Conspiracy Theories and Fear

By George A. Boyd © 2020

I once attended a workshop, where the group leader gave a talk about fear. He said if you create an acronym for each of the four letters of “fear,” it would spell out:

F – False

E – Evidence

A – Appearing

R – Real

When I reflect upon “False evidence appearing real,” I am struck by how conspiracy theories are founded upon false evidence—or sometimes, on no evidence at all—yet those who believe in conspiracy theories have a tenacious conviction that what they believe in is true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If I desperately want something to be real, even when it is not—the unconscious mechanisms of projection will kick in and they will shape my perception so other people and events appear the way I want them to be. For example:

I desperately want the candidate I voted for president to win. Even though the votes received were accounted for during each step of the mail-in or in-person voting process; all legal procedures were followed; and the votes were counted and verified—sometimes even more than once—I will falsely perceive a fraudulent process took place. I am in denial that my candidate could lose.

So my belief that fraud occurred is false, yet I continue to embrace this belief, because I don’t want to admit to myself that I will lose the person I want to be “my president.” I’m afraid I will lose him, and all that I believe he did on my behalf will be uprooted and swept away.

I will therefore manufacture false evidence through perceiving innocent events as sinister ones, and these will appear as real to me. For example, in a video, an elections official places a box of mailed ballots on a table: I see this as false evidence that illegal ballots are being dumped to fraudulently ensure the candidate of the other side wins.

The same thing happens when fear colors your perception. For example:

I’m camping in a forest. I see a large male grizzly bear. My fearful imagination kicks in: I’m visualizing the bear is going to run towards me, maul me, kill me, and eat me.

The truth is, the bear doesn’t want to mess with me anymore than I want to mess with him. As long as I don’t threaten his mate or his cubs, or make him feel I am going to attack him, he’s going to leave me alone—as long as I leave him alone.

But fear turns this situation into a vision of danger. There is a risk of course:

  • The bear might have rabies, and will act unpredictably.
  • It might be a bear that is a “man-killer,” who has gotten the taste for human blood. He is hungry… and I’m a man.

But the odds of these events are low. It’s unlikely they will happen.

So I do my thing; the bear does its thing. The bear and I experience “peaceful co-existence,” to borrow a popular phrase of the cold war era. I don’t harm him; he doesn’t harm me.

These same dynamics are operating beneath many of the popular, contemporary conspiracy theories, such as:

  • Q-Anon – Your president is working to save you and your children from a group of blood-drinking, Satanic pedophiles in government and the media
  • Joe Biden, Jr. won the election through fraud
  • The government is trying to take away your guns
  • Secret cabals of [Jews, wealthy industrialists, bankers, members of a secret world government, the Masons… insert your favorite perpetrator of evil here] are plotting to take over the world and control your life
  • Other ethnic or racial groups are coming by the millions to take away your food and your jobs… and ultimately replace you
  • The world is flat
  • The United States faked the moon landing
  • The government planned and conducted the events of 9/11, so they could get a hold of Iraq’s oil
  • Vaccines will implant tiny tracking chips in you
  • The government is actively persecuting members of your religion
  • Space aliens are consulting with top secret cells within the government to transfer alien technology; they have been given permission to abduct people and perform experiments on them
  • A demagogue, cult leader, or dictator is your savior—despite of the evil deeds and atrocities that he or she condones, directs, or personally commits]

Might I ask those of you who believe in conspiracy theories like this to answer some questions? Here are four questions that will help you get to the core of the fear that locks this conspiracy theory in place in your mind, which acts like a filter that colors the appearance of anything you perceive.

  • What about this person or group—or about an event, or a potential outcome if what is described in the conspiracy theory comes true—makes you feel afraid?
  • What do you catastrophize might happen?
  • What would you perceive if none of what you believe about this is true—if this is just false evidence appearing real?
  • What would it be like for you to live your life without believing this? How would you act differently than you do now?

I think we would get along much better if we stopped believing in conspiracy theories… if we stopped demonizing each other… if we tried to work together on our common goals…

We share many things in common; we have common needs:

  • We need to eat and have clean water to drink
  • We need a safe and decent place to live
  • We need to have an education to acquire the skills and the knowledge to contribute to our community
  • We need a legal means to provide for our livelihood
  • We need to be treated with dignity and respect
  • We need the opportunity to pursue our worthy goals and dreams
  • We need to be able to embrace and practice the faith or philosophy of our choice, provided that we don’t impose it on others against their will

Perhaps if we could stop embracing conspiracy theories that distort out perception of the world and other people, we could support one another in achieving these needs. You might ask, “How do I provide solutions that get results—and that don’t cause harm?” If we each can do this, we can contribute to a better world for all of us.

The Two Orders of Validation

By George A. Boyd © 2020

Q: It seems both reason and intuition have the capacity to generate error. Can you shed some light on this?

A: Let us tease apart the verification processes of reason and intuition:

Reason arrives at tentative, consensual truth through a process of analysis and critique, and testing.

  • It starts with facts, data, or evidence.
  • It generates a hypothesis to explain the fact.
  • It tests the hypothesis to determine whether it is true or not.

It observes, measures, weighs, detects, tests, and sets criteria for the statistical probability that the hypothesis is likely true.

  • This estimate of the likelihood that something is true can range from five out of 100 in social science to one in 100 billion in physics.

Empirical verification is a step-by-step algorithmic process, which is subject to peer review, analysis, and critique.

Intuition reveals truths that dwell in the sphere of the Soul’s consciousness.

  • It uses the faculty of discernment (Vijnana) to locate the object in the inner mandala of the Soul’s consciousness and recognizes it and labels it.
  • It employs the faculty of contemplation (Dhyana) to gather information about the object of meditation through observation, reflection, comparison, and identifying analogies or correspondences.
  • It is founded upon the Soul’s consciousness, which is the anchor of spiritual law and the foundation of inner Truth (Dharma).

Finding the ground of intuitive truth enables you to identify the stable markers of Subplanes, Planes, and Divisions of the Continuum, and to locate your spiritual essence in inner space.

Intuitive discovery or revelation is a heuristic process, which explores meaning, realizes possibilities, makes associations with other ideas, finds correspondences, and examines the changes that transformation produces.

When this rational and intuitive process goes awry, it gives rise to two forms of distortion:

Conspiracy theories – In this distortion of your rational process, you make assertions without validated facts, you create a hypothesis to explain your assertion, and you believe this hypothesis is the truth without subjecting it to tests. This arises from a failure to conduct empirical verification.

Delusion – In this distortion of intuitive discovery, you assume something is true in error. You use discernment to incorrectly confirm your erroneous belief. You only admit information that supports your belief, and you deny, ignore, or attack information that is contrary to your belief.

Disciples need to correct both types of distortion, and identify what is true behind conspiracy theory and delusion.

You can ask questions like these to examine these patterns:

Is this an intuitive or empirical truth?

How do I know this is true? How can I verify this?

What are the consequences of holding this belief?

  • How does it affect my behavior?
  • How does it shape my emotional reactions and attitudes?
  • How does it color my perception and worldview?
  • How does it alter my beliefs?
  • How does it influence my values?
  • How does it sway my choices?

When I make these choices, how does it impact my life, my relationships, and my career?

The Gentle Art of Spin

Q: What is the process through which truth is perverted so it gives rise to conspiracy theories and delusion?

A: This is both an active process and a passive process:

In the active process, you choose to lie and deceive others. Criminals, con-men, and dictators utilize the active process to control others and make them do what they want.

In the passive process, you start with a logical error and then you begin to justify and defend it. The passive process is generated when you receive incorrect information and you believe it is true. This can result from exposure to those who are telling you lies and you believe them; it can also stem from having incomplete information and making faulty conclusions based on this limited data.

These active and passive “truth cycles” are described below:

The Active Process

In the active process, truth is progressively eclipsed. The dichotomy is between choosing to tell the whole truth as opposed to the choice to lie.

  • The downward cycle for the active process moves from omission to misstating the facts to active distortion to feeling initial anxiety and guilt to rationalization to outright denial.
  • The upward cycle for the active process moves from breaking denial, stopping rationalization, to finding the source of anxiety and guilt to correcting distortion to stating the correct facts to revealing what was omitted.

The Passive Process

In the passive process, rationality is perverted into delusion through warping of information.

  • The downward cycle for the passive process moves from making a logical error to covering up this error to accepting false information to making judgments based on this false information to precipitating a change in mindset to a descent into paranoid thinking.
  • The upward “recovery” cycle for the passive process includes taking responsibility for what you can control to examining your mindsets and rejecting erroneous beliefs and perceptions to rejecting incorrect judgments and founding subsequent judgments on correct information to identifying and rejecting false information and finding correct information to admitting your errors to identifying the source of logical error and correcting it.

To deconstruct a rational or empirical belief, reflect upon:

  • What is the evidence for this contention?
  • What is your belief about the evidence (hypothesis)?
  • How do you prove this is true?

If there is no evidence, it does not exist in the physical universe.

To deconstruct an intuitive belief, reflect on:

  • In what nodal point is this truth anchored?
  • What is your criterion for assuming this is true? [Is this a mathematical proof? Is this a sensory proof? Is this an emotional or experiential proof based on faith or conviction? Is this a proof based on authority or scripture? Is this a revealed (revelatory) truth? Is this a proof based on analogy or correspondence like Gematria, numerology, astrology, or tarot? Is this a proof based on symbolic or linguistic analysis?]
  • How can you verify that truth is reliable?

Truth has many facets. What is true depends upon the means through which you derive it or arrive at it.

Notice how this process of spin can move both ways: you can descend into error; you can correct yourself. You may wish to apply this process of truth recovery to deconstruct your false beliefs.

The Seven Orders of a Conspiracy Theory


The Seven Orders of a Conspiracy Theory

By George A. Boyd © 2020

Q: How do conspiracy theories start? How are they different than a realistic view of the world?

A: There appear to be seven orders of a conspiracy theory. The layers that make up these seven orders appear to reify the belief systems of both conspiracy and reality based frames; conspiracy theory deviate from sound logic and facts, or interpret them through a distorted filter. These layers are as follows:

Order

Content

False view
(conspiracy theory)

Correct view
(reality based frame)

1

Supporting Data

Selects data to confirm false premises

Selects data to confirm verifiable and correct data

2

Emotionalized Idea

Creates negative fascination with an idea, which motivates action based on fear, guilt, hatred, or prejudice

Creates sober realization, activates actions based on thoughtful judgment and clear thinking

3

Coherent synthesis

Premises and data construct a false narrative, and puts together a conspiracy theory as an explanation of the selected facts

Premises and data construct an accurate narrative, and a consensual worldview based on verified facts and validated inferences

4

Worldview or mindset

Those who believe the conspiracy theory hold that they access to hidden or secret knowledge that makes them aware of sinister activities that only they are privy to; they ignore data that conflicts with their core beliefs that make up the conspiracy theory

Those who adopt an accurate narrative do not perceive any sinister activities and can find no evidence for them; they rely upon consensually validated knowledge to inform their world view, which changes as new data becomes available

5

Identity

Those who believe in the conspiracy theory identify as a member of a secret group that is dedicated to exposing and defeating perceived evil actors; they may separate themselves from groups or individuals they perceive as evil; more radical groups among believers may attack these individuals or groups that are perceived as evil

Identifies as a member of a diverse society, with people who have many different ways of perceiving the world and who hold different values; the world is not perceived as evil

6

Psychological matrix

As the conspiracy theory becomes integrated into character, it becomes a paranoid system expressed as behavior (paranoid personality disorder), belief (delusional disorder), and ultimately contaminates core identity, giving rise to paranoid schizophrenia

Integrated personality functioning; there is coherence between behavior, belief, and core identity (integrity)

7

Karmic matrix

Accretions of karmic impressions of ignorance, negative passions, and delusion; feelings of upset and rage mark the emergence of these impressions

Accretion of impressions of understanding, integrated knowledge, and wisdom

Q: How could someone realize they are ensnared with a conspiracy theory, and extricate themselves?

A: It is a matter of recognizing the errors in belief and reasoning that lock the conspiracy theory in place. It is hard to be objective when the conspiracy theory mindset has taken over your rational faculties. Usually, someone outside the conspiracy theory group has to point out to you the logical inconsistencies and implications of continuing to hold the conspiracy theory.

If you are capable of objective self-analysis, you may be able to recognize the signs of layers four and five—whether the group you belong to contends it is privy to secret knowledge or if you identify with a secret group whose mission is to combat perceived evil, for which there is no objective evidence. That is a clue you might have gotten yourself involved in a conspiracy theory.

Many people in the USA are under the thrall of a variety of conspiracy theories; we suspect that if they could emerge from these delusional world views, much of the animosity for those who hold different political views would dissipate, and we would see enhanced cooperation between the members of both parties.

Q: Are members of right wing and left wing extremist groups under the sway of conspiracy theories?

A: You could use this schema as a framework to analyze their beliefs and mindsets. We suspect that a central conspiracy might indeed play a role in the hateful and paranoid behavior, beliefs, and identification seen in these groups.

We invite you to reflect on these layers, and see if you can recognize any of these patterns operating in you, or in other people. Awareness of these patterns is the first step to eradicating them; it will take some courage and discipline to willingly uproot them and admit that you were wrong.

Given the right circumstances, almost anyone could succumb to these subtle delusional beliefs and perspectives. If you know what to look for, you can often stop yourself from getting involved before you travel down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

Reflections on Conspiracy Theories

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: What makes people believe in conspiracy theories?

A: When we analyze conspiracy theories, we find there are several levels at work.

  1. Sensory gating or filtering – When you believe in a conspiracy theory, you only look at the sensory information that confirms your belief. You ignore contrary information that doesn’t support your belief.
  2. Emotional bias – This attaches negative emotions to beliefs that disagree with the theory you hold, and positive emotions to the beliefs of your own theory.
  3. Cognitive distortion – This minimizes flaws or errors in your own viewpoint, and magnifies errors or flaws in other views.
  4. Egoic defensiveness – You use denial, projection, and rationalization to support your own view. You criticize and blame others that don’t hold your views.
  5. Values deconstruction – This uses justification to support hypocrisy, lying, and unethical behavior required for you to embrace a conspiracy theory.
  6. Intellectual narrowing – This labels your own theory as unassailable. You do not give yourself permission to reflect upon or consider alternate viewpoints.
  7. Mythic worldview – This embodies the secret desires and fantasies that underlie the conspiracy theory. You might secretly wish to be seen as a hero, to be vindicated when people disagree with you, to be superior to others because you know the truth.

Several characteristics mark conspiracy theories:

  • Those who embrace conspiracy theories supplant facts with opinion.
  • They prefer untested speculation to careful analysis to arrive at the truth.
  • They make logical leaps without taking in the big picture.
  • They validate their mistrust and paranoia through believing in spurious narratives.
  • They follow charismatic thought leaders who advocate and disseminate conspiracy theories, and become true believers.
  • They ignore information that contradicts the conspiracy theory, and they cling tenaciously to information that upholds it.
  • They envision hidden or secret actors that attempt to hide the truth that the conspiracy theory purports to reveal, and that this truth is either unknown or is actively suppressed.
  • They hold that the conspiracy theory is a hidden truth that conventional sources do not believe in or condone, and they believe they must advocate for this revolutionary new truth.
  • They believe that those who hold an alternative viewpoint are ignorant or deceived. They may actively attack or demean others who hold other beliefs.

The Slippery Slope to Paranoia

Many conspiracy theories are steeped in paranoia. This progression to a paranoid mindset does not happen instantaneously, but appears to follow several steps.

  1. You come to doubt one element of a belief you hold. You make note of it, but do not reject the belief outright.
  2. You come to see several flaws or omissions in the belief you hold. This may lead you to investigate why there are discrepancies or things that do not seem to fit.
  3. In the course of your search for answers, you come upon the alternative viewpoint of someone who advances a conspiracy theory. You begin to study this material.
  4. At some point during your exploration of this material, you find a key idea that makes you believe that everything you formerly believed was wrong. This makes you embrace the conspiracy theory and reject your former view. This is the conversion stage.
  5. Once you have begun to view your old mindset is flawed, you begin to replace your former beliefs with the beliefs of the conspiracy theory. You begin to deny, justify, and rationalize these new beliefs if you are challenged.
  6. You become a “true believer,” and you begin to advocate for this new conspiracy theory. You may attend conferences advocating the conspiracy theory, publish articles about it, or post about it on social media.
  7. As you receive more pushback about the error or limitations of your conspiracy theory, you may retrench and hold the belief more tenaciously. You begin to believe you are under attack: that others are trying to undermine you, to persecute you, and to crush you. At this stage, you may begin to shift into full-blown paranoia.
  8. As paranoia begins to envelop you, you may become delusional. For example, you may believe that secret actors are attempting to silence you or eliminate you; your phones are tapped and your rooms are bugged; or government agencies are trying to arrest you under false charges to suppress your viewpoint.

The Erosion of Reality Testing

Those that embrace conspiracy theories may shut off aspects of their reality testing to adhere to their beliefs. Some of these pillars of reality testing include:

  1. Sensory evidence – You are able to verify that the information you are receiving is accurate. It is not the opinion or interpretation of someone else. You are able to validate the experience is accurate.
  2. Impartiality – You become emotionally open to listen to each of the voices of an argument. You determine independently what is true after listening to the different opinions.
  3. Introspection – You examine your own beliefs to ensure that you are rightly weighting each element of your belief.
  4. Vulnerability – You become honest about what you feel and believe, and you are willing to be corrected. You stop blindly defending your beliefs.
  5. Moral reasoning – You think through the consequences of holding a particular value—and if it is untenable, not founded in truth, you jettison it. You do not automatically introject the beliefs of the conspiracy theory unexamined; you look at the implications of adopting this value.
  6. Intellectual prehension – You look at different explanations and the evidence supporting them. You give yourself permission to examine other viewpoints and explanations.
  7. Uncovering motivations – You uncover your motivations for holding beliefs and viewpoints, discovering what you “get out” of holding a belief or adopting a mindset.

If you think that you might be embracing a conspiracy theory, you may wish to apply the pillars of reality testing to determine if you are deceiving yourself. We suggest that you hold the contentions of a conspiracy theory as an unproven hypothesis. Listen to facts pro and con, and be willing to reject the conspiracy theory if you cannot verify its claims.

Getting Untangled from Delusional Beliefs

How People Get Tangled Up in Belief Systems and How They Can Get Untangled

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: How do people come to believe such strange things? Like there are people who seek to confirm the prophecies of The Bible, and believe that these point to current events? How could you verify something like this?

A: You could begin examining promised prophetic outcomes and see if they actually come true. This would entail:

  1. Write down the prophecy you are studying. Identify the concrete events that could indicate the prophecy’s promised outcome has occurred.
  2. Note the key descriptors as measurable events. For example, does the prophecy say there will be earthquakes? Fires? Famine? Thunder and lightening? Wars? Will the seas turn red as blood?
  3. Set criteria for what constitutes a fulfillment for the prophecy. This should be significant. There have been nearly continual earthquakes, thunderstorms, and wars since the days when the prophets lived. There have been periodic famines. What would make these occurrences salient to indicate that this event was fulfilled?

For example, would you only consider earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or above? Would you only consider a famine if 100,000 or more people died? Would you only consider a war significant if 10,000 warriors on both sides died? How many square miles of the ocean would have to turn red for you to say that they outcome was reached? It is important that you decide what is the cutoff for you to consider each factor.

  1. You would find known historical instances of each of these factors that match the descriptors and that meet your criteria. So you would find all historical instances of earthquakes greater than 7.0 magnitude and notice if the other outcomes of the prophecy coincided with that factor.
  2. Calculate the statistical correlation for all of the factors matching the criteria and come up with a summated correlation for all factors. Apply an appropriate statistical test to determine whether this summated correlation is significant.
  3. Note which historical instances have the highest correlations, and whether these values are significant.
  4. Then consider, do any of these significant correlations provide definitive proof the prophecy has been fulfilled?

Since multiple historical events can be said to meet the outcome descriptors described in scriptures, it becomes a difficult task to identify which of these similar outcomes the prophet was actually predicting. Similar patterns of wars and famines might have occurred once or twice a century.

So does the prophecy seem to relate to captivity of the Jews in Babylon? Does it point to the Roman occupation of Judea? Does it indicate the period of the Fall of Rome? Does it refer to the Crusades? Does it suggest the battles of the American Civil War? Is it describing the events of the early 21st century?

Since the patterns are similar, believers could point to any of these events as “fulfillment of prophecy.” So in every generation, if these prophecies are correct, you have many of the markers to suggest the end of the world is nigh.

Q: Many Christians, Jews, and Muslims interpret the symbolic materials in their scriptures literally. As a result, they have projected apocalyptic, doomsday scenarios on current events. These events appear to them to confirm their beliefs. Can you speak to this?

A: There are several issues with interpretations of symbols. We go into these issues in greater depth in our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing?.

Literal interpretations of symbolic or archetypal images contained in scripture—particularly those that describe doomsday scenarios—are problematical. These concerns include:

  1. Symbols may not refer to any actual event or person. While originally they may be extrapolated from experience and envisioned as events of the future, it is not possible to objectively know what the prophet had in mind when he or she had the revelation in which this symbolic content was brought forward into awareness.
  2. Symbolic or metaphorical interpretation creates meaning from symbols or archetypes. Each symbol can become a container for widely divergent meanings—there is no consensus on what any symbol actually means.
  3. Symbols can become objects for projections of wishes, hopes, and fears. These emotional projections can be displaced on a current event that appears to fulfill an apocalyptic vision. For example, if the believer strongly desires the Christ to return, these events that match the signs of the prophecy foretelling his Advent evoke powerful yearnings.
  4. Symbols can enable the powerless to feel they have power. When people do not feel they have the power to change their current circumstances, they may look to archetypes of a Messiah or Warrior King to vanquish and punish those who oppress them. An avenging Deity may use Its Mighty Power to destroy the wicked, and to reward the powerless. For example, St. John’s virulent anger at Rome is thinly veiled in his visions of an angry God, who sends his Son to judge the world in “The Book of Revelations” in The Bible.
  5. Symbols convey the miraculous. The outcomes of many prophecies require that the known laws of physics be violated: For example, the corpses of the dead will be miraculously resurrected on the Day of Judgment, or believers will vanish from the world in the Rapture. In many cases, fulfillment of prophecy needs to have a magical, miraculous, or supernatural intervention to come true.
  6. Symbols give substance to the irrational or fantastic. Many symbols and archetypes are encountered in the unconscious mind. They embody desires, wishes, and fears—but also potential knowledge and abilities. Until they are integrated, however, symbols are mysterious and inscrutable.
  7. Mystery spawns speculation. The inherent mystery of symbols and archetypes invites conjecture about their meaning. Since none of these theories can be tested or validated, explanations of what symbols mean can take the form of elaborate conspiracy theories, recounting a mythical retelling of history, legends and stories of the future Advent of the Messiah or Prophet, or tales of the impending end of the world. Until the esoteric meanings of the symbol reveal themselves to the Soul, wild speculation prevails.

Q: What happens when you believe this way? When you interpret symbols in this highly speculative fashion?

A: You misunderstand and misinterpret the meanings of the symbol. As a result, you experience:

  1. Delusion – your misunderstanding of the symbol leads to mistaken belief.
  2. Denial – Once you have decided that you have the true interpretation of the symbol, you refuse to consider anything that disconfirms your belief.
  3. Projective identification – You look for confirmation of your belief in events. You distort the data to confirm what you believe. You filter your perceptions so that you look for any evidence that validates your belief. You attempt to convince others of the truth of your belief.
  4. Conviction – You hold these beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. When others attempt to question your beliefs, this only makes you hold this belief more tenaciously. You may feel someone is attacking one of the core tenets of your faith.

If you begin to hold many mistaken beliefs with conviction to level four, you may construct a mindset that progresses—from powerful conviction about one to five tenacious beliefs—to a comprehensive array of dozens of distorted beliefs. As you become more entrenched in this impregnable castle of beliefs, you may shift into an authoritarian worldview, and ultimately to outright paranoia. These deeper layers of warped belief construction are:

  1. Armoring of the heart – You create a “belief bubble” that encapsulates your beliefs, and projects an apocalyptic worldview—you have the belief that the doomsday scenario described in your scriptures will come true. You may hold that because you are a believer, you will be saved from the horrible things that are predicted to befall those who don’t believe the way you do. This may also take the form of elaborately constructed conspiracy theories in those that don’t embrace religious belief systems.
  2. Authoritarian worldview – Once you have constructed your fortress of unquestionable belief, your nexus of beliefs may shift into an authoritarian worldview—especially if you believe that others are actively challenging your beliefs. In this mindset, you take a black and white viewpoint: you may believe that the devil has deluded those who don’t believe like you do; they will be doomed to hell; and they are worthy to be ridiculed, persecuted, punished, or exiled. In this mindset, you commonly try to impose your beliefs and values on others.
  3. Paranoia – When you progress to this stage, when others begin to question your beliefs or criticize you, you begin to perceive you are persecuted or victimized. You may in fact be persecuting and victimizing others, but you aren’t aware you are doing this—nor are you aware of your intolerant, arrogant, and condescending attitude towards others.

Q: I have observed these stages of belief construction in other people—and I’ve caught myself going here as well. How do people untangle this cocoon they have woven out of their beliefs?

A: You unravel these knots of belief through applying strategies that deconstruct them. These methods include:

  1. Be willing to experience the world as it is without the filter of beliefs, metaphors, or symbols. The practice of mindfulness, being present and aware, helps you do this.
  2. Accept that people hold many alternative perceptions of reality. Seek to understand why they view the world differently. Studying the different strata of the Great Continuum of Consciousness and finding the different identity states that people embrace will assist you to understand this phenomenon.
  3. Take ownership of your projections. Notice if you are using symbols or events to project your desires on other people or the world. Tools such as process meditation and the Mandala Method help you trace your beliefs back to their origin, which gives you the option to re-own them and modify them.
  4. Use contradictory or conflicting evidence to arrive at a greater truth, a more complete theory that includes other viewpoints. If you hold truths hypothetically until you can fully confirm them, you will avoid the trap of tenaciously holding erroneous beliefs. Be willing to question what you believe as you gain new evidence. The Synthesis Method is a valuable tool for resolving conflicts between beliefs—it allows you to find a higher standpoint that allows you to integrate both perspectives.
  5. Dissolve your bubble of belief through experiencing your intentional consciousness (attentional principle), your loving heart (spirit), and your transcendent being (Soul) directly. Experience your body, your vehicles of consciousness and the levels of your mind directly, and relate to the world and other people from your authentic spirituality.
  6. Seek empathy, understanding, and compassion for your Self and others. Cultivate humility and recognize you do not have all the answers—you continue to learn and grow. Also allow others to discover their own truths. Don’t impose your beliefs and values on others. Share your discoveries in consciousness if they ask you about them.
  7. Take ownership of how you persecute and harm others and stop doing this. Take responsibility for your own actions, words, and thoughts. Stop blaming others for your shortcomings and failures; strive to improve yourself. Deconstruct the mindset that makes you believe you are under attack: embrace the beauty, harmony, and perfection of the universe as it is.

We suspect that if those who hold these rigid belief systems of apocalypse, hatred, and conspiracy would utilize these steps, much of the political and religious strife in the world could be dissolved. We are not holding our breath that this will happen any time soon; but employing methods like this to deconstruct these mindsets would relieve a lot of the turmoil in our world today.

We teach methods one through five in our intermediate meditation classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.

Those who want to go into these topics of belief construction and deconstruction in religion, cults, and terrorist groups more deeply may wish to acquire our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing? You may also enjoy our public webinar series on Cults and on Judeo-Christian religion.