Why focus on Changing Images of Man (CIM)?

Bibliographic references for Changing Images of Man:
Markley, O. W., & Harman, W. W. (Eds.). (1982). Changing images of man. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Campbell, J., Elgin, D., Harman, W., Hastings, A., Markley, O.W., O’Regan, B., & Schneider, L. (1974).  Societal consequences of changing images of man (Report No. 4). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, Center for Study of Social Policy.

(full text of CIM available here)

I first came across CIM while looking at material related to deep politics (which is to say conspiracy theories). This work was described by several books and websites as part of a vast mind control conspiracy. I read it carefully, and drew very different conclusions. Namely, that it was ahead of its time, its advise went largely unheeded by societal decision makers, and many of the concepts it employed were potentially useful for making sense of our present-day anthropogenic quagmire.        

Eventually, I started to wonder why Changing Images of Man had become a target for the criticism of fringe authors. Books such as Ken Bowers' Hiding in Plain Sight and Jim Keith's Mind Control World Control - for example - treat CIM as an important part of a vast and secret plot to produce many of the very societal problems that CIM's authors explicitly attempted to avert. This curiosity led me to dig into the possible origins of the insistence of Keith and others that CIM was part of some sinister plot for global domination.

What I found has to do with the backlash from socially ultraconservative fascists against Marilyn Ferguson's bestselling 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy. Ferguson's book drew heavily on ideas from CIM and helped to cohere the new age movement. The fact that The Aquarian Conspiracy was published prior to CIM's commercial release was interpreted by 'Citizens for LaRouche' - a fascist organization with a massive propaganda machine - as evidence of it being an instrument of Stanford Research Institute's role in an elite conspiracy to steal Americans' souls. 

Here are some quotes from "How America was Subverted: Stamp out the Aquarian Conspiracy", Citizens for LaRouche, June 1980:


"Every unwashed environmentalist has come out of a social engineering laboratory; every drug addict is the product of some government-sponsored or foundation - sponsored brainwashing project; every yoga - freak, every transcendental meditationist, every biorhythm kook is merely the human refuse that has been excreted from some government-sponsored, foundation - funded project somewhere. There are no exceptions to this."

"The body snatchers of the aquarian conspiracy are after you. And among them are the president of the United States and the National Security Advisor."

Rhetoric like this gained remarkable traction amongst multitudes of fearful bigots looking for scapegoats on whom to blame their eroding socioeconomic power in the U.S. subsequent to the 1960's. The LaRouche propaganda machine capitalized on their fears to spread reactionary social commentary and malignant political theories far and wide throughout the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's. These theories legitimized bigotry, demonized diversity, and fundamentally misconstrued the growing threats posed by the power elite to the working class and American civil liberties. 

Some of these theories' incorrect and prejudicial assertions seem to have become lodged in the underlying assumptions of conspiracy-minded researchers. The persistent and fascinatingly wrong characterization of CIM as a soul-stealing tool of evil elites would seem to fall into this category. To my way of thinking, this sort of diffuse misinformation represents a barrier to honest communication about how to more effectively address systemic societal issues.

The actual content of Changing Images of Man, along with the particular way its portrayal has been distorted by fascist misinformation, highlights one or more major fault-lines in our collective unconscious, which makes this work an excellent point of reference for considering the changing relationship between people and systems. 

Also, CIM regarded the investigation of consciousness and psychic phenomena as a plausibly important part of our future societal development. I believe that there is something to this - having noticed that fundamental misunderstandings related to consciousness and the nature of 'psychic' and 'paranormal' phenomena underlie many of our society's wicked problems - and suspect that it will be far easier to make sense of the massive shifts into which our society has proceeded if we can figure out how to correct such misunderstandings.

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