Please note, links to all the Freedom Essays are included at the end of this essay. Open any essay to read, print, download, share or listen to (as an audio).
This is Freedom Essay 13
The WTM Deaf Effect Course
In the following very short video Jeremy Griffith introduces the World Transformation Movement Deaf Effect Course. The course is made up of a series of interactive presentations that have been designed to erode the historic fear that makes reading about the human condition so difficult, and enable you to access the fabulously relieving understanding of it! Watch these critical interactive presentations after the introduction.
Make and see comments here
The Transcript of the
Introduction to the WTM Deaf Effect Course
By Jeremy Griffith
(Please note, the interactive videos that form the WTM Deaf Effect Course
are found immediately beneath this transcript.)
Welcome to the World Transformation Movement Deaf Effect Course. As I explained in , humans have lived in such extreme fear of the subject of our horrifically corrupted or ‘fallen’ human condition that when the reconciling understanding of it finally arrives—as it now has—that historic fear makes reading about the human condition extremely difficult. As soon as discussion of the human condition begins, the mind of almost every person becomes subconsciously alert to the fact they are being taken into what has been a completely off-limits realm and consequently starts blocking out what is being said. Your mind will find it difficult taking in or ‘hearing’ what is being said; it will suffer from a ‘DEAF EFFECT’ to what is being presented, with the tragic consequence being that you won’t discover the fabulously relieving understanding that liberates and transforms you from the horror of the human condition!
Clearly then, solving this problem of the ‘deaf effect’ that reading about the human condition initially causes, is critically important—and in Video/F. Essay 11 I put forward a number of options for solving it. The most effective method by far was the fourth option, where you are assisted through the ‘deaf effect’ by having someone repeatedly go through the explanation of the human condition, showing how it compassionately and thus safely makes sense of every aspect of human behaviour—be it politics, religion, the relationship between men and women, and so on.
In these talks, while it is the accountability of the explanation that is holding the listener’s interest, most significantly what is also happening is that their fear of the issue of the human condition is being eroded. Just how effective this process of eroding the ‘deaf effect’ is is revealed by this comment that people almost invariably made after watching just a few of the typical presentations about the human condition that I often gave: ‘That was a much better presentation this time than last time Jeremy, the explanations and descriptions were so much easier to follow.’ In truth, since the talks were virtually identical, what had dramatically improved was actually not the quality or content of the presentation but the listener’s ability to take in or ‘hear’ what was being said.
I will be conducting interactive introductory talks about the human condition with volunteers who are new to the information, and over time a collection of the most helpful of these discussions will be included here to form the WTM Deaf Effect Course.
Before beginning to watch the interactive video presentations, which are specifically designed to erode the ‘deaf effect’, it is important that you follow these 5 steps (if you haven’t already):
Once you have watched/read/listened to those 5 introductory presentations to the problem of, and solution to, the ‘deaf effect’, we then recommend you begin watching, and continue to watch, the following interactive presentations until such time that you feel that you are able to effectively read and take in discussion of the human condition—after which you can proceed to read/watch/listen to any of the other presentations on our website.
Please note that over time these interactive presentations will be added to and improved upon, so to see the latest collection of interactive presentations, always check this Video/F. Essay 13 on our website.
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Interactive Presentation 1:
2014 Focus Group Video
The Transcript of Interactive Presentation 1:
2014 Focus Group Video
Part 1 Jeremy Griffith introducing FREEDOM
Jeremy Griffith: So, I’m the author of the book . I’m a biologist, but interestingly, the cover of the book has a quote by Professor Harry Prosen, former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association—he’s one of the world’s leading psychiatrists and he says that this is ‘The book that saves the world’. So, that’s a big claim, and on the back of the book is Professor Prosen’s explanation of that claim which reads, this book ‘takes humanity from a state of bewilderment about the nature of human behavior and existence to a state of profound understanding of our lives’. He also states that this understanding of human behaviour is so wonderfully relieving it will ‘drain away all the pain, suffering, confusion and conflict from the world. This is it—THE BOOK THAT SAVES THE WORLD!’ So that’s a pretty amazing statement from one of the world’s leading psychiatrists. [You can read an excerpt from Professor Prosen’s Introduction to FREEDOM in .]
The premise of the book, as Professor Prosen said, is to explain human behaviour, to finally make it understandable—make our lives, ourselves, understandable from the deepest level because there’s this massive issue about humans: we’re capable of such contradictory behaviour as saving a kitten that’s stuck up a tree, but then molesting children; we will dive into a raging stream to save a distressed person but then kill people in wars. The paradox of the human situation is undeniable, it’s just the madness out there of it all, and we’re reaching endgame where we need a deeper analysis of the human situation [see on the endgame state that the human race has now reached]. That’s what Professor Prosen is saying this book does—it provides that deeper analysis. This is the book that saves the world, as he explains on the book’s back cover, because it goes into this dark corner and makes sense of it.
Part 2 The ‘Deaf Effect’ — Overcoming our fear of the human condition
The purpose of these focus groups is to, first of all, get people’s reaction to the book; give you a free look at it and see how you react to it and then talk about this subject of the human condition and try to familiarise you with the subject matter a bit more. The problem is that people usually encounter what I call the ‘deaf effect’ problem when you start talking about the human condition [see for more on the ‘deaf effect’]. It’s a very difficult subject! You can be studying higher physics or mathematics or something and that’ll give you a headache! But there’s really nothing as daunting as the issue of us, ourselves; the human condition. So that’s what I want to talk about.
All human behaviour is actually driven by or influenced by our fear of the human condition. So this book is going to present an explanation of human behaviour that is transforming—it’s so effectively insightful and profound—but that explanation is based on understanding our fear of the human condition, and the problem is, when I start talking about the human condition in order to explain our behaviour, the human mind blocks it out—it’s a Catch-22 situation.
Imagine a tribe of people who all suffer from a snake phobia and I’ve written a book that explains how they can solve their snake phobia, but they don’t know they’ve got a snake phobia, to the point where I say, ‘Well, why don’t you go outside? Why are you always living indoors?’ And they give some ridiculous excuse like ‘Oh, it’s because we like carpets and square walls and doorways; in fact, did you know that going through doorways is what made humans stand upright?’! This tribe have all these theories based on the dishonest world they’re living in because they are unaware of their phobia. So I’m trying to get them to read this book about their snake phobia and I’ve got to firstly introduce them to the fact that they have this phobia, otherwise they won’t be able to hear what I’m saying! So, I put a picture of a snake at the front of the book and I put the book in front of them, thinking this is going to clear their snake phobia. They open the book, see the picture of the snake, slam the book shut and say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to read that!’
So I’m stranded—how do I get people to become aware of the fact that this problem of the ‘deaf effect’ really does exists? The two ways to solve the problem is firstly to have someone talk about the ‘deaf effect’ and familiarise them with the idea, which is what I’m going to do now. The second way to solve it is to re-read the material and be patient with it because the ‘deaf effect’ will start to clear, the fog will start to lift. You’ll be astonished at just how much ‘deafness’ there is when you first start to read about this historically forbidden realm of the human condition. So to overcome the ‘deaf effect’, I have to connect people with the reaction that’s going on in their minds so that they can start to become aware of it, and not only that, but start to erode that ‘deaf effect’. Listening to me talking about it will supposedly reassure you about the subject area and your subconscious mind will relax and be able to take in the discussion when it couldn’t initially.
If you go to the book’s website you’ll see a video there of me talking to journalist and broadcaster Brian Carlton [see n addition to the discussion between Brian and Jeremy in Video/F. Essay 6, Jeremy’s full interview with Brian appears below as Interactive Presentation 2 in this WTM Deaf Effect Course].
Brian was the host of a popular radio program on Triple M in Sydney where he was known as the ‘Spoonman’ [because he was always ‘stirring’ up the establishment!]. He read my book A Species In Denial years ago and it helped him enormously. In the video he talks about that and how he suffered from this ‘deaf effect’ problem. It took him a while to get through it but once he had he said: ‘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 everyday life and everyday human relationships and experiences has been hugely valuable.’
So it’s very real. Brian was reading it but not hearing it—he wasn’t accessing it, but he got to a point where the ‘deaf effect’ had eroded enough and then he really started absorbing it; and then he got incredibly excited. So much so, you’ll hear him say that, as the host of a talk-back radio program, ‘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.’ He’s been on the radio for years, he’s like a Wolfman Jack [a famous American DJ from the 1960s]. It changes your whole world when someone can finally explain the riddle of human nature, why we are the way we are. And what I’m saying is that hearing the explanation of why we are the way we are is greatly influenced by our fear of the human condition, so I’ve got to connect the readers to the issue of the human condition. So that’s my dilemma; how to do that.
Part 3 Human denial: Plato’s cave allegory
So, I want to make you aware of just how real our denial, our block-out is. There’s a much better analogy than the snake phobia and that comes from Plato [see for more on Plato’s analogy]. Now, Plato is regarded as the greatest philosopher of all time and he lived some three hundred and sixty years before Christ in the Golden Age of Greece. That’s a long time ago so what he has to say must be pretty amazing. Alfred North Whitehead, himself one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century described the whole of philosophy (philosophy being the study of ‘the truths underlying all reality’ [Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd edn, 1998]) as being merely ‘a series of footnotes to Plato’ (Process and Reality [Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–28], 1979, p.39 of 413). So that’s an amazing statement; he’s saying Plato was the most profound and effective thinker about ‘the truths underlying all reality’, so I think the great question in our minds should be, ‘What the hell did Plato write or say that was so damn profound that it makes everything else that has been written or said since, nothing but footnotes to everything he wrote or said?’ It’s a very interesting question.
Well, the most revered work by Plato is the dialogue of The Republic and at the centre of The Republic is this allegory of humans being incarcerated in a cave. And I’m suggesting, and I’ll read you some quotes as confirmation, that Plato is saying, ‘I’m watching the whole world and I want to tell you the essential thing that’s happening: everyone is living deep underground in the cave of denial, unable to face the glaring truth of the sun outside the cave.’ So he, like me, is saying that if you want to understand human behaviour, the biggest issue is that we’re living deep underground in denial. That’s the most profound insight about us.
Then he went on immediately to speak about the problem of the ‘deaf effect’, and he described what happens when 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’ (Encarta Encyclopedia, written by Prof. Robert M. Baird, ‘Plato’; see ), to find understanding of why we’re living in a cave, understanding of our fear of the human condition.
So someone gets outside of the cave and writes a book about what’s happening inside the cave, and then goes in to say, ‘This is the explanation that will liberate you from the cave’, which is exactly what this book FREEDOM does. And what happens? As Plato wrote: ‘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 , or you can view all these quotes highlighted where they actually appear in The Republic at .)
So we live with this poor, dishonest, denial-based, living-and-hiding-in-a-cave version of the world, not the true, greater world outside the cave that is real and profound. What did Brian Carlton say?: ‘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’. This book has a very exciting benefit for the human race BUT, how do you access it? The key is to talk to you about it and run you around this forbidden room until you get a bit more familiar with it and after a while you can start to acclimatise and ‘grow accustomed to the light’ as Plato said. So that’s the purpose of this talk, to talk about this forbidden subject and relieve us of our deep inability to access it. I’ve got to help you overcome that denial, make a start at eroding it, familiarise you with this forbidden realm and then you can start reading the book and hopefully it will just be very exciting!
One of the members of the focus group that was held earlier this morning said, ‘Oh, I gave the material to my dad who’s a lawyer and he read one page and said, “I’m not going to read that”, and I gave it to my wife and she said, “I’m not reading that.”’ Another of the focus group participants didn’t even turn up this morning saying the book was terrible and poorly constructed. If you don’t know why you can’t access it, you can’t help but blame the presentation. So people typically say it’s too complex, too dense, too long, too poorly written. People actually send me emails, in real anger, saying, ‘Can you send me an executive summary so I can understand what the hell you’re trying to say here?’; they just can’t ‘get it’ at all.
People will also come to any subject with their pre-conceived philosophy—you don’t walk around the world legless, you try to make sense of it the best you can, right? And so there’s that problem as well, you’ve got to reconcile it with your existing explanations and understandings. And then there’s a lot of adjustments, a hell of a lot, but the deepest and hardest adjustment, which we’re not even aware of, is this equivalent of a snake phobia or Plato’s ‘cave’ of denial where we can’t face the truth. But I want to talk about the truth. I’m not talking about how to play soccer or something, I’m talking about this darkest of all subjects and asking you to access the deeper corner of ourselves and that’s really spooky. When we start to go down into that corner, as we will in a minute, it’s pretty hard. And that’s where this book goes, right into what Joseph Conrad called the Heart of Darkness in his classic 1902 novel. It was made into the film Apocalypse Now starring Marlon Brando as one of the main characters, Kurtz, who travels up the Congo river into the Heart of Darkness and goes mad. It’s a metaphor for the dark corner within ourselves and Kurtz screams out [the famous line] ‘The horror! The horror!’ in acknowledgement of the horror of our massively upset condition. Without understanding of the human condition going into this dark corner of ourselves can lead to madness. So we all prefer to stay well away from the metaphorical Congo river, preferring to bounce around on the beach with our sun umbrellas not going anywhere near the damn thing; no one wants to venture up the river into the Heart of Darkness.
There are a lot of metaphors throughout my book. One person in a previous focus group said he loved the cartoon by Michael Leunig of cars streaming into the city, belting along a big long highway into a huge metropolis of madness and off to the left it says ‘Truth and Beauty Left Lane’, with this little lonely individual on his bike peddling off in that direction. Just like out the window here [in Sydney], a huge metropolis in a state of madness and chaos, vindictiveness and nastiness, and no one’s trying to penetrate it, get behind it, and yet there’s this one lonely individual peddling off into the left hand lane, going off into a whole different realm trying to penetrate the heart of darkness, this terrifying issue of us, and come back with some real answers, and that’s what this book has done.
Part 4 Resignation — The angst of adolescence
Explaining ‘Resignation’ is the most powerful way I know to reconnect you to the extreme horror and fear of the human condition [ provides further explanation of the process of ‘Resignation’, and for the main presentation, see – ]. Because if you look at what happens to children, we’re not born living in Plato’s cave. When we’re born we’re outside it, innocent and free. And then we enter this world that isn’t ideal, as we instinctively expect it should be—there’s something massively wrong about it. So, gradually, by the time children reach the ‘naughty nines’ all of human life, including their own behaviour, is becoming increasingly bewildering and distressing and their confusion and frustration is such that they even angrily begin taunting and bullying those around them—flailing out at the imperfections of life. But by around 12 years of age, something very significant happens: they sober up and they realise that ‘flailing out’ in frustration is not going to get me anywhere. They say to themselves, ‘I’ve got to sit down and try and figure this out; I’ve got to try to understand why the world isn’t perfect because if I can’t understand it I’m just going to get more and more distressed.’ So there’s a huge change psychologically between childhood and adolescence—we actually changed the name, have you ever wondered why that demarcation occurred? You change from being a protesting, demonstrative, naughty, extrovert child to becoming a sobered, deeply introspective adolescent. There’s a big change and even our schooling system recognises it: you go from junior school to high school, or senior school, in recognition of this huge change.
At about 12, the child’s brain starts to think more and more, trying to understand the imperfection of the world, and this thinking goes deeper and deeper. And you quickly learn that adults, for some reason, don’t even want to talk about it and they’re all bouncing around laughing and putting on a brave face, smiling and buying new blue shoes and carrying on, right. So you quickly learn that the world is all fake and phony and you don’t want to know about it which means you’re on your own thinking about all this horror. You go to sleep at night thinking about it. And then when you get to around 14 the questions start to get really deep and really serious and you start to confront not just the human condition without but the human condition within; you start trying to make sense of the dark side of yourself: the anger, the egocentricities, the indifference to others, the frustrations, and so on. When you try to face that question of whether you’re a worthwhile and meaningful person or not, because, if you’re really honest and you’re full of all these angers, egocentricities and indifferences, then you could conclude that by inference you mustn’t be a worthwhile person and that’s a terrifying conclusion to reach.
So, at a certain point in this journey, trying to face down the human condition becomes unbearable. And that’s the moment of Resignation, when you decide never to visit that corner again because it’s just too terrifying. The Beatles’ song Let It Be—consistently voted one of the most popular songs of the twentieth century—is actually an anthem to this need that adolescents have historically had, when confronted with the unbearable ‘hour of darkness’ that came from grappling with the issue of all ‘the broken hearted people living in the world’, to ‘let it be’ ‘until tomorrow’ when ‘there will be an answer’ (Lennon/McCartney, 1970). It’s incredibly honest. I think it was written by Paul McCartney although normally it was John Lennon who wrote the really profound stuff.
Participant (Anna): It was Paul, yeah.
Jeremy: Anyway, ‘let it be’; don’t go there, give up, don’t try to face that down; one day ‘there will be an answer’. If you unpacked those words McCartney is saying that one day there will be an understanding of the human condition, he is saying that one day humans won’t have to resign.
Participant (Tabatha): So is Resignation like acceptance?
Jeremy: It’s acceptance of the world the way it is and that you’re never going to make sense of it and if you try to you will just give yourself an almighty headache.
Tabatha: Well, that’s an extreme reaction.
Jeremy: Yes, but that’s why I gave those descriptions earlier. One of you mentioned that the explanation of Resignation was getting a bit long-winded, giving too many examples, but it’s so important because if you allow yourself to be immersed in it, nearly everyone remembers being there. We’ve got all these dishonest excuses for it but parents can’t deal with children through those years when they hit 13, 14, 15, because they’re unreachable. They play their head-banging music in their bedrooms and if you try to talk to them they just bite your head off so parents learn to give up.
Tabatha: Well, hormones don’t help with having the feelings and what to do with the feelings.
Jeremy: Well that’s the traditional excuse, to blame it on the hormonal change that comes with puberty, called ‘puberty blues’—it’s self-revealing—‘blues’ means depression, and a lot of people get glandular fever and they blame that on hormones calling it a puberty-related ‘kissing disease’. Now if you just think about that, it’s a ‘cave’ excuse. We’ve got all these bullshit explanations based on living in the cave of denial. Remember what I said in the snake analogy, ‘Oh, people stood upright because of doorways’, it’s just rubbish! They’re not prepared to go outside—think truthfully about the world—they’re living with their terror of snakes but denying that they’re scared. So living as cave-dwellers, we’ve got all these theories, we’ve got the art of bullshit, or denial, down pat. We’ve got an excuse for everything and we quickly blame it on, just as your brain went to, that it’s a hormonal upheaval.
Tabatha: Well, I’m not thinking of it as an excuse. I’m just thinking of it as an added obstacle.
Jeremy: Yeah, okay.
Tabatha: And obviously, like your book, you’re saying at that age, I guess even I know, that’s when I started to think about my place in the world; it’s not just ‘the world revolves around me’ and how I’m going to affect the world. So hormones do exist, puberty does exist.
Tabatha: So having already those deeper thoughts because of your age…
Jeremy: If you think about it, really, humans have been going through puberty ever since we were animals.
Tabatha: Yeah, it doesn’t stop, we’re still…
Jeremy: But just wait a second. Puberty is an ancient physical adjustment that has been going on since animals became sexual. So we’ve had millions and millions of years to adjust to puberty. Eons, billions of years, since we were microbes; so we’re well-adjusted to puberty. When we get glandular fever that means our whole immune system is so run down that it can’t fight it and yet during puberty the body is physically at its peak in terms of growth and vitality—so for an adolescent to succumb to the illness they must be under extraordinary psychological pressure, experiencing stresses much greater than those that could possibly be associated with the physical adjustments to puberty. It’s the healthiest time of your life; it’s when you’re the most vital; you’re in the maximum growing period and, clearly this ‘puberty blues’, this depression is not to do with hormonal upheaval, as you mentioned Tabatha, but a far more serious psychological problem—it’s to do with Resignation, which is a horrendous corner to go through.
American Pulitzer Prize-winning child psychiatrist, Robert Coles wrote an agonising little paragraph about a kid going through Resignation () and he probably won the Pulitzer prize because of that one paragraph, it was just so incredibly honest and must have saved a lot of kid’s lives. [Coles wrote: ‘I tell of the loneliness many young people feel…It’s a loneliness that has to do with a self-imposed judgment of sorts [they’re starting to confront the human condition within themselves]…I remember…a young man of fifteen who engaged in light banter, only to shut down, shake his head, refuse to talk at all when his own life and troubles became the subject at hand. He had stopped going to school…he sat in his room for hours listening to rock music, the door closed…I asked him about his head-shaking behavior: I wondered whom he was thereby addressing. He replied: “No one.” I hesitated, gulped a bit as I took a chance: “Not yourself?” He looked right at me now in a sustained stare, for the first time. “Why do you say that?” [he asked]…I decided not to answer the question in the manner that I was trained [basically, ‘trained’ in avoiding what the human condition really is]…Instead, with some unease…I heard myself saying this: “I’ve been there; I remember being there—remember when I felt I couldn’t say a word to anyone”…The young man kept staring at me, didn’t speak…When he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, I realized they had begun to fill’ (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1996, pp.143–144 of 218).] And J.D. Salinger’s 1951 book Catcher in the Rye. Did one of you mention Catcher in the Rye, or was it the previous meeting?
Participant (Anna): I said that I wanted to read it and I was embarrassed I hadn’t.
Jeremy: That’s right. Yeah, it’s an absolute classic.
Participant (Tabatha): I didn’t get it when I read it. I was actually annoyed about why he was such a whinger but reading what you’ve written about it, I kind of want to go back because obviously there was a fault. I came in in one mind and that stayed with me the whole way through. I didn’t see the metaphors.
Jeremy: You’ve got to understand, we can’t admit we’re in denial and still maintain our denial so how are you going to write about Resignation? My book gets away with digging up all these truths because the explanation in chapter 3, The Human-Race-Transforming, Real Explanation of The Human Condition, defends humans; it explains why it is that we’re actually the heroes of the story of life on Earth; it explains that we’re not villains; we’re not worthless beings. Brian Carlton said: ‘Jeremy, if you had a book for children when they’re going through Resignation it would save their life, they’re your natural audience, because once you get talking to adults who are resigned, they’re deaf to this.’ [Again, see for Jeremy’s wonderfully illuminating discussion with Brian Carlton.]
Participant (Anna): Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. It’s almost too late to read this now.
Jeremy: That’s right, it’s very hard. But the world is owned by adults so I’ve got to start with adults.
Anna: It goes back to my previous question and it’s interesting to hear your thoughts on this; we are already in this madness, so to speak, and I understand your issue—how do you get people out of that, to recognise it and to become comfortable with it and absorb what’s in the text? I mean, it seems simple to go to adolescents, but I think part of the reason I connected with it at times was because of some of those references which I came across in later life, which there’s no way I would’ve come across in adolescence, but it is quite a conundrum.
Jeremy: You immersed yourself in this while we’re having this meeting.
Anna: Yes! Yeah.
Jeremy: In Catcher in the Rye, Salinger writes about Resignation without really saying what’s going on because you can’t admit that it’s happening. Once you admit that Resignation happened, then you’re admitting to being a liar. That’s the great elephant in existence in our lives, this issue of the human condition which we decide never to look at again, this fearful issue of why we aren’t ideally behaved and so on; the imperfection; are we worthless or not? You take up denial of this greatest of all issues, so you’re living in an immensely fraudulent, artificial and superficial state and all your thinking is fraudulent from there on.
The example I use in FREEDOM is: ‘There’s a tree with lovely autumn leaves; isn’t it amazing how beautiful nature can be, I wonder why some things are beautiful while others are not—I wonder why I’m not beautiful inside, in fact, so full of all manner of angst, selfish self-obsession, indifference and anger…aaahhhhh!!!!’ You’re not going to go there. Any thinking will quickly take you into the issue of the human condition, so you’re better off not thinking.
There are a lot of quotes in FREEDOM from Nobel Laureates and they all say, ‘We humans don’t want to think.’ As the Australian comedian, Rod Quantock said: ‘Thinking can get you into terrible downwards spirals of doubt’ (‘Sayings of the Week’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Jul. 1986). So we ended up not wanting to think, we just want to stay on the surface, because we know if we start thinking, we’ll start to encounter this problem of the human condition and we don’t want to go there. We’ve been there once and we got absolutely cooked and we’re not going there again, so we’re just on an absolute ‘bender’ of escapism. We’re going to live on the meniscuses of life. If there’s a glass of water, there’s a meniscus on the top and that’s about where we live [gesturing to the top of a glass of water] because all of this is too confronting [gesturing to the rest of the water in the glass]. That’s why Plato, the greatest philosopher of all time, focused on this huge issue underneath the surface that we’re not looking at because that’s what we’re doing—living deep underground in this cave of denial. That’s how dishonest, artificial and superficial we are. You give up on trying to think truthfully. Adults who have resigned don’t want to go around saying, ‘This is what Resignation is and I’m a total fraud and all my thinking is dishonest so don’t trust me at all!’ That would totally undermine your life. So again, that’s the truth we couldn’t admit until we could defend the human condition. First, explain the human condition and then, and only then, does it become safe to admit to and unlock this fearful, previously off-limits subject of Resignation.
Part 5 Is this hypothesis testable?
Participant (Tabatha): I think that’s the problem though, that people are comfortable in staying ignorant and being arrogant.
Jeremy: Yeah, but if you unpack that, if you bore down into what you just said: ‘people are comfortable in staying ignorant.’ Let’s just analyse that. They’re comfortable because they’re uncomfortable when they don’t stay ignorant, if they go down into the deeper dark truth, it’s terrifying.
Tabatha: Actually learn something, open themselves up.
Jeremy: There’s a terror under there, okay.
So, Craig, are you getting pretty awkward about this?
Participant (Craig): No, no, I’m just listening. I mean, you say you’re in a Catch-22 but you place everyone else in the same Catch-22. If they deny what you say, then you can just put them in a class of denial.
Craig: ‘You can’t deny what I say because if you do, you’re a part of the human condition’, you know, ‘I reject your opinion because you’re obviously not a thinker.’
Jeremy: Yeah, that’s right.
Craig: So that’s the position you’ve put us in, we can’t disagree with you because if we do, ‘Oh, you’re in that group of people who can’t think.’
Jeremy: It’s a circular argument called the ‘non-falsifiable hypothesis’. But that’s true. If you say everyone’s in denial and then they complain and take issue with something you’ve said, you say, ‘Well, that’s just classic denial’, so they’re in a situation where they can’t get out of that. But let me explain that there are situations that have that characteristic about them. I mean, if you’re going to admit to something and talk about something that people aren’t looking at, then they’re caught in this bind where if they complain or take issue, then they’re accused of denying it.
But I didn’t create the issue of the human condition. You can go and verify it, which is the way to see if what I’m saying is true or not, being very aware, as everyone should be, of what you’re pointing out [see ]. It’s why I accompany every step along the way with great quotes from great literature or popular culture references, so that you’ve got some verification that this is not just me saying this, this is some evidence for it. Because you should be totally sceptical. If someone says ‘This is the book that saves the world’, you should almost chuck it over your shoulder. You would think, ‘This has got to be crap, that’s outrageous hubris if ever I’ve read it. But then again, this guy, Harry Prosen, seems to be a very impressive psychiatrist, maybe…’ So the thing to do is to get into it, to read it. And this is rational—there’s no mysticism or abstract concepts—it’s all rational first principle biology, so you can go in and test it, and you should question it at every step and take issue all along the way. We are conscious, thinking, self-adjusting beings, we are in charge of ourselves, not anybody else. This is the end of faith and belief and the beginning of knowing. We don’t want brain anaesthetic, we want brain food, we want answers so if someone brings some answers, we’re rational, we can go and look at them, so you’re on safe ground. You can throw it over your shoulder and you should rigorously check every idea along the way and you should take ideas on notice and think, ‘Well, okay, that may have some possibilities but I’ll keep thinking about it and see if it doesn’t stack up.’
Craig, in your feedback to the book you made some pretty good points such as questioning ‘that consciousness necessarily means we’re all evil’, and ‘that people as a collective are evil’, and that’s a very rigorous and responsible position to take to question that. So I’m totally with you in your need to be sceptical, that’s fine. All I’m asking of you is to take this stuff on notice and read through it and see if it doesn’t make sense.
Just to look at what you’ve said, that ‘people are fundamentally evil’. I’m using Plato’s example so I’m not saying this. He’s regarded as our greatest philosopher and he said that we’re all living in denial. You can take that on board or reject it but he’s regarded as the greatest thinker about ‘the truths underlying all reality’ and that’s the central concept in all his thinking. So he’s saying we are living in denial of this fearful issue of the human condition—he used the phrase ‘human condition’, the first person to ever use this phrase as far as my research has found. And the human condition is the state of living in this compromised condition, this dilemma of ‘good’ and ‘evil’; why humans are capable of saving a kitten stranded up a tree and then also of molesting children. We have this capacity for enormous sensitivity and love but on the other hand there are darker, volcanic forces within the human species. We’re unable to make sense of that, therefore we live in denial of it. We don’t live in this ‘cave’ for nothing. Plato said, we live in this ‘cave’ because we’re in fear of ‘the imperfections of human life’; we’re living in denial of the human condition.
I agree about not calling it ‘evil’—every time I use the word ‘evil’, even the word ‘good’, I put it in inverted commas because the word ‘evil’ is pre-human-condition-understood, old-world-criticising and condemning. is all about getting rid of the word ‘evil’ forever. I use the word ‘upset’—that we became psychologically upset as a result of the battle that emerged when we became fully conscious humans. So this is a dignifying, redeeming, ameliorating, loving, compassionate understanding of the dark side of ourselves. As the Rolling Stones song said, we need ‘Sympathy for the devil’ (1968). One day, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, as William Blake titled his famous book (c.1790), had to occur. That has been the objective; to reconcile the two factions that exist in human life of the dark and light side; young and old; men and women; innocence and upset; country and city; mechanism and holism; science and religion. They’re all manifestations of these two poles of the human situation. And one day we had to find reconciling understanding, bring love to the dark side of ourselves.
Sir Laurens van der Post is the most quoted author in FREEDOM and my favourite writer and he said, ‘True love is love of the difficult and [historically] unlovable’ (Journey Into Russia, 1964, p.145 of 319). [See to read about Sir Laurens’s remarkable contribution to the human journey]. That’s what the resigning child is wanting to understand. When Brian Carlton interviewed me, which was only a week or two ago, he said he found this explanation so relieving that it transformed him. He said that when you finally ‘get it’, this information really does explain the human condition because you can experience it. As Einstein said, ‘Truth is what stands the test of experience’ (Out of My Later Years, 1950, p.115 of 286), which is the scientific method—it has to be subjected to scrutiny, to be proven and to survive.
Given this experiment is about us, our human behaviour, we’re the rat in the cage, we’re actually the experiment. So if someone gives us an explanation of us, we’re in a good position to see if it’s true or not because it should start to make the world transparent; it should help us make sense of ourselves and everything around us. As Brian Carlton said, ‘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 everyday life and everyday human relationships and experiences has been hugely valuable.’
So I agree, we shouldn’t use the term ‘evil’. I’m getting rid of ‘evil’, the idea that humans are fundamentally bad or worthless, forever. As I said, the end result of is that humans are the heroes of the story of life on Earth: it’s the most wonderful conclusion you could ever imagine. Humans have lived with the burden of guilt, feeling unworthy, sufferers of anger, frustration and imperfection and never able to understand why. My interview with Brian Carlton is really revealing, so much so I’m sitting there in the interview, staggered. It was supposed to be an interview explaining the human condition, but after the first 20 minutes Brian started yabbering about his Resignation—it was so amazing and revealing, I was just stunned. One of the things he said was: ‘That resonates with me. I was that young man. I locked myself in my room listening to music of alienation and at the same time reading everything I could get my hands on in the belief that if I just found out why nobody’s talking about this then I’ll be able to understand it. So, yeah, it absolutely resonates with me listening to music and reading, locked in my room for a couple of years as an early teenager. It was a very real thing.’ Because adults are all resigned they don’t want to go anywhere near that dark corner. Two days after people resign you can hardly get them to remember it because it’s such a terrifying depression that they don’t ever want to revisit that corner again.
This is ‘the black box inside of humans’ we’re talking about here, ‘the personal unspeakable’ as it’s been described to me (personal conversations, WTM records, Feb. 1995), the forbidden part of ourselves. Children are on their own wrestling with this. As Anna said earlier, it’s almost too late to read this book once you’ve resigned. But the problem with pre-resigned adolescents is that they are so instinctively suspicious of adults. I’ve talked to adolescents and tried to help them but I could tell by their expressions that they’re not trusting that any adult will talk honestly at all, so they’re not really believing that you’re going to talk truthfully. So you’ve got to talk to them for a long time before it starts to dawn on them that you are actually dealing with what they’re wrestling with and gradually you see their eyes open and gradually you see them, instead of this [motions ‘go away’ and head down gesture]. As Robert Coles said, the kid wouldn’t even look at him until he asked him what he was wrestling with: ‘“Not yourself?” He looked right at me now in a sustained stare, for the first time. “Why do you say that?” [he asked]…I decided not to answer the question in the manner that I was trained [basically, ‘trained’ in avoiding what the human condition really is]…Instead, with some unease…I heard myself saying this: “I’ve been there; I remember being there—remember when I felt I couldn’t say a word to anyone”…The young man kept staring at me, didn’t speak…When he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, I realized they had begun to fill’ (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1996, pp.143–144 of 218). Why had he started crying? Because Coles had reached him with some honesty about the utter hypocrisy of human life that the kid could see and that no one was admitting to.
It was the same for Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Holden is 16 years old and still unresigned and can see that he’s ‘surrounded by phonies’ (p.12 of 192) and ‘morons’ who ‘never want to discuss anything’ (p.39). He couldn’t study, he is thrown out of school after school and just wants to escape to a little hut by a stream and chop wood and doesn’t want to have anything to do with the madness, because the world is crazy and no one’s admitting it. And then he meets this guy, like Robert Coles, an adult who rats on the adult world and that rare honesty, in Holden’s words, ‘really saved my life’ (p.172). This is what the adult said: ‘This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind…[where you] just keep falling and falling [utter depression]’ (p.169). The adult then spoke of men who ‘at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with…So they gave up looking [they resigned]…[adding] you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior’ (pp.169–170). That’s the key line in the whole book because to be ‘confused and frightened’ to the point of being ‘sickened by human behavior’—including your own behaviour, indeed, to be ‘suicid[ally]’ ‘depressed’ by it—is the effect the human condition has if you haven’t resigned yourself to living a relieving but utterly dishonest and superficial life in denial of it.
Just as Robert Coles spoke a little bit of truth, Holden Caulfield is bouncing around unable to cope with a world gone crazy and no one’s admitting it; everyone is pretending that everything is fine when it’s not, and then in a moment of absolute desperation, he talks to an adult who says ‘you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior’ and finally Holden has some honesty.
When you listen to Brian Carlton’s interview, he says that when he was 12 through to 15 years old and progressing through these stages of Resignation, he learnt that adults can’t help. He’s trying to make sense of human life so he’s reading everything he can get his hands on, all the philosophical books but everything is written from inside the cave so it’s artificial, superficial, living on the meniscus. It’s dishonest and because he’s unresigned he can see through that dishonesty and he can very quickly suss it out, what’s fake and what isn’t. You’ve got an amazing shit-detector if you haven’t resigned. That’s how I found all the answers in FREEDOM, by just thinking truthfully. I’m not clever, I’m just not in denial of all these truths and I can think about things that—and I didn’t know why when I was young—no one else wants to think about [read Professor Prosen’s biography of Jeremy in ].
So, Brian Carlton is searching for the truth and he’s reading everything he can get his hands on. And kids do that when they’re going through Resignation, they search for the truth and they’ve got an immaculate shit-detector so they can tell if something is crap, if it’s bullshit, if it’s not honest, if it’s cave-speak. And everything is. We have huge libraries full of books talking about the human condition. Great literature occasionally might allude to some truth and that’s why it’s great, it’s got a little bit of truth in it but not too much because you can take people a little bit closer to the fire of truth but not right into the fire.
So Robert Coles won the Pulitzer Prize, I’m suggesting, because of that one paragraph, that little bit of truth he let through. It was so special, so extraordinary. That’s been the name of the game to let little bits of truth come out, not huge amounts. Brian said, ‘I got to the point where I was reading Encyclopaedia Britannica, reading it, as a book, from the beginning, thinking the answers might be there!’ That’s how desperate he was to try and find some honesty in this world gone crazy and living in dishonesty.
Part 6 The truth behind our lies
Participant (Craig): Can you give us an example of a specific untruth?
Jeremy: Well, FREEDOM is full of them, but the example I’ve just referred to is that the stress that adolescents go through is due to hormonal upheaval. I’m saying that’s a totally dishonest, cave-dwelling excuse. What I’m going to do in this book is go through and explain all the great mysteries in science. First of all, I have to connect you with the human condition, this theory that we are living in denial, and I agree you should take that on board with a pinch of salt and say, ‘I get what your argument is, let’s see if it works by putting it to the test.’ The ultimate test being that it should start to make our own life transparent, because as Einstein said, ‘Truth is what stands the test of experience’, and as Brian Carlton said, you start seeing through everything, that’s how powerfully honest it is. Chapter 2 says that the premise of the book is to explain human behaviour from a profound, honest base and to do that I need to make us aware of the human condition. So I make you aware, supposedly, by presenting this explanation so you’ve got an appreciation that we may be living in denial of the human condition. Now, let’s take that as an assumption and then let’s get serious and look at all the biological arguments that we’ve been living with [you can read more about mechanistic science’s false biological arguments in & ].
I begin by explaining that science is mechanistic and reductionist. It’s living in denial of this subject matter, not looking at the overview, it’s reducing its focus to looking into the details and mechanisms and avoiding this overarching bigger issue of the human condition because it can’t confront it. Scientists are resigned adults, supposedly, living in denial of the human condition, and so they’re looking down at the details not at the overview which is unbearable until we find the explanation of it. As Paul McCartney’s song Let it Be says, there will be some answers one day but until then, ‘let it be’, don’t go there, because you’ll give yourself a hiding.
So the book goes through all the biological ideas and it starts off with Social Darwinism because when Darwin originally wrote the first two or three editions of his book, Origin of Species, he didn’t use the term ‘survival of the fittest’. He used the term ‘natural selection’ and left it undecided as to whether those individuals who reproduced more could be viewed as winners, as being superior or ‘fitter’; he didn’t want to make that judgment (in fact, you’ll see in chapter 4 that it explains that to be altruistic and give your life to maintain the greater whole can actually be more meaningful than being selfish). So Darwin was actually right not to say that to survive makes you fitter but his mates, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace, persuaded him to substitute the term ‘natural selection’ with the term ‘survival of the fittest’ (Letter from Wallace to Darwin, 2 Jul. 1866; The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol.14, p.227 of 706). That was a coup for the cave-dwellers because suddenly you can use Darwin’s idea of natural selection to say that those that survived are the winners; they are fitter than everybody else and that’s why they survive. So now businessmen say, ‘Oh, we’re the best shoe makers in the industry because we’re the most competitive. It’s “survival of the fittest”, Darwin said it.’ It’s become a lie but Darwin was actually honest. It’s called Social Darwinism because it’s used throughout industry and elsewhere to justify selfishness, but, in fact, Darwin wasn’t going to go down that road until his arm was twisted.
So in chapter 2 I begin to go through all the different biological theories, dismantle them and reveal what they’re really all about because I know what the game plan is behind all their behaviour, all their actions, all their theories. The game plan is to avoid the human condition. They’re living in the cave of denial and not being honest and they’re continually trying to find more and more clever ways to avoid the human condition. So I go through Evolutionary Psychology, the theory of Eusociality and all the other theories that developed, because there are some big problems for Social Darwinism. For example, bees are unconditionally selfless, they give their life for the queen, so trying to be the winner is not a universal phenomenon in nature. And we’ve got our own moral instincts to account for—we have a conscience which wants us to behave in a cooperative, loving way. So there’s some big holes in Social Darwinism.
Seeking to address these cracks in the argument, biologists developed the theory of Sociobiology, later known as Evolutionary Psychology which says, truthfully enough, that worker ants and bees are not actually being unconditionally selfless, truly altruistic when serving their colony because, when doing so, they are fostering the queen who reproduces their genes, which means their apparent selfless behaviour is, in fact, just a subtle form of selfishness: they are helping the queen to selfishly reproduce their genes. So it’s actually ultimately still selfish. But the trick of Evolutionary Psychology was to take the next step and apply this theory to our human moral instincts and say they are also driven by reciprocity, that we’re trying to reproduce our genes by fostering others who are related to us. That was a fraudulent, human-condition-avoiding, dishonest use of the truth that bees and ants do foster their own reproduction indirectly by fostering the queen. But we’re not doing that. As the journalist Bryan Appleyard pointed out, biologists ‘still have a gaping hole in an attempt to explain altruism. If, for example, I help a blind man cross the street, it is plainly unlikely that I am being prompted to do this because he is a close relation and bears my genes. And the world is full of all sorts of elaborate forms of cooperation which extend far beyond the boundaries of mere relatedness’ (Brave New Worlds: Staying Human in a Genetic Future, 1998, p.112 of 198).
So they came up with yet another theory and it goes on and on and FREEDOM traces all these theories but because I’ve already established this idea that we’re living in denial and that’s underlying all the cave-dwelling behaviour, you can start looking at all these biological theories and dismantle them and see that they are, in fact, lying through their teeth. They’re finding ways to avoid the human condition, they keep faking it because if you’re living in the cave you can’t say, ‘Look, I’m facing the human condition’ because when you resign, you decide to lie, to not face that truth again, so you’ve got to come up with some excuse like, ‘Yeah, we’re competitive and selfish because of our animal heritage, we want to reproduce our genes’, which is rubbish. We suffer from a psychological human condition, not a non-psychological, genetic-opportunism-based animal condition.
Chapter 2 is really, really powerful because it can dismantle all current biological thinking but it can only do that because I have in place this explanation that makes you aware that we’re living in denial of the human condition; this is what Plato and all these other great thinkers have said is happening. So you can say, ‘Okay, let’s take a theory and see if it applies. Let’s look at the biology that’s supposedly explaining us’, and when you take that explanation of our denial with you and you start looking at it, it all dismantles instantly. Biologists comment about just how extraordinarily accountable this explanation is and how quickly I’m able to dismantle all those theories, which books and books have been written about, because I’m using this insight into what the game plan really is. I can suddenly make it transparent.
In chapter 3 I switch gears and say, let’s try a different tack. Let’s actually try and confront the human condition and see if we can make sense of human behaviour instead of what the cave-dwellers are doing which is avoiding it and not getting anywhere. You can’t find the truth from lies, from inside the cave, as Plato said, you’ve got to be outside the cave.
Part 7 The Biological Explanation: The Adam Stork Analogy
So let’s take another fresh look at this. If we look at the human condition, our behaviour, very simply and in a straightforward way, free of denial, just as honest as the day is long. The explanation of the human condition is right there in front of you because we’re obviously conscious thinking animals but we must’ve been instinctively controlled, like other animals, to begin with. Then we acquired a conscious mind some two million years ago. [The explanation of the human condition is also presented in ; and see for other thinkers through history who, while they were not able to explain the human condition, did recognise the instinct and intellect elements that produced it.]
So we start thinking for ourselves because we’re a self-adjusting system now but we’ve got instincts that have got their own orientations, so the conscious mind is inevitably going to get into conflict with those instincts. I use the analogy of a stork, flying up the coast of Africa, which is perfectly instinctively oriented. Through natural selection it’s acquired that instinct to know where to fly and where not to fly; don’t go across the Sahara Desert or you’ll get frizzled because any storks who had the genetic makeup to fly there got frizzled! So now all storks genetically know where to fly but that’s not an understanding about where they should fly, that’s an orientation acquired through natural selection. Natural selection can give species orientation but not understanding.
Now, what would happen if we grab one of these storks and we imagine we put a fully conscious brain on his head and we jump into an ultra-light plane and fly along behind him. We will see that the human condition emerged on the first day, because what’s the stork going to do? He’s flapping along with all the other storks, they haven’t got a big conscious brain yet, but he has and he starts thinking for himself: ‘There’s an island down there, I think I’m going to have a feed on those apples or have a rest.’ So he heads down toward the island and carries out his first experiment in self-adjustment because he’s conscious and he’s only going to find out the right understandings by experimenting. So he has to be brave enough to experiment. So we see him fly off course down to the island, but the flight path goes across the island. And then we see him hesitate, because we’re in the ultra-light watching him. The whole human condition is going to happen right before our eyes. He thinks, ‘Well if I fly back on course my instincts are going to be really happy with me; all the other storks are going to be happy with me because I’m obeying my instincts. But my conscious mind is not going to be happy because it’s not finding knowledge. I’ve got to persevere with the search for understanding.’ So he thinks about flying back on course, knows that it will make him feel good but he’s not going to find knowledge. So he says, ‘No, I’ve got to persevere.’
So he heads toward the island, and by now his instincts are getting really loud and criticising him. But, you know, we’ve got instincts that make us drink water or eat food and we can defy them; we’ve got a conscience that wants us to do certain things but we can override it and say, ‘No, I don’t want to drink water’ or ‘I don’t want to obey my conscience’, so we do have the ability to defy our instincts. So then our stork, Adam (we call him Adam Stork because this is similar to the Bible story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but with a different ending) flies down towards the island, he perseveres with his heroic search for knowledge but he’s got to live with this criticism. So how is he going to cope with that criticism? He’s only got three choices: firstly, he can get angry with it; secondly, he can try to prove that it’s not deserved, that he’s not bad for flying off course, making him insecure and needing to validate himself, needing a win, some reinforcement; thirdly, he can block it out. So he becomes angry, egocentric and alienated. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘ego’ as ‘the conscious thinking self’ (5th edn, 1964) so his ego is going to become centred or focused on trying to validate himself.
But if we stand back from this, who’s the hero in that story? It’s old Adam Stork because he had to have the courage to defy his instincts and fly off course in search of knowledge, and ultimately to find explanation of the human condition! But in order to find that explanation we first had to find out about nerves and genes and how one is an insightful learning system and the other is not. Genes give a species orientation but when the insightful nerve-based learning system emerged it had to challenge the instincts for control of our life and when that happened, there was a war. If we want to work out how to solve that war, just look at Adam Stork. If he could’ve sat down on a limb and had a talk with his instincts on day one, before the shit hit the fan, he would have said ‘Listen, just hold it you guys. You instinctively know where we should and shouldn’t fly but you don’t understand a damn thing. I need to understand because I’m using my conscious mind. So, by all means tell me when I fly off course but don’t, in effect, criticise me. I’m a conscious mind that needs to understand cause and effect, you’re a gene-based learning system that can give species orientation but you can’t understand the world, so I need to search for understanding, alright?’ And supposedly then, the two parts of himself would’ve understood each other and been able to reconcile the two factions.
But Adam is in a Catch-22: he has no knowledge; this is day one of starting to think. He’s got no ability to explain anything let alone the human condition. In fact, it’s going to take humans two million years to find that knowledge—he has to learn about genes and nerves and how different information systems work before he can reconcile himself. He’s got two million years ahead of him without any defence for himself. Sure we try to civilise ourselves and restrain it, but for all that time all we had was anger, egocentricity and alienation as our defence. We had to live alienated and hiding in the cave because we couldn’t face the truth, we couldn’t defend ourselves. But now we can.
The Garden of Eden story is the same story with the different ending. In Genesis, Moses said that the first humans, represented in this account by Adam and Eve, lived ‘naked, and they felt no shame’ (Gen. 2:25) in ‘the Garden of Eden’ (3:23) and were ‘created…in the image of God’ (1:27), obviously meaning we once lived in a pre-human-condition-afflicted state of original innocence where we were perfectly instinctively orientated to the cooperative, selfless, loving, ‘Godly’ ideals of life. Adam and Eve took the ‘fruit’ ‘from the tree of…knowledge’ (3:3, 2:17) because it was ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’ (3:6), obviously meaning we became fully conscious, thinking, knowledge-seeking beings. Then, as a result of becoming conscious, and being ‘disobedient’ (the term widely used in descriptions of Gen. 3)—exercising free will—Moses said we ‘fell from grace’ (derived from the title of Gen. 3, ‘The Fall of Man’), obviously meaning our original cooperative, selfless and loving (good) state became corrupted and our competitive, selfish and aggressive—indeed, angry, egocentric and alienated—(‘evil’/‘sinful’/guilt-ridden) state emerged. We became ‘evil’ monsters and were chucked out of the Garden of Eden. In this scientific presentation, however, Adam and Eve are revealed to be the HEROES, NOT THE VILLAINS they have so long been portrayed as. We had ‘to march into hell for a heavenly cause’ (Joe Darion, The Impossible Dream, 1965). That’s the paradox of the human condition. We had to suffer becoming upset in order to find these understandings that will liberate us from our upset. We had to lose ourselves to find ourselves. We had to fly off course, suffer becoming corrupted in order to find the knowledge that would allow us to master our brain and reconcile ourselves with our instincts, get their criticism off our back and become a liberated, transformed species.
So that’s this journey, that’s the explanation that dignifies humans and says we’re good, we’re not bad after all.
Part 8 Summary of Chapters
To answer your question about whether ‘consciousness necessarily means we’re all evil, that people as a collective are evil’. I don’t like the word ‘evil’. I’m talking about humans suffering from the human condition, that we suffer from this anger, egocentricity, and alienation, and when we’re thinking about that all-important issue from inside the cave we can’t make sense of it, we just come up with a bunch of lies. But if we look at it very simply in a denial-free way, as we do in chapter 3, we’ll find the answers are right there in front of us. Because, quite obviously, we became conscious. Before becoming conscious we must have been controlled by our instincts. And if you think about that, when we became conscious, it must have led to a battle between the two. And if you think about that, that is what would ‘upset’ us. So yes, we did become upset for a damn good reason.
The conscious mind is surely nature’s greatest invention, and since the conscious mind had to suffer all this unjust condemnation for some two million years, we must be the heroes of the story of life on Earth. So suddenly, instead of being banishment-deserving, ‘evil’ monsters, we turn out to be heroes—the best thing since sliced bread and beyond! This is a marvellous outcome, but it’s not found by living in the cave trying to deny that we’re in denial. Once you accept the possibility that we’re in denial and start thinking about things—that’s all I do, I go through the book applying that idea of thinking about the great problems facing us in a denial-free way. So that’s chapter 3.
is ‘Summary of the contents of FREEDOM’. : ‘The Threat of Terminal Alienation from Science’s Entrenched Denial of the Human Condition’ is a demolition of all the bullshit biology. : ‘The Human-Race-Transforming, Real Explanation of The Human Condition’ is the real biology, found by thinking truthfully. And I’m not clever, the answer is right there in front of you so all you have to do is look.
The third great truth in my book is in : ‘The Meaning of Life’. It explains that the meaning of existence is the development of order of matter, that everything we look at, a tree for example, is composed of parts—it’s got leaves, branches; within those branches it’s got fibres; within those fibres it’s got cells; within those cells it’s got compounds; within those compounds, it’s got atoms—there’s a hierarchy within that system. Everything is witness to this development of order of matter and there’s a physical law that’s making it happen which is called ‘Negative Entropy’. It’s the most obvious truth on planet Earth that the meaning of existence is to develop ever larger and more stable wholes, that’s what’s happening all around us. Everything is a recognition of an arrangement of matter that’s enduring through time.
Now there’s a huge problem with that in terms of the human condition. For a larger whole to form and all the parts to cooperate and stay harmoniously together, they must all act selflessly, considering the welfare of the larger whole above their own welfare. Because if they start behaving selfishly it will disintegrate, so selflessness is the glue that holds the whole together whereas selfishness is disintegrative and divisive. So if the meaning of life is the development of order of matter, and unconditional selflessness is the theme, the glue that made it all happen which is really what we mean by the word ‘love’, then the meaning of life is unconditional selflessness or love. But if you admit that truth, you’re back confronting the human condition, ‘Well, why aren’t we cooperative, selfless, and loving? Why are we divisive?’ It condemns us, so we don’t want to admit that truth. In fact, it’s the most obvious truth on planet Earth. I call it ‘Integrative Meaning’ and it’s the most fearful truth because it condemns us to hell, so we deny it.
In fact, we were so afraid of Integrative Meaning that we kept it at a safe distance by deifying it, we called it ‘God’. God is the personification of the truth of Integrative Meaning. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking recognise that. In 1989 Hawking said, ‘I would use the term God as the embodiment of the laws of physics’ (Master of the Universe, BBC). In 2002 he went further, saying, ‘The overwhelming impression is of order [in the universe]. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws. If one liked, one could say that this order was the work of God. Einstein thought so…We could call order by the name of God’ (Gregory Benford, ‘The time of his life’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Apr. 2002; see ). Einstein’s views on the matter were chronicled in the 1997 PBS documentary Einstein Revealed, which reported Einstein as saying that ‘over time, I have come to realise that behind everything is an order that we glimpse only indirectly [because it’s unbearably condemning]. This is religiousness. In this sense, I am a religious man.’ You can say that the order that’s apparent in the universe is the power of God because that’s really the underlying theme that’s going on. So that’s chapter 4 and it’s a truth that I’m suggesting we’ve also denied because of our fear of the human condition. [See also on Integrative Meaning.]
: ‘The Origin of Humans’ Unconditionally Selfless, Altruistic, Moral Instinctive Self or Soul’ is about how we acquired our moral instincts [see also ]. Remember when I said that Evolutionary Psychology said, ‘Oh, we got that from ants and bees because we’re trying to foster our genes by helping others around us that are our relatives’? Which is rubbish. We acquire our moral instincts through nurturing, but again, that’s another truth we couldn’t face while we couldn’t explain the human condition because no mother has been able to love her infant as much as infants were loved before we became angry, egocentric and alienated. All mothers feel guilty about that as this quote from the bestselling author of books for and about children, John Marsden, makes clear: ‘The biggest crime you can commit in our society is to be a failure as a parent and people would rather admit to being an axe murderer than being a bad father or mother’ (‘A Single Mum’s Guide to Raising Boys’, Sunday Life, The Sun-Herald, 7 Jul. 2002). We first had to explain the human condition, get the guilt off our back, then we could admit all these truths of Integrative Meaning, that nurturing made us human, how we acquired our moral instincts and so on. So that’s chapter 5 and : ‘End Play for The Human Race’ describes the end play situation we now face having reached terminal levels of alienation [see ].
: ‘What is Consciousness, and Why, How and When Did Humans’ Unique Conscious Mind Emerge?’ is about how we became conscious and again, the block to understanding consciousness is our fear of the human condition [see also ].
: ‘The Greatest, Most Heroic Story Ever Told: Humanity’s Journey from Ignorance to Enlightenment’ presents the whole history of the human race starting with our early ape ancestors some 12 million years ago when the nurturing, love-indoctrination process began to develop us into a cooperating whole, right through to when the human condition started emerging some two million years ago and we became more and more upset, with the last 2,000 years heading towards an horrendously dangerous state of terminal alienation where we’re getting deeper and deeper into that cave of dishonesty. So let’s describe that whole journey truthfully now that it’s safe to. So in chapter 8 you can read the true story of humans, it’s the greatest story and it’s never been told until now.
: ‘The Transformation of The Human Race’ is the one that everyone wants to know about: ‘Well, how does this help me? How does this transform my life? How does being able to understand the human condition, the dark side of me, heal me?’ Well, the obvious answer is that ‘wholeness for humans’ as Carl Jung said ‘depends on the ability to own our own shadow’, our shadow being the dark side of ourselves. If we can make sense of that we’ll become whole again, we can reconcile the two parts of ourselves. So old Adam Stork who flew off course to the island two million years ago can finally sit down with his instinctive self and say, ‘This is why I had to do it mate! Get off my case. I’m a goodie not a baddie after all!’ He no longer has to get angry, or egocentric, or alienated, all those things go. So this is incredibly relieving, the day that Adam Stork finds the knowledge that finally explains him is the day all his troubles end. And how it ends, how this information transforms your life, is what chapter 9 is about. [ explains how everyone’s lives can now be immediately transformed, while on the WTM’s Transformation Page provide a step-by-step description of the transformation process.]
So that’s the whole story about FREEDOM, it’s a journey based on explaining the human condition. So if you go home and reread chapter 1 I think you’ll find it, and chapter 2 easier to absorb.
It’s all freely available online, I’m not trying to make money out of this, these answers are considered so important that we’ve made them free to everybody around the world so everyone can download FREEDOM and read it for themselves and I’m going to make an audio recording of it so you can listen to it when you’re in the car, but it’s all there.
If we reconvene the day after tomorrow, hopefully you’ll have another chance to have a look at chapter 1 and we can see if this little talk didn’t make it all a little bit more understandable, even helped a lot, because we’re hoping it will, we’re going to learn from that. And if it does help then other people can have the benefit of me doing exactly this, talking you through the book. And all of your questions are very good so hopefully we can make some sense of everything, and we can see if it helps.
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Interactive Presentation 2:
Leading Australian journalist and broadcaster Brian Carlton interviews biologist Jeremy Griffith, 2014
The Transcript of Interactive Presentation 2:
Interview with Brian Carlton
Brian Carlton: My name is Brian Carlton. I’m an Australian journalist, commentator and broadcaster and I’m here with biologist Jeremy Griffith to discuss his forthcoming book, IS IT TO BE Terminal Alienation or Transformation For The Human Race?[now titled FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition].
Before receiving an advance copy of FREEDOM I was already aware of Jeremy’s work. In fact, I interviewed Jeremy on my radio show about one of his earlier books, and I remember when I opened the interview to the listeners to call in there was so much interest the interview went for almost two hours and I’m really not exaggerating. I know that Jeremy caused a similar response when he spoke on Caroline Jones’s famous radio show, The Search for Meaning; in that case the interview gained one of the biggest responses Caroline had ever received in the many, many hundreds of programs she made over the years. [You can listen to Jeremy’s interview with Caroline Jones at .] I think the response was second only to an interview she did with a nun in South America. I also know Jeremy’s 2003 book A Species In Denial was a bestseller in Australasia. I know because I bought one and read it, several times.
So I am very much looking forward to this discussion.
Jeremy, tell me about this new book you have written.
Jeremy Griffith: Firstly, this is the ‘Spoonman’—for many, many years Brian was the compare of a popular radio program on Triple M in Sydney where he was affectionately known as the ‘Spoonman’, the professional stirrer, he was the Wolfman Jack of the airwaves in Australia. So that’s a bit of background on who Brian really is.
Yes, I have written other books, but this is my magnum opus, my major work—and while my earlier books were only launched in the Australian and New Zealand markets, this time I’m taking my understandings of the human condition to the world. FREEDOM is due to be launched internationally in 2015, with an unprecedented promotional campaign, including a world tour.
So, the plan is in the next half hour or so, the Spoonman and I are going to tell you how this little backwater of Australia is going to fix the world up with the understandings that are in this book!!!
Brian Carlton: Yes, I’ve got to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen promotion material like this book has. The cover features Professor Harry Prosen, former President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, who says that this is ‘The Book That Saves The World’.
And on the back cover Professor Prosen makes this observation, and I’m quoting here [since the change of the book’s title this wording has changed slightly]:
‘Is it to be, or not to be? That is the question: are we going to make it—is the human race going to find the redeeming and transforming understanding of our ‘good and evil’-afflicted human condition—or is our species headed for terminal psychosis and alienation? Humankind is in the balance: will it be self-destruction or self-discovery?
Well, astonishing as it is, this book presents the 11th hour breakthrough biological explanation of the human condition needed for the psychological rehabilitation and maturation of the human race! It takes humanity from a state of bewilderment about the nature of human behavior and existence to a state of profound understanding of our lives. It is a case of having got all the truth up in one go—understanding has finally emerged to drain away all the pain, suffering, confusion and conflict from the world. This is it—THE BOOK THAT SAVES THE WORLD!’
The words of Professor Harry Prosen.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, that is a wonderful statement. The phrase ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ is obviously from Shakespeare, where Hamlet wonders whether it’s better to endure the human condition or suicide. It’s probably the most famous phrase in the English language, and it’s particularly appropriate for the uncertain, to-die-or-not-to-die times we are living in now. Humanity IS in the balance, either we find the psychologically relieving understanding of ourselves, or the human race ends in terminal alienation—and that is the immense importance of my book because it supplies that all-important reconciling and healing understanding of our conflicted condition.
And this understanding HAS only arrived in the nick of time—because it is end game for the human race wherever we like to look!
The left and right wings in politics are now so polarised democracy no longer works.
Cynicism and greed is so rampant that there is a debt crisis rotting Europe—and corruption is out of control in the developing world. And there’s all the anger and social disintegration in the Muslim world.
As for the environment, this week’s TIME magazine reports that there has been ‘a 52% decline in wildlife populations worldwide from 1970 to 2010’ (‘Briefing’, 13 Oct. 2014).
There is genocide, terrorism, mass displacement of peoples, starvation, runaway diseases, environmental devastation, gross inequality, racial and gender oppression, drug abuse, obesity, family breakdown and above all there is epidemic levels of anxiety, depression, unhappiness and loneliness.
And an exploding world population is only exacerbating all of these problems. Improved forms of management such as better laws, better politics and better economics—and even better self-management, such as new ways of disciplining, suppressing, organising, motivating or even transcending our troubled natures—have all failed to end the march towards ever greater levels of devastation and unhappiness in humans. In short, the situation is now so dire, so desperate that the Earth just cannot absorb any further devastation from the effects of our behaviour, nor the human body, for that matter, cope with any more debilitating stress, or our mind endure any more psychological distress. [See .]
As one recipient of my book said, ‘Yes, I think you would get a 95% sign up to the proposition that the human race can’t continue as it is.’
And another, ‘There is no doubt Homo sapiens is teetering on the biological brink, in dire need of psychological rehabilitation and maturation.’ He’s obviously referring to Harry’s comment on the back of the book.
And last week Harry received an initial response to my book from an American psychotherapist who referred to ‘a growing number of clients I see who report a sense of despair and apprehension, not just about their own lives, but about our future as a species.’ Interestingly, Harry responded, ‘I absolutely agree with your comments about anxiety over the state of the world now vibrating through everyone, including myself! The world is craving some real honesty and bravery and thank goodness IS IT TO BE [now called FREEDOM] delivers it.’ Which is nice of him to make that comment.
Yes, this psychologically reconciling and healing understanding of the human condition in my book IS the ‘11th hour breakthrough’ that the human race needs.
Brian Carlton: I agree, given the state of the world a book, your book, that brings understanding to human behaviour could not possibly be more timely or more important.
So, Jeremy describe the understanding of the human condition in your book that brings about the psychological transformation of the human race and that does ultimately save the world.
Jeremy Griffith: Brian, I think I have to begin by trying to explain what the human condition is, which is also how my book begins, trying to connect the reader with what the human condition actually is.
The reason I say ‘try to’ connect the reader is because the human condition is actually such a terrifying issue for humans that many people now seriously believe it doesn’t even exist!
So, the first thing I need to explain is what exactly is the human condition, and why are we so terrified of it?
With regard to what the human condition is, the truth is that behind every wondrous scientific achievement, sensitive artistic expression and compassionate act lies the shadow of humanity’s darker side—an unspeakable history of greed, hatred, rape, torture, murder and war; a propensity for deeds of shocking violence, depravity, indifference and cruelty. The reality is, we humans have been the most ferocious and destructive creatures to have ever lived on Earth! That’s a pretty stiff indictment but it’s nevertheless true.
And it is precisely this duality of what has historically been referred to as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the human make-up that has troubled the human mind since we first became fully conscious, thinking beings: are we humans essentially ‘good’ and, if so, what is the cause of our destructive, insensitive and cruel so-called ‘evil’ side? Why do we thinking, reasoning, rational, immensely clever humans behave so seemingly irrationally and non-sensibly, in fact, so abominably and cause so much suffering and devastation? What is the origin of the dark, volcanic forces that undoubtedly exist within us humans? What is it that makes us such a combative, ruthless, hateful, retaliatory, violent, in-truth-psychologically-disturbed creature?
In everyday terms, why when the ideals are so obviously to be cooperative, loving and selfless are we so competitive, aggressive and selfish? Indeed, we’re, so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet? And the question is, does our inconsistency with the ideals mean we are essentially bad? Are we some flawed species, an evolutionary mistake, a blight on Earth, a cancer in the universe—or could we possibly be divine beings? [See .]
So that’s the dilemma of the human condition. Now, to reveal how absolutely terrified we are of what it really is—and I say ‘really is’ because a lot of people refer to the human condition without engaging with what it really is—I want to describe what happens to teenagers when they first try to confront the issue of the human condition.
I should add that my book also begins with this description of what happens to teenagers when they try to face down the human condition.
And there is a very good reason why my book begins this way, and why I want to talk about it early in this talk with you. It’s because almost every aspect of our behaviour is driven by our fear of the human condition, so to understand human behaviour, which is the objective of my book, we need to be made aware of this deep fear we have of it, and talking about teenagers trying to confront the human condition is the best way I know of to reveal that terror.
Of course, the problem this creates for the reader of my book is that this description of our fear of the human condition is very difficult material for the reader to have to face straight up at the very beginning of the book, and in fact many will find it extremely difficult to face. Actually, many will find their mind can’t take in or hear what is being said because it’s so confronting, and they won’t be aware of this, but when that happens, they’ll think the book doesn’t make sense, or is badly written or something.
Brian Carlton: Yes, I noticed you start the book with a description of the ‘Resignation’ process that adolescents go through and I went through it myself [see and .] I was thinking it might strike the reader as all a bit weird, a bit difficult, if they’ve never even heard of Resignation—and it is also fairly daunting stuff with all those descriptions by the psychiatrist R.D. Laing of our alienation and Francis Bacon’s painting of our tortured state, and so forth. It’s fairly confronting stuff, Jeremy.
Jeremy Griffith: Yeah, it’s both a very unusual introduction to a book about human behaviour and it is very off-putting, indeed psychologically deafening or unhearable for the reader, but again to explain human behaviour I have to connect the reader with what the human condition really is—otherwise there’s no point in writing the book.
We’ve sent advance copies of IS IT TO BE to numerous scientists and science commentators and because of this—what I call the ‘deaf effect’ response people have when they first start reading my book about the human condition—I expect many of them will initially find the book impenetrable, but I also hope that some will persevere and discover how incredibly clarifying the book is of human existence, and that they will then tell others and the tide will turn against any initial dismissiveness of my book.
It’s like trying to give someone who suffers from a phobia about snakes a book that cures snake phobia, when they’re not aware that they suffer from the phobia. But because they’re unaware they’ve got this phobia, when I ask ‘Well, why don’t you ever go outdoors?’, they say, for example, ‘Well, I like living indoors because I like carpets and square walls and I like going through doorways, in fact, going through doorways is what made humans stand upright in the first place!’ and rubbish excuses like that! They’ve got all these theories based on denial of their phobia which is what the human race has and what I’ve got to dismantle. So I obviously have to make them aware of their snake phobia or in our case their fear of the human condition. Anyway, I give them this book that introduces them to their snake phobia in order to explain how to get rid of it.
Well, most will open it and then slam it shut, saying ‘Ahhh! I’m not going to look at that book!’ That’s just what’s going to happen!
So to counter that inevitable reaction a few have to hang in there, they have to hold the book open until they get over the shock and discover how amazingly explanatory and relieving it is of their snake phobia—or in this book’s case, of their human condition—at which point they can tell others that they should also persevere through the deaf effect stage.
Brian Carlton: Okay, so Jeremy we don’t want to face the truth about ourselves but we actually need to if we are to truly understand ourselves.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s right. My book explains why we humans are inherently good; that we aren’t evil villains but in fact the heroes of the whole story of life on Earth, so this book of mine has got a wonderful conclusion, but to present that exonerating and liberating explanation here I first have to connect people to what the human condition is, and the best way I know of to do that is to describe what happens to us when we are teenagers and try to confront the human condition.
This problem of the resistance that the human mind has to reading about what the human condition really is, is SO important—because the reader HAS TO BE aware that there is going to be a problem when they first start reading my book in order for them to be prepared for that reaction. So I do need to talk about this resistance a little bit more.
I used the snake phobia example, but there’s actually a much, much better example, which was provided by the Greek philosopher Plato way back some 360 years before Christ. He was an amazing philosopher. Alfred North Whitehead—one of the most highly regarded philosophers of the twentieth century—described the history of philosophy (philosophy being the study of ‘the truths underlying all reality’ (Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd edn, 1998)) as merely ‘a series of footnotes to Plato’ (Process and Reality [Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–28], 1979, p.39 of 413). So Plato is the best there is when it comes to philosophy, the study of the truths underlying all reality.
Okay, so what lay at the core of all Plato’s writing? What was his central insight? Because presumably that is going to be the most significant insight yet presented about human reality.
Well, Plato’s greatest work is The Republic, and the central concept in The Republic is his analogy for our human condition—he actually used the term ‘human condition’, it’s the earliest I’ve ever seen it used—of humans having to live deep ‘underground’ in a ‘cave’, hiding from the ‘painful’ issue of ‘the imperfections of human life’.
So what Plato has to say will be very revealing. This is what he 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’ (c.360 BC; The Republic, tr. H.D.P. Lee, 1955, 514). Plato described how the cave’s exit is blocked by a ‘fire’ that ‘corresponds to the power of the sun’ (p.282), 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’ (516-517), the issue of the human condition.
Most significantly, in terms of what I’ve been talking about of the ‘deaf effect’ resistance to reading about the human condition. Plato then went on to describe what happens when 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’, he said, ‘is the proper object of knowledge’ (Encarta Encyclopaedia, written by Prof. Robert M. Baird, accessed Jul. 2008; see <>), which it is, to finally understand ourselves. Plato wrote that ‘it would hurt the cave prisoner’s eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see, 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 [namely shown the truthful explanation 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. 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’ (The Republic, 515-516). So Plato said he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real—the deaf effect is going to be very great. [See , and ]
Here Plato has given us a much better description of our denial of the human condition and of our resistance to having it exposed than my snake phobia analogy. But the point is, our species’ suffers from an unspoken psychosis and there will be massive resistance to having it exposed. As Harry Prosen says, denials typically fight back with a vengeance when they are faced with exposure.
Brian Carlton: Yes, 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 went back, I didn’t give up. I kept reading it and in time your explanations did start to become clear and it made a hell of a lot of sense to me.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s exactly what people need to do. The way to overcome the deaf effect is to not give up, in fact what will make all the difference is to patiently re-read the presentation and you’ll be astonished to discover that the fog does begin to lift, that it all does begin to make sense, whereas initially what was presented didn’t seem significant and you thought the explanation must be rubbish or badly written or something.
And I’ve learnt that the other effective way to overcome the human mind’s initial resistance to discussion of the human condition is to hear me talking about it, which is why we’re making this video. It helps a lot to see someone walking around freely in the realm of the human condition and talking openly with others about it like we are. It’s very reassuring and helps to subside the subconscious fear of the subject that we humans have.
Again, as Plato warned the cave prisoner, he said he has to ‘grow accustomed to the light’ ‘before he can see things in the world outside the cave’.
So that’s why I have to begin the book with some way of connecting the reader to the issue of what the human condition really is, and that best way is to describe this terrifying, in fact suicidally depressing, encounter adolescents have with the issue of the human condition both in the world around them and within themselves—because from there we can make sense of all human behaviour.
When adolescents are about 12 years old, they start seeing the imperfection of life around them and start wrestling with and thinking deeply about it and they soon realise that for some reason adults don’t want to talk about it so they’re left on their own. So at about 12 they actually start trying to understand the human condition. At 9 years old, kids are flailing out at the imperfections of the world and they’re frustrated but they soon change. Going from primary school to senior school at around 12 is actually a recognition that there is a real psychological change occurring at that age. From flailing out at the world in late childhood, when you get bullying and so forth, the so-called ‘noisy nines’, they suddenly become sobered, deeply thoughtful adolescents and that’s when they go to senior school. The brain of children shifts from realising that flailing out at the frustration of the imperfection of life gets you nowhere, ultimately you’re going to have to stop and try to understand why the world is imperfect. So, they start thinking deeply, they change from being an extrovert to a sobered introvert.
So around 12 when they go to senior school, this search for trying to understand the human condition, the imperfection of human life, begins, and it deepens. They keep thinking about it, they’ve learnt that the adult world doesn’t even want to talk about it and everyone is pretending everything is fine when they can see quite clearly it isn’t. By the time they get to about 14 or 15 something serious starts to happen, they start to discover the human condition within themselves, the imperfections within themselves, that there’s angers and meanness and selfishness and indifference to others and they’re still thinking completely honestly, they’re still facing the issue of the human condition. When it actually deepens they hit this crisis point, normally around 15 or so when they finally discover the human condition within—they’re trying to face that down and it’s suicidally depressing to try to confront that without an understanding of it. So they go into this crisis that I’ve called ‘Resignation’, when they resign to thereafter living in denial of the human condition [see ]. They become an escapist, live a superficial life, they never want to go near that dark corner again. It’s very rare to find any description of a kid going through this because the adult world, as I said, has already resigned, so they don’t want to listen.
But there are some marvellous descriptions of children going through Resignation and this is probably one of the best. It’s from American Pulitzer Prize-winning child psychiatrist Robert Coles and he describes this encounter he had with a child going through this crisis point of Resignation and I think everyone will be able to relate to this:
‘I tell of the loneliness many young people feel…It’s a loneliness that has to do with a self-imposed judgment of sorts…I remember…a young man of fifteen who engaged in light banter, only to shut down, shake his head, refuse to talk at all when his own life and troubles became the subject at hand. He had stopped going to school…he sat in his room for hours listening to rock music, the door closed…I asked him about his head-shaking behavior: I wondered whom he was thereby addressing. He replied: “No one.” I hesitated, gulped a bit as I took a chance: “Not yourself?” He looked right at me now in a sustained stare, for the first time. “Why do you say that?” [he asked]…I decided not to answer the question in the manner that I was trained [basically, ‘trained’ in avoiding what the human condition really is]…Instead, with some unease…I heard myself saying this: “I’ve been there; I remember being there—remember when I felt I couldn’t say a word to anyone”…The young man kept staring at me, didn’t speak…When he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, I realized they had begun to fill’ (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1996, pp.143-144 of 218).
Now, obviously what had happened was the boy was in tears because Coles had reached him with some recognition and appreciation of what he was wrestling with; Coles had shown some honesty about what the boy could see and was struggling with, namely the horror and hypocrisy of human behaviour including his own behaviour.
So, that’s a marvellous little capturing of this moment; the child is in his bedroom, he’s lost in himself, he can’t relate to the world, the world’s not acknowledging what he’s wrestling with, he’s dying a million deaths inside himself.
There are a lot of other descriptions of going through this tight corner of Resignation in my book. In fact, that sublime classic of American literature, J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, is a masterpiece because, like Coles, Salinger dared to write about that forbidden subject for adults of adolescents having to resign to a dishonest life of denial of the human condition—for The Catcher in the Rye is entirely about a 16-year-old boy struggling against Resignation. The boy, Holden Caulfield, complains of feeling ‘surrounded by phonies’ (p.12 of 192) and ‘morons’ who ‘never want to discuss anything’ (p.39), of living on the ‘opposite sides of the pole’ (p.13) to most people, where he ‘just didn’t like anything that was happening’ (p.152), to wanting to escape to ‘somewhere with a brook…[where] I could chop all our own wood in the winter time and all’ (p.119). He knows he is supposed to resign—in the novel he talks about being told that ‘Life…[is] a game…you should play it according to the rules’ (p.7), and to feeling ‘so damn lonesome’ (pp.42, 134) and ‘depressed’ (multiple references) that he felt like ‘committing suicide’ (p.94). As a result of all this despair and disenchantment with the world he keeps ‘failing’ (p.9) his subjects at school and is expelled from four for ‘making absolutely no effort at all’ (p.167). About his behaviour he says, ‘I swear to God I’m a madman’ (p.121) and ‘I know. I’m very hard to talk to’ (p.168).
And then one day he meets an adult who dares to rat on the world of denial and reveal some truth about what all adults are doing and that made a huge difference to his life, as it did for the child with Robert Coles. It brought tears to the child’s eyes because the adult had finally admitted some truth. In Holden’s words it ‘really saved my life’ (p.172). This is what the adult said: ‘This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind…[where you] just keep falling and falling [utter depression]’ (p.169). The adult then spoke of men who ‘at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with…So they gave up looking [they resigned]…[adding] you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior’ (pp.169-170). Yes, to be ‘confused and frightened’ to the point of being ‘sickened by human behavior’—indeed, to be ‘suicid[ally]’ ‘depressed’ by it—is the effect the human condition has if you haven’t resigned yourself to living a relieving but utterly dishonest and superficial life in denial of it.
And interestingly, at the end of The Catcher in the Rye, which is where the title of the book is derived, Salinger describes how Holden Caulfield says, ‘I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff’ (p.156). So he’s ‘the catcher in the rye’ and that is, in fact, what FREEDOM does, it provides the understanding that children are trying to find—‘Why isn’t the world ideal and why is everyone being so dishonest and not even admitting that’s a fact!’
Adolescents die a million deaths and Holden Caulfield just wants the pain that adolescents go through to stop forever so that no more children to have to ever go through it. That requires the explanation of the human condition because if you can explain to children what they are going through that will stop them from having to die a million deaths, become depressed, and the riddle of the human condition can finally be explained to them now. So this book, FREEDOM, is ‘the catcher in the rye’ that Holden Caulfield dreamed of.
I should say that unable to acknowledge the process of Resignation, adults typically blamed the well-known struggles adolescents go through on the hormonal changes that accompanies puberty, the so-called ‘puberty blues’—even terming glandular fever, an illness that often occurs in mid-adolescence, a puberty-related ‘kissing disease’. These are evasive, denial-complying, cave-dwelling excuses because it wasn’t the onset of puberty that was causing the depressing ‘blues’ or glandular fever, but the trauma of Resignation. For glandular fever to occur, a person’s immune system must be extremely rundown, and yet during puberty the body is physically at its peak in terms of growth and vitality—so for an adolescent to succumb to the illness they must be under extraordinary psychological pressure, experiencing stresses much greater than those that could possibly be associated with the physical adjustments to puberty, an adjustment, after all, that has been going on since animals first became sexual. No, the depression and glandular fever experienced by young adolescents are a direct result of the trauma of having to resign to never again revisiting the unbearably depressing subject of the human condition.
There is a lot more about the process of Resignation that children go through in my book [see ] but the essence of it is that it reveals just how terrifying the issue of the human condition really is. These children are actually trying to face it down and can’t. It’s just leading to suicidal depression where they have to jump off this psychological cliff, resign themselves to living in denial of the human condition. So, the problem my book has is that when it brings people back into contact with the human condition they psychologically don’t want to go near it.
Brian Carlton: That resonates with me. I was that young man. I locked myself in my room listening to music of alienation and at the same time reading everything I could get my hands on in the belief that if I just found out why nobody’s talking about this then I’ll be able to understand it. So, yeah, it absolutely resonates with me listening to music and reading, locked in my room for a couple of years as an early teenager. It was a very real thing.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I think a lot of people can remember that and that’s so precious, that’s the benefit of using the Resignation explanation because people can actually remember going through it and once they know they’ve been through it then they’ve got that anchor to know that it’s a terrifying subject.
Brian Carlton: It’s a life-changing experience, it really is. It certainly was for me.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, that’s what happens when you tell someone about Resignation, it helps because then people connect for the first time in a long time to that experience.
Brian Carlton: Well, I wished I’d known then what I know now.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, that’s the benefit of using Resignation to illustrate our fear of the human condition because most people have some recall of having gone through a traumatic experience at that time, and the Resignation explanation makes sense of that.
I now want to point out the consequences of deciding never to confront the human condition again because it means adopting an extremely superficial existence, because, in truth, any thinking at a deeper level brings our mind into contact with the unbearable issue of our seemingly horribly flawed state or condition.
‘There’s a tree with lovely autumn leaves; isn’t it amazing how beautiful nature can be, I wonder why some things are beautiful while others are not—I wonder why I’m not beautiful inside, in fact so full of all manner of angst, self-obsession, indifference and anger…aaahhhhh!!!!’ That’s how superficial our mind is. It learns that any thinking will bring us into contact with the human condition so we’d better stop any thinking.
As the comedian Rod Quantock once said, ‘Thinking can get you into terrible downwards spirals of doubt’ (‘Sayings of the Week’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Jul. 1986). And as all the following Nobel Laureates wrote, Albert Camus said that ‘Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined’ (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942); and Bertrand Russell said, ‘Many people would sooner die than think’ (Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking, 1975, p.5 of 127). And T.S. Eliot wrote that ‘human kind cannot bear very much reality’ (Burnt Norton, 1936). That’s how superficial we are. Most people would sooner die than think. So we live on the absolute meniscus, superficial surface of existence, not prepared to think deeply at all, and extremely alienated from all the truth and beauty that’s in our world.
So, now we can understand these incredible comments made by the great Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing which are deadly truthful about how alienated we are, as he describes: ‘Our alienation goes to the roots. The realization of this is the essential springboard for any serious reflection on any aspect of present inter-human life’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, 1967, p.12 of 156), which is what I’ve been saying; we need to confront the human condition, be reconnected with what it is if we’re going to make sense of human behaviour.
Then he goes on, ‘We are born into a world where alienation awaits us’ (ibid. p.12), because we encounter the human condition and learn to block it out and become superficial in our thinking. He continues ‘We are potentially men, but are in an alienated state [p.12] …the ordinary person is a shrivelled, desiccated fragment of what a person can be [p.22] …The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man [p.24] …between us and It [our true selves or soul] there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete’ (p.118). ‘Fifty feet of solid concrete’, that’s how on the surface we live, that’s how much is repressed that we don’t want to face within us. ‘The outer divorced from any illumination from the inner is in a state of darkness. We are in an age of darkness. The state of outer darkness is a state of sin—i.e. alienation or estrangement from the inner light [ibid. p.116] …We are all murderers and prostitutes…We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another [pp.11-12].’ ‘We are dead, but think we are alive. We are asleep, but think we are awake. We are dreaming, but take our dreams to be reality. We are the halt, lame, blind, deaf, the sick. But we are doubly unconscious. We are so ill that we no longer feel ill, as in many terminal illnesses. We are mad, but have no insight [into the fact of our madness]’ (Self and Others, 1961, p.38 of 192). ‘We are so out of touch with this realm [where the issue of the human condition lies] that many people can now argue seriously that it does not exist’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.105). Which is what I said earlier on, that many people aren’t aware of the human condition and what it really is.
In my book I’ve included this amazingly tortured painting by the Irish artist Francis Bacon. It’s unmistakable that he’s depicting the agony of the human condition in his twisted, smudged, distorted, death-mask-like—alienated—faces and tortured, contorted, stomach-knotted, arms-pinned, psychologically strangled and imprisoned bodies. It’s some recognition of the incredible integrity/honesty of Bacon’s work that in 2013 one of his triptychs sold for $US142.4 million, becoming ‘the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, breaking the previous record…by Edward Munch’s The Scream [another exceptionally honest, human-condition-revealing painting] sold for $119.9 million’ (TIME, 25 Nov. 2013).
So that’s how superficial, artificial, fake and phony our lives have become as a result of living in denial of the human condition. So when we resign we pay a huge price, becoming incredibly superficial and artificial and now we can understand why—because of this terrifying fear we have of never wanting to encounter that suicidal depression ever again.
This is all pretty deadly stuff but we’re in the business now of trying to engage with what the human condition really is. These are amazing lyrics by a young American heavy metal band called ‘With Life in Mind’ and it really reveals how in denial we are of the exhausted state of the human race and of our planet because this is written, obviously, by an unresigned mind, a mind that hasn’t blocked out the truth of our condition. So it’s very revealing. This is what an unresigned mind thinks when it looks out at our world, which is what young adolescents can see. Once we’re resigned and blocking it out as adults, we can’t see it any longer. ‘With Life In Mind’ shows what an unresigned mind can see about our real plight and superficial existence and that’s what we have in these clearly unresigned, denial-free, honest lyrics from their 2010 Grievances album: ‘It scares me to death to think of what I have become…I feel so lost in this world’, ‘Our innocence is lost’, ‘I scream to the sky but my words get lost along the way. I can’t express all the hate that’s led me here and all the filth that swallows us whole. I don’t want to be part of all this insanity. Famine and death. Pestilence and war. [Famine, death, pestilence and war are traditional interpretations of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ described in Revelation 6 in the Bible.] A world shrouded in darkness…Fear is driven into our minds everywhere we look’, ‘Trying so hard for a life with such little purpose…Lost in oblivion’, ‘Everything you’ve been told has been a lie…We’ve all been asleep since the beginning of time.’ ‘Why are we so scared to use our minds?’, ‘Keep pretending; soon enough things will crumble to the ground…If they could only see the truth they would coil in disgust’, ‘How do we save ourselves from this misery…So desperate for the answers…We’re straining on the last bit of hope we have left. No one hears our cries. And no one sees us screaming’, ‘This is the end.’
Saying ‘We’ve all been asleep since the beginning of time’ echoes all that Laing said about the extent of our blocked-out, alienated condition; and saying ‘Everything you’ve been told has been a lie’ reiterates the extent of the dishonest denial in the world, especially in science, today; and saying ‘So desperate for the answers’ confirms how incredibly precious and important are all the ‘answers’ about our human condition that are presented in this book. If there was ever a collection of words that cuts through all the dishonest pretence and delusion in the world about our condition these lyrics from ‘With Life In Mind’ surely do it!
Brian Carlton: Now, what you’ve said is pretty terrifying but I remember as a kid listening to rock music and there’s one particular song that got me. The band ‘Midnight Oil’, I think the song is called Only the Strong and the opening lines in the song are, ‘When I’m locked in my room, I just want to scream’. And as a young kid going through this process, it talked to me, it said to me that there is at least one other human on Earth whose been through what I’m going through now and that spoke volumes to me, just a couple of lines of music was all it took to make me feel a little bit better about this than I did.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, someone who reaches you with some honesty.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely.
Jeremy Griffith: Exactly like Coles’s situation and The Catcher in the Rye. That’s how lonely it is going through this and, by inference, how dishonest the adult world is. It’s all ‘resigned’ and no one’s talking any truth. You find one little bit of truth and you just lock onto it and it saves your life.
Brian Carlton: True, and indeed that’s exactly what happened. I went from being terribly alienated to just a little less alienated which helped a lot.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, that’s amazing.
Brian Carlton: Just the number of times I reflect on the chat we had about your earlier book Beyond the Human Condition. It has stuck in my mind for a long time. I see things all the time and I use your explanations to help me see the denial. And I have conversations with people about the massive amount of denial going on and their eyes glaze over and they say, ‘What are you talking about?’ So, don’t underestimate the extent to which your earlier works had an impact on 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 with them on the telephone and I could second-guess why they were saying what they were saying and hear the subtext in their words. It was hugely valuable as a broadcaster when you’re taking lots and lots of calls from people who are fundamentally strangers to you and they start telling you their life story and you can plug into what they’re talking about and how they’re talking about it. And a lot of that came from your books because you are able to walk down the street and observe the denial in people. You can observe the souls who are not real happy with themselves.
Jeremy Griffith: You’ve finally got insight into what’s happening.
Brian Carlton: Yeah.
Jeremy Griffith: You’ve got the tool to make sense of it at last.
Brian Carlton: But it works, that’s the other thing. When you read your book it sounds esoteric and kind of ‘out there’ but the trickle-down transfer to everyday life and everyday human relationships and experiences has been hugely valuable. I don’t say that ‘pissing in your pocket’, I’m really not. It did make a huge difference.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s the benefit of hanging in there with this information even though it can be very confronting. But yes, those poems and songs do capture the truth about the state of the world and what the unresigned mind in adolescents can see.
The point I’m making overall is that now that we are aware of how terrified we are of the issue of the human condition I’m now finally in a position to explain everything about our behaviour.
For example in , having got in place our fear of the human condition it allows me to explain the reason why biologists have not been able to make any real progress in understanding human behaviour—because they are all resigned and living in denial of the human condition and so they’re not thinking truthfully. You can’t find the truth with lies; you can’t find the truth if you’re living in the cave of denial.
And in , now that the reader is connected to the fact that we’re living in denial of the human condition it allows me to actually explain the human condition because that explanation is actually fairly obvious, all that has been blocking access to it is our fear of the human condition. And I’ll be telling you what the explanation of the human condition that is presented in chapter 3 (and summarised in chapter 1) is in a moment.
In and I’m able to explain the obvious explanation for the origins of our altruistic moral nature, the ‘voice’ of which is our conscience, because again that truth has hitherto been blocked by our fear of the human condition.
In I’m able to explain how and why humans became conscious when other animals haven’t, and the true nature of consciousness. Again you will see that these explanations are relatively obvious but they have been blocked by denial of the human condition.
In I’m able to describe the whole psychological journey that the human race has been on from our ignorant ape ancestor stage some 8 million years ago right up to the present psychologically upset state of us Homo sapiens sapiens—and again, this story has never been able to be told before because everyone’s been living in denial of the human condition.
And finally in the ability now for the human race to be transformed from living in denial of the human condition to living free of that horrific state depended on overcoming the historic denial of what the human condition really is and its explanation!
Brian Carlton: Okay Jeremy, so now can you give us a quick sketch of what this wonderful explanation of the human condition in chapter 3 of your book is that [as Professor Harry Prosen said] ‘saves the world’? What is the human condition?
Jeremy Griffith: Firstly, I need to explain that historically we’ve used the excuse that we humans are competitive, aggressive and selfish because of our animal heritage; that we have savage animal instincts that make us fight and compete for food, shelter, territory and a mate—but this can’t be the real cause of our divisive behaviour because descriptions of our human behaviour, such as egocentric, arrogant, deluded, optimistic, pessimistic, artificial, hateful, mean, immoral, guilty, evil, depressed, inspired, psychotic, alienated, all recognise the involvement of our species’ unique fully conscious thinking mind—that there is a psychological dimension to our behaviour. We don’t suffer from the genetic-opportunism-based, non-psychological animal condition, but the conscious-mind-based, psychologically distressed human condition.
This article has just come out this week in the Smithsonian (Rick Potts, ‘The Moral Dilemma We Face in the Age of Humans’, 7 Oct. 2014)—it actually puts forward a theory to explain the human condition, it says that we are such a successful species because we are proficient problem solvers, which is code for we are fully conscious beings, able to understand cause and effect. It then says that the reason we are so aggressive and competitive is because we can’t trust others to exercise self-restraint, which forces us to match their competitiveness. But how and why were we humans able to become conscious when other animals haven’t, and even more importantly, what was the psychological consequences of us becoming conscious? What is the psychosis-addressing-and-explaining, real biological explanation of our present competitive and aggressive human condition?
These aren’t answers, it’s no wonder everyone’s lost faith in science’s ability to bring understanding to our lives—science has become a farcical joke, it’s stalled and festering—and it’s leaving humanity stalled and festering because scientists are all resigned to living in denial of the human condition and you can’t explain the human condition from a position of lying. As Plato said, you’ve got to be outside the cave of denial to explain the human condition.
As of my book reveals, all the existing biological theories on human behaviour are not interested in actually explaining human behaviour, rather they’re interested in trying to avoid the human condition. So when you read the latter part of chapter 2 it’s a complete demolition of all the current theories in biology of human behaviour, they’re all completely superficial and fake and dishonest. [See also .]
So let’s get serious, what is the real psychosis-addressing-and-explaining biological explanation of the human condition that’s presented in of my book? [See also .] And as I’ve intimated it’s actually a very obvious truth.
In Genesis in the Bible it says Adam and Eve were once living in the Garden of Eden, presumably living in an idyllic, happy, pre-human-condition, cooperative, loving state, which is how we acquired our altruistic moral instincts. How we actually acquired these moral instincts through nurturing, the expression of which is our conscience, is explained in and . The bonobos are a living example of a species that are on the threshold of living in that state.
So, we were once living in this cooperative, Garden of Eden-like state, then we took the fruit from the tree of knowledge, presumably meaning we became conscious. The tree of knowledge is a symbol/representation of the search for understanding. Then in that story it says that as a result of taking the fruit from the tree of knowledge we became ‘evil’ and ‘full of sin’ and were ‘banished’, thrown out of the Garden of Eden. So that’s the best we’ve been able to explain it.
Now, let’s look a bit more closely at that. Genesis says that we were once living in a cooperative, loving, innocent, pre-human-condition, Garden-of-Eden-like state and then we took the fruit from the tree of knowledge and became conscious. With the benefit of what science has been able to teach us about how nerves and genes process information we can analyse that. Well, actually the explanation of the human condition is right there in front of us because clearly if we were once instinctively orientated like other animals (governed by a gene-based learning system), and then we became conscious (which is a nerve-based learning system which can understand cause and effect, is a self-adjusting system) obviously that self-adjusting system needs to challenge the already established instincts for the management of our life. So there’s going to be a clash emerge between them. The conscious mind has to challenge the instincts because it’s now become proficient in understanding cause and effect and it needs to find an understanding of life.
Brian Carlton: This is a curious mind.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, this is a curious mind, it’s now needing to understand. So we’re in parallel with the Genesis story at this point where Adam and Eve, to metaphorically describe original humans, took the fruit from the tree of knowledge and became conscious. But clearly once they became conscious, they became a self-adjusting system, they are managing their life from a base of understanding of cause and effect. The best way to explain how this clash manifested itself between the emerging conscious mind and the already established instinctive mind is to use a little analogy.
We already know that birds follow instinctive flight paths, like the storks that fly up around the coast of Africa and nest on the rooftops of Europe. They’ve learnt this flight path through natural selection. Obviously the birds that had a genetic make-up that inclined them to fly over the Sahara all got frizzled so now all these storks instinctively know to fly around the coast. They know exactly where to fly and not to fly, but they don’t understand where they should and shouldn’t fly.
Now we’ll call one of these storks Adam Stork as this analogy relates to the story of the Garden of Eden, but this story has a different ending. So we want to know what happens if we put a fully conscious, self-adjusting brain such as humans have on the head of this stork. We’re going to jump in an ultralight and watch the equivalent of the human condition emerge.
So Adam Stork has a conscious mind now and he’s following the instinctive flight path which goes along the coast of Africa but he’s starting to think for himself. He looks down and sees an island with some apple trees and he thinks, ‘Why not fly down there and have a feed of apples?’ He hasn’t any knowledge yet, so he knows no reason why he should or shouldn’t do that, and he’s only going to find knowledge by experimenting in different understanding. So he thinks, ‘Why not?’, and carries out his first grand experiment in self-adjustment based on trying to understand the world. He veers off course and heads down towards the island.
Now obviously his instinctive self—because his instinctive flight path doesn’t go down to the island but straight up the coast—is going to, in effect, try to pull him back onto the flight path. We’re watching Adam Stork from an ultralight and we can see him hesitate. He’s flown off towards the island and his instincts are starting to, in effect, criticise him. Our instincts can tell us when we need to have a drink or have some food and our conscious mind can override that or not. So now old Adam Stork is in a dilemma. Does he obey his instincts and fly back on course and never search for knowledge? Or does he persevere with his search for knowledge?
Well, clearly he can’t just fly back on course. I mean, he could fly back on course and feel good and not feel condemned anymore by his instincts but he’d never find knowledge, so he’s got to persevere. So he hesitates and then decides ‘No, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I can’t, in effect, throw my brain away.’ So he perseveres with his search for knowledge and heads down towards the island which means his instincts criticise him even more loudly and he’s in this bind between his instincts and his emerging need to understand.
Ideally at that moment, before ‘the shit hit the fan’ if you like, before everything became messed up, he should have sat down on a limb with his instinctive self as it were, and had a little discussion and said, ‘Now listen, you acquired your perfect orientation of where to fly through natural selection, through the gene-based learning system which can give a species orientation, but an orientation is not understanding. I’m now using a conscious mind which can understand cause and effect. It’s based on the nerve-based learning system where you have memory and once you have memory you have the basis for understanding cause and effect. I’m an insightful learning system. You’re perfectly orientated, but you don’t understand where we should and shouldn’t fly. So by all means tell me when I’m off course but don’t criticise me.’ But you see, he’s in a catch-22, he hasn’t got any knowledge yet with which to have this reconciling conversation. He doesn’t even know about nerves and genes. Science hasn’t even been invented so he’s got no ability to explain himself.
So, what did Adam Stork naturally, unavoidably do? There were three things, I suggest, he couldn’t avoid doing.
First of all, if he couldn’t refute the criticism emanating from his instinctive self, he had to block it out. So, he put his hands over his ears and said ‘I’m not going to listen to you’. So denial became a major part of his make-up which is alienation. He’s blocking out these criticisms or orientations coming from his instinctive self.
The second thing is he gets angry towards the criticism. He tries to restrain his anger but he says, ‘Listen mate, get off my case! I’m not bad! You’re implying I am and I’m not but I can’t explain why I’m not’, so he gets aggressive.
And thirdly, his ego, which just means conscious thinking self in the dictionary, becomes embattled. It becomes centred or centric, focused on trying to validate itself. So he’s now become egocentric, forever looking for reinforcement, anything that will relieve him from this criticism. So he’s desperate for relief from this incessant criticism, to get a win out of a game of sport or get some success. He’s hungry for reinforcement. He’s egocentric, insecure, in need of reinforcement.
So, old Adam Stork has become angry, egocentric and alienated as an unavoidable consequence of having set out in search of knowledge.
Brian Carlton: Presumably he’s being criticised also by the storks who have continued going up the coast on their instinctive path.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s right.
Brian Carlton: So, it’s not just an internal criticism, a self-criticism but there’s external abuse, even, for breaking the rules; you’re doing something different to the way we’ve always done it.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s right. And since the natural world is a ‘friend’, in effect, of his original instinctive self because he grew up with the natural world, by association it’s also condemning him, so everybody’s on his case; the other storks who just want everybody to obey the instinctive flight path, and the natural world. Everything is condemning him. He’s actually good, but he can’t explain why he’s good.
Imagine if you’re living in a village and for some reason you have to plant thistles, but you can’t explain why you’ve got to plant them and the whole town is right against anyone planting weeds. So, just imagine after a couple of days. I mean, they are going to be putting dead cats in your letter box and when you go down to the shop they’re going to turn their backs to you and you’re going to be ostracised. You can’t explain to the rest of the village that you’re good and not bad. You planted thistles, everyone thinks you’re bad but in fact you’re not but you can’t explain it! It’s a terrible situation.
The conscious thinking mind is arguably nature’s greatest invention, the most amazing creation! And the conscious mind needs to find knowledge, ultimately self-knowledge, understanding of the human condition. In this case, understanding of why Adam Stork had to fly off course. He’s going to have to invent science, he’s going to have to discover how nerves are different in the way they process information to the gene-based learning system. One is an orientating system, the other is an insightful system but without that understanding he has no ability to explain himself.
Obviously we’re not migrating birds so our instinctive orientation wasn’t to a flight path but actually to behaving cooperatively and lovingly which, as chapter 5 explains, was acquired through nurturing, and the bonobos are living on the threshold of that state. Our instincts are to be cooperative and loving. So, it was an absolute double whammy for us because immediately when we started flying off course, in effect, and challenging our instincts and becoming unavoidably angry, egocentric and alienated, which are all divisive traits, our instincts doubly condemned us. They want us to be cooperative, loving and selfless and we’re now competitive, aggressive and selfish. So it was a double whammy. As soon as we started to challenge the instincts we became upset. Upset is a better word than evil because there is no criticism anymore, we can understand that we are psychologically upset. Psyche means soul or instinct and our instinctive self or soul has been condemning us so we buried it. We became psychotic and our mind or nerve-based learning system became neurotic. We started living in denial, blocking out the truth, we became psychotic and neurotic.
These are unavoidable consequences of acquiring a conscious mind and setting out in search of knowledge in the presence of our instinctive self. We couldn’t explain ourselves, we couldn’t defend ourselves until we’d invented science and since the conscious mind emerged some two million years ago in the human journey, we’ve been living for some two million years unjustly condemned.
So, if the person who had to plant thistles was going to find it unbearable living in that village after one day or one week, imagine what two million years has done to us. We have been unjustly condemned for some two million years!
In the story of Genesis it says that we once lived in the Garden of Eden in an innocent and cooperative state. Then we took the fruit from the tree of knowledge and became conscious. At that point in the Genesis story we were condemned as evil and were thrown out! But in this story, who is the hero? Adam Stork is the hero because he had to have the courage to defy his instincts and persevere with the search for knowledge. That marvellous song from the musical The Man of La Mancha says we had ‘to march into hell for a heavenly cause’ (Joe Darion, The Impossible Dream, 1965) which perfectly captures the paradox of being a human. We had to suffer becoming upset, angry, egocentric and alienated in order to find knowledge.
So, since the conscious mind is arguably nature’s best invention, Adam Stork is actually the hero of the whole story of life on Earth, because the conscious mind had to endure this corruption, this unjust condemnation, in order to fulfil its potential and become a competent understanding system.
Brian Carlton: It’s a difficult conversation to have with Adam Stork though isn’t it, to explain that to him so he would understand what’s going on and indeed to his colleagues who are still continuing up the coast and not knowing what this lunatic is doing.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, but what’s difficult about sharing this understanding is that because humans are living in denial of the human condition, they’re so committed to not looking at the psychology of our psychosis that we don’t ever admit it. As R.D. Laing said, ‘We are so out of touch with this realm [where the issue of the human condition lies] that many people can now argue seriously that it does not exist’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.105). That’s how fearful we are of the whole subject area.
So, as it says in of my book [see also ], all the current biological explanations don’t recognise that there’s a psychological element to our behaviour. The explanations that say we’re aggressive because we have ‘red in tooth and claw’ animal instincts ignore the obvious fact that we suffer from the human condition, not the ‘animal condition’. We’ve never been able to defend ourselves with understanding and that’s been the case for two million years, but at last we can.
I began by saying that there’s this volcanic frustration inside of humans, but now we can understand where that’s come from. Sure, we’ve certainly tried to retrain or ‘civilise’ it, but it’s still underneath there and it comes out in war and sex and so on. But despite all that upset, this explanation says that humans are the hero of the story of life on Earth, not the villains we have been portrayed as for so long.
So amazingly, this finally dignifies humans, it brings the reconciling, healing understanding of the human condition that we’ve always needed. And it is an obvious truth when you sit down and look at our equation in an honest way.
Brian Carlton: So, Jeremy how do we translate that understanding into a transformation of who we are?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, you will recall that Adam Stork wouldn’t have become psychologically upset if he could have explained why he had to fly off course, defy his instincts. It follows that now that he can explain himself all his upset, his anger, egocentricity and alienation, subsides. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung was forever emphasising that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’, which is what we can do now. We can understand where the dark volcanic forces in us come from. The ancients had emblazoned across their temples, ‘Man know thyself’, well we can now know/understand ourselves. As Harry Prosen has said in his Introduction, ‘I have no doubt this biological explanation of the human condition is the holy grail of insight we have sought for the psychological rehabilitation of the human race.’ You have to read to learn just how this wonderful transformation occurs, but to read just one description of it: ‘This is like seeing the world for the first time, it’s like waking up from a nightmare, it’s like 100 tonnes being lifted off your shoulders.’
Yes, the burden of guilt has finally been lifted from the human race. This is our moment of liberation, this is liberation day.
Brian Carlton: Jeremy, you’re doing really important work. I say that as a fellow human, with the condition. Keep at it. People, read the book, read the book more than once. Some people like reading books or want to read a book multiple times because they enjoy it. This is one you almost need to read two or three times to fully get the gist of what you’re talking about. I wish you the best with your endeavour. We need it. It’s been a great pleasure. It’s good to catch up with you again Jeremy.
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Watch Jeremy Griffith present the breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in , or read . You can also read much more on the transformation made possible by the explanation of the human condition in , or .
Discussion or comment on this essay is welcomed—see below.
These essays were created in 2017-2021 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 2017-2021. Other members of the Sydney WTM Centre are responsible for the
distribution and marketing of the videos/essays, and for providing subscriber support.