Jeremy Griffith / World Transformation Movement : Expanded Transcript of the Introductory Video

Let no one say that I didn’t give Jeremy Griffith and his theory of the Human Condition a fair chance. I don’t think I’ve ever looked quite so deeply into any single document or theory, or spent as much time looking up background information, checking claims and looking at alternative viewpoints as I did on the subject of the World Transformation Movement (originally known as the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood). As well as reading the entire Expanded Transcript of the Introductory Video, including the ‘testimonials’ by several members of the organisation, I also read an extensive ‘Critical investigation’ of the theory on the site of Australian commentator Peter Minogue, and made long detours into Wikipedia and The Skeptic’s Dictionary on such varied subjects as homeopathy, acupuncture and Atlantis.

I was totally fascinated from the moment I came across Griffith and his theory. He’s certainly an interesting character, and his theory basically claims to be the explanation of ‘the Human Condition’ and the answer to all the world’s problems. My initial reaction was one of scepticism – this was ‘obviously’ too good to be true – but my second was to realise that my first wasn’t entirely logical: what if someone really did come up with the answer to all the world’s problems, and everyone ignored it because it was ‘obviously’ too good to be true? If it really was too good to be true then I’d soon find out… Even though in the end I wasn’t at all convinced by this theory, looking into it was a very worthwhile experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to describe the Expanded Transcript as a ‘unique and fascinating document’.

(details below)

I suppose what most grabbed my attention initially was Griffith’s claim that his ideas are totally rational and scientific, that they stand up to critical investigation and require no belief:

[…] the explanations being presented are all rational, there is no dogma or mysticism or abstract concepts involved […] (p.214)
It should be emphasised that the new TRANSFORMED LIFEFORCE STATE is fundamentally different to religion in that it is all about knowledge, not dogma. […] This is the end of faith and the beginning of knowing. (p.211)

Unfortunately this proved to be very far from the truth…

First a word about the style of this document, which occasionally made me wonder whether Griffith wasn’t actually going out of his way to make sure he’s not going to be taken seriously by the ‘scientific establishment’, nor in fact by any thinking person who isn’t prepared to make a great effort to look for the content beyond the form. As well as having a tendency to endlessly repeat himself, and to use screaming capitals whenever he talks about the “TRANSFORMED FREE WAY OF LIVING, LIFEFORCE STATE” and suchlike, he’s also guilty of blatantly false etymology by using words like “al-true-istic”. Perhaps most annoying of all is his habit of using incredibly long and unwieldy adjectival phrases such as “that insecure, selfpreoccupied with proving our self worth, resigned state of denial”. To be fair, this is a transcript of a spoken text, and Griffith does admit somewhere that he can’t write. And last but not least, he often tries to back up his arguments by quoting from the corny lyrics of old pop songs. I had to keep on reminding myself that all this said nothing about the truth or otherwise of what he was saying, but I don’t think most people are that patient. On the plus side, at the end of page 174 there’s a good description of how, as Max Planck said, ‘science progresses funeral by funeral’, and on page 96 onwards he provides a fascinating look at his childhood in Australia.

Griffith is certainly no idiot, and is very much aware of some facts which the ‘average person’ either has never thought about, or sees but refuses to admit. The main basis of his theory is the idea that something went drastically wrong with humans at about the time that individual consciousness developed, and that they left a previously idyllic, child-like state and entered the world of conflict and competition. Things have not ceased to worsen as humans have travelled ever further from their ‘natural’ state, leading to the current situation whereby the human race is on the point of destroying not only itself but much of the rest of life on the planet. This is the story of the Garden of Eden, and one which is found in many myths in many different cultures, and to me it seems more than likely that there’s some basis of truth behind these myths. It’s another question entirely, however, whether this ‘expulsion from the garden’ should be related to the development of individual consciousness (the consciousness – or illusion – of the self as a separate entity, unconnected to other conscious beings), to the development of a sense of time (the ability to remember past events and plan for the future, and by implication to be aware of the fact that one is going to die), or perhaps to the development of civilisation and the change from living in small groups where everyone knew everyone else to larger and more anonymous societies. These myths could even be seen simply as metaphors for the experience of birth (being expelled from the womb), or for leaving childhood and entering the adult world. Griffith, however, has no doubt whatsoever about the literal fact “that our distant, pre-conscious Australopithecine ancestors lived in an utterly cooperative, loving, harmonious, peaceful state”. He emphasises the ‘truth’ that humans once lived “in a cooperative harmonious state — a paradisal, Golden, Garden of Eden, innocent state from which we have departed” and condemns various thinkers (e.g. Erich Neumann, p.71) for denying this ‘truth’. He’d have to come up with some very convincing evidence to prove all this but he doesn’t, which means, as far as I’m concerned, that on this first point at least, his theory requires belief.

The second major point of the theory is one which is entirely metaphysical, i.e. not something which could ever be proved or disproved, and it is that there is a ‘purpose’ or ‘meaning’ to existence, above or outside of human consciousness, a ‘Meaning of Life’, a reason why we’re here:

[…] the meaning of existence is to develop the order of matter. (p.58)

You can find a metaphysical idea like this one more or less useful, and accept or reject it accordingly, but for Griffith it’s a scientifically proven fact. He sees evolution as a conscious, intelligent process whereby “integrative meaning” or Negative Entropy, personified by humans as God, is actively developing “larger wholes”, “ever more and ever greater order of matter on Earth” (p.175 etc.);

[…] the Negative Entropy, integrative process is dedicated to integration and, in effect, would like to bring together or amalgamate or integrate reproducing individuals to form new larger associations or wholes of them […] (p.176)

Unless I’m much mistaken he contradicts himself at one point and describes evolution as a ‘random’ natural process, but this is very much an exception:

Negative Entropy is really only a product of possibilities. The differing properties of matter mean that some arrangements of matter break down towards heat energy, while others stay stable and still others become part of larger stable associations of matter. In time all the possible associations of matter will be automatically or, as Darwin described it, ‘naturally’ investigated until the largest stable association is naturally left or found or, as Darwin described it, ‘selected’. (p.175)

He starts out from the most basic level, that of thermodynamics:

There is a law of physics that causes matter to integrate and that law is the ‘Second Path [sic] of the Second Law of Thermodynamics’ or ‘Negative Entropy’, which states that in an open system, such as that which exists on Earth, where energy can come into the system from outside it (from the sun in Earth’s case), matter integrates, it develops order. (p.168)

Knowing nothing whatsoever about ‘Negative Entropy’, having never heard of the ‘Second Path of the Second Law of Thermodynamics’ and having no way to judge whether there was even the slightest scientific basis for all this, I did some on-line research on the matter. The only non-mathematical definition I could find [in some lecture notes by Dr. John Cassano at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which are no longer available on line] was “The second part of the second law of thermodynamics states: the entropy of the universe increases as a result of irreversible transformations”. Not quite the same thing! The point that Griffith is making, however, is quite reasonable in general terms. The Earth is an open system with energy coming in from outside, and basic inorganic chemicals do seem to have integrated to form complex organic chemicals, simple organisms, then complex organisms. There’s a big difference, however, between describing a tendency in nature and deciding it’s “the meaning of existence” and our purpose in being here…

On the other hand, I wonder how useful this view of evolution really is. Griffith sees evolutionary progress as being towards entities which are bigger and longer-lived: “more stable/enduring (in time) and more ordered/complex/larger (in space)”. However, natural selection frequently selects smaller and shorter-lived varieties, because they are stronger (in a given situation, i.e. in relation to their environment). Insects have done a lot better in evolutionary terms than dinosaurs, in spite of being much smaller and much shorter-lived! Is it not simpler and more useful to say that in the struggle between different individuals and groups, and between them and their environment, the stronger inevitably win? And I say inevitably simply because that’s what we mean by the word ‘stronger’. The winner of a fight may be the smaller and physically weaker specimen, and its victory might be explained by greater mental powers, or better adaption to or knowledge of its environment. A smaller and less well-equipped army may beat a larger army with better weapons, and the explanation may be found in tactical skills, bravery or motivation. In any struggle, however, the winning side is always the stronger one, no matter what the detailed meaning of stronger might be in any given case. Here we have a simpler view of the evolutionary process, and one which it would be difficult to deny. Is this what Nietzsche meant with his ‘will to power’? The victory of the strong over the weak as a cosmic force driving evolution forwards? But yet again, for Nietzsche as much as for Griffith, there’s a big difference between describing a tendency in nature and deciding it’s “the meaning of existence” or using it to promote or justify any particular human action…

Much of what Griffith says is intelligent, well thought out and very reasonable:

[…] the conscious mind’s ability to understand the world developed from nerves’ ability to remember past events. This ability allowed the nervebased learning system to compare those past events with current events and thus identify regularly occurring experiences. This knowledge of, or insight into, what has commonly occurred in the past enables the intellect to predict what is likely to occur in the future and to adjust its behaviour accordingly. The nerve-based learning system can associate information — it can reason how experiences are related, learn to understand and become conscious of the relationship of events that occur through time. Once insights into the nature of change are put into effect, the self-modified behaviour starts to provide feedback, refining the insights further. Predictions are compared with outcomes, leading all the way to the deduction of the meaning of all experience, which is to order or integrate matter. (p.136)

All very true, up to the last few words at least. Starting from the emerging conscious mind’s ability to remember past events, he ends up with a description of the scientific method, the ultimate refinement of a system for comparing predictions with outcomes, i.e. theories with experimental evidence. But what evidence is there for his claim that “all experience” has a “meaning”, other than whatever meaning “the conscious mind” decides to give it? In my opinion it’s at least as useful to see “meaning” as being just as much a function of “the conscious mind” as everything else he’s been talking about. He sees “the meaning of existence”, which “is to develop the order of matter”, as being responsible for the development of the conscious mind, whereas I’d put things the other way round: “meaning” is a product of “the conscious mind”, and cannot exist without it. I wouldn’t deny that my way of looking at things is just one of various possibilities, and is no more proveable than Griffith’s viewpoint, but there again I’m not basing a world-changing movement on the truth of my ideas!

On this second point, as on the first, the theory turns out to be basically a religious one, i.e. one which requires belief:

Wherever consciousness emerges it will first become self-aware, then it will start to experiment with its power to effectively understand and thus manage change, then it will seek to understand the meaning behind all change, and from there obviously try to comply with that meaning. (p.136)
‘Adulthood’ is when humans have learnt who they are, in particular, have understood the dilemma of the human condition, and are applying themselves in a secure way to the task of complying with the meaning of existence which is to develop the order of matter on Earth. (p.197)

In other words, as in all religions, mankind has to find out ‘the truth’, something which exists independently of himself, and then (“obviously”, for Jeremy Griffith!), to live by it. We have to find out what the rules are, and then live by them.

For some reason Griffith puts great emphasis on his claim that the whole question of the human condition has been too painful to confront for any but a handful of exceptional people. Much of what he claims has always been impossible for humans to admit, however, has actually always been general knowledge, at the very least as a part of the collective consciousness in the form of myths or ideals to be aimed at. As Griffith himself points out, the idea that our distant, pre-conscious ancestors lived in a harmonious and peaceful state can be seen in many myths, e.g. that of the Garden of Eden. Selflessness and altruism, while not typical human behaviour in practice, have always been held up as an ideal, and all societies have recognised the need for “parts of the developing wholes to consider the welfare of the larger whole over their own”.

On page 95 he says: “Unless you were exceptionally well nurtured in your childhood and thus free of upset, the issue of the human condition has been an impossible subject to go near.” I’ve long thought that anyone with any amount of intelligence can see that ‘the human condition’ is a problem – an interesting one (perhaps even the only really interesting problem) and one which urgently needs to be solved. In other words there’s something drastically wrong with the human race and the societies it has created. Was I then “exceptionally well nurtured in [my] childhood and thus free of upset”? I’d find that very difficult to believe!

Has Griffith never read Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, which lists a long string of well-known writers, philosophers and artists who’ve devoted their lives to confronting the question of the human condition? I’m sure he’s right in saying that ‘the average person’ gives up looking for answers to life’s difficult questions at a fairly early age and just gets on with ‘making the best of it’, but there’s never been any shortage of exceptions to this rule, and they’ve been widely read and studied.

The further I went into this theory, the more dubious and over-simplified it appeared to me. Griffith talks a lot about the difference between an ‘unconscious’ instinctual self, based on hereditary memory, and a ‘conscious’ intellectual self based on individual causal memory, but he says nothing at all about the different types of thinking of which this ‘conscious’ intellectual self is capable, ranging from emotionally biased, association-based thinking at one extreme to dispassionate, logical thinking at the other. He talks about biological/gene-based ‘survival of the fittest’, but not about its social/historical equivalent. For instance, a lot is said about various theories which try to explain ‘moral sentiments’ using biology, genetics and strategies to transmit genes, but not about the fact that societies, tribes and groups are in constant conflict, and that cultural and technological differences influence which groups thrive and survive. It seems very likely to me that that second type of ‘survival of the fittest’ has played a much greater role in human development, certainly since humans started living in larger groups and developing ‘civilisation’, than has its biological equivalent. He sees it as a problem that a gene which promotes selflessness will not be transmitted, as a selfless individual is less likely to survive and mate. However, a group containing selfless individuals who cooperate with one another will tend to triumph over a non-cooperative rival group – and a successful group provides better mating and breeding conditions for its members. Not every individual with a ‘selfless’ gene will sacrifice himself while young and therefore not breed! Having worked all that out for myself, I was reassured to find out that there’s plenty of solid scientific support for the viewpoint that the development of selflessness and altruism can be adequately explained by the concepts inclusive fitness and kin selection. And last but not least, he’s constantly using the word alienation, without ever making any attempt to define it.

Another important part of his theory is the idea that humans developed their “moral conscience”, their selfless, altruistic behaviour, which was responsible for the growth of the “utterly cooperative, loving, harmonious, peaceful state” he believes once existed, by the process of “nurturing”. This comes about because a mother instinctively looks after her young, the instinct having developed via normal evolution and selection (offspring which are better cared for being more likely to survive and pass on the mother’s genes). To the child, however, her behaviour appears to be totally selfless and altruistic, and the child tends to copy this behaviour and become selfless and altruistic himself, a process Griffith calls “love-indoctrination”. An original idea (at least, I’ve never come across it anywhere else), but it sounds a bit far-fetched to me. Would this learned altruism accumulate across generations? Is he trying to introduce a Lamarckian element into his evolution? When he moves on to talk about today’s world and everything that’s gone wrong since we developed individual consciousness, he goes to great lengths to point out how much damage insufficient nurturing can do. As well as making many statements which would be obvious to almost anyone, he also goes so far as to blame autism entirely on mothers who, consciously or even unconsciously, don’t love their children enough. That sounds extremely dubious to me, but he’s managed to find at least one respectable-looking psychiatrist who’s of the same opinion.

Whatever may be true or false, useful or useless in his theory, Griffith’s way of presenting and defending it leaves a lot to be desired – and that’s putting it very mildly indeed. He’s always coming out with very dubious statements justified only by his own intuition, or what he believes to be obvious to anyone honest enough to listen to their conscience. On page 90, for instance, we find the following highly dubious and totally unscientific statements:

We all know, if we are honest about it, that our conscience expects our treatment of all humans — indeed our treatment of all living things and even of the Earth itself — to be caring, kind and loving.
In fact the Machiavellian attitude [biologist James] Chisholm describes [a ‘left-wing version’ of the reciprocity explanation for our moral sense] so offends our conscience that that response in us alone is evidence enough of the strength and authenticity of our moral sense.

He’s also constantly making dubious claims about people in the past foretelling the coming of the knowledge he’s now revealing, e.g. on page 116:

The American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term ‘future shock’, which he described as ‘the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time’ […] When Toffler wrote this he was actually intuitively anticipating this time when understanding of the human condition would emerge and humans would suddenly be faced with too much truth to have to adjust to in too short a time.

In other words, Toffler didn’t know about Griffith’s explanation of the human condition, and he didn’t realise he was offering evidence in support of it, but Griffith finds one of Toffler’s concepts useful and so claims he was “intuitively anticipating” it!

Griffith often complains about the way he’s been treated by the ‘scientific establishment’, but doesn’t seem to be aware of the extreme arrogance with which he presents his ideas. Any biology, or any other science, which doesn’t conform to his ideas is not just mistaken or limited, but rather “dishonest” or even “outrageously deceitful”. He describes Edward O. Wilson, for instance, as “clearly the absolute lord of lying”. As far as Griffith is concerned, his propositions are so obviously true that anyone who denies them is just being dishonest! On page 214 he states: “Once someone is given this information there is only one outcome in the end and that is that they take up the TRANSFORMED STATE”.

It gets even worse when Griffith moves away from biological theory and metaphysical speculation, and starts telling us about what his ideas lead him to believe in the fields of politics, religion, and life in general. His view of politics and history is simplistic in the extreme, and his view of the English over-positive to say the least. On pages 128-129 he tells us that Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin came to power because “the proportion of power addicts in a country increased to a certain critical point”. But on the other hand… “The reason England has so often in the history of Europe been able to defeat tyrants in Europe (and elsewhere) can be put down to its island isolation, which meant it was still free enough of power addicts, still sound enough, still sheltered enough from all the upset in the world, to stand against those tyrants who had taken over control of countries on the continent where, by inference, the critical point of too many power addicts in the population had been reached.” And (quoting one of his heroes Sir James Darling) “England has ‘an unbeaten record in the history of civilization’”!

He goes on (p.129-130) to share an interesting view of world history with us:

When history books talk of great civilisations, such as the Greek and Roman Empires, and many others, becoming decadent, the main feature of that decadence was the dysfunctional that resulted from having a majority of overly egocentric, insecure power addicts; there was simply not enough sound, functional soulful generosity, fairness, honesty, sensitivity, humility and equanimity left in the system for it to remain operational. Once everyone wanted glory at all costs and there was no interest in truth or fairness — basically no interest in others — the system simply collapsed.

I much prefer my own explanation, in which these ‘great civilisations’ were simply in competition with other groups which happened to be stronger. The ‘decadence’ in question generally comes down to a lack of courage, physical strength and practical organisation, when the opposition had no shortage of these qualities. These ‘great civilisations’ may well have been ‘great’ in all kinds of other ways, perhaps they produced great artists and philosophers, perhaps the people were relatively happy, but when it comes to a war none of that counts for very much. They lost out in the battle of the ‘survival of the fittest’, the winners of which are only necessarily better in one way, i.e. they’re better at surviving! In other words Griffith makes the mistake a lot of people make regarding biological evolution, that of regarding the surviving species or societies as ‘better’ than those which don’t survive.

He also has some unusual ideas about sex, and about the relationship between men and women, who are presented as such drastically different stereotypes that they might almost be two different species:

While among humans, sex was originally purely for procreation, […] it became ‘perverted’, used as a means of attacking the innocence of women. On this level, sex became rape. The feminist Andrea Dworkin recognised this underlying truth in her 1987 book Intercourse, when she wrote that ‘All sex is abuse.’ (p.143)
Men’s preoccupation with youthfulness has nothing to do with younger women having greater potential to reproduce their genes, as dishonest mechanistic scientists have told us. It has to do with sex being about attacking innocence, which means you can’t be attractive for sex if you’re not innocent looking and the most innocent age is the age of thin, long-legged pubescent teenagers, so that is what women had to imitate to be most attractive, despite how unnatural that is for adult, wide-hipped-for-child-bearing women. (p.145)

Somehow I wasn’t the least bit surprised to read that in his book A Species in Denial he describes homosexuality as a ‘corrupted state of sexuality’.

He has an ‘interesting’ view of autism, i.e. that it’s all the fault of the mother, who doesn’t love her child sufficiently (p.130 onwards) and an equally ‘interesting’ view of Islamic art and culture:

In the decoration of mosques in the Islamic culture, soothing, stop-the-pain-in-the-brain blue colours and running water dominate. Also decoration is restricted to stylised lettering, or occasionally very stylised images of nature. Images that relate to humans or to nature are avoided because they can start the mind thinking about the issue of our imperfect human condition. (p.156)

His interpretation of Ralph Steadman’s drawing ‘The Lizard Lounge’ as supporting his theory (p.152) was so ‘interesting’ that I seriously wonder whether he’s actually read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Whenever Griffith draws political conclusions from his philosophy, they invariably turn out to be pretty right-wing ones:

Howard, Australia’s greatest ever Prime Minister, also referred to postmodern discourse as meaningless ‘gobbledegook’. (p.204)

Wikipedia has the following to say about John Howard: “In his own words he was an ‘economic radical’ [i.e. a free-market supporter] and a social conservative.” “In his social agenda, Howard promoted the traditional family […] and opposed multiculturalism”.

Neither was Griffith’s great inspiration Sir Laurens van der Post exactly what I’d call progressive:

There is, in fact, a very disturbing, pathological element — something totally non-rational — in the criticism of the [UK] Prime Minister [Margaret Thatcher]. It amazes me how no one recognizes how shrill, hysterical and out of control a phenomenon it is […] I think socialism, which has a nineteenth-century inspiration and was valid really only in a nineteenth-century context when the working classes had no vote, has long since been out of date and been like a rotting corpse whose smell in our midst has tainted the political atmosphere far too long. (A Walk with a White Bushman, 1986, pp.90–93)

Margaret Thatcher, it turns out, was a neighbour and a personal friend of van der Post, who helped her with advice while she was in office…

Griffith also has a totally unrealistic and in my opinion a much too positive view of religion. On page 198 onwards he compares the different “mechanisms we developed for managing our upset”: “Self-Discipline”, “Imposed Discipline”, “Religion” and “Pseudo Idealistic Causes”, which developed in that order. He regards religion as being a great advance over the first two:

Compared to living under the oppressive yoke of Imposed Discipline […] the great benefit of religion was that you were actively participating in goodness rather than having it forced upon you; you felt you were on the side of right at last, that you were righteous, and, as a result, you gained immense relief from the guilt of being so overly upset.

He doesn’t seem to realise that much of religion is actually a subtle form of “Imposed Discipline”: if you aren’t good you’ll go to Hell. And further…

The great value and indeed immense beauty of religion […] was that while you personally had abandoned the upsetting battle of searching for knowledge, ultimately understanding of the human condition, that great battle to find liberating knowledge did continue indirectly through the honesty of the prophet your religion was founded around. (p.199)
Religions provided a way for humans to be, to a degree, honest about their corrupted, false state without having to openly admit and therefore nakedly confront it. In allowing this, religions helped minimise the truth-destroying levels of delusion and denial in the world. (p.200)

He can’t be serious! Does Griffith see religious people as a potential source of converts, and is trying to avoid hurting their feelings too much? Later on he does criticise certain forms of religion, e.g. those that “emphasised worship, adoration and ceremony, such as Catholicism, or the more euphoric Evangelical varieties of Christianity”, “religious groups that focused on simple dogmatic obedience to the teachings of one of the religions […] more fundamentalist and literalist”, “a religion like Buddhism that avoided focusing on acknowledging your corrupted condition and instead focused on extinguishing the mental trauma of your human condition through meditation”, but he sees these things as having developed as a response to “a problem with religion” which arose “during the last 200 years”. Tell that to the victims of the Inquisition!

He much prefers religion to “Pseudo Idealistic Causes like communism or socialism, politically correct postmodernism, environmentalism, feminism, multiculturalism, aboriginalism, etc, etc” (p.201). Note that he isn’t simply saying that these movements are just attempts to treat the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause, or that they are insufficient measures which are doomed to fail in the long term. No, he finds them intrinsically undesirable and is convinced not only that they make society worse, but that they’re the greatest danger to mankind. On pages 205-207 we find a lot of heavily and extremely subjectively interpreted quotes (i.e. more interpretation than quote) from the book of Daniel, showing that the terms ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ are exactly equivalent to ‘good’ and ‘bad’. He admits that the right did make mistakes occasionally (e.g. putting children to work in coalmines) but sees left-wing do-gooders as the main danger to the human race – Daniel saw it all coming and described such people as “the ‘abomination that causes desolation’”!

On page 208 Griffith provides a sort of summing-up:

In this presentation we have been through a litany of terrifying truths to have to face, specifically the terrifyingly exposing and confronting truth of the extent of, and differences in, upset in humans now; of integrative meaning; of the fact that the human race once lived in an upset-free, innocent state; of the truth that nurturing has been all-important in the maturation of both the human race and in our lives individually; and of the truth that left-wing ideology was based on human-race-threatening dishonesty.

And I would sum up his theory as a mixture of exaggeration, dubious science, stating the obvious, a hidden religious philosophy (i.e. one based on belief in something higher than humans), and the political views of a grumpy old conservative!

In spite of all my criticism, I wouldn’t deny that Griffith has thought long and hard about the problems facing the human race and has come up with quite a few useful insights. It’s just a pity that he falls into the trap that religious people fall into, i.e. that of succumbing to the universal human desire to know the whole truth and to know it now – and if there are gaps in our knowledge just to fill them in with whatever happens to look like it might fit. One thing I’ve learned from this whole exercise is that an amazing amount of work has been and is still being done, by intelligent and well-intentioned people, on exactly the sort of problems Griffith is concerned with, even if it’s generally restricted to much more specialised areas of investigation. Maybe Griffith could make a more useful contribution to this work if he were to cooperate with these people rather than just claiming he knows all the answers and calling anyone who thinks otherwise a liar. Maybe he should read Khalil Gibran:

Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ (The Prophet)

Or as Albert Camus may or may not have said “There is no Truth, only (relative) truths”.

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At the end of the transcript are several ‘testimonies’ from WTM members. I was very much struck by the similarities between these and what you might expect to hear from enthusiastic ‘born again’ Christians or Scientologists. By the time I read them I’d already decided that Jeremy Griffith’s theory left a lot to be desired, and it amazed me that many of these people had spent 10 or 20 years in the movement and seemed totally convinced that the answer to all the world’s problems had been found. ‘The Information’ need only be accepted and ’embraced’ by an individual for him to be ‘born again’ as a totally new person. This is really a sort of religious conversion: the truth will set you free. And even if you aren’t convinced at first, if your intellect rebels and insists on finding logical loopholes in the theory, you only need to keep at it until you’ve convinced yourself:

These ideas are so simple and obviously true, as Jeremy has explained. It’s only our cleverly disguised denial that complicates it and prevents us from really understanding it at first, but if you do keep persisting and following the logic in front of you, it will erode your denial for you. (p.227)

I got the distinct impression that most of these people were unusually miserable in their old lives, and that their involvement in the WTM had given them a circle of friends and a purpose to their lives, perhaps for the first time ever:

I’m a member of the WORLD TRANSFORMATION MOVEMENT (WTM). […] That is my life’s focus, that is where I draw all my meaning and sustenance from now, and that is what I know solves all the world’s problems. I love every minute of it and I can’t wait until the whole world catches on to this. Being a Lifeforce living for the potential of this information is everything. (p.227)

These are people who were desperately searching for ‘meaning’, a universal human tendency which we really need to get beyond:

This most incredible meaningful world opens up.
everything takes on new meaning, or actually has meaning for the first time.

‘The Information’ is personified, the Word is made flesh:

These explanations […] can and do bring so much love to every human and humanity as a whole.
These explanations love us so incredibly much, like love you have never known or experienced before
I don’t need to worry about my worth as a person anymore. It’s all been taken care of by these explanations.
If you do persist with this information […] you will discover […] its ability to look after you.

This, just like meditation or a religious conversion, can certainly be very beneficial on an individual level for some people. The idea is that this individual level improvement will cause such dramatic improvements at the level of societies that all the problems of the world will suddenly be solved:

If we just look after this information it will solve every problem that plagues this planet at an individual and global level.

Even supposing that Jeremy Griffith’s theory were 100% correct, I’m still not convinced that it could ever have the dramatically positive effects on society that are claimed for it. OK, those individuals who accept ‘The Information’ will be happier and better adjusted, but a happy and well-adjusted person or group is not necessarily stronger than a miserable and desperate person or group, meaning that there’s no reason to suppose that this idea can save the world as long as people and groups are competing. Maybe we need a world government first…

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After reading the transcript I went through the extensive ‘Critical investigation’ of the theory on the site of Australian commentator Peter Minogue. He makes some interesting points here and there, but the best part of the site as far as I’m concerned is the page devoted to his own personal explanation for the Human Condition, which is intelligent, succinctly presented, and at least as useful as the WTM version!

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And now for a slight digression…

While looking into this theory I did a lot of reading about related topics, mostly in Wikipedia and The Skeptic’s Dictionary. That meant I was constantly jumping from one extreme to the other, from ‘alternative’ to ‘establishment’, from the view that there’s much more in the world than science will ever be able to explain, to the opposing view that anything that doesn’t stand the tests of reason and scientific investigation is just superstition, quackery and mumbo-jumbo. A very interesting experience, which occasionally had me questioning things I’d always unthinkingly accepted. For instance, I’d always been under the impression that there was a fair bit of evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture and homeopathy, and that even if science couldn’t (yet) explain how they work, neither could it deny that they appeared to do so. I now discovered that if The Skeptic’s Dictionary is to be believed (and it certainly gives the impression of being fair and trustworthy) then there’s no reliable evidence whatsoever that either work better than can be explained by placebo and ‘false placebo’ effects. I’d never even heard of ‘false placebo’ effects: not even the placebo effect can be taken at face value these days! This swerve into ultra-naturalistic regions, enlightening though it was, eventually left me feeling that this view of the world leaves out something important, i.e. subjectivity. The scientific method can by definition only tell us about the objective world, i.e. those facts which ultimately can be agreed on by everyone who takes the trouble to verify them, while the subjective world is the one most people spend most of their time in. If someone subjectively feels sick, goes to an acupuncturist and subjectively feels better, how relevant to him is the fact that acupuncture doesn’t work objectively? If a whole society believes in magic or astrology, and magicians and astrologers do their work, produce results and get paid for it by their satisfied customers, how relevant is it that a team of scientists from outside wouldn’t find any statistically significant results in a well-designed experiment? Most of the ‘reality’ which we experience in our everyday lives is created by our minds from a basis of original (objective) data which are as meaningless in themselves as the patterns of stars, planets and energy flows in space – as meaningless as the ones and zeroes on a disk would be without software to interpret them. The subjective world can’t be measured in the way the objective world can be, but in the end it’s the world in which we spend most of our time and the only one we can directly experience.

Let me make it clear that as far as I’m concerned, our powers of observation and reasoning (and specifically the scientific method which they have led us to develop) are the best tools at our disposal for understanding and dealing with the world. I am also absolutely certain that technology based on objective, scientifically demonstrated facts does tend to work a lot better than that which preceded it – and a lot better than that which many people would wish to promote as an alternative to it. I still think, however, that the people behind The Skeptic’s Dictionary, and everyone else who dismisses offhand anything which isn’t ‘objective’, are disregarding an important aspect of life. What’s really important in the end is that people are honest and keep an open mind, and although both sides of the argument have often been guilty of just the opposite, those who are most honest and have the most open minds will always be those who think critically and are sceptical of anything they haven’t seen with their own eyes (and of much which they have). If that wasn’t so then science would never have made the progress that is has done, even if most of that progress has been made ‘funeral by funeral’!

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Details:

N.B. The Expanded Transcript of the Introductory Video which I read in 2010 is no longer available, but was incorporated in 2011 as the Main Introduction in the book Freedom: Expanded.

author Jeremy Griffith / World Transformation Movement
title Expanded Transcript
of the Introductory Video
first published 2009
language English
read 02/10/2010 – 03/11/2010
download / read online Freedom: Expanded

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3 comments

  1. Yeah, there’re a lot a funny issues I take with his theory, the main one which is that it’s beside the point. The only way his theory (or explanation) could work, is if everyone adopted his beliefs, and waited…

    No matter how correct his beliefs or theory is, the only way it could work is if everyone adopted his notion, or way of explaining the human condition, and just waited…

    It does not work. Griffith claims that there is no way each individual human being, alive today, could resolve all the (any) upset within themselves, whatsoever. So the best thing we can do is adopt the explanation, and further his cause. However, if everyone adopted his explanation of the problem of the human condition: zero problems would be solved.

    So it’s a non-sequitur, his explanation is irrelevant, or to-the-side. Which is ironically why everyone ignores him. The explanation does not do what he claims it does: solve all the problems of the world. It is not a human condition resolving explanation, whatsoever. Even though he claims it is.

    There are, of course, things which are left unexplained by his theory, although he addresses some of them:

    1. That matter exists as a fact. Which is something, quite a few people take issue with.

    2. The existence of mystical experiences, however profound, which cannot be explained by his theory, which addresses the human condition as arising from physical causes.

    3. That if everyone takes up his explanation, and sieves out trauma in the next few generations, the human population will actually REVERT to ignorance. Which is the opposite of what he claims his explanation does: integrate consciousness (knowledge), AND physical existence. Both existing at the same time, not reverting to an idyllic existence, which in fact, could lead to where we are now.

    4. As per Griffith’s theory, animals do not appear to have consciousness, yet their lives are more or less short-lived and violent, as well as dominated by a predatory world. Although he probably explains, at some point, how human beings (being animals, without consciousness), in the past, lived in such a way (idyllically), WITHOUT living in a predatory world.

    5. Even if his explanation is correct, but too confronting: it’s still useless. And even if it’s correct, but too confronting: it will be devastating in a psychological way, which makes it counterproductive. But if people accept it: it will also be devastating psychologically. So it makes it difficult for his explanation to even help anyone, or even be a jump start on rehabilitating ANYTHING. Because accepting his explanation has the opposite effect on human beings: it makes them more depressed. And as I have shown above, it actually doesn’t resolve the human condition, because his solution is to tacitly adopt the knowledge (without delving or confronting anything, which is impossible to do if you ACCEPT or acknowledge anything, but whatever), and wait.

    6. He does not notice patterns.

    Now of course, Griffith claims consciousness is the recognition of patterns. But I hold pattern here in a different way:

    There is another individual, who lives in Australia, who also claims to have found the solution to the human condition (he also calls the problem “the human condition”), this individual believes that matter is perdurable, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and the only real thing in the world is space, time, and matter (the opposite of mysticism). He claims that human beings are genetically endowed with instinctual passions, which form an “ego” and a “soul”, and that by extinguishing these passions, which form an “I” or a “being”, one can make the physical universe manifest, and experience actuality, or the physical world.

    Jeremy Griffith, lives in Australia, he is diametrically opposed to anything guilt-relieving or truth-denying, he calls the purpose of life: to order or integrate matter, and develop it. He states that he has found the solution to the “human condition,” he states that the problem is that humans are genetically endowed with instincts that condemn the “ego,” or conscious-self that human beings possess. And that his rational and scientific explanation, devoid of dogma, mysticism, or belief, resolves the problem completely.

    Jeremy Griffith, also purportedly does not believe in God, or anything mystical and non-physical, and neither does the first individual I mentioned. The first individual believes that matter objectively exists, “scientifically,” and believes in facts. Griffith also hates postmodernism, and believes that the order, and beauty, or organization of matter, is the truth.

    Both individuals believe that their solution is the answer to all problems in the world, all problems, whatsoever, and that if everyone adopts their solution, the world will have no problems. They also have a history of being sidelined and ignored. Both reference animals, instincts, and evolution, as well as genetics quite frequently. Both are philosophically speaking: materialists.

    The first individual’s website is here: http://actualfreedom.com.au

    I used to believe in Feng Shui, and while what I’m saying here is not “scientific,” the pattern is eerie. Here is another example:

    The country of China has no history of outgoing, colonial, expanding, world-conquering missions, or delegations, or whatever. But their population today is 1.5 billion people.

    In contrast, Europe has an almost exclusively outwardly-moving, expanding, conquering, dissecting, cutting-up, history of colonizing missions.

    This is Yin-Yang in practice or action, whereas China is a conservative mass, of centered people, numbering 1.5 billion, all of whom cooperate in a herd, as stalks clump in bamboo, or chopsticks or whatever (a Chinese metaphor, showing strength in numbers). Western peoples disperse, and analyze or cut up things. They are therefore, all over the world.

    It would therefore make sense that the very Western edge of the U.S.A., is the “cutting edge” of the New World (and perhaps the most scattered and depraved, residing in some futuristic, colonized desert: California), or whatever, and that Caucasians, or Europeans, found a lot of the logical sciences, and philosophies, as well as develop iPads or whatever.

    It would also make sense that we almost exclusively hear about only American pop culture, and nothing about what happens in China, even their movie stars, even though they possess a far larger amount of people, in a smaller space.

    It would also make sense that America would have a very thin, and spread out population, filled with vocal and dispersed minorities, and isolated peoples, who buy guns and shoot people, acting on their own. Whereas in China, this almost never happens at all, despite being so crowded.

    Now, here is the last eerie part:

    All mysticism, conservatism, balance, and mass coagulation comes from China, this is why they called their country: the Middle Land, or the Central Land. The massing, or condensing of matter is there. Which gives rise to the Eastern, hidden, holistic spirit. They are nonetheless, not too talented at spirituality. Because they are overly conservative, and thus do not speak about it frequently (“he who knows, does not speak, blah blah blah”).

    And in America, whatever.

    But, China does not possess the mean, or the middle way, even though they claim they do. Because an overly central mean, is actually off-balance, or extreme.

    The Middle East possesses the mean.

    Why?

    Because it’s the middle of the middle, or the East (where the center, Zhong, or coagulation, and condensation of mass is). Therefore the Middle East, possesses the most appropriate mean, or middle, and distance from the mass of conservatism, it possess the appropriate mean, it possesses the mean.

    (If the East is the middle, than the Middle of the East, is… kind of get what I’m getting at?)

    Because it’s on the edge of the mass, or conservatism, at a far distance. And thus is not extreme in its mean-adherence.

    So since, the moderate, middle of the middle, or the East, possesses the mean. What does this entail?

    Nothing more than the arising, and arrival, of the three greatest, and largest world religions:

    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    That is correct. Because that fertile ground is positioned appropriately, the mystical spirit arose there, instead of, in Australia, dominated by trees, plants, and koalas.

    It was here, the single most important person in the history of man arose: Jesus Christ.

    How ironic?

    That the Spirit of God, chose to reveal himself there. You could literally divide up the world into a map and see the pattern, although looking at it analytically, tends to prevent you from seeing this.

    History always proves the victors right. This man, who possessed the purest of spirits (in its expression, or whatever Emerson said), is now hailed as God in the flesh, and seemed to have unwittingly founded the largest world religion, with followers all over the world, who symbolically eat his flesh, and treat him as God.

    In the same region, a man arose, named Muhammad, who united the entire country of Arabia, under a single faith and religion, as a single nation, whilst simultaneously destroying all superstitions, and leading his government and nation in successful wars against, whoever. His posthumous followers, will kill you if you draw his face.

    These two people, their posthumous followers: number more than half the world’s population.

    “The meek shall inherit the Earth,” literally happened before our eyes.

    Now if that is not evidence enough, I don’t know what is.

    Muhammad claimed to be the last prophet. After his death around the 700 AD, there has been no single founder of a world religion, or testament, greater than his. Not a single one.

    The Ba’hai Faith (however the fuck you spell that), does not count. Neither does Sikhism, Scientology, the Church of Satan, Thelema, Babism, Cao Dai, Falun Gong, Shambhala, Mormonism, or whatever people come up with nowadays.

    It was the last testament, and the last major world religion.

    Literally, just look at the facts.

    I guess you could call this historicity (that’s what I like to call it), or just common sense, and noticing patterns (in this case, seemingly in Geography). But the point remains the same: the middle of the middle, gave rise to God (apparently).

    There’s a lot I could say about this, but I’m going to stop here. Just something interesting to think about.

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  2. There was another interesting thought that didn’t have to do with Geography, or the Feng Shui World Map, the latter of which is available here:

    http://www.fourpillars.net/pdf/world.pdf

    Please note, that the Feng Shui World Map, is not some official, layer over the world map, that Feng Shui enthusiasts adhere to, it was just an interesting experiment to take the Ten Stems and Twelve Branches, and layer them over the world map. This interesting thought was taken up by Danny Van den Berghe.

    Notice that in the map, in the bottom right-corner, where Australia is, the predominant element is Wood, as a generalized, non-dual (as in neither Yin, nor Yang) stem energy, and a branch that divides Australia into the left part: the Tiger, and the right part: the Ox.

    The Tiger is a predominantly Wood branch, we can ignore the Ox.

    This perhaps explains why Australia is most often ignored in anything, really. But also why the two individuals I mentioned above: came up with purely biological, animal-based explanations for the “human condition.”

    This also explains why they were both so aghast at a human civilization that perpetrated wars, rapes, tortures, and lack of altruism, or selfless behavior. Interestingly enough, Richard (AFT), claims that the key to his condition (freedom from the human condition, he calls it an “actual freedom from the human condition”), is altruistic self-immolation.

    Wood in Feng Shui, is generally seen to be nature, plants, animals, flora, fauna, and thus this reconciles the naturalistic elements of the explanations of both Richard and Griffith: centered around biology, evolution, instincts, etc.

    The pattern is way too eerie, but also funny!

    It’s really interesting to notice these stereotypes play out in life, just the other day I was watching some of the scenes of The Social Network, when I came upon the scene where Mark Zuckerberg screws Eduardo Saverin, out of his share of money, or whatever.

    It then occurred to me that Mark Zuckerberg was a Jew, who was filthy rich, went to Harvard, and despite being filthy rich, screwed his friend out of his money.

    Although people wish to “get past” stereotypes in “modern society,” it really doesn’t appear that we can afford to ignore them. Life, almost plays out like a movie, full of ironic poetic justice, and these archetypes and characters are literally found everywhere.

    The date thing I was referencing above, was the ironic notion that when a highly attained, spiritual adept, passes away. Immediately, as if appointed by God, another eligible candidate fills that passing one’s place, and is lead through the stages by the Almighty.

    This was my direct experience regarding the passing of Stephen Jourdain.

    Another funny topic is Islamic eschatology, apparently Muhammad predicted that:

    (One of the signs of the End Times): “A man will leave his house, and his thigh or his hip will speak to him, and tell him what happened to his family, after he left.”

    A reference to smart phones, obviously.

    And:

    “The Hour will not come to pass, until you see barefoot, poor, shepherds, competing in the construction of very tall buildings.”

    The hotel in Dubai, obviously.

    “A man will arise from the depths of Damascus, he will be called Sufyani … kill women by ripping their stomachs open, and killing children … from the tribe of Ka’alb …”

    And acc. Wikipedia:

    Bashar al-Assad:

    “… born in Damascus on 11 September [author: eerie date] 1965”

    The al-Assad family:

    “… are members of the minority Alawite sect and belong to the Kalbiyya tribe.”

    And last but not least:

    Muhammad:

    “After me I have not left any trial greater to men, than that of women.”

    Another sign:

    “The spreading of killing.”

    Might we interpret a hint of Elliot Rodger here? See the other recent shooters.

    “Women will appear naked despite being dressed.”

    And finally:

    “The Euphrates will uncover a mountain of gold, but we are not to touch it.”

    I read that this is oil. Commonly called “black gold”.

    Food for thought.

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  3. I’ve been studying Griffith’s ideas, off and on, for over 25 years. In the early ‘90s I was a supporter of his. For much of my life I’d suffered from depression and felt that the human race was doomed. When Griffith said he had the answers I wanted to believe him. I had problems with some aspects of what he had to say, especially his ideas on sex, but hope that feels a bit wrong and oppressive is better than no hope at all. Or so I thought. I was a bit of an odd one out as far as supporters went. I met many of the young men and women who now run the organisation. Unlike me, they weren’t miserable and didn’t have a shortage of friends. (Actually I had quite a few friends in an environmental organisation, and you can imagine how that made me feel when Griffith started going on about environmentalists et al being “the abomination that causes desolation”. I kept up my involvement in both organisations, even using the environmental organisation’s computers on weekends to type up transcripts for Griffith. My active involvement with both organisations ended when I had a mental breakdown and had to spend several months in hospital.) Anyway, many of the other members, then and now, were bright, happy and very successful members of society.

    Although I have been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar condition, for about the last ten years I’ve been free of any symptoms of depression or mania. Over that time I gradually developed my own philosophy of life. Griffith’s work acted as a challenge. I’m not a scientist. But one of my problems with his ideas was that I found them anti-therapeutic. Faith in them kept me going for a while. I even kept on when I decided they were very seriously flawed because I thought that buying copies of Griffith’s book and donating it to libraries was a way of bringing it into the public eye where it’s flaws might be corrected. But it didn’t work for me the way it was supposed to. I was supposed to feel defended, but all of that extreme idealism just made me feel more unacceptable. Still, I knew that he was right that getting everyone to feel defended was key. As Wilhelm Reich points out, our problems arise from our defensive character armour. if we could feel safe enough to drop that. If we could feel we had nothing to prove by combative or materialistic behaviour. So I came up with a philosophy of unconditional self-acceptance based on the recognition that that will bring out the best in us anyway, so any form of idealistic struggling is unnecessary. Not that it is anything new. Albert Ellis was saying the same thing back in the 60s, I think. I wrote a book called How to Be Free by Joe Blow, which has received over 300 five star ratings on U.S. I-Tunes. I followed that up with some further essays developing other aspects of my ideas. All of them are available for free :

    https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jblow

    How to Be Free was kind of a response to Griffith’s books. I wanted to acknowledge his inspiration but was asked not to. Eventually though I felt I needed to express a more detailed and direct critique of Griffith’s work, which I’ve done in a few reviews, most notably a very long commentary on his latest book Freedom : The End of the Human Condition. As I say, I’m not scientist, and I also don’t restrain myself even at the risk of sounding crazy. Free expression is my thing. So some may think that some of my response to Griffith’s writing is a little nutty. His interpretation of “the abomination that causes desolation” is that it is talking about environmentalism, feminism, post-modernism etc. My interpretation is that it is talking about him :

    Review of Beyond the Human Condition :

    http://howtobefree-theblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/book-review-beyond-human-condition-by.html

    Review of Freedom : The End of The Human Condition :

    http://howtobefree-theblog.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/thoughts-on-jeremy-griffiths-freedom.html

    I believe that the Second Law of Thermodynamics describes entropy – that matter breaks down into energy. The “second part” of the Second Law seems to be an acknowledgment that this is an irreversible universal trend. The Second Pathway is different. That is an acknowledgement that there are subsets of matter – living systems – which run against entropy in the sense that their complexity increases while everything else is falling apart. Living systems feed off of the entropy around them – the heat from the entropic breakdown of the sun, the energy from the breakdown of the food they eat, etc. This does not mean that there is a process in the universe working towards greater total order, because the order of the living systems is a very limited, but for us very significant, exception to the rule, which can never be anything other than an exception, because without the broader entropy it would not be possible.

    This doesn’t mean that joining together into a healthily functioning whole as a species is not crucial for us at this time. Our ecological and social crises mean that, as Benjamin Franklin said : “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

    To talk about natural selection as a process in which the stronger is always the winner may be misleading. The survivor is generally the one best adapted to the environment, of which competitors are a part, but not the whole. The survivor, in some cases, might not be the strongest in competition, but the one which allows others to die in competition and then feeds off of their corpses. And in social animals, cooperation with the mutual interests of the group may take precedence over personal competition in maximising chances of survival.

    It is true that Griffith’s failure to define the term “alienation” is problematic. Personally I would define the kind of psychological alienation he is referring to as “a relative lack of truthfulness in thinking”. We say that an individual in a psychotic state is “alienated” because they are delusional, they are failing to acknowledge the truth of their situation in their current thinking. Griffith talks about “evasiveness” which, of course, is a symptom of compromised honesty. A friend of mine, on dipping into one of his books said : “He keeps talking about being ‘unevasive’. That sounds evasive.” It might be better use the term “honest” instead of “unevasive” and “dishonest” instead of “evasive”. But the problem is that he believes that “a lie which says we are good is less of a lie than a truth which says we aren’t”. (I’m paraphrasing.) We might also ask : “What is the truth?” But the key, I think, is that the alienated individual feels, on some level, that they are being dishonest. I’ve experienced psychosis, and there is a desperation with which I clung to my delusions which implied a lack of faith in their truthfulness. The same is true with any individual in denial. Take an alcoholic who denies they are addicted. You can sense that, on some deeper level, they know that they are. I think this is how Griffith views us. To a degree he is right. Most of us are in denial of many things. But even where we are insecure in our professed beliefs, that doesn’t mean that his analysis of that insecurity is correct. For instance a homosexual may feel insecure about his sexual behaviour not because it is “an attack on innocence” but because only recently it was so socially unacceptable as to be illegal, in contrast, for instance, to ancient Greece, a culture where male-male sex was accepted and, one would expect, there was little shame about it.

    Central to Griffith’s theory is the idea that the conscience is a genetic program which is encoded in the genes and more-or-less identical in all of us. I see no evidence for this. On the contrary, different individuals and people in different cultures feel guilty about different things. There may be commonalities to moral systems, but the fact that there are so many variations suggests that the conscience is a learned function of the ego, i.e. that it is that part of our ego where we store our expectations about ourselves. Parents and other authority figures taught us what was good or bad behaviour according to their value systems. They impressed on us that we were acceptable when we were good and unacceptable when we were bad. We internalised these expectations and later in life would feel guilty (i.e. would withdraw self-acceptance) when we contravened this standard of good behaviour. I think that this model of ethics and ideals as social, rather than inborn biological phenomena, better fits the varied and dynamic nature of human behaviour.

    In trying to understand Griffith, I think it is useful to keep in mind the principle of paranoid projection. When he calls Edward O. Wilson “clearly the absolutely lord of lying” is he really talking about himself? (After all, if you want to succeed with a lie make it a big one by first making the claim that you are the only truly honest person in the world.) And when he talks about “pseudo-idealists” trying to impose a “death by dogma” on the world, is he really talking about himself and his “transformed life-force way of living”? Paranoia is a product of the state of embattlement, and we are talking about someone who interprets rejection of an article of his by Scientific American as “persecution” and “the most serious crime that could possibly be committed in the whole of humanity’s 2-million-year journey to enlightenment”. Of course, I’m not suggesting that I think that he is deliberately lying or trying to oppress others, but that he is suffering from a delusional mindset. In his first book Free : The End of the Human Condition he hinted at this possibility when he said : “We will suspect it to be an expression of some form of disguised psychosis and will see its authority, its sense of conviction, as offensive arrogance.”

    But there is insight and truthfulness in some of what he says. If he is deluded, how is this possible? There is a quote from R. D. Laing that he likes to use : “…We are mad, but have no insight…” To which he adds the words “[into the fact of our madness]”. That addition of his is inappropriate. When Laing says “have no insight” he isn’t talking about having insight into the fact that we are mad. A person who had insight into the fact that he was mad would not be mad, by definition. So it is superfluous to talk about it. What Laing is referring to is the fact that psychotic individuals often show rare insight into their social environment, the truthfulness or otherwise of those around them. (Griffith also talks about something he calls “shattered access to the truth” in which “the blocks in the brain” get disarranged allowing for a rare kind of truthfulness.) Wilhelm Reich makes a similar point when talking about schizophrenics : “The fact is that the schizophrenic is, on the average, much more honest than homo normalis, if one accepts directness of expression as an indication of honesty. Every good psychiatrist knows that the schizophrenic is embarrassingly honest. He is also what is commonly called “deep,” i.e., in contact with happenings. The schizoid person sees through hypocrisy and does not hide the fact. He has an excellent grasp of emotional realities, in sharp contradistinction to homo normalis. I am stressing these schizophrenic characteristics in order to make comprehensible why homo normalis hates the schizoid mind so much.” (Character Analysis, 1945) Does Griffith fudge the meaning of the end of Laing’s quote because it suggests something too close to his own personal truth? Is what we find in Griffith’s work a mix of honesty, insight and delusion characteristic of a troubled mind?

    Griffith not only takes many quotes out of context, but he also fails to provide the relevant information to properly assess the insightfulness or otherwise of those whose quotes or artworks he uses as evidence. He tells us that Andrea Dworkin wrote that “All sex is abuse,” but fails to mention that she was molested by an unknown man in a movie theatre at the age of nine. Is it not possible that she viewed all sex in the light of her first experience of it? And he claims that Francis Bacon’s paintings give a remarkably honest portrayal of the human condition. (I’m not entirely sure why. Is it that the reality of our life looks as ugly and twisted as his figures when compared to some ideal?) But he fails to mention that Bacon was a homosexual whose father was so disgusted by his effeminate behaviour that he had him horse whipped. So is Bacon’s art an expression of a wider lack of ideality in human society, or a expression of an internalised sense of self-disgust imposed by a violent lack of acceptance of him by his father? This is important, because Griffith believes we are wounded because of the world’s failure to satisfy our inherent idealistic expectations. But Bacon may have been wounded by his father’s idealistic expectations about him. After all, an ideal is any standard of perfection. One can be idealistic in one’s expectation of generosity and cooperation, but Hitler’s demand for a world without Jews was also a form of idealism. Idealism is the opposite of love. Love accepts without demands or expectations. Love can be the motivating force for generosity and cooperation, but it does not demand these things. When we do something generous because of love our motivation is the pleasure that comes from being engaged in a state of communion with another. When we do something generous because of the dictates of our conscience, we are being bullied into it, and will take out the frustration involved in some other way, thus undercutting the possibility of a net benefit for the wider society.

    I believe Griffith has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I seem to remember him saying it was one of his favourite books. I’ve only seen the movie though, so I’m not sure whether his interpretation of “The Lizard Lounge” makes sense.

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