Undreaming Wetiko: Breaking the Spell of the Nightmare Mind-Virus, by Paul Levy
Inner Traditions, 1644115662, 416 pages, May 2023
In the modern (mis)Information Age, a collective madness has possessed the mob through mainstream media. “Fake news,” conspiracy theories, and pernicious lies spread like wildfire across the internet, confusing the masses. Identity politics and outrage culture further divides people and eats them alive. Author Paul Levy calls this psychic disease that has infected humanity wetiko (pronounced “wet-tee-ko”), named after an evil cannibalistic spirit in Native American mythology.1
Levy’s vision of wetiko is informed by the integration of Buddhism, Jungian psychology, Gnosticism, western politics, and his personal traumatic experiences with “archetypal evil,” which manifested in his abusive father. By creatively appropriating the name wetiko, Levy found a potent way to personify the cross-cultural phenomenon of psychic blindness wreaking havoc on humanity.
In 1981, Levy had a shamanic initiation and spiritual awakening that was catalyzed by the trauma of abuse, during which he was hospitalized multiple times and misdiagnosed with manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder). Being institutionalized only traumatized him further, and these experiences made him conscious of the dreamlike nature of reality, opening his eyes to the psychospiritual illness of wetiko through firsthand experience. Levy broke free of the abusive psychiatric establishment and became an art teacher and wounded healer, assisting others in spiritual awakening as the founder of the Awaken in the Dream community, based in Portland, Oregon.
Levy has been writing about wetiko for more than twenty years, and has created his own acronyms for describing this elusive phenomenon. In his first book on the subject, titled The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (2006), he referred to what he would later call wetiko as “malignant egophrenia, or ME disease,” because it clouds one’s self-perception, or identity.2 Levy expanded upon these insights and adopted the name wetiko in Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (2013) and Wetiko: Healing the Mind-Virus that Plagues our World (2021). He also detailed his personal traumatic experiences in Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father (2015).
In his sixth and latest book, Undreaming Wetiko: Breaking the Spell of the Nightmare Mind-Virus, Levy says that “finding the name for what is afflicting us is like a deliverance from a nightmare,”3 and “the cure for wetiko is to see it.”4 Naming this phenomenon objectifies it, calling it out into the open so that it can no longer hide in the shadows.
Levy asserts that wetiko is highly adaptive and has thrived on the internet as a “techno-virus.” 5 I was instantly hooked on this book because it gives a name for a psychic contagion I have observed online. I unplugged from the matrix of social media about a year ago and one of the main reasons I deleted all of my accounts was to protect my mind from the sensory overload of advertisements and other people’s opinions. I felt like I was being psychically drained every time I logged in, so learning about the “mind-virus” spread by the wetiko spirit objectified the overall bad vibes I was sensing when I was on socials.
Levy believes the best cure for this collective mental illness is to remove the mask of forged identity and get in touch with our true selves. Creative self-expression helps us connect with our authenticity. Like a stagnant pool of water mirroring a cloud of blood-sucking mosquitoes, the rise of social media and online influencers has given wetiko an internet breeding ground to further brainwash, confuse, and distort the perceptions of the masses, encouraging escapism through social media addiction and comparison to others instead of turning us within to seek the truth of who we are as individuals. Social media encourages identification with a false, filtered public persona, which is reinforced by how many likes people receive on their vacation pictures and selfies. Social media touches people’s deepest insecurities and exploits them.
We can’t connect with our authenticity if we hide behind filters and deny the flaws, secret pain, and traumas of our shadow selves. I believe the New Age Movement has also been hijacked by wetiko, because there is a toxic denial of negativity in this popular spiritual community in favor of love, light, and positive vibes only! which encourages complete denial and repression of the shadow aspect of the psyche. This kind of delusional spiritual bypassing and willful blindness gives wetiko a safe space to flourish and spread like cancer.
Wetiko is nourished by darkness, and thrives in our unconscious blind spots. Willful ignorance and denial makes us complicit in its devious workings. When we do so, Levy claims we are conspiring in the murder of Christ, crucifying the living light within. Embodying the salvific light of truth is the only thing that can restore our sight and liberate us.6
In Undreaming Wetiko, Levy reveals that this mind-virus originates and proliferates through abuse. Unresolved ancestral trauma, family curses, and child abuse are the gnarled poisonous roots of wetiko that burrow deep within our subconscious minds. When we incarnate into our family line, we inherit and unconsciously channel the collective ancestral trauma, giving it an opportunity for liberation through physical manifestation.
“Like a toxic entity,” Levy says, “this unprocessed trauma becomes an ancestral spirit that penetrates and insinuates itself into the core of the child’s being.” 7
This passage struck me as particularly illuminating, as it implies that part of our life purpose is to heal the unresolved ancestral trauma that was imprinted upon us at birth. This means it may manifest in our lives in such a way that we are forced to recognize and consciously work through it in order to fully process and resolve it. However, if we are unconscious and sleepwalking through life, we may become possessed by this spirit of ancestral trauma and recreate the abuse, thus perpetuating the cycle.
I resonated deeply with this section because I feel like I am alchemizing at least three generations of trauma through my maternal bloodline: the ancestral trauma my mother experienced and passed down to me, my personal trauma, and what I unconsciously projected onto my own children because of my unhealed wounds and life challenges.
“When parents repress their unconscious and do not responsibly do their inner work,” Levy says, “it radiates out into the family environment and infects the children, who will be compelled to live out the repressed, unconscious, unlived lives of the parents.”8
This psychic projection of unresolved trauma and emotional issues is what causes multigenerational family curses.
It’s easy to place blame on an abusive or neglectful parent, but I feel it’s important to recognize that they may have been overwhelmed by the radioactive psychic material they were attempting to transmute, and passed some of it down because it was simply too much for one person to handle. I believe that was the case with my own mother, who confided in me about her intense trauma, and believed she had broken the family curse over me in the name of Jesus. However, when she placed her palm upon the crown of my head and spoke in tongues, I felt the weight of that curse, and I believe my mother inadvertently transferred the burden of whatever she had repressed and denied onto me.
There is, however, hope. According to Levy, as we heal ourselves, we heal our entire family line. This is very reassuring to me, because I fear it’s too late to mend any damage I may have caused my own children while my wounded self was raising them, but this indicates that any private healing work I do now will benefit everyone in my family line, both past and future. Time is nonlinear, and as multidimensional spiritual beings, our healing work radiates throughout time and space, benefiting not only our direct lineages, but also the entirety of the human race.
Wetiko works through our blind spots. To see them, we have to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we are acting out or condoning the abusive behavior we are trying to heal within ourselves. This is what makes healing work so difficult. By being touched by abuse, we have absorbed and internalized it, and it can unconsciously seek expression through us.
So we have to be truthful with ourselves about how the abuse we have experienced is manipulating our own behavior and worldview. This can be really challenging because no one wants to identify with something that harmed them, and no one likes to admit they have the potential to cause the same harm to others. In fact, according to Levy, it’s important to not identify with it, which can cause feelings of despair and thwart the healing process. A delicate balance must be struck between owning our shadow impulses and not being defined by them.
Truth-tellers are one of the greatest threats to wetiko. When we share our emotionally-charged survival stories, and other people become angry and attack us, they are speaking for wetiko by reenacting the very abuse we are shedding light upon. Wetiko wants to silence us, and becomes embodied through our unhealed attackers, who attempt to shut us down and bully us when we speak our truth.
This can be re-traumatizing for us, but it can also be an opportunity to recognize that our words have deeply touched their own unintegrated and unconscious wounds, and we should not take their projections personally. Knowing that their perceptions of us are being clouded by their own unconscious wounding, which has been triggered, or re-activated, by our stories, we can deflect their projections and be more firmly grounded in our own truth.
Undreaming Wetiko is an essential text for those who are deep-diving into shadow work and healing ancestral trauma. I feel it validated a lot of my intuitive realizations about family curses and intensified my personal healing work by compelling me to journal more about my traumatic experiences. Levy’s insights have also helped me to identify the shadow projections I have absorbed from my parents that are not a part of my authentic self. I will likely reread this book in the future because there is a lot of excellent information that may require additional readings to fully metabolize. For those who are open and receptive to its teachings, Undreaming Wetiko is a phenomenal book that will assist in transformative healing breakthroughs and awaken the divine light within.
Rachel Christina McConnell is a witch, tarot reader, intuitive astrologer, and writing spider. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University in the City of New York. Her short stories have appeared in Dark Moon Lilith Press and Minerva Rising Press’s The Keeping Room. Links to her publications are available here: https://rachelchristinamcconnell.wordpress.com