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

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 12

Appeals to Authority

When I use a quote I do so for one of two reasons. I either believe that the idea expressed in the quote is illuminating or otherwise useful in its own right, or it is a quote from someone like Jesus whose ideas have a great importance for many people which makes an interpretation of what they may mean culturally significant. (I don’t believe that just because Jesus said something it is necessarily true. Being a human being like the rest of us, he was presumably not without his flaws.)

I make great use of concepts I take from the work of the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, such as character armour, but I don’t expect anyone to find these ideas more credible because he was the one who first expressed them. In fact, he is not widely respected. In his day and now most people who are familiar with his writings consider him to have been a bit of a nutcase. If the concept of the character armour carries weight it is because of its inherent explanatory power, not because of who expressed it.

For Griffith, worldly authority means a lot. When trying to persuade us that Don Quixote is profound he points out that it was “voted ‘The Greatest Book of All Time’ by the world’s most acclaimed writers in a poll arranged by the Nobel Institute”. He points out that Professor Harry Prosen, who wrote the introduction to his book is “the former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association”. Of Plato he says : “Alfred North (A. N.) Whitehead, himself one of the most highly regarded philosophers of the twentieth century, described the history of philosophy as being merely “a series of footnotes to Plato.” And he always makes sure to put “Sir” in front of the names of those who have been knighted - “Sir Laurens van der Post”, “Sir James Darling”, “Sir David Attenborough”. (Is this simply a mark of respect or does he expect us to take what they say more seriously because this honour has been bestowed upon them?)

The worth of a piece of writing is intrinsic. If it has truth or beauty, it has them regardless of what some group of famous authors say about it. Academic credentials mean that someone has met certain intellectual criteria, but as Griffith would have to admit, given his contempt for the ideas of fellow biologist E. O. Wilson, they are no guarantee of sound thinking or judgement. If those scientists who reject Griffith’s work have no credibility in his eyes, why should a scientist who supports him necessarily have any credibility in the eyes of the rest of us?

And what is a knighthood? It is an “honour” conferred by the British monarchy, a pathologically hierarchical manifestation of our social neurosis. The monarchy is just a bunch of people with the same kinds of strengths and weaknesses as the rest of us. The status which is conferred upon them has no intrinsic basis. It is not based on them being wise or virtuous or psychologically healthy. Truth carries its own authority which has nothing to do with the human mouthpiece through which it is expressed. The only reason we respect authority, as opposed to such intrinsic values as truth, justice and the inherent value of all humans, is because we are neurotic. Cowering within our own armour, we kowtow to those whose egotism is more dominant than our own. Or, we compensate for our own unjustified feelings of inferiority by vicariously participating in the illusory superiority of another. When Jesus said : “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:2, he wasn’t talking about physical buildings, he was talking about neurotic structures of authority.

If Plato and Cervantes’ are worth reading, and I think they probably are, it is because of what their works actually are in themselves not how they are viewed by others.

Why all of these appeals to authority? It is the Trojan Horse strategy. If you try to convey your message to the world of authority and they reject it what do you do? You clothe it in a coating of things which that world does respect.

But if the central message is not true, this strategy too will fail.

Development of Order of Matter

Griffith says : “From the fundamental ingredients of our world of matter, space and time, matter has become ordered into ever larger (in space) and more stable or durable (in time) arrangements.”

In fact the opposite is often, if not generally, the case. Living things, which are more ordered, are generally smaller and less durable than simpler forms of matter. Rocks can be very big and very durable. A redwood tree is more complex, but smaller and less durable. And a human being is even more complex than a redwood tree, but once again smaller and less durable.

He says that the law that governs the development of ever more complex forms of matter is the Second Path of the Second Law of Thermodynamics’, or ‘Negative Entropy’, which states that in an open system, where energy can come into the system from outside it (in Earth’s case, from the sun, and, in the case of the universe, from the original ‘big bang’ explosion that created it)…” Now I don’t know much about the big bang, but can it be said to be a source of energy from outside? Certainly the energy released could drive negative entropy, but if the amount of energy in the universe is fixed, it would still be a closed system now and thus this process of negative entropy would not be infinitely sustainable.

From Erwin Schr√∂dinger : “What an organism feeds on is negative entropy…” I don’t get that. Surely an organism is negative entropy and what it feeds on is entropy. It is the breakdown of other forms of matter which provides the energy for the building up of the organism’s living matter. It is the breakdown of matter in the sun (entropy) which provides us with heat and light and it is the breakdown of the other organisms we consume in our stomach (entropy) which provides us with the energy we need to do things.

Is the universe not a chaotic system in which order arises naturally through the interplay of the forces of creation and destruction? It does not arise, as human hierarchies arise, by deference to a higher authority, but by an anarchic confluence of self-interest. Surely single-celled organisms formed communities and later became incorporated into multi-celled organisms because there were survival advantages to the individual in doing so. Order among we humans can be either naturally occurring - a group of stamp collectors are brought together by their love of stamps - or hierarchically imposed - as in the case of the nation state with its laws and authoritarian institutions. I worry that Griffith’s concept of the development of matter leans towards the authoritarian - i.e. deference to the dictatorship of our “selflessness-orientated” genes. I see no need for that. My vision of a united humanity is more like the group of stamp-collectors. Love feels good. Self-interest, once we are liberated from our neurosis, propels - rather than compels - us to it.

Bruce Lipton gives a much better presentation of the idea of the development of order within living systems on the way to a united humanity than Griffith does. You can find it in his book Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (And a Way to Get There from Here) :

Asking for Everything Is the Best Way to Get Nothing

Griffith goes on and on about how the theme of existence is “unconditional selflessness”. All the wonders of nature are only possible because the parts of each organism are willing to die in service of the whole. Little if no acknowledgement of the benefits the whole provides to the part. Who would want any of this depressing view of existence?

The desire to cooperate and be in loving communion with others arises naturally. We go down that path, when our character armour doesn’t stand in the way, because it feels good to do so. But what if someone told us that that road led to martyrdom - to the sacrifice of our life for the common good? We might shrink back from it altogether. Sure, people do give their lives for others. But we needn’t expect a willingness to do that from all in order to benefit from their capacity to cooperate in less extreme ways.

This is the nature of idealism - to hold up the ultimate and, in so doing, to drive us away from the centre and towards the other extreme. Most of us can be reasonably cooperative and loving. To what degree depends on our level of self-acceptance. When the words “unconditionally selfless” are bandied about our self-acceptance is liable to be undermined. Reasonably co-operative and loving doesn’t seem to be enough. So we are driven away from our midway position, perhaps into the state of depression (a form of suffering which makes us more selfish) or into a state of defensive hostility against the one who implicitly criticises us by holding up this, for us, unreachable ideal.

Now Griffith is not simply advocating “unconditional selflessness” (or any ideal). He believes that deep down we want to be ideal. What he is trying to do is to remove the impasse to that by providing a defence for our historically non-ideal behaviour. This all makes sense from the point of view of his theoretical concept of the world. It doesn’t work in practice though, because his theory is wrong.

Maybe we will one day have a truly united humanity in which all of the members are willing, if necessary, to give their life for others. But it won’t be because we saw that as a worthy end and strove for it. Love and cooperation bring their own rewards. To be a member of a loving community is to be nurtured with bliss like a baby at it’s mothers breast. It is that bliss that makes the members of that community strong, and only then, with that strength, can come the willingness to give oneself back to the whole.

Read Part 13

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