Selected Correspondence Peter
PETER: When I read of your recent job change, I was wondering how you would go working with young children.
GARY: I was wondering the same thing. I feel a bit hypocritical at times as I find myself falling back on what I learned and was taught in dealing with situations, and I think what I learned and was taught was based on the same values, morals, ethics, etc., that constitute the ‘Tried and Failed’. So there is this hypocritical feeling often. But I seemingly do not react to emotionally charged situations and I am not intimidated by people whose aim is to push other people’s buttons. That doesn’t mean I stick around to become their punching bag, it just means that I can be level-headed in a situation.
PETER: Once I began to get some understanding as to the nature of the human condition I remember passing through some difficult phases in my work and with people I met. Firstly I had to overcome the hurdle of wanting to tell others about my discoveries about how the human condition operates but I soon saw I was falling for that perennial trap of wanting to change others. When this urge subsided, I found myself feeling like an outsider because I no longer believed what everyone else believed and I was increasingly more happy and harmless, in a world awash with sadness, blame, resentment, competition and affront. In hindsight it was really a matter of riding out the storm, keeping my own counsel as to what was going on and accept the fact that actualism means change, that this change requires effort and that change is at times an uncomfortable and disconcerting business.
At the risk of making this post a marathon, there is another story that is relevant to the subject of work as well as the topic of beauty that No 37 was interested in. As an architect I was trained to consider architecture to be a fine art and consequently great emphasis was placed on aesthetics in my education. The look and feel of a building was considered paramount and its functionality, workability and build-ability were considered secondary.
As a consequence of this teaching, beauty and style became personal issues to be honed, cherished, defended and fought for over the course of one’s career. Because of this many of my interactions with clients became subtle battles of will as I attempted to impose my style and sense of beauty on their building. Despite the fact that I could see that beauty was a subjective value and by no means an absolute and that it was influenced by fashion, location, culture and personality, it took a long time to rid myself of the aesthetic values I had been taught in architecture school.
Last year I found myself designing a house that was completely foreign to what I would normally consider my style and yet I did the job I was paid to do without a glimmer of resentment or frustration? I did the best I could to give the client what she wanted in the way of style and used my experience and knowledge to ensure that she got best practical value for her money. It was a liberating exercise for me, for not only had I broken free of the values imposed by my vocational training but also of the belief that there is an intrinsic and absolute beauty. As there was no conflict at all between the client and myself, everyone won out of the situation.
PETER to Gary: Last year I found myself designing a house that was completely foreign to what I would normally consider my style and yet I did the job I was paid to do without a glimmer of resentment or frustration. I did the best I could to give the client what she wanted in the way of style and used my experience and knowledge to ensure that she got best practical value for her money. It was a liberating exercise for me, for not only had I broken free of the values imposed by my vocational training but also of the belief that there is an intrinsic and absolute beauty. As there was no conflict at all between the client and myself, everyone won out of the situation. Peter to Gary, 20.1.2002
RESPONDENT: Effortless. I’ve had odd moments like that myself in my profession. I think it has something to do too with not being invested in any specific outcome, or its measure. Is this the same as the ‘flow’ we’ve read about?
PETER: There is ample evidence that everyone has experienced brief one-off experiences of perfection and purity, where there is no ‘I’ or ‘me’ present to muck things up. These experiences are commonly called peak experiences although Richard has used the more descriptive term pure consciousness experience (PCE) so as to distinguish these brief moments of ‘self’-lessness from the spiritually-polluted, totally-affective, entirely-imaginary altered states of consciousness (ASC) where an aggrandized ‘self’ claims the experience for his or her own glory.
However, my story was not told as a moral or ethical tale or an instance of wisdom such as the psittacism that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. The story I told was a practical example of the actualism method in action and as such the example falls into the reward-for-effort category. I did not miraculously have a temporary experience of being in the flow – what I was talking about was a pragmatic result of some four years of constantly working on eliminating malice and sorrow from my life. I did not set out to become free of beauty, I set out to become happy and harmless and one of the reoccurring times when I was not harmless was in occasional uncomfortable, difficult or even antagonistic interactions with my clients.
What I eventually tracked these feelings down to was that I had been programmed to regard beauty as an absolute value – something that ‘I’ thought and felt was worth fighting for or worth defending. When I saw that this old program stood in the way of harmonious interactions with my fellow human beings, it was clearly time to eradicate it from my life.
The result of this process was not a moral or ethical decision made based on what I should or shouldn’t do, or what was the right thing to do or what was wrong the wrong thing to do, because this would only mean that I was suppressing the feeling – in other words, kidding myself. The end result of this process was the experiential understanding that maintaining this old piece of programming would mean I was not harmless, and because being harmless is my numero uno goal in life, there was no way I could sustain the ideal or the passion-backed feeling of beauty.
The other discovery that happened when the feeling of beauty collapsed was that the feeling of ugliness collapsed along with it and as a consequence even more of the magic of actuality became apparent in my daily life.
RESPONDENT: Just out of curiosity, how do you appreciate beauty now?
PETER: I don’t, for if I appreciated beauty there would be an equal part of the world of people, things and events that I disparaged, loathed and hated for being ugly. What I discovered was that by affectively classifying things as beautiful or ugly, I automatically missed out on the opportunity of clearly seeing the actuality of this peerless universe. The other aspect that I discovered early on in the process of actualism was that desperately holding on to any of the morals, ethics or values I had been taught to be truths only prevented me from experientially understanding the full scope of the human condition and how it operates in this flesh and blood body.
The whole process of eliminating the affective division of beauty/ugliness from my life started with an intellectual understanding and proceeded experientially as I became aware of how certain aspects of my feelings and emotions interfered with me being happy and harmless. From memory, the first and most obvious aspect was the common-to-all habit of classifying the weather as beautiful or terrible. I quickly saw how my mood was influenced by ‘my’ liking or disliking a fact. This meant that if I woke up in the morning and didn’t like the weather, I had started the day feeling grumpy. It took me only a few days of being aware of these habitual feelings to see how senseless it was to rile against a fact and how it prevented me from being happy and harmless because a grumpy person can never be harmless.
RESPONDENT: I suppose I need to restate my question a bit. If you walked into the Louvre (for instance) and came across a Rembrandt (for instance), what would your reaction be? How would that be different from your reaction before you discovered AF?
PETER: When I was in Europe in my twenties I visited a number of galleries and saw an eclectic cross section of what is regarded as great art. What stands out in my memory was visiting the Louvre, I think it was, and being impressed by Monet’s huge painting of waterlilies on a pond. I was fascinated that what looked up close to be a mess of paint became at a distance a delightful image of a lily pond full of light and colour. The other memory is of visiting the Van Gough gallery in Amsterdam and looking at his note books and seeing the amount of sketches and studies that went into what appeared to be the spontaneous paintings hanging in the gallery proper. I also remember that much of the old art looked old – it was dark, stiff, formal and often religious in subject matter. I could only guess that my reaction now would be as it was at first seeing.
PETER: The deep-seated belief that the ignorance of the formative, preoperational years of childhood is an innate innocence is what fuels the whole fanciful notion that nurture is the panacea for instinctual malice and sorrow, and that ‘proper’ nurture can even prevent their onset. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the faith that nurture can assuage or overcome malice and sorrow is seen as inviolate within the human condition. Like all belief and faith, it only has legs for want of a new and effective workable alternative’.
GARY: You have again hit the nail on the head, so to speak, with this observation, and I must say that it is a remarkably persistent notion. I find myself falling into it too – that if these children only had enough love, everything would be all right. It is the old ‘What the world needs now is Love Sweet Love’ idea, sung once as a pop music, expressing the hopes of a Generation, but repeated yet again and again.
PETER: As I understand it, you have been trained as a social worker and core to this training would be the belief that nurture is the panacea for malice and sorrow. As such, it is no wonder you find it a remarkably persistent notion. I know that it has taken me a long time to prise apart the beliefs and passions that were instilled in me as part of my training in architecture.
I was taught that there was a higher spiritual good in architecture – that ‘good’ architecture could nourish the soul, raise the spirits and make the world a better place. The instilling of these beliefs and passions formed the backbone of my identity as an architect and gave ‘my’ work a higher, nobler meaning. This meant that not only did I bring ‘my’ demands and expectations, worries and anxieties to my work and to all interactions with others through my work, but also a good deal of self-righteousness. Not only did ‘I’ always come first, but ‘I’ always knew better and ‘I’ was always right – whereas everyone else came second, never understood and were always wrong. It was a recipe that invariably led to conflict at worst or begrudging compromises at best.
As I began to realize how much these instilled beliefs and passions prevented me from being happy while working and caused me to be in conflict with others while working, I began the procedure of investigating the nature of them every time that I became aware of these beliefs and passions in action. This being aware of the tell-tale signs of holding a belief dear to your bosom reveals reactions ranging from feeling personally affronted or defensive if your belief is questioned, to denying, dissociating from or obscuring any facts that contradict or make your precious deary-held belief a non-sense.
When I finally traced the passions evoked by my work back to my training, I could see that all vocational training is spiked with beliefs that would have us fighting for the good in the battle over evil – be they a social worker combating the evils of society, an architect combating the evils of bad design or a doctor fighting the evils of death and disease. A PCE finally revealed the fact that my identity as an architect was made up of a mishmash of ‘my’ instilled beliefs and ‘my’ personal passions and to be able to do my work when free of this identity is to be unconditionally happy and effortlessly harmless.
So I wouldn’t be at all concerned that you find yourself falling back to the notion ‘that if these children only had enough love, everything would be all right’. Because of your vocational training you have had the belief that nurture is the cure-all for the ills of humanity doubly reinforced, as it were. You have had an extra layer of belief laid on top of what everyone else believes, in a similar way that I had another layer of beliefs about beauty instilled into me. I found that after a good deal of investigation I was able to identify ‘my’ belief as being nothing else but a belief in that it had no basis in fact … and then I ‘had the bugger by the throat’ as it were. Then it was only a matter of being attentive as to when and how the belief manifested itself. Each instant of awareness threw more light on the belief and its associated passions, enabling me to dig a little deeper into my psyche and discover its workings.
GARY: As another form of ‘nurturance’, apart from what is commonly called Love, is ‘understanding’.
It is often thought that if only we ‘understand’ and acknowledge the grievance or sorrow of a person or people, then the solution can be found, or at least the ‘understanding’ will ameliorate the person’s sorrow. From this arises the old adage, sometimes used to quell another’s disturbance: ‘I understand your pain’. Internationally, warring nations and other parties sit down at the conference table to hash out and ultimately accommodate to each other’s grievances in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and ‘understanding’. Such an approach does not address the ultimate cause of war in the first place and only produces yet the need for more conferences, more negotiation, and more accommodation. Accommodation seems to be one of the outstanding characteristics of the Human Condition, as we are using the term here. One makes countless accommodations in order to continue on ‘being’.
PETER: And a little reading of history reveals that these international accommodations produce at best a temporary lull in hostilities and a provisional cessation of suspicions and grievances, whilst many only serve to become the basis for future resentments. Inter-tribal suspicions and grievances run far too deep to be ever eliminated via accommodation, conciliation, compromise, pact or the like. The first and only step towards a practical workable solution is for sufficiently motivated individuals to take unilateral action by ceasing to be tribal members – to be a pioneer global citizen rather than continue to be a paid-up passionate member of one or other of the warring tribes.
The very same thing applies to being a paid-up passionate member of one or other of the warring sexes – the only way to begin to end the cycle of hostilities, grievances, suspicions and resentments is to firstly stop being a part of the male tribe or stop being a part of the female tribe. Having done so, one rids oneself of most of one’s social masculine or feminine identity such that the deeper instinctual levels are more readily available for scrutiny. This is the only practical way to bring an end to the battle of the sexes that invariably prevents an unconditional and actual intimacy between the male and female genders.
RESPONDENT: I am not a committed actualist in the sense that I am not asking the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’, 100% of my waking time. Yes PCE is what I am interested in. I don’t have any such experience but recently I have come very close to having ones.
PETER: I find it difficult to understand how you feel that you have come very close to something you have never experienced or never remembered having experienced.
RESPONDENT: It is based on the description of others. In other words, I see closeness in what I experience and the description given by others.
PETER: And only you can be your own judge of that, which is as it should be.
RESPONDENT: To elaborate further, for example, at certain times it makes more sense to me what other might be meaning by 360-degree awareness.
PETER: For me this 360-degrees awareness that results from actualism has two salient aspects.
The first is that in the process of actualism a heightened 360-degree sensate awareness increasingly emerges as a sensual enjoyment of this physical paradisiacal planet and this happens serendipitously as malice, sorrow and resentment disappears from one’s life. As this happens one only needs to be wary of being seduced by feelings of beauty, awe, gratitude and narcissism that give rise to delusions of Grandeur.
The second aspect is of equal importance and that is a 360-degree awareness that becomes inclusive of and considerate of one’s fellow human beings as opposed to the normal ‘self’-centred awareness that is instinctually exclusive and is the basis of feelings of greed, suspicion, fear, blame and animosity. As this happens one only needs to be wary of being seduced by feelings of love, compassion, saviourhood, and narcissism that give rise to the fantasy of Oneness.
However none of what I describe comes without effort. It takes compulsive effort and obsessive enthusiasm to eliminate all of the social and instinctual programming that conspires to prevent a bare 360-degrees awareness from being possible. It’s a tough business to abandon all one holds dear and start to stand on one’s own two feet.
RESPONDENT: (...) Life was so full of contradictions, injustice, pathos etc. I saw enlightenment, religion, commerce etc, were all only escapes form something like grim reality before eventual death. Yet I could feel there was more to life than suffering for I had known and felt greatness through art, literature and nature. The indomitable human spirit?
Then while watching a post mortem in 1997 I literally collapsed physically in absolute revulsion that we humans really were nothing more than instincts, chemical intelligence, blood and guts. I was completely horrified. Where were all my high and mighty ideals and principles? Where was Love, (or love), in the scheme of things? The shock was stunningly surprising to say the least as I had always felt my mind was in control and animal death though offensive had never represented too much horror or disgust or revulsion ... I had been in denial about human spirit deep down all my life.
PETER: Okay, my comment would be that it is one thing to have these realizations and it is another to act upon them such that one can be become free of this human spirit. The human spirit is epitomized by emotional suffering, a grim instinctual endless battle for survival, an eternal battle betwixt Good and Evil spirits, a search for beauty and poignancy in the face of revulsion and hopelessness, and an endless despairing and a continual turning away.
What twigged me to action was one particular PCE where it was obvious to me that ‘I’ was one of the 6 billion people engaged in this horrendous instinctual battle for survival, and to hove-to in some quiet backwater and blame others for the appalling violence endemic in the species was no longer good enough. I saw clearly that nothing less than a total freedom from my social and instinctual programming would free me from complicity. The total extinction of ‘me’ as a social/ spiritual identity and an instinctual/ animal being was the only freedom possible.
RESPONDENT: It probably has more to do with triggers though, as in challenging the validity of a belief that triggers an instinctual response. Most systems that deal with neurosis, phobia, etc, seem to be only concerned with the ‘belief’ side of the problem and not instinctual triggers themselves, as apposed to the actualism desensitise, also includes challenging instinctual triggers. Desensitise would include the challenging of anything reducing the quality of this moment by ‘direct perception of triggers plus reflection about any missed triggers and an ongoing memory based consolidation of such’, which allows for an informed response, at least in the rational part of the brain.
PETER: I am going to do a bit of cut and paste as I have discovered a piece in the glossary which relates to the issues of sense, sensitivity and desensitising. I wrote it at the time when I was actively digging into these issues in order to understand them and I seem to have covered much of the very ground we are now discussing.
I don’t know if that serves to throw some more light on the issue. What I wrote on self-awareness in the Glossary may also be useful in once again making the distinction between spiritual myopia – a term Vineeto coined for spiritual awareness – and the two eyed awareness of an actualist.
PETER to Alan: I always liked Richard’s description that people desperately put on rose-coloured glasses when looking at the real world, seeking relief in the feelings of gratitude, ‘higher consciousness’, beauty, goodness, love and compassion. In order to do this, they start with a view of the world as-it-is based on wearing grey-coloured glasses – the real world being a fearful place of resentment, ‘unconsciousness’, ugliness, evil, alienation and suffering. The solution is to dare to undertake a process that involves removing both the rose-coloured glasses and the grey-coloured glasses, and to see the actual world for what it is – perfect, pure, sensually abundant, benevolent and delightful. One then sees clearly that one’s social and spiritual / religious conditionings and beliefs actively conspire to paint and perpetuate a grim worldview. One then sets to, with gay abandon, on the path of exploring, investigating, scrutinizing, understanding, and eventually eliminating all that is not factual and actual. The act of doing so eliminates one’s social identity – one wipes one’s slate perfectly clean of all beliefs, morals, ethics and psittacisms. What one then discovers – hidden underneath – is one’s biological heritage – the primitive animal instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire.
RESPONDENT: Look at all this beauty, the perfect symmetry of nature, that fact that when you go for the next breath, it is there ... you need not even think about it. Was this all just an ‘accident’? A lightning bolt in a puddle?
PETER: The fact that both intelligence and consciousness arise from matter is far, far more of a miracle than the common fairy tale that ‘it’s all the work of some Higher Power’ or the delusion that this infinite, eternal, pure and perfect universe is ‘my’ personal Reality or ‘My’ personal creation.
RESPONDENT: Even the most materialist scientists can’t hang there anymore. Science and religion are going to collide any minute now.
PETER: Human history has been a constant struggle for intelligence and common sense to break free of the grip of fear, superstition, mysticism and the wrath of spiritualists. The human condition is still firmly in the grip of ancient wisdom and religious belief and the anguish, despair, conflict and bloodshed this causes beggars description.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.