I do not know for sure, but I suppose…
It all began, with the isolation induced by the Coronavirus pandemic. Like everybody else, I started to connect more to Internet networks, to socialize while hiding in place. Curiously enough, one of the things I was exposed to, was the current of wild theories about a Covid-19 conspiracy. It was popping up from people posting from Spain, Chile, Japan, Mexico the United States, and other places. I followed, out of curiosity, and when I saw some people that I knew well buying into these, I responded based on my prior scientific research training, and found out how set they were into it.
In addition, some people who participated in the virus conspiracy theories also subscribed to weird political conspiracies like Q-Anon. I remember saying to them that besides all the nonscientific data they were using as evidence, in my 30 plus years of international work on issues of scientific collaboration I never experienced the possibility of such fine coordination between China, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the rest of the world to set up such a pandemic. The conspiracy was more difficult to explain than the science behind a viral pandemic.
I became acutely aware of how collective thinking spreads throughout the invisible electromagnetic waves. Opinions, interpretations, declarations of fact or alternative facts, descriptions of causes and effect, are now so easily available upon voice or finger command, to devices connecting the unknown human grapevine.
Zap the keyboard, the icon, and you can access so many words, woven with memes, images, full of information, imagination, disinformation, or bias. With one swipe of your finger, you can reach contradictory explanations about almost anything, about the Earth being round or flat, about bogus or real cures, about moon landings or not. And, fact checks the sources, and even the fact-checkers, but in the end, you are left with having to decide, what to call fact or fiction, what is true and what is false. And this is of course, without adding your own flavors, born out of interpretations from points of view realms, described by nomenclatures. That is, you might be leftist or liberal or a right-winger, a centrist perhaps, or conservative, materialist, spiritual, religious, nihilist, hedonist, etc. Nomenclature to define positions and ideologies that frame everyone’s interpretation of life.
Conspiracy theories have been present in the human mind since there was a mind. A byproduct of fear and thought combined. A marriage of instinct and imagination, nurtured by our mania of separateness, our self-preservation and our love for gossip and exaggeration. Our first instances of reflection and thought emerged, as life evolved through its many forms to arrive at this human platform, capable of being aware of its awareness. It must have been and is awesome, to recognize that we can recognize, that we are self-aware. Aware of “the others”, yes, of those who look like us, but who do not exactly look like us.
Sometimes, the latter was dangerously competitive and aggressive. So, every time we saw an “unknown other” one thing that would come to mind was to fear harm. As our capacity to communicate our own reflections within the tribe increased and our imagination was consolidated, our capacity to see evil even if there was none, our capacity to suspect and exaggerate, also grew. And maybe this is why conspiracies were born. Mixed with legend, with our capacity to communicate and to embellish, through oral traditions, myths, and then written symbols, plus the multiplying numbers of tribes and populations, and coalitions of competitors, conspiracy theories grew and became part of human history and behavior.
The concept that when the costs of false-positives (seeing a danger, when in fact there is none) are less than false-negatives (not seeing a danger when in fact there is one), natural selection favors a tendency to make the less costly type of mistake. Thus, it makes sense, that suspicion, lack of trust, fear of the other, developed as a behavioral pattern to help survive the inhospitable “others”. Ancestral predispositions within us, have not changed much and our modern conspiracy theories seem to be rooted in those ancient tribal instincts, as we continue to see the world, as one of ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’.
However, there is also conspiracy thinking, not related to immediate or possible danger, but rather to ignorance and the arbitrariness of stating something as a fact, buying into it, repeating, and creating associated schools of thought, even if there is no evidence to sustain it.
For example, the flat-Earth movement conspiracy – which proposes that the Earth is flat and that scientists have been lying to the public for more than 500 years. Or that the moon landing was ‘probably’ staged and never happened. As revealed by a 2019 poll, one in six Britons believes so.
These conspiracy theories present alternative theories about important issues or events and provide vague explanations for why someone is covering up the "true" version of events. One of their major points of appeal is that they explain a big event without going into details. Their power lies in the vagueness of the evidence.
Alternate reality models have been part and parcel of humanity throughout its history, from the Illuminati, to “witch hunts”. The difference is that in the present, conspiracy theories spread fast, broadly, and globally, through the internet and social media. These modern forms of communication make it easy for like-minded people to connect and form online echo chambers.
Many of the conspiracy theories are maladaptive and can lead to erroneous public health and social behavior choices, such as rejecting vaccination, climate-change denial, xenophobia, radicalism, and violence. A wide range of noxious and wild conspiracy theories exist today, from Q-Anon to sinister origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are born through the spreading of vague and false statements, taking advantage of ignorance of many who do not understand the causes behind a chronic or acute event. And sometimes the conspiracy theory is used maliciously to advance political gains or self-interests by taking advantage of credulity, preexisting fears, and ideologies.
But really the root cause of all conspiracies is mind. The universe of mind, or the “noosphere”, as Teilhard de Chardin called it, emerged with the human species. Self-reflection, the consciousness of consciousness, multiplied by language, inspired by feelings, imagination, recorded by history and culture, evolved with the development of humanity. Our capacity for discovery, conceptualization, explanation of the surrounding, to manage natural forces, created the existing human civilization. Science has advanced the frontiers of understanding, beyond the initial superstitions and associations appreciated and expressed in ancient and historic mythologies and legends.
But in the final analysis, these were or are attempts of the human being to explain him or herself and respond to the urge to understand to explain the phenomena that surround us, the immediate milieu of our personalities and our existence itself. Some tools are more valuable for exploring certain aspects than others, for example rationality, intellect, and experimentation, - science - seems to provide the best tools to understand and help manage the forces of the universe that surround us. Meditation, reflection, intuition, art, and love appear to be better suited to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of existence, of the nature of being, of consciousness, in those realms that lie beyond the measurable physical universe.
And while faith-based concepts are not suitable instruments to understand the physical laws of nature, rational-based science has built-in limitations to describe existence or love or other aspects beyond the physical realms.
Discoveries related to the operation of the laws of nature have increased in an accelerated fashion, with the development of scientific thinking and experimental tools. Of course, facts proclaimed by science can always be challenged, through evolving different methodological approaches, and based on more accurate observations and experimentation, but not just on opinions, vague sources, and cover-up, like proposed by unproven conspiracies. At the same time, there are phenomena like telepathy, synchronicity, and alternative healing, which can be real but for which science seems to lack the experimental capacity to prove or disprove.
The angst of being is born with the advent of self-reflection, it is as ancient as the human species. Imagination and consciousness dawn fully in our species, and like all energies in the universe, it can burn and destroy, illuminate, or create; it can erupt in cataclysmic explosions or gently caress love-nests of protein, to engender life. It can describe beauty, in canvas and metaphor, to melt, inspire, and give joy to the heart, or backbite neighbors and the other in calumny, until he is better dead than alive. It can use the tools of reason, intuition, and observation, to describe the delicate mechanisms of nature, understand their beauty, and synchronize them, to maximize yields and benefits to all, or alternatively, it can delve into ignorance, prejudice, and fear, and create havoc, disharmony, hatred, and destruction - a volcano of mind.
Our imagination runs through thought to explain our circumstance of being, the existential anguish latent in all. Although we try escape, in day-to-day objectivity, in transient tensions and pleasures, the question remains latent. Philosophers and seekers, make it a task to openly ponder about the anguish of being, but even most of us, notwithstanding our enthrallment with every day, beyond our smiles and frowns, satisfactions, and frustrations, have moments in life in which we confront the issue; what is life all about?
Momentarily, all of us, in our different contexts of mind and setting, realize that a real explanation, a certainty of understanding is lacking. It happens when suddenly life takes a turn, and we find ourselves self-aware of our transitoriness, surrounded by an endless universe, by an infinite number of things, creatures, and others like us. We find ourselves self-aware in a multitude of immensity. And existence becomes humbling, awesome, and unexplainable.
Resolution in the certainty of that moment of existential crisis, does not come from standard faith-based explanations, ranging from the more rudimentary set of dogmas and canned offerings of religions to the more flexible, open and sophisticated narrations of spirituality, nor does it result from materialistic explanations, ranging from the nihilistic acceptance of our individual presence and fate, as a passing cloud of dust, to more sophisticated scientific explanations of cosmology and quantum physics, and our emergence in randomness of energy.
Yet sometimes, mysteriously, unwittingly, in moments well beyond thoughts and concepts, we experience instants of bewilderment, and there is a silent comprehension, to which we later assign descriptors -words, concepts, or associated feelings. In these instants, a comprehensive consciousness, that lies beyond any explanation or description, reveals in transcendental timelessness, a unified field of existence.
It seems that the evolution of consciousness attained its apex of self-awareness in the human species when consciousness became aware of itself through mind and attained full individuation. But rather than arriving at the timeless silent comprehension - at the bewilderment of being - mind became distracted by imprints of the evolutionary processes that led to its development.
As Meher Baba said:
Mind divides a reality which is essentially indivisible. It clings to a form which is essentially perishable. It glorifies itself in actions which are essentially binding and in achievements which are essentially insignificant. It enjoys and suffers against a background of vacuity, thus depriving itself of any real happiness or understanding. The only way to live in the sanity of undeluded understanding is to become aware of this impressional determinism of the ego-mind and to become free of its vitiating constraint.
The substance that makes the universe, metamorphosed in intergalactic sidereal masses birthing elements, cooling down into molecules and planets and life. This life further evolved, through myriads of forms until self-awareness emerged, and with it, culture, the history collective, and individual self-reflection, questions, attempted explanations, faith, doubts - mind.
But something deeper than mind also emerged with self-awareness, something that mind only touches, -a consciousness, which is not dependent on thought, that becomes aware of an instant of comprehension, of wholeness. As Rumi said:
…a bewilderment that sweeps thoughts away; a bewilderment that devours all thought and recollection.
And although many words are offered to describe it, in our many languages, that instant of bewilderment can only be appreciated in silence, a silent moment of embracing and dissolving into the surround, into the “other”. What is called love? Its existence within, cannot be evaded, because it is the object of direct intuition and the substance of all knowledge.
It seems that the universe was set in motion, to conspire to give birth to this consciousness of wholeness, to this love. A pulsation of existence´s own nature, that manifests, inevitably, timelessly. A conspiration of existence to love, a losing of itself to find itself, releasing a wave of the yearning of longing to embrace the whole. The mother of all conspiracies.
As the Mexican poet Jaime Sabines wrote once:
Yo no lo sé de cierto, lo supongo…