Category Archives: Psychology/Psychiatry

Left-Wing Psychotherapy Cults: Sullivanians from Hedonism to Group Terror

Photo Image:  FilmDaily


My Purpose

A few months ago, I wrote an article titled “Political and Spiritual Cults“. My purpose was to show the commonalties among all cults, whether they are political, spiritual or psychological. In this article I want to narrow the focus to discuss a left-wing psychological cult, the Sullivanians, a countercultural organization that made its mark on the Upper West Side of New York City between 1970 and the early 1990s. Why bother to do this? Because as a socialist I have to face that any socialist organization I join, whether it be social democratic, Leninist or even anarchist has the potential to become a cult. The more we know about the conditions under which cults emerge, the more we can combat them.

Overcoming Media Biases Against Cults

When mass media compares cults members to the general population, cult members are portrayed as:

  • Mentally unstable
  • Less educated
  • Lonelier
  • From the poor and working-class backgrounds
  • Physically intimidated into joining
  • Brainwashed
  • Drawn from criminal elements
  • Less moral as people

Research has shown none of this to be true.

Plan of the Article

For the most part I will be following the architecture I built in my previous article, including what is a totalistic institution; the ten characteristics of cults; the stages cults go through; the mechanisms of control in each stage; why people stay; what kind of qualities the leaders have and what is the impact of leaving on cult members.

I will be adding a short section on the theoretical assumptions of the Sullivanians at the beginning. For each of these units I will say something about how it applies to the Sullivanians. Besides my article, I will be referring to two books on the Sullivanians: Amy Siskind’s sociological analysis, The Sullivan Institute/Fourth Wall Community: The Relationship of Radical Individualism and Authoritarianism and a book by a participant, Artie Honan How Did A Smart Guy Like me….For my general understanding of cults, I owe the most to Margret Singer, Janja Lalich, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad.

Theoretical Assumptions

The Sullivanian Institute was a spin-off organization that broke away in 1957 from the work of Harry Stack Sullivan. Sullivan was sensitive to the social side of psychological dynamics and among other insights blamed the nuclear family for the formation of the ideal capitalist consumer. Both Dr. Jane Pearce and Saul Newton took these criticisms of the nuclear family much further. In 1963, Pearce and Newton coauthored a book called Conditions of Human Growth. In that book they identified the family as socially isolating the individual from developing healthy relationships with friends, especially in adolescence and adulthood.

Open-ended friendships, both sexual and otherwise, were the way out of the infantilization of the nuclear family and the road to maturity. For them, friendships are the first potential of experience of love between equals. A big part of therapeutic work was to get their patients to expand their friendships as they withdrew from their families. Newton and Pearce considered the desire for the security of exclusive relationships among their patients to be a neurotic symptom. In fact, one of the first things on the agenda of the Sullivanians therapists was to separate the patients from their parents. On the whole the two foundation stones of the Sullivanians community were:

  • To break from their family of origin
  • To have non-monogamous sexual relations among friends

What is a Totalistic Institution?

Calling an organization a cult has more to do with how an organization is run than what people believe. Cults are a subcategory of organizations which includes mental health institutions, prisons, army barracks, orphanages, and religious institutions such as monasteries. As opposed to this, in what Erving Goffman calls “pluralistic institutions”, people come and go as they please in and out of various institutions throughout the day as they go from playing one role to another. Within each institution, the group dynamics and power relationships vary. An individual can have great control in one area and little control in another. What produces critical thinking within the individual is the habit, whether conscious or unconscious, of comparing one institution to another, each with their strengths and weaknesses.

In totalistic social formations, all institutions are rolled into one. Economic exchanges, livelihood, sacred beliefs, political dynamics, living situations and sexual encounters are all concentrated within a single institution. In the more extreme institutions like prisons or in the military, working and play activities are done all at the same time, in the same place with uniform expectations. Boundaries between inside and outside are rigid. The authorities are centralized and there is little room for feedback. There are surveillance systems, spying and little privacy, and this breeds insecurity and paranoia.

Sullivanians as a Total Institution

The Sullivanian community was divided into four tiers. The four therapists at the top were Saul Newton, Joan Harvey, Ralph Klein and Helen Moses; a secondary tier of therapists in training; a third tier of psychotherapy patients and lastly, community members who were friends of the people in the first three tiers. When the Sullivanians morphed into the Fourth Wall Theatre community in 1977, the fourth tier were people living in Manhattan who came to see the plays, often from poor areas of the city. The biggest factor that made the Sullivanians a totalistic institution was the collapsed boundaries between the tiers. Members of all tiers were invited to have sex with each other, including therapists with clients, clients and those in therapy training. Sleeping alone was considered an interpersonal failure. Furthermore, the therapists ignored confidentiality and talked openly about the problems of their patients. The most important people – the therapists – knew everyone else’s business and encouraged others to be spies to report on any dissatisfactions anyone had with the leadership. This led to mistrust among people in the second and third tiers as well as paranoia.

The Sullivanians were not as rigid as a prison or an army barracks. Community members worked at different jobs and they lived in different apartment buildings.  However, all households occupied most of an apartment building and each household apparently consisted only of members of the Sullivanian community. These households made enough money to hire people from the outside to cook, clean and babysit. House members had regular meetings in which they talked about household problems but also about their lives. Members also knew each other’s weaknesses and these weaknesses got back to the leadership in one way or another.

The dependency of community members on the leadership ran deep. Therapists in training were dependent on leadership economically to provide them with referrals. People were dependent personally for their identity through therapy. Interpersonally they played together, lived together and in the 1980s, did political work together. All this supported the authoritarian control by the leaders and made the Sullivanians a totalistic institution.

Ten Characteristics of Cults

From my previous article on cults, I named ten characteristics.

  • It emerged out of a political, economic or ecological crisis.
  • It recruited young adults between 17 and 24 of middle-class and upper middle-class origins who were likely to be undergoing some developmental crisis in their personal lives.
  • It has an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
  • It has a revolutionary, dualistic ideology.
  • It possesses a social-psychological array of tools for luring in new members and sustaining their commitment.
  • It lacks mechanisms for critical feedback from the membership.
  • It requires a small group of lieutenants to isolate and keep atomized the membership through spying so that no coherent opposition can form.
  • It develops rituals, myths and celebrations that allow the group to mark time.
  • It demonizes outside groups that are in competition with the cult.
  • It has rigid, terrorized boundaries that make it extremely difficult to leave.

Sullivanians’ Characteristics of Cults

It is not true that the Sullivanians cult emerged as a reaction to a political, economic or ecological crisis. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the economy was not contracting. It was possible for community members to work at low paying jobs in the arts, have leisure time and still make the rent, especially because of group living. However, the decline of the Sullivanians community in the 1980s was definitely connected to contracting economic conditions where rents skyrocketed and jobs in the arts shrank. AIDS and the nuclear reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island added to the group paranoia.

The Sullivanians did appeal to upper middle-class adults. They weren’t in any serious psychological crisis. They were relatively healthy adults who were attracted to an alternative lifestyle including art. music, theatre and dance. Sexual exploration was part of the counterculture and not unique to the Sullivanians. In Saul Newton they had an authoritarian working-class leader who was once a member of the Communist Party and claimed to have fought in the Spanish Civil War. Both men and women in the community agreed he was charismatic. Newton was also erratic and explosive and most members were scared of him. There were no institutionalized feedback mechanisms for criticizing the leadership. Complaining behind his back was dangerous because of surveillance and could easily get back to the leaders.

Although Newton was either a Stalinist or a Maoist, in the first nine years of the community, he was not heavy-handed politically. It was in the descendent phase when the nuclear meltdown occurred, the AIDS epidemic spread and Yankeedom had become more conservative in the 1980s that his Stalinist or Maoist politics became more hard-edged.  Relations between the Sullivanians and other leftists became increasingly hostile, and their political ideology became more dualistic and sectarian. Here is where the characteristic of the demonization of outsiders took place.

The psychological array of tools for drawing people in and holding them was pretty straightforward. In all cults, sex is used to control people. However, in most cults sex flows one way, from the members to the leaders. Among the Sullivanians sex among members was immediate and expected. Secondly, unlike other cults, women were encouraged to have more than one partner at a time. Besides immediate and sustained sex for both men and women, there was the opportunity to work with therapists on their problems and to do so for a low fee, compared to the much higher going rate. Thirdly, friendships were made quickly and developed through household living arrangements. Fourthly, the Sullivanians were very supportive of the members developing their creativity. Siskind points out that many of them became famous in the arts, filmmaking, and dance. The Sullivanians were also a utopian community, so joining it helped people to feel that they were a special group, superior to others, in addition to being part of a movements which was going to overthrow capitalism.

Symbolism and ritual were a strong part of the Sullivanians community. They played hard together at parties and vacations, but this was all secular enjoyment. There was no celebration of revolutionary holidays or the singing of the Internationale, as we might expect of an aspiring socialist community. Neither was there a dramatic change of identity based on change of hair or clothes that I found.

Stages of Cults

As I said in my article Political and Spiritual Cults:

In their book, The Guru Papers, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad identify two stages of cults: the proselytizing stage and the apocalyptic paranoia stage.

In the proselytizing ascendant stage, the guru sees the possibility of realizing his ambitions. The group is touted as being at the cutting edge of new knowledge. Outsiders are welcomed although they are treated with a kind of benign superiority. In the ascendant phase, the guru rewards the enthusiasm of his followers and grants them positions which have opened up within the hierarchy. The tone of the community is celebratory. The guru is accessible to the public and is charming and playful. In terms of the recruitment, this is the “honeymoon phase”. The focus is to expand the organization and the emphasis is on the present.

The apocalyptic, paranoiac, decadent phase is when the numbers of recruits have leveled off and explanations need to be found. The public is now seen as too stupid and blind to acknowledge the merits of the cult. In the declining stage, the message becomes pessimistic, with a doomsday “I told you so” tone. Outsiders cease to be welcomed in a spirit of satisfying their curiosity. Rather they are seen as enemies out to destroy the organization. Part of the descendent phase also involves the guru making more grandiose claims while promising to invoke occult power. The membership begins to have doubts.

Sullivanians’ Stages of Cults

The Sullivanians definitely went through these stages. Siskind, in her sociological analysis of them, calls the proselytizing phase the “Halcyon Years” from 1969-1978. Siskind calls the apocalyptic phase “the Revolutionary period of 1979-1983. Between 1984 and 1992 there was a steep decline in membership. In the first period the emphasis was on the psychology of the individual and their full development, including taking classes and the practice of the arts. The full enjoyment of life through sex, friendship, creativity and community was all supported. They also had a comedy club run by a very talented member, Luba Elman who was also responsible for early theatrical productions which later turned into the Fourth Wall Theatre Company. Between 1970 and 1974 the Sullivanian community grew at a steady rate of 100 new members a year, culminating at a peak of 400 in 1974. Political relations with other leftists had some tension but that did not stop cooperation in large protests.

There were four shock waves which were scattered across the landscape of the Sullivanian community between 1977 to 1983 that turned it from growing, hopeful community into a more stagnant, paranoid and isolated community. The first was the driving out of Luba Elman as the organizer of the Fourth Wall Repertory Company and her replacement by therapist turned playwright and actress, Joan Harvey. Both she and her partner Saul were dictatorial in their expectations of the members of the stage crew and everyone else in the Fourth Wall community.

Another very dramatic event was the Fourth Wall takeover of the Truck and Warehouse Theatre. The previous company refused to leave the building although the lease was up. They were forced out in an orchestrated attack, with waves of Fourth Wall people invading the building. Some took over the stage sets, rebuilt them with the carpentry and electrical skills of the Fourth Wall community. Two hours after the initial takeover, 160 more members came to support the takeover and guard the building. Then they set up an elaborate security system to guard the building. The violent nature of the whole process must have affected the moral of people. Artie Honan, one of the chief organizers of the takeover, said: ”Looking back, I feel that this was a senseless act of violence. Something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been taking direction from Saul. (What’s a Smart Guy Like Me…) I doubt he was alone in these sentiments. Later he said I was preoccupied about having to organize security coverages …I had no time to reflect on the experience or to think about how it ran against the grain of my values. Lack of time to think is characteristic of all cults.

A third major event was the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979. This spread fear in the community. It led to a panic in which 200 community members en masse fled to Florida to avoid radiation. This event turned the Sullivanians into an explicitly political community as Saul’s Maoist orientation came to the fore. House meetings went from every day discussions about household and personal problems to political book readings and discussion groups. It was in this period that Saul implemented a Maoism anti-intellectual campaign in which community members would renounce their class background in group self-confession circles.

A fourth major event was the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. This directly impacted the size of the community and the sex-economy of the organization. The Fourth Wallers were naturally wary of having sex with outsiders and limited the sexual activity to the already existing members. Since, on average, the women outnumbered the men two to one, the shortage affected the women more than the men. There was even a Male Chauvinism campaign within the community to force the men to have sex with women who didn’t have partners! Please see Table A for a contrast between the two stages within the Sullivan community

Characteristics of Sociopathic Leaders

In their book Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias identify fifteen characteristics of a sociopath that could apply to a cult leader. Here they are:

  • Glibness and superficial charm
  • Conning and maneuvering
  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Pathological lying
  • Lack of remorse, shame or guilt
  • Shallow emotions
  • Incapacity to love
  • Sensation seeking
  • Impulsivity and lack of behavioral control
  • Early behavior problems with juvenile delinquency
  • Scapegoating
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior and infidelity
  • Erratic work history of fits and starts
  • Materialistic lifestyle
  • Criminal and entrepreneurial versatility

Saul Newton as a Sociopath

As repulsive as Saul Newton might be to you and to me, he did not have all fifteen characteristics of a sociopath. I will begin by eliminating the characteristics he did not possess. We know very little of his history, so we don’t know anything about whether his teenage behavior might be categorized as juvenile delinquency or whether he had an erratic work history. From my reading I did not find instances of sensation-seeking. He put members in the Sullivanians community in risky situations, but he seemed to be sure that he and any of his wives were well-protected. It would be unfair to characterize him as having shallow emotions. He had problems controlling his anger, as in beating his wives. There is nothing I’ve read that indicated that Newton showed any deep emotion but anger. It is reasonable to say he was emotionally repressed, rather than being shallow.

Criminal and entrepreneurial creativity in cults usually means if one cult group fails and goes bankrupt, the leader wheels and deals and repackages himself with a new name and organization as Werner Erhard did. As far as I know, Saul Newton did not do this. He stuck with the Sullivanian community all his life. Lastly, a “materialistic lifestyle” is a very vague term. How many cars, boats, planes and houses does a leader have to possess to qualify as being materialistic? From my reading, I would classify Newton as upper middle-class, akin to a doctor, lawyer or architect living on the Upper West Side of New York City. He and his wives had their own chefs, childcare providers and shoppers. He owned a brownstone building. Newton lived well, but he didn’t have seven Cadillacs, as Rajneesh had. He did not own any boats or planes, nor did he buy other buildings and deal in real estate. He did not have the lifestyle of L. Ron Hubbard, Reverend Moon or Werner Erhard.

However, Newton had all the remaining characteristics of a sociopath big-time. He had superficial charm, and as I said earlier, both men and women characterized him as charismatic. He clearly was conning and manipulating the community all his life. He got them to take over a theatre building, told them who could and couldn’t date and set up an elaborate surveillance system for tracking people while convincing the members to do all the work. He maneuvered with Joan Harvey to oust Luba Elman from the Fourth Wall community and put themselves in the leadership position. He seemed to be a pathological liar, meaning he lied so much he lost track of the boundaries between truth and falsehood. There is no indication in either of the books I read that he has the slightest regret or remorse for anything he did. Neither were there any examples in which Newton claimed to love anyone. He was not loved by community members, but feared. In a small funeral gathering in 1992 not a single member of the Sullivan community showed up.

Newton definably had a grandiose sense of himself. What kind of person would have put himself at the head of a psychotherapy organization with no degree in the field or even having been in therapy himself? He was almost compulsively promiscuous. He had no problem asking his female patients for sex as part of the sessions. At the end of his life when he was suffering from dementia, he continued to see clients even when his memory was failing him. Newton was clearly impulsive (at least around getting angry) and could not control himself. However, in other situations he was extremely deliberative as he plotted and schemed to manipulate community members. Lastly, he was always blaming community members when things didn’t go right. He showed no power of self-reflection in seeing how his behavior was partly responsible for anything.

Reasons People Stayed in the Community

Why do People Stay?

Lalich and Tobias lay down the following most common reasons people stay in cults:

  • Attachment to new beliefs
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Entrapment
  • Peer pressure
  • Exhaustion from overwork allows little time for objectivity or self-reflection
  • Burned bridges separate members from their past
  • Being ridiculed and called names by cult members is very painful
  • Fear for your life
  • Guilt and embarrassment over having participated in the group to begin with

From the two books I’ve read about the Sullivanians, I would say virtually every one of these psychological conditions were operating. In the early years, the major belief centered around a conviction that their nuclear family was the major part of their problems. Giving up their belief would mean facing they were dupes who then burned their bridges and hurt their families badly. It would definitely cause cognitive dissonance. Community members were clearly entrapped. Most spend anywhere between 5 and 20 years in the community, forging deep friendships. They spent hundreds of hours in therapy and in the last years of the community, that was not cheap. For many, their livelihoods were dependent on the community and their living situations were all tied together. It is completely understandable they would not want to cut their losses.

There was a great deal of peer pressure to stay in the group. It was difficult to think clearly about whether or not to leave when they could not easily discuss openly their reservations about staying. They could never be sure if what they said would get back to the leadership. In addition, by the early 1980s, the economy was contracting, requiring members to work longer. Also, Newton was becoming increasingly demanding of members to be available for work on the Fourth Wall community. As Artie Honan says many times in his autobiography, there was little time to reflect on the big picture. Most were like frogs in slowly boiling water. They couldn’t see what was happening to them.

Unlike other leftist cults, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of name calling, but Saul Newton was brutal about getting rid of any community member he felt was too much trouble and, perhaps more painfully, community members executed his wishes. People were kicked out of the community quickly, often told they had 24 hours to leave their group housing situations. In at least one instance a person’s things were thrown in the street. Ex-members were shunned and ignored in public and the Upper West Side of New York is not a place to easily find anonymity.

Saul Newton was a violent man. He beat his wives and occasionally publicly punched a few of the men in the community. The violence he used in orchestrating the takeover of the theatre was probably never forgotten by anyone. When one of Saul’s psychological proteges decided to leave, upon Newton’s instruction he was followed, grabbed from behind and held over the subway tracks.

If members decided to leave, they had little in the way of a support system. Their families were heart-broken, angry and some members were disowned. The road back was unknown, lonely and full of doubt. There was no recovery groups from cult in those days. I don’t really know that the Sullivanian community felt a sense of guilt upon leaving the way members of other cults might. If a member got into the cult early, in the good days of the first seven years, those memories must have been breath-taking, intense and not easily forgettable compared to whatever normal life followed. It was the period from the early 1980s on they might have felt regretful about.

Aftermath for Cult Members

In their book Cults in Our Midst, Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich identify five major areas of life ex-cult members have to deal with:

  • Practical everyday life
  • Emotional volitivity
  • Cognitive inefficiencies
  • Theoretical instabilities
  • Lack of a social network

How Ex- Sullivanians Members Managed Their Lives in The Aftermath

Practical, everyday life

The two books I read on this subject do not have much information about how group members managed after the community broke up. Most of what follows will be what I would call reasonable speculation. In the area of everyday living, I believe the Sullivanians did better than ex-members of other cults. For example, Sullivanians had to find work to support themselves while in the cult and they succeeded in landing jobs in the arts or doing technical work. While ex-members who became therapists were dependent on referrals, this was not a community that was totally dependent economically. The same was true about managing money and finding an apartment. Members had practice in doing these things even when in the cult. While the Sullivanians were not provided with their own medical and health care, as upper middle-class urbanites they would not go without health and medical care as many members of other cults did. All this doesn’t mean they did not suffer. But compared to other cults, the climb back up might not have been as steep.

Emotional volatility

In terms of emotional volatility, I suspect the Sullivanians were more like other cults in that members suffered from PTSD, insomnia and dissociation at times. I don’t think difficulty concentrating or flashbacks were part of the psychological processes they had to constantly fight off because there were not that many bad experiences. I don’t believe a loss of a sense of humor was a psychological condition. Membership in households provided opportunity for play and laughter. It wouldn’t take much to bring them back. Depression over loss of the Sullivanian community and its vision must have been great. Before the community as a whole broke up, Saul‘s treatment of those who left would give them every reason to fear for themselves and their loved ones.

Cognitive inefficiencies

Many members of other cults have trouble thinking critically when they leave. Especially in spiritual cults which place a great deal of emphasis on meditation, and other altered states of consciousness, where critical thinking is frowned upon. Some young members of cults never learned to think critically. They simply did not know how to set up spread sheets for weighing the pros and cons of different job offers, school choices or romantic partners. After being in cults which for years explained causes and consequences by good and evil forces, it is difficult to reason about complex causes and intended and unintended consequences. I don’t think members of the Sullivanian community ran into these problems much. While they suspended judgment and criticality when under the spell of the leadership, they had to make analytical and comparative judgment while at work, with their partners and at house meetings when they were away from the leadership.

However, there is one area of cognition which must have been difficult and that is de-toxifying their vocabulary. All cults control their members thinking by narrowing the complexity of their language. When the leaders train someone’s vocabulary to use virtue and vice words, they are training them in dualistic thinking. Dualistic thinking makes people more controllable. This definitely went on in the Sullivanian community. It would take time to reintroduce previously “banned” vice words and repressed virtue words.

Theoretical instabilities

The overwhelming majority of cults are spin-offs from major theoretical schools in the fields of spirituality, politics or psychology. Spiritual cults might be spinoffs from Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity. Political cults may draw from the work of Marx or Lenin. Psychological cults may have drawn from Freud, Jung or Humanistic psychology of Maslow. Upon leaving the cult, the ex-cult member is in a theoretical no-man’s-land. Does the psychological cult member whose leader drew from Freud therefore reject Freud completely or are they able to separate Freud from the cult interpretation of Freud? In the case of spirituality, can a member of the Hindu cult like the Hari Krishna’s reject the cult but hang on to Hinduism? In the case of the Sullivanians, Saul Newton was probably a Maoist. Can ex- Sullivanians separate Maoism as practiced by the Sullivanians from Maoist groups in general? Will they remain Leninists and switch from Mao to Stalin? Will they remain Leninists and become Trotskyists? Will they become democratic socialists?

A more extreme strategy is to reject the field entirely. So, a follower of a spiritual cult may become an atheist. A member of a political cult might become anti-political or apolitical. A member of a psychology cult might join a group that is anti-psychological, such as Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who led the movement against his own field. This may be a good choice because you are starting from scratch. This may also be a bad choice because you are starting from scratch with no infrastructure. There are no easy answers.

Lack of a social network

As I mentioned earlier, leaving a cult is devastating for a support system. Most cult members have burned bridges with their family and friends, church and clubs they were once a part of. However, relative to other cults, with the Sullivanians the situation may have been different. I can imagine that anybody who left the cult in the early 1980s when the community was still functioning well would have a rough time. However, once the community itself was disbanded, it was a different story. Why? Because the members of this cult had lived together for years unsupervised directly by the leadership. They played together, they made art together and they made love together, hard and often. These types of connections are easy to remember and hard to forget. Artie Honan says he is still Facebook friends with many former members. He also reports that in 2007, they had a reunion in Harlem. One hundred and fifty people came. Considering the Sullivanians peaked in membership in 1974 at 400, this turnout shows there is something of quality in this community that superseded Saul Newton and the rest of the cult leadership.

How the Sullivanians Compared to the Experience of Other Cults

I have a number of reasons for suspecting that the Sullivanians had it better than other cults. In the first place, they did not emerge out of an ecological, economic or political crisis. Neither did they come into the cult at an impressionable age of late teens or early twenties. My sense is that most members were in their mid to late 20s when they joined and were probably more grounded. That meant people were less desperate when they joined the group. Secondly, unlike most, if not all cults, the sexual economy was far more horizontal. Members slept with each other, not just with the leadership, as in other cults. Thirdly, women were as sexually free as the men. Though Saul Newton was definitely patriarchal, women still had many sexual relationships with their peers, just as the men did. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the social networks that were built had relative autonomy from the leadership, especially in the living situations. This allowed them to form subgroups with their own experiences, independently of the leadership. In most cults, subgroups are not allowed to form. It was these experiences in subgroups that made it possible not to lose complete touch with each other after the Sullivanians broke up as an institution. It made it possible to have a reunion 15 years later.

The Socialist Political Spectrum: Which Tendencies are Most Likely to Form Cults

So, what does the fate of the Sullivanians tell us (if anything) about which tendencies on the political spectrum are likely to form cults? Are Leninists, democratic socialists and anarchists all equally likely to form cults or are some more likely to form than others? Remember earlier I said that the key element in determining a cult is not the beliefs but rather how the cult was organized. In addition, charisma, by itself is not enough to institutionalize a cult.

A good example of a socialist organizer who was charismatic but never turned his group into a cult was Murray Bookchin. I met Murray 50 years ago on the lower East Side of Manhattan and I can testify that he had a great deal of charisma and a significant following among young hippie anarchists. This continued as he moved to Vermont to teach and founded the Institute for Social Ecology.  But the Institute for Social Ecology or any other organization he was involved in did not became a cult because the egalitarian principles of anarchism blocked this from happening.

It would be unfair to characterize the Sullivanians as a pure political group. It was not a real political group until the 1980s. Yet the leader of the organization, Saul Newton, was a Maoist and during the last years of the group, he did use Maoist tactics like self-confession of the members’ class backgrounds, along with criticism and self-criticism.  In my previous article, a major focus was on a group called the Democratic Workers Party which definitely was a cult with a Leninist focus. What about other Leninists groups?

In their hostile analysis of Leninist organization, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left, Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth identify five other Leninist groups that were either cults or might have at least cultlike characterhoods. Harvey Jackins’ Reevaluation Counseling and Fred Newman’s New Alliance Party and social therapy, Gerry Healy; Ted Grant and Gino Perente also led organizations that had cult-like characteristics which were either Stalinist or Trotskyist in orientation. Each received a chapter’s attention in the book On the Edge.

Tourish and Wohlforth summarize their book:

Each and every Marxist Leninist grouping has exhibited the same cultic symptoms: Authoritarianism, conformity, ideological rigidity, fetishistic dwelling on apocalyptic fantasies. Not all Leninist groups are full-blown cults. However, we have yet to discover one that did not have some cultic features (213).

As Lenin spelled out in 1910 in What is to Be Done, socialist ideas were to be introduced to the working class from the outside by professional revolutionaries drawn largely from the middle class. They view themselves as a chosen people, the possessor of a gnosis beyond the grasp of ordinary folk. Therefore, a separate organization is in order, tight discipline is required and superhuman sacrifice is demanded from members. Democratic centralism is required so that all members publicly defend the agreed positions of the party, whenever opinions they might hold to the contrary in private. (214) The communist front organization is particularly suited to political cult-manipulation (216).

In contrast to this, the organization of the Democratic Socialists of America has loosely associated chapters and the whole organization is opposed to any kind of authoritarian organization. In fact, they organized themselves intentionally so they would have no resemblance to Leninism.


I do not mean to imply that Leninism is not successful as a political tendency in the world. Russia, China and Cuba have all offered working class people significant improvements in their lives by way of steady employment, good wages, safe and reasonably priced housing, free healthcare and literacy over the last 100 years. With the exception of Sweden between the 1930s and the 1970s, social democracy has not had a good track record with the poor and working class. As for anarchism, it certainly had a great deal of success in revolutionary movements in Russia, Spain and recently in Rojava. The problem with the anarchists is that it is harder to tell what successes have carried over after the revolutionary period ended.

The issue in this article, however, is not how successful each of the three socialist tendencies are in the end. Which group is most likely to use cult-like methods to get there? It is clear to me that Leninism has the most cult-like potential according to the criteria in this article.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Left-Wing Psychotherapy Cults: Sullivanians from Hedonism to Group Terror first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Being a Self-Educated Street Intellectual May Have Saved My Life

1970: Weeks When Decades Happen

I was 20 years old in 1968, a good year to be 20 years old. Between the spring of 1970 and the spring of 1972 there were weeks when decades happened for me. In the space of one year:

  • I moved out of my parents’ house in Jamaica, Queens to Brooklyn with three other guys who I worked with in a music store me in Times Square.
  • I became a socialist after being given a book from my friend, Bob Bady, one of my music store co-workers, titled Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy.
  • I met Stephanie from Berkeley, California on a train on my way to work and spent two days with her where I grilled her about whether or not it was possible to be a political radical and spiritual at the same time.
  • I was accepted into VISTA and went to a training program in Atlanta, GA. I lasted one week before being convinced by a communist who worked as a trainer with them that VISTA was “all bullshit”.
  • On Stephanie’s open invitation to visit her at her commune, I hitchhiked from Atlanta all the way to Berkeley and stayed in her commune for three weeks. I fell in love with Berkeley, Moe’s books, and San Francisco.
  • I discovered anarchism, specifically Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets and the history of socialism.
  • I attended every leftist meeting open to the public, everything from Progressive Labor, to the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party and the Situationists, trying to figure out which group was right and where I could fit in.
  • I hitchhiked back from Berkeley to New York. On the way I was busted in Topeka, KS for hitchhiking. My books on Lenin and Che were confiscated by a cop who resembled Barney in Andy Griffith. I didn’t get them back.
  • I asked my parents if I could live with them for nine months while I lived off my wages working night shifts at UPS unloading trucks. My purpose was to set up a reading program for myself in radical history, sociology, anthropology, comparative mythology and psychology. I was reading six hours a day for nine months.
  • During that time, I sought out the well-known anarchist Murray Bookchin, who connected me with the New York radical scene.
  • I volunteered for War Resisters League and became involved with a woman in an open relationship who already had a boyfriend. As Grace Slick says, “why can’t we go on as three?”
  • I left New York in the Spring of 1971 and headed out hitchhiking to the West Coast.
  • Somewhere around Boulder Colorado, I was picked up by 3 freaks in a VW van. After talking with them for about 30 minutes and feeling each other out, one of the guys with long curly hair whirled around and said “You’ve got to come to Seattle, the revolution is going to break out there first. We have the whole place organized.” I listened to him, but continued on to the SF Bay Area, stayed another week with Stephanie and then headed up to Seattle.

This is where the heart of my story begins.

Detour in Corvallis

One of the things I tried to do in hitchhiking was stay off the interstate highways because they bypass the towns where people live. Riding on them gives you no sense of local life. So, in heading up to Seattle I didn’t go on Interstate 5 or even US 101. I stayed on the slower roads. On these roads, if I got stuck I could either find a motel, a park or even the outskirts of a farm to spread out my sleeping bag and conk out.

In those days, there were a lot of freaks on the road, coming and going without any thought-out plans. People would hitchhike together for 50 to 100 miles and then part ways. I was with two other guys on U.S. 20 heading west for the coast. They were headed south for the SF Bay Area and I was headed north for Seattle. During these times, hitchhikers have a sense of which cars are likely to pick you up and which aren’t. VW bugs and VW vans were the most likely to stop. Pickup trucks were often driven by right-wingers, so we had to be prepared to have beer cans or other trash thrown at us as they passed. It was rare that women gave any of us a ride.

To my amazement, a pickup truck slowed down, pulled over and we saw it was a woman driver. The fuck!?! She said she was going to Corvallis, Oregon and she could drive us to town. She invited us to stay on a farm she lived on with her parents. We wound up staying there a week as she showed us around town. I’m sure her father was thrilled. After close to a week the two other guys were itching to get going and leave. Now it was just Holly and me. She said she wanted to leave the farm and wanted to go to Boulder. She said she had some hippie friends there and there were also lots of alternative organizations in the area. She convinced me to go with her. We started out driving in her pickup truck, but it broke down before we ever got out of Corvallis. So, we left the truck behind and began our adventure heading east on highway 20. It never dawned on me that Holly seemed pretty desperate to get out of there. I figured at the time it was because Corvallis was a small town and she wanted to move on and see the world. She used me to help support her leaving. That was fine with me.

Close Call in Eastern Oregon

Our hitchhiking luck on the first day was very bad. We barely got out of the Corvallis city limits, and not till about 7:30 in the evening. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Eastern Oregon is redneck country and it would be difficult to hitch a ride. In retrospect, I am surprised Holly didn’t say anything to me because after all, she lived in the state. Finally, two guys in a pickup truck stopped for us. They looked like some kind of cowhands. As I remember it, we both hesitated to get in the back of the truck because they looked like rednecks. We got in out of desperation since we had no luck hitchhiking all day. The landscape was not the lush forests which are the stereotypes of Oregon, but semi-desert with scrub brush. After driving only two miles, the truck made a left off Highway 20 into some wooded area. Not good.

The two guys went to a cleared area and began building a fire. Holly and I laid our sleeping bags down about 100 yards away, making believe we were turning in early. The voices of the two men got louder and louder as they began drinking. I said to Holly that I would go join them in the hopes of calming things down. I looked all around me, sitting by a raging fire, in the sand, with old, gnarled, leafless trees casting long shadows around us. This was about the scariest setting I had ever been in.

Not soon after I arrived, one of the men passed out dead drunk. Now I was alone with the person whose name I later discovered was John. I don’t know how this began, but we started to talk about books. John must have been about twenty-seven and I was twenty-two. He took it upon himself to tell me about the books he had read. He confided in me how lonely it was to live where he did and not have anyone to talk to about books.  I tried to be very careful about telling him what I had read. Then I threw caution to the wind and mentioned Marx, which looking back was incredibly stupid, given the polarization of the country at the time between freaks and hardhats.

To my amazement, he didn’t bat an eye. He asked me what I had read. He didn’t wait for an answer and proceeded to tell me he read Capital Volume 1. Then he started rattling off other books he told me that I should read. I pulled out my map and scrawled their names along the edges of it by the light of blazing fire: Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground; Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth; Fredrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It must have been about 11PM when John passed out. I quietly tip-toed back to my sleeping bag. Holly, as you might imagine, was wide-awake. I must have said something like “I think we are alright.” We both fell asleep and were up early the next morning. John and his partner were still dead asleep. We were able to get a ride back to Corvallis. I was never so happy to get on an interstate road.

On to Boulder

We finally made our way to US 40 heading EAST. US 40 is a wonderful road through Colorado with the Rockies in the background. At times US 40 is only two lanes, a real charmer. It must have taken us about 3 days to get to Boulder. We were picked up by other freaks, listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and got high. Only sex was missing in the formulaic “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll”. This soon changed.

At some point, all the camping out and sleeping in vans got to us. Mercifully we stopped at a small motel right off US 40. At last, a hot shower and a soft bed. Holly wanted to make love. I was hesitant because I was still a virgin, and I was embarrassed to be 22 and still hadn’t gotten laid. Holly was very gentle with me, and it was only after we both came that she asked me about my virginity. It couldn’t have been a better first time.

A Parting of Ways

I don’t remember why we didn’t stay in Boulder, I just remembered it was too much like a college town with hippies everywhere. I wanted a real city. Why Holly went along with this I don’t know, but in those days many of us hippies were process travelers. We cared more about the thrill being of the open road than settling down once we got to our destination.

Now as we got closer to Denver, we met another hitchhiker, Kevin, who was a lot freakier than I was. He scored some LSD and he and Holly started taking it. They offered some to me, but I said no. I’ll never forget the gap that now separated us. Here I was sitting in the grass in a park in Denver reading Malcolm X’s speeches and next to me the two of them are tripping and laughing at me. At the time I couldn’t understand it. Later, once I tripped myself, I would have laughed at myself as well. Holly was more of a free spirit than I was and she and Kevin were growing closer. Kevin and Holly decided to continue east to Washington DC. They invited me to join them. At this point, I was sick of the road. I wanted to give Denver a try. I was fed up with the non-stop intensity and I really was intrigued by the radical bookstores and alternative classes in there. Holly moved on and I never saw her again. I quickly got a job as a page in the Denver Public Library and found a studio apartment for $70 a month. I was so happy to settle down. Now I could read Rosa Luxemburg’s biography in peace. I also met two influential socialists, Pat and Brown.

Still Runin’ Against the Wind

I will be very brief about what happened to me over the next 50 years, because this is not on the main line of my story. Still, some details need to be filled in to properly set the tone for my encounter with Holly early this year. After six months in Denver, I began hitchhiking again. I was following an extremely assertive gal I had fallen for to Florida where she wanted to go to school. That didn’t work out. However, I had made a couple of serious socialist friends while living in Denver.  Pat and Brown had found work and were moving to San Francisco. They really wanted me to move with them. I accepted. Between 1972 and 1989 I settled in San Francisco, living mostly in the Richmond District by Golden Gate Park and also the Mission District. My new partner, Barbara, whom I met in 1979, and I were driven out of the city by the rising rent costs.  We moved to the Fruitvale District in Oakland where we could afford to buy a house and lived there for the next 30 years.

In the mid 1970s I found some radical-left groups to work with. For five years I made an income at a lot of working-class jobs like unloading trucks and driving forklifts. In the late 1970s I began to draw. Eventually I auditioned, and was successfully accepted, into the San Francisco Models’ Guild where I worked as an artist model for 12 years. In the mid 1980s, with the economy slumping, Barbara had a come-to-Jesus meeting with me and told me I was wasting my time reading all these books but having no audience to talk about them. She saw me in action as a teacher and was convinced I should go back to school and get both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and then teach in college. I followed her advice and got both between 1984 and 1986.

From 1988 to 2017, I worked as an adjunct college instructor in community colleges and universities (read in My Love Affair with Books Part II for more). I had written four and a half books in that time, integrating into my writing and teaching all those books I had read on my own so many years ago.  In 2013 Barbara and I started our radical website Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. In 2018 we decided we had enough of the fires, heat, congestion and rising prices of the Bay Area and moved to Olympia, WA. I am now an adult education teacher. I continue to pump out articles for our website and we are proud members of the Seattle Atheist Church. Quite settled it sounds like? Not quite.

The Return of Holly and Highway 20 Revisited

On January 6, 2021, I received a private Facebook message from Holly telling me she had been trying to reach me. She reminded me who she was, and I asked her some questions to make sure this wasn’t some kind of scam. It was the Holly I knew 50 years ago. She then referred to “sad things” that happened on the road. I wasn’t sure what she meant by this. She did have a miscarriage soon after we got away from the “cowhands.” I thought she was referring to that. It turned out to be something gruesome. She said she wanted to contact me because I had saved her life, and my own.

Holly said she now had recently contacted COVID and also had a heart condition that may shorten her life. She was contacting all those who helped her throughout her life. She said she had been following my work on Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism, my writings and interviews without my knowing it. Up to this point, I chalked her tracking me down to the kinds of things people in AA do to “make amends”.  But I still didn’t understand why she insisted I had saved her life. She reminded me of the 2 cowhands who first picked us up in Corvallis, one of whom I talked to about books. She said to me:

“I owe my life to you because you were able to talk them into leaving us alone on the desert. One of the two men, when apprehended, told law enforcement about us and that you had a way about you, a New York kind of way, that they respected…and so they did not harm us. You have a gift that saves lives. It’s in your voice, and in your words. Never forget that as we head into the disintegration of capitalism, and environmental collapse.”

Ok, this is all very flattering, but what made Holly think these cowhands were more than just drunken cowboys who wanted to harass hippies? I then learned The Oregonian did a five-part documentary about two men who routinely picked up hitchhikers on highway 20 and either killed them, raped them, or did other horrible things. The main perpetrator was John, the cowhand I talked to about books. The link above tells the story that was printed in the Oregonian series.

Holly told me she was interviewed by investigators in the late 70s or early 80s about the possibility that we had encountered them. A cold case investigator contacted her through her parents because a police report had been filed. Her parents gave them her contact info and they asked her about the two men who had given us a ride. Holly then tried to find me to add to the story as “the New York kind of guy” but did not know how.

Holly also told me she moved from “living to run”, to “running to live”, as Bob Seger sang.  She got three degrees, two of them in social work and journalism. She has worked as a social worker and herbalist. She has started a cooperative and worked to set up independent media in the Pacific Northwest. From viewing her Facebook page, I have to stay she is a terrific watercolorist.

In a private Facebook message to Holly a few days ago, I revealed the conversation I had with John over that roaring fire 50 years ago. I told her that I thought it was the temporary camaraderie of two self-educated intellectuals about the books we were reading that saved us more than it was because I was from New York. We are both flabbergasted that the same person who can be moved to their depths by Karl Marx, Mark Twain and Fredrich Nietzsche could do some of the most horrendous acts that you read about in the Oregonian without having a psychotic break.

Reading books independently from any college or work requirement has been a foundation for me for the last 50 years. It’s helped me to write my own books, articles, teach courses and develop documents and vision for our website. It has made me a better, deeper person. But I never would have dreamt that discussing books could have been an activity that might have saved Holly’s and my lives.

The post How Being a Self-Educated Street Intellectual May Have Saved My Life first appeared on Dissident Voice.

 Slavery and the Age of Ego

The continual expanse of western enslavement culture has never been directly about race, class, or any other perceived external divisions, rather it’s an ego sickness at its root. When the ego drive is running the show we are slaves to its impulses, subsequently the external world we’ve constructed expresses that which is within: a slavish and reactive social milieu. We are trapped in an ego-centered state of confusion believing in false identities of who we are within this contrived social strata dictated by centralized authorities, which today are namely nation states, banking systems, and corporate conglomerates. Together these authorities conjure an immersive pseudo-reality for the human animal where it is fooled into believing the agendas of the authority are for their own good and necessary for their survival.  Stockholm syndrome essentially is an ego state itself, or an accepted pattern of thought mistaken for absolute truth.

Slavery is an outgrowth of ego sickness, which is at the core of all that is wrong with humans in this time Hinduism refers to as the Kali Yuga, a spiritual nadir in an ongoing cycle where selfishness, materialism, and cruelty are the manifested symptoms of the era, an apt description of our time regardless of one’s personal belief in Hinduism. Further, the idea that human cultures go in cycles exhibiting different patterns of thought at different times collectively doesn’t seem that far fetched either. In this time of ego many can see nothing else, yet indigenous cultures lived for long periods of time over wide expanses of land in relative peace and were not building standing armies or plotting how to plunder their neighbors. What is happening now isn’t a remark on our species as much it’s a commentary on our current mental disposition.

The majority are now slaves to the ego roles traipsing around in their heads, the jealousies, the pride, the perceived insults, all the petty things that can’t be let go of become persistent phantasms haunting their waking minds, giving them reason to fear, to create division in the name of security, and adhere to defensive mechanisms in order to deal with the fear of the “other”, or that which is identified as separate from us and may pose a threat to the intransigent ego identity role.

The ego’s way of dealing with fear is to swat at it from afar and continue to build up defensive structures. This is why the rich and powerful distance themselves so often from the realities they create. The ego role they have assumed is one of a successful person doing something beneficial.  This delusion is easier to maintain if they can avoid receiving sensory input that disrupts their self aggrandizement fantasy.

The illness of ego manifests a buffet of neuroses where unconscious scripts play out running on the well worn grooves established in the default mode network of the brain, acting as an imperialist, expanding and defending all territory by which it defines itself both psychological and material. In its quest for more ego creates blinders for consciousness that filters out that which is profane to the desires of the ego dream. Therefore little can be seen but what is convenient to its objectives, and it is why those who are so caught up in their characters they are playing can’t see the harm they cause others while their own suffering and romance with deception continues.

The seeds of ego delusion are usually planted by people who claim to do so out of love or education. And just about everyone in our society now installs ego identities in children molding the identity of the child to suit the whims of the parent and culture. This is extremely common, and in later years we can all sense the voices of authority from childhood still echoing in our minds.  Sometimes these voices are benign, but other times they are constricting and later confused as our own thoughts.

In Erich Fromm’s book Escape From Freedom, he notes this phenomena of becoming programmed by social conditioning:

Most people are convinced that as long as they are not overtly forced to do something by an outside power, their decisions are theirs, and that if they want something it is they who want it. But this is one of the great illusions we have about ourselves. A great number of decisions are not really our own but are suggested to us from the outside, we have succeeded in persuading ourselves that it is we who have made the decision, whereas we have actually conformed with expectations of others, driven by the fear of isolation and by more direct threats to our life, freedom, and comfort.

If the power of suggestion and social conditioning didn’t work, then advertising wouldn’t be such an extraordinarily profitable industry, billionaires wouldn’t own media outlets, and governments wouldn’t run public school systems and hold ongoing press conferences that are always seeking to put their own unique egotistical spin on reality in an attempt to make their fabricated reality, your reality.

Behind every ego identity in our culture of slavery is a history of conditional love typically dependent on an individual performing in a certain manner in order to be fully accepted and valued by authority figures. Many people give a cat or dog more unconditional love than they give to the people who they claim to care for or are seeking to “help.” There may, in fact, be something authentic about their love, but it’s mixed with the poison of ego needing others to be a thing for them so they can fully accept them, which is how they were conditioned as well. So children set out on a life long mission trying to prove something to an authority so they may at some point accept themselves as valid and worthy of being loved, resulting in a mindset that conflates obligatory subservience with love.

How many have marched off to wars, not because they believe in it, but because they couldn’t stand to face what their family would think or how others might judge them if they refused to take part? How many have stayed in corrosive relationships or stayed in a religion because they might lose acceptance or face judgment if they should try to change? How many have conformed to the expectations of those around them in any way because they didn’t want to be disliked? And due in large part to intentionally created indoctrination efforts by authority people are conditioned to be reliant on approval from power, to not accept themselves as enough on some basic level and use an ego construct(s) to fill in the gaps where their authentic self is not enough.

Once the ego construct is established it makes people truly vulnerable to predation because they become blind. Suckers. Chumps. Wooly-minded. Prone to insults and taking things too seriously or being easily fooled by empty flattery. The ego mind gradually replaces the context of every situation until eventually an immersive trance is all that can be seen or understood. Once consciousness is compromised people are easily infected by a motley collection of mental viruses which consume the mind with paranoia, becoming an unthinking reactionary to stimulus; narrow, uncomfortable, and befuddled.

The ruling class and those wishing to ascend to their ranks suffer from egos that deem themselves to be superior to others, and on the other end of the ego spectrum the learned helplessness of the lower classes is lost in a delusion equally as harmful where trust is placed in those they believe to be their superiors and buy into the idea they are less than, often relegating themselves to a state of perma-adolescence. The ego self is always comparing and contrasting, judging, and believing itself to either be superior or inferior to others, never an equal in innate worth, and can become violent to others or themselves when this belief is challenged, and as such, judgment stemming from ego is the ultimate source of bigotry.

Surreptitious Slavery

Just like people cannot easily see their own ego drive they also can’t see the nature of the society their ego is invested within. The system that most people endorse and identify with, the nation states, the monetary institutions and so on, all that has a long dark history of being an exploitative slave based system rife with inequality, corruption, imperialism, warfare; i.e., rule by manipulation and force. But in the trappings of ego-centered thinking history is reduced, ignored, or forgotten, and the present possibilities are limited to a narrow set of artificial contrivances stipulated by those in power.

And so long as people implicitly trust this system and the game afoot then those in power may easily propagate confusion, which is a forerunner to divisiveness, and they do this by selling everyone their own personalized ego roles which ruling power already knows are reliant on validation from power itself and will greatly narrow the perspective of the average person.

For instance, police or military personnel, assuming they are not mostly corrupt in some way, will believe to some degree that the state is legitimate and they are the good guys there to help people. When this belief is deeply identified with they will forgive evidence to the contrary as exceptions. No matter how many contradictions there might be they all get mentally shuffled and classified as incidents that aren’t indicative of the overall good they do. It may be obvious to everyone else that the problem is coming from an imbalance in power, but if one’s identity gets validation or authority from power itself then they will never clearly see what’s happening until that ego persona they are clinging to is understood outside of the context of their culture. However, those in power can easily see the dependence they create and how that can be used as leverage to elicit the behaviors ruling power desires.

Media punditry, celebrities, the expert class, and public authority figures further serve to buttress the illusions of power via bully pulpits where a voice emanating from a centralized authority can be made to seem like it’s ubiquitous and infers a kind of consensus to the populace when there may be little, effectively manufacturing consent. Once people are physically or mentally dependent upon centralized power then the ruling authority can easily misrepresent or ignore truths that may be obvious to outsiders but can not be seen from inside the ego dream. The lies can be absurd and outlandish but as long as a mind has been properly conditioned in their given ego role, and that role implicitly trusts power on some level, then they will believe close to anything so long as power tells them it’s true.

Slavery is commonly thought of in first world countries as a dramatic and easily recognizable abuse, a barbaric direct ownership of other humans to serve the purpose of producing material gain or monetary profit for the owner. So when contemporary minds who’ve been told their whole lives they live in a free country hear the word slavery applied to their present condition they find it to ring of hyperbole, perhaps worthy of an eye roll, because in first world countries we are not direct commodities that are traded openly in chattel slave markets. The capitalist democratic freedoms we’re told we’ve won through bloodshed over the centuries ultimately must be questioned though, because to a whole lot of people this thing called a free country doesn’t feel very free.

The freedoms granted to us are that we are paid money for our labor time no matter how slight, along with the ability to choose from a small number of employers willing to hire us, most of which are abusive to the environment or contributing to abusive labor somewhere on the planet. And, of course, it’s not acceptable to be directly traded as a commodity in modernity and there are rules that prevent degrees of abuse that used to be common but are harder to get away with now. This thin veneer is all that separates the outright slavery of old from the wage slavery of today. In the end we still spend the majority of our lives doing what a master commands of us, just like the centuries of old.

The modern neoliberal version of slavery is perhaps best defined by a Rick and Morty episode where Morty hears what Rick is doing to another species and bluntly calls him out for using “slavery with extra steps.” And it’s that simple really what we’re doing now, using slavery with extra steps which obfuscates the ugly truth allowing for a normalization of ongoing exploitation and control. People are put in a binding coercion where their options become limited to only the choices the powers that be provide, the human herds are corralled into predefined pathways where they may choose from shitty labor from employer A or shittier labor from employer B, that or go homeless, hungry, and become a beggar, which creates a reward and punishment system of manipulation in the labor system, meaning you do what your boss tells you or they have the power to make life difficult for you, but if you do it well enough they might throw you a Scooby snack for a job well done. You may even win back a small fragment more of the profit you made for your boss/owner, but rarely is that amount enough so that you don’t have to rely on an employer anymore to live. Coercive labor no matter what semantics or legal framework is put around it is always slavery with extra steps. Power never actually changes what it’s doing.  It just replays the same script with different language while functionally doing exactly what they’ve always done.

In a free world who would freely choose to clean hotel rooms for years of their life if they were not made desperate enough to endure the labor? There is no doubt very few would continue to do that job if they had enough money/access to resources where they could choose to forego that kind of work. The conservative rebuttal is that you can work your way out of the worst forms of capitalist labor so it’s not a big deal that people are relegated to those jobs for a time. But that’s not how it works out in reality.  Over the centuries in every monetary system there is always life-wasting labor and people made desperate enough to do it for the long haul. For example, an average yearly wage of a “hotel housekeeper” is a bit over $22k a year.  A person cannot live on that amount alone in most of the US especially in many of the expensive areas where service industry jobs often are. They will work their bodies tired while having little to show for it in pay and will likely be fatigued enough from labor that struggling to free themselves from their current predicament becomes a Sisyphean task, so most come to accept their lot in life and try to simply survive. And in an overwhelming amount of cases there is little to no democracy in the workplace, nor is there much negotiation in terms of what is paid.  There is simply do what you’re told under the conditions they provide and be sure to wear a polite smile about it. The unhappy servants will be replaced with people who can feign happiness in their subjugation and pretend they like being there.

What seems to easily confuse the masses nowadays is the clean look and smiling faces of corporate culture who aren’t readily beating or torturing workers like brutish slave systems of old.  Of course, the powers that be are more sophisticated exploiters now. They smartened up and realized that perception is important to maintaining power, so they are careful to administer the control mechanisms now in ways that don’t show outward bruising. Just as governments have learned over the centuries about the benefits of maintaining a good public image that doesn’t make them an easy target for retaliation over those they control.

And so it is why power no longer publicly hangs or tortures people as much these days for not obeying the demands of the upper classes, as philosopher Michel Foucault made note of in his book Discipline and Punish.   He highlighted the idea that rulers eventually learned that while public torture had its advantages by spreading fear, which served as an effective tool of control; it also gave many people ample reason to rebel against power, thus making the gruesome public displays of punishment more trouble than they were worth. And the same can be said for slavery. They didn’t end chattel slavery because it was too brutal or that the powers that be suddenly became compassionate. It was because it was easier for them to rule over people by instilling the belief in them that they were free in a capitalist system than it was to keep them in a more conventional slave role.

The popular Frederick Douglass quote stating “Power concedes nothing without a demand” is lacking some nuance. Power never concedes anything. They just keep doing the same thing while gaslighting the people into believing the new boss is different than the old boss. And when people are caged in their own minds they’re in a condition which is not capable of making demands to power that would have the effect of actually freeing themselves. So more accurately, power concedes nothing, but if the public becomes unruly over a particular issue and makes a demand then power may be forced to reframe what they are currently doing.  However, just for them to reframe what they are doing requires a fight from the people. And to continue on with the Douglass quote which rings more true if put in the context of  just convincing power to rebrand their current abuse: “and these (the abuses of power) will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” And closer to the truth is if you make things too difficult for ruling power, they will find an alternative that more efficiently oppresses those they rule over by disguising what they had previously been doing out in the open. In reality there has been zero social progress over the ages, just rulers who are better at fooling people into believing they’re free and shifting where and how the pain of oppression is taken out.

The neoliberal version of slavery provides an illusion of freedom and democracy that makes people willing slaves living under the false pretense of equality that anyone can become part of the upper class, and supposedly with a little hard work it can then be their turn to use money to make others their servants. Capitalism plays right to the ego where each participant is encouraged to believe good fortune is right around the corner. In the process capitalism and social hierarchies of all kinds divide and isolate the people who are all scrambling after their own fortune and glory competing with one another while the people ignore that the game being played is detrimental to all.

In a letter Charles Bukowski penned to his publisher John Martin he speaks the simple truth about wage slavery:

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does. As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

…They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? 1

A World Without I, You, Us, or Them

Ending this slavish way of being means to no longer be seduced by the schizophrenic ego patterns we’ve come to accept as normal. There is no easy fix here, only an inward journey to see ourselves and our mental attachments in meditative silence can break the spell cast by our accumulated thoughts. Policy decisions and economic reforms won’t cure the underlying motivations towards self aggrandizement of those who rule over us, nor will it end the base servility of the masses. Rather ending the cycle of dependence can only come through the acceptance of truth, ending the lies about who we are, and consequently debunking the lies we tell ourselves about others in reference to our false selves.

The often asked question to address the melange of social and environmental dilemmas humans face is “What is to be done?” And to answer that question, at least in part, is that nothing should be done. What is likely to bring about authentic action is to do nothing first. Meditation, or just doing nothing but creating a gap in the ongoing cycle of thought, has the potential to cut through the ego mind in stillness, but it takes discipline, patience, and courage to see and understand the convenient rationalized lies we’ve been accepting for far too long. A rushed impulse to fix the world will damn it at a faster rate. So just be. Be empty. Be open. Defend nothing. Kick the ego crutch out and allow innocence and emotional vulnerability to reemerge which the ego mind blocked off long ago stifling our true selves so far down we forget what’s important, as evidenced by so many who have succumbed to social pressure to become socially programmed automatons. So this work of doing nothing allows us to see past our own subjectivity in order to accurately prioritize what is important so that real change can occur in a very genuine way.

On the path to liberation there will no doubt be hucksters along the way, false idols who will tell you they are there to help and some of them truly believe that; however, who they really want to help is primarily themselves. So many devilish costumes have been unwittingly sewn from threads of good intentions. Politician, activist, union representative, journalist, doctor, entrepreneur, engineer, philanthropist, teacher, lawyer, investor, scientist, cop, banker, soldier, marketer, entertainer, artisan, statistician, expert, and clergy, have collectively served more to prop up the system and legitimize it than do any real good with each group along the way doing things that are truly wicked at times.

The decades roll by and the do-gooders swear to each successive generation they are there to help, giving the people false hope while the rolling tyranny continues its march through time. Those good intentions inevitably decline into being part of the problem they set out to initially solve when do-gooders sell out to their own ego drive as they always seem to do. In Camus’ The Plague he wrote about the harm of good intentions: “The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.“ The ego hides in the cracks and crevices between good intentions and their implementations, and it is under the premise of good intentions that power always operates while people fall into subjugated ego roles becoming more dependent on the supposed benevolence of authority. And to quote spiritual teacher Shunyamurti: “…you don’t have to be a rescuer, but what you do have to do is rescue yourself from the illusion.

Further, a truly free society that actually has unconditional love at its core won’t need do-gooders because people will genuinely just do good all on their own most of the time, meaning instead of something like environmental damage being the norm it would be the exception because there would be a different understanding, and understanding is all that is keeping humanity from changing from its current locust consumption mentality into that of a sustainable grasshopper. And a society based on love rather than ego drive cannot collectively arise out of self-serving intentions, no more than a flower can grow from being showered with gasoline. At best a superficially good thing done for the wrong reasons may produce a temporary respite from suffering, but due to the direction of the self-oriented thinking the cumulative results over time will almost certainly produce a more selfish society and greater inner discomfort in those maintaining their do-gooder ego when the nagging truth about what they are really doing needs to be further buried from their conscious mind.

Selfishness is so corrosive because it gnaws away at trust over time, thinning relationship ties due to the consistent encroachment of self- serving interests in each interaction. Eventually, if followed to its ends, a me-first based society or person will devolve into the embodiment of Narcissus, who falls in love with their ego image and turns a blind eye towards potential danger while consumed with vanity, which always ends in more suffering.

Transcending all forms of slavery requires reaching a point of understanding beyond self-serving pursuits, where the discomfort of our own emotions is confronted in real time in a honest forthright manner allowing for openness and space in the moment so we may see with clarity and act with wisdom. We may either face the haunting spectre of ego in the ghost house of our minds or resign to the fate of an even scarier material world our impulsive ego-led minds will inevitably create.


  1. Bukowski, Charles. Reach for the Sun, Vol. 3.
The post  Slavery and the Age of Ego first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The health which I see is disease (… if the Hierarchical Church so defines)

Gates:  The Fauci Project

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius Loyola, the man credited with the establishment of the Society of Jesus, to which the reigning Roman Catholic pontiff belongs, stipulated Rules to have the true sentiments, which we ought to have in the Church Militant. The thirteenth rule is:

To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of all souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the Ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed.

— Rule 13

It is conspicuous that the de facto NATO chief drug lord, Anthony Fauci, was trained by Jesuits before he became head of the US biological and chemical warfare research machine embedded in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The regimental genealogy of the NIAID can be traced to the War Research Service, the US regime’s secret biological and chemical weapons research office, run by George W. Merck, president of one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations in the world. In 1948, coincidental with the importation of Japanese and German war criminals with their cases of prison experimentation results, the War Research Service was transformed into the US Microbiological Institute.1 The War Research Service had been hidden in the Federal Security Agency, a Roosevelt organisation that included a variety of civilian programs deemed to have national security relevance. Federal security meant programs to protect against anything that could destabilise the US regime during the 1929 Great Reset.

After 1945 and the adoption of the UN Charter, repeating the injunction of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and establishing the offense at Nuremberg of “crimes against the peace”, wars did not stop.2 Instead names were changed. Names make a difference. The Washington Naval Treaty (1922) restricted the tonnage and types of ships that could be built. Hence ship classes were also renamed. At the same time armament and displacement were reallocated among new ship classes so that construction could continue. The US sought not only to buttress its secret first strike strategy against the Soviet Union but also later to circumvent the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (starting 1972) by maintaining the same number of missiles and introducing the so-called MIRV, multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. In other words one missile was turned into a delivery system that could deliver the same number of warheads as additional missiles.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), America’s Gestapo, could not have been sold to the states had it been called a police force.3  In 1947, the National Security Act was also a response to the need for new language. If war was illegal then one could not have a “war department”. So the national military establishment was renamed the Department of Defence. After the ceasefire in Korea, the US was also forced to rebrand the programs developing weapons it denied ever having or using—namely the chemical weapons, already prohibited and the biological weapons it had inherited from the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army and the Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 Douglas MacArthur hid from exposure or trials.4 The principal war criminals from this secret Japanese military research facility no doubt joined their German colleagues recruited through the good offices of Allen Dulles.5

Although military research continued under the auspices of the US Army’s Chemical Corps and biological weapons research was still conducted, mainly at Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD—with other major facilities such as Dugway Proving Ground, Wendover, UT—World War II had also raised the petrochemical industry and its sister pharmaceuticals to a major role in the military – industrial – complex. Atomic weapons had enormously expanded the already firm hold of DuPont on the munitions side. The Army Air Corps and the vastly expanded aeronautical and aerospace industry joined behind the new Air Force. Thus it should be no surprise that petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals needed their State bureaucratic partner for the massive post-war armaments program. It is important to remember here that one of the benefits of US strategic success in the war was the plunder of some of the most lucrative basic research and capture of the most ruthless research personnel available in Germany and Japan. When the leaders of the US regime whine about alleged intellectual property theft by China, they are merely sobbing at the inevitable trickle down from their historical larceny and brain draining.

It simply would have been impossible after the war in Korea to openly foster a biological warfare service in the US war machine. A solution was found. This was supported by trends already well established in the US. Since Frederick Taylor Gates assumed control over the General Education Board (GEB) within the Rockefeller tax dodge, the two largest tax dodges of the time, Carnegie and Rockefeller, had agreed to allocate the theatres of ideological warfare in defence of their fortunes, their class and the system that had come to be called capitalism. Rockefeller money would be devoted to manipulation of the domestic political environment and Carnegie money would be used to buy control of the international side.6

At the same time Gates advised Rockefeller to invest his loot in scientific medicine. Although Gates, like Rockefeller, came from a Baptist background, both had come to recognise that medicine is more powerful and intimate even than religion. Scientific medicine, based on the work of professionals operating with “security clearances” could turn the laboratory into technology for social transformation. Just as John D. Rockefeller had legalised his criminal activities to establish the Standard Oil monopoly, Gates proposed a strategy for establishing an ideological monopoly on medicine and thus a practically invincible defence of the gangster class’ prerogatives to rule.

Today’s complicity of the Johns Hopkins University (Bloomberg) School of Public Health should not be a surprise to anyone who recognises that history did not begin in 2019 or 2020. It was GEB money that founded the JHU School of Public Health (in 2001 named after the financial propaganda magnate, Michael Bloomberg, whose tax dodging has permitted him since 1995 to buy reputation at the nation’s premier population control academy).

Corporate control over scientific medicine, especially through funding of medical schools and medical research laboratories, combined with the integration of the pharmaceutical industry into the military-industrial complex. This process reached its international apex when the Rockefeller tax dodge, which had already made substantial financial donations to the United Nations organisation (notoriously supplying part of its feudal estate in Manhattan to build a kind of international “Vatican City”), managed the foundation of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The chief US delegate to the 1946 International Health Conference was Thomas Parran, the US Surgeon General, who would also be credited with the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on unwitting African-Americans (1932-1972).7  Rockefeller sent five official observers to the conference. Without a doubt the most powerful delegation at the conference was on the side of corporate medicine and pharmaceutical weaponry.

Recently those few critics of the WHO to be found complain about the amount of money it receives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.8  However, it is important to note that WHO was deliberately underfunded when it was started. A proposal that the organisation be funded by the United Nations was defeated in favour of separate contributions by members and a provision for financial gifts (bribes) from other sources.9

In 1955, the US Microbiological Institute was again renamed. It became the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In 1946, the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, a military operation was renamed the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) and later becomes part of the US Public Health Service—itself a derivative of military/naval hygiene operations. In 1951, the CDC established its cadre program keeping with the ultimately military tradition to which it belongs. The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) was intended to satisfy “the need for an adequate corps of trained epidemiologists who can be deployed immediately for any contingency, including chemical or biological warfare”.

Consistent with US first strike strategy in its war against the Soviet Union, the 1950s were full of experiments to test human reactions to the radiation and the radioactive materials that formed the core of the atomic weapons economy. By 1954, the US was waging overt and covert war against all those countries that took the UN Charter seriously and attempted to establish themselves as independent and self-governing nations. As early as 1943, another operative of the Rockefeller tax dodge was leading what was called then the “Green Revolution”. In 1943 Norman Borlaug took the chemical-biological weapons research product from the US and invaded Mexico, preparing the foundation for the fertilizer-seed monopolies that together with official US policy would destabilise the largest country in Central America. The subsequent destruction of indigenous agriculture would not only stimulate migration of cheap labour to the North but contribute to the country’s debt crisis—despite its immense oil reserves.

The same technology that deceptively promised miracle harvests would be applied in the form of the herbicide Agent Orange during the 30-year US attempt to subordinate the Vietnamese population. On one hand the US wanted Vietnam to continue—with Korea—to subsidise its Japanese vassal with cheap food (rice). On the other, it was necessary to control the region’s huge opium sources inherited from France.10

1972 was a watershed in the world of war. Richard Nixon visited Mao in China. British Army units committed the massacre in Ireland known as Bloody Sunday. US aggression and bombing of Vietnam escalates massively. The assassination of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics, attributed to a terrorist group named “Black September”, provides the first pretext for major security controls at international airports. The US signs SALT I and the ABM Treaty. The Club of Rome publishes its eugenics treatise The Limits to Growth. The television whitewash of the war against Korea, M*A*S*H is first aired by CBS. The concepts of molecular biology and recombinant DNA (Stanley Cohen, Herbert Boyer, Paul Berg) receive public scientific recognition. Edelman and Porter are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for providing a picture of the structure and action of biologically important substances previously unavailable to immunology.11   US government officials admit that they had secretly used African-Americans as guinea pigs in the Tuskegee Study. Also the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was signed.12

The BTWC requires that each state “never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: 1. Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; 2. Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”

The US regime, in particular the CIA, already admitted during the so-called Church hearings one notorious incident although Senator Frank Church refrained from designating it as a possible violation of international law.13  Although the US regime ratified the treaty it has consistently resisted acceptance of inspection (enforcement) protocols consistent with its general self-exemption from international criminal law; e.g., self-exemption from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court whose establishment it forced. The treaty retains an advantageous loophole since it exempts prophylactic and protective purposes. This is very consistent with the renaming practices that began after 1945. Since the US by its own policy definitions does not wage offensive war all activities by its military establishment are prophylactic or protective.

In 2001, on the anniversary of the US-sponsored overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973, the NY World Trade Center towers were demolished following the crash of two passenger airliners into its upper floors. This triggered what became known in the US defence jargon as the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Within days of the spectacle, a sequestered federal legislature adopted the USA Patriot Act, the legislative framework for comprehensive domestic and foreign surveillance and policing. It also induced a “new normal” of invasions and occupations by US military and secret services as well as private contractors, massive air and ground travel restrictions. The Department of Homeland Security was created modelled on the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam.14  In fact, the “new normal” that has continued since 2001 is the globalisation of the Phoenix program, surveillance, kidnapping, assassination, torture, corruption and subordination of civil authority, black marketing of all manner of contraband—in short permanent covert war against the civilian population.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the United States, declared during a sound check for radio broadcast, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes”. The Sandinista National Liberation Front wins elections in Nicaragua, triggering US covert war against the poor Central American country under the patronage of the re-elected St. Ronald. A methyl isocyanate leak due to an engineering design defect at a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, kills up to 23,000 people. NASA and the FAA performed an intentional crash of a Boeing 720 airliner using remote techniques for flying the Boeing 720 as a drone aircraft. In 1984, Anthony Fauci was promoted from Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation to director of NIAID and chief medical advisor to the POTUS.

It was the year after which George Orwell’s novel had been named. It was the year following the assertions by researchers Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier in 1983 that a novel retrovirus may have been infecting people with “AIDS” HIV. As director of NIAID, Anthony Fauci would lead and manage the dispersal of research funds to find treatment or cures for what was presented as a health threat of epidemic proportions. In the course of his career Dr Fauci would become the effective lord and master over HIV research and subsequent immuno-threats attributed to viruses, real or imagined. It has been said that although the mission of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is to reduce the threat of such afflictions, the number and frequency of allergies and infection diseases has increased since 1984.15

Dr Anthony Fauci is not only the highest paid federal employee; he has held his post under seven POTUS, even surpassing the 48-year reign of J Edgar Hoover as head of the secret police. Now he apparently is the drug lord with the last word on corona viruses, in particular the one known since 2020 as SARS – CoV2. Together with Bill Gates (no relation to the Rockefeller lieutenant, Frederick Taylor Gates) Anthony Fauci is in charge of defining the “new normal”. The Global War on Terror has now been turned into a biological war. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) augments the NATO and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to establish new more intimate and saturated means of surveillance than those adopted in Washington two decades ago.

A comparison of the strategic language of the GHSA, the Third Offset and COVID-19 The Great Reset, shows just how effective the work of a century of financial malevolence has been.16  At the beginning of the 20th century Frederick Taylor Gates bought ruling class control through the domination of scientific medicine because “freedom from disease is the great longing of all peoples” and the desire for health as a unifying force “whose values go to the palace of the rich and the hovel of the poor”—where medicine is “a work which penetrates everywhere”.17 Today the great acolyte of John D. Rockefeller, William Henry Gates III, with Anthony Fauci as his medical field marshal, tell us that scientific medicine must first deliver us from disease by means of injections (aka vaccines) that will defend us against viral threats.18 The owner of a monopoly created selling software that cannot be protected from viruses is joined with a lifelong medical bureaucrat whose institution has proven incapable of protecting anyone from viruses converge in the war games held by the “ark” of Rockefeller-based medicine, Johns Hopkins University, the medical school and school of public health.19 Can that really be for the benefit of humanity?

Others have asked this question. The question leads to historical questions of great importance for understanding the biological war being waged since December 2019. Who is Bill Gates?20  Who is Anthony Fauci?21  Who is Klaus Schwab?22  What do the GHSA 2024 Framework, the Third Offset strategy and the WEF “Great Reset” have in common? If the “new normal” of 2001 has been so firmly imposed that the US offshore prison and torture system is no longer even mentioned—twenty years later—can anyone seriously expect that the “new normal” in 2021 will not be imposed. Repeatedly it is said that crises are opportunities. It ought to be clear by now for whom.

Could it be that there is a deeper, historical origin to the present crisis? In 1947 the business of war was renamed “defence”. Perhaps the business of biological war was renamed too. For decades the military – industrial – complex has been no secret. Its necessity was kept a secret until the 1970s.23 However, since 1992, the enemies of the Western ruling class have been reduced to China and the world population at large. The NATO war against the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, nominally waged against Serbia, not only destroyed the last surviving socialist state in Europe, it destroyed the residue of the already anaemic Left. The framework was created for the integration of the environmental movement into the neo-liberal global system, in part under the umbrella of reactionary war profiteer George Soros’ Open Society consortium.24

Quietly what then might have been called the “Bilderberg” class was adopting the language of the compatible environmentalists. Using their control over the world’s mass media—intensified after a round of mergers under POTUS Bill Clinton—the Club of Rome jargon was reiterated especially through what became Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum, formed shortly thereafter. Then in 2001 the first World Social Forum was convened in Brazil, ostensibly an opposition response to the Davos meetings. Just as the Davos meetings are paid from the troughs of multinational corporations and taxpayers, the WSF meetings could only be convened with the funds from taxpayers and corporate tax dodges funnelled through NGOs. Inevitably this has led to the creation of an international cadre whose special mission is the interface between the rulers under capitalism and the ruled. Although it would be an exaggeration to compare both institutions one-on-one, the gravy train of international conferences corrupts activists as often if not more so than scholars and scientists on the academic lecture circuit.

This harmonisation process gradually brought the jargon of the WSF, mediated by NGOs, into alignment with that of the WEF. This was most blatant with the explosion of the Swedish Alberich, Greta Thunberg, with her millenarian Climate Doom in 2019. The “Ring” cycle continued into 2020 with at least the populations of Anglo-America and the white dominions completely cowed by her doomsday performances. Thus the stage was set. It did not take much psychological pressure to turn a variant of the common cold into the “war of the worlds”. Moreover not only was the dynamic duo in Bethesda and Atlanta ready and waiting at “bat time and bat channel”, the de facto lord of the digital branch of the military-industrial-complex was able to activate all those integrated circuits in the GHSA and WEF to establish battlefield supremacy. The Colossus of Seattle and the Fauci Project presented to the planet: two worlds from which to choose—obedience or fear.

It was an appeal to Loyola’s Eighteenth Rule:

Although serving God our Lord much out of pure love is to be esteemed above all, we ought praise much the fear of His Divine Majesty, because not only filial fear is a thing pious and most holy, but even servile fear—when the man reaches nothing else better or more useful—helps much to get out of mortal sin. And when he is out, he easily comes to filial fear, which is all acceptable and grateful to God our Lord, as being at one with Divine Love.

— Rule 18

  1. “US Microbiological Institute Established to Study Malaria, Polio, Typhus and Colds”, New York Times (23 October 1948).
  2. General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (1928).
  3. Geheime Staatspolizei, secret state police—the undercover branch of the extensive policing apparatus subsumed by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) under Germany’s National Socialist dictatorship from 1933 – 1945. Like the FBI, the Gestapo performed as a national political police as well as conducting detective criminal investigations.
  4. See also Report of the International Scientific Commission for the Investigation of the Facts Concerning Bacterial Warfare in Korea and China (1952).
  5. Most of this is associated with the CIA program known as Operation Paperclip. However, there were numerous programs for absorbing know-how from German scientific experiments wherever performed. IG Farben, a major industrial beneficiary from concentration camp exploitation, offered a natural channel, even to US corporations, through capture or cooperation among the constituent entities restored to operations after the war; e.g., Bayer AG.
  6. E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America (1981).
  7. Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, conducted by the US Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducted in cooperation with the historically black college, Tuskegee Institute (University). Participants were told that they were receiving free medical care when, in fact, medical care was pretended so that the effects of syphilis could be studied on these unwitting, poor black sharecroppers. The 40-year study is only the most notorious of the unethical (in fact, criminal) research performed in violation of the derived Nuremberg principle of “informed consent“. Cornelius P. Rhoads performed similar experiments in the US colony of Puerto Rico in 1932. Rhoads stated (but later denied) that he had injected cancer cells into test subjects. Rhoads was also credited with developing the use of mustard gas—a chemical weapon—as a cancer therapy. He would be appointed head of research at what became Memorial Sloan – Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.
  8. The WHO program budget anticipated contributions in the amount of $7,969,367,000 of which only $956,900,000 were assessed from members. $5,242,480,000 came from “voluntary contributions”. As of Q4 2020, BMGF was the biggest funder of the WHO (11.8%) plus the 6.8% of the GAVI Alliance. The corporate interest in directing the WHO can be seen together with the funding from several other friends of humanity, 0.42% from the Bloomberg Family Foundation, 0.15% from Wellcome Trust, 0.13% from Sanofi-Aventis, 0.12% from the Rockefeller Foundation, 0.11% from Gilead Sciences Inc, 0.09% from Merck & Co. Inc, 0.06 from Bayer AG, 0.01% from Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies Contribution Fund Inc.
  9. See UN World Health Organization Interim Commission (June 1948) Official Records of the World Health Organization, Summary Report on Proceedings, Minutes and Final Acts of the International Health Conference held in New York from 19 June to 22 July 1946.
  10. For a discussion of the US war against Vietnam, see also “A Fly’s Eye View of America’s War Against Vietnam” in Dissident Voice, April 30, 2015.
  11. Gerald Edelman (1929-2014) went from the US Army Medical Corps to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (Rockefeller University) until 1992 when he joined the faculty of Scripps Research Institute as a professor of neurobiology.
  12. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. It entered into force in 1975.
  13. C-Span, Clip of William Colby, Church Committee Hearing, 16 September 1975. The treaty entered into force 26 March 1975. US Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D) of Idaho.
  14. See Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (1990) and The CIA as Organized Crime (2017).
  15. Children’s Health Defence, statement by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
  16. See e.g. Global Preparedness Management Board, 2019 Annual Report A World at Risk, Eric P. Hillner, “The Third Offset Strategy and the Army modernisation priorities”, Center for Army Lessons Learned (May 2019) and Klaus Schwab, Thierry Malleret, Covid-19: The Great Reset (2020).
  17. Brown (1981), p. 122.
  18. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NAID Biodefense Research for CDC Category A Agents (February 2002).
  19. 201 Event:  A global Pandemic Exercise.
  20. James Corbett, Who is Bill Gates? Corbett Report (05/01/2020).
  21. Dr David Martin, The Fauci/COVID-19 Dossier (2021) David Martin World YouTube channel.
  22. Johnny Vedmore, “Schwab Family Values”, (21 February 2021) Vedmore mentions the cross-border support of the Nazis in which the Schwab family was involved. It is most likely that Allen Dulles, who was stationed in Switzerland at the time especially to monitor such relationships during WWII, knew about this and may well have provided later references for the post-war order he helped to construct.
  23. Journalism and Pornography”, Dissident Voice (5 January 2017).
  24. George Soros, Interview on CBS 60 Minutes (1998)  In the interview Soros explains that if he had not been profiting from the expropriation and deportation of Hungarian Jews during WWII, someone else would have done it.
The post The health which I see is disease (… if the Hierarchical Church so defines) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Psychic Dangers of Infected Minds (With a Lie this Large)

The emergence in 2020 of the Coronavirus (or Covid-19) and the putative dire implications for us all of its unchecked spread and virulence caught most people on the planet off guard. This development signalled an epochal turning point for the global political economy, for our society and humanity. Greg Maybury gets ‘up close and personal’ with the virus, reflecting more on the ‘popular delusions and madness of crowds’ attending it, and those purporting to manage the crisis in our best interests. In this context, he offers a more off-piste reflection on the forces driving us to a destination almost surely will not be to our liking.


Picture the prince, as most of them are today: a man ignorant of the law, well-nigh an enemy to his people’s advantage, while intent on his personal convenience, a dedicated voluptuary, hater of…freedom and truth, without a thought for the interests of his country, and measuring everything in terms of his own profit and desires.


Nothing will avail to offset this virus which is poisoning the whole world. America is the very incarnation of doom…She will drag the whole world down to the bottomless pit.

— Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (1934).

A Blood Poisoning of the Body Politic (Foul Deeds Arising)

In an early essay “Symbols of Transformation“, archetypal ‘poster-boy’ of the collective unconscious Carl Jung noted:

There’s no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes. The supreme danger which threatens individuals [and] whole nations is a psychic danger.

Though history is littered with the mortal remains of the countless victims of such dangers, it’s hard to recall an event in recent times where Jung’s insight has carried such portent. The much-touted microbial perils aside for now, possibly not since September 11, 2001 have we witnessed or experienced such a sweeping psychic contamination of the global body politic implicit in Jung’s maxim, as with the emergence of the Coronavirus (or Covid-19). Both events were game changers: disparate to be sure yet ‘transformative’; both have underscored the man’s insight indubitably. It informs much of what follows.

With uncertainty, fear, anxiety, suspicion, hysteria, intolerance, paranoia, and panic in the ascendancy, infecting ever more deeply our already ‘overloaded’ psyches, and some of our most basic, hitherto presumed freedoms and liberties abruptly curtailed or suspended ostensibly for the greater good (by some earnest accounts, temporarily), all of us have been affected in some measure. For the most part and for most people, this has not been in a good way. The true calculus of the effects will be some time in coming, if, in fact, we can expect such. (See here, here, and here for just a few examples of the widely reported mental health impact of Covid and its attendant, bespoke insanities.)

Irrespective of whether one views Covid (and mooted mutations thereof) as a) as bad as we’re told it is or could be; b) [as] real an existential threat to humanity as our established and establishment sources of news and information would have it; or c) whether it is even real at all*, it is the all too human propensity for irrational thought and illogical action that gives rise to the psychopathology implicit in Jung’s assessment. (*See here and here for further information.)

This is decidedly the case when such propensities are combined with our easy willingness to accept prima facie the proclamations of our ruling elites, fuelled as they are by their own hubristic ambitions, almost all of which are fiercely echoed and mirrored by their news and information intermediaries. All this brings to mind that memorable couplet via Hamlet: ‘Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.’

Whilst it seems the global populace has stoically accepted the official narrative of ‘experts’ in such matters, there is all the same a highly credible, eminently qualified, and eclectic mix of folks who’ve declared themselves at least quite sceptical of the whole business. As events and developments triggered by Covid unfold, significantly more individuals and groups are coming forward and crying ‘foul’, about the severity—indeed the very authenticity—of the crisis, and the official responses to it. Indeed, there’s credible evidence the virus was not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but man-made.

To understand why this acceptance has been so ‘contagious’, a slight digression at this point is useful. In his slyly subversive 1995 tome The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, philosopher John Ralston Saul offers us a useful view: he presents doubt as ‘the only human activity capable of controlling power in a positive way’. For the eminent Canadian, doubt is ‘central to [our] understanding’. Ralston Saul also suggests: ‘…it is curious just how easily [our elites] set about serving only themselves, even if it means…they or the society will self-self-destruct’. For his part British philosopher John Gray had this to say:

When belief systems are contradicted by facts, beliefs are rarely renounced…More often they’re reinterpreted and thereby reinforced. Humans are more interested in preserving an internally coherent worldview than in testing their view of things against events. Nearly always, faith trumps facts.

As with Jung’s earlier insight, such musings are crucial to our fuller understanding of what’s taking place at present. They’re further critical to providing an insight into the implications of ignoring the portents therein. In the Age of The ‘Coronapocalypse’—with doubt amongst the populace an increasingly rare commodity—it seems clear we’re not only ‘over’ it as an instinctive response to the machinations of our political, economic, media, technocratic, financial, and intellectual power elites. To the extent we do embrace doubt, we’re doing so inwardly, not outwardly. In the wrong direction as it were!

All of which is to say, it is our own judgment we more readily apply such doubts to than [to] those who govern us. In its place, we’re second-guessing our “aggressive common sense”, substituting a misplaced trust in authority. These wielders of great power known and unknown, elected and unelected, for whom the quaint notion ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is both anathema and risible, know this: as such, they leverage—politicise, weaponise and/or monetise—our (self) doubts, our fears, insecurities, anxieties, even our primal instincts against us in the service of their own agendas and individual and collective self-interest.

It is said: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste…’. Putting aside the inherent ambiguity of this trope and the fact that the precept itself has been doing the rounds for some time in one form or another, it not by chance shoehorned itself into the political lexicon in the wake of 9/11. Yet the subtext of this meme was then and remains now, ‘if we get tired of waiting for one to show up, go the extra mile and have one tailor-made and fit-for-purpose…’. That this possibility should be apparent to all is, well, without doubt! To re-mint an old adage, we don’t need to be paranoid to see this. In any case, it may even be too late to help us. Such are the stakes with this particular crisis, such is the zeitgeist. This is not idle hyperbole.

And for those who might be tempted to view this as bordering on conspiratorial musing, as  author Lance deHaven-Smith has suggested, our ready acceptance of the edicts from on high is predicated on a misplaced ‘sentimentality’ about our political leaders, public figures and institutions ‘rather than’ he says, ‘on any unbiased reasoning and object observation. One supposes here, then, we’re talking about the benefit of a reasonable doubt versus the disadvantages of unreasonable suspicion or even unreasoned certainty.

It’s difficult, though, reconciling such “sentimentality” with any known, rational reason for it being so. For those of us not naturally inclined towards sentiment when we contemplate the general character, mindset, integrity and scruples of our average political and public figures, this especially might be the case.

Here’s the thing: If we don’t use doubta measure of political agnosticism wherein we question that misplaced trustto control the psycho-pathologically derived misanthropy and the collective totalitarian mindset of these people, they’ll have little compunction in using our inability, refusal, or unwillingness to doubt [to] control us. As indeed they are, and will continue to do! (See here and here.)

Picturing the Prince (The Ballad of ‘Bogus Bill’)

We’ll return to these themes later. But any meaningful discourse of Covid requires us to critically examine the integrity of the chief architect of the existential milieu in which we find ourselves. For those looking into our current malaise (how did we get here?), it is to Bill Gates and the Bill & Melinda Gates (BMG) Foundation we must turn our attention.

In reporting on his much-touted philanthropic endeavours, James Corbett of The Corbett Report is one who’s nailed the essence of Gates, and dared to challenge the accepted narratives of the public relations exercise which has crafted them. For those who haven’t seen Corbett’s expose, suffice to say there are many takeaways, most of which may be difficult to digest for those disinclined to doubt. But essential viewing it is. Along with being an admirer of the man’s work, it’s worth noting I’ve rarely seen him as animated as he has been about the Covid agenda. This in itself is a most telling observation.

From Microsoft to microbes of the life-threatening kind, from viruses of the digital to the less metaphorical variety, Corbett’s own finely tuned doubt receptors have rendered us a compelling portrait of Gates and his backstory, along with the myth, his agenda, and his ‘business model’ for humanity. Once such are revealed, doubt impels us to question many aspects of the Covid phenomenon, not least the disruptive and destructive impositions, edicts, and directives we’ve come to blithely accept from those purporting to manage the ‘crisis’ in our best interests. The wearing of masks, social distancing, lockdowns, border closures, self-isolation, and draconian penalties for infringements of any of the above are just a few of the countless examples.

To be sure, this purportedly philanthropic—and on its face off-piste—career ‘redirection’ for one of the world’s richest and most ruthless of capitalists had many folks reassessing their views of the man. After experiencing a ‘come to me Lord’ moment, Gates had recalibrated his values, mended his ‘wicked ways’, and set out on the road to redemption. Doubtless it was one he presumably felt would, like St Paul’s, in the fullness of time lead him to a higher moral ground and a ‘salvation’ of sorts. And one expects, an immortality of the type few folks might reasonably aspire to much less anticipate.

Sounds fair enough. Using one’s massive, somewhat ill-gotten fortune to eradicate the world’s diseases, reduce poverty along with economic and social inequality, and in general make the planet a better place for the masses (of whom there are far too many in the ‘gospel’ according to Gates), sounds like a grand idea, a selfless goal, taking the whole concept of noblesse oblige to another stratosphere entirely. Some might say it is quixotic, though in his case absent ‘the Don’s’ altruism, the windmills, suit of armour, sceptical off-sider, and trusty steed. It seems to have worked a treat.

To reiterate, there are many who didn’t buy Bill’s ‘bill of goods’ from the off, and remain consistent still; as noted even more now are, if not rejecting it outright, applying suitable mechanisms of doubt. For those doing so, the Covid agenda has revealed Gates’ apparent Damascene conversion all those years ago to all-round good guy, the prince 0f the pathogenic epoch as it were—in his case, the penultimate humanitarian of our era, making John D Rockefeller look like a curmudgeonly ‘scrooge’ even after his not dissimilar re-baptism back in the day—as a fraud, a phony, a chimera of charitable intent.

The Parasitic Profiteers of Adversity

Few people one imagines have transformed the act of giving away their money such a consummately profitable business model. We only need follow the money, or ask: Who benefits? Cui bono? as we say. As with 9/11, the dramatis personae in Covid’s ‘cattle-call’ of beneficiaries is a ‘cast of thousands’, and then some! The parasitic profiteers of angst, adversity and misfortune are rarely in short supply!

And whilst a more complete picture of the ultimate goals of the BMG Foundation, along with the agendas of its various ‘franchisees’ and subsidiaries, might remain unclear for some, it’s enough to say that if its much-touted altruistic aims are to be accepted, there is much more work to be done. In the PR domain that is. This even if the results thus far are quite impressive to say the least.

Public relations (one of whose notable pioneers was no less than Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who leveraged then monetised his uncle’s conclusions about the inner working of the human mind to stunning effect), doesn’t as a rule seek to provide objective insights into contemporary events. It is about manipulating and moulding (sorry, “managing”) our perceptions of people, situation and circumstance, and doing so by deception, either by omission or commission, by misinformation or disinformation, or both, in each case! This ‘alchemical’ myth-making aims to poison—indeed mutate—the core narrative of our history, as well as the more contemporary political and civil discourse.

Now I feel I can say all this with some measure of authority as I’ve an insider’s grasp of how PR works, a previous life having afforded me such. Being able to match one’s own knowledge of history in general with the history of PR and how it has become such an omnipotent force governing the management of our political economy and our society provides such insight. For those who might challenge the substance of Freud’s own ‘warts ‘n all’ insights into the human condition, the effectiveness of PR is the best evidence we have that the fabled former Viennese ‘shrink’ knew his id from his superego.

We might even go so far to say that whatever values remained of the heritage bequeathed to us by the so-named age of enlightenment, were subverted by Freud’s conclusions around two hundred odd years later. More accurately, it was their application in the real world for purposes and motives that had little to do with enlightenment, reason and rational thinking and much to do with their antithesis, that may have been the real fly in the ointment.

 True, one does not need a post-doctoral degree in Freudian psycho-analytical theory to decide when the forces of PR are in effect. A modicum of “aggressive common sense” will do it. Yet as the American author H.D. Thoreau once mused, ‘…there is such a thing as circumstantial evidence, as when you find a trout in the milk’. Sadly, our “common sense” is not as ubiquitous as we give ourselves credit for, even less “aggressive” as it needs be.

What Gates and Co. have presented thus far is a masterclass in PR’s preternatural capacity to induce the desired doubts in the populace, and from there, mould opinion and/or manufacture out of thin air the credulous acquiescence of the misgoverned. In the view of many (nowhere near a critical mass to be sure), humanity’s ‘crisis’ du génération has unmasked the Gates’s real motives and their earnest, over-arching game-plan. Put another way, we don’t need to wait for the lab results to tell us there are rats in the gravy!

In squarely assessing the Covid phenomena, one is struck by any number of conclusions—as inescapable as they’re disturbing—about the forces driving it, and about our collective surrender to these forces. As noted (but cannot be overstated), the first is our recidivistic disposition to, like sermons upon the mount, internalise ‘fashionable’ ideas in the deeper recesses of our cognitive backyards. We continue to embrace such edicts from on high, without a great deal (if any) of critical thought, analysis or again, simple, homespun doubt. Our belief in, and acceptance of, such edicts are little more than faith-based.

In this, our education system is to be sure, a principal culprit. As someone who’s spent (another) previous life as a professional educator, for this writer that much is a given. Whilst this’ll be the subject of a future, deeper reflection on the root causes of our contemporary malaise, suffice to say there’s little provision within the modern school curriculum for the encouragement of critical thought (in this writer’s view, the opposable thumb of the intellect), the terrain having been purposely—yet covertly—well-tilled and seeded to this end over several decades. Beyond formal education itself, other forces come into play to be sure, not least our media.

Thus our “worldview” remains forever unchallenged, unchanged. It needs be noted that along with positioning himself amongst the medical and health fraternity as the ‘go-to’ global guru on public health policy in general and the dangers of contagious diseases in particular, Gates has cemented this reputation with the broader public by assiduously courting the mainstream (corporate) media and the reigning political classes and their unelected patrons in unstinting support of the BMG Foundation’s agenda.

And though the COVID thing represents the best evidence we have of how we’re being misinformed—and from there (mis) governed—in the here and now, it serves as a reliable index of how we might be so governed in the future. This much is clear: they’ll keep ‘pushing the envelope’ here until our mailboxes are full. A casual scrutiny of some of history’s most consequential events, developments and turning points is enough for the discerning doubter to appreciate this. Though it might go without saying, as indicated by then it most likely will be too late. Even if the truth of events comes out, the damage has already been done. No collective, belated epiphany upon the part of the public can undo it. Here we might recall John Gray’s earlier point about beliefs being “rarely renounced” when “contradicted by facts”.

In the Land of the Infected (None so Blind)

Now those not persuaded by the preceding views may need to ‘get out more’, to use the vernacular. Which is to say we need to wake up to the brain-numbing barrage of propaganda on the one hand and stifling censorship on the other to which we’ve been subjected for many years: this Orwellian milieu has expanded greatly since the emergence of this so-called crisis. It’s tantamount to psychological warfare of the asymmetrical kind, where the stronger power determines to have the upper hand, and is well positioned to achieve and maintain it.

As Vanessa Beeley from 21C Wire reveals, this trend towards increasing censorship, surveillance and secrecy is very much an exponential work in progress, with the latter possibly not being the most appropriate word given the zeitgeist. To the degree notions of transparency and accountability are in play, the miscreants driving these developments are now more open (or less embarrassed or apologetic) about being caught out, and ever more immune when they are called out. Any sense of embarrassment, guilt or shame their ilk might have been prone to back in the day has long since been surgically removed as if it were a ruptured appendix. (See here, here, here, here, and here for more on this.)

The perpetrators and sources of propaganda and censorship are many and various: They run the gamut from global and regional foundations, commissions, movements, and assorted agenda-driven organisations to national, state and provincial governments; [to] the corporate (mainstream) media along with the intelligence and security agencies; lobby groups, think tanks, NGOs; Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Arms et. al.; and myriad other private and public institutions and vested interests, including even our regulatory bodies and legislative assemblies. If only we could have a vaccine to inoculate us against this cognitive onslaught, this pernicious societal and political virulence!

This operant conditioning (or programming), a euphemism for old-school brainwashing, albeit utilising more sophisticated technological and psychological instruments, is designed to elicit a false consensus effect (or bias) in people, whereby they ‘see their own behavioural choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances’. In other words, we accept our personal beliefs, values, perceptions, and attitudes as relatively widespread through the general populace, and we react in kind, something of a herd mentality one suspects. Once the herd mentality is in play, there is no herd immunity. (Think wildebeests here, or maybe lemmings).

Jung, himself, warned of the ‘politico-social delusional systems’ and ‘monkey tricks’ politicians use to ‘poison the utterly incompetent mind of the masses.’ Less lofty in tone, yet perhaps more pithily, the popular British satirist and fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett acutely observed: ‘…the IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member divided by the number of mobsters’. Aristotle’s oft-cited postulate that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ may have its discontents; what is inarguable is that this is where stupidity finds its natural habitat, and ignorance its idyll.

Such acquiescence on our part can be aroused by sub rosa, beguiling means, like predictive programming. This is very much a forte of the film and television business to be sure. According to Alan Watt, ideas which might otherwise be seen as undesirable, bizarre, vulgar or impossible ‘are inserted into films [as] fantasy. When the viewer watches these films, his/her mind is left open to suggestion and the conditioning process begins.’ Hollywood has been called the ‘dream factory’, ironic on many levels, especially as it is no slouch in the fabrication of nightmares. That it does so purportedly for our ‘entertainment’ is doubly ironic. (Here we might again think of the events of 9/11. See here also.)

Predictive programming is usually deemed the domain of the “conspiracy theorist”, Watt and his ilk being dismissed as such. The epithet has always been and remains the de rigueur response from those who like to ‘man the barricades’ at any hint the official narrative of events past and present may not be kosher. As with such theories, whether they turn out to be true or not (we know many do, in fact; see here, here, and here just for starters), coincidence plays a key role in how we determine what’s a conspiracy and what’s not.) Again, as Gray’s previous observation underscores, even then, such revelations rarely deliver an appropriate corrective to the accepted narrative.)

Though by no means the best or the only one, an exemplar of such programming (akin to ‘tilling the soil’), is the 2008 British film Doomsday—a dystopian, nihilistic, viral-apocalypse gore-fest of the first order. The central ‘character’ in this film is the aptly named “Reaper” virus, the arrival and impact of which decimates the population and splits the UK in two under martial law. It then ‘disappears’, only to ‘mysteriously’ resurface thirty years later. By this time, we’re living the nightmare! Cue the darkness, in the land of the infected.

Slickly made—with a plot that on its face stretches plausibility and replete with over-the-top action scenes rivalling the Mad Max (aka Road Warrior) films and their ilk, only with lethal badass germs and a cast of infected zombie-like thousands a la The Living Dead roaming the desolate landscape, the film does what it says on the box. Although I didn’t see Bill Gates’ name in the credits (OK, I didn’t check; but ‘creative consultant’ or ‘technical adviser’ anyone?), it was like so many others of its ilk, scripted and produced to transcend mere edge-of-your-seat, pop-corn entertainment. (See here for the “Top Ten” in the genre; and yes, it is a “genre”.)

There was a message in the film to be sure, and it wasn’t necessarily a cautionary tale about capricious microbes waiting to bush-wack us on our evolutionary path and eradicate us all before we do same to ourselves by other means. What makes this film relevant herein is the subversive political agenda that drives much of the action. (As fictional fare, everyone, man and his dog, loves a good conspiracy theory it seems. It’s only when we step back into the real world that we have trouble entertaining, less so accepting, such possibilities. What makes us think Covid might just be different? This question need not be simply rhetorical.)

Yet for apocalyptic prescience of the pathogenic kind in fictional conspiratorial plotting, it is Israeli Hamutal Shabtai who gets the nod. Over 23 years ago she wrote a book—largely unnoticed it appears—about the emergence of a Covid-like pandemic, set in 2020. Not so imaginatively titled 2020, this novel was apparently only published in Hebrew, and according to Raul Diego of MintPress News, originally written as a film script. Diego:

Shabtai…predicts the state of the world today as a result of the counter-measures with uncanny accuracy and foretells of a society ravaged by a virus, which ushers in a “global health dictatorship”.

Rats in the Gravy

And for those unaware of the origins of the “conspiracy theory” construct as used in the pejorative (it almost always is), it’s time to bring oneself up to speed. Look no further than the CIA’s infamous Operation Mockingbird, the most enduring, successful, well-documented, psychological operation (aka ‘psy-op’) ever concocted by The Company, one promiscuously embraced by all Western intelligence and security agencies and their governments. They’ve been dining out on it for over seventy years. And we’ve been picking up the tab.

The phrase “conspiracy theorist” itself was a purpose-built initiative of OpMock and its attendant illusions and shell-games. So effective has this meme been, it has prevailed against our political enlightenment over three generations, shows no sign of approaching its use-by date, and provides us more evidence if required that Freud knew his stuff.  It has been the perfect vaccine against authentic doubt (or “aggressive common sense”), the latter being the virus that most scares our political and power elites. For his part Gates appears increasingly unhinged by all the Covid naysayers, recently decrying “conspiracy theorists” and their “crazy, evil” accusations. One marvels as to why he took so long to ‘sound the alarm’! (For more information on OpMock, see here, here and here).

And this is without mentioning MK-ULTRA (aka Artichoke), the same agency’s diabolical mind-control and brainwashing plots, programs, experiments and schemes. This is a program the records of which the CIA reportedly destroyed (at least by some accounts) in the early seventies. But this author doesn’t buy that theory. (See here, here, and here.)  Even if the names might’ve changed, that the overarching (and overreaching) goals of both programs could still be in play is something we should take as a given.

We are then via real-time surveillance faced with the prospect of more and more intrusions into, and dispossession of, our privacy—propelled by frontal attacks on our presumed entitlements in this respect. This is especially so with the advent of artificial intelligence, genetic modification (GM) and 5G intelligence and data mining and manipulation technologies: I’m reliably informed of such prospects by an associate, a long-time career computer engineer no less, who sees a dark future for humanity herein. The increasing sophistication of, and both ubiquitous and iniquitous (increasingly untested, unregulated), application of AI/GM/5G control tools and power-wielding processes makes this a given.

In this Brave New World meets 1984 future, such technologies will come to rule, direct, psychologically orchestrate, socially engineer, behaviourally manage, and genetically manipulate every aspect of our lives. One can reasonably surmise this is one of the key motives for—and objectives of—those associated with its rollout. Human nature has a track record of going off-track, and it is not one overly imbued with circumspection, erring on the side of caution, forward thinking, altruism, or broad consideration of the public weal. If it can all be monetised along with being weaponised all the better. Which it is and will continue to be. Of that we can be sure.

Though space prohibits an in-depth discussion of such, it’s worth mentioning at this point the widely perceived connections between the timing of the rollout of 5G and the arrival of Covid. It’s enough to say that one credible observer—Robert F Kennedy Jr.—foresees a “catastrophe” for humanity. For him, there are no ‘mights’ or ‘maybes’ about it. It is instructive that he made this comment in the context of talking about pandemics, vaccines and the like. But he was clearly alluding to the possible environmental and health blow-back from rolling out this scandalously untested technology. (See also here.)

And it would seem that Covid has brought into sharp relief the corruption and avarice of our once trusted medical science and health professions. In this writer’s ‘humble’ opinion, Kennedy is one of the most articulate and principled advocates for more accountability and transparency within and across the broad medical, pharmaceutical, healthcare, health insurance, health science and scientific research and associated regulatory domains. He attends his message with a no punches pulled indictment of the widespread, deep-seated conflicts of vested interests therein, and the rampant abuse and neglect of the public trust he sees as being out of control in these spheres.

In a lengthy interview last year, Kennedy gave vent to all of the above and then some. Whilst the main focus was on Covid and the disturbing implications for our future, his views extended to the numerous issues which attend Covid. There are any number of reveals in this wide-ranging discussion and RFK’s son—a litigation lawyer, safe vaccine advocate, and environmental activist—was ‘all over his brief’ as it were. Like the Corbett revelations on Gates, this interview provides valuable insights. (Similar to many who share his beliefs, Kennedy maintains that he is not against vaccines but wishes that they be more thoroughly tested and investigated.)

One striking illustration (countless others abound) providing further evidence of the misinformation and disinformation that has become the hallmark of the perpetual motion propaganda and censorship machine that has been purpose built to keep the official narrative on track is the following. Dr. Roger Hodkinson is Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons committee in Ottawa, and also CEO of a large private medical laboratory in Edmonton, Alberta. He’s also Chairman of a medical biotechnology company seeking to enter the vaccination market.

On its face this looks a typical conflict of interest of the type referred to earlier. Yet in a video (originally posted on Youtube, but tellingly removed by YT gatekeepers shortly thereafter), Hodkinson decried the utterly unfounded hysteria’ surrounding Covid, which he said was ‘driven by the media and politicians’. Along with calling it ‘the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspected public’, Hodkinson declared the ‘crisis’ as nothing more than ‘a bad flu season. It’s politics playing medicine and that’s a very dangerous game.’ He further added:

There is no action needed…Masks are utterly useless. There is no evidence whatsoever they are even effective. It is utterly ridiculous seeing these unfortunate, uneducated people walking around like lemmings obeying without any evidence. Social distancing is also useless… [T]he risk of death under 65 is 1 in 300,000…the response utterly ridiculous.

 Quarantining Humanity (Useless Eaters and Useful Idiots)

To sum up: If we relinquish our freedom of action, choice and movement to the pandemic priesthood and supplant our individual thoughts and speech with the accepted narratives of their agendas, we do so at our own peril. We are in effect dispensing with one of the most effective tools of defence in the smoke-filled ‘wilderness of mirrors’ (located as it is inside a cacophonous echo chamber) that passes for reality, one in which we all too readily assume will present greater opportunities for us, our families and descendants to pursue, attain, then lead full, free, productive, meaningful—and better; i.e., improved—lives.

This illusory construct has been purpose-built to reflect and echo a reality of their own making. Such pseudo-realities have been with us for some time and remain extant, a work in progress. One hardly needs to be a political philosopher or logician to detect the vicious circularity of this existential malaise, and we are but bit players performing in this post-modern danse macabre, this cosmic, mordantly ironic, nihilistic opera of the absurd, one directed by criminal sociopaths and choreographed by the certifiably insane.

We sacrifice all this for what is rapidly approaching in extremis, something of a devolution of humanity, marked by soulless economic determinism, technological tyranny, social engineering, genetic manipulation, political absolutism, psychological alienation, and an ineradicable spiritual ennui unimagined of in the most conceivable of pessimistic, dystopian futures. The mythical deities of Grecian antiquity combined, from Zeus himself on down the mountain, might hardly have marshalled, much less manifested, this much narcissistic hubris towards, and disdain for, their mortal constituents and/or presumed omnipotence over them.

Brought into sharp relief by Covid, this entrenched institutional corruption, deception and fraud alone is prevalent and ongoing at the highest levels in both the private and public realms of our global political economy. As always seems to be the case, the corporate media—the glue that holds the monolithic capitalist, free market, globalist, free trade, neoliberal construct in place—have outdone themselves in this regard; after all the Russia-gate farce, some folks might’ve expected this to be a hard act to follow.

But follow it they did, doubling down and being even more brazen about it. Whilst a story for another time, they seem to have outdone themselves once more with their reportage on the conduct and outcome of the 2020 election. On both counts this has no precedent in American history, with the lies, damned lies, and dodgy statistics that underpinned their election coverage and the preordained narrative embedded therein being key to the stand-out nature of the poll.

With each passing day, though it may be too little too late, more high-profile and/or authoritative folks are beginning to speak up about the challenges and variegated dangers posed by the COVID crisis, and the manner in which it has been managed. One such person is the erudite German author Eckhart Tolle. During a recent lecture on the subject of adversity (an apposite title for the age in which we live perhaps?), Tolle delivers some poignant, yet still portentous comments on the Coronavirus hysteria.

In this two-parter, “Awakening Through Adversity,” the following are just a few of the points he covers:

  • Collective ‘hive mind’ and the spread of ‘mind viruses’;
  • How the collective mind is projected through social and mainstream media;
  • How sensationalism in mainstream media drives the ‘crisis’ narrative; and,
  • How to be more conscious of mainstream media manipulation.

 In these uncertain times, Tolle’s views on the Covid upheaval are especially worth listening to.

As a fitting coda to our ruminations then, the following might be appropriate. Insofar as COVID goes—and any plot dreamed up by hidden agenda-driven intriguers and schemers designed to serve their own interests or those in whose service they’re being amply rewarded—we’re looking down the barrel of not so much a medical, health, and/or social crisis (as bespoke as it is). We’re facing nothing less than what we might term a blood poisoning of the body politic.

It’s all but a fait accompli that we now accept it is their interests that will always come first. Although to some extent trust in our political, public and private institutions has declined precipitously, this half-assed realisation is too little, too late. We rarely seem to stop what we’re doing and consider the implications of that. Until that mistrust is converted into critical mass action, we’re on a hiding to nothing.

Which is to say, we’ll face two choices, both of which are something of the Hobson’s variety. We either become one of Vladimir Lenin’s “useful idiots” in the service of this all-out assault on democracy, the public weal, and humanity. Or we end up one of Henry Kissinger’s “useless eaters“. The ‘choice’ is ours (or not).

Or like Henry Ford once reportedly opined, ‘you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black!’

If only we could embrace doubt with as much enduring enthusiasm and commitment as we do the purported good intentions of those who rule over us. If only…

The post The Psychic Dangers of Infected Minds (With a Lie this Large) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal

The legacy of a society is, well, how it treats its young, old, frail, infirm, sick, poor and those hobbled by structural and environmental injustice.

Some in urban planning circles also allude to how safe a community is based on the popsicle test – can a child or two walking from home to a store, get a popsicle without having to cross high speed roads or highways, without having to walk along long stretches of ugly dangerous buildings, and who can find a multitude of stores that sell good food and desserts like Popsicles. How easy it is for the child to walk there? Are the homes-apartments-duplexes-offices looking out toward the sidewalks? Are there porches out front where people linger and lounge? Are there trees for shade? Are there mail boxes? Are there stores and eateries on the ground floor of a stretch of businesses with apartments and housing one and two floors above? Are there people bicycling? Are the stores and businesses set toward the streets and their parking lots pushed to the back of the establishments? Are there scalable hardware stores with windows and many doorways? Are there neighborhood groups that patrol the neighborhoods? Are there mixed neighborhoods with lower economic mixed in with middle class? What are the officers of the peace doing? Are they walking and bicycling their beats, where they live? Are they battened down in huge bulletproof SUV’s with three computers, five assault weapons, and the A/C blaring?

The children, walk or bicycle from their home, and within a few minutes, they get to a place of business, without running through or dodging a gauntlet of racing trucks and autos. Are there elderly and families and business owners and customers there, doing their thing, on a scalable level?

We know that in capitalism, in this free (sic) market society, with the bottom dollar and the bottom line of more and more profits without work or building something as the drivers, we the people – those two children walking to get a fudge bar or organic apple – are not the drivers of the society, the communities, the neighborhoods.

Life in Capitalism is designed for speed, rot, decay, throwaway buildings and throwaway humanity. We have those massive systems of oppression run by real estate, insurance, finance, banks, building and paving, all those entities guarded by the US Chamber of Commerce whose job is to maximize the profits (gouging’s) of the large and medium-sized businesses that have run rough shod over us, the “regular people.”

Now, those old industries are being retrofitted for the next level of exploitation and enslavement vis-à-vis the economies of scale vaunted by the monopolies, the investor class and billionaires. And that scaling up is facilitated by the masters of logarithms and Artificial Intelligence and digital dictators.

Mom and pops – that is, the small family-owned businesses and the mini-chains of this or that service or consumer item – they are now on the cutting block in an amped up destruction of people’s lives, on a scale that would make a steroid using wrestler look like Mother Teresa on bread and water. Any chance of having a small business community have a say in how their communities and neighborhoods and census tracks are developed alongside with how their neighboring communities connect to this urban and rural planning, all of that inclusive and participatory democracy and governance are  dwindling ten-fold yearly.

Who makes the decisions? Who puts the brakes on suburban sprawl and rampant car-centric cities? Ahh, the masters of money and masters of stocks and the AI and Digital Dictators will have more and more say in the design (or miss-design) of both the built environment as well as the financial environments. Add to that educational environments, the healthcare environments, the food system environments, the housing environments. We the people do not have control!

Examples by Design

I’m putting in this opening above to help segue into the reality of my work now – one of many hats, but now, it’s social work and case management for adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities. And some who have had traumatic brain injuries.

If the reader doesn’t have a bead on what the ID/DD community is, well, look it up. In a Western culture with more and more pre-newborns gestating into a slurry of forever chemicals, cortisol loads, heavy metals, stress hormones from mother, and a combination of all of this as a synergetic roulette wheel, coupled with DNA markers from mother and father, well, you can image that young boys and girls with disabilities like Autism Spectrum Disorder or mental retardation or any number of other aspects of life dealt from a genetic and poison deck of cards will be a huge burden on families, medical services, schools, society in general.

Go back to the Popsicle analogy, but this time look at how our cultures deal with the less fortunate – a child born is innocent, no matter what sort of spirituality or religiosity you hold or do not hold. Cases in point for me after more than two decades working with poisoned souls – the children of the storms: fetal alcohol-affected or drug-addicted or hugely malnourished inside the womb – we are barbaric in terms of how we “deal” with the afflicted or the people born into a life of one or multiple deficits.

Here, a composite – Drew was born to a mother who “experienced” drug and alcohol addiction. He was 5 pounds and four ounces at birth. He tested positive for cocaine and opiates at birth. He was in a nursery until moved to foster care in 10 days. His birth mother had several children “taken away or removed from her” because of her addictions.

He was adopted by an old woman, who loved him but died of cancer when Drew was 7. Neighbors reported to the child protective agencies in California that Drew was being neglected and the dying mother was not caring for him properly.

This is a common story in my line of work – multiple foster home placements per individual, lots of behavior issues arising by first year of school, from aggression, to defiance, to tantrums. Quickly he was put under a special education label – independent education plan. His ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and anxiety, depression, aggression, isolating behavior, and poor stick-to-it-ness, all of that and more channeled him into special classes and into the special education network. Hearing voices and magical thinking and fantastical thoughts and paranoia, well, Drew is sort of a ward of the state. His foster/adoptive parents are his financial guardians, and he has county case workers and state ones lined up, along with nonprofit case workers.

I work with a nonprofit, again, as a case worker-employment specialist. My job is to get people like Drew jobs, but that process is holistic, systematic and definitely tied to the whole suite of getting young and not so old people ready to face competitive employment, integrated, no longer stuck in some sheltered workshop.

Those “sheltered workshops” included Goodwill clothing tagging rooms where all workers were those living with developmental disabilities; or even roaming crews of cleaners of office buildings who are all labeled ID-DD. That is a type of cloistering, sheltering from mainstream society.

My nonprofit, of course, is a middleman of sorts, replacing the services states, counties and cities should be providing by taking over the contracts to do the work of providing developmental disabilities safety nets.

Nutshells are the Only Teachable Moments

So, getting someone a job at a hotel to do towel folding or room cleaning, or helping someone land a job as a custodian at a school, and for those with more skills and with more confidence, a place in retail sales, that’s part of my work. Sure, in Portland I worked with lawyers who have cerebral palsy, and true, that type of person deserves an equal shot at being a lawyer or working at the level somewhere. These advocates have their hearts in the right place, to be sure, and no Five F’s for them – filth, factory, food, foliage, fur – because they have graduate degrees.

The reality is, though, someone with a lack of reading skills, with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and all the attending issues tied to the autism in that individual, well, working a cash register is tough (impossible for most), and doing public customer service at any level is tough. Behind the scenes jobs are the norm, and, unfortunately, the filth, food, foliage, fur and factory are the only choices sometimes. Life on the Central Oregon Coast where people retire or vacation, and where a fishing industry thrives, well, those job opportunities dwindle big time.

Aspirational:  all people deserve home, health, education, food, work, public transportation choices. Aspirational: sure, we need communities designed for that Popsicle test. Most of my clients, of course, do not drive, or can’t. Most clients have issues with navigating the absurd on-line employment applications. Many clients need me there in the actual job interview.

Many clients need a coach on the job, sometimes for life. Many clients work minimum wage for 20 hours a week to keep a bit of the SSI (social security insurance coming in). We are such a penury and usury society that my clients, even at minimum wage, get a dollar taken away from every two dollars made. This is how the system kills hope, advancement — the state gobbles up shekels after their first $85 is earned.

All the studies and anecdotal evidence show that a job for a person with a developmental disability or a physical disability, or even a psychological disability like schizophrenia, THRIVE with employment for obvious reasons: a sense of belonging, team work, doing something as a member of society, extra money, socialization, using the brain. But here we are again, failing the other Popsicle test – we penalize and penalize and penalize until people are stripped bare.

A few clients have to take urine tests for many jobs, and if they come back positive for cannabis, well, some outfits disqualify the person automatically from a minimum wage job. Even if that person has a medical marijuana card, in a state where pot is legal (it is in OR). Imagine that, all those politicians, those weak-spine things in DC and around state Capitols, and this is what they have legislated and this is how weak they are when it comes to day to day, people to people life-and-death decisions.

Study after study, and again, a million anectodical stories show THC and CBD actually pull patients off prescriptions and actually keep anxiety at bay and amp up focus.

The law enforcers and the bureaucracies and the policymakers are Neanderthals, really (no attack on those people, Neanderthals, but it’s a term of describing how behind the times and backward they are).

My job is to do workarounds, to do magic, and while mom and pop’s along the coast are shuttering daily, the small hotels are now owned by investment groups, and managed by the big daddies of hotel and motel management corporations. Having workarounds with national organizations, sometimes multinationals, well, those conversations never happen, let alone an email gets returned. They are not of, for and by the community. They are in business for the investors and profits.

The chances of having an offspring with one or a number of chronic illnesses or who might end up on the spectrum or might have brain anomalies because of gestational issues, or who are genetically programmed to come out a “certain way,” well, those odds increase monthly.

Yet the systems of oppression and the cops and the legal systems, they still incarcerate, batter and murder people with autism. People in mental health crises are tased and murdered by pigs. The systems of oppression are buttressed by the prejudices of Holly-dirt and the bullies of the world. It can be an overt Trump making fun of a disabled reporter at a press conference when he was first running in 2016, or it could be a Biden who pushed the crime bill, putting untold numbers of people with mental, emotional and situational abuse in chambers of hell – prison.

The spectrum of people who still do not understand why I work in “that field,” under all the pressures of emotionally traumatized and psychologically depleted people and their families, well, they might think of themselves as the beautiful people, the anti-Trumpistas, the LGBTQ folk, the African-American-in-the-VP-office loving folk, but again, they fail the Popsicle test.

Dream hoarders and Not in My Backyard vacillators, and all sorts of other liberal/neoliberal types, they are no friends of the Popsicle Test of a Sustainable, Fair, Resilient Community. They love their first and second homes. They covet a Stock Market hovering around 31,000 points. They love the Netflix mental diabetes junk they consume, and they have no idea why Biden is as bad as Bush or Trump.

And then I have to convince people to shed their prejudices against people that are not appearing “like themselves.” We do not use terms like “neuronormal” to contrast my clients with the mainstream, but in the end, what is normal in a society that shifts baselines almost weekly?

With the new normal full of paranoia, unapproved vaccines, and misleading diseased minds like Fauci and Gates leading the charge for a global forced vaccination program, one can image how paranoid my clients are who live in group homes or in small one-room apartments. TV and few friends ramify their fears. Lockdown is a locking up of the mind!

Some clients do not even want to meet me face to face on a beach with masks on. They are paranoid because of the mass polluting media. One disability on top of another and another. Welcome to America.

What is a disability? I suppose Helen Keller might figure in here:

When she was sixteen, in 1896, she was catapulted to national fame, writes Keith Rosenthal for the International Socialist Review. By 1904, when she graduated from Radcliffe College, she was internationally famous. She joined the Socialist Party of America a few years later and began advocating for revolutionary change. “She noticed the close relationship between disability and poverty, and blamed capitalism and poor industrial conditions for both,” writes Sascha Cohen for Time.

But even though she had strong politics and a national voice, nobody took her opinions seriously. “Newspaper editors would use her disability as a means to dismiss her politics and to dissuade people from taking her seriously,” writes Rosenthal. “Her radicalism, conservative writers would aver, was a product of the political ‘mistakes [which] spring out of the manifest limitations of her development.’”

Despite this, she was a leading light of the American socialist movement, Rosenthal writes. Among many other causes, she championed pacifism and the U.S. staying out of World War I. Source: Smithsonian Magazine


Eventually, in dog-eat-dog, kill your competition capitalism, we all become each other’s competitor, enemy. A few billion dollars here and there for hundreds of millions of struggling people is birdseed, yet the systems of oppression and suppression, along with the mass murdering media, cull agency, gumption, and the ability of people to stand up to the oppressors and the authorities and multiple graduate degree certificate holders.

What do the people I serve and the so-called “normal majority” have in common? There are variations on a Dystopian theme, whether it’s Blade Runner or Minority Report or Brave New World or 1984. Almost everyone in this country is confused, shattered, see-hear-speak no evil tied to their specific coalitions and ways of thinking. My amazing clients are enmeshed in fear and the outside world, thanks to the conflation of SARS-CoV2 to a body-eating zombie virus, eating them alive and culling them all eventually. No more hide and seek — it’s all duck and cover and mask and hide and isolate.

What that gives me as a worker are many people who deserve integrated employment but who are hobbled and shackled to the gestalt of a warped society. Do they have other ways of thinking and seeing and hearing? Of course. Do they have their own methods of surviving paranoia, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, magical thinking, shattered executive functions, functional or complete illiteracy?

Of course. Of course. But again, the Popsicle test fails each time. Imagine, a job, 4 pm to 8 pm, in a town 15 miles from where they live. Can you see the public transportation system beautiful and timely and regular? Nope. Can you see all these taxi and shuttle services for free getting people to work and from work who can’t-won’t-never will drive? Where is that dreamland in Capitalism?

Yet every minute and every second of a 24-hour news cycle or 24 hours of a million channels broadcasting thousands of novellas, soap operas or series and movies, all are occupied with the stories and travails of the rich and famous, the idiotic heroes or pig crime dramas or Marvel Comic Book drivel. Rarely do Americans see what they live out personally, or view what they struggle with daily, or get to watch people like themselves in this battle to get the oppressors and Eichmann’s to bend to their/our will and begin to apply the tenants of the Popsicle Theory.

Otto Zehm

I can end with story after story of humanity hog-tied or knee-butted to death by the cops. Add to that demographic people living with psychological-intellectual-developmental disabilities.

You do not have to surf the internet long to find a few cases of autistic men and women or boys and girls getting pepper sprayed and handcuffed and body slammed by the pigs.

There is that case of Otto Zehm, and then Alien Boy which I wrote about here at DV. “Watching Brian Lindstrom’s Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, I am reminded of my forty plus years in and around cops, with mentally distressed clients, as a social worker with homeless and re-entry and veteran clients, and as a teacher in many alternative high school programs, community college, prisons, with military students, and with adults living with developmental disabilities.”

I think that most of us instinctively avoid people with mental illness.

I think in many ways what my films are about is that search for my grandpa’s dentures: for that humanizing narrative that bridges the gap between “us” and “them” to arrive at a “we.”
—Brian Lindstrom, documentarian

Zehm was 32 years old when the Spokane cops killed him by putting him on the ground and forcing a cop’s weight onto his back while Otto’s diaphragm collapsed. He was a custodian, and back in 2006, the Spokesman Review deemed him as a mentally disabled custodian.

He went into a mini-mart for soda. It took almost a decade to find the pig guilty of murder. And this is how the DA and cops think of “mentally disabled custodians” —

Zehm either “attacked” the officers or at least refused to comply with their commands. Police Chief Jim Nicks said Tuesday that Zehm “immediately engaged” the first officer.

“Whether he lunged or turned quickly on him, whatever the case may be, the officer clearly felt there was a risk there,” Nicks said. “The suspect had a large two-liter bottle of pop. The officer had to take all those things into consideration as far as what level of threat this might be.

“But the bottom line is they had a duty and an obligation to detain and control him.” — Spokesman Review

I’ve been down this road many times over the years. My first police encounter as a newspaper reporter was in Ajo, Arizona. A very long time ago. Pima County Sheriff responds to a mother’s call about her Vietnam War veteran son having a mental crisis out front in the desert front yard. Fenced in. He needed some meds. The cops show up. And, while the veteran was on his mother’s property, which essentially was being paid for through the vet’s job and benefits, the deputy pulled his gun on the other side of the property line. He tells the 38 year old to drop the small knife.

A knife brandished by a shirtless and barefoot fellow in his OWN front yard.

Justified-six-shots-to-the-torso homicide. I was 19, and back then, I had  this gig as a newspaper reporter, the so-called “sexy” cop beat, and, while I pushed my editors to allow some of my secondary interviews into the piece (interviews I did from a USC criminal justice reforming professor, another from a police chief in Akron) well, those were cut from the published article. Those two sources discussed how police are ripe for this sort of homicide, and how the system is rigged to defend civilian killing cops. That was 43 years ago.

I spent time with the vet’s mother and his ex-wife, and in reality, this guy was pretty cool, a great rock hound, three years at the university in hard rock geology, but his PTSD was way too much. PTSD wasn’t even the terminology back then in 1976.

I think of Otto Zehm all the time now. I knew of him and said hello to him a few times while I lived and taught in Spokane. He cleaned at the Community Building where I did a lot of gigs as a poet and teacher. I had my radio show in that building, and I ran into Otto a lot.

There is no way in hell Otto could have done harm to a cop.

The irony is that in 2006 I wasn’t working yet directly in the field of developmental disabilities. Sure, I had students who had psychological disabilities, and some students with accommodations. Many students who came back from the killing mountains of the Middle East.

I ended up working with adults with developmental disabilities in Portland and the three-county area 8 years later.

Now I am back at it, and, I think about some of my very verbal and far-thinking men and women with autism disorders. I think of their defiance and their questioning and their inability “to get” that cops or pigs or sheriff deputies just are itching for a bruising. They expect instant compliance. That is compliance from a disabled person, or from a three star black general or a Mexican American female attorney.

You can read about the extrajudicial killings this country’s allows. And that, again, is the Popsicle Test failure Number 999,999.

All those promises for reform. With the Portland Police Bureau. Seattle PD. Spokane PD. A thousand other PD’s blemished overtly with police brutality, police coverups, police maleficence.

No Popsicles for the People. Including the Developmentally Disabled.

Amid coronavirus, parents want ice cream vendors to return - Los Angeles Times

The post Dreams Outside the Hopes of the Neuronormal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Power of Magick: Why Materialists, Atheists and Marxists Need it

Dancing Around the Maypole (Times Square Media)

Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will.
— Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth


Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

In two articles I wrote in 2019, Facing the Music: Religion, Nationalism and Sports Have Enchanted the Working Class; Socialism Hasn’t  and Re-Enchanting Socialism: How Not to Throw the Baby out with the Bathwater  I argued that socialism, at least in Yankeedom, has denied the use value of the techniques that religion, sports and nationalism use to create altered states of consciousness. They do this because, in one way or another, they serve the powers that be. Typically, Marxists and atheists dismiss these techniques as simply smoke and mirrors based on illusions. They can’t imagine using images, music, song, or dance to alter states of consciousness and to be used to inspire socialists. In addition, socialists and atheists do not pay much attention to the importance of holidays as a way to support an appreciation of our past as well as for grounding the present and the future on special occasions. Celebration of the holidays helps people to remember the big picture.

Not such strange bedfellows

I made the pitch that Marxists, and to a lesser extent anarchists, were missing the boat by not aligning with Neopagans. I argued that Neopagans had the following commonalities with Marxists:

  • They were this-worldly as opposed to other-worldly.
  • The material world was good, not a reform school or a way station.
  • Nature was self-regulating, rather than dependent upon a deity.
  • Society and nature were evolving.
  • Pagans were naturally anti-authoritarian.
  • Most pagan values were anti-capitalist.
  • Most neo-pagans are pro-science.

My Claim

In this article I want to argue that magick is a technique used by neopagans for altering states of consciousness that can be used by materialists, atheists and Marxists to change moods when we feel fragmented, blue, anxious or depressed. Secondly, Marxists, atheists and anarchists have a cavalcade of female and male heroes to populate every month of the year which can be used on holidays to remind us that we stand on the shoulders of giants. I am changing the spelling from “magic” to “magick” for reasons I will explain shortly.

The Potential of Celebrating Holidays

Holidays at their best don’t just remind people of the changing of the seasons or planting and harvesting in agriculture. The changing of the seasons can be linked to the planting, seeding and reaping of socialist projects throughout the year. One holiday where we can see the power of ritual for neo-pagans is on May Day, dancing round the Maypole. It’s important to understand that this corresponds with socialists’ May Day which draws thousands of revolutionaries together throughout the world. But May Day should be celebrations, time off from work, rather than using the day to protest or strike for one reason or another as some socialists have done. As I point out in my article Re-enchanting Socialism, socialists in Europe used to make costumes, sing and dance and perform plays on May Day. What does this do for socialists?  It reminds those of us who are socialists of the big picture, that workers of the world have one struggle and should unite. Why can’t socialists have at least quarterly seasonal celebrations just the way Catholics, Jewish or Muslims have their holy days?

As for materialists and atheists, we can easily name twelve scientists, one for each month to celebrate science. Darwin, Newton, Leibnitz, Einstein, you get the picture. A humanist group I once belonged to in San Jose developed something that became known as “Darwin Day”. It became a celebration that was even backed by the mayor of Menlo Park, who was a humanist. Richard Dawkins even came to speak one year. Atheists have a lot of work to do if we want to compete with religion over the sway of human beings. We need to use mythology for saturating the five senses systematically. Experiencing the world non rationally for an hour won’t kill you! The techniques that sports, religion and nationalists use to sweep people away are rooted in sympathetic magic. These same techniques can be used to combat the downside of sports, religion and nationalism to combat controlling people through mystification, distraction and fear. At the same time these techniques have come to be used to inspire hope, confidence and community to change the world, right here on earth!

Overcoming the Stereotypes of what Magic is

The Magick I Discuss is Not For Fostering Perceptual Illusions

Let us begin by distancing ourselves from preconceived ideas about what magick is. The first misconception is of magick as a secular activity – like pulling rabbits out of a hat or making people levitate. These are optical illusions that are created by professionals who call themselves magicians. We have no quarrel with professionals who do this for a living, but this is not the kind of magick I am talking about. This involves taking advantage of habitual perceptual cues in the service of inducing people to see things that are not there. In fact, magickians of sacred experience changed the spelling of magic to “magick” to differentiate themselves from parlor or professional magic.

Magick is not a Technique for Changing the World

Spells vs Prayers

In these sections I will be relying on two books I have written about the nature of magick and how it differs from religion. One is called From Earth Spirits to Skygods and the other is Power in Eden. In terms of sacred experience, the root meaning of magick is to “shape or make vigorous”. This means magick is an active, irreverent activity in which groups of people take matters into their own hands. This can be contrasted to religion. In origin, religion means to “bind-back”, implying that something was lost that needs to be put back together. The unity that has been torn apart is the evolution of society into classes. All the “great religions” originate in class societies and mostly help to justify those class hierarchies.

The difference between magick and religion can also be understood by contrasting the difference between a spell and a prayer. A spell is like a recipe. If you mix the ingredients in the right order, the results are more or less guaranteed. In primitive forms of magick, there was little or no reliance on sacred presences, or even much in the way of specialists in sacred experience such as a shaman. A prayer on the other hand, involves a deity or high god who listens to the prayer. There is also a priest who intervenes to make sure everything is done correctly. A prayer is a plea for help. You ask God for something and then you hope that He will hear your prayer. The individual is passive. Magickians don’t ask for anything. We use our knowledge of social psychology and we change ourselves!

How Tribal Magick Worked

The system of primitive and secondary magick was predominant in tribal societies and agricultural civilizations before the rise of the monotheistic religions between 1500-1000 BCE. In these societies, altered states of consciousness were achieved by casting a circle, “drawing down” the stellar gods into the circle, calling down specific sacred presences that are connected to the hunt or the harvest (in the case of agricultural states) into the circle. These gods and goddesses were known to be susceptible to certain incenses, music, stones, and herbs which have been called by historians of magic, “correspondences”. By “seducing” the gods with their favorite fragrances, food, gems and music it was thought to increase the chances of the tribe getting what it wanted. Where they went wrong was in thinking that: a) the gods and goddesses were real objective entities; and b) the magick they performed actually changed the world.

Why has Magick Hung On?

This kind of magick has been around all the way back to hunting and gathering societies of at least 100,000 years ago.  Even after the triumph of monotheism, magic hung on marginally in rural areas of society. During the Renaissance, during the Scientific Revolution, through the Enlightenment and to the end of the 19th century magic was alive among certain sectors of the upper classes. At the end of the 19th century, it blossomed because of dissatisfaction with both Christianity and the mechanization of science.

If this kind of magick did not really do what the people imagine it did because the gods and goddesses are not real and because magic did not really change the world, why has it stayed with us for thousands of years? Is it simply a matter of the clergy and the upper classes manipulating the workers and peasants into believing things that were not true to keep control over them, as the Enlightenment thought? Partly I agree that this is true. However, it does not account for the presence of magic:

  1. when there were no classes as in hunter-gatherers – or
  2. when it was alive among the witches in the 17th century, in spite of the opposition of the Church, scientists and merchants;
  3. when magic existed among the working-class artisans, middle and upper middle classes in the form of alchemy where no political control was involved.

Something else was going on, but what was it?

What does Magick Really do?

Magick is the art and science of altering states of consciousness at will through the use of imagination, the senses, the emotions through the arts. The techniques can be used for good or for bad purposes. The entire field of advertising is an industry in the use of black magick. Often the association with changing states of consciousness is that it is some kind of secular, recreational escape from reality. Of course, some of that is true, but my reasons for arguing for altered states of consciousness are dead serious. People alter their states of consciousness primarily for social and personal needs, not just for fun.

When hunter gatherers chase a man dressed as a reindeer around the circle making stabbing gestures, are they really creating some magic-at-a-distance which affects the reindeer in the surrounding tundra? Of course not. But what atheists and Marxists miss is that what tribespeople are doing as they dance, sing, drum, run and leap. They are changing their state of consciousness to build their confidence that they will act in a coordinated and effective way when they do go out on the hunt. So, what is changed in magick is the social psychology of their confidence levels.

The Power of Music and the Arts

At the end of every year, some socialists I know gather at a member’s house and sing the Internationale together. What does this do? It calls forth and reminds people that despite recent right-wing downturns, there is a great socialist tradition of success to uphold. The victories of the Paris Commune and the revolutions around the world are recited. But this gathering could be so much richer. Surely there are socialists in the profession of dance that have thought about what socialist dancing would be like. It could easily resemble the dances around the Maypole. These folks could also surround themselves with the portraits of the great socialists, the way the Catholic Church showcases all the patron saints around the church.

Let’s put it this way. Richard Wagner, despite his right-wing politics, knew a great deal about altering states of consciousness. As a composer and theatrical director, he synthesized the poetic, the visual, the musical and dramatic arts into a single collective experience. He understood that separating and secularizing the arts limit the prospects for altering states of consciousness. He understood the power of a total art experience at the Bayreuth Festivals. Socialists should create our own version of the Bayreuth Festivals with our own twists.

On an individual level, I might be coming out of a sad state or an anxious state, but when I put on the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony, I get swooped away into something higher and deeper than my present troubles. Magick is simply the art and science of how to create particular altered states through the systematic use of music and the arts.

When I was going through a relationship break-up, I would force myself to drive an hour to the Stanford Rodin museum in Palo Alto to draw his sculptures for three hours. In the process of doing that I would be reminded of my identity as an artist, the fellow students and art teachers I had, and how my art teacher used to tell me I drew like Tiepolo. I would drink the same coffee I drank when I drew there to strengthen the altered state in other circumstances. The message was – I am larger and more than my relationships, as painful as they might be.

Guided Imagery

In the last 50 years, hypnosis has introduced guided fantasies into its repertoire to help people relieve stress by using their imagination to go to another place, a peaceful place. Often this involves the use of CDs. The hypnotist would take you to a peaceful lake where you lay across a boat soaking in the sun as the boat slowly drifted down the river. You watch the cloud formations; you hear the birds calling out as you drift off to sleep.

This is all well and good, but what these hypnotists failed to do is give credit where credit is due. Hypnosis is a secularized version of magical techniques that have been known for centuries. Mesmer himself recognized this. When hypnotherapists light incense and burn candles, they are just helping the imagination wander and then focus. Magick is about the controlled and systematic use of imagination. That’s why some magickians put an “I” in front of the word magick and turn it into “imagick”.

Bringing it all Together:  Saturating the Senses

The Catholic Church as Closeted Black Magickians

The Protestants were right about Catholics being closeted magicians and here’s what I mean. When I was a boy my grandmother would go with my parents and I to Sunday morning Mass. Within about three blocks of the church, I could hear the organ slowly inviting us to come forth, inviting me to listen. When we finally arrived at the church my eyes would be drawn to the multi-colored stain-glassed windows. Once inside, my vision was intensified by the vividness of the vestments of the priest. As we moved toward the pews, the smell of incense seeped into my nostrils (“ah, I’ve been here before”).  As I settled into the pew, I ran my hands over the solid oak pews. The floor was made soft by thick, richly covered rugs. Then the choir began to sing something like Ava Maria. We were expected to move throughout the service – standing, sitting, kneeling – all designed to create altered states at different angles (kinesthetics). Three quarters of the way through the Mass, I went to receive holy communion which appealed to my taste. At the end of the service, as we left, the organ music rose again, but this time loud and uplifting (go forth).

The purpose of all this was to create a memorable experience, one that we would want to return to. Regardless of what the Catholic Church thinks it is doing, it is creating a magical altered state of consciousness in its parishes. Given the educational and religious history of the Catholic Church, its authoritarian politics, its murdering of witches and its child abuse, along with advertising, it can easily qualify as black magick.

My Work on the Tree of Life

Initiating a Magickal Psychology

In the time period about 1990 I, met a woman named Sophia who identified as a witch and who knew a great deal about something called the Tree of Life, also called the Qabalah, a Jewish mystical symbol system. She had started her own school on the western mystery traditions. I had been interested in western magic for about ten years, but I never saw a way to apply it in any practical, psychological way.  She knew how to “work the Tree” and she taught it to me and others. There are many ways to interpret the tree, its spheres and pathways (see the diagram below). As a Marxist and atheist, I had no interest in thinking that the gods or planets on the tree, its spheres and pathways, were real or that I could influence the planets through these magical activities. However, I was fortunate enough, thanks to Sophia, to discover the works of Israel Regardie, a trained Reichian therapist, who gave psychological interpretations for working on the tree. He helped me to translate magickal work into psychological work on myself

 Spheres on the Tree

The Tree has ten spheres and twenty-two paths, as you can see on the diagram. One interpretation of the spheres is that they are planets. Each of the planets was the home of a god or a goddess. Each god and goddess had positive and negative characteristics. What was very helpful to me was to learn in more depth what the gods and goddesses were like. More importantly, the idea was that all the gods and goddesses were inside of everyone, a kind of collective unconscious. By reading about the pros and cons of each god and goddess, I was learning about the gods that were very strong in me and those that were very weak and needed work. It was very powerful to see all my psychological strengths and weaknesses mapped across the Tree as if they were parts of my body. All this was appealing to my imagination as well as it did to others, I’m sure.

Pathways as Mythology

As most of you know, the Greeks didn’t just present their populace with gods and goddesses to believe in. They had a mythology which was a history of the interactions of the gods and goddesses. The twenty-two paths on the Tree of Life is the story of the interactions between the gods and goddesses on the Tree. So, when you work a path, you are told a mythological story about the gods’ and goddess’ interaction on that path just like the stories in Greek mythology. The twenty-two paths and the mythological stories are like 22 archetypal situations that the gods and goddesses get themselves into. This provides a structure for the archetypal situations human beings find themselves in. For as has been said “As above so below”. “Above” refers to the gods and goddesses, “below” refers to human stories.

The Three Pillars on the Tree

There are three pillars on the Tree, representing the three methods for altering states of consciousness. The left-hand pillar is the path of structure covering Saturn, Mars and Mercury. The right-hand path is the pillar of dynamics – Uranus, Jupiter and Venus. The middle-path is the pillar of balance: Neptune, Pluto, the Sun, the Moon and the Earth.

The left-hand path is the path of celestial, high magic practiced by upper-middle class magicians of the Renaissance like Ficino and Giordano Bruno, Robert Fludd, John Dee and many others including the followers of the Golden Dawn at the end of the 19th century. The right-hand path is the “earth magic” path”, most associated with wiccans, which reached some working-class women. This has been called “kitchen magic” by Starhawk. Both the left and the right-hand paths are methods of altering states of consciousness through the saturation of the senses, the imagination and the emotions. The middle path is a mystical, not a magical path. Its way is to empty the senses, imagination and the emotions. This is the path of meditation, fasting and sensory deprivation. Mystics like Saint Teresa or Jakob Böhme are examples in the West, as are yogis of the East.

Casting a Magickal Circle

You begin by stepping into a magickal circle of your own construction. You can mark it up with letters and symbols which you could create with thick cloth that can be taped down on the floor. I actually used permanent magic markers directly on our garage floor which we transformed into an art and writing studio for me. The magical circle contains the four elements, the four seasons and all the planets that surround the circle. The actual magickal operation involves the saturation of the senses with the music, incense, colored lights, candles, herbs, metals and dance that corresponds to the goddess upon whom you are calling. The intention is to lose yourself in the mythological stories which go with the gods and goddesses you invoke. The purpose is to build up a sensual memory for each goddess and god. You use them to build up strength to bring forward the goddess or god within yourself in dealing with the life problems which correspond to their domain.  This is done through the use of the arts – journal writing, written self-affirmation and art-work – drawing, sculpting and mask-making.

Regularizing the Ritual

Each of the spheres has a set of correspondences, including a day of the week, specific stones, metals, animals, herbs and music. In performing magical rituals, I bring down the planets from the sky metaphorically into my magical circle so that I can work on my psychological problems. I would work the Tree as a psychological “tune-up” every week or two.  If I wanted to work on a particular psychological problem, I would metaphorically evoke the planet under which the department of the problem falls. If I wanted a “tune-up” through the mythological stories, I would work each of the 22 paths. What I used to do is work one path every two weeks so it would take me 44 weeks to go through all the paths. Both the work in the planets and the paths took me about 90 minutes and I worked them once a week (not that different from therapy, but in my opinion, much more imaginative and creative).

Psychological Explanations of Magickal Work

  • Opening up access to the unconscious – the gods and goddesses within – including emotions, senses, imagination, dreams and fantasies.
  • Objectifying my relationship between conscious and unconscious in a concrete form (writing poetry, stories, drawing, mask-making and sculpture) representing the problem I am are working on.
  • Dialoging between the god, goddess and path and my individual psychology.
  • Putting the results of the dialogue into action with an effort that strives to overcome the problem in real life.
  • Integrating and internalizing the results of that action into my psychology, hopefully building confidence.

Steps in the Magical Procedure

  • Identify the problem you want to work on and write it in a sentence in your magical notebook
  • Identify your strengths and problems in order to strategize how to solve the problem.
  • Set up an “atmosphere” for the goddess or god in whose province the problem resides, including the appropriate candles, colored lights, mythological drawing, appropriate metal, appropriate stone, appropriate animals (perhaps small sculpture) appropriate robe, herbs, music and movement (dance, gestures).
  • Review a story about the path or sphere – there are books for this including The Shining Paths by Dolores Ashcroft- Nowicki.
  • Take a guided visualization journey with a CD. The book Magical States of Consciousness by Denning and Phillips is good for this.
  • Review the relationship between the strengths and weaknesses of the gods and goddesses and your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Objectify the problem and solution in some kind of concrete form using poetry, music, drawings, masks and sculpture.
  • Write a self-affirmation which goes with how you’d like to be which is drawn from the mythological story. Write the self-affirmation 5 minutes every day for twenty-one days.
  • Identify what action steps need to be taken each week to deal with the problem.
  • Record your reaction to the journey in your magical journal.
  • Bring the ritual to closure through food, drink and dance and put away all atmospheric props.

I’ve given you an example of how an individual could create an altered state of consciousness. There are neo-pagan groups all over the country that do versions of these rituals, either with the Tree or Life or some other symbolic system and they do it collectively. See Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler for examples of this. Some of these folks are political anarchists. Marxian socialists badly need to incorporate something like these rituals for our social and psychological health, especially in these dark times. Otherwise, we will be left behind – as we have been for two centuries by religion, nationalism and sports.

Objections and Rebuttal

Some of you Marxists, especially in the United States might think these rituals are ludicrous on an individual level, let alone performing them in groups. Are you going to lead the workers in these rituals? “Over my dead body” you might say. Well, your dead body just may be trampled to death for masses of people are interested in magick. With any luck, the workers are going to lead you. Most of humanity is thrilled by this pageantry if it is organized well. The fact that the Catholic Church is still drawing working-class people in despite its anti-working-class history, its murderous persecution throughout history and its record of child abuse. We must learn from the Catholics, just like the Catholics learned from the pagans.

Many materialists and Marxists may be afraid of the reification of imagery and the danger of believing these rituals literally change reality instead of only our psychological states. Sorry, but the answer to reification is not some ascetic denial as the protestants tried to do. The answer is to have rituals, song, music and dance that are not superstitious. A magickal practice that we have, not a practice that has us.


If materialists, atheists and Marxists expect to first compete with religion, nationalism and sports, we must learn to create our own mythologies, rituals, music, dance, song, pilgrimages and holidays. We need to be theatrical stage managers where we suspend judgment temporarily just as we do in the movies or at plays for the purpose of having a deep, moving or cathartic experience.

If this has any appeal, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Pagan traditions have a rich historical system to draw from that easily competes with the Catholic Church. All these techniques are in the service of altering states of consciousness through magick to create focused and inspired states of consciousness which invites atheists and materialists to be even better scientists and invites socialists to be even better at creating a socialist heaven on earth.

• First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post The Power of Magick: Why Materialists, Atheists and Marxists Need it first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Spirals of Becoming: The Search for a Dialectical Spiral in the Individual Life Cycle

A specter is haunting western psychology, the specter of dialectics. The scaffold of the academic world is shaking. The time for its transformation is near…

Dialectical psychologists unite! You have nothing to lose but the respect of vulgar mechanisms and pretentious mentalists. You will win a world, a changing world created by ever-changing human beings.

— Klaus F. Reigel, Psychology, Mon Amour: A Countertext, March 1, 1978


We may or may not know it, but part of being a Marxist has involved learning to think in a dialectical manner. Whether through the study of the great books, or practically with internal political group struggles or external struggles with other groups, we have trained our minds to understand the world and sometimes even ourselves by thinking dialectically. But where is this way of thinking traced when we turn to the psychological research on adult development? Piaget’s famous stages end with formal operations and, according to Piaget, there are no more stages of development. But some scholars and academics have tried to suggest that dialectical thinking is not just for heretical Marxists, but for any adult working in a middle-class or upper middle-class work position. Is there such a stage, and if so, where is the research on it?

I was 20 years old in 1968. It was a good time historically to be 20 years old because the late teens and early 20s are supposed to be a time of exploration. The historical period in which I lived in my early twenties lent itself to far deeper exploration than would have been possible if I had been born, say, 20 years earlier.

Discovery of dialectics in social evolution

As a young social revolutionary, I made my way through a fair amount of the anarchist and Marxist literature and one of the descriptions that intrigued me most was Marx and Engels’ description of social evolution. They depicted it as a spiral. Rather than a linear or cyclic way of showing social movement, they presented it in the form of thesis-antithesis and synthesis. The thesis phase was within primitive egalitarian societies. Then there was a long antithesis in which social classes formed – slave societies, feudal societies and then capitalism. Out of this came a crisis which could result in a synthesis – first socialism, then communism. What I liked about the synthesis was that it was not just a compromise between thesis and antithesis. Rather, it twisted its way up to another dimension, a qualitative leap in which there is a partial return to the thesis but on a higher level. Synthetic communism was a return to primitive communism but on a higher level, an egalitarian level, but with abundant material conditions informed by the surplus created by capitalism.

Throughout the 1970s I also developed an abiding interest in psychology and wondered if the dialectical spiral could be applied to individual evolution, just as Marx and Engels applied it to social evolution. I was surprised that there was nothing to be found in the field of psychology on this.

An example of a dialectical spiral in individual life

I tried my hand at thinking dialectically – organizing the lives of my friends to see if I could work it into a dialectical spiral. For example, suppose a woman has grown up in the 1950’s with traditional Yankee values about marriages. One part of those values is being a homemaker, which includes cooking breakfast and dinner every day. This is the thesis phase. Then during the 1960s this woman begins to rebel against these expectations in conjunction with the women’s movement. Her marriage deteriorates and she leaves. While she is separated, she has a difficult time cooking for anyone again because cooking reminds her of her marriage. For the time being, this part of her personality must be suppressed in order for her to make a clean break with the old thesis world.

She is at an antithetical stage in relation to cooking because she is in a reactive mode, rejecting cooking although she is very good at it. The synthesis is a temporary solution to the tension between the old traditional role and her antithetical reaction to it. As she becomes involved in the women’s movement, she joins a vocational counseling support group. As a result of this group, the women discuss starting their own business, specifically starting up their own cooperative restaurant. As it gets off the ground, she uses her cooking skills on a higher level. It is higher qualitative leap because she is the co-owner of the coop so no one is bossing her around. She has to shop and cook at a greater volume and complexity than she did before. Lastly, she has a new political identity, as a socialist.

I tried organizing my own life events into a thesis, antithesis and synthesis and had some success with this, but I was disappointed by not being able to find anything like my depiction in the psychological literature. The models of lifespan development had no spiral shape. They were all linear, whether it was Erikson, Piaget, or Loevinger.

A Light in the tunnel

In the early 1980s, as I described in My Love Affair with Books, the economy had gotten bad enough that it became difficult to continue to meet my expenses doing the kind of part time artist modeling I was doing.  With the encouragement of my partner, I decided to return to school to get a degree in psychology. One of the very first classes I took in school was on Life-Span Development. I had hoped that by studying adulthood more systematically, a dialectical model might turn up. No such luck.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school in 1985 that I met my real guide, Noele Krenkel. Noele was my teacher in a social psychology class and I could tell from her vocabulary that she was a Marxist, so I popped the question to her. Where are the Marxian models of psychology? The first door she opened for me was to tell me about the work of Lev Vygotsky. I was lucky enough to live at a time when the Communist Party still had a bookstore in San Francisco – The Book Center. They were the only bookstore in the Bay Area that got their books directly from Progress Publishers who ordered their books from Moscow. This meant I was not only able to get books about Vygotsky, but also books by other Soviet psychology authors that I hadn’t even heard about, like Luria and Leontiev. Even with all that, there was still no model, even coming out of the Soviet Union, about dialectical development over the lifespan.

The next person Noele turned me on to was Klaus Riegel. Riegel was the first developmental psychologist that really added the dimension of history to his description of the individual life cycle. Furthermore, he and his cohorts were very critical of Piaget’s formal operational thinking theory and Riegel argued for the existence of “dialectical operation” as a fifth stage of cognitive development. The problem was that this was speculation. Riegel didn’t have research in studying the lives of adults to back his claim up for a dialectical operational stage.

Then the same year I attended a conference on mysticism and physics, and I met a guy who turned me on to a book called The Evolving Self, by Robert Kegan.  Kegan’s book actually had a dialectical spiral as a model. It was not the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model, but it had its own dialectical spiral features.

Robert Kegan’s The Evolving Self  

Robert Kegan’s work in The Evolving Self describes six stages in the lifespan:

  1. Incorporative (birth to two);
  2. Impulsive (2-6 – preschool);.
  3. Imperial (7-13 – late childhood);
  4. Interpersonal (teenage years to early adulthood) – marriage, children;
  5. Institutional (middle adulthood) differentiation at work; and,
  6. Interindividual (meaningful work in the public sphere. Public recognition outside of work setting).

For Kegan each stage is an evolutionary truce, a way-station in how meaning is made in a given period of time. The life-long struggle is on one hand to be differentiated from society and on the other hand to be integrated into it. Each stage on the spiral had an emphasis – either on the side of differentiation or integration. But differentiation past a certain point creates a crisis which is corrected by some new involvement in a higher community (integration). Conversely, integration past a certain point invites a new, deeper differentiation of an individual’s skills. Over-differentiation leads to the feeling of isolation or fragmentation. Over-integration means to be enmeshed, smothered or swallowed up by a community.

Underlying this movement up the spiral is a development which means:

  • The higher stages include an increase in power over the environment;
  • Increasing refinement of individuality;
  • An expansion of community;
  • Increasing self-reflectiveness; and,
  • An increasing accumulation of consequences.

There are cultures of embeddedness that are specific to each level. These holding environments expand with maturity from mother to mother and father, to teachers and peer groups, to romantic relations, to work associations, to marriage partner and children. Each culture of embeddedness provides three dialectical functions:

  1. Confirmation – meaning a sympathy and respect for the new ground that has been achieved. At their best, they are holding without constraining;
  2. Contradictions – promoting and provoking the opposite tendencies of the stage. For example, promoting independence if an individual is in the integrative stage; promoting community if the individual is in one of the differentiated stages; and,
  3. Continuity – the culture of embeddedness stays in place and reminds the individual of their history of overcoming crisis in the past as they negotiate the current crisis.

The cultures of embeddedness can do at least two things wrong. One is to be overly-involved where they refuse to let go, a refusal to make room for the new culture of embeddedness. This can lead to a confusion in the individual between inclusion and being smothered. The other problem is when a culture of embeddedness is under-involved. This means providing no consistent holding environment and a lack of dialogical contact with the individual. The result of this can lead to a confusion on the part of the individual between differentiating and dissociation or abandonment. The first five stages correspond to Piaget’s stages. Formal operations cover stages 4 and 5.

The “interindividual” sixth stage does not have so much to do with the socio-cultural expectations which are age-related. Rather, it is more the new way in which these problems are looked at, acted up and lived through via a new differentiation/integration characteristic of Piaget. This inter-individual stage corresponds to Kohlberg’s “principled orientation” in morality and Loevinger’s “autonomous” individual. Kegan also suggests that there must be a fifth stage of cognitive advancement. He does not provide that epistemology, though he describes its features. He “sets the table” for the work of Michael Basseches. Basseches lays the groundwork for a fifth stage of cognitive development as I’ll get to shortly.

Social Atomism in Bourgeois Developmental Psychology

Atomistic vs organic relations between society and the individual

Kegan’s Evolving Self  takes us a good way towards conceiving a dialectical model for individual development. However, his way of formulating the cultures of embeddedness is an atomistic way of looking at social life. He proceeds from micro to the macro. The cultures of embeddedness are not rooted in the larger, socio-economic, historical settings into which the individual is born. All the social connections he identified as defining cultures of embeddedness are microscopic, local, sensuous and personal. Kegan describes the socialization process atomistically, mechanistically proceeding from the local and expanding outward from the part to the whole.

I am proposing a social-organic movement from the global to the local to a new global. From the whole (current socio-historical matrix) to the parts (local cultures of embeddedness) which co-create a new whole (as emergent socio-historical arena). In the socio-historical orientation, human society is a self-developing whole from which all ontogenesis is born. Our existence as socio-historical beings is the ground from which our development as individuals proceeds. In all bourgeois psychology the stages are just there as products of psychobiology. Rarely is it entertained that:

  • Existing ontogenetic stages might once have not existed, that they are historical products.
  • Future historical changes may create unprecedented developmental stages.

In developmental psychology to acknowledge that cultural, social or historical factors influence the development of an individual over the life-span seems a self-evident truism. “Of course, they do”, psychologists might say, but only as a derivative, as something that comes after the more important psycho-biological process of maturation. A deeper question is how exactly is the relationship between society, history and the individual conceived? The two models are the atomistic and organic nature of the relationship between society, history and the individual. I placed Kegan’s work on both sides of Table A as a transition between atomistic to organic.

Bourgeois developmental psychology in the West is riddled with atomism in its attitude towards human society. The individual is explicitly or implicitly implied to be prior to their socio-historical situation. Over the course of a lifetime, the individual more or less voluntarily engages in a nexus of social activities which may influence or affect the formation of their personality, but which never determines or defines it.  Either the individual life cycle is assumed to be a psychobiological maturation process (Piaget) or as a psychological-atomistic social process (Erikson) or a psycho-spiritual process as in humanistic or transpersonal psychology.

The nature of our socio-historical identity

The human means of survival as a biological species is to qualitatively transform our social environment. This is accomplished by creating a social organization, a distinctly socio-ecological envelope that overlays the biosphere. This super-organic membrane has gradually covered the earth. As societies have grown more complex, the crust which separates us from the organic world becomes thicker while social relations increasingly supersede the biological world as our predominate habitat. At least initially, human society arose out of our collective effort to better satisfy our biological needs.

One of the first humanizing activities was our use and recreation of tools, our technology. Unlike other animals, we engage our environment not primarily with our inherited anatomy, but by means external to our bodies. The invention of tools was the first of a number of necessary humanizing mediations between us and the rest of nature. By the use of technology, we extract from nature raw material for the purpose of satisfying our human requirements.

The improvisation of an economy and political organizations is the manner in which the goods and services created by our technology are produced and circulated by us. This includes the decision-making process as to what is produced, how much, for what purposes and for whom. Also, how are these products circulated and consumed? Both the shaping of tools, collectivity circulating the finished products (economy) and deciding who gets what, when and how (politics) all take effort. Labor is the totality of collective human energy expended upon the production and expanded reproduction of our social world; what Marx called “human species activity”.

Thus far, this definition of society has been limited to structural concerns. But how does society change over time? We call the motion of society over time, “history” or the story, or motion picture of the accumulating impact and consequences that social organizational activity have upon all of nature, including ourselves. Human practice is the name we give to overall accumulating and irreversible process of affecting and being affected by our socio-ecological membrane. The individual psychological dimension is born amidst the interface of mutually co-creating processes – the biosphere and the socio-sphere. There is no pre-existing psychological realm. It is a secondary derivative.

Meaning-making: atomistic and organic, socio-historical

We are now in a position to contrast how social atomistic and social organic scenarios differ in concrete developmental situations and we can begin with meaning-making. Developmental psychologists seem to agree that between an event and our response to it there is a kind of magical workshop in which we organize and create meaning from these events. Piaget, for example is exquisite in his rich delineation of how meaning-making selves evolve through a hierarchy of developmental stages by striking a balance between assimilation and accommodating the environment. The problem here is that meaning-making takes place outside one’s existence as a socio-historical being. Creating meaning is confined to revolutionizing epistemology for how we know things. The social world is implied to be passive, a prop or backdrop for a psychobiological drama staged in the body and minds of individuals.

In socio-historical meaning, the first mediating influences are society-history and these set the table for any psycho-biological epistemological shifts. Meaning making for individuals must be rooted in socioeconomic and sociopolitical struggles. The dominant trend in developmental psychology implies that these socio-historical realms are either:

  1. beyond the power of individual to affect; and,
  2. the processes are too random or complex to understand and incorporate into an individual’s life in a meaningful way.

On the contrary, both the individual’s material and cognitive development are determined by the macro socio-historical relationships the individual is born into.

They are super-sensuous and macroscopic in range and impersonal in form. They create the local cultures of embeddedness. For example, just to consume a bottle of milk involves the infant in an indirect relationship with all those people who milk the cows, process the milk, make the bottles to pour the milk, truck drivers who deliver the milk and those at the market who unload the trucks. These networks antedate all cultures of embeddedness to come, including that with the mother. The world’s working-class are people whom the infant will probably never know, and with whom they have no sensuous connection. The infant, even if unconsciously, is affected by the state of supply-chains around the world and this impacts meaning-making. Please see Table A for a summary.
Value and Limitations of Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Piaget as a developmentalist

Piaget has a rich appreciation of the profound reciprocity which exists between organism and environment. For him there are no qualitative changes in the life of the child or adolescence without a corresponding change in the epistemological understanding of that reality. The development of an individual moves reciprocally from adapting to an environment to the co-creation of a new object within that environment.  This invites a new subjectivity with which to encounter it. When I emerge from my embeddedness in an object, the object ceases to be the ground of my being. It becomes relative and a figure for the new stage. It becomes content for a new structure. What is immediate gets mediated by a new immediacy. For example, when an infant shifts from a sensorimotor to a preoperational stage, they no longer are his reflexes and sensations. They are no longer embedded in them. They have them. They are relative, not absolute. From the very structure of their organization, their reflections and sensations have become the content for a new organization, their perceptions. Perception is the organization of his reflexes and sensation. They are now both mediated and coordinated.

From the point of view of the human subject, both they and their environment become increasingly differentiated and integrated. On the one hand, their subjectivity undergoes a series of qualitative differentiations from the world. The objects which they experience on the other hand, became more multi-faceted, more integrated and more extended in their relations to those objects. By extended I mean they perceive an ever-widening community which they experience as part of themselves.

How can it be there is no cognitive development in adulthood?

How could it be that this magnificent process ceases when we become adults? Is adult life so pat and predictable that we stop developing cognitively, at least in Piaget’s sense? How can it be that there is adult development with no corresponding cognitive stage? It is astounding to me that developmental psychologists would not identify this as a crucial problem within the field. Why is there no corresponding fifth stage of cognitive development.? We will touch on this shortly.

Piaget fails to incorporate history into his ontogenetic stages

Piaget beautifully describes how babies, young and older children have different senses of space, time and causality as they develop. He says individuals conceive of these categories differently as they go through sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational. But Piaget:

  1. Treats his stages as universal and unfolding regardless of historic, economic and political turbulence and innovation within the window of a specific period.
  2. He treats the categories themselves as unchanging so that the same space, time and cause will be available for every child regardless of the type of society or the time in history they are born into.

But qualitatively distinct societies – hunter-gatherers, agricultural states, industrial capitalist societies – have radically different worldviews when it comes to notions of space, time and cause. Contrary to Piaget, how space, time and causality change over from childhood, adolescence and adulthood is not just a matter of psychological evolution in cognition. Whole societies have different notions of space, time and cause. Even an infant’s mother, whom we might suspect to be immune to socio-historical infusion is no exception. She is not primarily a psycho-biological organism, but a microcosm of a particular social formation, its first representative. She immediately and unconsciously begins orienting the infant into the dominant social notions of the nature of space, time and cause. As for the stages themselves, I have argued in my book Lucifer’s Labyrinth that Piaget’s Formal Operations is not likely to have existed before the scientific revolution and the emergence of capitalism in the 17th century.

Formal operations strengths and weaknesses

When the adolescent/young adult becomes capable of thinking in a formal operational way, they become cognitively powerful in many ways. They are able to compare ratios between permanent objects, but they are also capable of comparing ideas with each other, independently of sense data. They can organize their thoughts deductively and are able to reason from hypothesis. They can apply this new way of reasoning not only to everyday living, but they also possess the rudimentary tools for traditional scientific inquiry.

A question we might ask is what kind of abstract reasoning is that individual capable of? What kind of logic is used in formal operations? What we find is that formal operational thinking is deeply wedded to formal logic. The three main assumptions (at least of Aristotelian version) are:

  • The axiom of identity. A thing is always equal to itself. Everything is what it is.
  • The axiom of contradiction. A thing cannot be both itself and something else.
  • The axiom of the excluded middle. Each thing must be one of the above mutually exclusive things. We proceed by eliminating that which does not fit exclusively into either one.

These axioms have significant overlap with three of the assumptions which characterize formal operations (Herb Koplowitz, A General System Stage and a Unitary Stage):

  • The presence of permanent objects;
  • The existence of an external world separated from thought; and,
  • The existence of independent variables.

Most adult “common sense”, at least in western industrialized societies among the middle and upper-middle classes, is the unsystematic and unconscious use of formal logic. The axioms mentioned above hold relatively true in most of our local and immediate encounters with our surroundings.  For example, I’m following the law of identity when I assume that the cup I’m drinking my coffee from will remain a cup and not slowly disintegrate in my hand. It remains “essentially what it is” relative to ontogenetic time frames.

Formal logic also has an important place in traditional scientific methodology. The necessity of formal relevant theoretical constructs, together with the categorization of phenomena into taxonomies, are both based on a need of finding identity among diverse phenomena. Darwin first had to recognize the identity of all creatures before their vast varieties would make any sense.

As beneficial as formal logic can be, it does not hold up across the board, either in scientific thought or in the world of everyday life. When we introduce one variable, the edifice of formal logic begins to tremble and crack. That variable is change.

Formal logic conceptualizes the world as a collection of permanent, discrete substances rather than a continuum of interpenetrating processes. The implications of perpetual change not only affect formal logic but also the three mighty assumptions listed above. Formal logic contradicts what physicists Max Born and David Bohm have said about the nature of permanent objects. The entrenchment of the notion of permanent objects is not limited to the natural world. People mistakenly see society as static institutions. Individuals often treat each other as things. Men treat women as sexual objects. He reifies her making her into a permanent object. When we do this, we rob people of their developmental stature over time. We refuse to consider that historical events can change individuals. This is like claiming we have captured the essence of a horse race by taking a string of snapshots along the way. The snapshots are not the race. Formal operations have nothing to say about the process of reification.

Michael Basseches and Dialectical Thinking as a Fifth Stage of Cognitive Development

1985 was a big year for me intellectually. The last leg of my exploration came from a book I had discovered as a result of studying Kegan’s work. It was called Dialectical Thinking in Adult Development. The basis for a proposal for dialectics as a fifth stage of cognitive development came from two research projects. One was an interview which measures the extent to which subjects spontaneously used elements of dialectical thinking in discussions about certain subject matter. A second study was done in which it was attempted to measure the extent to which subjects comprehend dialectical thinking in the arguments of others.

In the first study, subjects were asked seven questions about the nature of education. The participants were college students and professors of a highly selective liberal arts college with a reputation for high academic standards and a strong emphasis on intellectual development. The environment was chosen because it was assumed that if dialectical thinking were to be present, it would most likely be actuated under conditions of intentional cognitive stimulation. The topic for the interview was chosen because it seemed to be relevant to all the subjects’ experience. It was also thought to be more representative of the range of problems which mature thought confronts (unlike the closed system of Piaget’s formal operations).

The sample consisted of eight male freshman and three female freshman 18 – 20 years old.  Also included were eight male faculty members and one female with an age range of 30 – 48. The interview lasted for two hours. The purpose of the interview was to evoke a verbalization at a level of depth to which dialectical thinking could be perceived. The recorded and transcribed tapes were then analyzed relative to the following dialectical schemata which should be familiar to Marxists.

A – Motion orientated schemata

  • Thesis-antithesis-synthesis movement of thought
  • Affirmation of the primacy of motion
  • Recognition and description of thesis-antithesis-synthesis movement
  • Recognition of correlativity of a thing and its other
  • Recognition of ongoing interaction as a source of movement
  • Affirmation of the practical or active character of knowledge
  • Avoidance or exposure of objectification, hypostatization and reification
  • Understanding events or situations as moments of development of a process

B – Form oriented schemata

  • Location of an element of phenomenon within a whole of which it is a part
  • Description of a whole (system form) in structural, functional and disequilibration terms
  • Assumption of contextual relativism

C – Relationship oriented schemata

  • Assertion of the existence of relation, the limits of separation of the value of relatedness
  • Criticism of multiplicity, subjectivism and pluralism
  • Description of a two-way reciprocal relationship
  • Assertion of internal relations

D – Meta-formal schemata

  • Location (or description) of the process of emergence, of contradictions or sources of disequilibrium within a system (form) and external forces or elements which are antithetical to the systems’ (form) structure
  • Understanding the resolution of disequilibrium or contradiction in terms of a notion of transformation in developmental direction
  • Relating a value to a) movement in a developmental direction, and/or b) stability through developmental movement
  • Evaluative comparison of forms (systems)
  • Attention to problems of coordination of systems (forms) in relation
  • Description of open, self-transforming systems
  • Description of qualitative change as a result of quantitative change within a form
  • Criticism of formalism based on the interdependence of form and content
  • Multiplication of perspectives as a concreteness-preserving approach to inclusiveness.

Table B. Summarizes some of the differences between formal and dialectical operations.

Where do we go from here?

To my knowledge there have been no further follow-up studies in dialectics as a fifth stage of cognitive development. There has been work by Errol Harris which compares formal logic, transcendental and dialectical thinking. There is also the work of Roy Bhaskar in his book Dialectic, the Pulse of Freedom. However, both of these are not attempts to link dialectics as a developmental stage through the life-span. There is also the work of Otto Laske who studied with Kegan and Basseches and claims to have advanced their work. But this seems to have been done in work settings through organizations rather than as a stage of individual development through the life-span. I will expand on developments over the last 35 years in a future article. Please see Table B for a summary.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

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The Schizophrenic Crisis

I’m not looking at schizophrenia for the moment as a sickness, but as a more or less inevitable development or consequence of a body that refines thought to such an extent that it becomes confused by its own images and beliefs and mistakes them for reality itself.

Conclusive certainty or dogma would be an obvious symptom of this crisis — a crisis which may have begun several thousand years ago and is only now approaching its ‘do or die’ moment: Learn this lesson or perish.

I think that some degree of schizophrenia is an inevitable consequence of hitting this confusion. And depending on how hard or soft that collision might be, the schizophrenia manifests more or less dramatically. But it’s a natural crisis; a collision with the limits of a particular mode of intelligence.

The confusion seems to be telling us that thought isn’t intelligent on its own. No matter how subtle the thought may be in one sense, in a functional sense, the thought is only a static construct, or a dead conclusion, which has put an end to learning.

Introduce yourself to any conclusive thought and the little bugger will turn out to be a rather pig-headed atom of mind. “No, the issue is closed,” it will always say, before walking away. I met one the other day that said, “Mankind is violent by nature! End of discussion!” And when learning is stopped like this, the conclusion becomes another self-fulfilling prophecy.

And it’s interesting to notice that any “human trait” we can name — arguing, selfishness, meanness — is the fulfillment of a self-fulfilling prophecy driven by beliefs or thoughts that we confuse with reality itself, with absolute fact.

So we end up becoming as pigheaded as the thought that is running us.

This confusion translates into an unconscious belief or set of assumptions that are taken for granted to be factually real. I call this a hidden “philosophy” of Literalism (though it operates automatically, without any conscious realization (usually) on our part). (Picture the relationship between hidden philosophies and human behavior in this way maybe: An absent-minded person is traveling down a very complex system of highways. This person has no idea how the highways were constructed, or what they even look like from an overview perspective. But the person’s “behavior” (the car) is nevertheless proceeding along these complex, highly intellectual structures).

But this Literalism or tendency to conflate thought and thing is the essence of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is the symptom of this confusion: An inevitable confusion, an inevitable symptom.

Let’s look at crises as having two sides, like a coin. On one side, we’re confronting a disturbing death of an old way of operating. On the other side, we’re being challenged to make an evolutionary leap. Death and birth you might say.

What’s dying is a way of life that worked well up to a point, but increasingly over the past centuries has tended towards a hard and brittle absolutism, where positions are deeply staked, and where all challenges (including the challenges of reality itself) are denied or justified, even if it leads to one’s own self-destruction.

Thanks god it’s dying, BUT: This death is still very frightening to all of us, and particularly schizophrenically terrorizing to those who came out of childhood already terrorized by the idea that they’re “nobody” until they succeed in this positive, assertive, domineering, competitive direction. The fear of being nobody (of being without the conditional love that is all they probably ever encountered) is tremendously blinding.

And we’re facing crises where this kind of everyday competitive (unloving) mode of operating is no longer suitable.

In other words, the kind of learning that seeks a dead conclusion, or that seeks to accumulative knowledge — or what I call “positive” learning, because it’s always seeking the security of a positive certainty or dogma or status — can no longer be the primary mode of learning, because the problems we’re facing in so many areas of life are deeper than the material and practical problems that positive learning is “designed” to solve.

Dead conclusions won’t serve us in any kind of relational, social, or political activity — in fact, in any activity that requires language (which is basically everything). In this domain conclusions make us stupid.

But the other side of the coin is not yet clear. It seems to be provoking an awareness of the potential of a different way of learning — not strictly an accumulative, knowledge-gathering mode, which ends in conclusions, but a subtractive, eye-opening mode that leaves wider and more penetrating questions.

We’ve always had the capacity to learn negatively — to see falsehood, to notice that the emperor is naked, to be stripped of old certainties that blinded us, leaving us in a kind of alert uncertainty, like the genius on the basketball court who can see everything as it develops. Conclusions are utterly useless in a shifting context.

But this negative mode of learning, which is being primarily aware of how events err from expectations, has gotten increasingly suppressed as positive learning took over. The more we accumulate positive expertise, the less likely we are to question our own now elaborate and firm (but brittle and unchanging) ideas. We might correlate this shift from a mode of living that depended primarily on Not coming to conclusions (such as cultures close to earth, which depend on a deep and quickly adapting intelligence of their environment) to one that seeks conclusive certainty and confidence (which is status and authority) to the shift from right to left brain dominance; or the shift from a more metaphoric to a more analytical perspective.

We threw something out with the bathwater when we made this switch. But this isn’t unnatural. Life always makes mistakes. There is no perfect response to anything, because every situation is new and impossible to know in its entirety. Every adaptive act makes waves of some sort and these waves reveal the shortcomings of the action, so that one becomes like a surfer, I suppose, always finding an inconclusive balance, in this way remaining coherent and realistic without the need for any certainty. This is why negative learning needs to become primary again. Positive dominance tends to repress essential negative information. We need to see our mistakes or we’re going to die out soon.

This doesn’t mean going back to a “primitive” way of learning. It wasn’t “primitive” to begin with, and we CAN learn something new here: focusing so intently on the material, positive plain for all these centuries helped us develop skills in this direction. But now we need to return to the wisdom of a wider, more negatively aware mentality to use those skills in a less self-destructive manner. Prior to this hyper-rational period, we lived coherently with the earth, but only because we hadn’t yet taken thought to its extreme limits and gotten confused by it as we have now. Before, we were still susceptible to the illusions of thought. But this crisis is making us immune to their black magic, because it’s forcing us to look more deeply at the nature of thought.

And negative learning is how this crisis in thought, this schizophrenia, gets resolved. Because if a person keeps confusing thought and thing, we can’t keep feeding them more ideas, solutions, and stories in hopes of helping them. We’re only leading them deeper into the maze of dead-end certainties, into a babble of arguing dogmas, which can only end with extinction.

The only real solid ground or certainty in a world of hallucinations is negative, which is to say, error. Errors are the bread crumbs that lead us out of our blind convictions.

One last note: I wouldn’t call this schizophrenic crisis a “natural” development in the sense that it’s “always” inevitable. That THIS IS HOW THE WORLD OPERATES BY NATURE, in some conclusive sense. To me, our patterns of development, our stages of growth, aren’t fixed features, aren’t set in stone, but are more like the course of a river, which shifts as rocks (assumptions), or trees (belief systems), come and go. So at this point in our human imagination of the world, certain assumptive boulders have pushed our development towards a kind of excess rationality that ends up in a little backwater whirlpool of schizophrenia. But if we resolve this confusion, then human development would no longer encounter this problem in quite the same way. Human “nature” shifts; behavior, ideas, visions change. There is no vantage point that shows everything, so there’s always room to learn, and no form or nature ever settles.

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Anxiety Mindfulness and the Natural Unity of Life

Depression and anxiety are commonplace in contemporary societies, part of everyday life; celebrities and public figures, British Royalty even, talk openly about their struggles with conditions that were hidden and dismissed just a few years ago. Most of us either suffer from one of these debilitating diseases or know someone who does; for huge numbers of people around the world, life has become a kind of agony, something to cope with, a competitive battlefield in which only the few triumph.

Individual stress adds to, and is intensified by, the collective anxiety and tension under which we all live, which in turn exacerbates personal suffering; and so a self-perpetuating cycle of pain and discomfort is created. Divisions along a variety of lines, from income/wealth to ideology, nationality, race and gender are pronounced, fracturing society, feeding fear, fermenting conflict. This fragmentation contradicts the natural unity of life; all of life is connected, an integrated, complex whole with human beings constituting part of the intricately diverse planetary ecosystem, one that, due to ignorance and greed, is being destroyed apace.

Globally the number of people suffering from one or other form of mental health illness is thought to be around 720 million, or a tad over one in ten; among children, the World Health Organization estimates that, “10-20% experience mental disorders.” Given the stigma (still) surrounding mental health in many countries and cultures, plus the lack of data in developing countries, for example, the figures are no doubt a great deal higher, the problem even more serious, the suffering more widespread.

Anxiety and depression are the most common strains and find focus in relation to a number of areas: economic uncertainty, low self-esteem, self-image, fear of loneliness, fear of failure, environmental worries and others. The pressures to conform and ‘succeed’ are relentless and all pervasive, applied primarily through education, the media, peers and fearful parents who ‘only want the best’ for their children. The whole focus is on becoming something or somebody, instead of being; of allowing oneself to be, and finding out what that is. All of this creates the conditions in which anxiety and depression are virtually inevitable.

There are various conventional treatments for anxiety, depression and related conditions, most commonly counseling and medication (prescribed or self-medicating), and, in recent years, like other so-called ‘spiritual’ practices emanating from the East, Mindfulness has become increasing popular. It is even recommended by the UK’s National Health System (NHS). Although only now becoming widely known, mindfulness is an ancient technique, shared by Gautama Buddha some 2,500 years ago (but one that may be even older). It is generally spoken of as a practice – the ‘practice of being mindful’, but being mindful moment-to-moment is closer to an art form than a practice, which implies an action. It is not meditation, but if embraced fully can open a door onto the silence and unmediated relationship that is meditation.

Being mindful is the act of attending to the moment, this moment, then the next, then the next and so on. Paying attention to the various aspects of oneself and the world around us, so that we become consciously aware of: the physical form, that’s our body and the sensory space; emotional movements and reactions; and the activity of the mind, the endless chatter of thinking.

Such attentive observation helps tackle anxiety and depression by focusing the mind in the present moment, and not allowing movement into an uncertain future or a painful past to take place; not by control, but by choice-less awareness – without judgment – of life as it is at any given moment. As the mind moves forwards in time, and away from ‘the now’ we create the conditions in which uncertainty and anxiety can flourish, and when the mind drifts backwards into a past allowing regret, sentimentality or guilt to surface, depression can occur. By being wholly, not partially attentive, and not fragmented, the psychological movement in time ceases. Sustained, and this is key, it is a powerful act that frees the mind from its constant yearning and ceaseless agitation, allowing ‘peace of mind’, or contentment, to naturally occur.

These ‘Qualities of Being’ – peace, contentment, happiness – are inherent within all human beings, but for most of us, all of us perhaps, they are absent from our lives, replaced by anxiety, desire, dissatisfaction and fear. The socio-economic structure and the ideology of competition and greed intensify such debilitating states.

As well as education, social media and the dominance of screens in the lives of billions throughout the world play a major role in keeping everyone in a state of unease, discontent and mindlessness. Like all areas of consumerism, social media is built on people, or ‘users’ (like drug addicts) as they are called, being in a constant state of inattention and agitated desire, with the forces of competition and comparison, running throughout. Like anxiety and depression, desire, partly functions in relation to psychological time and is a cornerstone of the pervasive economic model. Undivided attention to the activity, thought, feeling (including desire) at hand, negates the power of desire in that moment, and starves anxiety/depression of the conditions needed for their growth.

Like anything, to be potent mindfulness requires consistent application and focused effort; specific periods of concentrated attention during the day are helpful (when, for example, undertaking daily tasks, washing, cooking, dressing etc.) functioning as reminders and aiding in the establishment of a new rhythm of conscious living. In observing ourselves: the body with its aches and pains, its movements and sensations, fluctuating feelings (observed and not named) and the activity of thought we become mindful, in that moment, of our pre-occupations and of our own conditioning. Everyone is conditioned and all forms of sociological and psychological conditioning whatever the source, are imprisoning, divisive and fear inducing. Mindfulness allows us to become consciously aware of this false and limited image constructed by and sustained through our identification with the body and thought.

There is, or should be, no goal with mindfulness; there is nothing to achieve or aim at. In the moment of observation, and with consistency, such moments expand, the activity of the body including the mind/brain slow down, and when we slow down the nervous system can begin to settle. Doing things (everyday activities) slowly and mindfully is a powerful tool in bringing relief from anxiety and depression. In a world dominated by divisive modes of living designed to cause discontent, mindfulness creates a space in which awareness can naturally operate, and awareness is a liberating quality and the key to change, individually and collectively.

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