Consciousness… Week 05


a Moment for Wisdom…



A Moment for…



“The profound crisis of human identity
brought on by living within a lie… appears… as a deep moral crisis in society.
A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system… who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his or her own personal survival, is a demoralized person.   The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society.*

Vaclav Havel

    [emphasis added]



Personal Wisdom:


Are there times when you feel demoralized?  When? Why?  What do you do to feel otherwise?


Do you think that society is “seductive”? 


Societal Wisdom:


Do you think that your society is “seductive”? Are you seduced by it?


Do you think that your society is “controlling”?  Are you controlled by it?



a Moment with Sharif…




We can see the results of societal demoralization: suicide at an epidemic, pandemic level.Anti-depression pills are a multi-billion dollar business.  (Think about how bad our economy would be if we WEREN’T depressed!) Counselors, therapists, “get well” techniques and writings by the millions… yet we are getting worse.


What’s the problem?


Perhaps the answer lies in the Havel quote above.  Perhaps we are depressed because we are demoralized, and we are demoralized because we are depressed.  We live in a society that denies that there is a “higher order of being” (or that order must be restricted to religious exercises and has no place in the systems and structures of our society).  We drift, like ships caught in a strong current, but lacking rudders…


This describes a society in desperate need of transformation…


The system depends on this demoralization…


This is one of the most crucial things I try to get across in my talks: searching for an answer within the existing Breaker systems and structures is futile.  The existing systems and structures NEED you to feel powerless, afraid, overwhelmed and demoralized.It’s how a toxic system maintains itself.


How does a handful of prison guards maintain control over a population of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of inmates, many with long histories of violence and anti-social behavior?  The answer is simple:


  • Make sure the inmates hate each other more than they hate the guards.
  • Make sure that controls are so seamless, inmates can’t/don’t think of what life would be like without the controls.
  • Make sure that cooperation with the prison system is seductive (benefits for  cooperation) and that nonconformity is punished (isolation; longer sentences, etc).


The conditions inside a prison mirror the conditions outside.  The “Progressives” and the “Conservatives” are constantly at each other’s throats… without realizing that they have more in common than their “leaders” and the media would have us believe.  The interval between high school and job retirement is so rigidly controlled, most of us don’t have time or energy to stop and look around at our predicament.  And, as Havel says, the seductive nature of our soft consumer lives hides the bed of nails most of us are stuck to.


So… what do we do?  My answer is both constant and simple: PAY ATTENTION. (Remember: “simple” does not mean “easy”!) 

  • In the barrage of political commercials we are about to endure, ask yourself: “Who wants me to be afraid?  Why?” 
  • When the umpteenth credit card application comes through the mail (or the umpteenth Viagra commercial displays on your television), ask yourself: “Who wants me to be seduced?  Why?” 
  • When your college or university tells you that you can only take X number of credit hours per semester, or saddles you with thousands of dollars in debt, ask yourself: “Who wants me to be controlled? Why?”


These questions are the keys to unlocking the prison of society.  With more questioning, with more attention, we will find that we don’t even need keys: the bars and walls of this prison are made of tissue-paper.






Consciousness Exercises:


This week’s “Consciousness” exercises: 


  1. Make a list of societal control points.  Column A for “positive/seductive controls” and Column B for “negative/punitive controls”.  This is a general list: don’t be concerned whether or not you are controlled by the items on your list.


  1. Next, put a number next to each of the societal control points.  From “1” (not very
    important or controlling), up to “10” (extremely controlling and/or extremely important to society).


  1. Next: What would society be like without each control point?  If you put “television” as a societal control point, what would society be like without it?  Do you have any experience in a society without it?


  1. Next:  What would a non-controlling substitute look like?  (This is the place to allow your heart to open and your vision to soar!)


  1. Putting them all together: what does a non-controlling, non-demoralizing society start to look like?  (Remember: this is just the start.  A truly visionary society is not created by just fixing the problems in the old one.  A butterfly isn’t a caterpillar with wings stuck on…)


* – I took a few editing liberties with the quote as it appears above.  Havel is such a rich and eloquent writer, there are times when the central theme of his writings can get “lost” in his eloquence.  This is particularly true because he is being translated.  However, I thought that you could benefit from the full Havel quote — and I felt self-conscious, editing the greatest political writer since Thomas Jefferson.  Here it is:


“The profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie, a crisis which in turn makes such a life possible, possesses a moral dimension as well; it appears, among other things, as a deep moral crisis in society.


A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system, whose identity is dissolved in an amalgam of accoutrements of mass civilization, and who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his or her own personal survival, is a demoralized person.  The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society.”


Vaclav Havel








All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.









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5 Responses to Consciousness… Week 05

  1. Wondering says:

    I’m wondering if you know the source of the focus on abortion and homosexuality to which many religious people are prisoner (in my mind). It seems to me that it’s very possible the rich and powerful somehow set this up and/or encouraged it to avert a much more needed focus on the inequity between rich and poor. The Bible, or at least Jesus, much more seems to promote the rich giving to the poor than railing against abortion or homosexuality.

    • Sharif says:


      Sorry for the delay in responding… “Life” has a way of intruding on all my well thought out plans!

      The answer to the source of the fundamentalist Christian focus on things like abortion and homosexuality is simple. IT‘S ABOUT CULTURE, NOT RELIGION. It has nothing to do with religion. If there is a conflict between one’s culture and one’s religion – culture wins, almost every time.

      This is why fundamentalists get twitchy about homosexuality or abortion (which have almost NO references in the Bible), yet don’t blink an eye when it comes to killing (clearly banned in both the Old and the New Testaments), or… paying interest on money!

      Paying and collecting interest on money is CLEARLY banned, in both the Old and the New Testaments. It’s spoken about frequently and unambiguously: if you are a Christian, you cannot receive or pay interest on money. It was the one thing Jesus spoke out against the most. Remember his actions against the money changers in the temple – the overt act that led to his Crucifixion! This is a major “sin”, and most Christians act like it doesn’t even exist. Interest on money is against religion… but its NOT against culture.

      “Minority” cultural issues (like abortion and homosexuality today, or “miscegenation” – sex between the races – just 50 years ago) cannot, by definition, become “mainstream”. Therefore, they remain unpopular culturally… and therefore a target for “religious” fundamentalists.
      This same issue, of culture trumping religion, can be found in almost all other faith and wisdom traditions. For example, in many Islamic societies, the fundamentalists get twitchy if a woman isn’t covered in the head-to-toe chaldor, which is mentioned NOWHERE in the Qur’an. (The chaldor pre-dates Islam by over a thousand years… it’s a part of lots of cultures – which is how Christian nuns picked it up, hundreds of years before the advent of Islam.)

      So, this is the formula:
      • People WILL ACCEPT the tenets of their religion when it supports the tenets of their culture.
      • People MAY ACCEPT the tenets of their religion that are neutral to their culture.
      • People will INVENT tenets to their religion to support their culture (or read obscure passages in their holy books to mean whatever they want them to mean).
      • People will simply IGNORE the tenets of their religion that conflict with their culture. (Or, they will find some scholarly reason for why Jesus (or Muhammad, or the Buddha) didn’t really mean what he said. These cultural rationales (the “Just War” concept in Christianity, for example) have led to the commission of the most horrific “sins” – with the religious authorities watching… and sometimes cheering.

      This is a very big issue. You see now why I spend so much time talking about the nexus between culture and consciousness, and also why I spend time unraveling the connection between religion, spirit and consciousness.
      Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about it.



  2. Pingback: Values… Week 07 | Commonway Praxis

  3. Greg says:

    This is the last engagement I will have with these moments today. I have been patient with the fact that the page claims that there are three responses, and I do not see three responses. I still do not know why, but in the course of investigating this glitch (or my lack of understanding of the page) I have been to the responses about perfection and practice. Now for something completely different:

    I remember the day that I learned a profound lesson about depression. It was in the spring of 1988. I had successfully escaped a toxic phase of life in Los Angeles, and I had moved, along with my motorhome, to San Luis Obispo, California. My health was returning, I was exercising again, playing music I loved with people I loved again, and living around people who were conscious. It was in SLO that I discovered my first New Thought church.

    I had just performed a wonderful show with my new band in an idyllic setting, outdoors along the creek that runs through downtown. I was well-paid in money and food, and the tips we received testified to the enjoyment of the crowd. After the show I took a bike ride around this beautiful town, reveling in the fact that this was my new home. I loved the town and the town gave every indication of loving me. As I rode around exploring, several people called out to me that they had enjoyed the music. I put my bike back on the rack on the motorhome and headed into the setting sun, towards my parking spot in Shell Beach.

    It was then that a wave of depression rolled over me. For the first time in my life, I was depressed, but there was NOTHING in my life that could have caused it. It was in that moment that I learned that our feelings do not necessarily have a cause we can point to to explain our feelings. I no longer believe that my bouts of depression are caused by anything I can blame. When I feel depressed, I no longer have the urge to find some “bad” thing in my life and pair it with that miserable feeling.

    I will stop without further sharing any of my conclusions. Look at my experience and compare it with the message in this moment. What does it say to you?

  4. Sharif says:


    I have no idea why the page is mis-counting! Strange…

    Two things: You said —

    When I feel depressed, I no longer have the urge to find some “bad” thing in my life and pair it with that miserable feeling.

    I fully agree (although I still find myself straying into that territory, the Land of Cause and Effect). However, you also said —

    …I was depressed, but there was NOTHING in my life that could have caused it.

    That part I’ll disagree with. We don’t know (and can’t know) all of the associations that come up for us in a day… associations with past hurts, associations with OTHERS thoughts (we walk through clouds of psychic messages that simply are not our own)…

    This past Saturday, I was driving down the street, on my way to my “Saturday ritual” that gives me much pleasure, beautiful day, good music playing… all of a sudden, I was hit by a wave of melancholy (not depression, but also not an emotion that I would associate with anything that I was experiencing). In my case, I knew what preceded the errant feeling… a brief scent of honeysuckle.

    Somewhere in the recesses of my being, I had an association between the smell of honeysuckle (which I love) and an experience of melancholy. (I know what it was… not important to this story.)

    So, as you were driving in beautiful SLO… did you have the windows down?



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