Selected Correspondence Peter
Actualism in the Marketplace
RESPONDENT: Also, if I cannot live in ‘the real world’ – i.e. business world (as-it-is) or ‘dog-eat-dog of people’ (as-they-are at work), as Peter called it, and not try to retreat on a leisure seaside house by the ocean (as-I-want things to be) with a choice person (as-I-want people to be) and create the circumstances (events that I like), then would I be as happy as I am?
PETER: I have no problem at all how other people choose to live their lives – it is after all their lives they are living and they will reap the rewards and suffer the consequences of any choices they make or don’t make. Speaking personally, I liked living in cities when I was younger – I had a ball living in London in the 70’s – but I also enjoyed living in a smaller city in Australia when I had children. When my child-rearing responsibilities finished I came across a small sea-side town in the subtropics and deliberately chose to live here as it was the best spot I had discovered in all of my travels. In other words, I chose to arrange my living circumstances ‘(as-I-want things to be)’, to use your words.
After making that decision, the next consideration was making money to support myself and the easiest option was to do what I enjoyed doing and was good at – designing and building houses. I gradually found a small group of carpenters and subcontractors who were interested in doing good work and who enjoyed doing good work and we all had a good time building nice houses for nice people, i.e. I chose to work with people ‘(as-they-are at work)’, associate and live with people ‘(as-I-want people to be)’ and create working circumstances ‘(events that I like)’, to use your words.
All of this seems eminently sensible to me, I simply organized my life in a way that provided the most safety, the most comfort, the most pleasure and the most leisure possible commensurate with the least amount of working time possible – I never believed there was anything at all to be gained by suffering.
The only thing that was still very obviously missing from my life was that I knew I was not free of malice, I would occasionally suffer from melancholia and I wanted to rectify my life-long failure to live with a companion in utter peace and harmony. Then I came across actualism … and the rest of the story is in my journal.
As for your question ‘then would I be as happy as I am?’, it is important to note that I was living in the idyllic circumstances I described above and yet I was not happy and, even more importantly, I had to acknowledge I was nowhere near harmless. The fact that I lived in what is literally a paradise made my lack of happiness even more poignant and even more obvious – and this glaring incongruity was one of the motivations I had for committing myself to actualism.
RESPONDENT: Seems to me like an artificial paradise you two have created, like the one advertised on the tourist booklets.
PETER: Ah! Far, far better than that. The paradise I live in is not artificial, it is actual and I now have an almost constant sensual appreciation of that fact. And further to this, I would now have the same sensual appreciation no matter where I lived on this luxuriant and cornucopian planet. I have simply chosen to live in the best bit of the planet I found in my travels – I voted with my feet to find a place I prefer to live, as millions of migrants do every year on the planet.
As for ‘you two have created’, I presume you are referring to the fact that we live together in the same flat in utter peace and harmony, 24/7. This is not a mutual creation – the fact that I live this way with Vineeto is testimony that the actualism method does work in that I am now virtually free of malice and sorrow, which means that I am a pleasurable companion to live with. And I can attest to the fact that Vineeto, also being virtually free of malice and sorrow, is a delightful companion to live with – we have none of the disputes, disagreements, altercations, withdrawals, retreats, estrangements, holding-backs, holding-ons and time-outs that typify normal relationships.
In short, I am every moment reaping the rewards of my full-blooded commitment to living with a companion in utter peace and harmony.
RESPONDENT: What Peter failed to see is that the ‘dog-eat-dog’ is created by him.
PETER: You appear to have misunderstood what I said –
By circumstance I found myself in a work situation in which I would normally not choose to be in, nor prefer to be in. Whilst I had great fun it was clear to me that nobody else was enjoying what they were doing, everybody was competing with each other and everybody was bitching about each other, either openly or behind each other’s backs. In other words, I had an in-my-face reminder of the grim reality I had left behind when I abandoned materialism. This dog-eat-dog world is not created by me, I am not making it up, it is not an illusion, it exists in its own right, it is real – people do bitch and moan, complain and compete, get depressed, get angry and so on.
I simply chose, many years ago, not to be a materialist – not to be a willing participant in this dog-eat-dog world and then I set about finding a better and more harmonious way of working for the money I need for shelter, food, clothes and a few further luxuries.
RESPONDENT: I live 8 hours a day in this world, is there a problem?
RESPONDENT: My first questions relate to what is (apparently) lost in AF. If there is no imaginative faculty, no mind-space at all in which to visualise objects and processes, how is it possible to understand systems and processes that do not occur right before one’s eyes?
For example: could Peter continue being an architect if he were to experience the final physiological transformation that Richard has undergone? By what means could he design and mentally manipulate new architectural plans if he had no imaginative faculty? How could he understand and discuss plans with a colleague, without seeing an actual representation of them? How could he rearrange mental images if he has no ‘mind space’, no inner eye? Would he become useless (as an architect) without his CAD software?
PETER: The reason I thought to respond was that I have made a living as an architect whilst being a ‘normal’ person and continue to do so whilst being virtually free of malice and sorrow. I have also had numerous PCEs so I know by experience what it would be to be work as an architect free of the burden of passions and imagination.
As I remember it, when I was normal the design process was a somewhat tortuous process – it was an essential part of the process to try and form a mental image of what I was designing before I tried to convert the mental image into a drawing. This forming of a mental image sometimes began even before the job started, before I met the clients or saw the land. The mental image was then based solely on what ‘I’ wanted to do, which was often at odds with what the client wanted to do or had the money to pay for or what best suited the site, the climate, the local regulations, the ease of construction, and so on. In other words the image of what I wanted to do was utterly selfist, passionate and imaginary and not at all not rooted in actuality.
This process of forming a mental image and then trying to actualize it in some form is often termed ‘the creative process’ and I very often suffered angst and anguish going through this process – feelings that are well-documented as being part and parcel of being a ‘creative’ person. Of course many self-aggrandizing feelings also arise – there is no more smug feeling than ‘me’ feeling that ‘I’ am being creative – particularly when ‘I’ receive the plaudits of others for being ‘the creator’.
However this feeling of smugness always had a hollow ring to it for me because ‘I’ was often aware that ‘I’ was claiming credit for something ‘I’ was not responsible for. Sometimes I would put this feeling into words such as ‘it wasn’t me who did it’ and I have heard others do likewise. I have also heard people say things like ‘there is a creative force that works through me’, often implying that ‘there is a Creative, aka Divine, Force that works through me’ and the more megalomaniacal even get to think and feel that ‘I am the Creative Force’. There is so much self-indulgent twaddle that has been written about creativity as to make the word creative hackneyed and I was aware of this even in my pre-actualist days.
When I became an actualist I started to become more attentive to my feelings and this included the feelings that were happening when I was trying to mentally conceptualize a design, as well as those feelings that were happening during the putting-it-down-on-paper stage. I started to become attentive to not only the emotional ups and downs that I went through but also to the effect these feelings had on others in my interactions with clients and builders, as well as those most close to me.
Late one night in my first year as an actualist, as I was working on the drawing board, I had a pure conscious experience whereby my mind became aware of itself working. There was apperception happening in that there was no ‘me’ being aware – there was simply the brain being aware of the brain in operation, in this case doing the task of designing a house. The process that was happening was fascinating to observe – there was a continual consideration of the parameters that governed the design: the client’s requirements, past experience, site considerations, planning and building regulations, structural considerations, climate considerations, budget, ease of building, appearance, durability, workability and so on.
There was a repeated shuffling of ideas and information operating – a trial and error process of working out the best solution – and it was magical to observe, even more so because there was awareness of only part of the process that was going on, there was a good deal happening ‘on the back burner’ as it were. Sometimes a particular issue was set aside for a while whilst another issue was addressed and when I returned to it later the best solution came instantaneously which made it apparent that there was an awareness only of the surface activity of the brain in action.
The operation of the human brain is such an exquisite intricacy as to be truly wondrous. With no ‘I’ in the road to agonize over the process, nor a ‘me’ present to either exalt or despair at the outcome, there was simply the brain doing what the brain does – think, plan, reflect, evaluate, compare, compute, assess and mull over, as well as simultaneously being aware that this is what it is doing. And not only that, whilst the brain is being apperceptively aware, it is also serving as the central processing unit for the sensory perceptive system of the body – continually processing the myriad of sensate information that is this flesh and blood body’s sensual sensitivity to whatever is happening in this moment.
In a PCE, it is wondrously apparent that the brain itself is not doing the sensing, it is only interpreting or making sense of the sensory input – and only doing so when and if it is needed to do so. There is an awareness that it is the eyes that are doing the seeing – there is no image of what the eyes are seeing that is transferred to the cerebral brain, there is an awareness that it is the ears that are doing the hearing – there is no sound that is transferred to the cerebral brain, there is an awareness that it is the skin that is doing the feeling and touching – there is no tactile response felt in the cerebral brain … and so on.
In a PCE, the brain, bereft of any illusionary identity together with its associated affective faculty, is incapable of forming mental images or indulging in imaginary scenarios – it is either apperceptively aware that it is involved in doing what it does, thinking and interpreting sensory inputs or it is not, in which case there is no thinking or interpreting going on, simply a sensual awareness of being conscious of being alive.
Now whilst such ‘self’-less experiences of apperception only occur in a PCE, an actualist who has got to the stage of being virtually free of malice and sorrow can operate and function with very little of the debilitating effects of ‘I’ stuffing things up or ‘me’ strutting the stage like some disembodied drama queen in a dream, or a nightmare, of ‘my’ imagination. In virtual freedom it is readily apparent that there is no need to indulge in imaginative fantasies nor to attempt to create mental images – in fact should they occur they are quickly seen for what they are – a pathetic substitute for the sumptuousness of actuality.
To bring this back to the business of being an architect, it means that any attempt on ‘my’ part to form a mental image, either prior to or during the design process, only inhibits the doing of the designing – a practical doing that happens anyway and happens at its very best whenever ‘I’ am absent from the scene.
I don’t know if that answers your question but I had fun writing of my experiences as an actualist. As I said, there is so much twaddle written about so-called creativity that it is good to have some sense written about the actuality of creating something.
RESPONDENT: You say that in your case actualism is the third alternative to both materialism and spiritualism.
PETER: Yes. This is how I put it recently in a post to No 52 –
Many people seek happiness via the relentless pursuit to amass more and more material possessions, the idea supposedly being that the accumulation of financial wealth with its associated power over others is the meaning of life on earth. In the dog-eat-dog materialist world success is to be the biggest dog on the block.
Running parallel with this materialist viewpoint within the human condition is the ancient belief in a spiritual world – an ethereal world of spirits – in essence a place where the human spirit or soul or atman supposedly goes after the death of the physical body. Because these archaic spiritual beliefs still maintain a tenacious grip over human beings, many people run a bet each way – whilst still pursuing materialism they also take care to indulge in some form of religious/spiritual belief to varying degrees of intensity. And there are a small percentage of people who are so disenamoured with materialism that they devote their lives to spiritual pursuits becoming priests, monks, nuns, sannyasins, teachers and the like and in doing so becoming dependant on others to provide for their sustenance as well as their status.
As you can see materialism and spiritualism are not necessarily black and white distinctions, as most people seem to dabble in both with nay a blush.
RESPONDENT: Although spiritualism is largely discussed on this mailing list and on the site, why there is no such discussion concerning materialism (as there are far more materialist practitioners around me and in the world than convinced spiritualists).
PETER: The reason that spiritualism is discussed more than materialism on this mailing list is that this is an uncensored mailing list and what people choose to write about reflects their interests and passions. The comment that I would make is that I would assume that those who are currently interested in actualism would have already seen and experienced that the pursuit of happiness and the meaning of life is not to be found in materialism and would therefore have gone seeking both happiness and the meaning of life in spiritualism – the only alternative previously known to them. It follows that the reason that we have a lot of discussion about spiritual beliefs on this list is that a prerequisite to becoming an actualist is to abandon one’s emotional ties to spiritualism.
Having said that, I also think that this will only be the case in these early years of actualism, because as actualism becomes more widely known, those who are sufficiently disenamoured with materialism will increasingly be aware that there are now two other alternatives – the down-to-earthness of actualism or the other-worldliness of spiritualism.
And just as a footnote, it also seems to me that those who have expressed an interest in actualism to date have not needed to trod the spiritual path as intensely as did Richard, nor for that matter, as did either Vineeto or I. They can read our ‘been there, done that’ reports and make up there own minds as to what they want to do with their lives.
RESPONDENT: And if peace-on-earth is your aim, then this might be a major topic to tackle as there are far more wars for oil then for religious purposes.
PETER: I have written about the shortcomings of materialism on this mailing list before because once I finally stopped believing in spiritual beliefs, I then had to take a clear-eyed look at materialism once more so as to finally remove all of the beliefs, notions, psittacisms and passions that give substance to the universal belief that human existence is, and hence always will be, a grim battle for survival.
As for ‘there are far more wars for oil than for religious purposes’, I don’t have a sufficient grasp of geo-politics to know one way or the other. In my somewhat limited knowledge of the history of human conflict, it would seem that the very early wars between humans were scrappy affairs fought over territory and resources. As tribes were eventually amalgamated into nations the motives for war would appear to be increasingly about power and prestige rather than territory and resources per se. In these early years it would appear that the priests and shamans simply went along for the ride garnering what influence and power they could by playing on the fears and superstitions of the kings and emperors. Over time the priests and shamans appear to have wheedled their way to the top of the heap and it could be said that many wars were fought largely in order that the Godmen, Popes or High priests could then strut their stuff on a larger stage. The Dark Ages in Europe comes to mind as an example of a prolonged period of inter and intra-religious conflict and persecution.
Your comment may be a particular reference to the two recent Gulf Wars, both of which are seen by some people as being wars fought for oil. Whilst I think it’s a reasonable comment to make about the first Gulf War – at the end of the war Kuwait’s oil passed from Iraqi control back into Kuwaiti control – I would see the second Gulf War as being more ideologically driven than economically driven. It is pertinent to remember that after terrorist’s attacks on the very heart of the U.S.’s economic, defence and executive might the U.S. was forced to respond and they initially did so by striking back at the heart of the terrorist group responsible for the attacks, which meant sending troops into Afghanistan.
The U.S. then decided to do something about the other long-term thorn in their side, Saddham Hussein, who had been merrily thumbing his nose at the U.S. for years by persistently flaunting the ceasefire conditions he had agreed to after his defeat in GW1. As I understand it, the ideology behind the toppling of Hussein was to end his dictatorial reign and bring democracy to Iraq – an ideology based on the fact that democratic nations have been proven to be much less prone to wage war than dictatorial regimes, Monarchies or Theocracies.
So whilst oil may have been a footnote on the agenda somewhere, I don’t see it as being the main motive for GW2 and as I understand it, Iraq’s oil will now be in Iraqis’ control and not Saddham Hussein’s personal control.
But that’s just my understanding of the matter based on information I have gleaned and I am more than willing to change my view if I came across fresh information to the contrary. As I said, I don’t have a great interest in or knowledge of geo-politics and the only reason I have commented on your comment is to illustrate that many things I would glibly accepted as being fact in the past I now put in the ‘maybe’ box. Nowadays if I am interested in the subject I take care to check the source of the information that is being put out so that I can understand the slant that is being put on it – for an example I check if the source is anti-U.S., anti-capitalism, pro-capitalism, anti-authority, pro-socialism, pro-Environmentalism, anti-change, academic, pragmatic, and so on.
RESPONDENT: I ask this as I find myself spending at least 8 hours a day as a ‘materialist’ and less then ½–1 hour/day investigating the human condition operating as me. Spirituality is not on my agenda anymore, yet fear of not having enough money to pay for rent, food, clothes, car, etc. is a major issue to deal with at least right now.
PETER: I found that the only way to investigate the issues and feelings that arise from working for a living was whilst I was working for a living. I didn’t have an on-off attitude to being an actualist – I didn’t, and eventually couldn’t, switch off attentiveness for any reason. Actualism is about being happy and harmless in the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are … and that obviously includes being happy and harmless in the time you spend working in order to earn ‘enough money to pay for rent, food, clothes, car, etc.’
RESPONDENT: I’m also a great lover of comfort, so the fear of not living in comfortable conditions gives me the necessary will to get up every morning and go to work.
PETER: I can remember in my spiritual years, that many people were anti-materialist to the point of actively resenting the fact that they had to work for a living – having to be in the real-world as they called it. This resentment at having to work for a living is why many of them wanted to become Gurus and ‘get their money for nothing and their chicks for free’. Basically if you became Enlightened, you assuage the fear of survival by bludging off others. In India I found that they were quite upfront about the whole business – you either got a job struggling in the real-world or you became an apprentice to some Guru with the hope of one day maybe becoming a God-man in your own right.
The actualism approach is radically different in that the aim of an actualist is to more and more facilitate the felicitous feelings about being here in the circumstances you find yourself in right now – including having to get up in the morning and having to go to work if that is your circumstances right now – whilst simultaneously being aware of any feelings that inhibit your happiness and cause you to be belligerent to others.
Or to put it another way, eight hours a day is a lot of time to waste being grumpy and resentful – if you have to work for a living, as most people do, why not enjoy your time working by being happy and harmless?
RESPONDENT: So how have you made the distinction between being an actualist instead of a materialist,
PETER: As a generalization, a materialist is someone who has never bothered to question the selfism inherent in the relentless pursuit of amassing more and more material possessions, whereas an actualist is someone who is sensitive to the selfism inherent in both materialism and spiritualism and, because of this sensitivity, seeks to be free of this selfism.
RESPONDENT: … and where is the line between laziness and giving yourself more time to investigate?
PETER: Well for a start, as an actualist the time I spend ‘investigating the human condition operating as me’, to use your words, is the time that I am awake, conscious and aware. It starts from waking in the morning, continues through the day, no matter what I am doing or not doing, and ceases the moment consciousness seeps away and I go to sleep at night-time.
As for laziness, even as a young man I was never impressed by materialism and this has meant that I have been able to spend less time working for a living than those who pursue materialism. When I came across actualism, the last traces of my materialistic beliefs and urges eventually wilted on the vine, which meant I have trimmed my material possessions down to the necessary luxuries – good food, comfortable shelter and clothes, computer, TV, necessary furniture. By being sensible I found I was able to halve the money I had previously needed to earn in the days when I was a driven being, which means that I now have much more time to savour doing nothing in particular.
RESPONDENT: And what the hell is a materialist? I ask this as one cannot be both an actualist and a materialist, yet at the same time one has to work in order to survive and live a comfortable life.
PETER: A materialist is someone who is instinctually driven to accumulate more and more material possessions. This is not the same thing as the fact that most people in industrialized countries have to sell their time in exchange for money in order to buy food and clothes, pay rent and pay for transport. As an actualist I came to experientially understand that to resent a fact or rile against a fact or complain about a fact – in this case the necessity to sell one’s time in order to buy food and clothes, pay rent and pay for transport – is but to waste this opportunity of sensually delighting in this on-going moment of being here in this actual world of the senses.
PETER to No 23: I have been thinking a bit about the subject of politics lately following my reply to your last post. I have had occasion to watch a few of the recent debates about ‘should the US force a regime-change in Iraq?’ on television and was reminded at how far I had come in becoming free of the morals, beliefs, values and opinions I passionately held a few years ago. I was able to listen to the discussions without emotionally siding with the doves against the hawks, without automatically believing those I wanted to believe and distrusting those who I felt were being deceitful, without liking the so-called good guys and hating the so-called bad guys, without feeling angry or becoming depressed.
What became evident as I watched the discussions was how much passion and belief dominates political discussion and decision-making and how little common sense – a down-to-earth consideration of the facts of the matter – is evident in the discussions. As I watched, I was again reminded that the opinions most people have about these issues is based on emotionally-biased information presented by journalists, politicians, dissidents, protestors, fundamentalists and the like who thrive on presenting, provoking and promoting disparate viewpoints and spend little time and effort, if any, in researching and verifying the facts of the issue.
I was also reminded in watching the discussions that the only way I had managed the degree of freedom from malice and sorrow I have is because every time I observed the human condition in action I was attentive to my own feelings of malice and sorrow as they arose. Every time I found myself being angry or upset by a particular issue, I would ask myself why? I would then look at my own beliefs about the issue and by doing so become aware of my investment in holding on to my beliefs. This process does take time and effort because while it is easy to take the lazy path of siding with like-minded believers, it is quite another matter to dare to question the need to have any belief whatsoever.
As I thought about the thread of our last conversation, I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that I have ignored or turned away from real-world problems, issues and conflicts as is common in spiritual circles. Far from it. I have spent a good deal of time watching the news and current affair discussions over the last years, not to seek solutions to real world problems but as an invaluable aid to investigating and eliminating my own beliefs, which I discovered triggered much of my feelings of malice and sorrow. There a wealth of information to be found about the human condition by getting one’s head out of the clouds, and out of the sand, and it is vital to do so in order to clearly see the role that both social and instinctual programming has in sustaining and maintaining conflict and misery within the human species.
Only by caring enough to want a global peace on earth can anyone dare to go beyond the currently-fashionable, but utterly selfish, desire for a personal feeling of ‘inner peace’ and do the painstaking, oft difficult, but ultimately thrilling, work of incrementally dismantling one’s own social and instinctual identity.
Another point that I would like to make is that in my early years of being an actualist I focussed my attention almost exclusively on local-to-me issues rather than distant-to-me global issues. By this I mean I was busy with being attentive to how I was with the fellow human beings immediate to me, be it the person I was living with or the people I had contact with at work or whilst going about my daily life. I focussed my entire efforts upon becoming as happy and as harmless as possible in daily life rather than becoming distracted by being concerned about what other people I didn’t even know, or had no contact with, chose to believe and feel to be important in their lives. Only by doing this was I able to eliminate my own animosity and anguish to the point where it was then possible to have a clear-eyed understanding of the complexities and perversities of the human condition as it plays out on a global scale.
This focus on how I am experiencing this moment of being alive is what makes actualism diametrically opposite both to spiritual practice and normal life in the real world. ‘Normal’ people focus their attention on what others do wrong in order have someone to blame. Spiritualists focus their awareness on the ‘badness’ or ‘wrongness’ of the beliefs, feelings, anxieties and actions of others, thereby developing a new and superior identity – a real ‘me’ or a higher self. By the very nature of their focus, they aggrandize their feelings and beliefs and, by doing so, become increasingly more dissociated from the world as-it-is and people as-they-are.
I remember at one stage this seemed to me a selfish thing to do – to focus entirely on my own experiencing – and I have written about this stage in my journal (Peter’s Journal, Time). But what drove me on was the success I was having in using the actualism method to become happy and harmless – and it was success in becoming increasingly harmless that was most revealing and rewarding. As I remember it, the early days of using the actualism method were rather difficult because I was doing something that was quite unnatural – trying to focus my attention on how I was experiencing this moment of being alive rather than focussing my attention on how other people were living their lives and continuously being concerned with guessing what they were feeling about me.
I hope this helps to throw a bit more light on my response to your previous post. The business of actualism is brand new and, as such, getting the hang of the method does take a good deal of persistence to break with old habits. This is why I like to take the opportunity to write to those who are interested in the ‘how to’ of becoming happy and harmless – I assume the experience I have had in using the method could well be of use to those who have similar aspirations.
PETER: As a generalization, for what it is worth, I see materialists as being mainly interested in finding political/ social/ economic solutions to the human dilemma whereas spiritualists by and large despair that any of these solutions will ever bring peace on earth and as a consequence they actively practice dissociation from being here on earth. This distinction is a black and white one, whereas most people I have come across play it safe by having a leg in both worlds.
RESPONDENT: I think I was neither here nor there and that created difficulties for me. Lately more materialist, in the sense that I am trying to make a living and secure some financial security and freedom. Is that at odds with actualism?
PETER: Not at all. There is a popular myth that spiritualist do not have to make a living – that somehow ‘Existence’ provides for and looks after the Chosen Ones. If one looks at the facts of the matter, Mohan Rajneesh made a far better living by teaching Eastern Religion to Westerners than he did by teaching Eastern philosophy to Indians. Likewise Jiddu Krishnamurti made a very good living out of his Guru business. He was well supported by his followers – it was they who paid for his food, lodgings, clothes and travel. The thousands upon thousands of Buddhist monks in Asia make their living by being monks and their food, lodging, clothes and travel are paid for by others.
As an actualist the business of making a living – selling my time to others in return for tokens to purchase food and clothes and to rent shelter – became progressively easier and more stress free the more I have become happy about being wherever I happen to be doing whatever it is that I am doing … or not doing. (...)
PETER: When I recalled my first PCE, it became clear to me that the way to get from ‘A’ – being normal – to ‘B’ – having an ongoing direct experience of actuality 24/7 – was that ‘I’ had to devote my life to becoming happy and harmless … and that this commitment had to be so total as to be an all-consuming obsession. I don’t want to gallop ahead too much, but the reason I mention this is to point to the essential link between becoming happy and harmless and becoming free of the human condition – they are one and the same path.
RESPONDENT: Are you suggesting that if I was really serious, I would have to leave my job to pursue this 24/7?
PETER: Not at all. Actualism is about becoming happy and harmless in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are and the way to do this is to practice bringing one’s attention to being happy and harmless right here in this very place in physical space and right now in this, the only moment that you can ever experience being alive.
What you happen to be doing at this moment and where you are at this moment is besides the point – if you are sitting at a desk working, or laying on the couch watching TV, the question is still the same – ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ … or to put it another way ‘am I being harmless and am I feeling happy right now and if not, why not?’
RESPONDENT: Understood. I think it’s probably a case of vagueness on my part. I’m not suggesting I drop the proper application of neo-cortical capability. If I don’t maintain vigilance, I tend to ‘drift’ off to an abstractly intellectual place. It’s just my Jungian type. I have to constantly remember to keep it all firmly rooted in the flesh-and-blood. I am a huge proponent of the power of our grey matter, and am aghast at how poorly the human race uses it. It’s our greatest tool and it is essential that we take full advantage of it.
PETER: (...) As to the business side of being here – I was a bit late with my response because I have been head down and tail up lately drawing for money rather than writing for leisure and pleasure. Whilst human beings in the past sustained themselves by hunting and gathering which then developed into hoarding and plundering, by and large, we are now all traders of sorts, be it time, goods or services. I do my hunting and gathering in an air-conditioned supermarket and the only thing I have to do to survive is to ensure that when I put my plastic card into the machine outside the bank that it spits out enough money to pay for my food, clothes and shelter plus whatever toys I like playing with. This means that I need to trade my time for money – the least money I need to survive, the least work I need to do, the more time I have free for leisure and pleasure or for ‘learning to do nothing really well’.
When I came to live in this area, I found a good many of my spiritual friends were busy buying houses and big new 4-wheel drive cars. I made a living by building houses for some of these people and I did consider whether I should put my nose to the grindstone and save and borrow in order to get my own house and land. I was accustomed at the time to spending all of my spare money, or ‘disposable income’, as it’s known nowadays, on chasing Gurus, so I saw wanting to be rich and secure as contrary to my goal of wanting to be free.
The other thing was that I estimated I would need to totally devote about 4 years of my life to saving enough money for a deposit for a house and then I would have to pay a mortgage (interest on home loan) payment each week which would be then more than I now paid in rent. It just didn’t make sense to me to have to work more just in order to ‘own’ something when I can work less by renting something equally as good. Whilst this is clearly an example of personal choice, relative to my own circumstances, it is however a down-to-earth example of how questioning common beliefs and applying common sense often leads to solutions that are not ‘normal’ by societal conventions.
Of course there are many more layers and aspects of societal beliefs and programs about money but underscoring all of it is the primal animal survival instinct – ‘what can I eat, what can eat me?’ Investigating these beliefs and peeling away these layers of conditioning about money – money being the modern means of survival – is a fascinating business. And the rewards are tremendous – the progressive diminishing of worry and stress, more free time for leisure and pleasure and, curiously, a corresponding diminishing of the fear about ‘what can eat me?’ Less fear about ‘what can eat me’ means in practice a progressive diminishing of suspicion and competition and more ease and comfort in relating to all of my fellow human beings.
PETER: This response has been delayed due to my dipping back into the dog-eat-dog world of business recently.
RESPONDENT: My condolences. I’ve had a fair share of it recently too.
PETER: No condolences necessary. I had great fun for 99.9% of the time – and this was made even more obvious by the fact that I was the only one who was having fun. The 0.1% not-fun time was another reminder that the business of actualism is not over whilst ‘I’ still lurk about in the shadows.
PETER: By choice I left this world many years ago to become self-employed whereupon I could do business on my terms – favouring harmony and consensus in preference to aggression and competition. By circumstance, I found myself temporarily back in the grim reality I left behind when I went tripping off into the spiritual world and it has been a good reminder that both worlds suck.
RESPONDENT: Just out of curiosity, would you mind sharing your recent experiences?
PETER: Not at all. By the time I was in my early thirties it was apparent to me that there was no happiness to be had in the pursuit of materialism and that those who rose to the top of the heap usually did so at the expense of others. This understanding was experiential in that I had given it a good bash but then circumstance led me give it up entirely and leap into the spiritual world. When that petered out I came across Richard and started to become interested in what he was saying. Pretty soon I began to see the folly of the spiritual world and I soon found myself abandoning that world as well.
Simultaneously I instigated some substantial changes in my life. Being no longer in the spiritual world meant that I lost my client base for my design-and-build business so I took the opportunity to stop building – by about age 45 the physical work of construction had become increasingly physically tiring – in order to do design work only. I also decided that I wanted to work less as I wanted to devote as much time to actualism as possible. Working less meant spending less so I reduced my overheads as much as possible. I sold my truck, which helped a good deal and not working full-time meant my expenses reduced dramatically.
Perhaps one of the major changes in this period came when something Richard said stuck in my mind – ‘learning to do nothing really well’. This struck a chord because I saw that everybody is driven to ‘do’ something and if they are not ‘doing’ something then feelings of boredom rapidly set in – the swing of human emotion goes from manic at one extreme to stressful through to listless to boredom and on to depression at the other extreme. This is typified by the question that people often ask – ‘are you busy?’, the implication being that it is good to be busy.
I took ‘doing nothing really well’ to be a challenge because I knew that the issue of boredom had to be tackled if I was ever to be unconditionally happy and it also suited me to work as least as possible – as I have a wonderful companion who is a delight to live with 24/7, I have no need to take my own space or escape by having a career.
So, my recent experiences were a reminder of the dog-eat dog business world that I had found so vicious all those years ago and that I have sensibly managed to circumvent almost entirely since becoming an actualist. I also found that I can be both happy and harmless in the dog-eat-dog business world should circumstances require, but it makes sense to me to seek out the most comfortable and harmonious way of earning my living expenses. For a long time I had the notion that actualism had to work ‘in the market place’ but I confused being a participant in the real-world battle for survival with doing whatever was sensible in order work to get money to pay for my living expenses – a world of difference.
RESPONDENT: It’s an element of the AF process that I’ve touched on in the past: how does a practicing (VF) actualist relate to the ‘real’ world?
PETER: Many of my former spiritual friends divide the world they live into two realms – the outer real world and their own inner world, and seemingly the current wisdom has it that it is good to be seen to be successful in both. I watched bemused as those who I saw as committed spiritualists started playing the stock market or the real estate market, became highly-paid therapists and pseudo-gurus, and franticly competed with each other for status, wealth and security. This idea of having a foot in each world – ‘trust in Allah but make sure you tether your camel’ as someone advised me at the time – seemed to me hypocritical to say the least. I, for one, couldn’t go back to pursuing happiness via materialism because I had seen that it didn’t work.
When I started pursuing happiness via actualism my remaining affective connections to both the grim real-world materialism and the fantasy-world of spiritualism increasingly dropped away, so much so that I am nowadays rarely affected by either world – either as feelings of repulsion or feelings of desire. Materialism and spiritualism is simply what other people believe in and feel passionately about – neither are my cup of tea because I have checked them both out thoroughly in my lifetime and both pursuits are decidedly weird.
So to answer your question, I do not relate to the ‘real’ world, meaning that I no longer have strong meaningful affective ties to the grim reality that both materialists and spiritualists feel – no grim reality, no need whatsoever to believe in a Greater Reality. The affective ties that do remain are now so weak that they rarely cause me to feel animosity towards, or pity for, others for what they think and feel, do or don’t do, or are supposed to have done or not done. I take this to be a sign of the very tangible freedoms gained on the path to an actual freedom.
I’d like also to pass on something that I personally found useful, nay essential, to contemplate upon.
There is a world of difference between the world as-it-is – the actual world of people, things and events – and the veneer or veil of grim reality that ‘I’ impose over the actual world. Every human being knows this by experience because every human being at some stage in their life – very often in childhood but often later in life – has experienced the perfection and purity of this actual world we live. It is vital to understand that actualism is not about leaving the spiritual world and going back to, and making the best of, the real world, grim reality, the normal world, everyday reality, or whatever other name one calls it. Actualism is about stepping out of both the real world, and the spiritual world, into the actual world and leaving your ‘self’ behind – and the actualism method is specifically designed to facilitate this.
RESPONDENT: Richard states that if he were locked in a prison with nought but bread and water, it would not affect his happiness and harmlessness one whit. I suspect that he is not blowing smoke, based on everything else he has written.
PETER: Not that he would choose to do so, or be so silly as to get himself into a situation where he had broken the law of the land. But yes, he is not blowing smoke. Both Vineeto and I have observed him very closely over a period of 6 years and he is what he says he is and he does what he says he does. You don’t need to believe me that this is so because everyone has had a glimpse of what Richard says he is – a flesh-and-blood body sans identity – and how he experiences being alive, because everyone has had at least one self’-less experience of the utter purity, the consummate stillness and the peerless perfection of the actual world. In other words, it is possible to verify what Richard is saying by your own experience – there is no need to rely on belief.
RESPONDENT: However, as one who lives in virtual freedom, did you find that the conditioned and/or instinctual passions re-emerged to some degree? Your statement perhaps hints at such. Did anger still rear its head?
PETER: I make no claims whatsoever that a virtual freedom from malice and sorrow is an actual freedom from malice and sorrow. The comment I made about ‘dipping back into the dog-eat-dog world of business recently’ was not meant to indicate that I went back to participating in the battles that inevitably go on, it was rather that I had an in-my-face reminder of why I exited the battleground all those years ago.
I was surprisingly unaffected by the emotional goings on that people went on with, but I was occasionally perplexed by the level of both covert and overt animosity that human beings feel towards each other. By deliberate choice, I have been living in effortless harmony with another human being for so long now, I am somewhat bewildered that other people not only find it impossible to do so, but that many aren’t even interested in making the effort to do so.
I always took consideration for one’s fellow human beings to be a given.
PETER: Although this post is generally in response to the ‘Actualism and PCEs’ post of 23/01, I have retitled my reply because the general topic does seem to be shifting to actualism in the market place, i.e. the process of becoming free of malice and sorrow, in the world as-it-is, with people as they are.
It is both a fascinating topic, which yet again serves to make a clear distinction between ancient Spiritual freedom and an actual freedom from the human condition in total.
The mailing list I was last writing to had as its discussion topic at one stage ‘how to be in the world but not of it’, which neatly sums up the spiritual approach. I would paraphrase this as ‘how to begrudgingly accept being here while taking every opportunity to be there’. I found the contradictions, sentence to sentence, in all of the contributor’s discussions to be quite bewildering. One moment they would talk of going ‘there’, or going ‘inside’, and the next sentence they would be extolling the virtues of being ‘here’ ... by their very words they were proving that they were not talking about the same place.
Whenever a contributor touched on the horrors of the human condition they would soon indulge in the bitter-sweetness of feeling sorry for those poor ‘ignorant’ people, ennobling their own pity as being superior by labelling it as feeling true compassion. Whenever someone dared to share the reality of their own lives they would be reminded by other group members that they are not in fact human beings but that who they really are is Divine spirits. Whenever someone began to despair of the human condition they were reminded that peace on earth is ultimately impossible and one’s only hope is to seek solace in the hope of an other-worldly paradise. Should anyone begin to question any of the passionate spirit-ual beliefs, or worse still, dare to question the teachings or the teacher, the tribal elders or head Shamans would quickly pull them into line, either by seducing the group member by sweet talk or disciplining them with a loving reminder. If seduction or castigation fail the ultimate threat is of ostracization. (...)
PETER: And, before this post gets too long, I’ll get back to our conversation ...
GARY: The whole recent situation at work got me in touch with my fear of failure, and I even felt that I had failed at actualism. I don’t think I have expressed this before, but I have feared that I was a failure at that which I am most interested in- peace and harmony with those around me. I also think in some respects I am afraid to practice actualism because I am afraid I will end up bereft of companionship, home, sanity, income, and comfort. I think very subtly I have had the attitude: ‘So, this is what it all has gotten you – now you’ve lost your job and embarrassed yourself – see what you get!’ Sometimes it gets so scary I wish I could turn tail and run back to the ‘safety’ of the Human Condition. Actually, thinking about it, I suppose I could if I really wanted. So, Peter, I think I am finding the doing part very difficult. I seem to be spinning my wheels a lot fearing the consequences.
PETER: What I found essential was to always remember how far I had come, how much better my life was since I first started to focus my awareness on ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ Sometimes I would lose the plot but whenever I met other people, be they ‘spiritual’ or ‘normal’, I was reminded I no longer complained about the weather, I no longer got angry at others, I no longer put down other people, I no longer bitched about life or blamed other people for how or what I was feeling, etc.
The trick was to remember my down-to-earth successes whenever doubt started to set in, to crank up my YES to being here. It is almost as though one needs a blackboard with successes written on it, and you make a habit of wheeling it every now and then so as to make a calm dispassionate review of your successes in becoming happy and harmless. In short, pat yourself on the back regularly.
The other way I had of looking at the process I was undertaking was that it was as though I was cleaning out dark dirty cupboards and once it was thoroughly cleaned out I could put a label on it saying ‘finished, well-done’. If I hadn’t finished with that issue or a worry came up or a feeling re-emerged then I had something more to look in that cupboard, but I wouldn’t beat myself up because I had missed understanding something completely.
Getting down on myself, despairing or getting angry at myself is nothing but the aggressive instinct turned in on myself, a perversity that I had seen crippling so many people in my life that I simply refused to go down that path. Whenever I felt the slippery down-hill slide starting, I quickly went back to acknowledging and experiencing my successes – feeling good or feeling excellent, reaping the rewards of my efforts.
This business of becoming free of the human condition already feels tough enough at times but to beat yourself up for not succeeding simply means yet another moment of potential happiness and harmlessness has been squandered in ‘self’-indulgence. And again, this is not denial, because the next real thing to investigate, the next real issue to investigate, will come swanning in by itself.
In the market place, unlike the Monastery, Sangha or ‘inner’ cave, there is an ample supply of normal events and normal people to test one’s happiness and harmlessness. (...)
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.
As far as working for money goes, it is obvious that one sells one’s time in exchange for money. In selling one’s time, services or expertise, it is clearly evident that the boss or the customer always has the final word.
I had this conflict often in my job where a client would employ me as an expert in building design and yet sometimes do something that I considered not right in my view or that was not the best solution in my view. Only when I finally got to the point where I experienced the utter futility of my riling against the situation, or attempting to exert my supposed rights, did the accompanying emotions abate sufficiently and peace and calm become perceptible. By seeing the facts and the futility of my objecting to them or emotionally reacting to them, I was consequently able to remain happy and harmless no matter what was said or what the situation was.
As this process produced more successes in varying testing situations and my confidence grew more and more, I was then more and more able to slip out from control and it eventually became more and more effortless to be both happy and harmless, no matter what. Or to put it another way, eventually what is unnatural – to be happy and harmless – increasingly becomes more and more natural and easy. (...)
GARY: I’ve got to get back to being happy and harmless. I can’t say I’m there yet. I’ve got an awfully lot going on my head and in my heart at the present time. I was practically having anxiety attacks and very sick feelings over the weekend. It was not very pleasant. Now it is a bit better. I don’t think my lows are quite as low as they used to be or my depressions are quite as depressed as they used to be. I think I pull myself out of it a lot faster.
PETER: Yea. As you begin to have success, any little set backs can be irritating or seem bigger than they are, or seem to last longer than they actually do. When I first got a computer 3 years ago I bought it as the best word processor with which to write my journal. Countless mistakes, faults, hits and misses later I can now use it not only for writing but for picture and video processing, drawing for work, participating on mailing lists etc. Often it felt like a struggle, often I saw others as better than me or quicker to get it than me, but I see now that I am reasonably competent using the machine by now. What capped it off was a technically minded friend who looked at my CAD program and said ‘Wow, that must be complicated’ and I was able to see how well I was doing at a fairly difficult and brand new task.
In comparison with learning to use a computer, becoming free of malice and sorrow is a much more difficult task requiring much more patience and perseverance, which is why it makes no sense to allow any glitches or misses that occur to blossom into something bigger than they are. Nipping the feeling or emotion in the bud was the expression you used. This is not suppression for if the feelings come up again next time in a similar situation, you get another opportunity to label the feeling, trace the source, do a bit more investigating and get back to feeling good.
PETER: But this period of wanting to share my discovery of actualism was an invaluable experience – it taught me much about the human condition, which meant that it taught me much about ‘me’. Every time I heard an objection that was silly, I looked to see where I was being silly, and each time I could see another’s fears, I was en-couraged to look at whatever fear it was that was masking the next obvious move I needed to make towards becoming happy and harmless.
GARY: Yes, I find this to be a very good point. I don’t think I realized before experientially just how ardent humans are about the power of love. For one to say they are without love is to exclude themselves totally from the Human Condition. It arouses the most determined opposition from those who are the defenders of this exalted state. I found my recent dialogue, which started to devolve into a slugging match, to be an interesting ‘mirror’ in which to see ‘me’ reflected. And I think that that is essentially what you are saying here.
So, there is a fear of leaving love and compassion behind, because ‘I’ believe, indeed ‘I’ am founded and sustained by love. It is not a matter of denying or refuting love, because to deny or refute is just confirmation that it exists. No, the important thing seems to be seeing clearly that love stems from separation. Not just seeing this intellectually, but seeing it with that quality of apperception that leads to radical change.
PETER: A bit of an aside, but it may be useful to think about, for it strikes at the core of being happy and harmless in the world-as-it-is with people as-they-are.
You well know from your own PCE that a ‘self’-less experience is much more than being happy and harmless, but that eliminating all that prevents you from being happy and harmless is the work that ‘you’ have to do in order for ‘self’-immolation to become an inevitability.
You will further know from your PCE that being happy and harmless is not a matter of ‘me’ finding the perfect job, the perfect companion, the perfect place to live, etc. according to ‘my’ criteria or ‘my’ values.
When you fully grasp this fact you then can make whatever sensible decisions are needed to ensure that your living and working conditions are as easy and as comfortable as possible – and then look at the objections and emotions that arise that are preventing you from being happy and harmless at this moment in time, and in this place in space.
PETER: This business of becoming free of the human condition already feels tough enough at times but to beat yourself up for not succeeding simply means yet another moment of potential happiness and harmlessness has been squandered in ‘self’-indulgence. And again, this is not denial, because the next real thing to investigate, the next real issue to investigate, will come swanning in by itself.
In the market place, unlike the Monastery, Sangha or ‘inner’ cave, there is an ample supply of normal events and normal people to test one’s happiness and harmlessness.
GARY: Indeed. And this is one of the chief differences between actualism and spirituality’s ‘How to be in the world but not of it’, because in actualism there is no need for any allegiance to an exclusive group or clique, no identification of oneself being a member of any particular identifying belief system. One is free to be with people as-they-are, whatever their particular beliefs or religiosity or lack of religiosity. It seemed that when I was involved with a spiritual lifestyle, I was always looking for people who were friendly to my particular belief system, and I would befriend people based on whether or not their beliefs conformed to mine. In actualism, there is none of that, and one is free to have an actual intimacy with all people, regardless of where they are coming from. This is, as I think about it just now, one of the fundamental differences between actualism and so-called spiritual belief. As a spiritual believer, ‘I’ am dependent on the spiritual or the religious group for a continual reinforcement of my identity as a spiritual being or as a member of a spiritual community, and I seek this affiliation constantly as this reaffirms and supports ‘my’ existence. In actualism, one has to go it completely and totally alone, alone in the sense of depending on nothing else but one’s own common sense and intelligence as well as one’s own pure consciousness experiences as one’s guide.
Naturally, one can talk to others through the medium of this list, as well as read the readings, but there is no allegiance nor membership with a defining body of actualism ‘believers’. This further contributes to the dismantlement of the social identity because ‘I’ thrive on being a member of a group with certain defining beliefs. Without them, I experience first-hand that ‘I’ am nothing but a wayward social identity, an illusion, careering around in fear and confusion.
PETER: I always find it fascinating to think that I will never meet many of the people who write on this list face to face and that it is unnecessary. What needs to be conveyed about actualism and Actual Freedom can be conveyed by words alone. This fact in itself demolishes any Guru/disciple nonsense and the cosy insular-group syndrome. That way anyone who wants to gets to stand on his or her own two feet, any success is your own, earned by your efforts, and this fact then gives you the assuredness and confidence to proceed even further on the path to freedom.
PETER: Actualism is not about avoiding, withdrawing, hiding or suppressing. Actualism is not about becoming a hermit or a monk or a nun. Unless one is fully engaged in the world, unless one is fully prepared to investigate all of the major issues that prevent an actual intimacy with one’s fellow human beings, fundamental change is impossible. <snip>
GARY: There are different levels of engagement with the world around you. Some people are very engaged, socially and politically. Some individuals are very engaged in civic activities, for instance. I am not. To people who lead more socially oriented lives, I would probably look somewhat like a hermit. But the critical thing is that I am not avoiding these things because I am afraid of them, simply because I prefer not to do these things.
PETER: What I came to understand very early on in the process of actualism is that there is no more fruitful contribution that I can make to my fellow human beings than to bring an end to malice and sorrow in this flesh and blood body. ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?’ is such an engaging activity that it eventually becomes a full-time activity, a complete life-obsession, if you like. There is ample opportunity to run the question in the normal interactions of everyday living and working without indulging in the ‘self’-sustaining and ‘self’-gratifying busy-ness of attempting to change others or save the world by fighting the latest fashionable evil that pops on the scene.
As one examines one’s own psyche and passions in action, the more one understands the Human Condition in action and the more one sees the futility of varying impassioned groups or individuals each ‘grabbing for the wheel’, attempting to steer Humanity this way or that – all convinced that they are right, that their way is best, that their truth is truer, that they have the answer.
The only person it is possible to change is oneself – blaming others for what I also do or feel or trying to change others according to my wiles and whims is a cop-out.
GARY: I have very much experienced the impetus to take on an activity because I would ordinarily avoid it. I think one needs to face and eliminate fears. And one cannot eliminate a fear if one is avoiding the object of the fear. By actually taking on the very thing that one is afraid of, one has an excellent opportunity to fully investigate whatever issue is preventing an intimacy with one’s fellows. To some extent, this very sort of thing occurred during my job search. I found myself charging into some career areas that ordinarily I would avoid because I have the interest and desire to find out what I have been avoiding. A confidence develops that one can eliminate fears in this way, by probing, questioning, and challenging oneself to go further all the time.
PETER: The only change I made to my work was to stop doing physical work on site and concentrate more on drawing work. I did lose much of my spiritual client base when I left the group I was involved with but a trickle does seem to be coming back from those who are more real-world oriented. It made sense to stay doing what I was trained to do as it offers the best return for time invested and I have a good deal of expertise and experience in the field. Another advantage was that I was confronted with changing myself in similar circumstances rather than change my circumstances. As you will have already discovered, no doubt, there is no such thing as perfect circumstances that suit ‘me’, for ‘I’ am the one who stands in the way of perfection.
I saw this very clearly in the year before I met Richard when I lived a perfect life with a good job, adequate money, nice flat, beachside location, delightful village, etc. – but, and it was a big BUT – I was neither happy nor harmless. Now I am doing exactly the same thing and living in almost identical circumstances and yet I now more and more experience the inherent safety and utter peacefulness, and the cornucopia of sensual pleasures and delightful comforts, of living an increasingly ‘self’-less existence.
To live a virtual freedom from the Human Condition is to live beyond my wildest dreams.
PETER: It does take time to write and I have always preferred quality to quantity, interest to disinterest, vitality to weariness, down-to-earthness to holier-than-thouness and talking common sense rather than exchanging hackneyed and rehashed platitudes. Which is why I particularly enjoy writing to you given that we are able to talk freely about any-thing at all.
GARY: I still find it absolutely fascinating to be writing to someone on the other side of the world and be able to compare notes about experiences which are to some extent universal to all humans. The potential of this medium is astounding. As you say, it does take time to write, and it does take time to respond to these posts, and I ordinarily go through cycles of interest and disinterest with it. Generally reading a post and allowing it to infiltrate my consciousness for awhile before responding, but working at it over several days in a slow, methodical way. And I must say that I find myself forming mental images of the people with whom I am talking, and these mental images crop up from time to time. It does seem to me, however, that the imaging process has gotten less and less and I am more concerned with the content of the post and responding genuinely and sensibly based on what is being written to me. Also there is the realization that one’s images probably have little or nothing to do with the actual flesh-and-blood person. Why is it that we form these images and why is it that they are important to us? One can see it happening with this Internet medium, but one also sees it happening in more personal, face-to-face interactions: one may make a friend, say, at work, and then one wonders about them, forms images of them, wondering about what they are really like, with their family, with their lover, etc. It clearly is an activity of the imagination.
PETER: It has been a fascinating to experience the demise of my imagination and it has been most evident in my work and in relating to other people. As an architect, it is taken for granted that the faculty of imagination is vital in the process of designing –
I remember a particularly vivid experience of designing a building during a pure consciousness experience and observing my thinking during the process. Rather than having a pre-conceived imaginary idea of what the end result would be, I was able to develop and formulate a plan based on the physical constraints – client requirements, site, budget, orientation, layout, materials, construction, etc and include client preferences of appearance and style combined with a few of my personal quirks. A constant flow of ideas was proposed, tested, evaluated and either proceeded with or rejected as unworkable and this progression gradually led to a design that was then readied for client review.
There was a gradual building up of a plan from initial idea to final result – most definitely not a blinding flash of imagination that produced a mental image of the finished result. What this experience made clear was that the brain does its job extremely well when ‘I’ am absent from the process of thinking, when ‘I’ stop imagining that ‘I’ know best and when ‘I’ stop insisting that ‘my’ feelings are the most important thing on the planet.
Since this experience I have had the hands-on practical experience of more and more experiencing ‘me’ being absent in my work. It has been a daunting experience as all ‘my’ passions, professional pride, ‘my’ creativity, ‘my’ usefulness and worth has been relentlessly beaten out of me. Whenever I did experience the pain of becoming emotional about an issue with a client, I simply knew that ‘I’ was yet again objecting to what was happening and that I had something to investigate. Even when I was asked or instructed to do something that in my experience did not work, or was not the best solution, I came to see that emotionally objecting to the situation only served to make me unhappy and therefore most likely to sabotage the situation so as to seek revenge.
This relates to yet another of Richard’s questions that I recently mentioned to No 17 –
The experiential answer to this question is a constant in-your-face business in the world as-it-is, with people as-they-are, and no more so than in the workplace. If it were not for the challenges that came up in my work these issues and these emotions would not have come to the surface to be investigated.
GARY: I don’t know if I had ever mentioned it or not, but at an earlier time I was interested in investigating why I so often had the ‘Monday morning blues’, you know, that feeling of let-down after the weekend is over and its’ time to get cracking again. I often found myself experiencing a kind of acute anxiety on Monday mornings, in particular, as I dreadfully hashed out in my mind how terrible the day was going to be and how much I would have to get done. I found my partner also doing this too and resentfully sighing that she did not want to go to work, wanted to stay home, and such like comments. This led me to investigate the combination of feelings and emotions that are involved in these Monday morning experiences. From what I could observe from listening in on and talking to other people, particularly co-workers, it seemed that these feelings were well nigh universal, just that some people were more vocal in their sighing and complaints than others. Rather than accept ‘the way it’s supposed to be for everyone’ on Monday mornings, I set about eliminating this constellation of feeling and belief from my life.
Now I find that Monday morning arrives and there is not this downcast, gloomy feeling nor is there the expectation of this in the day prior. I realize that I have virtually eliminated this experience, not entirely, but it is now greatly diminished from its’ former intensity. I am just using this as an example of the kind of thing that can happen with continued use of the questioning of one’s experiencing of the present moment.
PETER: Essentially, the resentment at having to work for money can be sheeted home to a resentment of having to be here on this planet. But overlaid over this fundamental resentment, there are also layers of resentment that result from the social conditioning all human beings are invariably subjected to. I can remember when I finally left school and entered the work force, I was shocked at the thought that this was ‘it’ – working 5 days a week with only weekends off and a few weeks break each year for the rest of my life. I also quickly saw that the workforce is not called the rat-race for nothing as it was fiercely competitive at the top, a bun-fight in the middle and a miserable business at the bottom.
The only two alternatives so far have been to stoically join in the battle or resent and rile against the necessity of having to work to survive. However, if one cares to investigate the nature of one’s resentments and frustrations it becomes apparent that almost all of it is due to a common-to-all social conditioning – in the form of morals, ethics, beliefs and psittacisms – about the actual nature of trading one’s time to someone in return for money.
As you start to notice, understand and strip away this social conditioning what also becomes apparent is that the unquenchable desire for more and more money and goods is but the desire to have one’s efforts rewarded for having to do battle in the workforce. The more passion, time and effort expended in this battlefield, the more reward in terms of money, goods, possessions, recognition, etc. is demanded, regardless of the cost to others.
There is a rich field of investigation to be had in becoming attentive to, and clearly understanding, the source and nature of not only one’s own feelings and passions about such issues as work, money, possessions, and the like. I only need to extrapolate my own experience with actualism to be assured that even a substantial outbreak of a virtual freedom from malice and sorrow would swiftly bring an end to avarice as well as resentment, corruption as well as despair, gluttony as well as famine, and self-indulgence as well as poverty.
The ending of the numbing excesses and tragic inequities produced by the compulsive ‘self’-ish desire for ever more may be seen as the stuff that pipe dreams are made of – however, it is no coincidence that nearly everyone has this dream because everyone has had glimpses of the utter senselessness of human beings instinctually-driven battles with each other for more possessions and more power. These glimpses are known as pure consciousness experiences – a glimpse of what it is like when one no longer identifies in any way with humanity, either as a socially-related identity or as an instinctually-bonded identity.
Even with a global dissemination of a virtual freedom from malice and sorrow there would be such a marked reduction in ‘self’s battling it out for survival that the world would be free of the passions, feuds and confrontations that plague any progress of common sense over myth and superstition. The human condition would not be marred by conflict, turmoil, vitriol and despair but by co-operation and consensus, peace and harmony as well as equity and fairness.
PETER: Just a comment on something you said to Vineeto recently –
GARY to Vineeto: Although I find that I can do many things well if I apply myself to them, I can relate to your comment about doing nothing really well. I think what has happened in my case is that the ambition to succeed has diminished a great deal, over a considerable period of time, both before and during my practice of actualism. I am very satisfied to do an adequate and competent job at what I do for work, for instance. Yet I do not feel I do it ‘really well’.
PETER: I remember reading it at the time and thinking ‘I know that one’ but I was reminded of it again yesterday when meeting with a potential client. She was in the design business and said she would like to build an award-winning house and would I be interested in helping her. I said that none of my work had won any awards but since I had given up battling it out with clients in order to get ‘my’ way, I now had no trouble giving my clients any style they wanted. After all, ‘award-winning’ style is only a style after all, and I know by experience that actually winning an award is another business entirely.
This event led me to contemplate on the fact that success has a well-defined set of criteria both in the real world and the spiritual world. In the real world success is measured by how rich you are, how famous you are and how much power and influence you have over others. In the spiritual world success is measured by how self-righteous you are, how famous you are and how much power and influence you have over others. The measures of success are well-defined criteria according to cultural and social values, i.e. someone else has set the standards by which you are to judge yourself.
Even before I came across actualism I had begun to question theses values. I had already abandoned the idea of either becoming rich or famous from my work because I saw that ‘money don’t buy you happiness’ nor did fame bring satisfaction and fulfilment. What I had begun to do was set my own standards in my work – standards that were in fact higher than those esteemed by others. I made safety the major priority on my building sites and then did my best to make the site a happy site. I did this in practical ways by such things as making sure the site was clean, organized, with clear instructions, clean cups, deck chairs to sit on at lunch time and that everyone was fairly paid, on time.
I also abandoned the values that I had been taught as an architect – that ‘I’ always knew best and that whatever ‘I’ was designing was ‘mine’. I started to develop my own standards whereby I moved towards a mutual search for the best solution and came to the understanding that whilst my clients were employing me for my experience as a designer and builder, the building was in fact theirs and not mine. As I began to put my own standards into practice, I also experienced a marked reduction in my own angst, worry, annoyance, frustration and the like, i.e. not only did others benefit from the situation, I benefited as well.
When I came across actualism I was embolden to go all the way in this process of setting my own standards. In fact, I set a completely new standard – becoming actually happy and actually harmless. Despite humanity’s bleating, bemoaning, moralizing and ethicising about peace on earth, the standards by which individuals live – and by which society judges success – are totally counter-productive to human beings living together in peace and harmony. I knew very well there was a risk in putting all my eggs in one basket as it were, in committing myself 100% to only one thing in life. The risks were that I would lose everything, the esteem I got from working, my relationships, my social standing – my identity in total.
But as I analysed each possibility, I realized that if I lost my profession I would be happy doing anything – because what I did as a job has no relevance to being happy. If I ended up living alone, I would be happy living alone – because my being happy is not reliant on other people. And if I ended up having no social or instinctual identity, I would be free of the human condition, which is what I wanted anyway.
So by society’s standards I am a failure, but society’s standards of judging success, be they normal or spiritual, are driven by the narcissistic feelings inherent in the ‘self’-centred instinctual survival passions. It is far better to have your own standards of doing ‘really well’, rather than live entrapped by the paltry standards of humanity.
I thought I would mention this aspect again because heading off in a totally different direction to everyone else is a difficult thing to do. You get no encouragement or support for devoting your life to becoming happy and harmless from those who like to battle it out within the human condition, or those who prefer their sorrow. You may well come across some people who resent you turning your back on society’s standards and values and these times will test your mettle as to how much you are willing to risk to become free of malice and sorrow.
PETER: I thought I would pen a comment to something you posted to No 13 recently as I found the topic pertinent to current events in the world we live in.
I did find it somewhat presumptuous of you to come on this list and tell actualists what actual freedom is, based on a superficial skimming of the web-site which was lately more aimed at picking fault rather than trying to understand what is on offer. The root of your misunderstanding of actualism is patently obvious when one looks at a few of your other comments to this list –
This unambiguous statement indicates that you believe actualism to be identical to Sufism, i.e. you imagine actualism is another form of spiritual belief. This misconception explains your comment to No. 13 because no-where in any of the ancient spiritual or religious texts is there any mention of being happy and harmless in the market place. No wonder there is no peace between human beings and never has been when spiritualists scorn being happy and harmless in the market place as somehow being beneath their lofty and noble other-worldly aspirations.
From this comment it is clear that you see actualism as a sit-back-and-soak-up-the-words poetic philosophy in the same league as the countless spiritual teachings that masquerade as Truths. In order to make such a comment you have had to either ignore or deny the fact that writ large all through the actualism writings is the constant advertising of a practical do it yourself method – a method specifically designed to enable anyone with sufficient motivation to become free of the human condition.
That few are so far willing to allow themselves to become ‘sucked in’ to using this method is indicative of the stranglehold that passionate other-worldly beliefs have over down-to-earth common sense. Few are as yet are willing to acknowledge what is patently clear in the world as-it-is – that it is high time human beings stopped believing in Gods and devils, good and evil spirits and such like, and get on with business of becoming happy and harmless. If you read the objections of correspondents on The Actual Freedom Trust website, you will be aware of the fact that you are safely ensconced amongst the many.
How do you know someone is a spiritualist? Spiritualists are not at all interested in being here in the first place – let alone in being happy and harmless
Personally, I find it hard to think how much worse human beings could treat their fellow human beings. For a start, the amount of bloodshed, torment, anguish and suffering that religious and spiritual belief has caused, and is still causing, in the world beggars description. Words like horror, repulsion and repugnance fail to convey the full extent of the carnage that has been wrought, and is still being wrought, in the name of the followers of some make-believe God against the followers of some other make-believe God.
And what is the best the pious God-fearing priests and followers have to offer as a solution to ending this on-going savagery – religious tolerance. Not an end to the madness, but a rehash of the same old failed message of ‘be tolerant towards those who hold different religious or spiritual beliefs than you do’. Nowhere does one hear a clear and unambiguous voice declaring that it is archaic and inane religious and spiritual belief itself that is the very cause of so much human conflict, animosity, misery and suffering and that it is high time to abandon such beliefs to the scrap heap of history. Blame is always laid at the feet of the believers who are either too fervent in their belief or not fervent enough – but nobody is willing to question the efficacy of the sacred teachings themselves.
I have been fascinated to observe and contemplate upon the machinations that are occurring in the most recent flair-up of a religious conflict that has been ongoing for some two thousand years. There is a wealth of information to be had about the human condition simply by observing and thinking clearly about what is happening. There is also a salient opportunity to check on one’s own emotional reactions so as to ascertain where one is hooked, by one’s own social programming. in to feeling anger, sorrow, despair, fear, piousness, aloofness, or whatever
Whilst it has been convenient to lay the blame for the latest outbreak on religious extremism or fanaticism, it is pertinent to note that no one is daring to question the immediate cause – human beings desperately hanging on to and defending ancient puerile religious and spiritual beliefs. The conflict has raised a welter of conflicting moral and ethical issues and opinions which, with the benefit of modern worldwide communications, we are clearly able to see and hear, as it is happening, as the war unfolds.
A bewildering amount of opinion is being offered as to who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad, who has God on their side, who is to blame, etc – and all of it is nothing other than points of view or emotional reactions that differ depending on upon the proponent’s personal religious or spiritual beliefs, which country or ethnic group they belong to, which side they favour, who they think is right, their degree of patriotism, their political predilections, etc.
Thus not only is the cause of the current flair up obvious – religious and spiritual beliefs – but the moral and ethical conflicts and quandaries that are also stirred up can be clearly seen as insolvable. In the face of what is obviously a fearful situation for many, the pat solution is to pray to one’s God, which does nought but add the fuel of passionate belief to the fire. The followers of Eastern religions, given that none of their particular Gods or God-men is currently involved in the conflict, generally adopt a pious and cynical fence-sitting role, all the while frantically denying the very religiosity of their own dearly held spiritual beliefs.
I have pondered for a few days now about the conflict, trying to follow the moral and ethical debates and found I have no opinion one way or another. There is no right or wrong, there are no good guys or bad guys per se – it is simply a battle of mythical ethereal Gods being fought out, not in some fairy tale other-world, but here on this verdant planet amongst fellow human beings. One can clearly see the stranglehold that spiritual and religious belief holds over human beings when one sees that people are willing to kill and maim other people in the name of their beliefs and yet no-one dares to questions the need to hold spiritual and religious beliefs in the first place. And given how passionately people hold their religious and spiritual beliefs and to what lengths they are willing to go to defend them, this conflict, and those other conflicts like it, will go on for as long as human beings believe in Gods.
And underneath all the superficial feuding over religious/spiritual beliefs can be felt a bloodlust for violence and revenge that is both animal and instinctual in its roots. What is clear from the deep-seated passions that are being stirred up in the current outbreak of anarchy and mayhem is not only a reflex instinctive fervour for violence and revenge but also a morbid fixation with sorrow, grief, despair and fear. When push comes to shove, the raw instinctual passions in humans invariably come to the surface and currently the world is awash with them.
For an actualist these regular flare-ups present a potent opportunity to study the human condition ... with the ‘lid off’, as it were. One only needs to turn on the television, soak up as much information as possible, and observe beliefs, morals, ethics, values, attitudes, feelings, emotions and passions in action ... as well as be able to feel these reactions as they arise in oneself. As you become aware of your own beliefs, morals, ethics, values, feelings and passions, as and when they arise, you begin to understand the nature and extent – the very nitty gritty, if you like – of your own social and instinctual programming. You start to both understand, and directly experience, the role that one’s own social conditioning plays in fostering and maintaining human animosity and suffering as well as be able to understand, and directly experience, the underlying passions that are the very root of human malice and sorrow.
Being an actualist means one is pragmatic about people as-they-are and the world as-it-is. An actualist does not waste time or opportunity by looking for band-aid solutions within the mayhem of the human condition ... for it is clear there are none to be found. The human condition is a self-sustaining closed loop in that it is perpetuated by clinging to and lauding archaic beliefs, come-what-may, and it is continually ennobled by clinging to and lauding the animal instinctual passions, no matter how horrific the outcome.
But to get back to your own spiritual belief about those LDG’s (Long Dead Gurus) who promulgate the archaic beliefs and ancient wisdoms that humanity so unquestioningly reveres –
I would be interested as to your comments about how much worse you think religious wars and spiritual conflicts should be before human beings come to their senses and start to question the veracity of spiritual beliefs and ancient wisdoms?
RESPONDENT: As for solving the world problem I have left the idealist mode, only when living with the facts as they are I can understand my current situation from a social perspective so to speak mainly concerning the question: [what is my relationship to the fellow-being that is closest this moment?] i.e. when coming into a bar, restaurant.
PETER: From the perspective of a PCE, the ‘world problem’ is seen as being totally ‘self’-imposed, the result of some 6 billion ‘selfs’ each battling it out with each other in a grim instinctual ‘self’-centred battle for survival. Everyone has had at least one PCE in their lifetime – a brief experience of the utter peacefulness, perfection and purity of the actual world whereupon ‘me’, ‘my’ worries and ‘my’ ‘self’-centred feelings have disappear, as if by magic.
However, most of these pure experiences only serve as fuel to the ‘self’-centredness of the spiritual/religious beliefs that permeate the human condition. Either during a PCE or soon after, there comes the conviction that ‘I’ am a pure, noble and all-knowing being and everyone else is guilty, pitiable and ignorant. As a consequence, feelings of knowing the solutions to the world’s problems or even of being the next Saviour of Mankind are par for the course for those who selfishly claim the pure consciousness experience as their own.
This issue was in my face constantly in my initial explorations into the human condition – in the first few months, the more I discovered about how the human condition operated, the more I was tempted to want to change others. It required constant effort and attentiveness to remind myself that I was in this business solely to change me and not to change others.
RESPONDENT: Taking in account that in ordinary daily-life, once stepped out of a spiritual ivory tower, the overall political ‘climate’ is playing a fair part and even more the local political climate does so.
PETER: Speaking personally, once I got rid of the majority of my feelings of malice and sorrow, I found that the political views and machinations of others rarely impeded my being happy and harmless. I found the first thing to focus on was becoming happy and harmless and then, when any issue stubbornly hung around, I would dig in a little deeper.
That is why I appreciated coming across Lomborg’s book because I was able to read it largely bereft of an emotional ‘self’-centred reaction – I could see that he was simply attempting to compile a fact-based exposé of the political climate and popular belief that surrounds the Environmental battle.
RESPONDENT: As it is obvious that the one intertwines significantly with the other one may fairly find a starting point for affirmation that we are in the same boat when it comes down to being at the mercy of administrators; i.e. the affection of a lifestyle by government decisions.
PETER: Again Vineeto has recently made pertinent comment about the persistent belief that humans are inevitably at the mercy of an authority of some sort – a belief that only breeds resentment, which inevitably leads to aggression, be it overt or covert.
In the real world this belief serves as a convenient excuse for me never being able to be happy nor harmless. I am continually unhappy and upset because the government never does what I would do, never makes the right decisions, never does all the right things, never does enough, should always do more, and so on. Continuously objecting to the current political climate is a bit like objecting to the meteorological climate – a lifelong exercise in frustration, a Tantalus-ian task. Once you come to understand that ‘the government’ is made up of fellow human beings who are invariably inflicted with the human condition, you may find yourself being amazed at how much is accomplished and how well the system works instead of being frustrated that what ‘they’ do is not ‘perfect’.
When I became an actualist I became concerned with the ‘climate’, or psychic vibes, I carried around with me – I became aware of and concerned with how my moods affected others. I started to notice how my being annoyed or frustrated or angry or sad or melancholic affected those around me and I started to notice that I couldn’t be really happy or if my ‘climate’ affected others. In fact, I found that the only way to be genuinely happy was to put being harmless ahead of being happy and the first step in this task was to stop blaming other people or organizations for either making me unhappy or, in some way or other, preventing me from being unhappy.
RESPONDENT: The below is an excerpt from a CNN’s question of the day. Is Saudi Arabia ‘with us or against us’ in the war on terrorism? I have added some notes (and colorizing) for purpose of clarity and to give some food for thought. Feel free for yourself to establish the degree of in/exclusiveness that the above expression ‘us’ is evoking when reading this question. I think it’s time for us to call the name of the Game not by wielding any power but by thinking of sensible solutions and use that to step forward to our fellow-beings I do not agree with the title of the script and I vote for ‘Actual Freedom today’ and that is the name of the game for me.
PETER: I’ll pass on thinking of sensible solutions to national conflicts and religious problems and stepping forward to change the script of others.
Whilst I can relate to your enthusiasm, you may have noticed on this very list that it is impossible to change the script of others unless they have the desire and intent to change their script themselves. If they want to change – if they want to become free from the human condition or even from some particular aspects of it – then it is possible to pass on tips, hints, personal experience and so on, but to expect or demand others to change only leads to battle and frustration.
Perhaps a little of my Journal is relevant as it relates to the struggles I went through with this very issue –
I’ve snipped the bit you posted about Hamas as, although I found it interesting, I don’t profess to know enough about the facts of the situation in the Middle East to make comment. In a similar vein, I recently followed a local issue about upgrading a sewerage plant but I eventually came to the realization that I would have to research the issue well beyond what was presented by the various political factions and in the press in order to get to the facts of the matter. In the end, I gave up having an opinion one way or another because no matter what option is adopted, the situation will be an improvement on what exists now.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.