A Higher Power

Individual         -      Collective
Part                   -      Whole
Conscious         -      Unconsious

Cells work together to form tissues. Tissues work together to form organs. Organs work together to form organ systems. 

Every individual needs to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Every individual needs a higher power that they are in service to.

 One of the advantages of Buddhism (and similar religions/philosophies) is that Buddhists are able to view themselves as Buddhists, and are therefore able to act accordingly.

e.g. I am a Buddhist, and my outlook is altruistic; therefore, in this situation, as with all other situations, I shall endeavour to act altruistically.

Buddhism provides a reason to act and think in certain ways; a reason that, significantly, comes from outside.

The non-Buddhist who wanted to act altruistically may find their will faltering at a crucial point; and, not having the backing of a wise and formidable institution - not having a good enough reason - may find themselves unable to act as they, in their stronger moments, would have liked to.

Non-Buddhists have to construct their own reasons - their own Buddhism - from shards of philosophy, psychology, etc.

[...] as time passed, the average Protestant, no longer enclosed by the Catholic womb of grand ceremony, historical tradition, and sacramental authority, was left somewhat less protected against the vagaries of private doubt and secular thinking. 

From Luther on, each believer’s belief was increasingly self-supported; and the Western intellect’s critical faculties were becoming ever more acute.

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 240

In order for behavioural patterns to change [...] people need a reason, a stimulus that is so strong and extreme in its impact that it results in a sufficiently powerful enough desire in people to change their behaviour to the required level.

For example, bringing an omnivore to a modern day slaughterhouse or battery hen farm (a.k.a. factory) would have a massive impact on whether that person continues with the consumption habits they took part in before they went there.

[Mark Boyle]

How did you finally get off drugs?

I went for treatment in Turkey twice. A detox where they put you to sleep through withdrawal. It cost £20,000. My family paid.

But when I got back onto the streets here in London, I kept slipping.

Finally, I fell in love. It's as simple as that. I haven't touched a stone since.

Taken from an interview in Vice magazine, Volume 6 Number 10 ('The (Ex) Biggest Heroin Dealer in the Whole Wide World')
Full interview here.

The attitude of penance or repentance can be externalized in acts that a believer imposes on himself or herself, acts that are themselves called penances.


In times gone by, people of a certain nature would take a penance.

The penance was a promise made to a higher power - to God. It was the ultimate promise, because God was always there, always watching. As long as you believed, of course.

Many of us still take a penance, although God has, generally speaking, fled the scene. We make New Year's resolutions. We promise not to do this anymore; or to do that more often. We beg forgiveness, insist it is the last time; it won't happen again. We even have apps to help us with our penances.

God may be gone, but we are still human.

Who do we make our penances to these days? Who is our higher power?

For many of us our higher power is our lover, or our family. We strive to become better for them.

If we have no higher power - nothing in our lives bigger than us -  then we only have ourselves to answer to.

The need to make a promise also points toward a need to break it. We are always a battleground of warring forces. With only yourself to answer to, can you trust that the right side will win?

Can the promises we make to our earth-bound higher-powers - lovers, friends - be as powerful as those we make to those that lie beyond the earth?

It needn't be God. The key to a true penance is transcendence; is in making a connection with something universal; unchanging; absolute. A penance is a form of idealism, and in making it we must connect with something truly idealistic.

They understood this in times gone by.

Traditionally, Jewish men and boys wear the kippah at all times, a symbol of their awareness of, and submission to, a "higher" entity.

'The Kippah (Skullcap)"

There is a Power greater than the self

Cybernetics would go somewhat further and recognize that the "self" as ordinarily understood is only a small part of a much larger trial-and-error system which does the thinking, acting, and deciding. The "self" is a false reification of an improperly delimited part of this much larger field of interlocking processes.

A favourable relationship with this Power is discovered through "hitting bottom" and "surrender."

By resisting this Power, men and especially alcoholics bring disaster upon themselves. The materialistic philosophy which sees "man" as pitted against his environment is rapidly breaking down as technological man becomes more and more able to oppose the largest systems.

[The Twelfth Step of AA] enjoins aid to other alcoholics as a necessary spiritual exercise without which the member would relapse. [...] the relationship between man and his community parallels the relationship between man and God. "AA is a power greater than any of us."

If we deeply and even unconsciously believe that our relation to the largest system which concerns us - the "Power greater than self" - is symmetrical and emulative, then we are in error [...] 

It is not asserted that all transactions between human beings ought to be complementary, though it is clear that the relation between the individual and the larger system of which he is a part must necessarily be so.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.331-3

[The] craving for alcohol [is] the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness; expressed in medieval language: the union with God [...]

I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual needs into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by a real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community.

An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil [...] 

[C. J. Jung]
Letters, vol. 2 (1951-1961), p. 623-5

"Long ago, when I had my Merlyn to help, he tried to teach me to think. He knew he would have to leave in the end, so he forced me to think for myself. Don't ever let anybody teach you to think, Lance: it is the curse of the world."

The King sat looking at his fingers, and they waited while the old thoughts ran sideways across his hands like crabs.

"Merlyn," he said, "approved of the Round Table. Evidently it was a good thing at the time. It must have been a step. Now we must think of making the next one."

Guenever said: "I don't see what is wrong with the Round Table, just because the Orkney faction chooses to get murderous."

"I was explaining to Lance. The idea of our Table was that Right was to be the important thing, not Might. Unfortunately we have tried to establish Right by Might, and you can't do that."

"I don't see why you can't do it."

"I tried to dig a channel for Might, so that it would flow usefully. The idea was that all the people who enjoyed fighting should be headed off, so that they fought for justice, and I hoped that this would solve the problem. It has not."

"Why not?"

"Simply because we have got justice. We have achieved what we were fighting for, and now we still have the fighters on our hands. Don't you see what has happened? We have run out of things to fight for, so all the fighters of the Table are going to rot. Look at Gawaine and his brothers. While there were still giants and dragons and wicked knights of the old brigade, we could keep them occupied: we could keep them in order. But now that the ends have been achieved, there is nothing for them to use their might on. So they use it on Pellinore and Lamorak and my sister—God be good to them. The first sign of the fester was when our chivalry turned into Games-Mania—all that nonsense about who had the best tilting average and so forth. This is the second sign, when murder begins again. That is why I say that dear Merlyn would want me to start another thinking, now, if only he were here to help."

"It is something like idleness and luxury unmanning us—the strings have gone slack and out of tune."

"No: it is not that at all. It is simply that I have kept a rod in pickle for my own back. I ought to have rooted Might out altogether, instead of trying to adapt it. Though I don't know how the rooting could have been done. Now the Might is left, with nothing to use it on, so it is working wicked channels for itself."

"You ought to punish it," said Lancelot. "When Sir Bedivere killed his wife you made him carry her head to the Pope. You ought to send Gawaine to the Pope now."

The King opened his hands and looked up for the first time.

"I am going to send you all to the Pope," he said.


"Not exactly to the Pope. You see, the trouble is—as I see it—that we have used up the worldly objects for our Might—so there is nothing left but the spiritual ones. I was thinking about this all night. If I can't keep my fighters from wickedness by matching them against the world—because they have used up the world—then I must match them against the spirit."

Lancelot's eye caught fire, and he began to watch the other man attentively. At the same moment Guenever withdrew into herself. She glanced quickly at her lover, a covert glance, then gave a new, reserved attention to her husband.

"If something is not done," went on the King, "the whole Table will go to ruin. It is not only that feud and open manslaughter have started: there is the bold bawdry as well. Look at the Tristram business with King Mark's wife. People seem to be siding with Tristram. Morals are difficult things to talk about, but what has happened is that we have invented a moral sense, which is rotting now that we can't give it employment. And when a moral sense begins to rot it is worse than when you had none. I suppose that all endeavours which are directed to a purely worldly end, as my famous Civilization was, contain within themselves the germs of their own corruption."

"What is this about sending us to the Pope?"

"I was speaking metaphorically. What I mean is, that the ideal of my Round Table was a temporal ideal. If we are to save it, it must be made into a spiritual one. I forgot about God."

[T.H. White]
The Once and Future King, p. 467-9

In the eyes of Algazel, a skeptic fideist (i.e., a skeptic with religious faith), knowledge was not in the hands of humans, but in those of God, while Adam Smith calls it the law of the market and some modern theorist presents it as self-organisation.

If the reader wonders why fideism is epistemologically equivalent to pure skepticism about human knowledge and embracing the hidden logics of things, just replace God with nature, fate, the Invisible, Opaque, and Inaccessible, and you mostly get the same result.

The logic of things stands outside of us (in the hands of God or natural or spontaneous forces); and given that nobody these days is in direct communication with God […] there is little difference between God and opacity. Not a single individual has a clue about the general process, and that is central.

Remarkably, to get a bit more philosophical with the ideas of Algazel, one can see religion’s effect here in reducing dependence on the fallibility of human theories and agency - so Adam Smith meets Algazel in that sense.

For one the invisible hand is the market, for the other it is God. It has been difficult for people to understand that, historically, skepticism has been mostly skepticism of expert knowledge rather than skepticism about abstract entities like God, and that all the great skeptics have been largely either religious or, at least, pro-religion (that is, in favour of others being religious).

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 233-4

One has to go back to M. Guyau, who equally posed the problem of a line of conduct beyond any sanction or duty; he wrote: “Authoritarian metaphysics and religion are leading-strings for babies: it's time to walk by oneself. ... We should look for revelation in ourselves. Christ is no more: each of us must be Christ for himself, and be joined to God as far as he will or can be, or even deny God.”

It is as though faith still existed, but “without a heaven waiting for us or a positive law to guide us,” as a simple state. 

Strength and responsibility must be no less than they were long ago, when they were born from religious faith and from a given point of support, in a different human type and a different climate. Nietzsche's idea is identical.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 42

The effectiveness of Christianity in the context of Pintupi culture is that it provides an authority outside the individual subject on which he or she can base a refusal to participate in drinking.

"I can't drink; I'm a Christian" has become an acceptable form of refusal. Former alcoholics articulate their abstinence as adherence to an authority outside themselves.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.269

The advantage, indeed the necessity, of having such a "boss" is obvious. Outsiders become the instruments of the local system; the councillors can simply claim they are mediating, enforcing a white boss's rules.

In the past, if a councillor wanted to be sure that a vehicle was not used by anyone in the community, it was the white boss whom he would ask to hold the keys. A Pintupi person, bound in the web of kinship and his or her duty to look after others, cannot refuse a request, but a white boss can.

Consequently, it would appear that white bosses are used as a medium for the projection and transformation of decisions into an externalized object to which human subjects must conform, a Law that must be followed.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.285

Edwards's point - a difficult point, to be sure - is not that men lack brotherly love but that "benevolence," if it leaves out God, still falls short of true virtue. A universal love of mankind, indeed, is the most dangerous of all forms of self-love, since it is so easily confused with the love of "being in general."

"The larger the number is, to which that private affection extends, the more apt men are, through the narrowness of their sight, to mistake it for true virtue; because then the private system appears to have more of the image of the universal."

The same reasoning later led Orestes Brownson to condemn philanthropy as the work of the devil. Here is another reason to prefer local attachments to an abstract love of mankind: they are less easily confused with true virtue.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.254


The universal belongs to God, and is only accessed through him.

A religious factor is necessary as a background for a truly heroic conception of life, such as must be essential for our group.

It is necessary to feel the evidence in ourselves that beyond this earthly life there is a higher life, because only someone who feels this way possesses a force that cannot be broken or overwhelmed. Only this kind of person will be capable of an absolute leap.

When this feeling is lacking, challenging death and placing no value on his own life is possible only in sporadic moments of exaltation and in an unleashing of irrational forces; nor is there a discipline that can justify itself with a higher and autonomous significance in such an individual.

But this spirituality, which ought to be alive among our people, does not need the obligatory dogmatic formulations of a given religious confession. The lifestyle that must be led is not that of Catholic moralism, which aims at little more than a domestication of the human animal based on virtue.

We must invoke it to inoculate into our force another force, to feel in advance that our struggle is not only a political struggle, and to attract an invisible consecration upon a new world of men and leaders of men.

[Julius Evola]
‘Orientations’, XI

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Outer Supports

All four of the natural elements are used as reminders - the wind to flutter prayer flags, the fire of a lamp flame from which the rising hot air turns prayer wheels, the rocks on which mantras are carved, and the water of a stream to turn the paddles of a water-driven prayer wheel - so that everything we do, every element of nature, whatever happens to be within our sight, can incite us to inner prayer, to altruistic thoughts.

Prayer flags

When a Tibetan prints those prayers and hangs them up to flutter in the wind, he thinks, 'Wherever the wind passing over these prayers may go, may all living beings there be freed from their suffering and the causes of suffering. May they experience happiness and the causes of happiness.'


'Merit' is a positive state arising for a while in the mind that helps to counteract negative states of mind. I think that the predominant idea for [Buddhists] is therefore that of purifying the stream of their consciousness by an 'accumulation of merit', to reinforce the positive stream that flows toward wisdom. That's why people do prostrations, walk respectfully around sacred monuments, and make offerings of light in the temples.


... 'mantra' means 'what protects the mind' - not from some calamity or other but from getting distracted and from mental confusion. A mantra is a short formula that's repeated numerous times, like the Prayer of the Heart in Orthodox Christianity, which is accompanied by constant repetition of the name of Jesus. Such techniques of repetition are found in all religious traditions.

Reciting helps to calm the superficial movements of the mind and thus to see its underlying nature more clearly.

You use the support of things outside yourself so that everything you see, everything you hear, brings back to mind [an] altruistic attitude and provides material for reflection. Nature itself then becomes a book of teachings. Everything incites us to spiritual practice.

... such customs are far from superstitious. They simply reflect the richness of the means employed by Buddhism to keep on reviving our presence of mind ... [they] are useful outer supports allowing believers to communicate with an inner truth.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.38-41

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Searching Without/ Searching Within

The lesson mankind should learn, through the lives of the greatest men who have ever lived on this planet, is that knowledge can only be acquired through the inner spirit of man and not through his body, or through matter, or through motion.

Knowledge comes from within, not from without. 

[...] The great lesson for each man to learn from the lives and works of these immortals is that each man's own immortality can be found only by inner thinking, and deep meditation, and deep, wordless spiritual prayer from the heart, and not from the lips.

[Lao Russell]
God Will Work With You But Not For You, p. 82


Every day we are faced with political decisions; to give money to a beggar, or to not; to smile at the person passing us by, or to keep ourselves to ourselves; to intervene in the scuffle, or to stay out of it. We cannot know the implications of our decisions without giving thought to these moments; without, in fact, building our own philosophy of life - a world view that encompasses all possible political junctures.

We could spend a lifetime working this out. To make an informed decision on everyday situations like these necessitates a certain amount of sustained thought; it may even require insight that is simply beyond our reach; what, after all, are the political implications of acting one way or another? And the moral implications? And how far back do these decisions reach? What do you know about how society works? And the long-sighted implications of your actions, beyond their affects within your own vicinity?

No wonder we rely so much on guidance, on the opinions of others. No wonder we have to trust those that have devoted their lives to thinking these junctures through. In most things we are ignorant, and in most situations we make do with speculation. We cannot know it all; from this realization onwards we are reliant on others, and the perspective and insight they can offer us.


After pointing out that we must often act upon probabilities that fall short of certainty, he says that the right use of this consideration 'is mutual charity and forebearance.

Since therefore it is unavoidable to the greatest part of men, if not all, to have several opinions, without certain and indubitable proofs of their truth;

and it carries too great an imputation of ignorance, lightness, or folly, for men to quit and renounce their former tenets presently upon the offer of an argument which they cannot immediately answer and show the insufficiency of;

it would, methinks, become all men to maintain peace and the common offices of humanity and friendship in the diversity of opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily and osequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For, however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reason, nor blindly submit to the will and dictates of another.

If he you would bring over to your sentiments be one that examines before he assents, you must give him leave at his leisure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine the particulars, to see on which side the advantage lies;

and if he will not think over arguments of weight enough to engage him anew in so much pains, it is but what we do often ourselves in the like case;

and we should take it amiss if others should prescribe to us what points we should study:

and if he be one who wishes to take his opinions upon trust, how can we imagine that he should renounce those tenets which time and custom have so settled in his mind that he thinks them self-evident, and of an unquestionable certainty;

... How can we expect, I say, that opinions thus settled should be given up to the arguments or authority of a stranger or adversary? especially if there be any suspicion of interest or design, as there never fails to be where men find themselves ill treated.

We should do well to commiserate our mutual ignorance, and endeavour to remove it in all the gentle and fair ways of information, and not instantly treat others as ill as obstinate and perverse because they will not renounce their own and receive our opinions, or at least those we would force upon them, when it is more than probable that we are no less obstinate in not embracing some of theirs.

For where is the man that has uncontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all that he condemns; or can say, that he has examined to the bottom all his own or other men's opinions?

The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than to restrain others ... There is reason to think, that if men were better instructed themselves, they would be less imposing on others.'

[Bertrand Russell]
with quote from John Locke (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book IV, chap, xvi, sec. 4.
Found in Russell's, History of Western Philosophy, p. 554-5


With most people, the power of judgement is present only nominally.

[...] Ordinary minds show, even in the smallest affairs, a want of confidence in their own judgement, just because they know from experience that it is of no use to them. With them prejudice and following the judgement of others take its place.

In this way they are kept in a permanent state of nonage, from which scarcely one in many hundreds is emancipated. Naturally this is not avowed, for even to themselves they seem to judge; yet all the time they are casting a furtive glance at the opinion of others, which remains their secret point of direction.

While any of them would be ashamed to go about in a borrowed coat, hat, or cloak, none of them has anything but borrowed opinions which they eagerly scrape up wherever they can get possession of them; and then they proudly strut around in them, giving them out as their own. Other in turn borrow these opinions from them, and do just the same thing with them.

This explains the rapid and wide dissemination of errors, as well as the fame of what is bad. For the professional purveyors of opinion, such as journalists and the like, as a rule give out only false goods, just as those who hire out fancy dresses give only false jewellery.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.89-90


i have used both books and the net but now use nothing. i try not to read to much into anyone else's opinions as i feel this could influence me and subsequently set me back. relax in the fact that when you need to know something it will find you. i know that kinda sounds new age hippy like, but it really does happen to me on more occasions than i care to suggest. it always makes me smile now when it happens. the clue to this is to listen to what anyone tells you because sometimes you will be quite generally surprized at 'who knows what' and sometimes information comes in the most obscure ways.

[...] i supppose i simply realised what common sense means, which in return made everything else make sense if that makes sense.

[...] i stopped researching quite sometime ago when i realised the above [...]

[John Harris]
TPUC forum


External objects present us only with appearances. Concerning them, therefore, we may be said to possess opinion rather than knowledge.



We are literally programmed to rely on others to provide us with information that we cannot get directly for ourselves. We are, therefore, programmed to be open and vulnerable to the reactions of others so that any new information can quickly be absorbed through the emotional brain.

Necessarily and constantly - and unconsciously as well as consciously - we scan the behavioural patterns of others to see what, if anything, is changing.

[Tony Plummer]
The Law of Vibration, p. 84


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To be Found, or to Find?

All acquisition of knowledge is an enlargement of the Self, but this enlargement is best attained when it is not directly sought.

It is obtained when the desire for knowledge is alone operative, by a study which does not wish in advance that its objects should have this or that character, but adapts the Self to the characters which it finds in its objects.

This enlargement of Self is not obtained when, taking the Self as it is, we try to show that the world is so similar to this Self that knowledge of it is possible without any admission of what seems alien.

The desire to prove this is a form of self-assertion and, like all self-assertion, it is an obstacle to the growth of Self which it desires, and of which the Self know that it is capable. Self-assertion, in philosophic speculation as elsewhere, views the world as a means to its own ends; thus it makes the world of less account than Self, and the Self sets bounds to the greatness of its goods.

In contemplation, on the contrary, we start from the not-Self, and through its greatness the boundaries of Self are enlarged; through the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.

For this reason greatness of soul is not fostered by those philosophies which assimilate the universe to Man. Knowledge is a form of union of Self and not-Self; like all union, it is impaired by dominion, and therefore by any attempt to force the universe into conformity with what we find in ourselves.

There is a widespread philosophic tendency towards the view which tells us that Man is the measure of all things, that truth is man-made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind, and that, if there be anything not created by the mind, it is unknowable and of no account for us.

This view ... has the effect of robbing philosophic contemplation of all that gives it value, since it fetters contemplation to Self. What it calls knowledge is not a union with the not-Self, but a set of prejudices, habits, and desires, making an impenetrable veil between us and the world beyond. The man who finds pleasure in such a theory of knowledge is like the man who never leaves the domestic circle for fear his word might not be law.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Problems of Philosophy, p.92-3

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Citizens of the Universe

Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge ... the kind which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs.

There are many questions - and among them those that are of the profoundest interest to our spiritual life - which, so far as we can see, must remain insoluble to the human intellect unless its powers become of quite a different order from what they are now.

Yet, however slight may be the hope of discovering an answer, it is part of the business of philosophy to continue the consideration of such questions, to make us aware of their importance, to examine all the approaches to them, and to keep alive that speculative interest in the universe which is apt to be killed by confining ourselves to definitely ascertainable knowledge.

The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty.  

The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived form common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.

To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected.

Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.

Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they might be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.

Apart from its utility in showing unsuspected possibilities, philosophy has a value - perhaps its chief value - through the greatness of the objects which it contemplates, and the freedom from narrow and personal aims resulting from this contemplation.

The life of the instinctive man is shut up within the circle of his private interests: family and friends may be included, but the outer world is not regarded except as it may help or hinder what comes within the circle of instinctive wishes. In such a life there is something feverish and confined, in comparison with which the philosophic life is calm and free.

The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge - knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for a man to attain.

The impartiality which, in contemplation, is the unalloyed desire for truth, is the very same quality of mind which, in action, is justice, and in emotion is that universal love which can be given to all, and not only to those who are judged useful or admirable.

Thus contemplation enlarges not only the objects of our thoughts, but also the objects of our actions and our affections: it makes us citizens of the universe, not only of one walled city at war with all the rest. In this citizenship of the universe consists man's true freedom, and his liberation from the thraldom of narrow hopes and fears.

Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions [...] but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination, and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation [...]

[Bertrand Russell]
The Problems of Philosophy, p.90-4

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Alone with my Self

Revolt of solitary instincts against social bonds is the key to the philosophy, the politics, and the sentiments, not only of what is commonly called the romantic movement, but of its progeny down to the present day.

In order to continue to feel solitary, [the romantic] must be able to prevent those who serve him from impinging upon his ego, which is best accomplished if they are slaves.

Passionate love, however, is a more difficult matter. So long as passionate lovers are regarded as in revolt against social trammels, they are admired; but in real life the love-relation itself quickly becomes a social trammel, and the partner in love comes to be hated, all the more vehemently if the love is strong enough to make the bond difficult to break.

Not only passionate love, but every friendly relation to others, is only possible, to this way of feeling, in so far as the others can be regarded as a projection of one's own Self.

By encouraging a new lawless Ego [the romantic movement] made social co-operation impossible, and left its disciples faced with the alternative of anarchy or despotism.

Egoism, at first, made men expect from others a parental tenderness; but when they discovered, with indignation, that others had their own Ego, the disappointed desire for tenderness turned to hatred and violence.

Man is not a solitary animal, and so long as social life survives, self-realization cannot be the supreme principle of ethics.

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('The Romantic Movement'), p.620-2

For the introvert the idea of the ego is the continuous and dominant note of consciousness, and its antithesis for him is relatedness or proneness to affect.

For the extravert, on the contrary, the accent lies more on the continuity of his relation to the object and less on the idea of the ego.

[...] only with the introvert is the "person" exclusively the ego; with the extravert it lies in his affectivity and not in the affected ego. His ego is, as it were, of less importance than his affectivity, i.e., his relatedness.

The extravert discovers himself in the fluctuating and changeable, the introvert in the constant.

Schiller at once reveals himself as an introvert in the following formulation:

To remain constantly himself throughout all change, to turn every perception into experience, that is, into the unity of knowledge, and to make each of his manifestations in time a law for all time, that is the rule which is prescribed for him by his rational nature.

[C. J. Jung]
Psychological Types, p. 90

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Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know

Absolute                       -                    Relative
Attached                      -                    Detached
'Is'                                 -                    'May be' 

Scepticism, as a doctrine of the schools, was first proclaimed by Pyrrho [...]

He is said to have maintained that there could never be any rational ground for preferring one course of action to another.

In practice, this meant that one conformed to the customs of whatever country one inhabited.

A modern disciple would go to church on Sundays and perform the correct genuflections, but without any of the religious beliefs that are supposed to inspire these actions.

'We sceptics follow in practice the way of the world, but without holding any opinion about it. We speak of the Gods as existing and offer worship to the Gods and say that they exercise providence, but in saying this we express no belief, and avoid the rashness of the dogmatizers.'

To men who, by temperament, required a gospel, it might seem unsatisfying, but like every doctrine of the Hellenistic period it recommended itself as an antidote to worry. Why trouble about the future? It is wholly uncertain. You may as well enjoy the present; 'what's to come is still unsure.'

It should be observed that Scepticism as a philosophy is not merely doubt, but what might be called dogmatic doubt.  

The man of science says 'I think it is so-and-so, but I am not sure.' The man of intellectual curiosity says 'I don't know how it is, but I hope to find out.' The philosophical Sceptic says 'nobody knows, and nobody ever can know.'

The only logic admitted by the Greeks was deductive, and all deduction had to start, like Euclid, form general principles regarded as self-evident. Timon denied the possibility of finding such principles. Everything, therefore, will have to be proved by means of something else, and all argument will be either circular or an endless chain hanging from nothing. In either case nothing can be proved.

The manner in which Arcesilaus taught would have had much to commend it, if the young men who learnt from him had been able to avoid being paralysed by it. He maintained no thesis, but would refute any thesis set up by a pupil.

Sometimes he would himself advance two contradictory propositions on successive occasions, showing how to argue convincingly in favour of either.

A pupil sufficiently vigorous to rebel might have learnt dexterity and the avoidance of fallacies; in fact, none seem to have learnt anything except cleverness and indifference to truth.

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('Cynics and Sceptics'), p.224-6, 228-9

[...] 'There are certain opinions about what is right and honourable in which we are brought up from childhood, and whose authority we respect like that of our parents.

[...] but what happens when he is confronted with the question, "What do you mean by 'honourable'?"

When he gives the answer tradition has taught him, he is refuted in argument, and when that has happened many times and on many different grounds, he is driven to think that there's no difference between honourable and disgraceful, and so on with all the other values, like right and good, that he used to revere.

What sort of respect for their authority do you think he'll feel at the end of it all?

[...] Then when he's lost any respect or feeling for his former beliefs but not yet found the truth, where is he likely to turn? Won't it be to a life which flatters his desires?

[...] And so we shall see him become a rebel instead of a conformer.

[...] there's one great precaution you can take, which is to stop their getting a taste of [philosophic discussion] too young. You must have noticed how young men, after their first taste of argument, are always contradicting people just for the fun of it; they imitate those whom they hear cross-examining each other, and themselves cross-examine other people like puppies who love to pull and tear at anyone within reach.

[...] So when they've proved a lot of people wrong and been proved wrong often themselves, they soon slip into the belief that nothing they believed before was true; with the result that they discredit themselves and the whole business of philosophy in the eyes of the world.

[...] But someone who's a bit older [...] will refuse to have anything to do with this sort of idiocy; he won't copy those who contradict just for the fun of the thing, but will be more likely to follow the lead of someone whose arguments are aimed at finding the truth. He's a more reasonable person and will get philosophy a better reputation.'

The Republic (Penguin Classics Edition), p.271-3

For the sceptic, that delicate creature, is all too easily frightened; his conscience is schooled to wince at every No, indeed even at a hard decisive Yes, and to sense something like a sting. 

Yes! and No!- that is to him contrary to morality; on the other hand, he likes his virtue to enjoy a noble continence, perhaps by saying after Montaigne 'What do I know?' Or after Socrates: 'I know that I know nothing.'Or: 'Here I do not trust myself, here no door stands open to me.' Or: 'If it did stand open, why go straight in?' Or: “What is the point of hasty hypotheses? To make no hypothesis at all could well be a part of good taste. Do you absolutely have to go straightening out what is crooked? Absolutely have to stop up every hole with oakum? Is there not plenty of time? Does time not have time? Oh you rogues, are you unable to wait? Uncertainty too has its charms, the sphinx too is a Circe, Circe too was a philosopher.' 

- Thus does a sceptic console himself; and it is true he stands in need of some consolation. For scepticism is the most spiritual expression of a certain complex physiological condition called in ordinary language nervous debility and sickliness; it arises whenever races or classes long separated from one another are decisively and suddenly crossed. 

In the new generation, which has as it were inherited varying standards and values in its blood, all is unrest, disorder, doubt, experiment; the most vital forces have a retarding effect, the virtues themselves will not let one another grow and become strong, equilibrium, centre of balance, upright certainty are lacking in body and soul. But that which becomes most profoundly sick and degenerates in such hybrids is the will: they no longer have any conception of independence of decision, of the valiant feeling of pleasure in willing - even in their dreams they doubt the 'freedom of the will’. 

Our Europe of today, the scene of a senselessly sudden attempt at radical class - and consequently race – mixture, is as a result sceptical from top to bottom, now with that agile scepticism which springs impatiently and greedily from branch to branch, now gloomy like a cloud overcharged with question-marks - and often sick to death of its will! 

Paralysis of will: where does one not find this cripple sitting today! And frequently so dressed up! How seductively dressed up! There is the loveliest false finery available for this disease; and that most of that which appears in the shop windows today as 'objectivity', 'scientificality', 'l'art pour l'art', 'pure will-less knowledge’ is merely scepticism and will-paralysis dressed up - for this diagnosis of the European sickness I am willing to go bail. 

- Sickness of will is distributed over Europe unequally: it appears most virulently and abundantly where culture has been longest, indigenous it declines according to the extent to which ‘the barbarian' still - or again - asserts his rights under the loose-fitting garment of Western culture. 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 208

[…] without the judgement 'Benevolence is good' - that is, without re-entering the Tao - they can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing these impulses rather than any others. 

By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance. And Chance here means Nature. It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas, that the motives of the Conditioners will spring. Their extreme rationalism, by ‘seeing through’ all 'rational’ motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour. 

If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere ‘nature') is the only course left open.

At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’ - to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. 

If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its Tao a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt against her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness. 

Ferum victorem cepit: and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold.

[C.S. Lewis]
‘The Abolition of Man’, Selected Books, p.424

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Psyche is an intelligence that wants an intelligent psychology in response. Its native inferiority does not imply stupidity; it cannot live on the clichés of inferior psychology or even on the superior ideas when simply taken over from masters.

Remember the voice that said, "I like your mistakes;" the voice that said, "I obey no laws of compensation."  

The psyche's therapy wants one to work out the psyche's logos, each individual a psychologist.

If the soul's want is a priori, then loss is a permanent possibility of soul. We may most have soul or be in soul [esse in anima] when we sense most its loss. Then the sense of want belongs to the ontology of soul and to what we mean by 'being psychological.'

No psychological act can fully satisfy, no interpretation truly click like a key in a lock, no relationship of souls complete the lack and failure that reflects the essence of psyche. Imperfection is in its essence, and we are complete only by being in want.

Psychology must be gained for it is not given, and without psychological education we do not understand ourselves and we make our daimons suffer.

This suggests that a reason for psychotherapy of whatever school and for whatever complaint is to gain psychology - a logos of soul that is at the same moment a therapeia of soul.

We need to gain the intelligent response that makes the soul intelligible, a craft and order that understands it, a knowledgeable deftness that cares for its wants in speech. And if logos is its therapy, because it articulates the psyche's wants, then one answer to what the soul wants is psychology.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.94, 127-8

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Inflation / Deflation

Peak                                   -                      Vale
Certain                               -                      Uncertain
Perfect                               -                       Imperfect
Invulnerable                      -                       Vulnerable
Faith                                  -                       Scepticism
Spirit                                 -                       Soul
Inflate                                -                       Deflate
Heaven                               -                      Earth

Something that is perfect needs nothing else, because it lacks nothing. It needn't take anything in, or give anything away. The square is perfect: it cannot give or receive. It has no openings and so is invulnerable. It does not commune or connect.

Imperfection, on the other hand, connotes a lack of something, and implies connectedness. The jigsaw piece is imperfect, it gives and receives. It has openings and is vulnerable. It communes and connects.

As humans we are pulled in two directions: towards, on the one hand, perfection; and on the other, imperfection. We know we are human, and yet at times we aspire to be gods.

Sometimes we become inflated, flying upwards towards a heavenly light. We fly far above the world of things, and become untouchable.

But at the next moment our wings disintegrate, and we fall back down to earth. Then we may become deflated, or depressed. Instead of bathing in heavenly light, we move in darkness and shadows. Our hands and feet touch the earth, and become covered in dirt.

Inflation comes from self-belief, which is another way of saying that we see ourselves as solid, like trees. It is related to absolutism. Its synonyms are: earnestness, seriousness, pretention.

Deflation is the opposite movement; of seeing-through the self, of seeing the self as liquid. It is related to relativism. Its synonyms are: irony, humour, deprecation.

Both are necessary movements; sometimes we must go up and sometimes we must go down. But to get stuck in one movement - only up, only down - is to become unbalanced.

We cannot answer the soul's wanting by any certainty, any goal, without realizing at the same moment that this goal is a fiction and that to literalize it is a mistake - even if a necessary mistake.

Certainty is an identification with a single meaning, one posits one's own private meaning as a "position of finality," which serves only to isolate oneself, defeating our innate altruism and alienating us from the community of humankind.

Gemeinschaftsgefühl [communal feeling or social interest] cannot answer what the soul wants or present its goal; it can serve only as an instrument for reflecting all our goals. Do they contribute, do they embody feeling for others? Gemeinschaftsgefühl thus offers a mode of discovering our isolating fictions and our mistakes.

If we commune at all, it is in the empathy of our mistakes and the humorous tolerance given by the sense of fiction. We are human less by virtue of our ideal goals than by the vice of our inferiority.

So the sense of imperfection, Jung's shadow, is the only possible base for Adler's goal of Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Jung said the same: "Relationship is not based on ... perfection ... it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless ... the very ground and motive for dependence."

The shadow of weakness is not only moral, it is also humorous. The best entry into imperfection is humour, self-irony, dissolving into laughter, the acceptable humiliation that requires no after-compensation upwards.

The sense of imperfection may be one way into communal feeling: another surer one is the all-too-human bond of the sense of humour.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.106-9

A man will not obtain demonstrations of genuine philanthropy from others as long as he is well off in every respect.

The lucky man can, of course, frequently experience the good will of relations and friends; but the expressions of that pure, disinterested, objective participation in the lot and condition of another, which are the effect of loving-kindness, are reserved for him who in any way suffers.

For the lucky man as such we feel no sympathy; on the contrary, as such he remains a stranger to our hearts [...]

[...] misfortune is the condition of compassion, and this is the source of philanthropy.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
On the Basis of Morality, p.174

The disabled person.

We are all, in a sense, "disabled"; only some of us are able to hide our wounds better than others. The disabled person has little choice other than to show theirs, and in doing so they draw from us a natural response: compassion.

Because the disabled person cannot hide their wounds, we cannot help but see them, and must, as a collectivity, come to terms with what we see.

We see the ways in which they are disabled - the ways in which they need to be carried - and we must mould ourselves to them. This process is made easier because the disabled person is a "known commodity"; we know collectively how we are meant to approach them - the interaction has been culturally coded. Because their needs are known, it is easier, and more acceptable, to attend to them.

They force a certain type of interaction from us and in doing so teach us what it means to be wounded: a lesson in interdependency. With a disabled person we are allowed to cross a boundary that we may otherwise hesitate at.

Recognition of the shadow, on the other hand, leads to the modesty we need in order to acknowledge imperfection. And it is just this conscious recognition and consideration that are needed whenever a human relationship is to be established.

A human relationship is not based on differentiation and perfection, for these only emphasize the differences or call forth the exact opposite; it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless and in need of support - the very ground and motive of dependence.

The perfect has no need of the other, but weakness has, for it seeks support and does not confront its partner with anything that might force him into an inferior position and even humiliate him.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.73

When I was living on the Eastern Cherokee reservation [...], after a few months a man my age to whom I became closest began a joking relationship with me. The joking insults between us sometimes flew nonstop, and went to unrelenting and merciless levels.

To an outsider it might seem as if we were intense rivals. At times it even became too much for me, and I had to back off, but when this happened he was puzzled at my reactions. We were very close friends, and the taunting was simply a mark of our close friendship and of his accepting me into his family.

Anyone who has lived with Indian people knows that once you are accepted into the group, joking and kidding abound. It is part of the glue that holds the society together.

[...] Persons of prestige are more subject to ridicule than anyone else. While this gossipy aspect of Indian society can be frustrating to someone who takes the initiative, it does function to preserve a basic egalitarianism by taking potentially pretentious persons and reminding them that they had better not overestimate their self-importance.

It is one among many mechanisms that Indians use to inhibit social stratification.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 39-40

“A depreciation of the ascetic ideal unavoidably involves a depreciation of science,” because both depend essentially on the unconditional faith that “truth is inestimable and cannot be criticised.”

But it is not easy to see how science can be depreciated without doing more science and therefore without perpetuating it. Nietzsche knows these difficulties.

This is why he denies that science is the ultimate enemy of the ascetic ideal and why he writes that “in the most spiritual sphere, too, the ascetic ideal has at present only one kind of real enemy capable of harming it: the comedians of this ideal - for they arouse mistrust in it.”

Nietzsche tries to be such a comedian - which does not necessarily involve being funny. Rather, it involves the effort to reveal the inner contradictions and deceptions of asceticism, to denounce it, and yet not produce a view that itself unwittingly repeats the same contradictions and deceptions, for to repeat these is to fail to arouse mistrust in the ascetic ideal; on the contrary, it is to offer a demonstration that it is inescapable.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 133-4

In Greek tragedy, comedy always had the last word.

Modern criticism has projected a Victorian and, I feel, Protestant high seriousness upon pagan culture that still blankets teaching of the humanities. Paradoxically, assent to savage chthonian realities leads not to gloom but to humor. Hence Sade’s strange laughter, his wit amid the most fantastic cruelties.

For life is not a tragedy but a comedy. Comedy is born of the clash between Apollo and Dionysus. Nature is always pulling the rug out from under our pompous ideals.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.6

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