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.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Deciphering the Jesus Fairy Tale - Part 1

"Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." Matthew 3:2, NIV (1984).

I don't believe in the supernatural. And yet, somehow, the words of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament and the apocryphal gospels, have always been intensely meaningful to me. I've increasingly come to see what appear to be supernatural elements in the philosophy he expressed to be symbolic rather than literal – a description of perceivable rational aspects of reality in poetic terms.

There are a couple of possible explanations for this. We live in a universe in which patterns are repeated. This is why it is so easy to come up with metaphors, because aspects of our own experience often follow similar patterns to those of nature. We might say : "I was holding in my grief, but then the dam broke." The two phenomena are independent but the pattern is the same. So Jesus might have been a man who believed in the supernatural, and it might be a coincidence that the pattern of his supernatural belief system sometimes is in sync with my own rationalistic belief system.

On the other hand it is possible that Jesus didn't believe in the supernatural either but was using poetic language because it was the only kind of language he had available to him to communicate his ideas. When we say that someone is "wrestling with his demons" we know that we don't mean he is literally fighting with evil supernatural entities, but we often assume that those who lived in an era when science was only just beginning must have always been talking literally when they made references to supernatural beings. This may not always have been the case. Today we can talk about neurosis, psychosis, systems theory, evolution, etc., but in Jesus' day the scientific framework for such ways of talking about ourselves and the nature of the universe did not exist. Jesus seems to have acknowledged the limitations under which he was working. "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. (In prophetic speech the individual is a mouthpiece for some form of deeper collective awareness, what Jung called the collective unconscious, and so we can't assume that Jesus thought he would be able to achieve this personally.)

It is also important to remember that the accounts of Jesus life which have been handed down to us were most likely recorded generations after the events occurred. To we neurotics the healthy individual is liable to appear magical. We have two options to explain the difference between us and them. We can think of ourselves as healthy individuals and them as superhuman, or we can acknowledge that the difference is due to our own state of sickness. The former assumption tends to be the more comfortable one. And when stories are handed down under these circumstances it is likely that the metaphorical will transmute into the literal. Lazarus may have said : "It was as if I were dead, but since I met Jesus, I am now alive." A hundred or more years later and the story becomes one of Jesus reanimating Lazarus' corpse.

So this series of articles will be an explanation of what Jesus' words mean to me. I'm no authority. I haven't done a lot of reading on the topic, even in the Bible. So this is a personal experiment the value of which depends, as with all my writing here, only on whether it strikes a chord with the reader. But I certainly would encourage anyone to do more reading and to take an interest in the interpretations others may put upon these words which have had such a profound impact on our culture and our history.

"Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near" is one of Jesus most famous statements. The traditional interpretation is that we should express shame for our sinful ways and put them behind us as a supernatural deity is going to assert control in some way and we will be sorry if we are not in line with the new order he will be establishing. Alternatively, I suppose, the Kingdom of Heaven could be interpreted as a place we go after we die and thus the admonition would be to repent before we die and have to face this supernatural deity in the after life.

Wikipedia gives this definition : "Repentance is the activity of reviewing one's actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs." But it also says : In the New Testament the word translated as 'repentance' is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), "after/behind one's mind", which is a compound word of the preposition 'meta' (after, with), and the verb 'noeo' (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by 'after' and 'different'; so that the whole compound means: 'to think differently after'. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, "change of mind and heart", or, "change of consciousness".

What was Jesus really talking about when he referred to "the Kingdom of Heaven"? He referred to "Heaven" or "the Kingdom of Heaven" a lot. If we don't believe in the supernatural, and thus don't believe in a personal after-life, is this term meaningless?

Whatever Jesus meant by "the Kingdom of Heaven" was something he felt was "near". In this context the term is often interpreted as "about to occur". If this were the case then Jesus was wrong. Almost two thousand years later Christians are still waiting for such an event. So, while it might still occur, it was not imminent in Jesus' own time.

But the term "near" can also refer to something which is in close physical proximity to us. Something which already exists. In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas it says : Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty." Gospel of Thomas, Log 3. Here Jesus says that "the Kingdom" is inside of us and outside of us. It is not coming, it is already here. But it is close in proximity. Nothing can be closer to us than something which is within us.

To understand what might be meant by the term "Heaven" in a non-supernatural sense we need to consider the nature of joy or bliss as well as the nature of suffering. Symbolically, Heaven is a symbol for bliss and Hell is a symbol for suffering. The common denominator of all suffering is self-consciousness. When we feel physical or emotion pain our consciousness focusses naturally on our self. Anxiety, shame, embarrassment... All of these are emotional states which involve an intense awareness of our self. By contrast, joy, bliss or ecstasy are states in which we forget ourselves, in which our enjoyment of something is so great that we are lost in it. Our emotional experience is rich but it is unselfconscious.

"Outside the trap, right close by, is living Life, all around one, in everything the eye can see and the ear can hear and the nose can smell. To the victims within the trap it is eternal agony, a temptation as for Tantalus. You see it, you feel it, you smell it, you eternally long for it, yet you can never never get through the exit out of the trap. To get out of the trap simply has become an impossibility. It can only be had in dreams and in poems and in great music and paintings, but it is no longer in your motility. The keys to the exit are cemented into your own character armour and into the mechanical rigidity of your body and soul.

"This is the great tragedy. And Christ happened to know it."

Wilhelm Reich, The Murder of Christ, 1953.

Wilhelm Reich under arrest for alleged Food and Drug Administration violations shortly before his death in prison
Bliss is the primary emotional characteristic of existence. If we are not worried or depressed or frightened or in pain then we have no choice but to feel joy because that is what is left when those other feelings are absent. "And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3, NIV. When we were young children we knew "heaven". When nothing was currently troubling us we knew bliss. In adult life we tend to fall under the illusion that happiness is something which must be earned or paid for. We try to buy happiness in the form of expensive possessions. We try to win happiness by engaging in competitive behaviour. We try to earn happiness by being a good person. We have forgotten that, unless we are struggling for our existence or being seriously mistreated, happiness is freely available to us whenever we feel ready to give up trying to prove anything about ourselves and simply be.

Repentance, in the traditional sense, would just be another form of armouring – another bar on Hell's cage – because to feel regret and strive to exercise self-discipline is to tie ourselves up more tightly in our self. This is why Jesus emphasised that "sins" (i.e. forms of selfishness) are forgiven by "God" (i.e. the creative principle of the universe). Because the way to access the healing joy of raw existence and thus move beyond selfishness is to live in the present as a child does.

So this famous passage could be restated : "Change your consciousness for happiness is all around you."

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