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, 25 September 2012

Deciphering the Jesus Fairy Tale : Part 3 - The Holy Spirit

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." Matthew 12:30-12:33, NIV, 1984.

If Jesus' words have a non-supernatural meaning, what might be meant by the term "the holy spirit"?

In the last essay I talked about how the word "holy" comes from the same root word as "whole" and so can be interpreted as meaning "whole" or "of the whole". The largest whole is the universe. Everything which exists in the universe is a whole which is part of that whole and there are wholes within wholes within wholes. Each of us is a whole individual, made up of cells which are wholes, and the cells are made up of atoms which are whole and the atoms are made up of electrons which are wholes. The meaning of a whole is found in it relationship to the larger whole of which it is a part in just the same way that each of the words in this sentence conveys a meaning through its relationship to the rest of the sentence.

There is a creative principle which is intrinsic to the nature of the universe. Were this not the case there would be nothing in the universe but unstructured energy. Creating more complex wholes is one of the things the universe does. Otherwise we wouldn't be here.

But the disintegration of wholes is also an inescapable part of the functioning of the universe. Among we living things there is life and death. Death brings with it disintegration.

While each whole has its own integrity, each is of the larger whole and ultimately of the universe. We may think of ourselves as separate entities but we are actually a system through which energy and matter is always flowing – coming in from outside when we eat, drink and breathe and leaving us when we move, sweat, excrete, etc. And our mind also is a system with information and ideas coming in from outside and being then shared with others. So, while we think of ourselves as a continuing entity, we are not entirely the same person from moment to moment. The qualities we associate with ourselves are really more like statistical probabilities. The fact that I've liked eating spaghetti for 50 years makes it likely that I will still like eating spaghetti in ten years time, but it is possible that at some stage I'll get sick of it, or be introduced to some amazing kind of pasta which will lead me to never consider spaghetti again. On the other hand the fact that I may be a person with a head cold today does not indicate that I'll probably still be a person with a head cold next year at this time.

The reason we needed to develop the concept of the holy is that we became divided, i.e. we became unholy. As I speculated in How to Be Free, there must have been a time before the human neurosis, a time when our ape-like ancestors lived peacefully together and at one with the natural environment. This would have been made possible by our species extended nurturing period which kept our psychological and social development from being hindered by the struggle for survival in a harsh environment and by the need to compete for food and mating opportunities. This would have been fine except that the men had to protect the group from predators such as leopards. In fighting the leopards, and also in trying to learn to understand them, the men would have had to become more like them, to be aggressive and competitive. Eventually this would have caused problems in the tribal group, creating a rift between the men and the women. This would have been the beginning of the human neurosis as the need to minimise social disturbance led the men, and later the women, to internalise the other's criticisms of them. First we were criticised by our fellows, then we began to criticise ourselves. We developed a conscience. Judgement and condemnation came into being. Judgement and condemnation of others and judgement and condemnation of ourselves.

How easy must it have been when a natural disaster occurred for us to see this as some kind of punishment for bad conduct? Even today, when we know so much about the way the world works, those of us who do not believe in the supernatural often find ourselves thinking, when something bad happens in our lives, "Perhaps I'm being punished." But our early ancestors didn't know what made a volcano erupt or lightning fall from the sky or a flood wash away their village.

From this must have come the concept that there were gods who stood in judgement on our behaviour and might punish us for wrong doing. At the time it was probably different gods in charge of specific natural forces. At some stage the concept of sacrifice to appease the gods must have developed. This makes sense. We had nothing on which to base our concept of what these gods might be like except ourselves. Since we knew that we were sometimes willing to forgive an act against us if the perpetrator gave us something in the way of reparation, it made sense that this would also work with the gods.

At some stage the idea developed in some cultures that there was one single god. Once again we imagined him or her in our image. Once our neurosis developed to the extent that the psychological insecurity of males made it necessary for them to enchain women and take total control, i.e. our society became patriarchal, those societies, if they believed in a single god, believed in a male one.

Some of the qualities which were assigned to this male God were qualities which belonged to the creative principle of the universe. God was seen as the creator of all things, including humans. All matter and life, including humans, arise from and are an expression of that principle. God was considered to be invisible and omnipresent. These qualities also apply to the creative principle of the universe.

But the creative principle of the universe is neither male nor female. It has no supernatural powers. After all it is nature. And it does not stand in judgement over us. We may stand in judgement over ourselves. In fact we generally do. But the creative principle of the universe could give a shit. The sun continued to shine on Adolph Hitler and Idi Amin and Charles Manson. It they had a garden it would not stop producing because of their crimes against their fellows. If we harm our fellows they may strike back or shun us. If we do something we feel is wrong, we may feel guilty. But if the creative principle of the universe is God, and I believe that this is the God of the mystics and shamans as opposed to the God of the Old Testament, then God does not condemn us. Both condemnation and forgiveness are human terms. Something immaterial, like a law of nature, cannot condemn or forgive. On the other hand condemnation and forgiveness are understandable metaphors with regard to natural forces. You could say that if we treat an eco-system so harshly that a vegetated area becomes a desert, our behaviour has been condemned by nature. Likewise, we could say that a robust eco-system which can take a lot of harsh treatment and remain verdant is very forgiving. But we know we are using metaphors and not actually assigning emotional reactions to plants.

So by the time of Jesus, we were severely neurotic as a species. We were at war with ourselves internally, feeling that we were torn between the forces of good and evil. And we were divided from each other emotionally and often in conflict with each other. And above us was the figure of a stern cosmic father who had been known to send fire or flood to wipe out those who broke his laws or in any way gave him offence.

It is in the context of a society of individuals divided internally and also socially (just as we still are today), that the concept of the holy can be seen to be deeply meaningful. What we so crave is to heal the division within ourselves, to achieve individuation as Carl Jung put it. And also to find a healing of society – to heal the divisions which blight our lives.

The creative principle of the universe operatives via forces which draw together parts to form wholes. In human society this principle takes the form of love. Love is simply a form of communication characterised by openness, honesty and spontaneity. Where this kind of communication occurs between human beings it is accompanied by warm feelings of attraction and a cathartic breaking down of any kind of emotional repression which may have been interfering with the emotional health of the individual. It is through this process that we become aware that we are all life itself contained as we may be in the temporary shell of our body. The divisions between us exist only in the unrealistic artificial conceptions of our minds.

Since we long for wholeness for ourselves and our society, that which is truly whole and of the whole has a tremendous importance for us. And to describe this we use the word "holy".

So what might Jesus have meant by the "holy spirit"? We think of a spirit as being a supernatural entity, perhaps synonymous with a ghost. And the term "holy spirit" sometimes seems to be used interchangeably with the term "holy ghost".

But we don't always use the term "spirit" to mean an actual supernatural being. Sometimes we talk about "the spirit of fairness". We can use the term to refer to the essence of something.

What might be the essence of the holy?

What is it which divides us? Lies, delusions, prejudices, differing opinions, differing ideas...

If we were going to be united, what would be the common ground on which we could stand together? If we were to all once more become an integral part of a whole, what would that whole be, and what would be its essence?

The whole would be reality. And its essence the truth.

Now I don't mean some specific hypothetical "truth", like "the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour." I mean the real truth. Whatever is factual.

If you stopped off at the pub on the way home from work for a few drinks with your friends, and your partner angrily asks you where you've been when you get home, then "I had to work back late" is not the truth and "I stopped off for a drink with my friends" is the truth. This is the kind of truth I'm talking about. But I'm also talking about the truth that the earth is about four and a half billion years old. And the truth that the concept of a supernatural being standing judgement over us is a figment of our imaginations.

We may not always know the exact factual truth, but the best approximation of it that we can come to is the only thing which can ever unify us – make us whole and make us part of the whole. There are many lies and delusions, but there can only ever be one truth.

So now we can look at the "holy trinity". The "father" is the creative principle of the universe. The "son" is anything which is a product of the creative principle. And "the holy spirit" is the frame work of truth – the facts – which can be apprehended by the senses and understood, in time, by reason.

Now imagine that you are Jesus and you can see these things and you've been born into a society where people are divided within themselves and in conflict with each other. A society of people who feel ashamed of themselves for various reasons and feel that a cosmic father figure stands in judgement over them. You know that this father figure is a delusion. Unlike them you live in the real world, your mind unclouded by guilt or dogma or superstition. Your God is the God of nature, the creative principle of the universe which does not judge and which gives generously. The God who clothed the lilies of the field more magnificently than Solomon clothed himself. What are you going to do to lead your fellows out of their madness and their misery?

Now you could tell them that it's all in their imaginations. You could tell them that God the Father doesn't exist. This probably wouldn't get you very far. Psychiatrists often try this kind of approach with their psychotic patients. It doesn't work. That's why they rely on drugs. Jesus didn't have access to drugs.

To take that kind of approach is what improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone would call "blocking". A successful improvisation requires that we accept what we are given to work with. One thing which made R. D. Laing such a great psychiatrist was that he took the view that he did not have the right to try to impose his experience of reality onto his patients. He joined them where they were and then tried to help them to find their own way out of the prison cell of their neurosis or psychosis.

I believe that this is also the approach taken by Jesus.

If these people believed that a grim father figure stood in judgement over them then he would tell them that this God had sent him to bring them forgiveness for their "sins". This was not a lie. He knew that the God they feared was the same God in whose world he lived, and that the human face and the judgemental attitude were the distortions of their disturbed minds, like something seen in a crazy house mirror. And he was a product of the creative principle of the universe, as we all are. He was not lying when he said that he was "the son of God". Nor was he lying when he said he had been sent to bring forgiveness. A creative system has to produce what is needed for creation to continue. Flowers produce pollen. If they didn't the bees would die. So it is not inappropriate to say that flowers are sent by nature to bring pollen. Whatever we find to do in our lives to aid creation or the health of the system into which we are born, that is what we were sent to do. But he had to talk the language of the people to whom he was communicating his message.

Jesus realised that God did not judge people. If there was a big flood which killed a lot of people it wasn't because God was unhappy with them. That is not how nature works. And it doesn't take a scientist to see that. Fear-based superstitions were not our original mode of viewing the world. They were a product of our neurosis and they obscured our original realistic view of the world in which we did not try to fill in the gaps in our sensory information about the world with chimeras of the mind.

Jesus realised that we are the only judges, both of ourselves and of others. And he realised that the only Hell was the one we made for ourselves during our life. And he realised that our neurosis left us more dead than alive. The bliss of living in the real world which was his daily experience was unavailable to us. Trapped within the cage of our wounded ego we were deadened emotionally and sensually and our embattlement, our character armour as Wilhelm Reich called it, meant that we could no longer interact with the world and our fellows spontaneously as we had when we were children. We can tell when something dies because it stops actively interacting with its environment. The more armoured we were, the more cut off from interaction, the more we were, metaphorically-speaking, dead. This was acknowledged by those who referred to Jesus as "the first born from among the dead".

Jesus talked a lot about life after death and not having to die. Clearly the body dies. Those who believed in him still died physically. So what was he talking about? Principally, I think, he was talking about the state of spiritual death in which he found people. He was saying that this was a preventable mental illness, one which was reversible, one from which they could be "resurrected" or "born again". And it was a disease which those young people who followed his advice would never have to experience, at least so he thought.

Of course there may have been more to it than that. He talked of eternal life. There are three parts of our consciousness – our raw consciousness, our physical sensations and our ego, or conscious thinking self. Our raw consciousness is life itself, the shared consciousness of the entire universe. We have that in common, not just with all other humans, but with animals, plants, inorganic matter and all forms of energy. And since it is all one network of energy and energy can never be destroyed, it is eternal. Our physical sensations and our thoughts are individual to us and provide the shaping of raw consciousness. One day you will no longer have a body or a brain. There will be no "you" to feel or think anything. But raw consciousness has always been not "you" or "me" but "us" – or rather a big all-encompassing "me". We know what this means when we feel love. When we feel love we realise that "you" and "me" are really "us", that that which is individual to us in our consciousness is tiny compared to what is communal. What we fear when we fear death is the death of the ego, the lesser part of our consciousness.

So why did Jesus say that blasphemy against the holy spirit is the one thing which will not be forgiven? Dishonesty is the blasphemy against the holy spirit. Now, of course, we have all been dishonest at one time or another. He is no talking about something for which we are going to be condemned by a cosmic father figure. He is telling us that dishonesty is the one "sin" by which we condemn ourselves to the prevailing psychological disease. If we do something to harm other people then we may suffer the consequences. They may take revenge on us or shun us. But the universe won't punish us. The universe could give a shit what we do.

But access to the bliss of living in the real world is something we can deny to ourselves. If our mind is truthful, if it is grounded on the bedrock of what is, then there is no fog of confused dogma, self-deception or denial to stand between us and the joy, in all its forms, that the real world has to offer to us. On the other hand, when we start to tell lies we can create a hell for ourselves in which we live constantly in fear of being found out. And we cut ourselves off totally from the possibility of love, because love is open, honest, spontaneous communication. The real world is the only place were love can occur. Lies separate us. Love requires the common ground of truthfulness.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-8:36, NIV

Often we are led to believe that the term "sin" refers to having a good time – sex, carousing, whatever. That's not what Jesus is referring to. What he means by "sin" is selfishness, and slavery to "sin" is neurosis. Neurosis is mental suffering. And, naturally, when we are suffering our attention is directed towards our self, in the same way our attention is directed towards our thumb when we hit it with a hammer. Sex and carousing are not sinful in this sense unless they are pursued selfishly and thus are a cause of division between individuals, or unless we feel guilty about them, in which case they feed back into our neurosis. And the answer to guilt is to be truthful in our assessment of our behaviour. If it does no harm to anyone then there is no reason to feel guilty, and if it is in the past then we can't change it and so, once again, there is no need to feel guilty. But the key here is "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free". This doesn't mean any specific dogmatic "truth". It means simply the truth. To be able to see things realistically and to be truthful about one's self.

If we have built a cage of fabrications for ourselves, then the way out is to admit the truth about ourselves. To come out of the closet so to speak. The gay liberation movement have set a great example for this. And there are examples of liberating truth-telling throughout our culture. A recent example was the hilarious ending of the film The Campaign (2012) in which rival politicians compete to see who can be the most truthful. They admit all sorts of embarrassing things about themselves and find that the public love them for it.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7.1-7.2, NIV, 1984.

Jesus recognised that we were only being judged by ourselves and each other. God could give a shit. What mattered, if we were going to be free from our neurosis, was that we could return to honesty. But how could we be open and honest about ourselves in a social context in which we would be judged by our fellows for past actions or present feelings? Honesty was the one thing which could set us free, and dishonesty was the one thing which was condemning each new generation to the same fate. No matter what we did to hurt each other, without dishonesty, the effects would heal within a few generations or less, but if we couldn't be truthful, and each generation grew up surrounded by lies and half-truths, the suffering of humanity would just continue. So he tried to encourage the idea that people should accept their fellows regardless of what they might confess to, because to do otherwise was to exclude us all from a world in which we could live together in the bliss of reality. And he was also acknowledging that the mindset which judges others is one which opens itself up to self-judgement.

The human neurosis has been a terrible curse. At times it has made us do terrible things. But if we are willing to not bar the way back to Paradise – the paradise of the real world (the world that science is telling us so much about) – to anyone else, then we can all return there together.

If Moral Virtue was Christianity
Christ's Pretensions were all Vanity.
The Moral Christian is the Cause
Of the Unbeliever and his laws.
For what is Antichrist but those
Who against Sinners Heaven close.

William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel

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