Part 2: The Nature of Power In grappling with the question of evil over the years, I turned to perhaps its most lucid literary distillation: George Orwell's 1984. I read it not so much to find the answer, but to find the purest statement of the problem. For it provides no answer: The rebellion of Winston and his lover Julia against the Party—an all-encompassing, all-powerful, totalizing evil—is, after all, a failed rebellion. Orwell depicts it not only as a failed rebellion but as a doomed rebellion, an impossible rebellion. No hope leaks from this book’s watertight exposition of despair.
I just spent two months working with a 20 year old who had abandoned his smart phone because it was impinging on his time and his ability to focus. Within himself, he seemed to have found something larger, something that he couldn't access thru the phone or with his peers. He continues to seek that larger thing, by himself, and with others — when they're not on their phones, or otherwise consumed by all that would distract them from the larger thing inside themselves — which is why he loves singing in a choir, because the goal is a harmony that none can acheive by themselves, and that is bigger, even, than the group.
Harmony contains both "good" and "evil" — tho we may never understand the boundaries that separate one from the other. How can we define what we cannot see or know? We can’t get to that place of harmony by ourselves. Neither can a group of us force anyone to go there. It's a mystery.
Here’s a lovely line from Richard Wagamese’s lovely movie (from his book), Indian Horse:
"Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. It is the foundation of humility and humility is the foundation of all learning. So we do not seek to unravel it. We honor it by letting it be that way forever."
It seems to me we can’t unravel good from evil. But we can seek to live in the mystery, cultivate humility, learn to make compost, love the humus that results, and go deeper into the mysteries of life, death, and fertility.
I am a fan of Distributism, the approach that power, ownership, social and government structures is to be “distributed” into small, local units and the consolidation of these things is to be guarded against. G.K. Chesterton quipped “The problem with capitalism is not there are too many capitalists, but there are too few”. Of course individual smaller units can go wrong, but the damage is limited and the answer doesn’t lie in erecting superstructures to make a perfect world where nothing goes wrong.
I was raised in the last days of an intact small town, small business, family based agrarian Midwestern culture in rural Wisconsin. Order was maintained through shared expectations of honesty, responsibility and civility and working things out privately with very little need for legal intervention. There was a interconnected matrix of friendships, families, business relationships, broad based involvement in township and village self government, school boards, volunteer fire departments. You knew those in those positions or knew someone who did. There was also an array of private organizations, churches, clubs, volunteer service opportunities. It was a diverse stable ecosystem with many small components. My mother volunteered for Meals on Wheels for shut ins and was in the same Homemaker’s Club for 50 years. Neighbors helped each other out in crisis. It wasn’t utopian perfection, human conflicts, problems, and unhappiness occurred, but it was safe, crime was unheard of, no locked doors anywhere in homes and cars. My parents in their retirement would winter in Texas and their house would sit there on the farm unlocked for two months with my brother coming by occasionally to check on things.
I have discovered a flimsy-ness in the fiction of control (evil) that appears so real to us these days. Several months ago I filed an Ethics Complaint at my son's university, GWU in Washington DC. It named top administrators at the university for continuing a mandate for students to receive the COVID booster to continue their education. I shared 7 research studies showing the risk/reward ratio for this vaccine is severely skewed to the risk side for this age cohort. And emphasizing that it is now almost 2023 and the majority of the population has gotten COVID, many times over in some cases. I have gotten the run around with my complaint, referred to this person and then onto another. They even closed my case without it having been resolved. I did finally have a call scheduled with the Chair of the Covid Advisory Panel that is making the decision to re-up the mandate for students this spring. When I shared my questions with him in advance of our call, he wrote back that they relied on credible sources and were clear in their need for the mandate for 'student saftey'. While processing the rage regarding this insane response, and his lack of willingness to address my question regarding how they integrated the peer-reviewed findings I shared, I reached out to my son and asked him about what was going on. He had gotten an exemption for the booster last year and his girlfriend, also at GWU, had simply ignored it. Nothing had ever happened, no one followed up, and this mandate simply didn't have any teeth, it was just air. The students who followed it, did so because they believed it was real. Students who did not, discovered it was just lip service. A political stunt really. So in the spirit of Charles' piece here about there probably being no actual puppeteers, voila. There may, in truth, be none except those we focus on and give power to. Food for thought!
Thich Nhat Hahn's book The Art of Power elucidates the one true use of power: to alleviate suffering in oneself and others.
There is a lot I could comment on here but one particularly important element of the essay is the observation that "big brother" or "consensual reality" or the "evil conspiracy" is actually a psychic event. As a result, many people don't even realize the conspiracy is there because it is happening between their ears, where it is not so explicit as what people usually think when they think, "conspiracy." Thus the need for individual wakefulness, for a revolution of awareness, especially of one's own self and how one has been conditioned
McGilchrist talks about the domination of the left hemisphere. This internalized self-control sounds a lot like what you’re pointing to.
It’s not out there- “The call is coming from inside the house!”
Beautiful essay--thank you.
There is a very real difference between the highest good for all beings and the greater good. Only over the last few years have I begun to understand the difference, and it has been through doing a lot of spiritual work. When you truly feel the interconnectivity of life you start acting for the highest good of all beings. Hardly anyone talks about how doing the spiritual work is the hardest thing you will ever do: it will require loss on every level of your being and life, it will require death over and over again. But it is also the most worthwhile thing you will ever do, and if you can have the courage to cross the valley of the shadow of death, you will get to the place where you fear no evil for the love of christ and christ consciousness is truly in your heart.
It’s funny how attempts to use words and concepts to “explain” “Reality” always fall short and end in tail-chasing paradox for the “mind” of the “separate self.” Before they do though, “we” always “hopefully” think we are “getting somewhere.” What if “the separate self” IS suffering? All attempts to avoid suffering can be seen to be ultimately futile in a Möbius-strip play of occillating opposites--pleasure/pain is what “we” read while we are stuck as “us.” This lock-up of thwarted desire produces rage in those who will not understand so they insist on using will to acquire “power” to try to even temporarily trample their way to “pleasure”. But the suffering only builds. Meanwhile, the Truth-Recognizing Organ, the “Heart” and its mysterious dimension of Love, is ignored.
Thank you Charles. I find this fascinating and thought provoking. The themes are certainly apparent in the happenings of our world.
Well the city of San Francisco just voted to arm robots to control gun violence. This after they Defunded, Detoothed and Declawed the police so thoroughly they were made incapable of dealing with crime. So of course crime exploded. So now of course the unthinkable becames our pseudo savior. So now let's continue to fight over legal gun control for citizens, while arming robots. Let's fight over banning hunting rifles, while doing nothing to disarm thousands of nuclear warheads. Really this kind of says it all and it is happening in every direction of society with every issue imaginable. Humans are going to be insane for a very long time. We will not be able to figure our way out of this one no matter how 'smart' we are. Balance must come from the bone deep decision of every individual to become sovereign in themselves. That takes a whole heck of alot of guts since we live in a world that rewards compliance and punishes true authenticity. So pretty much every force around and within us is working against us in having Truth backed individual and collective AHA! moments. I put my energy in Spirit these days because that is the only way I see through all of this. Alot of folks are suffering and it is getting worse. Most simply cannot cope with the mounting stress on all sides. The masses are going to default to totalitarian authority. It is inevitable, barring some unfathomable miraculous intervention. Hope is not a solution but it does open the doorway to other possibilities. We cannot 'fix' this. But we can hold a space within our own sovereign Spirit where we can take refuge and reach out to those who also seek Truth. Our brains have already been co-opted. We have to dig deeper.
Power is the power to make another suffer and do what they do not want to do. And an unwillingness to exercise that power was why I quit public school teaching. The conditioning to accept authority against your own best interest starts early, and I could not be a part of it.
Charles, as always, thank you! Because of the deep resonance around the topic of power, I dare to talk about my book here (New Stories of Love, Power, and Purpose; A Global Invitation to Experiment with the Unknown).
Specifically over the past 10+ years in which I have deeply engaged in the field of self-organization, I have seen the impact the stories of power, which societies almost everywhere have developed and internalized, have on individuals and collectives; the limitations these stories so often imposes on following the invitation to see the more beautiful world our heart knows is possible (I refer to your writings repeatedly in my book).
These experiences eventually led me to write. I felt called to share on a very personal level what lead me to hold a new story of both love and power, and how this changes my entire being and becoming. With my book I hope to contribute to the energy that is giving rise to new stories - stories that affirm life and this more beautiful world that you and many others thankfully bring into the awareness of so many.
Only a few days ago a reader of my book posted a picture with Orwell's 1984 and my book together. She pointed towards overlaps and suggested to read the two books in parallel. With great humbleness and deep respect for Orwell's work, I DO NOT compare my book to 1984!! When I saw the post, I first was completely overwhelmed by it and didn't know what to say or do, the part of me that is in charge of humility calling "NO, NO, NO!!! That doesn't feel right!!!", but soon I was able to settled down and breathe, allowing the deep gratitude for this experience to unfold. I took it as what it is - one reader who let me know in her own way that my book has touched her. How absolutely wonderful!
Your article touched me and I am very grateful for the way you address the issue of power. And it naturally led me back into the experience I described.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the inspiration I have found in your stories, your writings and your many recordings. Sending you loving power and powerful love!
What a wonderful description of the Abrahamic religious cult. It had blossom to perfection of absolute power in the early Medieval Europe, via the the Roman Empire’s ever-powerful, ever-present institutionalized Church that had replaced all the native European Gods and instituted a complete ideological, emotional, and physical tyranny.
Tony fauci believes that he is doing good
The ‘they’ that the conspiracy theorists refer to is the same ‘they’ that Christ referred to when he said “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
It basically refers to the ignorant—to the ignorance in us.
Ignorance is the ultimate evil.