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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