The Emperor is Naked.

BY Tom Morgan / Dec 15 2023 / Article

How the future will happen

[10 minute listen, audio here].

For the last few years I’ve been writing about how a collective “phase shift” might suddenly change our society.

This is a story of how it has happened in the past, and will happen again.

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” the little child said. MidJourney AI

Ceaușescu’s Last Speech

“One man who stops lying can bring down a tyranny.”

-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

In the fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, it takes a brave little girl shouting in the crowd to break the spell and get the whole town to admit the obvious truth that he’s strutting around naked.

On December 21st 1989, Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu delivered his annual scripted speech, live, to thousands of his people. Out of nowhere, the crowd suddenly started whistling and booing him. Ceaușescu lost his composure, and started heckling back. He was eventually ushered off the balcony by his security team.

His regime crumbled; within 48 hours he was caught trying to flee the country and was executed by firing squad shortly thereafter.

This historical event is one of the finest examples of common knowledge. Suddenly, everyone listening in the square and watching the broadcast could see and hear the level of discontent among their fellow citizens. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book The Gulag Archipelago fulfilled a similar, if less dramatic, role in the downfall of the Soviet Union. Regimes built on lies cannot withstand the truth becoming common knowledge. That’s why all attempts to reveal that the emperor is naked are so ruthlessly suppressed.

Our Invisible Tyranny

“The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt- and there is the story of mankind.”

– Lee, East of Eden

We’re living in a tyranny now. It’s just an invisible one.

There’s an old myth about the dawn of the cosmos that says the universe was originally divided into a mother and father. The father found himself attracted to the mother. But the intensity of her embrace scared him; he felt like he could be swallowed by it. So he decided to detach himself from the situation to get a better look. This fateful decision created a cold, scientific, rational kind of energy. This entity was called Ahriman. The separation bred shame, resentment and a violent impulse towards creation itself, especially the body and the feminine.

Our current society is neurologically imbalanced towards the brain’s left hemisphere. When taken to an extreme, it produces an Ahrimanic mindset that’s distanced, manipulative, rational and cold. If you experimentally suppress the right hemisphere for ten to fifteen minutes, participants see things that we would normally think of as living as dead. So other people appear to them “like bits of furniture, like zombies, or simply machines.” You can dissect or manipulate a machine without feeling any guilt. This is the detached power and intellect that pulls the wings off of a butterfly just to see how it works. At its furthest extreme, it’s the demonic human experimentation of Dr. Josef Mengele in Auschwitz or Japanese Unit 731 in China. Even a passing familiarity with those atrocities will confirm how close this mindset is to absolute evil.

Even in a more subtle form, this kind of detachment and separation has resulted in unprecedented violence towards other living things and the environment we occupy.

Lies and Heresy

“By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger.”

-C.S. Lewis

Communist dictatorships were often based a series of blatant lies. But much of our modern world is built on something far more powerful: half-truths. What are some of these half-truths we tell ourselves?

  • We are all separate individuals.
  • We are free to do whatever we want.
  • Competition, survival of the fittest, is how evolution works.

Our left hemisphere has many of the characteristics of a dictator. It seeks power and control at the price of life. It also lies and confabulates to protect its own control. Stroke victims who get their right hemispheres knocked-out will often flatly deny their own paralysis, claiming their limp arms belong to the man in the next bed.

As in any dictatorship, ideas that threaten the limited domain and worldview of the regime are the most violently suppressed. One of the most obvious indicators is exploring what gets labeled “pseudoscience.” This definitely doesn’t mean adopting a moronic wholesale denial of the miracles of science and technology. It isn’t naively embracing cults. Nor is it the ghoulish “just asking questions” of the Internet conspiracy theorist. It means undertaking an open-minded but discerning examination of precisely the kinds of ideas the most rationalist, Ahrimanic science declares to be heresy.

This would include Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of “morphic resonance”, which proposes we might all share a common consciousnesss.1 Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, meaningful coincidences, also gets the scarlet letter of pseudoscience slapped prominently on its Wikipedia page. In an utterly perfect recent example, more than 120 “scientists” have just signed a letter declaring Integrated Information Theory to be pseudoscience; even worse “scientific misinformation.” It’s also a theory that just happens to open the door to the idea that we’re not the only conscious entities on earth. And of course, the ultimate woo taboo remains psi phenomena (pre-cognition, telepathy, remote viewing and clairvoyance). Although it seems like these are as close to scientifically validated as you get, they remain controversial because their “mechanism of action” is unknown.2

The point isn’t to argue that any of these theories are precisely correct. The point is to notice that they each contain the missing ingredient in all of the tyrant’s half-truths. This is the anomaly that breaks Ahriman’s “view from nowhere” scientific detachment and threatens its isolated power. It’s the truth that consciousness somehow isn’t confined to each of us as individuals, and that there’s a force outside us that can guide us in a beneficial direction. This force is something like love. Love binds us together and it guides us on the optimal path. Love is relational; it’s what breaks into separation. If you’d prefer a less sentimental and more scientific term, “holotropic attractor” is a good one. It describes a subtle but empirically observable force that guides us towards greater wholeness, coherence and complexity. It just feels like love to us.

If you add love to the half-truths, they might read something like this:

  • We are all separate individuals. And we all connected.
  • We are free to do whatever we want. And there is an optimal path.
  • Competition, survival of the fittest, is how evolution works. But cooperation is a superior long-term strategy.

You’ll notice that none of these full-truths negate the first premise, they include it in something more comprehensive. Our tyrant isn’t “defeated” by being executed, but by being reintegrated. Our right hemispheres dominate in the connection to our neglected hearts and body. The proper relationship is to return the left to the guidance of the right. Ahriman is finally embraced by the mother in his cold corner of the cosmos.

The Reconnection Rebellion

The internet has gifted us a unique mechanism for global coordination, for revolutionary cultural phase changes. And the last three years have show that these can propagate through the system almost instantaneously. But revolutions aren’t always positive. The primary flaw of many of these viral social movements so far is that they have too often focused on making distinctions, drawing divisions and ostracising our shadows. You can’t believe we’re all connected, precisely as you try to cancel someone. If the secret shame of separation is the cause, you only shine light on your demons so you can love them better. Perhaps the harshest truth learned by Solzhenitsyn in the gulags is that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

One “light” we can all shine is to be more open to exploring these heretical ideas in public, without fear of social or professional ridicule. Remember that, in the fairy tale, the conmen tell the emperor and townspeople that only foolish or ignorant people are unable to see his amazing new garments. We need to embody the one little girl willing to shout that the emperor had no clothes on. The word pseudoscience is intended to shut down a debate before it happens, to imply that only gullible fools would dare look so stupid. So everyone keeps their mouths shut.

Another specific way is to seek out communities where we can talk about our own anomalous experiences that point towards this shared consciousness. More than half of Americans have had a mystical experience. And the vast majority of humanity before us and outside of the West have always had an intuitive, embodied, “archetypal feminine” relationship with reality.

The specific rebellion is to strive to strengthen our connections to what we love, and commit to following what we love. Whether it’s community or curiosity, most of the best things in life come from cultivating openness. The more open you make yourself to the world the more open it makes itself to you. “Love is mutually accelerating disclosure.” We have been given the gift of global communication, and with it the power of global coordination. Tipping points always start smaller than we think and accelerate far faster. Once something becomes common knowledge, the phase shift moves from unthinkable to inevitable.

If any of these ideas resonate with you, I would humbly suggest sharing this article is a good start.

Related Watching/Listening.

Watch/Listen. The Psychological Drivers of the Metacrisis: John Vervaeke, Iain McGilchrist, Daniel Schmachtenberger (3 hours 21 minute listen)

  • Why watch/listen. Sadly I doubt over three hours of heady intellectual discussion in an Oxford college is the kind of viral content that will change the world. That’s sad. Because Iain’s hemisphere theory is the most profound I’ve ever encountered, John is one of the the finest experts on wisdom and Daniel is one of the best at articulately diagnosing our problems. This observation of Daniel’s made me think of both the dictator metaphor and the idea that coordination to change the system is actually much easier than we think:
    • I find very interesting is that I think there’s a mistake that a lot of sociology makes where we look at certain human traits like rationality or empathy or whatever on a Gaussian distribution, and then say humanity’s the result of this, where realistically, the actual power laws influencing things says that a tiny percentage of people that are three standard deviations psychologically different than almost everyone have most of the determining power.
    • This observation from McGilchrist also blew me away: “If you experimentally suppress the left hemisphere for, say, 10 or 15 minutes, people describe things that they would normally consider inanimate as animate. So they see the sun as animate, moving across the sky and giving energy. And if you do the opposite and suppress the right hemisphere, they see things that we would normally think of as living as not. So people are like bits of furniture, like zombies, or simply machines.”

  • Read.Pseudoscience’: The Wall Between Science & Philosophy by Mona Sobhnai, PhD (12 minute read).
  • Why read. Mona, and her working partner Allison Paradise, have been such gifts to me this year. I’d recommend you read Mona’s response to the IIT letter. As well as this response from neuroscientist Erik Hoel
  • Mona: You know what I think is our ‘duty’ as scientists (besides trying to be more open-minded and curious)? I would argue that scientists – especially ones studying consciousness – should actively bridge science and philosophy as we ask these big questions, and not implicitly assume one or another to be true. We’ve built walls between these two fields using the words ‘pseudoscience’ and ‘scientific misinformation.’ When a lay person hears these words, they actually hear ‘untrue.’ And that is misleading because (it’s worth repeating again) no one knows which worldview/philosophy is the correct one. None are true or untrue. It’s unknown.

  • Read. Polycrisis: From Diagnosis to Action by Dave Nadig (19 minute read)
  • Why read. My friend Dave Nadig wrote a preview of our panel discussion in February at Exchange 2024. He introduces the role of two valuable concepts:
  • Hyper-agents (unusually impactful people, probably some of you reading this)
  • Super structures (“this refers to all the right brain, “soft” stuff that actually holds us together as communities: families, countries, religions, tribes.”).
  • Can we get the hyper-agents to positively impact the super strcutures through a phase shift? I think probably

Other content this week:

  • Read. Pattern Recognition by Morgan Stanley by Michael Mauboussin (30 minute read)
  • Why read. This latest think piece, is very up my street. It’s a topic I’ve written about before in relation to Buffett and Munger (RIP), with help from the work of Cedric Chin.
  • Fundamental investors can build their skill in pattern recognition in certain aspects of the investment process, including assessing fundamental value drivers such as sales growth or judging the stock market’s reaction to M&A deals. In both cases, this skill builds on an understanding of base rates and how to use them in prediction.
  • Investors who want to assess their skills at pattern recognition can maintain a journal and document their intuitions. Done properly, this allows for the measurement of calibration, or how well probabilistic forecasts match the frequency of outcomes. Over time, such an accurate self-assessment can help reveal where and when pattern recognition is accurate and adds value.

Thanks to Allison, Mona and Michael.

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1 Scientific American: Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

2 Nothing has surprised me more this year than the robustness of the evidence in support of psi. I wrote about it in more detail here.