On Karma, Confirmation Bias and Soul Psychology

I   

     

Departing from God’s ways and disobeying His commandments carries negative consequences, while walking earnestly after the spirit and obeying divine law results in positive consequences. This ranks right among the most basic and fundamental spiritual principles of all, and it is therefore not surprising that children of God are very strongly predisposed to view things in such a light. Even when they may outwardly reject the doctrine of karma as they conceive of that doctrine, most people will nevertheless retain some kind of belief along the lines that “what comes around goes around,” or that right or wrong actions can have indirect consequences which are contingent on their rightness or wrongness.

Children of God are in effect hard-wired on the inner to look at things to at least a certain extent in this sort of light, regardless of their religious beliefs, their upbringing, or their life experiences. And so, the majority of people are powerfully inclined to believe that doing the right thing or the wrong thing can matter beyond the direct outer consequences of a given action, and that its mattering in such a sense is liable to make itself felt in various ways down the road. And even if they may believe that the personal recompense for right or wrong choices will primarily be brought to bear in the afterlife, they will nevertheless also be inclined to believe that broad societal shifts in the wrong direction will make themselves felt in a deterioration of outer conditions or in an amplification of outer crises.

The truth is that people are predisposed to expect inner, spiritual or moral progress to result in outer amelioration, and to expect inner, spiritual or moral backsliding to result in outer deterioration or decline. And it is important to realize that the prevalence of such expectation exceeds the number of people who profess to believe in karma, in an actively adjudicating deity, or even in religion at all. When individuals do go significantly astray or cease to believe in God, however, the way in which they relate to such expectation can change significantly.

In particular, they are then likely to become much more vulnerable to confirmation bias, at the same time as becoming significantly less adept at discerning the full range of the root causes behind various developments taking place in the world. This can then play powerfully into an ethos of societal progress, which strengthens a tendency towards conformity while decreasing people’s inclination to individually assess things as thoroughly as they are capable of doing. People inadvertently tend to become more worldly when they believe the situation in their country to be generally satisfactory and on a reasonable track, and this can become powerfully self-reinforcing.

II

Now, we have obviously been passing through a period of very major material, scientific and technological advancement in the last few centuries, which has for the most part not only been steadily progressing but even accelerating. This has done much to lead to longer life expectancies and higher standards of living throughout much of the world. We have furthermore had relatively few wars and relatively low levels of political corruption in many of the more developed countries of the world since the middle of the twentieth century. And many of those same countries have had fairly stable economies, along with a fairly large middle class and relatively little in the way of extreme poverty.

In the majority of countries, it would generally be fair to say that people have on the whole been getting healthier, more educated and better off by material standards in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. And so, we have been going through a period where—for all of the challenges, setbacks and major regional disparities which yet persisted—the planet as a whole, as well as the majority of more developed countries in particular, have been on a generally upwards trajectory as far as most outer metrics were concerned.

This has had the effect of playing powerfully into a narrative that everything is generally alright in society, and that we are more or less on the right track in our approach to things. And this sort of attitude has spread rapidly from the outer to the inner, in the sense that many people have been beguiled by how things have been progressing on the outer to think that they must also have been trending in the right direction on the inner. They saw rising prosperity, increased life expectancies, higher standards of living, and the like, and they concluded that the world and the majority of its inhabitants must have been doing alright morally and spiritually.

Now, the extent to which this sort of correlation has been drawn by large numbers of people can only really be accounted for by the fact that they have continued to evaluate things in ways that attest to their spiritual nature and origins, even when they may have become quite negligent about spiritual concerns or even gone so far as to deny religion outright. They seized on positive outer metrics as confirmation of a satisfactory state of affairs on the inner (however consciously or subconsciously this may have played itself out), in a manner and to an extent that revealed their spiritually-conditioned preconceptions. In short, they picked up a confirmation bias in consequence of at once assessing things as only spiritual beings could and largely failing to assess them as spiritual beings should.

To be convinced that things are generally alright when that is in fact far from the case is always a dangerous and detrimental condition to be in, whether we are talking about things on the inner or things on the outer. But it can be very difficult to adequately guard against this or to avoid it altogether. The combined effect of the psychological implications of going astray with those of retaining an innate spiritual constitution can make individuals very prone to picking up a confirmation bias that has the effect of reinforcing their worldliness at the same time as bringing them to see the world in a significantly rosier light than it deserves to be seen. This is important to understand.

III

The truth is that the nation and much of the world has been in a period of moral and spiritual decline for quiet some time now. And this inner decline is increasingly (although somewhat belatedly) carrying over into the outer, first of all in the form of social and political decline, and subsequently into that of economic, institutional and material decline. All of this has been reaching levels of late where the state of societal deterioration is getting quite difficult to overlook or deny.

And yet, no small number of people have nevertheless been continuing to overlook or deny it. This is in large part due to the fact that they have become so habituated to finding reassuring confirmation of inner progress in indications of outer progress, that they have become worrisomely blind to even very obvious signs that things may not be trending in anywhere near as good a direction as they imagine them to be.

People naturally enough want to continue to believe that the society whose norms they have by and large personally embraced is more or less on the right track, even as people who have broadly rejected the ways of the spirit are naturally enough eager to retain a sense that moral probity can be theirs without a serious and challenging change of course. And thus, we find moral pretense to be giving way to a unique sort of confirmation bias on quite a large scale. And it is doing so within the context of an expectation that outer conditions cannot but reflect inner conditions, which expectation attests to a spiritual nature that makes such moral pretense all the more inexcusable.

And so, people can end up entrenching in their worldly ways right while the detrimental effects of those ways are becoming increasingly apparent even when assessed on the basis of purely outer metrics. Their (largely subconscious) predisposition to connect the outer to the inner turns them away from reassessing the outer even on its own terms, because their going astray has resulted in a deep-seated disinclination to engage in inner reassessment. This is an interesting dynamic to observe, while it hearkens to the fact that an immoral or godless generation is invariably going to be a silly, ridiculous, myopic, illusioned or naïve one.

IV

Much of the world as a whole, as well as much of western civilization in particular, is showing many tell-tale signs of serious moral, spiritual, social, economic, political and institutional decline. And yet, we have been remarkably successful in passing that decline off either as considerably less endemic and serious than it is, or else even as the signs or side effects of budding progress and renewal. You therefore find no small number of people who are seeing things like mob rule, violent riots for largely spurious causes, a growing welfare state mentality, or the sort of pettiness, authoritarianism, overreach and corruption that has become so characteristic of much of government of late as relatively minor blips, or even as signs of a moral or social upswing.

Now, you can only really account for this by factoring in some of the implications of being born of the spirit, along with how children of God are liable to respond to those implications in a context where the psychological dynamics of going astray are deeply entangled with how they relate to the world. If the majority of the world’s population were not so spiritual at their core as is in fact the case, they could not be either immoral or worldly in anything resembling the way in which they in fact are. Nor could our country or planet then be in anything resembling the rather peculiar condition they are in.

To be simultaneously spiritual and worldly is bound to result in irrational views and behavior. One of the major ways in which this plays itself out has to do with how an innate predisposition to connect the inner and the outer is liable to become distorted when an individual starts to consider himself as having a vested interest in finding outer confirmation that things are alright on the inner. The implications of his substantially latent spirituality can then do much to entrench him in his worldliness, which is a phenomenon that we currently see playing itself out rather clearly on a large scale.

The truth is that children of God can only really be worldly at the expense of being spiritual, and yet as long as they remain at all spiritually constituted on the inner that cannot but powerfully qualify how they relate to the world. And insofar as their going astray has made them disinclined to engage in the sort of inner reassessment which such qualification naturally pulls them towards, their choice for worldliness over spirituality can result in their acquiring a very skewed perspective on what happens on the outer even on explicitly outer terms. And so, the warfare between competing laws in our members to which Paul refers in his letter to the Romans can assume fairly bizarre forms. This also makes for a situation that can readily be exploited by unscrupulous individuals, which should be rather obvious as well from much that has been going on.

V

When individuals who have responded in the sort of way I have described reach a point where they are forced to confront an increasingly undeniable state of decline in their country or the world, they are likely to end up doing so in a way that attests powerfully to being forced at the same time to grapple with elements of their spiritual psychology. And so, their responses to a variety of outer crises, injustices and deleterious situations can become as much an outlet for dealing with amplified inner stresses as an outlet for social concern. And insofar as they remain disinclined or ill-prepared to deal with inner stresses that are substantially spiritual in nature in the manner in which these demand to be dealt with, this can result in their outer efforts and endeavors taking on a peculiar character.

In particular, it can result in fakeness, pretence, hypocrisy and an uncritical frame of mind more powerfully qualifying their attitudes to responsible citizenship, upright living, social activism and ethical exertion than would otherwise be the case. In effect, people’s worldliness comes to qualify their laudable intentions more powerfully and detrimentally, when they are forced to reassess a perspective on the world that is skewed for reasons that have to do with their own spiritual preconceptions while failing or refusing to engage in a process of inner reorientation. And then they can end up particularly vulnerable to uncritically conforming to certain kinds of narratives, social movements and shifting norms, as part of a process of deflecting a felt need for such inner reorientation.

This goes a fair way to explaining why social, economic and political issues have come to be so closely tied up of late with issues of identity, atonement, victimization, and the like. It furthermore goes a fair way to explaining why a newfound emphasis on addressing societal ills and shortcoming is playing so powerfully into socialism, Marxism, exalting the state as God, and tendencies of a similar nature. And it finally goes a fair way to explaining why a general unhingedness has come to characterize so much of what is going on in the political, social and cultural sphere. All of these things attest to innately spiritual beings finding themselves forced to reassess how they relate to themselves and to the world, while either ill-prepared or disinclined to do so in a way that lives up to their spiritual nature.

Perhaps more than ever before, people are very liable these days to all too readily embrace and conform to narratives relating to victimization, collective atonement, identity politics, exalting the state as God, and the like. And in the process, we are witnessing a shocking level of groupthink, subjectivity, uncritical reasoning, and general unhingedness. It is first of all important to recognize that the roots of all of this are largely spiritual in nature. It is secondly important to recognize that it all has a fair bit to do with deflecting a felt need for inner reassessment. And it is finally important to recognize that it all connects quite closely to preconceptions regarding karma and societal progress, as well as to how confirmation bias can enter into the picture. Understanding this can help you to make significantly greater sense of much of the craziness abroad in the land of late.