Selected Correspondence Peter
RESPONDENT: Perhaps I might spread my load a little and direct a few questions to the virtually free, to Peter and Vineeto:
Is there a difference between the benevolence of the universe and the universe actively conspiring to give me things I want to be happy? I want a good job, a good woman and a good house.
PETER: Speaking personally, I discovered in my own experience as well as by observing others that ‘a good job, a good woman and a good house’ are in no way a guarantee of happiness. <snipped>
RESPONDENT: Lordy no. <snipped>
PETER: If you have already understood this in your own experience, then why bother to ask me a question about the universe actively conspiring to give you these things you said you want in order to be happy?
RESPONDENT: Because although they don’t guarantee happiness they do seem to bring it in some sense, and, perhaps more the point, when these things are not there, it does seem to be painful.
PETER: If I can just backtrack a bit, you may have noticed I snipped quite a lot out of the previous post – a good deal of supplementary information I supplied in order to flesh out my response as well as whole raft of supplementary questions that you asked, all of which moved the conversation further and further away from the topic at hand. The reason I did this was to avoid having a conversation that was so wide-ranging and meandering as to be meaningless and to attempt to focus in on one issue only, in this case that ‘‘a good job, a good woman and a good house’ are in no way a guarantee of happiness’.
In my many conversations with Richard over the years I have learnt the art of thinking in a linear manner – examining and investigating one particular matter by sticking with the issue, no matter how uncomfortable or confrontational – in order to get to the bottom of the issue. To put it quite simply and succinctly, I wanted to get to understand the fact of the matter under investigation – to get a factual answer to my question – such that I could then be confident in once and for all dismissing all of the beliefs that normally relate to this particular matter. This simple act of thoroughly investigating, understanding and unreservedly acknowledging the facts of the matter then enabled me to act upon the fact and not remain suckered into believing what others believed, or would have me believe was the truth about the particular issue.
It does seem somewhat odd to me to have to point out the value of finding out the facts of the matter and acting upon the fact of the matter given that this type of straightforward down-to-earth thinking is often used by people in practical pragmatic problem solving. But I do acknowledge that it is difficult to apply such thinking in investigating the human condition in action – in particular with such close to the bone issues as the societal and instinctual causes of malice and sorrow – because not only is there are plethora of beliefs disguised as truths and wisdom that need to be investigated and thought about in order to get the facts of the matter but one also discovers experientially that the human psyche itself has innate resistance to being exposed. The latter is no doubt the reason why so many people are so adverse to using the actualism method of moment-to-moment ‘self’-investigation – indeed the very act of conducting such an investigation into one’s own psyche in action means the investigation is an experiential hands-on investigation rather than the dissociated intellectual-only analysis that has thus far masqueraded as investigating the human condition.
I don’t know if what I am saying makes sense to you or not but I can only suggest as someone who is experienced in these matters that it may be worthwhile contemplating upon because it is central to your being able to gain something meaningful for yourself from the contributions of others on this mailing list. After all you did ask me a question (presumably because you were interested in my answer) and as such would it not be sensible to pause at least for a moment to consider the answer you got before summarily dismissing it by immediately launching into objections, diversions and a long list of further questions.
Having said that I’ll now get back to the topic at hand – your yes-but acknowledgement of the fact that ‘‘a good job, a good woman and a good house’ are in no way a guarantee of happiness’.
This was something I personally discovered to be a fact in my twenties, not only from my own personal experience but also from close association with people who were above my rank on the materialist ladder of success as well as from copious anecdotal evidence that even those who are at the top rungs of the ladder – the much-envied rich and famous – invariably suffer from bouts of sadness, melancholy, anxiety, insecurity and the like. This combination of my own experience and the understanding that the experience was universal as in common-to-all with no exceptions meant that I never went down the path of materialism in the belief that it could, despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, be the means to happiness.
Clearly seeing and acknowledging the fact of this particular matter, fully taking it on board with no ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’, combined with an innate sincerity I seem to have had at the time, meant that I didn’t waste my time in a fruitless search for happiness in the fickle and fierce world of materialistic pursuits. Clearly seeing and acknowledging the fact of the matter meant that I was compelled to act on the fact rather than take it on board as a feeling–only agreement (a moral stance) or as an intellectual-only understanding (an ideal or an ethic) – which would have only meant merely continuing to be a combatant in the materialist rat-race whilst feeling guilty about it or sprouting the ethics of equity all the while frantically squirreling away as many nuts as I could lest others get more than me.
So – in the interest of at least finding some common ground for continuing this discussion– I ask you, do you agree with the statement I made that ‘‘a good job, a good woman and a good house’ are in no way a guarantee of happiness’? In other words, do you agree that it is a fact … or do you not agree that it is a fact as your yes-but, yes-maybe qualifications and your yes-but-what if, yes-but-what-about questions appear to indicate?
RESPONDENT: I’m still processing what you said – but each time I think about the people I mentioned as atheists which you rephrased as ‘conditional’ atheists – it is at such a point that I begin to wonder whether you and I can have any productive conversation or dialogue on this topic at all.
PETER: It would obviously be impossible given your present predisposition towards me.
RESPONDENT: You say you cannot think of a single example where the ‘feeling’ of being is not also accompanied by spiritual beliefs.
PETER: And as I pointed out to No 60: meaning I cannot think of a single example where spiritual beliefs are not always accompanied by a feeling of being.
But for the sake of continuing the conversation, I understand that you are using the alternative meaning of the phrase – namely that it is possible for a person to have a feeling of being without having any spiritual beliefs.
RESPONDENT: Let’s see if I can help. 1) Me 2) No 60 3) AJ Ayer 4) Corliss Lamont 5) Stephen Weinberg 6) Paul Kurtz 7) Isaac Asimov 8) James Randi 9) Bertrand Russell 10) JL Mackie 11) Richard Dawkins. There are plenty more – these are just some that we may be mutually acquainted with in some form or another (and that I’ve read enough to be confident that they are non-spiritual (as in no spiritual beliefs) – which is why I started with this particular list.
Now, if you mean something like ‘the feeling of being always goes hand-in-hand with either spiritual belief OR not knowing for certain there is nothing spiritual in existence’ – then that is another matter entirely. Or possibly you would say that most of these people on the above list have ‘spiritual’ beliefs because most of them believe in the truth of relativity, the big bang, ‘self’ and other beliefs you might call ‘spiritual?’
PETER: You will have noticed that I made the following comment to No 60 –
In the case of the people you list above, I would ask how is it that you are ‘confident’ that they have no spiritual beliefs? Have they, for example, ever published any articles or written any books describing the process by which they have managed to free themselves from all spiritual beliefs? Have you sat down and conducted in-depth interviews with these people? You may recall that we have previously discussed this question of authenticity and verification in our conversation about atheists who believe that the physical universe is an ephemeral creation that has arisen out an underlying reality that is timeless, spaceless and formless –
And so we are back having the conversation you abandoned because you say I ‘refuse to look at the facts, or are ignorant of them, or because [I am] using words in some ill-defined way’. If you decide that you want to continue the discussion let me know, but whilst you consider your being confident (because you have read enough) that there are plenty of people who are non-spiritual (as in have no spiritual beliefs) makes it a fact then any further discussion on the matter will no doubt be unproductive.
PETER: I think it is an apt opportunity to more fully explain to you why I have said that the whole ongoing issue of the meanings of the words spiritual, atheist and materialist is a beat up.
Vineeto and I occasionally watch a television program devoted to exploring all things religious, spiritual and metaphysical and a recent show featured a debate between a priest and a spiritualist on one hand and a well-known avowed atheist and an academic secular humanist on the other. The to-ing and fro-ing went on with the priest and spiritualist holding the moral high-ground whilst the atheist and secular humanist presented reasoned arguments that spiritual belief was unnecessary, puerile and very often the cause of human conflict and animosity.
As the debate went on, the spiritualists eventually reverted to the fall-back position that spiritual belief is the only effective way to assuage feelings of sorrow and grief and they presented several heart-rendering examples of this. In a counter move the atheist immediately went into ‘life-without-God-is-jolly’ mode in order to prove that an atheist’s happiness is better than a spiritualist’s happiness-born-out-of-compassion. The presenter of the program, a spiritualist herself, then interjected, making the comment to the atheist ‘but I know that you get very depressed from time to time’ and immediately the wind went out of his sails. The debate continued on but in the end the telling point was that the spiritualists had an answer to emotional suffering (succour) and the atheists and secular humanists clearly didn’t.
The whole debate encapsulated the spiritualist vs. materialist debate – the spiritualists will always maintain the moral high-ground over the materialists because materialists have no solution to the feelings of sorrow that invariably afflict all human beings from time to time.
This is why I say that all of the discussions on this mailing list as to the meanings of the words such as spiritualist, atheist, materialist and so on are but a beat-up. Whichever side one chooses to sit on, or believes oneself to be on, or whether one sits in the middle or refuses to sit down, it is clear that neither the spiritualists nor the materialists have any workable solutions to bringing an end to human malice and sorrow. When you sit down and think about it, does not it strike you as being somewhat bizarre that all this running for cover, duck-shoving, side-stepping and re-labelling goes on on a mailing list that has been set up specifically in order to discuss a proven method of bringing an end to human malice and sorrow?
PETER: Being ‘normal’ was never ever satisfactory, particularly as the pursuit of material wealth and financial power never appealed to me – I somehow knew that ‘something’ was missing but I didn’t know of any alternative.
RESPONDENT: Same here. To cut a long story short, as a teenager I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew what I didn’t want. Actually, for me it wasn’t just a case of not wanting it, or feeling something was missing. I hated ‘the system’ (but not individuals) with a passionate intensity. Toward my late teens, I saw people’s modes of existence in one of three ways: they were servicing the ‘machine’; they were blithely unaware of the existence of the ‘machine’; or they were working in whatever way they could to subvert the ‘machine’. In the mid-eighties when I left school, everyone was ‘servicing the machine’. They were rebelling against parental control, but not rebelling against the values and goals that underpin it. My beef with civilisation ran a lot deeper than parental control, so I fancied myself as a radical of sorts. My ‘allies’ were political dissidents, artists, madmen, saboteurs, mystics, spiritualists, subversives of any kind who refused to play the games that keep the wheels of the machine turning smoothly.
I wasn’t outwardly radical in any obvious way. I didn’t belong to any organisations (because although plenty of people were looking for the answer, they didn’t have the right answer). And on the outside I was a fairly casual, caring, easy-going person. But inwardly I burned.
PETER: It took me a long time to recognize that my riling against ‘the establishment’ was simply a convenient outlet for my own resentment and anger. It’s not necessarily socially-acceptable to take out one’s anger on individuals but taking it out on an amorphus concept such as ‘the machine’, ‘the system’, the government’ or ‘the establishment’ is very socially-accepted within the multitude of competing and waring groups, be they racial, ethnic, tribal, political, social, economic or ideological. And there are none who feel more aggrieved than the self-righteous who hold to spiritual morals or humanitarian ethics.
RESPONDENT: A bit later on, I realised that these political and economic systems don’t just descend on us out of the blue. They’re the products of a million compromises. They’re all attempts by our predecessors to balance material, social and spiritual needs while preserving enough social stability to keep the species surviving.
PETER: Now that I have finally stopped my mindless riling against these systems, I have come to see how successful democracy and capitalism – when combined with effective public welfare and health systems – have been in providing an ever-increasing proportion of the growing but stabilizing human population on the planet with ever-increasing wealth, health, lifespan, clean air, pure water, nourishing food, leisure, pleasure, safety and comfort.
To use one of Richard’s metaphors that has stuck in my mind, I found that I needed to do a good deal of work before I could take off both my grey coloured glasses and my rose coloured glasses in order that I could begin to get a glimpse of the fact that grim reality is an illusion which is created by ‘me’.
RESPONDENT: So then I turned inwards and tried to have a good look at the heart and mind that lies right at the centre of everything I experience. At that time I wasn’t too far away from Richard’s starting point.
I knew that wherever I went, whatever I did, I would be there looking over my shoulder, and although I didn’t have any conscious recollection of an I-less state at that time, I still knew that ‘I’ was gonna be a terrible burden to lug around for the rest of my life. But, unlike Richard, I accepted that ‘I’ was inescapable – and, as it turned out, I spent the next 20 years trying out various alternative forms of ‘me’. None were satisfactory.
PETER: Yes. And it wasn’t as though I was doing anything ‘wrong’ in my search for freedom – it was just that ‘I’ along with everyone else on the planet, and everyone else who has ever been on the planet, have got it 180 degrees wrong. What Richard’s discovery reveals is that there is no freedom to be had within the human condition – the answer lays in becoming free from the human condition in toto.
RESPONDENT: I am not interested in ASC’s or spiritual, mystical or religious traditions. Never have been.
PETER: It will be interesting to see whether this lack of interest impedes your exploration of actualism. I say this because thus far it seems that those who are interested in actualism have also been those with a previous interest in spiritualism – in other words they have been interested in finding answers to what is sometimes termed the human dilemma.
RESPONDENT: Are you saying that those from the non-spiritual realm, or with material interests, are not interested in finding answers to the human dilemma?
PETER: No. What I said was ‘thus far it seems that those who are interested in actualism have also been those with a previous interest in spiritualism’ and your comment below –
seems to bear this out.
RESPONDENT: Different approaches to the same problem perhaps?
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.
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: Is there a difference (concerning the quality of the object involved) when looking at a polyester cup in a PCE compared with our ordinary experience of it?
PETER: Again, the quality of an object does not change when an object is looked when one is having a pure consciousness experience, because the quality of an object is inherent to the object itself. What happens in a PCE is that ‘I’ temporarily disappear, along with the ‘self’-centred and anthropomorphic values and judgements ‘I’ automatically impose upon all matter, be it inanimate or animate – a constant evaluation of every thing as being good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, something to envy, scorn, fear or desire, something felt to be ‘mine’ or ‘yours’, someone felt to be friend or foe, and so on.
A currently fashionable value that many people unwittingly impose on objects is that they regard any objects that are fashioned by human beings from the mineral matter of the earth as being ‘unnatural’, hence artificial, going against nature, alien, improper, false, ugly, deviant, corrupted, evil, harmful and so on, whilst they feel matter in its raw state to be natural, wholesome, beautiful, beneficial, good, pure, innocent, true, unadulterated and so on.
The root source of these emotion-backed judgements imposed on the objects fashioned by human beings from the mineral matter of the earth, is the belief that human beings were pure and innocent in their primitive stone-age state and that this purity and innocence has been corrupted by the technological progresses of the iron age, the bronze age, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the invention of electricity, the silicon chip and so on. In its crudest form this belief manifests as a collective feeling of guilt that human beings are aliens who have and are still corrupting and polluting the natural environment of the planet.
As can be seen, for an actualist there is a good deal of work to be done in demolishing these beliefs by replacing them with facts before one can expect to be able to sensuously experience the inherent quality of the matter of the universe, unimpeded by ‘my’ beliefs, values and judgements that ‘I’ unwittingly and automatically superimpose on everything I see, touch, hear, smell and taste as well as every human being I meet in person or hear about.
RESPONDENT: And is that perception objective, in the sense ‘that’s the way that cup really is’?
PETER: There is a world of difference between the normal human perception of the way it ‘really is’ or the way ‘‘I’ feel it to be’ and the ‘self’-less perception of the actuality of the universe as experienced in a PCE.
RESPONDENT: This method as far as I can see is designed to work in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are and not to try to change the world (things and events) or the people.
PETER: Yep. It is essential to grasp the fact that it is an exercise in futility to attempt to change others.
Actualism is about making the only contribution ‘I’ can actually make to peace on earth – to actively facilitate the pure consciousness experience of the already existing peace on earth by doing all ‘I’ can to rid myself of ‘my’ malice and ‘my’ sorrow.
RESPONDENT: These are secondary by-products of an actual freedom, but not the aim of the method, so any schemes about how the future of the world or the people should be like smacks of evangelization.
PETER: Secondary by-products, hey. If I read you right, you are completely misunderstanding an actual freedom from the human condition by relegating its prime attribute to a secondary by-product.
One of the very things that attracted me to actualism was that it offered a down-to-earth freedom, not an other-worldly freedom, in other words, a freedom in the actual world of people, things and events as-it-is – not in a metaphysical world of ‘my’ imagination nor in a world that ‘I’ hoped it would be one day ‘if only everybody else ...’ . I think you have got the wrong end of the stick here and are busy trying to use it to beat up actualism for what it isn’t.
For me the fact that actualism offers an actual freedom in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are is unquestionably its primary feature. If actualism hadn’t offered that, I would have passed it by … and rightly so.
As for your ‘smacks of evangelization’ comment – as you would know most people who have dipped into the spiritual world and have inadvertently stumbled across actualism have trotted out the same hackneyed objection. If you insist on seeing actualism as yet another spiritual promissory enterprise then you can’t help but read everything with spiritual eyes, rather than take what is written as saying what it means and meaning what it says.
Actualism is the third alternative to materialism and spiritualism and because of this it is vital to understand that one needs to think outside the traditional boxes if one ever wants to aspire to experientially understand what an actual freedom from the human condition is about.
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: I personally have no problem in interacting in the business world and it doesn’t seem to me to be a ‘dog-eat-dog’, I enjoy much of the interactions, deals, presentations and the like. It requires some skills to be successful as in any other work or craft, yet that’s it. You do your job and you get paid for that. That’s because you have to work some hours in order to eat, clothe, shelter and live, yet most of the time is fun. The logic is simple: I don’t exist so there is nothing that can affect me apart from this physical Universe either in the form of things-events or physical people. If something or someone affects me, then this is an opportunity to inquire and to discover why is this so. If ‘the real world’ has an influence on me to such a degree that I immediately want to exit, it might be the case to take a good look at the ‘virtual freedom’ I’m so fond of. As 99.9% pleasurable existence is equivalent to 99.9 self-less existence, I wonder if living in the real world of battling selves would change that ratio for you.
PETER: This may be your logic, but I chose not to live in ‘the real world of battling selves’ – as I said, I don’t believe in right suffering.
I remember thinking at one stage early on that Richard has dropped out, he has abandoned ship, he no longer fights the good fight, which makes him a deserter or a traitor in the eyes of most. My recent dip back into the midst of someone else’s battlefield made me realize that now others would also see me as being a drop out, a deserter and a traitor.
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.
RESPONDENT: On the other hand, I do understand at least intellectually the form in which aggression, nurture and fear usually manifest themselves. I’m not that sure if I understand the part desire plays in my life and in humans in general. Can you provide some examples in which desire deviated your efforts of being happy and harmless?
PETER: Curiously enough I was thinking about this the other day whilst watching a TV show about the material excesses that the rich and famous are required to indulge in in order to demonstrate to other people that they are rich and famous. It led me to reflect on why I was never impressed by the pursuit of material possessions, financial wealth and power and I traced this disinterest back to a seminal event in my youth.
During my university years, we had a compulsory year off in order to gain some practical experience and I travelled by ship to London to work in an architectural office for a year. At the end of the year I decided to return home overland through the Middle East and Asia. The further I travelled from Europe, the poorer the people were, culminating in seeing the streets of Calcutta packed with sleeping bodies at night time and being accosted by children in Madras waving their leprosy infected limb-stumps in my face and begging for money. And then immediately after, still in a state of shock, I boarded a plane for Australia to stay at a friend’s house in Perth, only to find myself the very next day decadently lolling about in their swimming pool with a glass of wine and a plate of snacks on the edge.
This contrast between the have’s and have-not’s was so obvious, and so in my face, that I was never again to be tempted by the desire for material excesses – and the payoff was that I didn’t have to work for the excesses that I no longer desired. And nowadays, with the instinctual passion of desire no longer dominating my life, I am thus more and more able to enjoy what are termed the simple pleasures of life – such as the freshly brewed cup of coffee that Vineeto has just placed on my desk above my keyboard. A sign perhaps that it is a good time to end now and indulge in some of the other pleasures of life.
But before I do, in an attempt to avoid any misunderstandings, I should point out that I am not anti-materialist in the sense that I am in any way against material possessions and physical comfort, i.e. I am neither a Luddite, nor a pejorist, nor a miserabilist. Far from it in fact – I want all of my fellow human beings to have what I have, to have at least the same level of safety, comfort, leisure and pleasure that I enjoy. Those people who live in the wealthier, more technologically advanced countries lead longer, healthier lives, need to have fewer children, have better housing, have access to better medical and educational facilities, drink cleaner water, breathe cleaner air, eat more nutritious food, need to work less, have more time for leisure, have better police, fire and rescue services, are less prone to die or be injured in earthquakes, floods and cyclones ... and so on and so on. And, as more of the world’s population are becoming wealthier in a stabilizing global population, increasingly more and more people are enjoying the material benefits of wealth and increasingly less and less suffer from the deprivations of poverty.
Isn’t that astounding … and all this beneficence is solely due to human ingenuity.
The crux of what I am saying in this post is that the meaning of life is not to be found in materialism, nor is it to be found in spiritualism – it is to be found right here, right now, in the astounding sensual world we flesh and blood bodies live in.
RESPONDENT: So, what is this perspective? If we look at life in its entirety, it appears that our universe is comprised of some basic substance of intelligence which has been building up more and more complex elements until ‘life’ is born, and then that life is built up into more and more intelligent beings, culminating in humans, at least to the point we are at, now.
PETER: Hmmm... The human species, the most sophisticated of carbon-based life forms, capable of thinking, planning and reflecting, represents the pinnacle of the emergence and development of carbon-based life forms known in the universe. The current human species has emerged after a battle for survival that anthropologists estimate has been on-going for millions of years. Early human life was a tough and relentless battle for survival based on ‘kill or be killed’, the animal survival instinct in operation at its most basic and primitive level – ‘what can I eat ... what can eat me?’ The physical evidence of early tool use, language and settlement represents the first sign of the emergence of intelligence, a faculty totally unique to the human animal species.
There is no other intelligence in the universe – nor ‘beyond’ or ‘outside’ the universe. To propose that the universe is intelligent or that there is such a thing as ‘life’ independent of that which we experience with our senses is to indulge in anthropomorphism. The physical universe is much, much more than intelligent – it is eternal (having no beginning or end) and infinite (having no edge to go ‘beyond’), vibrant, sparkling, magnificent, magical, and happening this very moment. It is these qualities of the physical universe that the theomaniacs imagine to be their own qualities – eternal as in feelings of Timelessness and Immortality and infinite as in feelings of Spacelessness and Oneness.
As for, ‘culminating in humans, at least to the point we are at, now’ ... We human beings are remarkable among the animal species only in that we have a large ‘modern’ brain or neo-cortex, capable of thinking, planning and reflecting, that envelops the primitive ‘lizard’ brain, the source of our animal instincts. Intelligence, the ability to think, plan, reflect and communicate, has resulted in the astounding development of the human species, from a grim and deadly fight for the survival of the species, to one of increasing safety, comfort, leisure and pleasure. This last century, in particular, has seen astounding advances made in agriculture, manufacturing, health, life expectancy, wealth, transport, information processing, instant and world-wide communications, social services and education. Yet, despite the amazing technological advancements and organizational development of the human species on this planet, the Human Condition is still epitomized by two major factors ... malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: Isn’t the fact that we can communicate like this together proof of the basic unity and understanding from which everything springs?
PETER: The belief that there is a ‘basic unity and understanding from which everything springs’ is a fundamental spiritual belief. By believing there is an energy, life-force, hidden meaning, creative force, Isness, Essence, spirit, Godliness, Universal Consciousness, or whatever, that is creating, operating or controlling within, above or beyond this infinite, eternal physical universe is succour for the soul. The only way the lost, lonely frightened and very cunning entity that dwells within the flesh and blood body can feel connected to the physical world is to imagine that it is primarily spirit based and what is physically perceived by the flesh and blood body’s physical senses. The only way to sensately experience the sensuous delights and always already-existing peace, purity and perfection of the actual world is to eliminate this illusionary entity in total.
RESPONDENT: It seems that even our inventions can’t help expressing this reflection of the facts of being!
PETER: I always find it curious that spirituality, be it Eastern or Western, always pours scorn on materialism yet it is the inventions of empirical science, engineers, chemists, doctors and the like that has given human beings unprecedented levels of leisure, pleasure, comfort and safety. In the west the scientists, chemists, engineers, traders, craftsmen and the like managed to break from the church hundreds of years ago and the West blossomed. In the East this stranglehold was much stronger and more insidious but this century may well see the influence of the Eastern church weaken as well. The shamans are loosing their grip because the people are becoming increasingly freed to find out for themselves rather than merely believe what is spoken from the pulpit or podium or followed the ancient wisdom that is chiselled in stone or written on rice paper.
We modern humans only have to move the direction of search for freedom peace and happiness from the old one of liberation of the human spirit to a new search for liberation from the impassioned illusion of the human spirit ... and peace on earth will incrementally become a fact as each new person does it for themselves.
PETER: Surely it’s time to consider a third alternative?
RESPONDENT: Why insist that we are limited simply because we have been making a mess of the entire planet?
PETER: I see the planet doing quite well, except for all the wars, murders, rapes, tortures, domestic violence, corruption, loneliness, despair and suicides that are ever on-going. The endangered species theory, the global warming theory, the ailing mother earth theory, etc are but fashionable furphies that distract angry and idle idealists from focusing on the main issue – the endemic human malice and sorrow on the planet ... and from realizing these passions in action in themselves.
RESPONDENT: What has come before is fixed, but what lies ahead still can be determined through choice, and the imperative to give a damn and want to make things better is a real impulse, and not at all out of date or old fashioned.
PETER: Indeed, the human drive to betterment is innate and now that a way has been pioneered to disentangle and sever it from the crude and primitive animal instinctual passions, paradise on earth is now an individual choice for each of us.
RESPONDENT: Your view is very materialistic in many ways and we both know that we have far too much of that in our society. Isn’t it the materialistic/ mechanic outlook on life, humans, possessions etc that in many ways creates our misery?
PETER: Who said that being comfortable, safe, warm, well fed, well clothed, well informed, well entertained, healthy, etc. creates our misery? How many people in the world haven’t got even a basic material level of shelter, food, water, education, medicine, etc – and is this not real misery?
This nonsense about the evils of materialism is put out by those miserable souls who have a vested interest in human beings believing that existence on earth is essentially a suffering existence – because it always has been, it always should be. All of spirituality, both Eastern and Western, teaches that human existence is essentially a suffering existence and also that ultimate peace is only possible after physical death – i.e. anywhere but here and anytime but now. Added to this, the modern day religion of Environmentalism preaches that there is far too much material comfort and its believers actively work to deny others in less developed countries the material comforts they themselves enjoy.
I started my search for freedom, peace and happiness on the understanding that despite the fact that I had been successful in ‘real’ world terms – 2 cars, wife, 2 kids, house, good career – I was neither free, nor peaceful nor happy. For me the question was ‘How come I have everything I could desire and yet I was neither happy nor harmless?’ I discovered that to blame materialism for human malice and sorrow is to believe the spiritual viewpoint that life on earth is ultimately unsatisfactory, and to see physical comfort and sensual enjoyment as a sign of indulgence and evil.
What I eventually discovered was that the answer lay in an area considered by all to be impossible to question – the very feelings, emotions and instinctual passions that humans beings hold so dear.
RESPONDENT: I’m sure that many people would be extremely thrilled to hear about your view, than they would get even more confirmation of the fact that we’re just human animals of flesh and blood and not really responsible for our actions. It’s all chemicals rushing around in the body, we just can’t help but acting upon our instincts.
PETER: Are you kidding? No one takes responsibility for their actions anyway and how can they? Have you never experienced being overcome by anger or a jealous rage? Have you never experienced being overcome by sexual lust or swamped by feelings of deep sorrow? Have you never been overcome by fear or felt yourself sinking into a black pit of depression? Have you never felt grief such that it racks your body with pain? These are not experiences human beings can avoid while remaining bound to instinctual animal passions and it is these passions that make the human condition primarily one of malice and sorrow. The only way to become free of this ‘self’-imposed burden is ‘self’-immolation. The noble but ultimately failed idea that we can somehow cling to the tender, good instinctual passions while suppressing or transcending the savage, evil ones has clearly had its day.
It’s time for those who are vitally concerned about peace on earth to take responsibility and stop being contributors to malice and sorrow or becoming an escapist by burying their head in the clouds. But the fact that there is a third alternative is something that no one wants to really hear for to do so, even for a brief flash, would mean that they knew they were settling for second-best by pursuing the spiritual path to a synthetic freedom. (...)
RESPONDENT: Living life is extremely challenging and what else could it be?
PETER: As humans, we are all subject to physical dangers, ill-health, accidents, earthquakes, floods, fires, etc. which can cause loss and pain. But to have, and actively indulge in, emotional suffering additional to the hardship is to compound the situation to such an extent that the resulting feelings are usually far worse than dealing with the facts of the situation. What impresses me is the extraordinary steps taken in wealthy, materialistic countries to not only reduce the hardship caused by physical dangers but to prevent them from happening in the first place. Early warning systems for fire, flood and storm, earthquake and storm proof buildings, emergency services, evacuation and relief plans, etc. all help to minimize and in many cases negate hardship, loss, injury and physical suffering.
RESPONDENT: Think about it ... would we really appreciate in the long run to have things just as we want them to be, to know exactly what life was about. No, I would not think so. Life is an enigma and that’s perhaps the only way it could be.
PETER: It’s good you said ‘perhaps’ because this is another of the furphies given to the world by the God-believers in order that nobody dares find out for themselves. The actual world is literally bursting with meaning, each moment again, whereas the real world is steeped in lament and the spiritual world is wallowing in compassion.
PETER: Well for me it ‘hit me like a ton of bricks’ one day when I realised that the spiritual path is not a new thing – millions if not billions of Easterners have painstakingly and diligently practiced meditation, witnessing, watching, retreating from the real world, etc. for thousands of years with so few ‘reaching’ and no tangible, actual change in the Human Condition for the rest – humans are still firmly in the grip of malice and sorrow. The problem with the world AS IT IS is that humans still fight horrendous wars 160,000,000 killed in wars this century alone and the proffered hallowed solutions are a mere fantasy escape from this reality.
RESPONDENT: The last 20 years has seen a drastic change of the number of people killed in wars. Actually since shortly after WW II there was a sharp drop-off of deaths. Now the mortality rate of a soldier in the world is the same as that of a nurse. It always is helpful to have additional facts when one is writing about the ‘world AS IT IS..’
PETER: There have been two major wars fought this century – the first, a horrendous war as the leaders of both sides fought a war of attrition sacrificing millions for a few kilometres of ground gained. The second world war saw the innovation of aerial bombing such that all sides slaughtered not only soldiers but women and children living in cities far behind the ‘front lines’. The culmination of this new phase saw the development of REALLY BIG BOMBS called atomic bombs. It is no exaggeration to say that for the first time Humanity ‘scared even itself’ as to it’s collective insanity.
Further we had the ‘Mexican stand off’ with tens of thousands of nuclear armed missiles held by two sides in a scenario termed MAD – mutually assured destruction. And further still, modern communications and TV coverage (Vietnam, Iraq, Israel, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan etc.) has increased our awareness of the horror of war. Less and less is it a thing that men go off with honour and dignity to do for ‘a clear and just cause’. Further innovation has led to the development of smart stand-off weapons which radically decrease the likelihood of soldiers on the more wealthy side being killed.
So, the reduction in deaths has been wrought by the advances in technology and communications that have occurred this century – the cruise missile has replaced the bayonet charge, and I for one welcome it. It has meant that I have lived my life, to date, without having to be ‘cannon fodder’ in some imperialistic or religious war.
It is not for a some mythical ‘change in consciousness’ that deaths have been reduced given that the ‘friends’ of Jesus still battle it out with the ‘friends’ of Mohamed in the Middle East, the ‘friends’ of Krishna battle it out with the ‘friends’ of Nanak in India, etc. etc. The most telling issue is that any ‘peace’ or ‘truce’ in the world is still maintained at the point of the gun and at the present time in history we have ‘one big policeman’ for the world at large – with lots of guns, or missiles. Hence, we have a ‘relatively’ peaceful period in history at present.
All this has done little or nothing to reduce the murders, rapes, terrorism, domestic violence, repression, depression, suicides, etc that are still endemic in the world, but it is a definite and decisive change – as you have noted.
The thing I really like is that these same technological advances and marvels of communication, such as this very one we are now using, allows for the first time in history, a free and open conversation and discussion to happen about life, the universe and what it is to be a human being. Uncensored and unfettered, freewheeling and as instant as mouse click to send anywhere in the world. It is only now with this freedom and access to information that an actual freedom from the Ancient, Holy and Sacred is possible, and available, for those who wish to take it on. For those willing to do something about ridding themselves of the instinctual fear and aggression that is the cause of the continual ‘battles’ that the human species still wage with each other on this paradisiacal planet.
RESPONDENT: ‘It is always helpful to have some additional facts when one is writing about the world as it is’ – as you so well pointed out.
PETER: It is so very essential, as it is the only way to make sense of it all in this place, and this time, that we find ourselves living in.
PETER to Konrad: Actual freedom or actualism is of course not merely a theory or philosophy but a new, down-to-earth non-spiritual path to freedom – an actual freedom from the Human Condition of malice and sorrow.
Now actual means it works. It means that given sufficient effort and intent that one can virtually eliminate sorrow and malice from the human body. This means in practical terms that one no longer suffers from feelings of sadness, melancholy, boredom, neediness, sympathy, empathy, despair or fear, let alone annoyance, offence, anger, revenge or violence. It is then possible by practical demonstration to live with a companion in total equity, delighting in freely and mutually enjoyed sex, discussion and physical intimacy. The physical pleasures build and build, as does the awareness of the immeasurable and limitless perfection and purity of it all, increasing off the scales. One literally ‘buckles at the knees’ as the paltry attempts of the old ‘I’ to fearfully hang on wither in the helter skelter slide to freedom.
And all this is actual, sensate – as evidenced by the physical senses – not merely cerebral or affective. You know, things like the smell of a woman’s armpit during sex, the feel of the breast or bum, the way you can tease a nipple to hardness, the fresh unique journey that is each sexual encounter as a literal salubrious smorgasbord of sensuality unfolds as wave after wave of pleasure engulfs us both. To feel a woman as equally sexual such that you don’t know who is thrusting or who is wiggling or where you end and she begins. To ride wave after wave of pleasure of such intensity that ejaculation is but a side order, not the main meal. And after ... to lie back and chat about how it was for each of us, to compare notes, to discuss the nuances, pleasures, particularly delicious bits, or just to lay back in that state where all the cells of the body are sexually alive and tingling and drift off into a delicious half asleep state. To drift off entirely or to eventually surface and wobble to the shower where you realise that to have hot water on tap to pour over your body is a simple pleasure that rivals any. Then maybe a cup of freshly ground coffee and a post-coital cigarette, and wonder what other pleasures are next, and in what order they will come. Hedonism has got nothing on this. Freedom is this and much more, Konrad, much more. Can’t I tease you into considering the possibility of living in paradise, here, now, on earth.
It is a paradise not only of physical pleasure as it also offers a stillness and purity wherein one is no longer driven by the instincts, where the mind is a perfectly clear and delightful and playful thing and the usual feelings of fear and aggression are replaced by a consuming sense of well being and benignity. And loneliness disappears as one immensely enjoys ones own company. Good Hey....
So Konrad, unlike the other metaphysical and philosophical theories of freedom this one works and delivers and as such easily rebuffs charlatans and frauds. The proof is in the actual and in my experience if you can prove an end to malice and sorrow in equitable one-on-one companionship you have ‘put your money where your mouth is’. There is no greater test of fire than sexual freedom and equity, than for man and woman to live together in utter peace and harmony – not in theory but in practice.