Last time we looked at the collective context of your life and how hard it can be to untangle the myths that shape your view of the world. The ultimate myth is the separate self, or ego, which underpins all the other others. Spiritual practice dissolves the ego, but the process often goes wrong or gets hijacked. In this post, we’ll explore society’s role in the hijack and what you can do about it.
First, let me explain what Mind War means. I don’t like the name because it’s too easily misunderstood, but I kept coming back to it because it accurately describes the situation. Superficially it seems to be about fighting the system but Mind War is really about how the system works against you.
As we saw last time, you’re living in a culture that’s shaped by myths that distort your understanding of reality. But it also actively works to prevent you from seeing through those myths to discover the truth. This isn’t paranoid – it’s simply a fact. So Mind War is about how to maintain your sanity and integrity in a situation designed to undermine both.
Mind War is the name of the problem, not the solution. And the solution is NOT about going to war against anything or anyone. That doesn’t work. Opposing something reactively only makes it stronger. This practice is about how you respond positively to the Mind War that you’re subjected to as a member of society.
It’s also not about conspiracy theories or looking for simplistic answers that claim to explain everything. Nor about getting caught in the trap of endlessly analysing and criticising the system. These responses are distractions from what you need to be doing which is turning inward to free yourself from the lies the system has conditioned into you.
It took me far too long to realise that, in essence, there’s nothing wrong with me, and that I’d grown up in a culture that made me hate myself. While this is true on one level, it’s important not to blame others or the culture for your problems. By blaming society you give away your power and turn yourself into a victim. But you’re not to blame for this situation either.
The root of the problem can be found in the materialist myth that says there’s no meaning to life. It reduces everything to an economic function, including human beings and the natural world. Everything that does provide meaning is stripped out, rejected, or ridiculed. We’re left with cynicism masquerading as scepticism, and rationalism masking nihilism.
This worldview has created a system that has become a kind of self-organising monster, or vampire squid, that devours everything in its wake. And its effects are devastating. The system is so pervasive that in order to survive you have to become complicit in your own self-destruction and the destruction of the earth – an impossible double-bind that makes people crazy.
The education system plays a huge role in preparing you for this insane society, aided and abetted by movies, the media, and the internet. From the moment you’re born, you’re bombarded with psychological warfare designed to manipulate you into conforming to a system that’s rigged against you. It’s not personal – and that’s the point.
In my post on Mental Health Awareness Week I explored the circular nature of this problem and how the individual is blamed for their inability to go along with the system. You’re encouraged to conform and learn how to be normal. But what does it mean to conform in a society that doesn’t value you as a human being?
“It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti
The Mind War can be very subtle, which makes it hard to spot, but it appears to be getting worse – possibly because the system is starting to fail and people are waking up. (Thanks to Pluto in Capricorn!)
This makes it even more important to question everything that comes into your field of awareness. The culture is going out of its way to capture your attention and change the way you think in order to control your behaviour. And because religion and spirituality are so essential to your sense of meaning and purpose, it uses those ideas more than most.
Religious symbols and ideas have always been used to bring people together and create a feeling of community, but they can also be used negatively to gain and wield power. Many spiritual symbols have been hijacked and weaponised – the swastika being an obvious example. And that hasn’t stopped in our secular age, so you need to be careful not to get fooled by an idea that sounds like it agrees with your beliefs.
For example, there’s a lot of talk about oneness in spiritual circles, which points to the deeper truth of our supreme identity as one with the divine. The belief that we’re finally coming together as one can be seen in the environmental movement, as well as earlier idealistic attitudes towards the internet. But the idea is also used as cover for globalisation and homogenisation – a way to force mindless conformity to the corporate agenda – which has nothing to do with spiritual truth.
This Orwellian twisting of language is used to change the meaning of words and ideas in order to create confusion. Peace becomes war. Freedom becomes choice. Propaganda becomes fake news. And what of democracy, justice, or truth? You end up not knowing what’s real and what isn’t – and that feeds into the belief that nothing means anything.
However, just because a symbol or idea has been distorted and misused doesn’t mean you have to abandon it. If you take that approach, you’d have to give up almost every spiritual symbol and arguably the entire English language! You’d have to invent a whole new language and set of symbols in order to communicate at all.
So part of the response to the Mind War is to reclaim these ideas and symbols and rehabilitate them. We need to remember the truth that they point towards and not get stuck on the symbols themselves.
An important example of this in spiritual practice is the idea of maya, which means illusion and refers to the manifest world of duality. In Buddhism this is called shunyata or emptiness, which means nothing inherently exists. Some people interpret this to mean nothing matters because everything is an illusion and the world isn’t real. But this is wrong.
Emptiness means that everything is interdependent and interconnected, so nothing can exist without everything else also existing. Because of that, you’re connected to everyone and everything. You exist within a web of relationships, not just with other people but with the natural world and everything else.
This means everything you feel, everything you think, and everything you do has an impact, no matter how small. It ripples out and interacts with the entire web of reality. The illusion is that you’re separate from the world, not that the world isn’t real.
So the truth is: everything matters. And that has profound implications.
“Most of us are tigers pretending to be sheep – wild, totally free creatures pretending to be slaves of culture. But all of us can learn that roar of fearlessness. Tibetans call this the roar of the lion, which comes from understanding emptiness, knowing the void, seeing the interrelation of all things and realising the inherent non-existence of things. When you know emptiness, nothing can make you afraid.” – Andrew Harvey
The system wants you to be a slave. It doesn’t want you to be awake because then you can’t be controlled (something I explore in The Shining Ones). The system doesn’t want you to know that you’re already free, that you are sovereign, that you’re an immortal spirit having a physical experience.
This is why mysticism is a subversive practice, and one of the main reasons it’s denigrated and dismissed as nonsense. Spiritual truths are powerful so they must be controlled by those who want to maintain that power for themselves. This is often called a war against consciousness, but you could also call it a war against truth – or even against reality.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s a grand conspiracy afoot to enslave humanity by an evil cabal (😉). The system may appear to be guided by various groups of borderline lunatics and deluded idealists who believe they’re in control. But they’re mistaken. Whatever they believe they’re doing, their power isn’t real because it’s based on ego. So their plans will come to nothing – although they can still cause a lot of damage in the meantime.
Remember that reality is a hall of mirrors and the outer world reflects the inner. So once the ego developed it was inevitable that civilisation would evolve to reflect that psychic structure and its ignorance of reality. That misperception feeds on and reinforces itself in a vicious cycle that tends to get worse unless you break the spell and wake up. This is why civilisations tend to degenerate over time and ultimately destroy themselves.
The so-called powers that be aren’t to blame for how the system works. They may appear to benefit from it and seek to maintain their power and position at the top of the pyramid. But they’re not free because they’re trapped by their power. They’re trapped within the system they serve – trapped by their own egos – just as we are.
Freeing yourself from this trap is the purpose of spiritual practice. But this is where it gets tricky. When you fight against something, you strengthen it, but that doesn’t mean you should just give in to it either. Some things should be resisted. But you have to do it in a way that doesn’t further entangle you in the trap. That means recognising the illusory nature of the ego and letting it go – easy to say, difficult to do!
We live in a world of duality and conflict, and it’s difficult to navigate that reality without falling for it, without getting attached. The only people who can be truly above all conflict are saints and spiritual masters. So unless you’re a Zen master, you’re going to get attached somewhere along the way.
“To see himself without illusions would not be so difficult for the individual, were he not constantly exposed to being brainwashed and deprived of the faculty of critical thinking. He is made to think and feel things that he would not feel or think, were it not for uninterrupted suggestions and elaborate methods of conditioning. Unless he can see the real meaning behind the double-talk, the reality behind the illusions, he is unable to be aware of himself as he is, and is aware only of himself as he is supposed to be.” – Erich Fromm, The Art of Being
The point is to notice when the system is manipulating your perception (which is probably constant), and choose to look beyond it. You don’t defeat an illusion by arguing with it or ignoring its destructive consequences. You defeat an illusion by focusing on the truth.
In other words, you practice spiritual discernment, do a lot of shadow work and remember your true nature.
We’re in a perilous situation. Our culture has brought itself to the brink of self-destruction as we transition between ages. This may represent an initiation into a higher level of consciousness and deeper awareness of who we really are. Or it could be the chaos that precedes a breakthrough to a new level of order. Or something darker.
There’s nothing inevitable about the changes we’re going through and you have to participate if you want things to turn out well. Remember: everything you do matters because you’re interconnected with the whole of life. You can make a difference – no matter how small. You don’t get to sit this one out!
The best way to cope with the chaos is to practice some sort of meditation so you can remain calm and open. Then you can respond positively without getting caught up in the madness and cognitive dissonance. Remember the culture is in meltdown and is going out of its way to traumatise and gaslight you. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you get upset or confused.
The system wants you to sit on your hands and whinge and feel sorry for yourself. And sometimes the alternative media doesn’t help. By focusing your attention on the shitshow of politics and endless podcasts of people bitching about the state of the world, it can keep you disempowered and stop you from taking action.
However, don’t ignore what’s going on in the world – you need to be aware of what’s happening so you can choose how to respond and not just react the way you’ve been programmed to react. And don’t spiritually bypass the situation either. You’re meant to be present, not zoned out in bliss and pretending everything is fine. But you’re no use to anyone foaming at the mouth in rage either.
We can’t solve the many crises we face if we come at them from the wrong place – i.e. ego. And we might discover that some of our problems aren’t even real. When we remember who we are, most of the false drama naturally drops away and problems tend to resolve themselves. Having said that, we’ve made a considerable mess of this planet so there’s still plenty of work to be done.
At this stage, it’s probably a good idea to minimise your exposure to the news and media, and to be extremely discriminating in your choices. When you do read/watch the news, pay attention and ask the right questions. Remember they’re not telling you everything. Sometimes they’re telling you downright lies and propaganda and the truth is often mixed with bullshit.
Question everything, especially when you’re told not to. Be especially suspicious of anyone who appears to be too certain. Never take anything at face value. Ask yourself:
- What are they not telling me?
- Why do they want me to know this?
- And why now?
- What do they want me to believe? And why?
You need to tread carefully and remember that you’re looking through a glass darkly. Choose your battles wisely. Resist what should be resisted and don’t waste your valuable time and energy fighting things you can’t change. In the end, the only thing you have control over is your own mind – if you do the work to free yourself from your cultural conditioning.
Most importantly of all: don’t take anything of this personally and remember that not everything is shit! There are lots of wonderful things going on all the time and people are supportive and generous and kind despite everything, despite the system – because that’s the way humanity is. Imagine how great it would be if we could live the way we know we can.
And we may get the opportunity to try sooner than we think. The coming Jupiter Saturn conjunction in Aquarius begins the process of dissolving the materialist worldview we’ve been living within for the last 200 years – more on that next year.
In the meantime, here’s some useful resources for the Mind War:
- How to Survive the Saturn Pluto Conjunction Without Going Mad!
- Saturn Pluto and the End of the World As We Know It
- The Shambhala Warrior Prophecy read by Joanna Macy
- Active Hope and the Spiritual Revolution
- Hold Your Own – Kate Tempest, bodhisattva in action
- Dispelling Wetiko by Paul Levy – essential reading for these times
- Are We Humans Terminally Insane or Just Waking Up? – article by Paul Levy
- Mind the Trap: the way through & out of paranoid awareness – article by Jasun Horsley
- Interesting conversation on the perils of navigating culture on the Liminalist