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

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

The ebook version currently has received 593 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Friday, 20 April 2012

DVD Review - DMT : The Spirit Molecule (2010)

DMT : The Spirit Molecule (2010) is a feature-length documentary about a chemical called dimethyltryptamine which is found in nearly all living organisms and which is one of the most powerful psychedelic drugs known to science. This drug has long been used by the indigenous peoples of regions of South America in their shamanic rituals. They produce a drink known as ayahuasca from a combination of plants which allow the DMT to remaining longer in the body without breaking down. Pure DMT provides a very powerful psychedelic experience, but because the substance breaks down so quickly it can't be ingested orally in its pure form but has to be smoked or injected.

But one thing which makes this such an interesting substance for the understanding of consciousness is that the body itself produces DMT naturally in particular circumstances. Though the film doesn't go into great detail about the physiology of this process and what the specific triggers are, it does suggest that this might explain our tendency to have hallucinatory experiences during fasting or sensory deprivation, and may provide a naturalistic explanation for our rich history of reports of religious visions and alien encounters.

There was a good deal of research into the effects of psychedelic drugs in the United States in the early sixties, but once their use started to spread amongst the youth culture the use of these substances was banned and research halted. Then, in the mid 90s, Dr. Rick Strassman was able to obtain government permission to do research into the effects of DMT. This film documents the results. We get to hear from people across a variety of disciplines, from mathematics to ethnobotany to religion, talk about what they feel this substance can teach us about ourselves and, perhaps, the nature of the universe. And some of the subjects of Strassman's experiment tell us what happened when they they were given DMT.

In How to Be Free I speculate about what the basis of consciousness might be and what might lie beneath our conventionally armoured ego. DMT research seems to be one way in which these questions can be explored scientifically.

While I could have done without the gimmicky linking scenes in which Joe Rogan, dressed like a character from a Raymond Chandler novel, talks to us from a retro science lab complete with 1960s-style computer in black and white footage with artificial scratches, I'd highly recommend the film as an introduction to this subject. The film was based on a book (which I haven't read) by Rick Strassman - DMT : The Spirit Molecule : A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences (Park Street Press, 2000). There is also a website :

Another documentary which is about to be released to cinemas which may play a significant role in challenging conventional thinking is Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's film Chimpanzee (2012), which is this year's release from DisneyNature. Walt Disney don't have the best history when it comes to nature documentaries. Their 1958 Academy Award-winning film White Wilderness contained a now notorious sequence in which lemmings were depicted jumping off of a cliff supposedly into the Arctic Ocean. Later it was discovered that the scene was artificially staged at Bow River near downtown Calgary, and the lemmings didn't chose to jump, they were forced off of the cliff by a revolving platform. But, thankfully, times have changed and Disney no longer make their wildlife films, they buy some of the best documentaries being produced in the world and then release them under their label. Sometimes they add some cheesy narration or a sappy song by a Disney artist, but mostly the quality of the films is impeccable.

What is interesting about Chimpanzee is that it deals with the story of a young chimp who is separated from his troop and adopted by an unrelated adult male. This challenges socio-biological theories that emotional bonding and nurturing behaviour amongst animals can be explained by the genetic imperative to foster the survival of one's own genes.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fear is the Jailer

Cringing in Terror by William Blake

We are born as playful unconditionally loving beings - irreverent, cheeky, comfortable with the biological processes of our own bodies. And since our nearest biological relatives - the bonobos (once known as pygmy chimpanzees) - share these qualities with human babies, we can guess that our pre-human ancestors carried these same qualities into adulthood.

So why is that we have such a tendency to lose this happy state and end up caught up in our own lonely ego-cages of misery and self-loathing - angry, selfish, intolerant, arrogant. Why do we collapse into depression or live as slaves to irrational fears? And, as a species, why did we exchange the loving carefree life of our pre-human ancestors - as seen in the playfulness and uninhibited but unaggressive sexuality of the bonobos - for a path that led to war, torture, genocide, rape and madness?

Fear is the answer. How it began has to be a matter of speculation even for myself as an individual. When did I first feel afraid? And when did I first start to build the prison I hoped would protect me from that fear? I can't say. It's too far back.

What I do know is where that strategy took me, what it did to me and how I found my way out. And the aim of my book How to Be Free is to share what I learned, to provide, as best I can, a roadmap out of Hell. And I don't use the word lightly. It would perhaps be hard for people who have only met me recently to believe that I was once locked up in a hospital with my hands and feet strapped to a bed begging the doctors and nurses to kill me. There may be no Hell below us in the physical sense, but the frightened or guilty mind can be an instrument of torture more fiendish than anything dreamt of by the Inquisition.

Our culture, our parents, our teachers, our religions, our mental health experts... all have given us ideas about our own psychology and about how we should think or behave. Many of these ideas are not helpful to us. They are anti-therapeutic. This is to be expected. The human neurosis predates civilisation. The ideas of our parents, our teachers, our religions, our mental health experts are a part of it. Even where a rare individual was free of the disease, or nearly so, as in the case of Jesus, their attempts to show the path to freedom were misinterpreted and ended up being contaminated by their neurotic, fear-dominated followers.

An end to the human neurosis required two things - clear ideas which bring insight to our condition and the right environment for those ideas to flourish. Jesus had the right ideas, but the world was not ready to hear, and so he was crucified and his philosophy of liberation was turned into just another form of fear-driven enslavement. The psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich tried to point this out in 1953 in his book The Murder of Christ. He too tried to show the way out of what he called "the trap". Many of his books were ordered to be burned and he died in jail shortly after writing that book. The ostensible reason was that he was promoting a form of cancer therapy not authorised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The time was not yet right. Those with the greatest fear of freedom had too much power.

Wilhelm Reich

There may not be all that much which is new in the ideas I put forward in my book, though I hope that I have expressed them more simply and directly than they have sometimes been expressed in the past. But what is different now is that the time is ripe. And my book is only one of many manifestations of the change - of the new world being born. That such a time would come is something which runs like a thread of gold through the mythologies and religions of the world. The New Age Movement, for all its irrationalities, is an expression of faith in it and a collection of practical aids towards its coming into being.

What is happening now which makes this new world of freedom possible is that the old ways are breaking down, at least in some parts of the world. Unorthodox ideas are not routinely quashed as they often were in the past. And we have the internet which makes censorship of ideas impossible. In 1950s America they could burn Wilhelm Reich's books. In the year 2012, an idea can be incorporated in a viral video and no-one can stop it from spreading.

I sometimes think that the most powerful truths are paradoxes. We have been taught something which seems, on the surface, to make perfect sense, but, in time, experience teaches us that it is, in fact, the opposite of the truth.

There is much in ourselves or in our society which we view as evil. What do we do about evil? Of course, we fight against it. But what actually happens when we do that?

This was my personal dilemma. There I was as a teenager plagued by thoughts of killing a baby. I had discovered evil within myself, and I struggled with it mightily. I tried to put it out of my mind. I wrestled endlessly with the question of why it was there. I didn't trust myself to be around a baby. This was only one of many such fears that I would have throughout my life. I was suffering from a condition which psychiatrists call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What I learned from my experience of OCD, was that fighting against the thoughts or feelings only makes the situation worse. There is a big difference between doing something and thinking about something. And thinking about something makes us no more likely to actually do it. In fact, in most cases, it makes us less likely to act rashly. Now I can happily imagine playing football with an infant as the ball. It's so ridiculous that it reminds me how big a gap there is between a thought and a deed.

You might think this only has relevance to someone suffering from OCD, but it has relevance for everyone, because the path to Paradise, for most of us, is paved with some pretty scary thoughts and feelings or thoughts and feelings we have been taught to feel shame about. This is why the path towards freedom has been a narrow one seldom braved while the path towards slavery has been a broad highway indeed.

One person who helped me tremendously along this path was theatrical improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone in his book Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre. I can't recommend that book highly enough to anyone who wants practical advice on how to liberate their creativity. Johnstone learned from doing group improvisations that when the spontaneous imagination is opened up in this way the nature of the improvisations goes through certain stages :
Word-at-a-time letters usually go through four stages : (1) the letters are usually cautious or nonsensical and full of concealed sexual references; (2) the letters are obscene and psychotic; (3) they are full of religious feeling; (4) finally, they express vulnerability and loneliness.
 We can see that the defences - the levels of neurosis - are being stripped away. If this is an example of the path back to our true free selves - and from my own experience I believe that it is - we can see why we might be reluctant to follow it. As soon as we start having obscene and psychotic thoughts we are liable to run back up the path. And atheists will be kind of freaked out if they find themselves having religious feelings. But it should also be seen that the religious feelings are themselves a level of protection from the state of raw naked vulnerability. And we may not want to be there if we are there alone, but the loneliness of that state is only love cut off from someone who is open to our love. If there were more of us there it would not be a lonely place to be.

So much of our problem comes from fearing what is inside us and seeking to control it. Once we realise that our thoughts and feelings will not hurt us we can let go of this fear and the rigid forms of thinking and behaving which it requires of us. We can be free.

And that which is within is mirrored by that which is without. It is not the purpose of this blog to critique social policy. That is a matter far too complex for someone as simple as myself. But it is worth noting that the more we have come to fear various social ills - violent crime, drug addiction, child pornography, terrorism, mental illness, environmental devastation - and the more that fear has driven us towards strategies of control whether it be the war on terror, the war on drugs, carbon taxes, censorship of the internet, anti-psychotic drugs, etc., the worse those problems have got.

Perhaps we will one day find that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

The Laughing Buddha - a depiction of the irreverent joyfulness of freedom