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 9
Our historic fear of the human condition
It’s obvious humanity has needed to go ‘up river’ to address the root cause of all the wars, atrocities, heartache and hurt in the world — which is our species’ aggressive and competitive behaviour, our human condition. So why — until now — has no-one been able to go ‘up-river’ and do that?
In this video, WTM Founding Member Tony Gowing answers the riddle, explaining that since the subject of the human condition brings us face to face with our capacity to behave appallingly — our ‘dark side’ — it has been an absolutely terrifying task trying to confront it without first having the defence for it. Humans have, in effect, been in a ‘catch 22’: we needed the solution before we could even start thinking about the problem!!
And so the human condition has become the great proverbial ‘elephant in our living rooms’ — the all-important issue that had to be looked at and yet the one issue we just couldn’t look at. Indeed, we refused to look at it, to the extent that we denied its very existence. As the psychoanalyst Carl Jung recognised,
But ‘know ourselves’ we finally can. Jeremy Griffith’s redeeming explanation of the human condition (see F. Essay 5) has broken the stalemate. We can finally safely address our less-than-ideal behaviour, secure in the knowledge that we are fundamentally good after all. As Tony says,
Watch Tony explain our historical fear of the human condition here:
The Transcript of this video
In the first video (see F. Essay 1) I introduced the idea that we needed to go ‘up river’ to get to the source of the problems humanity currently faces. In this video I want to explain why humanity has struggled to address and solve the human condition. So I will talk a bit more about what the human condition is, as well as what a fabulous world opens up for humans now that we can understand ourselves.
As I pointed out, virtually all the problems we face are a result of our often brutally uncaring, aggressive and selfish behaviour, our human condition. That’s easy to point out, but there’s been a huge problem with this underlying, real issue of the human condition. Every time we thought about our horrifically brutal and divisive nature while we couldn’t explain it, we ended up extremely confronted and depressed by it — so much so that we learnt we had no choice but to stop thinking about this deepest and darkest and most off-limits of subjects of our seemingly worthless and destructive condition.
There’s a poet called Gerard Manly Hopkins who wrote a poem about the human condition, in which he referred to ‘These mountains of the mind and their cliffs of fall, frightful sheer, no man fathomed’ (No Worst, There Is None, 1885), and what he’s saying is that while we haven’t been able to ‘fathom’ or understand this great underlying issue of the human condition, ‘these mountains of the mind’, it only led to the ‘cliffs of fall’ of ‘frightful’ depression. So we’ve learnt that we had no choice but to leave the whole damn issue of the human condition alone — just get on with trying to manage the symptoms of it, all the aggression and wars and inequality and suffering; just resign ourselves to leaving that whole underlying issue of the human condition alone.
I emphasise that this ultimate decision to resign is not taken lightly. When children reach the age of about 12 they actually begin to try to confront the issue of the human condition; they begin to think deeply about why humans are so brutal and the world is so messed up, and getting no satisfactory answers from the adult world they internalise their thinking. By the time they’re 14 or 15, this answerless, deeper thinking becomes so depressing they enter a state of extreme despair and depression — a state that can often result in glandular fever. This is the stage when parents and teachers find adolescents unmanageable and unreachable. It’s only when the adolescent finally sensibly resigns to giving up trying to confront the human condition and becomes a dedicated escapist from that dark corner, like all the adults surrounding them, that the adolescent finally becomes part of the superficial and artificial world we live in!
So Resignation to living in denial of the human condition (a process that is more fully explained in chapter 2:2 of FREEDOM, and also examined in F. Essay 41) has made the human condition this great ‘elephant in the living rooms of our lives’ — the main issue in all our lives, but the one we haven’t ever been able to deal with. But now that we can finally explain the human condition this situation suddenly all changes — we can finally confront the subject and completely free ourselves of it. The truth sets us free from the human condition.
I’ve got this picture here that Jeremy Griffith drew [following], which is this image of this proverbial elephant in our living rooms. You can see that it’s massive and the people in the room are jammed against the walls and that’s what the human condition is like — we are completely owned by this massive issue but nobody can see or deal with the issue.
So yeah, ‘These mountains of the mind and their cliffs of fall, frightful sheer, no man fathomed’… I mean that really captures the problem we have had with the human condition — in the mountains of the mind of our deepest thoughts there’s this one issue that has led to ‘sheer’ ‘cliffs of fall’, in other words, ‘frightful’ depression, while we couldn’t ‘fathom’/understand it.
When the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote the following he wasn’t exaggerating what happens if we allow our minds to confront the human condition: ‘When it [our shadow, which is the darker aspects of our nature] appears…it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil’ (Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, 1959; tr. R. Hull, The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9/2, p.10). The ‘face of absolute evil’ Jung refers to is the ‘shattering’ possibility that we humans really are just a blight on this planet.
So the human condition has been a terrifying subject, but the whole astonishing point I’m making in this video series is that somebody has finally been able to reach to the bottom of the well of what it is to be human and brought back from those terrifying depths the explanation of the human condition. That is what Jeremy Griffith has done in his book FREEDOM.
And having found that redeeming understanding we can now all safely confront the subject of the human condition — of why we are the way we are, divisively rather than cooperatively behaved. As the saying goes again, ‘The truth will set you free’ (Bible, John 8:32), and it finally, finally has. Jung was also forever pointing out that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’ because he too recognised that only the redeeming understanding of our dark, human-condition-stricken, upset state could free us from that terrible condition.
So it is exciting what’s happened — it’s incredibly exciting. You won’t be able to quite get into your mind how exciting this is. So here’s the picture again of where we currently live [the ‘elephant’ image above]; this is us being squeezed by this massive issue of the human condition that’s in all our lives that we can’t even acknowledge is there. And here’s a picture [Jeremy Griffith’s ‘We are Free’ drawing following] of what it will be like for all of us now, jumping for utter joy that we’re free now we can finally understand the human condition!
It’s pertinent here to remember that the main insight of the Greek philosopher Plato, who is regarded as the greatest philosopher of all time, was that humans have lived in such fear of the human condition that they hide deep in a cave unable to face the exposing light of the sun that would reveal their corrupted condition! But you can see that with understanding of our human condition we can at last get out of that horrible dark cave and live in the relieving and healing and reconciling sunshine of understanding.
You can see here [in Jeremy Griffith’s ‘cave liberation’ painting following] a picture of us all living in that deep, dark cave of denial and fear, and that we can’t bear to look at the sun — but now we can, and we can walk, stroll, race out of the cave straight up to the horizon and dance in the redeeming light and warmth of knowledge. And that’s what’s happened!
If you think about what I’ve just said about us humans having lived in fear of the underlying issue of the human condition, it makes sense that our mind will be in a certain amount of shock at having this whole deep, dark, terribly forbidden subject of the human condition finally addressed and explained.
The human condition is a very difficult subject; probably the initial reaction from most of us will be that we can’t see just how terrified we are of it. We’ll be thinking, ‘Oh no, I know all the hideous problems are out there in the world. I’ve been talking about them for years’. But what you will soon realise is that the human condition is not ‘out there’, it’s in here [pointing within himself]. It’s in yourself — it’s underlying all your thoughts, actions and behaviour and the truth is that, since resigning, you have spent your whole life working out and perfecting how to avoid it, how to work around it, and even try to make it appear as though you are unaffected by it. We smile, we joke, we put on incredibly brave faces, but underneath it all, it’s always there and that realisation of the existence of our less-than-ideal human condition is how you will know that what is being presented on this website is true. Indeed, I couldn’t be acknowledging and talking about the human condition as freely as I am if it hadn’t been solved. It’s only now that we can explain the human condition that we can face it.
So, having lived in fear of this all-important issue of the human condition we have to expect a certain amount of shock at having the subject even raised. The human condition is the real ‘up river’ issue that had to be solved, but we’re not at all used to looking at it. So you do have to be a bit patient and slowly work your way into what’s being presented on this website, and get used to having the human condition talked about.
Plato’s most celebrated or famous book is The Republic, and I just wanted to read this quote out of it because it’s amazing what he said. He predicted that there would be this problem when understanding of the human condition arrives of what we at the WTM call the ‘deaf effect’. He said that when someone finally gets out of the cave and returns with the answer to the human condition (and he used the term ‘human condition’, and this was some 2,500 years ago), the ‘cave prisoner’s’ ‘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. Certainly not at first. Because he would need to grow accustomed to the light’ (The Republic, 516).
And that’s what I’m suggesting. We do need to be patient and take our time ‘grow[ing] accustomed’ to and connecting with this human-race-liberating understanding of the human condition. (You can read more about the ‘deaf effect’ that Plato predicted, and how to overcome it, in F. Essay 15, and in chapter 1:4 of FREEDOM.) And, again, that’s the point — the human condition is the ‘up river’, underlying, real issue that had to be solved, and it now finally has been solved, so we can all now be free of the human condition.
I’m honestly not joking. This is the real breakthrough that the whole human race, every single person who has ever lived, has lived in hope, faith and trust-upon-trust would one day be found, and thank God it has, because the need for this deeper understanding and the only real solution to all our problems couldn’t be more desperately needed.
So all I can say is bring on the great awakening of the human race from having to live in this horrible, horrible cave of darkness and come and burst into the most wonderful, light-filled life that is now possible.
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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.