Selected Correspondence Peter
PETER: Personally, I enjoy being here and have no problem, should the need arise, in aggressively countering another’s obvious intent to destroy me. Obviously I would do all that was reasonable to avoid being in the situation in the first place, or get out of it with all the cunning I could muster, but if all else fails, to lay down and die for a moral principle is clearly silly.
GARY: In response to this comment about ‘aggressively’ countering a lethal attack, I seized on your use of the word ‘aggressively’, believing that I had discovered a contradiction: that an actualist could espouse being happy and harmless whilst advocating aggressive means to deal with violence. In another subsequent post to me, you clarified your use of the word ‘aggressive’:
I was satisfied with your detailed post in which the preceding excerpt was included.
Your use of the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the sense of denoting a robust, vigorous, and forceful response to violence aimed at one, not necessarily meaning use of lethal force. I agree with your comments to the effect that every other means possible should be taken to de-escalate a violent confrontation short of using lethal force. I have found that one can do much to avoid being in situations that are potentially violent by increased vigilance to one’s own malice and sorrowful feelings, to the point that one is questioning oneself constantly, attentive to the automatic ‘me’ responses of defensiveness, fear, and anger. Rather than responding with submissive behaviour, ie. the automatic conditioned response to ‘be nicey-nice’, one goes on with one’s interactions with another who may be angry without missing a beat, because one has not fallen prey to feeling personally insulted, offended, or otherwise maligned because there is no ‘me’ or ‘I’ at the wheel needing defense. One is also not on some kind of ‘mission’ to provide nurturance or succour to those who are disturbed by anger or violence, a response that is often inculcated into one by spiritual values such as ‘turning the other cheek’. It is stupid to turn the other cheek when someone is angry, unless one is a ‘holy man’ and has to prove that they are ‘compassionate’. I find it increasingly difficult to understand why people around me are so willing to wallow around in angry feelings, feeling resentful, sorrowful, and upset over what often appear to be trifling matters. I say this out of no sense of superiority, as I have my ‘blind spots’ I am sure, and can be just as easily triggered off by situations over which I seem to have no control. In fact, such happened recently, and I was greatly disturbed to see myself reacting in unhelpful and nonsensical ways. As you wrote most recently:
Yes, that is so.
This is precisely what happened on the most recent occasion when I exploded in anger at my partner’s grandson. I immediately felt guilty and ashamed of myself and secluded myself upstairs in my den. After a period of cooling down, I was able to explore and examine what was going on with me that provoked my response. The whole thing still rather mystifies me. While I have discovered some things about ‘me’ through this experience, I still have the sense that I am skating around on the surface of the thing.
So, thank you Peter for being willing to explore this in detail with me. I found your replies helpful in that they have given me more grist for the mill.
PETER: When you write of exploding in anger at your partner’s grandson, I remember a similar instance where I did the same to the son of my partner at the time. We had one son each from previous partners and I became aware of how much more ‘tolerant’ I was of ‘my’ son’s behaviour than ‘her’ son. Now I am clearly able to see that it was because I was instinctually programmed to favour, be biased, turn a blind eye to, defend and be sympathetic towards my ‘own’, i.e. the instinct to nurture my ‘own’ counteracts the usual instinctual reaction of aggression that I felt towards other human beings.
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.
Looking back it was indeed shocking at the time to have this instinctual anger well up from deep inside me – it was both bewildering as I could not rationally explain it and neither was I quick enough or able to keep a lid on it. It was a prime example of LeDoux’s findings about the quick and dirty response in action, in me. This intensity of instinctual reaction did not happen very often in my life but when it did it was too strong to ignore. It did not matter whether the reaction was an evil thought, a verbal outburst or a physical action (rare in my case as I was a well-bought-up, goody-two-shoes, Spiritual Snag at the time), I could not deny that I was angry.
The last time such an uncontrollable outburst of anger happened was about a year before meeting Richard so I had no trouble in remembering and acknowledging that beneath ‘my’ loving persona there lurked a suppressed and controlled crude animal instinctual ‘me’. When offered the possibility of ridding myself of this instinctual aggression once and for all, I leapt at the chance.
Your story has reminded me of the fact that it is this acknowledging of aggression in oneself that is the key to wanting to change irrevocably. If one only wants happiness for oneself then that is insufficient motive or intent to get stuck into the business of irrevocably changing oneself. It needs an altruistic motive rather than the mere self-gratification of being happy and that motive is to be actually peaceful – to do no harm to one’s fellow human beings, as in not instinctually feeling aggression towards others, not instinctually feeling sorrow for others, not being blindly driven to nurture others and not being blindly driven to desire power over others.
GARY: That point gets around to what I really want to talk about in this post, which is my recent discoveries regarding the instinctual passions. I feel I have begun to experience, in a more directly intimate way, what previously I had only had very brief, rather superficial glimpses of: the primitive passions at work in me, the so-called battle between Good and Evil. I awoke yesterday morning in a state of anxious dread. As I investigated into it, I found what I would call a fear of annihilation, a naked dread that I wanted to get away from as much as I could. There was raw libidinal energy also swirling around – I seemed to go from fear to sex in a heartbeat and it was very powerful.
I feel I am getting now a direct look at the caldron of seething passions that are ordinarily contained by the thin veneer of morals and ethics. My most obvious spiritual practices were the first thing to go overboard, but as I continue in this work, I am uncovering the less obvious and infinitely more subtle morality and ethicality that is designed to keep these instincts in check. I have noticed that my way of expressing this in language to myself is definitely archaic: words like fornicator, lecher, warlord, beast, wolf, etc. come into my consciousness and I feel I am peeling away the thin layer of 20th century civilizing influences and getting into a substratum of morality that harkens back to the Christian Dark Ages, or at least it seems that way.
PETER: Yes, this dark side of human nature is a fascinating exploration. All religions, be they eastern or western, have condemned sex per se, for there is no more powerful urge in the instinctual repertoire. The instinctual package is designed primarily as a reproductive program for the species and secondarily as a defensive program. Therefore, there is no greater evil to the priests, men of God or the Gurus than the crude sexual drive for it ultimately has the power to override all sense and ‘good’ness.
Some sorts of rules are necessary to keep the lid on the animal instinctual passions and the religious/spiritual texts are littered with moral goods and evils, and ethical rights and wrongs. Religious morality is ultimately enforced by the deep-seated threat of damnation and hell, purgatory and God’s wrath and it is no little thing to dare to challenge, let alone break free of this burden.
It also take nerves of steel to traverse the dark and evil side in oneself without frantically and instinctually grabbing for the light and the good. It is no coincidence that so many people, when they have their dark night of the soul, say they saw the light or that God spoke to them. It was on one of those very occasions when I literally ‘fell in love’ with an Eastern spiritual God-man and had a 17 year excursion into the spiritual world. But for an actualist, forewarned is forearmed so the risk is minimalized – but if you do get to have some affective experiences or Godly experiences it immediately becomes another fascinating aspect of the Human Condition to explore.
GARY: The awareness that the emotional ties or tentacles that you referred to that bind me to humanity are being weakened and demolished has occasionally filled me with an existential dread. I have found myself wondering if this dread, as it seems to be a by-product of the method, is in some way a sure sign that one is utilizing the method to maximal effect?
PETER: If you plumb the depths of the human psyche, my experience was that I came across dread, beneath which lay an unspeakably horror-filled hellish realm. I have read that the primitive mammalian brain has its own separate memory capacity and I suspect that such journeys into the depths of one’s psyche tap into primitive atavistic memories genetically-encoded in the mammalian brain’s memory. The other interesting discovery you can make – if you want to, that is – is that not only is there fear and dread, aggression and savagery but there is also sexual predatoriness and an unquenchable lust for power.
What also can be experienced is the flip side of fear and dread – the narcissistic feelings of awe and bliss that gave rise to the famed mythical escapist fairy tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. You can take a walk in these feelings and experience their seductive lure and discover for yourself the instinctual passions that fuel the search for spiritual ‘freedom’ and God-realization.
Investigations and explorations such as these are par for the course of an actualist, but the proof that you are using the method to maximum effect is whether one is becoming more happy and more harmless in one’s everyday life. If these deep impassioned experiences happen on the way, then milk them for all the information you can, and then get back to feeling good or feeling excellent as soon as possible. Only by understanding these experiences for what they are you do you come to realize that these experiences have no significance in themselves – i.e. there is no hidden meaning or ‘message’ to be discovered within the human psyche, as spiritualists believe.
GARY: Perhaps, though, the only real thing that shows that the method is working is one’s own quotient of happiness and harmlessness – is one’s stock on the rise, so to speak? Is one increasingly happy and harmless in all one’s affairs?
PETER: Having said what I said above, the fact that you are tapping into the instinctual passions is a sign of success because it is only by doing this process of in-depth exploration can one become genuinely happy and harmless. Only by knowing how ‘you’ are instinctually programmed to operate can you break the habitual cycle of automatic unthinking knee-jerk reactions and feelings.
This is where sincerity plays its part – you know if you’re fooling yourself when you notice suppression or denial kick in as soon as a feeling emerges and by becoming aware of this you can then allow the feeling to happen so that you can explore it in action. If this exploration then goes deeper into the underlying passions and instinctual drives you get to discover a bit more about what makes ‘you’ tick deep down inside.
The salient aspects of the process of actualism – and what distinguishes it from spiritual ‘self’-observation and ‘self’-awareness – is that one’s investigations need to be sufficiently deep and sufficiently thorough and sufficiently unfettered by social mores, ethics and morality so as to get to the very bottom of one’s instinctual being. One needs to investigate the nature of evil as well as well as the nature of good in order to make sense of the human condition in toto.
Once this is done sufficiently, and I use the word deliberately for only you will know what is sufficient for you, then a whole new investigation unfolds – an exploration of the sensual delights of the actual world. In the first stage these investigations run parallel but ‘self’-investigation is predominant. But later, as ‘self’-investigation runs out of steam and one becomes virtually happy and harmless – being effortlessly happy and effortlessly harmless 99% of the day – then one’s attention naturally focuses on the fascinating and sensual experience of actuality.
PETER: I recently watched a National Geographic television program which I found most interesting in that it presented some facts about the animal instinctual program that were new to me. I thought I would pass on the information, as you may well be interested.
National Geographic programs are commonly heavily slanted towards showing the tender passions of animals, emphasizing the cute and cuddly aspects of nurture and desire whilst paying far less attention to the raw and crude ‘what can I eat, what can eat me?’ nature of instinctual aggression and fear. At one stage I was very interested in the studies of instinctual behaviour in chimps – animals with the closest genetic make-up to the human species – and I found much useful information by digging beneath the myths and prejudices. Perhaps the most pertinent similarities between chimps and humans are that the instinctual program in both species is not only species-centred but also self-centred.
Because of this similarity in instinctual programming chimps display a range of behaviours almost identical to that of humans – utter self-centredness combined with a species-centred compulsion to propagate and proliferate the species. The very real danger of being attacked and eaten by other animals necessitates safety in numbers with a subsequent need to co-operate with other members of the family/tribe in order to defend territory and attack the territory of other families or tribes. This necessity does not sit well with a constant need to have to compete with other members of the family/tribal structure for food, sexual conquests and power over others. Thus in chimps – as well as humans – sibling rivalry, jealousy, conflict, retribution and anger as well as petulance, remorse, sorrow and dejection are common behaviours, as are habitual outbreaks of war, murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and infanticide.
The recent program I watched was about another animal species with social behaviour very similar to chimps and that many uphold to be loving, intelligent, even spiritual beings – dolphins. The program detailed research on what it termed the wild side of dolphins and drew on evidence of an eighteen year long study conducted on dolphins in Western Australia as well as other studies in various locations around the world.
Contrary to popular belief the dolphin world is one of almost constant conflict and competition between rival groups or pods, all competing with each other for food, territory and sexual conquest. Changing allegiances are commonplace, either forced or voluntary, for the bigger the pod, the more food can be harvested and the more females can be captured from other pods. Whilst being part of a particular group is necessary for survival, almost constant inter-group rivalry and fights are an on-going consequence.
Inter-group behaviour is typified by the constant hassling of females and aggressive fights between males. Commonly two or more males form an alliance in order to capture a female and then take turns guarding the female while the other feeds. The research also indicated a strong suspicion that males kill and eat female dolphin’s young in order to claim her to mate with. Vicious fights, even to the death, between males of the same pod have been also been observed. Dolphins also display unprovoked malicious behaviour, often toying with and torturing their prey before the final kill. They are also one the few species known to kill for sport only – they have been observed torturing and maiming seals, porpoises and other dolphins, eventually leaving their prey crippled or dying but uneaten.
Apart from the glaring gulf that exists between popular myth and scientific evidence as to the full range of instinctual animal behaviour, I was particularly struck by several aspects of animal behaviour that are of particular relevance to the human species. Both dolphins and chimps are vulnerable to attacks by other species as well as by members of their own species and are therefore forced to hunt in numbers as well as rely on numbers for their own protection. The offspring of both species require feeding, protection and teaching of survival skills for a period of about 6 years and a family/tribal structure offers the best chance for survival, for both nurtured and nurturer in this period.
This safety by numbers strategy by no means fosters harmonious interactions – au contraire, inter-group conflict is often as malicious as group-to-group conflicts. What could be seen initially as a herding or socializing instinct could well be no more than a reluctant fear-driven imperative arising from the necessity to successfully propagate the species. The resulting alliances are more like expedient strategic pacts formed solely to increase the odds of survival. There appears to be no instinctual bonding per se within the group at large, other than a crude necessity to huddle in groups so as to increase the chances of propagating and rearing offspring as well as increase the odds when waging warfare against other members of the species.
Observing the instinctual programming of animals is a fascinating business, particularly when this observing is clear-eyed. One starts to see clearly that this instinctual programming in each and every animal species has one purpose and one purpose only – to proliferate that particular species. Observing animal behaviour in other species has the advantage that one can study the instinctual survival program devoid of the layer of socialization that humans have been instilled with.
It is not a pleasant business to acknowledge that at core one is but a crude animal – passionately driven by fear, aggression, nurture and desire such that one can never be neither happy nor harmless. But the reward for daring to look with clear eyes at the animal instinctual passions that underpins the human condition is an incremental freedom from malice and sorrow.
GARY: Thank you for the lengthy post on animal instincts.
PETER: I wrote the post because I wanted to note down the research into dolphin behaviour before I forgot the details and I thought you would also be interested. It’s essential for an actualist to understand exactly the nature of the animal instinctual programming and one of the easiest ways of doing this is to observe how it operates in other animals. While chimpanzees offer the best observation and information – having a reported 96% similar genetic makeup – dolphins are also interesting to observe given that their individual and their group behaviour oft resembles those of the human instinctual animal.
PETER: Just a comment on some points from your last post –
It was a classic story, common to many. A period of loneliness and depression, an experience of personal loss or grief, a life-changing experience and a life born again as a Saviour – by whatever name, for whatever cause. What was of most interest to me in Goodall’s case was her description of what appeared to be a pure consciousness experience, her after-the-fact interpretation of the experience as a mystical experience and that she then went on to claim the experience as ‘her’ own – as being a personal revelation from God.
GARY: A human being’s imaginative faculty is carefully nurtured and hurried along in childhood through nursery rhymes, fables, stories of all kinds, and the belief in the supernatural, the mystical, and the otherworldly is the result. It is not surprising, then, that people hurry to interpret a perfection experience in the framework that they are most comfortable with – as a mystical, otherworldly experience, or as a frank communication from God himself.
PETER: There are several aspects to this tendency. Firstly, there is a long, long tradition of mystical experiences, both in Eastern and Western religions, so much so that to feel oneself to be God, or to feel oneself to be a specially chosen friend of the creator God, is but the status quo. Secondly, given that human experience is universally deemed to be a battle between good and evil, every experience is automatically classified as either good or evil … and a PCE is invariably interpreted as being in the ‘good’ or Godly camp.
Underlying this social/historic programming are the instinctual survival passions – passions which are non-existent in a PCE but are given full reign in any altered state of consciousness experience. This means there is a powerful instinctive lure to claim any and all experience as ‘mine’.
The reason I point this out is that not only has an actualist to be wary of the spiritual programming that actively encourages the pursuit of altered states of consciousness, but also of the crude instinctive narcissistic drive that has thus far always corrupted the human search for freedom, peace and happiness.
GARY: In a way, it almost seems that it is exceedingly difficult for a human being to recognize the immediate and actual as exactly what it is, rather than what it is not. I wonder if it would be possible to raise children with an immediate appreciation and delight in what is actually present, something they have innately anyway, with no imaginative fabrication of what is not there.
PETER: Also innately present in children are the instinctual passions and these passions will always take precedent over any potential for an ‘immediate appreciation and delight in what is actually present’ – in fact, the crude animal survival passions exist to do precisely this. Which is not to say that it makes good sense not to indulge a child’s natural tendency for fantasy and imagination – a tendency that will anyway be fostered by interaction with their peers, despite the wishes and actions of any parent.
PETER to Richard: I thought I would respond to a theme you were pursuing with Alan and relate it to my experiences lately. I seem to be having a good dig down deep into the instincts in the last months. My post to No. 5 was about exploring aggression at an instinctual level and, no doubt, I could shuffle around a lot more exploring the emotions that arise from these instincts, but another aspect of my instinctual program is beginning to fascinate me. It relates to your comment to Alan –
The genetically programmed instincts one is born with are located in the primitive brain or amygdala and consist in part as a hard-wired quick response mechanism that pumps the body and brain with chemicals as a reaction to any perceived danger. The amygdala also has its own independent memory section that is evidenced as an emotional memory as distinct from one’s cognitive memory.
A bit from LeDoux will confirm the scientific evidence of this independent (unconscious is the term he uses) memory.
So, in investigating one’s instinctual self – which is programmed into the amygdala – one is not only investigating the instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire, one inevitably encounters the instinctual ‘memory’ as well. LeDoux’s studies are seemingly primarily concerned with the emotional memories imprinted on to the amygdala’s memory since birth. Thus we have imprinted the traumatic incidents in life since birth and those fears instilled in us, largely by our parents, in the very early years before the development of our cognitive memory. There is also scientific evidence that the foetus is influenced by the flow of chemicals via the placenta which would allow for a pre-birth encoding of emotions.
But it is obvious from a study of animals that certain actions and behaviour patterns are not taught after birth but must be genetically pre-programmed in the instinctual memory. The reaching for, finding and suckling the nipple in mammals, the waddle to the ocean of baby turtles, the unlearned migration patterns of birds, etc. There are multitudinous examples of non-cognitive animals who exhibit quite sophisticated behaviour and ‘knowledge’ that is not learnt but must solely be due to a pre-coded memory that is genetically inherited.
Given that the human animal is the most advanced of the primates, it does beg the question as to how much pre-memory is genetically programmed in the human amygdala and therefore ‘set in the flesh’, as it were. Two of these pre-codings are vital in understanding the human psyche –‘who’ one thinks and feels one is.
Firstly, there is most obviously an instinctual sense of self-recognition, a faculty we share with our closet genetic cousins – apes and chimps both recognize ‘themselves’ in a mirror. This instinctual primal ‘self’ is made more sophisticated in humans, for the cognitive neo-cortex (the ‘conscious’ to use LeDoux’s term) is only capable of detecting the chemical flows of the amygdala (non-cognitive and ‘unconscious’), and these are ‘felt’ as basic passions or emotions and interpreted as feelings – ‘my’ feelings. Thus, we ‘feel’ this genetic instinctual programming to be ‘me’ at my core. This program thus gives every human being an instinctual self which is translated into a ‘real’ self that is both psychic – LeDoux’s ‘unconscious’ made obvious and real by the ensuing flow of chemicals from the amygdala – and psychological – interpreted as thoughts by the modern cognitive brain. (The modern brain is also taught much after birth – one’s social identity – but I’m interested in the deeper level at this stage.)
This explains that the spiritual journey ‘in’ is thus a journey to find one’s instinctual self – one’s roots, one’s original face, the Source, etc. If, on this inner journey, one ignores or denies the passions of aggression and fear and concentrates one’s attention on the passions of nurture and desire, one can shift one’s identity from the psychological thinking neo cortex – the ‘ego’ to use their term – and ‘become’, or associate with, or identify with, the good feelings of nurture and desire. This is a seductive and self-gratifying journey, for one is actively promoting the flow of chemicals that give rise to the good, pleasant, warm, light-headed, heart-full and ultimately ecstatic feelings. These flow of chemicals overwhelm the neo-cortex to such an extent that they become one’s primary experience, and the input of the physical world as perceived by the senses and the clear-thinking ability of the cognitive modern brain are both subjugated – or ‘transcended’ to use their term. One then ‘feels’ one has found one’s original ‘self’, which one has of course, though t’is all but a fantasy of one’s imagination.
I particularly remember when I first came across spiritual teachings, the mythology and poetry that alluded to this ‘inner’ world seemed to strike a deep cord with me – the tales of Ancient Wisdom ‘connected’ with this deep (unconscious) level which was a connection with the instinctual memory in the amygdala. I had ‘found’ someone who had the answers, was in touch with the Source, knew the meaning of life, the truth – I had come Home. I began a journey into the inner world of good feelings, made real by the ability to enhance the chemical flow of nurture and desire and dampen, suppress or ignore the feelings of aggression and fear. I was literally leaving the real world behind and seeking solace and succour in the spiritual world. I was thus forfeiting any chance of breaking free of my instinctual passions, in total, for a selfish bid for personal bliss and a permanent place in an imaginary ‘other world’ composed solely of chemically-supported blissful feelings.
Secondly, the other faculty I see as essentially pre-coded is an instinctual need to ‘belong’ to the herd – the herding instinct, as Vineeto puts it. It might seem banal and obvious given that humans, as a species, have perennially needed to maintain, at very least, a family grouping in order to ensure the survival of the species. Given that the human infant is helpless for such a long time compared with most other species, the immediate family group was the basic minimum need, and the chance of survival was considerably increased with larger and stronger groupings. This is an instinctual program that over-rides the individual’s own survival instincts for one is ultimately programmed to ensure survival of the species – not one’s own, as in self-preservation. Given that these involve more sophisticated programming than mere instantaneous ‘fight and flight’ reactions they must be encoded in the genetic memory of the amygdala, passed on from ‘way back there’, in the mists of time.
This instinct, implanted by blind nature to ensure the survival of the species, pumps the body with chemicals that induce the feeling of fear whenever one is straying too far away from the herd, abandoning other members of the family or group or being on one’s own. I remember particularly, in my early twenties, travelling across Europe and the Middle East on my way home from London and arriving at the border with Iran. I was turned away at an isolated border post as I didn’t have a visa and I was struck with a deep sense of panic, a feeling of utter loneliness. Looking back, it was as though I had gone too far striking off on my own and had hit the limit. This feeling of loneliness was to haunt me for many years – the image of becoming a lonely old man on a park bench, outcast and abandoned. It coincidentally was to prove one of the images that made me leap into the spiritual world with such gusto. I was to lose this fear later in life but living alone was always accompanied by a bitter-sweet feeling of loneliness. My major period of living alone was also the period when I began to have spiritual experiences, Satoris and an experience of Altered States of Consciousness aka Enlightenment.
From my investigations and experiences it is obvious that ‘who’ I think and feel I am – ‘me’ at the core – encompasses both a deep-set feeling of separateness from others and the world as perceived by the senses as well as a deep-set feeling of needing to ‘belong’.
This over-arching feeling of separateness – of being a ‘separate self’, who is forever yearning to ‘belong’ – is the root cause of sorrow in me and the all encompassing ‘ocean’ of human sorrow in the world.
IRENE: For a start, I don’t see you being malicious and sorrowful at the core of your being. It’s your defence of this core of your being that lashes out when triggered, justified by your mistaken beliefs and interpretations of yourself and of women. Ignoring them means that you cannot ever rely on yourself and must therefore rely on another or others to keep you under control. This dependence on others for your own survival comes at a price: you must sacrifice, compromise your integrity in order to be safe and kill or die for the survival of your group.
PETER: Yes, we are all wired with a survival instinct, a will to survive, that consists of feelings of fear, aggression, nurture and desire. Rather than treat the symptoms with therapy, morality, ethics or transcendence I have chosen the path of eliminating the disease – to actively pursue the elimination of the animal in me. Sure it’s radical, but I and countless others over the centuries, have diligently pursued the other solutions to no avail. Besides, it is such a fascinating adventure to participate in at my time of life. I’ve done all the normal things very well, investigated them all, so I’m trying something different now. It does mean I’m on my own, but then again I always was. The curious thing is that I no longer ‘feel’ lost, lonely or frightened on my own or have the need to ‘feel’ part of a group to survive. My interactions with all I meet are therefore not driven by animal survival instincts. It’s so good to be rid of bad feelings and the need to maintain the good one’s in order to keep it together. The bad feelings are hard wired in us (fear and aggression) and up until now the idea of abandoning the Good, Right, Sacred or Holy has been absurd. These feelings – and the point of a gun – are all that has held it all together to get us to our present state of development as a species.
It is only possible to eliminate the good when one has eliminated the bad and the bad is a biological and neurological problem located in the primitive lizard brain. But you know all this and have experienced many times a ‘disconnection’ from fear and aggression that is apparent in the peak experience when all is obviously benign, perfect, pure and pristine – with not a skerrick of fear or aggression apparent anywhere.
RESPONDENT: Hi Peter/Vineeto/Richard: Any recommended reading/videos on instinctual passions?
PETER: I can’t recommend any specific reading material on instinctual passions apart from what is on the Actual Freedom Trust website but I thought to reply to you anyway.
As you would have gathered from my journal, I found some of the research of social psychologists conducted in the 1960’s to be interesting reading and I remember at the time being particularly struck by Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority. The series of experiments were eventually stopped on ethical grounds because they produced such shocking results but there was another experiment conducted where a group of volunteers were split up into two groups, one group playing prison guards, the other prisoners. The experiment had to be stopped after a few days because the supposed role-playing soon became very serious as instinctual behaviour came to the fore – I have lost the reference to the experiment but if you are interested I will try to hunt it down.
The only other experiential evidence I found useful was the work of Joseph LeDoux and his team in experimentally determining that the instinctual fear reaction caused a primary instinctual affective reaction which kicked in before the any signal reached the neocortex – that the feeling of fear kicks in before the cognitive awareness of fear kicks in. In other words, feeling is primary, thinking is secondary. This simple experiment puts paid to the myths of ancient Eastern philosophy that has it that thinking gives rise to feelings and if one only stopped thinking then one could stop feeling what one didn’t want to feel. When looking through the general writings of sociology, psychology, psychiatry and neurobiology I have found nothing of substance and relevance apart from these few experiments.
It is pertinent to remember that all of the studies, theories and conclusions within the current status quo of the human condition are predicated on instinctual behaviour being necessary for survival and the only possible solution within the human condition is to ensure that the good instincts (nurture and desire) operate such that they can subdue the bad instincts (fear and aggression) – the eons-old view that the human existence is inevitably a perpetual battle between good and evil. Nowhere have I ever I found anyone saying that it is possible to change human nature – as in it is possible to become free of malice and sorrow – what I found were studies, theories and conclusions based on being able to better cope with the excesses of the instinctual passions.
I found many people still believing the Tabula Rasa myth and laying the blame for the human malaise on childhood conditioning and childhood trauma, I found others advocating the benefits of ‘Talking Therapy’ despite its century-long failure to produce substantive results, I found that Eastern philosophy has permeated much of psychology and psychiatry such that many theorists and practitioners now advocate meditative therapies based on cultivating a denial of one’s own instinctive malice and sorrow and actively practicing dissociating from the actual world of people, things and events. In short, what I found were fellow human beings trying to work out ways of coping with the human condition – no where did I find people talking about becoming free of the instinctual passions that underscore the human condition, let alone even wondering whether this is possible let alone even considering that this is desirable.
Having said what I discovered in my reading, I don’t want to discourage you from doing your own reading for yourself – far from it – and the subjects you read about will be those that are of interest to you on the path. As a tip, I found it useful to start with reading books or articles that give an overview of the subject, preferable those written in terms a layman can understand, and then to get into details if you want to. I did a good deal of my initial research before I had a computer and I went down to the local second-hand book shop and bought about a dozen books covering a range of topics in sociology, psychology, consciousness studies, spirituality, mysticism, cosmology, environmentalism and human biology – in short, the status quo viewpoint of life, the universe and what it is to be a human being. It was a good exercise because what it did was get me thinking for myself again – something I had deliberately neglected to do in my spiritual years. I hindsight this was quite natural because in all spiritual practices one is encouraged not to think for oneself for it is essential that one believes what one is told, that one trusts what one is told, that one has faith in what one is told, and that one feels what one is being told is the truth.
I wasn’t going to be that gullible again, which is why I checked out what Richard was saying by myself, for myself and part of doing this was undertaking a clear-eyed investigation of the current status quo views on life, the universe and what it is to be a human being. And this was far from an aimless investigation because what I wanted to do was to determine for myself what were the facts of the matter and what was mere cultural belief, theory, assumption, rumour, disinformation, tradition, folklore, legend or myth.
As for videos, any video rental shop is jam-packed with videos whose entertainment value is based on instinctual passions – the horror, thriller and adventure sections cater for those who find entertainment in fear; the drama, action and humour sections cater for those who find entertainment in aggression; the animal and fairy-tale section caters for those who find entertainment in nurture; and the erotic, love story and escapist fantasies sections cater for those who find entertainment in desire. Take your pick. I didn’t bother about renting videos, as all this is available on television anyway, albeit often in a form watered down for general consumption.
I found watching the news on television or reading the local newspaper gave me a better insight into the instinctual passions in operation – as a reality and not as a fantasy. We have a history channel on television and I particularly found the first-hand accounts of men who have fought in wars to be amongst the most telling accounts of the horrors of the instinctual passions whenever ‘the thin veneer of civilization’ breaks down – as it has done so regularly amongst all cultures throughout human history. I found this a necessary refocus as I had turned away from the horrors of the human condition in my spiritual years when I had deliberately dissociated from it in my own selfish pursuit of an ‘inner peace’.
What I found by allowing myself to become sensitive to the instinctual passions – as I had been as a teenager – was that I was able to tap into the intent I had in my youth in wanting to find a way of living with my fellow human beings in peace and harmony … and by doing so I was able to once again get in touch with the naiveté I once had that this must be possible.
But to get back to your question, whilst I found a reading investigation provided an essential intellectual overview of the universality of the instinctual passions, it is no substitute for hands-on knowledge based on my own experiential observations of when, how and why the instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire operate in this body and that they are intimately and inexorably intertwined with ‘who’ I think and feel I am.
It is one thing to condemn another for being a killer or to philosophize or theorize about or find excuses as to why human beings kill each other, it is quite another to experience the lust to obliterate another in oneself and want to be free of it come what may. It is one thing to feel sorrow for others who are so despairing that they end their own lives or to philosophize or theorize about or find excuses as to why human beings kill themselves, it is quite another to experience the very same depths of despair in oneself and want to be free of it come what may. It is one thing to feel sorrow for others who are suffering the heartbreak and pain of nurture or to philosophize or theorize about or find excuses as to why love inevitably comes hand-in-glove with dependency and disappointment, it is quite another to experience the very same feelings in oneself and want to be free of them come what may. It is one thing to feel envy for others who are powerful, rich and famous or to philosophize or theorize about or find excuses for ‘self’-centred desire, it is quite another to experience the very same feelings in oneself and want to be free of them come what may.
I have got into a bit of a rave about the actualism method again and yet this is something that you seem to have a good grasp on by now … and something which you will know from your recent PCE is the necessary path to an actual freedom from the human condition. But then again what I have written may well be of use to others on the mailing list who are interested in actualism.
One of the pleasures I get out of writing to the mailing list is in seeing how I have answered a question at the end of a post. It’s a bit like seeing how the design of a house comes out at the end. I never know at the start what is going to come out at the end, it is always a house for the people I am designing it for but I always keep in mind that different people will no doubt live in it one day so I try to make it the best I can for anyone who might live in it. That’s also how I respond to questions on this list – a specific answer to a specific question but answered in such a way that it may well be useful to all.
RESPONDENT: Spiritualism now does look like a snake oil to me, too. All ‘energy’ events, prophesying, channelling, gods, etc are probably just events generated by our psyche. So far, I have not come across any ‘other worldly event’ so I must admit it all seems to be just imagination supported by our culture.
Some of these things are still nice social events... a good reason to see old friends, that’s it...
PETER: In my time on the Sannyas list, there was a total denial that the dream of a New Man had failed, even to the point of denying the dream existed in the first place, despite the fact that it is well documented and still trumpeted as His dream. The main theme to emerge was the need to belong to the Sannyas social club, and the good feelings that ensued. The failure of the collective dream was further evidenced by the emerging ‘individual connections’ to Rajneesh – every man and woman in it for themselves and ‘free’ to imagine and dream what they wanted to dream. Thus feelings and imagination run riot, in complete denial of facts and sensible awareness.
At source, this desperate need to belong, come-what-may, is an instinctually driven need, for in the past the security and support of a group was indeed very necessary for survival. In this modern world, this need to belong now threatens the very survival of the species as ethnic, religious and ethical groups battle it out for supremacy and power. An actual freedom, by definition, is a freedom from this need to belong to a group that has strangled any attempts at finding peace on earth.
RESPONDENT: Long time, no read. I’m wrestling with some questions about religion. I can understand the facts that are against any form of religion = (belief). I know God = religion = war, separation and all that comes with it. I know on a personal basis that religion (belief) feeling guilty, taboos, = struggle and loss of freedom. Intellectually I do understand that any kind of religion doesn’t work. That also means no religion, no god to believe in. But I wonder where a figure like Jesus does or doesn’t fit in. What is the message? How about the bible? Is there nothing true about it? Are there only fairytales in it? I mean is there nothing practical to get from. Or was it at that moment the best that one could get. I hope you know what I mean.
PETER: As you know we have been having a lot of correspondence about the animal instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire lately on the list, and the fact that scientists are making the first discoveries to plot the source of instinctual feelings and behaviour in the human brain. For a fair while now attempts have been made to study human behaviour and get to the roots of both fear and aggression, and a particular study that shook me up was done by Stanley Milgram – it’s in the Peace chapter of my journal. It’s presently not on our web-site, so I’ll post it here as it may be of use in your deliberations –
A year after writing this, the same issue is coming home to me again as I find that, after 2 years of ‘cleaning myself’ up – digging deep into my psyche and exploring the roots of fear and aggression, it is blatantly obvious that there is nothing that can be done, within the Human Condition, to eliminate malice and sorrow. No matter how good, moral, ethical or well intentioned the individual or group attempts to be, the instincts will always win out. There have been billions of people who have prayed for peace, attempted to live moral and good lives but peace on earth is still no closer to happening.
Peace on earth is an impossibility while human beings are instinctually driven to fight each other.
The clearly unworkable, unliveable and unsuccessful reliance on morals and ethics to bring peace on earth – let alone within tribal groups, families or couples – can surely now be abandoned as a failure. Of course, one would not want to venture off and begin to question the ‘good’ if one had no evidence that there was something better, and that evidence is the Pure Consciousness Experience. One of the prime qualities of the ‘self’-less state of the PCE is the fairy-tale like purity and perfection of the actual world, and the quality of a human being in a PCE is one of innocence – there is a total absence of instinctual fear and aggression. This is the innocence much sought after on the spiritual path but what one ends up with is feeling Good or becoming Divine – a perversion and human corruption of the actual state of innocence. A synthetic, fragile, supposed innocence that does nothing to tackle the inbuilt programming of fear and aggression in the amygdala – the ‘primitive brain’ within humans.
PETER: I thought I would join in on your conversation with Vineeto about instinctual passions. I haven’t written much on the list lately as I have been penning a ‘brief introduction to Actual Freedom’. It’s a picture and word presentation done in PowerPoint and the current idea is to use it as an introduction to a CD version of the Actual Freedom Trust website that we hope to have available early in the new year. Vineeto is currently working on converting it into html for the Web site so she will probably be fully involved for a few weeks and not writing for a while.
So, on to the instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire –
VINEETO: It is not a matter of having an ‘intimate’ relationship with one’s instincts, but to acknowledge, feel and experience that ‘I’ am my instinctual passions, nothing else. ‘I’ am rotten to the very core.
RESPONDENT: Over the last few years I have become an anonymous nobody and what you have said here about seeing the instinctual passions as ‘me’, all of ‘me’ does shine some light on the matter. The part about acknowledging, feeling and experiencing that ‘I’ am my instinctual passions, nothing else and that I am rotten to the very core is where I feel that I am at right now. Intellectually I see that this is so but I am just not feeling and experiencing it right now.
PETER: And from a previous post –
RESPONDENT: Although I have been working on beliefs and emotions for a long time this area of instincts is new to me so I don’t know exactly where I’m at with it.
PETER: From the ‘introduction’ I have been working on I did a brief summary of the animal instinctual passions as evidenced in human beings. I am sure you can relate to many of these facets of the instincts ‘in action’ in your own life. The Human Condition of malice and sorrow that is obvious in human beings collectively – 160,000,0000 killed in wars this century and an estimated 40,000,000 suicides worldwide this century – is a universal condition that no individual human being escapes. We are all born with a genetically-encoded set of instinctual passions that are fully developed by the age of about 2 years when the first signs of fear, aggression, nurture and desire become obvious in every infants behaviour. What is so appallingly evident global-wide is potentially in each of us, should we submit to, or be overwhelmed by, the instinctual animal passions. From the ‘introduction to Actual Freedom’ –
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, to fear death and consequently to desperately seek immortality. Fear drives us to seek power over others or to support the powerful in return for their protection.
Aggression causes us to fight for our territory, our possessions, our ‘rights’, our family and our treasured beliefs – seeking power over others. At core, we love to fight or see others fighting..
Nurture causes us to care, comfort and protect but also leads to dependency, empathy, pity, blind sacrifice for others and needless heroism. Women are programmed to reproduce the species and men are programmed to provide for, and protect, the offspring – a blind and relentless instinctual drive.
Desire relentlessly drives us to needless sexual reproduction and sexual hunting, senseless avarice, corruption and insatiable greed for possessions and power.
There has been an ongoing denial, repression and cover-up about the role of the animal instinctual passions that has been actively instilled in each human being as an integral part of our social conditioning. This conditioning takes the form of spiritual beliefs, morals, ethics and psittacisms that are designed to make us ‘good’ citizens, do the ‘right’ thing and keep our instinctual passions ‘under control’. Unless this social identity is firmly tackled and eliminated it is impossible to even begin feeling and experiencing the instinctual passions in operation, let alone begin the investigation necessary to evince their extinction in oneself.
Many, many people who see ‘rotten’ in the world, turn to a personal search for freedom, peace and happiness and turn to the spiritual path. Thus they shackle themselves with spiritual metaphysical beliefs – the current fashion being Eastern religious belief. They then adopt the Eastern version of what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong and off they go into ancient belief, superstition, imagination and fantasy.
‘Eastern spiritual belief has it that human existence on earth is a ‘necessary suffering’ and that ultimate peace and fulfillment lies ‘elsewhere’, after death. This ‘necessary suffering’ is in fact the Human Condition of malice and sorrow and includes war, murder, rape, torture, domestic violence, corruption, despair and suicide. With this belief that all this suffering is necessary to human existence firmly habituated on the planet it is no wonder that human suffering and resentment continue to flourish.’ Introduction to Actual Freedom, The Human Condition
Of course, the Eastern religions also believe that one is born ‘innocent’ and only corrupted by ‘evil’ thoughts and that ‘right’ thinking will lead to a state of Divine purity! Unless one back-tracks out of all this nonsense, one has no chance of undertaking the common sense investigation necessary to re-wire one’s brain – to reprogram what society and blind nature has programmed your brain to think and feel to be real, true or the Truth.
Maybe a bit I wrote at the time I was undertaking this very process of reprogramming will be useful to the discussion. Actual Freedom is not a philosophy or a theory – it offers a practical, down-to-earth method that is life changing and ‘self’-eliminating.
RESPONDENT: Maybe I have it wrong but it looks to me like sorrow comes from fear. For example, if there is a fear of not surviving then there will be sorrow. In other words, isn’t fear underlying the sorrow?
PETER: The predominant instinctual passions are those of fear, aggression, nurture and desire. Although these passions are aspects of a single instinctual genetic program designed solely to ensure the survival of the species they are distinct and separate passions that can be discerned and experienced quite separately and distinctly.
RESPONDENT: Yes, I agree with this. With the predominant instinctual passions being fear, aggression, nurture and desire then isn’t malice and sorrow derived from these passions with fear being the most predominant? My specific question is: Isn’t the instinct of fear underlying (the cause of) malice and sorrow?
PETER: No. Although fear, aggression, nurture and desire are aspects of a single instinctual genetic program designed solely to ensure the survival of the species they are distinct and separate passions that can be discerned and experienced quite separately and distinctly. As an example, if you are driving a car and become angry that the car in front of you is travelling very slowly, your anger has nothing to do with fear. If you are sitting in a café and hear some music that makes you feel sad, your sorrow has nothing to do with fear. I won’t go on as your own investigations can reveal that fear, aggression, nurture and desire are distinct and separate passions that can be discerned and experienced quite separately and distinctly. A few examples of this –
To remain fixated upon fear as being primary and predominant, even if that is how you experience it now, is to miss out on the opportunity of being aware of, and thus being able to investigate the full range of instinctual passions that are the underlying cause of human malice and sorrow. You may also find that the fascinating business of investigating the full range of instinctual passions in action will divert you from your fixation with the feeling of fear and enable you to turn the fear into the thrill of discovering what you are.
Having said all that, I can also relate to your feelings of fear as they would often rack me when I was first confronted by actualism and the enormity of setting off on a path that could only lead to ‘my’ demise. I was however thoroughly fed up with living a second-rate life and I was totally disillusioned with the hypocrisy of the spiritual world so I figured I had nothing left to lose anyway.
What I did was set myself some realistic targets – to live with at least one other person in utter peace and harmony and to eliminate both malice and sorrow from my life. Once I had set myself these goals, given myself something practical to do about my lot in life as it were, the feelings of fear became secondary to the adventure of being an actualist and to the satisfaction of the success that ensues.
RESPONDENT: I’m beginning to read Joseph LeDoux’s books to better understand the relevance of his work on emotion to Actual Freedom.
PETER: The only relevance that I can ascertain is his experimental confirmation that feeling precedes thought.
RESPONDENT: Besides that – I’m looking at a book by Antonio Damasio – titled ‘Descartes’ Error’. Now I have no well-formed views on what he is saying, but what I’m gathering so far is that Damasio’s work (he looks specifically at the case of Phineas Gage and others with frontal lobe damage) is a confirmation of LeDoux’s work, and in that sense may be of use to actualists.
PETER: It pays to remember that neither LeDoux nor Damasio are interested in becoming free of the human condition and, as such, they are interested in explaining what is, rather than what is possible.
RESPONDENT: Interestingly enough, Damasio seems to be saying that emotion and feeling is integral to experience as a self (both social and instinctual) – but since he dealt with people with frontal lobe damage, he seems to be saying that loss of self is dangerous and maladaptive.
PETER: Which is but confirmation of the status quo.
RESPONDENT: So he is trying to correct the ‘Cartesian Error’ that reasoning and cognition is without feeling or emotion – so he is afraid of the idea of a ‘selfless cognition.’
PETER: ‘Not at all interested in ‘the idea of a ‘selfless cognition’’ may be a better way of describing it.
RESPONDENT: So, on the one hand he seems to support the actualist affirmation of the instinctual self, yet he also claims that loss of self is disorienting and disturbing.
PETER: It is useful to consider that an actual freedom from the human condition is not considered normal by the psychological and psychiatric standards applicable to the human condition. But then again, that is to be expected, is it not.
The other relevant point to consider is that Richard is not someone who has suffered brain damage but is someone who has managed by his own efforts to rid himself of malice and sorrow – an event that coincided with the extinction of all traces of either a psychological or psychic ‘self’.
RESPONDENT: My hunch is that may be due to the fact that he has studied what he calls ‘secondary emotion’ – that is the processing of the frontal lobe with the functioning of the amygdala still intact. Anyway, this is mostly a pre-formed opinion since I haven’t had sufficient time to mull over the ideas, but I’m wondering if others have read Damasio’s work and what thoughts you might have.
PETER: I remember several times being hooked in by the experimental work and theories of neuro-scientists and the like, until I remembered that all they are studying is the functioning of the human brain – the hardware if you like – within the current functioning of the human psyche – the software programming if you like. And that, unlike actualists, they have no interest whatsoever in changing the social and instinctual programming that is the very cause of all the misery and mayhem among human beings on the planet.
RESPONDENT: ^Note1: I have the last couple of days indeed experienced the ‘Amygdala-effect’; in fact, yesterday night it came to some sort of climax I felt some sort of a cracking at the back of my head next I found myself a bit giggling and I heard myself say ‘this must be the Amygdala’. Now it feels somehow as if the Amygdala is ‘pricked’ up on my spine a bit ET-like, as if indeed I can feel that part in my head. There’s also a bit of muscular activity in my neck, which very much seems to be related to breathing^.
PETER: I remember when I first read that Richard reported that the precursory event to becoming free of the human condition was accompanied by a physical sensation at the top of the brain-stem. As I recall, he likened it to the turning over of record on one of those old 50’s record players. This happened when Richard became Enlightened and it subsequently took eleven more years until the process of ‘self’-immolation was complete.
I was curious at the time that the event of becoming free of the human condition appeared to have a physical component as well as the obvious psychological and psychic components – the extinction of the psychological and psychic entity in total. I say ‘appeared to have’ because we only have Richards’s report of the event and no other tangible evidence to support it. Even so, what I made of the report of the physical sensations was that it could have been related to the physical extinguishing of the instinctual animal survival programming – the genetically-encoded programming that gives rise to the instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire in the human animal.
Now of course, all this is at best speculation, a working hypothesis until proved as a fact or abandoned as nonsense. But at the time I found the assumption very useful because it set me off on a course that made me open to the possibility that the root cause of my malice and sorrow was utterly non-spiritual and that it was physical in nature – my instinctual survival programming. It made good sense to me that there was a physical cause to human behaviour and this was a breath of fresh air after spending years believing in spiritual esoterica or blaming someone else or something else for my own feelings of malice and sorrow.
My particular interest in the physical origins of the instinctual passions led to Richard writing more on the subject of instinctual passions and to my own attempts to explain their origins in what someone recently described as pseudo-scientific terms. (see The Actual Freedom Trust Library) .
The reason I am writing this is to give you some background to what you are now terming the ‘Amygdala affect’ – and I like the term, by the way. There is no doubt that on the path to actual freedom many weird and wonderful psychic and psychological events can and do happen and that sometimes there can even be physical sensations that occur. From my experience, these events may well be par for the course but they are neither the main event nor are they a sure sign of anything in particular. The only sign of success on the path to an actual freedom from malice and sorrow is the incremental reduction of feeling malice and sorrow and the subsequent emergence of more and more of the felicitous feelings in everyday life. For a sincere actualist there can be no other measure of success than this.
Consequently I came to see that marking my success in becoming free by the occurrence of physical sensations was akin to a spiritualist marking their success in becoming God by how much their Kundalini was rising or how much their third eye was opening. I also saw that if Richard had said his ankle twitched when he became free there could well be a generation of followers all limping around saying ‘all is going well, I’m nearly there’. As I write I am reminded of the ‘Placebo effect’ wherein a patient does not know whether any improvements are a physical result of the treatment or purely imaginary.
My point is not to take what is written about other people’s experiences as a gospel because believing can lead to all sorts of imaginations. And not to confuse sincerity with humourlessness – it’s essential to be able to laugh at all the weird and wonderful experiences, be they psychological, psychic or physical, which happen on the path to actual freedom.
PETER: By the way, this survival program is not conditioning endowed by evolution over time – it is genetically encoded as an indivisible package in each and every human being born, i.e. it is not a progressive conditioning, it is an instantaneous condition. The instinctual program is the (human) condition and it is universal to every human being whereas social conditioning is individual in that it has slight cultural and gender variations.
RESPONDENT: I was talking about evolutionary conditioning of a species, not an individual.
PETER: Yes but the instinctual survival mechanism that gives rise to the instinctual passions (fear, aggression, nurture and desire) is universal to the human species – each and every human being is born with them. The instinctual survival mechanism is not conditioning – ‘evolutionary conditioning’ is something you have made up, it is not a fact.
Social conditioning is somewhat individual and slightly varied but the instinctual survival mechanism – that which is the root cause of all human animosity and all human anguish – is universal in that it is genetically-encoded within all the sentient animal species and not just the human animal species.
It’s not for nothing that it is said that ‘he fought like a tiger’ or ‘she squealed like a pig’ … or that ‘they acted like sheep’.
RESPONDENT: It’s true to say that the genetic coding is supplied complete to each individual.
PETER: Oh, good. Can we agree then that the instinctual survival mechanism – that which gives rise to the instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire in human beings – ‘is supplied complete’ to each and every member of the human species?
Do realize that this is no little thing to agree to because it is completely at odds with all of the spiritual teachings that have it that we are born innocent beings and only corrupted by conditioning or that we are all blank slate souls who have to suffer the trails of being trapped in a corporeal body in an alien physical world?
RESPONDENT: The conditioning, however, takes huge amounts of time and works on species.
PETER: Well if you can see the sense – and accept the scientific evidence – that the instinctual survival passions are genetically-encoded and as such are ‘supplied complete’ to each and every member of the human species – then can also probably see that conditioning – be it ethnic, racial, social, cultural, religious or whatever – is what happens to each and every human being after birth?
Let me put it another way. The instinctual passions are universal to all human beings – there is no difference between the fear a Greek woman feels or the fear a Liberian man feels, there is no difference to the anger a Roman centurion felt to that which a Stone Age girl felt. In other words, whilst there are undoubtedly ethnic, racial, social, cultural and religious differences between these people, the feelings they feel and the passions they are driven by are universal to all human beings.
RESPONDENT: Chapter XI Memory Habits and the Birth of the ‘I-process’ Page 116:
PETER: Not a word to be seen in this quote about the crucial role that the instinctual passions play in both forming and sustaining the parasitical entity that inhabits the flesh and blood body –
RESPONDENT: I wouldn’t expect there to be. I can’t imagine that the writer would list every type of conditioning there is for this brief outline and nor would I expect him to use your particular terminology.
PETER: Your argument would be more convincing had not the author specifically said that ‘consciousness of self is nothing other than a ‘secondary current’ formed by the ‘accumulation of memory’ and from this process ‘a ‘thinker’ is born’. In other words what he is saying is clearly not what actualism is saying.
Why would he, along with all the other Sages and teachers and pundits, waste his time and his words skirting around the edge of the crux of the issue if indeed he did know ‘the crucial role that the instinctual passions play in both forming and sustaining the parasitical entity that inhabits the flesh and blood body’?
RESPONDENT: I think it’s quite right that Actualism stresses the role of genetic inheritance. You have no argument with me on that.
PETER: Are you clear that what you are agreeing to … because what actualism stresses (that the genetically-encoded instinctual passions are the root cause of human malice and sorrow) is diametrically opposite to all of what all of spiritualism teaches (that human beings are born innocent and only corrupted by conditioning or that we are all born as blank-slate souls who then have to suffer the trails of being trapped in a corporeal body in an alien physical world before a final release ‘when the body dies’).
RESPONDENT: The instinctual passions are an important part of the larger whole, being drivers and reactors to other elaborately interconnected parts of the thought system.
PETER: From what I understand of the brain’s operation – both intellectually through reading LeDoux and others and experientially by being attentive as to how this brain and other brains operate – there are no ‘elaborately interconnected parts of the thought system’, it’s all very simple really.
As I said above – ‘the ultimate source … is in genetically-encoded instinctual passions which are not only primary ‘quick and dirty’ reactions but they also feed back into thinking such that reasoned responses, sensibility, sensitivity and clear thinking have little if any chance to operate’.
Once I understood this intellectually I then ditched the ‘‘we all live in one big thought-system’ theory’ and all other spiritual concepts and started to find out for myself the experiential evidence that this is so. In short, I started to get in touch with my own feelings and passions and began to observe them in action – something that men, in particular, have been conditioned not to do.