Dear Dr. Nissani,
The article of yours recently published on Veterans Today, “7.4 Billion Cheers for Real Democracy,” resonated with me quite strongly. Like you, I believe that small-scale communities need to be developed that are essentially democratic and egalitarian in nature.
I approach this matter from a slightly different angle than you, however. In your article, you wrote, “[I]n real democracies, the truth comes out more readily and it is more likely to lead to criticism, debate, and a change of course.” I believe that our approach should effectively be the reverse of that: We would insist on truth-telling, with the expectation that doing so would inevitably lead to more democratic forms of social organization.
Also, as a general matter—and this is not necessarily in response to anything that you wrote—I do not think it is productive to concern ourselves very much with matters of national and international scope, as our mass media tries to make us do, and as many people are now therefore in the habit of doing. Democracy (and sanity) cannot exist at the national or international scale if functional small-scale democratic communities do not first exist at the local level. I believe we ought to focus our attention on bringing into existence numerous local, small-scale, real-world communities, each of them founded upon certain shared ideals, values, and beliefs, and in which the members agreed to take responsibility for each others’ welfare—thus making them what I would call “religious communities” or “practical philosophical communities”—and we would trust that the large-scale political and economic structures would then more or less “take care of themselves” if that were to happen. In other words, I advocate a “bottom-up” approach to social change, which would not require any kind of violent uprising against governments. That is why, according to the strategy that I propose and discuss on my website (againstthelie.com), people would—for the time being, anyway—take the existing political and economic structures for granted.
An important question is: Why do the kind of local, small-scale, real-world communities that I am discussing—the kind that also promote democratic political structures—not already exist? I believe the answer is that the existing traditional religions—which, in the U.S., primarily means Christian churches—have managed to convince most people that providing the organization for local religious communities is “their job,” so that if a person does not wish to participate in a local religious community on their terms, then the person believes that he is simply not suited to join a local religious community. His fate is to be an isolated “free thinker,” with no group mores or beliefs or values to give him guidance, and no other persons to give him protection and support. These are the terms that, in the U.S. at least, Christianity has put forth; and these are the terms that many non-Christian Gentiles (like myself) have for too long been willing to accept—even though it is not in their interest to do so.
The fundamental problem with allowing Christianity and other traditional religions to exclusively serve this function of providing local religious communities for people—on their terms—is that all of the traditional religions are esoteric in nature. That means that all of their authoritative religious writings involve “inner meanings” for the “initiated,” and “outer meanings” for the “uninitiated.” That in turn means that all of the traditional religions necessarily involve and endorse lying, so that none of them is able to unreservedly and consistently denounce lying whenever it occurs—since if it did so, the result would be its own annihilation as a religion. And that allows liars to obtain political, economic, and cultural power, and to use their lying to manipulate those whom they oppress into willingly submitting to their rule.
If there were a wide array of local non-esoteric religious (or “practical philosophical”) communities, none of which permitted lying by its members, and none of which tolerated lying by others—including political or governmental officials, or members of the media—I believe political and economic oppression would simply be impossible to maintain.
I believe that it is quite likely that the creation of large centralized, oppressive, hierarchical empires after the Agricultural Revolution would not have been possible if not for the existence of esoteric (i.e., “mythical”) religions that prevented members of their societies—rulers and ruled alike—from being able to think clearly and honestly. In fact, I believe that esoteric (i.e., “mythical”) religions are—and I mean this entirely literally—psychotic. This is related to their willingness to make “splits” between “inner meanings” and “outer meanings”; and so their psychotic nature is actually related to their tolerance of lying and dishonesty. Esoteric religions have prevented human beings from being able to think clearly and honestly in order to understand how to best promote their true, enlightened self-interest—which, as you state in your article, is actually incompatible with narrow individual selfishness.
I think esoteric religion was more tolerable (but still not desirable) in small-scale hunter-gatherer societies, because the relatively small size of the group created greater accountability among its members, and put limits on the damage that the lying made possible by esoteric religion could do to the members of the society. But in agricultural societies, and even more so industrial societies, their large size and the attendant reduction in accountability by their leaders and among their members enables the lying made possible by esoteric religion to do a great deal more damage. And we are now at a point where, if esoteric religion is not replaced entirely, I believe, as you do, that human civilization will collapse. (In connection with these ideas, please see the brief Georg Simmel passage posted on my website.)
In other words, I do not believe that advances in technology per se have been the source of human oppression. I believe these advances in technology have made it possible for societies to be organized on a larger scale; and when they were in fact organized on a larger scale, the Lie was able to become more powerful as a force in human society.
In short, I believe that all human evil can be traced to the existence of the Lie in human society; and I also believe that esoteric religion is what has been responsible for sustaining the existence of the Lie.
That is why, in the writings I have made available on my website, I propose that none of the new local religious (or “practical philosophical”) communities that would be formed would be allowed to be esoteric in nature—but only because none of those communities would be allowed to condone lying or to tell lies, either to their own members or to outsiders, and not because anyone was trying to impose some new “religious orthodoxy.” As long as they adhered to that one requirement, communities would be free to believe pretty much whatever they wanted to believe about religious and philosophical matters.
What I propose is that a broad parallel “honesty culture” be created in society, in which all of the various local non-esoteric religious (or “practical philosophical”) communities that I have been discussing would be included. Persons and groups unwilling to renounce all lying and toleration of lying and liars would be excluded from that broad parallel “honesty culture.” Then, once the “honesty culture” had been formed, a kind of “competition” would be set up between the “honesty culture” and the “dishonesty culture.” I believe, partly for reasons that you provide in your article, that the broad “honesty culture” composed of a large variety of local non-esoteric religious (or “practical philosophical”) communities would prove to be more successful and powerful than the “dishonesty culture” that the members of the “honesty culture” had left behind. Societies composed of selfish persons do not do well—and there is nothing more selfish than lying to the other members of one’s own society. Any society that permits its members to lie to each other is actually a self-destructive one. So eventually, I expect that the “dishonesty culture” would cease to exist.
Then, once we were all honest—so that we could all finally think straight—we would be in a better position to decide how to design our political and economic structures more intelligently than they are now designed.
I discuss these ideas in more depth on my website. If you’re interested in learning more about them, then I would suggest reading the material on the site in the following order:
- “The beliefs to be held by members of ‘truth groups’” located on the homepage
- the “About this site” page in the menu at the top
- the “On religious esotericism in general, and how it is really just a form of lying’” post
- the “The core organizing principles of ‘truth groups’” post
- the “An overview of ‘practical philosophical communities’ (i.e., ‘non-esoteric religious communities’)” post
- the “Non-esoteric religious communities as a solution to the intrinsic defects of the nuclear family” post
- the “What would you have done?” post
- the “A new interpretive approach: Viewing the Bible as an esoteric critique of esoteric religion” post
- the “‘Imprisonment’ or ‘bondage’ in the Bible understood as a metaphor signifying the inability to clearly communicate one’s meaning” post
- the “Writings from the ‘Against the Lie’ essay available” post
- Part I of the “Against the Lie” essay (shortened version)
- Part I of the “Against the Lie” essay (full version)
- Everything else on the website
Obviously I do not expect you to read all of that material before forming an opinion about my proposal. But if you read the material in that order, I think it will enable you to best determine at any particular point how valuable you will find it to go on to the next step.
I would appreciate any comments and reactions you might have to this material and these ideas.