My Book Begins with a Troubling Realization…

matrix
warner bros

Reality might not be what we think it is. What we have come to regard as objectively real might be instead a carefully-constructed false narrative to pull the wool over our eyes. A whole universe of credible alternatives never see the light of day. Our imagination  has been  narrowed, our field of vision confined to a small box  resembling a prison – a prison for the mind. This realization is by no means confined to a religious context but is much more widespread than generally understood. In fact fundamentalism can take over an entire civilization, as outlined in the chapters on postmodernism.  The carefully-constructed false narratives fall apart over time, which leaves us wondering, have we built our house on sinking sand rather than solid rock? We thought we understood the world but the real truth is far different. In the movie The Matrix, the main character Neo, is horrified to discover that his every day world is nothing more than an illusion, a sophisticated mirage. The horrifying truth is that he has lived, since birth, in an incubator where an attached cord siphons off his vital life force energy. The cord is a feeding tube for an alien race of overlords.  They have reduced the human race to an energy source, a collection of living batteries. Immersed in the fantasy of the Matrix, he is unaware of their presence and therefore incapable of escape. The false narratives have a similar effect as the fictional Matrix. If we allow them to continue unchallenged, we can literally fall asleep in delusion. The only answer is to free our minds, to pursue autonomy as though it were the Holy Grail.

I have attempted to distill the essence of fundamentalism, identifying its common features regardless of the external appearances which vary considerably.

Here I summarize some of those common features which are discussed at greater length in the book.

Utopian Vision

If you really believe in utopia, no price is too high and no sacrifice too great to bring it about. The end justifies the means, opening a Pandora’s box of depravity. Like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, famine, pestilence and death ride with them. as illustrated by the Holy Crusades, the Bolshevik Revolution and the Reign of Terror – murder and mayhem, then utopia. But utopia never comes.

The Parasites

These are the ones who benefit from the false narrative.  There’s always a parasite disguised as a benefactor. The old adage applies – follow the money; but their real goal is power, perhaps religious, perhaps political.  Their real motives and objectives remain hidden and often, their very existence.

Demonization of the Opposition

Challenges to the prevailing narrative are not met with argument and reason but rather denunciation and labeling.  This is a form of indirect censorship, not as obvious as book burning to be sure but highly effective. Nothing succeeds quite so well as the smear. The strategy also serves to isolate the believers because they are afraid to listen to or associate with heretics.  Such a reaction is a sure sign you are on the right track. Perhaps they are afraid. Perhaps our liberation is closer than we think. Perhaps we need only snap our fingers to awaken from the trance.  Once we awaken it’s all over for the parasites. Once you realize you’re in a cult you’re already free.

The Mask of Piety

The parasites always manage to occupy the moral high-ground.  This has been true since the Pharisees and no doubt longer than that. Outwardly, they appear righteous but inwardly they are full of corruption. They like to make public displays of piety which in modern times has been called “virtue signalling.” Beneath the veneer of moral and intellectual superiority there exists a barely concealed contempt for the vulgar masses.

Hypocrisy

Invariably, the evidence mounts that the parasites do not practise what they preach, yet the true believers remain unwavering in their loyalty.  This represents, I believe, a kind of wilful ignorance.  The desire to believe is so strong that even when the hypocrisy becomes truly staggering, continuation of the status quo is preferred to the discomfort of uncertainty.

Arrogance

All fundamentalists have a certain contempt for unbelievers. This can range from mild condescension as in “let’s reach out to save the poor lost souls” or all the way to mass murder, as in, “let’s get rid of this evil  in the world.”  The Crusaders had this in mind as did Stalin and Hitler.

This arrogance has an addictive quality because it gives the true believer a false sense of empowerment.  The addict is attempting to relieve his suffering which in this case is a sense of disempowerment.   The fundamentalist is part of a special people, an elect. The elect know “the truth”, others do not.  There is a feel-good factor here but because every drug starts to wear off,  more is needed to have the same effect.  Every addict is blind to his addiction so if it isn’t working, his answer is – “double down.”  If the addict were not blind he would reach the obvious conclusion: the ideology isn’t working anymore because there’s something wrong with it.

Shadow Projection

Psychologist Carl Jung and others have long argued that we all have a shadow side, those attributes which we would prefer to keep secret. The dividing line between good and evil runs through the centre of each individual soul. But for the fundamentalist, the dividing line exists at the boundaries of his ideology.  All virtue is ascribed to those who belong to the inner circle and all evil to those who do not.

Shadow denial leads to shadow projection. Those attributes which we reject within ourselves are projected onto others, the non-believer or the heretic. The deeper the denial the more fanatical the projection.  The true believer starts to resemble the very thing he hates. Those who profess tolerance are plagued by intolerance.  Those who profess virtue are a veritable grab-bag of sin.  This can reach hysterical proportions as it did during the Salem witch trials where innocent women were hanged. To see a modern day example of this hysteria and mob mentality see the video What’s Happening at Yale?  

Every human being has a shadow and so does every ideology, a combination of both positive and negative attributes. The shadow loses its sting once recognized and integrated into wholeness. The concept of integration is the vital antidote to fundamentalism. Integration at the individual level yields an integration of various competing ideologies. Every ideology has something to contribute. It ossifies if mistaken for the whole truth.

Adrian Charles Smith, December 2019

A Prison For The Mind

What does it mean to be a fundamentalist? What are its common characteristics and defining features? Can we escape the prison of ideological commitment, the straightjacket of conformity and groupthink?

Answers are needed to avoid the endgame of fundamentalism – totalitarian control.  

Adrian Charles Smith entered adulthood as a minister in a fundamentalist Christian sect, a loyal follower of a man he now calls the Wizard. But as with the Wizard of Oz, all was revealed to be a sham and his questioning of authority led to excommunication and life in the secular world.  Yet, once away from  the church, he observed fundamentalism in unexpected places – in the corporate world, in science and economics, in political ideologies, New Age movements and in postmodern philosophy. Different contexts, yes, but the same underlying phenomenon, the same adherence to ‘one truth’.  

In these adventurous essays, Smith, with equal amounts of erudition, humour and insight, examines why we are drawn to these fundamentalist approaches. His search ranges from the caves of Nag Hammadi to the hallways of Ivy League universities, from communist Romania to Sedona Arizona. He discovers his potential for unconscious relapse to one all-knowing ‘Wizard’ but eventually realizes that fundamentalists live in isolated camps, the truly free have genuine community, and unity in the midst of disagreement is possible.

This is a book about fundamentalism in all its pervasive, insidious manifestations.

Available through Amazon: USA, or Canada