History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
— Stephan Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses
Paradigm B (P-B) is the nightmare that we all live every day. It is the life that we have chosen albeit unconsciously by default and it is the experience of life that we have created. We are 100% responsible for that choice and our creation of it. We are also capable of making a different choice and have 100 % of the power necessary for creating a different reality. We know this is an “in your face” confrontation, but it happens to be the truth as we shall see.
Peter Russell describes the “nightmare” mentioned above by James Joyce. “The realities of our day-to-day consciousness and of these moments of liberation are so difficult that it is almost as if a mental fence divided the two. On one side of the fence, I am caught in my mind—in my thoughts, my anxieties, my judgments, and my fears. I may on occasion recognize that this is all unnecessary, and that it removes me from the present moment, but such passing insights [Peak Experiences] are seldom sufficient to release my mind from the grip of my conditioning. So deeply ingrained is my attachment to what I believe I should be thinking and doing, there seems no way over that fence. Indeed, for much of the time I have totally forgotten there is another way of being.”[i]
How did we create P-B? P-B can be thought of as our “nemesis,” the source of all of our suffering, of our self-destructive behavior. Clive Johnson speaks of our old friend the Goddess Nemesis in the guise of the sensation energy center—craving. “Desire arises from a sense of limitation and imperfection. A man of attainment [one living in the context of Simple Reality] feels no lack, what else is there for him to desire?”[ii]
Seth further describes our tendency to “cling” to the very source of our suffering. “Many beliefs would automatically fall away quite harmlessly if you were being truly spontaneous. Instead you harbor them.”[iii] This is Seth’s way of saying that we are shooting ourselves in the foot.
Paradigm B is focused on the illusion of form, both physical and mental. Jesus taught often about the pitfalls of allowing the false self to mesmerize us into thinking that the survival strategy was reality. “The Pharisees, with their appalling code of outward observances, were the only people towards whom he was really intolerant. A conscientious Pharisee of those days—and most of them were extremely conscientious, according to their lights—had an enormous number of outer details to attend to every day before he could feel that he had satisfied the requirements of God. A modern rabbi has estimated the number of such details at not less than six hundred.”[iv]
P-B is a story in which the Oneness of Simple Reality has been shattered into pieces. This shattering includes alienating humanity from nature and people from one another. In his book The Discovery of Being, Rollo May observes that: “Western man not only experiences an alienation from the human world about him but also suffers an inner, harrowing conviction of being estranged in the natural world as well.”[v]
Authentic “being” or having an experience of P-A must involve feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values that support the reality of the wholeness, the inter-connection, the interdependence, the interrelatedness of all of creation. Otherwise we will continue to live with acute anxiety, an unnatural state for a human being.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
— Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s observation seems to have been affirmed by Sigmund Freud when he chose The Psychopathology of Everyday Life as a title for one of his books. Jungian psychiatrist Laurens Van der Post joins in the observation of P-B and schizophrenia. “It was so difficult to heal, I believe, because it was supported by a similar tendency to dichotomy in the spirit of an entire civilization backed up, as it were, by all that was negative in the 20th century Zeitgeist, and so it was in a sense incapable of cure without healing at the same time the mass of humanity and cultural pressures rallied unconsciously behind it.”[vi]
Those “cultural pressures” have always existed in the fundamental nature of human consciousness and will remain until we choose to shift paradigms. In short, mental illness can never be cured in the context of P-B because P-B is the root cause of our self-destructive behavior and the neuroses growing out of it.
Everyone consciously or unconsciously behaves according to who they believe themselves to be (according to their identity), what they believe the nature of the Universe to be (their worldview), and what they believe the nature of the Life Force which appears to be running things to be (Is the universe friendly or not?), and the relationship among all three. If these concepts are inadequate (P-B), if they are outdated (e.g., some religious worldviews), or if they violate one’s reason (e.g., reductionistic science), then one’s behavior will be self-destructive.
Bill Streett puts it this way in his article “Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos.” “The vision of the mechanistic universe that grew out of Newtonian science fashioned social institutions that saw humans as efficient machines. In this fading worldview, a blind watchmaker created a clockwork universe without meaning or purpose.”[vii]
“The scientific creation story we’ve known, at its simplest,” says Elisabet Sahtouris, “has come from physics and biology. Physics gave us a nonliving, accidental, purposeless, and meaningless universe, running down to its heat death by entropy, and biology doomed us to endless struggle in scarcity as nature’s way of evolution—and thus our own human nature. This soulless materialist science scenario must be the most depressing creation story ever told. Yet our culture has created our reality from it, practicing scientific opposition to religion, believing we must get what we can while we can (usually at someone else’s expense), building a now worldwide win/lose capitalist economy of cutthroat competition, and making material consumption the dominant lifestyle people have or aspire to have.”[viii]
Our identification with our intellect and our surrender to our survival strategy behaviors are only part of the problem here. Sahtouris continues: “After all, the foundational assumptions of science that nature is nonliving, nonconscious, nonintelligent, thus purposeless and meaningless, are unproveable beliefs stemming from a particular context of reaction against religion, prior to which all nature had been seen as alive.”[ix] We must not get from Sahtouris’ description that religion is the answer because it’s not. Remember that the institution of religion like all human institutions grew out of a P-B context.
Ken Wilber presses the attack on the intellect’s tendency toward reductionism: “In these reductionistic accounts, rationality is the great and final omega point of individual and collective development, the high-water mark of all evolution. No deeper or wider or higher context is thought to exist. Thus life is to be lived either rationally, or neurotically (Freud’s concept or neurosis is basically anything that derails the emergence of rational perception—true enough as far as it goes, which is just not all that far). Since no higher context [Simple Reality] is thought to be real, or to actually exist, then whenever any genuinely trans-rational occasion occurs, it is immediately explained as a regression to preoperational structures (since they are the only non-rational structures allowed, and thus the only ones to accept an explanatory hypothesis). The super-conscious is reduced to the subconscious, the transpersonal is collapsed to the pre-personal, the emergence of the higher is reinterpreted as an irruption from the lower. All breathe a sigh of relief, and the rational world space is not fundamentally shaken (by ‘the black tide of the mud of occultism!’ as Freud so quaintly explained to Jung).”[x] Whether we can grasp Wilber’s amazing riff or not, we can feel that something in P-B is grievously amiss.
There is no need for religion when we move beyond P-B because there is no spiritual journey, hence no need for a religious practice. There are no spiritual paths because there is no process. There is no goal because we are already at the point of choice which happens moment to moment each and every day. We do not need prayer or therapy because we are not dysfunctional or in need of healing or salvation. We are simply asleep, mesmerized and ignorant of the nature of reality. We only need to awaken. We only need to become present to Simple Reality
In contrast to Simple Reality, the Institute of Noetic Sciences describes the P-B worldview as including:
Growth is good; more is better.
Economic wealth is the truest sign of progress.
“The market” is the most reliable measure of value.
Individual selfishness serves the common good.
We live in a world of scarcity.
Humans are superior to other creatures.
The Earth is ours to exploit.
The world consists of “us” and “them.”
People are intrinsically bad.
Technology—or God—will save us. [xi]
How the initial stages of P-B developed are described by Ken Wilber. “[For] the infant ‘must gradually and painfully give up the delusion of his own grandeur.’ Because there is now a separate self, there is now a separate other—the world is no longer its oyster. Researchers are fond of saying that at this stage, paradise has been lost [or the banished innocent has wandered out of paradise and finds itself “east of Eden” in P-B]. Because there are defects in self-structuralization at this primitive level of organization, the borderline does not have access to higher or neurotic defense mechanisms (repression, rationalization, displacement), but instead must rely on the primitive or less-than-neurotic defenses (particularly splitting, denial, introjection and projection).”[xii]
The challenge for us today is: how can we find our way back to our natural state of being after we have passed through the necessary developmental tasks of creating a relatively healthy but self-destructive ego? Not as difficult as you might think, but more about that in the article on Paradigm-A.
When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
— Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene VI
Paradigm B leaves us in an obdurate (hardhearted) state. We are hardened against “feeling” which is the heart of P-A. All of our addictions whether substance related or process related are practiced to distract us, to moderate or repress the experience of suffering that characterizes P-B. Instead, we find ourselves in a state of continuous reaction ironically increasing our suffering or anesthetized and thereby deluded into thinking that we have found a sustainable coping strategy. We have fled more deeply into unconsciousness away from the very source of our salvation, the present moment. As Thomas Moore said: [Ours is] “a society that has lost its soul, looks for security in the future and is willing to deny the reality of the present.”[xiii]
The English composer Peter Warlock describes what it feels like to be lost in P-B. “I have been on a hopelessly wrong track for years, completely fuddled, groping blindly in the dark for something of whose very nature I was quite ignorant.”[xiv]
Seth suggests a way out: “If you dwell upon limitations, then you will meet them. You must create a new picture in your mind. It will differ from the picture your physical senses may show you at any given time, precisely in those areas where changes are required.”[xv]
Seth continues: “So you are locked into physical situations that are corroborated by the great evidence of sense data—and of course it is convincing because it reflects so beautifully, so creatively, and so actively, your own ideals and beliefs, whether they are positive or negative. In greater terms positive and negative have little meaning, for the physical experience is meant as a learning one. But if you are unhappy then the word negative has meaning. Now let me give you a brief example of a core belief. It is a blanket belief. About it will spring events that only serve to reinforce it. Experiences—both personal and global—will come into the perception of a person who holds this belief, [and] that will only serve to deepen it further.”[xvi] What Seth is saying is that P-B is self-perpetuating.
Let’s look at the core beliefs that Seth is talking about on the collective level and their consequences with the example of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Each side of the conflict, says Israeli psychiatrist Yitzhak Mendelsohn, sees itself as a victim of history struggling to survive in a hostile world, with the other side as the ultimate threat to its existence. Individual biography is woven into a collective narrative of woundedness—what he calls a ‘dependence on negative memory. People get hooked into a potent resentment that primes them for revenge and escalation [a classic reaction]. Hate becomes a way to create the illusion of power.’ The task of reconciliation, he believes, is to break down the ‘symbolic scars that bind people to the group’ and offer ‘some larger sense of we’ [a new identity in P-A] to replace the victim identity.”[xvii] The victim identity is based on being caught up in the illusion of P-B but as A Course in Miracles reminds us: “These problems are not real, but that is meaningless to those who believe in them.”[xviii]
The experience of Laurens Van der Post warns us of the folly of continuing to live in the madness of the old narrative. “History was written in a way that did not explain history and threw no light on its latent meaning. The legends and myths in which it has its roots and of which the dreaming process seemed so dynamic an element, as I had concluded in my amateur way. There seemed an underworld of history filled with forces far more powerful than the superficial ones that it professed to serve. Until this world was brought out into the light of day, recognized, and understood, I believed an amply discredited pattern of self-inflicted death and disaster would continue to reiterate itself and dominate the human scene.”[xix]
Two sad and disturbing metaphors can be used to describe the unconscious population of P-B. First, an unconscious person can be said to be asleep at the wheel. It’s as if most of us begin our day staggering to the car in our pajamas and driving off down the freeway with a dream scenario playing in our fast-asleep mind. This trip is bound to end badly and the numbers of fatalities and injuries will continue to grow on the streets and highways of P-B.
The other metaphor is suggested by the many “zombie” films created by filmmakers who were inspired consciously or unconsciously to address human unconsciousness and to depict the resulting disastrous consequences in a humorous way. The rapid growth of dementia, because people are living longer, also suggests a literal state of non compos mentis (not in control of the mind) suggested by the zombie metaphor. This tragic P-B “zombie behavior” is frightening and has profound economic and psychological implications for human communities.
Their destiny is destruction.
— Philippians 3:19
Much of our survival strategy behavior is designed to cope with the horrors of living in P-B. Rollo May gives us an example from the myth of Oedipus used in the play by Sophocles. “When Oedipus learns the horrible truth that he has killed his father and married Jocasta, his mother, he put his eyes out. This is a very important act—‘self-blinding’ is literally what people do when they have profound inner conflicts. They blind themselves so that they are closed off from the reality around them. Since Oedipus does this after learning how he has been living a delusion, we may take it as an act symbolizing the tragic difficulty, the ‘finiteness’ and ‘blindness’ of man in seeing the truth about himself and his origin. The drama gives us an age-old but ever new picture of the inner pain and conflict in finding out truths about ourselves.”[xx] The truth will make us free if we can find the courage to confront our self-destructive story.
The creation by each of us of a survival strategy is natural and necessary and results in our creation of the context or story of P-B. When the initial stages of that process have been successful we have the choice of continuing to seek security, sensation and power or to respond to our natural inclination to experience the present moment. If our level of fear in P-B is too great, we may have repressed our true nature beyond the level of our awareness. In that case, we will not have the choice of a new story and a new identity. We are then lost in the old narrative which is the dominant condition of humanity today.
Taking the long view, humanity collectively and especially as individuals, can always awaken into the present moment and transcend the delusional paradigm. The Edgar Cayce readings are optimistic for the future of humanity in overcoming the influences of P-B using the language of religion. “For He will give thy efforts that necessary force, that necessary power, to quicken even those that are asleep in their own selfishness, in their own self-indulgences, and bring to their awakening that which will make for glorious activities in the earth.”[xxi]
Saying the same thing as the Cayce readings in a secular language we can also support the cause of optimism for the future of humanity. A simple practice presents itself when shifting to present moment awareness (Simple Reality). This awareness is replete with authentic power and one is presented with choosing the power of self-reliance or the powerless condition of being caught up in the illusion of P-B.
The “point of power” is when our energy is activated by an environmental stimulus and we are faced with the opportunity of choosing to react and create afflictive energy by identifying with the body (a physical reaction), the mind (a mental reaction) or the emotions (an emotional reaction), or to respond and thereby create compassion, freedom, joy and happiness by identifying with the wisdom of our intuitive True self and remain in the present moment. We have always had this choice and it presents itself to each and every human being on the planet today. You decide.
[i] Russell, Peter. Waking Up in Time. Novato, California: Origin Press, 1992, p. 91.
[ii] Johnson, Clive [ed.]. Vedanta: An Anthology of Hindu Scripture, Commentary, and Poetry. New York: Bantam, 1971, p. 98.
[iii] Roberts, Jane. The Nature of Personal Reality. New York: Bantam, 1974, p. 31.
[iv] Fox, Emmet. The Sermon on the Mount. New York: Harper, 1934, p. 19.
[v] May, Rollo. The Discovery of Being. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1983, p. 118.
[vi] Van der Post, Laurens. Jung and the Story of our Time. New York: Random House, 1975, p. 134.
[vii] Streett, Bill. “Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos: The Rise of the Integral Vision of Reality.” Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, June-August 2006, p. 42.
[viii] Sahtouris, Elisabet. “Seven Reasons Why I Remain an Optimist.” Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, June-August 2006, p. 35.
[ix] Ibid., p. 36.
[x] Wilber, Ken. Sex, Ecology and Spirituality. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 1995, p. 206.
[xi] “The 2008 Shift Report.” Shift: At the Frontier of Consciousness. Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, March-May 2008, p. 8.
[xii] Wilber, Ken, et. al. Transformations of Consciousness. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986, pp. 88-89.
[xiii] Moore, Thomas. Dark Nights of the Soul. New York: Gotham, 2004, p. 64.
[xiv] Ibid., p. 205.
[xv] Roberts, op. cit., p. 33.
[xvi] Ibid., p. 47.
[xvii] Barasch, Marc Ian. “You Are Not My Enemy.” Shift to the Frontiers of Consciousness. Petaluma, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences, June-August 2005, p. 27.
[xviii] A Course in Miracles © Volume Three: Manual For Teachers (Farmingdale, New York: Coleman Graphics), published in 1975, by the Foundation for Inner Peace, P.O. Box 598, Mill Valley, CA 94942-0598, www.acim.org and email@example.com. p. 28.
[xix] Van der Post, op. cit., pp. 20-21.
[xx] May, op. cit., p. 213.
[xxi] Sugrue, Thomas. There Is a River. New York: Holt, 1942, p. 379.