Book Review: ‘A Species In Denial’ by Jeremy Griffith
(This review of ‘A Species In Denial’ first appeared at readdreamrelax.com 19 Feb. 2014)
The title of this bestseller is itself as bold a comment on the mental state of humanity that you’re likely to find in your local bookstore! Griffith’s decisive book on the origins, explanation and amelioration from the human condition is a fascinating and confronting series of essays on the answers to the great questions that have plagued mankind since consciousness. The width and depth of subject matter in this book traverse well beyond the boundaries of a standard investigation into human behavioural science. In fact, to neatly encapsulate the contents and flavour of this book in a short review has proven quite difficult because it just downright explains so much about human nature it is astonishing!
A foreword from biology Professor Charles Birch, now deceased, is the book’s opening (Birch won the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1990). And, aside from the Introduction, the book is broken into 5 main essays: Deciphering Plato’s Cave Allegory, Resignation, Bringing Peace To The War Between The Sexes and The Denial-Free History Of The Human Race and The Demystification Of Religion. So, obviously, a flick through the contents pages gives the reader an idea about the scope of the journey they are about to go on!
At the heart of these essays, and indeed the core theme of Griffith’s many other publications, lies the explanation of our so-called human condition. This condition is the underlying insecurity associated with being unable to fundamentally explain and understand our worth and meaning in life. Summed up as ‘…if the universally accepted ideals are to be cooperative, loving and selfless…why then are humans competitive, aggressive and selfish? What is the reason for humans’ divisive nature?’ The inability to answer this question; the lack of explanation as to why humans are divisively instead of cooperatively behaved has been ‘the particular burden of human life. It has been our species’ particular affliction or condition, the “human condition”.’ (pg 25).
Griffith goes on to elaborate that, in lieu of no explanation to this situation we have had to live in complete and total denial of the human condition and instead find alternate ways to prove our worth as humans, namely through seeking power, fame, fortune and glory (the basis for many human behavioural traits including greed, materialism, egotism etc.). If this book seems heavy going at times, it certainly is. The concepts are on such a holistic scale and the nature of the material so original that the reader can be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. Responsively, Griffith has anticipated this obstacle and dedicated several sections in the Introduction to this very problem, which he terms ‘the deaf effect’.
Progressing through the following essays is a unique and intriguing experience and one that is described in a review by well-known media personality Brian Carlton as ‘a must read for every human’. There’s the philosophy of Plato, the psychology and angst of teenage life and the eventual transition to an ‘adult’ world via ‘Resignation’, the reconciling explanation between men and women, explaining religious faith in non-abstract terms, a denial-free (denial-of-the-human-condition free) history of the human race as well as a small section on the charity and organisation where these ideas have taken hold in Australia (the World Transformation Movement).
Reading this book I really had the curious feeling of actually going on a journey. It was such an engaging mental experience – I would often find the concepts hard to grasp yet upon some recess and contemplation (sometimes over a few days) I would return to the book with a sharper understanding of what was being said. It almost felt like the book was reading me and not the other way around!! So if you’re curious about human nature, have an interest in philosophy and/or are a religious person or if you’re looking for a holistic perspective on humanity then prepare yourself for a rare and fulfilling experience. As Griffith rightly points out on the very first page ‘You are about the embark on a journey where humans have never been able to venture before, right into the very heart of the issue of what it is to be human.’ Enjoy.