BELIEFS AND THEIR CONFIRMATION

Please first read the summary in
The Habitual Ruts of Security and Pleasure

Animal Identity

Animal identity is based on their inner-body feeling. They have and give mutual confirmation within their social group and usually identify with their territory. In addition, their relationship with the world is experienced and understood by a wide variety of basic physical sensory abilities.

The Human Animal

Modern day humans sense themselves and the world around them, quite differently to other animals. We were successful as a species, because we learnt to focus with our minds and think.

We secured our survival and overcame our angst and insecurity by being clever and creative. This was a new level of understanding and being in the world. A level of making connections between abstract ideas – quite different habitual ruts to those of animals.

Finding Abstract Security

Over time, we started focusing more and more on ideas. And from the first ruminations on the meaning of the sun and the moon, or a flash of lightning, till ''why am I?'' and ''what is death?'', we developed beliefs to ease our newly awakened insecurity in this new abstract world.

And when we found Gods to believe in, the relationship between individuals, their groups, and the whole universe, became secure or at least negotiable.

Beliefs gave our lives meaning, they became the priority for our sense of reality, security, purpose, and even hope. They became central to our cultures integrity, identity, meaning, and purpose. They became our focal points.

And it felt so good to know who and why we were, that generations of children were reassured as we retold our culture's stories. And any comparison with neighbouring cultures and their stories, merely reconfirmed each cultures' individual identity.

Cultures passed ideas and customs down through thousands of generations. And up to a few hundred years ago, even though humans were often hungry and cold, we lived with a social consensus of dress codes, language, ideas, beliefs and opinions. We were psychologically secure and safe.

Our sense of belonging and identity was found within our social group. The communal identity within our group, with each other, and in relation to a big picture of the world, was confirmed by each other. And each individual culture was secure in its unique habitual ruts.

And it really didn't matter much if we all believed we were living on the back of the Great Turtle, or, that the stars were the children of the sun and the moon – because for our sense of reality, the confirmation of the tribe was more important than the truth.

It's worth stopping there to digest that for a moment – the confirmation of the tribe was always far more important than the truth. We don't need to prove that honey tastes good, and we don't need anyone else's opinion about if fire is hot. But in our abstract world, the only way to confirm thoughts is with another being who understands such abstract thoughts.

The habitual ruts inherant in the focusing-learning-knowing system all worked well enough for the survival of the species, until, notably around the 1,600s, when groups of individuals started asking rebellious political and religious questions.

Then the story is too long for me to tell here. In Western Europe the Catholic Church lost its power. The middle class developed with its class mobility, which led to individual freedom of education and thought. And the tribes started multiplying and overpopulating and then trying to live in peace together – which led to globalisation. See The Anthropological Timeline for more on this.

The Lack of Mutual Confirmation

With the questioning of traditional beliefs, and individual freedom of thought came a multiplicity of modern beliefs. With the consequence that nowadays our beliefs are insecure in a way no human in any previous culture has ever experienced, or even imagined.

Any trace of the original animal sense of belonging is long gone. And now we have even lost the unquestioned beliefs of our tribe: a group of at least 30 people who all believe, unquestioningly, in the same things – with no-one around who disagrees.

Beliefs used to unite local cultures; now, in our global world, they divide us and confuse us. Even in our immediate locality, neighbours, even family members have opposing beliefs and opinions.

Our modern fight for survival has continued in the abstract dimension of beliefs, ideas, and opinions. And when we feel unsafe, it's because of psychological or abstract reasons.

And there simply isn't enough mutual confirmation to go around, and there never can be. Regardless of our modern material security, we feel psychologically insecure... and it is a realistic feeling... it exists... it is nothing which can be psychoanalysed away.

Our modern liberal thinking to socially integrate and contain the diversity of beliefs – rather than infallible rulers forcing a consensus of ideas – is a great step for civilisation. But, respect for someone else's beliefs, even rejoicing in the variety of modern beliefs, is only a shadow of the mutual, united, unquestioned confirmation of all the members of an entire local social group.

The Breaking Point
After an astounding million-year-long history of focusing with our thoughts and senses for our survival, we have stretched our abilities with abstract thought to a point where our human survival strategy has reached a point of critical overload.

In our modern diverse culture, the endless need for confirmation, on an individual and cultural level, causes worry and suffering in a way that no animal or early human could ever imagine.

This is a recent, common, extremely uncomfortable, cultural habitual rut. And it's become its own cause, always generating more of itself. It's exponential.

A few individuals cope with this situation admirably. They often have a privileged background, their independence was confirmed by good parents from an early age.

But in a herd there are only a few alpha leaders, the majority follow. Every culture can only have a few heroes who have or appear to have, a stable, culturally confirmed, ego, and they have this at the cost of their admirers. (And even these 'successful' few are never satisfied, the need for more is typically self-perpetuating.)

Overfocusing
To get everything modern civilisation offers, we had to focus on it, and this had amazing advantages, it was all, or mostly, good. But now in these crisis times, the only thing we can think of doing, is the only thing we know how to do, focusing with our senses and minds. It's the only thing we are educated and trained to do.

We are collectively suffering the effects of Displacement Activity. This is the name for the illness animals suffer when they feel insecure, and they over compensate with habitual but inappropriate, sometimes self-destructive activities.

Our present cultural and individual psychological insecurity has developed through a one-sided use of our actual physical senses. And now we are overfocusing to such an extent that we can't even imagine another way of sensing the world.

Please continue with Displacement Activity

Back to Chapter Three : Civilisation's Habitual Ruts