Please note, you can access all the explanatory and inspirational Freedom Essays at the end of this Freedom Essay. Wednesday’s explanatory essays and Friday’s inspirational essays are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.
This is explanatory Freedom Essay 15
The difficulty of reading FREEDOM that Plato predicted
What follows is a condensation of chapters 1:4 and 1:5 of Jeremy Griffith’s book FREEDOM.
In Freedom Essay 9, WTM Member Tony Gowing talked about humans’ historic fear of the human condition, a fear that is so great it makes it very difficult for almost all people to read about the human condition and its resolution in FREEDOM. The tragic result for all these people, if they’re not aware of how to overcome this problem, is that they won’t receive the most precious gift a human can hope for, which is liberation from the horror and agony of the human condition!
The situation is akin to someone who suffers from a great fear of snakes being given a book that will cure them of their phobia, but since the cure in the book unavoidably involves discussion of snakes, as soon as they try to read the book their fear stops them from being able to do so, and so they miss out on being cured.
In his poem about the human condition, Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote: ‘O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall, frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed’. These extraordinarily honest words acknowledge that whenever we dared to try to scale the ‘mountains’ in our ‘mind’ and enter the cold, sharp, icy world above the snow-line of what we find bearable to think about, and begin to dwell on the subject of the human condition, we risked ‘fall[ing]’ down ‘frightful, sheer’ ‘cliffs’ of unbearable self-confrontation and depression that, as Hopkins titled his poem, ‘No Worst, There Is None’ (1885).
Our seemingly horrifically imperfect, ‘good’ and ‘evil’-conflicted human condition has indeed been such a fearful subject that, until now, ‘no man’ has ‘fathomed’ it, been able to find the understanding of it; and, without that redeeming understanding, trying to confront the subject has only ever led to ‘sheer’ ‘cliffs of fall’ of ‘frightful’ depression. It is little wonder then that when the understanding of the human condition arrives, almost everyone is going to be too afraid to go near the explanation to see if the ‘mountains’ in our ‘mind’ have at last been ‘fathomed’. While the ‘holy grail’ of the whole heroic journey of humanity has been to find the rehabilitating understanding of our condition, tragically our historic fear of the subject blocks access to our rehabilitation from it!
This truly is an astronomically tragic situation. Benjamin Disraeli, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, once famously said about not being able to find the redeeming, human-race-transforming understanding of the human condition, ‘Stranded halfway between ape and angel is no place to stop’. The essayist Jonathan Swift made a similarly anguished plea that he ‘not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole’. The cellist Pablo Casals also recognised the urgency of solving the human condition when he said, ‘The situation is hopeless, we must take the next step’, as did the journalist Doug Anderson when he wrote, ‘Time may well be dwindling for us to enlighten ourselves…Tragic to die of thirst half a yard from the well.’ The clinical psychologist Maureen O’Hara was another who stressed the need for the redeeming and thus human-race-transforming understanding of the human condition when she said that ‘humanity is either standing on the brink of “a quantum leap in human psychological capabilities or heading for a global nervous breakdown”’. And the psychotherapist Wayne Dyer was making the same point when he said, ‘We’ve come to a place…where we can either destroy ourselves or discover our divineness’, as was the great Australian educator, Sir James Darling, when he said, ‘The time is past for help which is only a Band-Aid. It is time for radical thinking and for a solution on the grand scale.’ (see paragraph 228 of FREEDOM) Yes, the human race has absolutely desperately needed to find the all-redeeming and all-liberating and all-transforming insight into its condition, so to have finally found that most precious of all insights — the ‘solution on the grand scale’ — and then not be able to access it and discover that it has been found and appreciate that we can all now be liberated from that unbearably agonising condition, is shaping to be the most horrendous tragedy in the history of planet Earth! The conscious mind, nature’s greatest invention, is on the brink of the most terrible outcome imaginable — and this after eons of incredible, beyond description, effort and sacrifice by humans — of ‘dying of thirst half a yard from the well’! (F. Essay 51 provides analysis of the very serious endgame situation that humanity has now entered.)
We humans have long referred to there being a great ‘elephant in our living rooms’, an all-important issue in our lives that we have failed to recognise, and while all manner of issues have been put forward as being that ignored matter, the real ‘elephant in our living rooms’ that we couldn’t look at, indeed, that we have refused to look at to the extent that many have denied its very existence, is the issue of the human condition.
The problem, again, is that as soon as discussion of the human condition begins, our minds become subconsciously alert to the fact they are being taken into a historically off-limits realm and start blocking out what is being said. Our minds suffer from a ‘deaf effect’ to what is being presented, with the consequence being that we struggle to read and absorb the liberating and transforming explanation of ourselves.
To illustrate the power of this ‘deaf effect’, consider the following reactions that Jeremy Griffith’s books have generated amongst readers: ‘When I first read this material all I saw were a lot of black marks on white paper’; and, ‘Reading this is like reading another language — you know it’s English, you can understand the words, but the concepts are so basic and so different that they are almost incomprehensible — it’s a paradigm shift of a read’; and, ‘This stuff is so head on it can be crippling, which, initially at least, can make it hard to get behind what’s being said and access the profundity of where it’s coming from’; and, ‘At first I found this information difficult to absorb, in fact my wife and I would sit in bed and read a page together, and then re-read it a number of times, but still we couldn’t understand what was written there and ended up thinking it must be due to poor expression.’
As the last response indicates, a consequence of being unaware that this resistance and block-out is occurring in our mind (because when we are in denial of something we aren’t aware we are in denial, since obviously if we were we wouldn’t be in denial of it!) is that we naturally blame the inaccessibility of what is being put forward on flaws in the presentation; we think it is, as readers of Jeremy’s books have so often said, ‘badly written’, ‘impenetrably dense’, ‘disjointed’, ‘confusingly worded’, ‘too intellectual for me to understand’, ‘long-winded’, ‘unnecessarily repetitive of vague points’, ‘desperately needs editing’, and even ‘lacking in any substance or meaning’. Frustrated readers have even requested ‘an executive summary so I have some idea of what it is that you’re trying to say’!
As was mentioned in F. Essay 9 and F. Essay 13, the best analogy and description of humans’ fear of the human condition, and of the ‘deaf effect’ it causes, was given by that greatest of all philosophers, Plato, way back in the Golden Age of Greece, some 360 years before Christ. As to Plato’s greatness as a philosopher (philosophy being the study of ‘the truths underlying all reality’ (Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd edn, 1998)), Alfred North (A.N.) Whitehead, himself one of the most highly regarded philosophers of the twentieth century, described the history of philosophy as being merely ‘a series of footnotes to Plato’. (see paragraph 81 of FREEDOM.)
So what was Plato’s marvellously descriptive analogy of humans’ extreme fear of the human condition and what importance did he place on the resulting difficulty of the ‘deaf effect’ in his most profound contribution to the study of ‘the truths underlying all reality’? Well, Plato’s most acclaimed work is The Republic and the central focus of The Republic is ‘our human condition’; and, most revealingly, in describing ‘our human condition’, Plato metaphorically depicted humans as having to live ‘a long way underground’ in a ‘cave’ hiding from the ‘painful’ issue of ‘the imperfections of human life’ — these ‘imperfections’ being the issue of the human condition. So the greatest of philosophers recognised that the central problem in understanding the ‘reality’ of our behaviour is our fear of the human condition!
This is what Plato wrote: ‘I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to the daylight and running a long way underground. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there.’ Plato described how the cave’s exit is blocked by a ‘fire’ that ‘corresponds…to the power of the sun’, which the cave prisoners have to hide from because its searing, ‘painful’ ‘light’ would make ‘visible’ the unbearably depressing issue of ‘the imperfections of human life’. Fearing such self-confrontation, the cave prisoners have to ‘take refuge’ in the dark ‘cave’ where there are only some ‘shadows thrown by the fire’ that represent a ‘mere illusion’ of the ‘real’ world outside the cave. The allegory makes clear that while ‘the sun…makes the things we see visible’, such that without it we can only ‘see dimly and appear to be almost blind’, having to hide in the ‘cave’ of ‘illusion’ and endure ‘almost blind’ alienation has been infinitely preferable to facing the ‘painful’ issue of ‘our [seemingly imperfect] human condition’. (See par. 83 of FREEDOM, or you can view all these quotes from The Republic that appear in this and the next paragraph highlighted at <www.wtmsources.com/227>. You can also see the quote from Encarta Encylopedia that is mentioned in the next paragraph highlighted at <www.wtmsources.com/101>.)
With regard to the problem of the ‘deaf effect’ response the ‘cave’ ‘prisoners’ would have to reading or hearing about the human condition, Plato then described what occurs when, as summarised in the Encarta Encyclopedia, someone ‘escapes from the cave into the light of day’ and ‘sees for the first time the real world and returns to the cave’ to help the cave prisoners ‘Escape into the sun-filled setting outside the cave [which] symbolizes the transition to the real world…which is the proper object of knowledge’. Plato wrote that ‘it would hurt his [the cave’s prisoner’s] eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see [take refuge in all the dishonest, illusionary explanations for human behaviour that we have become accustomed to from human-condition-avoiding, mechanistic science], which he would think really far clearer than the things being shown him. And if he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent [out of the cave of denial] and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight [shown the truthful, real description of our human condition], the process would be a painful one, to which he would much object, and when he emerged into the light his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness of it that he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real.’ Significantly, Plato then added, ‘Certainly not at first. Because he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave’. (see par. 83 of FREEDOM)
So again, in his central and main insight into ‘the truths underlying all reality’ of ‘our human condition’, the greatest of all philosophers warned that when we ‘first’ start reading about what ‘our human condition’ really is we ‘wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real’. The italicised emphasis on ‘really is’ is because many refer to, and even claim to explain, the human condition without engaging with what it really is, namely the issue of our horrendously psychologically upset angry, egocentric and alienated lives.
Interestingly, the rock band U2’s 1992 song Staring At The Sun (the poignant cover of which is shown above) has these Plato-like lyrics: ‘It’s been a long hot summer, let’s get under cover, don’t try too hard to think, don’t think at all. I’m not the only one staring at the sun, afraid of what you’d find if you take a look inside. Not just deaf and dumb, I’m staring at the sun, not the only one who’s happy to go blind.’
So yes, for almost everyone, the ‘deaf effect’ will be a very significant problem when trying to read analysis of the human condition.
The obvious question then is, ‘How can the reader of FREEDOM overcome the ‘deaf effect’ and by so doing access the all-relieving and all-transforming understanding of themselves?’ Plato indicated the answer when he said that the ‘cave’ ‘prisoner’ ‘would need to grow accustomed to the light’ of the compassionate analysis of ‘the imperfections of human life’ of ‘our human condition’ to consequently achieve, as summarised in Encarta, the wonderful ‘transition to the real world’ ‘which is the proper object of knowledge’. And over thirty years of experience presenting the fully accountable, all-clarifying, relieving and transforming insights into human behaviour that are contained in Jeremy Griffith’s work has confirmed that this is indeed the case, and that watching introductory videos, patiently re-reading the texts, and discussing these ideas with others will allow you to ‘grow accustomed to’ analysis of ‘our human condition’ and, through doing so, overcome the ‘deaf effect’. We also provide a ‘WTM Deaf Effect Course’ to help people overcome the ‘deaf effect’, which you can learn more about and subscribe to .
To emphasise the very real nature of the ‘deaf effect’, and the effectiveness of re-reading in eroding it, take the following example, this time from an online article about Jeremy’s 2003 book, A Species In Denial: ‘I read it in 2005, and at the time it was not an easy read. The core concepts keep slipping from my mental grasp, at the time I put it down to bad writing, however a second reading revealed something the Author had indicated from the outset — your mind doesn’t want to understand the content. The second read was quick and painless…[and I was then able to see that] The cause of the malaise [of humanity] is exposed, remedied and the reader is left with at the very least an understanding of themselves, and for me something of an optimism for the future.’ Yes, the ‘second read’ is all-important — and regarding this last point about being left with ‘an optimism for the future’, Plato also emphasised just how relieved the cave prisoner would be to be free of his old, human-condition-avoiding, dishonest existence by saying that once he had become ‘accustomed to the light’, ‘when he thought of his first home and what passed for wisdom there, and of his fellow-prisoners, don’t you think he would congratulate himself on his good fortune and be sorry for them?’ The following are some other quotes you can search online that reveal this sense of ‘good fortune’ of being able to access understanding of the human condition and of finally being in the position to make sense of human existence: ‘If Plato and Aristotle were alive and read Griffith, they would die happy men’; and, ‘We don’t have to put up with “Not Knowing” anymore’; and, ‘tears stream down my face, so overcome have I been by this book. It is the greatest book on the planet, no wait, in the universe. In fact it is the greatest anything in the universe’; and, ‘I don’t care what question you have, this book will answer it’; and, ‘Here is the breakthrough biological explanation that PROVES we are ALL very, very good’; and, ‘This, to me, is the most significant thing I have ever stumbled across…If it doesn’t hit you right away — it will down the road’; and, ‘Gah! words are too limited for this. Here have some love brother!’; and, ‘This book is why I’m alive enough to scribe to you. Joy and Love to you all.’ (see par. 93 of FREEDOM)
So, once you listen to the introductory videos and patiently re-read the text, and, if need be, take the ‘WTM Deaf Effect Course’, you will be astonished to discover that the fog does begin to lift, that what is being presented does begin to make extraordinarily accountable sense of human behaviour. This process of illumination is palpable in this additional extract from journalist and broadcaster Brian Carlton’s interview with Jeremy (which can be viewed at <www.humancondition.com/carlton-video>): ‘I remember when I first read one of your books I went through a stage where I couldn’t quite get my head around it. I got about half of it and it was a little confusing and a little dense but I didn’t give up. And in time your explanations did start to become clear and it made a hell of a lot of sense to me…The process of stripping off the denial is the difficult part, but once you’ve done that the answers become glaringly obvious…It’s an intellectual epiphany; I have a more complete understanding of myself, everybody around me, the society at large, the way the planet works. It’s a revelation! I don’t use that in a religious sense, it’s a quantifiably different thing but it has a similar impact on you. You wake up the next morning feeling more invigorated, more able to deal with the world because your level of understanding of it is so much higher…It’s very simple, it’s not hard. The end process is easy and reassuring and calming and self-accepting. Getting there is the difficult bit, once you have the revelation, the clarity of it is euphoric almost…when you get it, it is an event. You remember the day, you remember the section of the book, you remember when it happened, it stays with you…Don’t underestimate the extent to which your work has impacted me in terms of how I think about what I’m seeing, how I interpret behaviour. I worked up this ability to be able to work out what a person was like in the first five or six seconds of a conversation [as the host of a talk-back radio program]…the trickle-down transfer to every day life and every day human relationships and experiences has been hugely valuable.’
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Watch Jeremy Griffith present the breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in F. Essay 5, or read . You can also read much more about the problem of the ‘deaf effect’ in , and in F. Essay 51, which explains how our species’ increasing levels of alienation are making it almost impossible for new generations to cope with any discussion of the human condition. Again, there is also available the .
Discussion or comment on this essay is welcomed — see below.
Please Note, you can access any of the following explanatory and inspirational Freedom Essays by clicking on them. They are also available on our homepage at .
These essays were composed during 2017 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood,
Fiona Cullen-Ward & Brony FitzGerald at the Sydney WTM Centre.