Archive for July, 2008

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Free Will

July 26, 2008

I stumbled upon a blog entry at Reality Sandwich from Charles Eisenstein which I really like. In the comments from two posts back Dan touched on the issue of whether we really have true free will and here,  coming at it from a slightly different angle is what Charles Eisenstein has to say:

…do you ever have the feeling at such times that you didn’t choose the compulsive habitual behavior at all? You just found yourself doing it, you didn’t choose it. In a valiant attempt to take responsibility, you might say, “Why did I choose to do that?” yet your felt experience was not one of choice, but of helpless automaticity. There is a good reason for this. The reason you feel like you did not make a choice is that, in fact, you did not actually make a choice. You did not choose to start shouting, to have a cigarette, to eat the whole bag of chips, to browse some porn sites, to flip on the television. Your feeling of helpless automaticity is accurate.

It is not that we humans are automatons, bereft of choice or free will. It is that we make the real choice long, long before we appear to. We choose indirectly, through who we create ourselves as. We create ourselves as someone who will, or will not, start yelling in a given situation. We create ourselves as someone who will, or will not, smoke cigarettes. We create ourselves as someone who will or will not respond to a given situation in a given way. Therefore, if you want to change the way you think, speak, and act, you can only do so by recreating your self. You cannot enforce behavioral changes through will, nor through the program of threat and incentive that we mistake for will.

Charles Eisenstein was surprised to find scientific backing for his idea:

In a study published this year in Nature Neuroscience, European researchers found that the outcomes of simple decisions can be detected in the brain up to ten seconds before the subject is aware of them. They conclude that we make choices ten seconds before we think we do, but perhaps these last ten seconds are only the final stage of an invisible, cumulative process of years. As the research does confirm the automaticity of our actions, the researchers could not help but say that their experiment seems to prove that free will is an illusion.

Eisenstein responds with:

Actually, they are looking for free will in the wrong place. Free will only operates in our self-creation, and it is from this that we make predetermined “choices” that are really just manifestations and symptoms of our self-creation.

So, how do we create ourselves? We create ourselves through the one and only choice we actually do have at any given moment. It is our only power as human beings; it is the entirety of our free will. Our only choice, our only power, our only means of self-creation and world-creation, is our power of attention. In other words, at any given moment the only thing we are actually choosing is where to place our attention. Everything else is automatic.

I think the reason this particularly hit home to me is that I’m working with someone at the moment who is totally into the negative explanation for everything. People are rude, they’re stupid, they’re taking the piss, in fact “the whole town is f—-d”. He can always tell you a person’s shortcomings and although he’s generally right he’s also totally wrong because there is always more to a person than their shortcomings.

Anyway, aside from the general dragginess of being around this I realised the other day that it was starting to infect my personal viewpoint and I was beginning to approach a few people in the shop with suspicion in the back of my mind – and occasionally letting this attitude out too. What the guy I’m working with does when he’s in that situation is to temporarily repress his feelings while the person is in the shop which only serves to feed back into his feelings of resentment of the world – although it’s important to note that the temporary repression doesn’t always work either.  I couldn’t have found a better example of what the article talks about.

At least I have a clearcut example of what happens when a person focuses entirely on the negative story but I think I will have to make some kind of stand against it because my subconscious doesn’t apply any judgement when it hears the negative viewpoint, it just soaks it all up.

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The Death of the Free Internet

July 23, 2008

Via Idleworm, The Death of the Free Internet. I remember reading how, with the advent of printing presses, the elite in places like Britian were so incensed that ‘radical leftists’ and the like were printing their own papers (and the common people were being exposed to dangerous political messages) that they passed laws making it harder for non-elite publishers. I’m sorry I can’t recall exactly what these measures were but the main point was that they didn’t work because they were so blatant and heavy handed. In the end the thing that killed the radical papers was the use of advertising.

Naturally there were few advertisers who agreed with the politics of left wing papers and so the establishment papers were able to sell for a substantially lower cost thanks to subsidies from advertisers and eventually came to dominate the market – and so we have the sorry excuse for the media that we all know about today.

It appears from this article that history is about to repeat itself where the internet is concerned. China has tried restricting access to the internet and received a lot of flak for it but now in Canada the subtle approach is about to be tried.

What will the Internet look like in Canada in 2010? I suspect that the ISP’s will provide a “package” program as companies like Cogeco currently do. Customers will pay for a series of websites as they do now for their television stations. Television stations will be available on-line as part of these packages, which will make the networks happy since they have lost much of the younger market which are surfing and chatting on their computers in the evening. However, as is the case with cable television now, if you choose something that is not part of the package, you know what happens. You pay extra.

And this is where the Internet (free) as we know it will suffer almost immediate, economic strangulation. Thousands and thousands of Internet sites will not be part of the package so users will have to pay extra to visit those sites! In just an hour or two it is possible to easily visit 20-30 sites or more while looking for information. Just imagine how high these costs will be.

My only hope is that with the whole decline of civilisation thing, people will be starting to wake up to the nature of the powers-that-be by then and will be more inclined to oppose this move. Although that seems kind of naieve now that I’ve actually written it (but I’ll leave it in anyway). I’ve heard that mainstream people visit mostly commercial sites on the web anyway and was trying to think what they may view that was a bit more off-piste and the only thing I could come up with was blogs. So my other hope is that so many people like blogs that there will be a mass of people upset that they can’t read their favorite blogs or that they have no readers any more and that they will make a difference.

Alternatively it may make not matter anyway. As Kevin has posited, sites like his are great for tracking how much of the population are thought criminals and since his readership only comes from the fringes of society in the first place it may actually be the case that the internet has made no difference to the political landscape anyway. Then on the other hand (my 4th) and to paraphrase Ran’s comments from earlier today, it may be simply that the elite are so mean they’ll just want to crush the free spirited nature of the internet regardless of any strategic considerations.

The only other thing I should mention is that we’ll probably still have email – and email lists, which will still allow for considerable interaction between groups of dangerously like minded people. I wonder how they’ll try to clamp down on those?

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Pay Attention

July 20, 2008

In my meanderings around Saharasia and The Fall I also came across Eckhart Tolle, I think Dan may have linked to an article about him ages ago but anyway here’s a quote from a chapter of his book The Power of Now. (I won’t speculate on the issue of whether his appearance on Oprah is a good or a bad sign and nor will I bemoan – for long – that fact that his latest book is out on-loan at the local library and that I would have to wait for a further 13 people to borrow it before I could get a look).

The first sentence was written specifically for me I’m sure:

The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation. You can take the first step right now. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years. This is what I mean by “watching the thinker,” which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence.

When you listen to that voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not judge or condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. You’ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realization, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.

So when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. As you listen to the thought, you feel a conscious presence – your deeper self – behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream – a gap of “no-mind.” At first, the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt oneness with Being, which is usually obscured by the mind. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. In fact, there is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within: the joy of Being.

It is not a trancelike state. Not at all. There is no loss of consciousness here. The opposite is the case. If the price of peace were a lowering of your consciousness, and the price of stillness a lack of vitality and alertness, then they would not be worth having. In this state of inner connectedness, you are much more alert, more awake than in the mind-identified state. You are fully present. It also raises the vibrational frequency of the energy field that gives life to the physical body.

As you go more deeply into this realm of no-mind, as it is sometimes called in the East, you realize the state of pure consciousness. In that state, you feel your own presence with such intensity and such joy that all thinking, all emotions, your physical body, as well as the whole external world become relatively insignificant in comparison to it. And yet this is not a selfish but a selfless state. It takes you beyond what you previously thought of as “your self.” That presence is essentially you and at the same time inconceivably greater than you. What I am trying to convey here may sound paradoxical or even contradictory, but there is no other way that I can express it.

Instead of “watching the thinker,” you can also create a gap in the mind stream simply by directing the focus of your attention into the Now. Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation. In your everyday life, you can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on. Or when you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence. There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace that you feel within.

Shortly after reading this I was feeling particularly worried about some issue or other and managed to remember to shut the voice in my head down by focussing 100% on the task I was performing at the time – and it worked! The level of tension I was experiencing eased right off.

So many of us use the statement “I just can’t stop thinking about “……” and it’s because we’ve been trying to replace one disembodied thought with another disembodied thought. I’ve mentioned in the past about how I’ve found rock climbing to be a good way to pull my mind of out a depression or stop that worrying voice but now I realise there is no need to go to such extremes, all I need to do is pay 100% attention to any real thing that is right in front of me.

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EFT and Eyesight

July 19, 2008

Three years ago I was at an Ecoshow talk and the speaker, who was an eco-psychologist of sorts made an aside about how children develop eye problems and start to need glasses at an age when ‘it all becomes too much and the don’t want to see it any more’. The assumption that our children have a hard time in childhood was of course easy for me to handle but I had never heard the idea that eye problems were a symptom of pschological issues.

I think the next reference I saw to this concept was on Ran’s page where he talks about his attempts to regain his eye sight. He refers to the tension in the muscles around the eye that cause the sight problems as being similar Wilhelm Reich’s concept of body armour.

In my last post about EFT I suggested that the concept of body armour and the EFTconcept of trauma being stored in the body’s electrical system were probably closely related and indeed, as Miguel testified in the comments for that posting the proponents of EFT have had some success with improving eye sight.

From the EFT website here is a brief comment from someone who appears to be a Behavioural Optometrist about the connection between emotion and vision.  And here is a quick case study of someone having their eye problems resolved at an emtional level. Note that those unfamiliar with EFT there will be a bit of unfamiliar jargon but that the improvement in sight will be very obvious. It’s also a good example of just how damn quickly EFT can resolve some problems.

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Emotional Freedom Therapy

July 16, 2008

Having spent a fair amount of time on this blog cataloguing the various ills of civilisation and speculating on the cause and the perpetuation of our collective sickness I was quite excited to discover something that has the potential to quite easily undo some of our internal damage.

The previous post about James De Meo’s theories on the origins of civilisation also mentioned Wilhelm Reich’s theory of body armouring. Essentially a theory of how the trauma of our childhood is stored in the body, Reich and his followers have gone on to find ways to physically release this tension from the body through forms of massage. I had heard about Emotional Freedom Therapy before but I finally got around to investigating it a few months back and it reminded me a bit of armouring because central to it’s operation is the idea that trauma is stored in the body’s electrical system – which in turn effects physical aspects of the body.

Using the same theory of energy meridians that Acupuncturists use Gary Craig, the main promoter and developer of the Therapy claims to be able to relieve emotional trauma (and chronic health issues), easily and painlessly – often in a matter of minutes.

I know, it sounds far too good to be true. At the main EFT website there are plenty of case studies and videos for those who want to read more and there is also a section looking at conventional scientific research into the body’s energy system. As far as I can tell it all seems to stack up but by all means you be the judge.

I have of course tried it and have found that it seems to be successful for me at releiveing head aches and other body aches but that I have had a lot more trouble releasing older and deeper traumas. I think that I have a pretty complex and thorough defence system, when I try to work on any old issues I notice that my breathing gets tighter and it becomes incredibly hard to focus on the issue at hand – my brain seems to be doing it’s utmost to think about anything else. Most likely I need to sit down with an experienced practitioner to find away around this.

One thing that is unusual about it is that when you release a headache it disappears so thoroughly that you feel like you never had it. Unlike when I rub my neck or upper back and can feel the tension being released EFT makes things disappear so thoroughly that it’s like they never existed. I wrote in a previous piece about how I often get breathing difficulties when stressed or tired because my intercostal (between ribs) muscles get too tense. Well the other day I suddenly realised that it hadn’t happened for quite a few weeks and that I must have got rid of it through EFT. (It had come back lately because I had a heavy cold and my breathing was feeling pretty impaired – and it has also come back (lightly) right now while I’m typing which show’s just how much of a psychological issue it is).

Anyway, where I’m going with this is that as well as healing psychological issues that people can easily recall a few people have tried healing issues from very early in life and I’m wondering if using a book like the Continuum Concept as a kind of guide we could look further back and deal with issues from our birth process as well as those developed in the womb where the mother’s potential mixed feelings about her pregnancy can impact heavily on the unborn child.

We can see in our family that our oldest child has clearly inherited a few things from her Mum and I suspect that the 9 months living fully enveloped in the mother’s electrical system may be a way that traumas are sort of ‘built-in’ to every baby. So far I haven’t found anyone else who has made this connection but having read constantly about the difference between civilised and non-civilised people it seems fairly reasonable that something like this is going on.

So from there my speculation has extended to the idea that the complex web of issues that civilisation creates in all of us can theoretically be totally removed from our system – if we were able to work out exactly what to ask the body for. This is all theory though, in practice I still have a long way to go but am intrigued by the possibilities that EFT presents for merely beginning work on my own life.

If anyone reading this has already tried EFT I would love to hear from you, I don’t know anyone personally who has had experience with EFT and even someone on-line would be an advance to reading about complete strangers at the EFT website.

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Saharasia

July 13, 2008

If you want to know more about Steve Taylor who wrote The Fall (subject of the last post), he has a website which includes a collection of essays where you can get a feel for his writing and subject matter.

As Dan commented at the end of my last post there is another writer who has covered this territory, James De Meo. He also has a website where, in a circular moment, I found a link (near bottom of page) where Steve Taylor briefly discusses their differing position on what caused the intensification of our ego consciousness.

Anyway, from this article, here is James De Meo outlining how he think civilisation first began in the Saharasia region:

What I speak about is the effects of extreme drought, and the consequent death-giving famine and starvation which follows, and which often kills large percentages of people in a given social group, destroying virtually all social institutions (cooperative work, extended and nuclear families, the maternal-infant bond, etc.).

The effects of such severe drought and famine are brutal, no less than if an army had invaded your town, murdered half the people, stole every scrap of food and material goods, poisoned the wells, killed all the animals, and burned down everything remaining, leaving you to fend for yourself in the middle of a harsh winter, and with no hope of being “rescued” by anybody else, as everyone in surrounding towns would have suffered a nearly identical fate. And then, it happens again and again, every year for perhaps several hundred years, distorting and warping your original peaceful social structure, firstly in the development of defensive reactions, but later, the new generations grow up having known nothing else than this kind of deprived and traumatic existence, and all references to the former time of lush vegetation and happiness are recorded only as myths.

Meanwhile, mothers and babies do not interact so lovingly as before, and neither do young men and women, whose relations are governed more by anxiety and contraction, while the adults must create new social institutions to deal with their collective sadistic aggressions. Afterward, it is perpetuated down the generations by those new social institutions and belief systems, which demand punishment and pain and trauma be visited upon young people through rituals, and sexual pleasure be reduced and denied, through religion. Now, each new generation is armored up by social institutions, and desert climate only becomes a factor which occasionally makes things worse.

From the start of this essay, James De Meo also offers this summary of his theories:

My research was initially aimed at developing a global geographical analysis of social factors related to early childhood trauma and sexual repression, as a test of the sex-economic theory of Wilhelm Reich (1935, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1967, 1983). Reich’s theory, which developed and diverged from psychoanalysis, labeled the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens a completely abnormal condition, resultant from the traumatically-induced chronic inhibition of respiration, emotional expression, and pleasure-directed impulses.

According to this viewpoint, inhibition is made chronic within the individual by virtue of specific painful and pleasure-censoring rituals and social institutions, which consciously or unconsciously interfere with maternal-infant and male-female bonds. These rituals and institutions exist among both subsistence-level “primitives” and technologically developed “civilized” societies. Some examples are: unconscious or rationalized infliction of pain upon newborn infants and children through various means; separation and isolation of the infant from its mother; indifference towards the crying, upset infant; immobilizing, round-the-clock swaddling; denial of the breast to, and premature weaning of the infant; cutting of the child’s flesh, usually the genitals; traumatic toilet training; and demands to be quiet, uncurious, and obedient, enforced by physical punishment or threats.

Other social institutions aim to control or crush the child’s budding sexual interests, such as the female virginity taboo, demanded by every culture worshiping a patriarchal high god, and the punishment- and guilt-enforced arranged or compulsive marriage. Most of these ritual punishments and restraints fall more painfully upon the female, though males are also greatly affected. Demands for pain endurance, emotion- suppression, and uncritical obedience to elder (usually male) authority figures regarding basic life decisions are integral aspects of such social institutions, which extend to control adult behavior as well.

These repressive institutions are supported and defended by the average individual within a given society, irrespective of their painful, pleasure-reducing, or life-threatening consequences, and are uncritically viewed as being “good”, “character building” experiences, a part of “tradition”. Nevertheless, from such a complex of painful and repressive social institutions, it is argued, comes the neurotic, psychotic, self-destructive and sadistic components of human behavior, which are expressed in a plethora of either disguised and unconscious, or blatantly clear and obvious ways.

I’ve spent the last few years discussing all these issues in somewhat piecemeal fashion on this blog and I have to admit surprise that I’ve never come across James De Meo before. I have yet to read the book but it seems to cast a long shadow across most of what I do here.

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The Fall 2

July 9, 2008

From the ever resourcefull Continuum Concept list I’ve just discovered a book called ‘The Fall‘ by Steve Taylor. I’ve already got a post called The Fall, so I’ve called this one The Fall 2 but really by the sounds of things this book has more to offer on the subject that my wee blog does. I like the sound of the book but I’m really amazed I haven’t seen it mentioned in our circle of blogs. If anyone has read it I’m interested to hear what you think.

Anyway, since it’s going to be a while before I buy, read and report back on the book, here (in the form of a guest post) is a review of the book by Tamara, from the Continuum Concept list.

The cover states: “The evidence for a Golden Age, 6,000 years of insanity, and the dawning of a new era.” On the back cover it reads: “It is not ‘natural’ for human beings to kill each other, for men to oppress women, for individuals to accumulate massive wealth and power, or to abuse nature. The roots of our current malaise like in an ‘ego explosion’ which occurred several thousand years ago. ‘Primitive,’ pre-civilizaiton men and women were largely free of our social ills and had a more unified and harmonious state of being than us.”

Taylor says that, due to dramatic changes in climate and the drying up of Saharasia (the Middle East and central Asia), survival became intensely difficult and caused a “sharpened sense of individuality,” or a greater sense of ego-separateness. He called these Saharasian societies the “fallen peoples”; and he called the psychic change the “ego explosion.” Of course, we in western societies are part of the fallen peoples. (BTW He says that on a positive note, this need to survive did inspire new inventions.)

He quotes the anthropologist, Richard Gabriel, as saying: “For the first 95 thousand years after the Homo sapiens Stone Age began [until 4000 BCE], there is no evidence that man engaged in war on any level… There is little evidence of any killing at all.” He gives descriptions of hunter gatherers and the “simple horticultural” societies, which he calls “unfallen peoples”:
– Usually not territorial, nor greedy. Lack of possessiveness about food and other natural resources; don’t collect and hoard things, especially unnecessary things.
– Egalitarain (rather than matriarchal; certainly not patriarchal). No formal leaders, no need for status or power. Women, children, and men considered equal.
– Belief in a spirit force that permeates everything, alive or inanimate. Belief that all things are alive.
– Reverential attitude towards nature; consider themselves custodians – but never owners – of the land.
– Virtually no aggression or violence or competition. Men no more aggressive than women; women no more gentle than men.
– Belief that everything is interconnected and interdependent – people, animals, things. Their identity is bound up with their community; they think and act in terms of the family group, or tribe.
– Empathic, compassionate. (eg. Aboriginal Australian cultures teach/model compassion to/for children.
– Natural state of contentment; no psychic disharmony. (eg. can sit for hours and wait, happily, without feeling anxious, angry… Are happy just being. Don’t need constant external distractions.)
– Less developed sense of ego.
etc.
He describes a “negative aspect” to unfallen cultures: their lack of understanding of cause and effect, their superstitions and taboos.

Interestingly, he says: “…it’s not merely justifiable to speak of all of these peoples as one basic type, it’s justifiable to extend the umbrella even farther, so to speak, deep into the human races’ past. The primal peoples who have existed over recent centuries have a basic core of commonness with the hunter-gathererer and horticultural peoples who have made up the world’s populations before 4000 BCE. The similarities between them are so great that it’s possible to say that together they represent a kind of original or even natural human type. It’s us – those of us who are descended from the Indo-Europeans, the Semites and other Saharasian groups- who are the different ones.”

He describes the characteristics of the fallen peoples as pretty much as the opposite of each item in the list above. About fallen peoples’ “fallen psyche,” he says it was:- the development of a new self-awareness which gave people the new ability to observe and judge themselves.
– a new kind of individuality and self-sufficiency: They started to live by their own will rather than the will of nature; saw themselves a separate from the cosmos.
– causing psychic dysharmony and suffering (a sense of aloneness and separateness; uncontrollable ego chattering; perceptual sleep – we think and do more but perceive less; we fear death).

Contrast this with unfallen peoples who “acted without analysing their behaviour, presumably because they were less self-aware, and so free from feelings of guilt and pride.” Taylor describes the views of Julian Jaynes, psychologist, who suggests that: humans prior to the 2nd millenium BCE “didn’t think in the same way we do because they had no ‘I’ in their heads to think with. Instead of having thoughts, he believes they heard voices inside their heads, stemming from the right hemisphere of their brains, telling them what to do. Thus, a person wouldn’t suddenly ‘think’ to herself that it was time to breastfeed the baby again… – instead, voices inside her head would command, ‘Breastfeed your baby again now.'” (I wasn’t clear as to whether Taylor agreed with Jaynes, but I found Jaynes’ idea interesting.)

Taylor guesses that because Saharasian people were challenged by drought and harsh conditions, they were forced to think more, had to “develop powers of self-reflection, and begin to reason and ‘talk’ to themselves inside their heads.” They had to focus more about their own individual needs in order to survive. And thus they developed a stronger sense of ego, or “I.”

The second half of book describes the psychology of The Fall. It becomes rather bleak when he goes into how little time he believes we have left to change the way we treat the Earth, or perish. But he believes we are in the midst of a “trans-fall era.” He believe we are capable of an evolutionary leap in which we can transcend ego-separation more or less en masse.

Taylor suggests we meditate, do yoga, tai-chi, or any spiritual activity that intensifies our consciousness-energy, because we do our small part to help our species move towards spiritual evolution. He says we can devote part of our lives to serving others and the Earth. We can live lightly.