The more inner work you do and the more awareness you bring to your own inner processes, the more you understand how thoroughly human consciousness is dominated by mental narrative. And the more you understand how thoroughly human consciousness is dominated by mental narrative, the more acutely aware you become of how much power someone could gain over other humans by controlling those narratives.
Those who haven’t done a lot of inner work tend to hold the assumption that everyone is basically perceiving reality as it actually is, and is then either forming good worldviews or bad worldviews about reality based on how good or bad they are as human beings — with “good” of course defined as “closely aligned with my own worldview” and “bad” defined as “distant from my own worldview”.
But the more inner work you do the more untenable you find this position. After a while you start to understand that nobody is seeing reality as it actually is — including you. Instead, what we’re actually perceiving is a bunch of mental stories we’ve formed about the world based on information we’ve taken in through highly distorted perceptual filters based on our conditioning, biases and cognitive habits. Psychonauts Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson called these filters “reality tunnels”, the theory being that nobody is ever experiencing objective reality, they’re only ever experiencing the inside of their own highly conditioned and totally unique tunnel through which whatever reality might happen to be is perceived.
What eventually becomes clear from examining your own internal processes is that humans are very far from the rational actors we take ourselves to be. We’re not logical creatures taking logical actions of our own free will in response to logical understandings of our world, we’re confused little primates with a bunch of fairy tales about reality rattling around inside our skulls which were whispered to us by our own highly conditioned interpretations of information taken in by our own highly conditioned perceptual habits, to which we react based on highly conditioned subconscious driving forces within ourselves that we do not understand.
Once this is clearly seen and understood, it’s also clearly seen and understood how easy it would be to manipulate these confused little primates to your advantage. All you’d have to do is exert some influence over the stories in their heads which rule their consciousness.
And of course that’s exactly what happens. Some humans who are a little bit more clever and a little bit less empathetic than the rest understand that they can use psychological manipulation to tilt the stories in people’s heads to their advantage, either to get money or sex or loyalty or obedience from them.
The most powerful humans in the world are those who’ve come to understand that real power lies not with whoever has the most votes or money or troops or weapons, but with whoever controls the narrative. They understand that power is controlling what happens, but absolute power is controlling what people think about what happens.
Once you control the stories in people’s heads, you can control where the votes go. You can control where the money goes. You can control where the troops and the weapons go. Because humans are story-dominated creatures, if you can dominate the stories, you can dominate the humans.
So these clever dominators set about dominating the stories by shoring up narrative control at every opportunity. Buying up media. Manipulating the news. Funding corrupt think tanks. Manipulating algorithms. Classifying inconvenient information. Imprisoning inconvenient journalists. Whatever they can do to control what the dominant stories are about what’s happening in the world, in order to control how the humans think, speak, work, act, and vote in their day to day lives.
And the more inner work you do the more sense it makes that everyone is so effectively influenced by these manipulations, and the more sense it makes that the world is in the mess it’s in. Because you understand that while these dominators are a little more clever than the other humans, they’re no less confused. They themselves are still dominated by mental stories, and they themselves are interacting with the world in a highly unconscious way driven by internal forces that they do not understand.
The dominators are still just small confused primates stumbling blindly through life like the rest of the humans, and they’re just as frightened and miserable as anyone else. The problem is that they’re also controlling the world, and they’re driving it toward annihilation via nuclear war and environmental collapse.
And the more inner work you do the clearer it becomes that that doesn’t need to happen, because you come to see in your own experience that humans have the potential to become a conscious species that is no longer dominated by mental narrative. It becomes clear as day that we do have the ability to bring the subconscious forces within us into consciousness for healing and integration. It becomes plainly obvious that we have the ability to change our relationship with mental narrative from one in which thoughts dominate our experience to one in which thought is just a tool that can be picked up when useful and set back down when you’re through with it. It becomes self-evident that the egocentric experience through which most humans interact with life is based entirely on a psychological illusion which can be seen through and set aside.
And what’s cool is that ordinary people who’ve done a lot of inner work can see all this for themselves, while the dominators whose whole lives are wrapped up in ego and mental narrative cannot see it. There’s an unfolding happening behind the scenes, in the quietest spaces of our species, which the dominators know nothing about and couldn’t understand if they did. And it poses a direct threat to their entire system of control.
If humanity can cease being dominated by mental narrative, then the psychological strings the dominators pull on to manipulate us will evaporate. They will no longer be able to dominate the way people think, speak, work, act and vote, because the entire framework they’ve been using to do so will cease to exist.
I don’t know if our species will snap out of its trance in time to make the adapt-or-perish jump that is clearly being asked of us at this crucial point in history, but I haven’t the slightest doubt that we do have the potential within us to make it. With enough inner work, anyone can recognize this for themselves as well.
Caitlin’s Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.
Bitcoin donations: 1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2
Featured image via Adobe Stock.
Categories: Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy