Consensus Reality

Kurt Vonnegut in Welcome to the Monkey House wrote,

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”

In 1971 Joseph Chilton Pearce, in The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, wrote of consensus reality as conditioned, uncritically examined group beliefs.  I remember my first encounter with it. It was 1962 and I was in 6th grade. Some man dressed in the typical suit, white shirt and tie of that period entered our gifted program classroom. He informed us that because the Russians had just launched the Soyuz rocket that there would be jobs for us in mathematics and engineering; and “not to worry” because we were being prepared and trained for those jobs.

He was probably mainly talking to the boys, but that didn’t occur to me while in my head I heard my own voice screaming, “But what about what I want!?” The image that spontaneously arose was that of a giant machine that ground us up and fed us into a tumbler where we were encased like sausages and expelled in perfect uniformity. (I’m fairly certain that I had never been exposed to a similar depiction in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times). 

For the masses insane behavior can pass for normalcy; and the truth is that insanity is and has been alive and well, is well-funded, advertised, promoted, and socially approved. If you can’t see the insanity, I suggest you ask yourself …..

“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

Ursula K. LeGuin 

Consensus reality can be developed consciously or unconsciously and at a very early age. Many who inculcate it in others do not realize that they have been subject to an insidious form of brainwashing (not unlike an hypnotic trance) passed from one generation to the next. It is not unlike an epidemic virus spread by people who do not know they are infected. It is a way to indoctrinate and control behavior, whether for good or ill, in which adherents not only refuse to consider any evidence that might cause them to question or alter their behavior, but may even have learned to block it from their perceptions.

As Hans Christian Anderson showed in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes when no one dares to say the Emperor is naked, all will make themselves believe that they don’t see what they see or see what isn’t there. Regrettably, in real life, even when someone says, “No! The Emperor is naked,” masses will hold on to their pretense. The drive to be right, the need and pressure to be part of the collective power of the group defines the perception of reality even in the face of proof and all evidence to the contrary. The individual’s innermost truths are squelched.

 Salmon Rushdie said,

“…. surrealism it seems is the new realism..”

Consensus reality can lead to totalitarianism and a conformity that controls the minds, hearts and actions of those subjected to it (think Nazi Germany). Its influence, like a pandemic, is deeply disturbing. Is it curable?

The concept of the “contrary” exists in both Taoist and Native American cultures. Legend has it that in the first millennium a Taoist, Zhang Guo Lao, considered the popular notion that we would today call “getting ahead”–becoming wealthy, powerful, gaining prestige, satisfying every desire–was not forward progress but, in spiritual terms, backward movement. He demonstrated by riding backward upon his donkey that people were moving away from their own humanity .

In the North American indigenous Lakota tradition the same kind of sacred satire was performed by the heyoka. This spiritually-appointed court jester or “fool” of the Plains made an important point by doing everything backwards—wearing clothes inside out, walking or riding his horse backwards. The role included asking the difficult questions and saying the things others were too afraid to say; and to serve as a mirror so that people in his tribe would examine their behavior and perhaps think differently.

This is a call to all people who are reading this to become contrary, to wake up from whatever hypnotic spell has you in its grasp.  Stop shouting at each other. Stop listening to the constant drumbeat of same-thought, stop dulling your senses with distractions, practice opening your perceptions the new, stop the patterns that have been planted in your minds and hearts, that are not your own.

The only basis of freedom is to be free—free to think, feel, and to act for yourself out of your own deepest sense of knowing.


Spitting into the Wind

Although I realized years ago that the world was not going to be “saved” or “perfect”, I did expect that the efforts made by me, my friends and colleagues would have a positive impact and leave a lasting legacy for the generations to come. But, with climate disasters increasing, with news of anger, hatred. disrespect and violence bombarding us, with divisions by gender, nation, ethnicity and religion increasing, has anything really been accomplished?

As I ask myself this question while the world goes spinning off in a different direction from the one I imagined—(did the poles shift and I just missed it? Did we slip into an alternate reality?)—I recall a lecture by a Waldorf mentor from decades ago. He said there would come a time that we would feel as though we are “spitting into the wind.”

The online free dictionary defines to be spitting in(to) the wind:

 To be doing something totally pointless, fruitless, or futile…
to be wasting one’s time doing something that will not or cannot come to pass.

He also encouraged us that even though we would could not see any value in our deeds that we should still keep on keeping on.

If have often told clients that affirmations and positive actions are like drops of warm water on clocks of ice. We never know whether we have feet, inches or mere millimeters to go before the ice is gone and we can see through to what is below. Just keep going, drop by drop by drop. Though right now we do not see the results, persist.

I do not resist that which seems to oppose me for resistance only gives it more power. I am focused on that thing and not on what I want to accomplish. So instead I persist.

“The best way out is always through.”
― Robert Frost

Health & Wellness


HEALTH is what we are given.

WELLNESS is what we do with it.

Health conditions and tendencies are inherited from parents.In an ideal world, development from fertilized cell, to embryo, to fetus, through birth and ongoing growth results in a sound, well-functioning, comfortable system that naturally and easily sustains a thriving individual.

In the real world, health is rarely so straightforward. Life usually brings a blend of good and bad genetic fortune that is increased or decreased by how genes respond to environment. Genetic blessings or unfavorable genetic predispositions can be increased or diminished by internal and external exposure. Additionally, accidents that may occur before, during or after birth affect lifelong health. In any given life, there is little likelihood of avoiding at least some degree of pain or dysfunction.

Health is therefore relative–a range of physical and intellectual abilities and disabilities that are given and need mitigation, or maintenance. Health can sometimes be increased through a wellness lifestyle that takes what nature provides and nurtures it. Appreciating the variety of resources given and sustaining them in a balanced state is essential. That becomes the platform for designing greater health.

Wellness is something that happens only if it becomes conscious at some point in life—and for some that is earlier, for others later, and for some not at all. With consciousness comes the awareness that wellness is not just physical but also multidimensional. Wellness requires sufficient maturity for self-awareness and freedom. It is an active, lifelong process of learning ways to improve what is working and ways to either accept or to compensate for that which cannot be improved. Even when pain, discomfort or dysfunction cannot be avoided or changed, the perception and interpretation of such can be modifiable.

Wellness is a process in which change is always possible, whether it is moving inward towards personal physical, emotional, attitudinal, mental, intellectual, spiritual, and creative growth, or outward oriented toward environment, vocation, connection, community, compassion and service. To exercise options it is necessary to manage time well to find and use the appropriate guidance, methods and tools.

Wellness is a conscious choice, understanding that change includes both acquiring external knowledge and direct self-knowledge. In the learning process, it is important to remain aware of what can be known and what cannot. Acknowledging and accepting limitations, having both strength and vulnerability, are important aspects of wellness.

The state of “radical acceptance” is Grace. It is from this state of surrender to what IS, that it is possible to move forward in a meaningful and powerful way with choices that are realistic and authentic.

Authentic choice means that even when scope is limited there are a variety of options that can serve the highest and best good.