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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Liberation from Delusional Ideas

Certain ideas that we have taken to be true have become antiquated and reached their expiration date, holding us back instead of propelling us further into our evolutionary unfoldment. To quote the doctor of the soul C. G. Jung, “our especial need today is liberation from outworn ideas.”[1] Strongly held false ideas have killed far more people than the medieval epidemics of bubonic plague or smallpox.

We are all truly threatened by unexamined bad ideas. Jung writes, “Greater than all physical dangers are the tremendous effects of delusional ideas.”[2] Humanity has a long history of falling into mass collective delusions - just because an idea is held by a majority of humanity does not make it true. As a matter of fact, due to humanity’s unconsciousness, combined with its suggestibility, a widespread dogmatically held idea is more likely than not to be riddled with unseen errors, and hence, is oftentimes mistaken. Jungian analyst James Hillman felt that we have literally fallen sick due to our ideas.

Ideas have real power, as they are the means by which we see and interpret the world and creatively envision and give meaning to our lives. New ideas change the way we think about things, as well as ourselves. Newly emerging archetypal ideas can activate people’s creative imagination, as these ideas are expressions of and catalysts for a deeper, more expansive vision of the world and our place in it. These ideas, emerging like a lotus from the dark depths of the collective unconscious itself, can be conceived of as living psychic organisms that evolve—and concurrently help us evolve—as we come to terms with integrating their deeper meaning. These living ideas are not merely abstract things to passively think about, but involve our active engagement and participation in integrating and unfolding what they are revealing to us.

Becoming rigidly stuck in the ideas we hold in our mind is dangerous. People can obstinately grasp onto, and become taken over by, outworn and sterile ideas. Toxic ideas (what in previous writings I’ve called “info-toxins”) can literally take hold of and possess people’s minds, who then unwittingly become the purveyors of these ill-conceived ideas into the world. To quote Jung’s closest colleague Marie Louise von Franz, “Evil often hides behind idealism—and behind -isms in general, which are as often as not simply labels disguising a very unspiritual doctrinairism. In such cases, one ‘knows’ what is right and what is good for other people and, indeed, for mankind. That is the beginning of the end, of the decline…. More human beings are tortured and killed in the name of these -isms than die as a result of the forces of nature.”[3] In other words, ideological possession—possession by ideas—is an immanent and very real danger. 

Because of the extremity of our current situation, there is a real possibility in our time that many of humanity’s longstanding fixed ideas that no longer serve us are going to be outgrown, allowing new ideas and ways of seeing that are more reflective and in alignment with who we actually are to emerge and take their place. Based on past evidence, however, it seems to require a catastrophe to snap us out of our bad ideas. Jung writes in a letter, “Surely great catastrophes such as earthquakes or fires are no longer convincing to the modern mind, but we don’t need them. There are things much more gruesome, namely man’s insanity, the great mental contagions from which we actually suffer most indubitably. Everybody wants peace and understanding and with an infernal fatality the nations are working for war and misunderstanding. Not even the most modest disarmament has been possible. That shows where our real catastrophes come from.”[4] To say this differently, the origin of the most serious catastrophes in our world is the human mind and its woefully mistaken ideas about the nature of things. 

“The only genuine ideas,” to quote philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, are “the ideas of the shipwrecked.”[5] In other words, it is oftentimes when we have exhausted all of our resources, are at our wits end and have hit rock bottom that we are open enough for a novel idea (what Science Fiction author Philip K. Dick calls a “conceptual dislocation”) to fall into our heads. As Jung has pointed out, when it is a question of mass psychosis (such as we see in the world today), nothing but “new symbolic ideas” which embrace, express and help us re-contextualize—and revision—the emerging chaos and disorder in a new way can save us from our self-created collective nightmare. What can be thought of as a saving idea—i.e., a novel, creative, redemptive, archetypal conception—can protect a people from succumbing to, in Jung’s words, “the infection of a uniform and one-sided idea.”[6] It is as if new ideas which inspire creativity and expand our mind are in the air waiting to be discovered; sometimes these ideas suggest themselves. These saving ideas have been secreted by the universe into our unconscious minds at this time in history as the very medicine humanity needs to heal what ails our species. Here’s a new salvific idea - the savior itself can arrive in the flash of a truly new creative idea.

We don’t make our ideas; our ideas make us. New, creative living ideas can potentially open up novel streams of cognition and give a new flow to the drought-plagued psychic energy stream of humanity. New symbolic ideas can be therapeutic and liberating, as if we have lifted a rock that is lying on top of a germinating seed, allowing the shoot to begin its natural growth. The true merit of an idea is a function of how it affects us. Does it generate other ideas, make us think, inspire us to reflect upon things in a new way, spark our creativity, awaken something within us?

Ideas can wake us up to what is truly possible or they can blind us, depending on their nature. A new idea can set up a chain-reaction in people’s minds which can potentially unleash previously unimagined insight and creativity. Like a key, a new idea can unlock the latent creative spirit within us, a spirit which can be likened to a treasure that has been hidden deep within the recesses of the human mind that has been thirsting to be set free. A revolutionary idea has the potential to catalyze revolutions in thinking; a shift in a single idea can give birth to a new epoch.

Thankfully, when the time is ripe for a psycho-activating new idea to emerge into our world, it can’t be locked up by the powers-that-be. If a living idea is incorporated into the existing structures of the world and institutionalized, however, it can be systematically deadened—killed even—by professional “teachers” of the new idea. And yet, if the newly emerging idea is properly tended and cultivated in the right atmosphere, it can grow and multiply—going viral—in a way that changes everything.

Our idea of ourselves─who we think we are─and our place in the world (what physicist David Bohm calls our “self-worldview”) is a primary driving force in human affairs, as who we imagine ourselves to be and how we think we fit into the greater scope of the universe powers and influences the major currents of world history. The majority of us, however, are still under the sway of an impoverished conception of what it is to be a human being. An idea that is deeply embedded in the collective unconscious of our species is that we exist as an isolated, impotent material object—a separate self—who lives in a mindless, clockwork, mechanical and meaningless universe. This is a deluded idea that takes the heart, soul and magic out of the world (as well as ourselves), relegating the universe to a dead, inanimate and insensate domain. Both aspects of this viewpoint—our idea of ourselves and our idea of the world—are crude artifacts of a truncated and deficient self-worldview that is incapable of adequately responding to the multiple world crises with which we are confronted.

The made-up, fictitious identity of the separate self that most of us identify with as being who we are isn’t real, except as an idea in our minds. It is an unreal product of a deranged imagination that we then take for being who we are. The acquired false self is a forgery, a counterfeit, a master copy, a stand-in for the original. In identifying with who we are not (and thereby forgetting and dissociating from who we really are), we unnecessarily limit ourselves, hindering both our natural creative genius and the boundless wealth of potential compassion available within our true nature. How do we possibly think we’re going to solve any of the world’s multiple problems when we don’t even know who we are?

Suffering from a truly disoriented self-worldview—not knowing who we are, combined with not comprehending our co-creative relationship to the world—we then try to find answers to the problems we are confronted with in the world by looking outside of ourselves through the confused viewpoint of our false self. This takes us away from both the source and potential solution of the problem, which is only to be found within ourselves via discovering who we are.

Called “the crowning intellectual achievement of the last century,” quantum physics has discovered that we are participating—whether we know it or not—in nature’s ongoing process of creation. We wield creative power beyond measure; as long as we remain unconscious of our creative nature, however, it will boomerang and turn against us in a way that is self-and-other destructive. 

Whether scientists consciously realize it or not, science—the wisdom tradition of our culture—is a crucial part of our endeavor to answer the great philosophical question “who are we?” Erwin Schrödinger, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, comments regarding this question, “I consider this not only one of the tasks, but the task, of science, the only one that really counts.”[7] When quantum physics empirically proved that the external world doesn’t exist objectively, separate from us as a subject, it was concurrently shedding light on the nature of the subject – us. A subject needs an object to be in relationship with in order to be a subject, and if there is no objective world outside of and separate from ourselves as subject, the nature of the subject—our idea of ourselves—comes into question. Much to the surprise of everyone, particularly scientists themselves, the art of science, in genuinely pursuing truth, has unwittingly promoted itself to become a spiritual path in which we can potentially gain insight into who we are in a spiritual sense.

The world that the new science is disclosing to us is characterized by a seamless wholeness utterly devoid of separate parts – this includes ourselves. In other words, the new self-worldview emerging from the highest wisdom of science is that we are not only not separate from the universe, but are ultimately not separate from each other as well – there is no separate self to be found anywhere, except as an idea in our minds with no correlate in reality. We are thus all interconnected and interdependent human cells in a vast self-organizing macro-organism that is in the process of attempting to up-level to its next stage of evolution. Instead of being separate cogs interacting in a giant machine, we are more like inter-reflective creative sentient nodes in a burgeoning generative and ever-evolving flowing network of living ideas who are integral parts of collectively creating the very universe we inhabit.

In addition, recognizing the wholeness of the universe has the added benefit of helping us realize we are not separate from nor alien to ourselves as well – we have always been one with our nature, we just haven’t realized it.

The old (classical) physics’ shallow conception of the universe and humanity’s place in it (known as “scientific materialism”) is one of the primary causes of today’s growing economic, ecological, social and moral problems, all of which obstruct the full flowering of our creative potential. Oftentimes a shift in a single idea—such as our idea of who we are and how we fit into the world—can precipitate a transition into a new epoch. Could it be that the most important impending development in science will be ideological─in the realm of ideas─rather than technological, involving a profound re-visioning of science’s conception of who we are and our place in the universe? How amazing, that the solution to our multiple world crises comes from where we least expect it.

The one thing the greatest tyrants in all of history were afraid of was a new idea. This is just as true today in our increasingly interconnected digital age, as the powers-that-be attempt to censor liberating ideas that are not in line with the mainstream narrative and its underlying agenda. Nothing in the world, however, is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.


[1] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, para. 370.

[2] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, para. 747.

[3] Marie Louise von Franz, Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology, 120.

[4] Jung, Letters, Vol. 1, p. 159.

[5] Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses.

[6] C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), para. 523.

[7] Erwin Schrodinger, Science and Humanism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 51.

About the Author

A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Among his books are The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (SelectBooks, May 2018) and Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over 35 years. He was the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center for over twenty years. His email is; he looks forward to your reflections.

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