Friday, November 21, 2008

The Lemming Theory of History

I think that conspiracy theory, in the sense of world events being secretly controlled by small groups of people, is similar in principle to the old-fashioned ‘great man’ view of history, which Tolstoy attempted to discredit in his novel War and Peace. According to this theory, history is largely shaped by great men like Napoleon: “highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence and wisdom or Machiavellianism, used power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.”

Tolstoy’s most effective presentation of his case was in describing the nature of battles, of which he had first hand experience. What we might learn in a history book is Napoleon’s brilliant victory at such-and-such a battle, brought about by the orders he gave. What Tolstoy points out in detail is the huge disparity between the orders that were given, and the course of events on the ground. The outcome of the battle, in other words, had nothing to do with the orders given by the ‘great man’. The victorious Russian general Kutuzov in War and Peace goes to sleep in his tent during a battle, having the wisdom to know that any orders he gives won’t make any difference.

It’s not that ‘great men’, or small powerful groups of people, do not make a difference. They can, if they seize the moment. But it is soon gone in the wider current of forces that shape society. In the last analysis, I think it is this wider current, the collective will of society, that has the most power.

Barack Obama may make a difference to America. But he is in the position he is in because there is a collective longing for certain types of change that he has been able to respond to and articulate. There have always been leaders and influential groups of people. Sometimes they are able to rise above the collective and shape it, for better or for worse, at least for a while. But they are like temporary islands in an ocean.

The ongoing world financial crisis, and plunge into recession, is a good example of the unconscious collective having the upper hand. A huge force has swept through the world, and gone are our usual illusions that anyone is in control. The notion that somehow a few people engineered this is risible. It has been a wonderful and instructive example of the ultimate power of blind collective forces. These forces haven’t come out of nowhere. They have been building for years through the reckless, herd-like actions of the banking system, the politicians who are supposed to regulate it, and the millions of people who have borrowed far more than they should have. It’s very hard to point a finger at particular groups of people and blame them. It’s human nature at a collective level that has brought it about.

Hence my title ‘The Lemming Theory of History’, which remarkably doesn’t produce any results on Google. The lemmings go over the cliff because all the other lemmings are, and they are being pushed on from behind. Even if you have been financially prudent over the last decade, you are still having to go over the cliff, you are still being affected by the recession.

So individuals, or even, if you want, secret conspiring groups can make a difference for a period, even for decades, while the currents are with them. But the bigger trends are fundamentally collectively determined.

This view ties in with society seen as a chart in mundane astrology. Yes, the inner planets are there: there is the Sun as the leader, the Moon as the people, Mars is the army and the violent gangsters, Venus is the women, Jupiter the gamblers and empire builders and so on. But then you have the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. We know from our own individual lives that we cannot control these planets when they are active, we can only do our best to co-operate and to remain conscious. These planets carry the deeper themes of our lives, as well as ushering in the new phases, the big transformations. Living with outer planets can be hard enough for us as individuals, with our capacity to make choices. So how much harder it is for a collective, where choice-making and consciousness are much more problematic, to live consciously with these planets.

It is therefore entirely in keeping with the astrological view of the outer planets to see society as fundamentally, and largely unconsciously, in the grip of collective forces, with the odd moment of inner planet consciousness here and there. The Lemming Theory of History! Yes there are great men and women, and yes there are conspiracies/cabals, but they are small fry in the bigger sweep of things.

With Uranus moving in to square Pluto over the next few years, we are at the beginning of one of those great collective transformations that we see from time to time. The last was Uranus conjunct Neptune in the early 90s. Despite his best efforts, the leader of the USSR at the time, Gorbachev, was completely powerless in the face of the collective forces that tore apart the Russian Empire, with a speed and ferocity that surprised everyone. These moments when outer planets join up and completely take over do not come from nowhere: they are like underground rivers meeting and bursting through to the surface, sweeping through towns and villages. They were there all the time, quietly growing in strength and carrying the collective with them, which in its hubris thinks it controls events.

By the way, what keeps me on these sort of themes is living in Glastonbury, UK. For many people here, it is a common sense fact that any major world event has been deliberately and secretly engineered. They are not clear about who or what or how. But that’s not the point. The point, I think, is to avoid engagement with reality, while retaining a sense of superiority to it.

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Darren said...

Whilst I agree that its these unconscious collective forces that ultimately shape history, do you not think its possible that some groups, such as cartels, or groups of billionaires, might study astrology and use upcoming outer planet configurations to achieve their aims? Kind of like how a surfer rides a wave.

Anonymous said...

Darren, you could also ask, do cabals use the outer planet configurations or do the outer planets use the cabals to achieve specific ends? Cos whether the surfer decides to surf that wave or not, it's still going to crash onto the shore.

Anonymous said...

I still catch various US Christians spouting "the one-world government" is coming. That there are phantom forces quietly chipping away at erosion at various sacred institutions. It is all so vague and doomsday-esque.

Darren said...

I think the point being made here is not that various people in power don't scheme to consolidate their power further - I can very well believe that the wealthiest and most powerful would LOVE to push towards a world government, and - given the corrupt European Union, and a host of other evidence, I find the world government agenda very plausible. But the point is that even those who control billions of dollars of assets cannot fully control the masses. Another reason why communist governments can never work in the long run (I personally believe we'll achieve greater flattening of heirarchies and distribution of wealth through new technologies).

Its become too easy to discredit any claims of powerful people scheming as 'conspiracy theories' (e.g. "You believe that? You must be one of those 'conspiracy theory nutcases!").

Theres a big difference between believing, for example, that the moon landings were faked, and being suspicious that powerful people are trying to grab even more power however they can.

Anonymous said...

The wealthy and powerful can control us only to the extent that we conform to the status quo.

Barry Goddard said...

Not quite, because some of them can have us stuck in jail if we don't!

Anonymous said...

I think you are right that "conspiracy theorists" are driven mad by the idea that living IS chaos. Studying quantum chromodynamics and many other theories has led me to the conclusion that the world is full of random, self-generating, and self-coherent effects, but the whole of the equation is unfathomable BECAUSE WE ARE TRYING TO FATHOM IT with our measly human minds--can't see the picture when you are in the frame!
Yes, there are trends, and powerful "cabals" and nefarious, evil people, but there is really no way it could ALL be orchestrated into some over-arching design. People who do think so are further entrenching their egotism by supposing that human powers are supreme. The human mind is designed to see patterns, and will impose them where none exist. The "lemming theory" is also called "consensual reality" or "bias of the majority" or "socially acceptable behaviour."

Anonymous said...

Another great entry... very thought provoking. I'm thinking a new theory of history must be coming soon? Do you feel this too?

Sonia said...

Well, I would say that the powerful and rich do conspire to control and amass more wealth.. when the planets are with them they succeed (Pluto in Sag, expansion in a nasty way expressed through blind faith that what they are doing is correct), and when the planets are against them they fail (Pluto in Capricorn, the nasty side of government exposed).

I think the financial crisis was a conspiracy in that it is the final and ultimate expression of all that the rich and powerful have been scheming to do, starting with Reagan. The crash wasn't what they wanted, but they've been pushing their agenda so hard, without opposition (Clinton bought into the Reagan free-market stuff too) that they have overshot.

No, Reagan, Bush and their big business cronies didn't cause the crash per se, but they created the perfect conditions for it to happen..

Big men who are able to set the agenda do change the course of history, I don't think that's disputable. Napoleon might not have controlled what went on during the heat of the battle, but he made sure to choose the ground his men fought on and gave them a starting advantage. Why do you think he won so many battles? Luck? He only lost Waterloo because the Prussians turned up unexpectedly..

Alaleh said...

I wonder how many people with theories about "great men" actually met one...

Sonia said...

I don't know what your definition of 'great men' is, and I haven't met many politicians, but I have met a few CEOs in my working life and I know that a good one can turn a company around.. not by controlling everything in the company either, just by setting clear objectives and trying to make advantage for the company with a few strategic actions.. a bit like Napoleon really..


Anonymous said...

Dharmaruci, you wrote:

"Barack Obama may make a difference to America. But he is in the position he is in because there is a collective longing for certain types of change that he has been able to respond to and articulate."

Oh, this is so beautiful! Yes.

I see figureheads such as the President of the United States as being people who volunteer their souls to take on much of the collective emotion of their people. Sometimes it really roughs them up.

While I know many people were very angry with Bill Clinton for having had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, I had my attention on a different matter: how gracious and generous Clinton was, on a soul level, to allow himself to get into that position. It's like, the country needed to move forward one developmental phase, and he was available to help. We needed his service in that way.

Bill Clinton did no great deed by fooling around with Lewinsky. Quite to the contrary, I think his action was careless and exploitive. For that matter, I think Linda Tripp's action was careless and exploitive, as well. I feel sad for Ms. Lewinsky. I hope there is some cosmic reward waiting for her for HER service.

But, many Presidents have done rude things like that, and Clinton, like all of us, surely has done other reprehensible things in his life. The powerful part of getting in trouble for that particular act was what it allowed for the people.

I don't feel equipped to articulate HOW we moved forward, exactly, as a result of that scandal; I could only feel it as it was happening. Some things which had been in the dark were no longer in the dark. Some fears were exposed to the light of reason. If someone can articulate this better than I can, please do.

This volunteering of one's person for others to project onto, like volunteering to be a character in a fairy tale, is something mothers do as well. Becoming a mother means agreeing to allow oneself to be used for another's purpose. Many sons and daughters are mean to their mothers because they can be when they can't be to anyone else, and the mothers take it. Political figures do something similar.

I'd like there to be a word for this kind of service. "Motherhood" doesn't work, obviously, because there is no parenthood involved and many figureheads are male. "Sacrifice" isn't quite right, although it's in the same vein. There's a sense of giving and taking at the same time.

"Breathe in the pain; breathe out the love," is a Buddhist compassion meditation that comes close to describing the phenomenon I mean. Political figureheads have no idea what the people are going to use them for. One of their many jobs is to become processing facilities for the confusing, inevitable evolution of the public consciousness.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "The Lemming Theory of History" now has 20 Google results from perhaps 1 before DR wrote this article... It's like its becoming a Lemming viral Theory jumping off every Astro-blog out there...

Good works DR.

Sonia said...

Hey Kenna, I like your post! Makes a lot of sense..

Anonymous said...

Sonia: I concur with your financial sector summation--it's sort of like the theory of economies of scale, and since they were in control of the infrastructure (AND the media, thank you Richard Scaife) it was easing to keep the behemoth chudding along--and we are STILL enabling them and blinded to the true cost of that debacle. So will this "Great Readjustment" as i say be like Napoleon's Moscow--when overreaching and conditions conspire to topple to juggernaut?

Kenna: I agree, perhaps the Clinton debacle was a national awakening to our colective "dark-side" or shadow work, and it also served as an inoculation of sorts.
We also must realize that old models die fast, as the mammoth overtaken in ice reminds us, and the true source of human growth will return to actual, visible, tangible work and service, as you say. And tonglen is a great practice!

Anonymous said...


I've read your response to me several times and simply cannot make sense of it.

"...the true source of human growth will return to actual, visible, tangible work and service, as you say."

Did I say that?