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 725 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 10

Darwin vs. Wallace

Griffith points out that “Darwin’s associates, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace, persuaded him to substitute the term ‘natural selection’ with the term ‘survival of the fittest’” in this letter from Wallace :

He says that this made possible the “Social Darwinism” excuse for our competitive behaviour.

I’m not very well-informed on Darwin, Wallace and Spencer, but from what I have been able to discover via Wikipedia, and a reading of Wallace’s letter, the attribution of such a motive to Wallace seems inappropriate. Spencer was the proponent of Social Darwinism. It was his term which Wallace recommended to Darwin, but Wallace’s stated reason was that too many people interpreted “natural selection” as implying that Darwin was saying that there is a conscious spirit within nature which makes a selection. They didn’t understand that talk of nature “choosing” something was merely metaphorical. “Survival of the fittest” has an inevitability about it which in no way suggests the involvement of an intelligence.

One could argue that that was Spencer’s stated argument, but that subconsciously he wanted something which would enable us to feel more comfortable about our competitive behaviour. The problem with such an interpretation is that Wallace’s articulation of the theory of natural selection which was formulated simultaneously and independently of Darwin’s and presented jointly with it, did not emphasise competition between individuals in the way that Darwin’s did. According to Wikipedia : “Darwin emphasised competition between individuals of the same species to survive and reproduce, whereas Wallace emphasised environmental pressures on varieties and species forcing them to become adapted to their local conditions, leading populations in different locations to diverge.”

Maybe Griffith’s argument would be more consistent if he said that our need to find an excuse for our competitive behaviour is why the sounder articulation of Wallace was supplanted by Darwin’s more evasive competition-emphasising version.

Are We Genetically Selfish or Genetically Selfless or Neither?

I feel no compulsion to perpetuate my genes. And I am just as likely if not more likely to do something to help someone I’m not related to than someone I am. So the idea that genetic selfishness is a major factor in my behaviour, as it supposedly is in other animals, seems unsupported.

If other animals are genetically selfish, and we are not, then how did this occur? Griffith has an explanation, but it seems to be more than is really needed.

Our nurturing period is longer than other animals, presumably because our ancestors lived in a food-rich environment which provided them with more leisure time to care for their infants, as Griffith suggests. He claims this led to the development of a hardwired genetic orientation toward loving selflessness.

Why would that be necessary?

In other animals a harsh environment means that they have to begin concentrating early on the battle to survive. There minds have to be focused on this. Only many many generations of relative freedom from the battle to survive, living in a leisurely nurturing environment, provided the space necessary for the brain’s potential to form new pathways not strictly limited to the needs of day-to-day survival. So we developed intelligence and the ability to reason.

Now animals have to blindly follow their instincts. They have no choice. Having an intelligent brain means we don’t have to follow our genetic impulses if we don’t want to. We can breed or not breed. It’s up to us. The brain brings with it other things to do which can be equally, if not more meaningful. To discover something which is helpful to the group, such as a new source of food, may give us a more meaningful kind of heritage than simply breeding. Finding understanding and communicating on a higher level are imperatives which come from the mind which can smoothly coexist with or over-ride a genetic imperative to perpetuate our genes.

Why would a cooperative past for our species require a genetic orientation towards cooperation? Cooperation is what feels best when we are not selfish. It can easily be motivated by the pleasure principle. Now selfishness is the natural self-directedness of the suffering individual. That suffering can be from an injury or physical sickness, it can be from hunger, thirst or cold, it could be from frustration in our attempts to perpetuate our genes, but for we humans, as often as not, the suffering which makes us selfish is neurotic suffering. Neurotic suffering arises from compromised self-acceptance. The most powerful underminer of self-acceptance is idealism which tells us : “You are unacceptable in some way.” Because the kind of behaviour which idealism criticises is generally defensive behaviour, with offence sometimes seeming the best defence, idealism sets up a negative feedback loop which generates more anti-social behaviour.

Of course things like food shortages, harsh living environments and physical disease might compromise our cooperativeness to some degree, but in the absence of idealism-bred neurosis we would have a good chance of maintaining our solidarity in the face of such challenges, because love - open, honest, spontaneous and generous communication - is such a richly rewarding pleasure-giving experience that we would sacrifice much to maintain access to it. At its deepest level it makes us know that we are life itself, so we may feel we will really lose nothing if we have to give our life because of it.

So no genetic orientation to selflessness is needed to explain the human condition. It all began with a single “mistake” which our conscious minds made. That mistake was deciding that it was meaningful to try, by an act of will, to avoid certain behaviours which we called “evil” and pursue other behaviours which we called “good”. We placed conditions on our love of ourselves and others and thus undermined the unconditional love which is the normal healthy state of any intelligent mind.

Idealism can be understood as a conceptual virus which has plagued humanity and in Griffith’s defiant attempts to “confront us” with our “non-ideal state and behaviour” we see it in its most virulent form. We humans have arrived at a desperate place. Conflict, social breakdown, ecological collapse… These are all real. But Griffith’s ideas are not the solution, they are the very distillation of the problem. What he brings us is poison labelled as medicine.

Read Part 11

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