Monthly Archives: January 2012

Whose empowerment?

In this post and the next I’m very much indebted to Rodger Garrett aka SighKoBlahGrr, a therapy pro with a scintillating intellect. Not transpersonal really but knows something of meditation and a great deal about psychological change. Check him out (see blogroll on right of screen), interesting.

OK so this post is fairly quick: ways to spot bad training.

The Fight/Flight Response -- can be useful, can be tricky

All spiritual training triggers deep stuff and (if it’s worth anything) will touch the fight/flight response which is where the power is — but that response causes major problems in anyone’s life who can’t handle it. Training is supposed to make people better at handling it. :)

Telling good from bad thankfully isn’t hard. It may seem a little extreme to use cults as examples, but that extremity has the advantage of making the bad stuff very visible. Then one can spot milder problems more easily. (Focusing on cult strategies also gives an unexpected fringe benefit to be explained shortly.)

Cults are the inverse of good training and actually remove actualisation. The golden rule is: training should actualise the trainee who needs to be encouraged to contribute whilst learning and becoming a bigger individual. One may need to be challenged, but not undermined — and always strengthened in the end. We want to see the results of that process already having taken place when looking at personalities high up in the system. If healing is specifically a part of the goal then ever-increasing-on-average amounts of tranquillity and happiness are probably required (which is by no means incompatible with activating the fight/flight done correctly and in due order BTW), as well as solidity. Someone getting edgier and edgier with no reprieve and sensing edginess all around will do well to give back the t-shirt.

Here’s where I refer to Garrett’s expert and thoroughly-referenced post on how to help people leave cults. This is the kind of problem you would be faced with if someone landed on your doorstep breathless from outsprinting Tom Cruise, and you were qualified to help. Highly interesting reading. A few highlights of what they do:

– Leaning on your sense of powerlessness, then helplessness, then hopelessness.

– Love-bombing in the early stages followed by withdrawal thereof followed by increasing pressure to conform to get “love,” followed by threat of abandonment over non-conformance.

– Manipulating and triggering already established guilt, shame, worry, remorse, regret and anxiety.

– Using peer pressure to conform to group norms, including group think and group jargon.

– Inducing borderline organization via compartmentalization of unconsciously opposing, compelled beliefs (“shoulds,” “musts,” “oughts,” “have-to’s”)

– Employing increasing and finally, absolute, control of information and communication.

– Compelling regression from autonomous identity to state of infantile trust and lack of autonomy.

The easily-spotted common denominator is sapping of independent individual power through the manipulation of thoughts and emotions. Comparison with the Maslow capacities of two weeks back is instructive — a person who was, say, responsible, unconventional, creative, and guiltlessly accepting of his/her own animal nature, would not be a cult member.

Don’t think these techniques aren’t all used and mercilessly at that — and worse! Check out this page for example, especially the letter starting ‘Dear Andrew’ a little way down. Every one of the above items is there, and the writer hardly seems to realise yet just how badly he’s been taken. Under cover of “needing to have your ego removed”, he’s unfortunately been turned from a capable man into a pure victim jelly. Only temporarily of course, but many haven’t had the spine to make it back out.

That’s instructive in yet another respect — for this ‘guru’ it’s business as usual. And guess what? His friend, the rather unimpressive Ken Wilber, still thinks the guy is truly “enlightened”! That gives you some idea how deep religious self-delusion can go since Wilber’s widely respected for reasons which escape me, and his imprimatur puts many off-guard. The writer of that letter was bilked of $20,500 under emotional duress (one of many getting this treatment, not biggest payer by any means) and naturally wants it back now he’s himself again. The reply is nothing more than a smirking two-line refusal to pay up. The idea of honour or integrity in such a setup couldn’t be sustained for a heartbeat.

Now obviously it doesn’t need to go that far to be bad training! Yikes. This is pretty unpleasant indeed. But if reservations come up about any methods, it’s good to be able to spot telltales. Since training has to produce actualisation, an educated guess as to whether it really will is a good idea. Glenn Morris, who understood in so much more civilised a way how real spiritual development and ‘enlightenment’ occur, was onto this from the beginning and used to quote his students a list from José and Lena Stevens’ Secrets of Shamanism (1988) (pp. 218-9) suggesting traits to avoid in spiritual teachers. That list in full:

– Has a superior attitude.
– Excludes members of any race or cultural group.
– Expresses an us-vs.-them point of view: “They’re out to get us” or “We’re better”.
– Is bigoted.
– Is shortsighted.
– Is attacking or violent.
– Is insensitive.
– Is overly serious.
– Has a “Do what I say, not what I do” point of view.
– Drinks heavily or consumes lots of drugs.
– Is ingratiating.
– Is controlling.
– Makes you wrong or an outcast for questioning.
– Teaches by belittling or making you an example in front of everyone.
– Wants lots of money up front.
– Has assistants or senior students who act inappropriately in your view and whom you are expected to obey.
– Believes the form of ritual is more important than the results.
– Pretends to be perfect.
– Is overly idealistic, not practical.

Not that even the very advanced are in any way “perfect” so slack needs to be in place, but if the above are regularly evinced without apology or understanding of consequences, the training may be wasting time or worse. Even when just using a book or CD, being cautious, asking around, and feeling into the answers pays dividends. It’s also worth looking at a teacher’s actions in the community over a long period (although the bitchiness of some milieus will need taking into account, especially online).

A further point: as mentioned the fight/flight response is key to kundalini training, which is why it’s so fascinating to see the following additional cult strategies on Garrett’s list:

– Employing stimulus deprivation and/or amplification, rapid deep breathing (to induce hyperventilation), repetitive motion exercises, chanting, meditation, guided imagery and/or trance induction to create dissociation, de-realization, depersonalization and/or excitotoxic (nerve-damaging) anxiety.

– Compelling relentless loading of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to set up the leader(s)’s ability to trigger the fight, flight, freak or freeze response to support learned helplessness whenever desired.

These are signs that a sect might once have had a real discipline which has gone by the boards as the higher-ups fell victim to adrenal paranoia combined with hubris. Many of those things in the first para have their non-shadow versions which could help you (yes even hyperventilation although I don’t use it) but thanks to the power trip implied in the second, they will have the opposite effect. They will build anxiety, not insight and peace. Your nervous system is a great treasure, not to be squandered.

Now for the aforementioned ‘unexpected fringe benefit’.

If you still watch TV, especially zoning out for entertainment and relaxation, take an hour to see how many times cult strategies are used on you. Every time you’re made to feel powerless, manipulated by good loving vibes conditional on your good behaviour, experience guilt or social pressure etc., make a mental check mark. You may end up with more notches than you can comfortably dismiss.

Get 'em young

Our society is pretty much being run like a cult, and if you watch TV you may be constantly signing up to new memberships! Don’t miss that ‘control of information’ is a central cult strategy. People who don’t actually give a toss about you, nonetheless trying to make you feel “befriended”, filling your life with “meaning” whilst influencing your worldview and emptying your bank account? Not so good my friends, and so very common! You can also get anxious and worse, easily, watching many forms of TV, factual and fictional, and SNS activation duly follows. A ‘safe thrill’ may not be. Quick cuts prevent thought and you are in a trance entrainment when watching which does not allow for a response, thus you are locked out of your own psyche. Did you give permission for all that? If you didn’t choose the philosophy of what you’re watching, who chose for you? What were their priorities?

Of course, as stated more than once on this blog, society itself can’t do the job of actualising all its members. But it can still be either more or less helpful and can choose to stand massively in the way. Media groupthink tries to exercise control for money and power reasons. The devices available at present are far more effective than ever before and viewers are mostly convinced it’s all for their own benefit! (It’s all about “What you want…” after all.) If someone is genuinely being manipulated into powerlessness it can’t be beneficial so one should read the ‘Dear Andrew letter’ again and wonder how much one has been taken for. :)

Glenn was onto this too and did more than offer real training in the right spirit that actually did the job — he also gave weapons in rhetoric to counter the programming.

Socially, rhetoric is power and we have known that officially for 2½ millennia. That’s a lot of what Crawfish is about. Already in Shadow Strategies Glenn pointed out that “passive schooling by network television” atrophies critical thinking (p. 124). As a college professor he had to deal with the results. In Crawfish he went further and offered resources. A particularly useful volume he recommended is Gass & Seiter (4th edn. 2010). Let us pause and pay homage to the barefacedness of this volume’s title: Persuasion, Social Influence and Compliance Gaining. What a thing of beauty, for those who want to know the score! A level-headed review of most of what science currently knows about manipulation, and an easy read. Be informed and be ahead on this one.

Lots of other good stuff in Crawfish along the same lines. Glenn was a man of the world. Manipulating people into weakness was not his interest. He wanted friends worth having, people who could develop in interesting ways, not pawns to make him ‘feel powerful’ but actual powerful people he could be proud of having trained — to surpass his own benchmark if possible. That kind of attitude is rarer than I’d like in our commercialised spiritual marketplace, so the message is: develop integrity metering. :)

Next post we will venture further into the mire. Already some will be saying, kundalini relates not just to fight/flight but also to sex energy, hence to love and all that stuff. Don’t some of the cultic manipulations depend on maxing out your desperation for love? And in fact don’t many dysfunctional families use some of the same methods to keep people in line? The stuff I came upon here really made my eyes go doing-oing-oing so more next time.


The Inner Landscape

Cats understand the concept of relaxation

Tell someone to relax and they might not appreciate it, even if they need to. “Could I but relax right now, I wouldn’t need telling!” they might say, fair point. But tell them how to do a progressive relaxation sometime, and you may save their life or anyway their blood pressure (which turns out to be the same difference). And more importantly empower them to come to their own understanding of relaxation by direct experience.

Same story with the elements of human excellence as discussed last post. Fingerwagging that people “should be” more courageous, accepting or spontaneous isn’t nearly as helpful as showing them how to do it — in a way that brings out their own unique take on life rather than some narrow generic definition. Glenn mentioned that “Most of the religious writings with the exception of Patanjali strike me as poppycock. They describe the life, but not the practice that resulted in the life.” (Path Notes, p. 41.) He wasn’t being egoistical, just honest. His own practice for tapping the inner sources of actualised behaviour is truly beautiful, links into tradition (much of it Japanese) and thanks to his thorough work has scientific evidence backing it up. He called it ‘modernised Mikkyo’. I really love this system for linking humans to divine inspiration.

Instead of telling I shall show, using stuff anyone can extend later as desired. This post will trigger intuition and give the feel for how it all works. We’ll be combining the chakra psychology from Crawfish with meditation images from the Hoshinjutsu manual of Rob Williams, Glenn’s lineage successor. (If that bit made no sense ignore it for now, but both books are on the Reading List when you want more.)

Chakras

Here’s how it works. We’re looking at the base chakra, the lowest, for now. This is associated with the element of Earth and is found at the tip-of-coccyx/perineum area. Glenn’s discoveries here concern the roles played by chakras and elements in the personality since personalities are formed with particular energies dominant. Let’s look at what someone is like if they are Earth-dominant.

At Crawfish p. 43, we find: “On a continuum ’Earthy’ people move from extremes of conventionality and concern for status on the negative, to benevolent self confidence combined with a generalist ability to synthesize on the positive.” Negative Earth can be rule-bound, repressed, sexually obsessed, bullying and/or passive-aggressive whilst Positive is about being centred, practical and uninhibited. Obviously the positive side is the actualised side. Stability and responsibility are key-notes. (This is not astrology BTW. These factors were confirmed by research on over 5,000 people and worked into instruments with real predictive power. It’s a scientific personality typology which just happens to be based on cross-cultural esotericism.)

Meanwhile let’s get out the other book and experience Earth from a different vantage point. The Earth visualisation recommended by Rob Williams is simply to imagine yourself on a mountain, standing on and touching the firm, cool rock and realising its vast, powerful solidity (Hoshinjutsu, p. 21.) Try that right now just to see what happens, if you like.

What does the feeling of that deeply solid rock have to do with the human personality of Earth? It’s not hard to connect intuitively this mountain-solidity with the centredness and strength of the Positive Earth descriptions. Getting into the mindset reveals why things like maintenance of social order and the fulfilment of responsibility are natural expressions of this feeling. Add in the vigour of fertile earthly growth and the sexual aspects become clear too.

Strong roots, strong growth

This is not about inventing. It’s tuning into something that’s already within, thereby strengthening both “it” and “your” connection with “it”. I remember the moment I got my first blast of the actual Earth, from opening the base chakra plus doing a bunch of work with sexual energy. It was after I’d stopped meditating for the night and was engaged in something unconnected. Suddenly I felt it. The first words into my mind were ‘old and strong’. That was how I observed-experienced it unfolding. I instantly thought of the massive strength of oaks in late prime, far older than I am. A very European image — we live with the trees we are given. The slow, broad, powerful presence. I remembered a hundred times being out in nature and having this sensation amongst rocks and trees and earth, bristling and deep, full of silence, strong, massively present and aware.

To open intuitively that feeling of Earth within is no longer to need external definitions or triggering visualisations. You have the experience and knowledge of what Earth is, and it is your experience and knowledge, built of your own body, your own energy, your own life. It progresses with you. Even from that one contact (and this was long before I ever worked with trees in ch’i kung) my intuition pulled together many stray remarks from texts and combined them with remembered moments to form a knowing, a being-in-touchness connected to a certain aspect of present-moment experience-flow and meaning.

Stone -- enduring strength and weight

A poetic sensibility will find words and images playing instructive games. Earth is about being and it’s about touch. Earth is exactly about silence which is why it is the beginning of the practice just as learning silence in meditation is the beginning. Toru Takemitsu used to expound on the nature of silence among trees, not at all equivalent to mere noiselessness. Earth is also about standing. It’s about concern for standing in the community, about what you stand for, whom you stand with, the solidity of what you stand on. And so forth. These are just a couple of personal expressions of how I have lived with it. The living connection is what you are after, not a dead definition. (Bear in mind that different people find different elements more or less easy to contact at first, but this changes with practice.)

Once attained you can put it to work. Glenn’s initial angle came of course from the martial arts. The elemental energies bring physical moves to life instinctually, making them intuitive and powerful because you don’t have to think. As you see from Rob’s book, Earth moves make use of solidity, not backing away, working with weight, etc. Being the mountain.

But it obviously doesn’t stop there. There are times in your life when you need to stand firm and be the immovable object. There are times when silence will serve better than speech. And so on. You get the idea. You have a resource here. Have a look at those Maslow capacities from last week. How much easier is it to be “unruffled by that which ruffles others” with this energy at your disposal?

A great key, often mentioned by Tao Semko, is that all the chakras can be experienced in parallel. Once open they can be drawn upon as and when. And they are all very different, each a world to itself. The joyful, precise, vivid and direct motive power of the third chakra, for example, associated with Fire, is a beast with very different proclivities from those of Earth, but just as useful to build actualisation. The three upper chakras, associated with Void, are perhaps even more extraordinary than the base four.

Obviously there are ways of energising and contacting all the chakras in meditation and qigong, but this life-use of their energies seems less talked about. Bringing these energies to situations in living really ramps the awakeness levels of the ordinary mind. You have to get quite aware to do this. You can also use the subconscious — allow it to change your life by re-weaving the energies. What happens if you use Ericksonian techniques to tap the energies and resolve old issues or forge new personality resources? Let’s just say your subconscious has known the energies for a long time and can come up with some neat stuff very spontaneously. I’ll leave you to discover…

Additional Information for the Interested

Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" -- not bad, but the chakra system is far subtler

This does link to psychology since Glenn makes clear it can work as a Maslow-style hierarchy, and also as a series of Jungian-style archetypes (Crawfish, p. 49.)

It’s not uncommon to meet the chakras as beings. Deities associated with them in traditional Tantric lore are perfect examples. Glenn briefly mentions this idea at Path Notes, p. 178. The Taoists have a similar tradition which associates the slightly different Chinese 5-element system with organs rather than chakras, but also recognises spiritual beings living within each one.

That’s a very useful approach. That Earth element experience is just one feature of the human inner universe. Our physical systems are amazing in themselves, but just the beginning because all aspects of our physicality are associated with energies and consciousnesses. There is a magical garden full of colourful and potent stuff in any human body/soul, layers and layers of energetic systems and flows, radiances, symbols and archetypes. People have no idea how interesting they are. Work with those things via ch’i and Kundalini energies has been scientifically proven alter the composition of your physical body (see Lu 1997.)

The chakras are confluences, hubs for energy-paths and physical nerve plexuses and organs. There’s intelligent meaning underneath which permeates/generates the rest. No-one need think all the wizzy modern science precludes investigating the traditional approach, and the old translations of Indian Tantric chakra lore in Arthur Avalon, for example, remain interesting. The ‘purpose’ of each chakra casts light on the ‘purpose’ of the organs that coincide with it. The essential archetype of the chakra is non-physical and is experienced by contacting it as a space-presence.

The Japanese have two element systems, one with five elements (go gyo) for back-engineering Chinese medicine stuff, and one with 4 elements + void (go dai) related to chakras, which was what Glenn used. Its source is esoteric Buddhism and martial arts. Chakras cross cultures and the descriptions are interesting to compare. Elements likewise. Bardon’s Western system of Hermetics has things in common with this. Jan Fries is enjoyable on the elements and Empedocles seems to have been the first to write about them.

Void in Glenn’s system is the eternal centre and dynamic reconciler of opposites which is the role played by ‘Tao’ last post.

As Tao Semko points out the purpose of Tantric Kundalini meditation traditionally is to have access to all those chakra spaces in a chain and have Kundalini energy link them together at their absolute centre. That vertical, spiritual use of the chakras can accompany the more horizontal stuff we’ve looked at here and is a ladder to the transcendent.

Given how different, and how much richer, the subtle inner, transpersonal and superconscious worlds and interpretations are from anything you could extrapolate out of physicalism, there’s often a load of chaos surrounding this info and reality in human psychology and culture. A couple of posts on that coming up. :)


The Original Maslow Capacities

In the classic Guide to Rational Living (1997, 1st edn. 1961), Albert Ellis recommends realism and flexibility in what one expects of oneself. Very good advice, trying to counter those rigidly over-demanding images people carry of what they and the world should be like. Those demands can get far worse in spiritual training because stories of achievement abound along with overly-rosy pictures of the achievers as not much more than virtues in a superficial fleshly packaging. Expectations of saving the world, surviving the apocalypse, purifying the race etc. etc. are freely loaded on top by guru-itis sufferers (of whom more in another post), so the perfectionist mind can go crazier than a pubescent girl confronted with a fashion monthly.

I have never trusted ‘brute storybook perfection’, because I was too humanly aware too young and enjoyed cheap B-movies too much. This is one of the reasons I did trust Glenn, who said: “When people become too goody-goody they begin to falsify their stories and behaviour.” (Shadow Strategies, p. 31). That’s a polite way to say that perfection is usually bunk and the enemy of excellence. To be drunk on goodness is as bad for your sober assessment skills as to be drunk any other way. (To be rigidly fixated on that goodness is to get angry-drunk, fast.)

I’ve found Maslow’s descriptions of the capacities of self-actualised people very, very helpful in this regard. They are admiring observations of the real traits of real people, the results of careful studying and conceptualising, erring neither to the side of perfection nor to that of imperfection. They form a genuinely useful and beautifully observed snapshot of what psychological health is like.

The following is the smallest condensation I could make of Maslow’s famous paper in Chapter 11 of Motivation and Personality, (1987, 1st edn. 1954). I got it down to 10 paragraphs. Not that I don’t recommend the more detailed, soulful, and in-depth prose of the original but somehow seeing it gathered in concentrated form gives a helpful atmosphere when discovering one’s own way forward. I don’t use this as literal goal-setting, certainly not rigidly! I simply have it in mind as a set of flavourful omega-pointy seeds, and as I work with the techniques that interest me, I try to find myself coalescing around it. (There are also various ways to instruct the subconscious to enact it, which I’ll talk on another time.)

So, the tendencies and capacities of the actualised according to Maslow’s initial study:

1. Accept their own nature and animal level without guilt or anxiety. Relative lack of disgusts and aversions, defensiveness or desire to impress — none of these lacks absolute but they are not neurotically exaggerated. (Are quietly uncomfortable in areas where they know they can improve and with shortcomings in culture etc.)

2. Relatively spontaneous esp. in inner life and impulse. Ziran. Creative, playful in a humble and childlike way. Fresh, uninhibited and instinctive. Appreciate the basic goods of life with awe and wonder. The hundredth sunset is as great as the 1st. The ordinary can be exciting. Able to transform hackneyed routine by creativity.

3. Live more in territory than in map, see confused or concealed realities more swiftly. Able to detect the spurious/fake/dishonest, to judge people cogently and efficiently. Thus predictions of the future tend to be more correct.

4. Tolerant of ordinary ways but don’t identify with them and can cast them off when unnecessary. Unconventional at heart in a non-showy manner. Accept conventionality as a light cloak to keep the peace, which drops when at serious work on interests or in company of those who don’t care. Not “adolescent-rebellious”, changing the culture by their presence from within rather than destroying it from without — probably could switch to outsider if necessary without hatefulness.

5. Focused on a particular non-egotistical human good, chosen or obligated, and on issues arising. Motivational life is non-ordinary, aimed at character goals. Broad and non-petty. Concerned with ethics in widest possible vision. Not chronically unsure about right and wrong in their lives. May not be able to verbalise ethical basis but do not show the usual human chaos and have definite moral standards, often not conventional. Autonomous and individual in terms of ethical code. Fixed on ends not means — yet more likely than average to appreciate the doing itself.

6. Above the battle, unruffled by that which ruffles others. Serene, including with misfortune. Dignified even in undignified surroundings, partly from sticking by their own interpretation and judgment of any situation. Detached and undisturbed. More objective than average. Non-needy. Responsible for themselves, self-starters, have more free will and are less determined than average. Autonomous. Never passively yield to cultural shaping. Comfortable with being solitary and enjoy it.

7. Sympathy with and affection for human beings, despite awareness of shortcomings. Deep relationships but pick the actualised to have them with. Deep ties with few people. Demophilic: friendly with anyone no matter class race etc. If ever hostile it is both deserved and good for the person attacked. Can attract worshipers which is one-sided and embarrassing. Aware there is always more to know and that some do know it, thus humble. But more likely to counter-attack vs. definite evil, because less ambivalent, confused or weak-willed about own anger.

8. Humorous but not at the expense of others nor at shock/smut. Prefer humour that puts to flight pretension. If they poke fun at themselves it is not masochistic or clownlike. They use humour with depth and try to induce a smile rather than a belly laugh.

9. Definitely imperfect. Not “stuffed shirts or marionettes”. Can be silly, wasteful, thoughtless, vain, or angered. Usually know how to be very ruthless when there is no other option. Can also be over-kind. Could still sometimes be subject to non-neurotic guilt, anxiety, sadness, conflictedness. (No “magic perfection bullets”.)

10. Place high value on an ‘atmosphere of pagan acceptance’, comfortable relationship with life as it actually is, people as they actually are. Conflict and ambivalence lessen markedly or vanish altogether. Antagonisms are resolved in a spirit of playfulness combined with breadth of vision.

As a side note on actually doing this, Milton Erickson had it down too, instinctively, and embodied the description to a high degree. Where Ellis intellectually recommended more flexibility, I find changing self-image a far more instinctive process best approached with trance visualisations rather than discussion, and one of the coolest ways to unhook the culture from your being. I like the Ericksonian methods for this that the Lanktons discuss in The Answer Within (2008, 1st edn. 1983). (I should review that book as its underratedness is pretty criminal.) The point is to trigger one’s own creativity since these items can’t manifest without being distinctively and personally flavoured.

I find more to say here because I always wonder why it took so long in psychology before anyone wrote something like that list. Since “righteousness is a biological imperative,” as Glenn says, and people would rather be healthy and happy and fulfill their potential, you’d think they’d want to carry around a reasonably realistic image of what that was like. Certainly psychology should be interested, but no-one was doing it. I connect that with a lot of confusion, and worse, in this bizarrely self-imaged society.

Our Western disconnection from what we can be when at our best turns out to have progressively worsened for centuries, so what Maslow was finally bringing here was solid, fresh cultural influences and angles on that problem — particularly when he gets into the last item on the list, acceptance, calling it ‘dichotomy resolution’, the ability to transform conflicts into harmonious systems. “Head-heart” oppositions, battles between “ego id and superego”, polarisations of subpersonalities etc., are resolved into collaborations that bridge differences within. Acts become both selfish and unselfish. The soul is both spiritual and sensual. Etc.

He gives a list of polarities which he has seen resolved in the self-actualised, such as:

kindness-ruthlessness
concreteness-abstractness
acceptance-rebellion
self-society
adjustment-maladjustment
detachment from others-identification with others
serious-humorous
introverted-extroverted
intense-casual
serious-frivolous
conventional-unconventional

Anyone who’s noticed Maslow’s constant references to a “Taoistic” therapy and has read Lao-tzu will guess the seed-ideas here.

Existence and nonexistence produce each other.
Difficult and easy complete each other.
Long and short contrast each other.
High and low attract each other.
Pitch and tone harmonise each other.
Future and past follow each other.

Tao Te Ching, ch.2, tr. R. L. Wing

Thoughts like that are at the root of Taoism but not of Western ideas on excellence. It’s not that they’re absent from the West. Heraclitus often has such thoughts and the Hermetic alchemists are full of the harmonising of opposites, often in the revealing form of the two sexes coalescing to an androgyne. But these ideas never got as mainstream as in Taoism, where polarity resolution — Heaven and Earth, Yin and Yang — is fundamental to the process of world-autocreation. We’ve moved from personal to transpersonal which indicates how deep this goes.

The mainstream Western approach to excellence was Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, which differs from the Maslow stuff and always had issues in practice — it only works for some people and seems to misfire badly with others. But either way we actually gradually lost it. Not just the Western profile of excellence, but even the fact that such a profile could exist, became obscured over the centuries behind smogs of religious dogma, political skew, philosophical wrangle, and neurotic focus.

(Alasdair MacIntyre recounts the history in his After Virtue (2007, 1st edn. 1981). Thanks to Kant and Hume, early modern theories of goodness war to define a virtue whose necessity and then existence are steadily forgotten. Each side can make a good case so the whole thing is one neverending jawstrain. And even these toys are then unceremoniously chucked out of Nietzsche’s pram, leaving ever more numerous competing descriptions of what might be said to be correct, and on what basis, but very little usable understanding of how to be a worthwhile human being, how to develop, how to flower. There is some China-v.-West comparison of these issues in Katchmer’s overlooked Tao of Bioenergetics (1996), which Glenn read and enjoyed, see Martial Arts Madness, pp. 17 and 170.)

What we get in Maslow is a new version of the Aristotelian telos, or human purpose — but in Maslow’s careful way, loose enough to be practical. Meaning in life is inseparable from purpose. There would have been a lot fewer 20th-century whinges about “the meaninglessness of existence” if only some form of personal telos had been recognised, but we argued our way out of that. Maslow filled that lack (quite consciously by the way) — but with something a little new, without pure-verbal definitions.

We used to think about good people having “courage” or “moderation”. Then we defined “courage” and “moderation” in a verbal and idealised manner and tried to embody the results in specific situations or people. Not every human body enjoys being the servant of language patterns, which can get rigid quite fast, and the modern psychological approach is much more about finding the effective ways of transformation than being able to describe linguistically what you’re transforming to. For me what Glenn did there is wonderful. It’s about human change through the actual processes of being human. Psychological and bioenergetic aspects of virtue are the crucial determinants of its presence. The Taoists have always insisted on the damage caused by thinking too much and too anxiously, and some modern Western philosophers tend to demonstrate what they mean.

Yab-Yum

Glenn’s way takes Maslow’s ideas to a new level. The psychology of each chakra has both mundane and transpersonal applications. By contacting the energy of the chakra itself one masters not only its step on the road to enlightenment, but the energy at its root as well, which can then be turned towards actualising behaviours in this world. More description of this ingenious idea next week.

Yin-Yang

Glenn’s old friend Susan Carlson has been heard to say that the continuation of the spiritual process past initial kundalini awakening is about being a consciously evolving bridge between heaven and earth, a continuous and dynamic resolution of cosmic opposites. Just like Taoists’ cosmic yin and yang, Kundalini takes the lovemaking of opposites to the universal level as our personality becomes an embodiment of the superconscious self. The meaning of many symbols thereby becomes clearer…

Afterword for Philosophy fans: On Aristotle

Some might think Aristotle also has a bridging-of-opposites approach to virtue, which he sees as a mean between two extremes (eg. courage between rashness and cowardice), but it’s actually a very different philosophy indeed. To make that clear, look at the kind of opposites being bridged and how.

Aristotelian pair:

rashness-cowardice

Maslow pair:

seriousness-humour

The Aristotelian pair is two negative terms. Rashness and cowardice are two ‘ways to be bad’, two directions in which the good ‘courage’ can overbalance into evil. It’s a good-evil split. The resolution is by a central term, a word — “courage”.

But the Maslow pairing is two necessities of life, each of which can be positive. Seriousness and humour are both important human traits — which sometimes conflict. Neither is necessarily a way to be good or bad and there is no simplistic good-evil split. There is no implication that a verbal definition can get to “the answer” nor is there a central linguistic term. There is just a central process-presence which resolves the “conflict” into an all-inclusive unity, dynamically engaged with life, able to use both seriousness and humorousness when necessary and somehow even simultaneously. But this is a process-presence for which there is a noticeable and deliberate absence of a linguistic definition (see Lao-tzu ch. 1.)


Appraising 2011 — Previewing 2012

A big welcome to this year! Thanks again to all who are joining in, old companions and new explorers alike.

Looking back over 2011, I had less idea than I thought of where I was going as I began the blog… that’s why certain categories such as ‘Deities and Spirits’ have remained emptier of actual posts than I’d expected. I simply didn’t find a way to talk about that yet. :) You can’t blame me, “times being what they are” (Stoppard).

But certain themes did develop in the course of the year. To state it all in a maximally positive way, and why not for once, after 50 or so posts we are clear that:

This is a world where the reality of altered states and paranormal experiences is available and constantly accessed whether with or without official sanction, as well as being bound up with the depths of our identity.

This is a world where such states have real effects at all levels, where people really do meet dead love ones or exit their physical bodies, where psi adepts really can find lost archaeological wonders, martial artists really can knock you over without touching you, healers really can cure cancer from thousands of miles away, interaction with deities really can take place, and meditation really does introduce you to the secrets of the universe and your own soul.

This is a world where the subconscious in everyone is a genius with permanent access to the superconscious. As Freudian demonisation of our subconscious fades in the rear-view mirror, anybody can access its power and with it the process of human actualisation.

This is a world where free enquiry of art, science and mysticism are perfectly well able to circumvent the regulations that according to some still surround spiritual power.

This is a world where religions, even western religions, produce useful material and achieved people, along with the huge amount of useless material and blockage. Mysticism and energy work is a cross-cultural activity with methods that recognisably line up. Many members of big religions regularly don’t understand that “mysticism” is the source of their authority in more than a historical sense.

This is a world where the step into spiritual lineages with genuine scientific literacy and evidential orientation has already been made; where paranormal powers have already been proven to be real scientifically; where the biology of being tuned into the cosmos is being discovered right down to its effects on organs and glands; where ch’i and science are compatible.

This is a world where we can already explain some of what seemed inexplicably and wondrously mythological, although the explanation has certainly not removed the wonder.

This is a world where the ultimate, in the form of kundalini, is waiting to transform the nervous system into bliss and open anyone up to the cosmos, where all that’s needed for those with initiative is a good method and a decent guide.

This is a world where human self-actualisation matters and is possible for anyone, and where it’s therefore wise to evaluate your sources of information to see if they wish to and are capable of helping you on that quest. Why live a small life? (Or a narcissistically ‘great’ one with no truth, happiness or depth for that matter!)

This is a world where kids who pay attention to the fantasy and myth laid out for them as childhood entertainment will often imbibe huge amounts of very useful symbology — enough, if they’re lucky, to help them break free of TV as adults. (Ref. previous paragraph.)

This is a world where everyone is drifting in and out of altered states and interacting energetically all the time, mostly without any idea since the social self experiences only the reality allowed for it.

This is a world where people talking about what they call ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ are only too happy to sound authoritative without having a clue.

This is a world where if you want a blog with lots of hits you need to write about skeksis. :)

So, an interesting world in which to go adventuring this year. I’ve got quite a few ideas floating around on what to cover in 2012, taking the above as read and proceeding into a few unvisited corners to pull out insights based on it.

For the seasoned transpersonalist or cultivator, this year on the ‘Box may be more unusual reading than last — for the less seasoned, it may be even more unusual. :)

But either can remain sure of a viewpoint based on experience, not theory alone, and on as much reality-grounded research into both science and tradition as possible to back it up, combined with an emphasis on what’s best for individual actualisation and health in the most practical sense.

My list above isn’t an ‘argument’, but can help deconstruct unwanted dogmatic religious or pseudoskeptical viewpoints to make room for planting seeds along more fertile furrows. Interested parties can incorporate the ideas into a lifeview that works for them. No-one need be over-ambitious since even a little real change is precious stuff. “Those who can alter even a single situation, call them wise,” says the Neiye. Moving forward (when ready) to kundalini, reveals a fulfilment beyond many of those supposed human limitations, but we all have a deep core of the eternal stuff at the root of our psyches and many of us sense it.

As mentioned last year more than once, Glenn focused on being confident cool happy and sexy. You could do a lot worse for your initial aims in life, and I’d say Darwin agrees with the Kundalini Goddess on that. The Inner Smile over time can bring self-acceptance to a level where you realise you need relatively little and that’s where the fun begins since need is the opposite of happiness. I love to be a help in accessing the remarkable potential lying within us all, since watching it fulfilled is guaranteed to be among life’s more beautiful experiences.

Some of the less real limitations on you are very insistently blared by the culture so I’m planning to share techniques this year to help with the removal of unwanted cultural influences. (It’s not hard, the subconscious knows how and just needs the right signals which it usually doesn’t get.) That would include unwanted family influences too — those can be very tricky. I may go into a deeper discussion of sexual energy since strengthening it is a vital aspect of getting independence of mind and touches on some things not normally said.

The Reading List needs a big updating, as promised. I’m aware the current one doesn’t hang together neatly and that it’s also not so user-friendly for those who just want to try something out.

The psychology section of it will grow. Psychology is more of a help than I had imagined to start with since unlike Glenn I had no real experience with it professionally until recently. Although many helpful approaches are transpersonal (Grof, Maslow, Jung, Assagioli), it interests me that many equally helpful are not (Erickson, Ellis, Levine, Bowen). What all these people have in common is the ability to live their insights and help people on a practical level. I’d like to deepen talk about methods I began last year, with emphasis on making things ‘just happen’ rather than being too controlling. There’s a lot to explore.

Kundalini, especially as Glenn experienced, taught and envisioned it is likely to be at the centre of the blog this year. The transformational power of the nervous system is everyone’s birthright if they want to go for it and a cross-cultural inheritance which leads to a widened perception of a truly cosmic nature. There have been quite a few foolish things said about the whole experience but when understood it is also certainly the gateway to the reality of superconscious existence. We aren’t where we were in the Gopi Krishna days and don’t need to be scared of blowbacks as we know how to make the system work safely. (Although that gentleman is still a very useful read and is the father of the cross-cultural approach.)

Lots to play with then. Don’t forget to contact me if there’s something specific you want covered. Enjoy,

Jason


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