was brought out of the trance.

Guess what happened?

He was UNABLE TO SEE the Third Man.

Why? Because his perceptions were modified according to his beliefs. Certain "censors" in his brain were "activated" in a manner that was "acceptable" to his "ego survival" instincts.

The survival of the ego is established pretty early in life by our parental and societal programming as to what IS or is NOT possible; what we are "allowed" to believe in order to be accepted. We learn this first by learning what pleases our parents and then later we modify our belief based on what pleases our society - our peers - to believe.

Anyway, to return to our story, the Third Man went about the room picking things up and setting them down and doing all sorts of things to test the subject's awareness of his presence, and the subject became utterly hysterical at this "anomalous" activity! He could see objects moving through the air, doors opening and closing, but he could NOT see the SOURCE because he did not believe that there was another man in the room.

So, what are the implications of this factor of human consciousness? (By the way, this is also the reason why most therapy to stop bad habits does not work - they attempt to operate against a "belief system" that is imprinted in the subconscious that this or that habit is essential to survival.)

One of the first things we might observe is that everyone has a different set of beliefs based upon their social and familial conditioning, and that these beliefs determine how much of the OBJECTIVE reality anyone is able to access.

Suffice it to say that, under ordinary conditions of reality, we almost never perceive reality as it truly IS. There are thousands of different little "hypnotic suggestions" that have taken hold of us from infancy on, that determine, in any given moment, what we believe or think or think we believe or believe we think.

In the above story, the objective reality IS WHAT IT IS, whether it is truly objective, or only a consensus reality. In this story, there is clearly a big part of that reality that is inaccessable to the "subject" due to a perception censor which was activated by the suggestions of the hypnotist. That is to say, the subject has a strong belief, based upon his CHOICE as to who or what to believe. In this case, he has chosen to believe the hypnotist and not what he might be able to observe if he dispensed with the perception censor put in place by the hypnotist.

And so it is with nearly all human beings: we believe the hypnotist - the "official culture" - and we are able, with preternatural cunning, to deny what is often right in front of our faces. And in the case of the hypnosis subject, he is entirely at the mercy of the "Invisible Man" because he chooses not to see him.

And it is in this sense that the "whole world is established inside of the devil."

"That is because people believe in progress and culture. There is no progress whatever. Everything is just the same as it was thousands, and tens of thousands, of years ago. The outward form changes. The essence does not change. Man remains just the same. 'Civilized' and 'cultured' people live with exactly the same interests as the most ignorant savages. Modern civilization is based on violence and slavery and fine words." - Gurdjieff

Esoteric studies teach us that we live in what is called the "Mixtus Orbis." That is, the whole world is established inside of the Devil.

We live in a world of lies and truth and that our REAL WORK here - in order to achieve higher awareness - is to engage in exercises in discerning the lies from the truth.

by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

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