By Charles Eisenstein
Dec 11, 2012
Looking out upon the horrid ruin we seem to have made of the planet, in spite of the kind hearts and good intentions of the vast majority of human beings, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that some nefarious force has hijacked civilization, driving it towards ends that serve almost no one.
If we are headed for a future that no one would consciously choose, it stands to reason, some say, that we are not choosing; that something else, unfriendly to human welfare, is choosing for us.
Deeper study of certain pivotal events in history strengthens this conclusion. The official explanations of the Kennedy assassination or 9/11 are riddled with contradictions that are difficult to explain. Ominous coincidences pile up and make patterns, pointing toward a conscious agency orchestrating these events toward sinister goals. Diving deeper, one discovers patterns of patterns that ultimately coalesce into an alternate history of the world.
The alternate history explains world events as resulting from the machinations of a powerful, dark cabal of secret organizations comprising the global elite: the banks, wealthy families like the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, non-official organizations like the Bilderburg Council, organized crime, shadowy agencies within the government, secret societies like Skull and Bones and the Freemasons, and so on. Behind them all is a group even more secret, comprising the true rulers of earth, who count even prime ministers and presidents among their puppets.
Some theorist say that these Illuminati who hold the reins of power are human beings; others say that they have extraterrestrial allies, or that this group is controlled by, or consists of, ETs. Their goal, it is said, is to impose a New World Order (NWO) in which their dominion is complete.
In addition, the dark cabal that rules the earth is purported to have powerful secret technologies at its disposal. Weather control, mind control, energy weapons, artificially created diseases like Lyme and Swine Flu, and other near-magical technologies enable them to destroy any opposition and control us in ways we barely suspect. Always they are seeking to impose new forms of tyranny, to extend their dominion over mind and matter.
The purpose of this essay is not to debunk conspiracy theories or uphold the dominant historical narrative. Rather, I will advance a third explanation that respects and transcends both. Most critiques of conspiracy theories dispute the author's evidence, logic, and sources, and impugn his sanity, intelligence, or integrity. I will not do that. While such critiques often have merit, they tend to go after the low-hanging fruit: the sloppiest authors, the weakest points of their theses, the most easily explained of their evidence. Giving the best of the genre a fair reading, however, the impartial reader realizes that something strange is going on.
Moreover, the NWO conspiracy theory, whatever its flaws, bears some important truths. For one thing, it speaks to our sense that there is something deeply wrong in the world, something that is right in front of our faces yet that we are too blind to see. The NWO hypothesis feels validating and liberating. In the end, though, many people find it to be disempowering; as I shall describe, it subtly feeds into the mentality behind the very same conditions that it aspires to change. It robs us of our power and helps maintain the status quo. How does this happen, and how can its liberating potential be realized? To answer this question, let us begin with a meta-level critique of the NWO thesis, and conspiracism in general, a critique that opens the door toward integrating both the NWO and the dominant narrative into a larger framework.
The Futility of Control
Are there really ultra-intelligent, ultra-competent people on top whose plans actually work and whose technologies actually succeed in molding the world to their plans? Or are the elites of our civilization as confused and scared as the rest of us, responding to events that, at every turn, take on a life of their own? The futility of control is written into the fabric of reality. Complex non-linear systems such as a body or a society are inherently unpredictable. Of course, those in power try to maintain control and often wreak awful damage in so doing, but generally speaking it is events that control them, and not the other way around.
Conspiracy theories ascribe a degree of competence, foresight, and efficiency to the controlling organizations that is generally foreign to human institutions. We live in a civilization built on control, on the idea that we can order the world through material and social technology and, once we perfect those technologies, win the war against nature, against disorder, against uncertainty. But in fact, the world is messy, chaotic, and unpredictable, and no matter how tightly we attempt to orchestrate events, control slips through our grasp like mud through a clenched fist. We are immersed in an ideology that says that with the next technological revolution, with next medical innovation, or the next set of comprehensive regulations, finally we will get all the messy variables under control and live in an orderly, secure world.
The conspiracists agree with a defining precept of our civilization: that the world is fundamentally amenable to control. They think that this power to control has been turned toward evil, but do not dispute the technocratic doctrine that society and the material world can be endlessly improved through the methods of science: gathering information, making plans, eliminating variables, applying force, and so on. To believe that the NWO conspiracy is even possible is to conform to one of the primary motivating and justifying beliefs underlying totalitarianism. The NWO believers are not as radical as they think.
We have been betrayed. After centuries of sacrifice on the altar of technological development, we harbor a deep disappointment and anger. We export that anger onto the Illuminati, or whoever it is that has robbed us of The Future. Surely this technological utopia exists – it has only been withheld from us, and the technologies of paradise turned toward nefarious ends. But the real problem is deeper than that. It is the paradigm of control itself that causes us to sacrifice everything in pursuit of a mirage.
The Dynamics of Command
A staple of conspiracy theories is the idea that "President Obama is a puppet" or that, "Even David Rockefeller is taking orders from higher up." So let us look into the social dynamics of hierarchies. For someone to obey orders, either the command-giver must have direct physical power over the subordinate (for example, a literal gun to the head), or both commander and commandee must be embedded in a social institution that legitimizes and enforces the command. An obvious example of the latter is the army. When a colonel gives an order to a major, the latter obeys not because he is afraid the colonel will beat him up if he refuses, but because both are part of a web of (mostly implicit) agreements. Ultimately, if he doesn't comply with the order, someone (say military police) might beat him up or imprison him, but that happens as well because the web of agreements includes consequences for violating them. We could say that colonel, major, military police, and the rest all share a common "story of the army".
What about the global conspiracy? What social institution exists that would legitimize orders issued to David Rockefeller or Barack Obama? The story of the army is embedded in larger legitimizing stories that ultimately encompass the legitimacy of the government, the value of money, an interpretation of history, a system a values and morals, and more. What infrastructure exists that would allow direct hierarchical control over Obama or Rockefeller? Hierarchies cannot exist in a social vacuum. They require a system of indoctrination and acculturation along with numerous supporting institutions.
I have noticed that conspiracy theories have a very strong emotional appeal – at least to some people. Believers like to think that they are impartially choosing their belief because they are more rational, more intelligent, or more open-minded than all those benighted, deluded "sheeple" out there. Two people look at the same set of facts and draw different conclusions. Is that choice a function of intelligence and reason? Or could it be that we choose interpretations to meet psychological and emotional needs?
One indication of the emotional appeal of conspiracy theories is their addictive nature. When I visited the conspiracy state of being some time ago, I found myself constantly checking certain websites, and feeling a kind of gratification at each discovery of some new outrage. Other than that, it was a very dark and heavy state of being that I visited, full of gloomy cynicism and a superficial feeling of superiority that didn't even fool myself. I've heard from people for whom this became a full-fledged addiction. They spend hours every day reading about the machinations of the New World Order, and go through intense withdrawal whenever they miss their "fix".
Believers spend lots of time getting "informed", but do they really act upon that information? Some do, I suppose: they move to an armed compound in Idaho or hide gold coins in their basement. But most go on with life as usual. How are they any different from their neighbors? Their eyeballs linger over Alex Jones' website rather than NPR's, but to what end? They may believe themselves to be among the canny, righteous few, fighting against evil on behalf of the ignorant masses, but mostly they do nothing. Like any addiction, addiction to conspiracy websites or the closely related end-of-the-world websites disempowers people, and actually helps maintain the status quo.
Belief in conspiracy theories is not one of several emotionally coequal world-view alternatives. It is part and parcel of an emotional, psychological, and spiritual state of being. That state of being is a victim state. The belief that events are controlled by malevolent people far more powerful than ourselves, that any attempt at change is futile in the face of the tremendous powers arrayed against us, leaves no alternative but to carve out a small, safe realm of rebellion-in-private. If there were indeed a global conspiracy, it would be quite happy with this result. Paradoxically, then, we might say that the idea that there is a global conspiracy is itself a lie propagated by the global conspiracy.
One of the most common criticisms of conspiracy theories is that they are non-falsifiable, since any contradictory evidence can be written off as a fabrication, a false trail, or so forth. A conspiracy, moreover, must be well-hidden – lack of evidence is itself evidence! What is less frequently acknowledged is that the alternatives to conspiracy theories are very nearly non-falsifiable as well. Anyone who comes forth to expose a conspiracy can be labeled a fraud or a madman, and nearly anything can be written off as coincidence. We are faced, as we are so often in life, with two narratives that can, with perhaps a bit of stretching, account for all of the facts. How then to choose?
Much as we would like to think otherwise, evidence and logic cannot bring certainty. Nor, as numerous social psychology experiments demonstrate, are they the primary determinants of our judgments and choices. Despite the epithets hurled back and forth, neither side of, say, the 9/11 conspiracy issue is stupid. Critics of conspiracy theories paint their proponents as naïve, unsophisticated, and guilty of obvious selection biases and a host of elementary errors in research and logic. I have found such critiques unsatisfactory. They certainly apply to the worst of the genre, but not always to the best.
Reasonable people can, depending on their vantage point and life situation, look at the same set of events and form different beliefs about them. These beliefs then become a filter that determines what they see and, indeed, what they look for. It is as if they enter separate but parallel realities. As we shall see, there is more to this appearance than meets the eye.
The War against Evil
Among conspiracism's psychological payoffs that it provides someone to blame, to hate, and perhaps to fight in a world of otherwise incomprehensible injustice and horror. Paradoxically, even though it casts us as victims of super-powerful conspirators, it also provides a kind of control. After all, if the source of evil in the world today is the conspirators, then the solution is quite clear: expose and remove them. If there is no conspiracy – if, for instance, evil is endemic to the world or an emergent property of organizations – then we are even more helpless. Even if as a practical matter we cannot hope to defeat the conspiracy, at least we understand why things are the way they are. We know a solution, even if it be out of reach.
That solution, to put it succinctly, is to conquer evil. Conspiracism offers an external evil and thereby exculpates us from our own complicity in the awful things happening on earth today. We can think, "If only I were in charge, I would run things very differently than the New World Order Illuminati, because I am a decent person, not evil like they are."
The paradigm that sees human affairs – and even cosmic processes – as a war between good and evil has deep roots, originating with the first agricultural civilizations. It was then that the concept of evil arose, mirroring the growing oppositional relationship to nature implicit in the taming of the wild. Rather than being seen as integral parts of the whole, such things as weeds, wolves, and locusts became threats to human well-being and the object of extermination campaigns – campaigns that are still with us today. The chaotic forces of nature were identified with evil, while good was associated with the bringing of order to nature and to human affairs. If only, someday, our control over nature and society could be complete, the thinking goes, then good will reign on earth and suffering will be minimized or even, with nanotechnology and neuro-engineering, eliminated. Evil will have been conquered.
When new political movements come to power, they often bring with them the idea of eliminating evil. Whether it is the Nazi Holocaust or the Stalinist purges, the result is usually bloody, regardless of how evil is identified. In other words, the idea of evil begets evil. We may add, then, a second paradox to the one above. In the war between good and evil, a great weapon of the forces of evil is the notion that there is a war between good and evil.
Conspiracism gives new guise to a very old thoughtform (that the horror of our world is caused by forces of evil) that is becoming obsolete. We can see its obsolescence both in our changing attitudes toward nature, which no longer hold it as an object of conquest and exploitation, and in newly ascendant spiritual beliefs that emphasize the integration and transcendence of dualities. In social psychology as well, a new movement called situationism contends that the totality of our external and internalized circumstances, rather than some disposition toward good or evil, determines our choices.
In fields as disparate as physics, psychology, ecology, and spirituality, people are understanding that what happens "out there" is intimately connected to what happens "in here"; that self and world are interdependent and mutually co-constructed. A dark conspiracy controlling world events mirrors the same inside ourselves. When I say "ourselves" I don't mean some people and not others and certainly not us good guys. I mean you, me, and everyone.
Herein may lie an important truth encoded in conspiracy theories: not a factual truth, but a mythological truth. There does seem to be a conspiracy running inside my psyche that keeps me enslaved to fear and greed; that indeed possesses technologies of mind control; that presents the whole world through a filter of lies; that is associated somehow with the reptilian part of my brain; that manipulates me to serve an agenda inimical to my authentic happiness. Everything that the Illuminati are purported to do to the world, we do to ourselves. Could it be that when we see an evil cabal controlling the world, we are actually seeing the projection of our own egos?
And, because our collective institutions mirror the prevailing psychodynamics of our time, could it be that story of the New World Order conspiracy, despite its flaws, gives us a window onto some important truths about our society?
The Mythic Truth of the New World Order
However rational and evidence-based we like to imagine ourselves to be, ultimately our beliefs are founded on faith. Few readers of David Icke actually do the footwork that would be necessary to verify his sources, and his sources' sources, many of whom, indeed, are already dead. If the NWO conspiracists are correct, then everything we have been told is wrong. For some, this is profoundly liberating; for others it is deeply disturbing. The former are predisposed to believe; the latter to reject; this predisposition then clothes itself in facts and evidence. Thus it is that facts and evidence rarely change anyone's mind - they are symptoms and not causes of our beliefs. It is only when life-changing events alter one's predisposition that room becomes available for new beliefs.
Our beliefs, and the states of being underlying them, do evolve and sometimes shift dramatically. This happens especially when for one reason or another, one's world falls apart. Because we live in a time of mounting crisis, the world is falling apart for more and more people, and the unraveling of the old certainties will only accelerate in coming years. At such times, we occasionally face a moment of choice, in which we can decide what to believe. But, recognizing that evidence alone is insufficient to guide belief, how are we to choose?
I suggest that we choose a belief, and the corresponding psychological state accompanying it, based on how well it aligns with who we truly are and who we want to become. This doesn't mean to ignore evidence, for quite often anomalous events can show us that our personal mythology is cracking apart, and that we are ready to moult. It does mean to consider how each belief-state feels, what it implies about the world, about human beings, and about oneself. How does it affect the answer to the question, "Who am I?" What needs does it meet? How does it hurt? What emotions does it evoke? You can take a few moments to sit with an article from a conspiracy website like 9/11 Truth, and then with a debunking article from CSICOP, and notice the ways in which each feels gratifying, offensive, reassuring, or threatening. Then I invite you to do the same with the third alternative that I offer in the essay.
This third alternative preserves the mythic truths of the New World Order hypothesis, truths that lie outside its interpretive framework. Here are two of them:
(1) A nefarious power, inimical to human well-being, manipulates the course of human events from behind the scenes, seeking the total control of every human being.
Rather than an evil Illuminati, could that power be money? Some say that a global elite controls humanity via the money system, but could it be that it is rather the money system that controls the global elite? I'm sure many of you have known the feeling of being enslaved to money. The wealthy are not exempt, and indeed, possessing more of it, are even more deeply enslaved to its logic. It is truly an "invisible hand," a force that "makes the world go 'round." Moreover, the end toward which money compels us is one of misery and ugliness: the destruction of nature and culture, community and health, and all that is beautiful on earth.
Even those we might consider most culpable for the injustices and despoliation of our world act with little awareness of what they are creating. Whether they are hedge fund managers seeking to maximize a number (profit), or political leaders seeking to further "American interests," the reality behind these symbols is obscure to them. They are victims of their own propaganda, doing harm while sincerely believing to be doing good. It is easy to believe this of people in the middle and bottom of the pyramid, the ignorant and the duped. It is harder to understand how it could apply to people at the top, yet it is equally true - if not more true - of them. They are among the most hopeless dupes of all.
Money is not the only candidate for the nefarious controlling power. Various ideologies and their corresponding being-states, in particular those I call Separation and Ascent, are even more deeply responsible. They create a culture, and a self, that seeks to maximize security, predictability, and control; to measure and quantify the world; to eliminate risk and establish liability; to extend property rights and legal codes into every corner of life, and to monitor everyone and keep track of every thing. The destination of such a program is none other than what the conspiracists fear: a totalitarian "one world government."
We might say, then, that it is not those at the top of the pyramid that control the rest; it is the pyramid itself that controls all. But this pyramid, this Tower, built of the defining myths of our civilization, is evidently crumbling before our eyes.
I am not necessarily saying, "It isn't the Draconian races, it is the money system (or the myth of Separation)." Rather, these refer to one and the same thing, viewed through a different lens. In one reality, it is money, in another it is the ETs.
(2) We are subject to technologies of mind control that hold us in thrall.
New World Order conspiracists posit the existence of futuristic mind control based on alien technologies, beamed from the communication infrastructure, riding upon cell phone towers, television transmissions, and so on, or transmitted via occult symbology. subliminal messages, and neuro-linguistic programming techniques. There is truth in this, but the truth is deeper than the conspiracists realize. Television stupifies us not only through its content, but through the ability of the medium itself to usurp the image-making capacity of the brain and create intellectual dependency. Advertising and, more subtly, the narratives of the mass media condition our thoughts and desires, so that we become afraid of freedom and nearly incapable of rebelling. But these technologies are rather clumsy and overt compared with the way that institutions of our culture, by their very logic, limit the range and manner of our thinking. Education, science, religion, medicine, parenting, and the legal system all condition us to think in certain ways. But the most pervasive and powerful mind control technology, so ubiquitous as to be unnoticable, is undoubtedly the language itself.
Can we overcome dualism, when our language is rife with it? Can we transcend separation, when our language assumes it in its very structure? By their very existence certain words limit us to thoughts that subtly serve the status quo. For example, when I when I say that reality isn't what we think it is, by using the word "is" I reinforce the very independently-existing reality that I am trying to deny. More generally, as a system of signs, language distances us from the reality it is supposed to represent, allowing us to more easily treat the world as other. Sometimes, during meditation or mystical experience, the veil of language lifts and the richness of the unmediated world is revealed, and along with it the depth of our thralldom.
Again, even as it reaches its extreme, the system of mind control is crumbling. The devaluation of language that I discuss in The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies has engendered a pervasive cynicism, a discounting of all speech, that renders the tools of mind control increasingly ineffective. So inured are we to a world of image and hype, that we believe little of what we are told. Switching to the NWO lens, we might say that the Illuminati are panicking, desperately ramping up their mind control efforts to less and less effect.
A New Story
There are many other mythic truths, and variants of these, that could be added to the list. To me, they carry a resonance that transcends interpretation. Here are a few to play with: "The institutions of power are carrying us toward a secret and horrible destination." "Many among us have been programmed through trauma to serve this end." "The servants of the conspiracy look and act as normal people -- you can never tell who they are." (And maybe you could be one of them and not even know it.) "All that we think is real is an illusion." "Invisible shadow institutions lie hidden within the visible ones and serve purposes different from, or even opposed to, their stated purpose." The New World Order story dresses these mythic truths in its own language, and in so doing provides a valuable service, giving people access to them.
At some point, however, the story that was once enlightening becomes confining. As I have explained, conspiracy theories eventually bring most people to a kind of despair, even paralysis. When that happens, when the NWO story has run the course of its usefulness, it helps to have a new, larger story to step into.
The new story says that the abiding intuition that you have carried perhaps your whole life, and which drew you to conspiracism in the first place, is true. The world is governed by a secret power that holds us in bondage to no good end. But the conspirators are not others, they are we, you and I and everyone. A secret agenda of domination and control has existed in nearly everyone, and a world embodying that agenda has congealed around us, attracted to the dark, reptilian energies we have harbored. The good news is that these energies have nearly run their course, as the world of control breaks down and the campaign to conquer and dominate all other being founders on its own consequences. Just as Voldemort was unable to possess Harry Potter because he couldn't abide the love within him, so also is the ruling power of the world unable to abide our growing realization of our connectedness. Love, the felt experience of oneness, is spreading as the walls of separation come down. They never were sustainable. Today, even the most deluded - the power elite - are beginning to recognize that. The reign of the Illuminati is nearly over. That it seems to be reaching unprecedented heights only bespeaks the imminence of its demise, the extreme of yang giving birth to yin.
The war of good versus evil was never anything but a lie. The concept of evil is perhaps the greatest servant of evil. "Is there such a thing as evil?" I was once asked. "Before you asked, the answer was no. After you asked, the answer is yes." But ultimately, evil and its expression as the New World Order, or as I would call it, the process of Separation, has like all other things its purpose in this universe. We embark on a journey of separation in all its forms, we reach its extreme, and we come back to Union at a higher level of complexity, enriched by our journey. To adopt one last time the vocabulary of the New World Order myth, we might say that the reptilian overlords or the Illuminati have fulfilled their purpose. Though some might try to hold onto it a little longer, sooner or later they will accept that their time is over, and they will bow out of service.
The greater truth, though, which contains but does not contradict the lesser, is that the Illuminati, the Reptilians, are you and I. On this level too, what I have said is true. Can you not feel the obsolescence of that part of you, the part that endlessly seeks to control the world, to dominate others, to maximize egoic self-interest? Is it not increasingly evident that its efforts have created only misery? Is it not apparent that, no matter how hard you try to remedy its failure by intensifying its efforts, its ultimate failure is assured? For all of us, the time is coming for that part of ourselves to bow out, so that we can step into service, into trust, and, collectively, into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
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