On the 1st of November, 2023, I travelled to a small spa town in south-western Germany, at the north-western border of the Black Forest mountain range on the small river Oos, to be present at a large 5-day medical conference. Some colleagues of mine from a German medical unit (‘Evolutionary Medicine’) had invited me to join their symposia to give a talk during the conference. They wanted me to speak about my theme of the ‘wounded mind’ and how this may relate to the psychosis of the modern world as well as our potential for collective evolution/development within a socio-cultural context. The title of my talk was: The Wounded Mind: The Psychosis of the Modern World. Upon returning home, I made a home recording of my presentation which was recently posted online. You can view the presentation by clicking here.
I began my talk by saying that many people today are exteriorizing their trauma; that is, projecting it outwards and upon objects, events, and activities, etc, as a form of compensation. It is as if people are projecting their inner shadows and then living through them in an increasingly disembodied manner (I then showed a short clip from the online animation IN-SHADOW by Lubomir Arsov). I proposed that much of both offline/online behaviour that we see today has shown a marked increase in what are known as ‘Group B’ behavioural traits (see Fig.1)
I then proceeded to give some examples of what forms of behaviour can be seen within the various sub-categories of these four major groups of: borderline, antisocial, narcissistic, and histrionic. One of these slides is shown below (Fig.2)
I continued from this to discuss how certain forms of anomalous behaviour (what may loosely be termed as ‘madness’) has been normalized into our everyday societies, through our social and cultural institutions and forms of social conditioning. Here, I brought in the work and research of French theorist Michel Foucault by looking at how structures of knowledge and power become embedded into our social institutions and cultural apparatus. In other words, the madness of the world appears to be a ‘normal feature’ of human civilization. As the Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing once famously said: ‘Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.’ The ‘old mind,’ which now forms part of the ‘wounded mind,’ is increasingly impoverished and does not have the capacities for aligning with either our current situation or where we are needed to be, ideally, heading.
Following on from this, I took a quick look at the work of Polish psychiatrist Andrzej Łobaczewski and his book ‘Political Ponerology’ (the study of evil in politics). What was inferred here is that if abnormal ways of human behaviour become engrained at the highest levels of our political institutions, then these abnormal modes of behaviour and perspectives are more likely to trickle down and become ‘normalized’ within human cultures. As I quoted from Łobaczewski: ‘If an individual in a position of political power is a psychopath, he or she can create an epidemic of psychopathology in people who are not, essentially, psychopathic.’ And unfortunately, yet perhaps not surprisingly, Łobaczewski’s research had found high percentage levels of psychopathic behaviour within the very top tiers of the political establishment across varied societies.
My next area of focus was upon the manifestation of collective thought forms leading to mass and/or mob psychosis. I put forward the notion of mental intoxication through the propagation of certain thought forms. I stated that thought forms are just as contagious as any biological virus. In fact, they can spread quicker – almost simultaneously. One person can post an idea online, or express an opinion or ideology, and this can be read by other people almost instantaneously at the other end of the globe. That is, people across the world can become ‘infected’ by an idea/opinion/ideology (a.k.a., thought form) instantaneously. This led me to discuss the work of Mattias Desmet, Professor in Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. Desmet’s notion of Mass Formation (mass psychosis) is predicated on the following four factors:
i) a lack of social bonds
ii) people experiencing life as meaningless or senseless
iii) free-floating anxiety (transfer of anxiety)
iv) free-floating frustration and aggression
In recent years, and even going back decades, these conditions have been building up within our modern societies. As I had written about previously, social anxiety and psychological suffering were already growing exponentially even before the pandemic outbreak of 2020. The foundations for establishing a mass psychology were existent in many, if not most, of our industrialized societies and cultures before the traumatic experience of the current pandemic. At such junctures of psychological vulnerability, a shift of attachment – that is, a transference of identification – can be achieved rapidly. What has likely occurred within the last few years has been a widescale process of reprogrammed social solidarity (or lack thereof).
The next part of my presentation was to take a brief examination of four traditions that have spoken of the presence and activity of a ‘mind virus’ within the human species. These four traditions were Native American Indigenous; Central American Shamanism; European Theosophy; and Eastern Orthodoxy. Without going into details here (I suggest interested readers see the video presentation), I looked at the subjects of Wetiko (Native American Indigenous); the predator’s mind (Central American Shamanism); Rudolf Steiner (European Theosophy/Anthroposophy); and Logismos (Eastern Orthodoxy).
The Bullfighter Effect
What I term the ‘Bullfighter Effect’ is when a person(s) is distracted to focus all their attention onto a specific thing – such as when the bull is blinded by focusing all its energies onto the matador’s red cape. The same form of strategy and response is being seen across our societies, and is heralded and promoted by the biased, and heavily controlled, legacy media corporations. Thus, the syndrome of the ‘Wounded Mind’ is, fundamentally, a perception of living separate lives within a materialistic world that is considered unconnected. From this, a sense of alienation arises, whereby life is seen as random and not part of a larger, integrated tapestry of existence. In this respect, I referred to the work of Dr Iain McGilchrist, who in his groundbreaking work The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (followed by The Matter with Things), speaks about how we are living within an increasingly deluded world. We are over-analysing the minutiae at the expense of the grander picture. As the famous 20th century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said: ‘Civilization flourishes until it starts to analyze itself.’ What we are missing is the essential. In my talk I then told the following story:
A lion was captured and imprisoned in a reserve where, to his surprise, he found other lions that had been there for many years, some even their whole life having been born in captivity. The newcomer soon became familiar with the activities of the other lions and observed how they were arranged in different groups.
One group was dedicated to socializing, another to show business, whilst yet another group was focused on preserving the customs, culture and history from the time the lions were free. There were church groups and others that had attracted the literary or artistic talent. There were also revolutionaries who devoted themselves to plot against their captors and against other revolutionary groups. Occasionally, a riot broke out and one group was removed or killed all the camp guards and so that they had to be replaced by another set of guards. However, the newcomer also noticed the presence of a lion that always seemed to be asleep. He did not belong to any group and was oblivious to them all. This lion appeared to arouse both admiration and hostility from the others. One day the newcomer approached this solitary lion and asked him which group he belonged to.
‘Do not join any group,’ said the lion. ‘Those poor ones deal with everything but the essential.’
‘And what is essential?’ asked the newcomer.
‘It is essential to study the nature of the fence’
It is ‘essential’ to study the nature of our encampment, for if we are unable to perceive this, then we shall never need (or feel the need) to seek our liberation. And part of this encroaching perimeter fence of the encampment is being provided by the machinic architecture of our environment, which is fed by data. Hence, what is now known as ‘Dataism’ is fast becoming the illusive camp guards of the enclosure. According to the well-known technology journal Wired:
Dataism is an emerging market that worships data rather than gods or humans. According to Dataism, human experiences are not sacred, and humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-of-All-Things … According to Dataism, the entire human species is a single data-processing system, with individual humans serving as its chips.’
This viewpoint ties in directly with the perspectives being propagated by celebrity historian Yuval Noah Harari who has declared that a new underclass of ‘irrelevant’ and ‘useless’ people will become the future. In previous centuries, says Harari, people revolted against exploitation, oppression, tyranny, etc; now, they fear becoming irrelevant. He has stated that: ‘If we are not careful, we will end up with downgraded humans misusing upgraded computers to wreak havoc on themselves and on the world.’[i] What this will inevitably lead to is humans behaving in an increasingly automated manner and exhibiting what I refer to as a ‘machinic consciousness.’ Yet this is, in my perspective, a non-evolutionary, or non-developmental pathway for humankind. That is, it represents an evolutionary cul-de-sac for the human species, for it gives way (or hands over responsibility) for its future to technology, and suggests that the human being, as a biological entity, has no further capacity for growth or development other than merging with its mechanical devices. However, this current predicament may not constitute the long-term future but instead be indicative of the demise of its present stage.
Evolving World, Evolving Mind
The Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin (who founded the Dept. of Sociology at Harvard University) made a broad-ranging study of the rise and fall of human societies. His conclusion was that societies could be recognized according to their ‘cultural mentality.’ Sorokin categorised these stages of cultural mentality as principally swinging between two polarised states: that of the Ideational and the Sensate. And as the pendulum swung from one to the other, it would pass through a ‘third state’ that was the Idealistic. And their characteristics are:
Ideational: where reality is primarily considered as spiritual and immaterial
Sensate: where truth is seen as material and to be gained through materiality
Idealistic: a synthesis of the two.
I wondered whether the Ideational stage represented a form of sacred order that perhaps was abstract and symbolic, yet nevertheless gave people a sense of faith and of the world and/or reality as belonging to an integrated cosmic order. The Sensate stage, on the other hand, was embedded deep into an empirical order – deep materialism – that was highly rational and segregated in its vision. And at the same time, it was highly attracted to the senses and of sensual desires. In other words, it displayed, and promoted, hedonistic behaviour as part of its faithless belief in the sole reality of material existence. And this third ‘swing state’ of the Idealistic would be a synthesis of the other two. That is, a time of conscious and deeply material development and advancement yet within a grander sacred, cosmological order. Sorokin believed that western culture, at least, was breaking down from its current Sensate stage and transitioning into the Idealistic. This would thus display a heightened form of materialism as this stage had passed its peak, alongside a breakdown within the social order – as we may very well be seeing at the present time. This brings me to consider that what may currently be underway is a phase change in our cultural mentality, and thus also within our socio-cultural order. And what is required at such times of a phase change is metanoia.
The term ‘metanoia’ comes from the Greek word meta-noein, which literally means ‘beyond nous,’ or to think beyond (the religious term ‘repentance’ is also derived from the form of metanoia although its interpretation is somewhat different). To ‘think beyond’ implies a shift in consciousness (our thinking patterns) by embracing thoughts beyond present limitations or current thought patterns. In other words, what we now need is a radical change of our worldview – both physical and metaphysical. Furthermore, we are required now, more than ever, to have reasons to have meaning in the world as well as beyond.
To summarise my talk, I discussed that in order to heal the ‘Wounded Mind’ it was paramount that individually and collectively we embraced (or at least sought) for a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection within our physical reality as well as beyond it. That is, to bring together a physical and metaphysical worldview and perspective into an integrated whole rather than living as if separated from the greater cosmological totality. The evolving mind behaves as within a collective ecology and not in a binary relationship. As such, an evolving mind is a relational mind, for which relationships and relationality are primary. This is contrary to the burgeoning transhumanist view which sees the mind (human consciousness) as purely a by-product of the brain’s functioning and, as such, may one day be uploaded into cloud computing governed by artificial intelligences (AI). This, for me, is an anti-human trajectory and completely ignores the future developmental capacities of the human being, as well as ignoring the incredible potential of the biological human body. This transhumanist anti-human perspective is indicative of the collapsing epoch of the Sensate age with its emphasis upon materiality and hedonistic pursuits. And in this, it is aligning with the path of the dinosaurs. In comparison, the continually evolving human being, which is also a human becoming, shall further develop its latent capacities and reach for transcendental connection with its cosmological foundations. The future is yet to be realized. And for me, it shall be a human-centric future, or it shall not be.
[i] Harari, Yuval Noah (2018) 21 Lessons for 21st Century. London: Jonathan Cape.