Saturday, January 30, 2016


The following is the rough draft of the last section of my upcoming third book.

So, here we are in the twenty-first century.  We are not a generation born wild and free, running around naked in lush tropical rainforests, nibbling on fruit, nuts, and grubs.  We inherited an age of challenges, the result of a long string of risky experiments.  Negative consequences have piled up over the centuries, and we now stand in the dark shadow of a mountain of predicaments.

Humans are not cursed with defective genes, but we have succeeded in creating a highly unsustainable way of living and thinking — a defective culture.  The clock is running out on this troublesome experiment.  It would be wise to acknowledge this, and mindfully explore saner ways of living and thinking.

Like all other animals, humans focus their attention on the here and now, the immediate vicinity.  Many animals are capable of foresight.  Some know that panthers hunt at night, so they sleep in the trees.  With regard to the manmade realm of techno-innovation, foresight is largely impossible.  Nobody could have imagined the enormous consequences of metal making, fossil energy, or the domestication of plants and animals.  A few wild cultures still live sustainably with barely any technology.

Low impact cultures do not believe in human superiority.  They do not suffer from a persistent itch to hoard personal property.  They have exactly what they need.  They do not control and exploit the ecosystem, they adapt to it.  They have time-proven cultures in which everyone practices voluntary self-restraint.  In this manner, they could enjoy extended periods of real sustainability, living in a healthy wild ecosystem.

High impact cultures, by definition, cannot have a long-term future.  In their spooky fantasies, the primary goal is to pursue economic growth, by any means necessary, for as long as possible, without regard for the generations yet to come.  Nothing is more important than perpetual growth, at any cost.  This is the dominant paradigm in consumer societies, where it is perceived to be perfectly normal and intelligent.

But deviants on the fringe, who enjoy an amazing ability to recognize the obvious, warn us that normal is insane.  For revealing this inconvenient truth, they are called doomers.  But the consumer hordes, who are enthusiastic lifelong participants in the most destructive culture in human history, are the true champions of doom.

Consumers are annoyed by the truth tellers, and denounce them for their negativity, but it’s actually the other way around.  Sending tons and tons of waste to landfills, via a lifetime of recreational shopping, in an effort to gain social status, is a heartbreaking tragedy.  It’s a path of ferocious negativity.

The truth-telling deviants are not doomers, they are simply more present in reality.  For them, the foolishness in our culture becomes less invisible.  Being present in reality, in the fullness of the darkness, puts them in a far better position to think clearly and make wise decisions.  They become less vulnerable to peer pressure.  They become less willing to mindlessly do what a mindless society expects of them.

In the process of healing from acute ignorance, you cross a painful threshold.  One day, you realize that the consumer fantasyland has little relationship with reality.  Big storms are coming, and the future will not be a prosperous and pleasurable joyride.  This realization hurts.

When this occurs, despair is an appropriate response.  It’s OK to grieve for the loss of a major long-held illusion.  At the same time, it’s also appropriate to celebrate your mind-expanding awakening, your successful return from the realm of the living dead.  Despair is like a hangover, a painful headache resulting from an unhealthy binge.  It’s a normal temporary experience on the long journey to growth and healing.

The consumers scream, “We can’t go back,” and that’s true.  We also cannot indefinitely remain on our current dead-end path.  John Trudell, the Santee Sioux activist, summed it up nicely.  “There is no old way, no new way.  There is a way of life.  We must live in balance with the Earth.  We must do it.  We have no choice.”

Eight words precisely describe the one and only sustainable destination, “We must live in balance with the Earth.”  That sacred destination has never been farther from where we now stand.  So, what should animals with legendary big brains be doing?  Obviously, we need to change how we think and live.

At the moment, consumer society feels little or no desire to question its mode of living and thinking.  Many have chugged the Kool-Aid of the techno-wizards, and have a blind faith in the wondrous solutions promised by clever experts.  Many others have little or no understanding of reality, because they suffer from ignorance, or limited ability to think.  Still others can sense the growing darkness, but are paralyzed with fear and powerlessness, and block out the yucky feelings with false hope.

Nothing can stop the coming storms of change, all paths lead to turbulence.  You can’t save the world.  You can’t fix everything, but you can use your gifts, and do what you can to confront ignorance, protect your ecosystem, and lessen the long-term damage.  There are infinite opportunities for doing beneficial work.

It’s time for unlearning, identifying the silly nonsense we’ve absorbed over the years, and hurling it overboard.  It’s time for learning, continuing our exploration of reality.  It’s time for communicating, helping each other learn.  It’s time to get outdoors, without electronic distractions, and develop an intimate relationship with the planet of our birth.  It’s time to grow and heal.

We are living in the most momentous century in the entire human experience.  It will be a time of immense learning and awakening.  As our glorious house of cards disintegrates, we will experience a beautiful die-off — countless idiotic myths, fantasies, and illusions will lose their hypnotic power, tumble into the tar pits, and never again entrance us.

It will be a century of huge lessons, an era of tremendous enlightenment.  No, climate change was not a hoax!  Yes, there really are limits!  Concepts like carrying capacity and overshoot will become well understood by any who survive.  The powerful storms of the Great Healing will inspire a great tide of questioning, critical thinking, and clear understanding.

No matter what we do, the Great Healing will eliminate a number of key predicaments, even if we don’t change our ways.  Whether or not we get serious about rapid population reduction, the current population bubble will become an ex-predicament.  Finite resources will certainly strangle the mass hysteria of consumer mania.  As we move beyond the era of climate stability, every ecosystem will be hammered by big changes.  The consumer lifestyle will no longer be an option.

Big Mama Nature has little tolerance for overshoot.  One way or another, sooner or later, some form of balance will be restored, with or without us.  But if we summon our power, and strive to live with responsibility, we may be able to prevent some destruction.  It’s essential to understand the mistakes that got us into this mess, so we will not be tempted to repeat them.  Learn!  Think!  Heal!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Psychic Epidemics

I read the news today, oh boy… we seem to be living in an age of craziness, all around the world.  I am reminded of the famous psychologist, Carl Jung, and his notion of psychic epidemics.  He was born in 1875, as the Industrial Revolution was turning many societies inside out.  It was a gold rush for psychologists, because mental illness was soaring in advanced societies.

Urbanization led to the “insectification” of city dwellers, which fueled the emergence of mental imbalances.  The human mind evolved to function nicely in small groups, not large crowds.  The neurotic urban hordes bore no resemblance to the Pueblo Indians that Jung had met in New Mexico.  He was fascinated by his encounter with these shockingly sane and content humans, and he spoke fondly about them throughout his life.  “Such a man is in the fullest sense of the word in his proper place.”

Three issues spooked Jung.  The world wars, with their new and improved technology, took death and destruction to unimaginable new levels.  Nuclear war was a big threat, but it was avoidable, in theory.  What scared him most was population growth, a runaway train with no brakes.  World population nearly doubled in his lifetime.  It had soared to almost three billion when he died in 1961.  “Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics.”

Jung was horrified by the rise of Hitler.  “The most dangerous things in the world are immense accumulations of human beings who are manipulated by only a few heads.”  Germany suffered from an inferiority complex following its defeat in the First World War.  The collective unconscious of the Germans begged for a savior, a Messiah.  Hitler helped them compensate for their shame by leading them on a heroic adventure in megalomania.  He had a remarkable ability for bringing the nation’s unconscious into his conscious awareness.  He told the people exactly what they wanted to hear.

After Hitler’s defeat, Jung concluded, “The phenomenon we have witnessed in Germany was nothing less than the first outbreak of epidemic insanity, an eruption of the unconscious into what seemed to be a tolerably well-ordered world.”  I don’t believe that this was “the first” such epidemic.  Many, like the Inquisition, preceded the Nazis.

Jung died 55 years ago, before the first Earth Day.  Since his death, population has more than doubled again, and continues to soar.  Climate change is getting warmed up for unleashing centuries of big surprises.  The sixth mass extinction is now officially recognized.  The list of ongoing catastrophes is long and growing.  On his deathbed (1961), Jung had a disturbing vision.  In 50 years (2011), “I see enormous stretches devastated, enormous stretches of the earth.  But, thank God, it’s not the whole planet.”

Jung warned that, “It is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer, but man himself who is man’s greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes.”

Jung was perplexed by the notion of consciousness, a slippery concept.  Consciousness includes being aware of what our senses are telling us about the here and now.  It allows us to think about people and events in different times and places, and share this knowledge with others.  We are very self aware, and know that we will die.  We can think in words, and use words to assemble reasoned concepts and abstract ideas.

Among our wild ancestors, the development of consciousness was minimal.  They had what Jung called the “original mind.”  A wild lad could put on a lion mask and literally become a lion, in his mind.  Modern insurance salespeople can’t do this, because they have been trained in the differentiated consciousness of civilization, which makes the original mind unconscious.

Jung believed that consciousness in humans developed slowly over a very long time.  By 4000 B.C., consciousness in civilized societies was approaching its modern form.  He noted that primitive people were less conscious than we are.  At the same time, even in its advanced form, consciousness remained highly unstable, far from finished.  Consciousness is merely the mind’s thin surface, floating on an unconscious ocean.  Throughout every day, our minds flutter in and out of consciousness, frequently drifting off into daydreams and fantasies.  Conscious thought is tiresome, requiring deliberate effort, while fantasyland is effortless.

Education factories indoctrinate students with the notion that reason is the guiding force in our nation’s affairs.  But our ability to reason is flimsy.  Like the Germans of the 1930s, we are always vulnerable to slick talking advertisers, politicians, and woo-woo hucksters.  Those with skills for prodding unconscious fears, doubts, and desires will find many sitting ducks to corral and exploit.  Here’s my favorite Jung line: “Our present lives are dominated by the goddess Reason, who is our greatest and most tragic illusion.”

Jung was an important pioneer in exploring the unconscious, home of the ancestral soul, which stores content that is millions of years old.  We drift into the unconscious whenever we dream, or daydream.  When we remember dreams, we can bring unconscious content into the realm of our consciousness.  This content can provide important guidance, or solutions to inner conflicts.  Instinct can often see the elephant that the conscious mind blocks out.  Instinct is our ally.

Jung believed that, “Loss of instinct is largely responsible for the pathological condition of contemporary culture.”  We are cut off from our roots, making us childish and infantile.  Some primitive people remain connected to their ancient instincts, and are therefore more stable.  Their dreams guide them through life.  They inhabit a reality that is sacred, beautiful, and alive with wonder. 

Non-human animals obviously have some degree of consciousness, but a form far different from that of the glowing screen people.  Unlike many domesticated critters, wild animals are not neurotic basket cases.  Nor are primitive people, who do not suffer from advanced stages of consciousness.  People with advanced consciousness have conquered the Earth, but Jung wasn’t sure if “this is an advantage or a calamity.”  He could not escape the paradox that consciousness is “both the highest good and the greatest evil.”

Sometimes, Jung wondered if the solution was to deliberately pursue the further development of consciousness, complete our unfinished quest, and become perfectly reasonable.  But based on his long experience with many damaged souls, this notion seemed to be ridiculous and impossible.  At the same time, “we cannot develop backwards into animal unconsciousness.”  But we are, in fact, animals.  When we squirted out of the womb, our standard issue equipment included an animal mind, with an excellent instinct collection.  This mind was fully capable of spending its entire existence operating without words, tools, fire, or clothing, like all other animal minds.

In both wild kids, and kids born in captivity, rudimentary self-aware consciousness (ego) emerges when a child is about four.  Kids born in civilization go on to absorb a highly unstable civilization-grade form of consciousness.  It’s fascinating to contemplate children who did not receive consciousness programming, like the girls raised by wolves, or the wild boy TarzancĂ­to.

For Jung, the magic word was individuation, which means becoming who you are, like a unique acorn develops into a unique oak tree.  Every newborn is a unique being, not a blank slate.  The mass mind of industrial society could care less about that unique being.  The mass mind expects everyone to become mindless status seeking robo-consumers.  But the ancient original mind expects us to use our gifts, and pursue our calling.  Individuation allows us to develop a strong and healthy relationship with the rest of the family of life, so we can avoid being swept away by psychic epidemics.

Individuation does not happen automatically, it requires effort to set foot on your own path.  Our ancestors benefitted from initiation ceremonies, in which adolescents received important visions that revealed their identities and destinies.  Modern society provides no such assistance, hence the mobs of robo-consumers.

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls.”  The path to healing requires looking inward.  Deliberately move away from the torrents of distractions that bombard our society.  Seek solitude and nature.  “Imagination and intuition are vital to our understanding.”  Intuition is perception via the unconscious.  It opens channels to the unconscious, and draws up the life.  Humankind has enormous conflicts to resolve.  The experts of our society are largely out to lunch, still lost in toxic hallucinations of perpetual growth and material wealth.

So, Jung does not give us the secret formula for mass enlightenment and a heavenly utopia.  Instead, he gives us a mirror.  Humankind can only heal individual by individual.  There are mountains of books describing the ecological damage we cause.  Far less attention has been given to the psychological twists and turns that have brought us to the brink.  Maybe we don’t need to study Mars.

The Earth Has a Soul is an excellent book that presents Jung’s commentary on our relationship with nature.  In Man and His Symbols, he explains his core ideas to general readers.  Jung wrote the autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections.  C. G. Jung Speaking presents a series of notable interviews and letters.  Diagnosis: Psychic Epidemic is an essay by Paul Levy.