Jeremy Griffith is an Australian biologist and author of numerous books on the human condition and his ground-breaking explanation of it, including the Australasian bestseller A Species In Denial and his 2016 definitive presentation, FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition.
Raised on a sheep station in central west New South Wales, Jeremy received his Bachelor of Science in zoology from Sydney University. During his university days, he played representative rugby union football (making the 1966 trials for Australia’s national team, the Wallabies), and undertook the most thorough investigation ever into the plight of the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), sadly concluding that it was indeed extinct.
Jeremy later established Griffith Tablecraft, a highly successful business manufacturing furniture based on his own simple and natural designs. It was during this time that, at age 27, Jeremy realised that trying to save animals from extinction or trying to build ideal furniture wasn’t addressing the real issue behind the extraordinary imperfection in human life, which is our species’ ‘good and evil’-conflicted behaviour, and that what was really needed in the world was a deeper understanding of ourselves — so it was to this issue of the human condition that Jeremy turned his attention, a study that has remained his life’s focus.
His work has generated extensive media interest and coverage in Australia and abroad, including an article in The Irish Times on the release of FREEDOM, and especially illuminating interviews and discussions with Australia’s most respected broadcasters Caroline Jones and Brian Carlton.
His interview with Brian Carlton is particularly insightful into Jeremy’s nature and his extraordinary empathy with the psychological turmoil teenagers encounter as they attempt to grapple with the human condition both within themselves and the world at large. You can watch the interview below:
Wonderfully illuminating discussion between leading Australian broadcaster Brian Carlton and Jeremy Griffith
Brian Carlton: My name is Brian Carlton. I’m an Australian journalist, commentator and broadcaster and I’m here with biologist Jeremy Griffith to discuss his forthcoming book, IS IT TO BE Terminal Alienation or Transformation For The Human Race? [now titled FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition].
Before receiving an advance copy of FREEDOM I was already aware of Jeremy’s work. In fact, I interviewed Jeremy on my radio show about one of his earlier books, and I remember when I opened the interview to the listeners to call in there was so much interest the interview went for almost two hours and I’m really not exaggerating. I know that Jeremy caused a similar response when he spoke on Caroline Jones’s famous radio show, The Search for Meaning; in that case the interview gained one of the biggest responses Caroline had ever received in the many, many hundreds of programs she made over the years. [You can listen to Jeremy’s interview with Caroline Jones at .] I think the response was second only to an interview she did with a nun in South America. I also know Jeremy’s 2003 book A Species In Denial was a bestseller in Australasia. I know because I bought one and read it, several times.
So I am very much looking forward to this discussion.
Jeremy, tell me about this new book you have written.
Jeremy Griffith: Firstly, this is the ‘Spoonman’—for many, many years Brian was the compère of a popular radio program on Triple M in Sydney where he was affectionately known as the ‘Spoonman’, the professional stirrer, he was the Wolfman Jack of the airwaves in Australia. So that’s a bit of background on who Brian really is.
Jeremy Griffith: When adolescents are about 12 years old, they start seeing the imperfection of life around them and start wrestling with and thinking deeply about it and they soon realise that for some reason adults don’t want to talk about it so they’re left on their own. So at about 12 they actually start trying to understand the human condition. At 9 years old, kids are flailing out at the imperfections of the world and they’re frustrated but they soon change. Going from primary school to senior school at around 12 is actually a recognition that there is a real psychological change occurring at that age. From flailing out at the world in late childhood, when you get bullying and so forth, the so-called ‘noisy nines’, they suddenly become sobered, deeply thoughtful adolescents and that’s when they go to senior school. The brain of children shifts from realising that flailing out in frustration at the imperfection of life gets you nowhere, ultimately you’re going to have to stop and try to understand why the world is imperfect. So, they start thinking deeply, they change from being a protesting extrovert to a sobered introvert.
Drawings by Jeremy Griffith © 1991-2011 Fedmex Pty Ltd
So around 12 when they go to senior school, this search to try to understand the human condition, the imperfection of human life, begins, and it deepens. They keep thinking about it, they’ve learnt that the adult world doesn’t even want to talk about it and everyone is pretending everything is fine when they can see quite clearly it isn’t. By the time they get to about 14 or 15 something serious starts to happen, they start to discover the human condition within themselves, the imperfections within themselves, that there’s angers and meanness and selfishness and indifference to others because they’re still thinking completely honestly, they’re still facing the issue of the human condition. As this thinking deepens they hit this crisis point, normally around 15 or so when they finally discover the human condition within themselves—they’re trying to face that down and it’s suicidally depressing to try to confront that without an understanding of it. So they go into this crisis that I’ve called ‘Resignation’, when they resign to thereafter living in denial of the human condition [see ]. They become an escapist, live a superficial life, they never want to go near that dark corner again. It’s very rare to find any description of a kid going through this because the adult world, as I said, has already resigned, so they don’t want to listen.
But there are some marvellous descriptions of children going through Resignation, and this is probably one of the best. It’s from American Pulitzer Prize-winning child psychiatrist Robert Coles and he describes this encounter he had with an adolescent going through this crisis point of Resignation and I think everyone will be able to relate to this:
‘I tell of the loneliness many young people feel…It’s a loneliness that has to do with a self-imposed judgment of sorts…I remember…a young man of fifteen who engaged in light banter, only to shut down, shake his head, refuse to talk at all when his own life and troubles became the subject at hand. He had stopped going to school…he sat in his room for hours listening to rock music, the door closed…I asked him about his head-shaking behavior: I wondered whom he was thereby addressing. He replied: “No one.” I hesitated, gulped a bit as I took a chance: “Not yourself?” He looked right at me now in a sustained stare, for the first time. “Why do you say that?” [he asked]…I decided not to answer the question in the manner that I was trained [basically, ‘trained’ in avoiding what the human condition really is]…Instead, with some unease…I heard myself saying this: “I’ve been there; I remember being there—remember when I felt I couldn’t say a word to anyone”…The young man kept staring at me, didn’t speak…When he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, I realized they had begun to fill’ (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1996, pp.143-144 of 218).
Now, obviously what had happened was the boy was in tears because Coles had reached him with some recognition and appreciation of what he was wrestling with; Coles had shown some honesty about what the boy could see and was struggling with, namely the horror and hypocrisy of human behaviour including his own behaviour.
So, that’s a marvellous little description of what happens at Resignation. Adolescents lock themselves in their bedrooms, he’s lost in himself, he can’t relate to the world, the world’s not acknowledging what he’s wrestling with, he’s dying a million deaths inside himself.
There is a lot more about the process of Resignation that children go through in my book [see ] but the essence of it is that it reveals just how terrifying the issue of the human condition really is. These children are actually trying to face it down and can’t. It’s just leading to suicidal depression where they have to jump off this psychological cliff [referring to J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye which you can read about in paragraphs and ], resign themselves to living in denial of the human condition. So, the problem my book has is that when it brings people back into contact with the human condition they psychologically don’t want to go near it.
Brian Carlton: That resonates with me. I was that young man. I locked myself in my room listening to music that resonated with my feeling of alienation, and at the same time reading everything I could get my hands on in the belief that if I just found out why nobody’s talking about this then I’ll be able to understand it. So, yeah, it absolutely resonates with me listening to music and reading, locked in my room for a couple of years as an early teenager. It was a very real thing.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, I think a lot of people can remember that and that’s so precious, that’s the benefit of using the Resignation explanation [in ] because people can actually remember going through it and once they know they’ve been through it then they’ve got that anchor to know that it’s a terrifying subject.
Brian Carlton: It’s a life-changing experience, it really is. It certainly was for me.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, that’s what happens when you tell someone about Resignation, it helps because then people connect for the first time in a long time to that experience.
Brian Carlton: Well, I wished I’d known then what I know now.
Brian Carlton: Now, what you’ve said is pretty terrifying but I remember as a kid listening to rock music and there’s one particular song that got me. The band ‘Midnight Oil’, I think the song is called Only the Strong, and the opening lines in the song are, ‘When I’m locked in my room, I just want to scream’. And as a young kid going through this process of Resignation, it talked to me, it said to me that there is at least one other human on Earth whose been through what I’m going through now and that spoke volumes to me, just a couple of lines of music was all it took to make me feel a little bit better about this than I did.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, someone who reaches you with some honesty.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely.
Jeremy Griffith: Exactly like Coles’s situation and in The Catcher in the Rye. That’s how lonely it is going through this and, by inference, how dishonest the adult world is. It’s all ‘resigned’ and no one’s talking any truth. You find one little bit of truth and you just lock onto it and it saves your life.
Brian Carlton: True, and indeed that’s exactly what happened. I went from being terribly alienated from the world to just a little less alienated which helped a lot.
Jeremy Griffith: Well that’s amazing.
Brian Carlton: Just the number of times I reflect on the chat we had about your earlier book Beyond the Human Condition. It has stuck in my mind for a long time. I see things all the time and I use your explanations to help me see the denial. And I have conversations with people about the massive amount of denial going on and their eyes glaze over and they say, ‘What are you talking about?’ So, don’t underestimate the extent to which your earlier works had an impact on me in terms of how I think about what I’m seeing, how I interpret behaviour. I worked up this ability to be able to work out what a person was like in the first five or six seconds of a conversation with them on the telephone [in my talk back radio program] and I could second-guess why they were saying what they were saying and hear the subtext in their words. It was hugely valuable as a broadcaster when you’re taking lots and lots of calls from people who are fundamentally strangers to you and they start telling you their life story and you can plug into what they’re talking about and how they’re talking about it. And a lot of that came from your books because you are able to walk down the street and observe the denial in people. You can observe the souls who are not happy with themselves.
Jeremy Griffith: You’ve finally got insight into what’s happening.
Brian Carlton: Yeah.
Jeremy Griffith: You’ve got the tool to make sense of it at last.
Brian Carlton: But it works, that’s the other thing. When you read your book it sounds esoteric and kind of ‘out there’ but the trickle-down transfer to everyday life and everyday human relationships and experiences has been hugely valuable. I don’t say that ‘pissing in your pocket’ [to praise you], I’m really not. It did make a huge difference.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s the benefit of hanging in there with this information even though it can be very confronting. But yes, those poems and songs [see ] do capture the truth about the state of the world and what the unresigned mind in adolescents can see.
Brian Carlton: I wish I had your book as a 15-year-old. I really do. I was reading fairly thick, dense books at 14, 15, but I wish I had this one. It would have saved me two or three years of angst, and probably another six or seven years of trying to work out what I wanted to do with my life, and how hard I did actually want to change everything. I’m not an ‘issues-based crusader’ as such but there’s so much around that needs fixing and I had this ability or capacity to work out a way where we could do things better. It’s my fight, it’s my personal fight. I was not going to let it beat me and if I can’t quite accept the way the world is then I’m not going to sit down and do nothing. I will use whatever I have at my disposal, which in my case was a microphone and a transmitter, to try and at least make people think about the process of change. But giving up was never an option, let’s put it that way.
Jeremy Griffith: Well Brian, we call people like you ‘Ships at Sea’, people that didn’t properly resign, people who didn’t pull into a port when the storms came [see ]. That’s a torturous choice to make because then you’re forever tumbled around by the imperfection of life.
Brian Carlton: But it’s honest, Jeremy. I live my life honest with myself and I sleep soundly at night. I’m happy with my choices as difficult as they were and are. I’m personally happy with the choices I made back then. Not easy choices, very difficult.
Jeremy Griffith: But it does make you a heretic, with all the pain that goes with that. As you told me earlier, you tried to play in the corporate world, in the front lines trying to shake up the box.
Brian Carlton: I’ve always had issues with people telling me how I should think and what I should say and what opinions I should have. They’re very precious things to me and I want to own mine and I’ve tried as best I could to do that. So I really resent being told to tow any particular line by anybody and I have since I was a child. Ask my mum, she’ll tell you, from about the age of eight it was, ‘No, I’m going to do it my way because I think my way is better’, and if you want an explanation as to why my way is better I’m happy to give that to you, not a problem! But it seemed to me the only way out of this was to be as honest with myself as I could be.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s the strange paradox of the human condition because we do resign but then we pay such a price, becoming such a fraud and so dishonest because we’re not looking at things truthfully ever again. We’re lost in a sea of bullshit, really, from there on. We knew we’d get to a point not too long after that where we were wishing we could get back to some honesty. So when you don’t fully let go and you keep the windows open a little, as it were, this information speaks to that part of you that didn’t let go. [Professor] Harry Prosen [who wrote the ] is like that too. He didn’t quite shut the windows properly and kept searching all his life for some truth. When it came along in the form of the Human Condition Documentary Proposal [a 2004 documentary proposal in which Jeremy outlined all the main biological explanations contained in his books], Harry read that and just loved it because what he was reading spoke to that part of himself that was unresigned and brought it back to life, and it was just so reinforcing. It is like what happened to Coles and Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely, and again I relate to that story so vigorously, he might as well have been talking about me. I was that kid and I did a lot of reading of a lot of disciplines. Firstly I had a crack at the various faiths to see if there was any answers there, and for me there wasn’t. Then science, which had some answers but was ultimately reductionist. I was getting into philosophers and some pretty strange stuff to try and work out whether anybody did have an answer to the human condition, whether there was any kind of coherent description of why I was feeling the way I was feeling and the only thing that even came close to that was your books.
Jeremy Griffith: Beforehand, we were talking together and you were saying, ‘Jeremy, if you had a book for children when they’re going through Resignation it would save their life, they’re your natural audience, because once you get talking to adults who are resigned, they’re deaf to this.’
Brian Carlton: Yeah, throughout my life as a professional communicator and broadcaster I’ve seen the veil of denial go up over people’s eyes when you raise the truth with them about something. They honestly don’t want to know. I thought the early teens, 13, 14, 15, is about the right age to be able to crack through some of that early denial and get to them before they build such a vigorous wall which they’re then locked behind and don’t want to open up; it’s easier just to hide there behind the wall. If you can get to them before they start cementing those bricks in, that will be your generational change I think. It will be kids that age that will respond to what you’re talking about because they’re going through it.
Jeremy Griffith: It will be great when we can actually take a presentation of this to our resigning kids before they jump off Salinger’s cliff and before they cement those bricks in as you so accurately said. It will be very, very precious.
Brian Carlton: That’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: But we have to get a foothold in the real world, the adult world, before we can get some real support for this. So, that’s the conundrum that this book faces, you’ve articulated the whole dilemma and what we’re up against. You’ve also articulated the beauty of, finally, somewhere, some truth appearing in this world that speaks to that part of ourselves that everyone has blocked off. That’s the whole riddle, how do you get through those cemented-in bricks and start the world in the other direction? The point about that song by the heavy metal rock band ‘With Life in Mind’ [which you can read about in and in ], like ‘Midnight Oil’s song, is that it speaks some truth about the state of the world.
Brian Carlton: There are many descriptions of alienation in art, in music, in poetry. I often wonder whether those people who are exploring those areas will understand what you’re talking about more so than, perhaps, a rigid scientifically trained mind.
Jeremy Griffith: Well the trick with really good art, poetry, music or literature is to allude to the human condition, to take people as close as they can go to the truth without actually confronting it. Because without the explanation of the human condition, the defence for it, it’s been just too much to cope with.
Brian Carlton: It’s almost a reflection, isn’t it; they’re reflecting the human condition but not doing anything to explain why it is.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, that’s right because until you can explain it you really can’t take people in too close to the ‘fire’. You can only dance in close to it, as any good literature does. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Coles didn’t get the Pulitzer Prize for that one paragraph [included above]. It’s that honest and it’s that precious. He’s a child psychiatrist and he’s written a book that lets the truth out and that’s just so precious. Why was one of Francis Bacon’s triptychs, which sold for $US142.4 million in 2013 ‘the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, breaking the previous record, set in May 2012, when a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream [another exceptionally honest, human-condition-revealing painting] sold for $119.9 million’ (TIME, 25 Nov. 2013)? [see ] Because they’re speaking the truth: this is us, this is how alienated and dead we really are. So great art, literature, poetry or music is great because it gets close to the truth. But again, you can’t go right there until we found the defence for ourselves.
Brian Carlton: It’s scary when that little inside voice comes up and says, ‘I remember this, I remember what it was like’, and you say, ‘Go away, go away again, just please be quiet’.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, I’m digging up this moment of Resignation because everyone, like you, can remember it. So that reconnects people to the fearful issue of the human condition and then I’ve got a foothold to explain and unpack the whole riddle of the human condition.
Brian Carlton: You can see why our radio interview went for two hours can’t you!
Jeremy Griffith: I keep trying to make what we’re talking about link up with where we were and I’m thinking, shit, this is so good! I want to throw my prepared notes for this interview out the window! [To the film crew:] Brian is a legend. He’s someone really precious to me because it’s been pretty lonely doing this job.
Brian Carlton: I often think about you like that. I think, how can you keep doing this? You just keep pushing on and pushing on and pushing on. You’ve clearly gathered together some like-minded individuals who understand your ideas and are trying to help you grow the thing. It must be a lonely, lonely, lonely place to be a lot of the time.
Jeremy Griffith: We’ve got some wonderful people supporting this because people can get through this denial. Once you understand this explanation of the human condition, you’re defended, so then you’re safe. You can safely run around in the realm of the human condition. The problem is to get people through the ‘deaf effect’ stage so they can start to hear it. [In and , readers are warned that the issue of the human condition has been such a difficult subject for humans to confront that reading about it can initially cause a ‘deaf effect’, where it is hard to take in and absorb what is being said. However, with patience and by watching videos of Jeremy talking about the subject of the human condition and re-reading the book, this ‘deaf effect’ wears off, allowing the compassionate and immensely relieving insights to become accessible.] The people who’ve become really interested are those who have got through the ‘deaf effect’, and the truth of the explanations just grew and grew on them. As you said, it just becomes more addictive because you’ve got the tools to unravel everything. You’re seeing through the human condition and that’s really exciting, and that only continues to grow. It’s a slow beginning with this information because there are so many bricks in the wall—we’ve got to be very determined and patient—but it has a fast finish because once people understand this information they won’t want to retreat back into denial. You can’t throw this knowledge away. When you know you’ve got the keys to unlock the whole mystery of what it is to be human, it just grows and grows.
Brian Carlton: You will inevitably run up against vested interest. People who like the idea that the planet is the way it is because they profit from it in whatever way, be it financially or some other way. People who will want to maintain the status quo, who’ll like to keep things just the way they are because it works for them. You’ll be a threat to established religions, you’ll be a threat to conventional thinking on pretty much everything. All the scientific disciplines, psychology for example, psychiatry. You’re not going to need anywhere near as many of those disciplines if people had this information, you’re just not going to need it. That paradigm shift will be actively resisted and I’m pretty sure you’ve felt that over the past couple of decades.
Jeremy Griffith: Well we fought and won the biggest defamation case in Australia’s history [at the time] and that was against people with a vested interest in living in Plato’s cave of denial, they didn’t want the truth about humans to come out. In fact, my persecutors actually said, ‘You are dealing with the personal unspeakable, shaking the black box inside of people and you can’t succeed’ (personal conversations with Jeremy Griffith, Feb. 1995).
Brian Carlton: It was curious that the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] decided to put up a man of the cloth to analyse your work. I thought that was strange. [Brian is referring to Reverend Millikan who led the attack on Jeremy and his work back in 1995 that led to the defamation court action—see , and the Persecution of the WTM essay at www.humancondition.com/persecution.]
Jeremy Griffith: The same thing happened with Darwin. Bishop Wilberforce stood up at the great debate at Oxford and said, ‘Was it your grandfather or grandmother that was related to an ape?’ That’s when Thomas Huxley stood up and said ‘I’d rather be related to an ape than a great man who misused his intellect to deny truth’ and won the debate.
[The following is a more in-depth description of that great debate: If it wasn’t for Thomas Huxley’s staunch defence of Darwin in the great debate that took place at Oxford in 1860 Bishop Wilberforce’s bitter denigration of natural selection may well have prevented any serious consideration of Darwin’s idea, as this description of the debate reveals: ‘Bishop [Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford] spoke for full half-an-hour with inimitable spirit, emptiness and unfairness…He ridiculed Darwin badly, and Huxley savagely, but all in such dulcet tones, so persuasive a manner, and in such well-turned periods, that I [an observer in the audience] who had been inclined to blame the President for allowing a discussion that could serve no scientific purpose, now forgave him from the bottom of my heart…[Bishop Wilberforce asserted that] Darwin’s views were contrary to the revelations of God in the Scriptures’ (Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 1902, p.236). ‘Darwin’s fiery young champion [was] the biologist Thomas Huxley…As a final crushing blow [Bishop Wilberforce] turned to Huxley. “Is the gentleman,” he asked, “related by his grandfather’s or grandmother’s side to an ape?” Springing to his feet, young Huxley retorted: “I would far rather be descended from a monkey on both my parents’ sides than from a man who uses his brilliant talents for arousing religious prejudice”. A roar of rage went up from the clergy, yells of delight from the Oxford students. The day was Huxley’s—and Darwin’s. All this time Darwin was living a recluse life at his country home in Kent…[where] work poured from his study…[leaving his] critics shuddering in dread of another “ungodly attack” upon the divinity of man…In vain was Darwin’s life scrutinized for the moral weakness that his enemies were sure must underlie his free thinking. All they could discover was a gentle old fellow who passed his days amid flowers and with children—his two greatest delights. Never by any word of his was God denied, nor the soul of man’ (Great Lives, Great Deeds, Reader’s Digest, 1966, p.335, 336). The resistance from the establishment was such that Darwin eventually concluded: ‘I have got fairly sick of hostile reviews…I can pretty plainly see that, if my view is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by young men growing up and replacing the old workers’ (Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, 1902, p.244). Again, you can read more about the persecution Jeremy and his work has endured for daring to address the human condition at www.humancondition.com/persecution.]
It has traditionally been the people of the church who are fundamentalist in their thinking that haven’t wanted to try to understand things. But the biggest vested interest of all is in denial. Once you have resigned to blocking out the issue of the human condition and built that wall of denial you don’t want it broken down.
Brian Carlton: So they’ll try and shut you up.
Jeremy Griffith: They do, they’ve tried all sorts of things so I and those supporting these confronting explanations of the human condition have to be self-sufficient in everything we do. It’s the only way we can have a chance of getting these ideas out there.
Brian Carlton: An uphill battle but a thoroughly worthy one.
Jeremy Griffith: That’s right, but psychologically we know what we’re trying to do which helps. We’re trying to turn this corner, the biggest paradigm shift of all, from living in denial to not living in denial. That’s what Plato described when you take people out of the cave. He wrote that ‘it would hurt his [the cave’s prisoner’s] eyes and he would turn back and take refuge in the things which he could see [take refuge in all the human-condition-avoiding dishonest explanations for human behaviour that he has become accustomed to], which he would think really far clearer than the things being shown him. And if he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent [out of the cave of denial] and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight [shown the truthful explanation of our human condition], the process would be a painful one, to which he would much object, and when he emerged into the light his eyes would be so overwhelmed by the brightness of it that he wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things he was now told were real.’ Significantly, Plato then added, ‘Certainly not at first…Because he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave.’ He then further added that ‘they would say that his [the person who tries to deliver understanding of our human condition] visit to the upper world had ruined his sight [they would treat him as if he was mad], and that the ascent [out of the cave] was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him’ (c.360 BC; The Republic, tr. H.D.P. Lee, 1955). So Plato gave fair warning [see ]. You try to drag people out of the cave and you’re going to get a flogging. It’s just part of the journey. What drives me is my love of this other honest world that’s so much better and so much truer. Like you, you’re holding on to what you know to be true against a tsunami of bullshit, but as you said earlier, ‘What I love is that I’m being honest and I treasure that above all else’.
Brian Carlton: Absolutely.
Jeremy Griffith: So that’s what drives me too. I just live for this other world where we don’t have to be dishonest and all the suffering that results from it. That’s what got me to these understandings.
Brian Carlton: As a commentator on all things I have to have a clarity of comprehension, a clarity of analysis and the only way I can achieve that clarity is to be ruthlessly honest even if the conclusion I’m reaching I find personally disturbing or scary or horrifying. Honesty, self-honesty, is the important thing. I can’t do my job unless I’m honest.
Jeremy Griffith: Well, the whole of this book is based on that premise, that once you’re living in denial you can’t find the truth. You can’t find the truth with lies, it’s just fundamentally impossible. The only way I’ve got to these answers is by being honest and when you’re not living in denial of the human condition you can access all these truths that we’ve been looking for and they’re so obvious.
Brian Carlton: Yes they are, that’s exactly right. It’s very simple, it’s not hard. The end process, the revelation, if you like, is easy and reassuring and calming and self-accepting. Getting there is the difficult bit. Once you have the revelation, the clarity of it is euphoric almost.
Jeremy Griffith: All these answers that I’ve found didn’t require a smart brain, it’s just that I’m not living in denial. Thinking simply and truthfully is how I found these answers and they’re sitting there for anybody and everybody. They’re self-evident if you’re not wanting to avoid them. This synthesis is produced from exactly what you just said. They are revelations in the sense that they’re there waiting to be revealed. All you’ve got to do is strip off the denial and they’ll flop out. That’s all I’ve ever done.
Brian Carlton: But that process, the process of stripping off the denial, that’s the difficult part. Once you’ve done that it’s relatively simple from there on in I’ve found. The answers become glaringly obvious to the next thing you have a look at. I hate to use the word ‘epiphany’ because it has a religious connotation that I really don’t want to give it. It’s not emotional, well it sort of is emotional, but it’s an intellectual epiphany. It’s an epiphany of mind; my understanding of this is now better than it was, I’m now more complete, I have a more complete understanding of myself, everybody around me, the society at large, the way the planet works. It’s a revelation! But again, I hesitate to use that in a religious sense, it’s a quantifiably different thing but it has a similar impact on you. You wake up the next morning feeling more invigorated, more able to deal with the world because your level of understanding of it is so much higher.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes, all I’ve ever done is taught myself to think like a child, or to think like a stone, as I call it. If I’m not getting to the answer, I’m just not thinking simply enough and letting the child, the simple obvious truth, come out. I just got better and better at that and when you do get to that clean state and just let it come out, it’s so obvious it’s just stunning. You think well, that’s amazing! It is like an epiphany, it’s very exciting. I just take one step and I keep learning. That’s how I got to all these insights. But when you put the full synthesis together using that device of just thinking truthfully, then you take it back to the cave dwellers, as Plato said, ‘they would say that his [the person who tries to deliver understanding of our human condition] visit to the upper world had ruined his sight [they would treat him as if he was mad], and that the ascent [out of the cave] was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay hands on him’ (The Republic, 517). In my case they didn’t actually try and kill me, we live in more civilised times than that, but they did everything they could to smash me off the face of the Earth.
So, everything you’re saying is making complete sense of everything I’ve been through and what you in your own life have been through.
Brian Carlton: Well, you have your truth and you’ve stuck to your truth and you’ve fought for your truth and they’re all admirable qualities in a person. You can’t criticise somebody for arguing their case, especially when the kind of work you’re doing is so conceptually new to people. It’s always going to be, if I can use the vernacular, ‘pushing it uphill’. But good on you for keeping at it because someone has to.
Jeremy Griffith: You’re right. They’re actually totally sincere in what they’re saying in their denial. They don’t know they are in denial.
Brian Carlton: No, that’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: So, I’m compassionate, I know why they’re doing what they’re doing but I’ve got to somehow find a way through that wall of denial and get people to re-access the truth. It is a hard, slow process but I’m no longer criticising them, I’m actually bringing them the understanding. They actually want the reconciling understanding of the human condition but they’re never going to find it, they’re failure-trapped because they’re living in denial. You can’t find the truth from inside the cave.
Brian Carlton: No, that’s right.
Jeremy Griffith: I’m saying, ‘Look, this is the redeeming truth about us humans, here it is, it liberates you and gives you all the things you want!’ But humans are so committed to denial, they’re not receptive to it. As the saying goes, you can knock on a deaf man’s door forever. It’s a slow process, we’ve just got to be patient.
Brian Carlton: One of my favourite expressions for lots of things is ‘It’s a process, not an event’. I can’t think of anything that that saying might apply to more than to your work. It is a process and a long way from being any kind of event, but for the individual, when you get it, it is an event.
Jeremy Griffith: Yes.
Brian Carlton: You remember the day, you remember the section of the book, you remember when it happened, it stays with you, it’s fresh.
Jeremy Griffith: As to how long it will take, Teilhard de Chardin once said, ‘The Truth has to only appear once…for it to be impossible for anything ever to prevent it from spreading universally and setting everything ablaze’ (Let Me Explain, 1966; tr. René Hague et al, 1970, p.159 of 189). And it’s true, it just needs a critical mass of influential people to come together and say, ‘This book is really seriously important, it really has got through to the other side’. Then all of those who are living in denial and just treating it dismissively, are forced to think again and that’s where you get this change of momentum. So, that’s why we’re making such a huge effort with this book, to get that change of momentum, to get that base group of people who have managed to get through the wall of denial and discover just how honest this book is. Harry Prosen is the first, I mean he’s amazingly on the front foot and just saying it like it is. Then we need a few more dominos to fall like that, then suddenly the tide is turning, there is a base of support. Suddenly it will flow because the world is so hungry for some truth, some answers. Once there is enough of a base of support then the tide changes rapidly because it is like a sea of dishonesty out there and this book is an island of sanity. And everyone is looking for just that island, like you were when you were 15. You were scrounging all the libraries, all the great tomes looking for some answers.
Brian Carlton: I got to the point where I was reading Encyclopaedia Britannica, reading it, as a book, from the beginning, thinking the answers might be there!
Jeremy Griffith: It’s got to be in here somewhere!
Brian Carlton: It’s not a joke by the way, it’s quite literal.
Jeremy Griffith: I believe you.
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More detailed information on Jeremy’s background can be found HumanCondition.com.