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, 21 July 2015

Thoughts on Jeremy Griffith's "Freedom : The End of the Human Condition" - Part 9

Confirmation Bias

This is how science works. We look at an accumulation of data. We try to come up with an hypothesis to explain that data. And then we try to disprove our hypothesis. This is how we test it. We hunt for any possible data which might be an exception to our rule. And we ask ourselves if any other hypothesis might better explain the data.

What we don’t do is to set out to find evidence for our hypothesis. The process of trying to disprove it will provide extra evidence in every case in which we fail to disprove it. But if we want to arrive at the truth we have to apply the principles of the survival of the fittest. We have to make it harder for our hypothesis not easier if we want to really test it.

When someone comes up with an hypothesis and then sets out to find evidence to back it up or to help them persuade others of its truthfulness, that is what we call confirmation bias. Because we already have the tendency to filter the information coming in to us from the world around us through our character armour, and our belief system is a part of that armour, we are very prone to confirmation bias. This is why conspiracy theories are often so persuasive. We see the data which tends to support the theory, but we filter out all of the data which contradicts it.

Griffith takes confirmation bias to new extremes. He has sifted through our culture looking for brief quotes which he can present, often incomplete and out of context, to back up his hypothesis. While he does give his own spin to scientific data gathered by others, he spends an awful lot of time in the realms of philosophy and religion. These are valid realms of human thought, but they rely largely upon the test of whether the statements they contain resonate with the psyche of the reader. Given the unreliability of the psyche, they lack the objectivity we look for, but don’t always find, in science. Something said by Plato or Jesus may correspond with our beliefs, or contemplation upon it may open up new vistas of insight to us, but this is a personal experience which cannot necessarily be transmitted to others. Science deals with empirical facts not metaphysical descriptions.

And the case of Goya’s The Sleep of Reason shows that Griffith is not just committed to sifting data in search of support for his hypothesis, and evading any data which contradicts it, but is capable of actually misreading the English language in order to do so.

The divided self sees in others a projection of its own denied nature. When anyone tries to criticise Griffith’s hypothesis - for instance pointing out, as one critic has, that Griffith’s claim that the Bushmen of the Kalahari are “Christ-like” is thrown into question by the fact that they had a very high murder rate before coming under the influence of missionaries - he will accuse them of being “evasive” and “embattled”. But is he not the one being evasive and is he not the one who is embattled, desperately scrabbling for anything he can use to fortify his hypothesis and attacking the credibility of anyone who disagrees with him?

He may not be wrong that scientists and science journals to whom he has sent examples of his work are “confronted” by it. The criticism of idealism has a tendency to undermine our self-acceptance. They may have looked at his work with the distaste many of us show for Bible tracts full of declarations of our sinful nature.

But they are right to reject them because Griffith is a very poor scientist who places too much emphasis on ideas from outside the realm of science - philosophy and religion - and allows confirmation bias to contaminate any of his attempts to interpret genuine scientific research.

The Difference Between an Explanation and a Defence

The human neurosis is a disease. If someone comes to a doctor suffering from cancer, what does he do? Does he tell them how brave they were to develop cancer? Of course not. He uses his understanding of the condition to cure it.

Our neurosis consists of our insecurity and the armouring we adopt to protect ourselves in the light of it. The condition itself is a defensive one.

Griffith feels that what we need to cure the human condition is a “defence for humanity”. He feels that what we need to know is that we have been tremendous heroes for defying our genetic conscience’s oppressive insistence that we conform to the ideals, something which, had we done it to too great a degree, would have kept us from ever finding liberating understanding of our condition.

This is a problem. The part of us which may want to believe we are heroic is our character armour. Griffith’s approach to liberating is to reinforce the cage which is holding us prisoner in the first place. What we need is to feel that the self within the armour is securely acceptable, then we won’t need it. When Griffth tells us we are heroes he is pumping us up just like Anthony Robbins. When Griffith expresses contempt for the human potential movement that Robbins and others represent, he is projecting onto them the disowned truth that he is using the same strategy.

But someone like Anthony Robbins just tries to pump people up. He doesn’t think that, by doing so, he can get them to give up being competitive and selfish. He doesn’t put people in a double bind situation. Griffith does. By confronting us with his extreme idealism he undermines our self-acceptance and increases our need for our armour. Then he makes an appeal to that armour - telling us how brave we are to be wearing it. And he wonders why his acknowledgement of its validity hasn’t allowed us to take it off.

This situation arises because Griffith misdiagnoses our condition. He believes that criticising idealism comes from our biological nature and that the mind is the source of our antagonism against idealism, and he believes that our erotic impulses are a product of the mind’s insecurity in the face of that biological nature, a way to attack it for its criticism of us. But idealism arises from the mind. Antagonism to it arises both from the mind and from the body. Idealism restricts free thought and thus it does have to be resisted to find understanding. Idealism can also become intolerant of the body’s natural drives, such as the erotic, which is not principally the drive to reproduce, but rather the prime motivating force of life itself, the seeking of pleasure and love. So there are two impasses to us achieving liberation from the human condition. One is the need to recognise the toxic nature of idealism, which promised to be the road to heaven but was actually the road to hell. The other impasse, resulting from the first, the need to embrace the healing power of the erotic, distinguishing it from the twisted forms which sex has often taken due to our armouring.

Jesus had insight into this situation. In emphasising that God forgives us he recognised that our “sinfulness” was defensive. He didn’t say that we were heroic for being sinners. He said we were forgiven. An acquittal ends a court case much faster than a better defence lawyer.

If our aggressiveness, egotism, selfishness and alienation are heroic, was Jeffrey Dahmer expressing heroism when he raped, killed and dismembered seventeen men and boys and indulged in necrophilia and cannibalism with their corpses? Of course Griffith will talk about the need to exercise restraint and to “leave the battle” when we are too upset. But if someone like Dahmer was capable of restraint or “leaving the battle”, wouldn’t he have done so? What kind of defence of humans is it which leaves some humans, even those whose deeds are as extreme as Dahmer’s, undefended?

But Dahmer’s behaviour doesn’t have to be defended any more than cancer has to be defended. As William Burrough’s pointed out “The face of “evil” is always the face of absolute need.” We can know that the circumstances of Dahmer’s life - his experiences and the ideas with which he came in contact - eroded his self-acceptance in such a way that he was forced to adopt an extreme form of character armour which compelled him to commit these crimes. We need only know what the disease is and how to treat it and prevent it in future.

I think the importance Griffith puts on our “immense heroism” is once again a case of projection. He has committed himself to hanging onto what he believes to be the truth in the face of all temptations to compromise. Deep down he must feel that he is a hero for doing this. Yet he insists that we are the battling heroes. And the appeal of supporting him may often lie in the same direction. His supporters can clothe themselves in the armour of the warriors for a new and unpopular idea.

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