Submitted by Econophile.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Capitalist.
Like many people I have difficulty with thinking about 9-11 because when I do it seems fresh in my mind. And as we all know that is painful. I go back to a man whom I respect, William Edelen, a Christian minister, an intellectual, a thinker, and very definitely an iconoclast. He wrote the following piece right after 9-11 on one of his favorite themes. His ideas can be applied to any dogma, religious, political, or economic. I have tried to live my life by applying reason to all dogmas much according to his four steps. I hope it will give you something to think about.
The Torpid, Mindless Mass
By William Edelen
October 7, 2001
The question for today is at the heart of the problem we face as a nation. It is exactly the same question that was requested for my lectures at the University of Alabama Conference Center several years ago. I was asked to explore Carl Jung’s question: “Why are so many millions willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?”
Why are so many today, without thinking, willing to turn their mind/brain, soul/spirit, over to outside individuals, institutions, authorities and ideologies? Whether it be to Osama bin Laden or whether it be to Christian, Muslim and Jewish authorities of dogma, or whether it be to Republican or Democratic dogma, or whatever the outside authority or institution might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life.
Carl Jung put it this way in his essays: “It is a delusion when the priests try to rope the individual into some social organization and reduce him or her to a condition of diminished responsibility, instead of raising him or her out of the torpid, mindless mass and making it clear that he, or she, is the one important factor. Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man, or woman, who is as well organized in his/her individuality as the mass itself. … Once more we see people cutting each other’s throats in support of childish theories of how to create paradise on earth.”
I devoted my lecture at the University of Alabama to four steps:
1. Begin by taking a hard, critical look at all so-called religious authorities.
2. Learn to trust your very own personal experiences and intuition. Thomas Jefferson said it well to his young nephew: “Your own reason is the only oracle given to you by God.” Jefferson always used “God” as a Deist, not as a biblical Christian.
3. Accept the risks that go with taking control of your own life and its direction.
4. Enjoy the joys and freedom that are a part of such a new orientation.
The more we depend on outside authorities for direction, the more is our own growth and creative unimplemented arrested. And yet, how many still yearn for an outside religious authority to pat us on the head and tell us we have been good, or to slap our little hands and tell us we have been bad, ensuring that we stay forever emotionally stunted and dwarfed spiritually.
One of Buckminster Fuller’s most brilliant observations says it all: “All organized religions of the past were developed as beliefs in secondhand information. It will be an entirely new era when man finds himself confronted with direct experience.”
There is a fad, or movement, today among some elements of Christianity. It serves as a perfect example. It is called WWJD? They have it on T-shirts. It is to approach every issue and every question by asking “What Would Jesus Do?” I ask, Jesus is an outside authority on what? Jesus is certainly not my authority on any question regarding science. Any seventh-grade child today knows more about the world than did Jesus. Jesus knew nothing about DNA molecules, Vitamin E or splitting atoms. Jesus would certainly not be an authority on music, anthropology, archaeology, history, medicine, law, horticulture, agronomy or philosophy. [You could say the same thing about Muhammad or the Buddha.]
When Normin Cousins was writing his wonderful biography of Albert Schweitzer, he asked Schweitzer this question, “Do you think anyone has ever lived who was as good a person as Jesus?” And Schweitzer replied, “millions.”
Our obsession with outside authority, whether in individuals or institutions, ensures that we remain as emotionally and spiritually dwarfed as children. I had a friend who was a devoted Episcopalian. She never missed a church service. I asked her one day: “Mary, you recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, well, I graduated from one of the best theological schools in America and I do not have a clue what the Nicene creed is all about or what all that gobble-de-gook means – ‘very god of very god, very man of very man …’ and all of that psycho babble – so please explain it to me.” Mary then said this to me, “I don’t know what it all means. I just recite it because my minister told me I should and that it was good for me.” I said to her: “Mary, you recite it back like a parrot – just words that have no meaning to you – because your minister told you it was important for you to do it.” She said, “Yes.”
Human beings, in the mass, sink unconsciously to an inferior moral and intellectual level. Human beings, in the mass, like sheep, obeying and following outside authority end up as zeros as individuals who never listen to their inner voice, their inner intuition, their own reason. And the tragedy of this for society is that a million zeros joined together add up to zero and not even to one.
We live today following secondhand information rather than listening to our own inner voice. When Buckminster Fuller, who is called the Leonardo da Vinci of our time, was at the point of ending his young life due to frustration, he heard a voice within that said to him, “never again – never let anyone push you, in any direction, not in harmony with your own nature.” And he left that “torpid, mindless mass” of human sheep on that date and went on to become one of the creative giants of history.
The question for you again: Why are so many millions willing and eager to turn their mind/brain, soul/spirit – their very lives – over to outside authorities?