Category Archives: Character and Personality

Friendship, fear and freedom

Recently, I posted an article to Facebook, saying how I sometimes feel isolated because of my mysticism, spiritual use of drugs and drug law reform activism, none of which are well understood by many people I meet. At times, I’ve experienced such occasions as being “me against the world”, with little support from those around me, or those who “should” be there for me. 

I summed it up by saying that, at times I feel like like being “Tank Man” from  the Tiananmen  Square.

 

Tankman_new_longshot_StuartFranklin
Famous “Tank Man” image taken by Stuart Franklin.
Image Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Needless to say, despite my concluding in the post that, “I am not Tank Man, because I have the support of the people who matter (thankfully, I am blessed with having some amazing people in my life) and the laws of the land”,  I was immediately pilloried for having the temerity to even compare myself with someone as outstandingly and anonymously brave as Tank Man.

Ironically, this put me right back in the space where I once again felt like Tank Man. In mindlessly going on the attack, they had simply reinforced the feelings and imagery that I was attempting to disown. Their actions made it clear just how few people really understand, or even care, what it can be like to take the path I have chosen.

It was a classic example of how some people are ready to take the slightest offence, and go on the offense, for fairly much everything (why people feel the need to troll other people’s Facebook posts is something I’ll never understand) and how eager people are to dismiss the possibility that someone, such as myself might feel isolated by what I do and what I have sacrificed. Among these sacrifices includes my career, financial security, family and friends.
(Indeed, social isolation is a huge issue in our modern, supposedly connected, societies and one that isn’t helped by attacking anyone who might feel that way.)
Several days after the Facebook post and just a couple of days after my arrest for the possession of LSD during a peaceful protest on the steps of the Victorian Parliament House, a person that I’ve known for a number of years texted me with the following message:
 
“Hi Greg, sorry, but, I’ve decided not to associate with somebody with a criminal record. Goodbye and good luck to you.”*
This isn’t the first time that this sort of thing has happened since I went public about my use of Transcendent Compounds for spiritual purposes. In fact, there are perhaps a dozen or more people, that I regarded as friends of one sort, or another, who have refused to associate with me and made it clear that my “drug use” was a major reason for them cutting off contact. While some of them are still “friends” on Facebook, their real life rejection really hurts. 
 
It is also one of the reasons that I can often feel far more isolated than many people understand. I am considerably older than most of people in the drug law reform movement and most of those who are my age, are not being completely open and honest about their own drug use in the way that I am. Unlike younger drug law reformers, I am not surrounded by a cohort of friends who are supportive of their life choices, or blessed by a societal expectation drug use is something that young people do.
 
I had spent 15 years in the Army prior to starting down this path. Very few of my friends used drugs and when I went public, many found it far too confrontational do deal with and applied far to little empathy, or understanding to my situation.
Rather than try to manage complexity, they simply bailed.
 
In some ways, the stigma is worse for older drug users, because society generally accepts that  young people will use drugs and will “grow out of it”, so the older drug user is something of an anomaly.

Over the last Easter holiday break, while camping (as in homeless) with my dog, Saasha, I introduced myself to a group of adults in their early forties. Discussion got around to tents and I mentioned that I had bought the one I presently own in order to attend raves and doofs and would preferably use a smaller one for camping. Without any prompting on my part, they asked specifically if I used drugs while at these events and I said that I did. The response was typically hostile, as they then began to lecture me on how I should “grow up” and asked “at what point do you start to take responsibility for your life?”. 

This was especially ironic and hypocritical, because going to dance parties and taking drugs was something that they admitted to doing in their mid twenties. Doubly so, because as they were lecturing a complete stranger (they’d known me all of 30 minutes by then) on being irresponsible, they were busily sucking down on the most dangerous drug of all: Alcohol.

In my mid twenties I already had already completed four years of full time Army service (ironically enough, as a tank soldier). Despite using cannabis prior to enlistment, I made a commitment to stop using illicit drugs of any kind when I joined and maintained that commitment throughout my service.

So instead of being out, partying and taking drugs, I chose to put place myself in a highly disciplined, regimented environment, where I spent my time training and being ready to put my life on the line in defence of their sorry, judgemental arses.

In rejecting me because I am a drug user, or have been arrested for the possession of a drug, people aren’t judging me for who I am and what I represent, but instead because of something I do that has zero impact upon them.

That is sad, on so many levels!

Knowing the friend who sent the text, I understand that their response is based on fear. They’ve never even linked to me on Facebook, because they were afraid of being seen by friends and family as being associated with a “druggie”. Similarly, last year a potential girlfriend said (after admitting that she was attracted to me), “my friends would never understand me going out with a drug user”.

For too many people, all I am and all I’ll ever be is summed up by the toxic and stigmatising label: Drug User.
 

This is the reality of the stigma that people like myself experience on a daily basis. But the oppression inherent in this attitude poisons the lives of literally millions of Australia’s illicit drug users, who have yet to come out about their life choices and have instead chosen to live their lives in the shadow of their fear.

But fear works both ways and it is the worst thing to give into. I say this after having spent decades of my life allowing my fears to dominate who I was, and who I could become.

Certainly, in many ways, I always been far less fearful than many of my peers, doing things such as joining the army, rappelling from tall buildings and any one of a number of stupid and dangerous things that could have gotten me killed.

But when I look back at my life until even a couple of years ago, I my experience is of a man paralysed with fear in so many different ways, especially when it came to relationships and friendships. By far, the emotion that has lead to the worst regrets of my life has been fear. Inevitably it seems that when I’ve acted badly towards others, the underlying problem has been a because I was afraid that if I communicated, or acted honestly, I would be rejected or hurt.

Without my even realising it, FEAR ruled the first 40 years of my life. So, I never discovered that if we never face our fears, we never learn that they are figments of our imagination, rather than actual slices of reality. 

And then one day, during 2010, I felt “Enough!”

I was sick of pretending to be someone who I wasn’t, so went public about who I really was. For once, I faced my fear. But in facing my fear, I discovered my True Self!

I discovered that giving into the fear is the one thing that gives them power over us. Once we challenge them, we discover that, while they contain a hint of truth, fears are most often illusions of our own creation. Once we see them for the trap they are, we can see that there is a reality that we can create that exists beyond those fears.

And it is Beautiful! 🙂

Ironically, much of what I had feared has come to pass. I am unemployable in my chosen profession (counselling; who wants a counsellor who is a “druggie”?) and unable to complete a Masters degree in Psychology. I have been rejected by some of those who I cared about the most. At times, I have felt more isolated than I could ever have imagined.

But, despite everything, my life has a story and that story is filled with meaning and purpose. Intriguingly, despite all the setbacks, I’ve never once doubted that my path is the one that I am supposed to be on and that the story I am telling, through my actions and deeds, is one that needs to be told.

But fear isn’t something that ever disappears. Like some terrible phoenix, new fears always arise out of the ashes of the old. My recent fear of getting arrested was only the latest to crumble before the reality of its occurrence. My fear of going to prison shimmers before me and who knows what other fears will loom ahead?

The difference between who I was and who I am today is that I recognise that to give into fear is to give up hope and to give up growth. Today, I’m so poor that church mice lend me money (banks stopped doing that ages ago…) and things are often very difficult, but my life has been enriched in ways that even I still don’t fully understand.

Granted, I’m hardly the poster child for not allowing your fears to govern your life. But if it came down to a choice between being isolated because of who I am and what I believe, or living a life of fear and lies, I am more than happy to be the man in my shoes!

Fear robs us of far more than the opportunities to enrich our lives through facing the challenges life throws at us.

By giving into fear, people like my friend who sent the text, are going to spend their Eternity never being friends with the truly admirable people who have been arrested because they sought to stand up for freedom from oppression. Without the courage to confront their fears, such people will dump some of the greatest human beings in their lives and will be diminished accordingly.

My friends will never allow themselves to know Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton, Martin Niemoller**, Ghandi, or any of the millions of wonderful, but nameless people I could mention, if only history had bothered to record their sacrifice. Heck, more than half the world’s population literally worship a guy who got arrested!

Now, lest should the mindless hordes of Social Media take offence that I should be comparing myself to these great people, I would simply say that as of 19 April, 2016, I now share with each of these worthies the distinction of having being arrested in the course of fighting against bigotry and for freedoms that others in my society already enjoy.

However, my courage in doing so is greatly diminished by the obvious fact that unlike each of these people, I am not fighting a dictatorial system and it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to beat, or kill me (although I have been abused on several occasions) for standing up for freedom. So, no in the courage department, I am definitely not in the league of these great men and women.

However, the point of this post isn’t to bitch about how poorly some people might treat me***, nor is it to bask in the glow of other’s achievements. Its not even about trying to convince others to “come out of the closet” and join me in openly, honestly and fearlessly proclaiming who they are (Although that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we all went public. They can’t arrest 15% of the population!)

Rather, I simply seek to point out the truth that if you allow your fears to rule your life, you’ll be missing out on the very best that Eternity has to offer.

In 2012, before I began my 28 day hunger strike one of my former colleagues said that she despaired for what had happened to me and my career in the two years since I had gone public. She asked me what I would think if on my deathbed I looked back and all I had to show for my life was failure and unfulfilled potential.

My reply was that if I were on my deathbed, my biggest regret would be if I lived the “normal” life, because I was rendered inert by my fears and failed to take the difficult path that I knew in my heart to be the right one.

A life worth living isn’t a life of popularity, ease, wealth, or even “success” however it is defined by society, or even the self. It is a life of meaning and purpose, spent facing down your fears and finding the strength to overcome the challenges that are inevitably thrown your way. Live your life being controlled by your fears and you’ll not only be living a life not of your own choosing, but you’ll never have the courage to see the very best of yourself and your own potential for greatness.

Facing your fears is risky for all sorts of reasons, but do you really want to spend Eternity trapped inside them? Doesn’t that sound a lot like Hell?

So, in the words of Susan Jeffers “Feel the fear and do it anyway”! ****

 

*NOTE: As of the time of this writing, I do not actually have a “criminal record”. While I have been arrested and charged with the possession of LSD, any conviction is months, or even years away.

 

**Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

***OK. Maybe just a little! 😉

 

****Ironically, I read this book when it first came out and have spoken about it endlessly with dozens, if not hundreds of people, without ever realising just how little I had grasped its true meaning. Or perhaps I did, but was far too successful a hypocrite to ever notice my own lies to myself.

Light, Darkness and Terrorism in Paris.

I think that it is appropriate that we keep things in perspective when it comes to thinking about the November attacks in Paris.

Yes, they are horrible and a real tragedy, both for France and for those involved, but despite their best efforts, the attackers managed a death toll that equals about two weeks of fatalities on France’s roads.

Symbol of Life - French Flag

Symbol of Life with French Flag Overlay Courtesy of Facebook.

 

 

3250 people died on France’s roads in 2013, but nobody batted an eyelid. A curfew wasn’t imposed, French people weren’t advised to remain indoors (or stop driving cars), and the country’s borders weren’t closed.

The difference of course, is that we have evolved to seek out meaningful, yet unfamiliar cues, perhaps because these are likely to be augurs of change and disruption. When we see something like the French attacks, we are drawn to them, like moths to a flame and if we aren’t careful, we risk getting burnt.

But there is more to it than that. As of today, there have been a reported 129 deaths (although this will surely rise, as some of those who survived succumb to their injuries), but a little over a month ago, 99 people died in the Ankara bombings in Turkey. I doubt many people in the West, even noticed. Similarly, on August 14, 2013, the Egyptian security forces massacred at least 817 (and likely more than 1,000) protesters in Rabaa Square.

These victims didn’t warrant a Facebook filter and their deaths seemed to be regarded by Westerners as “business as usual”, rather than tragedies for those countries.

Our responses to these attacks say something significant about ourselves and the comparative value that we place on the lives of people from a Christian, European country, compared to those who are “over there” and separated from us by culture, history and religion.

Perhaps one could say, “out of mind, out of sight”.

Irrespective of this, by giving ourselves over to histrionics and fear, we are allowing 8 or so Parisian terrorists to achieve exactly what they wanted: To instill fear and to force us into rash and self-destructive behaviours, such as the knee jerk rush to drop yet more bombs on the Middle East, despite the fact that yet more death will most likely only feed the narrative that sustains the toxic ideology behind these attacks.

Rather, we should recognise that while ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack, the attackers (with the probable exception of one who was found with a forged Syrian passport) they appear to be French (or perhaps Belgian) nationals and as such are perhaps more indicative of French policy towards its Muslim minority, rather than any threat posed by ISIS to the West.

While 10% of French people are Muslim, French policy towards its Muslim population has been less than stellar, with many living in virtual slums, known as banlieues, where they are marginalised and face significant barriers to both education and employment. Despite its famous revolution of 1789, France is still run by an entrenched elite, with graduates from its Grandes écoles (Grand Schools), finding an easy path to the heights of political and civil service. Needless to say, the children of blue-collar workers, or minorities are very poorly represented within these schools.

Of course, I don’t say this to provide some sort of excuse for the terrorists. What they did was abhorrent and repulsive and if there is any justice in the Infiniverse, they will answer for their actions. But if we are ever going to be able to succeed in ending these sort of attacks, we need to understand the context in which they arise, lest, in our ignorance, we become their enablers.

To conflate these terrorists with Muslims as a whole, or Syrian refugees specifically (as has been done in the US presidential campaign, where Republican candidates have been quick to call for the complete exclusion of Syrian refugees from the US), is to create yet another divide between “Us” and “Them” that will only perpetuate everyone’s misery.

Indeed, Muslims are just as horrified by these attacks as anyone else. Waleed Aly, an Australian Muslim academic and media presenter, put it extraordinarily well when in a segment on The Project, when he said:

“We are all feeling a million raging emotions right now. I am angry at these terrorists. I am sickened by the violence and I am crushed for the families that have been left behind, but, you know what, I will not be manipulated.

“We all need to come together. I know how that sounds. I know it is a cliche, but it is also true because it is exactly what ISIL doesn’t want.”

Certainly, there are problems within modern Islam, just as there have historically been problems within all religions. But this does not mean that there is a problem within every Muslim.

So, rather than focusing on “Islam”, “Christianity”, “Buddhism”, “Atheism”, or whatever, I would suggest that instead, we focus on the choice between “Light” and “Dark”.

Light represents the forces of creation, growth, love, compassion, hope, optimism, honesty and forgiveness (among others). Darkness represents death, greed, selfishness, power, lies, destruction and the very negation of existence (among others).

One is Life affirming, the other is Life denying and although they exist in opposition, their relationship to each other and ourselves is far more complex than it might initially appear and these terms are not necessarily synonymous with “good” and “evil”.

Once we start to think in this way and assuming that we are not entirely blinkered, we can see that both Light and Dark exist not only within every society, but within every person. Once we understand this, we can more easily recognise that each of us have a choice, but that our choice isn’t about what we believe, but about whether we choose the path of Light, the path of Darkness, or decide to fluff about in the middle.

Most of us (including those terrorists) mindlessly believe that we have chosen the path of Light, but such a commitment requires that we be perfectly honest with ourselves about our own failures and the Darkness within. Failure to engage honestly with our own weakness, temptation and failure will lead us into Darkness because dishonesty and lies are by definition, the negation of truth.

Honesty also requires that we admit that while we may have chosen the path of Light, none on this planet (without exception!) are, or ever have been, worthy of claiming to be Beings, or Avatars of Light. Whether we talk about, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, all the prophets, saints, or ourselves, we are all flawed and in committing to a path, we are merely starting on our journey, not arriving at our destination. Thinking otherwise is hubris.

Having made a commitment to Light, we are now in a position to reach out to others who have chosen our path, rather than blindly including, or excluding people simply because of what they profess to believe. Similarly, by committing ourselves to a path of Light, we can understand that what we happen to believe about the nature of the Divine is less important than how we chose to act and behave towards others.

Frankly, beliefs are only important to the extent that they drive behaviour. It matters little if one believes in a god, gods, or no god. What’s important is how we act towards others and whether we leave a trail of healing, or disaster in our wake. Do we build, or do we destroy? Do we forgive, or do we hold onto every grievance? Do we give generously, or do we take selfishly? Do we make war, or do we make peace?

By focusing on a paradigm of Light and Darkness (notice I say “Light and Darkness”, not “Light vs Darkness” – for reasons I will tackle in a later blog post) we can circumvent the silliness of painting particular groups (who are inevitably outsiders) as being somehow inherently “evil”, while others (ie. US!) are necessarily “good”. Instead of mindless stereotypes we can acknowledge that just because others are different from us, or don’t share our values, it does not therefore follow that they are bad.

In doing so, we can open our hearts and minds to the truth that while we are all different in many ways, we share a common humanity. It is this sense of shared humanity that will allow us to reach out to others and embrace them with their differences, so that we may survive and prosper in a world in which we are sorely tempted to cleave to our own and turn our faces away from the suffering of those outside our tribe, while arrogantly ignoring the festering Darkness within.

Worship of the Hell God as a Character Flaw

TLDR: Belief in the Hell God is unfortunate. Worship of this God is a Major Character flaw that puts you on a Path of Darkness and closer to Hell.

Billions of people in the world today actively worship a God that they believe is going to torture even more billions of people for eternity. This should worry you, especially if you are one of them.

In a previous post, I discussed how Hell is pointless because it fails to meet any of the moral justifications for punishment. Furthermore, I demonstrated that its existence would be completely alien to any genuinely loving, just, merciful and Good God. Indeed, the most rational explanation for the origin of the idea of hell is that it is a technique for controlling people through fear.

Today, I would like to discuss the psychological implications for a belief in Hell and why the worship of a Hellish God is the sign of a significant character flaw.

Abu-ghraib-leash

This doesn’t suddenly become OK because God holds the leash.

(Specialist Lynndie England holding a leash attached to a prisoner, known to the guards as “Gus”, who is lying on the floor. Image and Image text from Wikipedia entry on Abu Ghraib.)

 

I was raised in a devout Roman Catholic household, attending mass every week, going to private Roman Catholic schools and receiving the Catholic sacraments. From my earliest days I was surrounded by Roman Catholic iconography, thoughts and assumptions. During my teenage years, my parents were heavily involved in their local church and in the emerging Catholic Charismatic Movement, which was a bit like Pentecostalism Lite for Catholics.

In those days, my sense of the connection to the Divine was embryonic, but real enough for me to never question the existence of God. I seriously considered becoming a Priest, at least until the age of twelve, when my sense of adventure lead me to decide instead on a career in the Australian Navy.

For many people, such a story would be the beginning of a rant about how they were permanently scarred by their early exposure to abundantly overt religion. Fortunately, my parents were genuinely spiritual and caring, providing me with an environment in which I felt secure, loved and valued. For this, I am in their debt.

It was around the age of seven that the concept of Hell began to seriously register on my small mind. Hell isn’t a big part of modern Roman Catholicism, but under the influence of my strict Catholic nun teachers, religious education and my own emergent understanding of death, it emerged as a very real concern for my future.

As a child I was continually getting into trouble. Today, I’d have been diagnosed with ADHD and most likely medicated back into “behaving”. Childhood tantrums aside, was I never deliberately mean, or nasty, but I was forever getting underfoot, forgetting what I was supposed to be doing and generally leaving a wake of chaos. Unsurprisingly, I was continually getting into trouble and aggravating my parents, who often responded with less than dignified anger to my troublemaking.

Over the course of months, I began to believe that I was a bad person and that I was going to go to hell. While I wasn’t obsessed with the thought, it was certainly an issue that began to prey upon my growing mind.

After yet another episode where I pushed my mother’s buttons once too often, it all became too much for me and I burst into tears, wailing about how I was going to go to hell because I was such a bad child.

My mother could have responded in one of three ways. She could have agreed with me and used the threat of Hell as a tool of control, she could have ignored my worries and let them fester, or she could have had one of those miraculous adult conversations that parents so often don’t seem to have with their children.

Thankfully for me, she chose the third path. Comforting me, she made it absolutely clear that while I was a naughty child, I certainly wasn’t a bad child and that there was nothing that I had done that would warrant my going to anywhere but heaven. She made it clear that I was just a child doing childish things and that her love for me wasn’t dependant on absolute good behaviour, but was unconditional and forever.

I doubt that my mother would even remember the event today, but for me it was truly transformational parenting and the sort of behaviour that I try to emulate when I am working with people spiritually.

Her comforting reassurance was enough to help me realise that the fires of hell were not in my future. Given how vividly I remember the event decades later, it will surprise few to know that it was with great relief that I went to bed that night.

I was fortunate. Over the years I have encountered dozens of people, whose parents took the exact opposite path to my mother. Since childhood, these people have been tormented with the “reality” of Hell and the belief that they could easily find themselves there. They invariably carry deep emotional scars and a foreboding sense of guilt just for being themselves and not being able to adapt to the dogmatic straightjacket into which they were born.

Invariably, the straight jacket isn’t discarded as an adult, which in turn leads to hypocritical behaviour as a person seeks to be their true self, while presenting a false face to the world in order to maintain their social acceptance. In many cases, the expression of the true self is regarded as somehow evil (even when it is obviously not) and held by the individual as being further proof of their ultimate damnation.

In several cases, these people have engaged in systematically self-destructive behaviour, almost as if they seek to act out the self that they have been told they are, at the expense of the self that they aspire to be. These behaviours have included everything from self-mutilation, to alcohol and drug abuse, to violent and otherwise antisocial activities.  This behaviour then feeds into and provides justification for the Hell narrative.

Should the straightjacket be discarded, the result is often significant social and family disharmony, up and including penalties, such as being disowned, disfellowshipped and rejected by one’s entire social support network. The person becomes free to plot their own path through eternity, but at significant cost.

Whatever the outcome, in my experience, inflicting the belief in Hell on children to the extent that they believe that it is a possibility for them, is uniformly destructive to the welfare of those children.

Make no mistake: Teaching belief in the Hell God is child abuse.

 

What is Hell?

Let us pause and consider what we mean when we speak of Hell. Both the Islamic Quran and the Christian New Testament are equally definite about Hell, although the Quran is especially graphic in its descriptions of the torments that await.

Judaism is mostly silent on issues of life after death, so Heaven and Hell don’t feature significantly within its theology.

At the most basic level Hell is considered a place of eternal torment (Matthew 13:41-50Mark 9: 43-49; Sura 4:56, Sura 19: 29 ) . Once you are there, there is no getting out Luke 16:26Sura 22: 19-22, Sura 47:15) so it is not like the doctrine of Purgatory, where there is at least some hope of escape.

Both the New Testament and the Quran make it clear that this is a destiny that awaits not only those who do evil in the world, but also those who reject the very teachings of Jesus, or Mohammed, respectively.

In other words, irrespective of which religion you are talking about, literally billions of people are condemned to eternal torment, not because they were evil, or caused harm to others, but because they couldn’t bring themselves to believe the unbelievable, or because much of their benign and even generous behaviour was considered sinful by someone else’s God.

 

Psychological Impact of a Belief in Hell

This belief has to be about the biggest psychological screw-over in history. To understand why, we need to put ourselves into the mind of a person who genuinely believes in the Hell God. So, for the remainder of this discussion, I’d like to ask you to imagine what it must be like to actually believe in this God with the same strength as you believe that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

Firstly, our God has no problem with sending billions of people into eternal torment, so what on earth is going to keep us safe? How can we ever know that we too aren’t destined for the fires of hell? Short answer: We can’t!

God knows our every thought and deed and no amount of pretence is going to fool him, irrespective of how much our hypocrisy might fool others.

When burdened with this belief we aren’t just walking around with a possible death sentence over our head, we are walking around with the certain knowledge that the slightest transgression or doubt could land us in the fires of Hell.

Without massive self censorship of our thoughts and behaviours, our doom is almost guaranteed.

But even if we, as Hell believers thinks that they we in the clear, imagine what must it be like to live in a world where most don’t share any belief in our particular God?

Every day, each of us talks and interacts with many perfectly wonderful and admirable people, many who would willingly take great sacrifices on our behalf and perhaps even give their own lives in defence of ours (think police, firemen and ambulance). But because they aren’t followers of our God, we must face the undeniable “reality” that all of these amazing, generous and compassionate people are destined for eternal torture.

Unless we are a sociopath, how can this not play havoc with our mind? Unless we were the most emotionally and morally stunted people on the planet, how could we not see that this represents the utter repudiation of love, justice and mercy? In holding that fundamentally good people deserve eternal torture, we are turning morality on its head.

That all these wonderful people are destined for Hell, can only play havoc with our sense of right and wrong.  When good becomes evil, and evil becomes good, any and all barbarism in the name of religion can, will and has been justified.

Most of us know good and evil when we see it. There is a reason that we cheer Luke Skywalker, over Darth Vader, or Harry Potter over Lord Voldemort. This is because we recognise that irrespective of their beliefs, the former represent the forces of Light and growth, while the latter represent the forces of Darkness and decay.

Once we believe in the Hell God, there is no real point in cheering any of these characters. None of them are believers, so they are all destined for eternal torment in the fires of Hell, irrespective of how good, courageous and loving they were during their lives. There could be no joy in these stories.

For the Hell Believer, there are no happy endings.

Staying in the mind of the Hell God believer it seems clear that they are already well and truly on their way there. Fear cannot help but be a major part of their lives. If not fear for themselves, then fear for those that they love and care about. In many religious communities, apostates are shunned, cast out and even killed. Fear of Hell for the individual very quickly morphs into actual Hell for the community.

The idea that belief in Hell has a corrosive impact on people’s wellbeing is supported by recent, robust scientific research that shows belief in Hell is significantly correlated with and causal to unhappiness.

Fear of eternal damnation leads to fear of any idea, or ideology that contradicts that of the Hell God, and the very denial of the universe discovered by science.  The logical conclusion of belief in the Hell God is a repudiation of reality itself, lest the self be distracted from worship and end up in the fires of Hell.

 

Worship of the Hell God as a Character Flaw.

Belief is something that is largely out of our own control.

We believe things because we encounter sufficient evidence for them and for a child raised on a diet of Hellfire and Brimstone, this evidence, in the form of social, cultural and parental “proof”  has been frequent and often overwhelming.

If you doubt it, just try to believe that you teleport thousands of miles in an instant, just with a single thought. With the exception of people suffering some sort of psychosis, I’d suggest that you’ll find it impossible to believe something so obviously out of touch with the reality based universe that most of us inhabit. Such is an utter contradiction of the reality that we’ve experienced our whole lives.

We can’t deny our own reality, even if we don’t necessarily all agree about what it looks like. For example, I have a schizophrenic friend, who routinely tells me that dead people are in the room and that UFOs hover over his house. Nothing I, or anybody else says is ever likely to dent the certainty of these beliefs.

In my experience, it is difficult for people raised within the Hell God traditions to ever fully escape the existential dread of this worldview. It can take an enormous amount of work and personal self discovery before they are finally free.

 

holocaustgermancitizenswitnesses

Multiplying this by Infinity doesn’t make this an act of LIGHT.

(Image: German citizens forced to confront the reality of the death camps after the Nazi defeat in WWII.)

 

Worship, on the other hand is a voluntary behaviour over which we have control. While we might believe that a particular God exists, it is up to us whether or not we decide to Worship that being, or follow its dictates.

Now, some may argue that Worship follows naturally from the existence of God to the believer. If you believe it is inherent that you worship. But, I’d disagree with this, and to illustrate I’ll use the example of an earthly leader.

Followers are to leaders as worshippers are to Gods. But whether we choose to follow a particular leader is something that we decide. Our decision to follow isn’t entailed by the fact that someone is a leader.

Not only this, but if the leader is barbaric enough, we have a moral obligation to not follow them, irrespective of what penalties might befall us.

For example, if our leader is Adolf Hitler, or someone equally abhorrent, most would suggest that our moral obligation not only involves not following them, but in the active obstruction of whatever diabolical plans they might wish to implement.

Resorting to the Nuremberg Defence in these situations is rightly regarded as a moral cop-out. Our own personal culpability is not rendered null and void, simply because a leader orders us otherwise.

Similarly, if our God-Leader orders us to obey Him, we have a similar moral obligation to refuse those orders if it is clear that this God-Leader happens to be a servant of evil.

Those of us with even a shred of compassion and empathy rightly quail when presented with images of the victims of humanity’s inhumanity to each other. Whether it is the holocaust, victims of crimes such as rape, murder or assault, the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, or the brutal killings of the modern Islamic Fundamentalist we not only recoil from these acts, but understand that at they represent evil and the forces of Darkness at the most basic level.

Multiply these by Infinity and you have the depths of depravity that the worshippers of the Hell God seem to think is not only acceptable behaviour, but admirable to the point that the perpetrator must be idolised and elevated above all other beings.

Now, one might argue that in light of the brutality presented by such a barbaric and omnipotent being, the logic of Pascal’s Wager becomes even more convincing. Irrespective of what one might know to be the ethically correct thing to do, worship of such a being is an act of self-preservation, much as the following of an evil leader is also an act of self-preservation.

The Nuremberg Defence might have been a copout, but at least those people were still alive and well to make that defence, rather than being dead, or irredeemably broken by torture. Far better to stave off eternal torment through worshipping an evil being than try to face it down and face pointless suffering.

I certainly understand and sympathise with that argument. I doubt that I would have the courage to face down the barbarians who rage throughout our own world, let alone one who holds my infinite destiny in His sociopathic and heartless gaze. While I would hope to have the courage to spit in the Hell God’s face on Judgement Day, I can’t fault those who do not.

On the other hand, at least now we are being honest about the true nature of the threat and acknowledging that the Hell God is evil, rather than loving, merciful and just. Surely the moral reasons for opposing that being are just as real as those for opposing any other evil.

The greater the Evil, the greater the moral imperative to oppose its influence.

Irrespective of the justifications put forward, worship of an Evil God of Darkness is indicative of a flaw of character that mirrors that of any follower who obeys and idolises an evil leader.

Whether it represents a lack of empathy and compassion, cowardice, willful ignorance about one’s own path, or even a true commitment to evil and the Path of Darkness, worship of the Hell God is a sign that something Dark lurks within the breast of the worshipper and a sure sign that they are perhaps closer to the Hell that they see for others than any Heaven that they hope for themselves.

Who Are You, Without Using Labels?

People love to label themselves. At school, you are geek, jock, cool, nerd, in, or out. At work, you are what you do, psychologist, mechanic, cleaner, office worker, tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, or even just unemployed. In religion, you are theist (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, or whatever), atheist or agnostic. Politically, people are liberal, conservative, left, or right, socialist, or fascist.

 

Labels
Do “You” Exist Without Your Labels? 

 

It is easy to understand why people need their labels. Humans are social animals and naturally gravitate towards our particular tribe. Labels conveniently and unthinkingly assign us to a tribe and allow us to easily identify other members of the tribe. This in turn allows us to more easily find people who we are likely to get along with. Potentially, they help us identify friend from foe.

For most people, labels tell us where we belong and they provide an explanation about where we fit in the world. In doing so they can help give us a sense of shared meaning and purpose. They provide us with a sense of certainty that we can’t provide ourselves, mostly because we have no real understanding of who we really are.

 

Labels Can Be Useful, To a Point.

In a broad sense labels do make some sense. If I’m looking for someone to fix my car, it is great to meet someone with the label “Mechanic”.

When I say that I am a Mystic, I am identifying myself with a particular spiritual tradition in which practitioners experience transcendent states of Divine connection. But labels also confuse, because people seem to think that mystics necessarily believe in a whole bunch of other things that I regard as utter nonsense within our slice of the Infiniverse.

Examples include things such as crystal healing, telepathy, psychics, astrology and conspiracy theories. In fact, I’ve had a fair few people respond with unbridled hostility when they found that their assumptions weren’t borne out in reality, with one going so far as to angrily insist that I “wasn’t a real mystic” because I don’t believe that ESP exists in our universe.

Labels are an external imposition on the self that we use as a scaffold to fix our identity firmly in place. Ask someone about themselves and they invariably provide a list of labels that they identify with, rather than behaviours that make them unique. Indeed, in much of the world, social convention demands that we ask people, “What do you do?”, when in fact we want to know, “Who are you?”

Lacking any coherent self-image, people will strongly resist any urging to discard the scaffolding. They fear that without it, their sense of self is bound to collapse. Challenge their labels they feel that you have challenged the self and can lash out with considerable hostility.

 

Labels as Inconvenient Stereotypes.

Labels are nothing but stereotypes and when it comes to the deeper spiritual journey are useless and disruptive. For example, what does it mean to be Christian, vs Muslim? What purpose do these labels serve, but to reinforce the distinctions between two warring camps of dogmatic ideology? Each claims to worship a god of love, peace, justice and mercy, but each can barely restrain itself from attacking the other and each is adamantly certain that everyone else is going to spend eternity in Hell.

Rather than realising that all people of goodwill can find a way to work together, people would rather look at the label and simply assume. Whereas even the most simple understanding of the world should teach us that good and bad exists throughout the world, by only looking at the label we resort to the fundamental stupidity of “My Tribe Good. Other Tribe Bad”.

The main problem with labels and the reason why they are so destructive to your own personal journey as a spiritual being is that labels are something external to you and while you are defining yourself by an external label, you have abdicated your responsibility to define yourself. When you abdicate this responsibility, destroy any possibility that you will ever discover who you are and where your true path lies. Instead, you are placing your destiny in the hands of others and allowing yourself to be led like a sheep to whichever slaughterhouse that label happens to take you.

 

Defining Yourself Without Labels.

Who are you once the labels don’t exist? Do you even exist without your labels? Of course you do!

Far better that instead of labels, you define yourself around your aspirations about who you would like to be and the content of your actual behaviour.

The starting point for this exercise is not who you are in the here and now, but who your idealised self would be. If someone were to offer you a personality make over, to allow you to create the ideal you in an instant, who would you choose to be?

It is important that you understand that when I ask “Who would you choose to be?”, I am don’t intend for you to look externally and find another person, or storybook character that you aspire to be. Rather, I mean for you to look inside you and try to understand what your perfected self might look like. While real life and fictional heroes can certainly play a role in helping you realise the qualities that you can aspire to, they inevitably lack the complexity, nuances and subtlety that living the real you entails.

Once we have identified our Idealised Self, we have to take a step back and to brutally and honestly examine our current self to the view of recognising exactly who we are.

For example, if I reject labels and look at myself, I recognise that I aspire to be one of one of the Happy Ones and become an avatar for the Divine aspect of Joy. I have dedicated myself to a path of Light, even though I am still figuring out precisely what that even means. Right now it means that I become more generous, more helpful and more engaged in promoting tolerance, and challenging certitude, so as to bring the world closer to a state of peace and harmony.

This idealised self is necessarily vague, but is valuable because it doesn’t rely on labels imposed from outside, but realisations and determinations that I have found within.

Once I step into myself, I can see that compared to this idealised picture, I am still a greatly flawed person. On the positive side, I am generally happy, hopeful and optimistic, even in times of hardship. I love people and I enjoy helping others. I am determined and even courageous on occasion and don’t easily give up on people.

On the negative side, I recognise that I struggle in many areas of my life. I routinely find myself discouraged by the negative reactions of others and deep depression can overwhelm me, especially when the world doesn’t seem willing to provide any path towards the realisation of my hopes and dreams. Some of my relationships seem to be caught up in toxic death spirals for which I share responsibility. Occasionally my anger and frustration can boil over into dysfunctional rage that only causes more damage.

Once we have taken stock of who we are and who we would like to be, it then becomes possible for us to move towards the people that we would like to be and do so in ways that would have been impossible without this kind of self-analysis.

In identifying our best and current selves without using labels, we have achieved something that many people fail to achieve in their entire lives. We have begun to connect with our true selves and in doing so we have started a journey that will lead us to our authentic Heaven.

Without labels we are free to pursue our authentic selves, rather than someone else’s vision for us. For example, imagine that I was a Roman Catholic and wore that label like a second skin. You’ll note that once I take away the external label of Roman Catholic, there is nothing to tie me to the dogmas of the Catholic Church, such as attending mass every Sunday. Through the process of connecting with my authentic self, I have discovered that there are no strings that necessarily tie me into someone elses ideas of who I should be.

Once you have conceptualised yourself within this framework, it becomes obvious that your ability to move towards your idealised self is hindered, rather than helped by the adoption of labels.

For example, as a prospective being of Light, whose purpose is to spread happiness and joy in the world, I can see that it is more important to find others who wish to join me in the spirit of that journey than it is to find others who share my externalised label. Indeed, if I look for others who claim this label, I might lead myself in entirely the wrong direction. For example, I know two people who insist that they are “Happy Ones”, but any conversation with them is filled with misery to the point that it is obvious that the label they wear has little bearing on the reality within.

It matters little whether someone wears the label of Christian, or Muslim. What matters more is their commitment to the path of Light, the promotion of tolerance and their dedication to the path of joy. So long as someone holds to these ideals, who cares what label they wear?

 

Honesty About the Self is Crucial.

 

Issues arise when people are committed to Darker paths of fear, intolerance, hate and anger. While this kind of exercise can potentially allow a person to gain clarity with respect to their journey and begin to move towards their better self, there are some who will actively embrace these aspects of Darkness and strive towards becoming their worst self.

Very few people have the honesty to acknowledge the Darkness within their souls and recognise that the evil in the world is potentially present within the hearts of every one of us. I suspect that even fewer are able to admit to themselves when they are on a path of Darkness. Mary Wollstonecraft famously contended that “No man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”

Instead, they will lie to themselves that they are committed to a path of Light, but justify their Darkness through other means. For these people, it makes sense to hide behind a convenient label that provides justification of their inner Darkness. How often in our world is death and destruction offered as a path towards Light? How many claim that the ends justify the means? How often do people shift the blame for their own Darkness onto the shoulders of others?

People fear uncertainty. To deliberately step away from our defining labels is to embrace fear and uncertainty and takes considerable personal courage.

With this in mind, it perhaps more likely that people will refuse to abandon their labels and insist that the path encapsulated by their label is the only sure path of Light. Indeed, most forms of dogmatic Labeling have at their heart the apparent belief that only by engaging with that Label can one truly be of the Light and that all other Labels inevitably lead to Darkness.

Sanctions against those who reject the Label can be both swift and severe. In many parts of the world, Apostasy is a capital offence, while religions such as Scientology and The Jehovah’s Witnesses shun and cast out those who would seek to gain awareness of their true self through rejection of the label.

This behaviour, while unfortunate. is a simple reflection of the fact that a significant proportion of the population are completely out of touch with their authentic selves, or incapable of admitting when their behaviours and aspirations conflict with their stated goals. It takes considerable courage to reject the label and to follow a different path to the rest of the Tribe.

 

The Joy of a Life Without Labels.

When living our lives as labels, rather than as unique aspects of the Divine Soul, we will never achieve our true potential, because we will never realise our Pure and Ultimate Self. It is only through the jettisoning of labels that we will take charge of our own lives and achieve the ability to shape our authentic destiny as we see fit.

Choose to be your Ultimate Self!

One Surprising Secret about the Law of Attraction.

Today, I would like to talk about the New Agey idea of “The Law of Attraction” and why it is destructive to the spiritual journey and the quest towards the ultimate Happiness that arises from being in tune with the True Self.

 

“The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

 

Briefly, the Law of Attraction states that thoughts produce results and that like thoughts will produce like results. Negative thoughts will produce negative outcomes in the world, while positive thoughts will produce positive outcomes. The idea is based on the pseudo-scientific nonsense that everything “vibrates” at a particular wavelength and that vibrations of a similar wavelength will attract each other. By this logic, certain ideas occur at certain vibrations and these then attract the events at a similar level of vibration.

At a deeper level, it is believed that one can tailor one’s own thoughts to achieve a particular outcome, so that if you want find your Soul Mate, all you have to do is tell the universe, and put out that “intention” and that person will magically appear. If they don’t, clearly you were doing something wrong. Perhaps you were sending “mixed intentions”, or perhaps you didn’t really want a Soul Mate after all!

Adherents to this philosophy will often talk about “putting it out there”, as a way of saying that they told the universe that they wanted a particular outcome. In my own experience, when the outcome happens, they’ll talk incessantly about it, thereby earning Spiritual Awareness Brownie Points (SABP) from their peers, but when it doesn’t they won’t say a word, because it would mean that there was something wrong with their intentions and this would rob them of SABP while damaging their egos and social standing.

While the idea is itself over 100 years old, the most recent push for it came within a book called “The Secret”, in which the main idea was that if you wish for something enough, it will somehow manifest in the real world. Because of this, the Law of Attraction is also referred to by many as “The Secret”. An excerpt from The Secret official webpage tells us that

“Money is magnetic energy. You are a magnet attracting to you all things, via the signal you are emitting through your thoughts and feelings. Discover how to become a powerful magnet for the creation of personal wealth”

Those familiar with certain types of protestant Christianity will recognise a similarity between these ideas and the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” so much beloved of Evangelical con men everywhere. Prosperity Gospel has it that despite all evidence to the contrary God really wants us all to be really, really rich. Interestingly enough, the first step on the road to your wealth is to donate money to whatever Evangelist you happening to be listening to at the time.

With the “Law of Attraction”, the first step is to buy the author’s books, DVDs, and whatever else they feel will help you on your journey towards making them filthy rich.

 

Why people love the Law of Attraction.

What both of these deceptions have in common is their appeal to two basic human emotions: Greed and laziness.

Everyone wants to be rich. Everyone wants to be able to live lives of financial security, family bliss and career satisfaction. And far too many people want these things to be handed to them on a silver platter. Financial planning for a significant percentage of the population seems to rely on winning the lottery, rather than investing energy into achieving their goals.

So, when someone comes along and says that we can simply become a “magnet” for money by thinking the right thoughts, the response of many people is to jump on the bandwagon and to embrace the silliness wholeheartedly. So much so, that there are a staggering 21 Million copies of this book in print and it has been translated into 44 languages. It seems that the real secret to wealth is to dangle it in front of others.

The Law of Attraction is nonsensical on a multitude of levels.

At its essence, it is saying that if you wish for something hard enough, you’ll get what you want. It’s the Genie and the Lamp story without the genie, or the lamp.

If someone handed you a lamp and asked you to rub it, so that a genie would emerge and grant you three wishes, most would think them quite mad. But take away the lamp, add some pseudo-scientific nonsense about “vibrations” and suddenly people are rubbing like mad.

 

Conflicting Intentions. What Law governs the “Law”?

But what of these “vibrations”? What does it even mean to say that thoughts have vibrations? How are they measured? How does one vibration attract another? How is it that one piece of paper (money) has a different vibration to another piece of paper (a phone bill). How is it that electronic money has the same vibration as paper money? How is it that “wealth” vibrates at all? Which scientific journal can I go to have these questions answered?

What happens when intentions collide? Lets say I meet an absolutely adorable girl, who I am just crazy about. I put out my intention to have her as my girlfriend. But she finds me somewhat less sexy than Godzilla, so she’d rather cover herself in honey and dance on an ant’s nest than have anything to do with me.

Both our intentions are clear. We are both “putting it out” into the universe, but only one of us is going to get what we want Probably her: Honey and ants are so easy to find…

But what happens if she just wants a boyfriend and I really, really want her. Does that mean that my certain intention wins against her vague one? Does the universe put our opposing intentions on a scale and award the prize to the most intense winner? Does success come to the biggest couch potato, basement dwelling fanatics?

Of course not. Indeed it is amazing that anyone past the age of believing in Santa should continue to believe that simply wishing hard enough for something will make it come true.

Magnify this conundrum by 7.whatever billion people on the planet, each with their own conflicting desires, intentions and ambitions and it should be fairly easy to see just how silly the whole idea really is.

The “Real Secret”!!

Think of anyone who has achieved success in their life and you’ll immediately realise the major lie inherent in the Law of Attraction.

Ask these people what they regard as “THE SECRET” to their own success and they’ll happily tell you: Persistent hard work that adds value. And a few other things, like having fun while doing it.

Success requires what is called “Sweat Equity”, in the form of focussed, active effort that produces results over and above your financial input. It involves challenging yourself and overcoming your fears, doubts and inhibitions.

Very few people achieve anything in life without putting in the hard work to get what they want, whether it be money, soul mate, happiness, friendship, career, education or family. Sure, there are many people who inherit good fortune, but even then, their subsequent relative success depends largely on how well they are prepared to work towards their goals.

Because what are these things, if not the result of some sort of hard work, by somebody? Money doesn’t exist on its own. Rather, it is a store of value and that value has been created somewhere by somebody. In a primitive society, I’d use my labour to raise a goat, which would be tasty and therefore have some value. I’d then barter it with someone else, in order to obtain something that I might have needed (fruit perhaps from a fellow farmer’s orchards). Each time I put effort into raising goats, I multiply my wealth. Each time my fellow farmer tends a tree he magnifies his. When we trade, we both benefit, magnifying our combined wealth.

Money is simply an abstraction that streamlines the bartering process. By itself it has no value. You can’t eat it, live in it, or (Rule 34 aside) have sex with it, but because we all agree that it is an abstract representation of wealth it attains recognised value.

You can’t simply produce value and wealth out of thin air. Wealth is produced when people create things. Houses, cars and plasma TVs don’t build themselves, but require that someone puts in the hard work to build them. If you want them, you should similarly expect to put in the hard work to produce something that someone else also wants.

Obviously, in cases of charity, or hardship benefits provided by Governments, there is a recognition that not all people are capable of producing wealth in this fashion and that they should not be adversely penalised for it. But generally speaking, intentional failure to do so as a way of life is regarded as “Free Riding” on the efforts of others.

Even if “The Secret” was true and people could magnetically attract money into your life through thinking about it, unless they are producing something of equivalent in your life in exchange, it is hard to see how this is any different from stealing: Like any thief, you are taking other people’s hard earned wealth while providing nothing in exchange.

The example of money extends to every other thing of value that people might wish to “attract” into their lives. If you want to find your soul mate, you need to put in the hard work of finding them and the even harder work of maintaining the relationship over the course of a lifetime. If you want a good education and you need to put in years of dedicated study to achieve academic mastery. Want to play the violin and you need to practice on it every day for years to achieve proficiency.

 

There are no shortcuts!

For most of us, there is precisely no situation in which failing to work towards a desired outcome will produce that outcome. Sure, you might inherit money, or win the lottery, but wealth gained in this way is easily frittered away and lost. In fact lottery winners are more likely to become bankrupt than other people.

Because it hasn’t been worked for, windfalls have no intrinsic value, which is probably why so many people who win the lottery end up just as poor, or poorer than they initially were. A similar phenomenon can be seen in child and teenage stars, who’s success relates to their parents effort, rather than their own.

 

Is That “Intention” Even Real?

If someone isn’t prepared to put in the effort required to achieve their desires, I’d really have to question whether they really are “desires” (as opposed to ephemeral wishes) in the first place. For example if we reject a suitable job because it requires us to get up an hour earlier, or get home late (thereby missing our favourite TV show – and yes, I have seen this happen), how much did we want the job? If a suitable partner appears but we reject them because they live a few more miles away than we hoped, or they not quite what we expected, how much do we really desire that soul mate?

If we can’t put in the required energy to work with what the universe has already given us, why on earth would we think that we can put in the required energy to magically manifest it in our own lives?

 

Secondary Benefits of the “Real Secret”.

While we work towards achieving something we are developing a range of skills and significantly boosting our willpower, self-control and resilience. In working towards something we also learn much more about ourselves than we might otherwise have done. Hard work teaches us our strengths and weaknesses. It stretches us and allows us to grow as people, in ways that we could never have imagined.

There is a common saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person”. Why? Because busy people are not only active at working towards their own success, but are far more likely to be skilled in managing the tasks that they need to do in order to succeed.

The converse also applies. By failing to work towards our desires and by simply “putting it out there”, we are encouraging stagnation and sowing the seeds of our own doom when our failures inevitably catch up with us.

Often if we are failing to work towards our goals, it is simply because we have no idea of how to achieve them. In these situations, something like the Law of Attraction allows us to invest hope in something (much like people who habitually by lotto tickets they can’t afford), but will inevitably lead to depression because we will be unable to deny to ourselves that we have no real hope of achieving our aspirations, or ambitions.

 

Moral Bankruptcy and The Law of Attraction.

 

My final objection to the entire philosophy entailed by “The Secret” is that it is morally offensive. I’ve already discussed how, even if real, there really isn’t any functional difference between applying “The Secret” and free-loading off the efforts of others.
But as I write this post, many parts of the world are in chaos. Just last week a Jordanian pilot was burnt to death. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in the Syrian civil war. In the 1940s six million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime, more than the entire population of my home state of Victoria, Australia. Mao’s Great Leap Forward killed up to 45 Million, more than four times the population of New York City.

On a daily basis, thousands of people in our cities are being assaulted, raped, murdered and victimised. Many people I have spoken to over the years have described horrific treatment, often at the hands of those whom they loved.

If it isn’t our own inhumanity to each other, nature too causes its own share of misery. Ten years ago, over a quarter of a million people lost their lives during an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Five years ago, 160,000 people lost their lives during the Haiti earthquake. In the fourteenth century, the Black Death is estimated to have killed between 30-60% of Europe’s population, accounting for a staggering death toll of between 70-200 million people.

According to the “Law of Attraction” all of these people “attracted” this death and destruction to themselves. Despite what they might have said while being lead to the gas chambers, or fleeing death and destruction, the supposed Secret invites us to say that each of these people truly got what they thought they deserved. They truly got what they wanted.

Taken to its natural conclusion, “The Secret” becomes the ultimate tool of victim blaming. It teaches us that we are the sole agents for our own fortune and misfortune, conveniently neglecting the real truth that evil (for want of a better word) people exist and that the random forces of nature can easily overwhelm our defences. It is an abhorrent philosophy.

As someone who has been responsible for more evil in the world than he would like, I find it disgusting that those who I have treated badly,or abused should be asked to take the blame, rather than the real instigator: Me.

 

In Conclusion.

As a can be seen, the “Law of Attraction”, also known as “The Secret” is silliness on multiple levels. Not only does it encourage us to free load off the efforts of others, but taken to its logical conclusion it inevitably leads to abhorrent victim blaming and the mind-boggling conclusion that, despite all evidence to the contrary, people actively want evil things to happen to them.

In reality, the only “SECRET” is focused, productive, hard work. Only hard work will get you where you want to be and only hard work will allow you to achieve your life’s goals. Nothing of value was ever achieved without effort and it is this realisation that will allow you to grow as a person, to progress on your spiritual journey and to become the being that you would truly like to become, whoever that might be.

 

TLDR:

The one surprising secret about the “Law of Attraction”? That it is complete bollocks and that if you really want something, you need to exert some effort to work towards it.

Although that probably wasn’t too big a surprise now was it? 🙂

Apologising: The Forgotten Virtue.

When it comes to moral virtues, there is much talk about Forgiveness, but while forgiveness is a crucial aspect of getting along with others, it does not stand in isolation.

The other, much overlooked but essential aspect of forgiveness is that of Apology.

For example, the New Testament of the Bible, talks much about forgiveness, both with respect to forgiveness of sins and forgiving others. Jesus is famously thought to have the power to forgive the sins of his followers, but nowhere does one see him actually apologise for any of his own bad behaviour. These include lying (John 7:8-10), cursing a and withering perfectly good fig tree before trashing the Temple market stalls (Mark 11:12-21) and being involved in potentially deadly violence against the local constabulary (John 18:10).

Similarly, a search of books in print reveals many written on the topic of forgiveness, but few written about the virtues of sincere apology.

Ironically many of the books about apology, are rather about “apologetics”, which is the Christian field of study devoted to rationalising some of the gobsmacking errors and confusions in the Bible, including the transgressions of Jesus mentioned above.

This is a significant discrepancy. While forgiveness is hard, I think that the lack of appreciation for and discussion about apology shows just how difficult it is for people to apologise. It is so confronting that they’d rather not even talk about it.

The truth is that in many cases, forgiveness simply isn’t possible without an apology. Certainly, there is some considerable virtue in being able to forgive those who have hurt you, even when an apology has not been forthcoming. In these situations, forgiveness is less about the other person, and more about letting go of the impulse towards revenge and retribution. It is a recognition that one must move on from past transgressions against us, lest we become mired in dysfunctional, unresolvable emotions that will only destroy our lives.

Even with this in mind, an apology, when genuine reflects not only an inner awareness that a transgression has occurred, but also a commitment that the behaviour will not be repeated. A sincere apology is essential for the building of trust, because without any recognition of harm caused, it is almost certain that the behaviour will continue and the harms will inevitably magnify.

In practice, making an apology is fraught with danger and can take considerable courage.

When we apologise to people, we are admitting that we have not only made a mistake, but that our mistake has hurt people that we care about. To apologise is to let go of one’s pride and to drop the facade that we are perfect. Our own egos rebel at the very prospect, because our egos would rather justify all of our behaviour under all circumstances than face the reality that we are flawed, imperfect beings, who are struggling in a reality that we barely understand.

Apologising is fraught with danger in a way that forgiveness is not. In apologising, we are opening ourselves to the rejection of others. We are inviting not only their condemnation, but the very real possibility that they will seek to capitalise on our apology and extract concessions, or favours rather than offer the simple forgiveness that we might have hoped for.

Forgiving someone does not necessarily involve letting down one’s guard against future transgressions. For example, a wife may forgive her former partner for domestic abuse, but this forgiveness does not necessarily entail her resuming any form of relationship with that person. She is well within her rights to offer forgiveness, while acknowledging that trust has been irrevocably broken and that she doesn’t wish to have anything to do with that person any longer. Indeed, the genuineness of the initial apology will be shown by how accepting the abuser is of being offered forgiveness, but no resumption of former relationships.

The ability to apologise goes to the heart of your character. Who do you wish to be? Do you have the courage to behave in an adult way, or will you insist on continuing with childish behaviour that denies your own culpability while inevitably blaming others for your own behaviour.

Because the person who is incapable of offering apologies must necessarily find someone else to blame for the issues that they have caused. Inevitably this will revolve around shifting blame from one’s self to some external source.

Such a person will create toxic relationships because if they can’t blame their situation, society, or equipment, they will inevitably blame those against whom they have transgressed. There isn’t a whole amount of difference between the rapist who says that the woman was “asking for it” and the person who routinely says that someone else’s behaviour “made them so angry” that they lashed out.

In both cases, the true blame lies not only with the inability of the person to firstly control their negative impulses, but also to recognise that they and no one else is the only person responsible for their behaviour.

The only thing that we truly have control over is ourselves. In truth, the person who routinely shifts blame from themselves and who is incapable of apologising is one who has not only refused to exert control over the one thing that they can, but has simultaneously decided to try an exert undue and unfair control over things they can’t.

Such a strategy is doomed to fail and in failing, it is guaranteed to cause considerable damage to the person’s relationships.

 

Now I want to talk to you, the reader, personally…

 

In truth, none of us are perfect and we all make a mess of things on a routine basis. It is incumbent on us all to recognise when we are making such mistakes and to offer the necessary apologies.

If we lack the personal insight, or courage to recognise and admit when we are wrong, it will be impossible for us to ever live in a world dominated by forgiveness. We will forever be stuck in a world without love and without trust.

How can I continually forgive you, when your ego will never allow you to acknowledge the harms you have done? How can I extend trust, when I know that you will simply spit on me (literally) again.

Sure, I might not accept your apology, but that is my problem, not yours. Your apology is about who you decide to be and the person that you wish to be. Coward, or courageous?

I want everyone who reads this to make an apology that they know they should make, but have been too proud, or too scared to follow-up on.

Today!!

If you honestly think that you have nothing to apologise for and nobody to apologise to, then you are almost certainly the exact sort of person that I am talking about.