Selected Correspondence Vineeto
RESPONDENT: Given that ‘I’ am not actual, how can ‘I’ do anything that wasn’t going to happen anyway? In other words, how can an illusion have any executive power whatsoever?
If ‘I’, as the agent of ‘my’ thoughts, feelings and actions, am an erroneous ex post facto claim of responsibility for the actions of the meat puppet who generates ‘me’, in what sense is ‘my’ freedom in ‘my’ hands? If the neural activity that generates ‘me’ has already happened before ‘I’ become aware of it, how can ‘I’ actually do anything?
While such questions may well appear to be ‘logical’, at closer inspection it is obvious that such logic can only exist when kept separate from the reality of the myriad of daily activities, momentary affective reactions and mundane choices involved in everyday normal life. ‘I’ make hundreds of ‘executive’ decisions per day. And yet in those instances questions such as ‘how can an illusion have any executive power whatsoever?’ do not arise for ‘I’ am busy doing whatever ‘I’ choose to do.
My experience is that if one starts down the path of refuting what is obvious – that I can decide to take charge of my life such that I actually make life-changing decisions – I would in effect be ‘shutting up shop’ by begrudgingly accepting my fate. In other words, a little investigation revealed to me that fatalism in whatever form was nothing other than me categorically negating the possibility of ever changing my life for the better. This simply made no sense to me at all because it was clear to me that I had in fact made many choices in my life that resulted in change … and very often for the better.
To approach the issue of fatalism from a different angle –
At present I am reading a book by a primate biologist entitled ‘The Dark Side of Man’ (by Michael P. Ghiglieri, Helix Books 1999), a well-written account on the instinctual passions of both great apes and humans. The book reminded me that, as I look at ‘me’ at the instinctual level and leave aside the superficial variations that make up one’s social conditioning, the core urges and compulsions that make up the human condition are very simple and obvious.
For great apes, with whom we share 98% of genetic DNA, the core programming for males is to impregnate a female by display of or use of strength, power and/or cunning, and for females, if she has a choice, it is to find a male that is best capable of protecting her young, the strongest, most powerful and/or most cunning. By and large this blind instinctual imperative to reproduce is the same for humans. You could say that instinctually the sole meaning of life is to procreate – to fulfill one’s instinctual obligation to ensure the survival of the species by passing on my genes.
Further, great apes have a rudimentary sense of self, i.e. they are self-conscious, which manifests as an individual self-survival instinct. Humans have developed a more complex self-consciousness, a feeling of self, so much so that this ‘self’ is felt to be ‘me’, a substantive entity in its own right. Thus it is that human beings are not only compelled to ensure the survival of the species via procreation but the individual survival instinct is now manifest as a ‘self’-survival instinct. Consequently human beings indulge in all sorts of imaginary scenarios of ‘self’-survival – imaginary spirit worlds, a fantasy afterlife, the search for immortality for the soul, and so on, imagining these pursuits to be the true meaning of life.
Many people pursue both these meanings of life hand in hand – physical procreation to ensure the survival of the species by passing on my genes and the imaginary survival of ‘me’ as a ‘self’. While they are busy bringing up their young they are also busy purifying their soul and bettering their status for an afterlife.
As such, one is driven by one’s instinctual programming and subsequently pursues the instinctually imprinted ‘meanings of life’ and such an immersion renders one incapable of paying attention to the instinctual programming itself.
The interesting part of the adventure of life begins when I begin to apply attentiveness and become apperceptively aware of how ‘I’ function, socially and instinctually, because then I can make sensible choices based on both my intent (my goal) and the depth of my insight into the human condition itself. In other words when I clearly see the pattern of the outer layer of ‘my’ social programming, I can stop this pattern and replace it with sensible choices. When I am able to clearly understand the pattern of the innermost layer of ‘my’ instinctual programming, which is buried deep in the basement of my psyche, I have the opportunity to stop the pattern and make sensible choices.
This continuous action of becoming aware of and successively stopping the automatic patterns eventually weakens both the social identity and the instinctual ‘me’ to the point where stepping out of one’s ‘self’ into the actual world won’t be a giant leap that appears impossible, but a small step that is simply the next sensible thing to do.
RESPONDENT: The identity is comprised of (not necessarily distinct) these parts: ego aka thinker, feeler aka soul, social identity, instinctual self, correct?
VINEETO: When I began to write on mailing lists about my experience with actualism, I first used the terms mainly used in spiritual circles to describe the identity – ego and soul, or thinker and feeler. However, as I explored more and more of my psyche and became more familiar about the nitty gritty of ‘me’ in operation, I found that the terms ‘social identity’ and ‘instinctual identity’ describe more accurately the two layers of my identity, the social identity being the layer of conditioning acquired after birth in order to curb the instinctual identity and its genetically encoded instinctual passions. This is just a preference that I have as I personally find the terms to be more descriptive and concise in conveying what I mean to others – contrary to what some believe there are no rules governing terminology around here.
RESPONDENT: Also the attributes or even the material by which the identity is made of is – feelings and emotions, instinctual passions, and thoughts (seldom free of emotions when an attribute of identity). Is this correct?
VINEETO: To the list of what the identity consists of I would add beliefs (feeling-fed thoughts about who rules the ethereal world and ‘my’ place in the hierarchy of the spiritual world), concepts (feeling-fed thoughts about ‘my’ place in the hierarchy of the materialistic world), moral and ethical values (feeling-fed thoughts about what is good and bad, right and wrong), vibes, myths and psittacisms.
There is no material by which the identity is made of, in that there is no ego in the head, or a little man pulling the levers and controlling the body, nor is there a soul located in the heart or a real me deep down inside as an actuality. However both aspects of one’s identity, whilst not being actual and having no material existence, are experienced as being very real – feelings are very real to the person having them. Beliefs are very real to the person who holds them dear, morals and ethics can dominate a person’s thoughts, actions and feelings, instinctual passions are very often overwhelming in their strength, and so on. In fact, the identity and his or her associated attributes are so real, so dominating and so overwhelming that they cause human beings to be nearly always in wary mode, defence mode, or attack mode – exactly as other animals are.
RESPONDENT: Is there a hierarchical structure to these various parts of the identity? Is it that one is operational at a given time not others – or – they all orchestrate with each other one feeding on the other like the legs of the millipede?
VINEETO: I found that because my social identity was mainly a training to curb my instinctual passions, particularly the so-called bad passions, I first had to whittle away at this layer of my identity in order to allow the deeper and stronger passions to emerge such that I could take a good look at how and why they operated. But this is not necessarily a smooth operation – sometimes just a crack in the outer layer reveals a bit of what is underneath, sometimes a big crack opens up and one gets a quite often shocking glimpse at what can be described as ‘the raw animal inside’ and sometimes one breaks right through the lot and a pure consciousness experience results when all of a sudden the whole centre and the protective circumference of my identity disappears … as if by magic.
RESPONDENT: The baby is born with these raw instinctual passions, basic software to protect itself from some of the dangers and situations – also with things like ‘theory of mind’ (which is later programmed or tuned more) – this is the instinctual self.
As I understand it the ‘theory of mind’ develops at about age 2-3, therefore I would say all humans are born pre-primed to think and feel themselves to be a separate ‘self’.
RESPONDENT: And with time – are these same instinctual passions fine-tuned to give rise to various feelings and beliefs and emotional behaviour patterns by societal conditioning?
VINEETO: The instinctual passions are never fine-tuned – in my experience they were only overlaid with social conditioning. I was only able to conduct a clear-eyed investigation of the instinctual passions in their full force once I was ready, able and willing to incrementally lift the lid of my beliefs, morals, ethics, values, ideals and principles that are the very constituents of my social identity.
RESPONDENT: When do I know I have come face to face with a raw instinctual passion – not just a conditioning of social identity – is this when the ‘social identity’ is deleted to a great extent – so as to see the underlying ‘instinctual passion’ devoid of the thinking distortions that usually accompanies it?
VINEETO: This is how Peter described it in the ‘The Actualist’s Guide’ –
RESPONDENT: Or is it (I think I read it in Peter’s journal) when I get to this point where I don’t see any reason for the fear or the strong emotion – it is just there – then I know it is an instinctual passion? If this is the case, I have come across situations where I have a strong emotion and I see that there is no reason for it to be there, at least I don’t believe that it is apt at that time.
VINEETO: The way I determined that I had come across an underlying instinctual passion was by the sheer intensity of the passion that welled up like a giant octopus, sometimes for no apparent reason. In such instance it was not that I had become upset about a belief that was attacked or that an aspect of my social identity that had been exposed – I knew I was experiencing something deeper and far more substantial than feelings – it was naked fear, pure rage, bottomless dread, sheer lust to kill, or the mindless intoxication of nurture.
RESPONDENT: Also I thought about another ‘Spiritual Freedom’ vs ‘Actual Freedom’ item when I was reading one of the pages (if this is not already tabled): In the former, one is a saviour of humankind (at least (s)he feels/thinks so) and in the latter ‘one is an expert in human condition’ (unless in the future, the babies are born free – in which case they will be without such expertise except vicariously).
VINEETO: Yepp, I have felt, and in that moment experientially understood, the overwhelming feeling of ‘knowing it all’ and the urging need to spread this wisdom revealed to ‘Me’ in a full-blown ASC that lasted several hours. As for ‘one is an expert in human condition’, I can only talk from the perspective of Virtual Freedom but I would say I am only partially an expert in the human condition in as far as I have explored my own psyche, which to a certain extent is the human psyche, and I am certainly an expert in how I became virtually free from the human condition.
However, there are many, many aspects of the human condition, cultural nuances, tribal rites, personal obsessions, weird passions, senseless beliefs and elaborate philosophies that I don’t know and neither have I the slightest interest in gaining such expertise. In any case, everyone has to do the job to take himself or herself apart if they choose to become free from the particular bent of their own social identity in order to firstly become virtually free of malice and sorrow. For this, one doesn’t need to be an expert in the human condition – ‘you’ only need to be an expert in what it is that is stopping you from being happy and harmless, no more and no less.
As an example of this, Richard had little intellectual knowledge about the instinctual passions before he became free of them – it was only Peter’s curiosity that prodded him to find out more and to write about them in more detail. Actualism is after all an experiential business, not an intellectual one.
ALAN: All of these boiled down to an examination of me being ‘responsible’ for others (which is, of course, nonsense) and underlying that, the fear of being on my own and of being different. As Richard has often said, it takes nerves of steel to break free from the safety of the herd and I was often accused of being obsessed, having a ‘one track mind’ and ‘twisting her words’. Another favourite was being ‘clever-clever’. As more emotional ties were severed and these taunts began to more and more miss their mark, so their frequency diminished – with nothing to hook into, there is little point in ‘casting’, as mentioned above.
VINEETO: Yes, the other ‘bummer’ for me was moving away from the herd, being on my own, moving away from the group of Sannyasin I knew and the women’s circle. It is another instinct, and it was accompanied with lots of fear – hence the nerves of steel.
The longer I am writing on the sannyas list, the more I understand the meaning of ‘twist’. I am looking at the world in a different way than they are (180 degrees, in fact) and they see it as me twisting reality, while I know that the Human Condition is twisting everyone’s perception. I have ‘untwisted’ myself.
‘Clever-clever’ is one of the typical male-female issues, I know it well from my past relationships. And women are often right in their accusation, when men go off into their cerebral world of logic and theoretical conclusions. But then, when the ‘hooks don’t catch’, you know that you experience the world neither cerebrally (more male territory) nor emotionally (more female territory), but sensually. And that’s where the male-female battle ends. Utterly fascinating!
ALAN: It is interesting you think there is an instinct to ‘go with the herd’? There is an excellent series on TV here, at the moment, examining the life of animals and their relationships. The last episode dealt with emotions and there is no doubt that many species feel guilt/shame. This would tend to confirm that being part of the ‘herd’ is an instinct. It is certainly a very strong conditioning, if not an instinct.
VINEETO: ‘Herding’ does go deeper than conditioning. Humans in the past have always huddled together in groups, fighting off wild animals, hunting and reproducing. You couldn’t survive on your own – that makes herding a function of the instinct of fear. I like watching animal programs particularly for what they reveal about instincts. There is much more studies done on animals, whereas studies on humans are considered ‘unethical’.
VINEETO: I think it would be a great idea to write down a longer description of those outstanding events on the path to freedom. <...>
ALAN: OK, here is last night’s instalment. I went back to work in the office I was in 5 years ago. My office no longer existed and although many of the people were the same none of them recognised me and I wandered around feeling very lost and scared and lonely. This dream followed on from my further enquiries yesterday into the ‘waiting’ I previously mentioned. Behind the ‘waiting’ I discovered the fear of leaving the herd, which we have also been discussing. So, the broom is out for another rooting about in the dark corners.
VINEETO: I sometimes suspect that my fear of leaving the herd is actually the fear of having left the herd!
Whatever tool or means, it’s good to find the reason underneath ‘not feeling good’.
Leaving the herd has been an ongoing theme for me. It started with leaving the woman’s camp, leaving the Sannyas fold, the work place and closest friends there, leaving the group of seekers, friends and well-known ways of relating. Now, when writing to the Sannyas list, whiffs of fear sweep through, sometimes for minutes, sometimes longer – it becomes so very clear that I am not only leaving one particular religious group, I am leaving the whole of the psychic world behind. By ‘psychic world,’ I mean the ability to ‘feel’ where the other is at, to intuit his or her position, to understand them psychically and psychologically. It is like speaking a different language – the language of emotions vs. the language of common sense and facts. Very often there is no communication possible. But, as I told you before, whenever I go back into the psychic world of feelings and emotions, I only get confused, and then I can’t communicate clearly at all. It is an old rut, a habit that I am determined to eradicate along with its accompanying fear.
VINEETO: For me, a vital drive has been the – instinctually driven – searching for the ultimate achievement...
ALAN: Can you expand on ‘instinctually driven’. Do you mean that having experienced what is possible, there ain’t no other high – where do the ‘instincts’ come in?
VINEETO: With pleasure. I have spent wonderful hours on the balcony the other night, watching the sky and listening to the different sounds of the night while contemplating about all the different instincts that I have encountered and learnt to understand on the path to freedom. So this is what I have come up with:
Fear – We all know it at nauseam; it includes trickery, cunningness, numbness, confusion, escape, denial, excuses, guilt and beliefs in all kinds of good (helpful) and bad (harming) spirits. And, of course, there are panic, terror and good old dread and the escape into enlightenment. But fear is also the doorway to courage, thrill and excitement to reach closer and closer to one’s destiny.
Aggression – Besides physical attack, aggression has many more subtle nuances: blaming, resentment, verbal abuse, nagging, boredom, being the victim, arrogance, clever-clever, competition, self-destruction and depression. I made use of this instinct for becoming free as a bloody-mindedness, persistence, not to ‘let the buggers get me down’, smugness and refusal to run with the crowd.
Nurture – It took me a while to wade through the ‘good’ feelings and emotions down to the basic instinct of nurture instilled to preserve the species. All the romantic movies thrive on nurture to tug at one’s heart strings, both with the heroic man and the loving but helpless woman. The willingness to kill and die for love for country, justice and religion is continuously adding to the 160,000,000 killed in wars this century alone. Further you find this instincts thriving on all kinds of NDA beliefs and action by attempting to ‘save endangered species’, ‘care for Mother Nature’. When leaving the fold of humanity, I found that I am moving away from this instinct of nurture – the collective belief in the ‘good’.
It is useful for freedom as the sincere intent to have peace-on-earth not only for me but for humanity as well and to sacrifice my ‘self’ for that goal.
Desire – With desire we collect things and strive for power and improvement for ‘survival’ – ceaselessly and endlessly on the go. In the spiritual world this desire is turned into the search for enlightenment, the ticket to immortality and power in the ‘other-world’.
Now I come to the point that I was making: ‘For me, a vital drive has been the – instinctually driven – searching for the ultimate achievement...’ I experienced it as the instinct of desire that has driven me to search for freedom, to clean myself up, to be the best ‘I’ can be.
Richard said in his correspondence:
It has been, up until now, a passionate enterprise and the passions (instincts) have served their purpose very well. Nevertheless, once it became blindingly obvious that ‘I’ had reached the end of what is possible, this instinct to be the best I can be was left with no goal to go for. As I see it, all the instincts could be used as a perfect vehicle to reach to this point of 99% and now they have to be left behind in order that I can become actually free. Living in Virtual Freedom is a perfect way to enjoy the ordinary, easy, delightful and perfect day-to-day life, without the swings of highs and lows.
VINEETO to Alan: In the last days we have been busy with comprehending the role of the primitive brain in the process of virtual freedom and actual freedom. The schematic model helped me very much to not only visualise what is going on but to understand the physical ramifications of altering the selfish programming of the neo-cortex and the instinctual wiring of the primitive brain. It seems clear that only after dismantling the social identity can the functioning of the instincts become apparent and more and more obvious. This awareness seems to stop the chemicals of the amygdala (primitive brain) flooding the rest of the brain – I can keep common sense, check out for actual danger and then get on with the business of being alive. The link from the amygdala to the modern, thinking brain may be weakened. Or, as you say,
I know that the less I support this rush of hormones and chemicals with any ‘self’-identification, the more I ‘whittle’ away on the connecting link between the old and the new brain. Then the hormones will be like a barking dog – they eventually stop.
The willingness to disappear has now taken over and turned every moment of the day into a thrilling, almost pleasant anticipation, the magnanimous gift of ending ‘me’ that ‘I’ am willing to make for everybody who might be interested in an actual freedom in this lifetime. Fear with a lumpy stomach is still happening, but it is not the main event. The quality of approaching death has noticeably changed from a single-pointed determination at all costs to a benevolent purposeful and steady moving in the only direction left. It becomes more and more clear that the main event is not fear, not even thrill. The main event is freedom, which throws its glittering sparkle into each moment of the day as I am getting closer to the final event. The days are filled with a joyous surety, a jingle, a delight. Physical symptoms of fear and the experience of excellence and perfection are happening side by side. A truly fascinating combination!
I am well aware that we are going to be ‘the proof of the pudding’, and me-as-this-body will have a bloody good time when I am free. You are very welcome to be the first, Alan. After all, you are the ‘chief disciple’ and, as such, bear great responsibility, don’t you agree? Let’s see, who pops.
ALAN: Your last posts were fascinating and of considerable benefit to my current explorations. As a result, I (which I?) have abandoned, for the moment anyway, the possibility of ‘going into’ the basic instinct of fear. I suspect that, had I proceeded any further, a heart attack would have resulted – which seems to accord with the experiences you described – proceed with care if you are going to explore this basic instinct of fear further, Mark. I also suspect, as Vineeto suggests, that it was a manifestation of ‘me’ (in desperation) making a final attempt to ‘be here’ – sort of ‘I’ do not know what to do any longer, so let’s try this. I also take Peter’s point – ‘I see the core instincts as no different to the psychological feelings in the neo-cortex, and the ending of them was neither by expressing nor repressing, ‘going into’ or avoiding’. This is a very valid point and, since reading your mails, the heart palpitations have ceased, though the sensations in the head have increased, particularly at the base of the skull – and I do not preclude the possibility that this also is ‘me’ doing this, because it is the next obvious step.
For the last few days, I have been attempting to simply ‘go along’ with whatever is happening. I have been aware of ‘my’ attempts (two at least) to make a grab for the Glamour and the Glory and the Glitz, as you described, Peter. So, I am not sure you are correct when you say ‘I know this is not the case with you, Alan’, though (because I am aware of the danger) both times I was able to just ‘note’ that this was ‘my’ survival attempt and the attraction immediately disappeared – common-sense and pure intent in operation, I guess. And this sums up what I have been doing – anytime I have become aware of any reaction, I have simply noted that this is ‘me’ up to no good. For instance, on the ‘pain’ increasing in the base of the skull – and the reaction of excitement and ‘this is it’ – it is going to happen now – an observation that this is just ‘me’ grabbing and clutching at straws. Fear has disappeared completely and left a sense of calm and tranquillity – and, at the same time, a sense of immanence and of ‘standing on the brink’. No PCEs and yet, of the flavour of the PCE.
And, to insert a quick ‘plug’ for the benefits of virtual freedom, even if one does not go all the way. At a time considered to be the most stressful there can be in a persons life – selling a house, selling (or closing) a business and a likely break up of a marriage – here I am, enjoying every moment and delighting in the experience of being alive – I thoroughly recommend it.
VINEETO: I can relate well to all that you are describing above. The exploration of fear had seemed the direction to go on the way to an actual freedom – up to a certain point. Fear was usually the indicator that there was something essential to discover, to explore or to eliminate. And often I have come out the other side of fear with a realization, a wider view and seen through a certain belief. Fear has been a guide and an ally – as Mark calls it – and hanging in there by neither repressing nor expressing it, the fear has usually lead to more understanding and a freedom from a particular aspect of ‘me’.
At a later stage, by the sheer appliance of common sense, the feelings of fear were exhausted, and the reasons for being fearful became more and more ridiculous. That was when ‘fear, the bare instinct’ came to the surface, giving me the opportunity to explore this raw instinctual passion that I am born with, exactly like every other human being on this planet. Tackling this bare instinct in me meant at the same time tackling the issue of leaving ‘humanity’ – ‘being a traitor’, as you put it. During this time I was checking out again whether there really is no solution to the Human Condition within the Human Condition. Sometimes I did consider myself going seriously mad and sometimes I was aghast by the amount of destructive madness that I observed in the way human beings treat each other. Eventually I gathered enough evidence to be completely convinced that there was no other solution but to step outside of Humanity altogether, to abandon my ‘humanity’, my instincts, my ‘self’.
Tackling the survival instinct, mainly surfacing as fear, it became blindingly and nauseatingly obvious – both literately and figuratively – that I was generating this instinct by believing in its ‘reality’ and ‘seriousness’. Also, I became aware that in this way I was jeopardizing my physical well-being and happiness. There was ‘me’ experiencing fear and playing out a drama, all the while there was no actual danger to my body, unless ‘I’ produced it. Seeing this, the belief in fear itself is weakened and was left behind – fear is no longer the guide for the ‘right’ direction. Mental anguish sometimes grinds away in the background like my computer during the virus-check, doing what it has to do, but the end of ‘me’ is clearly in sight. (...)
VINEETO: Fear number two was: will I be able to physically survive? Well, I knew that Richard did, and he had described some quite dramatic experiences in his time before enlightenment. But I also had my own peak-experiences which convinced me that I am very capable of surviving without the ‘support’ of the primitive survival mechanism – on the contrary! As I had described before, when the physical symptoms of the adrenaline rush were developing towards what felt like a heart-attack, my common-sense decided that this was silly, and I could easily decide not to follow that drama any further.
ALAN: Yes, this is ‘my’ greatest fear. I still think it will be necessary to accept that physical death may be the outcome when ‘stepping through the door’ (with Actual Freedom, not fear, written on it!!). As I said in my last post, for ‘me’ there is no difference between physical death and ‘self’ extinction – they are one and the same so far as ‘I’ am concerned and have the same end result for ‘me’ – ‘I’ will no longer exist in any shape or form – and ‘I’ want to remain in existence to savour the moment and receive the acclaim and, as you put it, ‘have a bloody good time’ – and ‘I’ cannot!!
VINEETO: You are very welcome to be the first, Alan. After all, you are the ‘chief disciple’ and, as such, bear great responsibility, don’t you agree? Let’s see, who pops.
ALAN: I resign. And, yes, I am well aware that ‘I’ want to be the first and have no hesitation at all in utilising this desire to assist in ‘my’ demise.
VINEETO: If you don’t physically survive, how can you be the first? Nobody would be around to tell of ‘your’ success. That simple female logic might help you find a safe solution. (It is really just female ‘logic’ and not common sense because it is so bent.)
But I know what you mean. Psychological and physical death seem so closely connected at times that one can get very easily mixed up. The amygdala certainly makes no distinction betwixt the two and pumps its chemicals through brain and organs – adrenaline, serotonin, testosterone, endorphin and whatever else it has in store. But once I knew that ‘I’ was creating those physical symptoms with my mental support, I could also stop creating them – or I go for the endorphin. Common sense helped me to understand that the two (the physical and psychological death) have, in fact, nothing to do with each other. Physical death is not happening and psychological/psychic death has been agreed upon for some time now. The fear that I am physically threatened is just an automatic reaction of the instinctual ‘self’ when close to extinction.
VINEETO to Alan: I want to chat a bit about the subject that Peter has raised in his last post to you – the ‘good’ and – ‘tender’ instinctual passions. It was a good reminder for me when he said that it took Richard only a few months to eliminate anger, yet eleven years to eliminate the ‘good’ – pacifism, love, compassion, beauty and bliss.
So, as part of my investigation I watched a movie today which could be called a classic regarding this very issue. It is called ‘Good morning, Miss Dove’, a film made in 1955, full of the straightforward morals and ethics of post-war America. Miss Dove turns down a marriage proposal in order to become a teacher of her little town and teaches generation after generation not only geography but in particular how to behave like perfect moral citizens. Every word and gesture of hers is oozing the ‘good’ and the ‘right’, teaching the distinction between the respectable and the disreputable. In her subtle and ‘humble’ way she has got the whole town under her thumb, not only because almost everybody has been her former pupil and thus imbibed the very same ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but also because she is flawlessly incorruptible. As such, she can even tell the priest how to pray with her on her death-bed.
The interesting part for me was that the concept of a morally flawless life could still touch me. Humans of all ages have strived for the best, have tried to be ‘good’ and have partly succeeded to keep the ‘bad’ under control. But ...
It’s been a good exercise to examine and analyze the stronghold of the ‘good’, to see the emotional attraction and the hidden traps. I find it harder to recognize than being angry or fearful because the ‘belief in the good’ only becomes apparent as a slight tug on the heartstring, a sweet feeling, an attraction for the ‘good’ hero in a story or a disappointment when the corrupt wins. But leaving Humanity behind means leaving the ‘bad’ and the ‘good’ behind and every catch needs to be investigated.
GARY: My addiction is something that I now regard as being almost totally instinct driven.
How could it be otherwise? Why would a person such as myself, with basically a decent upbringing and many social and educational advantages, be driven to nearly drink and drug themselves to death, not to mention the crushing despair, suicidal depressions, and nearly constant homicidal tendencies? There are things about AA that I appreciate, however, one of them being that the founders of AA, in my opinion, correctly recognized the role of the instinctual passions driving the alcoholic’s life and relationships. They correctly discerned and set up a practical method of investigating the instinctual passions, at least in part. But the continual infusion of the spiritual approach into AA has set the whole methodology of inquiring into the instincts through a searching and fearless inventory on its head, and thus I am beginning to see that the entire thing is rotten to the core, to use an expression I have heard on this list. The method of turning oneself in abject surrender over to God or a Higher Power almost certainly dooms the method, and the resulting investigation of the instincts becomes only a surface skimming around, not going to the required depths needed to eliminate them at their root.
I still intend to attend AA but I feel I have parted ways with many of the things, which I used to give head-nodding approval to, mainly the ‘spiritual’ part of the program. I also do not seem to have as much of a desire for affiliation, the need to ‘rub elbows’ with people, as I used to have. All of this amounts to either a kind of self-imposed exile or an ostracization from something that I used to consider as essential to continued life and happiness as food and air. I am not sure any more. When I do attend meetings, I enjoy hearing people talk about how their lives have changed for the better with continued sobriety, as has mine. And I also like to hear what people are finding out about living in this world in peace and harmony with others and themselves, but I chafe when they start talking about so-called spiritual things, what Richard has dubbed ‘passionate fantasies and imaginative hallucinations’. The founders of AA, like many human beings, held all kinds of fanciful ideas about things spiritual, attending séances, revivals, etc, etc. I can certainly relate to that kind of delusion. At one time, I was firmly convinced that I could communicate with dead spirits myself!
VINEETO: Yes, our decent upbringing and instilled conditioning is only skin-deep when it comes to keeping the lid on the instinctual passions that we are all born with.
When I first started to come face to face with the deeper instinctual passions in me that were lurking underneath my initial emotional reactions, I realised why no one has dared to fully acknowledge this instinctual animal heritage both in themselves and in every human being. The power and rawness of my bare instincts was so overwhelming at first, that had I not known that it is actually possible to eliminate these instincts, I would not have dared to let them come to the surface in their full repellence. Only because I know that I can, and want to, get rid of ‘me’, the root of these survival instincts, has it been possible to face this atavistic evil force. With the knowledge that there is life beyond instincts I was able to sit out the turbulent storms of fear without scurrying for safety, acknowledge my instinctual lust to kill without denying it and experience the dread and sorrow of humankind without wallowing in it or grasping for the ‘redemption’ of enlightenment. It is all very real when it happens, but once the storm abates, which it inevitably does, there is not a trace of it left in the delightful clarity that follows.
GARY: I read about Sorrow in the AF glossary pages. One thing that rang my bell, in particular, was when it said:
Oh Boy, does that hit the mark. That seems exactly like what is happening. I feel like I have done something wrong and am being corrected, disciplined in no uncertain terms, brought back into the fold. I have strayed far, far away from the herd. Whilst I haven’t abandoned my family completely, I maintain considerable distance, and I am unaffected by any feeling of loyalty to my family or tribe. I also am on my own a good deal. I do not see myself as keeping any friends at work or being concerned to make any allies. That does not mean that I am blatantly unfriendly, but I just don’t seem to have the kind of relationship with co-workers that I see others having.
So what I am seeing here, from the reading in the glossary and thinking about it on my own, is that sorrow is a pre-birth programmed instinct to keep one in line with one’s group, tribe, work group, family group, etc. It is a way to insure that humans will conform with the wretched status quo even if that means being peevish, unhappy, or malevolent.
VINEETO: I found it useful to make a clear distinction between sorrow and the need to belong although they have common aspects. Leaving the herd created fear in me many times, popping up at regular intervals whenever the immensity of becoming actually free hit home.
The first layer of sorrow was closely linked to my social identity, to being a social being. I found that questioning common beliefs, i.e. how I should be and how things should be, and particularly questioning my spiritual beliefs, i.e. we are all here to suffer because it is God’s will, were essential to leaving the sticky sorrow-soup that is the glue holding humanity together.
Later I discovered the second layer of sorrow – compassion. Once my personal sorrow had disappeared out of my life and everything was running smoothly due to my rapidly diminishing social identity, I became more and more sensitive to, and aware of, the immensity of human suffering and sorrow. Compassion, the bittersweet feeling arising out of the nurture instinct, is very seductive in that is fulfils the need to belong without the tedious self-centred struggles of day-to-day sorrowful relationships. One simply lies on the couch and, watching the stark news in the world, feels connected to all the suffering people out there. Of course, nobody but me receives any benefit from this feeling – which proves, despite common belief, that compassion is an utterly selfish feeling.
When all is said and done it is simply so much more sensible to be happy and harmless – even if stepping out of the human program is frightening at times.
GARY: Everything about sorrow says to me ‘You will never leave us. You will always carry this sadness around with you. You cannot be happy. Whatever you do in life or no matter how far you travel, you will always have me to remind you of who you are’.
A little further on in the glossary, it says the following:
It is hard for me to admit that I want to belong, that I am not free from this herding instinct.
VINEETO: I found that the need to belong was slowly, slowly replaced by my judgement of silly and sensible and the obvious tangible benefits I gained from not belonging to a miserable group, race or battling gender. Of course, it is invaluable to have someone to talk or write to and share common sense and the experience of success without being continuously cut down to size, a behaviour directly linked to the herding instinct. Everyone who is not aware of his or her instinctual need to belong can only judge you as a competitor to the present leader or leaders or a lonely madman the moment it becomes apparent that you are walking tall in the world. Watching herding behaviour in animals has been very useful research material for understanding my own feelings and behaviour and that of other people towards me.
GARY: Perhaps outwardly I behave as if it does not affect me that much, but the fears that I experienced when ‘I’ am under scrutiny for apparently not ‘fitting in’ are telling a different story. I think that it will be important for me to investigate this instinct. So, the basic thrust of the instinct, as I understand it so far, is to ensure loyalty and conformity to the group? Is that it? Or is there something that I am missing? I would welcome feedback from anybody who has dealt with or is dealing with this sort of thing. I have wondered if what I am experiencing is the ostracization or rejection by the group that others talk about, you know, the ‘you just don’t seem like everybody else here – what’s the matter with you?’ How have other people dealt with this?
VINEETO: I have found two aspects to ‘ostracization’ – one was my own fear of being on my own and the other was the actual withdrawal, resentment and sometimes attack from others for leaving the commonly agreed terrain of malice and sorrow.
I could eventually tackle the fear of being on my own, because of the memories from my pure consciousness experiences where any separation magically disappears the moment the ‘self’ goes in abeyance. In a PCE it is clear that I have always been on my own and lived my own life without great problems. It is the feeling of separation, fear and worry arising from a ‘self’ that makes the feeling of ostracization a common reaction. In the end it was not so much that others avoided me but I who lost interest in belonging to a Humanity that ardently insists on keeping the status quo of malice and sorrow. One can do nothing about the sceptical, disinterested or outright aggressive reaction from others except being practical and sensible and such reactions are an inevitable by-product of being a pioneer.
VINEETO: I often have a hard time to remember ‘who’ and how I was a few years back as the emotional memories disappear with the problems and the passions that used to give such substance to ‘me’. These days I am sometimes busy with understanding the bigger picture of the Human Condition and also in giving up trying to understand what can only be left behind.
GARY: I get some definite reminders every now and again. I have some bleed-throughs of the instincts from time to time. For instance, I experienced a temper tantrum this week. I have not left the Human Condition, I am still in it. I have to ask myself why these things happen, and I have to admit that I am discouraged when I act childishly petulant and peevish. It is a most uncomfortable state. But I find that rather than ‘snowball’, these negative moods rather quickly dissipate once I get back to running the question. I am writing this so that others will not think that Actual Freedom is some kind of piece of cake, something easily accomplished. It’s darned hard to get right down to it. I have always had the greatest difficulty with anger. I am subject to ‘stuffing’ anger and can easily end up quite unawares that I am actually very angry and then ... kapow! it comes tumbling out.
VINEETO: One reason why I was initially drawn to Actual Freedom was because I always felt somehow uneasy when I realized how I was driven by my emotions. There was always something awkward about being blindly driven by emotions which do not make any rational sense and the fact that everybody is affected by, and acting out, the same emotions did not make it less embarrassing. A lot of effort in therapy and spiritual teachings goes into ‘accept yourself as you are’ but it always tasted of insincerity and cheap solace to me.
The other night we watched a program that portrayed the life of a lion family over a two-year period. I found it fascinating to see all the various instincts in action without the moral and ethical overlay, which animals simply don’t have. This made it easy to study their aggression, their nurture, their fear, their mating behaviour, their hierarchy, their territorial instincts and their arrangements of belonging to the group – all of their instinctual actions were obviously for their own survival, the survival of the pride and to make yet more lions. To know by experience that these very same instinctual animal programming is operating in ‘me’ makes the intent to move on ever more urgent.
You say that the path to an actual freedom from the Human Condition is not easy but after 17 years of fruitless search in the spiritual department I was utterly pleased to have the results tumbling in after a relatively short period of sincere and diligent application of actualism. Once I made the life-changing decision – after my first major PCE – to go ahead with actualism and to question my spiritual beliefs, I delighted to make sense of the world and enthusiastically engaged in finding out the facts of life. No more belief, no more trust, no more faith, no more mystique – to dust off my common sense after years of ‘leave your mind at the door’-teachings was utterly stimulating and liberating.
Of course actualism is not a ‘piece of cake’ because the change that happens through applying the method is actual and tangible. To feel oneself to be harmless is easy – and being a feeling, it is as easily disturbed – but to actually be harmless requires removing everything in me that would disturb my happiness and harmlessness and this demolition job requires time, effort and dedication.
VINEETO: It is curious – such a simple aim – happy and harmless – and yet, I am again and again surprised how little attraction it holds for most people. It seems to be that some people, like you, are able to take the words ‘at face value’ while others have too much investment at finding fault with the option to even consider that becoming happy and harmless is the most significant thing they can do with their lives.
GARY: It is quite hard to understand. I am not at all happy with the way ‘I’ am. Perhaps No 12 said it best recently. He said he is not interested in changing, that everything is fine as it is.
VINEETO: I pondered about why one would not want to become free from the pain that is the Human Condition and I found a similarity to drug-addiction – for the brief hours or days of bliss one is ready to suffer countless days of sorrow, hypocrisy, malice, depression, loneliness and withdrawal-symptoms from that bliss – but to give up both the good and the bad feelings appears to be too much of a sacrifice. It would indeed be the beginning of the ending of ‘me’, my precious identity.
I think that the bigger the ‘highs’, and consequently the deeper the ‘lows’, the harder it is to give up the addiction, be it to drugs, to love, to power, to enlightenment, to God, to beauty, to bliss or to mania. I think I mentioned it before – in order to get rid of, for example, jealousy, dependency and loneliness I had to give up desiring for and running after the capricious good feelings that love provided, like security, bliss, sweet dreams and fleeting moments of connectedness.
The ‘good’ and ‘bad’ instinctual passions are so closely intertwined, they are in fact one and the same program. Such a simple fact – two sides of one coin – and yet none of the spiritual and religious wisdom expounded by thousands of teachers has ever taken notice of its significance for bringing a solution to humankind’s sorrow, fear and aggression. When one gives up bliss, love, truth and beauty one is not left with dread and emptiness as William James and other wise guys make us believe. Beneath the glossy feelings of love and bliss and the stark feelings of hate and dread lies the unpolluted and wondrous magnificence of actuality.
GARY: Well, I did not come to this list or to this website because everything was fine the way it was. I am interested in changing ... irrevocably and fundamentally. It seems every once in awhile I run smack dab up against the instincts. It seems like it is a matter of practicing unceasing awareness in all your affairs. It seems like I fall sometimes into the trap of not running the question ... kind of like running on automatic pilot. If I trace an explosion of the instincts back to when they started, that’s usually what comes up ... I was not examining my experience, not running the question with honesty and assiduity.
VINEETO: I found that there are two kinds of emotional experiences – one was directly connected to my social identity, to my hopes and fears, disappointments and guilt, power issues and threatened beliefs, hurt feelings and passionate imagination. ‘ Running the question’ each time I was feeling disturbed in any way has certainly provided me with the tools to become aware of each and every aspect of my social identity in action. These experiences have nearly completely ceased nowadays due to the substantial weakening of this outer layer of the ‘self’.
However, as the underlying raw instincts came to the surface once in a while, I began to understand that there is quite often no particular cause or reason for them – the instinctual program is simply running on automatic. ‘Running the question’ would not necessarily prevent the occurrences of such emotional outbreaks but being aware of ‘how I am experiencing this moment of being alive’ is essential to not let these events blossom into a full-blown dramas but to nip these outbursts in the bud in order to get back to feeling good or excellent.
What I am saying is that ‘I’ cannot prevent the instincts from coming to the surface as long as there is a ‘me’ still in existence. Only when the animal instinctual passions come to the surface can I examine them and fully experience their potential ferocity, which in turn fuels my intent to facilitate the ending of ‘me’.
Just now a bit of Richard’s screensaver was floating by that may be relevant to observing one’s instinctual passions –
(Editor’s note: The screensaver is no longer available due to its incompatibility with Windows 8)
GARY: Further on you stated:
This seems to be the crux of the matter. It is a futile exercise to blame social conditions for violence, but it is also an extremely commonplace understanding. For instance I was recently reading a book entitled ‘Fist-Stick-Knife-Gun’ by a man who grew up in the South Bronx, a blighted inner-city ghetto area in New York. His life experience was marked by interpersonal violence from a young age, but he was able to go to college and turned his life in adulthood to helping the young people in these areas as a counsellor. But here again I found that he made the common mistake of blaming violence in the ghetto on the social conditions – as abysmal as they may be. It simply didn’t wash for me, because I know only too well that one can be living in the lap of luxury and still be extremely violent. It is not that I am totally discounting hunger and poverty as being among the causes of violence, but violence has far, far deeper roots that go all the way into our rudimentary animal instincts. One has to start where one is and free oneself from the grip of this primitive survival programming. While the particular form that violence takes is ultimately shaped and determined by the social environment, the propensity for violence, fuelled as it is by the rudimentary instinct of aggression common to all human beings, is to a large extent genetically determined. I feel it is basically incorrect to say that violence is learned, as this South Bronx-bred author does state unequivocally.
VINEETO: Recently there was a local television show called ‘Bad Behaviour’ where a journalist interviewed criminals convicted for murder or attempted murder, two males and two females. In the course of the interviews it became clear that for both women something had gone wrong in their socialisation, i.e. their moral and ethical ‘lid’ did not work, a fact that left them without sufficient control when their instinctual passions erupted. The sister of one of the women was owed a small amount of money by someone and the she decided to ‘teach her a lesson’ as she called it, stabbing her to death. Even after the deed she could not feel any remorse, shame or guilt for the act, only resentment that the death of the woman resulted in her being jailed, separated from her young son. She even said if someone would hurt her son, she would kill again.
The second woman could be described as a nice friendly housewife but was someone who had trouble ‘standing up for herself’. After years of disrespectful and abusive treatment from her husband one night she lost control and killed him with an axe. ‘I don’t know what came over me’ she said, ‘but I knew I had to go to the police and give myself up’. There are many similar stories where bottled up anger explodes and creates havoc and usually people say they didn’t know what came over them or that ‘I wasn’t myself in that moment’.
One of the men interviewed grew up in a street-fighting environment and when his family moved to Australia, he still saw the streets as being full of potential enemies. Subsequently whoever happened to give him a strange look, teased his mother for her foreign customs or looks was an adversary and needed to be attacked. When asked if he would change his behaviour after being released from jail he answered he could change when he gets married and has children. He imagined he would stop drinking, he would have new friends, not his gang-ho friends from the past, and then his attitude and behaviour would change. But without a wife and children he considered the task of changing his habits as being too great.
What I found most interesting in those reports was that because the social conditioning of each person had an obvious flaw, one could clearly see the results of the bare instincts operating in their naked brutality and simplicity – kill or be killed, protect your offspring at any cost, fear your enemy. Most sociologists are concerned with the question as to why the social conditioning fails in people and how to prevent it failing while nobody dares to look at the root cause – the animal instinctual passions. The root cause is far too close to the bone, so to speak. But to overlook the fact that each and every human being is endowed with instinctual passion is to carry on inventing better asbestos suits or questioning why the suits always have holes in them instead of putting out the fire.
GARY: One need only look at the world-wide incidence of violence to see something much deeper and more resistant to change at work. While there may be one or two isolated, extremely rare cases of tribes way off in the jungle somewhere who are essentially peaceful (come to think of it, I can’t think of a one), human violence and warfare has a world-wide incidence endemic to the human species. Terrorism is nothing new. Anger is nothing new. To blame the terrorism on ‘Muslim anger’ over the treatment of the Palestinians by the US-backed Israelis is akin to blaming the depredations of the Nazis’ to ‘German anger’ over the indignities of the Versailles treaty. It only makes sense whilst one is busily harbouring malice and sorrow oneself.
VINEETO: I like your comparison. It makes the nonsense of continuously finding the fault in others and thus perpetuating the cycle of taking offence and seeking revenge so blatantly obvious. Terrorism is indeed nothing new, in fact the sixteen hour BBC series on British history that is on local television right now has shown history to be an almost unbroken series of terrorist acts – tribes against tribes, kings against kings, lords against bishops, not to mention the countless unrecorded acts of senseless violence of common folk against each other.
GARY: It seems like without adrenalin-fuelled reactions, one thinks much more clearly and rationally about sensible courses of action. Considered action to address the situation is then the result. One is then neither anxiously fleeing nor aggressively attacking the perceived locus of the threat. The more attentive I am at recognizing my own life situation and reactions to everyday events, the more I think that the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction is totally unnecessary.
VINEETO: Yes, and it is remarkable how very little real threat to my both health and my safety there is when my perception is not clouded by instinctual ‘self’-preservation and when my life-style is not run by senseless pursuit of power, wealth, fame or excitement – in one word ‘self’-importance.
GARY: The only situation I can think of where adrenalin would serve a useful purpose would be some great calamity, where assistance or help is needed immediately: for instance, if I vehicle were to roll over someone and they were trapped and could not get out, someone under the influence of adrenalin might perform feats of superhuman strength, whereas the absence of this emotive force would require other measures that would not be readily available.
What are your thoughts on this issue?
VINEETO: As I don’t know much about what chemical reactions happen in the brain, I looked up the Encyclopaedia Britannica –
From the word ‘effects’ I conclude that an increased output of adrenalin and other chemical neuro-transmitters does not necessarily require feelings of anxiety for ‘increased mental alertness’ to occur. In other words, the effects can be two separate effects and it is quite apparent that in a dangerous situation one functions better if the affective reaction can be eliminated. Richard’s report about his response to an emergency situation – ‘necessity provides all the calorific energy required’ – seems to confirm my hypothesis.
IRENE: What I would like to suggest is that we both write down what the nature of our relationship is with each other and give a name to our own game and the other’s, plus what we see as the common purpose, if there is one. I’ll be the first!
The game I am playing is living an authentic life, i.e. making use of all my faculties which I have learnt to understand over the years and which I enjoy calling my own, like thinking, feeling, sensing, harmonizing all of them in a well-developed understanding and expressing this in the most authentic way to others. You see that I certainly include feelings and intuition (sensing) in the whole package, as I do not see them as perverse or contrary at all, unlike Richard, as you well know. < ... >
Now, although you may be convinced that Richard is not an authority for you (‘because he says so himself’) why don’t your words and attitude bear that out? Why do you put into practice his methods, aim for the state he is in, defend him and criticize others using his words and phraseology and prove him to be right by your own experiences?
Is it possible that you may not be aware that this is actually the classic indication of following an authority? The ‘born-again’ Christians show the same behaviour, so did most of the German subjects of Hitler, or Sannyasins or ‘students’ of Barry Long, A.Cohen, Adida (or whatever his name is this week!) etc. < ... >
So, to come back to my proposal in the beginning of this email, I would like to call my game ‘being natural and authentic’ (with the understanding and wise use of feelings, intuition and instincts). I suggest that we call your game ‘extirpate the natural and the authentic’ (with the emphasis on feelings, intuition and instincts).
As I said before this is something that I suggest in order to come to an agreement between you and me, so your agreement or disagreement or your choice of names to our games is equally valid as mine, as long as we can agree both!
What we have in common in this is not yet clear to me, but I hope that you can detect something in this email to which you can say: ‘Yes, I do see that myself too’ or ‘Yes, in this respect Irene and I see eye to eye’. I sincerely hope that we find something more in common than living in the same town and the few people we both know, but if that proves not to be the case then that is how it is, isn’t it?
VINEETO: The reason I write is to ultimately to find out about myself. If I get upset about something, annoyed, repulsed or angry, it means there is something in me that is not squeaky clean. And my game is called ‘actual freedom’ and that means being free of anything that prevents me from experiencing the actual world as-it-is. And as long as there is any feeling or emotion triggered in me, I will never experience how this actual world really is! Therapists have found a part of this understanding – they call it ‘projection’. Projection means, I see something in someone else that I have in myself. The say, ‘forget about the other.’ Why does it annoy me? Oh, because I reject it in me. Aha, I am dishonest, that’s why I am annoyed that the other is maybe dishonest (or a Hitler, or authority-fixed, or proselytizing, etc.)? So then, what I do is search in me for the reason for feeling dishonest. In what terms am I dishonest with myself? Am I believing something that I have already experienced to be otherwise? So then, why do I want to hold on to this belief, which I have already experienced as false? Fear? Yes, of course, fear! All my fear is fear of death. Fear that denies the fact of death. One day ‘I’ will have to die. Full stop.
See, Irene, this is how I deal with what you call might ‘intuition’. I turn it on myself. ‘I’ am the only person I am interested in because it is this ‘I’ that stands in the way of my happiness. It is ‘I’ who has to be eliminated. Full stop.
And that fear of death creates all the tricks, throwing up issues, ‘truths’ and beliefs, emotions and disharmony. It can be traced down to that basic fear. Always!
So I have decided to be free of that fear. I have decided for the unnatural solution, 180 degrees away from the instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire. All of them are based on the fear of death. And those instincts are the fundamental corner stone, the very reason for all of humanity’s values, be they ethical, moralistic, religious or spiritual values. In their very nature those instincts are destructive. The instincts only ‘care’ for the survival of the species, the strongest, the most aggressive, the crudest.
I have experienced a lot of time without this destructive ‘I’, the self. I know that there is something vastly better than this petty life of fears and deceit that I have lived during most of my life. There is no destiny in this picture of petty morals. There is no freedom.
The only freedom there is lies outside of instincts. And for that freedom ‘I’ have to die. Full stop!
Then I can taste the sweet as-is-ness of the actual world, the as-is-ness of people, events and things. That ambrosial, magical, magnificent sweetness pulls me further and further into what looks like death on the side of ‘self’. But in the face of that delicious sweetness all objections slowly, slowly melt into insignificance...
Irene, if you don’t see it this way, then you will do something else with your life. If you don’t remember and rely upon your own peak-experiences because of what they implicate, then this is what you choose to do. Most other people I know would agree with you. But the actuality of my own sensuous experience is too obvious, too tempting, too delicious.
If you say you do not want to acknowledge or follow that taste of your peak experiences because Richard has experienced actual freedom first – a man in general and Richard in particular – then that is your personal objection. I have smelled, tasted, seen, heard, touched it so often myself, and so closely, that I am now obsessed with it ... the delicious is-ness of it all, because there is nobody inside is separate, who objects...
RESPONDENT: (...) I’ve been thinking about instinct. I think the instinctual package is a very efficacious mechanism. It basically motivates living beings to do what is necessary to stay alive long enough to reproduce, and to keep offspring alive long enough so that they can reproduce. I heard a humorous statement once that humans are the only animals who are always sexually receptive. All other animals have an oestrus or heat cycle, because if they were always receptive, they would fuck themselves to death. The inference was that humans have the brain power to choose to carry out the other tasks necessary to keep the species going, like finding food and eating, for instance. I guess the question is do humans have the brain power, the intelligence to make the choice to survive and thrive without being driven by chemistry? Would humans without the instinctual passions be merely wooden automatons?
VINEETO: During a PCE one experiences the world without the ‘filter of feeling’ and instinctual passions. Based on this ‘self’-less experience you can easily understand that instinctual passions are not necessary to keep the human species alive – intelligence and common sense can do this job now much, much better. The human species has reproduced to a stage that there are now six billion people living in the world, all engaged in a grim and bloody battle for survival, with every single human programmed to being driven to instinctually feel aggression towards others, to instinctually feel sorrow for others, blindly driven to nurture others and blindly driven to desire others.
The question is not so much if ‘humans have the brain power ... to survive and thrive without being driven by chemistry’, but if you could ‘survive and thrive without being driven by chemistry’. Human beings in general are, at this point in time, not interested to rid themselves of their emotions and instinctual passions. Then your question becomes more precise and answerable for you.
I suspect that your PCE has already given you the answer and your next one will give you the opportunity to experience and check out how well you, as a flesh and blood body only, do without being run by feelings, emotions and passions. A simple observation of your reactions to sex, danger, food, other people, etc. will reveal much about how delightful it is to be freed of the remorseful animal instinctual drives.
I had two ways to find an answer – firstly, here is a human being, Richard, who lives a life without feelings and instinctual passions and – if you read the descriptions in his journal of how he experiences life – his way of living is to me far more desirable, and achievable, than any life described as bliss, love, inner peace and transcendence – the solution offered by spiritual teachers.
Secondly, I began to get an experiential answer by dismantling my social identity – as a woman, as a Sannyasin, as a member of a tribe. Every bit of my identity I encountered in this process was my feeling identity and by investigating it ‘I’ became thinner as a feeling identity. My experience of a life where less feelings were triggered by my social identity was far more enjoyable, direct, alive, thriving, happy, thrilling and, above all, harmless. Further, each PCE gave me more confirmation that life without feelings and instinctual passions is not only possible but is indeed the very pinnacle of human experience – that what I always wanted but never knew was possible.
So one part of finding out about life without instinctual passions is by examining the reports of others that are collected on our website, examining our statements for facticity, sensibility and appeal.
The second practical part is to apply the method for yourself which will enable you to check out if decreased automatic emotional reactions and increased common sense and intelligence are making it easier or more difficult to be alive here on earth in this moment in time. The trick is to bear in mind that the process to actual freedom is a process of dismantling one’s very ‘self’, a ‘self’ that consists of ‘self’-defensive and ‘self’-maintaining mechanisms and, as such, is as cunning as all get-out.
RESPONDENT: Again, I apologize for the word experiment in this context. But I will give you a short report on something old. When in January, I snapped at you. I knew there was something behind it. So I focussed on why I snapped at you. This led to my need for love, turned into jealousy and turned into competition. For a month, it was fun to find out various things about myself.
I will write about my present stuckness when I get out of it.
VINEETO: This is a good train of observations. This need for love is such an insidious feeling, spoiling the easy, enjoyable interaction with people again and again. Particularly my memory of being outraged because of jealousy was a strong factor of never wanting to experience that rage again in whatever situation, whatever the cost. Peter and I had a mutual contract to investigate and eliminate everything that was in the road between us, and jealousy was definitely on the list of the emotions to be investigated first – I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
What I found beneath my need for love, jealousy and the resulting competition with other women was my strong belief in love as the ultimate value, that love was something ‘holy’ to uphold, aspire to, to want from others and try to achieve in myself. I had always blamed myself for not being loving or still being jealous, but I had never before questioned the need of the emotion of love itself. It is such a ‘holy cow’, both in Western and Eastern culture and religion, that it had been simply unthinkable not to want love or want to give love in exchange.
When Richard said that everyone has got it 180 degrees wrong and that this included love, I started to investigate the very value of love for the first time. Suddenly it made sense why not only I had failed to achieve unconditional love, but everyone around me had not much of a success either. Most of the displayed love was selfishness standing on its head, mixed with a good dose of hypocrisy. I discovered that, by the very nature of emotions and feelings, one cannot feel love without power, possessiveness, jealousy or competition. One cannot have the good emotions without the bad ones. Love is part of our instinctual programming of nurture, of ensuring the survival of the species and of the need to belong to a group in order to survive. Given that the feeling of love is instinctually based, naturally there is power, territorial fights, hierarchy and fear of losing this much-wanted love.
Watching animal programs I could learn a lot about instinctual behaviour because animals have the same rudimentary survival instincts as human, without the overlaying morals and ethics of humans. For this reason their instincts are very easy to observe. Just today I watched a program on ants where the commentator raised the question, ‘how come ants have an altruistic behaviour, sacrificing themselves for the tribe, there must be an altruistic gene somewhere?’ It might look altruistic but it is simply the instinctual program to ensure the survival of the species, whatsoever the cost.
To come back to the subject – investigating my need and high regard for love I found out that, factually, it is much safer and more sensible to rely on my intelligence for my physical survival, instead of relying on the supposed security of love-based relationships with others. Sitting out the fear that came with questioning such a basic instinctual programming I could eventually free myself of its insidious grip and all the ensuing problems that relationships based on love, sympathy, compassion, need, belonging and fear inevitably bring about. Now I can meet and enjoy people as they are, engage in pleasant communication if it happens and have no regrets when they don’t happen. I noticed in the last weeks of work how easy and intimate and actual my relating to people is, now that neither instinctual passions nor the hypocrisy and inhibitions of ‘my’ moral and ethical codes are interfering with the direct response to whatever situation arises.
VINEETO: When you say you must be doing something wrong because you are ‘stuck’, it might also be that you did something ‘right’ and then hit a major issue which might generate fear.
RESPONDENT: You have got this one right, Vineeto. There is an undercurrent of fear/sadness still there. I am going against it head on two ways: first, going to the daily life situations in which I would have dreaded to go into, 3-5 years ago, and apprehensive of going for them about 1-2 years ago. Second, keeping my eyes open to look for causes which brought this fear in the first place.
This one is a difficult one as, to best of knowledge, I cleaned myself of fears arising from the incidents from the age of 3 years-now. But I remember I had this undercurrent of fear/sadness at the age of ~4 years too. So, the causes for this fear/sadness must have their origins before the age of 3 years. The best I can think of is that my mother might have beaten the crap out of me before the age of 3, but I cannot have any memory of that. I am not sure how to go about it but I am working on it.
VINEETO: In my spiritual years I believed that I was ‘cleaning myself of fears’ by doing lots of Dynamic Meditation and lots of therapy but I gradually noticed that fear had only shifted to other issues, but it never disappeared or even diminished. I would not be afraid of one particular situation, but nevertheless apprehensive of another, fearful of change, of being alone, of being raped, of not getting what I desired or of not being appreciated by others. Yet, knowing no other alternative at the time, I kept going.
So, from my experience, I can say that digging into the past will never wipe out the causes of fear. Only when I met Richard was I able to understand the reason for it. It is a common belief that human beings are born innocent, ‘tabula rasa’, a clean slate, without any malice and sorrow, and that all evil – fear, anger, sadness – is only created by bad treatment in our childhood years – or maybe by ‘repressed memories’ of bad past lives. The very premise of that belief is wrong.
Human beings are born with certain distinguishing instincts, the main ones being fear, aggression, nurture and desire. These instincts are blind Nature’s rather clumsy software package designed to give one a start in life and to ensure the survival of the species. So despite our good intentions and moral codes, we are relentlessly driven to act instinctually in each and every situation in our lives and this is the base cause of all our angst, suffering and confusion. We, as human beings, also have a highly developed sense of self, overlaid with a social identity, consisting of the beliefs that had been instilled in us from the time when we were first rewarded for ‘good’, or punished for ‘bad’, behaviour. This identity includes the morals, values and ethics that ensure that we are a fit member of the particular society into which we are born. We then take on these beliefs and develop them as our ‘own’ identity. This innate sense of self, reinforced by our social identity, is the very ‘guardian at the gate’, sabotaging any well-meaning, but inevitably futile, attempts at fundamentally and radically changing the Human Condition of malice and sorrow within us.
When I put away my pride and dared to question this emotional, therapy-enhanced, yet utterly useless and harmful identity, I had to acknowledge the reason why the concept of therapy had never worked. One never gets to permanently experience the ‘innocence’ of a baby after digging into one’s memories of birth- or childhood-traumas – because the baby has never been innocent and without fear in the first place! Geneticists are now finding neurological evidence of those innate instincts, yet nobody except Richard has devised a method to get rid of those insidious buggers.
RESPONDENT: Vineeto, I am not sure what you were trying to say in this post. What did you find ‘objectionable’ in my response to Peter’s post Legacy of Gurus.
I am not sure what you had in mind about dearly held beliefs and loyalty. But I know one thing, beliefs are easy, they are piece of cake. I can do research and find out that something is a belief and hence not care about it. But that process in my opinion (experience) is not very useful. I would rather watch out for and check out the feelings which act as glue for the beliefs. Checking out the feelings are fun. Same is true for the loyalty too.
VINEETO: Just as a point of accuracy, I didn’t use the word ‘objectionable’. I wrote to indicate that maybe you find emotions hidden underneath your questions and objections to Peter, as I know from my own objections and battles that I had often a hidden agenda when I was defending my own status quo. That’s the meaning of ‘Why defend the indefensible?’ Once I decided that I wanted to become happy and harmless I went for the cause of my objecting or fighting by turning the torchlight on to myself. I got particularly suspicious about my intentions when I wanted to use harsh words, wanted to hurt, became tricky, became emotional, defensive, sad, fearful, angry, sarcastic or played stupid – all tools that I had used in previous battles whenever I felt cornered.
But given that I was on a ‘battle’ with my own ‘self’, I wanted to discover the bugger that causes misery and suffering, disharmony and suspicion. I wanted to eliminate the root cause of battling in me. I had enough of petty ‘right and wrong’ discussions, man-woman disagreements, good and bad opinions and shouting or sulking arguments. I wasn’t interested anymore in winning an argument – I was only interested to find my own ‘original face’, even if it was dead ugly. And it is rotten and ugly, to say the least!
Our animal instincts in the primitive brain – everybody’s ‘original face’ – are our reactive, mindless, unintelligent, aggressive, instinctive and dangerous heritage. To admit their functioning in me, to acknowledge that these are what ‘I’ consist of at ‘my’ very core was indeed shocking, humiliating, threatening and devastating. But with the aim of eliminating ‘me’ it was also exciting and gratifying to be able to each day discover a little bit more of what ‘I’ am made of and incrementally reduce the influence of the instinctual passions in my life.
RICHARD: As I understand it, in the on-going study of genetics the germ cells (the spermatozoa and the ova) have been classified as being of a somewhat different nature to body cells. This has led to speculation that each and every body is nothing but a carrier for the genetic lineage ... that the species, therefore, is more important than you and me or any other body. Now, whilst that theory is just a typically ‘humble’ way of interpreting the data, it did strike me, some years ago, that this genetic memory could very well be the origin of the immortal ‘me’ at the core of ‘being’ (as contrasted to ‘I’ as ego who will undergo physical death). Hence it occurred to me that the source of ‘who ‘I’ really am’ could very well be nothing more mysterious than blind nature’s survival software.
I have always had a bent for the practical explanation ... and solution.
VINEETO: Last night serendipity provided the answer to my question to you, which had been going on in my head since I wrote. The experiential answer to ‘I am many and many is me’ presented itself in the form a TV program on International Humanitarian Aid Organizations and their role and accountability. For one and a half hours there was ample footage presented on human suffering and devastation in war, famine, genocide and racial ‘cleansing’ on one side and the helpless, well-intentioned, yet almost useless effort of people in the aid organizations on the other side.
RICHARD: Basically, most people mean well ... it is just that, for all their best intentions, they are hog-tied. No one is to blame.
VINEETO: The presentation was enough to make it utterly and unquestionably clear to me that there is no difference between me and the hundreds of thousands who have suffered and died and those who have, without success or effective change, tried to help – for ‘umpteen hundreds of thousands of years’. On an overwhelming instinctual level ‘I’ am ‘them’ and ‘I’ have had no solution and never will have a solution.
RICHARD: There is no cure to be found in the ‘real world’ ... only never-ending ‘band-aid’ solutions.
VINEETO: The devastation is enormous and the only way ‘out’ is ‘self’-sacrifice.
RICHARD: Yet it is the instinct for survival that got you and me and every other body here in the first place. We peoples living today are the end-point of myriads of survivors passing on their genes ... we are the product of the ‘success story’ of fear and aggression and nurture and desire. Is one really going to abandon that which produced one ... that which (apparently) keeps one alive?
Do you recall those conversations we had about loyalty (familial and group loyalty) back when you and I first met ... and what was required to crack that code?
That was chicken-feed compared with this one.
VINEETO: The subject of the instinctual software package is indeed a fascinating one and the sufficient understanding is crucial and instrumental in cutting the cord both from ‘humanity’ and ‘me’. In the last days I started to understand about the nature of the instinctual programming that is ‘me’ which I would classify as ‘having glimpsed the end of the tunnel called the Human Condition’.
Peter had described to No 5 very accurately the process of examining one’s feeling, sliding deeper and deeper into emotion, then into instinctual passion until, with persistence, one is able to ‘dispassionately observe’ the very functioning of the particular core instinct in action. This method had always served me when I explored feelings and their underlying beliefs, emotions and their underlying ‘truth’, including the above mentioned ‘loyalty back when you and I first met’. Yet up until now I had only felt and experienced a particular emotion, sometimes it in all its devastation like the universal sorrow I described in my last letter, suffered it through, so to speak. I had not yet dared to stay with a surging instinctual passion all the way without objection, looking it straight in the eye to recognize and experience the naked ‘me’ in action in a dispassionate way.
While reading through your latest correspondence I found two paragraphs that enticed me to try out where you described to the respondent what to do with fear:
Of course, the last sentence got my full attention.
I took the emotion at the time – fierce frustration about not ‘getting the point’ – and lay on the couch for experimenting and contemplating. The outcome was fascinating, to say the least. Digging myself to the very core of the feeling I discovered frustration as just being a cunning distraction from the underlying fear and, even deeper, found the mother of all instincts: ‘I don’t want to die’, which includes ‘I as species have to perpetuate. So here I found again what you said, Richard, that ‘I’ am ‘the many’ and ‘the many’ is ‘me’.
Ignoring all the flashing stop-signs I reached to the stunningly clear perception of what ‘I’ consist of – a software survival program, causing emotion-producing chemicals and kept alive through the notion that this is me, all of me. The process of seeing the program of ‘me’, the ‘self’, in action was like lifting it from its nourishing soil, airing it, so to speak, and thus depriving it from its very life-source – even if only for a short time. That alien entity ‘me’ that I had been taking examining since so long was finally seen and experienced as something other than this physical body. These moments of apperception, of the bare awareness of ‘who I am’ now rock the boat and create all kinds of mental and physical nuisance like headache and angst, only to confirm that this experience was not just a dream.
Since then I had another fascinating experiential insight into the nature of ‘desire’. In the early morning hours of a sleepless night I watched a procession of thoughts turn into a mental nightmare of need, growing into greed, amounting to wanting to devour anything or anybody that would come into my reach. For a short time this instinct took over all of my thinking like a mental rape, and I felt no different to a hungry lion or a python ready to strike. Curiously I was reminded of the compulsive eating disorder of bulimia and I could understand what might happen to people who suffer from it. I experienced the instinct of desire gone completely out of control – and if one would take action there would later be shame, guilt and despair for having ‘lost control’ with ensuing remorse and self-punishment in an endless cycle of self-destruction.
What an exciting and fascinating set-up, being my own lab, my own guinea-pig and my own scientist all in one – and getting describable, repeatable and comparable results. Factual. Actual. And great fun.
Vineeto’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.