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Are We Finally Waking Up...or Merely Trading One Set of Illusions for Another?

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Full Disclosure: I think something deep and primal has changed in our cognitive depths, but it will take some time for the dramatic consequences of this change to work their way to the surface.

Something is happening in our collective mind-space, but what is it? Is it a mass awakening…or merely the sound of people upgrading their illusions?

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Of course, to ask whether people are waking up or changing illusions assumes it is one or the other. But perhaps it is “both,” meaning people are waking up even as they continue to traffic in illusions. Indeed, where else could people wake up if not right in the middle of their illusions?

Roughly one hundred years ago the British philosopher, F.H. Bradley shocked his contemporaries when he observed that whenever facts contradict theories, it goes the worse for the facts. The notion that theories take precedence over facts is now a truism of a postmodern, post-fact, true-spin/values world. We no longer think of our brains as blank slates upon which reality writes itself but as Virtual Reality Generators that cleverly create simulations in our heads that we then call reality. We think of our brains as “hardware” with the cluster of pre-conscious assumptions and filters that “construct” the simulations that then constitute our experience being the “software.” You could say that terms like “dominant ideology,” “world-view,” “spirit of the age,” and “how we think about things” all ultimately refer to this software. In complex social systems like our nation, there will be a “cultural software program” programmed into the masses to enable the “construction” of consensus reality.

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So it is a dramatic event that portends massive consequences when an entire era of “how we think about things” suddenly collapses. The collapse of the Soviet Union provides a dramatic illustration of just such a thing. Long before the actual 1991 collapse, a long-standing “whole way of thinking” had already died in the Soviet collective mind-space. While we Americans have not had a “1991” moment yet, our dominant cluster of ruling ideas and values—our “whole way of thinking”—has recently died in our souls.

About time! It had gotten to the point that the “whole way we think about things” had been so contaminated with special interest programming that our greatest problem had become the “whole way we think about things.” Now that it has died, the distorting filters and ideological blinders of this “way of thinking” will begin to fall away and people will suddenly begin to see things that have been hidden by the filters. For example, it will become clear that when a nation is in debt, tax cuts do not “cut” that debt but only redistribute the payments for it—in this case, from the wealthy to working people, and from this generation to the next. And without blinders they will “see” how truly ridiculous it is to treat American policies and behavior as an “exception” to the experience of history. It will become suddenly clear that greed is a failing of character, torture and war are unqualified moral abominations, economic outsourcing is economic suicide, and “holier-than-thou” ego posturing is odious to heaven.

Once again, since the death of a whole “way of thinking” occurs on the deep level of unspoken assumptions, it naturally takes a while for the consequences of the change to work their way up to the surface. During this time it is business as usual on the surface. I think we are in this gap time now, which is why many Americans who care passionately about truth, honesty, and justice are afraid that things have not in fact changed at all.

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Here is my positive spin. I think we can be more open to the notion that it will take some time for the consequences of the fact that our “whole way of thinking” to emerge if we stand back for a moment and consider how dominant ideologies work. While all dominant ideologies establish a hierarchy of social relations that give wealth, privilege, and control to an elite, the most important and defining feature of them is not their power to do this but their invisibility. In other words, their defining feature is not simply that they set up an unjust hierarchy; it is that they do so in a way that makes the unjust hierarchy they establish seem like a completely natural, spontaneous, and necessary expression of the nature of reality. This is why it is significant that growing numbers of people now name special interest politics as a malevolent force that is ruining the country and degrading their lives. It means the mask of invisibility has been ripped off.

OK, so what should our next “way of thinking” be? I have a guiding point to offer regarding a healthier and better “whole way to think.” It is a classificatory scheme detailing the three essential aspects of any possible society and the appropriate guiding value for each. I first learned about this three-part scheme up in the work of Rudolf Steiner, and the historian, Dorothy Moore, also sketches it out in her little known but brilliant book, “The Liberty Bell Papers.”

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John Bardi teaches philosophy and religious studies at Penn State-Mont Alto. He is also a musician and has been playing blues and rock guitar since 1961. Author: "Conversations With A Philosopher From Another Planet" (available on Amazon)

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