“These ideas can be made more concrete with a parable, which I borrow from John Fowles’s wonderful novel, The Magus.
Conchis, the principle character in the novel, ﬁnds himself Mayor of his home
town in Greece when the Nazi occupation begins. One day, three Communist
partisans who recently killed some German soldiers are caught. The Nazi commandant gives Conchis, as Mayor, a choice — either Conchis will execute the three partisans himself to set an example of loyalty to the new regime, or the Nazis will execute every male in the town.
Should Conchis act as a collaborator with the Nazis and take on himself the
direct guilt of killing three men? Or should he refuse and, by default, be responsible for the killing of over 300 men?
I often use this moral riddle to determine the degree to which people are hypnotized by Ideology. The totally hypnotized, of course, have an answer at once; they know beyond doubt what is correct, because they have memorized the Rule Book. It doesn’t matter whose Rule Book they rely on — Ayn Rand’s or Joan Baez’s or the Pope’s or Lenin’s or Elephant Doody Comix — the hypnosis is indicated by lack of pause for thought, feeling and evaluation. The response is immediate because it is because mechanical. Those who are not totally hypnotized—those who have some awareness of concrete events of sensory space-time, outside their heads— ﬁnd the problem terrible and terrifying and admit they don’t know any ‘correct’ answer.
I don’t know the ‘correct’ answer either, and I doubt that there is one. The
universe may not contain ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers to everything just because Ideologists want to have ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers in all cases, anymore than it provides hot and cold running water before humans start tinkering with it. I feel sure that, for those awakened from hypnosis, every hour of every day presents choices that are just as puzzling (although fortunately not as monstrous) as this parable. That is why it appears a terrible burden to be aware of who you are, where you are, and what is going on around you, and why most people would prefer to retreat into Ideology, abstraction, myth and self-hypnosis.
To come out of our heads, then, also means to come to our senses, literally—to live with awareness of the bottle of beer on the table and the bleeding body in the street. Without polemic intent, I think this involves waking from hypnosis in a very literal sense. Only one individual can do it at a time, and nobody else can do it for you. You have to do it all alone.”
― Robert Anton Wilson
I have always mistrusted one size fits all answers. Whether it is about the right way to educate children, what is the best method for helping people with disabilities or even what is the correct political or moral choices to make. Because when dealing with individual people or individual decisions there is no one right answer because the key word is individual. It’t not as easy or convenient to sit with questions and actually choose moment to moment what is the correct choice but it is necessary if we are to break out of our own internal and cultural programming and make choices from the heart.
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