The following is Part One in a series. Read Part Two here.
In the book Columbus and other Cannibals, indigenous author Jack D. Forbes lucidly explores a psychological disease that has been informing human self-destructive behavior that Native American people have known about for years. After reading his book, it was clear to me that he was describing the same psycho-spiritual disease of the soul that I wrote about in my book, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis. I introduce the idea that from the dawn of human history our species has fallen prey to a collective psychosis which I call malignant egophrenia. Speaking about this very same psychic epidemic, Forbes writes, “For several thousands of years human beings have suffered from a plague, a disease worse than leprosy, a sickness worse than malaria, a malady much more terrible than smallpox.”[i] Indigenous people have been tracking the same “psychic”[ii] virus that I call malignant egophrenia for many centuries and calling it “wetiko,” a Cree term which refers to a diabolically wicked person or spirit who terrorizes others. Professor Forbes, who was one of the founders of the Native American movement during the early sixties, says, “Tragically, the history of the world for the past 2,000 years is, in great part, the story of the epidemiology of the wetiko disease.”[iii] Wetiko/malignant egophrenia is a “psychosis” in the true sense of the word as being a “sickness of the soul or spirit.” Though calling it by different names, Forbes and I are both pointing at the same illness of the psyche, soul and spirit that has been at the root of humanity’s inhumanity to itself.
As if performing a magic ritual, in exploring the entity of wetiko, we first have to invoke its spirit and enter into relationship with it. We must contemplate and engage wetiko as objectively as we are able, as if it exists outside of ourselves, lest we get too “mixed up” with the object of our contemplation. Due to its unique psychic origin, the epidemiology of wetiko is different than any other disease. An intrinsic challenge to our investigation of the wetiko virus is that it is incarnating in the very psyche which itself is the means of our investigation. Aware of this conundrum, Forbes explains that he is attempting to examine the disease, “from a perspective as free as possible from assumptions created by the very disease being studied.”[iv] If we are not aware of the frame of reference through which we are examining the wetiko virus, our investigation will be tainted by the disease, obscuring the clear vision needed to start the healing process. Studying how wetiko disease manifests in others, as well as in the “other” part of ourselves, will help us to see “it” more objectively. Seeing this psychological disease manifesting in the world is the looking glass through which we can potentially recognize this same illness as it arises subjectively within our own minds.
After evoking an entity like wetiko, in order to study it as objectively as possible, we have to hermetically seal it within an alchemical container. This ensures that its mercurial spirit doesn’t vaporize back into the invisibility of the unconscious, where it would act itself out through us. Jung continually emphasized the importance of developing a container or vessel in which to catch troublesome spirits like wetiko. He writes, “Therefore, if anything is wrong, take it out of its place and put it in the vessel that is between your neighbor and yourself…For love of mankind, create a vessel into which you can catch all that damned poison. For it must be somewhere — it is always somewhere — and not to catch it, to say it doesn’t exist, gives the best chance to any germ.”[v] Wetiko is an elusive spirit that is challenging to pin down and say it is “this” or “that.” At the same time, it is critical that we attempt to delineate its properties. Unlike a physical virus, the wetiko bug can not be isolated materially, but its characteristic signature can be detected and seen in the peculiar operations of a psyche that is under its spell. To not recognize the existence of the wetiko germ — “to say it doesn’t exist” — allows the psychic infection to act itself out unrestrained. Being “always somewhere” is to be nonlocal, which means that it is always around, even potentially, or especially, within ourselves. In calling forth the wetiko spirit, we are simultaneously creating, through our inquiry itself, the container in which we can study this bug so as to understand what in fact we are dealing with, see how it operates out in the world, in others, and subjectively, within ourselves. In order to come full circle in our contemplative exercise/exorcise, we have to homeopathically take our contemplation back within ourselves. As if in a dream where the inner is the outer, we can recognize that the wetiko virus that we have been tracking “out there,” outside of ourselves, is a reflection of and co-related to the same process within ourselves. Encoded in wetiko’s symptomology is a revelation, something that is most important for us to know.
A Disease of Civilization
Wetiko/malignant egophrenia is a disease of civilization, or lack thereof. To quote Forbes, “To a considerable degree, the development of the wetiko disease corresponds to the rise of what Europeans choose to call civilization. This is no mere coincidence.”[vi] The unsustainable nature of industrial civilization is based on, and increasingly requires violence to maintain itself. Genuine “civilization,” in essence, means not killing people. Referring to the lack of “civility” in modern society, Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization and responded by saying, “I think it would be a good idea.” It makes sense that native people would know about malignant egophrenia, as they were both oppressed by, but weren’t, at least initially, under the “curse” of modern civilization. Being under the sway of modern civilization can feel like something foreign to our nature is being imposed upon us, as if we are living in an occupied land. Modern civilization suffers from the overly one-sided dominance of the rational, intellectual mind, a one-sidedness that seemingly dis-connects us from nature, from empathy, and from ourselves. Due to its disassociation from the whole, wetiko is a disturber of the peace of humanity and the natural world, a sickness which spawns aggression and is capable of inciting violence amongst living beings. The wetiko virus is the root cause of the inhumanity in human nature, or shall we say, our seemingly inhuman nature. This “psychic virus,” a “bug” in “the system,” in-forms and animates the madness of so-called civilization, which, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop feeds the madness within ourselves.
Forbes continues, “this disease, this wetiko (cannibal) psychosis, is the greatest epidemic sickness known to man.”[vii] We, as a species, are in the midst of a massive psychic epidemic, a virulent collective psychosis that has been brewing in the cauldron of humanity’s psyche from the beginning of time. Like a fractal, wetiko operates on multiple dimensions simultaneously — intra-personally (within individuals), inter-personally (between ourselves), as well as collectively (as a species). “Cannibalism,” in Forbes’s words, “is the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.”[viii] Those afflicted with wetiko, like a cannibal, consume the life-force of others — human and nonhuman — for private purpose or profit, and do so without giving back something from their own lives. One example that symbolizes our self-destructive, collective madness is the oil companies’ destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, the lungs of our planet. This is literally a full-bodied revelation showing us what we are doing to ourselves. Another literal example that is symbolically illustrating the wetiko complex in action is Monsanto genetically engineering terminator seeds that do not reproduce a second generation, thus forcing farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto for each year’s new crop. This makes survival for many poor farmers impossible, which has triggered a wave of suicides among farmers, as Monsanto grows richer from the process.
Forbes writes, “The overriding characteristic of the wetiko is that he consumes other human beings, that is, he is a predator and a cannibal. This is the central essence of the disease.”[ix] Predators, “full-blown” wetikos are not in touch with their own humanity, and therefore can’t see the humanity in others. Instead, they relate to others either as potential prey or as a threat to their dominance. As if a different breed who is more animal-like predator than ordinary human being, someone fully taken over by the wetiko psychosis consumes others’ lives, physically, emotionally, psychically and meta-physically, beyond just the material body and physical possessions to the level of meaning itself. Wetikos are the “anti-artists” of our culture, embodying the opposite of what creative artists do. Unlike an artist (please see my article “The Artist as Healer of the World”), who creates life-enhancing meaning and enriches the world without robbing others, a wetiko takes and consumes without giving anything back, continually draining and impoverishing the planet of resources.
We are currently in the midst of “the greatest epidemic sickness known to man” (please see my article “Diagnosis: Psychic Epidemic”). Many of us don’t even realize this, as our collective insanity is so pervasive that it has become normalized. Our collective madness has become transparent to us, as we see and interpret the world through it, rendering our madness invisible, thereby unwittingly colluding with the collective psychosis that is wreaking incredible death and destruction on our planet. Being “trans-parent,” our madness is beyond its mere appearance, which is to say, “beyond being apparent,” i.e., not visible. Our collective psychosis is invisible to us, as it expresses itself both in the very way we are looking, as well as all of the unspoken ways we have been conditioned not to perceive. Due to its cloak of invisibility, we don’t see our madness, a psychic blindness which makes us complicit in the creation of our madness.
Many of us can’t fathom the level of evil to which full-blown wetikos have fallen prey, and of which they are capable. Our lack of imagination of the evil existing in potential in humanity is a direct reflection of a lack of intimacy with our own potential evil, which enables the malevolence of wetiko to have nearly free rein in our world (please see my article “Shedding Light on Evil”). In our psychic blindness we are complicit in the spreading of the evil of the wetiko psychosis, a systematic evil whose depth is beyond the capacity of words to fully describe. Evil paralyzes the ability to language our experience, creating a seemingly unbridgeable gap between language and the event it is supposed to describe. Finding that place of no words, we simultaneously discover and create a new language, a language which is universal and transcends language itself, a language known as art.
A Parasite of a Different Order
When people are infected by the wetiko virus, Forbes writes, they are “the host for the wetiko parasites.”[x] The wetiko germ is a psychic tapeworm, a parasite of the mind. Just like certain computer viruses or malware infect and program a computer to self-destruct, mind-viruses like wetiko can program the human bio-computer to think, believe and behave in ways that result in our self-destruction. Wetiko is a virulent, psychic pathogen that insinuates thought-forms into our mind which, when unconsciously en-acted, feed it, and ultimately kills its host (us). It doesn’t want to kill us too quickly however, for to successfully implement its agenda of reproducing and propagating itself throughout the field, it must let the host live long enough to spread the virus. If the host dies too soon, the bug would be prematurely evicted and would suffer the inconvenience of having to find a new residence.
Like a cancer of the mind that metastasizes, in wetiko disease, a pathological part of the psyche co-opts and subsumes all of the healthy parts of the psyche into itself so as to serve its pathology. The personality then self-organizes an outer display of coherence around this pathogenic core, which “masks” the inner dysfunction, making it hard to recognize. In a psychic coup d’etat, the wetiko bug can usurp and displace the person, who becomes its puppet and marionette. Like a parasite, the wetiko virus can take over the will of an animal more evolved than itself, enlisting that creature into serving its nefarious agenda. Once the parasite becomes sufficiently entrenched within the psyche, the prime directive coordinating a person’s behavior comes from the disease, as it is now the one calling the shots. Just as someone infected with the rabies virus will resist drinking water, which would flush out the infection, someone taken over by the wetiko parasite will have nothing to do with anything that will help them get rid of the disease. Wetikos are phobic towards the light of truth, which they avoid like the plague. In advanced stages, this process takes over the person so completely that we could rightfully say the person is no longer there; they are just an empty shell carrying the disease. In a sense there is just the disease, operating through what appears to be a human being. The person becomes fully identified with their mask, their persona, but it is as if there is no one behind the mask.
To read the rest of Part 1 and link to Part 2, go to: