“The world today hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man.”
– C. G. Jung
by Paul Levy ….
How does anyone possibly express in words the state of collective madness that humanity has fallen into at this time in our history?
As if in a hypnotic trance, our species is enacting a mass ritual suicide on a global scale, rushing as fast as we can towards our own self-destruction. We are destroying the biospheric life-support systems of the planet in so many different ways that it is as if we are determined to make this suicide attempt work—using a variety of methods as a perverse insurance policy, in case a couple of them don’t do the job.
What modern-day humanity is confronted with, to quote the author and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, is “a crisis of sanity first of all.”
In trying to find a way to write about this state of affairs, I find myself going “off-planet,” imagining what it would look like if some enlightened aliens, in their travels throughout the universe, came upon our planet. Observing from a distance, they would naturally see all the various living beings who call planet earth home as related members of one larger organism—a single eco-system—who literally depend upon each other for survival.
From this vantage point, I imagine, they would be utterly baffled at why human beings—the seemingly most intelligent species ever to appear on planet earth—are acting out their destructive impulses practically without restraint in every corner of the globe. Contemplating the state of humanity, I imagine these awakened beings wondering, “What in the world has gotten into them?”
I imagine these illumined aliens, in agreement with Merton, would quickly conclude that human beings had become afflicted with some sort of psychological illness, a disease of the mind and soul that has caused us to turn on ourselves in self-and-other destruction.
Apparently in a “fallen state,” we have lost our way, become disoriented, and, in our confusion, become quite deranged. It is as if our collective madness is so overwhelming—and by now so familiar and so normalized—that most of us, its sufferers, have no idea how to even think about it, let alone how to deal with it.
Not knowing what to do, many of us inwardly dissociate—which only exacerbates the collective madness—and in our fragmented and disempowered state go about our lives in a numbed-out, zombie-like trance, making the best of what seems to be a bad situation.
The question naturally arises: how would these enlightened beings conspire with us to help wake us up?
We can only imagine.
For our part, it seems essential that we ask questions such as: what is the nature of this madness, and how can it be consciously engaged so that humanity can get back on the right track?
Seen as an organism, there is a systemic psycho-spiritual disease that has infected the whole body politic of humanity. At present we are having an acute—and potentially deadly—inflammation of this illness.
As with any disease, in order to cure the pathology that ails us we must come up with the right diagnosis. Under the present circumstances, it is a healthy response for us to have an appropriate level of alarm.
If we aren’t “alarmed” at what is happening in our world, we are still sleeping.
It’s difficult to appreciate how our behavior might appear strange—let alone completely insane—to an impartial observer. But engaging in a “benign onlooker” thought experiment—in this case, through the imagined insights of enlightened aliens—affords us some much-needed perspective.
Even from this vantage point, though, the collective madness that humanity is acting out is hard to fathom. It is truly as if the inmates are running the asylum.
The first thing these aliens might perceive is a single living organism in crisis. What makes life itself possible is that every cell and organ of a living organism plays a uniquely vital role to the life and health of the greater organism; each part works together as part of an integrated and interdependent whole system.
Our planet and its biosphere is a seamlessly interconnected whole system that operates as a macro-organism, and yet its supposedly most intelligent species has set up a global system for managing its rich diversity of natural resources that would kill a living organism in no time if such a system were implemented within the individual bodies of any of its members. If the human body was organ-ized and operated in a similar way to the global economy—where certain parts of the system demand disproportionate and ever-increasing shares of the existing resources—the body would die in no time.
At the heart of this reality is the fact that the way the global economic system has been crafted primarily serves the interests of the very few.
Machine-like, “the system” relentlessly, and increasingly, sucks, drains and redistributes wealth from the majority of the populace—who more and more become impoverished and practically enslaved—into the hands of the already unthinkably wealthy.
The powers-that-be then use coercive power to not only deny people the means to make even a subsistence living, but even denies them the basic human right to life on massive scales.
This system doesn’t just passively allow people to fall below the poverty line, it actively pushes them under, as if poor people are being intentionally “left behind.” The most powerful and successful financial institutions have taken on the form of parasitic enterprises that have attached themselves to governments and people around the world, upon which they shamelessly and ravenously engorge themselves.
These illumined aliens, with their clairvoyant vision, would surely find it revealing that the ones who own the wealth are—like vampires—energetically “feeding” off of the ones who barely have enough to eat.
The evidence is overwhelming.
The current global economic system has brought us to a point where an incredibly small minority of human beings own a grossly disproportionate percentage of the planet’s resources.
According to recent figures, the 62 richest people on the planet have more wealth than the poorest half of the global population combined, and over time this imbalance is increasingly getting worse.
This is globalization at work. Much of this rising inequality is a direct result of the fact that globalization is the process by which multinational corporations are taking over sovereign governments—of the 100 largest economies in the world, over half are corporations.
These challenging economic times we live in are simultaneously the times of the greatest profits in all of history for certain select corporate conglomerates. Those at the top of the economic pyramid then use this ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor to further game the system—itself riddled with corruption—so as to protect their advantage even more.
The United States government in particular, instead of being a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” has instead become a plutocracy—a government “of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.” It should get our attention that such economic stratification into the have and have-nots historically plays a crucial role in the collapse of civilizations.
These aliens would recognize that earth’s current way of “doing business” is unsustainable.
Instead of creating value and wealth for the good of all, the way business is done on planet earth is actually destroying the genuine wealth and health of the whole system, with people, communities and the environment considered to be nothing more than collateral damage—all for the benefit of a small minority.
If humanity is viewed as a family, there is abuse of power being perpetrated within the family system for the simple reason that those in the positions of power can act with total impunity and, in a case of “moral insanity,” can—and do—literally get away with murder.
These benign aliens would find it revealing that such a large percentage of earth’s resources—including humanity’s intrinsic ingenuity—instead of being used to care for each other and enrich life, are being used to create more potent and deadly weapons of mass destruction. In other words, humanity’s divinely inspired genius is being channeled into ever-more efficient ways of murdering each other!
We have become conditioned to accept this astonishing cruelty and destruction as normal. We spend trillions of dollars to sustain a state of endless war against God knows who, while at the same time innumerable of our fellow brothers and sisters are impoverished and dying of starvation every day.
These spiritually awake beings would realize that the destruction that humanity is playing out in the world is an unmediated reflection of an imbalance deep within the collective human psyche.
From the meta-perspective of the enlightened aliens, the behind-the-scene financiers who on the surface are benefitting the most from this diabolical set-up are themselves merely puppets in the hands of some darker forces that are informing the whole enterprise. To use writer Matt Taibi’s infamous phrase, a “vampire squid” is running rampant and feasting on the living body of humanity.
To quote eminent theologian David Ray Griffin, “It does seem that we are possessed by some demonic power that is leading us, trancelike, into self-destruction.” Similarly, the Bible points out that our fight is not against “flesh and blood” (i.e., human forces), bot rather, against “powers and principalities” (spiritual forces). These forces are not only acting themselves out in our world, but are simultaneously interfacing with and covertly operating through our own minds.
It is as if we have become possessed by a self-created Frankenstein monster that is running amok, wreaking untold havoc all over the planet. This Frankenstein monster has seemingly gained a quasi-life and autonomous will of its own, independent of its creator—us—who it holds in its thrall, as we are unable to escape from the out-of-control hell of our own making.
In any case, it certainly seems as if there is a force that is hell-bent on stopping us—both individually and collectively as a species—from reaching our full creative potential.
We are at a severe “crisis” point in our world, which, medically speaking, always tells us that our sickness has reached a dangerous climax. Our species is suffering from what the great doctor of the soul C. G. Jung calls a “sickness of dissociation,” which is a state of fragmentation deep within the collective unconscious that has seemingly spilled outside of our skulls and is playing itself out en masse on the world stage.
This primordial rupture, which is a form of trauma on a cosmic scale, has become the in-forming force behind human history itself, conditioning the experience of each individual, as well as our species as a whole.
Seen as a whole person, it is as if the undivided wholeness of the universe has split into cosmic multiple sub-personalities who are dissociated from and seemingly separate from each other, desperately in need of recognizing their connection so as to come together and reintegrate.
Our sickness of dissociation and the world crisis we are facing as a result can be seen, as Jung points out, as the labor pains of a new birth.
Author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen writes in his foreword to the classic book Columbus and Other Cannibals by Native American scholar Jack Forbes, that it is “the most important book ever written on one of the most important topics ever faced by human beings: why is the dominant culture so excruciatingly, relentlessly, insanely, genocidally, ecocidally, suicidally destructive?”
Oftentimes, the most important point in finding a solution to a problem is asking the right question; Jensen’s question feels like the right question, a question literally demanding to be answered.
Forbes’ book beautifully elucidates the Native American idea of “wetiko psychosis,” which can be likened to a mind virus that has infected the human psyche. Jung never tired of pointing out that the greatest danger which threatens humanity comes from the psyche.
We are living with the very real possibility that millions—maybe even billions—of us can fall into our unconscious together, reinforcing each others’ madness in such a way that we become unwittingly complicit in our own self-destruction.
An inner disease of the soul, wetiko flavors our perceptions by stealth and subterfuge so as to act itself out through us while simultaneously hiding itself from being seen. Being an illness that afflicts the psyche itself, wetiko—a term connoting the spirit of evil—is a psycho-spiritual disease of the soul, a disorder of consciousness existing deep within the collective unconscious of humanity that is playing out writ large on the world stage. Like a cannibal, those taken over by wetiko—also called “cannibal sickness”—consume the life force of others, both human and nonhuman, for private purpose or profit, and do so without giving back anything of real value from their own lives.
The idea of wetiko can be enormously helpful in creating a wider context that can assist us in getting a handle on the mass insanity that is playing out in our world today. Though using individuals as its instruments, wetiko—a “collective psychosis”—can’t replicate itself; it needs the unconscious masses for its genesis and proliferation on the world stage.
Wetiko psychosis is highly contagious, spreading through the channel of our shared unconsciousness, rendering us oblivious to our own madness. This fluidly moving, nomadically wandering bug reciprocally reinforces and feeds off and into each of our unconscious blind spots, which is how it nonlocally propagates itself throughout the field.
A psychic epidemic, wetiko is at the bottom, at the very root of the seemingly never-ending destruction we are wreaking upon ourselves, each other and the very biosphere we depend upon for our survival as a species.
Every wisdom tradition throughout history has been pointing at wetiko in its own unique way.
The Gnostics (“the ones who know”), for example, were pointing at wetiko when they spoke of the “Archons,” who they thought of as “mind parasites” which had infiltrated the human mind.
The Nag Hammadi text called The Apocryphon of John II describes these Archons, “They sought to overpower humanity in its psychological and perceptual functions…their triumph is in deception.”
Wetiko/the Archons occlude us in such a way that our occlusion becomes self-perpetuating, the result being that we can’t even tell we are occluded.
Wetiko bedazzles, bewitches, and bedevils consciousness so that we become blind to the underlying, assumed viewpoint through which we perceive, conjure up and give meaning to our experience of both the world and ourselves.
An intrinsic challenge to our investigation of the wetiko virus, therefore, is that it is incarnating in and through the very psyche which itself is the means of our inquiry.
In our encounter with wetiko, we find ourselves in a situation where we are confronted—practically face-to-face—with the unconscious.
As Jung has pointed out, when it is a question of mass psychosis, nothing but “new symbolic ideas,” i.e., novel, creative, redemptive, archetypal conceptions, brought up from the depths—which embrace, express and help to re-contextualize the emerging chaos and disorder—can save us from the impending catastrophe.
This is to say that in light of our current world crisis, a new creative achievement has become a necessity. The concept of wetiko and all that it stands for is precisely such a “new symbolic idea.”
What Plato calls “the eyes of the soul,” ideas have real power, as they are the means by which we see the world and creatively envision and give meaning to our lives.
Being a disease of the soul, we all potentially have wetiko, as it pervades and in-forms the underlying field of consciousness.
Any one of us at any moment can fall into our unconscious and unwittingly become an instrument for the evil of wetiko to act itself out through us and incarnate in our world, which is a realization that cultivates humility while simultaneously serving as an inoculation against wetiko’s pernicious effects.
If we see someone who seems to be taken over by wetiko and we think that they have the disease and we don’t, we have then fallen under the spell of the virus, as wetiko feeds on the inner, psychological process of shadow projection which underlies and informs our experience of separation, polarization and the paranoid fear—and terror—of “the other.”
Wetiko can be conceived of as a cancer of the psyche that slowly metastasizes, gradually subsuming all of the healthy parts of the psyche into itself to serve its sinister agenda.
The personality then becomes one-sided ( narcisstic), self-organizing an outer display of coherence around this pathogenic core, which masks the inner dysfunction, making it hard to recognize. In a psychic coup d’état, the wetiko bug can usurp and displace a person, who becomes its puppet and marionette.
Like a parasite, the wetiko virus can take over and subvert the will of an animal more evolved than itself, enlisting that creature into serving its nefarious agenda.
The psychological fact of being taken over by something “other” than ourselves finds expression in the belief in demons and their ability to possess humans, a belief found among all peoples from time immemorial.
Once the wetiko virus becomes sufficiently entrenched within the psyche, the prime directive coordinating a person’s behavior comes from the disease, as it is now the one in the driver’s seat. As it commandeers and colonizes the psyche—centralizing power and control in the process—wetiko eventually incorporates a seemingly autonomous regime within the greater body politic of the psyche.
Once it gains a sufficient sovereignty, wetiko forms something like a totalitarian “shadow government” within the psyche which dictates to the ego. Being an archetypal, transpersonal and daemonic energy, wetiko can not only take over an individual, but also a group of people, a nation or even—potentially—an entire species.
Wetiko is especially unique, in that, though an inner disease of the soul, it is able to inform, give shape to and configure events in the outer world so as to synchronistically express—and reveal—itself.
For example, as if the boundary has dissolved between the inner and the outer, the internal landscape of the wetikoized psyche is mirrored in the external world through the totalitarian-like “shadow government”—with its ever-increasing centralization of power and control—that has taken over our seeming democracy.
Both within our psyche and in our alleged “democracy,” we are allowed our seeming freedom, but only so long as it doesn’t threaten the sovereignty and dominance of the “ruling” power (interestingly, the word “Archon,” a synonym for wetiko, means “ruler”).
Wetiko covertly (hidden) works through the projective tendencies of the mind to distract us, keeping our attention directed outside of ourselves, thereby obstructing us from finding and utilizing the immense light of intrinsic awareness within, which would “kill” wetiko, rendering it impotent.
The “Buddha” (which means one who has woken up to the dreamlike nature of reality) realized in his enlightenment that the solution to the human predicament could never be found externally, but had to be discovered within the very nature of one’s own mind.
If we don’t realize that our current world crisis has its roots within, and is an expression of, the human psyche, we are doomed to unconsciously repeat it, continually re-creating endless destruction in more and more amplified form—as if we are having a recurring dream.
Our nightmare will then be fated to continue with ever-alarming intensity until we receive its message.
Wetiko can easily trick and deceive us by materializing itself in, as, and through the medium of the outside world, which we then assume—as if entranced—is distinct from our psyche. Once the ever-increasing sociopolitical insanity plays itself out on the world stage, we have all the proof we need that the conflict is outside of ourselves.
It then becomes nearly impossible to convince anyone that the source of the conflict is to be found within the psyche of every individual.
The psyche has then become exteriorized, as an internal psychic conflict takes place by way of projection in the outside world in living (and dying) flesh and blood.
The sponsor of the whole project(ion), the wetiko bug remains behind-the-scenes, invisible and unnoticed.
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