Most of us, when we think of a revelation, we think first of a religious transmission from God to humans.  A message that we find in a scripture.  After that we think of what could be described as a surprising secular insight.  A Eureka moment when one goes from ignorance to understanding.  Something just pops into one’s head, and one is no longer living in the darkness about a particular matter.

Now, as usual, I am going to postulate that the concept under discussion, namely a revelation, manifests itself differently in traditional natural societies from the way it manifests itself in modern technological societies.  In traditional natural societies, we find far more of what I would call revelations of passion. One is surrounded by all the flowing blendable continual organic stimuli of one’s environment and all these stimuli elicit intense emotional responses.  One way to channel these emotions so that a person experiencing them doesn’t explode apart is by channeling them cognitively into an explosive revelation or series of revelations.  And this is where the revelatory response takes on a religious form and a religious flavor.  A religious revelation is almost always a passionate one.  A religious revelation becomes a religious belief that focuses a person’s emotional expression into a cognitive belief and thus prevents the person from exploding apart.

Now in modern technological society, it’s a whole different story.  Here a revelation becomes a vehicle not to channel explosive emotions, but rather to stimulate them into existence out of a backdrop of a numbing experiential vacuum.  And here the revelation frequently is derived out of a numbing series of data, such that the revelation has the capacity to give the person a shock out of numbness into a temporary friction-filled moment of life.  So, a modern revelation can be temporarily transforming, pulling a person out of an experiential vacuum into a momentary awakening.  The modern revelation can come from a number of different directions. It can come from a particular political party or political candidate that has come up with a novel answer to one or more than one political, social or economic problem.  The citizen likes the answer so much that he becomes a true believer.  And it can lead the citizen to demonstrate his faith in his new political stances in a number of ways.  He can campaign for the candidate or party.  He can go to demonstrations.  He can donate money.

The modern revelation can also come through the invention of a new product.  An inventor sees the light and comes up with a product that either solves a new problem or finds a much better way of solving a problem that has been around for a while.  The inventor creates the product and then either proceeds to market the product himself or else finds someone or some company that specializes in marketing to help him to market it.  And over and above solving the actual problem at hand, the invention becomes a vehicle for at least temporarily pulling himself out of a sense of feeling stuck, a numbness that prevents him from living his life with the vibrancy that he would like.

And then there is the personal insight.  So many people today are in psychotherapy or program groups to deal with personal problems, and sometimes people have Eureka moments, transformative moments where they suddenly understand the nature of a psychological problem they have or else they discover a way of dealing with a particular problem.  Of all the categories of modern revelations, personal insights are probably the category that deals the most directly with the problem of numbness and the experiential vacuum.  In Freudian psychoanalysis, the classic notion of a cure came from a revelation or a series of revelations that helped the patient uncover a repressed memory that kept the patient stuck in the past and prevented him from moving forward with his life in the present and into the future.  Since Freud, psychodynamic therapy has moved in many different directions emphasizing different kinds of problems as the focus of revelatory insight.  But what these different schools of psychodynamic thought have in common is the tool of using insights to shock a person out of a paralyzing numbness.  And whatever the category of problem that the therapy focuses on, the cause of the problem almost always has a technological component.  The ostensive problem may be sex, but the frictionlessness and mediation of modern technology are instrumental in creating the development of desperate forms of sexual performance to feel alive or else an inability to perform at all.

In the classic Freudian analysis, one revelation was enough to unlock a problem and magically help a person to get back to a vibrant life.  Maybe the analyst had to go over the insight with the patient over several sessions to help him to absorb it, but it was that one Eureka moment that was transformative.  Of course, as modern technology takes over more and more sectors of society, and people develop problems like character disorders which are less susceptible to help from psychotherapy, revelatory insights seem to be less able to pull a person out of his problems.  And that is the moment when it is time for us to worry.

© 2022 Laurence Mesirow             


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Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.

Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.

En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.

Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.