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Greg Jemsek
Ashland Oregon
Greg Jemsek is the author of "Quiet Horizon", a book that examines in detail how cultic thinking is destroying American society. Greg works as an author, leadership consultant, narrative therapist, and educator in both Australia and the United States.
Interests: "Quiet Horizon" is written for people who want to pursue self-knowledge, but who don’t want to do so ideologically - a task much harder than it may appear to be. Dogma, cultic thinking, ideology and fundamentalism all lay close at hand whenever anyone seriously attempts to live with greater awareness. "Quiet Horizon" demonstrates how this is so by detailing - and deconstructing - events that exploded into the author's life as a result of a totally unexpected mystical experience as a 10 year old. That experience immediately - and permanently - replaced the ordinary concerns of relationship, career, and family with the singular task of achieving spiritual awakening. This book details how that "single pointedness" led him not just to join an international spiritual organization as a 20 year old, but to assume a central role at the organization’s world headquarters two years later. That mercurial journey came to a climax when he was selected to participate in the organization’s guerrilla warfare training, an intensity-laden boot camp designed to prepare the next generation of “spiritual warriors”. If this scenario sounds familiar to contemporary readers, it should: it is a path being taken today by thousands of ideologues around the world. Recruitment into extremist organizations has shown itself to be as resilient and enduring as it was was at the time of Greg's experience 37 years ago. It appears whenever and wherever society’s problems overwhelm its capacity to address them constructively. Cultic thinking is at the core of these movements, and "Quiet Horizon" describes how easy it is for genuine spiritual aspiration to contort itself into ideological compliance, usually without a person knowing it has even done so. At its core, this book details four factors that pave the way for ideologies to secure a stranglehold on anyone's consciousness: 1) Society’s normalization of narcissistic behavior, 2) The damaged capacity of people to forge genuinely intimate relationships rather than just “networks”, 3) The adoption of limited but pervasive societal “meta-narratives” - stories people believe in without thinking, and which portray only a small slice of human nature, and 4) Society’s increasing conflation of emotion-based intensity with genuine transformation. Ideological strangleholds resulting from these 4 trends can only be released when a person addresses the age old question, “Who am I?” not through adhering to someone else's ideas but through direct, honest, and courageous engagement with the surrounding world.
Recent Activity
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I was reminded today of a quote from Dante: "...the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality." Do you think we're in one of those times? I do. Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2017 at Quiet Horizon
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It doesn’t need to be that way. Historian Yuval Harari, in his book Sapiens, points out how human beings are the world’s most cooperative species when we want to be: Can you imagine, for example, chimpanzees organizing a football match in a stadium seating 60,000 members of their species? Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2017 at Quiet Horizon
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If our life is too bent on seeking approval from others, if our response to shame is to regress into a whirlpool of self-loathing rather than to experience genuine regret about a wrong we may have done and then calmly correct it, and if we find ourselves nursing hatred as our primary means of resisting power, we will have normalized narcissism inside ourselves just as thoroughly as the bloviators stomping on evidence, truth, and honor. Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2017 at Quiet Horizon
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The primary intent of any ideology throughout history is to 'control the narrative'. As we all have now become aware of, fake news is the newest - and in terms of its reach and lack of regulation, the most historically powerful - method yet invented for this purpose Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at Quiet Horizon
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This is why being ‘appalled’ at the Trumps of the world, or calling them ‘crazy’, has no psychological power. When the rapture of belief rules the day, these critiques fall on deaf ears. In fact, they fuel the fires of righteous rage in response, and put access to reason even further out of reach. True believers love the fuel rage provides them because it gives them a temporary feeling of animalistic aliveness that feels incredibly good..temporarily. Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at Quiet Horizon
If you've been a regular reader of this blog you will already know this, but we're in a moment here in the US where the choice to turn away from a potential authoritarian government is in front of all of us. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at Quiet Horizon
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But this much is clear: if the development of character is less valued than it’s been in the past, that’s not because people of strong character can’t still have a profound impact on society. They can. They do. The pictures accompanying this post are testimony to that. Our task is to remember this, and to find ways to value it more in how we live our daily lives and how we interact with the communities we come in contact with - particularly the ones who have ideas different from our own. Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2016 at Quiet Horizon
Lately, a new ethical frontier - the destruction of our planet via climate change - has succeeded in notching some significant victories. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Quiet Horizon
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What, you may ask, is wrong with frontier concepts such as pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps to create success out of thin air? Or with the inclusive fairness encouraged by democracy? On the surface - nothing. Ideologies always have content that sensibly explains the surrounding world is ways that ring true. The problem arises when ideologies view themselves as absolute truths. Taking refuge in absolute truths is something a person does when the world becomes too complicated. Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2016 at Quiet Horizon
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And what are we to make of all this? How can we fight back when good and evil are nefariously blended together? When our sources of information so brazenly corrupt? When life seems increasingly devoid of meaning and inspiration and engagement begins to seem less credible than burying ourselves in some form of a cynical, passive cave? Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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The emotionalized language of hyperbole is certainly a form of both promotion and exaggeration. But it is anything but innocent. Its' goal is to trigger immediate, impulsive action to defend your belief system. Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
You’ll see at the end of this talk, when he’s being interviewed, that one option for our future is the dystopian nightmare of dividing the world into the privileged rich and the useless rest of us. Not a pretty thought, but possible given our capacity to share any belief we wish to share, and to treat it as reality. Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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It is well documented that the expression of forgiveness can help people in their own healing process. But it’s fair to assume that the forgiveness shown to Roof by surviving family members is more than just psychological. Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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People all around the world are fighting against oppression, large and small. More and more, people are learning that pointing their fingers at their oppressors is not the way to win - lowering their finger and putting themselves forward is. This is what Gandhi did when he marched to the sea to protest the injustice of the British Empire’s salt tax. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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These bureaucrats had devastating impact when positioned high up in Nazi echelons which, for a time, ruled the roost in Europe and caused incredible damage to the social fabric. They continue to have a devastating influence today in the incremental, soul-destroying way many corporations operate. Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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The gist of this idea is that totalitarian regimes, be they political or religious, ultimately decide who can exist and who can’t. This is not just hubris on the part of such organizations; it’s part and parcel of any group claiming to have secured a “true path” to however that group defines salvation. Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2015 at Quiet Horizon
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In contemporary times we falsely assume much of the danger of being “ideologically snared” has been removed because we live in an era of such information abundance. But exposure to massive quantities of information is not the same thing as thinking deeply about things, employing our critical thinking skills, or engaging in dialogue with people who hold different perspectives to us Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
Those of you who follow this post know I'm in the middle of a Lifton series about thought-reform. As part of that sequence, today I offer you a link to a post by a colleague who is very tuned into this situation. Enjoy! Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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What must a culture do to put loaded language to the side and find the way to genuine individual expression, alternative ideas, and balanced political judgments? Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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Elevating an idea to the status of the sacred and then benefitting from the power of belief that follows has always been with us. Consider a central idea all religions have utilized.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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“There is a demand to confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed.” Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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...even though our vulnerability means we sometimes fail to act when we know we should, even though it can lead us to committing or supporting acts of violence rather than acknowledging our own shortcomings, even though it can lead us to falsely conclude we can someday be pure and perfect, vulnerability is essetial to living a truly human life. Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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If you think this process is only relevant to people who are in an ideological group, think again. Part of the evolution of mystical manipulation is the way entertainment, marketing, and advertising stimulate our desires, push our emotional buttons, and create false needs for things we’ve done without just fine before. Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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Lest we prematurely berate a sigh of relief about the decline in the more insidious dimensions of milieu control, however, it’s important to remember this: the capacity of commercial, political, and religious organizations to influence and persuade remains robust. The daily bombardment we are all subjected to - finely-tuned, repetitive, and aggressive - continues to stimulate appetites which can never be totally quenched, and steers us more effectively than ever to “make choices” the organizations behind them want us to make. Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2014 at Quiet Horizon
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.... the world is not so simple that opposition to authority can be applied as a universal principle. In fact, I’d say my respect for certain skillful applications of obedience reflects in part my aversion to absolutism: that’s a far more malignant cancer at the core of fundamentalist thought Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2014 at Quiet Horizon