Selected Correspondence Peter
RESPONDENT: I live on the Sunshine Coast, does the actual freedom group have another contact apart from e-mailing such as gatherings to support the ecstatic beauty that is Life.
PETER: No. One of the aspects of actualism that initially appealed to me was that actualism is not at all a group business. This was a breath of fresh air for me because I realized that actualism meant what it said – it is a do-it-yourself business.
There are no meetings of fawning disciples humiliating themselves in front of a charismatic leader to be had here. There is no incumbent hierarchy, there are no rules and regulations to be adhered to, there is no party line to toe – or to rile against, there is no mutual admiration society to be found in actualism. After all, the aim of a committed actualist is to become free from the human condition, to become autonomous, to be able to stand on one’s own two feet, to be able to walk freely in the world-as-it-is, to interact freely with people as-they-are – unencumbered in any way by any compulsive need to seek the support and shelter of a group as some form of armour or protection.
The other day I happened to meet a former acquaintance from my spiritual years and as we chatted it soon became obvious that we had little in common to talk about – he was still a member of a spiritual group and I was no longer a member of that same group. When he talked about feeling ‘we are all one’, it was obvious to me that what he meant was ‘I feel ‘we’ members of the group are all one’ because ‘we are all members of the one group’. As such he instantly excluded me, along with every other non-member of his group, from his ‘we are all one’ feeling – a feeling of exclusivity that is common to all spiritual groupies.
Attentiveness will reveal that belonging to any such group or organization is both insulating and isolating – the warm feelings of belonging to a special group insulate one from the grim reality experienced outside the group, which in turn means one is isolated from the rest of one’s fellow human beings who remain firmly locked outside of the group.
This was one of the aspects of the spiritual path that troubled me most in my spiritual years – which is why it was such a breath of fresh air to come across a freedom that didn’t rely on insulating oneself from grim reality by isolating oneself from the chance of experiencing the vibrant actuality of the world as-it-is as well as providing the opportunity of an actual intimacy with all of one’s fellow human beings.
RESPONDENT: I’d say only the higher animals have this additional adaptive quality. I think there are many who believe emotions exist only in humans, some who acknowledge their existence in apes and chimps and a few who think other animals experience them.
PETER: The human species, no longer needing to fear and fight other animals in order to survive, are by and large nowadays left with only each other to fear and fight and they do that with gusto. An estimated 160 million human beings were killed by their fellow human beings in wars in the last century alone, not to mention all the genocides, murders, rapes, assaults, child abuse, domestic violence and so on.
The question I asked myself was why would I want to remain an instinctually-driven animal?
RESPONDENT: So we, as humans, have an instinct that incites us to want to belong to the family and the tribe. Previous relations who did not have this instinct did not survive and reproduce as successfully as those who did.
PETER: We have had some discussions in the past about ‘an instinct to belong’ but that the survival instincts in human beings is species-specific and this specificity manifests itself as a feeling of wanting to belong to the species – a strange longing given that we are all fellow members of the same species.
But the main reason for the longing to belong is that ‘me’, the parasitical entity trapped inside this flesh-and-blood body, always feels separate from similar-feeling parasitical entities and always feels isolated from the actual physical world.
RESPONDENT: Today I find myself in a nation, not a tribe. I actually don’t need the tribe nor even the family personal connections any more to survive and reproduce, yet I instinctively experience the drive-desire to belong to a closely identified group. Not belonging can bring on intense sensations of sadness and fear. Not belonging would likely have meant death to my ancestors. When that inherited drive is not being satisfied I feel uncomfortable, I have a sensation of physical discomfort, thoughts about wanting to belong, and behaviours toward finding a group to belong to. If a group does not accept me I feel sadness, pain, this helps motivate me to find a group that will accept me, then I’ll feel pleasure. As a baby I learned how to couple my instinctual drive for belonging with emotions expressed in my family that in times past would have enabled me to have behaviours that would assure acceptance in my given tribe.
PETER: My years in the midst of a spiritual group finally deflated my need to belong to a group. A little of the story will give you a flavour –
And as for the good feeling of belonging to a nation, I came to see that all of the despotic regimes and messianic tyrants throughout history have flourished because of, and been nourished by, precisely the same chest-swelling nationalistic feelings I once felt for the country I was born in. Feeling nationalistic pride is simply adding and abetting the mass expression of the instinctual passions.
RESPONDENT: Spiritualism now does look like a snake oil to me, too. All ‘energy’ events, prophesying, channelling, gods, etc are probably just events generated by our psyche. So far, I have not come across any ‘other worldly event’ so I must admit it all seems to be just imagination supported by our culture.
Some of these things are still nice social events... a good reason to see old friends, that’s it...
PETER: In my time on the Sannyas list, there was a total denial that the dream of a New Man had failed, even to the point of denying the dream existed in the first place, despite the fact that it is well documented and still trumpeted as His dream. The main theme to emerge was the need to belong to the Sannyas social club, and the good feelings that ensued. The failure of the collective dream was further evidenced by the emerging ‘individual connections’ to Rajneesh – every man and woman in it for themselves and ‘free’ to imagine and dream what they wanted to dream. Thus feelings and imagination run riot, in complete denial of facts and sensible awareness.
At source, this desperate need to belong, come-what-may, is an instinctually driven need, for in the past the security and support of a group was indeed very necessary for survival. In this modern world, this need to belong now threatens the very survival of the species as ethnic, religious and ethical groups battle it out for supremacy and power. An actual freedom, by definition, is a freedom from this need to belong to a group that has strangled any attempts at finding peace on earth.
GARY: Thank you Peter for your willingness to go into these things with me.
PETER: It’s just such good fun to swap stories and experiences. To be able to talk to someone about how they see things, what their experiences are, what sense they make of this business of being a human being. To be able to let one’s guard down with a fellow human being is what actual intimacy is about. To have no defensive guard up and no secrets to hide.
Most people think of intimacy as sharing one’s feelings, which is entity-to-entity relating with all its implications and limitations. When we talk of eliminating one’s social identity the most startling result is that everyone magically becomes a fellow human being – not a woman or man, not an Arab or an American, not a Christian or a Rajneeshee, not a Greenie or a capitalist, etc. Because one has eliminated one’s own social/ religious identity one simply does not automatically stigmatize others, for a social identity is clearly seen and experienced as a folly, a primitive ball and chain, imposed by other, usually well-meaning people on all helpless infants. One also sees the inevitableness having a social identity and understands the feeling of ‘freedom’ that arises from swapping this initial humdrum identity for a new spiritual identity, so all blame or fault is simultaneously expunged with the elimination of one’s own social/ religious identity.
In a similar vein, when we talk of eliminating one’s instinctual passions there is no psychological or psychic fear of, or aggression towards other human beings, no desperate discriminatory drive to nurture one’s own, no relentless unquenchable drive for power over others and, as such, everyone magically becomes a fellow human being. This change is not ‘me’ trying to be accepting or tolerant of others, or ‘me’ feeling ‘at one’ with others or feeling love towards all. It is something that happens by itself, as it were.
So, whenever ‘I’ am not here, which is most of the time lately, all my interactions with others are fair, magnanimous, considerate and delightful.
Some people do get defensive and offended by what I say about my investigations and understandings of the Human Condition but they are always free to exercise the ‘delete’ option on the computer at any time and not read what is offensive to them. Those who do read, and write to me with their objections to being happy and harmless, will simply be presented with more facts, which usually serves to make their further objections quite silly and finally they tire of the whole business. To plagiarize Richard, yet again, – it is only recalcitrant egos and contumacious souls that get offended – the flesh and blood humans miss out.
GARY: It is becoming of greater and greater importance to me to have people like yourself and the others here on the list to talk to and compare notes with. I have also noticed the ‘herding instinct’ operating, in the sense that I am aware of the desire to have friends and people to talk to.
So I am trying, in my own mind, to separate out the real work that goes on here on and off the list (maybe this is wrong way to put it) from those instinctual rumblings of wanting to belong to a rather exclusive club or group of people who often speak in the same terms.
PETER: The value of being able to talk to others who are also doing what you are doing is invaluable. Goodness knows how Richard did this by himself and no wonder he went through a period of ‘adjustment’ after he became actually free of the Human Condition. In comparison, those who follow have it cushy. It is such a sensible thing to do – to follow in the footsteps of those who know the path and the pitfalls and who are willing to describe them to others. You also get to know where you can take shortcuts with confidence, because someone else has tried that way and it produced no results, or it was simply a dead end diversion like the usefulness of trolling in the dustbin of past hurts.
As for exclusive club ... it is totally inclusive for anyone wishing to join. The primary qualifications are a sense of adventure, and a sense of humour so you don’t take your self, or anybody else’s, too seriously ...
PETER: It was fascinating to see men playing video war games and to see its direct correlation to the computer games that are so popular around the world.
GARY: It’s fascinating, yet it is dreadful, isn’t it? War and preparation for war, particularly in the computer age, is so impersonal. Aggression in human beings is instinctual but it is also socially programmed and conditioned. <Snip> Do we regard mock combat in humans, playing video games with depictions of combat, as instinctual or socially programmed? Perhaps it is both. Whatever it is, it is programmed nonetheless and the program can be eliminated.
PETER: I would think it is more accurate to say that humans are socially programmed and conditioned to keep their natural aggression under control – hence the little man or woman inside the head that is forever on vigilant duty going ‘I am right, they are wrong, I am good, they are bad’, ever looking for reward and ever fearing being caught out. This social programming and conditioning is remarkably consistent across the human tribes and is essentially founded on reward and punishment and designed to focus natural human aggression away from members of their own group or tribe towards human beings belonging to other groups or tribes. There always has to be someone who we can let focus our aggression on, be it the slow driver in front, someone at work, a political party, an ideological group, a religious group, a nation, etc. Apart from sadomasochism, aggression is most often towards another fellow human being, as is fear most often of other human beings.
The underlying instinctual behaviour is identical in all humans of all races and cultures. The only difference in the so-called civilized communities – those with efficient police and legal systems – is that innate human aggression is usually more covert and expressed as constant psychological and psychic warfare, rather than the physical warfare of more primitive hunter-gatherers.
GARY: You, Peter, have had a very unique and extremely revealing look at the whole process of a religion forming from the ground up. You have seen firsthand the violence connected with religious life and the stupid posturings of the Enlightened Ones. Your turning away from the spiritual rat race and where you are at in life now should be extremely valuable to those who are disillusioned too with the Glory and Glitz of Enlightenment. I too saw the shenanigans that religious people, including myself formerly, get up to, and had enough. I jumped ship from the Quakers and jumped right on the Krishnamurti bandwagon, and the whole process repeated itself. I was naturally aghast when the whole thing repeated itself. My spiritual pride would not allow me to admit that I had been so wrong about many things.
PETER: And yet many, many people have had similar experiences with Eastern and Western religions. Many have intimate knowledge of the practical failings of their own religious beliefs to bring peace and happiness and yet they refuse to abandon their hope, faith and trust. My experiences were very similar to millions of the so-called baby boomers who got into Eastern religion – not particularly special nor unique. I remember when I met Richard I was very interested in what qualities he had that I didn’t. What became increasingly obvious was that it was the genuine absence of any malice and sorrow whatsoever that was the yawning gap between him and me. All my other comparisons and objections as to me being not good enough, not clever enough, etc. eventually faded in the face of the evidence as to how he actually was. He is the genuine article, which is something you may want to check out for yourself one day.
PETER to Gary: It is an interesting exercise to be able to look back over my life experiences without any emotional memory clouding or colouring the events. What I see is ‘failure’ writ large and clear. I am definitely a failure in real world terms. I have failed at love – and eventually I gave it up. I have failed to find meaning and fulfillment in my career – eventually I worked in order to buy myself time to do nothing. I have failed at fatherhood – I eventually gave up when my son was able to take care of himself and I cut my emotional bonds. I failed to be a ‘good’ member of society for I saw no sense in fighting for causes while blaming others for the ills. In short, I failed to play the game of belonging, or not belonging, to the various groups that make up society and I failed to play the games I was supposed to play.
With the benefit of hindsight, whenever I found something that didn’t work, and by its very nature was unworkable, I eventually abandoned it and kept looking for a better way of doing something – to find something that actually worked. It was exactly the same thing when I was on the spiritual path when I eventually discovered and finally admitted religion/ spiritualism didn’t work and never could work to bring peace on earth.
GARY: Reading your post this morning, what jumped out at me is what you wrote in the following passage:
I have often in the past berated myself for being a ‘failure’. And I think I can see now that I can make friends with that aspect of my life experiences and that I need not berate myself.
I thank you very much for contributing these thoughts because it has helped me to make sense of something that I have felt for a long time. I remember that my aunt once dubbed me, when I was about age 21 or so, the ‘auslander’ (foreigner or outsider) of the family. That has stuck with me and is indeed how I think of myself. I have broken most ties with my family and tribe (some emotive ties remain but I am working on that), I broke ties with religion/spirituality, I broke ties with my professional identity, etc, etc.
The list goes on and on. And I related to your saying that you failed in love. I have given that up also myself, although some bonds of the sticky-syrupy ‘love’ feeling still crop up from time to time. In all these things, like you, when I finally became disappointed, disenchanted, and abandoned these things, it was a springboard to something better. I have always been looking for something better – to find, as you say, ‘something that actually worked’. In short, I have turned my back on many a thing that formerly brought me, as I said previously, comfort and succourance, and sometimes it has been a lonely, lonely place with much ‘self’-derision, and ‘self’-beratement.
I think that now I am looking at it differently. I need not berate myself, but to do so is exactly what you and Richard have commented about spiritual seekers: how they rarely question the teachings and wisdom themselves but revert to blaming themselves mercilessly and feeling ashamed for having failed to conform to the pattern the teachings proscribe. I think exactly this sort of thing has happened to me many a time. Perhaps others identify with this. Why should I continue to berate myself for falling out of rank with a rotten-to-the-core Humanity? If one has investigated into these things, seen clearly that Humanity is ‘me’ and ‘I’ am Humanity, and ‘I’ am rotten-to-the-core, then there is no shame about it, one leaves ‘me’ with my various identities and group affiliations, behind. But, I am still investigating, clearly.
PETER: There are three alternatives to dealing with one’s lot in life, i.e. being born with genetically encoded animal instinctual passions and being ensnared by one’s own social identity into forever remaining within the flock. Within Humanity there are only two alternatives – to remain normal and begrudgingly accept one’s lot, always feeling resentful, or to become spiritual and dwell in the world of fantasy, always in denial. There is now a third alternative – step out of the real world and into the actual world and leave your ‘self’ behind.
By actively doing something about your lot in life you give up either denying or accepting what ‘you’ are really thinking and feeling. You cut to the very quick of the problem that prevents humans from living together in peace and harmony. By doing so, any lingering feelings of resentment and shame, or any loitering desires for transcendence – to go ‘somewhere’ else – eventually wither as you incrementally eliminate malice and sorrow from your life.
PETER: Some comments on your reply to Gary’s query, given that I was mentioned by implication –
GARY: I found it cute upon a pit-stop to the Krishnamurti Listening-L list to find a reference to myself having left that list and joined the Actual Freedom list, which according to the poster is ‘the ultimate cult’. According to this poster, supposedly I am too blind to see that I am in a cult with other cult-members, and several names were mentioned (No 13, Richard, Vineeto, No 21, Peter, etc.). Also, supposedly, there is no ‘communication’ or interaction among members of this list, according to said poster. The cult business has been visited time and again on this list, yet I find it behoves me to ask current participants to this list what they think: is Actual Freedom a ‘cult’? How would one know it is a cult or not a cult? Since some on this list have belonged to *actual* cults (Sannyasins, Krishnamurtians, etc), how is one to know that one is not just getting involved in a cult again, since one has been duped before?
To anticipate a possible answer to this question, something was written recently, I think by Richard, about not trusting in another person (thereby inviting betrayal), but evaluating the validity of a claim through reference to one’s experience, thus enabling one to separate fact from fancy, the actual from the imagined or hoped for. I have never felt that this is a cult. But of course those who believe it is a cult would think that I cannot see the forest for the trees because I am in ‘denial’ of this being a cult, and me being a ‘follower’ of Richard.
Since there are other people participating in the list now, I would like to know what others think.Gary to the Actual Freedom Mailing List, 25.7.2002
RESPONDENT: Excellent query as it may lead to some discussion about the recent heated list activity. The common interpretation of the word cult has as a primary characteristic the wielding of power by one or several over a group of others. This power can only exist with the mutual agreement (at some conscious or unconscious level) of both parties to honour the hierarchal arrangement.
PETER: This deduction does not account for the fact that there are many, many cults founded upon dead people, in fact the deader the person the stronger the cult in many cases. Such cults, ‘with (its) primary characteristic the wielding of power’ ‘only exist(ing) with the mutual agreement of both parties’, can hardly exist by mutual agreement in these cases since a dead person is incapable of either agreement or disagreement. The power of any cult-leader, be they a living person, a dead person or a purely mythical figure, is entirely dependant on his or her followers believing in, and surrendering to a leader, thereby making him or her into a higher authority or Big Daddy/Big Mommy figure.
The fact that the power of a cult leader comes from the followers, and is entirely reliant on the followers, can also be seen by looking at a few examples from recent times. Mr. Hitler was revered as a Messiah-like figure in Germany by his followers who believed in the message of Nazism, whereas most of the rest of the world regarded him as a pathological megalomaniac. The loving followers of Mohan Rajneesh regarded J. Krishnamurti as a second-rate, too-intellectual, Guru, whereas the followers of J. Krishnamurti were generally scornful and dismissive of Rajneesh and his followers.
There are currently hundreds upon hundreds of self-declared Gurus on the planet, all of whose fame, power, influence and wealth is totally dependant upon the fervour and numbers of their followers. I am not denying that many of these Gurus have the capacity to wield considerable psychic power over their followers but the follower has to be fully compliant and blindly loyal in order for this power to operate. When I was a loyal follower of Mohan Rajneesh his word was God to me, yet when I stopped believing that what he said was the Truth he no longer held any power over me – in other words, I gave him power over me, it was not a matter of mutual agreement.
Nowadays I know that no one can exercise psychic or psychological power over me, which also means that no one is standing in the way of me being free.
RESPONDENT: If the players in this game do genuinely follow Richard’s edict about ‘not trusting in another person (thereby inviting betrayal), but evaluating the validity of a claim through reference to one’s experience’, then the argument ends there. I detect no indication of the attempt by the AF veterans to establish a controlling influence over the participants.
PETER: Given the human propensity to need someone to be an authority, a Big Daddy figure, the argument about actualism being a cult will no doubt continue long after the supposed cult-leader is dead and burnt.
Speaking personally, as one of the ‘AF veterans’, I look forward to the time when the mailing list has sufficient practicing actualists that the discussions can remain lively, interesting, down-to-earth and on-topic and not be dominated or overwhelmed by objectors or flamers. At this stage retirement is a definitive option.
RESPONDENT: What I do see is:
PETER: Speaking personally, I became interested in actualism because I had begun to be suss of the hypocrisy of the spiritual path, yet I had not given up on my search for a genuine freedom. As a consequence of my spiritual indoctrination, in the beginning I naturally regarded Richard as a Guru, an all-wise, all-knowing, omnipotent and omnipresent figure. What I rapidly discovered was that any attempts at fawning or worshipping washed off him like water off a duck’s back and I came to see that these feelings were simply feelings that I projected on to him. Not only that, but I soon discovered that these feelings prevented me from seeing him as a fellow human being – exactly like you and me – who had managed by his own efforts to free himself of the human condition.
I eventually came to understand that my making Richard a Guru – putting him on a pedestal – was a safe way of avoiding the fact that becoming free of the human condition was equally possible for me. So I assume making Richard a Guru is a stage that most who are interested in actualism will experience, many will pass through, and some will remain stuck on.
Actualism, whilst freely available for everyone, will clearly not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly in this early pioneering stage.
Your supposition depends upon your definition of the term ‘common sense’. The common-to-all sense would have it that human beings need to be aggressive in order to survive in the world and that suffering is not only essential but is good for you. On the other hand, to me it is common sense to do all I can to become both happy and harmless.
Perhaps a better way of putting my desire to emulate Richard is that I have abandoned the usual common-to-all-sense and relied on the uncommon-to-all-sense of devoting my life to becoming both happy and harmless. Thus far this sense is indeed uncommon, for I only know of less than a handful of people who have openly declared themselves to be similarly motivated, and I have the good fortune to live with one of them.
RESPONDENT: What I do get from this group at times is a tendency to formulate fairly broad responses in quite black and white terms, at times sounding like a party line. Yes, the basic AF tenet is black and white, but I am suspicious of any system that attempts to fit the entire universe into one of two bins. Elemental particles may be black/white, but when you mix a lot of them together, it sure starts to look grey. YMMV.
PETER: So, the basic actualism tenet is black and white but ‘this group’ tends to formulate fairly broad responses in quite black and white terms. As part of this group, I have no trouble at all with making things black and white, bringing issues and beliefs out of the shadows into the light, understanding what were formerly grey areas, calling a spade a spade when appropriate. This is the whole point of actualism – to clearly understand the human condition and how it operates in black and white terms in order to be free of it. If you want murkiness and greyness, not-knowingness and uncertainty, obscuration and ambiguity, then there are a multitude of other forums on the Net whose discussions would better meet your criteria.
I remember once pricking up my ears at something Richard said. He said something like ‘Do you really believe that human beings will never find a way to live together in genuine peace and harmony – that there will never be an end to all the wars, rapes, murders, child abuse, domestic violence and corruption that human beings inflict upon each other?’ It sure made me understand how cynical the universal conviction is that there can never be a workable straightforward down-to-earth solution to ending human malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: So, AF is clearly not a cult per se. However, there is a ravenous horde out there who are determined to plug into a cult, and occasionally one of them is going to drift this way and project their needs onto an external group. That is nothing new, and is the source of great misery.
PETER: I spent 17 years fully immersed in an Eastern spiritual cult, and I do mean full-on. I renounced the real-world, left my job, gave away my money and possessions and wore the robes and mala of a spiritual devotee. By being fully committed, I learnt a great deal from the experience and I would not be where I am today had I not taken the risk and found out for myself whether spiritualism delivered what it promised. I know of many who were more cautious in that they kept a foot in both worlds – ‘tethering your camel’ was an expression they used. This meant they sat on the fence, neither here nor there, did neither this nor that, were for it or against it as it suited. They learnt nothing by experience as to the inner workings of the spiritual world and what happens when the revered teachings are put into practice, but remained outside the ashram gates, looking in, commentating and speculating on the goings-on within.
Because I got so much life experience and hands-on direct knowledge out of my years on the spiritual path, I knew the only way to make the same assessment of whether actualism worked was to jump in boots and all. I remember when I made the decision, a great feeling of having nothing left to lose because I knew by experience that the other common-to-all approaches to being a human being were less than perfect and produced less than perfect results, to say the least.
Nowadays it is not necessary for seekers to spend years on the spiritual path because so much of the spiritual teachings are available on the Net to be read at leisure without the need to become involved in a group or embroiled in a cult. It is also possible to join any one of many spiritual mailing lists in order to assess the effectiveness – or ineffectiveness – of the teachings in producing harmonious and peaceful communities. There are ample opportunities for a present-day seeker to check out for themselves the followers of almost any spiritual teaching, to assess the quality, range and tone of discussions and by doing so make your own assessment as to whether or not the followers are living the teachings and if they are, what effect it has on their daily lives.
Given the doubts you have raised in this post about actualism being a cult, I can only suggest that you take a clear-eyed look at spiritualism as it works in practice in order that you can move on from doubt to making an assessment one way or the other. The important thing about asking questions and having doubts is to find definitive workable answers and nowadays the Net makes it much easier than having to troop off to the East as was needed in the old days. As I remember it, living in doubt and not-knowing is the pits.
RESPONDENT: I have a series of questions that go out to all who are interested. I’ve been asking the actualist question now for several months with some success at times – occasional glimpses what it is to be free – but very temporary. What I find as an even more common theme is worries arising about what I might have to ‘give up’ if I continue further and the difficulty of ‘seeing what is on the other side of a ‘problem’’.
Here are a couple issues that are important to me right now. I’m interested currently in this idea of ‘family ties.’ I understand the whole issue of the need to belong to a certain degree – but the hardest thing for me with this whole belongingness need is ‘how to’ relate to my family of origin. I know that the actualist strives to treat everyone on an even playing field by seeing through the deceptions of belonging. Take a simple thing like for example, ‘Mother’s Day.’ If I send a card to my Mom in appreciation of her care for me – then am I necessarily ‘falling into the trap’ of belonging?
Also, seeing that ‘gratitude’ is binding, is there a way of appreciating someone without feelings of gratitude? Finally, being that I am married with 2 children – I notice the fear that if I pursue actualism to its end – then I might abandon them. Sometimes it feels like it’s ‘actualism vs. family.’ What is ‘family’ when one is virtually or actually free? Can one still drive 5 hours to visit your parents without doing it just to fulfill their expectations?
What about when they become ill and die? Am I to treat them like strangers? It seems to me that even though I am ‘severing emotional’ connections – isn’t there still a connection with my biological parents more than just biology? I mean they did raise me and provide food and shelter and all. Do I only feel a ‘debt’ toward them? Or can I still maintain relating with them just based on the fact that they are biological parents? Also, I read Richard say once that basically parents are just ‘human beings who happened to be your biological parents.’ (my paraphrase) I wonder though, isn’t there just a little more to it? For example, one of my sons is adopted. My wife and I ‘play the role’ of parents – but I am working at not ‘being’ the role. Aren’t we ‘parents’ in any other way than merely biology?
PETER: I thought to respond to this post, even though you have since reported that you have had some insights about these issues.
I like it that you are having your own insights about the issues that are relevant to you in your life, and that you have had your own experience that has apparently shed some light on what is on offer in actualism. Whilst the writings about actualism and actual freedom are already quite extensive, broad ranging and catalogued, this source is but information to guide and aid your own personal investigations, insights and experiences on your own path to becoming free of the human condition. In other words, actualism is a do-it-yourself process, not a blindly follow-the-leader belief system.
Having said that, however, you are not alone in the process of actualism and much information can be gained from the experience of fellow human beings who have managed to rid themselves of malice and sorrow. I have learnt a good deal from observing Richard’s common sense approach to the business of being a flesh and blood human body in the world as-it-is, so I’ll pass on my experience about the consanguineous issues you have raised since I have been both a son and a father in my life. I’ve also written on this topic in my journal, so I’ll try and keep this brief.
Perhaps the most significant event that gave me cause to think about the whole issue of family happened a few years after my father died. Both my sister and I were at the age where we had left home and were capable of looking after ourselves financially and we then agreed that it would be good for our mother if we released her of her obligations to continue to provide for us. We told her that she had done a good job in looking after us whilst we were growing up but that now her time and money was hers again, to do with as she wished.
I remember at the time thinking what a freeing thing this decision was, both for my mother and for myself. This realization meant that later on, when I became a father, I did exactly the same. Although one of my sons died at an early age, I released the other son of the burden of the expectation that I would continue to provide for him beyond the point where he left the nest and also of the burden that he would have to provide for me in my old age. This simple unilateral action – one that can be taken by either a parent or an offspring – means that one is well on the path to seeing, and treating, one’s parents and children for what they really are – fellow human beings.
The only reason I was willing to take this step as a father was that I had by then set my sights on becoming happy and harmless and this meant that I had to release my son of my continually interfering in his life – of wanting him to do things my way. By setting my sights on becoming happy and harmless, I became aware of the issues around family that made me unhappy and the times when I did something or said something that caused ripples in other family member’s lives. As a practicing actualist, I came to see how both my societal and instinctual programming pervaded every aspect of my interactions with my son and how the combination of both actively conspired to prevent peace and harmony between us.
The first thing I found I needed to do was to become aware of what was going on, to understand the nature of this programming. The second was to see and acknowledge my part in the emotional turmoil that this programming generates, and the third and most important was to have the courage to change. Such radical change inevitably means going against what society regards as ‘normal’, ‘right’ and ‘good’ – the eons-old code of conduct based on the moral codes and ethical standards that have been unquestioningly passed down from generation to generation. This act of ‘breaking free of the mould’ then enabled me to clearly see and experience the underlying instinctual animal programming in action – those very crude, ‘self’-centred genetically-encoded compulsive drives that act to sabotage even the best of intentions of human beings to live together in peace and harmony. By being attentive to this genetic programming in action, I then became progressively less susceptible to the consuming power of both the savage and tender instinctual passions.
My experience is that once you have gone through this process with the major issues that prevent you from being happy and harmless, you then find yourself virtually happy and harmless – happy and harmless 99% of the time. At this stage the changes ‘I’ can instigate tend to be more minimal as ‘I’ have done most of the substantive work that ‘I’ can do and the resultant feelings of redundancy eventually lead to the realization that the extinction of ‘me’ is the next step to be taken.
As you know, this is a report of work in progress on the path to actual freedom, but I have always written on the basis that my experience will be of interest, and may be of use, to those interested in becoming free of the human condition, in toto.
PETER to Alan: I thought I would drop you a note since I seemed to have been ‘otherwise occupied’ for a while. As you know Vineeto and I ‘dropped in’ on the Sannyas mailing list for a few months. We had heard that my journal had been discussed on the list, but the rumour seemed to be a false one. We watched for a while, Vineeto wrote a few things, and after a while I couldn’t resist. I opened by innocuously questioning a quote from Mr. Rajneesh talking of two worlds – real and spiritual. I pointed out there were three worlds – real, spiritual and actual ... and away it went! About 150,000 words and 3 months later we were finally cut off after I dared to question not only the teachings but the Teacher!
There was a sort of a pretence that it was okay to question the teachings, but when it comes to questioning Him, Himself, then the lines are drawn. It was a fascinating exercise to see the limits that one can go in challenging Religious Dogma and Ancient Wisdom. It is a good thing that it was on the Net and not actually outside the temple gates. And it’s a good thing the spiritual people only throw brown rice and not stones as in the good old days. For me, it was another opportunity to test the wide and wondrous path to Actual Freedom, to write of facts in the face of belief and test both the facts and my motives, intentions and reactions to those who wrote.
I give both Actual Freedom and myself a 100% rating.
I always like to test things out, give it a run around the block, so to speak. A bit of gay abandon, stepping out a bit, letting one’s hair down, as one can do when malice and sorrow are having their swan song. Speaking of which it is a while since I have heard of them at all. Which is why I was able to write as I did on the list, with a confidence firmly rooted in the fact that what we are into is an outstanding change in Human Nature the likes of which defies any paltry imagination or idealism.
As far as standing up to the scrutiny of spiritual pundits, when faced with the facts about the spiritual world, some weird and strange arguments emerge as you will have noticed. Much frantic back-peddling and denial is obvious. I do understand we were spoiling their game, but it is a game that needs spoiling if peace is to come to this fair planet. And as you well know, to become actually free is now the only game to play in town – the Gurus have had their day.
Well, this is a bit of a loose, late night ramble but I’m enjoying writing on ‘home turf’, so to speak. We have the list-writing on our web-site, as you know, and the next exercise is to sort it by topics so as to make it more useful and convenient for anyone who is interested. It was interesting to look back at the objections that we came across. I stated early on in the correspondence that I had begun the spiritual path with the ideal of peace of mind for me and the ideal of peace on earth. I was howled down for this and it soon became obvious that for those remaining in the group that love for the Master was the only remaining ideal that anyone could cling to, all else had failed. When push comes to shove – love for the Master (or God) is wheeled out as the fall back position, Never Ever to be questioned. To the point of being willing to sacrifice one’s life for, or kill for, although few would admit to it. It all seems to boil down to a desperate need to belong to some group or other, to believe in some higher authority, some better life somewhere else – anywhere but here, now, as this flesh and blood body only.
The other thing that was very evident was the total lack of interest in discussions about peace on earth. Total self-interest, remoteness and detachment to the point of cynicism and beyond were apparent, which took me aback on occasions. The creation of the ‘watcher’, in psychiatric terms is called dis-association, when one is willing to kill or do a criminal act without any feelings what-so-ever. The revelations of Zen at War (http://www.darkzen.com/) reveal this to an appalling extent. It was an eye opener for me.
It became so glaringly obvious that not only is there no solution to the human dilemma within the spiritual world, but that no one even imagines there is. It is completely and utterly a selfish undertaking. Beneath the noble poetic rhetoric lies self-interest, cynicism and hypocrisy which rivals any in the real world. There is none so self-righteous as the man or woman of God.
So, life is bloody excellent here – a small but significant wedge is being driven in the door of the spiritual temples and an enormous door is swinging opening to the actual world of sensibility and sensate experiencing for human beings.
And the prize is not only peace and freedom for oneself, but ... peace on earth.
PETER: Yes indeed, the English language may never be the same again – and a good thing too. I asked someone the other day ‘How are you?’ as one tends to do as an opening gambit in polite conversation and got the reply ‘Not too bad’. As you well know this is about the best that anyone can admit to in the common usage of language in the country where we live, but it is a reply that allows the conversation – or ‘sharing’ if it’s a spiritual exchange – to develop into the usual mutual exchange of problems, difficulties, worries and laments. For females the issues are often more personal, whereas males tend to be more ‘worldly’, as in work, politics and the like, but the communication is typically one of mutual agreement as to what a bitch life as a human being is. And the dimwitticisms from the dim-dark ages simply serve to give this view a divine stamp of approval. The mythical Mr. Buddha didn’t want to be here trapped in a physical body, Mr. Rajneesh ‘only visited this planet’ for a bit and couldn’t wait to get out of here, leaving only his ‘dream’ behind and Mr. Jesus was only here because he was put up to it by his father and had no choice in the matter. (...)
PETER: So, to return to your conversation with the woman –
RICHARD: We may or may not meet again ... she works as a spiritual-group facilitator.
PETER: ‘We are all one’ is indeed one of the classic lines from the spiritual world and perhaps no other platitude more accurately illustrates the gulf between belief, feeling and imagination and what is fact, sensible and blindingly obvious on the other. ‘We are all one’ and yet ‘we’ continuously and instinctually fight and fear each other in a grim battle of survival. The passionate feeling that ‘we are all one’, engendered by belonging exclusively to one spiritual group or another, gives rise to feelings of elitism, separateness, isolationism, remoteness, seclusion, exclusivity, defensiveness, blind loyalty and blind faith, snobbery, false superiority, intolerance, etc. etc. – anything but ‘We are all one’. In fact the feeling is not ‘We are all one’ but rather ‘We are the Chosen Ones’, and for the Guru it is not ‘We are all one’ but it is the feeling that ‘I am the One’. What a phantasm the spiritual world is, and being ‘admonished to leave your mind at the door, surrender your will, and trust your feelings’ ensures that the followers remain unthinking, unquestioning and off in La-La land – anywhere but here in the actual world and anytime but now, this very moment of being alive.
All this nonsense, simply in order that ‘I’ as an identity can remain in existence – anything but a nobody, anything but a no-one, anything but cease to exist. This last 15 months since finishing my journal has been a period of becoming a nobody in society’s terms, a no-one in particular in terms of belonging to a group and a no-self in terms of being a feeling being that lives in fear and needs to fight for survival. As the feelings arising from the instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire diminish, being alive here, now becomes such a delicious, ambrosial experience that I am wont to lie about doing nothing, for simply being here is outstanding – and on top of it I occasionally get to do something. I have no objections at all to being here, in fact where else could I be, and where else would I want to be. I am going nowhere, I have come from nowhere, I don’t need to do anything, I am never bored, I have no plans, desires, ambitions. I have no idea what I will do for the rest of my days, nor do I worry – I simply need sufficient money to live. Money for rent, food and clothes and for the pleasures that I fit into the day as well.
Without the need to struggle to exist, and with no ‘me’ to defend, being here is indeed effortless. It requires no ‘me’ to be here for I am perpetually here anyway. ‘I’ play no part in pumping my heart, breathing, thinking, sleeping, eating, walking, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching – ‘I’ am but a dinosaurial-redundancy ... a passionate illusion, ripe for extinction.
My experiential answer to Willie Shakespeare’s famous question – ‘to be or not to be?’ is that being an identity, be it social or animal instinctual, is a bummer – whatever way one looks at it. As this ‘skin’ of identity falls away I am more able to be me, this flesh and blood body, having no relationship or continuity with ‘who’ I was when I started this process. One does indeed step out of the real world and into the actual world leaving one’s ‘self’ behind, as you put it so descriptively. There is yet to be a passionate act of extinction and more and more I have stopped waiting for it to happen – so perfect and easy has life become.
PETER to Richard: Given that the human animal is the most advanced of the primates, it does beg the question as to how much pre-memory is genetically programmed in the human amygdala and therefore ‘set in the flesh’, as it were. Two of these pre-codings are vital in understanding the human psyche –‘who’ one thinks and feels one is.
Firstly, there is most obviously an instinctual sense of self-recognition, a faculty we share with our closet genetic cousins – apes and chimps both recognize ‘themselves’ in a mirror. This instinctual primal ‘self’ is made more sophisticated in humans, for the cognitive neo-cortex (the ‘conscious’ to use LeDoux’s term) is only capable of detecting the chemical flows of the amygdala (non-cognitive and ‘unconscious’), and these are ‘felt’ as basic passions or emotions and interpreted as feelings – ‘my’ feelings. Thus, we ‘feel’ this genetic instinctual programming to be ‘me’ at my core. This program thus gives every human being an instinctual self which is translated into a ‘real’ self that is both psychic – LeDoux’s ‘unconscious’ made obvious and real by the ensuing flow of chemicals from the amygdala – and psychological – interpreted as thoughts by the modern cognitive brain. (The modern brain is also taught much after birth – one’s social identity – but I’m interested in the deeper level at this stage.)
This explains that the spiritual journey ‘in’ is thus a journey to find one’s instinctual self – one’s roots, one’s original face, the Source, etc. If, on this inner journey, one ignores or denies the passions of aggression and fear and concentrates one’s attention on the passions of nurture and desire, one can shift one’s identity from the psychological thinking neo cortex – the ‘ego’ to use their term – and ‘become’, or associate with, or identify with, the good feelings of nurture and desire. This is a seductive and self-gratifying journey, for one is actively promoting the flow of chemicals that give rise to the good, pleasant, warm, light-headed, heart-full and ultimately ecstatic feelings. These flow of chemicals overwhelm the neo-cortex to such an extent that they become one’s primary experience, and the input of the physical world as perceived by the senses and the clear-thinking ability of the cognitive modern brain are both subjugated – or ‘transcended’ to use their term. One then ‘feels’ one has found one’s original ‘self’, which one has of course, though t’is all but a fantasy of one’s imagination.
I particularly remember when I first came across spiritual teachings, the mythology and poetry that alluded to this ‘inner’ world seemed to strike a deep cord with me – the tales of Ancient Wisdom ‘connected’ with this deep (unconscious) level which was a connection with the instinctual memory in the amygdala. I had ‘found’ someone who had the answers, was in touch with the Source, knew the meaning of life, the truth – I had come Home. I began a journey into the inner world of good feelings, made real by the ability to enhance the chemical flow of nurture and desire and dampen, suppress or ignore the feelings of aggression and fear. I was literally leaving the real world behind and seeking solace and succour in the spiritual world. I was thus forfeiting any chance of breaking free of my instinctual passions, in total, for a selfish bid for personal bliss and a permanent place in an imaginary ‘other world’ composed solely of chemically-supported blissful feelings.
Secondly, the other faculty I see as essentially pre-coded is an instinctual need to ‘belong’ to the herd – the herding instinct, as Vineeto puts it. It might seem banal and obvious given that humans, as a species, have perennially needed to maintain, at very least, a family grouping in order to ensure the survival of the species. Given that the human infant is helpless for such a long time compared with most other species, the immediate family group was the basic minimum need, and the chance of survival was considerably increased with larger and stronger groupings. This is an instinctual program that over-rides the individual’s own survival instincts for one is ultimately programmed to ensure survival of the species – not one’s own, as in self-preservation. Given that these involve more sophisticated programming than mere instantaneous ‘fight and flight’ reactions they must be encoded in the genetic memory of the amygdala, passed on from ‘way back there’, in the mists of time.
This instinct, implanted by blind nature to ensure the survival of the species, pumps the body with chemicals that induce the feeling of fear whenever one is straying too far away from the herd, abandoning other members of the family or group or being on one’s own. I remember particularly, in my early twenties, travelling across Europe and the Middle East on my way home from London and arriving at the border with Iran. I was turned away at an isolated border post as I didn’t have a visa and I was struck with a deep sense of panic, a feeling of utter loneliness. Looking back, it was as though I had gone too far striking off on my own and had hit the limit. This feeling of loneliness was to haunt me for many years – the image of becoming a lonely old man on a park bench, outcast and abandoned. It coincidentally was to prove one of the images that made me leap into the spiritual world with such gusto. I was to lose this fear later in life but living alone was always accompanied by a bitter-sweet feeling of loneliness. My major period of living alone was also the period when I began to have spiritual experiences, Satoris and an experience of Altered States of Consciousness aka Enlightenment.
From my investigations and experiences it is obvious that ‘who’ I think and feel I am – ‘me’ at the core – encompasses both a deep-set feeling of separateness from others and the world as perceived by the senses as well as a deep-set feeling of needing to ‘belong’.
This over-arching feeling of separateness – of being a ‘separate self’, who is forever yearning to ‘belong’ – is the root cause of sorrow in me and the all encompassing ‘ocean’ of human sorrow in the world.
The traditional approaches to these conflicting feelings has been either –
Thankfully I’m pursuing a third alternative, which is the total elimination of my ‘self’ in total – the whole of the amygdala’s instinctual programming that gives rise to the animal passions. The startle, quick-scan function of the amygdala still operates as a physical safety function but the chemical surges that give rise to the emotions of fear, anger, nurture and desire have almost ceased to be of influence. I am left with a lot of shifting sensations in the head, neck, heart and belly that tell me something chemically is still happening but these very rarely translate into emotions or reactions.
RESPONDENT: I have seen my possibility in the presence of Rajneesh. And I think you have seen your possibility in the presence of Richard, Peter and Vineeto.
PETER: I found your proposition intriguing, particularly the words ‘in the presence of’.
The Eastern tradition of Moksha or freedom is always a transmission of a ‘feeling’ of liberation from the world-as-it-is into the spiritual world – an escape from reality into a Greater Reality. Being ‘in the presence of’ one who has realised this Greater Reality is regarded as the best way to facilitate the necessary spiritual feelings of Unconditional Love, Unity, Oneness, etc. The initiation into disciplehood and the formation of Ashrams, Sanghas, Monasteries or other spiritual communities was a way of reinforcing the feelings of escaping into a Greater Reality – of ‘coming home’, ‘being chosen’, being lovers of the Master and being loved by the Master. The possibility offered was that the follower or disciple too could become like the Master, despite the overwhelming evidence that those who became Enlightened did so by their own efforts and not by being mere disciples of other Masters. The ‘being in the presence of’ is the great attraction of being around a living Master, and ‘belonging’ to His group is the similar attraction with dead Masters. The wide and wondrous path to Actual Freedom neither contains nor entertains any of these religious authoritarian and hierarchical structures. It is free of any power of one over the other, be it the psychic power and strangleholds of worship, surrender, gratitude, loyalty, devotion and prayer that binds the disciple to the Master, or the necessity to belong to the group, contribute to the movement, pay your dues in time or money, support the ideals, and defend the Master. Those involved in Actual Freedom are those intrepid individuals who have taken it upon themselves to change the only person they can change – themselves. Their motive is a personal peace for themselves – a freedom from malice and sorrow – and to prove that global peace is possible, as in – ‘if I can do it, and I am nobody special, then anyone can rid themselves of malice and sorrow’.
There is no ‘in the presence of’ in Actual Freedom. This is it. A few Web-sites, a mailing list and about a million words so far. The story of how one man escaped from the delusion of Enlightenment, the method he devised to become free of the Human Condition and the writing of others reporting their success in applying the method. Also documented are the countless objections of many correspondents to the new and radical discovery that human beings can be actually happy and harmless, and the detailed and considered responses to these objections.
Anyone can now be free of the Human Condition (including the belief in a spiritual ‘other-world’ and a life after death), as sufficient words conveying the method, the results, the pitfalls, and the objections are now accessible on the Net.
The ‘possibility’ I saw when I met Richard was that I could live with a woman in peace and harmony, and for me that was a prerequisite to finding a personal peace and there ever being a chance of global peace. If I could not live with one person peacefully and harmoniously then how could I ever expect there to be peace on earth – then life was indeed a sick joke. The other possibility I saw was that I could live the PCE I had experienced as an ongoing state 24 hrs. a day every day. I knew it would prove the death of ‘me’ but I was getting very tired of ‘me’ by then anyway. The effort of maintaining a social identity and the being ‘on-guard’ constantly against instinctual passions arising was both debilitating and shackling – a second rate life.
An actual freedom was what I sought, and I’d settle for nothing less.
So, I wanted to throw some light on the differences between the spiritual path in practice and the path to actual freedom in practice. The nuts and bolts of how both work and the factual differences between the two paths.
RESPONDENT: Yes, I agree with this. With the predominant instinctual passions being fear, aggression, nurture and desire then isn’t malice and sorrow derived from these passions with fear being the most predominant? My specific question is: Isn’t the instinct of fear underlying (the cause of) malice and sorrow?
PETER: No. Although fear, aggression, nurture and desire are aspects of a single instinctual genetic program designed solely to ensure the survival of the species they are distinct and separate passions that can be discerned and experienced quite separately and distinctly. As an example, if you are driving a car and become angry that the car in front of you is travelling very slowly, your anger has nothing to do with fear. If you are sitting in a café and hear some music that makes you feel sad, your sorrow has nothing to do with fear. I won’t go on as your own investigations can reveal that fear, aggression, nurture and desire are distinct and separate passions that can be discerned and experienced quite separately and distinctly. A few examples of this –
To remain fixated upon fear as being primary and predominant, even if that is how you experience it now, is to miss out on the opportunity of being aware of, and thus being able to investigate the full range of instinctual passions that are the underlying cause of human malice and sorrow. You may also find that the fascinating business of investigating the full range of instinctual passions in action will divert you from your fixation with the feeling of fear and enable you to turn the fear into the thrill of discovering what you are.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.