Wetiko, its Progress, Symptoms, and Treatment

 

  

Wetiko is 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 community.

I wish to make clear that wetiko knows no race.  We tend to think of it as a white condition, but native people had a word for it before white people arrived, and it has had its outbreaks in other cultures the world over.  Like other cultures, Europeans had an impressive abundance of  true spiritual beauty in their cultures before wetiko spread and, like other cultures, they still retain a great deal which remains unspoiled or only lightly damaged.  They simply happened to have had the physical means to spread the disease around the world when hit with a bad outbreak of it.  And people of all races have since contracted it.

Nor is it inherently Christian, as some have assumed.  Greco-Roman Paganism had already begun to succumb to wetiko before the birth of Christianity.  Wherever Christianity has escaped infection, it has accomplished beautiful and meaningful works of truth, beauty and love.  Wherever the infection does spread, it slowly devours any religious expression that it infects from the inside out, even as it feverishly swells up a few aspects of the faith and uses that religion as a host for transmission to other cultures.  But it is no more a true aspect of a religion than a tumor is a true aspect of a man, however it might appear, to a casual observer, to be a natural outgrowth.

Here are the six stages of wetiko’s development and spread, followed by some remedies.  I describe the worst-case scenario of complete consumption by wetiko for purposes of illustration, yet milder cases are the norm, manifesting in  diminished capacity and disorientation rather than complete spiritual blindness.



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.

Over time, starving for the spiritual but unable to experience it, the sufferer begins to exaggerate the rules and traditions to try and increase the experience.  The sufferer gets angry at others for not similarly exaggerating their own experience of religion, or for not doing it in the same way. Then they start to persecute those who do not "believe" as they do, in order to try and convince themselves that they believe at all. They start to attack all spiritual manifestations as demonic, even simple intuitions that aren't on the religious level at all. And, over time, their secret lack of faith opens them up to all manner of corruption of the shell of their faith--greed for donations, games for secular power, sexual exploitation, and every kind of hypocrisy. They have nothing real with which to resist temptation.

(Please note that healthy believers and wetiko-infected believers can share a religion or theology, while bearing completely different fruit.  How does one tell the difference?  In Christianity, at least, Jesus gave, as a test, “By their fruits so shall ye know them.”  And the fruits of the Holy Spirit are listed in the Bible as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and a word that can be translated as Self-Control, Faithfulness or Steadfastness.  Wetiko-based pseudo-devotion, on the other hand, breeds hatred, misery, anxiety, impatience, cruelty, harm, and weakness.  I do not know what tests other religions might apply.)



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.


3) Desperate for something beyond  the material, abstraction starts to take the place of God, as it is the closet thing the sufferer can conceive of to spirituality.  People come to value what is “realistic” over what is “real”  “Realistic” things are those which do a good job of imitating what’s real.  Wetiko-suffers collectively create an entire fake world superimposed upon the Earth, valuing abstractions such as money, statistics, titles, fame, religiosity (the outward shows of religion) etc. over human beings, nature, God, or even what their own bodies have to say to them.  They will sacrifice the real to the abstract, for they feel no connection to it.  Even though they value what’s material, they do not even connect with material things!  They could buy up vast orchards without ever feeling the life in the trees or tasting the gift in a peach that goes beyond its sweetness and flavor.  They would chop down those same trees without a thought if they saw an economic advantage.

 

4)  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. 

But they go after it like a repressed man or woman goes after a freespirited lover.  Initially they feel drawn to how the other expresses everything they lost—they feel shocked but deliciously so.  However, once they marry this other, they become officially one with this new wife or husband, and so now feel obliged to repress in the other what they repressed in themselves, and so destroy the very thing that they longed for in the first place.  I’ve seen this reenacted in many a bad marriage, and it is in the exact same spirit that the conqueror goes forth, finds strange new lands, subjugates them, and crushes everything strange about them.

 

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.

 

6)  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.

Unfortunately, wetiko predisposes the sufferer to resist this awareness.  People thererfore need some breakthrough point.

Medicine/shamanic healing rituals have traditionally been the treatment of choice, but with wetiko so widespread today authentic practitioners have become hard to come by, and training them is a prolonged and difficult process, complicated by the fact that many who claim to be medicine people or who teach this art to others are themselves infected, especially if they were inadequately trained in a society that doesn’t give much room for a medicine person to develop properly.  Furthermore, such treatments don’t have the community support that they formerly did, reducing their effectiveness.

Some have obtained their breakthrough by use of hallucinogenic drugs—a perilous treatment and a desperate measure.  It’s like driving ninety miles an hour to Health, on a swervy mountain road zoned for twenty miles an hour—you might get there more swiftly, or you might crash and burn.  Indigenous people who have used such drugs for healing have many rituals and cultural support to see the patient through safely.  But people immersed in wetiko cultures have lost these rituals and even if they recreate them, they don’t have cultural support.

 

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.

Dreams seem to me the safest and most reliable way to heal wetiko for the average person in this society.  Unlike drugs, dreams emanate from the same brain that monitors the body’s autonomous nervous system, measuring heartbeat and breath rates, blood pressure, muscle tension and such, to know when a person needs to wake up before the risk of madness kicks in.  Dreams tap in on a person’s most intimate personal symbolism to communicate directly to the soul, mind, heart, and body.  Dreams can support and reinforce a change even while developing it over time, in nightly treatments.

 

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.