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This is Freedom Essay 43

 

Ceremonial masks reveal the truth
about our human condition

 

Written by Jeremy Griffith, 2017

 

Ceremonial masks, which have been used in almost all cultures, are extremely revealing of the human condition.

 

Fang Mask, Gabon, Africa, c.19th century. The Pavillion des Sessions in Louvre Museum

Fang mask, Gabon, Africa, c.19th century,
the Pavillon des Sessions in Louvre Museum

Bhairav Mask, Nepal Amogh Siddhi Shakya, Nepal

Bhairav Mask, Nepal

 

As has been described at length in these essays, and in all of my work, the overall essential feature of the human journey since we first became conscious is that of the accumulation of knowledge at the expense of our innocent soul. Thus the two fundamental aspects of the human condition are the tragic repression of our original all-loving and all-sensitive instinctive self or soul because of its unjust condemnation of our conscious self, and the extremely upset, angry state of the conscious thinking egoic intellect for being so unjustly condemned. (See Video/​F. Essay 3 for the explanation of the human condition.)

 

Image of group of Englishmen in bowler hats

 

In our day to day human-condition-avoiding, Plato’s-cave-hiding lives, the truth of the extent to which our soul has been brutally repressed has been hidden from view. Similarly, the volcanic depths of the anger of our conscious mind has also been mostly restrained and contained and thus also not often revealed. We learnt to be, as we say, civilised; we tried not to let the true extent of our corrupted, upset state show. We went to great lengths to conceal our extremely tortured, disfigured, soul-dead, furiously angry real human condition. The insecurity of our situation even became so extreme that people took up pseudo idealistic causes to delude themselves they weren’t upset at all! (See Video/​F. Essay 14 and F. Essays 34, 35 & 36 on the danger of pseudo idealism.)

 

Jeremy Griffith drawing showing pseudo idealistic person

‘Here, my poor friend, have some food so I can feel good.’

 

While this denial of the truth of our immensely corrupted condition saved the upset human race from unbearable self-confrontation, the extreme dishonesty, artificiality and superficiality of living that way could also become unbearablepsychologically and then physically sickening in fact, at which point some purging, cathartic, exorcising honesty was needed. The wearing of masks that revealed the true depth of how either soul-dead or ferociously angry we upset humans had become was a powerfully effective way of bringing some relieving, therapeutic honesty to our lives. It comes as little surprise then that truth-revealing masks have been used in the ceremonies of almost all cultures.

The Greeks call masks ‘ekstasis’, a word which means ‘to stand outside oneself’. It follows that when we stood outside our self we were, in turn, looking into our self and seeing the real devastation that the psychiatrist R.D. Laing spoke of when he referred to the ‘fifty feet of solid concrete’ that now exists between us and our original soulful true self. In some of the most honest writing ever seen, Laing wrote, ‘Our alienation goes to the roots…​We are born into a world where alienation awaits us. We are potentially men, but are in an alienated state…​the ordinary person is a shrivelled, desiccated fragment of what a person can be. As adults, we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its contents but its flavour; as men of the world, we hardly know of the existence of the inner world…​The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man…​between us and It [our true selves or soul] there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete…​The outer divorced from any illumination from the inner is in a state of darkness. We are in an age of darkness…​We are all murderers and prostitutes…​We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another’ (see par. 123 of FREEDOM). (Read more about R.D. Laing’s extraordinary honesty in F. Essay 48.)

The word ‘mask’ is actually derived from the term ‘msk’, which was used in the middle Egyptian period to denote ‘second skin’. That ‘second skin’ that the mask sought to exorcise was our soul-corrupted, immensely upset, human-condition-afflicted real state that Laing described above as being a ‘shrivelled, desiccated fragment of what a person can be’. Masks allowed the wearer to momentarily relieve themselves of their extremely dishonest everyday masquerade of being a secure, sound, well-adjusted, happy person, and let the truth out, which could be very therapeutic for both the wearer and the observer.

By far the most common variety of masks are those that reveal the true extent of the, in truth, volcanic, demonic anger inside of humans. The right-hand mask above from Nepal is one example, as are the following from New Zealand, New Guinea and Mexico respectively.

 

Maori Koruru (gable mask), New Zealand, c.1880. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of the Dominion Museum, Wellington, NZ, 1956

Maori Koruru (gable mask), New Zealand

 

A mask depicting a human-like face with an expression of great anger

“Mudman”, Asaro Valley, Papua New Guinea,
photo by David Austin

‘Day of the Dead’ Skull Mask, Mexico, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

‘Day of the Dead’ Skull Mask, Mexico, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

 

Masks that focused on revealing and exorcising the other aspect in the duality of the human condition, of the extent of the devastation of our cooperative, all-loving and all-sensitive original instinctive self or soul (you can read about how we acquired our moral soul in F. Essay 21, and the previous F. Essay 42 on cave paintings showed just how much of this all-sensitive moral soul we have now lost), were always going to be rarer than masks that revealed the extent of our intellect’s anger. This is because the more upset humans became, the more we replaced any sensitive, inward-focusing, introspective awareness and concern about our loss of soulful innocence with a need to get even with the world for its unjust condemnation, at which point outward-focusing, egocentric ferocious anger became the dominant concern and orientation of lifewhich is why masks that exorcise ferocious anger predominated. Put simply, the more upset we humans became, the less we wanted to be reminded of how soul-dead we had become, which means that any masks that did reveal how estranged or alienated from our soul we humans have become were going to be few and far between. However, there are some truly extraordinarily honest masks that reveal the extent of our soul-deadness, and, not surprisingly, these were made by more innocent, less egocentric and more truthful races, such as the ‘Fang’ mask at the start of this essay and the masks below, all of which were made by Bantu tribes in central Africa. (The differences in levels of upset between races is a truth that can at last be safely admitted now that the upset state of the human condition has been explained and defended. F. Essay 28 talks about this ability to be honest about differences in alienation that ends all prejudices, such as racism.)

 

Lega Bwami masks, Congo, Africa, c.1915-1945. Collection of David Norden, Belgium, 1993

Lega Bwami masks, Congo, Africa, c.1915-1945
collection of David Norden, Belgium

 

Ivory Lega mask

Ivory Lega mask, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium, acquired 1939; collected Maniema, Congo

Wooden Chokwe mask

Wooden Chokwe mask, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium, acquired 1954; collected Kwilu, Congo

 

Wooden Pende mask, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium Acquired: 1959; Collected: Kwilu, Congo

Wooden Pende mask, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium, acquired 1959;
collected Kwilu, Congo

Wooden Woyo mask. Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium. Acquired: 1919; Collected: Bas-Congo, Congo

Wooden Woyo mask, Royal
Museum for Central Africa,
Belgium, acquired 1919;
collected Bas-Congo, Congo

 

Just how deeply these masks affect us when we look at them is a measure of how extraordinarily revealing they are of the true extent of the inner devastation, loneliness, emptiness and sadness of the human race’s now 2-million-year soul-repressed and soul-devastated condition. We are such miserable wrecks of what a human could and ideally should be (and will be again now that the human condition is solved), so it is relieving for our true self to see such honesty. Indeed, the therapeutic, exorcising power of these masks from the Congo region of Africa has led them to become considered amongst the finest creations in the art world. A Fang mask very similar to the one shown at the start of this essay sold for around $US7 million in 2006 (Lot 193, Vérité auction, Paris, Jun. 2006).

It is no wonder some of the world’s greatest artists have been influenced by these African masks. A 2010 documentary, titled Paris: The Luminous Years, describes how ‘The walls of his [Pablo Picasso’s] studio were hung with African masks…​There was severe competition in those days between [the great artists] Picasso, Derain, Matisse and Braque, as to who could discover the most beautiful African heads. [As Braque said] Negro masks open new horizons to me. They put me in touch with things instinctive.’ And indeed, Picasso said he experienced a ‘revelation’ (Picasso, Rubin & Fluegel, 1980, p.87) while viewing African art at a Paris museum and his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (see image below) was the first work to result from that inspiration. Picasso also perfectly understood the healing value of masks, saying, ‘The [African] masks were not simply sculptures like any other. Not at all. They were magic objects…​They were weapons. To help people stop being ruled by spirits, to free themselves. Tools. If we give a form to these spirits, we become free…​I understood why I became a painter…​Les Demoiselles d’Avignon must have come to me that very day [when I first saw the African masks], but not at all because of the forms; because it was my first exorcism painting’ (André Breton, Oeuvres Completes, ed. M. Bonnet, 1988).

 

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ by Pablo Picasso, 1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso, 1907

 

At this point it should be reiterated that while humans have been as torturously alienated as the mask-makers have revealed, this is not the full story about humans. As has been emphasised throughout all of these essays, and in all of my work, the greater truth is that humans have also been the most courageous, heroic, successful and meaningful creatures to ever exist on Earth. We are not the awful beings we appeared to be; rather, given the magnificence of our fully conscious mind, nature’s greatest invention, and all the injustice we humans have had to endure for some two million years, we fully deserve to be considered divine beings.

So although we had to pay the price of becoming immensely upset/​corrupted/​alienated/​soul-dead, we humans ARE the heroes of the story of life on Earth. Furthermore (as is explained in F. Essay 15), as a result of finding this greater dignifying understanding of the human condition, our species’ tortured state of alienation is about to end, and virtually overnightwell, in only a number of decades which, in the scheme of things, is a very short timebecause being able to understand the human condition makes it possible for everyone to finally escape the tortured human-condition-afflicted state and immediately fully participate in a glorious, truthful, sun-filled, effectively alienation-free world. And in only a few generations’ time the human race will be actually alienation-free and fully soul-rehabilitated.

The human race is finally coming home to wholeness and happiness!

 

William Blake’s painting ‘Cringing in Terror’ with arrow to his painting ‘Albion Arose’

William Blake’s Cringing in Terror (c.1794-96) left, and Albion Arose (c.1794-96) right

 

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Watch Jeremy Griffith present the breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in Video/​F. Essay 3, or read chapter 1 of FREEDOM. You can also read much more about these ceremonial masks and the tribes that created them in Freedom Expanded, which is where the content of this F. Essay was drawn.

 

Discussion or comment on this essay is welcomedsee below.

 

 

 

These essays were created in 2017-2019 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood, Fiona
Cullen-Ward, Brony FitzGerald & Lee Jones of the Sydney WTM Centre. All filming and
editing of the videos was carried out by Sydney WTM members James Press & Tess Watson
during 2017-2019. Other members of the Sydney WTM Centre are responsible for the
distribution and marketing of the videos/​essays, and for providing subscriber support.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT





Please note, we encourage constructive discussion about this information and so reserve the right to moderate or decline posts that we feel are not relevant or inappropriate. In particular, with the subject of the human condition being so confronting, malice can easily occur, and where comments are deemed to be motivated not by objectivity but by malice, they will be declined. It has to be appreciated that the possibility of malice toward this subject matter is very real, and we have a responsibility to manage that as best we can.

  • Mon on April 29, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Wholeness and happiness indeed! Thank you for these stunningly insightful and helpful essays. It is absolutely fascinating to learn of the significance of these masks and the therapeutic honesty they brought to our alienated selves. The relief, true healing and love we can access now through being able to truly understand our lives and the meaning and beauty behind our immensely heroic, soul-devastated condition is just more than the heart can bear sometimes!

  • RJ on April 29, 2017 at 11:42 am

    This blog post is one snippet of just how fascinating and enthralling ‘Freedom’ is for me! These masks are so deeply affecting. When I first saw them and read about the truth of what they reveal I felt like printing a particular one out and wearing it around and having a tribal dance!! I can feel how much they reach in past our civilised facade to both of these devastated parts of ourselves. How truly remarkable that we can understand this and heal and reconcile these butchered selves inside each one of us and end up as the comment above from Mon says, in wholeness and happiness. It is so glorious where humanity is at.

  • nomad on May 2, 2017 at 11:24 am

    How powerful are those ‘sad’ masks! Forces me to be honest. So sobering.

  • Michael Avickson on May 3, 2017 at 3:17 am

    I heaved a sight of relief when I read : The human race is finally coming home to wholeness and happiness! Oh, what a good news! I doff my hat for the insightful works and thank all for their ingenuity. Thank you for being dissatisfied with the human condition and the decision to dig up the anomaly and scientifically analyse it in an attempt to solve it. But I believe it is solvable because where there is a will there is a way. Kudos to you all.

  • Asseged G on May 6, 2017 at 1:03 am

    yes they are power full, masks . but we all have different reflection than the reality of them. i have learned.

  • judy66 on November 30, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Yes, kudos to you all. I found this email very moving indeed, and I can only give you all my hopes and prayers for all the work you are doing. I am convinced there is nothing else on the planet that can stop the unbearable sadness expressed in those terrible masks.

  • melody Donovan on January 19, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    A moving email because as with all things I always turn back to myself and because I think of the wearing of masks I look at what masks I too wear. In fact I asked that question on fb the other day and the comments all leaned towards people feeling safe and comfortable behind their masks. Perhaps the actual word is ‘ashamed’ rather or as the email suggests ‘hidden.’ The best news of all for me is that I can and I will with knowledge drop my own mask and go forward and then believe that all of Jeremy’s writings with assist others to do the same.
    All of us must begin the process. Keep us the great work and please advise us if you need any help from those of us who ‘understand.’

    • WTM Admin on January 20, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      Thank you for your continuing wonderful support, Melody. Yes, if we are to put a stop to the torment, suffering and ever-increasing alienation plaguing our world and ‘finally come home to wholeness and happiness’, we certainly do need all the help we can get from those who are appreciative of these world-saving insights. The following link from our FAQ section (which you will find in the top menu bar of our website) contains advice about how to help the WTM:https://www.humancondition.com/wtm-faq-how-can-I-help-the-wtm/. We encourage everybody to get on board so we can drop our masks and get on out of here! Let’s go!!!!

  • Brian Crawford-Ball on February 15, 2018 at 12:28 am

    I am currently on chapter 8 of the book. Not the Expanded version. I have been totally blown away by it. I feel I have been living a lie for the past 38yrs. I realised the church was full of ego’s too, and people wallowing in the human condition, but would never admit it.

    I am a totally open person, and I have always thought there is a better was. Jeremy Griffith as stumbled on something here so amazing. To finally be opened up to the truth is amazing. I can feel myself going through some challenges and struggles as I digest every word of truth in this book.

    I keep posting it on Facebook because I want everyone to know this truth and be free from the shackles of this god forsaken human condition. We all deserve to be living the lives that we were originally created for, before the demise of the Golden Age. I can’t wait to get to chapter 9, but Jeremy Griffith – absolute genius and life saver.

    • Tommy on February 17, 2018 at 10:37 am

      That’s a beautiful comment Brian and I relate to what you say. It’s a very profound journey you go on when you start reading the utterly amazing truths Freedom reveals about the human condition as you say. And your anticipation about Chap 9 is spot on as I think you will find the Transformed Lifeforce State focus takes complete care of the inevitable “challenges and struggles” we all experience in encountering the full truth about our immensely upset condition.

  • Zzantor on April 6, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Those masks do evoke emotions. One aspect of masks is the wearing of them. There is a freedom I experience when I have a mask on(a real one) no matter what the mask is, when it’s on, I don’t have to be myself… All the pretense and the image I feel that I have to keep up, go away to some degree.
    Years ago I experimented with crossdressing, including wearing a wig and makeup. It took me awhile to figure out why it was so much fun, but, realized, it was the escape it provided. When I was dressed and make up to look like a girl, I became another person, even on the inside, I felt free. I used to say crossdressing is a better escape than drugs… (I would know). The feeling of wearing a mask for me is identical, at it’s core, to the feeling I used to get from wearing a dress, ha!
    I don’t CD anymore, as my own shadow work has uncovered my inner motivations and brought me to a point where I feel like I do have a mask on, which is my “immensely upset/​corrupted/​alienated/​soul-dead” self… My own face is a mask… The personality I have built to survive in this human condition affected world IS a mask, ha! When the transformation happens,(ongoing) I know and feel that we are all one organism. This knowing doesn’t erase my old personality, it expands it.
    My old way of being still arises, the second I see an old friend and often times, I don’t “come back” till I’m out of their presence, and I’ll think, where was I? When that happens, I was BEING the mask, but, If I stay present, then, my personality sort of externalizes, and that is when I now have a choice of how to be and do. A way that’s in line with life’s purpose as I now see it .
    For me, the knowledge and transformation that I got largely from reading FREEDOM has left me with nothing to defend…(what a relief). Otherwise, I would have never shared about my adventures into crossdressing, but, from where I now stand, all of that was a necessary part of my heroic search for a solution to the human condition. In fact, everything I’ve done, especially all the evil things I’ve done, were all necessary, what a nightmare! Ha! I’m still dreaming, but, now it’s a good dream, challenging, but, good.:)

    • Angela on July 25, 2019 at 8:50 am

      This is one of my favourite essays. I love the way in which Jeremy explains the meaning of masks, why they were made and used, the effects of viewing them have on us. Everything about these masks makes sense now and it’s wonderful to finally understand that we are nothing short of amazing but had to repress our innocence to find knowledge. I love how Jeremy makes it very clear that because we have now found the answer to who we really are by his discovery of the knowledge that has been repressed by our species for the past 2 million years, finally all our sadness, our alienation is about to end and quickly!

  • Anton Shakhmayev on July 16, 2018 at 5:05 am

    Extremely knowledgeable! Thank You! I am artist/promoter for fast growing Hardcore/Gabber Dance scene, where recently artists/dj’s started to wear masks while performing, especially during these last 5-10 years of the genre existence since early 90’s. To a lot of old fans of this genre it is unnecessary and thought lacking. Yet, I find it creative and entertaining… I am a human ;)

  • Marieke van den Hoogenband on January 10, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    This is a fascinating article. I have always been intrigued by the Chokwe people and their artistic expressions.

  • Jane Danckert on April 2, 2020 at 12:58 am

    Fantastic;very enlightening and wonderful times ahead for this beautiful planet and our Species as a whole 〰️🌞〰️

  • Kate Dyck on November 5, 2020 at 11:32 am

    So what can be said about the masks we wear today as the necessary admission to places of business and other gatherings? It feels to me like self-obliteration, muzzling, and submission. If the traditional masks were a way of expressing an honest statement, the end result of all our dishonesty is erasure of what makes us unique. (Never mind that the CDC says that the virus [i.e. the excuse for these masks] is really no more dangerous than the seasonal flu.)
    Only recently there was a big fuss made about Muslim women who covered their faces in public, and whether they should be allowed to do so. Now the face covering has become the new obligatory fashion statement. Traditional mask-wearing was an occasional bow to honesty in a dishonest world. Now the symbolic denial of who we are has become absolute.

  • Margaret J on November 9, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Most insightful analysis, enjoyed reading comments too, esp the honesty the article facilitated