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 11

Is the Conscience the Soul?

Is it our instincts which tell us we are hungry? Isn’t a feeling of hunger transferred directly by our nervous system without any instinctive input? I know that the suggestibility of our mind can effect the process. If we see an ad on television for a food we like we may feel hungry sooner than if we don’t. But does it have anything to do with the instincts? I’m not very knowledgeable in the field of biology so I really don’t know.

But Griffith says :

“I should clarify that that while instincts are hard-wired, genetic programming and as such cannot actually criticise our conscious mind, they can in effect do so. Our instincts let our conscious mind know when our body needs food, or, as our instinctive conscience clearly does, wants us to behave in a cooperative, loving way, and certainly our conscious mind can defy those instinctive orientations if it chooses to. Our conscious mind can feel criticised by our instinctive conscience; it happens all the time.)”

We can certainly feel pangs of conscience, but where is the evidence that that feeling originates in the genes? Guilt is the feeling we have when our self-acceptance is undermined. Is it not a better explanation that our conscience is learned, that it is that part of our ego where we store the moral principles which are instilled into us. When we are unable to meet the dictates of our conscience, the integrity of our ego is to some degree compromised. This is very similar to the experience of having a hurt ego when someone insults us.

And the conscience is not the source of our capacity for love. Far from it. It can be a useful guide to us as long as it isn’t too oppressive, but self-acceptance is the source of our capacity for love. And unconditional self-acceptance brings with it the natural ability to love all others unconditionally. The conscience, being part of our armouring tends to act as a block to the free expression of love, and to the extent that it criticises us it can undermine our self-acceptance and thus limit the love we have to give.

Of the developing child Griffith says : “Imagine, for instance, a situation where a young boy sees a birthday cake on a table and, being new to this business of reasoning thinks, innocently enough, ‘Why shouldn’t I take all the cake for myself’, before doing so. While many mothers actually witness these grand mistakes of pure selfishness that young children make when they first attempt to self-manage their lives, they still have to be reasonably lucky to do so because, once done, the child usually doesn’t make such a completely naive mistake again due to the criticism it attracts from its moral instincts, from its own conscious mind’s awareness of the very obvious integrative, cooperative, selfless theme of existence, and from others present.”

Now I’m not a parent. I don’t remember ever having the opportunity to witness a situation like this. Children certainly respond to criticism of their behaviour from others, but what is the evidence that they experience an internal sense that they have done something wrong before the stage at which, having experienced the criticism of others, they have learned to internalise and second-guess that criticism?

Later he says : “At this point, the intellect also begins experimenting in ways to deny the unwarranted criticism, which, in this initial, unskilled-in-the-art-of-denial stage, takes the form of blatant lying : ‘But Mum, Billy told me to do it’ or, ‘But Mum, the cake accidentally fell in my lap.’ These apparent misrepresentations weren’t actually lies, rather they were inadequate attempts at explanation.”

Sorry. Those are lies. They are not attempts to explain anything. But so what? The pleasure principle propels the child to take the cake (he lacks the insight to realise that there is more pleasure to be had in sharing the cake than in taking it all and getting both a belly-ache and an ear-bashing) and his desire to avoid the suffering involved in being criticised propels him to lie about it. Later he may learn that there is a heavy price to pay for lying as it impedes our ability to experience the pleasure of love, which is far more delicious than chocolate cake.

Griffith is saying that this genetic orientation to selflessness is our “soul” and then he says this about this soul’s reaction to our increasingly “bad” behaviour : “Imagine then what a shock it was for our all-loving, moral instincts when our conscious mind began searching for knowledge and became angry, aggressive, selfish and competitive - our soul would have been mortified, as children are today by the extreme imperfection of human behaviour. Our soul would have been utterly bewildered and distressed, completely overcome with shock and disappointment, absolutely devastated: ‘Why, when all our behaviour has been so cooperative, loving and perfect, and our world so happy and content as a result, are you, our conscious mind, doing this? - this is SO wrong!’”

Now remember, this is a bunch of DNA feeling and saying all of this!

This is a massive imaginary guilt-trip Griffith is trying to load us with here. Yes, he’s given his supposed compassionate defence for why we “had to” become angry, aggressive, selfish etc., but since that is itself based on this bullshit about a genetic conscience, it is not a real defence at all. And since many of us can be very sensitive to criticism regardless of whether or not it has a rational basis, it is this kind of attitude which is liable to impede some people’s ability to think clearly or open up to their capacity for love, as both require unconditional self-acceptence which this kind of stuff is liable to undermine.

It is true that defenceless people can be hurt by our anger, aggression, selfishness, etc. But I think that children are far more tolerant of “imperfection” in human behaviour than adults generally are. It is generally neurotic insecurity which makes us particularly vulnerable to being disturbed by other’s behaviour. Of course we are all liable to be disturbed by aggressive behaviour directed at ourselves or at defenceless individuals. But it is insecure adults who are offended by someone else’s sexuality, manner of dress, etc. There is an interesting passage in the Bible : “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” Titus 1:15 I don’t believe that the soul is a genetic conscience. I believe that it is the consciousness which inhabits our armoured selves. It is the fearless “I” that looks out through our frightened selves. And to this “I” all things are pure. Fear and disgust and shock and disappointment are functions of our armouring. The naked soul accepts that life unfolds in the only way that it can. Nothing can ever harm it. It will always be there undiminished waiting to bless us when we stop insisting on being unworthy of such a blessing.

Death By His Own Dogma

Griffith expresses great contempt for what he calls “pseudo-idealism”. Because he believes we have a genetic orientation to ideal behaviour and that it has been our responsibility to battle against its repressive insistence on ideal behaviour in order to find self-understanding, he sees three kinds of behaviour - the genuine idealism of the innocent (those not yet corrupted by the search for knowledge); the angry, egocentric, combative behaviour of those engaged in the battle; and the “pseudo-idealistic”, those who have either transcended the battle and adopted some form of non-combative behaviour or those who have adopted some form of ideology based, according to him, on insistence on some kind of ideal behaviour. This might include religion (although he goes easy on that because of its “honest” acknowledgement of “sin”), socialism, feminism, environmentalism, the New Age Movement, political correctness, etc. He sees this behaviour as incredibly selfish because he feels it is driven by the desire for the good feelings which can come by fooling yourself that you are “on the side of the angels”, whereas the responsible thing is to fight against the oppressing ideals even though it makes you feel bad. He has elsewhere, though, claimed that leaving the battle was the responsible thing to do when we become “too upset”.

He has a very stereotyped view of the left wing : “…dogmatic, condemning, ridiculing, escapist, deluded, arrogant, dishonest…” Each of these adjectives applies to some left wing individuals. But some fit none of those labels. Some are orientated around pragmatic attempts to address injustices. How is someone who fights against cutbacks to the education system, interfering with the search for knowledge by doing so? How is someone who fights to expose government corruption being “dogmatic”? How is someone who supports gay marriage being “condemning”? How is someone who tries to draw attention to the problem of global warming being “escapist”? Griffith may say that they are trying to escape from addressing the psychological roots of the problem of global warming. But are those who deny that global warming is even a problem doing any more to address the psychological roots of our condition? And are there not right wing individuals who are “dogmatic” in their religious beliefs, “condemning” of those who chose to have an abortion, “ridiculing” of the left wing, “escapist” in their pursuit of personal wealth at the expense of the wider community and the planet, “deluded” about any number of things, “arrogant”, and “dishonest” in their business dealings? There is no high ground in politics. There are virtues and failings in the individuals on both sides.

But Griffith rails and rails about the dangers of the left wing : “We can now at last appreciate that when we vote this way we are not participating in the true democratic process that human advancement has been dependent upon, we are exploiting it and subverting it. And while many people think that even if feel-good pseudo idealism is not a real form of idealism it is surely harmless, that is most certainly not the case. No, it is extremely bloody-minded, totally selfish and dangerously destructive behaviour that says, ‘I no longer care about the human race, only about finding personal relief from my condition… Certainly, the upset behaviour that resulted from right-wing participation in humanity’s heroic search for knowledge was increasingly bringing about immense human suffering and environmental devastation, but it was the knowledge-oppressing left-wing that posed the real threat to the survival of the human race because only through successfully completing that search for knowledge could humanity be liberated from the upset state of the human condition.”

Let’s compare this to his take on politics in his first and second books :

“In politics, one side of the balance is represented by socialism and the left wing, where obedience to absolutes is stressed, the other by capitalism or the right wing which stresses freedom from absolutes. It is only the dialectic or oscillation between these excesses which reveals the middle ground. At the same time, these oscillations have given rise to alternating bouts of excessive freedom and excessive oppression and thus conflict and argument and polarisation.” Free : The End of the Human Condition, 1988

“There is no longer a left and right wing in politics, only a new form of left wing, completely free of pseudo idealism with its denial of exhaustion. (I stress that these changes won’t be forced. They will happen naturally as we digest and share our new-found understandings. Revolution is not necessary. All we need to do to overcome resistance and suffering is spread the understanding. it will create, not impose, the changes we seek, in ourselves, in others and in the world, and alleviate the world’s distress.)

“What was missing from the New Age, Environment and Women’s Liberation movements was the means to self-confront.” Beyond the Human Condtion, 1991

This comparison reveals the degree to which a refusal on the part of the world at large to accept his “understandings” has caused Griffith to become increasingly angry and embattled.

The Griffith of the 80s might have looked at our current political situation and been able to see that, even from the perspective of his incorrect explanation for the human condition, any of the behaviours he decries in the left wing, in those instances where they apply, are as one would expect. If those he terms “pseudo-idealists” are in a state of alienation as he says, then of course we would expect them to be either escapist (not acknowledging the severity of the world’s problems) or angry and condemning of the right-wing, after all, as he acknowledges, the behaviour of the right-wing is causing tremendous suffering and endangering the planet. If they are alienated, transcending their embattled ego, then of course they are not going to be consciously aware of the underlying psychological reason why right-wing behaviour is meaningful or necessary. The old Griffith addressed himself to everyone. He wanted everyone to understand each other. But more and more he appears to have abandoned attempts to reach the left or those he calls “pseudo-idealists” generally. His tirade against the left may appeal to right wing individuals, but is hardly likely to encourage the left to believe that he has a genuinely compassionate understanding of their position.

How did this change take place? Griffith set out to find a liberating understanding of the human condition. As he once said, a lot of people set off across that mine-field, and they reach some mine which blows them up, something in their character which acts as a barrier to them going any further. (I’m paraphrasing. I can’t remember his exact wording.) He felt that he made it all the way across that mine-field and could lead the rest of us after him. He didn’t. There was one final step which would have blown him up. He was an extreme idealist. He could accept the idea that we might have an idealism-demanding genetic orientation which was oppressive to the search for knowledge, and that the egotistical, aggressive and selfish behaviour he saw around him was a necessary defence against that oppressiveness. After all, that was what he was looking for. He knew we weren’t bad. And that certainly seemed like a viable explanation. But he didn’t call it a theory. He called it “the understandings”. And he didn’t try to disprove it. In fact he enthusiastically declared that it was the final and be-all complete understanding we had all been looking for. That kind of declarative faith can often be a defence. Subconsciously, we know there is something else out there. Something the existence of which we don’t even dare allow ourselves to contemplate. After all, if someone did achieve a complete understanding of the human condition they would have a quiet confidence in its effectiveness. They wouldn’t declare to the world that it was the be-all and end-all explanation. They would present it as an interesting theory confident that, if it were the truth, then, as Teilhard De Chardin said, it would be impossible for “anything ever to prevent it from spreading universally and setting everything ablaze.” 

That final step, which would have destroyed him, was the realisation that we don’t have an idealism-demanding genetic orientation, that idealism itself as a social phenomena was the root of the problem. What he really needed was a defence for himself. He could deal with the idea that he had, with his idealism, unwittingly been causing those around to have to be egotistical, aggressive, selfish etc., as long as he could defend himself by blaming his idealism on his genes. Not only did he not have to feel personally responsible, he could believe that the problem would still be there without him as we all had something like him inside us, doing the same thing. How he became an extreme idealist if we don’t have a genetic orientation to it, I don’t know, but his theory has been built as an elaborate way of trying to evade that question.

So Griffith tied himself in a knot. He needed the world to accept his theory because if it didn’t he would end up confronted with that self-destroying truth he couldn’t face. The more embattled he became the more he saw his dilemma projected in the world around him. Unable to acknowledge his need to evade the truth, he told the rest of us that we were being evasive. The more his unworkable hypothesis rigidified into a dogma the more he saw the world facing “death by dogma”. He saw the world giving way to “exhaustion”. From 1999 to 2009 he suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome.

The good news is that, with the unravelling of his psychosis, all the world’s madness can unravel, as the idealism of which he has been an embodiment has always been the central problem.

Read Part 12

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