Thursday, January 6, 2011

Popular Delusions

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one."

Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies--only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? How do men of letters become religious fanatics, when faced with contradictory facts and reason? (Charles MacKay, Author of- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds)

Corporate delusions are the most blinding of all. Whenever a given group begins thinking collectively, the collective consciousness becomes and entity of its own, a Hungry Ghost with its own corporate delusions; delusions of power, delusions of authority, delusions of self righteousness.

How can we find truth, when those we consider the authorities are among the deluded masses? Where is our awakening to be found?

“…Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
-the Kalama Sutra

17 comments:

  1. "How can we find truth, when those we consider the authorities are among the deluded masses? Where is our awakening to be found?"

    We can find truth and awakening amongst the deluded masses by finding it amongst the deluded masses.

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  2. Nice post, Miles. I have one sutra stuck to the wall above my computer - word for word, exactly the extract you've put here!

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  3. Can anyone identify the doctrine laid out in Miles' post?

    Pro neo-liberal individualism? Anti-social self determinism? Anti corporatist anarchism? Iconoclastic Zenism? All of the above?

    At any rate I don't believe it (simply because I've heard it). The truth is not to be found in our own values and ideals, neither is it to be found lacking our own values and ideals regardless of what we or someone else thinks about it. It's so much more immediate, real and powerful than that.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  4. Hi Harry,

    Great reply! But me thinks maybe you read more into the post than stated. I never questioned our mutually shared ideals or values. What I questioned was our predilection towards corporate delusions; specifically naming the destructive delusions of power, authority and self-righteousness.

    Somewhere along the way the sheep herders turn into the wolves.
    How can we prevent this from happening?

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  5. Hi Miles,

    If we want to stop it from happening then we should mind our own business.

    Despite our deeply ingrained human need to want to be, we actually cannot be fooled by others.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  6. Harry,

    If I understand correctly, in order for us to avoid 'corporate delusion', or to keep the 'sheep herders' from turning into wolves, you suggest that "we should mind our own business."

    Perhaps you could clarify for me. What is 'our business', and what is the business of others? Where do you suggest we draw the line in our interactions?

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  7. Hi Hadashi,

    I really can't clarify for you what you're own business is, or the nature of your self/other. If you want to do that you'll have to mind your own sheep and wolf business, and use everything else as well.

    One thing sprang to mind here that may (or may not) help indicate it: It's not just another crummy philosophy or idealistic playground (e.g. 'Engaged Buddhism'), and it's not a matter of just negating our crummy philosophies, values and ideals.

    We draw lines all over the place in our interactions; I think we should realise that very directly if we want to realise the nature of self/other.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  8. Harry,

    I didn't think you could clarify it for me, but your language implied otherwise. Since you've used the corporate 'we' ("we should mind our own business"), I was curious as to what business 'we' should mind to avoid any delusions that might arise for 'us'.

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  9. Hi Hadashi,

    It seems to me that you've answered your own question. We, you and I etc etc etc, make our own delusions, nobody else does it for us- we decide what we accept and believe and presume- so if we want to end delusions we should stop making ourselves deluded, which is something, a 'pivotal point' or 'pivotal function' as it's been called, that we have to clarify directly ourselves... or we can wait for Jesus to come back to do it for us or whatever...

    As you probably know, our 'doing delusion' and our realising it isn't a black-and-white situation. More could be said. Dogen indicated the pivotal matter quite well I think: 'Buddhas greatly realise delusion. Ordinary beings are greatly deluded about realisation'... sometimes our being 'wrong' might be the best of intimate friends.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  10. Harry,

    I see - you aren't indicating a single collective action, but individual action by the collective members. Thank you for clarifying.

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  11. Hi Hadashi,

    There isn't a single person in the whole universe. Find me the single person who realises it right here and now and I'll clarify it for you.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  12. There is only a single person.

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  13. I bow to his superiority, and that's not a matter of his possessing everything, or lacking anything.

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