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.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Inner Space : The Final Frontier

Inner Space of... by Immy-is-Thinking

We respect the voyager, the explorer, the climber, the space man. It makes far more sense to me as a valid project—indeed, as a desperately urgently required project for our time—to explore the inner space and time of consciousness. Perhaps this is one of the few things that still make sense in our historical context. We are so out of touch with this realm that many people can now argue seriously that it does not exist. It is very small wonder that it is perilous indeed to explore such a lost realm.

R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, 1967

To read these words you are making use of the most superficial part of your psyche – your rational mind. Our capacity for reason – for logical thought and enquiry – is like a thin crust which has formed over the sometimes volcanic contents of our subconscious.

The most basic aspect of human consciousness is sense perception. This we share with other animals. Each of the five senses appeared somewhere far back in the evolutionary process.

Our capacity for reason is the most recent part of our consciousness to have developed and, except in a very rudimentary form, it appears to be unique to our species.

Emotions are another element of our consciousness. Emotions are a part of the make-up of the higher animals but they take a more complex form in our species because of our neurosis. We can only make guesses about the emotions felt by animals based on their behaviour. But the historical internal conflict which has made our species vulnerable to doubts about self-worth has made us prone to repress our emotions in a way of which we see no evidence in animals.

Then there is intuition, our ability sometimes to grasp something in a flash of insight without the need to resort to the gathering of evidence and the application of logic.

Reason is a discipline. It is something we were not born with but which we had to learn to apply to ourselves and the world around us. Our capacity for reason, as a species, is now highly developed but this is something which grew over a long period of time and seemingly against the odds. Science, as we know it, is a very recent development historically.

One of the most important tools for the operation of reason was spoken language. While spoken language was crucial for passing on knowledge and for cooperating in the development of understanding by engaging in dialogue, on a more basic level it was necessary for abstraction. Without words there are only things, not ideas about things, and reason is not the realm of raw reality, but of ideas about reality.

Before we had a spoken language, the language of our mind was one of symbols. When we had no word for heat, or for fire, and we were lost in the snow we would have simply expressed our need for heat to ourselves by imagining a fire.

This applies also to our development as individuals. As an infant our internal language consisted of symbols – our mother's breast, the sunshine, the water in our bath... Memories of our sense perception of these sorts of things were the substance of our thinking.

The evolution of our consciousness, both as a species and as individuals, was not a case of one form of consciousness replacing another but of a new layer being laid on top of the old.

So we are able to look at a woman's breasts and :

  1. Simply see them (sense perception).
  2. Associate them with a sense of comfort (symbolic pre-verbal thinking).
  3. See them as a symbol of love (symbolic conceptual thinking).
  4. Recognise them as the mammary glands of the human female (rational conceptual thinking).

Our ability to thinking rationally and logically can be disturbed by our emotions. We talk of being coldly rational for good reason. The state of insecurity which characterises our neurosis as a species, however, makes us potentially emotionally volatile and particularly prone to feelings of anger. This is why there is often a correlation between intellectual ability and emotional repression. The pursuit of rational knowledge can come at the price of alienation from our own emotions.

Similarly, strong emotions distract us from sense perception. We may not perceive the world around us with such sensitivity when we are angry or frightened or depressed for instance. And if we deal with our troubling emotions by repressing them, then we create a wall which also blocks out much of our sense perception.

The experience of catharsis, in which repressed emotions are allowed to safely come to the surface and the wall of repression is to some extent compromised, can be followed not just by a sense of great inner peace, but also by increased sense perception and greater capacity to think clearly and insightfully.

Sensitivity of sense perception can also be increased by short-circuiting the alienating tendencies of rational thought.

As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I'd lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age – just as the lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn't understand that clarity is in the mind.

I've since found tricks that can make the world blaze up again in about fifteen seconds, and the effects last for hours. For example, if I have a group of students who are feeling fairly safe and comfortable with each other, I get them to pace about the room shouting out the wrong name for everything that their eyes light on. Maybe there's time to shout out ten wrong names before I stop them. Then I ask whether other people look larger or smaller – almost everyone sees people as different sizes, mostly as smaller. 'Do the outlines look sharper or more blurred?' I ask, and everyone agrees that the outlines are many times sharper. 'What about the colours?' Everyone agrees there's far more colour, and that the colours are more intense. Often the size and shape of the room will seem to have changed, too. The students are amazed that such a strong transformation can be effected by such primitive means – and especially that the effects last so long. I tell them that they only have to think about the exercise for the effects to appear again.

Keith Johnstone, Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre, 1981

Using the wrong names for things can be enough to fracture the wall of rational thought which separates us from the full intensity of sensory awareness. The famous zen koan about the sound of one hand clapping works the same way.

But rational enquiry and logical thought are central to achieving understanding of our world and of ourselves. It alienates us from our deeper self and our full capacity for sensory experience only because of the emotional turmoil and repression which our historic neurosis brought with it. Learning to counter doubts about our self-worth with unconditional self-acceptance and finding cathartic release for our stockpile of buried emotions can not just bring us back the full vibrancy of life we experienced as children but also fully liberate our intellect.

So where does intuition come in? Intuition – the ability to find understanding of something in a flash of insight – only seems mysterious to us because of our neurotic state. Intuition is the mind's capacity to perceive wholes and integrate information into such wholes. It seems likely that our proto-human ancestors lived in the awareness that everything exists as a part of a larger whole. Similarly, in our individual lives, one of the first things a child has to learn is the difference between "me" and "not me". Our ape-like ancestors had no rational understanding of how nature worked but there was no reason for them to see themselves as separate from it. The fracture that grew in human society when the male task of protecting the group from predators and the female task of nurturing the young took the sexes down contradictory psychological paths, led to a neurotic condition characterised by dichotomies – divisions of the whole into opposing concepts. What had once been simply the whole, became split into male and female, good and evil, love and hate, reason and mysticism, and later, the right wing and the left wing in politics.

The more neurotic or internally split we became the harder it was for us to comprehend the operation of wholes. We had to be on one side or the other in the conflicts which raged in our society. To try to encompass the whole would have been to risk our sanity by taking the conflicts of the world within us. But still we have been capable of intuition, of flashes of insight which, like lightning, illuminated the darkened landscape buried beneath the storm clouds of our neurosis.

Unable to clearly perceive the nature of wholes, which seemed to condemn our insecure and divided selves, we set about examining our world mechanistically. Mechanism is an approach to enquiry which involves taking things apart, in reality or conceptually, to try to better understand their nature. It is a very useful approach, but it also has a major shortcoming. Reducing something to its constituent parts can tell us a lot about it but it cannot explain how it operates as a system, that is, as a whole. We tried to come to some understanding of how things worked as a whole, but in our divided state there was always a bias one way or the other which compromised our explanation. A physicist whose emotional make-up predisposed him to the idea of chaos might see entropy as the key factor in the universe while one who was more comfortable with the idea of order might emphasise the patterns to be found in apparently chaotic phenomena. Or a right wing biologist like Thomas Huxley might see nature as characterised by competition and aggression while his left wing counterpart Peter Kropotkin saw mutual aid between animals as being the more important phenomena. Any holistic theory would have to acknowledge and account for the apparent contradictions within the system, to show how the yin and the yang work together in a functioning whole. Science has progressed because it has been practised by a wide range of individuals who, like the rest of us, are all fucked up in different ways and can thus compensate to some extent for each other's blind spots.

Peter Kropotkin, author of Mutual Aid : A Factor of Evolution (1902)

The need for a holistic approach to scientific enquiry is often acknowledged. We are looking for a grand theory of everything. However a genuinely holistic approach is dependent on emotional integrity, something which is in short supply. Fortunately liberation from our neurosis is at our fingertips and with it we have the necessary foundations for a holistic revolution in science.

Our tool for exploring the inner space of our consciousness is imagination. Imagination works with symbols, the language of our pre-rational self. Symbols can reach parts of our deeper self which the reason cannot yet touch.

I'm somewhat uncomfortable about using terms like spirituality or the soul, because they can have bad associations. We might think of the soul as something which survives death or of the spiritual as something concerned with some astral realm or the supernatural. But the terms are also used in other contexts. We say that someone has spirit or we talk about the spirit of our times. We have soul music, that is a style of music designed to stir up deep feelings. What I mean by spirituality or soul is our capacity to feel a sense of wonder or the warmth of love, and also the imagination which has produced all of our great works of art. Nothing supernatural is to be implied in my use of these terms.

The imagination has a reality of its own. The same atheist who will express scorn for a religious person's "imaginary friend" will spend much of his time reading novels in the process of which he is emotionally engaging with the figments of someone else's imagination. What makes the imagination real is that it is expressing truths in the language of symbols.

This is what could be called poetic language. One of my favourite songs is John Hiatt's It Will Come Through Your Hands which was based on a dream that his wife had. It contains a reference to "an angel bending down to wrap you in her warmest coat". Now Hiatt could have written "the female aspect of your deeper self offers you emotional comfort" but if he had expressed himself that way the song would not give me chills and make me weep. There is no such thing as angels in external reality, but this kind of image speaks directly to our deeper pre-rational self, to our inner child. Similarly, I cry when I read Oscar Wilde's fairy story The Selfish Giant. I don't believe in the conventional Christian concept of a heaven we go to after we die, and yet the image of a small boy with wounds in his hands coming to take the giant to Paradise is one of the most moving I have encountered. The concept of being allowed into heaven is perhaps the deepest symbol we have in our culture for redemption, for the possibility of release from the guilt or ostracism or isolation which may result from our mistakes. Belief in the supernatural is not necessary in order to be effected by this symbol.

And here we have the danger of the imagination, and that is the possibility that we may mistake the symbol for an external literal reality. I've suffered for this mistake while in the grip of psychosis. The delusions of the psychotic episode are symbolic truths, but the psychotic individual is incapable of seeing them as anything other than factual reality. That is what we mean by the word delusion.

Everything which we find in our own mind is a part of us. But there are reasons why we might not want to believe this. Our neurosis is a divided state, and we may wish to deny those parts of ourselves which we have most deeply repressed. We may project these aspects of our own nature onto others. Our deepest self can be a source of comfort, though. There are angels as well as devils within us. Our reason for not wanting to own the buried comforting part of us – for believing that God and Jesus are "up in Heaven" or that our guardian angel has come from the astral plain – is that we doubt ourselves so much and are so frightened that we need to believe that something more mighty or magical than us can save us. The might and magic are us, but we don't want to know that. I remember once when my doctor told me that the dosage of anti-depressants I was on was not enough to be effective and that it was me and not the medication which was doing the work of pulling me out of the condition. "Please, say that isn't true," I pleaded. I needed to believe a pill could save me because I was certain I wasn't capable of saving myself.

If God is the creative principle of the universe of which we, like the rest of nature, are an expression, then for our early ancestors this nameless reality would have been the experiential given of their pre-language existence. They had no word for what they were, but what they were was God. But when neurosis set in we were no longer able to understand that we were still an expression of the creative principle even though our behaviour was becoming gradually more destructive. We were metaphorically speaking "cast out of Paradise". This was when we had to give a name to the creative principle and see it as something outside ourselves. At first we might have identified it with nature and worshipped it as a goddess. Later there would be many gods and goddesses representing different aspects of nature and of our own neurotic psychology. The more neurotic we became the more important it was for us to safely relegate our symbols for the divine to an ethereal plain far from the everyday realities of our existence. And the more fearful we became of this now terrible whole which seemed to condemn us for our divided state. Patriarchy brought with it the concept of a male God who sits in harsh judgement of our sins. Today atheism is on the rise. While this is partly a response to the irrational nature of religious dogma and the use of religion as a tool of oppression, it is also partly because we have become so incredibly insecure about our divided state that any acknowledgement that there is a unifying reality just gives us the shits.

There is no doubt, it seems to me, that there have been profound changes in the experience of man in the last thousand years. In some ways this is more evident than changes in the patterns of his behaviour. There is everything to suggest that man experienced God. Faith was never a matter of believing He existed, but of trusting in the Presence that was experienced and known to exist as a self-validating datum. It seems likely that far more people in our time neither experience the Presence of God, nor the Presence of His absence, but the absence of His Presence... The fountain has not played itself out, the Flame still shines, the River still flows, the Spring still bubbles forth, the Light has not faded. But between us and It, there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete. Deus absconditus. Or we have absconded.

The reason why religious belief persists is because the religious symbols speak to our deeper selves. The mistake of many an atheist is to throw the baby out with the bathwater by denying the relevance of those symbols and his or her own need to come to terms with what lies beneath the superficial skin of rational thought. The error of the religious individual is to mistake the symbol for an external reality – to fail to understand that God and the Devil and the Holy Spirit and the living Jesus and all of the angels and demons are symbols for aspects of our own inner life. We can only have a strong emotional connection to anything, even something literally real such as a place or a person or an animal, because it corresponds to something which exists within us.

The demystification of religion is the next great step in human progress and evolution.

If science is to achieve a grand theory of everything then that must include the whole of ourselves. We have made great breakthroughs in our understanding of the functioning of the brain, but the science of the mind has been virtually abandoned. Freud, Adler, Jung, Reich, Laing and the rest of the pioneers of psychoanalysis tried to bring the scientific method to the study of the mind. This is a tremendously difficult enterprise because scientific objectivity is virtually impossible when the tool we are using is also the subject of the enquiry. So results were often rough and heavily biased by the obsessions and blind spots of the enquirers. But this is why science progresses as a collective enterprise with new investigators compensating for the limitations of those who came before. This has not been the case with the science of the mind. In the days of Freud there was a brave charge into the dangerous wilderness of our inner world. Now we are in retreat. Many in the field of psychology and psychiatry have consigned the insights of Freud and his followers to the garbage bin of history. Today, for instance, mental illness is generally considered to be a hardware problem (a chemical imbalance in the brain or a defect in the genes) rather than a software problem (an unhelpful pattern of thinking about ourselves arising from the pathological nature of our social context). Outside the psychological and psychiatric mainstream, Freud, Jung, Reich, Laing, etc., continue to be widely read because, for all their flaws, their writings are rich in meaning for those of us who seek self-understanding. One can only conclude that their rejection by the mainstream is due less to a lack of intellectual rigidity in their work, something which can be corrected by winnowing the wheat from the chaff, than to what Laing termed "psychophobia", a fear of the depths of our own minds. As long as a species-wide neurosis persists, each generation tends to be less secure than the last, and the emotional repression so often required for concentrated reasoning means that intellectuals tend to be among the most insecure. In Freud's day we were still secure enough to peek below the surface, though his work was viciously attack by the more insecure members of society, but by the 1960s, when Laing was at his peak, the psychiatrists themselves were in retreat. Laing was appreciated by his patients and by the counter-culture, but most of his colleagues perceived him as a dangerous madman.

R. D. Laing

The first thing we need to do to demystify religion is to untangle its two contradictory threads – the moralistic and the mystical. The symbols of religion speak to our deeper self, but our deeper self has different levels. At the core of our being, buried far beyond our conscious awareness though it may be, is our perceptual experience of oneness with nature and the universe. The mystical thread speaks to this layer. But that layer is buried beneath everything that we have repressed. The myth of Satan has persisted as a symbol which encompasses our relationship with repressed aggressive and selfish impulses and the sense that we could get what we want through dishonest means, Satan thus being referred to as "the father of lies". But religion is not just about symbols, but also often about rules, for instance large sections of the Old Testament are devoted to prescriptions on behaviour – what not to eat, what not to do on the Sabbath, how to treat one's slaves, which sexual practices to avoid, etc. Such rules are a response to our neurosis. They are a codification of the social conformity required by the most insecure members of the society who are the ones who most feel the need to control the behaviour of others. So demystifying religion has to begin by differentiating between the superficial and the profound. A passage in a religious text which says that we can eat sheep but not pigs is superficial and culture specific, whereas the statement that God is love goes to the very heart of our deepest nature as a species.

Mysticism is the expression of truths in the form of riddles or parables. The reason for this is two-fold. On the one hand the nature of the universe is such that patterns are repeated. So a symbolic expression of a pattern can be applied to more than one factual phenomenon or situation. But the other reason to express truths in a veiled form is as a safety mechanism to avoid causing offence or disturbance to the insecure. We can only solve a riddle or interpret a parable if we are emotionally ready to accept what it communicates to us. And here lies the principle danger inherent in demystification. Religion is all about having a relationship at a distance with something which terrifies us. If facing the truth about ourselves were easy we would not have become alienated. But understanding why we have become what we have become and that it does not reflect badly upon us can, in time, make the disentangling of our deeper selves – using the tool of reason that exists on the surface of our consciousness to understand what lies beneath – something which can be safely achieved.

Some of this may itself seem like mysticism, but it can be understood more concretely by considering the stages of our own individual development. Once we were a physical part of our mother. This corresponds to the time in the history of our species when we saw no separation between our selves and the natural system which nurtured us. Then the umbilical chord was cut. We still had not learned what it meant to be a separate entity but our connection was more tenuous, based on being held and feeding from the breast. This corresponds to the time when the males in our species began to feel a separation from oneness with nature brought on by the need to fight against and understand predators. We would have still felt a sense of connectedness because our society was centred around the nurturing females. Our capacity for intelligence and imagination had been liberated by having a longer nurturing period than all other animals. We were liberated from the predator/prey dichotomy which must make it harder for other animals to experience the oneness of nature. As social vegetarians living in an environment rich in food and where predators were, presumably, not a constant problem, we would have carried the sense of oneness that we all have at birth, when it is literal, into adulthood. The next stage for us as individuals was to come to see our mother and father as individuals separate from ourselves. This corresponds to the early days of our neurosis as a species when tension occurred between the hunting males and the nurturing females and we began to become more individualistic to deal with the fact that the tribe, that subset of nature of which we were more directly a part, was no longer itself a completely integrated whole. The first response when we are separated from something of which we were once a part, is to try to form a bond with it, to hang on to it. And so we loved and bonded with the parents of whom we were no longer a part. But we experienced frustrations and we had the need to experiment with self-regulated behaviour. Sometimes this led to conflict with our parents and they disciplined us. Here we have a replay of what happened to us as a species when our neurosis really came into play, men gradually took on the aggressiveness of the predators they were hunting, bringing that aggressiveness home to the tribe where the women were nurturing the children. This led to the women criticising the men, thus unavoidably exacerbating the conflict. When, as children, we became very rebellious or naughty, we had to learn to defer to adults. And this is what happened to our early ancestors as well, only there was no equivalent of the parent for them to defer to so they had to invent one, combining their sense of the oneness of nature with a memory of the nurturing parent of their own infancy. This was the mother goddess. Later, men would become so neurotic that they had to take control of society and the goddess was replaced by a god. Now God was The Father. To demystify religious dogma it is necessary to recognise where any particular belief or teaching is located in this evolutionary process. We have to allow for the level of neurosis and the cultural context. The more neurotic we become the more we need to put a distance between ourselves and the holy (literally, that which is whole). Thus the belief that gods and devils and ghosts have a literal existence in the external world. If we are insecure we have to believe that anything divine or demonic is not a part of us. And like me with my medication, we may need to believe in magic, to believe that Jesus was of virgin birth, walked on the water and rose from the grave. Only when we feel very secure in ourselves can we admit, as William Blake put it, that "everything that lives is holy."

William Blake
The demystification of religion is not just a death but also a resurrection, a fulfilment of all of its promises. What was once just a fairy story becomes a living breathing reality. Jesus said : "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father." John 16:25, NIV, 1984. The prophets of old experienced themselves as mouthpieces for the collective soul of the human race. The term "I" should thus not be seen as referring specifically to the individual doing the speaking. Jesus was telling his followers about the symbolic (i.e. figurative) nature of religion. The time was not yet right to speak plainly. Even speaking as profoundly and honestly as he did about the nature of the human neurosis in figurative terms was enough to get him crucified. What makes honesty now possible, in fact unavoidable, is the breakdown of society. In Jesus' day the authorities would kill and torture those who threatened to reveal that the society over which they ruled was founded upon a disease. Today the symptoms of social and personal collapse are so evident that denial is no longer a viable option. But, as Laing pointed out, a breakdown can also be a breakthrough, and this is where we stand, on the doorstep of the greatest breakthrough in human history.

You can also find this post on the How to Be Free forum here. You may find further discussion of it there.


  1. Hey Joe,
    I am a social scientist - a postmodern feminist, so I draw a lot on Foucault to think through these issues. Unlike other postmodern thinkers, I try to incorporate humanism into my ideas too. In doing this I identify the binary split in our thinking: good/bad, men/women, rational intelligence/emotions, white/black (race as well as symbolic thinking), back to Descartes. Descartes is one of the foundational thinkers of the Enlightenment, when science was developed and took ascendancy over religion as our faith system. In particular, his dictum: cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, came out of his rejection of the body as a means for knowing (yourself/the world/Whatever - do big W sign with fingers at this point!). Descartes said that if he felt something he might be dreaming it, while if he knew it with his mind it was proven real. From there on, the body and feeling were uncool and everything else that was uncool got associated with them: women, people who are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (sports not academic studies), emotions. As you say, we are always seeking a holistic way forward, integrating body and mind, emotions and thought. Because of its basis in Cartesian dualism, this is very unlikely to happen through the scientific project.
    I figure these things out through housework these days. I'm such a fierce feminist that I've gone back to reclaim the domestic instead of rejecting it in favour of working like I've got bigger balls than any man around. In my blog Anthropological Mum I write about trying to experience the world more intensely, get closer to something fundamental in life, by focussing on small mundane caring tasks instead of doing them in a distracted rational way while thinking about other things. (Well, sometimes I sound off about my far left politics! but I often just write about cleaning the floor and cooking biscuits.)
    Hey, I am glad you liked the review of Lusting While Dusting - that is such a hilarious piece of writing. I'm going to work my way back through your catalogue, I've really enjoyed the pieces I read so far.
    You can only be on your own because you're shy. Your pieces of writing are so affectionate about women, y'know women are hungry for affection, you can be pretty god-awful as a bloke and if you just tell them they look nice and give them a chocolate now and then, women will follow you anywhere. That's why those confident bastard types do so well, they know they can keep women stringing along with a cheap red rose and a compliment. It's just a pity for women that the nice men don't have the confidence to get out and collect a bit more.
    I decided long ago that it wasn't worth staying up in my tower waiting for Mr Charming to come and say, Let down your long hair! and I have to say, the rewards for my unfeminine forwardness have been considerable.
    Might you copy your comment on my Feminist Erotica blogpost on my old blog over onto the page where I developed it a bit more on my new blog here:
    I'm really keen to get a debate going on this and soon I'm going to start publicising the blog more widely. I really liked your take on the post and would like it to be there.
    I'm just seeing if I can find a werewolf or vampire story to put on there, since I know younger people like all that Twilight stuff. But werewolves are too macho for safe sex and vampires ... well, they already drink blood so I suppose they think it doesn't matter! although if I remember, Ann Rice's vampire stories were partly HIV allegories. (I could be making that up, I'll have to google it!) Well - there's a challenge for a witty writer like yourself! To write werewolf erotica with safe sex in it! I keep meaning to try and write a piece myself but all that fur n' claws stuff makes me giggle and want to be silly.
    Enough now! I have floors to clean and erotica to review! What a life.

  2. Hi Naoko,

    You are right that Descartes played an important role by trying to separate rational thought entirely from bodily and emotional experience as a way of investigating the truth. It was an approach that was bound to fail. Science is impossible without bodily experience. All evidence for scientific theories is gathered by sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Hallucinations are possible, but the scientist has to assume that he or she is not having one otherwise there is nothing to work with. I've never actually read any of Descartes, but I read enough about him when I was young to write a send-up in which a character said something along the lines of : "Why chose thinking. It would be just as conclusive to say : 'I pick my nose therefore I am.'" That led on to whether the truth of evolution can be proved by the fact that our fingers are the right size to fit up our noses and, eventually, a parody of Plato's cave allegory from The Republic in which it was not a cave with clay figures in front of a fire but a soft-core porn cinema showing a very old movie in which an enlightened patron got up and said : "This isn't reality! We're just watching the shadows of dead people pretending to fuck!" :o)

    But the split I'm talking about goes back way farther than Descartes. Good and evil. Body and soul. Love and hate. Heaven and Hell. And the split between men and women that made patriarchy necessary. Descartes is just someone who gave one of the starkest and most influential articulations of this phenomena.

    As for racism, difference alone can be disturbing to us when we are deeply neurotic. We may want to associate on the same level only with those we identify as "our kind" and to exercise control over "the other". This is especially true if "the other" are less neurotic than ourselves. Since civilisation is a repressive social structure required by neurosis, people who come from primitive cultures can be especially disturbing to many who come from civilised cultures because their relative lack of repression or inhibition speaks in a disturbing way to that which the repressed fear in themselves.

    What you say about housework reminds me of Thoreau. I was reading How I Lived and What I Lived For recently. Also some of the mindfulness literature which I read when healing from my last depression. I'm afraid I'm someone who does things around the house while listening to podcasts rather then paying attention to what I'm doing. This can waste time when I have to do a load of washing twice because I can't remember if I put in the washing liquid. :o) But I want to keep up with what my friends in podcastland are doing and I can't fit it all in if I don't listen while eating, washing dishes, walking, etc. :o)

    I work in a predominantly female workplace so I actually have quite a good rapport with women and also, of course, on-line, but I'm shy about trying to get to know women I might be attracted to when they are actually in front of me.

    I'll transfer the comment. And also add the Anthropological Mum blog to the blog roll here as well.

    1. I've always liked the look of Thoreau and this makes me determined to read some. I'll try out How I Lived.
      I do a lot of academic writing based on Judith Butler, who suggests women and men are not as different as we like to think we are. When her writing first came out, people said her arguments were like saying we shouldn't bother to screen women for breast cancer. Recently I was interested to see attempts in Britain to raise awareness of breast cancer in men. (Of course the argument back to Butler critics was always, No, we should screen men too.) Butler is a nearly incomprehensibly bad writer unfortunately! Academics use writing like laboratories, it isn't always possible to figure out the complexities of gender identity AND write clearly.
      Thank you so much for adding the Anthropological Mum blog to your roll. I am really fond of it and it gets quite a few hits (not too many of them people googling girls' knickers and ending up with my earnest discussion of the way girls are exposed to a heavily sexualised culture). It's great to get a vote of confidence from someone whose writing I admire.