The other and “projection” have a reciprocal relationship. In this article we focus primarily on the illusion of the other as it appears in the outer world, the world of form. In a separate article on projection, the emphasis is primarily on the psychological and metaphysical aspects of human expression related to the delusional behavior of trying to rid ourselves of our shadow.
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
Shakespeare—Shylock in Merchant of Venice
In the Old Testament, the scapegoat was a live goat. Aaron, the first Hebrew priest, confessed the sins of the children of Israel over its head and the goat was then sent into the wilderness symbolically bearing their sins on the Day of Atonement. Or, in other words a scapegoat is a person or group bearing blame for others. The universal psychological need to project our sins, the repressed contents of our shadow, onto someone or something outside of ourselves is one cause of human suffering that we must come to understand if we are ever able to create a sustainable human community.
The fear of chaos also provides motivation for the process of projection along with the illusion of duality and the false self’s competing for security, pleasure and power. For example, Paradigm B (P-B) contains a deep-rooted belief in the scarcity of the basic necessities of life. In 1800 Thomas Malthus, a professor of political economics, inventoried the world’s resources and concluded that an increasing number of humans would suffer starvation and misery from lack of adequate food, clothing and shelter (security). The Malthusian consciousness relating to the scarcity of the fundamentals needed to support life has led, along with other similar influences, to fear and selfishness. There is a belief among both individuals and nations that it has to be either you or me, us or them. From this belief the illusion of the other receives its energy.
The irrational violence resulting from the human behavior involving a “scapegoat” or blaming the other for the problems or “sins” of an individual or collective can only be called a psychosis. Few human behaviors in P-B are more deserving of the insanity label. Although it is a normal psychological behavior of the false self, it is ultimately incompatible with humanity’s desire for transformation and transcendence. To project or externalize fear is to support the fundamental illusion of P-B which is ironically the source of that fear. Projection results in spreading and magnifying the fear, intensifying the dance of madness so prevalent in the global village today.
This principle bears repeating because we have so much conditioning to overcome. Among the worst characteristics of P-B is the false-self need for a scapegoat upon which to project its shadow and thereby create the illusion that it has power over its fears. The people targeted for fear and hatred are often those who are the most different and least understood by the majority of people in a community. The Jews, among the world’s people who have exhibited great resilience as survivors, have often been designated as the other.
One of the great ironies of history is the persecution of the Jews by adherents of the two religions that owe their very existence to Judaism, Christianity and Islam; both of which were born of Jewish “scriptures and their memories,” as Will Durant puts it. From the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A. D., the Jews were scattered throughout the world seeking to maintain their culture and religion. Durant eloquently describes the last 1500 years of this remarkable people. “Barred by the feudal system from owning land, and by the guilds from taking part in industry; shut up within congested ghettoes and narrowing pursuits, mobbed by the people and robbed by the kings; building with their finances and trade the towns and cities indispensable to civilization; outcast and excommunicated, insulted and injured—yet, without any political structure, without any legal compensation to social unity, without even a common language, this wonderful people has maintained itself in body and soul, has preserved its racial and cultural traditions, has patiently and resolutely awaited the day of its deliverance, and has emerged greater in number than ever before, renowned in every field for the contributions of its geniuses, and triumphantly restored, after two thousand years of wandering, to its ancient and unforgotten home.”
It is so sad to say that the Jews of modern Israel will never find peace because their collective false self follows them wherever they go. And in addition, they remain a convenient scapegoat for so many individual and collective false selves that are ever in need of some way to get rid of their guilt, shame and regret as well as assuage their existential anxiety related to the threatening future, the chaos of the “perfect storm.” And as we’ve just pointed out, the people of Israel have their own shadows to project, and so back and forth it goes—the never-ending pulse of fear and revenge, the tragic drama of the Montagues and the Capulets—the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Hopefully, by stressing the richness and joy inherent in the natural diversity among human cultures we will begin to awaken to the desirability of celebrating the beautiful colors, textures and shapes on the canvas of humanity rather than emphasizing the neurotic anxiety that has until now characterized human interaction. We can learn to sing the praises of the many gifts given by the Jews and everyone else to humanity and ultimately realize that every individual is born bearing a unique and precious contribution that will enhance our ability to see the truth and beauty that surrounds us all.
Dave Foreman describes the danger of failing to see our fellow human beings from a perspective of Oneness rather than a dualistic narrative. “When we create such a world [Us versus Them], our opponents become the enemy, become the other, become evil men and women instead of men and women who commit evil. In such a dichotomous world, they lose their humanness and we lose any compulsion to behave ethically or with consideration toward them. In such a psychological state we become true believers and any action against the enemy is justified.”
In P-B, intolerance, paranoia and the existence of the tendency to project onto the other can make it dangerous to advocate profound change as Jesus was well aware of. “Christ states that some knowledge is purposely not openly revealed. Completing a parable with the injunction, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,’ he goes on to say privately to his disciples: Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand (Luke 8:8-19). Elsewhere Christ comments on the reason for this secrecy: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn again and rend you (Matt. 7:6).”
That the other does not exist, that it is a psychological illusion, can be proven scientifically, if that is helpful to some skeptics. “Scientists have long known that regardless of ancestral home or ethnic group, everyone’s genes are pretty much alike. We’re all Homo sapiens. Everything else is pretty much details…. It appears that all contemporary populations ended up largely the same, or only crudely distinguishable from one another, on the genome level.”
Like the slowly festering wound caused by a splinter, the effects of humanity’s insistence on the existence of the other will continue to spread toxic poisons throughout the body of humanity. We must “bite the wound” and suck out this poisonous belief from our worldview using the Point of Power Practice to stop our reactions, our tendency to “scapegoat” and reject others. In doing so, we will find a fellow traveler seeking the same peace and compassion that we are seeking, a brother or sister in the universal human family.
There is also the collective shadow that will spring forward unannounced, blind-siding us and demanding a reaction. The emergence of the shadow of the collective unconscious (the key word here is unconscious) would set off an alarm if we were aware of its presence. That alarm, that afflictive emotion, would be a warning that we were about to come under an influence that is subtle and insidious. What follows is a brief run through human history meant to shock us into an awareness of the immense tragedy of collective shadow projection onto an innocent collective other.
Increasing our awareness of the history of the other in P-B arms us to do battle with our own internal demons and to join with others in confronting this particularly perilous human behavior called shadow projection. Self-destructive behaviors driven by the illusion of the other have plagued humanity from before the beginning of civilization and in fact will prevent the creation of a “civilized” human community.
Professor Elaine Pagels in her book The Origin of Satan could have added human belief in the other to a belief in Satan as another imaginary cause of human suffering and seems to do so in the following description. “Many anthropologists have pointed out that the worldview of most peoples consists essentially of two pairs of binary oppositions; human/not human and we/they. Apart from anthropology, we know from experience how people dehumanize enemies, especially in wartime.”
We now return to ancient history. “In the competition of these two primeval centers [Kish-4500 BCE and Ur- 3500 BCE] we have the first form of that opposition between Semite and non-Semite which was to be one bloody theme of Near-Eastern history from the Semitic ascendancy of Kish and the conquests of the Semitic Kings Sargon I and Hammurabi, through the capture of Babylon by the ‘Aryan’ generals Cyrus and Alexander in the sixth and fourth centuries before Christ, and the conflicts of Crusaders and Saracens for the Holy Sepulchre and the emoluments of trade, down to the efforts of the British Government to dominate and pacify the divided Semites of the Near East today.”
We can bring this historical account written by Will Durant in 1954 up to date by simply substituting “the American Government” for “the British Government.” Only the details change, different labels in different parts of the world in different centuries between different ethnic or religious factions. Only the senseless suffering and the futile attempts at problem solving remain constant millennium after millennium.
Among the darkest stains involving intolerance in the history of the Roman Church was the Inquisition beginning with Pope Innocent III in 1198. The Pope’s fear was that medieval civilization was spinning off into chaos and that the church, already engaged in a power struggle with secular princes trying to assemble territory at the expense of the church, would lose influence.
In addition to medieval politics, the Church felt threatened by “heretics” wanting to create their own religious communities. “If every man may interpret the Bible according to his own light, (however dim), and make his own individual brand of Christianity, the religion that held up the frail moral code of Europe [just emerging from the Dark Ages] would soon be shattered into a hundred creeds, and lose its efficacy as a social cement binding natively savage men into a society and a civilization.”
Resisting at first to cooperate with its competitor for power, the nobility soon learned that the inquisition could be used for acquisition also. The false self behavior of both church and state was loosed upon the stubborn, the ignorant and the naïve and both the princes of the Church and the princes of the landed estates became richer confiscating the wealth of the accused heretics even taking property of those posthumously condemned from the heirs of those deviant souls already in hell.
In some parts of Europe, heretics were increasing in significant numbers, mostly in reaction to the abuses of the Church and were foreshadowing the Protestant Reformation by 300 years by demanding not only reforms but autonomy. The Pope found both legal and historical precedent in declaring the heretics guilty of treason. After all, the ancient Greeks had found Socrates’ failure to worship the gods of the Hellenic pantheon a capital crime. “The Church looked upon heresy precisely as the state looked upon treason: it was an attack upon the foundations of social order. ‘The civil law,’ said Innocent III, ‘punishes traitors with confiscation of their property, and death.’”
“In 1183 Count Philip of Flanders, in collaboration with the archbishop of Reims, ‘sent to the stake a great many nobles, clerics, knights, peasants, young girls, women, and widows, whose property they confiscated and shared between them.’”
The Inquisition did not overlook that ever present popular target the Jews, and outdid itself by not just projecting on them but banishing them from many nations or regions. Islam proved, to its credit, more tolerant than the Christians of the West. “God has made you brethren one to another, so be not divided.” This affirmation of Oneness by the prophet Mohammed shows why Islam has at times throughout its history been one of the most tolerant of the world’s religions. “When the Jews were ousted from Spain by the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, the Ottoman Empire welcomed them.” The Turkish Muslims were observing one of the basic tenets of their religion but some Muslims perhaps had ulterior motives as well. “These Jewish refugees brought contributions in medicine, printing and military science which the Sultans recognized as important and incorporated into their core of knowledge.” Turkey today is poised to be one of the leading nations of the Muslim world and also is among the most tolerant, secular, and modern of the Islamic nations, that is, if they don’t succumb to the other illusion.
How do our fellow human beings get “sorted” into this category called the other? They simply have to be “different” in some superficial way from the majority or the “norm.” This requires a paranoid majority in thrall to the false-self illusion of P-B because, in truth, no human being is fundamentally different than any other. From columnist Amy Goodman we have several examples of ordinary people transformed into the expendable other so that the anxieties of the false self can be mollified.
We start with the 1946 Nuremberg trials in which half of the Nazi doctors charged were sentenced to death for conducting heinous experiments on concentration-camp prisoners. The trials resulted in the Nuremberg Code which set ethical standards for doctors and scientists conducting medical experiments. Since the Nuremberg Code didn’t take into consideration the power of the false self to control even well-educated scientists and medical professionals, we shouldn’t be surprised that the code was ignored by the very government that played a key role in the Nuremberg proceedings. The U.S. has a collective false self too.
“News broke last week that the U.S. government purposefully exposed hundreds of men in Guatemala to syphilis in ghoulish medical experiments conducted in the late 1940’s.” Don’t expect the doctors involved to be brought to trial or chastised for ignoring the Nuremberg Code. Do expect the U.S. government to be summoned to an international court of law by the government of Guatemala.
The others are often easy targets because of their lack of education or political power. African-American males and poor white males in the Deep South would fit that description, especially some 80 years ago. “From 1932 until it was exposed by the press in 1972 [an experiment lasting an incredible 40 years because the other are often invisible to the community at large], the U.S. government conducted a long-term study on the effects of syphilis when left untreated. Four hundred men with syphilis were told that they would be given “special treatment” for their “bad blood.” Unbeknownst to them, the men were given useless placebos, not the promised cure, and their debilitation caused by the untreated syphilis was tracked over decades.
“In its advanced stages, syphilis can disfigure and can cause dementia, blindness and extreme chronic pain. It is a horrible way to die. Ten years  into the Tuskegee Study, penicillin was found to cure syphilis. Yet the men were not told about the potential cure and were actively denied treatment when some of them sought it.”
The lack of compassion exhibited by those that conducted the Tuskegee experiment would have been unthinkable in a human community engaged in identity modification using meditation and the Point of Power Practice. It is not precepts and “codes” that we need, in a world in which the other is being scapegoated by the millions each and every day, it is a healthy story and a new identity. Until then, we can expect “ghoulish medical experiments,” “heinous” crimes against humanity, ethnic genocide and holocausts. These events are not unusual in the human community. They are typical expressions of a collective false self that we pretend doesn’t exist, practiced even by “the leader of the free world” (don’t let’s forget the secret American-run “Black Sites” used for torture and the shame of the Guantanamo Bay prison guards). The American people in touch with their true selves, guided by their heartfelt intuition, would never have permitted such things to happen.
We can count on artists to lead humanity in the process of seeing the truth and having the compassion and courage to respond to the suffering of our fellow humans. In 1949, fifteen years before the Civil Rights Act and thirty-nine years before Congress would call the internment of Japanese-Americans an “act of prejudice and war hysteria” Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific” would denounce scapegoating and the illusion of the other in these heartfelt lyrics.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
of people whose eyes are oddly made.
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
One of the most destructive human behaviors associated with scapegoating is labeling or name-calling. When labeling starts, communication ends and violence often ensues. We have come to expect name-calling in the political arena even though most Americans express a dislike of the practice. Whatever the rationalization for this behavior, it is self-destructive for the individuals or communities that engage in it.
To illustrate the vitriolic excess that we are capable of in the heat of political controversy, we offer the following example from a column written by Mike Rosen in The Denver Post. Rosen is a political conservative, a Republican and, of course his labels for his own party are self-serving. We could have found an article from the other side of the aisle but this example will suffice for our purpose.
Rosen’s labels describing members of each party from his point of view:
|middle and upper-income taxpayers||net tax-receivers|
|individualists who prefer limited government||collectivists and leftist academics|
|believers in American exceptionalism||plaintiffs-lawyers|
|social-issues conservatives||feminists, gays, enviros, nannyists|
|supporters of traditional American values||pro world-government causes|
|believers in a strong national defense||anti-military, anti-gun|
We can see that such labeling does not reveal an opening for dialogue and consensus let alone compassion. This behavior relating to the illusion of the other helps explain the failure of our institution of government to address problems with effective policies. Revealing an even deeper problem, it helps explain the level of violence and self-destructive behavior in American society. Belief in the other makes it all the more difficult for our paranoid, fear-driven false self to choose response over reaction.
In American foreign policy the other has emerged in the “WikiLeak” revelations of 2010. Revealing or “leaking” hitherto classified American State Department cables to the world media, WikiLeaks has not only embarrassed the American government but laid bare the toxic dynamic of human behavior that is focused on the other.
Peace in the international human community or anywhere else is impossible as long as the other operates unimpeded in the human mind. Notice how Charles Krauthammer’s description of “leaked” American diplomacy reveals our self-destructive behavior. “The problem is not that the purloined cables exposed U.S. hypocrisy or double-dealing. Good God, that’s the essence of diplomacy. That’s what we do; that’s what everyone does. Hence the famous aphorism that a diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.”
Fear of the other is so intense in the global village that rational behavior is impossible while we continue our denial of its existence—not the existence of the other—but our denial of the illusion of the other and our fears that keep the illusion alive. How fruitful do we think peace conferences are going to be when they involve diplomats getting together to “lie” to one another? Before we can expect any success in pursuit of world peace, the number one agenda at every such conference will have to be “What are we going to do about the other, this elephant in the room?” Until then, the lion’s share of our tax dollars will go to preparing to defend ourselves against the non-existent other. Such is the madness of P-B.
…we are not victims of the world we see,
we are victims of the way we see the world.
The poisonous influence of the belief in the other on human behavior is that it robs us of our compassion for other human beings who are in all fundamental aspects exactly like we are. Callous and cruel behavior, which would be unthinkable within our own communities, becomes commonplace in our treatment of the other in foreign countries. For example, Philip Morris has taken over the State-run tobacco business (2001) in the Czech Republic and sells 80 percent of all Czech cigarettes. Company officials proved that denial and rationalization often go together when they commissioned a study from Arthur Little that shows how the financial benefits of smoking outweigh the costs. To the obvious benefits of providing jobs and tax income was added the indirect positive effects of early deaths caused by smoking. Early deaths of smokers would save the Czech people $30 million by reducing the costs for pensions and housing and health care for the elderly. “One British anti-smoking activist called it an ‘extermination of the newly retired.’”
Unconscious behavior on the part of this American corporation could be mistaken for the greed inherent in the false self survival strategy but it has deeper psychological roots. Exporting American self-destructive behaviors, part of the so-called globalization phenomenon is resulting in horrific statistics. As the affluent nations begin to address the devastation of addiction to smoking tobacco (14,000 under-18’s take up smoking each day) they are at the same time exporting the disease (68,000 under-18’s take up smoking each day in non-affluent countries). To see more deeply into both the P-B behaviors of individuals and of collectives, i.e. communities, neighborhoods and nations, we must make an effort to shift to an alternative and more profound definition of reality itself. The other would be a critical part of that definition.
If we could read the secret history of our “enemies” we should find in each man and woman’s life sorrow enough to disarm all hostility.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If indeed we “feel” the pain of another human when they are the object of a projection, we would also come to know that we are naturally compassionate people. The following poem describes the personal experience of Jimmy Santiago Baca as he witnessed his grandfather receive the projection of a government official because he could not speak English and therefore qualified as the other, the pain is palpable.It’s the scene That has never left me— through all the sadness the terrors the sweet momentary joys that have blossomed in me, broken me, shattered my innocence, I’ve never forgotten the room that day, the way the light hazily filtered in the windows, the strong dignified presence of my grandfather in his sheepskin coat and field work boots, that scene, the way the boards creaked under his work boots, haunted me when my children were born at home and my hands brought them into this world, that scene was in my hands, it echoed in my dreams, drummed in my blood, cried in my silent heart, was with me through hours of my life, that man behind the counter, his important government papers rattling in the breeze, disdainful look on his face, that scene, the door, the child I was, my grandpa’s hand on the doorknob, his eyes on me like a voice in the wind forgiving and hurtful and loving, to this moment— his eyes following me where I swirl in a maddened dance to free it from my bones, like a broken-winged sparrow yearning for spring field, let the scene go, having healed it in my soul, having nurtured it in my heart, I sing its flight, out, go, fly sweet bird! But the scene that dusty day with the drought-baked clay in my pants cuffs, the sheep starving for feed and my grandfather’s hopes up that the farm-aid man would help us as he had other farmers— that scene framed in my mind, ten years old and having prayed at mass that morning, begging God not to let our sheep die, to perform a miracle for us with a little help from the farm-aid man, I knew entering that door, seeing gringos come out smiling with signed papers to buy feed, that we too were going to survive the drought; the scene with its wooden floor, my shoes scraping sand grains that had blown in, the hot sun warming my face, and me standing in a room later by myself, after the farm-aid man turned us down and I knew our sheep were going to die, knew Grandfather’s heart was going to die, that moment opened a wound in my heart and in the wound the scene replays itself a hundred times, the grief, the hurt, the confusion that day changed my life forever, made me a man, made me understand that because my Grandfather couldn’t speak English, his heart died that day, and when I turned and walked out the door onto Main Street again, squinting my eyes at the whirling dust, the world was never the same because it was the first time I ever witnessed racism, how it killed people’s dreams, and during all of it my grandfather said, Portate bien, mijo, behave yourself, my son, Portate bien.
In the context of Oneness there is no other. In a compassionate society we would teach our children the value of tolerance and the benefits of having a variety of religions, ethnic groups, etc.; the joy of diversity. We would also never project disrespect or violence onto someone that we knew personally and that of course is a human being just like us.
The following story is a poignant example of how to create the personal tolerance and appreciation for diversity required to build a sustainable and peaceful human community. Willie Nelson describes such a “learning-to-be” tolerant gathering of diverse Americans. Andrew Goldman asks Nelson the following question in an interview. “You’ve been given a lot of credit for uniting two sworn enemies, hippies and rednecks. How did you do it?” Nelson replies: “I threw the first Fourth of July picnic down in Dripping Springs, Tex., which brought together the longhaired cowboys and the short-haired cowboys and the no-haired cowboys. They all sat around and drank beer and smoked some dope and listened to some good music and found out that there wasn’t a lot they had to be afraid of.”
Whatever our misgivings about consuming dope and beer, we will have to admit that it is an activity preferable to the violence and the resulting human suffering caused by shadow projection. In a compassionate global village the behavior of shadow projection would not be acceptable. To create a compassionate global village, we must rewrite our story and characterize the other as an illusion of the false self.
Since the other is an illusion the best way to escape its self-destructive influence is to shift to a paradigm that does not contain that particular belief. To combat such a belief with mere “facts” will not be effective but nevertheless here is an interesting one. All men have the same father. The Y chromosome came from the same genetic ancestor some 190,000 years ago. The Y chromosome passes from father to son. How can anyone from the same human family be treated as the other?
“A critical turning point is reached when individuals perceive the truth of the other as their own experience. Through the doorway of empathic identification, people are led to discover a deeper underlying unity…namely, that there is no other.”
Now we are ready to enter more deeply into consideration of a dimension of the other that will also take us, as is often the case in Simple Reality, into the realm of paradox. We can come to the realization that no one “out there” or no event “out there” is the cause of our suffering.
In the past we might have lamented how events beyond our control seemed to have singled us out as a victim. Throughout history famine, pandemics, hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, wars, etc. have caused people to feel that they were unfortunate victims of fate or the gods. Or, maybe other people have been responsible for making us the “victim” of persecution, unfairness, and even violence. Fortunately we have come to understand that we can choose to rise to a higher level of consciousness—the Krishnamurti response—“I don’t mind what’s happening.”
But have we really internalized the full dimension of the origin of our suffering? We may be able to learn to respond to events and people “out there,” but what about the other “inside.” We understand how our long-standing survival strategy is the cause of suffering and must be dismantled, but how about other aspects of ourselves as the other that also must be brought to consciousness?
The paradox here is that although so many of our fears seem to stem from the other “out there” there is as much or more that will challenge us from within where we ourselves are the other. The good news is that no matter what the source (and it really doesn’t matter) we all know when we are experiencing the sensation of an afflictive emotion and we all know how to respond to that “triggering” event. Responding in the present moment is a one-size-fits-all solution to any and every aspect of the P-B narrative. We really are “all powerful” when encountering the many-faceted other. Like the dragon in medieval mythology, the other really is a chimera that will fade in the intense light of human consciousness.
“The final, and possibly most important realization about blame is that, when we are blaming, we give up our right to autonomy. We are slaves to the other if the other is really responsible for what we are feeling; we have no self-determination in the most vital sense.” The following insight by Eckhart Tolle puts it in a way that is easy to remember. “Ultimately, of course, there is no other, and you are always meeting yourself.”
The experience of the other is universal in P-B. All of us have been the object of a projection from someone who saw us as a stereotype, someone to be feared or as the cause of their dissatisfaction with life. But in our wildest imagination we might not have realized that we are the other to ourselves. It’s not too hard to see how that might work. If we can believe that someone else is inferior, many of us will find it plausible that by feeling inferior ourselves at some time we have projected an identity upon ourselves that resulted in self-alienation or self-hatred. In the final analysis, we can see the imperative that we have to transcend the illusion of the other if we are ever to learn our own true identity and the identity of everyone else in our lives.
We do not consciously choose to fear and hate our fellow human beings, hence projection of our afflictive emotions onto an other is not a question of “immorality,” it is a question of awareness and that means there is a reason for optimism because anyone can decide to change their behavior. Communities can also opt for inclusion of the other choosing response over reaction and thereby promoting the highest human expression—compassion. We can build new communities one responsible, courageous, self-reliant and compassionate person at a time.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival