This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

The audiobook is available for free from iTunes and Google Play.

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 1,105 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

The audiobook version currently has received 44 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks and 22 ***** out of ***** ratings on GooglePlay.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Mythical Communities?


Photo by Cathy Yeulet

What is the nature of community? Today we often hear talk of "the black community", "the gay community", the "trans community" etc. To what degree can a single physical characteristic like race, gender or sexuality be the formative determinant of something which can genuinely be characterised as a community?

Merriam-Webster defines "community" as "a unified body of individuals" and then goes on to give a variety of examples.

Wikipedia says : "A community is a social unit with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space through communication platforms."

I begin with myself. I'm white, male and heterosexual. I don't feel that I'm a part of a white community or a male community or a heterosexual community. When I experience a sense of community it is irrespective of race, gender or sexuality and based on other factors.

There may be many factors which can be the basis of community, but here are some I can identify :

1. Proximity

A family or a workplace can be a community regardless of any differences between the individuals who make it up.

2. Culture

People can be united by a shared cultural heritage, including shared history, myths and first language.

3. Belief system

People can be brought together by a shared belief system, such as a religion or political allegiance.

4. Interest

People can be brought together by a shared hobby, or shared interest in music, movies, literature or sport, etc.

5. A common threat

People can be united by a threat which is posed to all of them, for instance, when one country launches a military attack against another it is usually enough to cause the citizens of that country to unite in the spirit of self-preservation.

I think the reason we might talk about a "black community" or a "gay community" etc. is that we may perceive the group to be united by a common threat. Whether this is true now, is open to argument, but a stronger argument of this kind can be made when looking into the past. When racial segregation was legal and homosexuality was illegal, oppression might provide a unifying factor producing a sense of community amongst members of these identity groups.

To the extent that someone feels they are a part of a "black community" or a "gay community", is it because they are part of a community which is united by a particular cultural attitude to that shared characteristic? Will a black atheist necessarily feel more communal unity with a black Christian or Muslim, than with a white atheist? Will a gay conservative feel more communal unity with a gay radical or a straight conservative?

There is no doubt that there are communities within the black and gay demographics, based around the factors of proximity, culture, belief system or interest. But can each demographic as a whole be classed as a community? Where is the proof that race alone is a unifying factor which can compete with something like political affiliation? People who argue that there is a black community tend to then have to resort to claiming that some people are "not really black" because their political beliefs set them at odds with other members of the demographic.

Some find it politically useful to argue that demographics are communities, but evidence needs to be provided that this argument is meaningful.

One of the most extraordinary claims is that there is such a thing as "the LGBTQ+ community". Here it is not even a common identity characteristic which is considered to be the basis for a sense of unity, rather this is a group said to be unified by what they are not. The argument is that everyone who is not heterosexual has enough in common with everyone else who is not heterosexual to be unified by that fact.

Conflict is rife within all demographic groups, be they based on race, sex, sexuality or gender identity.

If we want to come together in meaningful and creative ways, I think we need to do this through :

1. Proximity - getting to know our neighbours.

2. Culture - learning about each others histories and traditions.

3. Belief systems - finding and embracing those beliefs which heal conflict and build community and using reason and science to eliminate beliefs which, because they are lies, can only feed division.

4. Shared interest - especially those, like music, which have always had to power to be the expression of a communal soul

5. Recognition of common threats - ecological, medical and social - and the need to cooperate as a community to address them.

Whatever our race, sex, sexuality or gender identity, that's fine. But we can't look to these qualities to unite us, and mustn't let these qualities divide us.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Critical Idealism and the Inner Darkness

Photo by Aberdeen82

I want to present a simple model of an aspect of human psychology in order to test to what degree it maps onto our own experience and our observation of the behaviour of others.

When we feel accepted, our tendency is to open up to greater flexibility, tolerance and generosity.

When we are, or feel, criticised, we may respond in a variety of ways - from withdrawal and depression to anger, defiance and hostility. The potential to respond creatively and adaptively lies on a narrow band between the negative passive and negative aggressive responses.

If we adopt a critical form of ideology, we carry the destabilising tendency of criticism within us. It may be an ideology which criticises us directly or it may be one which criticises someone else. But very often even the latter will be implicitly critical of us, for instance criticism of the wealthy may seem to be not about us, until we realise that according to a different frame of reference we are the wealthy.

Is it not perhaps to be expected that, just as the grain of sand irritates the oyster into producing a pearl, the presence of this aggravating critical voice will cause the formation within the psyche of an ever-growing well of either despair or angry defiance and resentment? And is it not resentful defiance of “the good” (as represented by the voice of the conscience) the essence of malevolence - the evil intent apparently unique to humans?

We are not whole unless we own our dark side.

In the absence of an acknowledgement of the dark side, doesn’t the face we show the world become an increasingly brittle and desperate fraud? And don’t we have a tendency to project that dark side we dare not acknowledge onto others?

There are examples every day of people who are labelled “Nazis” simply because they critique “wokeness”. They are seen by those who embrace this form of critical idealism as embodiments of both authoritarianism and malevolence, in the absence of any evidence of behaviour betraying either tendency. This seems a clear-cut case of projection. And those making the accusation may betray malevolence and authoritarianism (a bullying attitude) themselves.

We can see these tendencies also in some people who have a particularly critical form of religious belief which seems to drive them to behave in a malevolent or otherwise authoritarian manner towards those whose behaviour they see as a threat to it.

Unconditional self-acceptance is a healing force which can address the underlying problem. It we accept our thoughts and feelings, not as accurate messengers about reality, but as the ever-changing flesh of who are at this very moment - as the road to freedom for our deeper loving self - then, to the extent that they are negative, they will evaporate. It’s O.K. to hate goodness. It’s O.K. to hate everybody and everything. Because as soon as you’ve felt that unashamedly, the natural thing is to let go of it as something not useful to you.

Critical forms of idealism are poisonous seeds which grow despair and malevolence and social conflicts which strangle love.

As we are developing our competence in the various areas of life we want appropriate criticism so that we can learn to improve. But we don’t want to be subjected to idealistic, i.e. perfectionistic, criticism to the extent that it wears us down and makes us bitter. How much criticism we can respond to creatively is determined by how accepted we feel in general.

How much “good behaviour” is part of a desperate battle to deny and keep contained a growing inner malevolence - or despair? We need to address and find ways to heal that inner darkness, because whatever comes from our depths will be the basis for our society. That can be love, but only if we learn to remove the ideological weeds which poison it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

BOOK REVIEW : Cynical Theories : How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity - and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay

The earlier edition with differently worded subtitle

Of all the secular parables our culture has produced, the one most relevant to our current cultural situation is The Emperor's New Clothes, made famous in the version told by Hans Christian Anderson. It shows how, in a society of individuals who lack confidence and live in fear of censure, even something blatantly contradicted by evidence can gain social traction and cultural dominance. In the story it is fear of being thought stupid or incompetent. In our situation it may more often be fear of being thought to be bigoted in some way. But it is also a hopeful story. Even the smallest, least powerful individual can save the day by speaking the dreadful truth, because a lie needs to be maintained with effort while an obvious truth, once the culture of fear about acknowledging it has been dispelled, argues for itself.

Are you “woke”? Have you been “red pilled” into recognising that we live in a Matrix called “the white supremacist patriarchy”?

The problem with such grand explanatory frameworks of interpretation for the world is that they lend themselves to our natural tendency toward confirmation bias. It is easy to find evidence for such an interpretation. It is all around us, just as it tends to be pretty easy to find evidence for a conspiracy theory. The way to assess the accuracy of any theory is to sincerely attempt to falsify it - to prove it wrong. The more we try to do that and fail, the stronger the credibility of the theory.

Critical Social Justice Theory, the field of scholarship which underlies the cultural expressions we label “woke”, is founded on the assumption that any inequality of outcome for groups who have historically been discriminated against can be accounted for by systemic oppression, a continuing form of universal prejudice pervading our society, particularly as expressed through language, i.e. “discourse”. This is just as unfalsifiable as the existence of that other omnipresent and invisible entity - God. If someone acts in a bigoted way, that’s evidence of systemic racism. If they don’t, that’s because they benefit more by hiding their racist feelings.

This worldview reduces the complexity of human social interaction to simple formulas. A person’s situation is to be understood by their membership of identity groups. Each group is then seen to be in a more or less advantaged position. The fact that we are all individuals with a unique mix of talents and challenges can be lost. The answer to improving society is to change the discourses (eliminate “problematic” terms and invent new ones), to educate or re-educate (i.e. indoctrinate) and get the “enlightened” into positions of power.

They are not wrong that discourse can oppress. Just ask anyone who has had a malicious lie spread about them. And there are examples from both past and present where religious or political systems of discourse have oppressed populations. But this is really an argument against rather than for their approach. If the idea were to open up greater opportunities for the expression of diverging discourses, or to test belief systems against objective data taken from science, that would make sense. But to try to install one’s own discourse while discouraging that of others, is to more or less guarantee that it will become a source of oppression.

As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay argue, we already have a strategy for improving society, and it is the one which brought us the end of slavery, the establishment of universal suffrage, the dismantling of colonialism, the end to racial segregation, the legalisation of homosexuality and the banning of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexuality, disability, etc. That strategy is liberalism - the belief in democracy, reason, free speech and science. This allows us to target problems specifically, come to understand them through reason and research, and rally the support to make the necessary changes. It doesn’t require us to adopt a shared dogmatic way of interpreting the world. And if we have a divergent viewpoint, it doesn’t punish us as heretics.

While the Critical Social Justice Theory worldview may be unfalsifiable, we can see evidence against it from observing whether it has a positive or negative effect on the behaviour of those who adopt it. It doesn’t seem unfair to say that a tree which produces rotten fruit is not a healthy tree.

Cynical Theories is an indispensable book for anyone navigating the troubled waters we find ourselves in as a society. We’re a little like Odysseus sailing between the Scylla and the Charybdis. We need to steer away from the whirlpool of “woke” madness which could tear our society apart, but we mustn’t pull so far over to the other side that we lose the ship of liberalism to the snapping mouths of rightwing authoritarianism. This is the beauty of what Pluckrose and Lindsay have achieved with this book. It empowers us with a deep understanding of the “woke” mindset and how it evolved, while exuding a calm, sane and generous spirit. There is always a danger that we might take a reactionary approach which mirrors those we have set ourselves to resist. On the contrary, the authors take an approach which is in stark contrast to the cynical, ungenerous and aggressive zealots of “wokeness”. This book is an act of love towards the “enemy”. The authors have listened and understood and provided that which is most necessary for the wellbeing of those whose ideology they oppose.

Helen Pluckrose is editor of Areo magazine.

James Lindsay runs the New Discourses website.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Why might Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith believe that U.S. biologist E. O. Wilson is "the antichrist"?

Jeremy Griffith at the launch of his book Freedom : The End of the Human Condition at the London Royal Geographical Society on 2 June 2016

The person who has had the biggest influence on the ideas I express in my writing has been Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith. In some cases that has been the kind of influence where you adopt an idea which someone puts forward which proves accountable, but more often it has taken the form of a challenge to find a better way of explaining something after having found Griffith’s interpretation unaccountable in some way.

It seems to me that if we want to understand someone, it can be useful to examine those areas in which their behaviour seems out of proportion in some way. An over-reaction can be a sign of insecurity, of a sore spot.

Griffith claims to identify fellow biologist E.O. Wilson with the figure of “the anticrist” predicted in the Gospel of John and “the beast” spoken of in Revelations. This is very peculiar behaviour for a scientist.

Here is the relevant passage from his book Freedom : The End of the Human Condition :

“And this ‘unity of life and all its manifestations of experience—aesthetic, religious and moral as well as intellectual and rational’ is not the fake offering that E.O. Wilson—that lord of lying, the master of keeping humanity away from any truth; indeed, the quintessential ‘liar…the antichrist’ (Bible, 1 John 2:22), the ‘deceiver and the antichrist’ (2 John 1:7), ‘The beast… given… to utter proud words and blasphemies’ (Rev. 13:5)—put forward in his 1998 book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, when he proposed that Evolutionary Psychology’s alleged ability to explain the moral aspects of humans meant biology and philosophy, the sciences and the humanities, indeed science and religion, could at last be reconciled.” from paragraph 1155

Now I don’t know any more about E.O. Wilson’s Eusociality theory than Griffith’s account of it. It seems to have to do with the possibility that we could have developed instincts for cooperation because cooperation has a survival advantage for groups. Evolution eliminates the least fit, but being a member of a cooperative group increases fitness because cooperative groups are more likely to survive than groups where the individuals compete at the expense of the group.

E. O. Wilson

Griffith claims this couldn’t happen because it requires the development to cooperativeness in individuals before the benefits can manifest in groups, and cooperativeness could not arise in individuals without the cooperative individuals being exploited by the non-cooperative individuals which would mean they would be less fit and would be eliminated.

I’m no biologist, but I can imagine a way in which cooperative groups could arise. The assumption seems to be that our instincts drive competition, but I don’t see why we would necessarily have to see it that way. Take food. If there is not enough food to go around, we may compete for what food is available, but is it our selfish genes which are making us behave this way or is it the shortage of food. If there were enough food, it would make more sense for us to share it and enjoy the sensual benefits of loving behaviour with other members of the group. So if there were an environment with enough food so that competition would not be necessary, would not the pleasure principle - the impulse to do what feels good and avoid what entails suffering - lead to group cooperation?

I suppose there is also competition for breeding opportunities, but the idea is that those qualities which allow someone to have the most offspring who survive to mate themselves prosper in the evolutionary process. In some species and some contexts, aggressive competitions may determine who breeds the most. But in the context of a group whose members are not fighting over food, is it not possible that females would chose to mate more often with affectionate rather than aggressive mates?

As I say, I’m no biologist. The fact that I can imagine something doesn’t mean there may not be many reasons why it couldn’t have happened that way. And I don’t know what E.O. Wilson is suggesting beyond Griffith’s very brief, and possibly biased, account.

But why is Griffith so angry about Wilson’s theory? He says that it is because Wilson’s theory grounds both our competitive and our cooperative behaviour in our genes, while Griffith sees our problem as a “psychosis” which can be cured. If it is in our genes, it can’t be cured.

I think this actually does highlight a problem in Griffith’s theory. What he is complaining about in Wilson’s theory applies also to his own.

Griffith believes that our instincts are a dictatorial demand for selfless behaviour. If this is true, then the problem he calls “the human condition” is just as insoluble as it would be if Wilson were right about us having competitive instincts, in fact, our situation would arguably be even more intractable.

You can’t change an instinctive orientation and you can’t make it see reason. If our instincts make us feel bad for not being selfless then we can’t get them off our back.

What Griffith is saying is that we now recognise that the “criticism” coming from our instincts was unjust and so we can go back to following them, reassured that we were not bad to deviate from them originally.

The problem with this is that - no matter how sensible it might be to behave cooperatively - if we have to do it because our instincts will make us feel bad if we don’t - that is a kind of internal totalitarianism.

Freedom means choosing our behaviour to best suit what we feel to be our interests. If we are enlightened, we will realise that our best interests and the best interests of those around us tend to align. But we have to feel that it is our choice.

I don’t believe that our instincts are dictatorial. Just because they gave us a way to orientate our behaviour before we developed intelligence, doesn’t mean there need have been any resistance put up by them to more helpful ways of managing our life.

I think the conflict between good and evil in us is a product of different ideas about how we should self manage which have arisen in the intellect and of the emotional turmoil which can result when those ideas are unhelpful ones. This means we are not doomed by our genetic orientation, either one to competition or to freedom-denying idealism.

I think that, sometimes, in these moments in which another’s behaviour confronts us with a key weakness in our own worldview, we may project onto them some disowned aspect of ourselves.

Griffith accuses Wilson of being “the antichrist” and of arrogance and “blasphemies”. It is Griffith who has claimed that his work represents the fulfilment of that which was promised by Jesus Christ. If his theory is wrong, that means he is the arrogant one committing blasphemy and putting himself in the position of the false Christ.

I once experienced an example of this kind of projection in Griffith’s response to me. I had politely and tentatively questioned him about his assessment of my character type. The appropriate response, it seems to me, would have been to say something like : “Perhaps you don’t understand. I’ll try to give you a fuller explanation.” Instead he convened and meeting and told people that I was : “M-a-a-ssively deluded.” Why this over-reaction to someone politely questioning his interpretation? Was he seeing something in me which really applied to himself?

More critiques of Griffith's work.

My personal story of involvement in Griffith's Foundation for Humanity's Adulthood (now the World Transformation Movement).

Sunday, 20 September 2020

BOOK REVIEW : THE Interview That Solves The Human Condition and Saves The World! by Jeremy Griffith


This is a review of a booklet which is the transcript of an interview. You can watch the interview or download a free copy of the booklet here.

The cover of this booklet tells us that “This world-saving interview was broadcast across the UK in 2020 and is being replayed on radio & TV stations around the world.” I’d love to see more information on which radio and television stations in which countries have played the interview. I’ve done a Google search for “Jeremy Griffith” with “Craig Conway” hoping to get some idea of how people in various parts of the world responded to these broadcasts, but I haven’t come up with much other than the World Transformation Movement’s own promotions and Craig Conway’s social media.

There is such a thing as under-selling and over-selling something. If one presents one’s product without any major promise of its value, it may be that hardly anyone tries it out. As Jesus pointed out, you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel. But if you lay the promises on too thick, you are liable to illicit suspicion in the prospective consumer that you are a snake-oil salesman or that you are blowing your own trumpet so loudly and repetitively in order to drown out your own inner critic. The title of this booklet “The Interview That Solves The Human Condition and Saves The World!” should suffice to bring that light out from beneath any bushel. Make the claim and then deliver on it. What a person says in praise of themselves or their own work should count for very little. What matters is whether it delivers for the reader. Does it enlighten them? Do things make sense in the world that didn’t make sense before? Politicians and priests will make glorious promises expressed in soaring rhetoric. But their aim is not to appeal to the reason, but to stir up an emotional response, often one which overrides the reason. An appeal to reason should be cool and calm and challenge the reader to find fault with it.

The blurb about Griffith in the front of the booklet says that “his work has attracted the support of  such eminent scientists as… Stephen Hawking…” This seems a bit misleading to me. Griffith put together a documentary proposal in 2004, which he distributed widely to scientists. He received a reply from someone representing Hawking saying that Hawking “is most interested in your impressive proposal” and “please let us know further details in due course.” I would not interpret this as meaning that Hawking was a supporter of his work. It sounds more like polite curiosity. Before using someone’s reputation to lend credibility to one’s controversial theory, it seems to me that it is only right to make sure that they understand what that theory is and have publicly expressed some kind of praise for it.

Griffith says that “the human condition is such a difficult subject for us humans to confront and deal with that I couldn’t be talking about it so openly and freely if it hadn’t been solved.” I think this is false reasoning. Assuming that we can only talk freely about the human condition, as Griffith defines it, if we have a framework of belief (or understanding) which tells us we are not bad, then all that is needed is for Griffith to have a belief which tells him that he is not bad in order to move around smoothly in that framework. The proof of the framework has to be in its explanatory power.

I agree with Griffith that genetic selfishness can’t explain our competitive, selfish and aggressive tendencies. It is very easy to see that differences in these qualities between individuals are often the result of psychological insecurity. And, in a social species, being competitive, selfish or aggressive would only be a genetic advantage in limited circumstance and for limited times. Success in business, or winning a mate and raising a family, etc., is more dependent on the ability to be a cooperative team member than it is on trying to exercise some form of forceful control over others.

But it does seem we have always been an insecure species, always feeling we need to prove something about ourselves as individuals or tribal groups. We develop feelings of resentment which lead us to take out our frustrations by causing the suffering of others.

A capacity for love and cooperation is always there, though, when we are in a situation where we feel safe from criticism. Mutual acceptance and self-acceptance has the power to heal our insecurity and resentment.

Just because our behaviour has a psychological component, however, doesn’t mean that an impulse to propagate our genes may not also be a part of the motivation for our behaviour. It isn’t an either/or.

I see no reason to see our conscience as something instinctive, as Griffith does. Different individuals in different societies have different ideas on morality. They feel guilty about different things. It makes more sense to me to see the conscience as a part of the ego, an internalisation of a learned moral system. A system of expectations we have about ourselves. For me, guilt is always tied up with thinking. I think critically about my behaviour and I feel emotional discomfort. This leads me to concluded that the conscience resides in the conscious mind, i.e. the ego.

How insecure are we actually about being selfish or competitive? I think it depends on the degree to which we have been told we shouldn’t be selfish or competitive. It’s a negative feedback loop. Being criticised makes us more insecure which makes us more selfish. But this is a social phenomenon. I see no evidence that the criticism comes from somewhere below the conscious mind.

Is psychosis the correct term to use to describe the psychological condition which produces our dark side? A psychosis is a mental illness which causes its sufferer to be seriously cut off from reality. But what do we mean by “reality”? I’ve experienced the state which psychiatrist’s call psychosis. I was cut off from reality in the sense that I thought things were going on around me which were not going on around me. Griffith is saying that psychosis is the norm, that we are all cut off from reality as we go about our daily lives. But we have a good enough grasp on reality to do the things we have to do on a daily basis. Of course we are cut off from reality to some degree, because we process the information about the world around us through our conceptual framework which is a product of our view of ourself which may not be an honest one. I prefer to think in terms of neurosis, emphasising the experience of feeling insecure, because that doesn’t require wrestling with the question of whether we can ever experience unfiltered reality and whether it would be advantageous for us to do so. It must be hard to shop for breakfast cereal while your doors of perception are so open that all things appear infinite.

Griffith’s central thesis is that our psychological insecurity and resultant selfish, egotistical and aggressive behaviour is the result of a conflict which broke out early in our development as a species when our newly formed conscious mind came into conflict with a pre-existing instinctive orientation. “A battle would have to break out between the emerging conscious mind that operates from a basis of understanding cause and effect and the non-understanding instincts that have always controlled and dictated how that animal behaves.”

At first, because we know we have some kind of conflict within us, we may find this argument convincing. But is it?

Are instincts dictatorial? Griffith uses the example of a bird’s flight path. If we were to place a major obstacle in that flight path, would the birds be driven by the dictatorial nature of their instinct to fly headlong into it? Or would they fly around it, following their instinct in a way which was responsive to a changing environment? Surely a lion’s instincts can tell her how to hunt, but not where the game is to be found on any particular day. For that she has to allow her behaviour to be guided by the data taken in from her senses.

If this is the case, then why would a conflict necessarily arise between our instincts and our developing conscious intelligence. Intelligence is a tool, like the senses, with which we can pursue the orientation given to us by our instincts. Why should we expect the instincts to fight back against any experiment in new behaviour?

And Griffith claims that our instinct is for loving, cooperative, selfless behaviour. So wouldn’t an instinct of this kind have to lovingly, cooperatively and selflessly surrender to something which took it in a new direction? An aggressive, selfish instinct might fight back, but not one of this kind.

Griffith describes our instincts as “dogmatic”. The definition of “dogmatic” is “inclined to lay down principles as undeniably true”. But this is something only the conscious mind can do. Instincts are stored information which has proven beneficial to the survival of the members of a species. The fact that it has been beneficial in this way is evidence for its accuracy, but to dogmatically insist upon its truth is something only the conscious mind is capable of. Griffith says that our instincts “are going to condemn him [our mythical ancestor Adam Stork] as being bad.” Again, only the conscious mind can condemn someone on moral grounds. Griffith seems to be projecting the nature of the idealistic judgemental human onto our pre-conscious orientating system.

My contention is that we do have a conflict between good and evil going on within us and that we do become insecure in the face of idealism which criticises us, and that this leads to us becoming ego-embattled - egotistical, selfish, aggressive and alienated. But I see idealism as being a product of the experimentation of the conscious mind. The war within is not between our ego and our instincts, but between conflicting influences within our ego. Our ego is the battleground. If we turn off our ego for a while and reconnect with our instinctive orientation, I believe we will find it to be an all-accepting, all-forgiving, non-judgemental openness to loving interaction with others. Of course we need our conscious mind to understand the world and make decisions. Our loving instincts are not sufficient on their own, but we should not project onto them any aspect of the battle going on in our ego.

This problem of treating the instincts as if they are capable of conscious thought runs through Griffith’s Adam Stork story. He says that Adam ideally would have sat down and explained to his instincts why he wasn’t bad. But this makes no sense, because the instincts are incapable of understanding. You can’t explain anything to them. It is Adam who has to explain to himself that he is not bad. If it were a matter of our instincts understanding us, the problem would be insoluble because it would depend on something which is impossible, i.e. instincts understanding anything at all.

Griffith has said that he was extremely idealistic in his youth. Presumably this led to him being very critical of other’s non-ideal behaviour. Is it possible that when he thinks of the instincts he is thinking of his youthful self. He needed people to explain to him why their behaviour was not as ideal as he felt it should be, but they were unable to do this. Is he seeing in the story of humanity the story of his life? This has to be a strong tendency for anyone who sets out to articulate an all-encompassing account of human behaviour.

Griffith relates his theory about this conflict between the instincts and the conscious mind to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, but he doesn’t deal very thoroughly with that myth. He says that Adam and Eve ate “from the tree of knowledge”. He leaves out the bit about it being the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. This is misleading. If it is simply the “tree of knowledge” then this suits his theory that the key event was development of the ability to reason. But “tree of knowledge of good and evil” suggests that it is specifically talking about moral knowledge - i.e. idealism, which distinguishes between some forms of behaviour which are categorised as “good” and other forms of behaviour which are categorised as “evil”. General knowledge about how the world around us works need not undermine our self-acceptance and thus make us selfish and ego-centric, but idealistic standards against which we can find our behaviour and that of others wanting does undermine self-acceptance and lead to a negative feedback loop which actually promotes “sinful” behaviour. Hence our fall from grace.

Griffith claims that his work has not been accepted by mainstream science because it conflicts with the prevailing paradigm, but I see no evidence that he presents a credible testable hypothesis.

There is a problem with Griffith’s concept of “love indoctrination”. The idea is that our ape-ancestor’s mothers nurtured them for genetically selfish reasons, but to the infants it looked like selfless behaviour, so they were “love indoctrinated”, i.e. they learned lovingly selfless behaviour. This is supposed to have happened before the liberation of full consciousness, but learning requires a conscious mind. Conscious learning is overlaying and supplanting the underlying genetically selfish instincts. How does this learning from experience end up encoded genetically so that we are born with the orientation? And how can something which is by its nature patient and forgiving become the source of a dictatorial instinct which is intolerant of experimentation?

Is it not possible that what love needs to manifest is simply a niche were it will not be eliminated? Where an animal who doesn’t compete for food dies and the genes of an animal that doesn’t compete to breed are eliminated, evolution selects against love. But in a social animal living in a food rich environment for millennia, there is no evolutionary disadvantage to opening up to the intrinsic pleasure and group advantage of love. The essence of nature is to create through the formation of wholes, so the formation of a loving whole amongst humans goes deeper than instinct to the very heart of the creative principle itself.

This could explain why bonobos developed as such a loving species. In them we may see what our ancestor’s were like before we began to undermine our self-acceptance by applying idealistic moral judgements to ourselves and each other. As Griffith quotes primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, “If you are a bonobo infant, you can do no wrong…” Idealism is the opposite of nurturing. Forgiveness returns us to our own capacity for love, while judgement against a standard of perfection makes us angry and resentful and drives us on to the kinds of actions which will attract only more judgement.

Because he sees the human condition as arising from resentment of the instinct’s judgement of our non-ideal behaviour, Griffith feels that each of us is a deep well of upset. “And no wonder we have led such an evasive, denial-practising, lying, avoid-any-criticism, escapist, alienated, superficial and artificial, greedy, egocentric, power, fame, fortune and glory-seeking existence.” While we are prone to these things, this seems the view of an idealist who only sees the negatives. I find Wilhelm Reich’s concept of the character armour more helpful for understanding the dark side of our nature, i.e. that our personality rigidifies around the battle to justify ourselves. All that is needed is for us to feel truly safe from criticism for this often very destructive defensive structure to begin to soften. But Griffith builds his description of the human condition out of idealistic criticisms, what he sees as “confronting truths”. This might be acceptable if his theory actually worked, but because it doesn’t, I see his writing as a kind of Trojan Horse which promises to defend us against condemnation and thus encourages us to open up to statements like this one which, taken on their own, sound like condemnation. This may make us all the more desperate to embrace his theory uncritically. After all, now that he has presented us in such a harsh light, we need something to feel good about ourselves again.

But if the problem lies not in our instinctive orientation but in idealism as a cultural phenomena, I think all that negative behaviour Griffith describes can still be explained - idealism does make us egotistical, selfish and aggressive - but the way in which this phenomena plays out in the world can be understood with less of a temptation to resort to simplistic over-generalisations, as Griffith does when tackling such subjects as politics and sexuality. One need only see idealism as a kind of thought virus, taking different forms - religion, communism, Critical Social Justice Theory, etc. - spreading from individual to individual and producing different forms of negative symptom in different contexts. The key factor is that we have a form of idea which leaves those it contacts feeling criticised in a way which, rather than being the source of healthy correction, sows the seeds of resentment and ego-embattlement. By contrast there must be a healthier form of idea which heals and brings us back toward the capacity for reason, the courage needed to face our problems and the love to bring us together as a community. We will know when we have found this idea, because it will spread like wildfire, everywhere transforming the darkness into light. It won’t require effort for people to embrace it. By their fruits shall ye know them.

Griffith talks about socialism, the new age movement, the politically correct movement etc. as “pseudo-idealist”. The definition of “idealism” is “the unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection.” Idealism is always a bad thing, because perfectionism poisons any attempt to improve things in the world. The term “pseudo-idealist” would mean someone who is only pretending to have an unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection.” Is it worse to be a pseudo-idealist than to be a genuine idealist? They are both negative social phenomena. But is everyone who calls themselves a socialist or a member of the new age movement in pursuit of perfection? There are right wing people who have a perfectionistic view of society which makes them intolerant of others as well. Hitler was an idealist. His ideal was racial purity. The battle between different forms of idealism can not be understood as a simple dualism. Griffith is prone to see it all as an expression of his battle between the selflessness-demanding instincts and the understanding-seeking ego. So he sees the left who call for a fairer society as oppressive of the search for understanding and the right who call for more self-reliance and less regulation as championing the search for understanding, even though someone on the left may be a champion of free enquiry and someone on the right may want to reduce spending on pure research. You can’t simply lay some grand worldview over the struggles of individuals in the world and think you have understood them. You have to acknowledge that there is usually more variety between individuals in particular groups than there is difference between the groups. Griffith wrote an article for a conservative on-line publication “explaining” the irrationality of the left. The readers responded enthusiastically to the claim that the left were crazy, but I doubt if many of them looked more deeply into his work. I’ll be impressed if he gets the same audience to accept his claim that “there’s no longer any reason for the right-wing in politics” and that they should become “effectively…left-wing.” Left or right, you get a lot of people who just want to be told what they want to hear. I put my hope in deep thinkers, some of whom come from the left and some from the right. Left wing examples include James Lindsay and Bret Weinstein, who are at the forefront of the battle to expose Critical Social Justice Theory. There are wise people on the right too, but there are also people who are irrational enough to believe that Donald Trump is the best politician in the world at the moment or who are caught up in bizarre conspiracy theories.

So I agree with Griffith that our species suffers from a psychological insecurity, that some of our distant ancestors were free of this condition, that the human race is not essentially bad but rather heroic and that we can heal the problems of the world with knowledge about the origin and nature of this condition. What I don’t believe is that it originated in a conflict between our instincts and our intellect. I don’t believe our instincts are dictatorial or unforgiving, but quite the opposite and I believe the origins of the problem originated with the development in the conscious mind of our ancestors of idealistic, i.e. perfectionistic, standards for the judgement of moral behaviour. The stricter the standards the more they drive us to the opposite by undermining self-acceptance and generating resentment. Like Griffith I feel we are right on the brink of the abyss. That’s why diagnosing our condition accurately is so important. I don’t feel that he has done so. If he presented his theory as just that and encouraged readers and listeners to find fault with it, I would give this booklet a higher rating, but any work has to be assessed against what it promises. This one literally promises the world, and delivers something far less than that.

Friday, 17 July 2020

The Empire of the Most Easily Triggered

Photo by ruslanshug

In How to Be Free I argue that neurosis is the norm for humans. By this I mean that we have an insecurity about our own worth which makes us especially prone to negative emotions. As a result our ego - our conscious thinking self - is preoccupied with self-defence - we are ego-embattled. Our rigidly defensive personality can be conceived of as our character armour (to take a concept from the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich). It is a protection against threats from without - the criticism of others - and within - any potentially disorienting emotion, such as fear, anger or grief, or impulse, such as sexual lust, which we keep repressed.

The more embattled the individual, the more important it is to maintain strict control over their own psychology, and this may be paralleled with an impulse to control the social world around them. So I expressed the view in my book that this need might explain oppressive rule, with those who are most insecure about their own worth feeling the need to rise to the top of the hierarchy and impose discipline on the masses. That may be a bit over-simplistic, as competent leadership can also bring people to the top of a hierarchy. Not all leaders are tyrants. It may, however, go some way to explaining the motivation behind tyranny. After all, the life of a tyrant can be a harsh and unpleasant one, and so a fear-based need may explain the surrendering of opportunities for care-free enjoyment.

At the moment we are faced with a different kind of authoritarianism - the decentralised authoritarianism which arises from Critical Social Justice Theory and its mob-enforced political correctness. It is no coincidence that the tertiary institutions where this new dogma was born also popularised the “safe space” and the “trigger warning”. Insecurity is the driving force behind this form of authoritarianism as well.

In some ways this could be seen as a reverse of the phenomena which Critical Social Justice Theory is ostensibly aimed at addressing.

While racism may have originated in tribal conflicts and sexism in friction resulting from the division of labour between nurturers and group protectors, it becomes ever more severe through a process of negative feedback as individuals become more and more insecure. These responses rigidified into armouring. The insecure individual dehumanises, silences and attacks those he has already exploited or mistreated in some way, because they are to him the outer mirror of that quiet voice inside which tells him he is doing wrong. Of course there can be other aspects of the phenomena arising from something like repressed sexuality which causes him to see members of another race as sexually dangerous or to see women’s sexuality as a threat.

The insecurity which arises from Critical Social Justice Theory is different, but it can lead to a similar kind of fear-based oppression.

What we need to be aware of is the inability to tolerate difference, in this case difference of opinion. The secure individual may view another individual’s difference of opinion on some key question as a challenge, but they will not interpret it as a personal attack.

I think what has happened with Critical Social Justice Theory is that it provides a false explanatory structure for the world. A sound explanatory structure will have a healing effect on the traumatic wounds an individual may be carrying. It will make the individual more courageous and less resentful. It will give them a way of understanding any bad treatment they have experience in life as something which doesn’t reflect badly on them as an individual and direct them toward a positive strategy to addressing the injustices they find in the world around them now. It will make them more tolerant of differing opinions and better able to engage in productive discourse with those who hold them.

But Critical Social Justice Theory is a poor explanatory structure which feeds on the wounds of the traumatised individual, encouraging feelings of resentment and directing them against anything, such as reason and evidence, which might undermine that explanatory structure. It encourages confirmation bias.

Just as racists and sexists are easily triggered, and thus have tried to maintain control over society in order to keep their fears or guilts at bay, so those who have a very poor explanatory structure as their only strategy to live with whatever wounds they are carrying - and the anxiety which arises from them - will end up trying to exercise control over any social manifestation of the realities this explanatory structure is in denial of.

I keep coming back to Biblical concepts, even though I’m not a believer in the supernatural.

To me the Kingdom of Heaven is the society which would arise if our insecurity about our own worth were healed. It is the absence of the control impulse. Love is open, honest, spontaneous and generous communication. It is a process which brings us together naturally when we give up trying to control each other. Reason and evidence provide the grounding for this as they are the way in which we discover our collective reality.

Critical Social Justice Theory is an attack on love and reason. Thus I identify it with the Anti-Christ, that which falsely claims to be solving the world’s problems but actually is anti-The Kingdom of God.

We are told, in the Bible, that there will be a final conflict before the arrival of the Kingdom of God, that there will be a Judgement Day and many will be thrown into The Lake of Fire.

If you are caught up in a false explanatory structure which is your strategy for holding all your psychological pain at bay and you are telling yourself that you are the good guy fighting for a better world, it is going to be very painful to be confronted with the truth that you are on the side of destruction and have been deceived. All the pain rushes back in and with no defence. Perhaps that is what is meant by being thrown into The Lake of Fire.

But if that is true, the good news is that it isn’t eternal. The Kingdom of Heaven still lies on the other side of that agony, because love is the sea that refuses no river. All that is needed is to stop fighting against it.

Monday, 22 June 2020

The Anti-Christ May Come As a Social Justice Warrior

Drawing by vladischern

I’ve reached a crossroads where I realise that I need to take a stand and make my position clear.

I was telling a Christian friend yesterday that I’ve come to the conclusion that predictions of the rise of an “Anti-Christ” in the Bible refer to the domination of the world by a particular dogmatic cluster which has been described by various people as “critical theory”, “identity politics”, “postmodern Marxism” or “cultural Marxism”. The latter two terms may not be completely accurate, but what matters is what is being pointed to by them, not how accurate the name is.

There are other people who are much better than me at dissecting and critiquing these ideas. I recommend Jordan Peterson or Bret Weinstein.

The reason I have come to identify these belief systems with the figure of the Anti-Christ is that they promise what Jesus promised - an end to the injustices of the world - but it is not what they deliver.

For me, as an unbeliever, Jesus represents a principle of truth, love, non-judgement, forgiveness and generosity. Love - open, honest, spontaneous and generous communication - is the answer. But I believe that the dogma of identity politics, which has spread through our culture, brings lies, hatred, judgement, vindictiveness and selfishness, all the time claiming to fight those things.

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

Matthew 15-22

The “abomination of desolation” refers to offerings give to a false God. To me the significance of this expression is that we are coming to a time when “social justice” replaces love as our highest good. Justice is important, but, by its very nature, it can only be achieved by force and control. Love, the attitude which allows us to treat all our fellows as equal embodiments of the divine, leads us toward healing and a better world for all naturally.

The rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement has made it all so clear. The cat is out of the bag. We have a movement which claims to be about saving black lives, but it calls for the defunding of the police. Since far more black lives are lost to violent crime than to police brutality, this means it is promising one thing and delivering the opposite. If you point this out you may be labelled a racist. This thought virus is powerful and deadly. The sensible approach to reducing police brutality would be to spend far more money on the police so that they can spend more time training and so that enough police can be employed that it is very easy to fire any police officer the first time they show signs of racism or a propensity to use excessive force. No matter how dissatisfied anyone is with the police, they should be able to realise that any power vacuum created by a reduction in the effectiveness of the police will be filled by violent criminals.

When I went onto Twitter today I found someone who appreciates my writing saying : “If you've ever heard me say that heteronormativity is a product of patriarchy, this is where I got the information from. The book is called "How to Be Free" by Joe Blow.” The following pages of my book were attached to illustrate this.

So here is my crisis. What do I do when I find my writing being associated with that which I identify as the Anti-Christ?

I don’t blame anyone for making this connection. I talk about some of the same things that are talked about in critical theory. I talk about the psychological basis for patriarchy and fear of homosexual desire. But I don’t support calls to “smash the patriarchy” as those in the grip of identity politics sometimes do. I talk of patriarchy mainly in the past tense, because our society no longer excludes women from positions of power.

What about “heteronormativity”? It is defined as the belief that heterosexuality, predicated on the gender binary, is the norm or default sexual orientation. It assumes that sexual and marital relations are most fitting between people of opposite sex.”

I don’t really disagree with that. Gender is binary. Biologically there is male and female. There are psychological characteristics which we identify as masculine or feminine. There isn’t some third gender with which we identify characteristics. Of course there are men who exhibit more feminine characteristics and women who exhibit more masculine characteristics, and there some people who have about an even mix. It is like colour. There are only three primary colours. All the other colours are mixtures of those. All gender identities are mixtures of the masculine and the feminine. And heterosexuality is the statistical norm, and heterosexual families are the organisation best suited to producing healthy children - all other things being equal.

None of that is to say that we should idealistically insist on that which may be the statistical norm. There are many ways of doing things effectively in the world.

In my book I posit that bisexuality is the underlying form of sexuality. I arrived at this conclusion as a result of what I learned about our close primate relatives - the bonobos - who engage in erotic exchanges irrespective of gender. Also because we have the biological capacity to share erotic physical pleasure with others irrespective of gender. And because many heterosexuals are uncomfortable with homosexuality, which implies, to me, that there is a contrary desire for it buried beneath the public face. All of this is just speculation on my part.

Another incident which has focused this problem in my mind has been the treatment of J. K. Rowling over her discussion of transsexuality. I read her blog post on the topic, which I found to be remarkably sensible, well-informed, open-minded and compassionate. Yet, she has been roundly attacked. This tells me that we are at a very dark time. To speak the truth in a way which challenges this pervasive dogma is dangerous, but necessary.

Some may think me paranoid to use concepts like thought virus or even demonic possession to depict what is happening, but I think it helps to visualise how it works - the way that it has a life of its own, which operates through people without them being aware of what is happening to them.

I’ve said that idealism is the root of all evil and is a thought virus. Identity politics (lets stick with that term) is the most dangerous form of idealism which has ever existed, because it has spread most broadly to the global community. Religious groups have often done terrible things because of an idealistic insistence on imposing their dogma on others. And communists and fascists have slaughtered millions as a result of their idealistic dogma. If the current lie can be exposed in time, it may not come to that. But I have no doubt that, if not exposed as the lie that it is, this current dogma will lead to even worse horrors and, in fact, the end the human race.

So, there, I’ve explained where I stand. If anyone wants to quote my writings as a way of supporting this dogma, they are welcome to. That is their business, not mine. From the very beginning I’ve renounced what I call “the control strategy”. I take no ownership of my ideas. They are offered to be used as the person receiving them sees fit. To my mind this is how I differentiate myself from what I call “the Anti-Christ”. You will see those who are in “his” thrall trying to control others expression through intimidation or censorship.

I am, and have always been, on the side of freedom and love.

"Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16