Last year, I wrote a blog post: Spirituality and History, and the way in which many historians overlook this vital aspect in our understanding of how people acted in the past. Recently, after watching an interesting documentary about the history of early 20th century Germany and the rise of the Nazis, this idea has been recurring again and again alongside the importance of recognising the power of belief...which, I believe, is probably the most powerful force in our experience.
Without a doubt, many leaders have understood this vital aspect of our nature and many have misused that understanding in order to control people.The documentary showed how, at the beginning of the 20th century, rapid industrialisation and the migration to overcrowded, unhealthy cities, led many people to long for a return to a healthier way of life which was more in tune with nature. To that end, various groups were established to encourage people to go out into the countryside, to swim in lakes and rivers, take long walks, adopt a vegetarian/healthier diet etc. etc. All these things were good and people could see that they were good and healthy and restored a sense of connection with the past. This beneficial belief, however, was adopted and then distorted by several leading Nazis, who added to it the repugnant idea that anyone who did not live up to the ideal, which this lifestyle was creating, should be removed from the country. As the distorted belief took hold, it was only a small step to saying that, rather than being removed, those who didn’t ‘fit the bill’ should be killed. It was often baffling to me to understand how so many ‘good’ people could be led so easily into believing that death camps and genocide were acceptable. Seeing the progress of a belief, it is easy to see how that happened.
The Nazis were not alone in distorting beliefs, though. In the Middle Ages, the Vatican was rebuilt by the money donated by those who were terrified into donating vast sums to buy indulgences which, they believed, would pave their way into heaven. In order to promote that belief, churches were filled with horrific paintings of hell, with devils torturing the damned for all eternity. If you believed that would happen, you would be more than willing to pay for an indulgence to buy your way out of it. In recent times, too, there are numerous beliefs which seem to me to be quite ridiculous but we cling to them because they have been so instilled in us. For example, we were to believe in global warming – even though many eminent scientists proved that the world was actually cooling – and, once we believed that we needed to save the planet, we were willing to pay more for light bulbs, which give hardly any light and are filled with mercury, and adopt all kinds of other measures which, in fact, have created several billionaires who were invested in promoting and selling these products. We have often been taught to believe that there are enemies who are waiting to attack us and so we willingly yield our liberty and allow ourselves to be searching or x-rayed in airports and elsewhere 'for our own protection’. We have been told there is a world food shortage, but at the same time, giant companies, like Monsanto, are creating seeds which will not reproduce and are compelling poor farmers to buy them, while, at the same time, creating other GMO crops, the effects of which are undoubtedly dangerous, and we accept it because we believe they will end starvation. We believe there is a world-wide recession and consequently, when so many businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs, we accept it is ‘just one of those things’ but, in fact, all recessions are engineered and planned in advance to the advantage of certain banking families. On and on it goes...
And why do we believe these things? Surely it is because there are two driving forces in humanity: Love and Fear. Love enables mutual co-operation, contentment, aspiration, expansion. Fear stifles independence and freedom and turns us into slaves. I made a decision some weeks ago to base every decision and every choice and every belief and every action on a simple question: is this based on love or on fear? Even in everyday life the results have been quite startling to me...and I truly believe now that this is the swiftest route to true freedom and a return to our natural dignity, which has so often been crushed by distorted beliefs.
On a separate note, I am also happy to announce that my earliest book: ‘The Counting House’ has now been reproduced in a second edition and, thanks to the success of the other books, I have been able to reduce the cost by several pounds or dollars. ‘The Fields Laid Waste’ will also be available in a second edition very shortly: