As we drift through our lives, day to day, it can be easy to forget that much of what we experience as reality to ourselves is artificial. Our species has managed to construct ever more elaborate means to simulate experience though media devices and much of what is considered “entertainment” these days. While it is necessary to maintain some measure of man-made construction in order to work together, both in a psychological and physical sense, we can also risk entrapping ourselves in the systems that we create and become accustomed to. This is partly due to a natural process, whereby we experience repetition as a way to become more skilled or adept at something and we train ourselves through affirmation and practice. However, if our lives are spent repeating harmful or delusional behaviour, then we end up having to work to become aware of these habits and undo the conditioning that we have undergone.
It is unfortunate that what most of us experience in any part of the world these days is a constant attempt to construct an artificial barrier between ourselves and reality. Much of this is in fact deliberate, and benefits the interests of those who wish to maintain their political and economic power over the masses. Any ideology pertaining to these institutions is an attempt to assert control over the minds of others to achieve some sort of project. While this, again, is something that is necessary to building and creating the things that we need, it may also be something which has no clear benefit for those involved, aside from the ones in charge of the project. Such systems of belief require obedience from their adherents for the sake of maintaining stability, and most forms of organized religion or politics work this way.
An example of where this sort of structure would work is within a family or within a small village. In each case, the groups of people have a shared interest in maintaining themselves as a group by helping others to survive. In order to accommodate each person, a certain measure of adherence to a code of conduct is necessary to maintain the rights of each individual not to be harmed or abused by other members of the group. While this sort of system works well within a group where each person can be familiar with all of the other members, it becomes more difficult to control the behaviour of a group larger than this. Therefore, the nature of the rules will take on a different character, and assume the form of a system designed to split people into separate groups, while still maintaining control over them. You may see where this is going, as the members of each group then become defined in multiple layers in accordance with each group they belong to. Naturally, this leads to some members identifying more with the whole, while others will identify more with their group than with the larger sphere.
This is how a society becomes stratified into a hierarchy, and is something which has to have a balance of power in order to be maintained. Both mob rule and dictatorship are two sides of the same coin and reflect an imbalance of power within a society. In order to prevent abuse between the groups, rights and obligations must be clearly defined and agreed upon by every person involved. However, if one group is composed of members who have been segregated from others due to high intelligence, then they are forced to simplify their ideas to their inferiors for the sake of communication. This system falters if the rulers possess a self-serving character, at which point the entire social system becomes based on benefiting one particular group above the rest. Thus, the vulnerabilities of everyone else are open to exploration, and a system that was founded on a principle of mutual exchange becomes based on taking what one can get and damning all the rest. Through this process, the bonds between the groups fracture and the system falls apart.
In order to prevent societal fracture from happening, various means are employed by those who hold power over their subjects. In the past, they used threats and intimidation backed by brute force, when power was defined by the ability to fight and conquer. Now, the methods are more subtle and requiring psychological coercion as opposed to physical violence. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and nowhere is this more true than with regards to our minds. While we may be able to physically defend ourselves against a hostile bully, those with the ability to make us become their servants willingly are much more dangerous. By knowing how our minds react to things such as fear and anger, we may be played like a fiddle into doing others’ bidding even if we ourselves are unwilling inside.
Such techniques are employed on a mass scale by governments and religious institutions, and have been for many centuries. While convinced that we are contributing to a system which cares for us, we are at the mercy of those who would abuse us for their own gain. When an individual participates in a system in which he is not familiar with at least most of the others involved in it, then he cannot be sure if the system is actually working for his benefit or if he is being lied to. Advertisers and politicians lie to us all the time in order to sell us their product; worse still, they convince us that we ‘need’ what they offer, as if we ourselves are lacking. Such is the technique employed by a merchant to sell his goods, and so it is hardly suitable for a functioning economy or government. The result of such a power dynamic is that each group not only begins to distrust each other, but members within a group become less likely to trust each other. This also means that the desired outcome for a social or economic project will become dependent on personal or in-group preferences.
An example of this would be the need to develop more and more sophisticated computer systems and technology which is capable of simulating human behaviour. While the advancement of high technology is touted as taking us towards a brighter future, it seems rather that humans are becoming both dispossessed and despondent. Many have lost their jobs to machines and computers take up an increasing amount of time in our lives, which would previously have spent spent either by ourselves or with others. In one’s own company or in that of family and loved ones, we are able to better fulfil our need for social interaction and shared participation. When this communication becomes simulated through an online medium, this has the effect of detaching us from our human selves and we become mentally more like the machines that we interact with. Whether cold and removed from emotion or hysterical and manic, much of what appears online makes things appear worse than they are, while at the same time revealing things that we would not otherwise have known.
I do not wish to deny the usefulness of such availability of information, as it can give us the tools with which to free ourselves from a mental prison. However, one has to wonder the possible motivation for promoting the proliferation of information and simulated reality in such abundance, and if it isn’t simply an attempt by those in power to overwhelm our senses in order to make us more confused and thus more suggestible. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that this is achieved through skills such as hypnosis, which can be used to trick us into benefiting someone else at our own expense. Hypnosis is achieved through such things as repetition of certain phrases, which should show that any campaign slogan or religious mantra are simply ways of employing hypnosis in order to solidify an idea in someone’s mind.
Though I have mostly expounded upon the idea of hypnosis at the hands of others, it is actually self-hypnosis that is potentially the most damaging to one’s psyche. As with all other positive examples, this can be used to achieve beneficial results with regards to gaining confidence or attempting to practice a healthier lifestyle. However, the ability for an individual to trap themselves within mental constructs is something which must be looked out for. When we perceive reality through some ideological lens, it acts as a filter through which we funnel information that we receive. Though this may be helpful when examining a particular situation, it can distort reality and make us believe in things which aren’t true. When we take concepts for actual things and inflexibly adhere to them, they begin to clash with reality and cause cognitive dissonance, which usually results in an attempt to simply reject what is conflicting with our personal worldview.
It is for this reason that I feel the need to encourage discrimination when we encounter information and to not let our own potential perspectives or prejudices interfere with a sound understanding of reality. While others may have sound advice to offer us, it is only useful if it is relevant to ourselves. Many of the worst atrocities throughout history have been committed when attempting to solve a problem, but the directors of the projects were blinded by their own visions so as to be ignorant or uncaring towards the suffering of their inferiors. Such things are often the case in a society that has become totalitarian, so transfixed to a single ideology that the people lose touch with reality. It is also worth keeping in mind that we are all susceptible to delusion in some capacity, and that the opinions of other may be worth considering even if they are a mixture of honest observation and self-deception (which may be filtered out by a discerning mind). Likewise, there is no such thing as an infallible human being, and placing some other person on a pedestal only serves to diminish your own ego and potentially inflate theirs. Don’t take my word for it though.
“Less safe, by far, is the wisdom found that is hid in another’s heart.” (The Hávamál, from the Henry Adams Bellows translation of the Poetic Edda, 1936)