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, I-Tunes 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 457 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. I-Tunes.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 6

The Test of Experience

He quotes Albert Einstein : “Truth is what stand the test of experience.” I love that quote. This is the test I apply with my own tentative speculations. But we should always remember the history of cults, conspiracy theories and fanaticisms. Our capacity to be persuaded by something which later turns out not to have been true is fairly high. What I look for in myself and others is the fluid and spontaneous application of a would be insight. If ideas can be used easily and flexibly to illuminate phenomena and can be assimilated relatively effortlessly and used in independent ways by others, then all bodes well for their soundness. We should be wary of ideas which require a hard sell to get people interested, repetitive exposure to be assimilated and are applied to phenomena in a simplistic way which relies on regurgitating the rhetoric of the originator. All of these things are suggestive of dogma.

What Griffith’s ideas have not done for me is to stand the test of experience. Since I rejected them and began to follow my own path my mental health (which had troubled me since adolescence) has improved to the point that I haven’t experienced any depression or other symptoms of mental illness for at least eight years. And I have found an explanation for the human condition which can be shared fairly simply. I know how accountable I find this explanation, but readers will arrive at their own conclusions.

The  “Deaf Effect”

Griffith explains his need to repeat himself and the fact that people find it so hard to really take in what he is saying by referring to what he calls “the deaf effect”. He claims that the subject of the human condition has been so daunting, so off-limits to our brains, that we have had to protectively block it out with denial. In reading his books our brains sense we are being asked to enter forbidden territory and therefore they put up defences which interfere with comprehension.

As I’ve said previously, I think there is some truth to this in the sense that his books are drenched in extreme idealism and since idealism is corroding of our self-acceptance, we may well try to block it out.

He says that watching the videos on the World Transformation Movement’s website will help with this process, because the sight of someone calmly talking about this forbidden territory will reassure us that the danger of going into it has been addressed. It may be true that watching the videos will help readers to feel less defensive, but the argument that it would not be possible to talk about the topic so calmly unless one had achieved full understanding of it and thus made it safe is not true. The calmness would also be there if the speaker had an unshakeable faith in a dogmatic unfounded explanation of that subject. Whether understanding has been achieved has to be judged according to the explanatory ability of the theory, not by the calmness or self-confidence of the person espousing it.

If we learn the habit of unconditional self-acceptance then we will be able to read any book without any fear that anything in it will undermine us - thus we will be able to see it clearly and without bias and assess what it does or doesn’t have to offer us clearly.

One thing that worries me about Griffith’s work is that it contains two principle ingredients :

1. Exposure to extreme idealism. This is what Griffith describes as its “necessarily confronting” content.

2. A defence for our non-ideal condition and behaviour.

If exposure to the first ingredient undermines our self-acceptance, what is the chance that we will be fussy about the accountability of the latter. It may be a case of “any port in a storm.”

So, while I feel that Griffith’s work is a useful exploration and forces us to address serious issues, there is a danger that, if it is not a truthful explanation of the human condition (and I don’t believe that it is), it may be acting like a kind of conceptual parasite fastening onto readers by virtue of their insecurities about their own worth. Does this “information” offer genuine liberation for them or only a way of “proving” their worth through their faith in Griffith’s theory and support for it’s dissemination (what Griffith calls “holding the key aloft”.)

A Praising Review?

Griffith quotes this passage from an Amazon review of his book A Species in Denial :

“tears stream down my face, so overcome have I been by this book. It is the greatest book on the planet, no wait, in the universe. In fact it is the greatest anything in the universe”

It is interesting to look at the full review from which this extract is taken. At the time there were a number of rapturous five star reviews of the book on Amazon, including some by members of Griffith’s organisation. Am I wrong to interpret Beta’s review as a parody of the praising reviews? If so, why does Griffith’s seem oblivious to this?



Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters, 1796-97




Griffith interprets the title of this painting as meaning that “reasoning at a very deep level” confronts us with depressing thoughts about the issue of the human condition. This seems to me to be a twisting of meaning to suit his purpose. “The sleep of reason” clearly refers, not to “reasoning at a very deep level”, but to the cessation of reasoning. When we sleep our reason shuts down and we may have nightmares. Likewise, in waking life, we use reason to defend us against that which we fear, and those fears (“monsters”) may overwhelm us if we let our reason slip. This might actually fit in well with Griffith’s argument that much intellectual activity, including many scientific theories, act as “evasions” of things we are afraid to face, but the way in which he uses it to illustrate the issue of resignation from the struggle to find understanding of the human condition seems inappropriate in spite of the fact that Goya’s painting looks as if it could be depicting a depressed individual.

Resignation

There is no doubt that most of us have a pretty rough transit through adolescence. Griffith puts this down to what he calls “resignation”. The idea is that we are born with this instinctive orientation toward selfless behaviour, but we are born into a world in which people don’t obey those rules. Why? The wrongness of it all is a mystery to us. Towards the end of childhood we might express our frustration and confusion by lashing out. After that we realise that that is no use. We have to find some understanding of this state of affairs. During adolescence we go through the agonising process of trying to do this while gradually realising that the problem is now inside ourselves as well. Resignation is the final reluctant decision to give up the fight to understand, in order to avoid suicidal depression, and adopt the false alienated existence of most adults.

The way I look at the same process is that maturation from infancy to adolescence involves increasing repression. The rebelliousness in later childhood is an attempt to keep releasing our feelings of frustration rather than bottling them up, but generally we are made aware that we have to bottle them up to some extent to fit in with society. And we are given our moral values. The war between our frustrations and our conscience tends to have a corrosive effect on our self-acceptance. We may well be trying to make sense of this, and of the behaviour of others, especially adults.

And during adolescence our sexuality comes fully on stream. Griffth downplays the significance of this, claiming that talk of “puberty blues” is an evasive excuse for what is really happening. Puberty he says “has been going on since animals first became sexual.” But this is itself an evasion of the fact that fear-based sexual repression has been the norm for our species since the dawn of civilisation if not before. The enjoyment of erotic pleasure is a basic part of our biology. Foetuses sometimes masturbate in the womb. It seems likely that our proto-human ancestors were like the bonobos, engaging freely and indiscriminately in erotic activity with their fellows. But, as our self-acceptance was undermined by the arrival of idealism, we became insecure and jealous. This meant that we had to exercise restraint on our expression of our erotic desires in order to maintain the stability of our newly neurotic society. The more discipline-based, hierarchical and patriarchal our society became, the more of a threat was posed by the erotic. What happens during adolescence is that our sexual straitjackets are applied by the adults around us. Our erotic impulses have to be contained lest they cause discomfort to these neurotic adults. This can be pretty stressful. I remember at high school, the natural desire of we young boys to enjoy the erotic sight of naked women in magazines was treated by the teachers at our Catholic school as a kind of sickness. We were encouraged to feel shame about this aspect of our natural innocent biological nature.

Unaccountable shame about masturbation was an early symptom of my troubled adolescence. I wasn’t told that I shouldn’t masturbate, in fact my parents had given me a sex education book to read earlier which made it clear that it was a healthy natural activity. I suspect the shame I felt could not so easily be reached by this rational explanation, but that I was picking up on and absorbing the sense of shame that my fellow students and my teachers felt about their own masturbatory activities.

I did ask myself about the human condition. Why did we spend so much effort on seeking wealth, fame, power, or whatever, when, at base, what we most wanted was to be loved? All of those pursuits were poor ways to find love, but if we all decided to love each other we could be happy. Something seemed to be blocking that from happening, but what?

Next I developed an obsession that I was going to gouge out my own eyes. Was this Oedipal? Oedipus put out his eyes. Was it because I read in the New Testament “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”? After all, I was ashamed of my lusts, and looking at sexy women was what inflamed those lusts. I don’t know.

The next major stage in my troubled adolescence was when, after a bout of the flu, I had a thought about killing my baby niece. This was the time when I really had to battle with the human condition. Was I evil? Was I a monster, that I could even think of killing an innocent baby?

In Griffith’s scheme this would be me encountering the inevitable evidence of the “upset” caused in my ego by the blind criticism of my genetic conscience. My resentment at the criticism of my innocent conscience made me want to attack innocence in the world around me, in this case in the form of an infant.

That is not what was happening. Selfishness is the natural self-directedness of the suffering individual. I was run down because of the flu and the stress of trying to reconcile my natural instincts - including my erotic desires - to society’s restrictions and judgements while maintaining a functioning level of self-acceptance. Being in this state naturally made me selfish and desirous of the attention of those around me. But the baby was getting all the attention. So I fantasised briefly about killing the baby. At first the thought carried little emotional weight. But then I began to think that it was evidence that I was a bad person. It began to undermine my self-acceptance. The more I fixated on this unacceptable thought, the more power it gained over me. I was transfixed by fear and came to feel I might actually act upon it. So what was going on was not a relationship between my conscious mind and some genetic orientation to selflessness. What was happening was that a conceptual negative feedback loop had arisen as a result of my intolerance towards my selfishness and a harmless violent fantasy.

What I needed as an adolescent wasn’t some grand story about the heroic nature of the human race’s need to defy the unjust condemnation of it’s genetic orientation toward selflessness during the search for liberating understanding. What I needed was a more sex-positive attitude in the adults around me and an understanding that thoughts and feelings, no matter how anti-social, in and of themselves do no harm and should be accepted unconditionally.

It is true that we tend to adopt a false self during adolescence. This is our armouring brought about by the erosion of our generalised self-acceptence and the dependence of what is left on the maintenance of a fixed self-image. For instance, in females, this is the time when they may adopt a sex object self, where the ego-reinforcement (condition of self-acceptance) which comes from attracting the sexual interest of others becomes more important than the healthy enjoyment of erotic experience itself.

Read Part 7

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