Temple Illuminatus

Psychopath vs. Empath: The War Between Evolution and Stagnation

By Gary ‘Z’ McGee

Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant. ~Seneca

Psychopaths are apathetic and have trouble empathizing with others; empaths are exemplary at putting themselves in the shoes of someone else. Psychopaths are about power and invulnerability; empaths are about empowerment and absolute vulnerability. Psychopaths are about ruthless individualism; empaths are about individualized interdependence. Psychopaths are indifferent, apathetic and emotionally shallow; empaths are deeply thoughtful and compassionate. Psychopaths are self-serious and insincere; empaths are humble and sincere. Psychopaths are overconfident and narrow-minded; empaths are confident but open-minded. Psychopaths are selfish and violent; empaths are selfless and loving. Psychopaths are rigid, inflexible, and intolerant; empaths are open, flexible, and tolerant.

But human nature is never so black and white. No one is all empathic or all psychopathic. Most people would probably fall somewhere in the middle on a bell curve. And nobody knows for sure if anybody is 100% psychopathic or empathic or even if anyone can be. The article How to Spot Psychopaths claims 1% of our population is psychopathic. In The Mask of Insanity, Dr. Hervey Cleckley said psychopaths number greater than 4%. And The Guardian did a book review of The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton that claims 10% of society is psychopathic. Still, being a psychopath, like almost any other psychological condition, is not necessarily a “you are or you aren’t” condition. Psychopathy is a set of traits and characteristics, which everybody varies in. Similar can be said for empaths, though there is little to no known research on them.

But, and here’s the crux of the issue, governing the precept that, as William HirsteinPh.D. wrote, “Psychopaths show a lack of emotion, especially the social emotions, such as shame, guilt, and embarrassment,” then doesn’t it stands to reason that our collective lack of shame, guilt, and embarrassment regarding our inability to live in healthy accord with each other and with our environment scream rampant psychopathology? In other words, if we are truly being empathic then shouldn’t we be able to show shame, guilt, and embarrassment at our inability to live in a healthy way that can lead to a progressive evolution for our species?

Evolution will occur whether we like it or not. But the question is: do we want that evolution to be progressive, stagnant, or regressive. It stands to reason that most people would say they want a progressive evolution for our species. Just like most people would claim they are more empathic than psychopathic. But emotional attachment can all too often get in the way of our reasoning. Just as it can all too often get in the way of how we see ourselves. There will even be times when we’re not even aware of it, like when we’re in the throes of cognitive dissonance. Our cognitive-dissonance-ridden emotional attachments are generally associated with, but certainly not limited to, politics, religion, nationality, and race.

But let’s not get too far off course. We can probably all agree, empathically, that we want what’s best for our children and grandchildren. We can probably also agree, empathically, that we want a healthy environment to raise them in and to grow old in. And if we can at least agree on these two precepts, then we must also agree that progressive evolution, as opposed to stagnant or regressive evolution, is the best and healthiest way to achieve both.

But, all too often, our inner psychopath rears its ugly head and whispers sweet subconscious nothings in our ear. Things like, “It’s just the way things are, deal with it.” Or, “The only way forward is through this particular religion rather than those other 4,200 religions out there.” Or, “The only way forward is with strict law and order backed by a violent state, otherwise there will be anarchy.” Or, “We must hold on tight to our traditions, no matter how outdated. We must maintain our customs and beliefs at all costs.” Or, “Yes, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable, vulnerable, or unsure of the future.” Or, “I want to change the world, sure. But I don’t want to change myself.”

There comes a time when we must put our foot down on our own insufferable thoughts, take a step back, and look at the big picture: We all want a healthy environment for our kids. That’s it. That’s all we need to focus on in order for our inner empath to trump our inner psychopath. As soon as we start in with our hand-me-down, spoon-fed politics, we lose the underlying empathic essence. We lose the connection, the shared story that we have with every single other human being on the planet. We all want a healthy future for our kids.

So, what does a healthy future mean, exactly? What is a healthy environment? And how do we get there? How do we even get the engine of a healthy-progressive-evolution-for-our-species started? First and foremost, we need the following words as our core tenet: We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression or denial of my humanity and right to exist freely. In other words: We can coexist, and even disagree, as empaths, but we cannot coexist if you are a violent, tyrannical, psychopath who thinks you need to forcibly control me. That’s the first step: the root-womb-cornerstone foundation of our way toward a healthier future for our children.

After that, progressive evolution just requires imagination, improvisation, and adaptation. It requires us getting out of our own way. Especially when it comes to our conditioned psychopathic tendencies to want to control everything and everyone to the extent that we are not only violent toward our environment (ecocidal) but violent toward each other (homicidal).

Now, more than ever, in the thick of the Anthropocene epoch, we have the power to direct our own path. But will it be healthy or unhealthy? We must be able to rise above our petty differences and embrace our mutual need to adapt to change. Otherwise, we become too rigid, too inflexible, too stuck for healthy evolution to proceed.

So, I beseech you, beware the tyranny of habit. Be not psychopathically inflexible. The more elastic and fluid you are, the more you’ll stay afloat when the crushing waters of vicissitude come crashing through, and the more you’ll be prepared to be an empathic beacon of hope for others. Change is not easy. It never has been. But change is inevitable. There’s no stopping it. We either wreck ourselves and the world trying to prevent it, or we adapt and overcome in order to evolve with it.

It really does come down to something as simple as our ability, or inability, to deal with change. This is because change is a deceivingly complex concept to deal with for a psychosocial naked ape deep in the throes of the adolescent phase of its own evolution. We’re floundering in this adolescent awkwardness. The more evolved part of our mind, the empathic higher consciousness, likes to think it can adapt to change, but the less evolved part of our mind, the subconscious lizard brain, is afraid of change and fights against it. And guess which is usually stronger? Sadly, the psychopathic lizard brain.

Our lizard brain, full of fear, full of flight-or-fight knee jerk reactions, wants to keep everything comfortable, safe, and secure with no risk. It doesn’t care what it has to do to maintain its current state of comfort, safety, and security. It clings to scarcity and divisiveness because that’s what it has been conditioned into believing. It will even become violently psychopathic toward anyone who tries to take it away, or who suggests an uncomfortable risky way forward. All the while vainly and futilely resisting change. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Going big-picture helps us change our minds. It puts things into proper perspective. It also helps us feel more empathic and less psychopathic toward others. We’re better able to see the world as one, without borders. We’re better able to narrow our highfalutin politics to a single concept that we can all agree on: freedom. We’re better able to see through all the red herring cognitive biases of climate debate and realize that our problem is a single problem we can all agree we need to fix: pollution. We’re better able to cut through the bullshit divisiveness of religions and narrow it to a single concept that we can all agree on: love, especially love for our children. And suddenly there are not so many differences between us, and a kind of metamorality emerges that changes the psychopathic frenzy of our age into an empathic love for the interconnectedness of all things.

The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation.–Baruch Spinoza

Are you fighting for your servitude as if for your salvation? Then you have been well-deceived. You have been sheeple-compromised. Your thoughts are not your own. Your actions are not your own. You are in all ways a conditioned puppet who is under the delusion that it is free, and the psychopaths of the world are your uncompromising puppet masters. The questions you need to be asking yourself are these: “Am I willing to do what it takes to become free? Am I ready for the uncomfortableness of undeceiving myself? Would I rather be slapped by the truth or kissed with a lie? Am I willing to sacrifice my comfortable lie for the uncomfortable truth? Am I strong enough to fall from the “grace” of my delusion onto the hard and unforgiving ground of truth? And most of all: do I have the courage to disobey?”

In order to answer these questions effectively, indeed in order to come up with better questions, we must be able to transform our would-be psychopathology into a courageous in-the-now empathology.

Cancer begins with a group of cells that fail to communicate with the conscious signal of the host. These cells become competitive instead of cooperative. When competition become primary and cooperation secondary, then we know we have failed as a species. Collectively, among every human, vanity leads to segregation and competition, competition leads to fear and greed, greed leads to deceit and immorality and deceit and immorality is the breeding ground for illness waging war on each other and our earth. Every act of hatred and self-destructiveness in our world begins with self-hate and self-destructiveness. And it all begins with a breakdown in communication.

We have lost the ability to communicate with each other as natural human beings. We have lost the ability to communicate with nature in a healthy way. These unconscious acts of unlearning are systemic and passed down from unhealthy generation to unhealthy generation. It’s time to break apart the parochial chain of our outdated value system. It’s time to unfuck ourselves out of this unhealthy and unsustainable debacle. Like R.D. Laing said, “We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.”

The simplest way is to be the change we wish to see in the world so that we can be a force of nature powerful enough to also change the world. But another way is to undeceive ourselves, to become compassionate and empathic to the plight of others, and to sprinkle bits of truth over the mass deception like seeds that will eventually grow into a force to be reckoned with.

As it stands, mankind is caught in the cycle of fear, apathy and hatred. A society based upon fear, apathy and hatred sets up a system which is fundamentally incapable of producing health and happiness and thereby represses human development. And here we are: living in a world where human development is being repressed, at the detriment of our individual health and the health of the ecosystem. However, our escape from this unhealthy pattern lies not only in rebellion, but also in the cultivation of a personal freedom and a relinquishing of all forms of anesthesia and self-deception.

Indeed, while authentic freedom is not easily attained, its deficiency is evident in the devastation to both the individual and the greater culture, as the myopic conformists seek to victimize each other and repeatedly inflict violence upon the world in order to maintain the illusion of comfort and power that is being protected by the banner of their deception. Like Arno Gruen said, “If people base their identity on identifying with authority, freedom causes anxiety. They must then conceal the victim in themselves by resorting to violence against others.”

Understand: the world was made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one in which you are free; whether that world be your family, your country, your religion, or your politics. Escape any world that doesn’t allow you to be free. A clear sign that you are not free is that you are being deceived. The question is: are you okay with being deceived? As Chris Hedges warns, “We live in imaginary, virtual worlds created by corporations that profit from our deception,” It is precisely these virtual worlds that we need to turn the tables on. Virtual worlds are tools. We need to go from being irresponsible tools succumbing to a deceptive system, to using our tools responsibly and empathically so as to transform the system into a healthier version of itself.

There is a war going on between manipulative liars and compassionate truth tellers, between psychopaths and empaths. Which side are you on? This also begs the question: are you lying to yourself, which happens to be one of the most difficult questions to answer honestly, but ask it you must, lest you fall too easily into the hands of the nearest con artist or snake-oil salesman. Beware the tyranny of habit. Be not inflexible. The more elastic and fluid you are, the more you’ll stay afloat when the crushing waters of vicissitude come crashing through, and the more you’ll be prepared to be a beacon of hope for others. Change is not easy, it never has been. But change is inevitable. We either wreck ourselves and the world trying to prevent it, or we adapt and overcome in order to evolve with it.

One of my duties as a periphery keeper in this world is to penetrate deception, turn over rocks, awaken people to concealed truths, and to create deep awareness. I say, instead of trying to possess Truth; let yourself be possessed by it. So it goes: I am not a victim of the world, I am the world. But that wasn’t always the case. I used to work for the NSA via the US Navy as a cryptoanalyst. Yes, I was naïve. I, like many innocent sailors, soldiers, airmen, and marines, was duped into believing that I was honorably fighting and spying to protect the lives of the innocent people of the world. I was wrong. I was bamboozled. We were bamboozled. That was all just doublespeak. We were actually there to fight and spy on behalf of an immoral plutocratic corporate regime that is still in power today. We were there to be pawns in a giant game of chess over oil and power. We were conditioned cogs in an immoral clock of systematic propaganda and unethical orders. They used fear tactics to keep us paranoid. They used false titles and fake rank to play upon our passions. They used those same false titles to play upon our pride, by giving us empty ribbons, flashy medals of nothing, and rank that meant nothing more than that you were a good little obedient sheep to an immoral juggernaut of well-deceived men. Well screw that! War is not peace. Ignorance is not strength. Freedom is not slavery.

“If you would be a real seeker after truth,” wrote Rene Descartes, “it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” And so I did exactly that. I decided to undeceive myself, using a ruthless self-interrogation process and a humor of the most high to reveal the truth hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of mass deception. What I learned rocked my world, as it has many others. But my liberation was my salvation. The pain that came from knowledge was exceptionally more rewarding than the bliss that came from ignorance. My fall was profound, but when I hit the ground, I relearned how to fall in love. Like Sogyal Rinpoche said, “Each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence, they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height, there is only one possible place to land: on the ground — the ground of truth. And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice, then falling is in no way a disaster, but the discovery of an inner refuge.”

The only way that deception is moral is through the artistic process. Like Marco Tempest said, “Art is a deception that creates real emotions — a lie that creates a truth. And when you give yourself over to that deception, it becomes magic.” We need more of this magic, especially in a world more and more devoid of magic. It is magic precisely because it transforms deception into truth, and so has the power to transform psychopaths into empaths, by planting seeds like tiny, packaged beacons of hope.

Whether it is Charlie Hebdo comic strips or articles like this one, art can literally change the world. Our audacious art is like swordplay in the brain, proving that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. With it we can cut the yoke of deception that has been passed down from an unethical power structure made up of psychopath's hell-bent on maintaining their power to the extent that it is destroying the world.

Like Arno Gruen said, “No matter how much lip service those committed to power (psychopaths) may pay to the principle of equality (empaths), they can never approach their fellow human beings on an equal footing; their relationships with others are defined solely in terms of power and weakness. Therefore, they must accumulate as much power as possible, with the aim of becoming invulnerable and proving this invulnerability.” It is the duty of artistic empaths the world over to meet this false invulnerability with the truer power of absolute vulnerability, and art will be our vehicle. Courage is not being invulnerable, like a machine. Courage is not an unwavering hardness, like a tank. It is a soft plasticity, like water. I beseech you, you who would dare greatly, look not for what’s solid within you, look instead for what is soft and malleable. The courage will come. Like Bruce Lee pouring water in and out of a cup, saying “Be water, my friend,” your softness will take shape and assume the form of empathy which has the power to crush all forms of psychopathology, and its shape will be an adventure of the most high.

People often ask me, baffled, “Why do you go against the laws of men?” And I say to them, “Because your swords will never be as sharp as my pen.”

If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, not as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens, as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles. ~Howard Zinn

This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back…

You take the blue pill –the story ends, you wake up believing what you’ve been conditioned to believe. You take the red pill –you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how to question what you think you believe using knowledge, freedom, passion, and the painful truth of reality.

First, ask yourself: would you rather choke on the red pill of Truth, or easily swallow the blue pill of Deception? Sure, ignorance is bliss and knowledge is pain, but wouldn’t you rather the pain that comes from knowledge than the bliss that comes from ignorance? Wouldn’t you rather be slapped with the truth than kissed with lies?

Similarly, wouldn’t you rather the dangerous freedom of the liberating Red Line than the comfort, security, and safety of the tyrannical Blue Line? malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium: I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery. Which would you prefer?

The Corrupt and Divisive Power of the Thin Blue Line:

For a state in which the law is respected, democracy is the worst form of government, but if the law is not respected, it is the best. ~Plato

The blue pill goes down so smooth, doesn’t it. Swallow it, relish in the sweet deception and blissful ignorance it provides –that soft pillowy cushion of safety and security. All you’ve got to do is not rock the boat, kowtow to authority, squabble at the feet of entrenched power, lick the boots of the hired thugs sent forth to enforce “law and order” at the barrel of a gun, all while willfully and ignorantly neglecting the fact that “The law is just an opinion with a gun ~Stefan Molyneux

Just keep swallowing that little blue pill that keeps you nice and comfortable in your ivory tower of privileged safety and ignorant security. All you’ve got to do is be okay with offense-minded policing which leads to militarized policing which eventually leads to a police state. All you’ve got to do is keep turning the other cheek when overreaching, oppressive, extorting, quota-junkie cops reinforce their thin blue line mantra which leads to a kind of human centipede of cop-on-cop circular fellatio within a chain of obedience that keeps the entire justice system churning out corruption like a meat mill churns out artery-clogging hotdogs.

If police really served their communities, they wouldn’t enforce laws the community doesn’t support… Until police learn to de-escalate situations innocent people will continue to die… And if you lock someone in a cage for a plant that is legal in many states, then you are the criminal. ~Policing the Police

Just keep swallowing that blue pill until you’re so dumbed-down and obsequiously catering to authority that you can’t even see passed your own cognitive dissonance to even realize that you don’t know the rampant corruption that surrounds you. Keep swallowing it until you fall headfirst into Noam Chomsky’s caveat: “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”

Keep at it. Just remember: it will fortify your ignorance; it will double-down on your close-mindedness; it will bolster your myopia; it will magnify your prejudices and biases to exponential proportions. It will close in on you until all you have is what’s being shoved down your throat: no original thought, no imagination, no ability to question things. You will have become a puppet and a prisoner to the blue pill spell and the thin blue line that reinforces it all through one-right-way violence.

The Unifying Power of the Robust Red Line:

If we must die, we die defending our rights. ~Chief Sitting Bull

There is an alternative, however: The Robust Red Line. But what exactly is this Robust Red Line? It is a symbol representing the progressive evolution of the entire species earned through courage and blood. Red is the color that binds us all, regardless of our nationality, race, or creed. Red is the binding force, the energizing force, the color of love and blood. It’s the color of the human heart, beating its meaning despite a meaningless universe.

Your skin may be white, black, brown, red, yellow, or whatever other stereotypical color you wish to marginalize your skin color with, but your heart is red. It bleeds red no matter your race, nationality, or creed. We are all united in red, drawing a red line in the sand against oppression and tyranny. Red defends water which courageously faces down the blue that defends oil. And it can be a blessing for a sick world, but only if we can get over our pseudo patriotism, myopic nationalism, xenophobic paranoia, dogmatic religiosity, oil-dripping greed, and false pride.

The Red Line indicates an active defiance against the entrenched laws of man that have grown outdated and uncouth through the passage of time. It glimmers crimson in its passionate upheaval of all systems that have become passively cow-eyed to the corrupt power moving in on them like a slaughterhouse. It spawns the kind of love that revolutions are born out of.

It’s revolutionary precisely because it cannot be contained. It shatters all rigid paradigms. It stretches all restrictive comfort zones. It pushes all codependent envelopes. It flattens all dogmatic boxes. It can be seen in those who have truly fallen in love with life, in the hearts of those who have become Love itself. No authority can contend with it. No amount of power can crush it. No flimsy, man-made laws can imprison it. No amount of oil can drown it. No amount of blue-on-blue suck-fests can prevent it from revealing the truth. It is free from all limits, and so it is seen as a threat to all who seek to limit it.

The Red Line represents an urgency, a vital need that signifies something must be done before the party-line or the thin blue line becomes a flatline for humanity. The Red Line poses a threat to the Powers That Be, because the Powers That Be are hellbent on maintaining their power at all costs.

Those who cling to comfort, hold tight to security, and kowtow to authority, cannot stomach revolutionary love. They cannot stomach real freedom. They are afraid. They fear growth. They fear Truth. They fear what would happen if we were honest and vulnerable together, united in red, united in love, rather than rigid and invulnerable, divided by thin blue lines and deceptive blue pills.

It’s a story that has been unfolding since the beginning of time: life against entropy, truth against deception, freedom against tyranny, love against hate. The Robust Red Line represents life, truth, freedom, and love. The thin blue line collapses in on itself (entropy) through deception, overreaching power (tyranny), and by violently hating everything that doesn’t fall in line with it. The Robust Red Line is the line drawn in the sand against the thin blue line. It’s drawn with the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors. It’s a Declaration of Interdependence, putting the entire violence-enforced system on notice. It’s time to take responsibility for allowing this corruption and violence to go on for so long. The buck stops here! And it takes the form of a red pill of truth swallowed in defiance against entropy, deception, tyranny, and hate.

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