The idea of someone or something controlling our every thought and action is so 1980s. Let’s face it, we live out our modern, technological lives with access to instant communication and information that allows us to enjoy greater control and freedoms of thought and expression than at any point in recorded human history; right?
Each of us draws comfort from the decisions we make, sure in the knowledge that we are individuals, masters of our own destiny. We mock those that aren’t as under the thumb, as easily lead, or weak. Underlying this attitude is the principle that no person or system has the right to influence or determine the free will of another. This may be true, but what if this truth was naive; that even the strong-minded could not trust the direction their thoughts were taking them?
A Fabric of Lies?
Why for instance do we accept laws that govern conduct and shunt every aspect of human experience into a narrow band of monotonous conformity? What if we were to strip society of its rules and regulations governing conduct; what then? Would we fall into anarchy? This social consensus maybe misplaced.
Consider road signs and signals. Substantial reductions in traffic incidents and fatalities have been recorded in communities that have adopted a rather novel approach to road safety by removing street clutter. If this idea of so-called ‘naked roads’ seems counter-intuitive to you, just ask the resident exhibitionists of Christiansfeld, Denmark.
In 2004, local libertarians stripped traffic lights and other road markings from a notorious crossroads in a bid to improve road safety. Surprisingly this simple act of faith saved Danish bacon, reducing the death toll to zero on a road which throughout the previous decade had claimed three lives every year. It is believed the fall in casualty figures was due to uncertainty over who had right-of-way.
The late Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman did much to inspire this rethink. He devised schemes in the Netherlands that removed all traffic lights, signs and markings, and other driver instructions from the small villages of Drachten, Makkinga and town of Oosterwolde; all with great effect. Perhaps unsurprisingly removing red lights from a particular district in Amsterdam has yet to catch on.
Interestingly, naked road studies like those in Christiansfeld suggest a re-think; that road signs, in some instances, offer about as much protection to the elements as the Emperor’s new clothes. Of course the Danish subjects in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale who saw through the head of state’s veiled attempt at modesty were considered subversive. So are road signs as useful as non-existent clothing? Does that make me subversive?
Laws operate as a strong arm of social conditioning, in so much as they slowly undermine the ability of the individual to assess situations and make judgements based on past experiences. Laws make us passive; we look out to authority for answers rather than to ourselves within. The danger is we become easily manipulated and no longer able to question authority; not only because we have been conditioned to, but because we are being slowly stripped of the tools and acuity with which to do so.
This point is telling when put under the microscope with other basic freedoms that have been removed on the back of trumped up, often unfounded fears over public safety.
If this study asks us anything, it questions the extent to which we walk through life with little conscious free will at all. And that is not as stupid as it sounds according to some experts.
‘I’ is the One Per Cent
Dr. Bruce Lipton is a stem cell biologist and bestselling author who believes that the conscious mind governs less than it would like to think it does. “The major problem is that people are aware of their conscious beliefs and behaviours, but not of that belonging to the subconscious,” says Lipton.
The conscious I might take credit for decisions, computations, realisations and reactions, but in reality credit must go to the subconscious. Neurological experiments carried out by the late pioneering scientist Benjamin Libet suggest that conscious recognition of a pain event, in this case a pinprick to the finger, lags up to half a second behind the prick itself. It takes half a second for us to become conscious of stimulation of the sensory cortex. In other words our conscious experience of pain at the moment in time that the prick occurs is a temporal fraud. Essentially we feel a prick after the event.
In his bestseller The User Illusion, Tor Nørretranders compares this fraud: that conscious experience is projected back in time in exactly the same way as a direct stimulation of the sensory cortex can be shown to project out onto the body. There is a good reason for this, he suggests: what we need to know is when our skin was pricked, not when we became conscious of it.
Of course, in reality we can’t be half a second behind the eight ball and expect to stay in the moment, let alone in the game. Take, for example, the football midfielder that whips in a free-kick; he does not consciously calculate the angular projection and speed; he just whips, period. Pythagoras he is not. To perform, successful sports stars rely on instinct, automatic reactions based on subconscious programs ingrained by hours dedicated to practice and training. Conscious thought here is the bane of instinct, which experts say is not just left on the sports field.
“Most people don’t even acknowledge their subconscious mind, that it is at play, when in fact this mind is a million times more powerful,” says Lipton. “We operate up to 99 per cent of our lives from subconscious programs.”
In short, your conscious I, the ego, might not like it, but it’s under the thumb. Truth is it’s only let out to play when time permits. And even then our thoughts and actions are often simply the result of consciousness fielding thoughts and ideas pitched from the infinite depths of the subconscious mind. Slip of the tongue? Ah, that would be a curve ball. More often than not consciousness doesn’t even get to use what Nørretranders (and Libet) term as its veto, to otherwise accept or reject a choice or urge that the subconscious mind has already made. Many decisions and actions bypass our conscious mind altogether.
Should we give up on the idea of conscious free will? It has its veto, but on the whole the numbers are not encouraging. According to Nørretranders, every second our senses pass on and process about 11 million bits of information to our brain. The vast majority, 10,999,984 or so bits of information, we remain unaware of, processed as it is by our unconscious, or what I refer to herein as subconscious mind. Such events are disconcerting for an ego; it likes to think of itself as solely in charge. But how can it be? It has no eye for a ball and can’t even hold down a job as a bouncer.
Truth is our subconscious is open to suggestion. Subliminal messages easily bypass conscious perception. During the 1920s when radio first aired in the UK it was unpopular and seen by many as a sinister intrusion. To persuade would-be listeners the BBC planted a backward message in its jingles. The message when played forward was hidden, but when reversed could clearly be heard to say, “This is not a noose, no really it’s not.” In normal play the subconscious picks up on what the conscious cannot. Audible messages can also be played beyond the normal frequency range of human hearing. In both instances the subconscious mind may be programmed beyond conscious perception or approval.
And it’s not just on radio.
Typically television and film footage runs at 25 frames per second. As it turns out subliminal images of a single frame can be slipped into a sequence that avoid conscious detection. Who knew? Baby (George W) Bush apparently. One reported incident occurred during the 2000 US presidential race when a TV advertisement focusing on who should pay for prescription drugs for the elderly included the slogan “bureaucrats decide”; the slogan preceded for a split second by the word “rats” accompanied by an image of Al Gore.
“Television is a ‘dream come true’ for an authoritarian society,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Bruce Levine. “Those with the most money own most of what people see.” Subliminal messaging is officially frowned on by most companies that operate in the public domain. Some companies have a code of ethics. Where there’s a profit to be made however, there are always those that don’t. Their behaviour is often modified simply by a fear of being found out. After all, technology today allows consumers to hit rewind, pause and dissect footage frame by frame.
And why expose yourself to bad publicity, when you can make fear work for you openly. The control industry even has a name for it: television programming. “Fear-based TV programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for an authoritarian society adopting a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy,” says Levine.
For example, fear-based broadcasts are the lifeblood of the corporate mainstream media and don’t even pretend to hide from the conscious mind. The fact that large sections of society fail to see their underlying purpose could be argued is evidence of this affect. To such an extent, Lipton says, that people have been programmed to believe that they’re victims. “We’re programmed from childhood with beliefs. Since subconscious programs operate outside the range of consciousness, we don’t experience ourselves playing out these behaviours that can sabotage our own lives.” As a result, says Lipton, we don’t take responsibility for the lives we lead. We see ourselves as victims of forces outside of our control.
“For instance, when we get sick, we were told that we must go to the doctor because the doctor is the authority concerning our health.” Thus we learn in our formative years that we are victims of bodily forces beyond our ability to control. “The joke, however, is that people often get better while on the way to the doctor,” says Lipton. “That’s when the innate ability for self-healing kicks in, a perfect example of the placebo effect.”
According to Lipton, medical institutions operate on fear. “The funding and regulatory elements know that within each of us is the power to heal,” he explains. “For example, it is a proven fact that one-third of all healings are due to the placebo effect, which is controlled by the subconscious mind, but medical-related corporations based on making a profit don’t want us to know this.”
Have You Seen My Watch?
The effect of all this forces us to look outside for answers and guidance, rather than within – into the hands of those who program us further.
Reality TV is a perfect example. Money and fame is the panacea we are sold. When the ‘I’ buys into this culture, it allows the outside world to define it. I reflect its values, and buy into its marketing of me. And what happens with most marketing? Scratch the surface and there is nothing of substance beneath. When we buy into these outward distractions, our conscious mind rejects the subconscious, the part of ourselves that we unknowingly value the most. Here is the modern malaise, and why in those moments of quiet solitude, the ‘I’ feels so empty.
The idea of ego, of an independent me is empowering. But we are being sold a pup. The ‘I’, the conscious me, is not nearly all that I am. This is THE distraction. The ‘I’ is all of me, all of my subconscious urges, not just the conscious imposter that catches a reflective glimpse every so often of what the political class and its corporate masters will not even acknowledge to me exists. Thanks to this distraction one’s connection is stolen, one’s true voice. The sense of who I really am. The corporate elite is the pickpocket that distracts its victim before stealing his watch. And then how do you find out the time? That’s obvious, says Levine: “When you’re isolated and watching TV it interferes with the connection to one’s own humanity, which makes it easier to accept an authority’s version of society and life.”
Authority has my voice and chances are I don’t even know it. According to Levine television achieves this by putting the viewer in a brain state that makes it difficult to think critically. It’s all those alpha brain waves, now just relax and let your eyes follow my watch. Alpha brain waves, some experts claim, are the bridge between the conscious and subconscious; a highly suggestive meditative state. Problem is the viewer’s focus is outward rather than within.
Television offers no quality time to quietly reflect on what makes us unique, the very same spark that unites us, beyond the tired old dividing lines of class, politics and creed. “Television isolates people so they are not joining together to govern themselves,” says Levine. So we not only feel separated from ourselves, but from each other. Just what the doctor ordered. Now if we can just get back to erecting those religious divides, I’ve got a war to fight.
Do laws, rules and the governing norms of behaviour really cause more problems than they solve? According to Levine this is a question that will take people, at least those who take it seriously, on an acid trip. “If you spend a lot of time thinking about how unnecessary laws are, and then don’t comply with these laws, eventually, logically, you will end up in jail,” says Levine. “Or if you obey laws that you think are bullshit, you will lose self-respect, integrity, wholeness, and feel like a pathetic hypocrite and potentially have a nervous breakdown and end up in a mental hospital. And jail and mental hospitals have lots of television.”
Talk about coming full circle.
Did You Look Inside?
OK, so jail is a relative term; so too madness. Some might argue that by giving in to outside pressures to conform we locked up our innate subconscious many moons ago. And it is that which has us howling like some insane wolfman at every full moon that passes.
Einstein once said that you can’t solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them. The conscious mind cannot solve problems that its separation from the subconscious created. If we value peace and harmony and only focus on fear, is it not surprising when we access the same old negative programs? Einstein was equally specific when he described what he believed was the only truly valuable thing: intuition.
According to bestselling author and intuitionist Laura Day, intuition is a faculty, like one of our five senses. In the same way that muscles waste when they are not used, education largely trains us to consider only what the system considers logical; what passes as the social consensus. As a result we do not take seriously and often throw away our best ideas, what make us different and potentially successful, because they come from flashes of insight.
Intuition is all possibility, all knowing, and is at the heart of human discovery. Insight often has us asking: where did that voice come from? Or who found my watch?
Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell not only summarised in four short equations all that was known about electricity and magnetism, but his equations succeeded in predicting phenomena that weren’t considered anything to do with these fields of study until after his death. How was this possible? In a sense, Nørretranders writes, Maxwell gave his own answer saying, “What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.”
What Maxwell was suggesting is common to many great advances, in that they arise somewhere in the mind that is beyond the control of consciousness. Intuition is responsible for the arts and the sciences as we know them, and across the whole range of human advancement and endeavour, if only we’d see it.
The subconscious mind throws up answers that our conscious cannot even predict. The lesson here is to make informed choices; we must zone out from instructions, turn off the TV and tune in to within. Will this help us steer clear of acid trips? Maybe, maybe not. Intuition makes us resilient. It is our greatest teacher. It may trip us up, but it dusts us down. That comes from the freedom to choose. It does not do prisons or make prisoners of others. If that’s acid, then it surely beats neutral, which we are conditioned to believe is the only reality that should concern us.z
About the Author
NICK PARKINS has a master’s degree in philosophy of the mind and likes to live outside the box. If you have a strange or unexplained experience you would like him to cover contact[email protected].
The author would like to thank Tor Nørretranders, Dr. Bruce Levine, Dr. Bruce Lipton, Dr. Kerry Crofton and Laura Day.
Be sure to check out Nick Parkins’ article “Rise of the Technocrats” in New Dawn 145.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 139 (July-August 2013).
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