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.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Anti-Christ Psychosis

I just noticed today that Nicolas Cage has signed on to star in an Apocalyptic sci-fi thriller called Left Behind, due for release next year. This is a remake of a 2001 film based on the first of a series of best-selling novels. These books, and the previous films, have been very popular with a certain section of the U.S. Christian audience. I haven’t seen any of them, but they appear to be based on a very literalist interpretation of The Book of Revelations. The rise of a seductive and powerful Anti-Christ occurs after all of the Christians have been taken off to a better place by The Rapture. The message is that you better hurry up and accept Christ as your personal saviour or you may be “left behind” in this horrific world.

This got me thinking about people who believe in this sort of thing. Apparently 13% of U.S. voters believe that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ. This is not something which just affects a few guys wearing “The End Is Nigh” sandwich boards. So lets look at it both from a historical and psychological perspective.

The first five books of the New Testament were written to spread a message to anyone who would listen. They were not addressed only to those who were already believers. This is not true of The Book of Revelations. This book, like the epistles of Paul and others, was aimed exclusively at members of the established Christian churches of the time when it was written. It was a prediction about problems which were likely to occur within the Christian churches. And it was not to be taken literally. It was presented as a record of a dream. Dreams are not literally true, though they can contain valuable truths expressed symbolically. A beast isn’t going to come out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads. We don’t live in a Godzilla movie. (Anyway, how would you distribute ten horns over seven heads and not have it look like a mistake?)

So the warnings about false prophets are warnings about those who teach something false within the Christian churches. And the warnings about great tribulation when hidden secrets are revealed is a warning that the crimes of those who take the wrong path into a false form of Christianity will be exposed and that they will be greatly mortified by that revelation. Hence the book of “Revelations”.

The Anti-Christ is a symbol for something within Christianity. There are two basic ways to be someone’s enemy. One is to do something against them while they are alive. No-one can be the enemy of Jesus in this way any more. He died two thousand years ago. The only way we can be the enemy of someone who is dead is to betray their legacy. We are ourselves and we are the ideas or works we may leave behind when we die. If we make no claim to being Christians then we can do no serious damage to Jesus’ legacy, whether we be atheists, agnostics, wiccans, Muslims, Hindus, or anything else. To reject or even attack someone’s ideas still leaves them intact. I suppose, in theory, we could try to destroy the record of that person’s ideas, but in the case of the words of Jesus that would be a very big job. No, if Christ has enemies they are Christian enemies. There is no worse betrayal than to claim to represent someone while preaching the very ideas they abhorred. I think the warning that John gave in the Book of Revelations was a warning that some Christians would betray Christ by preaching intolerance and hatred in his name.

The central message of Jesus was that love is the thing which really matters. Love is God manifested in human affairs. We should even love our enemies. And we shouldn’t judge anyone if we do not wish to be also judged. He told his followers to love each other as he had loved them. Love is any form of communication characterised by openness, honesty, spontaneity and generosity. It requires that we accept the other person unconditionally and not try to exercise control, physical or psychological over them.

Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, promiscuity (as opposed to adultery which is the breach of a promise), abortion, voting for the Democrats, etc. If these are trespasses, then he recommended that we forgive them. He even asked God to forgive those who crucified him. There are clearly some Christians whose behaviour is in opposition to the philosophy preached by Jesus. The Anti-Christ is a symbol for this pathological tendency, just as Satan is a symbol for the pathological tendency of dishonesty, hence his being referred to as “the Father of Lies”.

The poet William Blake (1757-1827) viewed the Bible as a fictional document which was of interest because it depicted in a symbolic way the deep psychological conflicts which go on in the human psyche. He saw all the angels and demons as representations of internal psychological archetypes. And he used this same kind of symbolism in his own writing. In his poem The Everlasting Gospel he says “For what is Antichrist by those / Who against Sinners Heaven close.” He understood what the Book of Revelations was really warning against. By contrast his view of Christ’s message is summed up in a line from The Gates of Paradise : “Mutual forgiveness of each Vice, Such are the Gates of Paradise.”

Paranoia is an anxiety disorder in which we project the disowned part of our psyche onto others or onto the world around us generally. Belief in an Anti-Christ of the kind portrayed in Left Behind is a classic case of paranoia. We can see that such a literal figure is not what was intended by the author of the Book of Revelations. And we can see that many, if not most, of those who exhibit a belief in such an Anti-Christ also exhibit behaviour which places them within the category of the Anti-Christian that Blake described and the Book of Revelations warned Christians about.

If this belief can be seen as a paranoid delusion then it fits the definition of a psychosis. I know what it is to have a psychotic episode. I’ve had a few of them. They are characterised by irrational beliefs which are not supported by the evidence of the senses or, in some cases, a disturbance of the senses so that one hears or sees something which is not heard or seen by anyone else in the vicinity. The cause of this disjuncture with reality is an extreme state of emotional confusion arising from what is called a double bind situation. This is a situation in which we feel we have two options neither of which is acceptable. A case of damned if we do and damned if we don’t. An example given by the psychiatrist R. D. Laing was of a woman who had an absolute need to believe in the trustworthiness of her husband. When she came home and found him having sex with another woman she began hallucinating. There was no rational way for her to face her dilemma so her mind temporarily abandoned rationality.

Most cases of psychosis which are so defined are individual in nature. I had delusions. I behaved in bizarre ways. I was locked up in a hospital and given anti-psychotic medication. This is what normally happens as our delusions are experiences which are contrary to the experience of those around us. We may try to maintain these delusions but it is us against the world and the world wins, partly because the delusions are unrealistic and partly because the world outnumbers us and has access to a mental hospital and anti-psychotic drugs.

But there is also such a thing as a collective psychosis. If a whole bunch of people are caught up in the same double bind situation and there is a cultural precedent for the delusion they develop as a result then the world may not win, at least for a long time, as the delusion in each individual gets reinforcement by the others who share it.

Many Christians have a deep sense of ambivalence about Jesus. They need him desperately. They feel he offers them the only way to salvation. They need to be seen to be his supporters. This is central to their self-image. But, deep down, probably below the level of consciousness, they hate him. They hate him because he asks the impossible of them. He asks them to love everybody. And they feel, falsely, that he expects them to live a radically disciplined life. This puts them in a double-bind. They feel they must love Christ. But the more they try to love him the more they hate him. It is a negative feedback loop, and a double-bind. I think that one reason why the film The Passion of the Christ (2004) had such a powerful cathartic effect on some Christians, in a way which was distinct from their response to previous cinematic depictions of the story of Jesus, was because it provided an outlet for the hatred of Christ which they did not even dare to acknowledge to themselves. It let them share in the crucifixion of the man they felt, on some level, had crucified them. After all, the film portrayed very little of the loving message of Jesus and an awful lot of flayed flesh and spurting blood.

Of course, many Christians are not judgemental, nor are they paranoid. Many appropriately respond to Jesus’ message. They recognise that love and non-judgement are to be practiced with oneself as well as others, and they are able to live in the real world. These are the quiet Christians. The more of a song and dance someone makes about a belief the more they are trying to silence that contrary voice inside. It would not surprise me to find that Christian literalism or fundamentalism is something which has grown since Jesus day. They didn’t have science like we do, but that doesn’t mean that talk of angels and demons was always taken literally. You don’t need science to not believe in the literal existence of such creatures. You only need never to have seen one. And do we really think hallucinations were more common then than now? But poets talk in these kinds of terms all the time. It is possible that the key difference between now and then was that most people spoke poetically then while now we tend to speak literally. There is every reason to believe we are more prone to mental illness now than then. And in the area of religion this is especially true as the kind of double-bind I describe here has been with us for a long time now, spiralling further and further out of control.

So we can see that the Anti-Christ Psychosis is the projected fear of those who, on a subconscious level, know that they themselves are anti-Christ.

What will happen when this delusion collapses, as it inevitably must? This is what is warned of in the Book of Revelations as the time of great tribulation for many Christians. A time when people will feel so bad they want to die. There is no Hell in a literal sense. The warning that taking the wrong path would lead to a “Lake of Fire” is a description of the emotional pain of being confronted and exposed by the revelation that we were the thing we abhorred. The separating of the goats from the lambs describes what happens when the world at large can see clearly which Christians were real Christians and which were not.

I view Jesus not as a supernatural being and not as a religious leader, but rather as a psychiatrist operating through the medium of traditionally religious symbols and parables. I don’t think he performed literal miracles, in the sense of anything contrary to the normal laws of nature. But I do believe that he “cast out devils”. What is our image of the possessed individual? Linda Blair in The Exorcist (1973). What kind of behaviour does she exhibit when possessed? Lets forget about the Hollywood nonsense of green skin and spinning head. She is uninhibitedly sexual and she is verbally abusive and blasphemous. What do we repress within ourselves? Aggressive feelings toward others. Sexual feelings especially of a taboo nature. And, if we are religiously disciplined, blasphemous thoughts. What we see here, if we ignore the supernatural trappings, is the return of the repressed – the cathartic spewing out of psychological or emotional poisons. Exorcism has nothing to do with demons, it is what Freud called the Id – the repository of repressed angers and libidinous drives - which is being expelled. You’ve heard of speed dating? This is speed therapy. Transference, counter-transference and liberating catharsis all in a matter of minutes.

This is how I imagine it happening. Jesus is preaching when this angry man approaches him.

I’ve had enough of your hippy drivel you long-haired pig-shit-eating pustule on a whore’s cunt! I’d like to cut off your diseased cock and shove it up your mother-fucking asshole. I can’t wait for them to nail you to a cross. I’ll be there eating popcorn, you piece of shit,” he says. And then he falls to his knees with tears streaming from his eyes.

Jesus calmly places his hand on the man’s shoulder and says “It’s going to be okay. You’ll feel better now.”

It is the truth, and only the truth, which sets anyone free. This is not some mystical truth. It is the factual truth. So, while the realisation that one is a part of what was labelled the Anti-Christ by John in the Book of Revelations, may be a painful shock at first, akin to a dip in a lake of molten lead perhaps, it is really a liberating realisation. Christ forgave those who crucified him, so that loving element in the human spirit of which he was an expression will also forgive those who, through fear and confusion, turned against it. In truth, nobody gets left behind.

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