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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


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Types of Culture


Since our earliest cultural beginnings, the great majority of human beings have lived in tradition-directed cultures, where values, attitudes and beliefs were passed on unquestioningly from generation to generation. Evolution occurred very gradually and a strong sense of historical continuity pervaded everyones' lives. Tradition-directed cultures tend, however, to be 'patrist' in character: Fascism is the ultimate expression of father-dominance, as is authoritarian religion. It is perhaps not without significance that Nazism took its root in the German 'Fatherland'.

The character of human needs have always been pre-conditioned by the society in accordance with its interests. False needs are those that have been imposed on a person in order to control his behavior, to repress his true needs that do not suit the interests of the controlling elements of society (such as to have a consumer base and work force for the current manufacturing and servicing industrial engines). For example, needs that perpetuate toil, misery and injustice and therefore cause underlying unhappiness, even when the needs are met. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false needs. Offering the consumer a wide choice of products and services, offers the illusion of a degree of human freedom; in fact, there is no freedom if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of toil, fear and alienation.

In the most highly developed areas of contemporary society, the transplantation of vested interests into individual needs is so effective that the difference between them seems to be purely theoretical. Can one really distinguish between the mass media as instruments of information and entertainment on the one hand, and as agents of manipulation and indoctrination on the other? Between cars as convenience or polluters of the environment, between work for national defense or for corporate gain, between the horrors and the comforts of functional architecture? In advanced industrialised society, people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their car, hi-fi, kitchen equipment or mortgage. The social ties of previous times have been transformed, and social control is anchored in the new needs that it has produced.

The idea of 'inner freedom' designates the private space in which man may become and remain 'himself', apart from public opinion and influence. Today, this private space, in which opposition to the status quo can take root, has been invaded and whittled down. The socialising functions of the family, in which an objective view could be discussed, are increasingly taken over by TV.

The goods and services that industrial society produces, 'sell' or impose the social system as a whole. The means of mass transport and communication, the commodities of lodging, food and clothing, the irresistible output of information and entertainment, carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, which bind the consumers more or less pleasantly to the producers and to the whole system. The indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity, it becomes a way of life. As the needs are fulfilled it appears a good way of life (the true needs are repressed) and a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior emerges, in which ideas, aspirations and objectives that do not support the established system, either do not occur or if they do, seem illogical.

“A life of other-directedness causes the adoption of a pseudo-identity, distracting the 'trendy' person from the development of a mature character securely rooted in the reality of his own nature.”
If mass communications blend together art, politics, music and philosophy with commercial advertising, higher culture becomes part of material culture. In this transformation it loses the greater part of its value: it is invalidated. The music of the soul is also the music of salesmanship. Artistic imagery into which the spirit had been poured, after great intellectual sweat and emotional turmoil, becomes an object of immediate gratification. What was a statement of Self - of sexuality and aggression - towards deviation and freedom from social taboos, becomes absorbed into the social fabric. By promoting immediate gratification of the innermost drives of its citizens (as conditioned by the culture) social cohesion and contentment result. Erotic and violent motivations are dispersed in socially acceptable ways (magazines, cinema, sport, etc.) that do not threaten the system, indeed bolster it. This contrasts with traditional (non-mechanized) culture where there was little immediate or effortless gratification, and libido, the energy of the life instincts, was sublimated as Self-expression in poetry, literature, art and music, in exploration and scientific discovery, in religious and philosophical contemplation, and so on. True, this romantic pre-technical world was also permeated with misery, toil and filth, but there was a 'landscape', a medium of libidinal 'erotic' experience that is nowadays rarely sought-after, because of the de-sublimation that is so readily available.

In modern times, practically all tradition-directed cultures, including our own, have been overwhelmed and transformed by other-directed values, which reject the traditions of the past in a wholesale way, as suffocating and oppressive, and seek new meanings in modern ideas and movements, such as socialism, feminism, homosexuality, promiscuity, drug-taking, vandalism, cult-membership, and so on. Often their motive is to escape the burden of the responsibility for Self-actualization. The center of gravity of the culture moves from the mature to the immature. The emphasis is on rebellion against the generation of fathers and on solidarity with the peer group; the revolutionary notions change with each generation, basing their principles not on what 'has been proved to work' but on 'everybody thinks'. The speed with which contemporary fads and fashions catch on is a function of the omnipotent media, with their power to define what 'everybody thinks' and ensure that 'everybody's doing it'. A life of other-directedness causes the adoption of a pseudo-identity, distracting the 'trendy' person from the development of a mature character securely rooted in the reality of his own nature.

A more satisfactory alternative to the above cultures would be based on a third orientation: inner-directed. The inner-directed person does not derive his sense of value or identity solely from tradition or from conformity to peer-group fashions, but from the resources of his own nature. This third orientation can only be achieved by an individual who is in the process of developing his own character, of becoming 'field-independent', his or her volition self-determined (based on Self-knowledge) rather than the effect of manipulation or propitiation. The most original, creative and outstanding men and women are invariably of this type, and yet it is no 'elitist' type, for it is available to all human beings with the courage of their convictions. It is the way of life that takes 'individuation' as its goal: to manifest the highest potential of the archetypal and spiritual Self.


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