It is painfully clear that we are on the brink of catastrophe: politically, economically, culturally, socially, morally, intellectually. Health, prosperity, stability, safety, human freedom and liberty, even basic sanity, are all on the chopping block. The proverbial Four Horsemen of pestilence, war, famine, and sudden death stalk the globe. To meet such an extreme challenge, an analysis, diagnosis, and understanding of causation is the first necessary step out of the dangerous defile, this treacherous passage.
The first and obvious fact is that human beings are responsible for at least 90 per cent of the situation. It is the result of human history, culture, human creations, actions, feelings, thoughts, concepts, and conflicts—especially wrong thought, wrong concepts, wrong actions. Thus, specifically, it is the human mind that has led us to this impasse. As Oliver Hardy used to constantly say to the hapless Stan Laurel: “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”
The second thing that is painfully clear is the failure of remedies. The institutions, laws, rules and structures of society have failed. Philosophy, religion, and especially modern psychology has failed and failed badly. This has all happened on their watch. Unfortunately, the great game then becomes pointing the finger at which institution, world-view, religion, culture, group of people, beliefs, or race is at fault, generating ever more bitter conflict. If we limit our discussion to just North America and Europe, we can more clearly state that, yes, the widespread notions and institutions of psychology and religion (including the current religion of Science) have failed, since their ideas permeate the whole of society down to even the least educated or sophisticated.
Indeed, since there is nothing more dangerous than a wrong idea, we could say that the effect of modern psychological, intellectual and scientific thinking has done far more harm than good. It is this body of concepts and cognitive bias, embedded in the ivory towers of higher education, that has entrained those who now control and govern the cogwheels of civilization. So what are the alternatives to the madness that pervades the minds and actions of a great swath of humanity?
A different way out
Having spent almost half a century in the twin pursuits of the art of homeopathy and the practice of Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana, there are some striking parallels that deserve mentioning. Take, for example, the case of a young child with serious behavioral problems, with some kind of neurological component. This poor young one might be plagued by OCD, hyperactivity, tics, an anger disorder, severe anxiety, or even childhood depression. Counseling at this age is a very imperfect strategy, and medication is a band-aid at best, with side effects adding to the misery. Yet a simple homeopathic remedy created from a single plant or mineral—made of nothing more than an energy signature and pattern of information—can have dramatic curative effects. While this is known to tens millions of doctors and patients worldwide (including France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US), it has been particularly well documented in the a number of popular books. (Ullman 1996, 2014)
Vajrayana methodologies of visualization and mantra recitation also work with patterns of energy-information. (Hershoff 2018) Particularly, working directly or indirectly with the formative forces of life—the Five Elements—can effect changes on a material, biological, and mental level. Over the centuries, as it is today, devout Buddhists in Bhutan, Nepal, and elsewhere will rely on a lama and their ritual skills, in both physical or psychological illness, before seeking modern or even traditional medical care. Note that this fact is in not a call to miss out on any technological, medical, psychotherapeutic or any other method that might help without harming. However, not taking into account underlying Elemental imbalances is a significant omission and could be a novel approach in a world where there is a massive failure of remedies and a great increase in threats to life and limb. Let us then examine what we are dealing with when the five information-energy patterns that underlie our material world are in disarray.
The dark side of Earth
Earth is the source of stability, structure, hierarchy, order, and form itself. Mentally it is about benevolent rulership, personal dominion, and everything being where it naturally belongs. Substance over style. The dark side of Earth shows up as the crushing weight of excess authority, oppression, restriction, confinement. The effect of this lust for power over others means destroying their stability and security, generating fear and a sense of powerlessness. The old order is shattered (that happens in cycles anyway) but the New Order is neither just nor equitable, but a world of control, suppression—a land of haves and have-nots.
The dark side of Water
The Water element is flow, the nourishment and generosity of the natural world, from life-giving raindrops to the self-sacrificing kindness of motherly love. Psychologically, there is mutual respect, connection, and a unifying sense of appreciation and care—not sameness or conformity, but both compassion and acceptance. The dark side of Water is the antithesis—narcissism and self-love, manipulation of others, envy and jealousy. It is the swamp of criminality large and small, loss of moral compass, of real human values. Coldness and cruelty follow in its wake and only inflated self-love remains.
The dark side of Fire
Fire is the drive and purpose of life, from the amoeba to the tall oak. It carries the spark of warmth and vital energy that animates the teeming lifeforms that inhabit our world. Mentally it is strength, drive, focus, overcoming all obstacles and a view to establish justice, truth, and protection of what is noble, worthy, and in need. The dark side of Fire is the classic bully, the tyrant, the ruthless ambition of the sociopath or psychopath. The belief in “my way at all costs” results in conquests that leave a flaming trail of destruction in its wake.
The dark side of Air
Air is the principle of motility throughout the universes. All that moves, breathes, acts, vibrates, does so under the influence of this pattern of meaning, force, information, and energy. Mentally it is expression, manifestation, communication and creativity, invention and resourcefulness. The dark side of Air is, above all, deception, lying, and creation in service of egotism. It is the dark magic of millions of toxic chemicals and fatal drugs. And it provides the motive force of the megalithic advertising industry and its spillover into the political mind control that is at the heart of global power brokers. When you see the endless output of useless and superfluous plastic products, and then look at an entire continent of plastic waste in the middle of the oceans, you are seeing Air gone bad.
The dark side of Space
At the center of the mandala of the elements, Space is the harmonizer, the source of the vis medicatrix naturae—biological wisdom or the healing power of nature. In the same way, it is the psychological interface that can harmonize the opposites and conflicts inherent in one’s own nature and in relationship with others. Here even the infamous “battle of the sexes,” of the yin and yang, the anima and animus, can find reconciliation. But the dark side of Space is the charlatan, the pretender, those who lead others astray through seeking status, power, and moral high ground, either intentionally or subconsciously. Today, false prophets abound in everything from entertainment to finance, self-help, politics, spirituality, and all manner of assumed expertise in a never-ending stream. This epidemic of the false creates massive confusion for those seeking to grasp the threads of truth, the needle of reality in the haystack of misdirection.
Conquering the riders
All the above does not happen without cause, nor does it come about instantly. There are specific sets of influences, long stories, extended sad narratives, dislocation, arrested development, and downfalls. The place we find ourselves might seem overwhelming and even hopeless, in spite of any number of intelligent, clear-seeing, and even eloquent individuals shining forth amid the chaos and totalitarian upswell. However, the power and promise of working directly with the energetic matrix of these Gordian knots means we do not have to rely solely on the same old futile efforts toward change. Each element can be worked with directly to lift it up from the dark side, to purify, re-infuse, reinvigorate, refresh, rebalance. Whether this is done by many individuals or through group practice, and whether performed with simple meditations or in complex ritual, the impact can accrue.
With a track record of several millennia, there is the possibility of changing the entire matrix of Elemental distortion that now envelopes individuals and whole nations, impacting the physical environment and even the trajectory of political events. All this depends on enough people understanding the potential of this approach and doing the elemental work that can make a real difference. It would be like creating a beautiful garden or park that all may enjoy, even those who do not participate in its creation—and also those who are very much part of the problem itself. And the least of it is cleaning our corner of the universe, ourselves, those who touch our lives, the places we inhabit or pass through. While the encroaching dark side seems like a relentless epidemic, the luminous benevolence of the pure Five Elements is also contagious. Bottom line, though, it is essentially a personal and individual struggle; in this highly connected world we will all succeed together or fail together in overcoming these Five Horseman, and in the process transform them into the Five Wisdoms.
Hershoff, A. 2018. “Vajrayāna & Healing: The Interface of Imaging and Mantra with Mindbody Medicine” in Vajrayana in the Buddhism in the Modern World. Thimpu, Bhutan: Center for Buddhist Studies. (available on academia.edu).
Ullman, R. and J. Reichenberg-Ullman. 1996. Ritalin-Free Kids: Safe and Effective Homeopathic Medicine for ADD and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems Paperback. New York: Three Rivers Press.
———. 2014. Rage Free Kids: Homeopathic Medicine for Defiant, Aggressive and Violent Children. Edmonds, WA: Picnic Point Press.