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Prof. Mattias Desmet: Truth connects people’s souls; sincere speech will overcome totalitarianism



Truth is the only remedy for a society sick of lies. It connects people from soul to soul.  As such truth is the real cure for the loneliness and disconnectedness that makes modern human beings so vulnerable to propaganda.


As soon as the group connected through sincere speech is energetically stronger than the propagandised masses, the era of totalitarianism is over.

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Here is one of the big questions of our times: What can we believe?


As the space for open-minded conversation and non-conformist opinion shrivels in our society, answering this question gets increasingly difficult. Swarms of “digital first responders” anonymously ridicule and criminalise dissident opinions on social media, machine learning technology identifies and suppresses online narratives that go against the mainstream, search engine algorithms guide people inconspicuously to politically correct answers to all their questions, and so on. The battle for the hearts and minds of the people rages more fiercely than ever – we truly live in the era of propaganda.


And we live in the era of artificial intelligence (“AI”).  AI generates chatbots, artificial images, and deep fake videos that can put the innocent in bad daylight and make the guilty go free; it writes master theses for sneaky students and poems for lazy lovers; it creates a “woke” version of history with a radical contempt for facts. Humanity gets lost in a world of manufactured falsehood.


Who will protect society from censorship and falsehood? Journalism maybe?


Walter Lippmann won two Pulitzer Prizes and is considered the father of modern journalism (see Stiles, 2022, p. 28). It is telling that he favoured a technocratic model of journalism in which “experts” must construct narratives about every major news event and subsequently feed them to editors and journalists.


Here is a quote from Lippmann’s book ‘Public Opinion’: “Public opinion must be organised for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today.” 


This quote says as much as this: Forget the free press. It was written in 1922.


Lippman is said to be the most influential journalist of the 20th century. Ever wondered why media articles around the world all look a bit similar? Now you have an idea why.  


The army of fact-checkers claiming to fight “fake news” are part of this problem as well. These “ambassadors of truth” have little to do with truth. A few years after the corona crisis, we know that even better than before. The origin of the virus, the mortality of the virus, the efficacy of the vaccines and the safety of the vaccine – the fact-checkers promoted fake news and fought correct information. It’s clear to everyone who wants to see it: They are a veritable Orwellian Ministry of Truth.


What is truly mind-boggling, however, is that even when “experts” such as Gates and Fauci admit that the vaccine didn’t stop the spreading of the virus, even when the experts of Imperial College admit the mortality rates of the virus were far lower than their models predicted, a major part of the population doesn’t really want to hear it. Never in history is it demonstrated so convincingly that indeed, the most fundamental passion of the human being is not love, not hate, but the passion for ignorance.


Upon closer consideration, the problem of deception in society is far more complex than just a bunch of manipulative propagandists who mislead the guileless population. It seems that most people don’t care too much about being deceived. They even seem to admire those who deceive them. It makes me think about this quote from Hannah Arendt:

“The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

And even more: In the final analysis, there is a little propagandist and manipulator in all of us. And it is so skilled, that it succeeds in deceiving ourselves. As a human being, we constantly hide behind what I would call “the veil of appearances.” We constantly hide certain aspects of who we are from others, we constantly try to conform to all kinds of ideal images that circulate in society. And in the end, we believe that we are the illusion we created ourselves – we fall prey to the deceptive nature of our ego.


This applies in the first place to the act of speech. We are censored by others indeed, yet before others censor us, we already censored ourselves. In the end, we speak words of which we don’t realise anymore that they are not our words but just hollow echoes from the matrix of social forms in which our being is absorbed.


Can we find the way out of this labyrinth of deception? Is there such a thing as Truth? And can we find it in this world of falsehood and illusions?


Quite a lot of people have tried to define strategies to deal with the plague of propaganda in our society, (see also Stiles, 2022), yet the problem seems to me that they usually ignore the fundamental complicity of the human ego in the game of deception. And as such, they are by and large ineffective.


Please allow me to summon an archetype which is being banned in our culture – the archetype of the warrior. A warrior always stands with one leg in the land of death. Truth is wandering around in this land. Samurai and ninja culture showed us an interesting relationship between truth on the one hand and intuition on the other. And I believe this relationship is relevant because it comes to finding a solution for the problem of propaganda and totalitarianism.


For the samurai the martial arts boiled down to this: To develop the capacity to discern truth from lie. The movements of the martial arts are linguistic in nature. Sometimes they lie, and sometimes they speak the truth. The sword in the right hand attracts attention – the dagger in the left hand strikes. He who can discern truth from lies survives on the battlefield, he who can’t, dies.


One doesn’t survive on the battlefield by looking with his eyes. Our eyes see a world of appearances; they are easily tricked. What really matters is zanshin, a kind of awareness of the world around you which is not based on ordinary sensory perception. The entire art of the samurai aimed to develop this potential – the sixth sense of the warrior.


Whether or not a student in the martial arts had developed his intuition well enough was tested in samurai culture through the sakki or godan test. The candidate kneels, a grandmaster positions behind him outside of his field of vision. The grandmaster waits for some time and then strikes suddenly, aiming for the neck of the candidate. If the candidate’s intuition is well developed, he will move away at exactly the right moment, if not, he loses his head. Nowadays this test is done using wooden swords (‘boken’) but it used to be done on the razor’s edge. By the way: Akira Kurosawa showed a variant of this test in his timeless cinematographic masterpiece ‘Seven Samurai’.



How did the samurai develop this intuition? The intuition of the warrior is related to the act of speech. Unlike Plato, samurai culture believed that the pen and the sword should be wielded by the same hand. Samurai practised the art of speech. And one of the elementary principles of this art was sincerity (see for instance the principles of Budo according to Saitõ Chikamori).


We can roughly distinguish between two types of speech: speech from the ego and speech from what we might call the soul.


The ego is an imaginary structure, based on identifications with outer ideal images. When we speak from the ego, we do not really articulate what we feel or experience inside. We rather say what we think we have to say to be accepted by others and society. Such speech keeps up appearances. It makes us win something at the level of our ego yet it also comes with a price – we slowly lose touch with the essence of who we are.


And it also makes us lose touch with the world around us. Ego-speech focuses our attention and psychological energy on the outer ideal images, on the surface of our being. It literally makes the psychological “shell” thicker. In this way, we get isolated inside this ego-shell and stop resonating with the world around us. In other words: our zanshin or intuition gets weaker.


What is the alternative to ego-speech? Inside the shell of the ego, there is something which in religious and mystical traditions, and in some intellectual traditions as well, is referred to as the soul. “The soul” seems to be an obsolete concept, yet in many respects, it is a fruitful one. It refers to an inner essence, something that is inside an outer form.


From a psychological point of view, speaking from the soul means to give voice to those things that we truly feel or experience; those things that are usually hidden behind the ideal images. It means saying those things that are not in line with the matrix of social ideal images, dogmas and norms. Such speech makes us vulnerable, it puts us at risk of excommunication and rejection, in particular when we practise it in the presence of people who use the world of appearances as their major stronghold.


Opposite of ego speech, sincere speech makes us lose something in the world of appearances and it makes us win something in the real world. It is a kind of speech that emerges from within and literally penetrates through the outer ideal image we hide behind. It quite literally pierces holes in the ego. And through these holes, a new resonating connection between our essence and that of the world around us can emerge. It is at this level that we can situate the phenomenon of truth.


This might seem abstract, yet it isn’t. Just try it. Share something that makes you feel vulnerable, something you usually hide from the world, with some trustworthy people. You will immediately feel a deeper connection – from soul to soul. You can sense it almost physically. Practice the art of sincere speech day after day, week after week, month after month, try to make progress step by step, and your intuition will improve step by step. It is at this level that we can understand the connection between sincere speech and the intuition of the samurai – sincere speech makes you aware of the world around you beyond ordinary sensory perception.


Sincere speech makes your soul resonate with the world around you – indeed. From a subtle materialistic perspective, for which physicist Erwin Schrödinger laid the foundations in his book ‘What is Life?’ (see Berkovich, 2003 and Van Lommel, 2011, p. 286), we could consider the human body as a vibrating substance, which resonates with the frequencies of the world around it. And through the vocal apparatus, the human being can creatively return the music to the universe with a singular touch.


The samurai was very well aware of exactly this: what kills you on the battlefield, ultimately, is not so much the sword or arrow of your enemy, it is your own ego. And what makes you powerless against propaganda, is not so much the propaganda itself, it is your ego. It makes you incapable of discerning between truth and deception and it makes your voice hollow and weak and incapable of creating the connection with others that is necessary to make propaganda powerless.


Truth is the only remedy for a society sick of lies. It connects people from soul to soul, as strings vibrating on the same frequency. And as such it is the real cure for the loneliness and disconnectedness that makes modern human beings so vulnerable to propaganda (see Jacques Ellul’s concept of the lonely mass).


As I said before, as soon as the group connected through sincere speech is energetically stronger than the propagandised masses, the era of totalitarianism is over. Not sooner, not later. In this respect, the only way to contribute to the solution of the big crisis of our society is to face our shadow and overcome our own individual crisis and trauma, which means to transcend our ego through sincere speech.


About the Author


Mattias Desmet is recognised as the world’s leading expert on the theory of mass formation as it applies to the covid-19 pandemic. He is a professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium, and a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist. He is well-known in academic circles for his research on fraud within academia.


He is the author of over one hundred peer-reviewed academic papers and is the author of the books ‘The Psychology of Totalitarianism’, ‘The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology’ and ‘Lacan’s Logic of Subjectivity: A Walk on the Graph of Desire’.


He publishes articles on a Substack page which you can subscribe to and follow HERE.

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