Freedom Expanded: Book 1—The Human Condition Explained
Part 3:13 The difficulty of the ‘Deaf Effect’ when reading about the human condition
Before continuing, it is worth reiterating the warning that was provided earlier in Part 2:3 about the problem of the ‘deaf effect’ that often occurs when reading about the subject of the human condition. The fact of the matter is our minds have such an entrenched resistance to trespassing anywhere near the subject of the human condition that when we try to read discussion about the human condition our protective denials begin to kick in and block the words and their meaning from entering our conscious awareness. At a certain point the words just wash over us, there is no absorption of them. Our minds effectively become ‘deaf’ to any more discussion of the human condition.
There has already been much to contend with—such as the mention of the term ‘human condition’ itself and the dreaded ‘A’ word (alienation) many hundreds of times. The reader has to expect to be in psychological shock and finding it difficult to ‘hear’ what is being talked about. You may even be reluctant to continue, despite the cautious encouragement given earlier at the end of Part 2:3, and by now hopefully having at least an awareness that the human condition has at last been safely explained and that humans are the all-meaningful heroes of life on Earth and that a fabulous existence now awaits us.
The problem of the ‘deaf effect’ is so real that, unable to take in what has been said or written, our mind can infer that nothing of substance has been provided, or what has been said or written doesn’t make any sense and, unaware of the real reason our mind can’t ‘hear’ what was said or written, decides it must be because the material was poorly expressed or lacking in persuasive argument or incomprehensively dense. Our mind becomes defensive of its habituated way of thinking; it simply will not allow the transparency in. As was explained in Part 3:10, this exposure of the human condition that necessarily has to accompany the explanation of how we resolve that condition is really the exposure-day, truth-day, honesty-day—in fact ‘judgment day’—we humans have long anticipated and feared. Importantly, however, this is not a time of condemning ‘judgment’, but a time of compassionate understanding—as a Turkish poet once said, judgment day is ‘Not the day of judgment but the day of understanding’ (Merle Severy, ‘The World of Süleyman the Magnificent’, National Geographic, Nov. 1987). Thus, while this is a time of compassionate understanding of our embattled, alienated, human-condition-afflicted lives, re-engaging with the truth of it does, nevertheless, come as a great shock, and shocks do take time to work through.
It is worth re-including part of the quote by Plato that was referred to in Part 3:10 as it illustrates how he foreshadowed this problem of the ‘deaf effect’. In The Republic, Plato wrote that ‘if he [the cave prisoner] were made to look directly at the light of the fire [again the fire represents the unconfrontable issue of our less-than-ideal human condition], it would hurt his eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see [take refuge in all the denials that he has become accustomed to], which he would think really far clearer than the things being shown him. And if he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent [out of the cave of denial] and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight [shown the truthful liberating—but at the same time exposing—explanation of the human condition], the process would be a painful one, to which he would much object, and when he emerged into the light his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness of it that he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real.’ Plato has anticipated that the cave prisoner—humans living in denial of the issue of the human condition—would ‘take refuge in the things which he could see, which he would think really far clearer than the things being shown him’ and he ‘wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real’—would be ‘deaf’ to description and analysis of the human condition.
The Bible contains descriptions similar to Plato’s, of the extent of the historic resistance, denial and block-out that now exists in the human mind to any discussion of the human condition, or of concepts that bring the issue into focus. The prophet Isaiah complained about the reception to his denial-free words, saying, ‘“You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.” This people’s heart has become calloused [alienated]; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes’ (Isa. 6:9,10, footnote). Experiencing the same reception to his denial-free, ‘out-of-cave’ thoughts, Christ repeated Isaiah’s words (see Matt. 13:13-15), saying, ‘Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say…The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God [your non-ideal, seemingly ungodly, human-condition-afflicted state causes you to block-out or deny any exposing and confronting truth about that state]’ (John 8:43-47).
Referring to the words of the prophet Amos in the Bible, the great psychiatrist R.D. Laing summarised the situation as it exists today, saying, ‘There is a prophecy in Amos [Amos 8:11] that there will be a time when there will be a famine in the land, “not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord [the denial-free words of truth about the human condition].” That time has now come to pass. It is the present age’ (The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, 1967, p.118 of 156). The Lebanese-American denial-free thinker or prophet Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) lamented the deafness of people to his denial-free thoughts when he said, ‘I am a stranger in this world, and there is no one in the Universe who understands the language I speak’ (The Lonely Poet, in The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran, p.152 of 902).
In intuitive recognition of this problem of the ‘deafening’ or, depending on what metaphor we like to use, ‘blinding’ effect of the truth about our human condition when it arrives, on Dorothy’s arrival at her Emerald City destination in the story of The Wizard of Oz, she had to wear special green sunglasses because, as the gatekeeper to the Emerald City warned, ‘if you did not wear spectacles the brightness and glory of the Emerald City would blind you’ (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, first published in 1900).
So people reading this presentation about the human condition for the first time should expect to experience the ‘deaf effect’, as the following examples, some of which were mentioned earlier in Part 2:3, illustrate. For instance, one reader of my books admitted that ‘When I first read your books all I saw were a lot of black marks on white paper’ (comment by WTM Supporter Greg Plecko, Mar. 2000). Another gave this very accurate description of the ‘deaf effect’: ‘reading Griffith is like reading another language—you know its English, you can understand the words, but the concepts are so basic and so different that they are almost incomprehensible—its a paradigm shift of a read’ (Forum: “Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets”, Member ‘straight’. Accessed May 2009 at: <>). A lawyer made this comment: ‘When I read your book I found the content very difficult to absorb, so much so in fact I found it impossible telling someone what the book was even about’ (WTM records, 6 June 2009). A married couple said, ‘We have tried very hard to read Beyond [my second book, published in 1991, Beyond the Human Condition]; in fact my wife and I would sit in bed and read a page together, and then re-read it a number of times, but still we couldn’t understand what was written there’ (WTM Supporter H. Saunders reporting a friend’s comment, Oct. 1998). Some viewers have found it so difficult ‘hearing’ the content of the Introductory Videos that, in their frustration, they have requested ‘an executive summary’ (WTM records, 18 May 2010), even though the Introductions in those videos provide just that. Another reader recognised the problem when he wrote that ‘The words in your books have in my experience brought up emotional reactions in people and they reject the information, not able to get behind them and experience the profundity of where you are coming from…Your insights are so head on as to cripple some people’ (WTM records, Jan. 1993). Similarly, ‘From the reactions of people who have borrowed my copies of Free and Beyond [Free: The End of the Human Condition, published in 1988, was my first book] I have started to wonder if the complete holistic picture presented may be too much to accept and absorb in one hit’ (New Zealand WTM Supporter P. Sadler, letter to author, 8 Nov. 1995).
Another consequence of the ‘deaf effect’ is that even if, when reading about the human condition, our mind does comprehend what is being written, often shortly afterwards it can’t recall what it was that was explained. This occurs because while our mind may have initially comprehended what was written, when it begins to absorb the confronting implications it blocks out what it ‘heard’. Marianne Velmans, a director of Doubleday publishers in the UK, courageously and generously admitted that ‘I find your theories fascinating, but I also find your arguments elusively receding from my mind as soon as I stop reading them. I can understand that this is totally a failing on my part’ (Letter to author, 3 June 1993). The following is another description of how easy it is for the upset/resigned mind to slip back into denial when studying these understandings of the human condition: ‘One thing I’ve found that occurs quite regularly [when reading these explanations of the human condition] is I feel I understand something completely but then have trouble “turning my mind” back to this sometime later (could be a couple of days, weeks etc). In some cases I have to “wade back through” to get back to the same level of understanding’ (an extract from a letter to the WTM from WTM member Jimmy, 31 Jan. 2012). As mentioned at the beginning of Part 3:12, some of the composers of the songs quoted in that Part have, in later life, denied the suggestion that there was any prophetic element to the words they wrote when they were younger and/or in an inspired state. The example was given of the Australian singer-songwriter Mark Seymour (who wrote the prophetic lyrics of the song The Holy Grail) referring in his 2008 memoir Thirteen Tonne Theory: Life Inside Hunters and Collectors, to ‘kook’ responses to ‘The Grail’, dismissively saying about my own response that I was suggesting his lyrics were ‘somehow…connected with the dawning of a new consciousness’ (p.343 of 388). But as I explained at the beginning of Part 3:12, the problem with any acknowledgment of another wonderful, human-condition-free world is that it makes living with the terrible emptiness of our existing lives too unbearable. While we do all carry an awareness just below the surface of our consciousness of the potential for this fabulous other world, it is only in rare, inspired moments that we can afford to allow that awareness to bubble to the surface before having to block it out once more. We can get the truth up in an inspired moment, or during an inspired period in our lives, but later on be unable to recall the real significance, context and meaning of what we described.
Another common response to my writing is that it is ‘too repetitive’. In order to explain this response it first needs to be appreciated that, at best, our minds can only tolerate the subject of the human condition being alluded to remotely and briefly. Acceptable glancing references to the human condition include: ‘the meaning of humans and their place in the world’, ‘our human predicament or situation’, ‘our troubled human state and nature’, ‘what it is to be human’, ‘the dark side of our nature’, ‘the riddle of life’, ‘why are we the way we are’ and ‘the root of human conflict’. The truth is, we humans have only been able to talk about the human condition in code, in ways that only the initiated can understand. We limit ourselves to esoteric inference and innuendo. We appeal to the shared intuitive awareness in others of the need to evade the deeper confronting truths about human life. We talk of certain things being ‘self-evident’. We intellectualise the truth, learn to live with it at arm’s length. At base we find a way to safely live in Plato’s dark ‘cave’ of denial of the truth about ourselves. Continued direct and open description and analysis of the human condition greatly affronts our mind. Our mind doesn’t want to keep hearing description of the subject but it cannot admit this to itself without admitting it is practicing denial, without admitting and confronting its alienation, which, obviously it cannot do otherwise it wouldn’t be living in alienation—we can’t be alienated and not be alienated. Something is occurring repeatedly, but it is not repetition of the same particular concept or material, it is the repeated raising of a subject the human mind has become deeply committed to blocking out—it is the continual elaboration and analysis of a long-forbidden and exiled subject.
Importantly, the ‘deaf effect’ can be overcome with patient re-reading of what has been written. Gradually the compassionate framework for both understanding and coping with our condition rescues our mind from feeling it has to defend itself by denying the truth and as that happens so our mind becomes more able to take in, or ‘hear’, what is being said. A typical experience when giving introductory talks about the human condition is that people who attend a second talk will very often say the second talk was a much, much better presentation than the first which they thought was disjointed and hard to follow. It’s not the talk that has improved, in fact each presentation is virtually the same, rather it’s the listener’s capacity to hear what is being said that has dramatically improved. All new subjects take time to adjust to, but in the case of the human condition it’s not its ‘newness’ that is the problem that we have to apply patience to, but our deep historic fear of a subject we know only too well. What is new to us is having the subject raised. In his description of the human condition in The Republic, Plato actually recognised that it is patience that makes human-condition-confronting information accessible. When Plato warned that when the cave prisoner ‘emerged into the light his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness of it that he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real’, he did add, ‘Certainly not at first, because he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave.’ Plato then even emphasised how relieved the liberated prisoner would be to be free of his old dishonest existence by saying that once he had become ‘accustomed to the light’, ‘when he thought of his first home and what passed for wisdom there and of his fellow-prisoners, don’t you think he would congratulate himself on his good fortune and be sorry for them?’ (tr. H.D.P. Lee, 1955, p.280 of 405). Patience certainly is rewarded when it comes to absorbing understanding of the human condition.
The whole situation produced by the deaf effect problem was articulately summarised in the following passage from an article that was published online in 2011: ‘I read it [Jeremy Griffith’s book A Species In Denial] in 2005, and at the time it was not an easy read. The core concepts keep slipping from my mental grasp, at the time I put it down to bad writing, however a second reading revealed something the Author had indicated from the outset—your mind doesn’t want to understand the content. The second read was quick and painless…[and I was then able to see that] The cause of the malaise is exposed, remedied and the reader is left with at the very least an understanding of themselves, and for me something of an optimism for the future’ (‘Fitzy’, Humanitus Interruptus – Great Minds of Today, 21 Oct. 2011; see <>).
It should be said that if the ongoing description of the human condition does become impenetrable the reader can always progress to the next Part and return later when, having better digested the dignifying defence of our species’ current embattled and corrupted state, the descriptions will be less ‘deafening’. The other option, which we highly recommend, is to participate in the WTM Deaf Effect Course which can be accessed at <>.