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On Sunday, June 26, 2022 Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk for the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering. A lightly edited transcription of the talk is presented here.

Pogo Earth Day Poster 1970I had an experience this past week, actually for the past couple of weeks. I just watched, and became really aware, that the fear was shifting. Unfortunately, it was shifting from one thing, to the next, to the next. The fear of Covid19 was shifting.

People who didn't like, and feared the mask mandates, or people who didn't like and feared the vaccine mandates — that was shifting too as the mandates ended. And then there are the people who are fearing and judging this so-called cabal of elitist globalists, who are controlling things and causing all these problems in the world. And then there's the fear of food shortages. Oh, that one was really prominent. And then we had a baby formula shortage that got everybody's attention. And then I heard we had a tampon shortage, and that got a lot attention, a shortage of women's health products. If you can even say "women's health products" anymore. We have to be careful how we use the word "women" now, because it's an evolving definition. We probably have to say the health products for people who bleed periodically, because we have to be careful now. I just watched all this fear shift.

As I talked about last week, I had been exposed to this work by a professor of psychology from Belgium who came out with a new book titled The Psychology of Totalitarianism. His name is Mattias Desmet. He has been well known for talking about this theory called "mass formation," which causes masses of the population to get hypnotized on certain things, and then adopt ideas that are truly destructive to the society and to themselves. Of course, Nazi Germany being the prime example, but there's been many, other examples.

I listened to him again. He's got a new book out, so he's been making the round of alternative talk programs. Something that he said that I didn't focus in on last week, but really got to me now, was that we tend to incorrectly blame the leaders for these problems. So there's a tendency of society to blame Adolf Hitler for the Nazis, but Mattias Desmet says, it's not really the leaders that are driving this. He says, the leaders are really just opportunistic. They're people that are seizing an opportunity. But what is driving this is the psychosis of the population. It was Germany's "depression psychosis." They lost the first World War. There were those terrible sanctions that crippled their recovery. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s happened. So the emotional depression and the anxiety of the German people caused a mass psychosis. Hitler was there, and the other leaders were there, to capitalize on these things for their own purposes.

But if you can get rid of the leaders when something like this is going on, the psychosis persists and then other leaders will just come up. Desmet says that this is easily caused when you have just a certain percentage of the population that has free floating anxiety or depression. He said, you only need 20% or 30% of the population to have this going on with them, for a "mass formation" to happen. There's about 50% of the population that just goes along with it, because they don't want to create waves, and they just want to blend in. They don't want problems in their lives. Desmet continues, then maybe there's another 20% or 30% that are immune to the "mass formation" for some unknown reason. He continues, and I found this interesting, that it's a mistake to think that it's intelligence or education that makes people immune to "mass formation." Actually intelligence and education are contraindicated. The more intelligent and the more educated the people are, the more they have the likelihood of buying into the "mass formation." That was all really interesting.

Last week I saw that people were just looking for who or what to blame, and as one fearful thing faded .... Not as many people are afraid of Covid anymore, and not that many people are afraid of the mandates anymore, because these things are mostly gone. Now it's the food shortages. We just switch from one fearful thing to the next, and that is the problem. The problem is within us. It's not our leaders. The minute I really got that, I saw how much in line with A Course in Miracles this "mass formation" theory was. ACIM is, of course, a 100% responsibility discipline.

I also remembered this saying that is actually from a comic strip character who was named Pogo. I don't know if you remember Pogo all that much, but Pogo was a very popular comic strip between 1948 and 1975. He had one particularly famous meme, something that he said, and it was, "We have met the enemy and he is us." "We have met the enemy and he is us." Okay. A little information about Pogo. Pogo was a character written and drawn by Walt Kelly. Pogo was actually an opossum, and he lived in the Okefenokee Swamp, which is an actual big, huge swamp between the states of Florida and Georgia. Pogo and all his fellow anthropomorphized animal friends lived in this swamp, and Walt Kelly, the artist and author of Pogo, used these characters to make a lot of social and political commentary, sometimes satire, and to philosophize.

Pogo was one of those comic strips that adults liked to read, because it was aimed for both adults and children. Pogo said some really interesting things from time to time like "We have met the enemy and he is us." That meme from Pogo came out of the very first Earth Day celebration, which was on April 22nd, 1970. Pogo had already been around for quite a while by that time. Walt Kelly was commissioned to do an Earth Day poster to promote the very first Earth Day. So he created this color version of Pogo looking out at his swamp and seeing all the pollution, all the trash and environmental pollution that had been put there by us. So, he said this thing, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Then a year later in 1971, Walt Kelly did one of his daily strips, and he also used that meme.

I have a little screen share I'm going to share with you. (Rev. Tony puts on the Zoom screen the composite image you see on the front cover of this *Miracles Monthly*.) Hopefully you can see that the image there on the left is the full color poster that Walt Kelly created for the very first Earth Day where you see, Pogo says, "We have met the enemy and he is us." He's looking at all the pollution and trash in the Okefenokee Swamp. Then the next one is the daily Pogo strip, which is black and white. That came out a year later. There again, looking out at the pollution, Pogo says, "We have met the enemy and he is us" as he talks to his little porcupine friend. Okay, that is Pogo.

This meme is kind of interesting. I wanted to give you a little background. I looked up a some history about it. What Walt Kelly was using when he said this, was he was paraphrasing something that was well known. It was a famous military statement. During the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy defeated the British Navy at the battle of Lake Erie, and the master commandant of the U.S. Navy, whose name was Oliver Perry, wrote to his superior Major General Henry Harrison. Commandant Perry told Major Harrison, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." That meant that they had defeated and captured the enemy. "We have met the enemy and they are ours" was a well known phrase. This is what Walt Kelly used to create Pogo's little saying, which is now way more famous than the phrase that it originated from.

It's really just saying that we only have ourselves to blame, or we only have ourselves as the responsible ones, for all the things that are going on. That's what I got reminded of this week when I saw the fear shift from one thing to the next thing: from Covid, to the mandates, to the cabal – okay – then the food shortages, the supply shortages .... It's just always something that appears to be "out there." But A Course in Miracles tells us it's not out there. It's within ourselves.

I like to listen to a lot of alternative news, and I listen to mainstream news too. I believe it's part of my job to stay on top of what's going on in the world, so that I can make comments about it from the A Course of Miracles perspective. A lot of my conservative, or ultra conservative, friends are very concerned about the cabal of the ultra rich and ultra powerful, or the "deep state" that is somehow responsible for all of these evils that appear to be in the world: the Covid19 pandemic, now hyperinflation, record gas prices, the war between Ukraine and Russia that might evolve into a nuclear war. All of these things, they are always blamed on something out there. But A Course in Miracle says, "There is nothing outside you. That is what you must ultimately learn, for it is [in that] realization that the Kingdom of Heaven is restored to you." (OrEd.Tx.18.49) Nothing outside of us, that's from the Text, but I think it takes great learning to be able to embrace that. It takes great learning just to be able to understand it intellectually — there's nothing outside of us. But then to be able to truly come from that as a perspective on how you live your life, that's almost beyond learning. That almost takes revelation.

To operate from a true grasping of that truth — that there is nothing outside of us, — probably takes revelation, but we do the best we can. And I think every step we take towards that awareness is truly beneficial. It may be truly difficult to understand that it's not some powerful elite, cabal that's causing the problems, but it's just us. We're at cause, and any step that any of us can make in that direction is well worth taking. In another place A Course in Miracle says "Of one thing you were sure – of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them." (OrEd.Tx.27.68) Yeah. You didn't think it was your guilt that brought these things into the world. It was somebody else's guilt, not my guilt. But it's us, and that great little meme from Pogo reflected that. I find this interesting, that meme was in 1970 and 1971, the two different times of the poster and then the daily strip. That was at the same time that A Course in Miracles was completing being scribed.

For us who live in the digital age I think we've forgotten – or maybe we never knew – but we've forgotten how important comic strips actually were. They were in the newspapers. We'd get a newspaper every day, and we'd open up to the back really quickly and take a look at the comics, take a look at "the funnies." We used to call them "the funnies," remember? It was a shared cultural thing. A lot of enlightenment came through the comics. Think of the comic strip Peanuts, and all the things that Peanuts taught us about people and relationships. And there were a lot of comics like that which had ways of teaching things.

I think some of those authors and artists were tapping into something. They were tapping into a mission to teach the world in a simple way – in the way of the parable like Jesus did —  things that the world needed to learn. The world needed to learn that we were doing this to ourselves. A Course in Miracles says, and this was in the reading earlier, "The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true." (OrEd.Tx.27.86) We're doing this to ourselves. It doesn't matter what the form of the attack is.

As I said, I try to listen to quite a bit of media, alternative media and mainstream media. My message to the Democrats is the Republicans are not doing it to you. My message to the Republicans, the Democrats aren't doing anything to you either. My message to the conspiracy theorists, the evil cabal is not doing anything to you. My message to the birthing and bleeding people, the Supreme Court didn't do anything to you this past week when they overturned Roe v. Wade. We're always doing it to ourselves. A Course in Miracle says, "No one but yourself affects you. There is nothing in the world which has the power to make you ill or sad or weak or frail." (OrEd.Tx.190.5) There's nothing in the world that has the power to do that. I said something like that some months ago. I made a comment about the "cause" of Covid19, not being the true cause of Covid19. Probably because of that statement, which was just an ACIM spiritual truth, YouTube decided to censor that talk. Yeah, the world doesn't particularly want to hear this. But we have heard it and it's our job to give this truth a voice.

This was a very interesting week in the world. It really was interesting. I don't know how much of it you caught, or saw, or felt, but the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. This is a pretty big deal. Most people relate to this as an anti-abortion thing, an anti-women thing, or maybe a triumph of more fundamentalist religious groups. But the more I look at it, I really see it's a state's rights issue. This is really a state's rights issue. Abortion wasn't made illegal. It was just thrown back to the states because generally the states decide such things as medical practices. And so the Supreme Court just decided that it wasn't the federal government's job to make rulings about this and they threw it back to the states. That's an interesting thing to think about and the other implications that this decision may have. I could probably do a whole talk about that.

I had something personally significant happened to me this week that I thought was very healing. I walked into my bank that I go into a couple times a month. And this was the first time in two years and four months that there were no decals on the floor telling us where we had to stand so that we could be appropriately socially distant from each other. The social distance decals on the floor were gone. I thought that was a very significant thing. Usually we don't mention these things, but to me, this is giving witness to healing. It's a healing. We're not being told where to walk and stand. People aren't as concerned about Covid19, or viruses. We're getting less afraid of bodily harm, and people. We're learning to feel connected again, and that it's safe to be around breathing people again. This is a great thing.

Yesterday in Dolores Park, the city was celebrating Gay Pride weekend. San Francisco is having its first, really big, social, lots of people, Gay Pride celebration in three years. I live right next to this park where a lot of community things happen, and local people gather. I'm right next to the Castro neighborhood, so a lot of gay activities happen around there. There's a lot of events that happen in Dolores Park on Gay Pride weekend, but they haven't been happening for two plus years. They didn't happen at all in 2020. They happened in a very limited way in 2021. But they are happening this year. The park was packed with people yesterday. I thought that was a great thing. That's something to witness and to acknowledge. Something has healed. The fear is healing; Covid is healing. However you want to look at it, I think it's worth celebrating.

Something that maybe people might not know that shifted tremendously just this week is that the W.H.O. (the World Health Organization) and the prominent medical research journal The Lancet, (or a commission from *The Lancet*) now after two plus years, these very prominent voices for the entire Covid19 pandemic have changed their beliefs. They have now embraced the idea that the SARS-CoV-2 virus most likely escaped from the Wuhan, China lab. Understand, that was considered a crack pot, conspiracy theory not that long ago. If you said anything like that on a YouTube video, that video was censored a year or two ago. But now the lab leak theory has been embraced by these two Covid institutions.

The W.H.O. and The Lancet declaring that most likely the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid19 was something that escaped from the Wuhan laboratory means the lab was working on bio-weapons. Why were they working on bio-weapons? Well, they were. What government really wants to create a bio-weapon? Well, apparently a lot of governments do, and apparently our own government does, because the U.S. government partly funded this research and that's come out too. So I thought about that, and I thought about the Covid epidemic. And then I thought about what Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

We helped create the virus that got unleashed, maybe accidentally, maybe on purpose, on the world. We have to look to ourselves. We have to ask for help for our own healing. We are our own worst enemy, but we're our own salvation as well. If the problem is within us, then we can actually do something about it. One thing that Mattias Desmet says is the problem is the depression and anxiety that 20% to 30% of the people have. He said, he knew we were headed for problems a couple of years ago before the pandemic, when he saw a survey that said 30% of people felt they didn't have even one close relationship. He said, that's not good. He said, 30% of the people said they had no close relationships in their life, and the only meaningful interactions they had with other people were through the internet.

That's not good. The problem is our isolation; the problem is our separation. The problem is our depression. You want to do something about these problems? Connect with people. Love people. Go out and meet people. Smile at people. Feel connected to people. Relate to people. They're going to think differently than you. People think differently from each other, but that doesn't mean they're not still your brothers, sisters and others in Christ. Relationships, hugging people, meeting people, talking with people — it heals depression. Depression, anxiety, isolation, and separation is what is causing these problems. Not the Republicans. Not the democrats. Not the evil cabal.

Okay. That's my talk for today. Thank you very much.

Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20 minister. He currently (10.03.22) serves on the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.

Pogo Poster and Strip 1970 and 1971

© 2022 Community Miracles Center, San Francisco, CA – All rights reserved.

Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
POB 470341
San Francisco, CA 94147

This article appeared in the July 2022 (Vol. 36 No. 5) 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.