This post was prepared for the Reveille website, but I don’t believe it was ever posted there after completed earlier this year. Always a timely subject.
Reality…what is it?
Do we even know anymore? Did we ever?
This is among the most important questions ever asked by humanity. Now, it seems this is among the most troubling uncertainties for 21st century western civilization. What’s going on?
What we can know without question…? Hear Descartes. Each of us can confidently state that “I am”. For us to believe one another, though, a certain step in faith is required.
So irrefutable truth comes from the subjective consciousness of each individual perspective.
In the end it is a matter of what we believe, so for anyone wanting more certainty and objectivity this is not satisfying.
What about the universe and what we can perceive of it? If we can trust our senses and that what we are seeing is real, then of course, this is an absolute and a true reality. For many, of course, this is the sum and total of reality and our consciousness itself is an extension of this material reality.
Mystics, though, through the ages have questioned this reality. Not uncommonly from their perspective, the physical universe is described as an illusion or a veil over a more fundamental and imperative reality. Look at how these ancient beliefs have dovetailed with modern science. Today many physicists postulate that our universe is similar to a holograph generated by a computer program.
As this universe, this manifestation, rushes at ever-increasing speed towards entropy, our view of reality is equally fluid. We can either “lift the veil” to find a more permanent truth or become immersed in the comfort of the momentarily sound stability of our little piece of space-time.
When it comes to certainty though, in the end we are left with something not particularly satisfying – that is, belief… or even unbelief. All is uncertain.
Well, that’s post-modernism for you. Michel Foucault unabashedly claimed that truth stemmed from power or more directly that power literally manifests reality.
This is important to consider and provides us a new place to begin this exploration. Of course, for Foucault, universal truths were evasive quit simply as they are phantasms that have been constructed through informal networks of power and influence. Foucault’s conclusions (or resistance to any conclusions) can always be turned upside down since the challenges of completely separating the self from this discussion are never fully successful.
Although Foucault must emphasize that this power is much more than just political power, one can not escape how real coercive and political power has dominated human history and continues to sway everything in today’s public and private worlds.
The coercive power, which is fed by wealth, serves those in charge – the “masters” – over the rest of us – whether we like the terminology or not – the “slaves”. Very simply and throughout history it has been those in charge who have used this power to write our history, shape our reality and control our perception of reality as much as they control how we have lived our lives. Indeed, an important message for the “slaves” is simply that we are powerless to change reality and must accept the reality that “nature” has provided us all.
For the wealthy and the powerful, power has shaped for them something approximating their personal utopias, but for the masses this world is nothing less than a very real dystopia.
We can look to ancient Gnostic mysticism for an idea how this idea of reality works. Consider the Gnostiscm of a popular film like the Matrix where our perceived and exterior “reality” is really a computer-generated “construct” called the matrix that keeps the masses from seeing what is truly real beneath.
For many Gnostics like the medieval Cathars, the world wasn’t fashioned by God, but by Satan himself. Looking around at the dystopian Now, one might see a great deal of evidence that the manufacturers of this “reality” were not benign makers.
This mystical strain goes something like this: God created the Earth as a paradise, but the serpent tricked man and woman who went from doing God’s bidding to doing the will of Satan. A new world was constructed by the hand of man and this is the world in which we have all been born and have all helped to piece together from our fractured selves.
Thousands of years of human history have gone into the construction of this world we live in today. Reality, in a very literal sense, has been manifested from our collective past. This reality is a reflection of our lack of actualization, our disjointed existence, our stunning psychological immaturity, our pervasive institutions of power and coercion and ultimately our overwhelming identification with the material or worldly over the collective psyche and the spiritual life.
Take a look around you and ask, “Is this the world that God would build?”
The Gnostics provide us something else and they called this “secret knowledge”. Simply put, Gnosticism claims that humans have a divine spark. We are something called Aeons or, put another way, we are intimately linked with the Creator. In a sense, we are gods.
This claim can give rise to a number of interesting possibilities. One is how free will can paradoxically coexist with determinism. If the universe and its history were set into motion at the time of creation, then how could we have free will? An explanation may start with our divinity and even the “illusionary” nature of time.
Could it be that like actors in a play, we inevitably fulfill our role? Our performance may be done in our own unique way, but in the end, we simply fulfill our destined role.
“Reality”, as it has been constructed, is pushed upon us every day. Through the myriad of our daily interactions we come face-to-face with this reality. The consumer culture and its promise of hedonistic bliss lies just below the surface of the reality pushed forth through advertising, branding, messaging, storytelling and various and ubiquitous forms of propaganda (“marketing” in Newspeak) that help shape this reality for us at our every turn.
Traditionally, the “press” was an extension of corporate power and supplied the market with information packaged as entertainment (thus, the press became the “media”). Today, these sources are so varied that we are inundated with various levels of manipulation and control through messages often much more insidious than before. Reality, as it is presented, runs the gamut from pure fantasy to something approaching the truth.
We end up in a tangled web of distorted messages twisting truth into doubt, denial, or even the affirmation of our most outrageous beliefs. The free press, so essential to the foundations of democracy, has become a perverted tool to spread the seeds of chaos and conformity while deepening our sense of powerlessness and despair. Rather than inform, our media now leaves everything in doubt.
This is the sea into which we have all been cast. Without a tiller, many of us will be caught in the maelstrom sweeping across this planet with the dominance of what is being called persuasive technology.
Yet human divinity implies human potency, so one should be able to peel back our view of the universe to see the awesome power of the collective and even the human individual him/herself.
So despite the crushing feeling of impotency our technological society exploits, we are actually potency incarnate. We have the power to project and eventually a new reality can be made manifest. It is our ability to think, build and manipulate that is the magic behind our specie’s success. This we have known since humankind lifted its first tool – really its first weapons – and brought the other diverse species of the planet within the sphere of human control and dominance.
This power that we wield begins with our will to change the world around us. As we envision this change we project this outward and then take action to construct a new reality. In the end, the change we envisioned is manifested into this “reality” that we have come to call the world.
Today, Donald Trump consciously gets this. As an acolyte of Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, Trump has been enormously successful in creating his own reality often out of thin air. One clear testament to his resounding success – today he’s leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
Donald Trump has been described best as an illusionist weaving his own “reality”. Those who describe him merely as a con man are missing an important key to his success and indeed, to his power. Trump, as President in the age of corporatism, puts power incarnate on display through his machismo, his chauvinism and the charismatic appeal of the authoritarian cult of his personality.
Trump projects his illusion, which changes day by day or even hour by hour, so that he can manipulate, persuade, confuse, distract, coerce, and even retaliate. This is power manifesting a new reality. This is control.
In a deeper sense, Trump projects power – a power that isn’t necessarily real – and makes it “real” and palpable through the very projection and the accompanying momentum from his acolytes’ energy.
Not always and not with everyone, but his reality becomes the illusion that guides him, his followers and, yes, even his detractors. It’s Trump University all over again. He’s taking us all to school with his con now.
Ever since the fall, we’ve given the Devil more than his due. We’ve listened to his whisperings so that strength, once again, can exploit weakness and exert its power to shape a new reality.
Through our sweat, our precious blood, and our bitter tears these holy towers of modernity have been erected for the unholy master. Like ancient idols of gold, these monuments glorify all that we have come to worship and believe. Over and over again we build upon the shifting sands of worldly power to watch our work crumble and fall before we begin again. We are only the somnambulistic beasts turning the great and never-ending grist stone deadening our beguiled self.
One word becomes many. One world breeds another. Lost under this bushel of deceit is the light of truth hidden in silent darkness. We are all complicit.
Donald Trump does not represent a world that is not. He is our world. He is the child of our Regent King and heir apparent to this reality. Indeed, he is very much ours. Refusal to recognize this becomes the ultimate and ironical deception that feeds this awesome power that is so very reliant on our numbing weakness of spirit, the crushing impotency of our modern identities, and in the utter apathy that is the bathwater of our passionless existence.
He is the main attraction of a media that loves to hate him and who really can’t get enough of him. This is his circus. He is the ringmaster surrounded by trick ponies, dancing dogs, lion-tamers and a myriad of colorful clowns and fools. Don’t let the show distract you. Our world has become his big top and we keep paying the price of admission, because, ultimately, it is us who can not get enough of his new “reality show”.
So, yes, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Woven into the fabric of this new reality is a hint of eternal life or is it really some sort of eternal damnation…? We must ask ourselves then, what is real? What is it that we are being told? Should I check my smartphone or look into the human heart?
When Naomi Klein labeled our time the Security Age, what does that mean? They say…information is power. So who is controlling the message? Does this affect how we feel? What of AI, computational propaganda, and these persuasive technologies? Have we even begun to understand these tools and their power?
The democratic ideal is based upon an informed populace making informed decisions. The tools we utilize are amazingly efficient and can allow for a diversity of voices, yet the free/unfree press has been warped into some version of the ultimate Tower of Babel sowing discourse and division. The ghost in the machine thinks for itself now. The message we hear is the message we must hear.
The soft fascism of this global corporate machine is being steadily replaced with a harder, more violent form of fascism with all the usual thuggery, brutality, pilfering from the meek and poor, and outright brute tyranny you’d expect. The time for subtlety seems to have passed with the rise of Trump and his ilk.
Our more powerful masters have seen that the very freedoms that are part and parcel of democratic ideals have become obsolete particularly due to the blatantly exploitative freedoms they wish to wield for themselves at our expense.
Controlling the message and, quite literally, reality itself is of paramount importance to ensure the position of the powerful in the coming decades. Their tactics have been long known by the initiated. They rely more on tradition and precedence than on real innovation.
One would think the biggest threat to this perpetual status quo is that the masses are actually able to harness enough of the power of information to realize what’s been going on for six thousand years and is happening to them today.
So control – of the system, of information and, most critically, of reality itself, becomes the surest way to retain power today in an age of rapid and revolutionary change just as it was in ages past. If you will, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Humanity is faced with what the media constantly terms an “existential crisis”. We not only have the ability to eradicate the human species, but can do so in any of a number of ways. This is truly a historically unprecedented time.
The power to destroy is in the hands of the few. Contrary to the myths they perpetuate, this power is not a result of a meritocratic destiny either. It seems that Lucifer’s world is actually lorded over by his most sycophantic lieutenants and not God’s most trusted servants. Big surprise…right?
Like their master, there is an attraction to death and the greatest lie that they have been told – that in death, they will find the peace of a sleep without dreams and the total annihilation of their being.
Thanatos is deep stuff, don’t kid yourself.
To survive, we must realize this and see what is real. The destructive current is a strong one, so we must not succumb to this negativity.
We must grasp our own power and manifest a better reality for all. Once we realize we are power incarnate, then we must project the positive.
This world is a reflection of our child-selves. This reality is diseased. Ultimately, we must choose life or we will be to be reaped in the next harvest. It is our vibrations, the quality of our psychic projections, and, of course, our very behaviors that must cure the disease of death and wickedness that plagues this world.
The world of our youth has become wholly untenable and unsustainable. The utopian dreams of the few and for the few have manifested a dystopia for all. Without wholescale change, our destiny seems headed for disaster on a global scale.
The worldly, and the power they wield to exploit the weaknesses of the masses, has led us to the brink of the abyss. If we take this bitter drink, we will be left holding an empty cup.
Look around you as we stumble across this barren landscape. The demons roam freely now. This is their time. We must rise up and take this cup from them. We can and we must. We have always had the numbers, but must finally come together.
The journey begins within. To believe in mankind and the spark of love and goodness within us all we must tear this page out of Peale’s teaching and realize there is power in projecting the positive. Certainly, we mustn’t use this in self-absorbed hedonism and momentary pleasure, but for a greater good where power serves all of God’s children and not just the usual suspects.
After we begin to see who we are and how we fit into this universe, we can step back into the community again. We must understand that our projections are more than mental projections – it is how we act, it is our possessions or lack of possessions, and it is our love or our vitriol. It is everything we emit and project into the material that reflects who we are within and this is immense power. It is the power to change and create or to entrench and destroy.
To understand this is to see the world as it really is and to distinguish what is real from what has been constructed for the good of a select few.
Our hearts are the most important weapon we have in this fight against the lies of the world.
We must listen to our heart. He must do what we feel. We must project the positive.
When we finally see that Eden will never be rebuilt by the hands of man, then we can truly surrender. This is a surrender to the overwhelming power of love.
May your heart project the power of healing, of brotherhood and sisterhood, and of the Holy Spirit of love. Amen.