A Species In Denial
Page 187 of
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The subject of the human condition, together with humans’ denial of it and the processes involved in its resolution, were summarised in the Introduction and elaborated upon in the first essay, Deciphering Plato’s Cave Allegory; however, many unanswered questions remain. Many of these questions are answered in this essay, in the course of explaining what has been the most important psychological event in human life. This all-important event has dictated the whole nature of existence for adult humans from time immemorial and yet it has been an event that has not even been acknowledged prior to now. This event was an act of resignation, albeit reluctant, and therefore has been termed Resignation.
Some of the key outstanding questions about our species’ historic denial of the human condition and the effects of that denial are:
- Were we born with this state of denial of the subject of the human condition?
- If we were not born with it, when did we adopt it?
- What precisely was so frightening and depressing about the subject?
- How exactly did the mind go about blocking it out?
- How have the Members of the World Transformation Movement (the WTM is the organisation that has been established to promote and develop the understanding of the human condition that is now available) been able to overcome their denial and survive confronting the human condition?
- How much truth and beauty have humans buried in order to live in denial—just how superficial has humans’ alienated state been?
- Page 188 of
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- How different will humans of the near future—who will grow up free of denial of the human condition—be to humans of today?
- What will the world free of the human condition be like—how different will it be from today’s world?
- In addressing the first two questions, humans were not born with this denial. As will be explained in this essay, at about 12 years of age humans began to try to understand the dilemma of the human condition. However with humanity unable, until now, to explain this deepest of issues, by about the age of 15 they finally realised that they had no choice but to resign themselves to a life of living in denial of the depressing subject. While humanity was unable to acknowledge either the issue of the human condition or the resulting need to resign to a life of denial of it, it was not possible to describe and explain the unresigned life of children and young adolescents. Now that we can explain the human condition their world can at last be safely examined.
The elephant in the living room that only young people could see
While most people are effectively ‘deaf’ to discussion of the human condition, there is a particular group of people that can hear this information. This group is young adolescents. A study of their circumstances makes it starkly clear why they are not only able to hear, but why, when and how the denial of the issue of the human condition arises.
Lisa Tassone’s wonderfully honest letter to the WTM, written when she was 16, has already been quoted in the Introduction but is worthy of another inclusion because it demonstrates just how easily young adolescents are able to access the information in my books. ‘Before stumbling upon Free: The End Of The Human Condition that was discreetly shoved in the back of the philosophy section, I was at the end of my road. I had experienced a year of complete and utter pain, confusion, anger and Page 189 of
Print Edition frustration. When I finally took the plunge to seek medical help (as I was suicidal), I was diagnosed with severe depression and put on medication. After reading your book (which I stayed up till 2am reading, I just couldn’t put it down), I have been one of the fastest recovering depressants around. No wonder why. If everyone knew your insights, so much would be resolved. The purpose of this letter is to thank you for your courage in publishing your sure-to-be controversial work, and for basically recovering and saving this 16 year old. Not only is your work the absolute truth and has restored my faith in humanity, it has given me inspiration to help others. I may seem young to know what I’m talking about but, well, I do. I have tested all your work and others and yours always held up’ (Brisbane, 4 Oct. 1999).
While well-educated adults typically find my books difficult to read and understand, this 16-year-old clearly had no such difficulty. To explain how this is possible, we need to consider the situation young people encounter as they enter into adolescence, and face the world.
Considering humans have had to live in denial of the issue of the human condition but were not born with this denial already ‘wired’ into their mind (as will become clear in subsequent material), it follows that each new generation encountered and somehow adjusted to the world of denial. Adults who were already living in a fraudulent state of denial could not admit that they were, so it is to be expected that each new generation was greatly perplexed by what was occurring in the adult world around them.
This essay describes and explains this perplexing situation and its outcome.
The question of why humans are not ideally behaved, of how and why humans became corrupted, is the issue of the human condition. It is this issue that my first two books, Free: The End Of The Human Condition and Beyond The Human Condition, are primarily concerned with explaining. This explanation was summarised in the previous essay, Deciphering Plato’s Cave Allegory.
In the Introduction it was explained that historically there has been no explanation for the riddle of the human condition; for why humans have been competitive, aggressive and selfish when the ideals are to be cooperative, loving and selfless. While humans could not explain the riddle of the human condition they had no choice other than to block the whole issue from their minds, because not to was to become dangerously—even suicidally—depressed. Eventually, humans learnt that the only way to achieve that block-out was simply to accept humans’ divisive reality as normal and deny the whole concept Page 190 of
Print Edition and truth of cooperative ideality. If you make no acknowledgment of the cooperative, integrative meaning of life—if there is no state of ideality—then there is no conflict of human divisiveness with universal integrativeness, and therefore no issue, no dilemma of the human condition to become depressed about.
For humans to block out and deny the concept of cooperative ideality they actually had to block out and deny two concepts: firstly, an instinctive expectation within themselves of encountering a cooperative, loving, selfless world; and secondly, a conscious awareness within themselves from observing the world around them that life’s meaning or purpose is to be cooperative or integrative. (Note, the biological explanation for how humans acquired an instinctive self or ‘soul’ that is orientated to behaving cooperatively and lovingly was also summarised early in the previous essay, Deciphering Plato’s Cave Allegory, and is explained in detail in Beyond in the chapter ‘How We Acquired Our Conscience’. Similarly, the physics that explain that the meaning of existence is to be cooperative or integrative was summarised at the beginning of the Plato essay, and is explained in detail in Beyond in the chapter, ‘Science and Religion’.) In order, therefore, to save themselves from suicidally depressing thoughts about why they were not ideally behaved, it was necessary for humans to live life in denial of both the existence within themselves of instinctive expectations of a cooperative, loving world and the existence of a cooperative or integrative purpose to life itself.
That being the case, the question is, what happened to each new generation of humans when they arrived in a world of people practising such denial? Having not yet adopted denial, young people were still aware of both their instinctive self or soul’s expectations of encountering a cooperative, loving world, and of the cooperative or integrative purpose to existence. It is easy to see that they would find their way of thinking and viewing the world completely at odds with the view and behaviour of those around them. The world around them was no longer cooperative, loving and selfless but instead extremely competitive, aggressive and selfish, and it was a world where almost all adults were denying there was anything fundamentally wrong with this non-ideal state of affairs.
This conflict of views placed the new generation in an extremely perplexing predicament. Young people were faced with having to try to reconcile their point of view with the view being presented by the adults around them and their associated world. While they were Page 191 of
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Young adolescents struggled mightily with the dilemma—essentially the question of the human condition, the question of why the world was not ideally behaved when they instinctively expected it to be. This struggle continued for a number of years until eventually, at around the age of 15, they realised there was no answer to the question and they had no choice but simply to deny the problem existed. They resisted this desertion from the truth for as long as possible, but finally accepted that the only sensible way of coping was to resign themselves to a life lived in denial of the depressing issue of the human condition—and of all the associated states and truths that reminded them of it. They accepted that the only way to cope with the problem was to block out those expectations of ideality, namely their loving, idealistic soul and the condemning truth of integrative meaning, and take up an attitude of denial like countless generations had done before them.
Each generation valiantly resisted resigning to a life of denial of soul and of the truth of integrative meaning because doing so meant living an immensely fraudulent and penalised life thereafter. In resigning, a person was evading the real issue before us as a species, which was the issue of the human condition; evading the most fundamental of truths about life, namely the truth of integrative meaning; and evading also the ‘magical’, all-sensitive, cooperative, selfless, loving—ideal—world of our instinctive self or soul. The price of resignation could hardly have been higher, it meant becoming an evasive, blocked-out, alienated, superficial and artificial being.
When you resigned you were effectively accepting the death of both your soul and mind. By blocking out the soul’s central expectation of a loving world you were blocking out the whole sensitivity base of your being, while any thinking that tried to progress from denial of that most fundamental of truths, integrative meaning, was obviously going to be flawed and incapable of reaching any profound truth.
Dying in soul and mind so you could stay alive in the non-ideal upset world of reality became an inevitable and inescapable horror for humans and while resigning yourself to a life of denial was the Page 192 of
Print Edition only solution for almost all humans, accepting it as a way of life was not at all easy. The great (relatively unevasive) Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing clearly described just how fraudulent the resigned world of adults has been when he wrote: ‘[In the world today] There is little conjunction of truth and social “reality”. Around us are pseudo-events, to which we adjust with a false consciousness adapted to see these events as true and real, and even as beautiful. In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are than in what they are not. Our social realities are so ugly if seen in the light of exiled truth, and beauty is almost no longer possible if it is not a lie’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, 1967, p.11 of 156).
Young unresigned adolescents were able to see how shallow and fraudulent the resigned world was, and determinedly resisted resigning. Eventually, however, the horrific depression that came from trying to face down ideality without understanding of the human condition forced them to accept resignation.
In fact, they were to learn that the issue of the human condition was so depressing that they would have to dedicate almost their whole existence to escaping and distracting themselves from thinking about it.
The human mind has had to be dedicated to the task of denial, because the evidence for the dilemma of the human condition is not easy to avoid. Firstly, the theme of existence—integrative meaning—is on display all around us, every object we look at is a hierarchy of ordered matter, an example of the development of order or integration of matter. Secondly, all of life is deeply connected with our instinctive heritage, ‘a friend of our soul’—an association that reminds our mind of all the truths associated with our soul’s true world. Thirdly of course, human’s competitive, selfish and aggressive—divisive—behaviour, which is in such conflict with integrative meaning, is also on display before us every day of our lives. The human race has prided itself on its capacity to think but its real mental skill has been in avoiding thinking. Despite humans’ bravado about being intellectual beings, the truth is humans have spent most of their time avoiding thought.
This dedication, necessary as it was, has been yet another penalty to living in denial because it has limited humans’ ability to be operational in the world and to savour the world. The distinguished British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, has described how the mind can repress subjects, force them out of conscious awareness Page 193 of
Print Edition into the subconscious, and how preoccupying and thus limiting it is maintaining that repression: ‘The word “unconscious”…has been used for a very long time to describe unawareness…there are depths to our natures which we cannot easily plumb…a special variety of unconscious, which he [Freud] named the repressed unconscious…[there is] the fact that what is unconscious cannot be remembered because of its being associated with painful feeling or some other intolerable emotion. Energy has to be all the time employed in maintaining the repression, and it can easily be seen that if there is a great deal of an individual’s personality that is repressed, there is relatively little energy left for a direct participation in life’ (Thinking about Children, 1996, p.9 of 343).
What made resignation especially difficult was that each new generation of adolescents had to accept it without the benefit of having older people who were already resigned, in particular their parents, acknowledge and talk to them about the psychological crisis they were going through. Unable to explain their divisive state, humans could not afford even to admit there was a problem associated with it. Not being able to confront and acknowledge what was taking place in a young adolescent’s life, all that parents or adult friends could do was offer sympathy. Mothers could stroke their son or daughter’s brow, but they could not acknowledge or in any way talk about the crisis their teenager was going through. There was ‘an elephant in our living room’, an all-important issue in human life that nobody was talking about, and young adolescents just had to discover for themselves why it was so necessary to ignore ‘the elephant’, why adults found the human condition such an unconfrontable, off-limits subject, and why each new generation of humans had to resign to a life of blocking out the subject of the human condition.
Given the truly awful world and state they were having to resign themselves to, and that they had to go through the agony of resigning without being able to talk to anybody about it, life leading up to resignation was a hellish existence for young adolescents.
Two of the most popular books amongst WTM Members are Sir Laurens van der Post’s A Story Like the Wind (1972) and its sequel, A Far Off Place (1974). The books are a fictional account of two young people negotiating resignation. Although the books do not talk in terms of negotiating resignation, they do contain a powerful selection of symbolic messages associated with resignation. For example, the two central characters lose their parents (they learn that they are on their own negotiating resignation), they have to cross an immense Page 194 of
Print Edition desert (face entering the wasteland of the resigned world of adulthood), and their friends include a Kalahari Bushman and a faithful dog (they derive soul-strength from the relative innocence of the Bushman and the dog). In A Far Off Place, Sir Laurens describes the unreality of the world—the ‘far off place’—that humans have resigned themselves to: ‘He felt acutely that he was not going out into the real world at all, but entering not even a fortress so much as a new kind of menagerie, a prison in which partial forms of life were being preserved in a condition of unreality’ (p.406 of 413).
So horrific is the act of resignation that it often resulted in glandular fever. This illness has been termed the ‘kissing disease’ because it most commonly occurs at about the same time as, and has thus evasively been blamed on, the occurrence of puberty. This is an ‘evasive’ explanation because for glandular fever to occur a person’s immune system has to be extremely rundown, yet at puberty the body is physically at its healthiest. Therefore for glandular fever to break out, adolescents must be under extraordinary psychological stress, much greater than the stresses that could possibly be associated with the physical adjustments to puberty. The stresses that cause glandular fever in young adolescents are those associated with having to resign.