Selected Correspondence Peter
Affective Feelings – Emotions and Passions
PETER to No 33: I thought to make a comment given that something I wrote in the glossary was recently quoted in your conversation with Gary.
Indeed there is an inconsistency in the glossary and as I am the author of most the glossary terms and this one in particular, it is my mistake.
Thinking and affective feeling are distinctive activities and the evidence of their difference is readily apparent in a pure consciousness experience when all of the affective feelings such as fear, anger, resentment, sorrow, awe, love and any notions of God or a higher authority disappear, as if by magic. What remains in a pure consciousness experience is a direct sensuous experience of actuality wherein the ability to sensately experience, think and reflect all operate freely and effortlessly, unimpeded by any affective feelings whatsoever.
In ‘normal’ experiencing however, the affective feelings are both impulsive and compulsive and are instinctively ‘self’-centred which means they are so predominant and intrusive that they not only create a feeling entity, ‘who I feel I am deep down inside’ but they also permeate one’s thinking to the extent that they create a thinking entity, ‘who’ I think I am, which then overlays one’s primal instinctive-feeling entity. This permeating and corrupting of intelligence is why most people tend to say what they are thinking rather than being able to distinguish and express clearly what they are feeling. Therefore it would have been much more accurate for me to have written that ‘feelings are most commonly expressed as emotion-backed thoughts’, rather than ‘feelings are emotion-backed thoughts’ as they are two distinct activities.
An example of this confusion between thinking and feeling is when someone is worrying about something they usually regard this as a thought, whereas worry always has a feeling component, i.e. if someone is worrying why his or her spouse or companion is late, at the root of this worry may well be the feeling of jealousy. I use this as an example as it was such an incident that enabled me to see the folly and destructive nature of my feelings and to instantly break free of jealousy itself.
Some Eastern spiritual teachings advocate ‘right’ thinking as a way of repressing or transcending unwanted or undesirable thoughts, but because they fail to understand that feelings are commonly expressed as thoughts, what they are really advocating is ‘right’ feeling as a way of suppressing unwanted or undesirable feelings. The East religions and philosophies therefore abound with ethical principles and moral platitudes as to what is right and wrong and what is good and bad equally as much as Western religion and philosophy.
Contrary to all of humanity’s wisdom it is affective feelings that are the bane of mankind whereas it is the ability to think clearly – an ability actively cultivated by freeing one’s native intelligence from the shackles of affective instinct-based feeling – that offers the means to become free from the clutches of the human condition.
PETER to Alan: ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ is dangerously effective in relentlessly bringing one to one’s senses as both the cerebral and affective perceptions – ‘my’ perceptions as a social identity and instinctual being – fade into insignificance. Not only do they fade but they are experienced in everyday life of virtual freedom as illusionary, i.e. experienced not intellectually dismissed as in the spiritual deceit of ‘I am already perfect, all I have to do is realise it!’. My answer to these people is – ‘do you, in your imagined perfection, live in peace and harmony with another person?’ ‘Do you get sad, melancholic, peeved, irritated, upset, bored, etc.?’
One is constantly confronted with the experiential fact that the actual is far more extraordinary and magical than anything felt in feelings or imagined in thought – it is, after all, actual and all happening this very moment. This very actual-ness – as in experienced by the senses i.e. physical, and not merely passive, as in happening this very moment – will be the death of ‘me’.
And the death of ‘me’ will be a sensate experience accompanied by the last of the cerebral and affective ‘flame-outs’.
Well, since starting this mail I have had an interesting experience of feeling devastated at being a total failure after another experience of standing on the ‘edge’ of the death of ‘me’ and ‘it’ not happening – yet again. It was as though I became ‘me’ again totally and gathered all ‘my’ passionate energy together for an assault on the mountain. Upon reflection it is as though I was trying to evince a passionate end of ‘me’ – feeling ‘my’ way to freedom. Experience has shown that I cannot think my way to freedom, nor feel my way to freedom but I guess I was testing out what I have written above. What is obvious from the experiment is that while sex is a door to being here – i.e. it is a wonderful way to induce a PCE – it is not by itself a door to freedom from the Human Condition.
The whole exercise has served to reinforce my experience that the door to freedom is in the doing of it – is in the living of a virtual freedom to maximum possible – a continual lifting of the bar. To imagine either cerebrally or by feeling a ‘death of me’ is not the way, as I see it – the imagining requires a looking backward, a certain put-up job, a rehearsal if you like. Not that the experience in itself is not valuable – it is certainly most interesting as to what is still possible to ‘conjure up’, but it can ruin your day a bit. It’s such a weird thing to do by both normal and spiritual world standards but, as I drop back to my normal standard of Virtual Freedom, it leaves no ‘scars’, has no emotional memories and the only evidence is a bit of physical strain in the body from the emotional excesses – not to mention the sexual excesses.
Ah, what weird stuff that goes on in the head and the heart on this journey of ours. Still, that is where the weird stuff is, so it has to play out its game.
PETER to Alan: Just a report from the far side of the planet.
Well, this path to Actual Freedom is proving continually fascinating and thrilling. Lately two events have proved particularly revealing as to the fact that no matter how much I clean myself up, or strip myself of the emotions that arise from the instinctual passions, they are still there lurking beneath the surface. Richard reported the same occasional bleed-throughs, even while in his enlightened phase, and this is the empirical evidence that only self-immolation can remove the impediments to living a pure consciousness experience, 24 hrs. a day, every day.
Virtual freedom – the 99.9 % version – is not to be sneezed at, for it is a state that is far more salubrious, sensible and harmless than any dissociated state that the spiritual world offers. Only by freeing oneself of all spiritual belief and actively investigating and diminishing the instinctual passions that lie beneath is it possible to be 99.9% happy and harmless. Only then can one be almost actually happy and harmless and then the obsession focuses on the ‘almost’ bit. Almost means that one can never quite trust oneself that one’s happiness and harmlessness cannot be disturbed by someone else or some event. That a bleed-through of malice towards another, or sorrow for oneself, will not occur. However it is only by living in Virtual Freedom, the ‘almost’ stage, that enables me to clearly see ‘me’ at my core, free of the cloud of beliefs, emotions, feelings and neurosis that is normally ‘me’.
One of the events that triggered a bleed-through was my starting to write about Actual Freedom on another mailing list. As I have written, there was a whiff of fear at sticking my neck out, a why do I keep doing this, why not stay safe? This only came after the action and as I looked beneath the fear, the underlying reason was an insecure ‘me’ – unable by ‘my’ very nature to be 100% free of malice and sorrow, unable by my very nature to be sure that there would be no ‘bleed-throughs’. I remember reporting to No 5 about feeling frustration when I wrote to him last year, but it was only by sticking my neck out, actively exploring while remaining aware, that the issue was stirred, the discovery made, the observation noted and the next ensuing action taken.
This sequence initially requires stubborn effort but as success breeds success a momentum gathers, serendipity abounds and the process becomes not ‘my’ doing it and then all ‘I’ have to do is dare to take the foot off the brake.
As for the whiff of fear, and as Vineeto noted the other night, the real discovery, the real issue to investigate, usually lies beneath the fear. Take the action, feel the fear and then look at what lays beneath the fear. If you stay stuck with the fear, no action in the first place, no discovery, no adventure, no change.
Another feeling that arose from starting to write to this list was when Vineeto said she would write on the same list as well. A feeling of ‘it’s my turf, don’t butt in’ arose, a childlike possessiveness that was rationalized away by the quite sensible consideration that two of us writing would be too much and the list members would feel attacked. They will no-doubt feel personally attacked anyway, as it is par for the course whenever anyone is faced with facts that expose the failure and mendacity of one’s cherished beliefs. For me, if I simply rationalized away my feelings and emotions I would have missed the opportunity to experience them in action, as my ‘self’. ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ is not about an abrupt rationalization, denial or repression of feelings and emotions. Nor is it about interminable therapizing and never-ending superficial-only investigation. There is a third alternative – an active experiential investigation, both as an instantaneous observation and a thoughtful contemplation, solely aimed at evincing a radical empirical permanent change
Vineeto and I, as usual, came to a mutual sensible consensus that, for now, one of us writing on the list would be better than two. And I liked the fact that without taking action – in this case writing to a mailing list – ‘I’ would have remained safe, hidden, unveiled, unrevealed, forever lurking, however quietly.
The other event worthy of report relates to my now being fully involved in the world of people, things and events and not a spiritual hermit in some sheltered workshop for those shell-shocked by ‘real’ world, as I was for years. This probably relates to No 3’s work experience that he posted. I’ll include it in this post as the value of this list is in the mutual sharing of experience, information and discoveries in order to test their validity and effectiveness – to glean from others what works and what doesn’t, mainly so we don’t have to unknowingly and needlessly repeat what others have already found to have failed.
I have always found the idea of having to retreat from the world into an ashram or an insular community somehow a cop-out, albeit an attractive one compared to having to battle it out in the ‘real’ world. Many talk about bringing their meditation into the market place, withdrawn into their own inner world, protected by a self-made bubble or cocoon, isolating them from the ‘bad vibes’ of others, all the time claiming they are being ‘present’. This is what Richard means by being twice-removed from the actual world.
My experience is that one can become virtually free of malice and sorrow and can activate delight to such a level that one’s interactions with one’s fellow human beings are invariably harmonious and pleasurable – 99.9% of the time. This is in itself quite outstanding. I do not grumble, bitch, complain, blame, berate, beset or attack anyone, nor do I feel resentful, jealous, envious, belittled, hard done by, pissed-off, etc. However, on very rare occasions an emotion will be triggered for there is still a ‘me’ lurking around, instinctually programmed and thus ever-ready to rise to either defend or attack.
The particular occasion that raised a feeling response was of having to do something that made no sense – just a wee bit and such that I was easily able to observe the fact that ‘I’ was not needed to be in control, quite the opposite, in fact. This having to do something silly is a common occurrence in the market place where one sells one’s time in return for money and most decisions are made on the basis of right/wrong, good/bad, me vs. you, etc. and not on the basis of mutual consensus based on common sense.
On this occasion, all of my usual skills of persuasion, facilitating an open discussion of the pros and cons, etc. failed to elicit a consensual sensibility and I was left with that childlike feeling of being forced to do something that I saw as silly. T’was just a flash, an irrational and impulsive response, but again it was ‘me’ at my core. These little flashes, startlingly apparent when all the usual emotional clutter is removed, serve as a reminder to the fact that no matter how much one cleans oneself up, or strips oneself down of the emotions that arise from the instinctual passions, they are still there lurking beneath the surface. The whole point of the process that is undertaken on the path to Actual freedom is to actively whittle away at one’s social identity – all the beliefs, morals, ethics and psittacisms instilled and co-opted since birth – so that one is able to get down to investigating the raw instinctual passions – both the supposed good and bad. This investigation is the hairy part where any who have managed to get there have traditionally opted for safety and gone with the ‘good’ passions, adopted a new set of spiritual beliefs, morals ethics and psittacisms and away they went – with a new identity pasted over the old rotten ‘me’. This explains why the enlightened ones still have malice, albeit excused as Divine anger, and still have sorrow, albeit disguised as Divine Com-passion – feeling pity for others from their higher, holier and more exalted position.
To get back to my work-related issue. I do like it that I can function and operate in the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are – without a protective cocoon – with an impunity and salubriousness that I would have deemed an impossibility a few years ago. This is directly attributable to abandoning the folly of accepting myself as I am, to not sitting in the corner with my eyes closed, but getting my head out of the clouds and coming down-to-earth – where meaning is abundantly and sensuously obvious each moment again. The key to the ultimate stage of self-immolation lies in experiencing and dispassionately observing these bleed-throughs. In knowing that perfection and purity, the total eradication of malice and sorrow is only possible with my extinction. Utterly fascinating and thrilling.
As I went back over what I wrote there is one sentence that is worth elaborating on. It is when I said ‘an event raised a feeling response – just a wee bit and such that I was easily able to observe the fact that ‘I’ was not needed to be in control, quite the opposite, in fact’. What I observed was that ‘I’ was the source of the feeling response – as a thought and as a chemical flush – and yet ‘I’ was redundant in taking appropriate sensible action and being considerate of the person I was talking to. Normally ‘I’ am the source of the trouble and ‘I’ proceed to stuff up the solution. ‘I’ am nothing but a chemically-fuelled rotten little feedback loop, an errant, stubbornly perverse virus in an otherwise perfect operating system.
IRENE: Living with Richard made it eventually clear to me that it is not nature that is to blame but the overlaid male interpretation of human life; how it should be instead! In other words knowing better than nature the universe itself. I don’t have to explain to you how every culture and religion (all invented by male minds, based on their interpretation of how life should be organised and regulated for women as well) denigrates particular aspects of our natural faculties and have tried to suppress them, repress them, to forbid them and demand that they must be changed into unnatural behaviour and beliefs, in order to keep the male supremacy intact.
In most cultures and religions we can observe, for instance, that sex was the culprit – it had to be either repressed completely (like the catholic priests) or limited to the wishes of the man only. In both scenarios a shocking amount of victims were created: repressed sexuality reveals itself in perversity, as is more and more exposed in the use of young children by grown men for their own benefit only and to the detriment of many, many children, as they were made helpless and guilty by intimidation and threats.
The other alternative was the licence granted to men over women and girls by cultural and religious authorities, whereby women and girls are seen as just cattle, for the men to use as they please. It lies all in the mistake of man believing himself to be the authority over woman, as was decreed by their ancestors who were to be believed to be in direct contact with a creator-god.
If men and women will ever want to live in peace and harmony, the very root-cause must be addressed: a law can only be fair if both genders define that law, not only men. But men would not voluntarily choose to share all responsibilities and rights with women, because they are too proud of and too used to their supremacy, plus they would – quite understandably! – feel afraid that they might become redundant altogether, once women were given the chance to have equal say in the decision-making processes that are necessary for the organization of all men, women and children into a peaceful and fair living together.
PETER: I find myself bewildered in the face of the depth of resentment women have towards men. As a man said to me the other day: ‘Do they want us to wear skirts?’ As you say above ‘they feel afraid that they might become redundant altogether, once women were given the chance to have an equal say in decision making processes’. This seems a statement not about equity at all but about justice which is but a nice word for revenge. Your Matrilineal dreams are of a Golden Age when women ruled over men and there was supposedly peace on earth.
There seems to be a lack of understanding among women of the suffering and sorrow that men experience. This is understandable, as the instinctual male role is one of provider and protector. As such he displays courage, bravado and strength to impress the female. In her selection of a mate this is what she demands, albeit sub-consciously, in many cases. This instinctual behaviour has resulted in the typical male displays of toughness, competitiveness and aggression, essential for the hunter and protector in the past and still played out in sport, business, politics and unfortunately in war. It is simply the male role – as it is the role of the female to procreate, mother and nurture and be protected.
This leads directly to the assumption that all violence is the fault of the male and women are but innocent victims. And yet it is the men who are still expected to die for family or country.
The other common belief is that men are not emotional or feeling ‘beings’. I had thought I had experienced the full gamut of human emotions and wrote a lot about them in my journal, smugly thinking I had not repressed anything. But recently when I stuck my head into fear to see if I was maybe avoiding something I found more. Beyond fear I discovered stark terror, angst and a dread the like of which I have never experienced before or want to experience again. I had previously, at the death of my son, experienced a form of dread that I would describe as personal, but this dread was as though I was experiencing the dread of humanity – every tortured soul, every rape, every horror, every fear. It literally tore my heart out as I realised what lay at the very core of my ‘being’ and every other being – I had tapped the very source of human psychic fear – the psychic opposite of the Divine Love and Bliss of Enlightenment.
So maybe this will illustrate the point as to why I truck little with those who accuse men of having no feelings. Feelings rule and ruin the lives of both men and women equally; this is my experience. After a near fatal illness, my father deliberately went back to work with the avowed intention of at least leaving something to my mother – he died two years later and she got a house. One night I witnessed a car crash. Going to help I was confronted with a seriously injured teenager who muttered over and over through the blood ‘she left me, she left me’. I have suffered from the fear of getting a girl pregnant and of being forced to become a husband and provider in my teens and as such was a fearful bumbling virgin when married. I have suffered heartbreak, jealousy, dependency, loneliness – need I go on?
IRENE: Only a person who is deeply troubled by emotions will turn against them in anger and try to rid themselves of the whole plethora of emotional experiences. To me they are the palette that I use to paint my every moment on to the canvas of my immediate environment, except that this is 3-dimensional and it depicts more my atmosphere than colours or figures.
PETER: This agrees with my experience as well and I see it in others. It is only because I have been ‘deeply troubled’ by grief, anger, jealousy, despair, violence, greed, rape, suicide, love, empathy, sorrow, compassion, loneliness, etc. etc. that I wanted to be rid of them in myself for personal peace as well as to stop inflicting my sorrow and anger on others.
IRENE: To me compassion is the full understanding through experiencing all the accompanying emotions of a particularly testing aspect of life, that this is what it is to be grieving, or to be angry or to intensely hate or to be desolate, lonely, utterly discouraged in all of life etc. and to accept it as belonging to the all-round human experience in order to become wise. Not that only the so-called negative feelings will grant wisdom; the positive ones can be even more important in that respect!
PETER: So your ‘new’ philosophy is based on acceptance of anger and suffering. What is new about it then? This is as good as it gets? No wonder people give up in despair or wish like hell for some better after-life. Surely you can offer something better than acceptance...it hasn’t worked up until now.
IRENE: The richness, the depth of each human feeling reveals the understanding of what it is to be a human being in such an empirical, intimate way that it is later instantly recognised in a fellow human being who is going through the same emotional, human experience and who can then be met by compassion, that very kind understanding that you will have enjoyed with another, not only when life was being particularly difficult or sad, but also when you wanted to share your utmost joy or love.
PETER: Compassion is, as per definition, an agreement to share pathos – share suffering. Do I recognise a touch of Buddhism in your philosophy? The Dalai Lama’s title means ‘the Lord who looks down (with compassion) on all sentient beings’ and despite the compassion of millions of Buddhists for thousands of years the East has appalling poverty, repression of women, corruption, violence, etc. Or maybe it is part of your philosophy that women suffer so much more than men, that suffering and being able to share your suffering is a noble human attribute. In this way I could be tempted to agree but then I would just fall in to the same old gender trap. Both genders are just playing out their instinctually assigned roles and both are sorrowful and malicious. To argue degrees and apportion blame is to miss (or avoid) the point. (...)
IRENE: Even when they do play an attacking or defending role with me, I find that I am not disturbed by this at all and therefore emotional reactions simply do not come up any more, so I there is nothing at all that I have to get rid of, exterminate or otherwise repress or suppress. These days I can virtually instantly discern the understandable reaction of the other as a natural human defence of themselves.
PETER: Above you had said that you accepted emotions and feelings as good and now you say you don’t have any anyway. Exactly what is your teaching – you seem to have a bet in each way. Are you advocating a middle road – an actual freedom with a bit of belief and femaleness thrown in or is it just a freedom for women only?
As you can see you get no support from me for the philosophy of retaining human conditioning or instincts. I remember being astounded when you said you would seek love again even though you acknowledged it could bring great suffering in the event of your partner dying or leaving. You said you would welcome the suffering. Well, not for me – my chest is still bruised from feeling and suffering the universal dread!
Re: Vitriolic confusion
IRENE: Wow, some fire has erupted, I read in your e-mail! Despite your vitriolic confusion about me and my new(?), old(?), woman only(?) anti-man(?) philosophy, I couldn’t help chuckling about you here and there and saying ‘fair enough, Peter’.
PETER: So I guess if you regard my last letter as vitriolic we are coming to an end of our correspondence. We seem to ground on the major rock of feelings and emotions and we have wide philosophical differences on the matter.
If I can attempt to broadly summarise the positions I see it as the following –
Your stated philosophy from your last post is that of –
Briefly in response to the above points my position is –
So, there seems a gulf so wide that we have nothing in common philosophically. I do understand you have ‘tread the boards’ with all this with Richard for all those years and I hear your warnings. But I figure I’ve got nothing left to lose, so I’ll keep going. Besides, I’m having a grand time and it’s such fun to dig into this stuff about us human beings.
I have no wish to interfere with your happiness. I just want to make it clear why I am continuing with the findings of the ‘other 50% of the experimenters’ and that I have neither doubt nor fear of the consequences.
At the risk of again being seen as vitriolic, I will give you a quote from my journal that I wrote after an incident I witnessed where a group of people confronted Richard and accused him of being cold, uncaring and deceitful.
I know it’s strong and leaves no room for compromises but that’s how I see the Human Condition. You may see it as vindictive but for some reason it seems appropriate again right now. I guess it is that I watched the black-humour film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on TV last night with its running score sheet of ‘losses’ in the ‘games’ that the generals played in the War to end all Wars. The losses after 2 years of playing one game at the Somme were 607,000 dead on the English side alone for a nil gain of ground.
I guess it is that I yet again understood Richard’s desire to find a way to actually end wars and his radical understanding that, for this to be possible, both the good and bad feelings and emotions and instincts have to be eliminated.
Those men, after all, died for love of god, country and family. Their pride eventually disintegrated to the point where they simply shivered in their mud filled trenches, ridden with lice and listening to the rats feeding on the dead and wounded, singing endless choruses of ‘we’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here ... we’re here because we’re here...’
RESPONDENT: How is it possible for all the bad stuff to go, those bad emotions etc., how can they go for good?
PETER: I assume from your posts that you have had a good grounding in the awareness-watching business, which is a reasonable starting point. You also seem interested in the possibility of getting rid of at least some of the emotions i.e. the bad ones. One of the problems usually with the traditional awareness approach is that one can spread oneself a bit thin on the ground and not zero in on a particular issue. It makes good sense to pick one issue out of the bundle of feelings and emotions that assail one every day.
RESPONDENT: So what do you do with the other feelings that arise? Do you mean you don’t attempt to go into them and find out more?
PETER: I find that I can best concentrate on, and contemplate upon only one thing at a time. I can drive a car while thinking or talking but as far as tasks requiring my full attention and awareness – I do one at a time. So for me at the start, rather than try to spread myself thin by trying to being aware of hundreds of feelings, reactions, doubts, thoughts, emotions I zeroed in on one to study in detail. I always found that there was one particular pertinent issue at any one time that was spoiling my happiness. It was usually the issue that I was avoiding, that bought up most fear, or dominated my thoughts most. This was then the one to ‘tackle’, the one to dig in to, talk over, focus on, contemplate upon, etc., but it was usually obvious.
PETER: I met a friend of ours lately who has had some inklings that Vineeto and I were ‘doing something different’ with our lives. We got chatting and I said that it was about being happy and harmless. She seemed interested but when I said this meant being free of malice and sorrow she seemed doubtful. When I asked her wouldn’t you want to be free of sorrow she said she really liked to feel sad occasionally. Unperturbed, I asked her about being free of malice and she said that she liked to get angry, to defend herself, to make her point. She said she wouldn’t have survived in her life without her anger.
RESPONDENT: I agree that some of these emotions have their attractiveness but if that is weighed up against all the times one missed out on opportunities because of the negative effects of certain emotions then a strong argument can be made for sacrificing the ones that are found to be somehow enjoyable.
PETER: Yep. Tis writ large in the sacred texts of the ‘Human Condition’, sub-section ‘Human Attributes’ – ‘The faculty that distinguishes the human species from other animal species is our ability to feel. In short we are ‘feeling’ beings – take away our feelings and we are but animals or robots’. Of course, this sacred tenet was written in ancient times when the only chance of keeping fear and aggression in reasonable control was to emphasise nurture and desire. Thus it was that ‘good’ and ‘bad’, together with ‘right and wrong’, was chiselled in stone and written on rice paper as the morals and ethics of tribal groups. This was further reinforced by fairy-tales of Gods and Demons, good and bad spirits, and the power and influence of the shamans was set in concrete. To dare to question the Gods and the good was to tempt the Devil, invite the bad to run riot and invoke the wrath of the shamans.
All of this is based on primitive ignorance of modern human biological knowledge only evident this century. Human and animal behavioural studies combined with stunning genetic and neuro-biological knowledge has made the futility of sticking with Ancient and spirit-ual solutions patently obvious.
What we now know is that human beings have an instinctual program of fear, aggression, nurture and desire and that this is located in the hypothalamus primitive lizard brain. Its task is largely the regulation of stereotyped, or instinctive behaviour patterns and responses. In lower animals this response, sometimes known as ‘fight and flight’ is a simple response to sensorial input – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. In humans with our more complex brain, thought, memory, reflection and self-awareness this simple response becomes an emotional response – an emotion according to Mr. Oxford – Any of the natural instinctive affections of the mind.
Our treasured and dearly-held feelings are most commonly expressed as emotion-backed thoughts, firmly rooted in the ‘fight and flight’ instinct of fear and aggression. Hence we are ‘feeling’ beings – we live constantly with the feelings of fear and aggression implanted in us by ‘blind’ nature.
Fear hobbles us with a desperate need to belong to a group, to cling to the past, to hang on to whatever we hold dear to ourselves, to resist change and desperately seek immortality. Aggression causes us to fight for our territory, our possessions, our ‘rights’, our family and our treasured beliefs – seeking power over others.
We seek solace in the so-called ‘good’ feelings, or ‘trip off’ into unbounded imagination and delusionary feelings of the spiritual. Nurture causes us to care, comfort and protect but also leads to dependency, clinging, empathy, sacrifice and needless heroism. Desire drives us to sexual reproduction, avarice, greed, corruption and power over others.
If you think ‘a strong argument can be made for sacrificing the ones that are found to be somehow enjoyable’, do you realise that thinking like that, if actualized, could eventually lead to an end of religions and of religious wars – an end to malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: It is amazing how this human trap can be desirable, even after great suffering.
PETER: We do indeed love to suffer and to inflict suffering on others – our ‘entertainment’ is either sad ‘love’ stories and tales of suffering or ‘action’ and violence. We have turned suffering into a virtue and pleasure into a vice. All of the religious and spiritual texts point to the essential and unending human suffering on earth. It is understandable for they knew nought of instinctual programming, and life on earth was a ‘fight and flight’ business – a man eat man business – to put it in its brutal perspective. But it is 1999 after all, and the ‘sacred’ words of Jesus, Buddha and the likes can be seen for what they are – ancient spirit-ridden drivel of no relevance at all to the situation we – you and I, and the others on this list – now find ourselves in.
RESPONDENT: Or is it that the trap is accepted because the possibility of freedom requires opening a big heavy door and that is too much effort.
PETER: Well, up until now only one person has done it, and he did it via Enlightenment. To give up the power, glory and blissful feelings of being Divine and Immortal is indeed a big heavy door and it is extremely doubtful if any of the present lot will repeat the effort. They have ‘feet of clay’ as Richard puts it. But by utilizing the method Richard has devised – to eliminate one’s social identity, who you ‘think’ you are, the ‘ego’ if you like, and then eliminate one’s instinctual self, who you ‘feel’ you are, the ‘soul’ if you like – when you finally get to the door it’s a ‘step through’ job only.
RESPONDENT: One intellectual question still comes up even though I may be solving it in practice. Even though I know that feelings are the premature conclusion of fact, once it has been accepted by the body as truth how does the body undo those part truths? My answer would be to review those beliefs & feelings in detail without jumping to conclude at the first emotional impulse and see what happens.
PETER: Again, I’m having trouble following you. You say ‘I know that feelings are the premature conclusion of fact’. For me, it is clear that any feeling that arises is commonly expressed as an emotion-backed thought. This is evidenced when one identifies a feeling, say annoyance (mild anger), and traces it back to its source – say, something someone said an hour ago. One can clearly see that the feeling, those churning thoughts or worries, are due to an emotional response to what was said. These thoughts can linger on to produce a ‘feeling of annoyance’ that can last hours and days even – ruining any chance of being here. Often people relate feelings to a more dramatic outburst, such as a rush of anger, or a flush of love, while remaining in ignorance of the long term general background of feelings.
A fact has nothing to do with feelings. A fact is a fact, a tree is a tree, a coffee cup is a coffee cup. No doubt, when people discover or read a fact it could produce a feeling response in them – but that is a reaction to the fact. When we point out that, after 5,000 years, and with billions of people following the spiritual path, there is still no peace on earth that is a fact.
Now when one discovers a fact for oneself, acknowledges and realizes it, one can have a realization – a blindingly obvious flash of such intensity that a change is evidenced – one can no longer go back to believing what one believed before. What this will do is eliminate the associated feelings one has in relying on the belief and not the fact.
It is such a painful, confusing and bewildering life most people lead in relying on belief, as one is never confident, able to proceed in any activity or relating with the surety that a sensible reliance on facts can give.
RESPONDENT: What I meant is that I was thinking about whatever presented itself and not giving it complete attention.
PETER: Thinking has had a very bad press in the spiritual world – ‘You are not the mind’, ‘leave your mind at the door’, ‘no-mind’, etc. are all phrases that attest to the spiritual belief that thinking is the problem, while not only letting feelings off scot-free but piously giving full reign to the supposed ‘good’ set. This misinterpretation of the human dilemma is based on the ancient ignorance of the genetically implanted instinctual passions and their subsequent effect on human behaviour. The revered ancients firmly believed that violence, masochism, torture, rape, etc. were the result of being possessed by evil spirits, and you can fully understand this if you have ever felt rage well up from somewhere deep inside you. ‘Something overcame me’, ‘It wasn’t me’ are common expressions used for this experience. For the less spectacular feelings such as sadness, melancholy, irritation and annoyance the ancients pegged thought as the problem – hence the Buddhists’ emphasis on ‘right thought’ and the meditative practices aimed at stopping thought.
Given that it is 1999, our knowledge and understanding, not to mention our physical circumstances, have so dramatically altered that we now can clearly see that these archaic beliefs about the workings of human biology, neurology, genetics and behaviour have no basis in facts. We now know why the spiritual ‘solutions’ didn’t work and why they can never work. The belief in God is an obvious fairy-tale but the belief in Good feelings will be a tough one for many to shake. It appears that good feelings – love, compassion, etc. and the accompanying morality of good and bad, and the ethics of right and wrong, are all that stop humanity from running amok. Indeed, they do a reasonable job – despite the fact that this has been the bloodiest century so far in human history, a substantial number of people have been spared the horrendous experiences of total warfare, me included. It is only from this reasonably comfortable and secure position that we are now able to tackle becoming free of the Human Condition in its entirety.
So, given the failure of God, the failure of ‘transcendence’ and the failure of morals and ethics, we now have discovered a method to eliminate the problem rather than merely seek solutions to the problem. The problem is that our instinctually based emotions contaminate thought and produce in us feelings of malice and sorrow, and, when ‘push comes to shove’, our moral and ethical safeguards rapidly break down to reveal the appalling dread, horror and violence of war and genocide.
Given our autonomous human make-up – flesh and blood body, able to think and reflect – the only resources we have available to ‘clean ourselves up’ is our ability to think and reflect.
Contemplative thought is the tool for the job – to make sense of the Human Condition and to become aware of how it is operating in oneself. As one gets the knack, this contemplative thought gradually becomes less contaminated, less churning, less confused and apperception can then occur. Apperception is when the mind becomes aware of itself as distinct from ‘I’ being aware of ‘my’ thoughts. Apperception is a Pure Consciousness Experience – a bare awareness. It is as though one has 360 degree vision or, as Alan said the other day, as though hearing and the other senses are amplified. The brain, freed of the pariah-like ‘self’, is capable of startling clarity in these times, and much can be gleaned from these experiences.
The trick is to try and remember these ‘gleanings’ so one can take them back into ‘normal’ life, as it were. It can be difficult at the start as one has no emotional memory of a PCE, but I would often write things down, jot notes, look at how I was in ‘normal’, see what action was appropriate to take, see what the issue was, think it through. It’s enormous fun, although sometimes a bit overwhelming in the beginning and I often felt quite split, as though I was two people. Looking back, these experiences often eventuated from setting aside time for contemplation and I would use Richard’s Journal as a catalyst, a kick start, to get the old brain working after all those years of spiritual drifting and day-dreaming. The brain really ‘likes’ to think, just as the legs like to walk or run. Thinking is its job, its function, and a brain freed of feelings and emotions is an amazing thing to behold. I’ve written more on this subject in the Intelligence chapter in my journal, if you are interested.
The other part of our ‘normal’ perception are feelings and the trick here is to aim for the felicitous feelings – care, consideration, patience, well-wishing, etc. while tackling the more pernicious ones that prevents one from being happy and harmless. Again the PCE will give invaluable insight as one checks exactly which feelings operate – and what is actual – when our perception is freed of an emotional ‘self’. When back to ‘normal’ again, you are then able to use whatever feelings are running to your advantage, to achieve your goal – passion became fuel for the fire to become free, stubbornness a refusal to give in, power the ambition to be one of the ‘few’, compassion the possibility to actually do something, rather than just feel sad for those fellow humans who suffer horrendously.
So, think away, think away ... as in contemplation ... opposed to meditation. (It’s that 180 degrees bit again).
RESPONDENT: Often when faced with raw emotion I have no idea what to do other than ride the tide.
PETER: I was browsing the local bookshop yesterday and came across a book by the author of ‘The Primal Scream’, whose name I have forgotten. I think it was one of the influential books of the ‘express your feelings – don’t repress them’ movement that gathered momentum in the 60’s. That Guru (whose name I won’t mention) adopted this philosophy into his active feeling-expressing meditations and America particularly seems to have taken the philosophy on as a national characteristic. ‘To wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve’, Sharing’, ‘Getting it out’, ‘Childhood Traumas’, ‘Re-birthing’, ‘Past-Life Therapy’, ‘Being Sensitive’ etc. – they all point to expressing one’s feelings as a noble pursuit. Not only the current ones but regularly digging into the re-cycling bin for a re-play of past ‘hurts’ if you’re are a bit weak and lack-lustre in the feeling department. This re-living, re-playing, emphasising, stirring up, inventing, re-inventing, empathising, sympathising, getting sympathy and ‘letting go’ simply keeps the whole lot in existence and sometimes can even give a bit of post-adrenalin ‘feel-good’. At best, it can only result in a re-arranging of the furniture on the Titanic. Recent reports from America are that the therapy boom, largely based on expressing one’s emotions, is dwindling – many have spent decades (and thousands of dollars) for zilch results.
No need to say anything about repressing emotions – the failures are well documented and obvious.
This third way is to neither repress nor express. From experience I would say that exactly this doing nothing to dispel, avoid, deny, escape from, repress or express creates a tension and ‘self’-awareness that is the very situation that causes ‘something’ to change. And then that change is not of ‘your’ doing – it happens at a level deeper than your normal consciousness. No need for esoterics – it is a change in the brain’s software programming – the brain becoming free of the pernicious effects of the social identity and instinctual self.
This was very well illustrated by Alan’s recent post about lust disappearing – in hindsight he noticed the feeling had gone! No ‘doing’ that Alan could point to, no specific event – but gone never the less.
Again, a bit of experience from myself and others who are treading this path – besides occasional feelings of confusion, bewilderment, split-personalities, etc. there are often some physical effects such as headaches, bodily tensions and the likes that can occur, but these are ‘par for the course’ for such a radical procedure as re-wiring one’s brain. For me, I just figured that whatever went on, I would wake up the next morning and make breakfast again. Whatever went on in head and heart was okay by me because it meant I was incrementally becoming free of malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: Another thought, are there feelings that are specific to a belief? For example if I believe I am a callous cold person then I seem to be able to create the associated feeling. It seems though, that the feeling is really based on whatever gave the belief its authenticity in the first place.
PETER: Aye, indeed. When first one begins to question beliefs a flurry of feelings and deep-seated emotions surface – some very strongly and fiercely. One can experience this from the other end as it were – should one be silly enough to question someone else’s belief. The animosity and vitriol that Vineeto and I experienced on the Sannyas list is testament to this, and the wars fought to defend beliefs and the crusades to impose one’s beliefs on others are the global equivalent. This self-questioning, this questioning of the very beliefs that constituted who ‘I’ felt and thought ‘I’ was as an identity, bought forth the fear of ‘my’ survival and was simultaneously an enormous blow to ‘my’ pride – ‘my’ self-esteem.
‘I’ am my beliefs, my feelings, my imaginations, my dreams, my passions, and they are ‘me’. They are not actual but they are real. What I can do is do everything possible to ensure their demise in order that I, this flesh and blood body may be free.
The trick is to regard it all as the Human Condition, something ‘I’ was taught and programmed to be. Taught as in programmed since birth, programmed as in genetically programmed with a set of survival instincts – fear, aggression, nurture and desire.
As one gets on in life and has sufficient experience on can look with clear eyes at who one is and decide to change if one wants to. To change one’s identity is a relatively simple operation – many change from ‘normal’ to ‘spiritual’ – to change to ‘actual’ simply involves wiping the whole program back to the empty hard drive to discover what one is, not what others decided you should be. In removing the social identity one is able to see that one is a sensate, reflective flesh and blood animal. Eliminate the instinctual animal passions – your animal heritage, and you’re free of malice and sorrow ... you then have achieved your destiny and escaped your fate.
So, in answer to your question, it’s a bit of both. One tends to tackle what is on the plate at the time, what issue is apparent at the time. It may well be sex that is a major issue, relationship, disciple-hood, being ‘good’, or whatever. It is not essential to sort all of it out – a bit of cleaning up can be done after the event but sufficient has to be tackled to give one confidence and surety that life without a ‘self’ – without ‘me’ – is the only alternative you will settle for – to live the Pure Consciousness Experience, 24 hours a day, every day.
PETER: To recap your query –
The ruthless challenging, exposing and understanding of these beliefs and instincts actually weakens their influence on my thoughts and behaviour. The process, if followed diligently and obsessively, will ultimately cause them to disappear completely. The idea, of course, being to eliminate the cause of my unhappiness, so that I can experience life at the optimum, now.
RESPONDENT: I would assume that the meaning of the second paragraph is to challenge, by paying attention to and extending the scope of awareness rather than by challenging to desensitise.
PETER: The answer is neither yes nor no. The purpose of actualism is firstly to stop avoiding, denying, suppressing or attempting to transcend one’s own ‘self’-centred instinctual survival passions. The process of becoming aware of these passions in action in your own psyche then leads to you being able to be ‘desensitised’ to these passions, as in ‘Reduce or eliminate the sensitivity of a person to a neurosis, phobia, etc.)’ Oxford Dictionary. You are then no longer prone to be paralysed by fear, overcome by anger, engulfed by nurture or driven by desire – you can become then virtually free of the instinctual passions – virtually happy and harmless.
But the precursor to becoming desensitised is to remove the impediments to becoming sensitive to, and therefore aware of, one’s own fear, anger, nurture and desire in action in one’s own psyche. This first stage is only possible for those who have become free of being enamoured, awed and encumbered by spiritual/religious beliefs, values, ethics and morals – there are no short-cuts to Actual Freedom.
RESPONDENT: As for the rest of your comments, I would have to agree with what your saying. The process of labelling feelings has been very difficult and for the most part I have unable to determine why.
PETER: Speaking from experience, I found two major impediments to becoming aware of and labelling my feelings as they arose – my social identity with all my real-world Christian beliefs, morals and ethics and my layered-on-top Eastern spiritual identity with yet another set of beliefs, morals and ethics. Being born a male in a Christian society meant that I was taught to suppress my feelings and being born-again into Eastern religion meant denying my unwanted feelings and solely identifying with goodness and Godliness. What I soon discovered in actualism was that it is impossible to become aware of, let alone label, my fear and aggression while maintaining my spiritual identity of being a holier-than-thou goody-two-shoes.
At one time I did consider that Krishnamurti-ism was a particularly onerous conditioning, as it does seem a very cerebral, detached, feeling-denying-and-suppressing philosophy-religion. But then again, the followers of Rajneeshism, a very emotive, devotional, feeling-expressing philosophy-religion, are seemingly equally unable to be aware of, label and be conscious of their own feelings of malice and sorrow. Whatever nature of spiritual/religious conditioning you have – be it Eastern, Western, Eastern layered on Western, repressive, expressive, devotional, Self-devotional, monotheistic or pantheistic – is irrelevant, because it is impossible to be aware of what is actually happening in the physical corporeal world if you have your head stuck in the clouds in the imaginary spirit-ual world.
RESPONDENT: It seems as if they [feelings] have the ability to sink out of conscious view just at the right time and only persistence beyond belief has paid any dividends. Lately it is becoming more obvious just how clever ‘I’ am at managing to screw up the investigation and arrive at a state of doubt. This was combined with my determination to tackle the bad emotions to arrive at the good, which turned out to be really just another excuse for staying with the bad. What I have decided is to approach the bad (emotions) from the state of greater freedom; it is indeed a lot easier that way. Certain feeling/emotions can be put aside temporarily so as to get awareness operating better rather than just trying to be rational in a dark room.
PETER: If I read you right, you have set yourself a goal in life – to feel good or feel excellent – and then you are investigating whatever stands in the way of your goal. If you started off feeling really good and suddenly noticed as you put your feet up at lunchtime that you have lost it and are feeling a bit low, then put a name on the feeling – say annoyed – and then trace back and remember when you came off feeling good and why. If it was something someone said, have a root around and discover why you became annoyed.
What button was pushed – was it pride, was it guilt, was it your manliness, was it some moral view you held that was offended? When you have milked the event or incident for what it was worth and discovered a bit about yourself and what makes ‘you’ tick, then you get back to feeling good or you even crank up a bit of feeling excellent at having been aware of how you were experiencing that particular moment of being alive and had made some discoveries about yourself.
It is impossible to tackle all the emotions at once, as you said, for this can only be an intellectual-only approach. By all means read and intellectually understand but it is the putting into practice of the method that produces actual change – and the putting into practice of the method means one step at a time. ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ is a one step at a time approach – one feeling, one moment – right now.
The other discovery you seem to have made is that is vitally important is to set yourself a benchmark for how you want to feel or experience this moment. If your benchmark is ‘normal’ or average or so-so, then running the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ will mostly produce a meaningless answer of ‘normal’, average or so-so. By setting a benchmark of feeling good or feeling excellent, then mostly the question will produce at least a not-so-good or below the benchmark average. Then it is easier to be aware of your feeling at the time and much more likely to be able to name it.
RESPONDENT: I find that an emotion approaching from the state of feeling good or great with the accompanying awareness is much easier to tackle. In other words I don’t try to solve all the emotions in order to be deserving of feeling good or great. What I now try to do is get in a position where I can better tackle them.
PETER: I like what you have written, for many people seem to have difficulties in remembering a PCE to uphold as their benchmark whereas everyone can remember feeling excellent and thus be easily able to set this feeling as their benchmark. Perhaps it was a particularly carefree time, a particularly sensual experience, a time of particular joie de vie. Then you use this as your benchmark and aim to keep your head above water for as long as you can and when you become aware that you are sinking or have sunk, then you find out the cause and get back to as close to your benchmark as you can.
Good on ya. It sounds as if your stubborn perseverance is bringing rewards.
RESPONDENT: I have been mulling over this word ‘desensitise’, as it does seem to suggest a preventing of awareness, which seems a contradiction. 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.
PETER: Let me start by saying that ‘desensitise’ is not a word I would normally use in describing the process of actualism because the word ‘sense’ has several common meanings and, as such, using the word desensitise can be somewhat confusing.
When I likened actualism to desensitisation, I was referring solely to reducing or eliminating the emotional see-saw of savage and tender sensitivities that prevents awareness, inhibits common sense and stifles sensuousness.
Spiritual conditioning greatly prizes and ennobles emotional sensitivity, per se, while blatantly ignoring the fact that spiritual so-called awareness and sensitivity is highly selective and selfish in that spiritualists ignore, deny and dis-identify from their own undesirable savage passions while exaggerating and identifying as being the tender and desirable passions.
I am constantly amazed as to how unaware spiritually conditioned people actually are. The contradiction between how they think and feel they really are and how they act with each other and towards those who are ‘less-aware’ or believe in a different God is stunning, to say the least.
But I think I see where you are coming from when you write –
Obviously the first step in becoming desensitised is to allow oneself to become aware of, or sensitive to, the full range of emotional experiences, as and when they happen.
It is vitally important to experience a feeling as a feeling – to be able to feel and experience a feeling and emotion as it overcomes you. When you label the feeling you are having then you can take note of how it works. In the case of anger, feel the blood rushing to the head, listen to your words as they come tumbling out, feel where and how your body instantaneously tenses as the chemicals flush in, notice how long it takes for these chemicals to subside, and then notice the feeling that immediately follows your anger. And don’t forget to be aware of, or sensitive to, the effect you have had on others by feeling angry.
This is awareness in action and when this process is undertaken often enough, diligently enough and deeply enough, it is then possible to become desensitised to emotions when they arise in you and others around you, as in, ‘reduce or eliminate the sensitivity ... to a neurosis or phobia, etc.’
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.
PETER: As you indicate, a grown-up awareness and a willingness to investigate inevitably leads to a curiosity as to what moral, ethic, value, belief or psittacism it is that triggers an automatic instinctual response in you. This awareness is in fact an awareness of your own social identity in action – in my case it was becoming aware of Peter the male, Peter the Australian, Peter the father, Peter the Christian-come-Rajneeshee, etc.
I began to become aware of the feelings that arose when I was in female company and the feelings that arose when I was in male company. I began to notice the feelings that arose relative to the country I was born in, be it pride, patriotism, defensiveness or whatever. I began to notice the feelings that arose towards my family as distinct from others and how these feelings crippled intimacy. I began to notice how deep my moral and ethical conditioning ran – how many automatic good-bad, right-wrong judgements I made without even thinking about the subject or bothering to find out the facts, let alone take them into account.
This is an exciting stage in the process because, as you increasingly become aware of your social ‘self’ in action, there will soon come a time when the whole stack of beliefs, morals, ethics, values, psittacisms and instinctual passions that constitute your identity will temporarily collapse and a PCE will occur.
You will then be able to observe the insanity of a passion-fuelled Humanity from the outside, as it where, whilst free of any psychological-social or psychic-instinctual identity whatsoever. Then things really get cooking ...
RESPONDENT: (...) In the last few months there have been quite a lot of uncertainties in terms of my career and location etc. and in fact, are still continuing. But I have learnt enjoying life mostly, so except a few occasional moments of depression, the life is still enjoyable.
PETER: Ah, no small feat and definitely not to be dismissed lightly. Life for most people is a vale of tears, a struggle, a constant ‘battle’ fought within and without. I was chatting with Richard the other day about a couple of people who were interested in Actual Freedom for a while but then moved away. It seemed – although I readily admit to bias – that they have now become happier and more able to enjoy the world as-it-is and people as-they-are than they were in their spiritual days when they regarded the world more fearfully. So, it is good to get some similar feedback from you. I recently described the path to Actual Freedom as a journey out of sorrow, but it is not yet appealing for everyone as most people enjoy feeling sad (as well as feeling angry).
RESPONDENT: Yesterday when I was contemplating on ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’, I realized that I am not really understanding the word ‘experiencing’. What I was asking myself was, in fact, ‘How am I feeling in this moment of being alive’. This is so because I was always coming out with answers like ‘happy’ or ‘not happy’ or ‘gloomy’ etc. Which are all feelings.
PETER: Aye, indeed. And until ‘you’ leave the stage your experience of life will be an emotional, feeling interpretation of the actual. It can not be any other way – human beings are wired that way. The amygdala – the primitive lizard brain – is an organ that is designed as an early warning system to quickly scan the sensorial input for any real or perceived danger and react with fear and aggression. This constant ‘on-guardness’ can be seen in any of the animal species, and in the human animal it produces feelings of fear and aggression. The amygdala is also the source of instinctual nurture and desire producing feelings that again actively conspire to ruin our happiness. So it sounds as if you are starting to realize the primary role that feelings play in the Human Condition. ‘You’ as an entity, existing inside the flesh and blood body can only think or feel about the actual world, and the only direct experience possible is when you cease to exist – either temporarily in a PCE, virtually in Virtual Freedom or permanently in Actual Freedom.
RESPONDENT: Then what is experiencing ? The only sensible answer which I can think is that experiencing is what one senses with one’s physical senses. So this seeing, hearing, touching, tasting is experiencing.
PETER: Aye, indeed. You, the flesh and blood body called No 4, can experience this moment sensately – seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and can think and reflect on the experience. The other thing that is going on inside your flesh and blood body is that there is No 4, the social identity that others have moulded and shackled to be a fit member of the madhouse called Humanity. Further, being a human animal, blind nature has fitted you No 4, the flesh and blood body, with a full-on set of animal survival instincts and self, constantly operating and ready, when push comes to shove, to cause you to rage, kill or be killed in defence of yourself or your fellow tribal or family members.
But there is now something that can be done about both these programs – both the social identity and the instinctual passions.
RESPONDENT: Then it occurred to me that I have not been experiencing life at all. What I was doing is the feeling which is generated after the experiencing. And experience can be done only in this moment. You can’t experience the moment just passed by.
PETER: It is interesting that you say that you have been experiencing life as ‘the feeling which is generated after the experiencing’. Modern scientific experiments, of the type LeDoux is conducting, all point to feeling being the first and foremost experience. The instinctual physical reaction has been measured at 12 milliseconds, the instinctual emotional reaction – when the hormones flow – is slower at 25 milliseconds, and the sensible sensate reaction (if it happens at all) is far slower as it cannot operate while the hormone-generated feelings are still in action. A bit from the Instinct section of the Library will help to explain this –
Does that make it any clearer? We humans are programmed to be feeling, emotional beings and it is a fact that cannot be ignored if we are to become free of malice and sorrow. It is only in the last 40 years or so that we are beginning to understand our neuro-biological functioning and even now the investigators have to face the disparagement and lampooning of those folks still fearfully devoted to superstition and tradition.
RESPONDENT: However, this is still a new concept and I keep on going back to my feeling mode because of habit .
PETER: Not because of habit but because you have been programmed by blind nature to function first and foremost on feeling mode – and survival-feeling mode to boot. On top of this you have been programmed by society to play your role in the game of battling it out for survival – to be a group member, a team player, a good man, a good citizen, etc.
RESPONDENT: So I have now modified the question to ‘Am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ This has been quite useful in reminding me to experience rather than feel this moment.
PETER: Well, I did it the opposite way. I became vitally interested in ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ And if that meant I was feeling angry, sad, melancholy, lacklustre, depressed, then I would track back to find out what it was that bought on that feeling. What was said, what happened, when did it happen? I wanted to understand feelings, their source, how they worked, what caused them to kick in, etc. Only by understanding them, could I begin to get free of their insidious grip. I also knew that until I was rid of the source of feelings entirely – ‘me’ – I would have to live with them. So best to understand them and best to aim for the felicitous and innocuous ones – and feeling happy and feeling harmless are surely the best one can aim for of the feelings.
The other point is that conducting an active investigation into one’s very psyche is a way of neither expressing nor avoiding feelings – one simply waits with interest and fascination for the next feeling to turn up to be investigated. The very act of observation, investigation, contemplation, understanding and insight is the only way I, this flesh and blood body, can rid myself of the psychic and psychological entity that prevents my sensible, sensate experiencing of the infinitude of the actual world.
So, my experience is to become fascinated with what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. It can be scary business to investigate feelings and emotions, for the Human Condition is an animal instinctual condition but the investigation is actually liberating.
It could be useful to you, at this stage, to read my journal. I’m not flogging my book to sell as I’ve put it on the web-site in total (Editorial note: this promotional offer is no longer available.), but it is, to date, the most complete record of the actual process of investigating feelings that has been written. It’s one person’s journey to a Virtual Freedom from malice and sorrow – the stage you have to get to before you can consistently and reliably begin to sensate-only experience this moment of time – not as a vivid exception as in a PCE, but as an everyday ‘normal’ experience. You will see from my journal that the investigation into feelings is not a passive affair, not a mere intellectual understanding, but a life-changing experience. Once started with gusto you will never be the same again. That was the very reason I started – I knew I was ‘as mad’ and ‘as bad’ as everyone else and I wanted to be free of the Human Condition – the lot.
I do like it when anyone begins to look at feelings and the role they play in preventing we humans from being happy and harmless. Your discovery that you experience life by feeling only is crucial, and what you do with the discovery is vital to your being permanently happy and harmless.
RESPONDENT: Oh, well, the point I was making was that I can see sensate experiencing different from feeling.
PETER: And the point I was trying to make is that every spiritual practice ignores the scientifically proven fact that humans are emotional beings and that the primary source of those emotions are the instincts of fear and aggression. Merely to attempt to be good, while a noble ideal, will do nothing to alter this fact. Only a total, radical and complete change will do. As I said in the bit which you snipped – ‘These two facets – reducing the influence of feelings and emotions – both the supposed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – and demolishing the social identity, the ‘guardian at the gate’ ultimately brings one’s bare awareness to focus on the Amygdala and its instinctual programming. The focus is then on the instincts in operation both in the body and in the brain – with minimal psychological and emotional effects.’
I encourage you to make the journey into your feelings rather than ‘focusing on them less and less’. Actualism is most definitely not a new theory about having no feelings, or that feelings are bad – men have played that game for centuries, whether it be hiding in caves, practicing celibacy, by intellectual wanking or indulging in rationalism. Denial, repression and controlling emotions has failed to work. Indulging, expressing and emotive therapizing has also failed to work.
There is a third alternative for the sincerely curious adventurer.
A bit from Richard about feelings, that I always liked, may be of use to you –
For men (and women) this investigation of feelings and emotions is brand-new territory, particularly so for the spiritually- conditioned male who has been trained to suppress the bad feelings and indulge the good feelings – the traditional failed religious approach of both the East and the West.
RESPONDENT: At one point, you wrote:
As far as I am concerned, that is the only path. I learned it from Osho via dynamic, you learned it from Richard. We can call it spiritual or non-spiritual, actualists’s or non-actualists’s. Only thing I learned from Osho is: I have to look into myself and I am on my own. Now what came out of writing to you. I saw violence in me, raw violence of the kind I have never seen before. I also observed my tendency to be cruel (malice ????). I noticed need-for-love is still working in me. I also saw lots of other things.
PETER: It would seem that ‘what came out of writing to me’ is that you have been diving a bit deeper than you have before even with dynamic meditation. It is my experience that many people become quite upset to the point of feeling violent when presented with facts. It is the facts that cause the offence, not who writes of them or how they are presented, for to acknowledge a fact rather than uphold a belief is anathema to one’s very ‘self’. After all, people are willing to kill others or sacrifice themselves for their dearly-held beliefs, such are the deep-seated passions that are unleashed. This is the very reason for all the religious wars, persecutions and bloodshed. To become aware of these raw passions is to do a bit of deep sea diving into one’s own psyche – to be aware of the Human Condition in action, the beliefs, feelings and instinctual passions. This awareness involves neither repressing, nor expressing as in dynamic meditation. To merely indulge in a bit of artificial emoting such as therapy groups, active meditations, etc. is not to be aware of the role that the feelings of malice and sorrow play in ordinary life. As for ‘we can call it spiritual or non-spiritual’ – just because you choose to call different things the same doesn’t make them the same. They may appear to you to be the same, or you may want them to be the same, but they clearly are not. ‘Non’ means ‘a negation, a prohibition’ – as per Oxford dictionary.
It is astounding to think that there is now the possibility of eliminating malice and sorrow to the point that one is incapable of being offended – of having no-thing to defend – no beliefs, no ideals, no principles, no rights to fight for, no ‘me’ who could take offence. And of a happiness that is not dependant on others or on being in an Altered State of Consciousness – a genuine happiness in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are. It is so very good to start exploring feelings and emotions – both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ – for the secret to being actually free of malice and sorrow lies in this very exploration – and to investigate the spiritual world is to investigate the ‘good’ in the arbitrary package of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The trick is to understand that your feelings and emotions are part and parcel of the Human Condition and thus not a personal fault, failure, stigma or evil, but something everybody is programmed with by blind nature and society’s imprint. This is an investigation few are prepared to make for many see that if they dare to question the spiritual they will simply end up back in the ‘real’ world that they are trying to avoid or escape from. Some see that to question the spiritual beliefs is to go towards the devil or evil while others see it as ending up in a sort of robotic state of non-feeling. What belies these fears is the PCE where the purity, perfection and benevolence of the actual world becomes magically apparent as having been here all the time... if only ‘I’ wasn’t in the way.
PETER: You wrote to No 14 a note of such breathtaking duplicity that I am moved (as in ... up off the couch) to reply before all the spiritualists on this list start to declare Rajneesh and other similar God-men to be actually free from the Human Condition. Still people do believe that Jesus walked on water, that the planets influence their moods and the sun goes around the earth. It’s just that this list is about facts and actuality – and not fiction, hopeful imagination, wishful thinking, slippery re-interpretation, Ancient Wisdom or ‘Truth’.
RESPONDENT to No 14: I did not get this PCE stuff on this list in the beginning. I kept thinking about it for a while. For weeks I would get stuck on 2-3 experiences which stood out and seemed close to the way PCE was being described here. The first PCE happened to me after I did rigorous dynamic everyday for 2 months. This PCE happened 2 ½ years ago. I also noticed that for last 2 ½ years, I have always wanted to repeat that experience. I have had some much tinier ones but nothing compared to the first one.
Now I understand the whole thing about PCE. Osho created situations in which we could get PCEs and hence have a bench mark to work with. While Richard is asking us to remember a PCE, defined with a description, to take it as a bench mark.
PETER: It does seem a waste of all that thinking time to have come to the conclusion that there is a God after all, and that Rajneesh is your God. Still Humanity’s obsession with believing the fairy-tales of the God-men is both legendary and endemic and has been around for thousands of years. This is the very beginning of a new down-to-earth non-spiritual Actual Freedom and, as such, will not be for all. It does take a certain courage, tenacity, stubbornness and bloody-mindedness to strike off on one’s own to discover and investigate.
So, let’s look at your preposterous proposition that ‘Rajneesh created situations where we could get PCEs’. (...)
PETER: Let’s dig a little deeper and see the extent of his delusion. Again a quote from the man himself –
Cute Hey. With a leap of imagination he is no longer responsible for his actions even to the point of killing. He becomes quite literally ‘above’ the mundane, the ordinary, the laws, the earthly, the sensate. One leaves the wheel of suffering, or earthly existence and transcends. This ‘lofty perch’ of the God-man has relevance in the Sannyas world as to his denial of any wrong doing in Rajneeshpuram – not that the American law courts believed him. No. 14 will recognize the dis-association of Rajneesh from any of his actions as identical to the position taken by Zen warriors in the ritual slaughter of 300,000 Chinese at Nanking – enthusiastically supported by the Buddhist Masters.
In case you are confused about the word ‘transcend’, Mr Oxford’s definition is –
Indeed Mr. Rajneesh has transcended the ego – he has clearly become an ego-maniac in that he thinks and feels himself to be God. An ego transcended gives full reign to the soul – the ‘feelings’ – and delusion is the obvious result.
Another quote from the Master of deceit –
Interesting first part that clearly points to the emphasis on ‘good’ feelings as opposed to ‘bad’ feelings. I think many people think we make up a story about Eastern mysticism and the dross it is but here it is unambiguously stated. He further introduces a bit of ‘wisdom about black magic that again relates to good and evil spirits or ‘energy’ to use the more modern terminology for spirits. Of course Mr. Rajneesh represents white magic personified. This drivel could not be further from Actual Freedom and the PCE – it is, as we continually state, 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
PETER: The other reaction I became aware of was a feeling of jealousy that I had of the special relationship she had with her son. It was an instinctual bond and therefore was stronger and overrode the relationship that I had with her. There is a good deal of statistical evidence that points to outbreaks of violence towards stepchildren caused either by jealousy or innate intolerance.
GARY: Yes, I am still investigating the jealousy angle to this. I did identify a feeling of jealousy towards their special relationship and she and I discussed it some. One thing that is even harder for me to own up to is that I am probably angry at her for having this kind of relationship, one that I do not feel I had growing up. So, in spite of my liking to tell myself that I have resolved my childhood hurts, they are apparently still there, rearing their ugly head again and again. I remember one of the things Richard said to me in my correspondence on the other list that hit me like a ton of bricks: he said ‘There are no childhood hurts extant in this flesh and blood body’. I still do not understand how this is possible.
I have often thought that this is one of those things one never gets over, if one has been traumatized by abuse or exploitation, or any number of things, one must carry this around for a lifetime, with the best one can expect to be a kind of gradual healing, like the healing of a physical scar, but with the scar nevertheless a visible reminder to oneself and others of a painful past. To hear that these hurts can be expunged completely and totally, to vanish without a trace, is, to put it mildly, a thrilling prospect.
PETER: The nature vs. nurture debate in psychology and sociology has raged for centuries, yet the curious thing is that it has always really been a one-sided debate. Moral and ethical considerations, combined with spiritual and religious beliefs, have always prevented a sensible and clear-eyed assessment of the primary and overarching role of genetically-encoded instinctual passions in human behaviour. That we were ‘born in sin’ is acknowledged in many religions as an excuse for the earthly behaviour of God’s creatures which only gives rise to primal feelings of guilt and shame in many Western societies. The current fashion for Eastern spiritual belief has given a shot in the arm for the Nurturists with the popularization of the Tabula Rasa theory, whereby we are supposedly born ‘innocent’ and corrupted by wrongly identifying with the physical world.
This Tabula Rasa revival has given rise to many psycho/spiritual therapies that offer to dredge up memories of past childhood hurts, on the basis that a healing, resolution or ‘completion’, with a subsequent wiping the slate clean feeling of regaining lost innocence. This practice has been the subject of much controversy as to the validity and accuracy of many memories recalled, the motives and competency of the practitioners, and the effectiveness of either emotional release or hidden memory recall in bringing about any healing, resolution or change.
Personally in my investigations into my psyche, I found it unnecessary to go back into childhood memories or past hurts. ‘How am I experiencing this moment of time’ has always served to keep me busy with the immediate and I found that the most I ever had to skip back was a few days to discover what was causing me to be either unhappy or malicious. Then, when I recognized the incident, reaction, onset of a mood, etc. and I could label it as jealousy, resentment, feeling inferior etc. I was then able to recall similar events and times when exactly the same event had arisen to make me sad or make me angry at someone. Then it simply became a matter of – ‘how long am I going to go on doing this same thing, how many times is this going to go on before I stop’. Once one dares to acknowledge, recognize, and catalogue the debilitating role that feelings play in one’s life it then becomes impossible to be the way you were – one has begun the process of radical and irrevocable change.
One of the more curious aspects of the human brain, if I have understood it properly and if it is indeed factual, is that the primitive brain seems to have its own separate memory which is an emotional-only memory of past events. There is also evidence that any long-term memory recall is very short on factual detail and further, that we only recall the last time we remembered the event rather than being able to trace back to the original event. Thus it is that these past memories are primarily psychological and psychic in nature, i.e. they are ‘my’ often irrational and largely emotional memories. When a present event triggers an automatic kick-in of an instinctual reaction it activates an emotion-backed thought in the neo-cortex, and this often opens a floodgate, as it were, and we get past emotional memories flooding in as well. Many people also access these emotional memories deliberately as they like the bitter-sweet feelings of sorrow or grief, or lusty feelings of anger and revenge.
But generally what happens with a triggering event is that we get a first hit of feeling reinforced by feelings from the past which serves to create and affirm a very-real chemical-backed ‘me’ stretching out over a time period we fondly, or despairingly, call ‘my’ life.
To actively dredge up past memories does nothing but keep ‘me’ in existence as a psychological and psychic entity. They are best nipped in the bud as quickly as possible so that one can focus one’s attention and awareness on the main event – one’s happiness and harmlessness now.
I can attest to the fact that with the diminishing of ‘me’ as a credible entity, these emotional memories do indeed wither. An actual memory of people, things and events still exist, but they have no emotional component. Undeniably it was this flesh and blood body that was there, did those things, met those people, but it was someone else who suffered those hurts, who had those feelings, who felt lost, lonely and frightened. This is not in any way the formation of a new dissociate identity, or a denial of anything that happened in the past – it is simply that it as though all emotional content of my memory has been erased. It was not me, as-I am-now, who suffered and caused others to suffer. It was the Peter who started this process of ‘self’-immolation.
It’s always important to acknowledge how much change for the better has happened, to pat one’s back as it were, for it is a sensible acknowledgement of success – the very substance of the confidence needed to go even further.
PETER: An extraordinary freedom comes when any memory recall begins to be free of ‘my’ psychological and psychic interpretations, when past memories become free of any emotional pains or colourings, whatsoever. This lack of emotional memories is a clear sign of ‘my’ demise, a practical example of the fact that ‘I’ have no past existence other than as psychological and psychic memories. It is experiential down to earth evidence that ‘I’ am an illusion – whose days are numbered.
GARY: I wonder if you could tell me a little more, personally, about what has happened as (you say) ‘past memories become free of any emotional pains or colourings, whatsoever’. There are certain things that have happened to ‘me’ that used to have a great deal of emotion attached to them. I feel in some respects that there has been a great withdrawal or elimination of emotion from some of these areas. I am a bit puzzled over whether this is a clear sign of ‘my’ demise or just a ‘natural process of healing’, as for instance with age or maturity. In other words, if ‘I’ have no past existence at all, then ‘I’ have no emotional memories whatsoever. ‘I’ am still very much in evidence, as evidenced by ‘my’ emotional reactions. No emotions = no reactions. What has happened to your past memories?
PETER: I have few occasions to recall any events in the past unless I am twigged to recall an experience, as in writing to you for example. Then my memory of an event is of the matter of fact type without any emotional content such as embarrassment, guilt, shame, pride, anger or angst. You may have noticed that I often revert to posting something out of my journal when replying to you because it was written fresh after the initial tumultuous stages of demolishing my social and instinctual identity. I could not write my journal now, firstly because my recall would not be as accurate now as it was when I wrote it and secondly because I could not describe the experiences as the passionate tumultuous events they were.
This lack of emotional past memories is a most curious phenomenon and I don’t have a complete hindsight explanation for it at the moment. It is one of the few times I have been stuck for words that give a complete description, for it is something that is still in process. If I had to describe it in neuro-biological terms, it is as though some circuitry that used to operate doesn’t operate anymore. To use a simile, it is a bit like looking at a movie without the emotional dramatic soundtrack. It is not that past memories belong to someone else as though I have become a new identity or have become reborn. Nor is it that I am denying that there were times when I was malicious, angry, sad, manipulative or selfish, it is just as though this was some weird emotional turmoil that was overlaid over the actual events. It would be all a joke except for the fact that this overlay caused me not only to suffer but also to harm others. Even with this understanding of the harm I have done, there is no guilt associated with this because this is what it is to be born an instinctual human being and this awareness of harming others provided the fuel for me to bring an end to these passions.
Just to make it clear that this process has yet to come to a completion, but I am attempting to describe as accurately as possible what has happened to my past memories. I suspect I am becoming acclimatized to living without the past emotional memories and future emotional worries that give substance to ‘me’ as a psychological social identity and as a psychic instinctual being. I had a glimpse some months ago of the enormity of living in the permanent ‘self’-less state that Richard does – a glimpse of Actual Freedom. This was not a PCE which is a temporary state but a glimpse of the permanent state which is quite a different experience for there is no back door, no turning back and no phoenix new identity to arise from the ashes. There is no doubt that anyone would need sufficient preparation and the practical assurance of acclimatization to living without a social identity and being bereft of any emotional defence and attack system whatsoever.
GARY: Yes, I think I can see that my behaviour, which I am prone to severely castigate myself for, was little different than most people in a similar situation. When one’s ass is on the line, one can see many people kick into instinctually malicious, fearful, or aggressive behaviours. I think I am little different in this respect. Continued practice of actualism probably resulted in a situation where I was able to stand up for myself and assert my autonomy rather than remaining miserable and bringing my job home with me.
PETER: Autonomy I have as – ‘Independence, freedom from external control or influence; personal liberty’ Oxford Dictionary. My experience with becoming autonomous neither involved asserting my will, authority, views or values upon others, nor does it involve surrendering to others. It is useful to remember that actualism always involves a third alternative and if in a situation a decision is to be made or a choice is to be decided then, provided there is no emotion involved, a review of the facts will result in sensible and innocuous appropriate action.
GARY: I’m having a little difficulty seeing the difference between assertiveness and autonomy. Assertiveness is concerned with ‘me’ and ‘my rights’. Assertiveness is commonly described as a way of discharging angry feelings through sticking up for one’s rights in a situation. Autonomy, on the other hand, is something that one can practice without putting forward one’s beliefs or views or asserting one’s rights.
PETER: You have done a good job defining the difference between assertiveness and autonomy. I’ll just take the opportunity to follow up on this issue, as it is a good topic to explore.
The two common human reactions can be crudely summarized as fight or flight – assertiveness, standing up for ‘my’ rights, making ‘my’ point, demanding justice, etc. are in the fight category and being humble, surrendering ‘my’ will, being grateful, turning the other cheek, being a pacifist, etc. are reactions in the flight category. These typical reactions are prevalent both in the spiritual world and the real world and are socially instilled and/or instinctually programmed.
The one common denominator in all these reactions is that there is a ‘me’ involved – a ‘me’ who is strong or weak, a ‘me’ who is right or wrong, a ‘me’ who is good or bad, a ‘me’ who stands and fights or slinks away. The only way out of this seesawing emotional turmoil is to become autonomous – to become free of one’s own social and instinctual programming such that your being happy and harmless is independent of external influences and conditions.
Autonomy isn’t something that can be practiced because this only leads to feeling independent with its inherent qualities of feeling separate and feeling superior. Becoming autonomous is the inevitable result of becoming actually free of the shackles of the human condition.
Just as an aside to the issue of assertiveness, it is both interesting and informative to see the parallels between the psychologically-based movements aimed at establishing a strong and assertive self and the Eastern religious-based movements aimed at establishing a dissociated and superior self. The distinctions are seemingly nowhere more blurred than in the U.S. where the utter ‘self’-ishness and ‘self’-centred nature of both movements are so intermingled that every pursuit and every activity has the tag spiritual added to it.
There is really scant difference between a self-help Guru and a Self-realized Guru. Both make their living, and get their kudos, from appealing to deep-seated narcissistic urges within every human psyche.
GARY: I wonder if there is a stage that people go through where at first they do have emotional reactions to situations, and as they learn increasing autonomy, these emotional reactions get less and less. For instance, when I quit my job, there very definitely was a strong emotional reaction at first, but resigning the job in hindsight seemed like an intelligent thing to do under the circumstances, even though there was the definite emotional reaction at first. So, even though I was emotional at first, I think it was a move towards autonomy. It could have been done without the emotional reaction, I suppose, but I don’t seem to be yet to the point where I am free from emotions.
PETER: This topic relates to what I was saying above. The aim of actualism is not to suppress emotions but to become aware of them in order to explore them. If you aren’t aware of your feelings, emotions and passions it is impossible to explore them and experience them in action.
For men particularly, this is the essential first step – to stop suppressing, being cool, being strong, being rational, being logical, withdrawing or denying. It is essential for men firstly to get in touch with their feelings and then to learn to label both the tender and savage feelings. For women, the problem is usually to separate out and isolate one only of many feelings that may be chopping and changing at any time such that one feeling can be named and investigated.
It is interesting to note that both sexes have difficulty in identifying and putting a name to their feelings. Often the comment is that ‘I am worried about ...’ or ‘I am thinking about ...’ or ‘I don’t know ...’, but inevitably, if one is persistent, honest and discerning enough, there is a specific feeling running at the time. The ‘problem’ at work can be resentment or anger, the ‘thinking’ about someone can be annoyance at something they said or didn’t say, something they did or didn’t do. The ‘not knowing’ can be melancholy, boredom or listlessness or even withdrawing or dissociating from any feeling.
The chronic misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the crucial role feelings and passions play in the human psyche in action is why the ancients in the East taught that ‘the thinker’, aka ego, was the problem and thereby let ‘the feeler’, aka soul, off the hook completely. Feelings are most commonly expressed as emotion-backed thoughts and, as such, every one of our ‘self’-centred thoughts are really feelings and emotions arising from either our social programming or our brute instinctual passions. (...)
GARY: However, morbidity and cynicism over the state of humankind seems to be the very same mistake every one else is making, since it is wasting the precious purity of this eternal moment. Only this vital moment in time exists, and it is senseless to waste it in worry, anger, cynicism, or fear. Only continual and unrelenting awareness will reveal those states of mind and feelings, which interfere with this priceless moment, so that one can get back to being happy and harmless.
PETER: Whenever I found myself despairing at the human condition, a quick check revealed that I was on the only sensible path to bring an unequivocal end to human violence and suffering – to bring an end to it in me. I had spent years involved in trying to change others according to my whims and beliefs, supporting this group in its battle with that group, riling against ‘the system’, ‘the leaders’, etc. I had also spent years hiding from the world in various spiritual groups, following various spiritual teachings while dutifully poo-pooing the beliefs of others.
Fortunately this gave me enough hands-on experience to be able to acknowledge that neither of these solution work, in fact, all that happens is that malice and sorrow is forever perpetuated and peace on earth forever remains an unrealisable dream. This knowing-by-experience what doesn’t work gave me the surety to relentlessly pursue the third alternative to remaining normal or becoming spiritual, no matter what.
PETER: Emotions have a curious quality in that they colour and distort not only what is happening now but they also colour and distort what has happened recently. If sadness overwhelms us it seems as though our whole life has been miserable, if anger arises it seems as though it has always been there. This was hard to discern in myself initially but it was obvious whenever I talked to Vineeto in one of our end-of-day chats.
Sometimes she would say I have been feeling, say lacklustre, all day. I would ask her if she felt that when we were down in the village at the coffee shop and she would say ‘not then’. I would ask her how she was at work and she would say she was into her work and enjoying it. Eventually it emerged that the feeling had only recently emerged or had only briefly occurred but that it now felt as though it had been there all day.
GARY: Yes, I have noticed this too. These emotions, when one is the throes of them, seem to suck everything into them. Since practicing actualism, I have noticed that my emotions seem to be much more intense when I experience them, but definitely more short-lived. I am able to get back to being happy and harmless much more quickly. I noticed this happening yesterday – I was aware of feeling worried, and morbidly preoccupied – gloomy in fact. A moment’s reflection revealed when the state had started, the associated thoughts, what it felt like, and what is was doing to me. I simply concluded that it was silly to be feeling that way and spoiling a beautiful day, and I found myself getting back to being happy in relatively short order.
PETER: Yep. And you always know that if something keeps coming back again then it is time to sit down and really nut out and investigate exactly what is going on, what is the nature and substance of this re-occurring feeling or emotion. Ultimately, it is your own integrity that ensures the process of actualism is fail-safe.
PETER: I remember the feeling of freedom from spiritual belief as being very tangible – I walked taller in the world, as it were, my integrity restored. I remember thinking afterwards – what was all the fuss about? Why did I find it so difficult?
GARY: I still sometimes find when the going gets rough, i.e. during periods of anxiety or dread, that there is a slight stirring of the old spiritual beliefs, usually in the form of wanting to pray for deliverance or guidance. I experienced this in fact yesterday when I became greatly confused and anxious – I was aware of a desire to pray as a way of getting out of it all – kind of like taking a drink for relief. At that point, I just remained aware of what was going on, and began focusing more on this feeling of anxiety I was experiencing.
Eventually, through bringing attention and awareness to the feelings and emotions that were storming inside me, the anxiety wore itself out, and I was much calmer.
PETER: It is fascinating to track a feeling or emotion from the moment it arises until the moment it abates. Sometimes there is an identifiable event that is the cause of the onset but sometimes a mood, emotional pallor or fervour can seep in – seemingly without any cause and then slip away by itself, as it were. These seemingly causeless intrusions are everyday events in ‘normal’ life, even lauded as giving an otherwise boring mundane life some meaning, flavour or colour.
However, when an actualist has feeling good or feeling excellent as his or her bottom-line benchmark in life, an urgent obsession develops to become free of the emotional roller-coaster that passes for a normal life or the surreal delusion that passes for a spiritual life. The first essential step is developing, cultivating and maintaining an ongoing awareness of feelings and emotions – as in ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive – this the only moment I can actually experience?’ (...)
PETER: It is common wisdom that suffering is good for you, you get stronger from suffering, that you grow and learn by suffering, etc. By experiencing the bitter-sweet lure of feeling sad, by observing it in action in your life and sufficiently investigating the roots of sorrow and depression, you eventually come to realize that all you get from suffering is more suffering. The feeling of sorrow is a seemingly bottomless pit leading only to utter despair where the only way out of a living hell seems to be suicide.
GARY: Personally I see no point in suffering. Having said that I see no point in it does not mean, however, that I am free from it. I have experienced, since I quit my job, ‘utter despair’ on a number of occasions. I have investigated into these feelings but I can’t say I understand them fully or comprehensively. If there is a ‘bitter-sweet lure of feeling sad’, I am not sure what it is. Perhaps it just confirms that there is a ‘me’ there. I know that I sometimes punish myself terribly. It has happened a couple of times recently, within the last week or so, that I was suffering so from anxiety and depression – I felt I could not bear it any more. I remained in the state of awareness, questioning myself about the feelings and emotions, and telling myself that it was utterly futile to be suffering like this. A couple of times a curious thing happened: all of a sudden I was free from the crushing emotions I had had. It was so sudden and it seemed like nothing that ‘I’ had done to bring this about. The anxious and depressed feelings simply abated and went away, to be followed by a wonderful feeling of relief. This has happened a couple of times, so I know that the process of awareness and ‘self’-investigation works, but there is definitely nothing easy or comfortable about it. It seems that it is the light of awareness that shines away the gloomy feelings and gloomy moods and not anything that I have done. On one occasion, the feelings dissipated so completely and so suddenly that I found myself hardly recognizing that it had happened. And when I did reflect on what had happened, I was astounded by it.
PETER: Indeed a feeling, mood or emotion tends to be very fickle, often coming and going for no apparent reason. Once you begin to understand and experience this coming and going, you can then concentrate your awareness on nipping them in the bud ever earlier in their cycle. Soon you will find you are able to nip them in the bud as they begin to happen – a sort of ‘oops here it comes again’ or ‘ah ha, that one again’. The spiritual aflicionados talk of ‘watching’ the rising and falling of emotions – although they tend to call them thoughts – thereby becoming a dissociated ‘watcher’, very often completely dis-identifying with the undesirable passions by developing a new holier-than-thou identity.
For an actualist the trick is to identify and label each of these feelings and emotions as they arise in order to understand them – not transcend or sublimate the undesirable passions and formulate a new identity centred on desire and narcissism. It is vitally important to not only be aware of the coming and going of emotions, but to understand both the causes and the effects of this debilitating cycle. This very understanding then serves to increase your awareness of how your psyche is programmed to operate – which then means you are able to hit the delete button as soon as you feel yourself slipping down the old familiar paths of being grumpy, resentful, annoyed, lacklustre, morose, worried, anxious, etc. Awareness without understanding is nought but ignorance perpetuated. (...)
PETER: It is such an obvious thing to do – to simplify one’s life so as to reduce stress. Not only does one become physically healthier but by reducing the franticness and busy-ness of continually complicating what is simple, it makes it easier to set aside the necessary time to investigate the real causes of your malice and sorrow. Again be wary of the usual alternatives – deliberately engaging in battle to prove your warrior-worth or deliberately withdrawing form battle to prove your good-ness. No need to add that the third alternative is the common sense approach – eliminate the ‘he’ or ‘she’ who feels stressed-out and/or seeks refuge in feeling blissed-out.
GARY: The experience of stress is interesting in itself. What seems to cause stress often is nothing other than having competing demands to perform complicated tasks within limited time constraints. When I have ‘stress’, I feel that I am being pulled in too many directions at once and hence am not effective. Or, ‘stress’ can be the smoke screen for other feelings and emotions – anger, annoyance, frustration, etc. All these things seem to be involved. I have devoted some attention over the years to becoming more detail-oriented and organized. I think this helps reduce the stress of being overwhelmed with details. So I think there are sometimes task demands that get involved with stress, particularly job stress. Then the sensible thing seems to be to prioritize, organize, and such, and if one cannot do these things, one needs to learn to do so. And there are the emotional aspects of stress, such as eliminating anger, frustration, etc. Another sensible thing to do seems to be, when one is experiencing stress, break it down into what one is actually experiencing – is it anger, frustration, boredom, exhaustion? Name it, first of all, look at it, examine what is happening, and use the silly-sensible comparison in order to determine what is the next most sensible thing to do.
PETER: I was talking to a businessman recently about his business and he had several approaches to dealing with stress, all of which were ways of coping with the symptoms and none of which tackled the disease itself. The other common approach is to seek relief by dissociative methods such as meditation, being a watcher, right thinking, yogic exercises, prayer, going ‘inside’, remembering your real self, etc. As you indicate, the sensible approach is tackle the disease itself by actively and incrementally eliminating it.
RESPONDENT: I am new on this mailing list, and the concept of Actual Freedom is also new for me, very interesting though. I have followed the debates with the highest interest and I have also read some of the texts on the Actual Freedom web. English is not my first language, so you might find some peculiar sentences and wordings. Please have some indulgence.
PETER: Welcome. It is good to have you writing on the list. No doubt if you persist in your interest you will not only discover more about Actual Freedom but your English will also improve. English is my first language but when I first read Richard’s Journal I had to go out and buy a good dictionary. At first I found his extended vocabulary use a bit frustrating but I soon found having to look up the meaning of certain words aided me enormously in understanding what was being written. It took me months of reading to begin to break through my inherent, and inherited, ‘blindness’ – as in cognitive dissonance – to the fact that there could be another human experience other than remaining normal or becoming spiritual.
RESPONDENT: I recognize major parts of the concept or method, described in Actual Freedom, from a book I read about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This book (only available in Swedish and not very scientific, more practical) also recognizes the phenomena of pure consciousness experience (PCE), as something important. Even more interesting is that the described approach to ease fear and psychological pain is almost identical compared with the methods described on the Actual Freedoms web site. Actual Freedom has as I see it a much more radical goal. What I find interesting is the similarities in method. CBT have a good reputation as a proven effective treatment method. This gives credibility also for Actual Freedom’s method, despite the methods different goals.
PETER: The similarities seem to be in the fact that both are pragmatic approaches and both address the issue of one’s immediate anxieties, emotions and behaviour in the world of people, things and events. The aim of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is to reign in the excesses of emotions so as to return the patient to normal – i.e. normally aggressive and normally sad. The aim of actualism is to eliminate the whole psychological and psychic structure – ‘who’ I think I am and ‘who’ I instinctually feel I am, as opposed to what I am – so as to completely eradicate the root cause of malice and sorrow. I know little about how cognitive therapy is used and applied by the hands-on practitioners in the field but this more practical approach to therapy does seem to be having more success than the previous approaches based on moral and ethical reconditioning, emotive expression, self-acceptance, self-love, shamanism and mysticism, chemical restraints, etc.
In order to explore the differences between the method of actualism and cognitive behavioural therapy, not only in intent but also in the processes, I have accessed a brief summary of CBT from the Net.
‘Negative or distorted automatic thoughts’ is simply another way of saying feelings and emotions. Close and constant observation will reveal that feelings are most commonly expressed as emotion-backed thoughts. Thinking, when freed of the automatic influence of the emotions that arise from one’s instinctual passions, is a benign functional activity. Eastern religion and mysticism has always laid the blame of evil on thinking per se, while giving full vent to the so-called good emotions to run wild, unrestrained by any sense whatsoever. It would appear that CBT adopts a similar stance and lays the ills of the patient at the door of wrong thinking. It is inappropriate in the real world to question the instinctual passions themselves, for human beings hold their passions dearly to their bosoms, stubbornly and deliberately maintaining their blindness to the fact that these passions are none other than savage and brutal animal survival passions.
Just a note about the feelings and emotions that one notices by running the question of ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’
Many men in particular, because of their gender programming, have great difficulties in getting in touch with their feelings. As this is generally the case, then it may be useful to begin with observing what you are thinking in this moment of being alive. If you describe your thinking as a bit dull for instance, it may be that you are feeling lackluster. If you are thinking about what someone said or didn’t say to you, it may well be that you feel annoyed which is a mild form of anger. If you are thinking that someone has wronged you, then it is useful to label and identify the feeling that is happening in that moment – be it resentment, indignation, righteousness, envy, etc.
For women this process of investigation is identical, but given that they have usually been taught to identify more strongly with their emotions, their difficulty can be in sorting through a bewildering array of unrestrained input. Again, momentary awareness is the first thing – to catch the feeling while it is happening – and then to label the feeling is the next step. Then complete the investigation by finding the cause, the trigger, of the feeling or emotion that is ruining, clouding or standing in the way of you feeling good right now. This awareness is an experiential awareness of how ‘you’, as an entity, have been programmed to react to the world of people, things and events. This is 180 degrees different to practicing spiritual awareness, which is to either accept, ignore or deny one’s reactions to the world of people, things and events and retreat into an inner world of one’s own imagination. Spiritual awareness leads to the ‘self’-centred psychotic states of dissociation or the more extreme state of solipsism whereas the actualism method is an ongoing self-investigation that breaks the stranglehold the psychological and psychic entity, eventually leading to a ‘self’-less pure consciousness.
Again we have ‘negative or fearful automatic thoughts’ or ‘distorted cognitions’ that ‘stimulate painful emotional reactions’, as though it is wrong thinking that causes emotional suffering. It’s a bit like putting the cart before the horse but then again, CBT is concerned about treating and reducing the symptoms and not about acknowledging the source of emotional suffering, let alone finding a permanent cure.
What initially twigged my interest in CBT was a television program, which showed a patient being treated for agoraphobia. The treatment was very matter-of-fact and not at all esoteric or airy-fairy. The patient, at her own pace, was allowed to experientially discover for herself that her psychological and psychic fear was nothing other than a feeling, i.e. while it may have felt very real it was not a fact. By becoming aware of her fear, labelling it, discussing it, and thinking about it she was gradually able to desensitize herself to its influence. In her case the fear was not eliminated but it was reduced to tolerable levels such that she could function reasonably normally. Another patient had a fear of a particular insect and by increasingly prolonged contact he was able to become desensitized to the fear, thus replacing the feeling of fear with the fact that he was not being hurt. I don’t see this as a triumph of rational thinking over irrational thinking, I see this as a triumph of fact over feeling.
This is where terminology tends to be confusing. ‘Templates, or basic rules, for interpreting information from the environment’ or ‘core beliefs’ seems to be referring to our instinctual ‘self’-centred survival programming. If so, these are not beliefs, this is a genetically-encoded neural program. This is where all therapy comes up against a brick wall and any ‘modifications’ can only be fiddling with the controls, or rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Breaking ingrained habits was another of the features of CBT that made sense to me.
Are they saying that success breeds success? If the success is tangible, then confidence grows which leads to a change in behaviour that happens almost without one noticing it.
Is this a disclaimer? Obviously the successes are limited but the success of such a pragmatic down-to-earth approach to therapy can be seen as more evidence of ‘the good sense of actualism’, as No. 13 put it. I know in the early days it was this good sense that lead me to establish a prima facie case in favour of actualism.
RESPONDENT: One problem raised by Mr. No 12 is if it really is possible to extinguish ‘self’. If it is possible to exist without ‘self’ as a human being. I have to investigate the concept ‘self’ more before I can decide if this idea is sensible or not.
PETER: May I suggest that running the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ will put you in touch with your ‘self’ and then you will find that ‘self’ is not a concept but a reality – it is none other than ‘who’ you think and instinctually feel you are. You may well discover that it is ‘he’ who is running and ruining your life and standing in the way of perfection and purity.
RESPONDENT: Another problem is the schematic descriptions of our brain works. The origin of instincts and their effect on our perception of our self and the world we all live in. I have to do some more studies in this area.
PETER: And I would welcome more discussion in this area for actualism is non-spiritual and down-to-earth, which is why I enjoy exploring what facts the scientists are discovering and what methods really work for the real-world practitioners of therapy.
If in your studies you find any inaccuracies in the schematic diagrams or have any comments about them I would appreciate you letting me know as I am a layperson, more than a little stretched in purely scientific areas.
RESPONDENT: I find though the ideas interesting and one thing I have experienced during the last weeks is that it is almost impossible not to ask oneself the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’, perhaps not all times but often. The thought gives some perspective for sure.
PETER: I have just realized I have assumed from your name that you are male and that was why I commented about feelings most commonly being expressed as emotion-backed thoughts. Anyway, for either sex it is useful to be aware that our feelings are most often cunningly disguised as, or described as, thoughts – unless you are overcome with rage, gripped by fear, overwhelmed by nurture or beset by desire, in which case the feelings are obvious as the chemical surges are so intense.
Peter’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.