Wetiko, its Progress, Symptoms, and Treatment
a spiritual disease that can sicken a society and cause it to malfunction. The word comes from the indigenous Algonquin
tribe of North America, and has since spread in usage throughout the continent,
primarily used by indigenous people to describe what they’ve observed
happening. It originally simply meant “demon
of cannibalism”, but eventually came to mean becoming possessed by a
cannibalism of spirit, starting with the sufferer devouring one’s own soul,
then the souls of loved ones, then spreading from there to the larger
1. Wetiko begins with spiritual blindness, a loss of the sense of interconnection between all things, all people, and with the Divine. Infection causes one’s perceptions to dislocate from one’s place in the universe. This can manifest initially in two different ways: poisoned religion and poisoned atheism.
1A) One kind of sufferer tries to
carry on with religion anyway, but without the spiritual element religion
becomes something dead, idolatry without any sense of anything beyond that
which images could represent. The person does not feel any connection to the
Divine and accuses others who do feel such a connection of mistaking emotion
for revelation at best, of being mentally ill, or of being possessed or given over to evil at
worst. They believe that one can only know God through study, never personally.
They follow rules without understanding any ethic behind the rules, which could
tell them when to make an exception or a modification. They follow rituals
because these are traditional, but remain unmoved by them and sometimes act rather
embarrassed by them.
1B) The opposite is abandonment of any concept of Deity at all. Those who come to atheism through wetiko view the world as purely material alone, and they accuse the religious among their fellow wetiko-victims of being the source of all the world's trouble. They also mock those they deem sentimental, superstitious, or naive enough to believe in interconnections that one cannot quantify. These sufferers work to build a purely secular civilization that makes no room for spirituality whatsoever. They can begin quite grandly, but over time they increasingly produce a meaner, drabber, hardscrabble society that not only makes no provision for overt spiritual experience but eventually also no room for nature, art, poetry, love, emotion, or anything beyond the pragmatic. They dismiss much essential to the soul as "clutter", “impractical nonsense”, or “not cost-effective”.
(Please note: there are atheists who
are not infected by wetiko. We will always need a certain percentage of them,
in the spiritual ecology, to keep the rest of us honest and to remind us of the
good that one might do even without lust for reward or fear of punishment. You
can tell the uninfected atheists by their capacity for non-deific spiritual
experiences, such as appreciation of poetry, of family-life, of beauty for its
own sake, and by their large degree of empathy.)
2) Either way you come by it, if you can no longer savor life through a spiritual perception of interconnection, materialism becomes the only thing that matters to you, as the only game in town, and you will become greedy. You will keep trying to find heaven in things, knowing of no other way for heaven to manifest. And the more empty you feel, the more you will try to fill that emptiness with the only stuff that you know about.
Your life will revolve around possession rather than love, and often mistake possessing/manipulating people for loving them, from which comes jealousy, spousal abuse, and all manner of relationship-dysfunction. While a sufferer can feel some degree of emotional love, it's stunted by the lack of psychic connection. Similarly, empathy withdraws to a small circle of people as much like oneself as possible, because without psychic perception one cannot make that leap to imagine one's commonality with others beyond the most obvious. Similarly, one can care about people seen face to face, but feel absolutely nothing for people described on paper or as statistics in a report.
Filled with yearning, they feel a deep urge to explore beyond what has
grown so stale for them, which would be a good thing if they did so to expand
connection, but instead, knowing only possession rather than true love, they go
forth to conquer. They lust after the
exotic, because the mysteriousness of what one has not known gives a thrilling
hint of the larger spiritual concept of Mystery itself.
5) Conquest becomes the greatest driving force in the victim of wetiko. They will even part with a surprising amount of their material goods in order to increase their conquest capabilities. They will have rivals rather than friends, competition rather than cooperation, and power rather than happiness. In work and commerc, they will view the exchange of goods and services as warfare rather than as community interaction: their customers, employees, employers, or investors become enemies to hoodwink rather than partners in a cooperative venture, deserving of a fair give and take. They will have a diminished sense of society.
Once they have conquered, they will create the second wave of wetiko, by
suppressing all knowledge of interconnection, spirituality, or anything
non-material. They will raise people to
feel ashamed of doing anything that does not make money or not enough money. They will make people doubt their sanity should
these have a transcendent or visionary experience. They will tell them that sensing
interconnection is sentimental hogwash.
They will teach their children—and the children of their conquests—to
despise their own emotions, suspect their consciences, and to see the entire
world around them as a dead resource.
People who escape infection will feel ashamed of their health and hide
it from the neighbors. This can go on
for generations, even for centuries.
So what cures wetiko? Observation suggests that simple awareness of
its existence, and recognition of its effects in oneself, seems to trigger a
spiritual immune response and a gradual return to health (or introduction to
health, for those born into wetiko.)
Moreover, this healing, slow at first, can gain a parabolic momentum.
Another way can be a spontaneous
waking visionary experience. This
miraculous event has had profound impact throughout history, not only in
individuals but in societies as well.
The chief drawback would be lack of support in a wetiko-infected
society, putting the experience at risk of withering or else becoming infected
in its early stages. The visionary might
become convinced of mental illness and take drugs to suppress the visions, or
be accused of mental illness or demonic possession , therefore incarcerated or
otherwise mistreated until she repudiates the experience, or others might
believe her but then seduce her back into wetiko by the wealth and power of
becoming a cult leader. Only where
visionaries have some uninfected persons in the community, to protect and
support them while they grow into their vision, does this breakthrough last.
A wetiko-infected society can still sabotage
dream healing, through externally forcing false interpretations onto the
dreamer, or promoting literalism where it’s inappropriate, simply from the
imagery-starved atmosphere that wetiko creates.
But wetiko-hampered societies sabotage the most dream healing by
disregarding its reality, pressuring the dreamer not to contemplate her dreams,
not to take them seriously if remembered, and not to remember them at all if
possible. The simple act of
acknowledging and honoring the importance of dreams is therefore one of the
most revolutionary things that one can do if one wants to break the hold of
wetiko on a person or a society. For
dreams always try to rebalance us and bring us into health.