Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

From there to here (part 3)

Posted by Mike on May 2, 2012

There were two books that I thought handled conspiracy theory thinking in a manner designed to get you looking at it from the outside. The first was Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus Trilogy. The second, which I read quite a bit later, was Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. The former is a product of the psychedelic 60s, the latter the study of semantics but both come to similar conclusions about the assimilative quality of conspiracy thinking. The former covers a lot of ground but centers, at least at first, on the JFK shooting, while the latter is something of an answer to the Holy Blood, Holy Grail conspiracy of the Merovingians et al, now popularized by the Da Vinci code books and movies.

Human beings are generally hardwired to have the evidence fit the opinion, rather than having the evidence drive the opinion. Most of us think that in a rational debate, someone persuasive might be able to change our minds about a position, but rational debates rarely change minds. A person’s worldview influences everything about them including the people they spend time with, the center of worship they attend, the people they vote for all the way down to choices of entertainment. If a rational argument might lead one to change one’s mind on an issue profound enough to change one’s life then it is far easier to deny the rational argument then to accept it only to walk away from your social group forever.

Conspiracy theories are extreme examples of this type of thinking, but Shea and Wilson are more subtle than this in the Illuminatus trilogy where the conspiratorial connecting-the-dots verges in a kabbalistic direction where essentially everything IS connected to everything else. That is, there’s the idea of the conspiracy as a paradigm of separateness but Wilson and Shea were largely looking at the conspiracy as part of the overall unity of the universe. That is, they took it in a direction that pointed at something sublime, rather than the way conspiracies often work which is to leave one shivering in the evening listening to Coast to Coast waiting for the FBI (or the SRIA) to come a knocking.

Wilson untangles this knotty thinking not so much in the Illuminatus trilogy as much as in his nonfiction work like Prometheus Rising and the Cosmic Trigger trilogy and he does so by essentially saying maybe. This doesn’t sound like much but maybe is actually subversive in a black and white universe. It is a flexibility in thinking that is largely unknown in religious cultures where answers are given in doctrine that knows no gray area.

The more practical angle of this is understanding the ladder of connections. It’s easy to get lost in the details when we’ve forgotten the premise, but if the premise is incomplete so is its chain of associations. If we’ve subconsciously accepted the premise that the US government secretly caused the 9/11 disaster for nefarious reasons, then the body of evidence in videos and text takes on the nefarious tones of that premise. It’s essentially the equivalent of the Church Lady moving around the letters that spell Santa around.

However, premises with chains of associations tagged on aren’t just the province of the conspiracy theories, but almost entirely the way we create our personal universes as far back as being children. Many times these premises are completely forgotten and taken as granted. It was at this point Wilson’s “guerilla ontology” started loosening knots in my head or as Gong’s Daevid Allen once wrote “Maybe you don’t know what you know you know.”

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One Response to “From there to here (part 3)”

  1. […] https://mikesprattle.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/from-there-to-here-part-2/ https://mikesprattle.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/from-there-to-here-part-3/ […]

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