Article 43

 

Spiritual Diversions

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Line Between Love and Narcissism

image: unpefect

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
- Galatians 5:19-21

Disconnected from our human and spiritual roots, we flail around in a world that is oblivious to the suffering of others. Lacking a gentle mindfulness toward our own feelings and vulnerability, we quickly LOOK AWAY from who are suffering or the environmental havoc were creating.
- Spiritual starving.

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.
- Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.

“If you are wise,” she said, “You’re not only regulating your emotional state, you’re also attending to another person’s emotional state.” She added: “You’re not focusing so much on what you need and deserve, but on what you can contribute.”
- The science of older and wiser.

Why I’ve Come to Think the Notion of “Self-Love” is a Myth

By Umair Hague
Eudaimonia
August 9,2019

The other day, Tig Notaro said something on Twitter that struck a chord with me to the effect of:

Isn’t it funny how the people who should hate themselves the most don’t, and the ones that shouldn’t do?

It’s funny. Because it seems to be true. There’s a stranger truth, though, of human nature. We lionize self-love these days. And yet it always seems that were falling short of it. It seems like an impossible struggle, in fact. You want me to love… this person - whose flaws and failings I know only too well? And yet there’s an intimate link there, too, to the rage consuming this age, that’s boiling over into extremism (I’ll come to that, first a little psychology.)

Here’s a secret. One that especially us Americans aren’t familiar with, haven’t quite understood. And it goes a very long way to the heart of our failings as a society (and as a world, too.) It goes like this.

Everyone hates themselves. Yes, really. Everyone hates themselves (and the Trumps of the universe hate themselves most of all, which is why they’re always trying to prove how “great” they are.)

And not in a superficial way. I hate myself because I’m not pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, ripped enough, popular enough, famous enough. Nor in a social way: I hate myself because they have more than me, I hate myself because I’m not part of the right tribe, the in-group, the elite (lets band together, incels, and go kill us some women.) Not in that thin, surface way at all.

Everyone hates themselves in the deepest way of all. In an existential way. Inescapably. Deep, deep down. What do we hate ourselves for? Just for existing. For being. In our predicament. For being mortal. For being alone. For being finite. For being limited to the prison of our individuality. For being helpless and powerless to change any of it one bit. We hate ourselves existentially, and it cuts at the deepest part of us. We hate ourselves - and it takes courage and more than a little self-reflection to see it just for the condition of being alive, for its irresolvable uncertainty, its unknowability, its impossible beauty. But who wouldn’t? To exist is a terrible, unbearable burden. Nobody knows why, how, when, where we go, where we came from, what happens to us, what were made of, what the point of us is. We flicker out after barely having taken a breath. The only alternative to the burden of living all that is death. Dilemma. JUST EXISTING IS MORE TERRIFYING THAN ANY HELL ever invented.

Now. Really think about that for a second. Think about all of us, carrying all that self-hate around, every day - and all of us trying our best to deny it, ignore it, bury it, because its the deepest pain that we have. The primal wound in us. All of us. All that hurt, all that aching, pulsing around the globe, every second of every day. Each one of us has that primal wound, burning. But how many of us admit it?

What do we do with it? Well, mostly we try to run away from it - by focusing on the superficial forms of self-hate, because we imagine they’re things we can fix. I can get thinner. I can get richer. I can get more popular. But I can’t get any more life, any more power over death, any more time, any less finite, any less helpless. No matter how hard I try or what I do.

Yet think about futile and useless it is to try and address the superficial forms of self-hate without dealing with, as we say these days, the deep one. You can pile up money and fame and likes and be the prettiest most ripped one of all. What happens? Does it do anything at all to ease the hurt right down in the soul? Not a bit. If you doubt that, take a look at how many happy Instagrammers or YouTubers or even Hollywood stars or bankers there are.

As a culture, we tell ourselves three key myths of self-love, which are also therefore myths of self-hate. The first is that we can outrun our self-hate in a competitive way by outdoing the next person. That one weגre proven false. The second one is that we can force self-love on ourselves, by repeating mantras, by BEING POSITIVE, and so forth. And the third is that self-love is some kind of great and shining prize, without which happiness isnt really possible. What about those two?

If positivity could make people love themselves, then American should be the happiest people in human history. But they’re not. THEY’RE PRETTY MISERABLE, in fact. Depression and loneliness are endemic. Suicide is skyrocketing. A nation of self-lovers? Not quite. Americans have set themselves an impossible bar: perfect lives, which have to be loved - or else life is barely worth living at all. Neither one of those things is true.

We forget how deep self-hate, of the existential kind, really cuts through us. How can I love this thing - this being that will die, never knowing why it lived? How can I love this being - this one that is exiled to be alone, no matter how close another ever gets, even if we spend a lifetime in each others arms? How can I love this one - the being who is finite and fragile, and helpless to change that finitude and fragility in any real way at all? Who could love a thing like that?

It’s NO SURPRISE that as a culture, we try to run away from this PREDICAMENT. As Sartre said, “it feels sickening.” As Camus said, “it’s absurd and horrific.” As Kierkegaard said, “it’s terrifying.” To be this thing, this being, that needs to be loved, held, seen - and yet knows its own fragility and mortality and smallness all too well. We run away from it with RELIGION, with ESCAPISM, with CONSUMERISM, with CRUELTY, with VIOLENCE, with war, with greed, with HATE. We run away from it all the way down into the abyss.

Now we come to a great paradox of the human condition. You and I have this burning need to BE HELD, to be seen, to be known. And yet we hate ourselves for the knowledge of who we truly are. Do you see the irony? Its a terrible plight. It’s tragedy within tragedy. First, the tragedy of mortality and finitude and then the double tragedy of hating one’s self for it. How do we resolve this tragedy? Can we? Are we just empty, meaningless things? Or does the paradox itself hold the keys to a higher meaning, a greater purpose, something that finally matters? It does of course it does.

In that paradox lie the beginnings of all that is true and noble in us. Empathy, courage, wisdom, defiance, grace. The power to love is born right there. I can say: “I know myself as a thing who hates itself for its finitude, its fragility, its powerlessness. But you are just that thing, too. Ah I see you in me. I can’t love myself for being this thing. But you are not me. Perhaps I can love you. Here take my hand. Let us wander this desert together.” Our wounds in that way are our guides.

Do you see what I mean? Let me put it a little more succinctly. Its in the recognition of self-hate as an inescapable and universal condition of being human that love is born. I empathize with you. I hold you. I see you. I know you. As someone who is always, deep down, aching and hurting just like me. Always. Forever. Until the last breath. Are you not worth loving? I can’t love myself. I know myself too well. I will always hate myself, a little but I can love you.

We need ONE ANOTHER to be CAPABLE OF LOVE. If you are not there, who will empathize with me? I I am not there, who will see you, hold you, know you? Doesn’t it seem obvious when I put it that way? How could such a thing as self-love ever really have been?

Ive come to think that “self-love” is a myth. Perhaps the logic above shows you why. I can’t love myself because Im the subject of my own finitude, fragility, helplessness, no matter what I do. But you are not. I can love you.

I think it takes people, really seeing each other, to teach one another what love is. One can’t love ones self in a vacuum any more than an atom in a vacuum can catch fire. Perhaps that’s why Americans chase this glittering prize called self-love but forever fail to find it. Itגs an illusion to begin with. If the idea that loving yourself makes you love others were trueӔ, after all, wouldnt America be a functioning society? ItҒs full of little narcissists, of egoists but that is all. And that, I think, is where the modern obsession with דself-love leads. America is what happens when the wound is not the guide.

If there is no one else there, just a vacuum - then our well of self-hate will soon take over. And that, it seems to me, is what happened to America. Americans are, as the saying goes, “lonely together.” Trapped in little isolated bubbles of lonelinss - desperately seeking self-love -being positive - reciting mantras - chasing a thing which doesn’t really exist - and so as a society, America goes nowhere, except down and down, because nobody is doing the emotional work of really seeing, holding, or knowing anyone else. Self-hatred comes to rule. Hence, Americans are renowned for their cruelty, their lack of empathy, their hate, their greed and violence. The yellow brick road of self-love ends in the sandcastles of narcissism.

Now. If there’s no such thing as “self-love,” then what is there? There’s something much more like peace. Like knowing. Like a gentle consolation. Like a last stand. Like an embrace of acceptance. This is me. In my finitude. In my helplessness. In all my fragility. I am standing inside my mortality. I am reaching upwards to the sky, anyways. I am this thing, made of, as Kierkegaard said, fear and trembling. Let me admit it. Let me be just that thing. Instead of pretending to be something else. Isnt that living a lie? As difficult and painful as it is - let me be just that thing. Without pretense. Authentically. Let the wound in me be my guide.

Do you see the difference? What I’m describing is an ambivalent thing. It isn’t a kind of passionate, egotistical, narcissistic infatuation “look how awesome I am!! It’s a conflicted thing, a position that’s bent-over, the crook of a gnarled tree, the bend of a river. I don’t know if I can love myself. I know myself too well for that. I know that Im alone, I’m helpless, I’m ignorant, I’m mortal things I donגt want to be, cant bear. I can, perhaps, know that. Admit it. Accept it. With a kind of defiance.

I can rebel, as Camus said - but only if I have the courage to know who and what I really am. I can never love that thing, that bent, broken, helpless one I call myself. But perhaps I dont have to hate it, either. It is just who it is. Who it was born being. Who it is condemned, as Sartre said, to be. Perhaps I can offer it as it is to someone just like it.

All that I can do in this life is to reach out my hand. And walk beside you. I can love you, perhaps, for your fragility, for your finitude, for your littleness - but never myself, because I am me, the subject of all my own finitude, and you are not. The same is true for you. In that way, love is born. The wound is your guide.

But that also means that we have a choice in this life. Either we love ourselves which is to say glorify, aggrandize, and reward them, none of which are really love, but all numbing escapes from the central existential challenge of self-hate. Or we love. We just love. The river, the mountain, the tree. The soil that becomes the forest. The word, the letter, the song. And if weגre lucky, that way, perhaps we find someone we see the whole universe in.

I think that America chose the illusion called “self-love.” But the more that I reflect on it, the more I conclude: there’s no such thing. There’s an ambivalent, conflicted, difficult peace. With the position of finitude and fragility that makes us us. But we can’t love ourselves for being these things - the MOST WE CAN DO is not hate ourselves for being who and what we are. And yet those are precisely what make love - which is always the discovery of meaning beyond the finite, helpless, limited self - possible.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/10/19 •
Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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Friday, February 08, 2019

Energy

image: aura

The Great Thread of Being
The Raw Stuff Were Made Of, And Why it Matters

By Umair Hague
Eudaimonia
February 7, 2019

“The energy you put out into the world is your responsibility!” I couldn’t help but be struck by how funny the tweet was, whereupon someone told me it was from some guru type. Is it true? Lets talk about “energy” and being and you and me for a moment. I don’t writeoften enough about this kind of stuff these days, though its my favourite thing to writeabout, because, well, the world has more pressing issues. What are we? Why are we here? Who are we, really?

This kind of sentiment “the energy you put out is your responsibility” - which you and I both hear expressed ubiquitously - is a kind of convenient mishmash of East meets West. It takes the formative philosophical idea of the East - that there’s “energy,: which is to say Qi, or prana, or so fort - but then combines it with the formative idea of the modern West, which is rational individualism: its yours, like a car or house or money. Feels a little off already, doesn’t it?

I think that any of us who have been close to the edge of ourselves recognizes there’s indeed such a thing as “energy.” Deep down, when you go beyond the narrow limits of the ego, there’s something that the old philosophers of the East described beautifully, because its so accurate to anyone who’s had the experience. A kind of luminous coiling presence, the “snake” of Kundalini, a force that’s pure in intensity as it is impossible to put into words. If you want me to describe it in words, when I was close to death, I’d experience it just that way - as a kind of coil of light, in a place of pure being, stretching into an endless expanse of stars, dust, time beyond, space beyond space.

But that coil of light wasn’t “in” me. Its more accurate to say that it was something that poured “through” me. But even that’s inaccurate. Its more accurate to say that it was something that was released, or experienced, or encountered, as “I started to die. That coil of light that existed in space beyond space, in time beyond time - what was it?”

Let’s think about it a little more. It wasn’t pure being - because it was in the “ground” or the “field” of pure being. Yet nor was it “me” - because, as the ancient philosopher who discovered this energy, this “Qi” or “Kundalini” and so forth rightly pointed out - it’s found where you, the little you of appetite and desire and money and clothes and so on ends. For the same reason, you feel connected when you stand on a beach - there’s nothing of you left suddenly, and somehow everything feels right, not wrong. You’re naked - “o now what are you?”

Immediately, a few things should be crystal clear already. This energy doesnt “belong” to “me” or “you.” because it only comes into focus when “you” and “I” and are fading. Therefore, it isn]t something that can “belong” to us at all, in an individualistic sense. To say that we must take “responsibility” for the energy of being is as wrong as saying that the summer must take responsibility for the sun. It is a thing that belongs to none of us.

This energy is there to teach us a lesson. A great and mighty lesson about the truth of us. A lesson thats as difficult to learn as it is to teach, one thatʒs as impossible as it is beautiful, as awesome as it is tiny.

So we struggle our whole lives long with all this. Western psychology tries to treat this energy in us in a hyperrational way - with therapy and so on. Eastern thought tries to treat it in a silent, contemplative way - with meditation and Tai Chi and yoga whatnot. Its hard to say if the Western approach has been any more successful - just witness how depressed and anxious and angry people are these days.

When it comes to “energy,” the Western approach tries to contain it - which is what so much psychotherapy is about, calling it “libido” and “eros.” The Eastern approach, on the other hand, tries to “channel” it, for example in yoga. And yet that approach, while I think can work better, often fails, too. Why do both these approaches fail? Because neither one brings us, first, closer to encountering this “energy” in its pure form - to really experiencing it, knowing it, bonding with it, developing a kind of intimacy with it.

So what happens? It roars through us, tears at us, wails like a banshee. It is saying: Know me. See me. Feel me. What am I? I am you. Don’t you want to know yourself? Of course we do. But we’re diehard rationalists - we’re taught to ignore these whispers and screams, which we can so obviously hear - and they only get louder the more they’re ignored.

Now, here’s the funny thing. Nobody doesn’t feel this energy - just stand on a beach for a moment, or stare into a sunset, bang! There it is, coursing through you - we just don’t know what to call it, where to put it, what the hell to do with it. How would we? Nobody teaches us. Nobody much even really acknowledges its reality. We walk around all pretending away the deepest parts of us.

Soon enough, by about midlife or so, most of us are wrecks. Our lives feel strangely disconnected. We feel lonely, even when we’re with our kids and families. Our work seems meaningless. We don’t seem to know our place in this universe at all. We struggle to contain this energy that’s screaming and whistling and exploding through us by now. Maybe we have affairs, maybe we blow up our careers, maybe we throw our life savings away. What are we really searching for? We are desperate by this point - truly desperate - to know who we are. Why we are here. What we are made of.

But we’re still not ready to go inside and face this energy of being itself - really just experience the truth of it for ourselves. Its funny, isn’t it? We know we are not just bags of chemicals. We feel there is a “soul” or a “presence” in us. But we can’t quite seem to connect with it. Bang! The energy overwhelms us - and that leaves us weary, exhausted, drained, as we try to fight it, repress it, ignore it. Isn’t that how you feel sometimes? I know I used to feel drained every day, even though I was bursting with energy - until I was in something like a walking coma, numb and frozen.

So what should we do about it? What can we do? We can go towards the energy. Really go towards it. Just try to see it, and be seen by it. Just experience it. By “experience” it I don’t mean imagining coils of light in your mind’s eye (which is comforting and relaxing, but.) I mean experiencing it, feeling it, so there is nothing left but that energy. So it is you, and you are it - and that is just the beginning. Just sit there for a while if you want to do it - there’s no great secret, you’re just overloaded from modern life.

As you look “along” the light, or “into” it, depending on your perspective, you will see that this “coil” is something as magnificent and remarkable as beautiful and impossible. “Look” here means sense, in the way that we look with the third eye, with the witness, with the observer - not with the physical eyes, of course. So what is this coil?

It is the thread that links all selves. It has no ending and no beginning. It just spirals and stretches and twists and dances endlessly in this space beyond space and this time beyond time. Along it lie all selves who ever were or have been. From the tiniest insect to you and me. Selves are just artificial separations in this consciousness, which is the raw material of existence itself, as quantum physics is starting to understand. No “selves” - no object “reality” just pure energy.

When we say two people are in love, it means something like their place along this coil has intersected , touched, and a little explosion has happened. When we say that people die, it means they are letting their “selves” go, and returning to the ground, or the field which this coil lingers in. (You can think of this thread as alaya if you like, if you’re versed in Buddhism, all the karma in all the worlds, flowing like a great river, from self to self, conditioning them into existence.)

Imm sure by now some of you are amused or horrified or just plain bewildered. What the hell is this guy talking about? LOL that’s OK. Before I died I would have been the first to laugh off stuff like this - pretty viciously, too. But I was desperately unhappy, too. So let’s go a little further still, if you really want to delve into a few untold secrets of being.

Energy, Qi, Kundalini, etcetera, is the thread of selfhood which we are all traveling along. It is always flowing through us because we are all just traveling along it. In that sense, it is the cycle of life, too, that the ancients spoke about. One self goes - bang! The next one is found, had, lived. That doesn’t mean there’s a sequence, really, because we are not in a linear space. We are trying to use words to explain an impossible reality, the idea that consciousness, not matter, is what is fundamental, and therefore, there is a place where all consciousness exists in its raw form, too , undivided, unseparated, one, whole. That place is the thread of being, which we sense, but which our eyes can never see, because our eyes, just like mountains, rivers, or stars, are made of it to begin with.

Now let me try to distill a few practical, simple lessons from all this. The energy you feel coursing through you is not your own. Because consciousness is fundamental, it is the truest thing in you. It is the raw stuff of existence itself. That is why it is always crying out to you to know it.

It doesn’t belong to you any more than the sunlight or the ocean does. The most that you can do is try to honor it, in a way, to do justice to it. That means letting this great thread of life unfurl through you, and that means lifting up and nourishing and nurturing every life that you touch, because from the threads point of view, there is no difference between you whatsoever.

To do that, though, you must have the courage and wisdom to gain some intimacy with this “energy,” this great thread of being - which is just primal consciousness, roaring through you. You have to stop the futile work of trying to ignore its pleas and cries. You have to stop pretending its not there, while all the time you feel unhappy and lonely for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on. You must understand your exhaustion and weariness come as much from this existential battle you are waging with your true self as they do from capitalism and supremacy and so on. You must go into it, towards it, and really know it, not just as part of you, but you, yourself, as just a tiny, evanescent part of it.

The starting point is to no longer be afraid of the idea that you are only what you’re told you are - just a consumer, a material object, a worker, in short, a brain-body piling up money and stuff - but that you might just be something much greater and truer and wholer. You are this whole thread of being, and this whole thread of being is you. In the end, you learn that - whether it is in the moments before you die, or in the moments long before them. The question is only when. So there’s no need to worry - only to laugh.

I think if you learn this early on, though, a lot of things become a lot clearer. There’s a sense of happiness, a sense of belonging, a sense of peace. That makes love truer, relationships deeper, intimacy warmer, moments more intense. It makes life something a little more mysterious, vast, impossible, tiny, beautiful. You have a higher sense of consciousness - but it’s better to just say a deeper, simpler, rawer, truer one.

Or maybe the rationalists are right - it’s all just an illusion, a fairy tale fools like me tell. I guess there’s only one way for you to find out.

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Posted by Elvis on 02/08/19 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Religious Diversions Part 13 - Psychology of Religion

image we invented Jesus

Religion has been the longest running form of MIND CONTROL on the planet and has served to not only keep us separated, but to depopulate the world through numerous wars, Inquisitions and Crusades in the name of God.
- How to Deprogram Yourself

God is understood to be responsive, loving and present - even when things are tough, miserable and unfair. The theology is not about explanation, but about relationship. That is what makes churches like these work for those who come to them. People stay with this God not because the theology makes sense, but because the practice delivers emotionally. When you feel lousy, reaching out to this God helps you to feel better. Under these conditions, it is often when prayer requests fail that prayer practice becomes most satisfying.
- Prayer Failure

[W]hat modern priests and pastors do all the time. They tell you to “just have faith,” to “trust in faith,” and even to “work on your faith.” Does this differ significantly from telling one to JUST STAY STUPID?
- Religious Diversions - Part 9

“Expose every belief to the light of reason, discourse, facts, scientific observations; question everything, be sceptical because this is the only chance at life you will ever get.”
- James Randi

Religion is about emotion regulation, and its very good at it

By Stephen T Asma
Aeon
October 9, 2018

Religion does not help us to explain nature. It did what it could in pre-scientific times, but that job was properly unseated by science. Most religious laypeople and even clergy agree: Pope John Paul II declared in 1996 that evolution is a fact and Catholics should get over it. No doubt some extreme anti-scientific thinking lives on in such places as Ken Hams Creation Museum in Kentucky, but it has become a fringe position. Most mainstream religious people accept a version of Galileo’s division of labour: The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.

Maybe, then, the heart of religion is not its ability to explain nature, but its moral power? Sigmund Freud, who referred to himself as a godless Jew, saw religion as delusional, but helpfully so. He argued that we humans are naturally awful creatures - aggressive, narcissistic wolves. Left to our own devices, we would rape, pillage and burn our way through life. Thankfully, we have the civilising influence of religion to steer us toward charity, compassion and cooperation by a system of carrots and sticks, otherwise known as heaven and hell.

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim, on the other hand, argued in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) that the heart of religion was not its belief system or even its moral code, but its ability to generate COLLECTIVE EFFERVESCENSE: intense, shared experiences that unify individuals into cooperative social groups. Religion, Durkheim argued, is a kind of social glue, a view confirmed by recent interdisciplinary RESEARCH.

While Freud and Durkheim were right about the important functions of religion, its true value lies in its therapeutic power, particularly its power to manage our emotions. How we feel is as important to our survival as how we think. Our species comes equipped with adaptive emotions, such as fear, rage, lust and so on: religion was (and is) the cultural system that dials these feelings and behaviours up or down. We see this clearly if we look at mainstream religion, rather than the deleterious forms of extremism. Mainstream religion reduces ANXIETY, stress and depression. It provides existential MEANING and hope. It focuses aggression and fear against enemies. It domesticates lust, and it strengthens filial connections. Through story, it trains feelings of empathy and compassion for others. And it provides consolation for suffering.

Emotional therapy is the animating heart of religion. Social bonding happens not only when we agree to worship the same totems, but when we feel affection for each other. An affective community of mutual care emerges when groups share rituals, liturgy, song, dance, eating, grieving, comforting, tales of saints and heroes, hardships such as fasting and sacrifice. Theological beliefs are bloodless abstractions by comparison.

Emotional management is important because life is hard.The Buddha said: “All life is suffering” and most of us past a certain age can only agree. Religion evolved to handle what I call the “vulnerability problem.” When were sick, we go to the doctor, not the priest. But when our child dies, or we lose our home in a fire, or we’re diagnosed with Stage-4 cancer, then religion is helpful because it provides some relief and some strength. It also gives us something to do, when there’s nothing we can do.

Consider how religion helps people after a death. Social mammals who have suffered separation distress are restored to health by touch, collective meals and grooming. Human grieving customs involve these same soothing prosocial mechanisms. We comfort-touch and embrace a person who has lost a loved one. Our bodies give ancient comfort directly to the grieving body. We provide the bereaved with food and drink, and we break bread with them (think of the Jewish tradition of shiva, or the visitation tradition of wakes in many cultures). We share stories about the loved one, and help the bereaved reframe their pain in larger optimistic narratives. Even music, in the form of consoling melodies and collective singing, helps to express shared sorrow and also transforms it from an unbearable and lonely experience to a bearable communal one. Social involvement from the community after a death CAN ACTas an antidepressant, boosting adaptive emotional changes in the bereaved.

Religion also helps to manage sorrow with something I’ll call “existential shaping” or more precisely “existential debt.” It is common for Westerners to think of themselves as individuals first and as members of a community second, but our ideology of the lone protagonist fulfilling an individual destiny is more fiction than fact. Losing someone reminds us of our dependence on others and our deep vulnerability, and at such moments religion turns us toward the web of relations rather than away from it. Long after your parents have died, for example, religion helps you memorialise them and acknowledge your existential debt to them. Formalising the memory of the dead person, through funerary rites, or tomb-sweeping (Qingming) festivals in Asia, or the Day of the Dead in Mexico, or annual honorary masses in Catholicism, is important because it keeps reminding us, even through the sorrow, of the meaningful influence of these deceased loved ones. This is not a self-deception about the unreality of death, but an artful way of learning to live with it. The grief becomes transformed in the sincere acknowledgment of the value of the loved one, and religious rituals help people to set aside time and mental space for that acknowledgment.

An emotion such as grief has many ingredients. The physiological arousal of grief is accompanied by cognitive evaluations: “I will never see my friend again”; :I could have done something to prevent this”; She was the love of my life”; and so on. Religions try to give the bereaved an alternative appraisal that reframes their tragedy as something more than just misery. Emotional appraisals are proactive, ACCODING to the psychologists Phoebe Ellsworth at the University of Michigan and Klaus Scherer at the University of Geneva, going beyond the immediate disaster to envision the possible solutions or responses. This is called “secondary appraisal.” After the primary appraisal (This is very sad), the secondary appraisal assesses our ability to deal with the situation: “This is too much for me” or, positively: “I will survive this.” Part of our ability to cope with suffering is our sense of power or agency: more power generally means better coping ability. If I acknowledge my own limitations when faced with unavoidable loss, but I feel that a powerful ally, God, is part of my agency or power, then I can be more resilient.

Because religious actions are often accompanied by magical thinking or supernatural beliefs, Christopher Hitchens argued in God Is not Great (2007) that religion is “false consolation.” Many critics of religion echo his condemnation. But there is no such thing as false consolation. Hitchens and fellow critics are making a category mistake, like saying: “The colour green is sleepy.” Consolation or comfort is a feeling, and it can be weak or strong, but it can’t be false or true. You can be false in your judgment of why youre feeling better, but feeling better is neither true nor false. True and false applies only if we’re evaluating whether our propositions correspond with reality. And no doubt many factual claims of religion are false in that way - the world was not created in six days.

Religion is real consolation in the same way that music is real consolation. No one thinks that the pleasure of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is “false pleasure” because singing flutes don’t really exist. It doesn’t need to correspond to reality. Its true that some religious devotees, unlike music devotees, pin their consolation to additional metaphysical claims, but why should we trust them to know how religion works? Such believers do not recognise that their unthinking religious rituals and social activities are the true sources of their therapeutic healing. Meanwhile, Hitchens and other critics confuse the factual disappointments of religion with the value of religion generally, and thereby miss the heart of it.

Why We Need Religion: An Agnostic Celebration of Spiritual Emotions by Stephen Asma, 2018 is published by Oxford University Press.

SOURCE

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image: Ashtar

It performed great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of everyone.
- Revelations 13:13

Alien Confession Found: We Invented Jesus Christ

Alienviews
September 28, 2018

American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill will be appearing before the British public for the first time in London on the 19th of October to present a controversial new discovery:

Ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.

His presentation will be part of a one-day symposium entitled ”COVERT MESSIAH” at Conway Hall in Holborn.

Although to many scholars his theory seems outlandish, and is sure to upset some believers, Atwill regards his evidence as conclusive and is confident its acceptance is only a matter of time.

“I present my work with some ambivalence, as I do not want to directly cause Christians any harm,” he acknowledges, but this is important for our culture.

“Alertcitizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods. They often do it to obtain a social order that is against the best interests of the common people.”

Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.

“Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century,” he explains.

When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.

That’s when the “peaceful” Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to give onto Caesar and pay their taxes to Rome.

Was Jesus based on a real person from history?

“The short answer is no,” Atwill insists, “in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there’s simply nothing left.”

Atwill’s most intriguing discovery came to him while he was studying WWars of the Jews” by Josephus [the only surviving first-person historical account of first-century Judea] alongside the New Testament.

“I started to notice a sequence of parallels between the two texts,” he recounts.

“Although its been recognized by Christian scholars for centuries that the prophesies of Jesus appear to be fulfilled by what Josephus wrote about in the First Jewish-Roman war, I was seeing dozens more.”

What seems to have eluded many scholars is that the sequence of events and locations of Jesus ministry are more or less the same as the sequence of events and locations of the military campaign of [Emperor] Titus Flavius as described by Josephus.

This is clear evidence of a deliberately constructed pattern. The biography of Jesus is actually constructed, tip to stern, on prior stories, but especially on the biography of a Roman Caesar.

How could this go unnoticed in the most scrutinized books of all time?

Many of the parallels are conceptual or poetic, so they aren’t all immediately obvious.

After all, the authors did not want the average believer to see what they were doing, but they did want the alertreader to see it. An educated Roman in the ruling class would probably have recognized the literary game being played.

Atwill maintains he can demonstrate that, “the Roman Caesars left us a kind of puzzle literature that was meant to be solved by future generations, and the solution to that puzzle is We invented Jesus Christ, and we’re proud of it.”

Is this the beginning of the end of Christianity?

“Probably not,” grants Atwill, but what my work has done is give permission to many of those ready to leave the religion to make a clean break. We’ve got the evidence now to show exactly where the story of Jesus came from.

Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history.

To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.

Atwill encourages skeptics to challenge him at Conway Hall, where after the presentations there is likely to be a lively Q&A session.

Joining Mr. Atwill will be fellow scholar Kenneth Humphreys, author of the book “Jesus Never Existed.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 10/10/18 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Sunday, October 07, 2018

True Evil Redux

greedy-exec.jpg

“What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.”
- Mark Twain, 1871

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- Edmund Burke

Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.
- Rich And Spoiled, Science Magazine, February, 2012

Did you see the Brett Kavanaugh SPECTACLE last week?

Can you believe he’s now a SUPREME COURT JUDGE?

Umair over at Eudamonia NAILED IT:

He flipped, in this strange, polarized, binary way, between extreme narcissistic rage - shouting, red-faced, about his many accomplishments, thundering how he’d been first in his class, and so on - and just as extreme unctuous self-pity, in great broken sobs “how can they have done this to me?”

Violence is the only language such men really understand

What was it that we saw Senators - at least the male conservative ones, who are part of these structures - doing in response to Kavanaugh’s classic pattern of borderline narcissistic flipping between extreme rage and extreme self-pity? A little pecking order of violence was being established, wasn’t it? In that very room, you saw the enactment and creation of the very social structure were talking about - the threat of violence, dominance, creating a little hierarchy. Senators at the bottom, Kavanaugh at the top. Through a kind of ritualistic gang violence - which was a double abuse, because it was conducted upon a woman who had already been assaulted - the group bonded, formed a tribe, and sorted itself into strongest and weakest, top, middle, and bottom, with the most vicious and threatening man at the top.

Why do American men of this kind, or men in these systems more generally, prey on people, so constantly, perpetually, relentlessly?

Good question.

The Kavanaugh appointment may be one small expression, but shines a light on the bigger picture of a society run by the PUREST OF EVIL:

Malignant narcissists are the personification of human evil. Well-known psychologist and author, Erich Fromm, coined the phrase “malignant narcissism” back in 1964 and characterized it as the “quintessence of evil.”

THESE PEOPLE:

have no boundaries, no sense of shame, no limits to what they are willing to do to get what they want.

Next time you see politicians or corporate CEOs conduct themselves, watch how they act and RECOGNIZE the patterns.

More:

TRUE EVIL

THE SCIENCE OF EVIL AND ITS USE FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES

THE POLITICS OF CRUELTY

BULLY ECONOMY

SPIRITUAL CRISIS

Posted by Elvis on 10/07/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Culture Of Cruelty

image: big bad boss

I had a panic attack of fear of the future a few years ago after an UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE VISIT, but instead of throwing myself in front of a bus, went to a church and talked to a priest.  The man seemed friendly enough until he asked if I believed Jesus died for my sins.  I said “No.” He threw me out.  No different than those JEHOVAH WITNESSES.

A lady walked into the dentist with a child screaming in agony holding his hand next to his cheek.  The staff rushed him into the back as mom says she has no insurance.  Out in the waiting room we all heard the discussion that turned from helping the kid, to how is mom gonna pay.  A few minutes later they walked out with the kid still screaming.

On my first day AT THE CALL CENTER a few years ago, a manager yelled at me for missing an inbound call. This is three hours into day one. “I’m sorry I pressed the wrong button.” The verbal abuse didn’t stop. It led me to a psychologist from the company’s employee assistance program. The doctor said ”MAN UP and take it.”

AT LUCENT we weren’t allowed to discuss of grieve for our just-layed-off friends and workmates.

AT&T does the same these days.  They JUST LET YOU GO without even letting you SAY GOOD-BYE to anyone.

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The Terrible and Catastrophic Price of American Cruelty
What History Teaches Us About What Crueltys (Really) Worth

By Umair
Eudaimonia
Augist 29, 2018

You’re at Stanford. You’re depressed. You become suicidal. You go for counseling. And instead of support - you’re asked to leave class, your dorm room, your degree, and sent home, until you “accept blame.”

Shocked? I was. And yet, at the same time, its still somehow unsurprising. The above is a tiny but telling example of what America’s legendary for now - the world over -not freedom, justice, or truth, but a kind of weird, gruesome, and relentless cruelty.

The problem is that America’s fatally misjudged what cruelty’s worth. American thinking supposes that cruelty perfects human beings. No pain, no gain. But the truth is that cruelty isn’t an asset for a society, or a person. It is a liability. It leads a society to become something like a Ponzi scheme of the human spirit, each person preying on the next, and thus corrodes it from within - leaving it ever in the hands of Caesars and Caligulas, or Trumps and Bannons.

But let’s start at the beginning. American life is now one long exercise in cruelty - first learning to survive it, then learning to appreciate and admire it (as perverse as that sounds), then learning, in the end, to perform and enact it - thus, the cycle keeps going. Do I exaggerate? You go ahead and be the judge.

You’re born, you go to school. Active shooter drills. From an early age, you learn that life is divided, therefore, into predator and prey. You go to middle school, high school - it’s a uniquely awful, dispiriting experience, about being mean and nasty, bullying and submission, popularity and vanity and selfishness - and while you might think, “it’s like that everywhere!” my friends, it isn’t. Other nations don’t base their entire adolescent cultures on the trauma of just waking up and going to school. But Americans do, because that’s life. Hence, among disastrous effects, skyrocketing SUICIDE rates.

Those that do survive a culture of extreme cruelty from the day they’re born? Off you go go to college - and you’re hazed mercilessly to join a fraternity. What are you being trained for, really? Education, creativity, insight - or dominance, submission, and tribalism? Never mind. You graduate and go to work. And the workplace is one where bullying itself is called management, and every kind of abuse is normalized. No one else in the civilized world, really, puts up with bosses shouting at them and berating them and demeaning them, like feudal overlords. It just isn’t tolerated - its usually quite literally against the law. But America created a culture where overwork is work, where 80 hour weeks for shrinking pay are just fine, and you have to perform with a rictus smile of submission on your face. YouҒre not really “working” more than that, you’re performing a kind of flamboyant display of emotional and intellectual servitude, which proves what you really are, a social nobody. Better not make that capitalist mad - or is he your lord? Yet for Americans, all these are perfectly normal and acceptable.

You’re getting older now. Heaven forbid you get sick - better not tell your boss. He might fire you. Heaven forbid someone in your family needs to use the insurance. They might axe you for that, too. Don’t take a vacation, don’t use up those sick days, don’t be the first to leave the office, always be the first to arrive. Cruelty’s been internalized at this point - you’ve learned to “take responsibility for abusing yourself,” sadly, and call it “adulthood,” yet it’s anything but that: its the repression of the true adult in you, which is crying out for meaning, purpose, belonging, truth.

So you search for a partner, a spouse. Who do you want? The one that everyone else wants. Culture doesn’t tell you to be interested in a person for who they are, what they’ve been through, the secret suffering hidden in their heart - which is the one thing which might save you, too. It just tells you to date the hottest person with the highest attractiveness quotient, basically - swipe right. So you go on endless dates - but nothing seems to click, work out. You say there’s no spark, ruefully, to your friends - but what you can’t admit to yourself is you’re afraid they wouldn’t think, and you don’t think, the person you actually like or love or admire or need meets the strange and stupid standards - he’s got perfect abs, shes a perfect size zero, never mind the ego, self-absorption, vanity, greed, duplicity, and indifference, aww, they’re the American Dream - everyoneʒs learned from a culture of cruelty to admire and celebrate as universally attractive in the first place.

You have kids. What are their lives like? Not much different from yours - you learned to survive cruelty, then admire it, then enact it, finally. I could go on. But perhaps you see my point. American life is one long headpsinning exercise in cruelty - and Americans seem to revel in it, or at least to shrug, grin, and bear it, while not understanding that life elsewhere isn’t like this, because, well, people shudder at the thought.

What does it to do us, though? I think the Stanford example is much more illuminating than it might appear on first glance. So let’s think about it.

There’s the poor Stanford kid. About halfway through the lifecycle of cruelty I’ve described above. Except maybe he just cant take it anymore - the constant atmosphere of pervasive abuse, emotional violence, pressure, stress, trauma. He grows depressed, and then suicidal. Instead of support, what happens?

The first thing that happens is that support is withdrawn. That’s a very American pattern - and it happens because Americans see weakness as a dangerous, threatening liability. Something like parasitism - which will drain away their very lifeblood if they give an inch. What do we do with drug addicts? Instead of supporting them, we follow the crackpot “intervention” model, and withdraw our support. Tough Love, Tucker! Sorry, son - go sleep on the street! But that model hasn’t worked, not in America - have you seen the suicide rate skyrocketing - because it can’t. You can’t withdraw support at a time when people need it most - and hope for anything to result but further, often catastrophic, injury and hurt. Yet that is what American institutions are built to do. Need healthcare? Sorry, insurance wont cover that. Need a job? Sorry - you’re over, under, mis, unemployed. Need an education? Sorry - the only way you get one is to pay 10% interest forever. And so on.

The second thing that happens is that the suffering party is shunned and ostracized.Because Americans see weakness as contagious, they must step back - What if I get infected?!, appears to be the logic. But I want you to note how ignorant and foolish this is: weakness isn’t contagious - thatӒs something like medieval logic, isnt it? Yet this is a step beyond withdrawing support - the Stanford students don’t just get no counseling, they get kicked out. But that too follows the general pattern of American cruelty. Get sick - lose your job. Shes pregnant - fire her, just don’t tell anyone. They’re going through a rough patch - we don’t talk to them anymore. It’s so commonplace in America now to shun and ostracize the weak that we barely notice it at all. But what happens to us when we fall, then?

The third thing that happens is that people must never blame anyone else but themselves for weakness - and then they are institutionally legitimized again. They must never complain. In this case, Stanford students had to “accept blame,” and whatnot. But that’s the general rule. (Of course, here, by “weakness” and “legitimacy,” I emphatically don’t mean Louis CK doing stand-up comedy again - we’re not talking about people who hurt other, but people who are hurt). You can see this rule operating everywhere. “Hey, I was sick, but I beat it!” “Oh, stop whining and bitching! You’re always complaining! “Be positive!” The idea is simply the flipside of self-reliance - one must never broach the idea that one has been failed, only that one has failed.

Now, you might say, so what? The problem with all the above is very simple. You can have a society based on norms of extreme cruelty - or you can have a democratic, free, and prosperous one. But you cant have both. Cruelty like all the above makes people timid, afraid, and docile - of being the ones preyed on. It leaves them unimaginative, dull, empty, and ignorant - because they are too busy obeying order to question them. It makes conformists and braggarts and bullies of them - who hope to become flunkies, cronies, and enforcers, one day. But that is about the limit of their existential aspirations, and the edge of their moral horizons.

In this way, a society based upon cruelty is something like a house of cards - just waiting to collapse into authoritarianism, of one kind or another. The people in it are already meek and timid, servile and docile, when their superiors are watching, but vicious and abusive, violent and savage, to their underlings - yet all that is precisely the opposite of what a democracy needs, isn’t it?

Yet history tells us this story again and again. Rome degenerated not because it grew poor, feeble, or infirm - but because cruelty produced tyranny and obscenity, in the end. The French Revolutions noble, ambitious ideals were betrayed the moment it acceded to the cruelty of a Bonaparte. Germany’s romantic, bombastic nationalism didn’t lead to a noble empire - it led to the Nazis. The Soviets looked forward to a glorious future - and soon enough, an admiration for cruelty had produced a Stalin. And so on.

History is littered with the ruins of the cruel. Because todayגs cruelest are really just tomorrows dullest җ quicker to draw a gun or a sword than read or writea book. But a gun, unlike a book, has never once lit a spark in a mind, a fire in a heart, or held up a mirror to a soul, yet it is those things which prosperity is genuinely made of. That is why the cruel always fall from within  usually, without an enemy even needing to fire a shot. Societies built on cruelty above all else usually are too busy shooting themselves to need their enemies to do anything but gawp. For societies, just as for people, it is best to see cruelty as a kind of fatal ignorance ח about what the purpose of this life is, and how it is best lived. Not with cruelty. But with grace, authenticity, gentleness, and humility.

The price of cruelty, my friends, in the end, is us. What else could it be? That lesson, which is what history has taken so many long millennia to teach us, has always been lost on America  and still, it seems to me, is.

SOURCE

POLITICS OF CRUELTY

DEMOCRACY HOLLOWED OUT PART 27

Posted by Elvis on 08/29/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions
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