Matrix & Transformation: Chapter 8


Richard Moore

Copyright 2004 Richard K. Moore



* Cultures and conditioning

Animals are born with most of their behavior patterns already
hard-wired in. Humans on the other hand learn their behavior
patterns and beliefs -- their culture -- from their society.
We are born with a programmable culture-unit rather than a
pre-programmed behavior-unit. Psychologists recognize a
measurable programmability-factor in humans which is most
pronounced in infancy, declines gradually, and which falls off
sharply after about age 13. This is why we have the phrase
'impressionable youth'. If a child is taught that Apollo
carries the sun across the sky each day in a chariot, that
will be accepted as unquestioned, literal truth -- as would be
the tenets of any other religion. The adult can't say why he
believes these myths, he simply 'knows they are true'. The
unquestioned faith of the adult is the frozen programming of
the child.

The conversion of a pre-wired behavior-unit into a
programmable culture-unit was one of our most important and
unique evolutionary developments. It facilitated the emergence
of early humans from the forest to pursue a wide variety of
available niches. The rate of our cultural evolution could be
measured in centuries or even generations -- rather than
millennia. We soon left the other species behind like so many
frozen statues in a pastoral tableau. Lions are still doing
exactly what they were doing before humans came along.
Meanwhile, we've gone on to build civilizations and create
cultures appropriate to them.

In our early days as Homo sapiens, each band or tribe
gradually evolved its own culture, adopting a world view that
supported the perceived requirements of its economic milieu.
The culture grew out of the relationship of the tribe with its
natural environment. These cultures were holistic, in that
economics, skills, stories, songs, maturation rites, male and
female roles, beliefs, cosmology, morals -- all of these
things and more -- were of a whole fabric. Cultures were
typically unique to each tribal group and remarkably stable
over time, often including a mechanism for reliably passing on
historical tradition orally.

The stability of early cultures was largely due to the fact
that children are programmable and that adults tend to rigidly
retain the programming. People learn their cultures, and the
meaning of the world, as youth -- and then as adults they
simply see what they were told as being 'truth'. As a
consequence, they pass on the same 'truth' to their children
in turn. If children were more critical of what they were
told, or if adults were more open to learning new truths, then
cultures would be less stable over time. This combination of
youthful programmability and adult rigidity was perhaps
necessary for our early survival. But after civilization came
along these traits became a primary means of subjugating
populations. They became the basis of hierarchical religion
and of social conditioning.

Anthropologists tell us that the first hierarchical societies
were chiefdoms. These early chiefs claimed to be gods -- and
were treated as such by their subjects. The children of the
tribe were taught that the chief was a god, they took it as
'truth', and as adults their obedience was assured. Chiefs
could use force to command allegiance, but their need to use
force was greatly reduced by their status as divinities. To
disobey or oppose the chief was not only a crime punishable by
death, but a sacrilege as well. As long as each new generation
was conditioned to this system of myths, then the chief and
his heirs were able to maintain their ruling positions with
minimum need for force.

Thus from the very beginning of hierarchical societies, myths
and conditioning have been used as tools of subjugation. As
civilization has evolved, the means of conditioning the masses
have become gradually more sophisticated. The basic challenge
for regimes is to instill a fundamental world view that
supports the continuance of the ruling regime. Once the world
view is successfully installed, then the context of
subjugation has been established. For most of the past 2,000
years, strong religious institutions, and strong social
conditioning about faith and belief, have served as the
primary means of inculcating a world view that would accept
hierarchy, suffering, and political impotence as normal states
of being. "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's...", and
so forth. This has been a rather stable conditioning system
over these two thousand years, with occasional readjustments
in response to political and economic developments, such as
the Protestant Revolution which facilitated the emergence of

* Liberalism: today's mythology

The Enlightenment (c. 1800) brought what was perhaps the
greatest transformation in mythology since the first
hierarchical societies. Discoveries in science were
challenging the traditional religious mythologies, and the
rising merchant class felt stifled by the hierarchies of
aristocracy and the church. The result was a gradual
transformation of Western societies from kingdoms to
republics, beginning with the American and French Revolutions.
Although religious doctrines have continued to play an
important role, republicanism introduced a new dominant
mythology: liberalism.

      From my American Heritage dictionary: 
      liberal. 2. Having, expressing, or following views or policies
      that favor the freedom of individuals to act or express
      themselves in a manner of their own choosing.

In this original sense of the word, liberalism included
everyone who was opposed to absolute monarchy. While in
current American usage 'liberal' refers to someone on the left
half of the political spectrum, in its original sense
'liberal' would include nearly everyone in the modern world.
We can see the vestige of this sense of the word in the term
'neoliberal', which is a right-wing agenda.

There are two primary liberal myths. The first myth is that
the individual is the sovereign unit in society, and the
second myth is that the will of the sovereign individual can
find expression through electoral representation. Neither of
these myths makes any more sense, nor has any more evidence to
support it, than the belief that Apollo carries the sun across
the sky in a chariot.

The myth of individual sovereignty is very appealing because
we as individuals like the idea of being autonomous and
sovereign. The myth appeals particularly to the juvenile urge
that arises in the youth of all societies to rebel against the
established order. Children have always messed about a bit,
working out their selfish, not-yet-socialized urges. In large
measure, the liberal cult of individualism is a case of
cultural neoteny -- the retention of a juvenile tendency in
the adults of our society. We are encouraged to compete as
selfish individuals, to make our individual way in the world,
to struggle one against another. This, we are taught, is

Appealing as the idea of individual sovereignty might
superficially appear to be, it suffers from the fact that it
does not and could never exist in reality. Except for the rare
isolated hermit, people have always lived, and always will
live, within ordered societies. Societies have always had
rules which must be followed, and punishments for rule
breakers. Individuals have always had to conform to those
rules, whether they be 'god given' or passed by legislatures.
Most people don't even question the rules, but conform readily
to them so as to make their lives go more smoothly.

In fact, sovereignty is about making the rules, not following
them. In the early days of civilization it was the kings that
made the rules, and they were known as 'sovereigns'. Today it
is legislatures that make the rules -- remote bureaucracies
made up of corrupt power seekers, party hacks, and corporate
proxies. Setting aside globalization and the WTO for the
moment, the nation state is the unit of sovereignty in our
modern world -- not the individual. The individual is
compelled to obey the laws, to seek his or her fortune within
the constraints laid down by elites, and can typically be
coerced into going off and risking his or her life in
imperialist wars. This is not sovereignty, this is slavery. We
won't be sovereign, as individuals or in any other way, until
we make the rules ourselves.

This brings us to the second myth of liberalism: that
democracy is achievable by means of competitive politics and
elected representatives. The fact that history shows us no
example of this myth being realized should raise doubt in the
liberal, in the same way that the fossil record should raise
doubt in those who believe literally in the biblical creation
myth. In neither case, however, do the facts seem to dispel
the myth that was implanted during the programmable years. No
less should doubt be raised in the liberal by the actual
performance of today's so-called democracies. In no way could
anyone characterize the policies of our modern societies as
being an expression of democratic will. Indeed, those who
support the governments most loyally seem to have the least
understanding of what those governments are actually up to.
Accurate information is not made available to the masses, and
their opinion is not requested when policies are being made...
how could they possibly, through representation or not, be the
source of actual social policy? How can an X in a box possibly
convey the complex will of an allegedly sovereign human being?
The idea is preposterous, as preposterous as any primitive

* There is hope for the liberal

Fortunately, there is hope for those who have been programmed
into the cult of liberalism. There are effective deprogramming
tools available. The harmonization process is one such tool.
In the experience of a facilitated face-to-face gathering of
diverse people, the recovering liberal can learn two
liberating lessons at the same time.

The first lesson has to do with the relationship of the
individual to the group. When people learn to let down the
defensive shell of personal prejudices, and allow themselves
to enter a shared mental space, an exciting synergy emerges --
a collective wisdom that is much greater than the sum of the
individual wisdoms. The individual is not submerged by this
process, rather the individual is awakened and empowered by
being really listened to. The experience is one of heightened
personal power, enabled by ceasing to view power as a matter
of dominance, but seeing it instead as a measure of our
ability to achieve our goals -- an ability that is enhanced
profoundly by seeking solutions in open and trusting
cooperation with others. The recovering liberal learns from
this lesson that the solitary individual is under-qualified to
act as a sovereign social unit. We need the synergy of a
larger group, or community, in order to have a context in
which our own will can find expression and effective
realization. In short: the group empowers the individual; the
solitary individual is politically impotent and, relatively
speaking, creatively impoverished.

The second lesson has to do with the relationship of the
individual to governance. The heart of this lesson is that
ordinary people are competent to govern themselves. Our
societies generally, and hence our socialization processes,
give us only the models of collaborative and adversarial
dynamics (as described in "Harmonization and the microcosm")
for use in our interactions. As solitary individuals using
these deficient processes we 'learn' that ordinary people
aren't very effective in solving difficult problems together,
or on reaching agreement on divisive issues. This conditioned
learning reinforces the myth that we can only find effective
political expression through representation, and by trusting
in the professional hierarchy. In a harmonization session, the
recovering liberal learns that ordinary people can work
profoundly well together -- when they learn to engage in
dynamics that enable their collective wisdom to emerge.

The full meaning of this second lesson is not necessarily
taken in all at once. At first it may be only a glimmer of a
realization, in the context of a small group. But after even a
single session, the programmed belief in the necessity of
hierarchy can no longer be entirely sacrosanct. The wedge of
liberation from hierarchy has been put in place. Further
experience with harmonization can only drive the wedge
forward, leading eventually to the realization that genuine
grassroots participatory democracy is possible.

In the end, the recovered liberal finds that his programmed
beliefs were a subtle distortion of a larger truth. Yes the
individual is the primary source of sovereign will in a
democracy -- but that will can only find effective expression
in a larger, cooperative political unit. And yes, political
sovereignty should begin down at the grassroots of a democracy
-- but the solitary individual is not quite viable as a
foundation for that sovereignty. From the perspective of this
larger truth, the natural synergy between localism and
democracy begins to become apparent. It is in the local
community that the sovereign individual can effectively
participate, and it is the local community which is viable as
the sovereign political unit at the grassroots of a democratic

Thus the spreading of a culture of harmonization has two
aspects. On the one hand it is a deprogramming campaign, aimed
at the liberation of liberals of the left and right (victims
our dominant subjugating mythology). On the other hand it is a
positive movement aimed at establishing a culture suitable to
a democratic society. Unlike every other culture which has
characterized civilization, a culture of harmonization is not
supportive of hierarchy. In that sense, it is the most
revolutionary cultural development to come along since
civilization itself. But there is even more to it than that.

* Cultural evolution in a democracy

Earlier I suggested that the emergence of a programmable
culture-unit was a major step forward for humanity's cultural
evolution. With that genetic innovation, Homo sapiens was able
to evolve its cultures in drastically shorter time frames than
can be accomplished by biological evolution. Our consequent
ability to expand into new niches soon outstripped that of our
competitor species. And yet, as I also pointed out, early
cultural evolution was strongly limited by the automatic
passing down of cultures from generation to generation, with
change minimized. This stabilizing aspect of early cultural
evolution was suitable to early societies, where changes in
basic circumstances occurred relatively rarely. Early
societies were strongly conservative, and rightly so.

Our modern societies, particularly when undergoing a process
of radical transformation, are much more dynamic affairs than
those of early Homo sapiens. An even more rapid means of
cultural evolution would be suitable for us. Locally-based
democracy provides a suitable vehicle for that more rapid
evolution. A democratic community can transform its culture
simply by dialoging and adopting changes. Our programmable
culture-unit moved the scale of cultural evolution from the
realm of genetic changes into the realm of behavioral
adaptation. Democracy accelerates the scale of cultural
evolution further on into the realm of conscious cognition. As
I've mentioned before, we can surely expect a global cultural

Early societies needed myths as an effective means of passing
on successful cultural adaptations. Hierarchical societies
needed myths in order to subjugate the people. A democratic
society has no need of myths. People can believe in myths if
they want to, that's their sovereign right, but the
maintenance of a democratic society does not depend on
everyone subscribing to any particular myth. This lack of
enabling mythology is in fact the most revolutionary aspect of
this particular cultural transformation. Not only are we going
back to before civilization began (by abandoning hierarchy),
but we are abandoning something that primates have always had:
a rigid, inherited culture. Early Homo sapiens inherited his
culture through conditioning, rather than genes, but it was
inherited nonetheless, and it was typically rigid and only
very slowly changing.

For the first time ever, humanity will be free to define its
own destiny, unencumbered by systematically conditioned false
beliefs and superstitions. This 'defining our own destiny
rationally' was part of the original Enlightenment vision, but
it was in that case betrayed. To the elites who ran republican
societies, keeping the people under control was the most
important priority. Desirable cultural evolution under elites
has been systematically minimized, being forced only by
effective grassroots activism, or occurring fortuitously as a
result of elite agendas. Meanwhile undesirable cultural
evolution, as we've seen under neoliberalism, has been
initiated whenever such has been required to enable further
capitalist growth.

As we launch into transforming our societies, free at last
from elites and conditioned myths, we will most likely
experience an initial, explosive 'speciation' of new cultures.
This does not mean, however, that our democratic cultures will
be plastic affairs, changing with every season and fashion.
What it does mean is that our cultures will be free to
co-evolve along with the economic, infrastructure, life-style,
and other decisions we make as we transform our societies. In
fact, we can expect our cultures to tend to stabilize over
time due to the constraints of sustainability. Sustainability
and stability go hand in hand. Sustainable agriculture, for
example, tends to involve rotating through those crops which
are most suitable for the local soil and climate. Hence one
might expect regular cycles of agricultural activity to
develop. Sustainable businesses would want to have markets and
suppliers whose demands and productivity are relatively stable
over time. Hence we might see a stabilization of business
enterprises, perhaps somewhat akin to the medieval guild
system, but guided by democratic principles.

We also have reason to expect that our cultures will become
more holistic, as were early human cultures. When our cultures
are free to evolve, instead of being constrained by relatively
rigid myths, the various aspects of our cultures are likely to
converge toward some kind of mutual consistency. As we
universally adopt sustainable practices, for example, we are
likely to regain respect for nature at a spiritual level, as
was characteristic of early human cultures. And as we become
accustomed to using harmonization in our political affairs, we
are likely to develop a more cooperative and loving ethic
toward our fellow humans generally.

As regards respect for nature in early cultures, it is true
that exceptions can be found when tribes migrated to new
territories. They often opportunistically exterminated
vulnerable food species. But eventually equilibrium would be
reached and respect for nature would become part of the
culture. We can view industrialization as such a 'new
territory', leading to the opportunistic decimation of nature.
When we leave those exploitive practices behind us, as did
early societies when the vulnerable species disappeared, we
too can expect our world view to come into alignment with our
new economic practices.

* Democracy and personal liberation

While liberalism promises personal liberty, it is under
genuine democracy that we will experience personal liberty for
the first time. Actually participating in the conditions that
affect our lives will be not only politically liberating, but
psychologically liberating as well. We have been in a dark
prison for millennia, and emerging into the daylight of
freedom will liberate our spirits in more ways than we can
imagine. Like the lion in "Born Free", we will be able to
discover our true natures as free beings.

One of the things we will discover, in a society that is
governed for the benefit of the people, is that we have been
working entirely too hard. It is not our needs that force us
to work ten hours a day or more, but rather the needs of
capitalism. The scarcity that we experience in our lives is an
artificial scarcity, required so that elites can extract
astronomical profits from our labor. Indeed, a major problem
for capitalism has been the 'excess production' enabled by
industrial methods. If applied sensibly, modern technology can
produce whatever artifacts we need with a small fraction of
the effort currently devoted to 'work'. In a democratic
society based on local sovereignty and ownership, we will find
that we have lots of free time on our hands.

Free time plus a liberated spirit is a formula for unleashing
creativity. Not only will we experience a renaissance of
creativity at the level of our societies, but art, poetry,
music, science and all manner of personal creativity will be
enabled as well. In our societies today, it is very difficult
to be an artist. You must have a special talent and dedication
in order to make a living by art in a society which does not
assign much economic value to art. And if you want to pursue
scientific inquiry, your are restricted to what will be funded
by establishment institutions.

When we don't need to spend most of our waking hours working
to support elite's mega-wealth, then we will find there are
artists and poets all around us. Indeed, some indigenous
societies today do not have a special word for 'artist' or
'musician'. They understood that everyone has such talents.
And when scientific inquiry can be pursued free of elite
agendas, who knows what breakthroughs might be possible?
Instead of being constrained by the needs of corporate profit
making, our only scientific constraints will be those imposed
by our democratic will. Rather than most of our research going
toward developing weaponry and frivolous consumer products,
our research can be guided by the needs of society and the
pursuit of understanding.

Many social visionaries today believe that 'personal
transformation' on a massive scale is necessary before social
transformation can be achieved. I suggest that this is a
disempowering myth, a means of subjugation just like our other
myths. It inhibits us from pursuing social transformation and
it blames us, the victims, for a society that has in fact been
fashioned by elites for their own benefit. This 'necessity of
personal transformation' myth can be seen as a vestige of the
myth of 'original sin'. The myth fails to recognize that the
deficiencies in our current level of personal consciousness
are due not to our inherent natures, but are largely the
result of systematic conditioning. If the conditioning is
removed, the path to personal transformation will be a far
easier one. The conditioning can be removed by appropriate
social transformation. If we put the cart before the horse
(personal before social transformation), we are prevented from
moving forward. The teachings of Buddha and Christ have been
known for thousands of years, and yet massive personal
transformation has not yet occurred. But as with all myths,
this kind of obvious evidence seems to go unnoticed by those
who subscribe to the myth.

* Education in a democratic society

In our current societies, the primary role of 'education' is
to fill the youth with disempowering myths and condition them
to the practical requirements of a regimented society. Indeed,
general public 'education' was not established until
industrialism came along, requiring a literate work force who
could understand and obey complex instructions. Before that,
illiteracy had served as one more mechanism to subjugate the
masses. In a democratic society, we can restore 'education' to
the original meaning of the word. The word comes from 'educe',
which means to "bring out or develop something latent or
potential" (New Oxford Dictionary of English). Instead of
force-feeding children myths and 'useful facts', we can seek
to 'bring out' their innate wisdom and allow their learning to
be guided by their innate curiosity. There have been
educational pioneers who have applied such educational methods
in today's societies, and the results have been remarkable.

When children are programmed with myths, then as adults they
are constrained by those myths. To the extent children are
liberated from myths, they as adults will be that much closer
to personal and psychological liberation. The full flowering
of our new democratic societies will be realized by future
generations, who have been freed in this way during their
formative years of learning. We will envy them and, as I
suggested earlier, we can only dimly imagine the personal and
cultural renaissance that is likely to occur.

At the same time, we must respect the right of families to
raise their children according to their own family values,
even if some of us consider those values to be based on
unfortunate myths. For us to instill in children atheistic
beliefs, for example, would be manipulative programming --
just as much as if we instill in them religious mythology. My
own bias against religion has been clear from this material,
but I would not impose that bias on others. I have faith that
in a liberated, democratic society, a balance will be reached
between those with religious convictions and those who lack or
even scorn them. This too was part of the original
Enlightenment vision, and this too was betrayed by elites who
found that in secular 'democracies' religion could be
exploited as a tool to divide and subjugate the masses. We can
take hope from the experience of the Michigan gathering (in
"Harmonization in the microcosm"), where by the process of
harmonization, religious fundamentalists and outspoken
liberals (in the leftist sense) were able to find common


Share this: