We were recently discussing “the Mandela effect” where people remember things differently than others, or than facts represented in history books and newspapers, and consider this to be evidence of multiple universes. (Specifically named for the fact that many people remember Nelson Mandela as having died in the 1980’s while history books say he died in 2013. Frankly, I think a lot of these people, for whatever reasons, find it more comforting to believe he died in prison, than emerged to lead his country and shatter apartheid. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what kind of people might find this more comforting, and the implications for the rest of the essay)
Anyway, the “Mandela Effect” really is interesting coffee shop conversation, especially when herbally enhanced. But one reader, said: “Having been close to a gaslighter who would get mad at me for misremembering as a cover for their lying (they constantly revised events that happened in the past and accused me of lying or misremembering). I am so glad to have miles and years between myself and that person. This thread immediately brought them to mind.”
And I thought I’d comment on that.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to dip my toes into a lot of different ponds, and have a wide variety of esoteric experiences. Some of them definitely open the door to the POSSIBILITY of alternate realities. The theory is either true or false. If true, we can either make use of it or not. So three major possibilities (there are doubtless others) are:
- It is False
- It is True, but useless
- It is True, and useful
I’m interested in things that are true, whether they are currently perceived as useful or not. Which means I’ve been willing to wander down some strange roads. And down some of them might well have been ultimate truths that would have been enlightening…and I missed them because I demanded “proof’ or what not, and turned back.
I can live with that. Why? Because I have limited time, and no one has the time they need to investigate every path down to its every implication. If there is a meaning of life, the definition that comes the closest that can be expressed simply is: “happiness.” Obviously, you can discuss this for a lifetime, and people do. But I think the Dalai Lama came as close as language can come to a simple answer to the question.
This has been a guide for me. Corrolary: all creatures will attempt to move away from pain and toward pleasure. Or from a greater to a lesser pain. We’re wired that way, and can’t do anything else…and one of the challenges of adulthood is seeing how a temporary or short-term pain (studying, exercising, telling the truth) can lead to greater long-term pleasure.
Or conversely how a short-term pleasure (smoking, overeating, cheating) can lead to long-term pain. This is part of what we have to teach our children.
The extension of this is that our “reality maps” are compilations of what we have learned in interaction with the world. They are our way of navigating reality so as to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. The idea is that one can then judge the accuracy of a person’s perceptions by how well they’ve done this. How well they’ve succeeded, GIVEN THEIR STARTING POSITION.
This is tricky, more of an art-form than a science. You have to measure them against others who approximated their starting position in life, their resources. This is not always possible, and con-men work in that wiggle room. And so do the deluded. And, unfortunately perhaps, so would some people of genuine power and mystery–their results cannot be evaluated by an external yardstick.
So those are the three groups, broadly measured, of people whose perceptions of the universe vary greatly from the “norm”:
- People who have much more, or much less, perception than average. Both ends of the spectrum exist. “Forest Gump”, to me, was a movie about how a simple-minded person can navigate the world by adhering to the social rules given in childhood. If you’re gonna break rules, you’d better be exceptional. If not, better to be conservative, in that sense. A very very smart people following conservative principles of life will perform very well, and have a pretty damned solid life. So I’m not being snarky here.
- People who are deluded. Many, many years ago I was recreational therapist at a mental institution, and I’ve done similar but more advanced work in that vein in recent years. And yeah, the people who end up seeking or needing help in this capacity tend to have hugely warped “reality maps.” Cannot sort reality from their perceptions of it. Its sad to watch.
- And…people who have a genuinely evolved perspective. They don’t see the same reality. Some of them kinda drift away, and I cannot criticize them: they are on a different journey. From the perspective of humanity, the very best of them see not only this different reality, but ours as well, and provide “bridges” to connect the mundane and esoteric worlds. These people have been some of the greatest teachers humanity has ever known. Not necessarily “perfect”, often flawed, but of real vision and therefore power. Christ, Gandhi, Muhammad, King, Buddha…amazing human beings. One suspects that some of our greatest inventors and scientific theorists are similar.
Those are the three major categories I see. I’m sure I’m missing something, and of course it is possible to overlap categories.
The problem is that we KNOW that some extraordinary people, or people of extraordinary vision, are in this last category. And so there can be something intoxicating about someone who has a new vision. They can become our leaders. But they can also lead you off a cliff.
How do you sort between the madman and the visionary? The guru and the cult leader? The genius and the person who can talk a good game? The abuser and the person who genuinely sees flaws in your reasoning and can help you if you accept their guidance?
There are no simple answers here. And I doubtless did myself some damage researching some of these paths. I hope I’ve not damaged others, but I’m not certain.
So my teachers suggested “safety rails”. Standards which cut off the extremes of experience, leaving you with the possibility of steady, but gradual improvement. You miss the extreme “highs” and “lows”. The extreme “highs” getting lopped off means that you might indeed miss some extraordinary teacher or opportunity. I can deal with that: I don’t believe in the “great man” hypothesis. Reality is what it is, and there are always multiple people who grasp it. It may take me longer, but I’ll get there.
But the extreme negatives? The insane? The cult leader? The abuser? The deluded? GETTING IT REALLY WRONG CAN KILL YOU. Game over. No time to make corrections or learn from your errors. In other words, the ‘negatives’ associated with getting it really wrong outweigh the ‘positives’ for following an outlier who cannot prove their position.
Which goes back to those safety rails.
My approach is fairly simple. Ultimately, you can’t prove anything about the external world. The “gaslighter” is deliberately twisting things to manipulate. They have to keep you from catching your balance, so that you cannot fight back. These are the people you have to defend yourself from–but it also happens on the group level, and is unavoidable because our memories are flawed, and “the victors write the history books”. You have to defend yourself there, as well. You have to choose your associations carefully, and my own standard is looking at their results. If they are healthy physically (measured in fitness), emotionally (measured in healthy intimate relationships) and good problem-solvers (hunting and gathering. Their finances) then I believe their “reality map” is going to be pretty accurate.
It is MUCH more rare to find someone who has all three of these areas together who is still deluded. There are some…and the ones I’ve seen inherited money, or were unusually smart and could therefore manufacture plausible alternate maps and explain away discrepancies, or had unusual genes that mimicked fitness without discipline. They exist. But in these cases, it just takes longer to detect the flaws.
Examining a series of people with such balance will reveal commonalities in their “maps.” Go straight down that line. The more people diverge from the “critical path” the common perceptions and beliefs of such high performers, that, the more extraordinary their results have to be: if your map is THAT much different, if you are right and we are wrong, you’re going to get amazing results.
You think you understand Christ better than the rest of us? Let’s see you walk on water. Oooh, poor baby–your clothes got wet? Sorry, but you’re just figuring it out like the rest of us.
Think you understand physics well enough to have a perpetual motion theory? If you don’t grasp engineering enough to build one, I’m gonna ignore you.
Think you understand men and women better? Let’s see your relationships: can you attract people you are attracted to? Hold them for long enough to raise a child? No? Sorry, but your theories don’t move me.
I’m quite certain that this attitude has caused me to miss some opportunities: not all great swim coaches can swim. But I know for a fact that I’ve avoided monsters and charlatains by the bushel.
There was a “New Age Fair” once with lots of booths. The tackiest, shabbiest booth was for a guy teaching abundance and financial prosperity.
I met a woman who wrote bestselling books on finding love. She’d been married seven times.
There are a ton of chain-smoking, big-bellied martial arts instructors who swear they can get you in shape.
And…there are gurus who promise spiritual enlightenment who lie and steal and screw their nubile acolytes enough to make Heffner jealous.
Oh well. It isn’t that some of these people might not have things to teach…but don’t you think you’d increase your odds by seeking out people who can DO what they are TEACHING?
So the deluded person needs you to ignore their current circumstances: they were successful yesterday, and will be again tomorrow. The abuser would never let you check with his prior relationships.
When I met Tananarive, I knew this was a young woman of rare potential. If I could not be good for her, she shouldn’t be with me. I was separated from my first wife at the time (we were living in a side-by-side duplex in Vancouver Washington so that Nicki could just come home to me before Toni came home from work). When T came up to visit me, the first thing I did was sit her down with Toni and Nicki, say “you guys talk about whatever you want” and leave the house for an hour.
I figured that if Toni would bad-mouth me, either I was a bad person, or had bad judgement. In either case, T deserved to know. I WAS WILLING TO BE JUDGED BY MY TRACK RECORD, because I loved T more than I loved the idea of us being together.
Frankly, an abuser wouldn’t dare do something like that.
And some people are just…damaged. I had a friend, an intelligent lady I dated in college. Over the years she grew fringier and fringier. She began talking conspiracy theories, about free energy, a world-wide cabal of mystics, and 9/11. I drilled down a bit, asking her exactly how she thought people brought the towers down when demolition experts spend weeks stripping out walls to access load bearing girders to implant the explosives necessary for a controlled demolition: all explosives do is remove the building’s capacity to resist gravity. The location of the struts that resist gravity are a matter of physics and engineering, principles very very well understood. Those beams are by design difficult to get to, and hard to cut.
Precisely how do you do that in two of the busiest buildings in the world, without everyone seeing the literally hundreds of men doing thousands of suspicious things? And she said alien technology.
She is now, I believe, homeless. I’m sure in her confused way she doesn’t understand how she got from being a bright, pretty college student to a homeless woman who holds the secrets of the universe if only someone would listen. But it’s tragic, it really is.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof if you want to stay on the path. THE WORLD IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE WITH GREAT THEORIES. If they can’t prove them, it is best to relegate them to “coffee house” conversation…or bring out the Vape and have fun. But if your children’s lives are at stake, you may not want them flying or designing airplanes if you can help it.
Into this comes the world of people who are not deluded, or mistaken, but actively malicious. A gaslighter HAS to separate you from friends. HAS to get you to ignore the results he or she actually gets in the world. Because anyone can talk a good game. Anyone can be deluded. But when you say: “what results do you get?” the game changes.
If you get average results, I’ll compare them to the mass of others who get similar results, and if they diverge, I’ll check back in a couple of years and see how you’re doing.
If you get better results, you have my attention. Better results than me in all three arenas? Starting from a similar position? I’ll be your student, if you’ll have me.
Worse results, I’ll politely put you in the “oops!” category.
Abusers have a hard time passing this test, so they hate it.
The deluded can’t pass it either. They can be angered, or are dismissive.
And those with genuine vision? If they have the capacity to be a great leader, a great thinker or philosopher? They KNOW that frauds outnumber breakthrough thinkers. They would WANT you to be careful, just as I wanted T to be careful, to be able to make a good choice.
And they create a path where you can test for yourself. Respect you for wanting proof, allow you to test one step at a time. Provide principles that relate to their ultimate vision that can be applied to the mundane world. My teachers did this: even if the “Safety rails” concept doesn’t lead you to ultimate perception and spiritual enlightenment, you end up with a powerful energetic body, a great romantic and sexual relationship, and making great money doing something you love.
I’ll settle for that. Especially if it helps me avoid monsters and gaslighting ghouls, and the deluded.
And if you think you are one of those with extraordinary perception? I suspect you’re smiling, saying “well, he’ll wake up one day.”
I certainly hope one of us does. Maybe both.