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

Friday, 3 June 2016

Can Dogma Drive Out Dogma? : The Case Against Jeremy Griffith and the World Transformation Movement

“Yes, terminal alienation is upon us; humanity has entered end play, a death by dogma.”

Jeremy Griffith, Freedom : The End of the Human Condition

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” 

Matthew 7:5


There is currently a massive publicity campaign in support of Jeremy Griffith’s new book Freedom : The End of the Human Condtion. It has been billed as “The Book That Saves The World.” When an article by Griffith outlining his theory about the human condition was rejected by Scientific American as being “not in the realm of science,” Griffith described this as “the most serious crime that could possibly be committed in the whole of humanity’s 2-million-year journey to enlightenment…”

A central message in Griffith’s book is that humanity is currently facing a “death by dogma” which will lead us to a state of terminal alienation. There is no doubt that there are some dogma’s which may threaten our existence - religious, political, economic… An effective response to the challenges - social and environmental - which face us will require thinking outside the dogmatic box.

But is Griffith’s 799 page opus the answer we are looking for?

Often when we look around at our complex world, we see a pattern in it which reflects our own situation. Griffith sees an all-pervading dogmatism in social phenomena such as the New Age movement, feminism, socialism, deconstructionism, etc. Wikipedia gives this definition : “Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” While there are no doubt groups of individuals within each of these social movements who adhere to some kind of set of unquestionable beliefs, is this really the norm in any of them as a whole? Is there not debate, questioning, disagreement? And what is the percentage of society which is caught up in any of these social movements? It is true that some of them, such as deconstructionism and feminism are very influential in the academic world, and so dogmatic forms of these movements can threaten the place we have set aside for free enquiry. But generally, when they become too dogmatic, there is a healthy resistance put up to them. Probably of more concern is religious dogma which drives violence and oppression, particularly in the Middle East. And that is not a new problem.

So if it is hard to see this death by dogma dragging us all to terminal alienation, what might Griffith be seeing? Could it be a reflection of his own condition? Has his theory about the human condition become a dogma that neither he nor the members of his organisation The World Transformation -Movement - dare “question or doubt”? If his explanation is false but he and his followers cling to it, then that makes it a delusion, and to be in a state of delusion, cut off from the real world, is what we mean by the word “alienation.”

One of the main ways we can tell the difference between genuine insight and dogma is fluidity during debate. If someone has a sound understanding of some topic then they can debate about it very freely using their own words and responding to different questions raised in a spontaneous way. It is clear that they have a good map if they can move around the terrain of the topic without getting lost. Dogma is characterised by a tendency to quote the originator a lot rather than express things in one’s own words. The other party’s disagreement is liable to cause agitation rather than being a challenge smoothly taken up. In a dogma everything has to be referred back to the conceptual framework. Points can’t be debated in isolation from that framework. Also, very often, with dogma, a person who disagrees is accused of being in denial - e.g. a dogmatic Christian might say that an atheist can’t see the truth because he is “a slave to sin”.

Now that Griffith’s writing is reaching a wide audience, the test will be to see how he and his advocates handle criticism. Will they debate freely with their critics? Will they encourage us to doubt and try to find fault, as is consistent with the scientific method? And if they do debate with critics, will their application of their “knowledge” be flexible and spontaneous?

If this is not the case, they have a built in excuse. Griffith lays it out in Freedom :

The danger is that if we study this information beyond what our particular level of soundness and security of self can cope with we risk becoming overly confronted by the extent of our corrupted condition and dangerously depressed… Regarding the degree to which we should each investigate these explanations, obviously it is necessary to sufficiently verify to our own satisfaction that they are the liberating understandings of the human condition that the whole human race has been tirelessly working its way towards for some 2 million years—but we shouldn’t risk investigating them to the extent that we start to become overly exposed and confronted by the truths they reveal. Having lived without any real understanding of human life it is natural to want to keep studying these explanations that finally make sense of the world, both within and around us, but, again, such analysis can lead to becoming overly confronted and depressed by the extent of our own corrupted state, and that of our world… The more intelligent and/ or the more educated in the human-condition-avoiding, denial-based, mechanistic, reductionist paradigm, who pride themselves on being able to think and study and grasp new ideas, will initially be especially tempted to study these understandings beyond what their varying levels of security of self can cope with, but it won’t be long before everyone learns that such an approach is both psychologically dangerous and irresponsible and, in any case, unnecessary.”


Could studying these ideas lead to mental health issues, such as depression. Yes. If we are insecure about our own worth, and which of us isn’t to some extent, then studying Griffith’s books might well lead to depression. Why? Because they are drenched in a very extreme form of idealism which can undermine our self-acceptance and make us feel guilty. Just as a tiny example, in his second book Beyond the Human Condition (1991) he says :

“On the table in front of me is a silver teaspoon with an ornately engraved handle. It is very much an old world teaspoon. The bright silver and the embellishment glorified us when the world unjustly condemned us. It ‘said’ we were wonderful when the world in its ignorance wouldn’t. Without such materialistic reinforcement we could not have sustained our effort to find understanding. Materialism wasn’t bad, in fact it was most necessary, but now it will gradually become unnecessary. The time and money spent digging up the silver and embellishing the spoon can now be spent helping others. We deserved to be glorified but the time and energy spent seeking glory impoverished others. The human condition made us self-preoccupied or selfish. We can now look at that teaspoon and recognise that it is a two or even three starving Ethiopians extravagance.”

So there is a compassionate defence of materialism, but there is also the image of two or three Ethiopians starving to death because we have an embellished spoon. If we were to really take this on board and look around at all the things we own and count up all those dead Ethiopians it could be pretty depressing for us. Of course the aim is not to depress us, but to defend us and thus make us able to face the grim truth. Even if we are as wonderful as Griffith claims, though, do we really want to count that wonderfulness by the measure of death by starvation of Ethiopians?

Griffith could have presented his central thesis without any reference to starving Ethiopians or any of the other “confronting” material which is an expression of his extreme idealism.

Here is the essence of Griffith’s theory :

The human condition began when a conflict arose between our instinctive orientation and the need of our developing intelligence to experiment with self-management. We have a genetic orientation towards ideal, i.e. selfless behaviour. This is our conscience. Most other animals have a genetic imperative to compete, over food or mating opportunities, etc. It was an extended nurturing period in our species which overcame this competitive tendency. This process is called “love-indoctrination”. In caring so diligently for their children the mothers were still following the imperative to foster the survival chances of their own genes, but the offspring were not to know this and would interpret the behaviour as selflessness. Thus they would learn that selflessness was meaningful, and, over time, a genetic orientation towards selfless behaviour would become “hardwired” into us.

But “love-indoctrination” also liberated our capacity for reason. Our reasoning mind had no knowledge of our instinct for selfless behaviour and it needed to experiment with self-management in order to realise its potential. When we experimented with behaviour which contravened our genetic conscience, it criticised us. Unable to explain why we had to go against its programming, we became frustrated with it and the oppressiveness of its unjust criticism. We became angry at it. It’s criticism made our ego insecure and thus embattled. We became egotistical. And we tried to block out awareness of it and the world of wholeness and honesty it represented. We became alienated. All of our selfishness and aggression - our dark side - thus arose from the necessary - indeed heroic - defiance of our soul/conscience/genes’ unwitting attempt to oppress the search for knowledge. We are thus all heroes and good and evil are reconciled.

This theory could have been presented in a brief booklet. There is no great complexity to it. What fills out the rest of Griffith’s books is a mix of self-promotion and his extreme form of idealism. From Beyond the Human Condition :

“Sunglasses aren’t always worn to shade the eyes from the sun. Often they were worn to alienate ourselves from the natural world that was alienating us. They were an attack on the innocence of daylight.”
As with the Ethiopians we can see the compassionate defence for wearing sunglasses, but that just leads us to the (rather absurd) stinger that we are “attacking the innocence of daylight.”
Griffith talks about a phenomena he calls “the deaf affect.” He says that many people won’t really hear what he is saying at first. They will need to re-read the book or watch explanatory videos, which have the reassuring effect of seeing a person calmly talking about potentially confronting concepts.

When I read Griffith’s first book Free : The End of the Human Condition (1988), I didn’t experience any “deaf effect”. I grasped it all immediately. But I had the “advantage” of being a depressed person.
I think that what this deaf effect is is the mind’s defence against extreme idealism. It isn’t profundity per se that we have a problem with, but anything which poses a serious threat to our self-acceptance.
I can’t be sure how others respond to Griffith’s writing, but I have a theory.
If the brain protects itself against the corrosive effects of extreme idealism, then that aspect of the book will be the last part to sink in. At first there will be the effusive promises of an end to all the world’s problems. Then an intriguing, on the surface credible, theory about the origin of our darker side. And only after that will the starving Ethiopians become real.
At this point the individual will be advised to adopt the Transformed Lifeforce Way of Living - simply supporting the “understandings” without confronting them any more. And anyone who does continue to study this theory and expresses criticism of it will be told that they have become overly confronted and are now trying to deny what they know deep down to be the truth. Believers, justifiably afraid of looking at all that depressing idealism, will tend to accept this assessment.
I don’t believe any of this is deliberate. It is just a kind of naturally occurring perfect storm that has grown out of Griffith’s attempt to reconcile his extreme idealism with reality. The fact that he believes that there is a direct correlation between high IQ and alienation means there is a built-in defence against the criticism of those who are more intelligent and scientifically qualified than Griffith. It is not that his science is poor, but that they are too alienated to be able to admit to its truth.
When someone comes up with a theory of human behaviour the tendency is to have a blind spot, to build the theory around an unconscious attempt to normalise their own position. So a competitive scientist may be prone to confirmation bias towards their theory that our competitive and aggressive tendencies are inborn, part of our genetic inheritance from our ape ancestors.

It seems to me that Griffith’s theory is built around the unconscious motive of normalising his extreme idealism. He puts forward the idea that we have an inborn genetic orientation to idealism. On close examination this doesn’t work. He is saying that this genetic orientation to idealism - this inborn demand for selfless behaviour from ourself and others - was intolerant of our conscious mind’s need to experiment with self-management and find understanding. But such a genetic orientation could not have been at the centre of a loving, integrative, cooperative society before this conflict arose, because idealism is not integrative. Idealism is disintegrative. The only kind of genetic orientation which could have been at the centre of a loving, integrative, cooperative society is an instinctive orientation towards loving behaviour, and essential to loving behaviour is forgiveness. Arguably the most powerful example of love in our culture was Jesus praying forgiveness for the men who nailed him to the cross. The evolution of a cooperative society would mean the favouring of individuals who were willing to forgive unloving behaviour, because if unloving behaviour is forgiven the individual is re-integrated into the group. Idealistic intolerance for unloving or selfish behaviour would lead to resentment, which, while it could be repressed for a while, would eventually bring a rift in the integration of the group.

Because to be loving is one of our ideals, it is easy to make the mistake of believing that an orientation which would facilitate loving behaviour would be one which idealistically insists on loving behaviour. But it is an important distinction because idealism has a tendency to undermine the capacity for love of the idealist and those who interact with him. Unconditional self-acceptance is the basis for the capacity to love others. We are born with an orientation towards love, acceptance, forgiveness… No-one is born with an unforgiving insistence that they or others conform to any kind of ideal. Griffith may have been such an idealist as a young man, but if he were born that way then he was born very different from other babies. The fact that they so easily bond with the adults around them indicates that they are not comparing them against some inborn expectation of ideality.


The problem with grand theories of human behaviour is that those who come to believe in them can easily fall afoul of confirmation bias. Evidence which appears to confirm the theory attracts attention while evidence which contradicts it is either not seen or explained away.

It makes sense to me that idealism has been the origin of the dark side of human behaviour. Idealism criticises us, and over time we are liable to hit back at that criticism, and as our self-acceptance is undermined we are liable to become more selfish. But idealism is not in our genes. It is a social phenomenon arising from the thinking of the rational mind. It seems to make sense to distinguish between good behaviour and bad behaviour and to try by an act of will to pursue the former and avoid the latter and to insist that others do likewise. What is not so obvious is that by holding onto idealism in this way we undermine our self-acceptance and thus make it harder to sustainably maintain good behaviour.

In his first book Free : The End of the Human Condition, Griffith says, “Above all finding the explanations presented in this book was an exercise in learning to stand by exactly what my conscience wanted to say, was learning to trust my conscience and not those around me.” This is in the context of talking about himself as a prophet. He is saying that he had to learn to trust his conscience, i.e. to not “question or doubt” it. A free thinker questions and doubts everything, subjects it the test of reason. If obedience to the conscience takes precedence over all else, will the mind not end up finding a way to rationalise the conscience’s preconceptions and thus create a dogma?
Down through history there have been some people who have been extremely insightful and they have sometimes been labelled “prophets”. But others have been labelled prophets who were powerful declaimers of the prejudices of their times. All those rules and regulations in the Old Testament about what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath and how long women are unclean after they have their period have nothing to do with insight. They may be a powerful expression of a learned set of culturally specific ideals, but that is all. Insightful individuals are often not tied down by learned ideals. They can break on through to a bolder apprehension of truth because they are not a slave to their learned conscience.
Now is the time of the big test. It is time for us to see if Griffith’s theory is truth or dogma.


SaveSave

No comments:

/>