On August 26, 2018, Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk to those assembled at the Community Miracles Center Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Welcome back, everybody! And again for those on ACIM Gather, thank you so much for joining us! Thank you everyone who is on the LiveStream and remember to click on the program icon there. You can get a web version of the program for the Sunday Gathering and follow along with us. Also, thank you everybody who might be watching the YouTube video, lovingly prepared for us by our own Reverend Kelly. As part of our mission, we are doing lots to get this message out to people in as many ways as we can.
The title of my talk today is "If All Your Friends Jumped Off a Cliff..." So if all your friends jumped off a cliff… I don't know if everyone is familiar with this little meme or saying. The story goes like this. A child would have done something the parent, usually the mother, did not want the child to do so the mother says, "Why did you play in that junkyard with all of those rusty cars?" And the child says, "Well Johnny Jones was in the junkyard." Then the mother would say, "And if Johnny Jones jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?"
That's probably a rhetorical question. The mother isn't really expecting an answer to that question because it's supposed to be, "Of course I wouldn't." We don't usually want to do things that would injure or maim us – or kill us – but I'm going to pose that is exactly what we are all doing. That's what the world is doing. We are jumping off the cliff all the time because everyone else is doing it, just because it seems like the thing to do – because all our friends are doing it.
As my body and my life seem to progress with larger numbers of years from what it states on my birth certificate, I have more and more associates and friends who seem to be jumping off that cliff of sickness and death. It is expected that we're all going to do that. I'm expected to do that too, because that is what everyone is doing. Yet we need to stop a minute and question this. Just because everybody is doing it, because Johnny Jones and Suzie Smith are jumping off that cliff, do we really want to do that? I don't think we really want to do that.
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Let's look at A Course in Miracles as that concerned parent asking us, "Why are you doing it just because your friends are doing it?" Think about it. It got me thinking about what is usually called mob psychology, or sometimes called crowd psychology. The more scientific term is crowd psychology.
Let's think about a crowd or a mob. Let's think of an example of how awful it can get. One of the really awful ones that we probably can all remember is the L.A. riots of 1992. Those were the Rodney King riots.
Just for a little refresher, in March, 1991, Rodney King, an African-American man, was on parole. He was inebriated, but he was driving and did something. He probably drove too fast, and the police saw him. In his mind he didn't want to get caught, because it would be a violation of his parole. With the thought of self-preservation, he went faster. There was a high-speed, kind of dangerous, chase through the streets of Los Angeles. Eventually his car stopped and the four officers got the other people out of the car. Then with Rodney King, there was a hustle and a tussle. The four officers beat him pretty brutally.
What they didn't realize was there was someone there videoing. Then that video got released to the media and many people, probably most of us, and a lot of people in the country saw an unbelievable display of violence against this African-American man. He was unarmed, and he was really beaten brutally. It was such a graphic demonstration, in most peoples' minds, of police brutality and excessive force.
The four policemen who beat Rodney King were put on trial. A year later, in April 1992, the policemen were all acquitted. They were all found innocent. That's when the riots broke out. The African-American community went berserk.
Now in case you don't remember too much about the riots, let me tell you. There was six days of rioting. The riot totally overwhelmed the L.A. Police Force and so the governor, who was Pete Wilson at the time, called in the National Guard. But that wasn't enough. The rioters totally overwhelmed the National Guard. Then Governor Wilson appealed to President George Bush. This was George Bush, Sr. and he brought in two divisions of the United States military. He brought in the Seventh Army Infantry and the First Marine Division.
So we've got two divisions of U.S. military, the Marines and the Army, the National Guard, and the L.A. Police Force trying to subdue the rioters for six days. It was awful. 63 people were killed. 2,383 people were injured. 12,000 people were arrested. They estimated the property damage was well over one billion dollars. Now the thing to realize about this, is that the African-Americans were really upset about the years of oppression. The property that they were destroying was their own property. It was their own neighborhood. It wasn't truly retaliation. They didn't go into an upper-scale, white neighborhood and destroy that. They were destroying their own city home, so the logic of how this was going to accomplish anything was a question in many peoples' minds.
However, things happen. This is what happens. This is what happens when the mob takes over. I am suggesting this is what is going on with the world. The crowd has taken over. The mob has taken over and we are doing incredibly destructive things to ourselves. We're just not thinking high enough. We're just not thinking the way we should think because we, or the people of this world, have been taken over by a mob psychology.
Now crowd psychology, mob psychology, is nothing new. It goes way back, and there was a quintessential book on it in 1895 called The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon. He identified three things that happen when crowd psychology, when mob psychology, takes over. There are a lot of theories about crowd psychology, and mob psychology, so I don't want to say this is the only theory on it. They all do have some things in common, since they are all studying the same phenomenon.
Gustave Le Bon said three things have to happen for mob mentality to kick in. He said the first thing that has to happen when a mob takes over is what he calls "submergence." All the people participating in the mob event submerge their identity. They lose their own sense of individual self. They are suddenly not themselves anymore, and they lose their sense of personal responsibility. They lose themselves. They lose their sense of personal responsibility and they submerge themselves into this total mob crowd thing.
Then there is the characteristic of "contagion," where one idea quickly moves from one to another. The crowd starts thinking in unison and then what happens is "suggestion." That is usually negative. Actually Gustave Le Bon, and many others who study mob and crowd psychology, say that when this happens it is always, or almost always, very negative. "Suggestion" exposes the hidden fears, the hidden subconscious ideas, and the things that everyone is trying too suppress all the time. Because of "contagion," it now gets spread, and since all the individuals have lost their sense of personal identity and personal responsibility, they act out. This whole mob now, because of "contagion," acts out those submerged, suppressed, subconscious fears. That's what they do.
Think about this. It's really interesting because the first thing that happens is they lose their sense of who they are, they lose their sense of self. Isn't that what A Course in Miracles tells us? We've lost our knowing of who we are. We have forgotten that we are the holy children of God. We've forgotten that we are eternal. We have forgotten, as today's lesson said, that there is nothing to fear. Instead we are acting as the crowd seems to want us to act because we're open to this contagion of the crowd think. This contagion says we are going to die. That is the deep submerged fear. That is the suggestion. We all start acting on it, because we've lost a sense of who we are. We absorb that group think.
Think about this. Every truly good spiritual program or religious program, they all have a way, or some sort of technique. Maybe it is a daily practice where we retreat from the group think, and we retreat from the mob think. We meditate; we pray. We do the A Course in Miracles 365 daily lessons. We do it here at the Community Miracles Center. We do it right here at the Sunday Gathering. Every spiritual program, every spiritual discipline, has some way for it's people, usually once a day, to shut off from the group think and to reconnect back into their true Self. It's so important for us to remember who we actually are and shut off the group mind for a little while.
The strength of that reconnection will give us the strength to have some responsibility. Remember A Course in Miracles says we have to remember that we are responsible for everything. That crowd mentality, that mob psychology, shuts that sense of responsibility off for the mob. Now it's somebody else's fault. I'm not myself, and I'm just going to pick up whatever other ideas are going around through contagion. Our deepest subconscious fears are going to get triggered, and we see that going on all the time. That's why we need our daily practice.
That's why I think doing the lessons of A Course in Miracles is so important, the daily lessons. Whatever you do, and however much time you spend with it, kick it up a notch! See if you can dial it up there just a little more. At least nudge your practice up a little bit more, because it is so important.
As I've been saying off and on, this has been the best year of lesson practice that I've ever had. Being on the Healing Team really helped me with that because it's a commitment. With being the coach of the Team, I have to at least demonstrate what I've asked the Team to do, so it has given me that little extra incentive to do it. It's great. It's that one time a day for 15-20 minutes, I'm shut off from that hive mentality, that group think, that mob mentality. I can have the reason that tells me to not jump off the cliff just because my friends are jumping off the cliff. Just because Johnny Jones and Suzie Smith are jumping off the cliff, that doesn't mean I have to jump off the cliff, because I'm back in touch with myself. I'm back in touch with responsibility.
Remember we are going to get feedback from the world. The world is full of feedback, but A Course in Miracles says this. "You can have guidance from without, but you must accept it from within." (OrEd.Tx.8.29) So the important ideas we get have to come from within, when we shut off the group think, when we shut off the mob psychology. Then as we embrace guidance from within, and accept it, we may see it reflected in the world. We can recognize it when we see it in the world. We can get guidance from without, but we have to be so sure that is the same guidance as we are getting from within.
You know the world has a thought system. A Course in Miracles says the world has a thought system. That's the deep subconscious lie that is being pictured, that is being acted out. That lie is that we are separate. We are limited, and we are going to age. We are going to diminish. We are going to get sick, and we are going to die. That is the world's thought system. It's not a particularly nice scenario.
Now some people won't play out that thought system. Some people will get killed by some act of violence, maybe by somebody else or maybe by their own hand. The best the world's thinking gives us is that maybe we will pass peacefully in our sleep some day without any attendant degenerative illness. That's the best. That's the best thing to hope for, but we all know, the world knows, that happens to a very extreme few. It's not particularly likely that any of us will be so "blessed" as to just pass peacefully in our sleep without an attendant illness.
That's awful. All those options are really awful. But I'm exposing the mob psychology that is the deep subconscious fear that we have caught because of the contagion. We have that contagion because we forgot who we are. We forgot our sense of who we truly are. The study of A Course in Miracles is going against that. The study of A Course in Miracles gives us the technology to fight the mob psychology.
"To create what?" (Yells an enthusiastic attendee.)
I'm getting there, dear. (laugher) A Course In Miracles tells us this is not the way the world thinks, but you must learn that it is the way you think. (See: OrEd.WkBk.17.1) So A Course in Miracles does identify this thinking of the world, but we must get that is not really our thinking when we have a sense of true Self. The Course says, "The world will end when its thought system has been completely reversed." (OrEd.Tx.14.4) This world will actually end when its thought system is completely reversed, and it's thought system will be completely reversed by us when we divest ourselves from that mob psychology.
There is a little expression in A Course in Miracles, there is a little meme, "the thinking of the world." I did a search today and that little meme, "the thinking of the world," appears eight times. When something starts appearing that often in A Course in Miracles I tend to take notice. That doesn't count how many times it mentions the ego or the ego thought system. So this idea that there is a thought system of the world we have to divest from is very prominent in A Course in Miracles.
A Course in Miracles says to us that the way we divest from it is by being quiet. The Course says, "Only be quiet. You will need no rule but this to let your practicing today lift you above the thinking of the world." (OrEd.WkBk.135.9) We have to have that daily practice. We have to be quiet so we can be lifted above the thinking of the world. When we get lifted above the thinking of the world, it tells us, "I am determined to see. I would look upon the witnesses that show me the thinking of the world has been changed. I would behold the proof that what has been done through me has enabled love to replace fear, laughter to replace weeping, and abundance to replace loss. I would look upon the real world." (OrEd.WkBk.54.6)
If we choose we can see a different world, as A Course in Miracles tells us, we can see a world that doesn't reflect the thinking of the world as it's called. It says at first we see this only in glimpses. We only see it in little glimpses. It isn't pervasive, but we need to identify those glimpses and witness them when they are definitely there. We need to see where love has replaced fear. We need to see where laughter has replaced weeping. We need to see where abundance has replaced loss. We need to see where health has replaced sickness. We need to see where eternal life has replaced dying.
I actually think A Course in Miracles is leading us towards that. It's leading us towards a manifested healed illusion. Let's see a real world illusion that doesn't have the illusions of degeneration, illness, and death, that we currently see in the world. Those are negative illusions. Those are things that the delusional, hypnotized mob is seeing. When we see truly, when we see the way the Holy Spirit is guiding us, when we see the real world, I believe we will not see that. We won't see those images.
"The resurrection is the denial of death, being the assertion of life. Thus is all the thinking of the world reversed entirely. Life is now recognized as salvation." (OrEd.Mn.28.2) In the thinking of the world we are going to be saved only when we die. That is really the worshiping of death. Death is now our savior. That is the mob thinking. We will be free of pain and strife when we die. But A Course in Miracles tells us that death accomplishes nothing, and the only way to be free is through life, "... nothing is accomplished through death because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life." (OrEd.Tx.6.61) The world can reflect eternal life. We can see that reflection and what it is doing now. We can catch the glimpses of that. Catch the glimpses of it. Reinforce them. Strengthen them by getting together and talking together like this – being here at this Sunday Gathering, watching the YouTube videos, being in touch with like-minded people, being in touch with your Miracles community, your high spiritual community wherever you do it, it's a glimpse.
It's really important. It disconnects you from that mob psychology, from that crowd thinking. Don't succumb to the mob. Have your daily practice that reconnects you to yourself so you don't lose your sense of self and suffer from contagion and pick up the worst subconscious fears of the separated. We don't have to do that. We don't have to jump off the cliff of sickness and death because Johnny Jones and Suzie Smith are jumping. We can have a different reality.
We can see the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, as our concerned parent reminding us there are other choices. We don't have to go along with the crowd, with the mob, just because that is what everyone else is doing.
Think about the L.A. riots. Think about how all those people did all that destruction, all that carnage. Think about how strong that was, how hard it was to fight. The L.A. Police, the National Guard, the Army, and the Navy, had to go in to fight that. It's strong. We cannot dismiss this thinking of the world lightly. We need to reinforce another way of being. We reinforce by daily practice, by coming to gatherings like this. We reinforce by recognizing the glimpses of the real world when we see them. They are there. We are now acknowledging them, strengthening them, giving them our support.
We can have another experience. We don't have to jump off the cliff to death just because our friends are doing it.
That's my talk for today. Thank you very much. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (10.28.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the September 2018 (Vol. 32 No. 7) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.