Bob Gebelein graduated from Harvard in 1956 with a BA in Mathematics. In 1955, he saw the threat of nuclear annihilation as proof of total systems failure, so he turned his back on the culture and set out to design a new civilization. Through psychotherapy, withdrawal from the culture, and dream analysis, he succeeded. In 1967, he discovered how “human nature” itself can be changed to create a new civilization. In 1985, he self-published “Re-Educating Myself: An Introduction to a New Civilization,” describing his search and the answers that he found.
He has earned a living by working about 20 years as a computer programmer and creator of software systems. His chosen home is Provincetown, Massachusetts, but he always has to go somewhere else for computer jobs. After retiring from programming in 1999, he spent eight years writing this book in a pristine country setting near Moose Mountain in a corner of Hanover, New Hampshire.
Tyler: Welcome, Bob. I’m excited to talk with you today. To begin, you use the term “mind pollution” in your book. Is that what the book is about-what pollutes our minds? What do you define as mind pollution?
Bob: Well, actually, the book is about the mental environment. People sort of glaze over when I say that, because “the mental environment” isn’t a familiar expression. This is the first book on the subject. I thought about calling the book “Mind Pollution,” but no, I am the person who has recognized the mental environment, and I want to identify my book as the pioneering book on the subject, even though the title may be sort of unrecognizable at first.
Human beings as social creatures are immersed in a sea of other people’s thoughts. This mental environment, like the air, is invisible, but like the air it has an effect on our lives, especially if it is polluted. By “mind pollution,” I just mean things we are persuaded to believe that are not accurate.
AdBusters publishes “Journal of the Mental Environment,” but they seem to be limited to the external influences of advertising and television. I am dealing with the whole thing, and especially those influences that are part of us and part of who we are, or who we think we are.
Tyler: Will you give us some examples of mind pollution that are not just advertising and television?
Bob: From early childhood our parents are telling us what is “right” and “wrong,” and how to “behave.” Most of this is fine, and necessary for us to survive. But they are also passing down their prejudices and other misunderstandings, like some kind of social disease.
Religion is another source of mind pollution. Most of it is fine, but some of it isn’t. I see little girls in white dresses being taught that Evolution is the work of the Devil.
Then there is the teenage gang, where one can be ridiculed for wearing the wrong kind of socks or having the wrong brand of music player. It isn’t the advertisers who are doing this to us, but the people we call our “friends.” We may call them “friends,” but are they, really, if they are trying to manipulate us in this way?
This peer-group pressure extends all the way to the highest levels of academia. I tell the story of the famous physicist who was afraid that if his esteemed colleagues found out that he was consulting a Jungian analyst, there would be “hellish laughter” (not because he needed therapy, but because of their prejudice against Jungian analysis). Prejudices like this affect our whole educational system.
As these influences become internalized, and become part of who we are, it is hard even to see that they are there. So it may be fun to point the finger at the external influences of advertising and political propaganda, but the influences with the real power are the ones that are already inside us. Why do Democrats believe Democratic propaganda and Republicans believe Republican propaganda? If we seriously want to change the world, it is those deeper influences that we need to change.
Tyler: Why do you feel we are conditioned to believe if we do not think like everyone else, we don’t belong?
Bob: This is one of the laws of sociology. There are books written on this stuff. If you belong to a group, any group, you have to conform, to some degree, to the norms of the group. Of course you can always think and believe anything you want, as long as you never say it. But it is always most comfortable to go along with the opinions, attitudes, and beliefs of the group, and those emotional pressures shape people into the thinking of the group.
Tyler: I have found it true myself that when I want to do something, even if a half-dozen people encourage me, it is that one person I think will mock me and whom I haven’t even told yet, that can prevent me from acting. How can one person’s negative attitude hold such control over someone else and how does a person break that hold?
Bob: I haven’t experienced exactly that same situation. Usually I stand up to the bully and get beaten down. My focus in the book is first of all to focus on the person doing the mocking as somebody basically destructive, and point out some of the methods of manipulation, mental bullying, smear tactics, put-downs, and so forth, so that people can recognize them when they see them.
Not everybody can defeat the bully in single-handed combat. It is up to the group to recognize these destructive people and take them down from their leadership position. If the group won’t do that, the answer is to find another group.
Tyler: How does one gain the confidence and mental strength to think for himself?
Bob: That’s a hard question. Some people do, and some people don’t. I was always a “loner,” and I was always attracted to friends who were independent or nonconformists. One friend in college announced one day, “I am a one-man in-group.” In other words, I don’t have to think of myself as an “outsider” just because I am different. I am “in,” and all the rest of you are outsiders. And, thanks to his example, I have been able to call myself “a new civilization with a population of one.”
Also Harvard gave me official permission to think for myself. That was a great influence, and a wonderful thing in my life, and something that not all colleges do.
Then in psychotherapy I discovered that my “real self” was somebody different than the things that society expected of me. There was strength in this “real self,” as opposed to the artificial self, the role I was playing to “fit in.” And there was pleasure in being the “real self.”
So I think it depends on your real self. If you find your real self and find that you are different, you have incredible strength and pleasure in being different. And if your real self wants to conform, then you find strength and pleasure in conforming.
Tyler: In talking about your “real self” and your friend’s reference to being a “one-man in-group” aren’t we largely talking about a person learning to like himself, to be his own best friend, because until you like yourself, you’re not going to be able to be confident and go against the crowd?
Bob: I don’t deal in these kinds of generalities. In this specific situation, my friend’s statement was very much admired and appreciated by our specific crowd. So he wasn’t really going “against the crowd.”
In my experience confidence and self-esteem all came together, as a result of gaining competence, first from my success as a computer programmer and my ability to support myself and become independent of my parents, and then through psychotherapy and dream analysis, bit by bit, detail by agonizing detail, as I gained psychological maturity and was able to function better as an adult, and especially in my relationships with women.
Tyler: Bob, in “The Mental Environment” you say our time and culture is heavily influenced by three major things-religion, academia, and the New Age Movement. Why did you focus on these three areas, and are you saying their influence is a block to our thinking for ourselves?
Bob: I feel these are the most important belief systems, or ways of thinking, in the present culture. I am just pointing out what I see as errors in these belief systems. And because people do conform to these belief systems, and don’t see the errors, then I would say their influence does block people from thinking for themselves.
Tyler: Let us tackle some of these sections individually. Academia for example. Isn’t a college education about learning to think for yourself?
Bob: Yes, but there is a particular prejudice in academia against anything spiritual. When I was at Harvard, people with strong religious beliefs were ridiculed unmercifully. The academic argument is that it is necessary for freedom of thought to break people free of rigid beliefs.
So then when I postulated scientifically, correctly, “I will believe in God when I see God,” and was actually brought into the presence of God thirteen years later, then what?
That’s when I realized that we didn’t have freedom of thought, but only freedom to think as they thought.
Tyler: But, what do you mean by you saw God? Aren’t you saying simply that people need to have faith, rather than simply rely on their senses and what can be proved, as science teaches?
Bob: You are reflecting the view of the present culture. To get from there to where I am really takes a lot of explaining. I have moved forward, and the culture has moved backward. I explain it all in the book.
But just for starters, we have other senses than the physical senses. And I don’t mean just psychic abilities. We all have ordinary senses by which we perceive our own mental processes-our thoughts, our memories, our feelings, our dreams. I call these the “mental senses.” The early psychologists used these senses in their research, and called them “introspection.” The discoveries of Freud and Jung were based largely on the evidence of these mental senses.
But psychology has moved backwards from there. Psychologists have followed the lead of John B. Watson, who proposed in 1913 that psychology should become the study of physical behavior observable with the physical senses. Thus psychologists abandoned the study of the mind, in order to be more “scientific”-second error. Science can be done using the mental senses, and was done in that way by Freud and Jung.
Politically, physical science has gained great status, and therefore power, because of its great success. Scientists can tell psychologists what is “science” because they have power, even though they are not at all qualified to do psychology. (Third error.) Because physical scientists have observed only physical phenomena with the physical senses, many of them have come to believe that there is a purely physical universe-fourth error. This is what “science teaches.”
But moving ahead from the discoveries of Freud and Jung, Carl Jung tells the story of a monk who looked upon the face of God. The experience was so powerful that it made this monk insane for 15 years. Jung calls this “original experience,” the first-hand experience of seeing God, based on evidence, not “faith.” Actually the Gnostics believed on the basis of evidence, until they were exterminated by the early Christian Church, which said that everybody had to believe on “faith.” (Fifth error.)
In 1969, I had my “death experience,” where I was brought into the presence of God. For a couple of years, since I had become a new civilization in 1967, I had felt that I was totally out of place in this world, and I was afraid that I might will myself to die. But there was one particular day, after spending a month organizing the material for my first book and seeing what an enormous job lay ahead of me, that I flopped down on the bed, utterly exhausted, being too exhausted to care whether I lived or died.
Immediately I lost consciousness. Immediately I shot up, up, up out of my basement apartment at a high rate of speed, in a tube just large enough to hold my body. After traveling a huge distance at this high speed, I suddenly emerged in the presence of a great Light. From reading Jung, I knew enough to shield my eyes from The Light. To the left of The Light, or at the right hand of God, stood the figure of Christ. He said simply, “Get back to work.” And back down I went, as fast as I had come up.
This is evidence. I experienced this with my mental senses. I proved it to myself. This experience has been replicated by people in Jungian analysis. This is scientific proof. If physical scientists don’t want to believe it, that’s their error (actually a compounding of errors).
Tyler: Since you do believe in God and spirituality, why do you have issue with the New Age Movement? Aren’t they trying to break away from the constrictions that organized religion has imposed for centuries?
Bob: The New Age Movement began with the Drug Revolution in the late sixties, and has preserved many of the same values and beliefs and ideas of the drug-induced state, sort of uncritically and by social conformity. LSD may have brought some people many levels above their normal mental state (and made some others crazy), but when they came back down from their trip, they were confused. Their insights were not fully understood or psychologically assimilated. They may have thought they were breaking free of old constraints, but really they had their own kind of social conformity that was just as rigid. I remember being ridiculed for having my hair cut and for wearing a dark suit to a wedding. They screamed “Fascist” at police, but they had their own kind of strict authoritarianism.
“LSD is a power trip,” I quote in my book. While they were saying “Peace,” they were doing warfare-mental warfare. They raised the art of mental warfare to a whole new level.
What is “mental warfare?” “A” hassles “B” and says to “B,” “You wouldn’t hassle me, would you?” That is mental warfare. Or the Flower Child says to the arresting Officer, “But we love you, Officer.” And when he is doing his job and arresting her, she then turns around and calls him “Pig!”
Out of the confusion of the drug experience came a rejection of logic, science, truth, reality, and psychotherapy, all of which I discuss at great length in the book. This has all been elevated and called “postmodernism,” as if it was an advance over the “modern,” but actually it is a trip all the way back to chaos.
Starting with Haight-Ashbury in 1967, the Drug Revolution, which became the Counterculture, which became the New Age became “the great hope for the future,” drowning out all other voices, like my own. It seems that the culture hasn’t really moved ahead since the Drug Movement-stuck with their same old ideas. I am trying to move it ahead.
Also-important-drugs opened people up to spirit entities, and to channeling, which is highly unreliable.
Tyler: What are you defining as New Age? Will you give us some examples?
Bob: The half-dozen books I bought around 1995 from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) I would define as New Age. They all reflected the same ideas-the rejection of logic, science, truth, reality, ego, and psychotherapy-the assertion that we are interconnected (and not contained within “a bag of skin”)-basically the same ideas that came out of the LSD experience. I don’t have to name the books. Order any books from IONS, and they will repeat the same assertions. They don’t have to define these things or support them with evidence, because anybody who has been on an LSD trip has experienced exactly what they are talking about.
Also channeled material from spirit guides I would define as “New Age.” There is a certain naivete in accepting this material uncritically.
The New Age has bypassed the mental in favor of the spiritual. They believe in meditation, which is turning off one’s mental faculties in order to experience the spiritual directly. I believe in psychotherapy-that one must apply the mind in order to grow spiritually. I believe that we are here on earth to learn lessons that the earth environment has to offer, and that I will have plenty of time between incarnations to meditate, unhampered by an earth-body and an earth-mind.
Tyler: Bob, I am still a bit confused by what you mean here. What you are saying about incarnations between physical lives sounds like a New Age thought to me. It isn’t orthodox Christianity at least where it’s believed we have one life and then rise from the dead. Are you saying influences like reincarnation from Eastern religions are acceptable?
Bob: I am only criticizing certain aspects of New Age thought, most particularly the LSD legacy. I believe in reincarnation and the Law of Karma because I have proved these things to myself. I am not telling anybody what is acceptable. I am only trying to share my knowledge here, for people to accept or reject.
Tyler: You mention “The Course in Miracles” in your book. It is one of the most popular aspects of the new movement toward spirituality. What issues do you have with it?
Bob: First of all, I am suspicious of anything that is channeled, because I don’t think the higher spiritual beings interfere with our lives in that way. It is only the lower entities, whose karma is so bad that they can never hope to advance, who interfere with our lives in that way, hoping to drag everybody else down with them. They are doing this sometimes in very subtle ways that people can’t recognize unless they are psychologically very advanced.
I approached “A Course in Miracles” at Lesson #1, somewhere in the middle of the book. It asked me to contemplate “Nothing has any meaning for me.” I thought about this for a couple of days and decided “This doesn’t have any meaning. They are just trying to destroy my mind.” Then I saw that the other lessons also contained basically destructive messages.
If you want to move towards spirituality, try Jungian analysis. This is the closest thing that I know of to how I achieved my own spiritual growth that led me to my “original experience” of God. Jungian analysis will cost you some money. Worse than that, it will require some courage to face your own shortcomings and humiliations and monsters. That’s why so many people avoid it and say, “There must be another way.” But real psychotherapy has put me in touch with my real self and real spirituality.
Tyler: Tell us more about Jungian analysis. Isn’t that scientific rather than spiritual? What is the fine line here, and how is facing your own monsters a spiritual experience?
Bob: If you go far enough in psychotherapy or analysis, your dreams will lead you to the spiritual. Carl Jung discovered that, and I discovered that in my own dream analysis. Jungian analysis is scientific if you can use dreams as evidence, but the physical scientists pooh-pooh all that and call Carl Jung a “mystic.” Some psychiatrists (like the ones I went to) just don’t believe in the spiritual. That’s why I recommend Jungian analysis.
Facing your own monsters is necessary for spiritual growth. Psychological growth is spiritual growth. The monsters represent fear and anger and emotional pain that have to be dealt with in order to advance spiritually. The New Age people dismiss these things as “negativity.” But if you deny these things, you are doomed to live with them, and hypocrisy.
Tyler: Was there any specific point in your life when you came to realize you were suffering from mind pollution? Did that inspire you to write this book?
Bob: There are two different questions here. In the beginning, when I first set out on my search for truth, I realized that I had to break out of a jungle of lies. Then, 30 years later, when I had broken free and written my first book, “Re-Educating Myself,” those same lies were used to reject it. That was what inspired me to write this book-to expose the lies.
Tyler: Will you tell us about your previous book “Re-Educating Myself”? Do you consider “The Mental Environment” in anyway a continuation of your first book?
Bob: “Re-Educating Myself” tells the story of how I turned my back on the culture, and set out to design a new civilization, and succeeded. “The Mental Environment” is coming from that new civilization. So I have to explain what that new civilization is, and what evidence it is based on, and so I spend about 50 pages going over the material that was in “Re-Educating Myself.”
Tyler: Bob, what makes the information in “The Mental Environment” stand out from other messages we hear, such as “simplify your life” or “turn off the TV” and “be yourself”?
Bob: First of all, I am presenting a whole new civilization. What is that civilization?
I believe in God, but not religion. I don’t believe on “faith,” but on the basis of evidence. I believe in reincarnation and the Law of Karma. I believe in love but not marriage. I accept dreams as evidence and as a source of spiritual truth. I believe in science but not scientism. I believe in evolution but not Evolution. I believe that psychotherapy is the way to a new civilization. All these things are explained in the book.
Then, from the perspective of that new civilization, I am able to point out some of the errors of the present culture. Also I am able to see that there is such a thing as a mental environment, with its mind pollution, whereas people who are immersed in the culture may not be able to see that. This is the first and only book on the subject of the mental environment.
The books you mention are all contained in the present culture, recombining the same ideas over and over again. I am breaking out and giving the reader some new ideas.
Tyler: Would you explain further how psychotherapy is the way to a new civilization?
Bob: Again, this question takes some explanation.
First of all, I think of a civilization not as buildings or cities or large numbers of people, but as a set of IDEAS that determine how those people live and what they build. “New civilization” was the best expression I could think of in 1955 to mean new values, new beliefs, new ideals, new goals, a new “standard of living,” a new way of thinking, and a new way of living. The “civilization,” to me, was what had been programmed into my head as a product of the American upper middle class. To design a new civilization, all I had to do was change that programming.
I read a lot of books and thought a lot of thoughts, but the methods that really worked for me were psychotherapy, withdrawal from the culture, and dream analysis.
In four years of psychotherapy, I learned, among many other things, that the real “Establishment” was something in my own head. I also opened up mental abilities I didn’t know I had-creativity, intuition, and will-that is, my own free will to be myself. And most important, I learned disciplines that enabled me to continue my psychological growth after I left the psychiatrist.
Freud theorized that it would be impossible to break free of one’s culture. To break away, it helps to move away. I experienced “withdrawal,” as defined by Toynbee, in the solitude of Cape Cod winters. Away from the constant chatter of cultural ideas, I was literally able to hear myself think, and began to come up with my own original ideas. They seemed weird at first, but then I began to discover that they made more sense than the things I had been taught.
Thoreau experienced withdrawal by the shores of Walden Pond. Isaac Newton withdrew to a family farm to escape the Plague in London. It was there that he observed the falling apple and formulated the Law of Gravity.
The winter of 1966-67 I devoted almost totally to analyzing my own dreams. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the disciplines I learned in psychotherapy, and intuition.
The dreams picked up with my psychological growth where the psychiatrist had left off. The psychiatrist had taken me to where I was psychologically normal, but the dreams showed me that the normal person in America was psychologically only 10 years old-that is, using only their 10-year-old mental potential. I thought that if I could make it to the psychological age of puberty, or psychological age 14, my sex life would improve. And my sex life did improve. This should be motivation enough for anybody to want to make it to the psychological age of puberty, which is well beyond normal for the culture. I would estimate that 5% of the population reaches this level of development.
To reach this point, the dreams had to teach me what love was. The Beatles sang, “Love is all you need,” but what is love? Love is compassion, and not everybody has it. The dreams introduced the spiritual to me and taught me lessons of compassion and self-sacrifice.
At the psychological age of puberty, I experienced a transition point where “human nature” itself changes, where the child’s natural selfishness gives way to an equally natural desire to give and share and make sacrifices for others. If a majority of people were to reach this point, we would have a new civilization.
With LSD, people went way beyond this level. Sometimes they went through a whole psychoanalysis in one LSD trip. But then they came back down. With psychotherapy, the change is permanent.
And where are we now? The Hippies blocked the psychological approach to wellness with the slogan, “Psychiatrists are tools of the Establishment.” (Psychiatrists work for whoever pays them, like everybody else.) And the academic people have been busy bashing Freud and dismissing Jung as “a mystic.” That’s why it is important to talk about the lies as well as the truths.
There are many real problems with psychotherapy in its present state. Therapists only take people from subnormal to normal, not to a new civilization. Many of them don’t believe in the spiritual. Many of them are not psychologically developed themselves. The therapist needs to have reached at least the psychological age of puberty in order to guide others to this point. But at least psychotherapy, as a method, if done properly, will take people to this level where “human nature” itself changes profoundly.
Tyler: What should a person who wants to contribute to bringing about this new civilization do first (besides obviously reading “The Mental Environment”)?
Bob: Do psychotherapy first. Then read my book. You will understand it better.
If you have already been through psychotherapy and experienced what they call “therapeutic change,” tell the world about it (but not if you are in danger of losing your security clearance, or your job, or anything else that cultural prejudices can strip you of, like custody of your children). The therapists are bound to secrecy on this, but there should be a large number of satisfied customers, like myself, who wouldn’t mind speaking out. Or at least let me know (www.omdega.com/blog, firstname.lastname@example.org). I think we should all get together.
Tyler: Thank you, Bob, for all your information today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information may be found there about “The Mental Environment”?
Bob: The website was put together hastily as I got into the business of being a publisher. But I have been putting stuff into the blog, like most reviews and Chapter 1. See omdega.com/blog. Also if anybody has any comments (or questions) on the book, I am hoping they will post them there, and maybe we can get some kind of a dialog going.
Tyler: Thank you, Bob. I appreciate your sharing your philosophy and providing us hope toward a better future. I wish you much success.
Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views was glad to be joined by Bob Gebelein, to talk about his new book, “The Mental Environment,” Omdega Press (2007), ISBN 9780961461119.