My wife and I had a discussion last evening about conditioning, what it is and how it affects culture and individuals in that culture. She has been reading Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book “The Biology of Transcendence” and has come to the section of the book that discusses cultural conditioning as a prescribed thinking that basically abandons the evolutionary benefits of the adapted thinking process. In summary people stop thinking for themselves. Through the process of being conditioned, a more expansive consciousness is lost or at least obscurred.
Our discussion also turned to a current movie review of the newly released movie “The Giver”. The movie seems to have a theme similar to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and takes place in a futuristic world. The citizens of the society are blatantly conditioned and oppressed through various formal processes to the degree that citizens receive daily injections to prevent emotions. A process that ensures forgetting or removal of memory is universally implemented. The movie is filmed in black and white to symbolize the death of being that can occur with such conditioning except for scenes of color that appear which are meant to express when individuals experience breakthroughs in awareness and consciousness.The color represents a more expanded experience of living that is possible when conditioning is transcended.
In his book Pearce explains how western culture, (America), is a Judea Christian culture, and highlights the origins being in the Gospel of Paul. In the book “The History of Western Thought” Richard Tarnas also explores this same theme of Paul’s influence on Roman society and how the Roman Emperor Constantine collaborated in Paul’s vision by conducting a violent but thorough campaign focused on eliminating any rival views of the New Testament teachings. What was adopted was Paul’s revision of an Old Testament teaching and conditioning. There is no place for free thinking in these teachings that were and are still assumed by fundamental religions and thinkers and are at the root of western cultural learning and conditioning.
Both of these authors are quite credible and have throughly and clearly explored these developments in their books. Presently there is a wealth of books that explore the theme of how conditioning affects our existence more specifically in stifling free thought and creativity. Waldo Emerson the brilliant New England leader of a group of exceptionally creative and well-known American writers, named the Transcendentalists, in the mid 1900s writes “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.” Emerson’s father and grandfather were both Unitarian ministers however he advocated a break with some of the formal teachings of the Unitarian Church. He did not believe in the divinity of Jesus and saw him to be a good, insightful man who saw the truth clearly. He felt that the focus on Jesus divinity did great harm to the church.
Thoreau his younger contemporary thought in a similar way and wrote about the positive side of civil disobedience in terms of allowing for freer thinking. They both opposed methods being utilized by educational institutions at the time including Harvard University that they both attended. This reminds me somewhat of the Robin Williams character in “Dead Poets Society” where he encountered great resistance to his efforts to encourage free thinking ways and in a New England Private Boys school.
But the reality that we have created is that in our educational institutions as it is in our western culture we are conditioned and it is not always an easy step to see through our conditioning. The writers that I have mentioned encourage an awareness of what is occurring inwardly as a way that we might deal with this conditioning. Meditation has been helpful for me in allowing for this awareness to shine through.I find at sixty years of age I am in an ongoing way discovering conditioned blockages in my own thinking. Through awareness we can come to see how our conditioning contributes to preformed assumptions and beliefs and how it all serves to prevent us from opening and letting go of what we have come to know. Through awareness we come to question for ourselves what is real and what is no and in doing we bring the colour that is life back into our lives. As Emerson believed all humans are connected to everything in the natural world by a common energy and all have access to this energy through their own intuition. There is no need to get truth through books of higher authorities. Emerson elaborates more on this in his book “Self Reliance”.
In awareness we don’t stop thinking but we begin thinking in a new way, filtering all that we read and experience in a more natural and direct way through our intuition and expanded awareness. There are increasing numbers of individuals, religious and not that, understand this and are and have been involved in a contemplative tradition. Some of my favourite writers are from religious traditions.