i-MAGAZINE GUEST ARTICLE BY JEREMY GRIFFITH
JULY-DECEMBER 2016 ISSUE
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How to really understand the human condition
By Jeremy Griffith
I think most would agree that the following three statements provide an excellent summary of our species’ plight, and from where its solution must come. Firstly, Charles Darwin’s anticipation in his Origin of Species that “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”
Secondly, psychologist Maureen O’Hara’s diagnosis that humanity is either standing on the brink of “a quantum leap in human psychological capabilities or heading for a global nervous breakdown”. And thirdly, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s observation that “There is no grail more elusive or precious in the life of the mind than the key to understanding the human condition.”
Finding the explanation of our so-called ‘good and evil’ stricken human condition has been the central quest in our human journey of conscious thought and enquiry — and the reason it has is because it alone can bring about a new psychological foundation of understanding and resulting quantum leap in human capabilities.
Traditionally we have used the excuse that the divisive selfish, competitive and aggressive aspects of our nature are relics of our animal past, where the instinct to survive and reproduce genes dictated behaviour. But this reason that biologists, including E.O. Wilson, have been perpetuating cannot be the real cause of our divisive behaviour because descriptions of human behaviour — such as egocentric, arrogant, inspired, depressed, deluded, optimistic, pessimistic, hateful, immoral, guilt-ridden, evil, psychotic, neurotic, or alienated — all recognise the involvement of our species’ fully conscious thinking mind. They demonstrate that there is a very real psychological dimension to our behaviour; that we don’t suffer from a genetic-opportunism-driven ‘animal condition’, but the psychologically troubled HUMAN CONDITION that Darwin and O’Hara were referring to.
Clearly, a fresh approach has been needed — an analysis of our human situation from a basis that recognises the psychological dimension to our behaviour — because when that approach is taken, the explanation of our selfish, competitive and aggressive behaviour is relatively straight forward. Surely when we humans became fully conscious a psychologically upsetting battle must have broken out between our already established controlling instincts and our newer self-adjusting mind.
A simple analogy will help reveal this real, psychological origin — and the resolution — of our seemingly highly imperfect human condition.
Imagine a stork; we’ll call him Adam. Each summer he instinctually migrates north with the other storks to breed. Since he has no conscious mind he doesn’t think about his behaviour, he simply follows his instinct’s instructions.
But what if we gave Adam a brain that was capable of conscious thought? Adam will begin to think for himself, but many of his new ideas will not be consistent with his instincts. For instance, on his migration north Adam notices an island full of apple trees and makes a conscious decision to divert from his migratory path for a feed. It is his first grand experiment in self-adjustment.
But when Adam’s instincts realise he has strayed off course, they criticise his deprogrammed behaviour and dogmatically try to pull him ‘back on track’. They, in effect, condemn him as being bad.
But what can Adam do? He can’t stop thinking and regress to simply following his instincts, so inevitably a war breaks out with his instincts for the control of his life.
Ideally at this point Adam’s conscious mind would sit down with his instinctive state and explain the difference between the gene-based and nerve-based learning systems — that while instincts, acquired over many thousands of generations of natural selection, can give species orientations, the nerve-based conscious mind, which is able to understand the relationship between cause and effect, requires understanding of the world to operate.
But Adam doesn’t have this self-understanding. He’s only just begun his search for knowledge.
So, tragically, while searching for understanding, three things unavoidably happen: Adam defensively retaliates against the criticism, he tries to deny it, and he desperately seeks any reinforcement he can find to relieve himself of the negative feelings. Since ‘ego’ in the dictionary is defined as ‘conscious thinking self’, Adam becomes ego-centric; his conscious mind becomes preoccupied trying to validate itself through achieving as much compensatory power, fame, fortune and glory as he can. He has unavoidably become angry, alienated and egocentric, which are all the aspects of the psychologically upset state of the human condition that we fully conscious humans suffer from.
This story has parallels with the pre-scientific Biblical account of Adam and Eve taking the fruit from “the tree of knowledge” (i.e. becoming conscious searchers of knowledge), but, most significantly, this story has a totally different outcome. Whereas Adam and Eve were “banished” from the Garden of Eden for having become “sinful” selfish, competitive and aggressive villains, this story explains that Adam and Eve, we humans, are actually the heroes of the story of life on Earth! This is because the conscious mind must surely be nature’s greatest invention, and since we were the species burdened with the task of championing the intellect over the ignorant, unjust condemnation of instincts, we must be the heroes of the story of life on Earth.
We humans had to persevere with our search for knowledge and suffer the psychologically upset state of being angry, alienated and egocentric until we could develop the scientific method and through that vehicle for enquiry find the redeeming explanation for our upset condition of the difference between the gene and nerve-based learning systems — the key insight that reveals that we humans are good and not bad after all. As the words of The Impossible Dream from The Man of La Mancha so beautifully articulate about our paradoxical predicament, humans had “to march into hell for a heavenly cause”.
And best of all, through this clarifying insight all our psychologically defensive angry, alienated and egocentric behaviour — that has been destroying both ourselves and our world — is made redundant. Humans are redeemed. The great burden of guilt has been lifted from the human race, and the old insecure, upset life that went with it is finally over.
The human condition has caused unmentionable suffering, and held us back as a species for millions of years. But we now have the capacity to take our power back and start living to our species’ fabulous real potential — and thus transform ourselves and our world.
Given the perilous state of humanity, the presentation of this all-important explanation in my just released book, FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition, is not only available in bookstores, it is also freely available online at www.HumanCondition.com.