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Freedom Essay 6
Wonderfully illuminating interviews with Jeremy Griffith by leading Australian journalists Brian Carlton and Caroline Jones
The first interview with Jeremy Griffith here is with Brian Carlton who is one of Australia’s most respected radio broadcasters, developing, producing and hosting primetime news and talkback programs on the nation’s top radio stations for over three decades. Recorded in Sydney in 2014, this interview has become one of the WTM’s favourites because of how revealing it is of humans’ historically denied, but incredibly important, stage of Resignation (see ) that humans have had to agonisingly go through during their adolescence.
The next is an astonishing interview between Jeremy and renowned Australian journalist Caroline Jones (1938–2022) on her flagship ABC Radio National program, The Search for Meaning, which Carlton mentions at the beginning of his interview with Jeremy. Broadcast nationwide in Australia way back in 1988 as part of the promotion of Jeremy’s first book Free: The End Of The Human Condition (which is a slightly different title to Jeremy’s 2016 definitive book FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition), the interview was so deeply impacting it received, according to Jones, the second most enthusiastic response in the program’s twice-weekly eight-year history, and as a result of that popularity was re-broadcast twice later that year. A veteran writer, presenter and social commentator who spent over 50 years with Australia’s national broadcaster, Caroline Jones was one of the country’s most distinguished and loved journalists. In addition to receiving the industry’s highest accolade (a Walkley Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism), in 1988 she received the Order of Australia (AO) and the Media Peace Prize Gold Citation, and in 1997 was voted one of Australia’s ‘Living Treasures’.
We want to mention that during this 2014 interview with Brian Carlton, you will hear Jeremy say that it will require ‘great patience’ for appreciation and acceptance to develop of his human-condition-solving-but-immensely-confronting explanations. Well, this Caroline Jones interview bears that out in spades because in it you will hear Jeremy give a perfectly clear presentation of his whole human-race-liberating understanding of the human condition, yet it has taken all of this time, 34 years (in 2022) since his interview with Jones, for a real, global base of appreciation and support of his work to develop! Despite so many people responding enthusiastically to Jeremy’s 1988 interview with Jones, the difficulty people have fully digesting discussion of the human condition, and from there responding supportively to Jeremy’s insights, meant that this interview with Jones didn’t lead to any major support developing back then.
We think everyone will find the Caroline Jones interview quite amazing to listen to, not only because of its depth of insight into the human condition, but also because it reveals so much about Jeremy’s innocence and vision and purity of love for the human race and his resulting endurance to bring these liberating understandings to the world.
The Transcript of the Brian Carlton interview
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 in the second player above.] 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 compère 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.
Jeremy Griffith: 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 in frustration at 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 a protesting extrovert to a sobered introvert.
So around 12 when they go to senior school, this search to try 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 because they’re still thinking completely honestly, they’re still facing the issue of the human condition. As this thinking deepens they hit this crisis point, normally around 15 or so when they finally discover the human condition within themselves—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 an adolescent 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 description of what happens at Resignation. Adolescents lock themselves in their bedrooms, 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 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 [referring to J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye which you can read about in paragraphs and ], 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 that resonated with my feeling 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 [in ] 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.
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 of Resignation, 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 in 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 from the world 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 [in my talk back radio program] 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 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’ [to praise you], 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 [see ] do capture the truth about the state of the world and what the unresigned mind in adolescents can see.
Brian Carlton: I wish I had your book as a 15-year-old. I really do. I was reading fairly thick, dense books at 14, 15, but I wish I had this one. It would have saved me two or three years of angst, and probably another six or seven years of trying to work out what I wanted to do with my life, and how hard I did actually want to change everything. I’m not an ‘issues-based crusader’ as such but there’s so much around that needs fixing and I had this ability or capacity to work out a way where we could do things better. It’s my fight, it’s my personal fight. I was not going to let it beat me and if I can’t quite accept the way the world is then I’m not going to sit down and do nothing. I will use whatever I have at my disposal, which in my case was a microphone and a transmitter, to try and at least make people think about the process of change. But giving up was never an option, let’s put it that way.
Jeremy Griffith: Well Brian, we call people like you ‘Ships at Sea’, people that didn’t properly resign, people who didn’t pull into a port when the storms came [see ]. That’s a torturous choice to make because then you’re forever tumbled around by the imperfection of life.
Brian Carlton: But it’s honest, Jeremy. I live my life honest with myself and I sleep soundly at night. I’m happy with my choices as difficult as they were and are. I’m personally happy with the choices I made back then. Not easy choices, very difficult.
Jeremy Griffith: But it does make you a heretic, with all the pain that goes with that. As you told me earlier, you tried to play in the corporate world, in the front lines trying to shake up the box.
Brian Carlton: I’ve always had issues with people telling me how I should think and what I should say and what opinions I should have. They’re very precious things to me and I want to own mine and I’ve tried as best I could to do that. So I really resent being told to tow any particular line by anybody and I have since I was a child. Ask my mum, she’ll tell you, from about the age of eight it was, ‘No, I’m going to do it my way because I think my way is better’, and if you want an explanation as to why my way is better I’m happy to give that to you, not a problem! But it seemed to me the only way out of this was to be as honest with myself as I could be.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s the strange paradox of the human condition because we do resign but then we pay such a price, becoming such a fraud and so dishonest because we’re not looking at things truthfully ever again. We’re lost in a sea of bullshit, really, from there on. We knew we’d get to a point not too long after that where we were wishing we could get back to some honesty. So when you don’t fully let go and you keep the windows open a little, as it were, this information speaks to that part of you that didn’t let go. [Professor] Harry Prosen [who wrote the ] is like that too. He didn’t quite shut the windows properly and kept searching all his life for some truth. When it came along in the form of the Human Condition Documentary Proposal [a 2004 documentary proposal in which Jeremy outlined all the main biological explanations contained in his books], Harry read that and just loved it because what he was reading spoke to that part of himself that was unresigned and brought it back to life, and it was just so reinforcing. It is like what happened to Coles and Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely, and again I relate to that story so vigorously, he might as well have been talking about me. I was that kid and I did a lot of reading of a lot of disciplines. Firstly I had a crack at the various faiths to see if there was any answers there, and for me there wasn’t. Then science, which had some answers but was ultimately reductionist. I was getting into philosophers and some pretty strange stuff to try and work out whether anybody did have an answer to the human condition, whether there was any kind of coherent description of why I was feeling the way I was feeling and the only thing that even came close to that was your books.
Jeremy Griffith: Beforehand, we were talking together and you were saying, ‘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.’
Brian Carlton: Yeah, throughout my life as a professional communicator and broadcaster I’ve seen the veil of denial go up over people’s eyes when you raise the truth with them about something. They honestly don’t want to know. I thought the early teens, 13, 14, 15, is about the right age to be able to crack through some of that early denial and get to them before they build such a vigorous wall which they’re then locked behind and don’t want to open up; it’s easier just to hide there behind the wall. If you can get to them before they start cementing those bricks in, that will be your generational change I think. It will be kids that age that will respond to what you’re talking about because they’re going through it.
Jeremy Griffith: It will be great when we can actually take a presentation of this to our resigning kids before they jump off Salinger’s cliff and before they cement those bricks in as you so accurately said. It will be very, very precious.
Brian Carlton: That’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: But we have to get a foothold in the real world, the adult world, before we can get some real support for this. So, that’s the conundrum that this book faces, you’ve articulated the whole dilemma and what we’re up against. You’ve also articulated the beauty of, finally, somewhere, some truth appearing in this world that speaks to that part of ourselves that everyone has blocked off. That’s the whole riddle, how do you get through those cemented-in bricks and start the world in the other direction? The point about that song by the heavy metal rock band ‘With Life in Mind’ [which you can read about in and in ], like ‘Midnight Oil’s song, is that it speaks some truth about the state of the world.
Brian Carlton: There are many descriptions of alienation in art, in music, in poetry. I often wonder whether those people who are exploring those areas will understand what you’re talking about more so than, perhaps, a rigid scientifically trained mind.
Jeremy Griffith: Well the trick with really good art, poetry, music or literature is to allude to the human condition, to take people as close as they can go to the truth without actually confronting it. Because without the explanation of the human condition, the defence for it, it’s been just too much to cope with.
Brian Carlton: It’s almost a reflection, isn’t it; they’re reflecting the human condition but not doing anything to explain why it is.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, that’s right because until you can explain it you really can’t take people in too close to the ‘fire’. You can only dance in close to it, as any good literature does. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Coles didn’t get the Pulitzer Prize for that one paragraph [included above]. It’s that honest and it’s that precious. He’s a child psychiatrist and he’s written a book that lets the truth out and that’s just so precious. Why was one of Francis Bacon’s triptychs, which sold for $US142.4 million in 2013 ‘the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, breaking the previous record, set in May 2012, when a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream [another exceptionally honest, human-condition-revealing painting] sold for $119.9 million’ (TIME, 25 Nov. 2013)? [see ] Because they’re speaking the truth: this is us, this is how alienated and dead we really are. So great art, literature, poetry or music is great because it gets close to the truth. But again, you can’t go right there until we found the defence for ourselves.
Brian Carlton: It’s scary when that little inside voice comes up and says, ‘I remember this, I remember what it was like’, and you say, ‘Go away, go away again, just please be quiet’.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, I’m digging up this moment of Resignation because everyone, like you, can remember it. So that reconnects people to the fearful issue of the human condition and then I’ve got a foothold to explain and unpack the whole riddle of the human condition.
Brian Carlton: You can see why our radio interview went for two hours can’t you!
Jeremy Griffith: I keep trying to make what we’re talking about link up with where we were and I’m thinking, shit, this is so good! I want to throw my prepared notes for this interview out the window! [To the film crew:] Brian is a legend. He’s someone really precious to me because it’s been pretty lonely doing this job.
Brian Carlton: I often think about you like that. I think, how can you keep doing this? You just keep pushing on and pushing on and pushing on. You’ve clearly gathered together some like-minded individuals who understand your ideas and are trying to help you grow the thing. It must be a lonely, lonely, lonely place to be a lot of the time.
Jeremy Griffith: We’ve got some wonderful people supporting this because people can get through this denial. Once you understand this explanation of the human condition, you’re defended, so then you’re safe. You can safely run around in the realm of the human condition. The problem is to get people through the ‘deaf effect’ stage so they can start to hear it. [In and , readers are warned that the issue of the human condition has been such a difficult subject for humans to confront that reading about it can initially cause a ‘deaf effect’, where it is hard to take in and absorb what is being said. However, with patience and by watching videos of Jeremy talking about the subject of the human condition and re-reading the book, this ‘deaf effect’ wears off, allowing the compassionate and immensely relieving insights to become accessible.] The people who’ve become really interested are those who have got through the ‘deaf effect’, and the truth of the explanations just grew and grew on them. As you said, it just becomes more addictive because you’ve got the tools to unravel everything. You’re seeing through the human condition and that’s really exciting, and that only continues to grow. It’s a slow beginning with this information because there are so many bricks in the wall—we’ve got to be very determined and patient—but it has a fast finish because once people understand this information they won’t want to retreat back into denial. You can’t throw this knowledge away. When you know you’ve got the keys to unlock the whole mystery of what it is to be human, it just grows and grows.
Brian Carlton: You will inevitably run up against vested interest. People who like the idea that the planet is the way it is because they profit from it in whatever way, be it financially or some other way. People who will want to maintain the status quo, who’ll like to keep things just the way they are because it works for them. You’ll be a threat to established religions, you’ll be a threat to conventional thinking on pretty much everything. All the scientific disciplines, psychology for example, psychiatry. You’re not going to need anywhere near as many of those disciplines if people had this information, you’re just not going to need it. That paradigm shift will be actively resisted and I’m pretty sure you’ve felt that over the past couple of decades.
Jeremy Griffith: Well we fought and won the biggest defamation case in Australia’s history [at the time] and that was against people with a vested interest in living in Plato’s cave of denial, they didn’t want the truth about humans to come out. In fact, my persecutors actually said, ‘You are dealing with the personal unspeakable, shaking the black box inside of people and you can’t succeed’ (personal conversations with Jeremy Griffith, Feb. 1995).
Brian Carlton: It was curious that the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] decided to put up a man of the cloth to analyse your work. I thought that was strange. [Brian is referring to Reverend Millikan who led the attack on Jeremy and his work back in 1995 that led to the defamation court action—see , and the Persecution of the WTM essay at .]
Jeremy Griffith: The same thing happened with Darwin. Bishop Wilberforce stood up at the great debate at Oxford and said, ‘Was it your grandfather or grandmother that was related to an ape?’ That’s when Thomas Huxley stood up and said ‘I’d rather be related to an ape than a great man who misused his intellect to deny truth’ and won the debate.
[The following is a more in-depth description of that great debate: If it wasn’t for Thomas Huxley’s staunch defence of Darwin in the great debate that took place at Oxford in 1860 Bishop Wilberforce’s bitter denigration of natural selection may well have prevented any serious consideration of Darwin’s idea, as this description of the debate reveals: ‘Bishop [Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford] spoke for full half-an-hour with inimitable spirit, emptiness and unfairness…He ridiculed Darwin badly, and Huxley savagely, but all in such dulcet tones, so persuasive a manner, and in such well-turned periods, that I [an observer in the audience] who had been inclined to blame the President for allowing a discussion that could serve no scientific purpose, now forgave him from the bottom of my heart…[Bishop Wilberforce asserted that] Darwin’s views were contrary to the revelations of God in the Scriptures’ (Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 1902, p.236). ‘Darwin’s fiery young champion [was] the biologist Thomas Huxley…As a final crushing blow [Bishop Wilberforce] turned to Huxley. “Is the gentleman,” he asked, “related by his grandfather’s or grandmother’s side to an ape?” Springing to his feet, young Huxley retorted: “I would far rather be descended from a monkey on both my parents’ sides than from a man who uses his brilliant talents for arousing religious prejudice”. A roar of rage went up from the clergy, yells of delight from the Oxford students. The day was Huxley’s—and Darwin’s. All this time Darwin was living a recluse life at his country home in Kent…[where] work poured from his study…[leaving his] critics shuddering in dread of another “ungodly attack” upon the divinity of man…In vain was Darwin’s life scrutinized for the moral weakness that his enemies were sure must underlie his free thinking. All they could discover was a gentle old fellow who passed his days amid flowers and with children—his two greatest delights. Never by any word of his was God denied, nor the soul of man’ (Great Lives, Great Deeds, Reader’s Digest, 1966, p.335, 336). The resistance from the establishment was such that Darwin eventually concluded: ‘I have got fairly sick of hostile reviews…I can pretty plainly see that, if my view is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by young men growing up and replacing the old workers’ (Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 1902, p.244). Again, you can read more about the persecution Jeremy and his work has endured for daring to address the human condition at .]
It has traditionally been the people of the church who are fundamentalist in their thinking that haven’t wanted to try to understand things. But the biggest vested interest of all is in denial. Once you have resigned to blocking out the issue of the human condition and built that wall of denial you don’t want it broken down.
Brian Carlton: So they’ll try and shut you up.
Jeremy Griffith: They do, they’ve tried all sorts of things so I and those supporting these confronting explanations of the human condition have to be self-sufficient in everything we do. It’s the only way we can have a chance of getting these ideas out there.
Brian Carlton: An uphill battle but a thoroughly worthy one.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s right, but psychologically we know what we’re trying to do which helps. We’re trying to turn this corner, the biggest paradigm shift of all, from living in denial to not living in denial. That’s what Plato described when you take people out of the cave. He wrote that ‘it would hurt his [the cave’s prisoner’s] eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see [take refuge in all the human-condition-avoiding dishonest explanations for human behaviour that he has become accustomed to], 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 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.’ 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.’ He then further added that ‘they would say that his [the person who tries to deliver understanding of our human condition] visit to the upper world had ruined his sight [they would treat him as if he was mad], and that the ascent [out of the cave] was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him’ (c.360 BC; The Republic, tr. H.D.P. Lee, 1955). So Plato gave fair warning [see ]. You try to drag people out of the cave and you’re going to get a flogging. It’s just part of the journey. What drives me is my love of this other honest world that’s so much better and so much truer. Like you, you’re holding on to what you know to be true against a tsunami of bullshit, but as you said earlier, ‘What I love is that I’m being honest and I treasure that above all else’.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely.
Jeremy Griffith: So that’s what drives me too. I just live for this other world where we don’t have to be dishonest and all the suffering that results from it. That’s what got me to these understandings.
Brian Carlton: As a commentator on all things I have to have a clarity of comprehension, a clarity of analysis and the only way I can achieve that clarity is to be ruthlessly honest even if the conclusion I’m reaching I find personally disturbing or scary or horrifying. Honesty, self-honesty, is the important thing. I can’t do my job unless I’m honest.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, the whole of this book is based on that premise, that once you’re living in denial you can’t find the truth. You can’t find the truth with lies, it’s just fundamentally impossible. The only way I’ve got to these answers is by being honest and when you’re not living in denial of the human condition you can access all these truths that we’ve been looking for and they’re so obvious.
Brian Carlton: Yes they are, that’s exactly right. It’s very simple, it’s not hard. The end process, the revelation, if you like, 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.
Jeremy Griffith: All these answers that I’ve found didn’t require a smart brain, it’s just that I’m not living in denial. Thinking simply and truthfully is how I found these answers and they’re sitting there for anybody and everybody. They’re self-evident if you’re not wanting to avoid them. This synthesis is produced from exactly what you just said. They are revelations in the sense that they’re there waiting to be revealed. All you’ve got to do is strip off the denial and they’ll flop out. That’s all I’ve ever done.
Brian Carlton: But that process, the process of stripping off the denial, that’s the difficult part. Once you’ve done that it’s relatively simple from there on in I’ve found. The answers become glaringly obvious to the next thing you have a look at. I hate to use the word ‘epiphany’ because it has a religious connotation that I really don’t want to give it. It’s not emotional, well it sort of is emotional, but it’s an intellectual epiphany. It’s an epiphany of mind; my understanding of this is now better than it was, I’m now more complete, I have a more complete understanding of myself, everybody around me, the society at large, the way the planet works. It’s a revelation! But again, I hesitate to 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.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, all I’ve ever done is taught myself to think like a child, or to think like a stone, as I call it. If I’m not getting to the answer, I’m just not thinking simply enough and letting the child, the simple obvious truth, come out. I just got better and better at that and when you do get to that clean state and just let it come out, it’s so obvious it’s just stunning. You think well, that’s amazing! It is like an epiphany, it’s very exciting. I just take one step and I keep learning. That’s how I got to all these insights. But when you put the full synthesis together using that device of just thinking truthfully, then you take it back to the cave dwellers, as Plato said, ‘they would say that his [the person who tries to deliver understanding of our human condition] visit to the upper world had ruined his sight [they would treat him as if he was mad], and that the ascent [out of the cave] was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him’ (The Republic, 517). In my case they didn’t actually try and kill me, we live in more civilised times than that, but they did everything they could to smash me off the face of the Earth.
So, everything you’re saying is making complete sense of everything I’ve been through and what you in your own life have been through.
Brian Carlton: Well, you have your truth and you’ve stuck to your truth and you’ve fought for your truth and they’re all admirable qualities in a person. You can’t criticise somebody for arguing their case, especially when the kind of work you’re doing is so conceptually new to people. It’s always going to be, if I can use the vernacular, ‘pushing it uphill’. But good on you for keeping at it because someone has to.
Jeremy Griffith: You’re right. They’re actually totally sincere in what they’re saying in their denial. They don’t know they are in denial.
Brian Carlton: No, that’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: So, I’m compassionate, I know why they’re doing what they’re doing but I’ve got to somehow find a way through that wall of denial and get people to re-access the truth. It is a hard, slow process but I’m no longer criticising them, I’m actually bringing them the understanding. They actually want the reconciling understanding of the human condition but they’re never going to find it, they’re failure-trapped because they’re living in denial. You can’t find the truth from inside the cave.
Brian Carlton: No, that’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: I’m saying, ‘Look, this is the redeeming truth about us humans, here it is, it liberates you and gives you all the things you want!’ But humans are so committed to denial, they’re not receptive to it. As the saying goes, you can knock on a deaf man’s door forever. It’s a slow process, we’ve just got to be patient.
Brian Carlton: One of my favourite expressions for lots of things is ‘It’s a process, not an event’. I can’t think of anything that that saying might apply to more than to your work. It is a process and a long way from being any kind of event, but for the individual, when you get it, it is an event.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes.
Brian Carlton: You remember the day, you remember the section of the book, you remember when it happened, it stays with you, it’s fresh.
Jeremy Griffith: As to how long it will take, Teilhard de Chardin once said, ‘The Truth has to only appear once…for it to be impossible for anything ever to prevent it from spreading universally and setting everything ablaze’ (Let Me Explain, 1966; tr. René Hague et al, 1970, p.159 of 189). And it’s true, it just needs a critical mass of influential people to come together and say, ‘This book is really seriously important, it really has got through to the other side’. Then all of those who are living in denial and just treating it dismissively, are forced to think again and that’s where you get this change of momentum. So, that’s why we’re making such a huge effort with this book, to get that change of momentum, to get that base group of people who have managed to get through the wall of denial and discover just how honest this book is. Harry Prosen is the first, I mean he’s amazingly on the front foot and just saying it like it is. Then we need a few more dominos to fall like that, then suddenly the tide is turning, there is a base of support. Suddenly it will flow because the world is so hungry for some truth, some answers. Once there is enough of a base of support then the tide changes rapidly because it is like a sea of dishonesty out there and this book is an island of sanity. And everyone is looking for just that island, like you were when you were 15. You were scrounging all the libraries, all the great tomes looking for some answers.
Brian Carlton: 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!
Jeremy Griffith: It’s got to be in here somewhere!
Brian Carlton: It’s not a joke by the way, it’s quite literal.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The Transcript of the Caroline Jones interview
Caroline Jones (program introduction): This is Caroline Jones. My guest this morning is Jeremy Griffith, a scientist whose search for meaning has produced a book called . The book examines the conflict between conscience and intellect; the guilt this conflict has brought to mankind, how an understanding of humanity’s necessary growing up period frees us from guilt and how humans can now look forward to peace on Earth. Jeremy was raised in the country. As a young scientist he did a great deal of work in the wilds of Tasmania on the plight of the Tasmanian Tiger. With his brother he makes beautiful furniture which you may have seen featured on A Big Country [this was actually a documentary about ]. But his major life work to date he considers to be his new book and its passionately held ideas. At the end of our conversation I’ll give you details about the book but let’s meet Jeremy Griffith.
Caroline Jones: Shall we start talking about childhood and maybe you’d say something about your childhood and what that was like.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I grew up in the country on a sheep property and spent all my time playing with nature I guess, in the bush. I was very fond of animals and birds and I guess I was fairly idealistic as a young man and I guess all that isolation and the reinforcement I got from nature is the reason for that idealism and the protection my parents, my whole background, I guess the isolation, made me an idealist. [See for further details about Jeremy’s upbringing and life.]
Caroline Jones: What do you remember especially about teen age and the sort of feelings you were having then because it always seems to be, often seems to be a difficult time for us, those adolescent years? [Caroline is here alluding to the psychological process of Resignation that most adolescents go through—see .]
Jeremy Griffith: Yeah, I guess that’s when we are orientated to life’s problems and in my case, being, I was extremely idealistic, I had little awareness of reality and I guess it’s through our parents that we’re orientated to life. We encounter the battles on Earth through discovering the battle that our parents are waging and in my case I saw my father as what I thought was a very good man, he was almost sort of saintly if you like, and yet the world didn’t seem to recognise those qualities that I saw as so worthwhile and ideal. I guess my orientation as a young man was to try to champion his goodness in the world and the journeys went on and on and eventually I gained an understanding of why we, humanity as a whole, when I say we I mean humanity, aren’t able to acknowledge the ideals that I held in such high esteem.
Caroline Jones: Yes and I know that has become something of a life work. I wondered before we go into that, if you had from an early age even, the idea of the existence of another world, beyond this one which we live in?
Jeremy Griffith: Not really, the world I was living in, I was very euphoric, very happy, all my report cards at school said I had a zest for living. It was only much later on that I discovered the oppressed world if you like, I remember someone saying to me, ‘Oh you should go and listen to this person who is giving a talk’, he had come out from America and I went to that and he started off by saying, ‘all those who have some experience of another fabulous world at some time in their life put their hands up’, and then he counted the hands and he said that’s usual, 70% of people at some time in their life experience an awareness of another world. But for me I was living all the time in that other world and I was extremely idealistic. When I went to Tasmania, I went to Tasmania to look for a rare animal, I loved animals and I heard about this extraordinary animal in my backyard almost…
Caroline Jones: The rare animal…
Jeremy Griffith: The rare animal, yeah, this Tasmanian Tiger and I was fascinated and I thought well no one seems to be doing anything about it. I mean I was not aware of the human condition, the real problems on Earth, I thought this seemed to be the priority as I understood it, so I was determined to go and try and save the animal and I hitchhiked to Tasmania and started there and went on for a period of six years after I finished my university degree in science and I discovered then that the real problem was within ourselves, but when I came out of Tasmania at something like 28 years old, I was still incredibly out of touch with reality. It was a great mystery to me why the devastation of our planet, why the upset in people, the anger and the aggression on Earth, it was a complete mystery. I mean realists take all the reality for granted, it’s sort of self-evident but to an innocent, an idealist, it’s an extraordinary mystery that no one is able to explain to them, and I remember for instance I could never go to a movie and sit through a movie. The only movie as a young man I sat through was a thing about Africa called, Where No Vultures Fly and I remember when I watched Gone with the Wind for instance and I saw that [the film’s character] Scarlett O’Hara used other people, I just got up and walked out because I said people just shouldn’t do that to each other. I can remember coming out of Tasmania and being invited to this dinner party with [high-profile Australian businessman] John Walton and all of these important people at the time and I just couldn’t cope and eventually I stood on a chair and I accused everybody of being false and fake and laughing and I was furious, I was black with fury because I thought that there was a real problem. It’s like living in a house that’s burning down and everyone’s joking and pretending that there is nothing wrong, so the world of reality was an extraordinary mystery to me, I was extremely idealistic.
Caroline Jones: Was it very painful feeling separate I suppose, feeling that you had almost a separate set of values from most others?
Jeremy Griffith: The pain, I mean I was living in a state of real happiness in myself, the pain was my inconsistency with the real world and the real world’s inability to acknowledge the difference, that there was something, they were silent, there was this problem on Earth that no one was addressing, the suffering of others, the unhappiness of people and no one was looking at it, and you go to university and you go to school and they teach you mathematics. I remember asking the mathematics teacher, why are we teaching mathematics? I mean I couldn’t adopt mechanism. I couldn’t evade the whole truth of the ideals, that we should be all integrative and selfless and loving and helpful and kind. Why are we so competitive and aggressive and angry? Everyone was making jokes and laughing and keeping a brave front but I didn’t know, to me it was just blatant lies and denial of the real problems on Earth and I was furious and determined to champion as I said, my idealism and never to let it go. I remember when my father died, he was killed in a tractor accident, my resolve turned to rock and I said, I am never ever going to abandon my ideals. But the incredible journey, starting out so idealistically, was to finally one day discover that there was a really good reason for our human upset and to learn incredible compassion for humanity and I guess that’s the journey, the grand journey, adventure of humanity as a whole. [You can watch Jeremy present the breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in .]
Caroline Jones: And you’ve encapsulated these ideas, the result of many years of thinking in a book called Free: The End Of The Human Condition. I am talking with Jeremy Griffith. Take us into the ideas won’t you, Jeremy?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, let me say for a start that my book is holistic in its approach or deterministic or teleological, the argument. In essence it accepts Integrative Meaning as I call it. To explain Integrative Meaning: atoms form molecules and molecules integrate to form single celled organisms and single-celled organisms come together to form multicellular organisms and then the next layer is multicellular organisms come together to form societies, if you like the Biblical equivalent to that would be the wolf lying down with the lamb. And there’s a higher order still, all things will finally come together to form the larger whole and I guess the religious equivalent for that would be peace on Earth and in heaven. So there is this development of larger wholes and holism means, if you look it up in the dictionary, ‘the tendency in nature to form wholes’ (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 5th edn, 1964) and teleological or deterministic argument is one that accepts purpose. Now, that purpose is this drive towards the development of ever larger and more stable wholes.
Now, the essential ingredient to form a larger whole is selflessness. The parts of the whole have to consider the welfare of the whole above themselves, so unconditional selflessness is the ingredient for the development of larger wholes. So, selflessness is the essence of this whole process of development of order of matter, integrative commitment. But you see the great complication that raises is that humans are a competitive, aggressive, selfish species and if we accept the purpose of integration, that there’s a vitalistic purpose to develop larger wholes, to be selfless, well then why are we selfish? It seems to imply that humans and humanity as a whole, is a bad species. You see, it raises the question of guilt, of the origin of sin, all these questions that religions struggle with and the fundamental problem that humanity has agonised over for ages. So, you see humans appear to be a guilty or bad species. Now, the paradox of the human condition is that in fact we are not a guilty or bad species. There was a good reason for our apparent inconsistency with these ideals and that is what my book explains so that, as I said, I started out believing extraordinarily in these ideals of selflessness, only to find there was a reason for our selfishness, a good reason.
The thing is that science, humanity, has had to evade this acceptance of Integrative Meaning so it’s very dangerous, the teleological or deterministic or vitalistic or holistic approach is very dangerous and there’s a great yearning on Earth at present for the New Age, a great hunger that the existing world is exhausted and our planet is exhausted, we’re exhausted and the old world is dying, but the new world is just not able to be born, and the holistic world, the ideal world will not gain ascension until we find the defence for ourselves. You see, it says in the Bible for instance that ‘God is love’, right. Love is the theme of integrativeness, this development, so really God is our personification of this integrative development. So God, selflessness, love, integration all mean the same thing. But we have been an insecure species, a God-fearing species because we haven’t been able to defend ourselves in the presence of God, in the presence of Integrative Meaning. [See on Integrative Meaning or ‘God’.]
Caroline Jones: So what is the defence? Take us into the defence.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, currently, to date we’ve used what I call contrived defences, for our human condition of upset, our divisive state.
Caroline Jones: For example.
Jeremy Griffith: For example, there is a film out at present called The Gods Must Be Crazy in which they contrast the innocence of the Bushmen of the Kalahari with our mad, driven, chaotic, competitive world [see on the difference between races; and on Sir Laurens van der Post who wrote extensively about the relative innocence of the Bushmen]. But in it it accounts for our competitiveness on the basis that it was due to our possessions. In the field of biology there was Robert Ardrey’s book The Territorial Imperative which said that our competitive nature, our selfishness is due to our imperative to defend our territory. Currently the prevailing scientific evasion or excuse for our divisiveness is a theory called Sociobiology which says that our selfish nature is due to our selfish genes. But as I say these are contrived defences, they sustain us until we find the real excuse. And what I’m saying is that my book is presenting the real excuse. [See on the danger of the false ‘savage instincts’ excuse, and on the industry of denial in science.]
Just before I explain what my explanation of our upset state is, I should say that science has had to progress mechanistically rather than holistically, as I pointed out. It had to evade acceptance of holism, of the development of order of matter, until such time when we could defend ourselves against it, explain ourselves. So, science has very properly been mechanistic because any acceptance of holism would only add to our sense of guilt, not alleviate it. So it’s progressed by investigating reality, step by proven step. But whenever it encountered a truth, a partial truth as I call it, that was dangerous, that implied that we were bad, such as Integrative Meaning, it evaded it. So, in science they stress entropy which says that systems run down towards heat energy, they don’t stress negative entropy which is the physical law that explains the integration of matter that Arthur Koestler and Teilhard de Chardin have accepted [again, see on Integrative Meaning]. They are what I call unevasive thinkers where scientists, in general, are evasive thinkers, they’ve had to be. So, science investigates the mystery, the mechanisms that might one day allow us to find an understanding. So, science is evasive and represses many, many partial truths that are dangerous and hides them. Now, that means that it’s finding the understanding of ourselves and it’s finding all these pieces of the jigsaw of explanation but it is unable to look at those jigsaw pieces right-side-up because they’re hurtful; the picture they’re presenting is a hurtful one, it’s implying that we’re bad all the time. So it finds these pieces of the explanation and presents these pieces upside down. Now in the end it requires, to synthesise the full truth that will liberate us, someone has to go now and look at all those pieces of the jigsaw right-side-up and assemble the full picture that liberates us, since the full picture doesn’t criticise us, it explains us. All these partial truths tend to criticise us when the full truth won’t. So it’s the story of David and Goliath, in the end the whole of humanity is arrayed at the edge of this battlefield, unable to go out into it and slay this giant Goliath. So an exceptional innocent is required at that time to go out because these partial truths such as Integrative Meaning don’t hurt someone who’s not aggressive, angry, divisive, someone who is yet to become embattled. [See for an explanation of the role of innocence in finding the explanation of the human condition.] They’re still idealistic. So, my approach was a holistic approach but I suggest that only a holistic approach in the end could unravel the jigsaw, could look at the jigsaw pieces right side up and synthesise the full picture.
Caroline Jones: I’m talking with Jeremy Griffith who’s the author of a book called Free: The End Of The Human Condition which embodies ideas which he has worked out, which have come to him over a period of many years. Before we go on where does religion, the religions fit into this picture?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, before I answer that I should, to answer it I really should explain the story.
Caroline Jones: Ok.
Jeremy Griffith: Because the story involves becoming exhausted and then when we were exhausted we needed religion. So just to introduce my explanation for our human condition of upset, a great battle emerged. In anthropology we know that the species Homo, which is what we are, intelligent man, emerged some two million years ago from the australopithecines who I’ve redescribed as Childman. So during our childhood and prior to that, during our ape ancestry, we acquired what I call an instinctive orientation to integrativeness [see for evidence of this from the fossil record]. In the equivalent in the Bible it says in Genesis that we were once in the image of God, that is absolutely loving, kind, selfless, generous, all these traits. And then at two million years, intelligent man emerged and a great battle emerged between this intelligent self and this original instinctive self or soul, the expression of which is our conscience.
Now we became instinctively, that is genetically aware of what was integrative and what was divisive, what was good and what was bad. Our soul in its conscience is perfect in criticism but completely deficient in explanation. So the problem was the mind had to search for understanding, the fundamental problem was that the mind is a nerve-based learning system, which is insightful, it has to operate from a base of understanding. So, when the mind emerged it had to search for understanding, there were none available. But whenever it made a mistake the instinctive self criticised it. And so it implied that we were bad to conduct these experiments in self-management when we weren’t and we got angry with innocence for its unfair criticism of us and we have had to live with this sense of guilt, this implication that we are bad when we never were. The mind had to search for understanding, it had to make mistakes. The innocent self, we needed the guidance of our conscience to tell us when we were being divisive or integrative but we didn’t deserve its criticism, we weren’t bad to carry out these experiments and it implied that we were and had it had its own way we would have never been allowed to conduct these experiments in self-management.
So, the ignorance of our original instinctive self or soul tried to stop our search for understanding, and so we had to defy it, we had to combat the ignorance of innocence and so we turned on innocence and attacked it and paradoxically we had to start evading Integrative Meaning because all our upsets that emerged from this battle—we became angry with innocence for its unfair criticism of us; we became egocentric, ego in the dictionary means conscious thinking self, our ego became embattled forever trying to prove that it wasn’t bad, explain itself. But it was a Catch-22 situation, we needed the understandings we’re setting out to find in order to defend ourselves and then we became angry and we became alienated, we started putting our fingers in our ears to block out the unfair criticism. So the more we searched for understanding the more angry, egocentric and alienated we became. In a word ‘upset’, the more upset we became. And eventually we had to strike a balance, if we were too free from the imposition of these ideals, free to search for understanding, we would become too corrupt. On the other hand if we were too obedient to these absolute truths of ideals of integrativeness or selflessness, we would never search for understanding, we would be too oppressed. So socialism stresses obedience to the absolute truths of being social, communal and selfless and integrative, whereas capitalism stresses the need to be free to search for understandings and we as a community, vote. We say, ‘Oh we’re now too corrupt, we’ll vote in the [left-wing] Labor Party for a while and practice obedience to the absolutes for a while’, and that becomes too oppressive and we need to be free and so then we switch to vote in the [right-wing] Liberal Party. [See for further explanation of politics.] So, we become more angry and more upset as we search for understanding. So what happens in the end is that we become excessively embattled, in the end we can’t live with ourselves.
If we and our ancestors that produced us have been experimenting in self-management, we can become excessively angry. Now, what do we do at that point? We need to find our way back, scramble back to the ideal world as quick as we can because that’s the only true world there is and our soul lived in a really beautiful place where everybody was loving and there was no anger, no ego, no alienation and after a long search for the understanding, just living in darkness and completely lost from the truth, we’ve blocked it all out at which time we have to try and scramble back. At that point our unevasive thinkers become very precious, so historically we’ve looked for our prophets. These were those, the odd person that occurred that had been sheltered from exposure to the battles that humanity was waging and who still had access to all these ideals that we’d repressed long ago and they could walk around and express truth that we’ve long since lost access to. So we quickly wrote down what they’d said and through them we could live again because we could be reborn.
Caroline Jones: Who are you talking about here?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I’m talking about the founders of the great religions.
Caroline Jones: Yes.
Jeremy Griffith: Such as Christ, Muhammad. They were exceptional innocents, exceptionally unevasive thinkers and that’s why we murdered Christ. Because his innocence only reflected on our lack of innocence that we couldn’t defend. So, the great paradox is encapsulated in Christ. I mean, that’s why we wear a cross and things like this because, you see while we murdered him, his innocence was the ideal that we had to repress. Humanity had to lose itself to find itself. To win in the end, for the restoration of the older ideal world, we had to be prepared to carry out these experiments in self-management and cop the inevitable corruption of self that resulted. And so the presence of innocence both was a symbol of the ideals but it was also extreme criticism. And Christ was extremely hurtful to some people and this whole battle. So people, once we became exhausted we had to live through our religion, we go and live through one of these people and we can be an effective force again in spite of our exhaustions and it was the most amazing thing when religion came to Earth—imagine being a Mongol horde and raping and pillaging and expressing your angers to the nth degree until in the end you just cannot live with yourself any more. I remember reading about Burt Reynolds and all his sexual conquests and in the end saying, ‘Look, I got to hate myself so much, I was just desperate’, and then suddenly there was these religions. I mean very great prophets emerged who could really articulate the truth, had not lost access to that magic world and all the truths that reside there and through them we could live again. [See for more analysis of prophets.]
In the old days in our more naive times we collected our prophets, but now their great innocence only reflects on our lack of innocence and so we repress innocence, we repress our prophets, we’re mechanistic, not holistic. In our desperation at present we’re trying to find our way back to a more holistic approach but it’s a very dangerous world since it confronts us with our divisiveness that we’re unable to defend, but now that we can defend ourselves we can confront God. It’s the end of Adolescentman, of insecure-man, we’ve found our identity now and all our upsets can subside now and gradually as our understanding of why it all was the way it was becomes clear to us, our mind will find peace. So this brings peace to Earth, this understanding, this is what we’ve been in search of for two million years, the defence for ourselves, we can now go back to innocence and say, ‘Now listen, we weren’t bad and now we can explain why.’ I mean religious assurances such as that God loves us, while comforting, didn’t allow us to understand ourselves, we still had to find that understanding. So while we were still finding the mechanisms that might make a full explanation possible, great prophets got in the way in a lot of ways because they just reminded us of our lost world of paradise and they remind us of our corrupted state, which we were unable to defend.
Caroline Jones: So, you’re suggesting really that man’s journey has been a most heroic one, so far.
Jeremy Griffith: Fabulous. It’s like it’s been a match, a football match, you know. Now, [legendary Australian rugby league player] Ray Price comes off the football field covered in scars and embattled and his dislocated shoulder and everything, but he’s completely happy, his [winning] cup is held high and he’s smiling and we’re all with his team, Parramatta, in tears of joy for his win. We don’t worry about his exhaustions because we know the game he’s been involved in was worthwhile. But humans come off the battlefield exhausted and because we’re unable to know the merit of the battle that we’ve been in, we can’t see ourselves as wonderful, we’re just insecure about our exhaustions. We can love ourselves now. I can take an extreme, someone who has, I don’t know, grown up with their parents having left them at Kings Cross [the red light district in Sydney] or somewhere, these terrible things that are happening now outside this very building [near Kings Cross], I can take that boy or girl and I can tell them now a story, a wonderful story that humanity has been through, an incredibly worthwhile journey and they can then for the first time see themselves in that journey as being worthwhile. In spite of their exhaustions they can love themselves, and they have so much courage, I mean they paint their hair red and they try to have an identity for themselves in spite of all this incredible oppression that they’re a bad person when they’re not, and now they can love themselves, they can understand themselves. Understanding is freedom, is compassion.
Caroline Jones: Jeremy Griffith is speaking and he is the author of a book which contains his thinking for the last, what, 13 years?
Jeremy Griffith: 13 years.
Caroline Jones: It’s called Free: The End Of The Human Condition. What difference do you feel this is going to make to the world if people truly understand it and take it on board, what change could we see?
Jeremy Griffith: It’s not like a religion. Religion depended on abandoning our thinking self, this thing that got us into so much strife, and just living through these, hanging on to these ideals, which can become very important to us because, that’s where you get a sort of fundamentalist approach because those religions are what’s saving us and any threat to those is challenged. But it’s not like a religion see, this is the understandings that our mind needs now. These are the tools to think with. In the past we tried to understand that we were good but couldn’t.
Caroline Jones: What difference do you think it will make though, to our attitude and behaviour towards the environment, for example?
Jeremy Griffith: Well as I say in my book, this is the end of a two million year lifestyle. We will now dismantle our cities because they were, there is a best-selling book out in America now, Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of Vanities, he said, ‘New York is just a bonfire of vanity’, well it is, and our egos now, our desire to try and establish our worth, each one of us is committed to winning somehow, to winning a game of football, to win anywhere. We are punch drunk for relief from this incessant criticism we live with. That’s ended now. I mean all our competitiveness can subside now. We’ll go on playing the game we’ve been playing for two million years, it will take a while to dawn on us that it’s all over but it is all over.
Caroline Jones: But what will be the effects of that, how will we see difference?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, we won’t be angry, we won’t be alienated, we won’t be egocentric. Our great difference in personalities that we see amongst humans are all our different encounters with this battle with the human condition. So our personalities will become very similar. I mean, people will try and put down the future when they have a flash look at it occasionally and say, ‘Oh, it will be boring’. But they don’t understand it. We’ve lived off the adventure and repressed the other great positives because we couldn’t have those other positives. But now we can afford to look at those other positives. There’s a world that we’ve denied and repressed of so much magic that all the things that we’ve collected to sustain us, lovely meals at night, sex, all these other distractions, rate absolutely nothing.
Caroline Jones: Would you see us taking more care of the world if we are truly illuminated by the idea that you outline?
Jeremy Griffith: Absolutely.
Caroline Jones: Yes.
Jeremy Griffith: Absolutely, I say in my book that the Green Movement and this desire for a steady, stable ecology to try and save our environment is really only a stop-gap measure [see , or its book version, ]. We have to stop the fundamental upset within us. We have to resolve the anger, the alienation, the superficiality of people, us, you know and those things are now soluble. We can go back now and unlock all the doors that have been locked inside us. All our upsets can subside and then we will become sensitive, incredibly aware. There’s a world out there of so much beauty that we can now tap that we’ve never been able to tap, and occasionally a great artist might just make some, cut a little window into that magic world through which we could all get a little access to the paradise. But there’s a world where one minute of the future, the beauty encapsulated in that would be more than all the beauty we can accumulate in a whole lifetime. There is nothing that man has created that would remotely compare with the magic of our lost paradise.
Caroline Jones: So, what is death then in the scheme of things that you’re describing?
Jeremy Griffith: The answer is if we were ideal still and hadn’t become embattled and upset, death wouldn’t worry us at all because we would be so selfless, so considerate, concerned for the larger whole that our life is only worthwhile in terms of what it contributes to the whole and that we have a limited life is not a problem.
Caroline Jones: But is death in any sense returning to the whole?
Jeremy Griffith: Ah, yes, we’ve departed on this grand journey, which has all been worthwhile and so our life and everything about it carries on in the effort, our efforts are never lost, and that is really the true sense of our afterlife. All that we do is never lost, we say hello to someone in the morning and be kind, that goodness flows on and everything about our life carries on. So, it is true, but we don’t come back as a cow like Shirley MacLaine would superstitiously like us to believe, but we do have an afterlife. Our spirit, the determination of humanity to champion this wonderful device, the mind, carries on in the work of everybody. In our insecurity we become very afraid of death and it can consume us, but it’s just an expression of our, our lost access to the truth.
Caroline Jones: And what is art?
Jeremy Griffith: Art is people who cultivate some access back to paradise [see ]. So they, as I said earlier, try to cut a window back to paradise so we can live through it and they do it at great pains to themselves. Once again, if you confront beauty it only accentuates our sense of guilt, it confronts you with our lack of beauty. So artists can, like Van Gogh, you know, they struggle so hard to grapple, to grow this rose and all they feel is the prickles. It just accentuates the question, ‘Are we a bad species?’ When the rest of us can just go on denying it and blocking it out and not even worrying about that fundamental question, if you grapple with beauty, you’re grappling with God, you’re grappling with the question of our goodness and the more you discover beauty and find access to it, the more you make your life difficult and confront yourself with our inconsistency with it. So the artists give us all a respite, a place to go, we can go and touch beauty again through them and their work.
Caroline Jones: Through music, through painting.
Jeremy Griffith: Absolutely.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I grew up in the bush and I’ve always been good with my hands and because I’ve a lot of imagination and so working with wood is incredibly rewarding. It’s a wonderful material, it’s been with mankind all times, so we have an affinity for it. It’s warm and giving and someone said that wood has as much give and take as the human body so it’s a fair fight, it brings the best out in both contestants. So, working with wood is incredibly therapeutic. See, creating things with your hands or anything we create we take the magic of creativity for granted, but it’s the mind’s ability to manage events that allows us to manipulate our world so effectively. So, creativity is the most reinforcing of things we can do. If we make something, the reinforcement, the marvel of that creation is just stunning, we take it for granted as I said, we’ve been living with it for so long, but really it’s incredibly reinforcing, the magic of creation. Our ability to manipulate our world to our own desires is an astounding talent. So, I think children should, television is numb, it doesn’t give them the reinforcement. They should make things and be reinforced through that, the power of the ability to use their mind and that should then raise the questions of the meaning of all this beauty and creativity. So making things, making furniture for me was a stage in my development towards these more serious questions.
Caroline Jones: Jeremy, what do you most hope for now?
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I most hope that all the suffering in the world will stop and the devastation of the Earth will stop and my effort is towards that, to try to bring peace to Earth at the most critical point and I just kept focusing my life closer and closer to the real problem and then tried to unscramble the real problem and that led to these explanations which bring peace to our mind.
Caroline Jones: So will you keep moving around, speaking as you’re being increasingly invited to speak, meeting people?
Jeremy Griffith: I will talk to anybody, I will do anything to help explain these ideas and bring peace to people’s minds, to take the pain out of our brain, to champion humans, to give us the understandings that will liberate us from our upset.
Caroline Jones: And to bring us a better world by the sound of things.
Jeremy Griffith: Absolutely.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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.