Category Archives: Happiness

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.

No Place for Humans in Heaven

TLDR: Traditional ideas of heaven represent a repudiation of our humanity, including free will, and need for challenge, purpose and meaning. And its boring!

 

doggie_heaven-767087

Golden Retrievers belong in Heaven. Humans don’t!
(Image unattributed please inform me if you know its creator)

 

Heaven is usually held to be the place where some people go, once they have died, to spend the rest of eternity in the infinite bliss of God’s company. Different beliefs have different criteria for those fortunate enough to earn a ticket to Heaven, with some holding that (almost) everyone gets in (perhaps after spending some time in purgatory, where they serve time for sins committed while alive), while others hold that only good people, believers in a particular deity, or even just a few of the “elect”, or “anointed” earn that reward.

Like Hell, Heaven is not a concept held by all believers in god. However, it is universally held by the major Christian and Islamic traditions, which means that some two thirds of the world’s population is likely to believe in it. Many people who refuse to believe in Hell are happy to believe that there is a Heaven. For example, Seventh Day Adventists, don’t believe in Hell, believing instead in the annihilation of evil doers (although this does seem little better than murder), with the good earning a place in Heaven.

Intriguingly, the Bible contains very little concrete information about what to expect in heaven, beyond a vague description in the book of Revelation. As with Hell, the Quran provides more explicit descriptions of the delights available, including the provision of sexual partners (although the famous reference to 72 virgins is actually found in the Hadith, or “Prophetic Traditions”.)

For Christians, most of what people believe about heaven is therefore obtained from extra biblical sources. For the most part, these beliefs generally mirror those described in the Islamic texts (sadly, the minus virgins),  and run along the lines of eternal, blissful enjoyment of life, spent in the company of God and with none of the problems and concerns of human existence.

Heaven is a place where evil cannot exist and good reigns supreme. Everyone in heaven is their perfect self. There are no poor or destitute, no hunger, disease, or aging and no wars, torture, or abuse. Its like living in a land of eternal, multiple orgasms.

While this sounds all well and good and at first glance it seems like Heaven would be the place that we would all aspire to ending up, there are quite a few problems with it, both as concept and as an ultimate destination for a sentient being.

Strangely, enough the idea of heaven as a place of ultimate, eternal perfection (UEP) is actually quite unbiblical. Firstly, Jesus makes it quite clear in Mark 13:31 that heaven is not for eternity, when he says “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away”. Accordingly, we are left to ponder what happens after heaven, but Jesus chose not to enlighten us in this regard.

Secondly, in Revelation 12:7-9, John of the Apocalypse categorically states that “there was war in heaven”. However, as is normally the case with respect to contradictions between what people want to believe and what the Bible actually says, both these passages are routinely ignored by the faithful, who continue to believe in the fairyland version, rather than the one described in the Bible.

Believe it, or not, the first problem with Heaven is the very absence of evil. While it may not seem like an obvious issue, it helps to consider some of the ways in which theologians explain what, here on earth, is called the “Problem of Evil”.

The problem of evil is that its very existence flies in the face of many of the claimed attributes of the monotheistic God. It simply shouldn’t exist!

If God is perfectly good, then he would seek to oppose evil and remove it. If he was omniscient, knowing everything that it is logically possible to know, then he would be able to unerringly detect it and if he was omnipotent, able to do anything he chose then he could effortlessly remove it. But there is evil and as a result, and this evil seems to refute the claim that there exists an all knowing, all powerful, infinitely good God running the show.

Responses to the problem of evil, come under the heading of “theodicy” are aimed at demonstrating that the existence of evil is perfectly in harmony with the existence of a perfectly good God. While I don’t have enough space to deal with each and every one here, some have significant implications for the viability of Heaven.

Alvin Plantinga is the latest in a long line of philosophers to argue that the presence of evil in our world is not due to the acts, or intent of God, but rather the fault of humans. This position, known as the Free Will Defence  holds that it is our exercise of free will that has bought evil into our world and which continues to keep it alive, even today. As a theory, it has Biblical backing in the story of the Garden of Eden and how Adam and Eve were thrown out after exercising their free will and sampling the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The problem with this defence is that it effectively compounds the existence of free will with the existence of evil. One is the result of the other. If one accepts this logic, then one is forced to also accept that a place in which there is no evil, is also a place in which there is no free will. In other words, anyone lucky enough to get into heaven will immediately have their free will removed and from then on in be condemned to act in a totally deterministic manner.

Without free will, people in heaven might as well be highly functioning, self aware robots incapable of any act of self determination that contradicts their programing. Given that free will is held to be an inherent characteristic of being human by many faiths and philosophies, sacrificing such a fundamental aspect of being human seems a repudiation of one’s very humanity.

Is such a price worth an eternity of never ending orgasms?

The second issue with the UEP (AKA fairyland) idea of heaven is that it seems a dangerously hedonistic and pointlessly shallow existence. There appears to be nothing more to the heavenly existence than pure bliss and pleasure. Indeed, if one were to consider what earthly experience might compare to being in heaven, the closest likely candidate seems to be heroin, which users describe as producing a sensation of blissful euphoria (Personal disclosure: I’ve never tried heroin).

Given this comparison, it is worthwhile to engage briefly in a bit of hypothetical speculation. Let’s imagine that there was a drug that produced the same effects as heroin, but had none of the associated health dangers, or potential for addictiveness. In other words, lets imagine a world in which heroin was perfectly safe to use, safer even than Transcendent Compounds. Furthermore, lets also assume that our technology has advanced to the point where all our survival needs were fully met through automated robots, so that no human ever needed to work in order to survive. Furthermore, our society has evolved to the point where each individual was recognised as their own master, and fully able to decide how to live their lives, so long as they weren’t hurting anybody else. Each of us could choose to spend our lives in whatever way we happened to see fit.

In this situation, would we regard we would regard a life spent on heroin as being a worthy one? Would, or should we aspire to live on heroin, safely enjoying the euphoria and bliss that accompanies its use? I would suggest not, as I think would most people, not because the pursuit of pleasure is a bad thing (although some traditions would attest to this misanthropic idiocy), but because in pursuing hedonism we miss out on what makes us truly human and the things that make us truly alive.

As philosophers since the time of Socrates have pointed out, there is more to a good, worthwhile life than the pursuit of blissful euphoria. Indeed, a life of hedonism is often as a symptom of a poorly developed personality.

Psychologically, it seems that most of us need a whole range of other things in order to be happy. Friendships, helping others, the search for knowledge, risking one’s fate, and overcoming difficult challenges are what provides most of us with meaning.

With the exception of friendships, it is hard to see how the UEP version of heaven is going to provide any of these needs. How can we help others, when there will be nobody in need? How can we search for knowledge and the answers to the big questions of science, meaning and the nature of god, when these will be handed to us on a platter? How can we climb mountains when they are all reduced to hills? Most importantly, how can we strive to face the monumental challenges that the very presence of evil in our world creates for us, if there is no hardship, tragedy, or even the hint of evil.

Symbol of Life - White

The Symbol of Life represents, Sentience, Meaning, Purpose and Wisdom as being fundamental to all life.

 

 

The importance of these challenges to what it means to be human should not be underestimated. Have you ever noticed that nearly everyone, irrespective of their station in life, seems to be functioning at the edge of their capacity?

People either push themselves, in order to expand the scope of their horizons, or they remain static, in which case their horizons and capacity to function inevitably shrink, as they slowly stagnate. Either way, our need for challenge, in order to feel truly alive asserts itself as we strive to make our way through our lives as functioning human beings.

With challenge comes the risk of failure and in some cases the risk of death. Indeed, for many people, our very mortality and capacity for injury is crucial to their pursuit of meaning and a satisfying life. If one couldn’t die, or get injured, where would be the fun, or excitement in jumping a motorcycle over a long row of busses? If everyone could do it, where would be the satisfaction of swimming across the English Channel?

And what of simple competition, where the success of one person ensures the failure of the others. For many athletes, the hard work and perseverance of training makes the victory all the sweeter, or the loss all the more heartbreaking. Who would bother to compete in the Olympics if nobody could lose?

And of course, the very existence of something like heartbreak (and the associated music) is absent in heaven, as is every other negative human emotion. While it may not be fun at the time, many people regard the difficult parts of their lives as being the most rewarding; as the times in which they have grown as a person and developed in ways in which they would never have dreamed possible.

I describe my own experience of exactly this sort of growth here.

And what of courage, valour, determination, sacrifice, fearlessness, dreams, and the many other positive emotions and virtues, which we value because they are a response to adversity and are demonstrations of a the depth of a person’s character? Without adversity, these like so much of the human experience is consigned to the dustbin.

But, by definition, these challenges are missing from the UEP heaven. Simply, there is nothing to aim for. Nothing to achieve and nothing to overcome. In reality, there is nothing to do, beyond imbibing the heroin, which is handed out freely at the door.

But if it is wasteful to spend our threescore and ten years on heroin, why is it that our major religious traditions are actively encouraging us to aspire to spending an eternity on the stuff? As Marx might have said, the answer seems to be that they are peddling opium for the masses. They offer a Faustian bargain for the unaware: Behave as we tell you. Follow our rules, laws and dictates. Believe our dogmas without question. Give us your money, so that we might grow fat on the toil of your backs. In exchange, we will guarantee that you’ll get to spend eternity on heroin.

But the currency for this exchange is high. Indeed, it is nothing short of the destruction of your ultimate self and the trivialisation of everything that you have fought so hard to achieve during your life.

It is a mockery of the challenges that you have overcome and the very qualities that make you human. The only thing that you get to take into the next life is your personality; who you are is all you will ever be. But everything that you have worked so hard to achieve and all that is worthwhile in your spirit are irrelevant in heaven. The “you” that gets into heaven is little more than a vague sentience; a robotic shadow lacking purpose, nobility and humanity.

Go to Heaven and you will be stripped of anything more than a desire to endure blissful euphoria for eternity. You will cease to be you. You will cease to be human.

Not only this, but you’ll be bored senseless. Think of any story that you want, whether it is based on a true story, fictional, mythical, or religious.

How many of these stories don’t contain a hint of challenge, conundrum, or problem for the main characters? None that I can think of. In other words, despite what we might say about the difficulties in our own lives, when it comes to the sorts of stories that we consume (and by extension, the computer games we play in a more modern context), we are invariably drawn to those which contain elements of drama and darkness against which the heroes strive.

Without these elements, these stories not only be boring beyond belief,  they wouldn’t even be stories.

For example, imagine if at the very first page of the Harry Potter series of books, or the Star Wars movies, or your own favorite story all the characters had been miraculously saved Deus Ex Machina, and transported to a fairyland UEP heaven.

Boring!

Harry Potter’s adventures wouldn’t have spanned seven paragraphs, let alone seven books and we’d have been left with the shortest and most pointless movies in the history of cinema.

If we can’t even go through our short three score and ten years without the stimulation and excitement provided by stories, how do you think we’d cope with an eternity of it?

If evil didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it, just to avoid the mind numbing tedium of an eternity with nothing to do.

By now, it should be clear that the concept of heaven, as imagined by the vast majority of the religious and faithful of both the Christian and Islamic traditions based on the repudiation of the very things that make us human.

It inevitably strip us of our capacity for free will while destroying the very things that make us human. And its so very booooring!

So, what might heaven actually look like? Obviously, it would need to be a place in which we had the capacity to exercise our free will. Secondly, it would need to be a place in which our very human need for challenge, purpose and meaning are met.

We can surmise that heaven would need to contain opportunities for competition, victory and failure. It would be a place where we could explore the fullness of being human and strive to improve ourselves, make a difference and experience achievement. In other words, it would need to contain obstacles, tragedy and perhaps even evil.

If you want to know what heaven looks like, open your eyes:

You are already there!

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.

Choosing Your Journey and Losing Your Way

Farside Happy in Hell

 

Happy in Hell – Gary Larson’s Farside.
http://www.thefarside.com/

Today’s post is a little different from your usual blog. This is a response that I wrote to a Facebook friend who was hoping for some sort of validation and reassurance for his journey ahead. In all honesty, I don’t know if I have really helped him as much as he may have wanted, but I found that in responding to him, I had finally put in words some of the aspects of my philosophy and my recent journey that I had previously not disclosed to others.

I thought I would put this up as a blog post for two reasons. Firstly to highlight some of my current thinking, but also as an opportunity for some of my friends, supporters and acquaintances to have a deeper understanding of where my journey has taken me over the last two years, so they might have some greater insight and understanding into precisely what it is that I have experienced and achieved over that time.

Frankly, looking in from the outside it probably doesn’t look like I’ve achieved a hell of a lot, but from the point of what matters, my progress has been phenomenal.

 

My friend initially wrote:

I am so pathetic,looking at Facebook hoping for some message of hope that will give me reason to feel like what’s ahead of me is not going to be as hard as it looks like it will. Should I stop looking or just keep getting stronger and more determined each time I am disappointed. The later I guess.

Is this a familiar feeling amount you my Facebook friends ? — feeling tired.

 

Hiya, I fully understand what it is like to stand solitary and alone in a world that not only doesn’t seem to care, but seems determined to isolate you and tear you down.

I have found that the strength to keep on going comes from my recognition of who I am and the path that I am on. Although, in truth, talking about having the “strength”, to do what I do is a misnomer. I do what I do, because it is a reflection of who I am and the path on which I travel often seems like the path of least resistance, because to travel another path would mean becoming an entirely different person. 

It may be that right now you are not entirely certain of who you are and what you represent. Like everyone, you undoubtedly have an idealised view of who you would like to be, but you have not yet fully stepped into that person. Externally, you put forward a particular image, but you know that that image isn’t reflective of the turmoil within. 

This is something that you will always experience, as it is an inevitable consequence of the monkey suit that we all wear. But the power to choose who you are and who you wish to become is entirely within your own self. 

For example, I decided years ago that I was going to be “one of the happy ones”. Whether I am around for an eternity, or only a few years more, I don’t see the point in not enjoying it, so I committed myself to being happy and to bringing joy into the world. I decided that I was not going to pretend to be anybody that I wasn’t and that I was going to cast off the shackles of fear that held me bound. 

This was a significant contributor to my decision to start campaigning for drug law reform and to come out into the open as a mystic and a person who uses Transcendent Compounds for spiritual purposes. I faced my fears in so many ways. I took to the streets, I did a 28 Hunger Strike, I took LSD on the steps of parliament and I invited the wrath of the authorities onto my head. I stood proud in who I had chosen to be.

And then the wheels fell off.

I looked around and despite all of my efforts, felt like I had no real supporters and no real success. Yes, there were a few dozen people who agreed with me and liked what I was doing, but there was no groundswell to carry me forward. Even worse, rather than react to what I was doing, the politicians and media simply ignored me. It was easier for them to deny me the oxygen that recognition, or criminal charges and a Supreme Court case would have given me. They knew that if they ignored me, I would run out of steam and my campaign would most likely flounder on their indifference. Its politics 101 for handling difficult people and difficult issues.

Other aspects of my situation also conspired to undermine my sense of self. Ongoing rejection by friends and family, lack of a girlfriend, chronic unemployment and social isolation bought on by living in a small country town as well as the insomnia that has plagued me since childhood all sunk their dark roots into my mind. 

Over the course of twelve months from the beginning of 2012, my thinking gradually shifted, and while I still thought of myself as “one of the Happy Ones”, I was anything but. By the beginning of 2013, I was getting into suicidal territory. I could (and sadly often did) recite everything that was bad in my life, but nothing that was good.

It turned out that I was fortunate indeed. I have a very good friend and supporter, who runs Ayahuasca circles. From March to June 2013, over the course of three powerful journeys, I was first shown that my actual path was precisely 180 degrees to my imagined path. Where I had conceptualised myself as one of the Happy Ones, I had in fact become one of the Miserable Ones. Where initially I had developed mindfulness techniques that had bought me into joy, these were now perverted towards reminding me of the pain. 

After this startling revelation, I immediately rededicated these mindfulness techniques once more towards generating happiness and joy. Almost overnight, I transformed my direction back to the one I had been on in the years before I lost the path. 

Six weeks after the first Ayahuasca experience since loosing my way, my second Ayahuasca journey was one of pure and total bliss. As you will know, Ayahuasca isn’t like MDMA (AKA ecstasy)  and doesn’t of itself produce ecstatic experiences. Rather it reflects the journey of the individual and the content of their mind. I spent the six hour journey connected directly to the Divine Aspect of Joy. Even the purging (aka vomiting) was joyous! The very clear message I received was that this is what I could achieve if I put the work into it. 

Six weeks later (and after still more hard work: changing direction does not entail immediate success), in the final journey of that series I once more experienced an incredibly blissful journey, but not as powerfully as the second time. I was cool with this, however, because the message I received was that this time the joy that I was experiencing was my own, generated from within, rather than being imposed from without.

Mother Ayahuasca also let me know that we would part ways for a while, because I needed to learn to stand on my own two feet and that we’d do some further work when I was ready for her next lessons. These have yet to begin.

Back in the monkey suit, things are still difficult and if looked at objectively, they are getting worse. I’m still rejected by my family, have no girlfriend, am unemployed and live in an isolated country town (well village…). I still feel like I have no real traction in my campaign for drug law reform and little support outside of a few faithful friends and idealists. (who regularly tell me to stop imagining things and being so bloody hard on myself…) Even worse, my car recently died and I am even more isolated than before. It seems that nobody ever visits.

But I have managed to keep hold of that joy and keep hold of who I am. Things are difficult, but I have realised that things are only difficult because it is when things are difficult that the one’s true nature emerges. Almost anyone can be happy when things are going well. It takes true commitment and purpose to be able to retain that sense of happiness and joy, even as the world seems to be doing its worst to you.

Because the reality is that the world is not doing its worst to me. I am healthy, have a roof over my head, have enough food in my tummy and enough money to buy luxuries like chocolate and lollies. I’m even a few kilos overweight… Even on the unemployment benefit, I am still in the top 15% of income earners on this planet and one of the wealthiest humans to have ever lived.

I have an adorable Golden Retriever who routinely channels Joy and Happiness in a way that I can only admire (she is so cute!). I still have real friends, who care deeply about me and worry for me. I know that those friends and family who have rejected me have done so not because they don’t love me, or care about me, but simply because they don’t understand. Their rejection is an aspect of their own fears and uncertainty and it is my responsibility to help them deal with those issues, rather than take their rejection to heart. 

I am fortunate enough to live in a vibrant, peaceful democracy, where individual rights are respected. While I have been ignored by the government and police, I haven’t been arrested, or tortured, as would have happened if I lived in almost any other country that you could choose.

To sum it all up in a few words: I’m incredibly lucky.

I have so much to be grateful for that it shames me to think of how I so easily lost sight of reality. 

Today, the difference is that I have truly stepped into being the person that I had wanted to become. Unlike 99% of people on this planet, I know who I am and what my purpose is: I am a being of Light and my purpose is Joy. 

When darkness beckons it is my inner Light that keeps it at bay and my inner light exists because every day I choose to manifest it. 

This doesn’t mean that I am perfect. I’m not some amazing spiritual guru, or Master. I haven’t achieved Enlightenment and I still am overwhelmed by my own ignorance.

I am an aspect of the Divine, but I am not a Divine Aspect. Like everyone else on this planet, I am trapped in the monkey suit. I can still be as selfish, mean spirited and greedy as the next person. I still whine, bitch, moan, complain and seek to blame others for my faults. My ego, pride and desire for recognition still battle for ascendancy. Each day, I still grapple with the fear and isolation and rejection. My sense of personal injustice can burn like a knife.

So, each day (or each hour, or every second if needs be) I recommit myself to the path that I have chosen. I remind myself that I have decided to be one of the Happy Ones and I consciously reconnect myself to the Divine Aspect of Joy. Some days it is easy, while on others it seems overwhelming, but irrespective of how bad things are, I know where the path I am on is taking me and I know where my ultimate destination lies. 

The thing is that one doesn’t need a life shattering Ayahuasca journey to get where I am today. In reality, I had already done all the hard work in the years prior to my losing my way. 

The hardest part of the journey was my initial realisation, the better part of a decade ago, that I could choose a path and then figuring out how to maintain my course on that path. When I wandered off the path, I fell into a chasm, but once I recognised the chasm for what it was, it was my previous training in mindful happiness that allowed me to climb out and resume my journey, albeit with greater wisdom and respect for the dangers ahead. 

As an aspiring aspect of Divine Joy, I certainly hope that the path that you choose mirrors mine and that you similarly commit yourself to happiness and joy. But there are an infinite number of paths in the Light and seriousness is just as valid, if not as much fun. The key is to identify what your path is and to continually commit yourself to it. By doing so, your actions and decisions will be reflective of this path, and you’ll know within yourself when you have not been true to yourself. 

If on reflection, you realise that you have committed yourself to a darker aspect of the Divine (such as misery, pride, or ego), it is always in your power to change it, simply by choosing and committing to a new, brighter path. Yes, you will have to learn new habits and new modes of thinking and behaving and this may take lifetimes, but once you’ve decided to navigate away from the rocks, your eventual safety is assured. 

If, like me you find yourself far from your intended path, the realisation may sneak up gradually, or hit you like a lightning bolt. In all honesty, I knew that I had strayed months before (Joy does not equal suicidal!) but my ego and pride prevented me from admitting it to myself. Being “One of the Happy Ones” had ceased to be a journey and become an identity, or brand; and I was a fanboi.

The thing to remember is that you will fall of the path. We all do and doing so is a necessary part of the journey. For it is only through making mistakes that we learn and grow. It is only through recognising and admitting our error, while taking ownership of our behaviour, that we can truly recommit ourselves to our path. Success is built on repeated failure and each time we fall by the wayside, we not only remind ourselves of the importance of the journey, but also practice the skills we will need for the more difficult times ahead. 

And there will be more difficult times ahead. The path to Heaven goes directly through Hell, because it is only by maintaining a commitment to Joy and Happiness under the most extreme circumstances of deprivation that we can truly demonstrate our commitment to the path that we have chosen. I am reminded of a Far Side cartoon, where two demons are looking at a man in hell whistling as he goes about his work and saying, “You know, were just not reaching that guy”. He’s in Hell, but he carries Heaven within him.

Similarly, the path to Hell goes directly through Heaven, because it is only the most determinedly dark person who is impenetrable to the incredible, wonderful power of Divine Joy. I know many people who are living lives of privilege and comfort, with support that I could only dream of, yet who are consumed by misery and self loathing. They are bathed in light, but carry a darkness to which it is impervious.

So don’t expect justice and don’t expect the universe to be fair. Don’t expect that everything will turn out OK over the course of this lifetime. It is your commitment over Eternity that determines who you are, not the vagaries of a particular life story, or universe in which you happen to briefly reside.

Contrary to what many people will tell you, there are no shortcuts and the only “Secret” is hard work and dedication. Don’t fall for the nonsense that all you need is a bit of wishful thinking and that the universe is going to respond to your whim, or give you what you want because you ask.

It doesn’t and it won’t: As any parent will tell you, it is only through not giving you what you want that your true character is forged. If you got whatever you wanted and were never challenged, you’d never have an opportunity to grow and you’d stagnate into a spoilt husk with no purpose, no meaning and no identity beyond narcissistic want.

It’s when you maintain your inner light, even when you don’t receive justice and you aren’t treated fairly that you demonstrate that you are truly committed to your path. 

With your inner Light shining bright, the injustices and tribulations of this world (or even “hell”) will shrink into nothingness (or at least become manageable), because irrespective of how dark the universe seems to be, it will always be lit by the light that you carry within you. You’d be amazed at how bright even a candle can be on the darkest of nights! 

Looking at your opening post, I honestly don’t know if this is the sort of thing that you were hoping that Facebook would provide, but I hope this gives you some hope and potentially helps you find your way forward in a difficult world. 

Remember: Darkness always shrinks before the Light. 

And I could always be completely full of shit! 😉

Greg Kasarik

Herder of Cats.

Why I feel sorry for Fred Phelps.

Why I feel sorry for Fred Phelps.

Westbro Baptists Church Image

Phelps’  barbaric and sociopathic deity reflected his inner self.

 

Fred Phelps is dead. The founder of Westbro Baptist Church and perhaps one of the most hateful people in Christianity has shuffled his mortal coil, leaving us to ponder what this means and what his legacy will be. I’m guessing that few people will mourn his passing, but hoping that the triumphal jubilation that I expect to see never materialises.

I do want to talk about Phelps, who he is and what he represents.

Yesterday, I wrote about the “Happy Ones”, saying that the Happy Ones are those who have not only chosen to be happy, but have made a concrete decision to bring happiness into the lives of everyone. In contrast, Phelps is one of the “Hateful Ones”. It is clear that he made a conscious choice to embrace hate as a way of life and in doing so, wished to bring hate into the lives of everyone. His famous saying, “God Hates Fags” (and Jews, and America and fairly much everyone) makes this abundantly clear.

Phelps obviously chose many other things, including intolerance, arrogance and pride. Some might say that he also chose “Jesus”, but I don’t think that his true. Phelps would have been the person he was, whether he was a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Pagan. The god that he worshiped was a reflection of who he was, rather than the other way around.

In all honestly, I feel sorry for people like Phelps and am filled with the urge to reach out to them and to show them another path. Although, given how deeply committed he was to the path of hate, it is doubtful that anything that I could have said would have impacted him in the slightest. If nothing else, the fact that I freely admit to knowing nothing is repellent to those who insist that they know everything.

Another reason that I feel sorry for people like him is that I firmly believe that who we are and the choices that we make are fundamental to our destination through eternity. In one of my trances, I experienced my entire existence stretching out in time behind me, while my future stretched out in front (visually it was left to right, but the element of time was vital to the experience).

I saw that where I am today is not just the result of decisions that I have made in this lifetime, but because of decisions I have made over the course of my eternal existence. This is nothing like Karma in the traditional sense, but rather a reflection of the choices that I have made and the person that I decided to become as far back in time as I can comprehend.

The reason that I can say that I am one of the Happy Ones is because I have built up a foundation and done the work required to get to this point. This doesn’t mean that I can rest on my laurels. The reality is that unless I consciously choose my path and determine my destination, I could very well slip back into a Phelps like existence.

Because, in my visions, I have also come to realise that there is another “me” out there. In fact, there are an Infinity of “me”s out there and not all of them have taken the same path as I. In fact, many have taken the exact opposite path. Where I have chosen happiness, they have chosen misery. Where I have chosen love, they have chosen hate. Where I have chosen tolerance, they have chosen persecution. Where I have chosen hope, they have despair.

I feel incredibly saddened by these other “me”s. They live in a place that to me seems like “Hell”, but to them makes perfect sense. Our explorations of the Infiniverse will take us to diametrically opposite places and I fear greatly for what terrors they will discover on their journey.

Reflecting on why I feel sorrow for my other selves who have chosen a different path is why I feel sorry for Phelps. The man was consumed by his own hate and self-righteousness, but failed to understand that he already stood on the steps of the Hell that he thought all others would be sent to.

Imagine living the life of someone like Phelps. It isn’t just the hate. It is the fear and insecurity that drives it and the worldview that sustains it. Imagine what it must be like to honestly believe that almost everyone you meet is destined to burn in the fires of eternal damnation. It must be terrifying.

If you honestly believe that everyone else is going to burn in Hell, then you believe in a sociopathic and barbaric god. If god is prepared to eternally torture billions of people for their perceived transgressions, how can anyone be safe? How can you know that you aren’t somehow going to make a mistake that is going to condemn you. Obviously you can’t and irrespective of how pure you think you might be, the doubt and the nightmare of other people’s torture must surely haunt your life.

Despite spending his entire life trying to get others to share his demonic vision, it is estimated that at most his disruptive flock never amounted to any more than about 100 people and that most of these were family members. In the end, he died after having been excommunicated by his own church.

Of course, it could be argued that like his god, Phelps was himself a completely delusional sociopath. Perhaps his seeming megalomania would make it highly unlikely that he ever doubted his true path, or final residence in Heaven. Ultimately, that may be so. We’ll never know. What I think that we can say is that Phelps’ “heaven” would be a barren, angry and intolerant place.

His path throughout eternity is one that is unlikely to lead to a world filled with happiness. Ultimately, he died rejected by the world. He died rejected by his flock. And most likely died filled with terror about being rejected by his own evil god.

 

Have you chosen Happiness?

Have you chosen Happiness?

 

 

 Find your rudder.

 

 

Today, March 20 2014, is the United Nations International Happiness Day. I’d like to talk about what it means to be “One of the Happy Ones”.

Happiness, for many people is ephemeral. It is something that happens to them, rather than something that they believe that they have control over. This can be seen in the various statistics about happiness. For example, Professor Bob Cummins, of Deakin University has been conducting a quarterly survey into happiness for many years now. Among other factors, se has discovered that wealth is a significant contributing factor to happiness, as are social resources and employment. Without each of these people’s happiness drops significantly.

 

But this really doesn’t tell us what you need in order to be happy. Rather, I’d suggest that these are merely metrics that indicate what the ordinary person needs in order to lift them to a particular level of happiness. It says nothing about your ability to choose happiness and to direct the course of your life.

 

Simple question: Have you chosen Happiness?

 

This is a question that I have asked many people and the results are startling. The vast majority of people who I’ve spoken to report that they haven’t made such a decision. Not only this, but on further questioning, many report that it wouldn’t even have occurred to them to make such a choice and that they wouldn’t regard it as meaningful if they did. They honestly don’t know how to make themselves happy.

 

But the great news is that Happiness is a choice that you can make and it is something that you can commit to in doing so, it is something that can change your life immeasurably.

 

Here’s why.

 

Imagine a boat without a rudder. Where is it going to go? Obviously nowhere under its own volition. It may end up somewhere, but where ever it does end up will be almost entirely random and mostly dependent on external circumstances, such as wind, or tide.

 

What happens when we put a rudder on the boat? Suddenly we go from a situation where there is no control to one where there is. Whomever is in control of the rudder can set a course to wherever they wish. Certainly there are going to be external circumstances that impact on the direction the boat can travel. Tides might carry it off its path, or if it is a sailboat, it might not be able to sail directly towards its goal and may have to tack for a while before it gets there. It might take a while, but with a rudder we can be sure that in time, the boat will get to its destination.

 

This is the change that we can experience when we make the conscious choice to be happy. Suddenly, instead of bobbing about in the water with no direction and at the mercy of our environment, we are suddenly in control. Most importantly, we know what our ultimate destination is going to be: Happiness!

 

This act of choosing who you wish to be is enormously empowering. Committing to happiness and knowing your destination, immediately removes a whole range of negative outcomes and allows you to face life with a positive outlook. Sure, it doesn’t suddenly make your situation any better, but it does change the one thing that you have control over: Your attitude.

 

Choosing happiness doesn’t mean that you are going to be happy from that moment onward. Indeed, if your experience making the choice is anything like mine, you’ll soon get the impression that the rudder keeps on falling off and needs regular repair, in terms of a re-commitment to the path of happiness.

But once you have decided to change your life and begun to implement the behaviours that will take you towards happiness your eventual arrival is ensured. Depending on your starting point, this may take many years, but the very act of making the decision can be life changing and it won’t be long before you are able to reap the real rewards that a commitment to genuine happiness can bring.

 

So, who are “The Happy Ones”? They aren’t people who are accidentally happy, because their circumstances happen to have turned out OK. Rather, they are those who have not only committed themselves to happiness, but also to spreading it throughout the universe and throughout the lives of others.

They aren’t always happy, but they view those times when happiness is hard to find as opportunities to practice the skills of happiness, rather than as a sign of failure. Even when they are poor, isolated and seemingly without prospects, they still carry a spark of optimism that gets them through, because they know that their current difficulties don’t reflect who they truly are. They understand where their final destination truly lies.

How do I know?

Because I am one of the Happy Ones. And we’d love for you to join us!