“Here at our disposal, to be used wisely or unwisely, is an increasing array of agents that manipulate human beings… It is now possible to act directly on the individual to modify his behaviour instead of, as in the past, indirectly through modification of the environment.” – Dean Saunders, of the San Francisco Medical School, at the Control of the Mind symposium (1961).*
The next quote was preceded by a discussion about the potential use of tricyano-aminopropene to cause an “increased suggestibility in man”.
“The author is [referring] to any substance inducing changes of biologically important molecules in the neurons and the glia and affecting the mental state in a negative direction. It is not difficult to imagine the possible uses to which a government in a police-controlled state could put this substance. For a time they would subject the population to hard conditions. Suddenly the hardship would be removed, and at the same time, the substance would be added to the tap water and the mass-communications media turned on. This method would be much cheaper, and would create more intriguing possibilities then [voluntary introduction methods]” – Hyden at the Control of the Mind symposium (1961).**
Where did all of this come from and why was a celebrated (he was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire in the 1970s) author, journalist and polymath like Arthur Koestler writing positively about such disturbing ideas?
The Ghost in the Machine is a discussion of Koestler’s theory that all of nature – from the genetic code to governmental structures – is composed of hierarchy based systems. The majority of the book is focused on disproving Pavlovian/Skinnerian behaviorism and Darwinian evolution (which is not too difficult to do) and to replace these ideas with his hierarchy based theory.
Every aspect of man and the society that he lives in are also hierarchy based according to Koestler. But man has been unable to act as an integrated part of a larger hierarchy and has only been able to identify with that hierarchy. To quote Koestler from page 246:
“the essential difference between primitive identification, resulting in a homogeneous flock, and mature forms of integration in a social hierarchy. In a well-balanced hierarchy, the individual retains his character as a social holon [self aware sub-assembly], a part-whole, who qua whole, enjoys autonomy within the limits of the restraints imposed by the interests of the community.” [emphasis in original]
This emotional identification with a social hierarchy caused the millions of Germans and Russians to help in the holocaust and Stalinist Purges. The emotional following of an ideal without the intellectual evaluation of the reality (which can be completely opposite to the original ideal) was caused by this identification with the social structure. He blames the quick evolutionary development of the upper cortex on top of the older primitive portions of the brain as the cause of this “schizophrenic” state of man. That is, a struggle between the emotional primitive sections of the brain and the newer intellectual portions. The only way to fix this perceived evolutionary error and restore the natural hierarchy within man and society leads us back to the original quotes.
According to Koestler and his ilk, the solution to this problem is to force the further evolution of man using chemicals to reduce the effects of the primitive or emotional portions of the brain. A kind of chemical lobotomy / fixer-upper. This, of course, would also have the added benefit of destroying the individuality of the people exposed to this “increased suggestibility”. To Koestler’s credit he does disagree with the implementation recommended in the quote by Hyden. He believes that it will be accepted with open arms by the public like “the pill”, anti-depressants and other such drugs.
Keep in mind this book was written in the 1960’s. What new chemicals have been discovered and tested since? What is stopping them from using similar chemicals today? Would we even notice?
Welcome to the world of the elitist “thinkers” and control freaks. We are their lab rats.
* (1967) The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler, pg 335.
** pg 334.