Kindness, compassion, and post-truth

In this post Jane Fritz highlights one of the most disturbing trends of my lifetime – that to ‘post-truth’. To me, this is an evil in the world, in that it enables the manipulation of populations, to the disadvantage of all but a few.

I would suggest that the world needs precisely the opposite – a dedication to understanding reality in order to effectively address it, which is the only way humanity can negotiate the potentially catastrophic world we have created. Post-truth is the precise negation of the true (outer) science and (inner) spirituality that is needed.

Robby Robin's Journey

My philosophy discussion group is “studying” Post-Truth this term. More often than not we’re exploring a philosophical topic where the ideas are so challenging (along with the writing) that we spend ages trying to make heads or tails of what the philosopher is saying. (It’s really way more fun than it sounds!) In this case, however, it is painfully clear. There’s nothing difficult to understand about what post-truth is; the difficult thing is figuring out just how we can get past it.

Post-Truth?! What is that, anyway, yet another catch phrase of our times, like fake news and hoaxes? When are we going to get past this strange world of alternate universes? Well, it turns out that Post-Truth really is an accepted and accurate term to describe the world we now find ourselves in. The mainstream news sources that people used to count on for thorough investigative reporting (the most…

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Crystallised thinking?

“There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all.”
Michel Foucault

Political theories and movements come and go. Similarly, scientific theories and paradigms become obsolete, out of date. The reason is well articulated in a recent Arcane School letter:

“…as the evolutionary process moves on, that which once expressed truth and served as a liberating force, eventually crystallizes.”

So as we search for the way to address the problems of the human world in 2020, we must move beyond the stale answers and prescriptions of the past, notably the neoliberalism that exploits nature to the benefit of those who have, against those who have not, and the scientific materialism that sets us apart from (rather than within) the natural world. And the necessary way is not backwards to the nationalisms and populisms of yesteryear or any perceived historic ‘golden age’.

And soberingly, this applies to our own thinking and habitual ways of seeing things. We each need to see the world anew every day, and treat each situation as it comes, unencumbered by previous patterns.

Sounds a bit like total mindfulness. Keep trying!

Picture of osmium crystals by Alchemist-hp via Wikimedia Commons.

Kindness is key to health and happiness, and it’s free!

A nice reminder from Jane of the need to be kind, so easily forgotten in these confrontational days when the extremes of polarities seem to become all-important to many people.

Robby Robin's Journey

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and, just as with Thanksgiving in Canada (which is a little earlier, when travel is more predictable), it’s a time for many people to consider all that they have to be thankful for and to be reminded that gratitude is good for our health. In fact it’s very good for our health. Just google “gratitude and health” and you’ll find out.

As it turns out, being kind to others is also good for your health, maybe even more so. You can google that as well! Engaging in kindness has all kinds of positive physical effects. Ongoing research shows that kindness can actually extend your life. It lowers your blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, and helps the immune system. Research shows that kindness can help you live longer and better, both in the giving of kindness and in being the recipient of kindness. And…

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Action Replay

If I’m quick, I can sometimes catch myself doing or saying something in a manner that reminds me precisely of my father’s doing or saying of the same sort of thing. In lesser degree this also applies with mother and grandparents. And this is increasingly apparent the older I get.

I was reminded of this by this post from Aperture of Brahma:

“Conscious mind receives its governing tendencies from heredity, which means it is the result of all past generations…
conscious mind learns through observation and experience. Thus, we develop patterns of behavior from our parents, who learned them from their parents.”

Of course, we are not the same as our forebears. We each have our own individual character, suffused with this hereditary/environmental background.

Apart from meditation and self observation, one of the most effective tools I have found to help understand and explore these influences in myself and others is astrological psychology, which in effect provides a guided tour of the in-born, hereditary and environmental influences in our lives, including how these are emphasised at different ages.

I hasten to add that astrological psychology is not something to be casually explored for 5 minutes then discarded, as we have become accustomed to in the internet age. To explore it effectively required a serious period of study, or you can cheat and speak to a consultant who has done that work.

Featured image shows random pictures of grandfather, father and son from the web.

Think before you post.

This post on Musings and Wonderings deserves to be understood more widely – the role that social media have been playing in potentially undermining democracies, specifically USA.

Social media are clearly evolving to do the right sort of things. You might think that governments need to keep a close eye on what is going on. There is clearly potential conflict between the desire to make loads of money versus the need to be socially responsible.

Musings and Wonderings

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks

Why it feels like everything is going haywire
Mark Pernice

Story by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell

Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.

Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most…

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Making the Human Race Whole

A poem from Steve Taylor‘s November newsletter, with permission.

Make as many connections as you can
so that this broken world can become whole again.

It’s your responsibility
to radiate benevolence to everyone you meet
to be reckless with your friendliness
and surprise strangers with your openness
on behalf of the whole human race.

It’s your responsibility
to turn suspicion to trust, hostility to sympathy
to expose the absurdity of prejudice
to return hatred with implacable good will
until your enemies have no choice but to love you
on behalf of the whole human race.

It’s your responsibility
to free yourself from bitterness
and harness the healing power of forgiveness
to repair connections and re-establish bonds
that were broken by resentment years ago
on behalf of the whole human race.

It’s your responsibility
to make as many connections as you can
to open up channels of empathy
through which compassion can flow
until there are so many connections
across so many different networks
that finally, like the cells of a body,
billions of human beings will fuse together,
sensing their common source
and their common core.

Then a new identity will emerge, an overriding oneness,
a human race that is truly whole, at last.

Featured image of earth from NASA.

Power of Words

We are learning from today’s politics just how powerful can be the words of the unscrupulous and the highly committed. This message from coachkanika is highly relevant to us all. Are we always aware of the effects our words are spreading in the world? Sadly not. Read on…

Find your purpose, your presence on this beautiful planet is for some purpose

Humans are blessed to have this most powerful force available to them. It is up to the human how to use this power either it can be constructive with encouraging words or destructive with the words of despair. Words have energy and power both depending upon the their own ability to heal, to love, to care, to encourage, to hurt, to abuse, to compete, to influence, to harm, to humiliate, to persuade etc. Yes, that’s true words can completely change the energy of the surroundings where they are used and important as well because we need them to communicate. The meaning of our communication depends upon the words we used and the message our word carries. All words carry a different message when spoken or written depending upon their combinations. One single word can change the meaning of sentence completely so one should be careful while framing them. Words can…

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The Magic of Psychosynthesis

The outer reflects the inner. In today’s world we see much conflict and uncompromising opposing viewpoints. To progress forward we actually need to achieve some synthesis of these opposing viewpoints, rather than seeking to ‘win’ with our own, which is just the one we have chosen to identify with, ignoring the good points from the ‘other side’. So the conflict is as much within ourselves as ‘out there’.

Psychosynthesis seeks to understand ourselves and in doing so come to an accommodation or synthesis between the conflicting elements within, both conscious and unconscious. So a more whole ‘self’ is necessary to help to heal the conflicts out in the world. The outer does indeed reflect the inner.

So I commend to you this review of what sounds like an exciting new book on psychosynthesis.

Eyes in the back of my Head

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to…

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Multiple Me’s?

I’m generally a great fan of The Guardian/ The Observer, but they do sometimes publish a load of nonsense, because they have a blindspot, being entirely materialistic and denying the interiority of mind and the spiritual. Here is a recent example that just appeared in my inbox: What happens if your mind lives for ever on the internet?

This article actually takes this question seriously and goes on to examine the implications of multiple versions of ‘you’.

I would suggest that this is nonsense, like much that is written about so-called Artificial Intelligence.

Yes, I accept that at some point it may be possible to understand aspects of my/your brain activity and put it up on the internet as some sort of simulation of me/you. But it will be just that, a simulation. It will be algorithmic, will not be conscious. It will be all ‘outer’ and no ‘inner’. it will not contain the essence of me/you.

And thank God for that!

Featured image is from the article.

 

The Big Egos

What are we to make of the rise of elected leaders who appear to be unsuited to the task, being driven by personal ego aggrandisement and the desire for personal power and gain? They seem to be everywhere. They appear to be individuals without self-insight, with little psychological or spiritual development, hence no wisdom, but often with great cunning and charisma, the ability to appeal to large segments of the population.

Voting appears to become more like a popularity contest than one in which the electorate consider what would be best for their country. The popular media love to play this game, as divisive as possible, it makes for good copy.

Serious and complex issues get over-simplified and trivialised. Politicians align their speech with their party line, and people no longer believe or even hear what they say.

The real issues, like climate breakdown, like social care in the UK, are first denied and then deferred to a later date.

This is no way to run a human society, we need all the wisdom we can muster to address the drastic challenges facing our societies.

Within our human collective we know how to make wise individuals, we know how to make learning organisations, we have many exemplars of wise leaders. None of these involve big egos, but involve people engaged with personal insight, growth and transformation.

Perhaps these big egos are there to provide just the counter-example we need!

Pic by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48801991

 

 

 

 

Ever Flowing

I contemplate the huge flowing mass of water before me, opposite the ‘German Corner’ in Koblenz where rivers Rhine and Moselle join together, overlooked by the massive monument to Kaiser Wilhelm, first German emperor 1871-88. Here is inexorable power and movement before me, a part of the cyclic flow of the earth’s water system. Today, tomorrow, it is always there, pretty much as in Wilhelm’s day, yet always different.

As it happens, I have been reading The Shortest History of Germany, by James Hawes and A Short History of Europe by Simon Jenkins. I am struck by how the major figures in these histories have their brief flowering influence, usually driven by an overwhelming ego, often associated with some abstract concept, and without concern for the consequences on their own and other peoples: Julius Caesar, Constantine, Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Bismarck, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, and on and on…

Recent events suggest that this flow goes on, to new dimensions, with environmental breakdowns and resulting attempted migration of populations, and the rise of populists – more blooming egos with their destructive consequences. Yet ever new challenges require ever better solutions, not the gross over-simplifications of those who appeal to what is lowest in us. They will be seen in time for what they are.

The flow of history, and the zeitgeist, inevitably moves ever on, just as those great rivers – the same as before, yet ever different.

Maybe we should not fear too much. The flow that matters is here, now. Our fears are that the future may not be the same as the peace and plenty of our recent past (in the West). Our present is the opportunity for our own best action, guided by conscience, not by selfish ego or abstractions.

Sustainability and Evolution

Sustainability – in the sense of the continuation and preservation of what is – is not a realistic long-term option…

Thomas Lombardo in Future Consciousness

It’s a bit of a shock to realise that Lombardo is probably right.

Psychologically, evolution is the key to understanding this. We seek not to go back to some previous situation, but to evolve and grow to a new, transformed level, where we have learned from the past to address the challenges of the present new situation.

Evolution does not demand that we abandon technology and go back to feudal times, that we abandon large scale farming for rotation farming of small plots, that we stop travelling around the world, that we become Luddites and reject all new technologies, and retreat into our localities. Life does not, cannot, go backwards.

Evolution does demand that we, and the system of which we are a part, evolve and grow. We must transcend and overcome the problems that have emerged from previous stages of our development, from the over-development of the little ego, from the corresponding misapprehension of the role of the egoistic ‘sovereign’ nation state, from the lack of recognition that the economy is part of the ecology rather than a competing and overwhelming competitor, from the lack of real empathy with others and the natural world. This is what climate breakdown, pollution of land, sea and air, species extinctions, gross economic inequality and associated problems are teaching us.

The longer we take to respond, the more extreme the provocations caused by ourselves become. We have so-called ‘leaders’ acting like spoilt children, trying to inspire populations with supposed earlier glories and visions of becoming ‘great again’, trying to win some great power game against each other. This is all illusion and regression.

It is time for humanity to grow up and flourish through addressing these problems, rather than retreating to supposed former glories while they overwhelm us.

This is the evolutionary meaning of sustainability.

Hope and Fear

The posts on Aperture of Brahma are simple yet challenging. Consider the latest one here. I will quote and comment on some of the points made.

By holding a mental picture in mind, we gradually but surely draw the thing nearer to us.

So if we focus on fear, rather than a positive vision, this draws the things we fear nearer.

Difficulty and obstacle are necessary for wisdom and spiritual growth.

As a society we are presented with great difficulties in these times. These challenges are encouraging us, individually and collectively, towards wisdom and growth.

We may be of the most service by keeping an open mind. Be interested in the race not the goal; the pursuit not the possession.

Visualization facilitates feeling. Even during difficulty and obstacle, we can maintain a positive mental state by feeling positive. An open mind is a mind without judgement or assumptions.

It is the process of engaging positively with the challenges we face it is important that we do not to rush to judgement or stick to preconceived notions. For example, we should seek to ensure a positive outcome to the ongoing Brexit process – perhaps visualising what would satisfy most people, rather than just sticking to our preconceived notions of the ‘right’ outcome and fears of the ‘wrong’ one (oh dear, this is not easy!).

We do not have to laboriously shovel the darkness out. All that is required is to turn the light on… by adjusting our thoughts/directing our attention to an ideal state. By allowing our thoughts to focus on loss, disease, and disaster, we facilitate the maintenance of self destruction.

Focusing on a positive vision, linked to the good, the beautiful, the true, doing what we can, where we are now. This is the way of hope, as opposed to the self-defeating path of fear.

We can see wisdom in many places. Thank you, Aperture of Brahma.

Picture of light on Grand Canyon from Hopi Point by Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Time of Crisis

Crisis is the mechanism used by evolution to evolve an organism to a higher level. If there is no crisis, nothing changes.

So maybe we should not be too pessimistic about the many crises that currently beset us, already listed in many other posts. They represent the opportunity for growth and change.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.”

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy was apparently wrong linguistically, but his theme has been accepted by many as representing a fundamental insight about life.

So what are the opportunities presented, through which the crises can be successfully surpassed? As a species we must rise above the causes that lie behind our many crises. To my mind it is not difficult to see what some of these are:

  • the personal, religious and national egos that want to have it all, for themselves, regardless of the effect on other persons/religions/nations, that do not recognise the need to look after the old, the weak, the poor, the other…
  • the perception that the outer, material world is all that there is, with a consequent relative lack of self understanding and/or cultivation of the inner psyche/spiritual life.
  • the related denial that we humans are part of nature, need to be in empathy with it, and are now responsible for maintaining its wondrous diversity.
  • the related worship of power, money, jobs and technology, at the expense of nature, the achievement of potential, and the pursuit of the good, the beautiful and the true.

“When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-form — or a species — will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”

Eckhart Tolle

It’s not that difficult to see what’s wrong. It’s clear that the evolutionary leap is required at all levels – personal, society/culture, political. We just need to all get with the programme,  make a start, and persevere. It’s just possible that, if enough of us change, the ‘hundredth monkey’ effect will come into play, and everything will have changed.

Featured image adapted from one by Vector conversion by Mononomic, via Wikimedia Commons

Climate Emergency

Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

from Christopher Fry’s poem A Sleep of Prisoners

Maybe the recent spate of declarations of climate emergency by UK parliament, local councils, and across the world is the welcome beginning of the end of the equivalent of Christopher Fry’s ‘frozen misery’, as the human-race frog sat in the warming pan awaiting the result of its long satanical deal with exploiting the fossil fuels of the earth.

Maybe the ideas of Zero Carbon Britain, propagated for many years by the Centre for Alternative Technology, are at last finding a receptive environment which will lead to their implementation.

But let’s be under no illusion. The obstacles are all too real: governments, banks and the prevailing mindset. Yes, you and I can do things, but governments and banks still support and underpin the fossil fuel economy, and it is they that need a radical change of direction towards the sustainable future.

And this will only happen when the majority of people is more obsessed with climate breakdown than it is about frippery such as Brexit and the myth of the strong populist leader.

And can this happen when it is apparent that rich white men are intent on retaining their dominance of the planet’s political sphere through control of the sources of those very fossil fuels at the root of the problem?

A fuller version of Fry’s poem was in this post.
Featured image is from the CAT website.

Thrive

thriveWhat does it mean to thrive, or to flourish in life? Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive aims to answer this.

During heady days of spiritual exploration in the early 1980s, we attended a workshop by Tai Chi Master Chungliang Al Huang. At the workshop was a young and obviously intelligent lady, a bit pushy, Arianna Stassinopoulos, along with her mother. This was the lady who later became Arianna Huffington, co-founder and leading light of The Huffington Post. Arianna is also the author of a number of books. Thrive was published in 2014, so I’m a bit late catching up with it.

Thrive basically summarises all those good spiritual and personal growth ideas that were around in the early 1980s and which have been put into exemplary practice in Arianna’s hugely successful life – successful in terms of her influence on the world.

  • What is true well-being?
  • What does it mean to have wisdom?
  • Where is the sense of wonder in our lives?
  • How important is it to give, as well as to receive?

These are the subjects of the main chapters of this book. Much of it you will be familiar with, some of it may be new to you. What I can say is that it’s well written, makes much sense, and says things that are worth saying. Great stuff!

Interestingly, Arianna’s key inspiration was her mother – an almost obsessively ‘giving’ person, as was evident in that 1980s workshop!

Where is the wisdom we have lost?

T.S.Eliot had a way with words, a way of saying what is just beyond what can actually be said with words. Thus it is in the following, which says so much…

“The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.”

T.S.Eliot, Choruses from The Rock, 1934

Quoted in Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive.

Humanity’s biggest own goals

This is a great post by Matthew Wright on the human-created problems of global warming and potential nuclear calamity. I am reblogging it with the following observation, already made in a comment:

We will never get out of this with a ‘glass half empty’ perspective. With the ingenuity of billions of people becoming aware of these existential problems, there is always the possibility that we will collectively work out ways through the apparently impossible situation we are creating.

Matthew Wright

There’s no question in my mind that human-driven climate
change has to be one of the biggest own-goals humanity has ever struck on
itself. And we should have seen it coming. I mean, we’ve been pushing
combustion products into the atmosphere in ever-larger quantities since the
advent of industrialisation, over 200 years ago. We’ve been burning up fossil
fuels, polluting the environment, hacking down forests and generally creating
ecological mayhem at ever-increasing scale and speed. What did we think would
happen?

A beautiful picture of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.

When I say ‘one of’ the biggest own goals, to my thinking there’s only one other totally massive own-goal in the same league; the invention of nuclear weapons. And it’s a bigger one. The thing about human-driven climate change is that ultimately it’s not risking end-game. It’ll likely reduce what we call our civilisation. It’ll change…

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The Art of Life

These wise words are by Roman Emperor/ philosopher Marcus Aurelius. We have a natural inclination to reject the emergence of difficult circumstances or events that do not appear to be amenable, but there is usually a lesson and opportunity for growth.

“True understanding is to see the events of life in this way:
‘You are here for my benefit, though rumour paints you otherwise.’

And everything is turned to one’s advantage when he greets a situation like this:
You are the very thing I was looking for.

Truly whatever arises in life is the right material to bring about your growth and the growth of those around you.

This, in a word, is art — and this art called ‘life’ is a practice suitable to both men and gods.

Everything contains some special purpose and a hidden blessing;
what then could be strange or arduous when all of life is here to greet you like an old and faithful friend?”

 Quoted by Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive.
Statue of young Marcus Aurelius from Capitoline Museums, via Wikimedia Commons.

The glass IS half full

glass half fullIt is a well known characterisation that optimists see a glass 50% full of liquid as ‘half full’, whereas pessimist see it as ‘half empty’. Does it matter which of these attitudes we take towards life and towards its mega problems such as climate change and Brexit?

The bulk of psychological evidence suggests that it does. Optimists tend to be more realistic and thus more effective at addressing the problems. Pessimists tend to expect the worst, not look at things too closely, and hide from difficulties – hence the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Life is all about change, so an optimistic outlook is the only one that enables us to face and deal with the realities of change.

Of course, there are limitations to being positive if it is not tempered with a grounding in reality. (The Brexit campaign comes to mind!)  I’m arguing against myself, but maybe we should see optimism-pessimism as a polarity that is only resolved through the ‘third pole’ of realism.

I suggest that we will only find a way through climate change and Brexit will be with an optimistic reality-based attitude. There are so many brains on the problems we will find a way through.

The glass really is half full!

The idea for this post came while reading
Professor Tom Lombardo’s book Future Consciousness.

Image by S nova via Wikimedia Commons.