O ver the past week, I found the song Mother Dear going through my head.I hadn’t listened to it much since college, but there it was. Suddenly I remembered my mom’s 68th birthday was approaching on April 8. How wonderfully precise yet unpredictable the subconscious is!
I started reflecting today on maturation and some of the constructs we have to let go of. Looking at the above picture, it’s almost hard to imagine that little boy was me. But it was, and it seems my childhood, like most people’s, was filled with learning things that have since had to be unlearned. I started listing these off today: the first thing we all learn is that we are little gods and we have free will. We are in command of our bodies, and as fast as newly minted two-year-old legs can carry us, we run around thinking we can do anything, thinking we can decide anything. We find our limits, slowly and reluctantly as our parents and physical laws set the boundaries for us. The next thing we learn is to trust our parents, that they love us, that they will protect us and not let anything bad happen to us. Then we learn that even bigger and more powerful than our all-knowing parents is an all-powerful and all-loving God who will step in even when our parents can’t. By this time, we may be in church or in school, and we start learning a lot about our country, who died for it, and why we need to believe in it and pledge our allegiance to it.
But every one of these early ‘truths’ had to bite the dust. For me, they did so in a slow spiral, one piece at a time, revisiting issues and asking myself questions over and over. As the years went by, various pieces began to fall into place, or out of place as the case may be.
Myth 1: Our parents will protect us and we can trust them
Since my father died of a sudden stroke when I was nine, that kind of shattered the “safety and infallibility of parents” concept for me. What I had left was my mother, who assumed a role that was larger than life, and at one point, literally represented God to me (and thousands of other people). I remember one year I actually wrote that to her in her birthday card: “Mother, I love you so much, you represent God to me, Happy Birthday!” You have to understand, this was no ordinary woman. Mine was a mother who used to write me birthday cards from my dead father (well into my adulthood), complete with personal messages, and sign them “Lanello” (one of his pen names) in flowing script. We had a deep bond, and loved each other very much, too. So my disillusionment with her took a little bit longer. What I’ve realized with a little bit of perspective is that it took place in three parts: The first to go was my personal relationship, then the mother archetype, then the idea that she was the messenger of God.
The personal relationship suffered as I became a teenager. She took all of my explorations as a personal affront because they didn’t fit in with her value system. They deeply embarrassed her. But I just needed to figure out who I was.
by John Curulewski
performed by Styx
The song sure sounds old now! But It’s the perfect metaphor for the confusion and conflict created by holding the tension between our freedom and the safety of “mother,” the safety of the womb. While the words don’t exactly describe my youth, its tone is very evocative of that tremendous void we feel trying to make sense of the risks and accompanying freedoms of life on our own for the first time. We face not only physical risk–but far worse–the risk of making mistakes. It’s the one thing the two-year-old never thinks about. Tooling around, barely 3 feet tall, we never imagine what it would be like having no one there to tell us “no.” Gradually we find out.
The 18 or 20-year-old gets to have that experience, gets to “bleed for their art”–mommy can’t help you face the blank page, either of a notebook, canvas, or of life. For me, I relate to this because at age 16 I left all my friends and family in California and attended college in Evanston, Illinois. I had the freedom and exhilarating sense of being on my own, sort-of, but it was a social catastrophe. I had been very popular in high school and suddenly I had no friends my age and spent most of my free time with much older adults. This is because I was forced to live off-campus in a church communal house called a “teaching-center.” And I listened to a lot of Styx on headphones.
Lonely feelings in the city, One room flat with crumbling walls
Sirens play a distant melody, Neon shadows paint the halls
In the thirteen months I’ve spent here, With my manuscript and rhymes
I’ve paid in cash for foolish pleasures, Mother dear you’d call them crimes
After facing angst, loneliness and danger for a little while, home starts to sound pretty good:
Raise the roof, Light the light, Mother dear I’m returning tonight
Now I see, Your concern, Mother dear how you taught me to learn
Back out in the world, we feel the conflict anew:
I’ve been a Roman for survival, Showing two sides of my face
I need the comfort of your wisdom, I’m coming home to your embrace
In the following verse, we hear the young man, not yet seasoned by time, demanding to be recognized. But there’s a touch of anger: “Mom, you decided to have me for your own reasons. I didn’t ask to be born. So whatever and whoever I am, that came from you. And if I’m having a hard time with this, well that’s your fault, too.”
If by chance I pass before you, Don’t discount my gratitude
You’re responsible for me here, And of course my attitude
But it’s a gentle rebuke for mom, we realize we don’t have it all under control. And we still need her.
Stayin’ up half the night, Wonderin’ if what I’m doin’ is right
Raise the roof, Light the light, Mother dear I’m returning tonight
In the end most people figure it out, and hopefully maintain a good relationship with their mothers. But mine still had two deaths to die. I had to recognize the danger of trusting in the mother archetype as an adult. It became pretty clear after a while that her interests and mine were diverging. She had hired me and promoted me to management and spiritual authority (as a minister), but what was good for her and the organization was not good for me, my career, or my young family. I kept my trust in her through the age of 29, which as it turned out, had been about six years too long. But hindsight is 20/20 as they say. The final death is the one I discussed a year ago where she acknowledged she had abused power and the trust of her position as the “messenger of god” and the head of her church.
Myth 2: An all-powerful god will protect us
A particularly painful memory of mine has to do with the arrest of Vernon Hamilton along with my stepfather Edward Francis on weapons charges in the summer of 1989. The two had been involved in gun purchases by church members to protect the bomb shelters we were building. Leaving aside for the moment the obvious question of why we needed munitions or bomb-shelters at all (if we had god on our side), what bothered me even more was my mother’s response to the arrest. I asked her how god could let this happen. She just stared at me and changed the subject: “Do your job and let me worry about that,” she said in the sternest voice I’d ever heard.
Whether or not she had known about the weapons in advance, it couldn’t have been a worse blunder for someone with ostensibly divine powers and knowledge. If she didn’t know about it, why didn’t god tell her or warn her about the arrest? Disgusting. But then, worse disillusionment was yet to come as $20 million of church assets continued being spent on her orders preparing a modern day underground Noah’s ark for 750 people–for a disaster which never arrived. But even if it had, why was the fear of death so strong, and why the necessity of physical survival? If eternal life was just around the corner, who cares about a few pesky nuclear weapons? It didn’t add up.
The one disaster which did happen was September 11. Now, it would have been incredibly comforting to hear from Saint Germain, or Archangel Michael on that day, telling us what was going on behind the scenes, telling us that everything would be O.K. No doubt, if my mom had been able, she would have given a dictation doing just that. The ‘masters’ would have echoed the sentiments of Falwell, Robertson, et al, and claimed that “they could not protect America, because the legality of abortion had made it vulnerable,” and we should redouble our efforts to spread the message. By then, I knew the script all too well. But the fact that my mind even went there is a testimony as to how powerful and insidious these myths can be. And strangely enough, Carolyn Shearer gave just such a dictation for the remaining faithful. I only ran across it last year. How predictable the message was. The Shearers have generally had far less ‘fire and brimstone’ than my parents. So instead of ranting about the sins of America, their tack was “it could have been worse” but for the intercession of the masters and that “America has only been strengthened.” Of course.
The terrible emptiness I felt after watching these spectacular human follies and glaring absence of divine intercession for the ‘chosen people’ (and the rest of the world, for that matter) for the first 30 years of my life have led me to where I am today. My experience goes way beyond anything which could be explained away by simple theodicy (one of the weakest of all theological positions). I’ve spent the past 15 years searching for real explanations. I believe I’ve found some pretty good ones from Jung, Dennett, Pinker, Dawkins, Alper, and many others I’ve read.
From The God Part of the Brain by Matthew Alper:
According to Freud, “God is the exalted father, and the longing for the father is the root of all religion.” Aware that death was not only inevitable, but that it could come at any moment, human beings were reduced to a state of infantile helplessness, as vulnerable as the day they were born. And where do infants innately turn for protection? To their parents. However, not even one’s parents can save one from death. As we become adults, we grow to recognize that even our once seemingly omnipotent parents are actually impotent against the forces of death. With this knowledge, where was humankind to find guidance and protection? Desperately longing for eternal comfort and security, to whom was primal man to turn? Perhaps our need for eternal protection had facilitated the selection of a cognitive variation that instilled our species with an inherent belief in some type of trancendental guardian. Perhaps it was at this point in human cognitive evolution that neural connections had emerged that compelled our animal to believe in a “higher” power, in what we refer to as a god or gods. p.128
From Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett:
What if there really were agents who had access to all the strategic information! What an idea! It is easy enough to see that such a being–in Boyer’s terms, a “full access agent”–would be an attention-grabbing concoction, but aside from that, what good would it be? Why would it be any more important to people than any other fantasy? Well, it might help people simplify the thinking that has to be done to figure out what to do next. A survey of the world’s religions shows that almost always the full-access agents turn out to be ancestors, gone but not all forgotten. As the memory of Father is burnished and elaborated in many retellings to children and grandchildren and their grandchildren, his ghost may acquire many exotic properties, but at the heart of his image is his virtuosity in the strategic-information department. pp.126-127
Indeed, what an asset an accessible supernatural agent would have been on September 11, 2001! Such a being could have and should have alerted the authorities to the plot. But what of the Islamic gods of the hijackers? Would their supernatural agents have had their own epic battles with America’s gods to determine whether or not to warn the American military? The stupidity of this is mind-numbing.
But ignoring that issue, my mother, like the Shearers and every other religious leader in history, took full advantage of these human longings for protection and certainty. For me, learning that these longings are innate to our psychology has been liberating. But it also adds a tragic element: both my mother and her followers were participating in a grand drama beyond their comprehension or control.
Myth 3: We should believe in our country and pledge allegiance to it
Time magazine concluded their recent cover story about Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School with the following twisted paragraph:
And, oh yes, there should be one faith test. Faith in our country. Sure, there will be bumps along the way. But in the end, what is required in teaching about the Bible in our public schools is patriotism: a belief that we live in a nation that understands the wisdom of its Constitution clearly enough to allow the most important book in its history to remain vibrantly accessible for everyone.
Wow, where do I start? A faith test? For faith in our country? Requiring patriotism? The founding fathers would be turning in their graves! Patriotism, like love, cannot be forced. It must be genuine and organic–a welling up of feeling based on real pride and admiration. Furthermore, our nation was founded on spectacular dissent. After all, these were people who had recently fled from tyranny, and tyranny thrives on weakness and acceptance of authority.
It’s no coincidence that highly religious folk also tend to be strongly patriotic. There is a transference of their father complex from god to country. “The country will care for us if we only believe in it.” Substitute the word ‘god’ for ‘the country’ in that sentence, and you’ll see what I mean. Put the two together, and you have the ultimate tool for suppression of dissent and cynical manipulation of the masses. Under a regime of patriotism and mandatory respect for religion, we remained a nation of submissive children–blind to our shadow and so caught up in our convictions of rightness that we failed to acknowledge our own capacity for evil.
Like many religious leaders, my mom was caught up in this way of thinking. She was a tireless advocate for her vision of America. She loved this country. She thought the word “government” stood for “god-over-men.” She thought the real founding father of the country was Saint Germain. Every 4th of July she’d stand up in front of a huge flag and give a rousing 90-minute patriotic address, outlining ‘Saint Germain’s plan’ for the nation. Then Saint Germain himself would speak through her. Over the years, she also hosted countless conservative dignitaries (the ones who could stomach that she wasn’t an evangelical Christian, that is) who all were staunchly for higher military spending and tighter social restrictions. (She even sent my sisters and I to John Birch camp one summer). So needless to say, god’s plan for America was ultra-conservative. We cheered when Reagan was elected, and gasped when Clinton was.
If there was a problem with the nation, as far as she was concerned, it was that it was too secular and too “surfeited in the hedonism of the drug-culture and rock-culture.” And she held white-hot fury about the ‘crime’ of abortion, the “first-degree murder of god.” The Supreme Court had legalized this outrage. It had rejected god. And god would pay America back, in spades.
It’s not just the theocrats on the religious right: everyone seems to have a gripe about this country, what it should be doing, or what it could be doing. Since our elections have been so close the last couple of times, at least 50% of us are bound to be unhappy with the political landscape most of the time. [There’s a deeper problem, and that is the tyranny of the majority, and the deciding of factual questions by popularity. This is a fatally flawed approach–perhaps better than other systems, but nowhere near what it could be.]
I’ll let Dennis DeYoung take over from here with this song written for the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. As a protest song, Suite Madame Blue is more like a Valentine to a lost love. It’s sentimental alright. But it touches me because I, too once believed passionately in this country. It could’ve been great. Can it ever be again? The better question is: Is the concept of a nation even relevant anymore?
by Dennis DeYoung
performed by Styx
Time after time I sit and I wait for your call
I know I’m a fool but what can I say
Whatever the price I’ll pay…for you, Madame Blue
Once long ago, a word from your lips and the world turned around
But somehow you’ve changed, you’re so far away
I long for the past and dream of the days with you, Madame Blue
Suite Madame Blue, gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Suite Madame Blue, the future is all but past
Dressed in your jewels, you made your own rules
You conquered the world and more …………..heaven’s door
Red white and blue, gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past
So lift up your heart, make a new start
And lead us away from here…
Lead us away from the notion that we can continue to destroy our environment and consume 25% of the world’s resources without giving something back, that the “‘merican way of life is non-negotiable.” That we can champion freedom through botched wars and torture. That we can spy on our own citizens and wage a relentless and cruel “war on drugs” which pays to incarcerate millions of citizens while ‘legitimate’ drug customers simultaneously line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. Lead us away from a federal government which continues to ignore the will of the people in 12 states who’ve legalized medical marijuana.
Yes, lead us away from our superstition, our sense of entitlement, and our failure to see how our actions are seen by others. Help us to see that there are no nations. Only a world, and people. Only families of all shapes, sizes and sexual orientations. Only communities of shared interests. Only personal happiness and reduction of suffering. Only justice and freedom from corruption and hypocrisy.
Myth 4: Free Will
I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose free will. –Neil Peart
The more we understand about human nature, the more we realize that free will is an illusion. As the blurb for the informative site Philosophy of Genetics states: “What you want is who you can become. We are free to choose what we want, but we are not free in our wants themselves (desires and motivations), which are innate and vary across the population.”
This is not to say that we cannot make choices, nor to imply life is deterministic, nor that socialization doesn’t matter. It is simply to say that out of the range of all possible behaviors, our genes constrain us to a much narrower range than we may have once thought. Why is this significant to our understanding of our psychology? Because we need to examine our motivations and morals more directly: If we realize something we feel strongly about is a part of our genetic legacy, we will be far less likely to attribute that behavior to external agents such as ‘gods’ or ‘demons.’ We will focus instead on ourselves, and understanding the mechanisms that operate beneath our conscious mind, that push us to form our wants and opinions, that fire our passions and spark our actions. We can then separate ourselves from erroneous dogma and begin to learn who we are, rather than spending our lives fretting about who we “should be” according to some meaningless external standard or scripture.
The letting go of free will is the ‘last’ myth, and the one people resist the most. But the more we learn about cognition, the more we understand that the sum total of who we are is complex biological machinery. The idea of a ‘soul’ is only valid as a metaphor for our feelings, our gestalt of what it means to be human.
Already, fMRI is showing us our thoughts and feelings at work. We can observe our brains change in real-time in response to a loved one’s picture, or–for an addict, the picture of a crack pipe. Governments are hard at work learning to detect intentions in this manner to prevent terrorism. This would be conceptually impossible if it weren’t for the physical nature of consciousness.
In other research, scientists are learning how to control mechanical devices with neural signals. More importantly, they are observing how brains quickly incorporate these external devices into their neural structure, and change the functions of existing neurons to accommodate the new peripherals. In other words, the brain knows how to make a connected machine a part of itself. This would not be possible if it weren’t also a machine. This investigation into consciousness is far deeper and more advanced than most people realize. Soon it will become undeniable.
Already, we routinely modify human behavior with drugs. This could only happen if our natural behavior was controlled by brain chemistry. If someone can change your chemistry, or you do it yourself through medication, you have given up your free will, because your consciousness is now functioning differently than it would have.
What we used to think of as free-will is simply the function of nature’s unaltered brain chemistry. As more and more of the human race is modified by drugs and neural interfaces, we will come to understand that we have become products of our science and our society. Some of the most important debates of the next half-century will concern bioethics, and the need to assure that people remain free (as much as possible) to act as rational agents without increasingly subtle and hard-to-detect nefarious external manipulations of their minds. But that’s a subject for another day.
Though I draw a firm “line in the sand” intellectually, I admit it’s hard to keep stoic all the time about these questions. I miss the idea I used to hold that there’s a giant all-powerful father-mother-god to fall back on, that life itself has any particular meaning other than what I give it. I miss feeling like I live in a country I can believe in–or even that government itself is something to inspire faith and trust. I miss being the young boy who trusted my parents, and felt they loved and cared for me–and I miss the idea of my own humanity and ultimate free will.
But the evidence is in. These things are illusory. Acknowledging this is part of being a conscious adult in this century. My longings for childlike simplicity and trust will die with me anyway. So why not live a life of clarity for the years I have left? Why not face the music and embrace reality? It’s called growing up. With a certain wistful resolve and nostalgia about my childhood illusions, I’m ready to firmly say with John Lennon: “I just had to let it go.”
Thank you very much for sharing such an intimate personal journey! What a deeply profound, insightful piece! You've expressed many important ideas, and provided much grist for my ( and I'm certain for others as well) psyche's mill, (so to speak ;-). ).
Regarding "free will", its very true.. Here's a couple of my thoughts and question…When you say:
" What we used to think of as free-will is simply the function of nature’s unaltered brain chemistry.." what do you mean by unaltered? I'm not sure I fully agree with that word…maybe its semantics.? I'd say .. what we thought of as free will is the function of OPTIMALLY healthy brain chemistry as opposed to unaltered, and relates to the illusion of having much greater breadth than we really have, to chose any given thing. Is that what you meant by unaltered? If not, I'd argue that ..to the extent we do have elements of freedom to self determine or make choices ( within the parameters you've mentioned)…for example, in a chronically depressed person .. they would have more access to whatever limited "free will"..or capacity to choose, if they get there chemistry corrected (altered) than if they left it unaltered..And that could happen via any number of pychotherapy techniques, neurofeedback, meditation, OR medication
And..here's something paradoxical.; although most of us haven't grasped how constained we are by our genes and brain functions. (and although I also agree that realizing this is a key step in pychological maturity that requires as you said, more 'letting go' of who we believed we were. )…at the same time it's also important ( and liberating) to for people to realize that within these real parameters, we have a much wider range of capacity to self determine..to self discipline, than we previously thought.!! !Such as our capacity to consciously alter (what has been until recently ),considered fully autonomic(unconscious) functions; like heart rate, blood pressure, mood, degree of mental focus, memory, capacity to recall dreams, and much more.. And this brings us to discussing the field of neurofeedback ..and even psychoneuroimmunology. But thats for later. Gotta go get ready for dinner!
And thank you again. Rich, provocative post, as usual. :-)
Wow Sean, that was deep. I really enjoy hearing about your journey into reality. I love the way you give voice to your writing. You have found a part of yourself through writing and it shows. I’m jealous. lol I am still on that search. I know its there though, its just a matter of finding it. All and any advise is welcomed, :)
You hit some major points that most people completely ignore. Our behavior is more innate than we realize. Every emotion we have is part of our biological make up. My wake up to that reality was in college, of course I was majoring in canine psychology(almost 10 years ago now) and there was no way around it.lol Animal psychology is not like, what I call “the mutilation of human psychology”. It is based on the evolution of behaviors and behaviors are a result of any animals emotions. I know that may sound confusing to some, but all human and animal emotions are an evolitionary process that serve for the betterment of our offspring and the survival of our genes. The idea of heavenly fathers really screws this whole process up.
In ‘Breaking The Spell’ by Daniel Dennet, he points out that all gods are more or less ancestors and I couldn’t agree more. I have a girl friend who is a feminist antropologist and she has told me many times that all religions trace back to ancestial worship and all ancestial worship traces back to mother worship. I also know that canines in the wild are extended matriarchs, mothe,r daughters, sisters, aunts, a few inmature males and one dominate breeding male, which breeds with the dominate female(AKA the mother of all in the pack, except alpha male). It used to be that scientist and animal behviorist believed that all species were patriachal. Now with more unbias research ,we now know that the animal kingdom really isn’t a kingdom at all, but a Queendom instead. When you observe these animals in their natural enviornment there does seem to be a form of mother worship. There is a lot of respect for the dominate male, but nothing like the admiration for the dominate female. Even the dominate male shows extreme admiration for the dominate female and is happy to do what ever she wants and to follow her where ever. This kind of behavior has been seen in humans as well. The early native americans(which is believed that they were still living like our earliest ancestors) and the few matriarchal societies that still exist to this day. I bring this up, because I think humans have become confused by the idea of a heavenly father and the ommission of the earthly mother. Instead of having an earthly mother(which is an innate need) where are emotions are tied into nature, we have replaced her with a heavenly father where our emotions are thought to be useless and our father unattainable.
What do you think?
I am learning a lot from you and can’t wait to hear more.
BTW, you were a cute kid and your mother was a beautiful woman, too bad she wasn’t able to get the inside to match that beauty.
When I talk about free will and natural brain chemistry, I’m simply discussing how easily manipulated it is. I’m not saying that unaltered brain chemistry is optimum. Modern pharmacology has been able to treat everything from depression to psychosis with varying degrees of success. But in so doing, we clearly alter who the person is. We clearly change not only how a person feels about themselves, but based on the changes, what courses of action they choose and how they live. A large percentage of the population in advanced societies now lives in a state of permanently altered brain chemistry.
Yes, I agree. But the biggest enemy of true freedom is unconsciousness. By failing to understand both the chemical and genetic nature of consciousness, many people remain locked in a struggle between social and cultural expectations and their underlying programming. Many do not allow themselves to explore the full range of who they are, because they are afraid of it. Then when they turn to chemical or socio-religious remedies, they repress or short-circuit their process of self-discovery. Free will can thus be hijacked with much accompanying pain and misery.
I also wanted to clarify that many choices, including sexual partners, job and financial decisions, moral decisions, are influenced by innate drives and perspectives. So when we make a choice, and we think we have chosen freely, we can’t tell for sure without really getting a firm understanding of how our evolutionary psychology is operating.
If we made a choice, for example, to begin or end a romantic relationship, we may think it had to do with love or lack thereof. But what we don’t know is how our brain’s survival mechanism may have been speaking to us, weighing genetic compatibility and/or subconscious evaluations of the prospective partner both as a potential parent, or protector, or strategic partner. No matter how enlightened we think we are, we are a slave to these drives, and no one is immune.
Couldn’t agree more!
Exactly, the archetype of the distant or disapproving or reproachful father is huge in our society. In the Baylor University religion study, people were asked to specify which type of god they believed in. A large percentage of people (especially African Americans–nearly 60%) believe in a punitive god. This is so sad to me, because this perception keeps these believers in a state of submission. Given the demographic breakdown, it seems obvious that some people who were once physically enslaved have now signed on to en even more insidious form of mental slavery. I hope over time this can be reduced or eliminated. There has been enough suffering at the hands of the patriarchy.
Aw, shucks! ;-) You know, I rarely saw my mom this happy when she was older. I think she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. It was self-inflicted, of course, but it’s still sad. She gave her life to god, and I mean that literally. She didn’t have a lot of fun that I observed. By the time she realized what she had done, the die was cast and it was too late for her.
Normally I would just give my standard answer, that we have to insist on provable reality. But when someone such as a parent has spent so much of their life going down a certain path, there is really nothing left for them to hang on to but their faith. As a friend of mine once said: "Giving up their faith would be like leaving them stranded in the middle of the ocean without a lifeboat."
Maybe you can talk to your father about some of the sources of his pain, while avoiding directly confronting his false faith.
My relationship with my mom is pretty much non-existent now because she is incapacitated with Alzheimer's. She did not recognize her children even as far back as 2000. I've written about all of this in the Elizabeth Clare Prophet section.
Re: family getting together in the afterlife. I always mention what few people want to think about: What if you have an abuser in your family? Are you condemned to spend eternity with them? Since we don't choose our families, I can't think of a worse nightmare than this stupid Christian fantasy.
Wow. You’ve had an amazing journey. It’s so hard, first to realize that the parent you literally worship is just a person; then to realize that they are a deeply flawed and troubled person.
“Then when they turn to chemical or socio-religious remedies, they repress or short-circuit their process of self-discovery. Free will can thus be hijacked with much accompanying pain and misery.”
That’s my dad. He just recently started speaking to me again. I wish so bad that I could save him from catholicism and alcohol, but I know he wishes he could save me as well, so what are we to do?
So how did your relationship with your mother work out in the long run?
I also know what you mean about missing the ideas you used to have. My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer several months ago, and I try to avoid talk of the afterlife because he equates atheism with devil worship, but he got on a pleasant monologue about how we were all going to together again someday, and I remembered for a moment what it felt like to believe that (though my belief was always peppered with doubt).
I’ve had to guide my boys through the trauma of my grandpa’s illness and impending death, and many times I wish I could just tell them that we’ll all go to heaven and be done with it. That would certainly make this whole thing easier in the short run.
“When I talk about free will and natural brain chemistry, Iâ€™m simply discussing how easily manipulated it is. Iâ€™m not saying that unaltered brain chemistry is optimum”
Then it sounds like it was largely semantics… and that we agree.
“I also wanted to clarify that many choices, including sexual partners, job and financial decisions, moral decisions, are influenced by innate drives and perspectives. So when we make a choice, and we think we have chosen freely, we canâ€™t tell for sure without really getting a firm understanding of how our evolutionary psychology is operating.”
Your point is well taken. Our choices are incredibly constrained, and who we are is incredibly malleable. And, that we have one distinct personality that exemplifies who we think we are, is a tenuous construct, dependent on one’s fine balance of neurochemistry, electrical activity, tissue and neural health…and genetics.
The split brain studies are one of many interesting examples of how delicate this construct is; People who have either by accident, or as treatment for…say, epilepsy, had their right and left hemispheres severed, often end up with two distinct personalities, with often two contrary agendas. These cases have given new meaning to the expression, the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing; personality #1 (right hemisphere self) may be trying to unbutton his/her shirt, while the personality #2 (left hemisphere consciousness) will at the same time be buttoning it back up. That brand new consciousness emerges in these cases is mind blowing. Its tragic for the ones trapped in such a situation,
Also, our capacity to keep a running narrative of our lives is key to maintaining a consistent sense of self. Almost everything we do and think is based on our brains remembering has happened to it in the past, and everything we think and do in the future will serve to reinforce the patterns of behavior and response associated with the particular person that we think of ourselves as being. So to be one solid person, one has to be able to hold one’s life story, hold the script to the inner drama that is ourselves…So if we damage our memory…it changes everything
We really do seem to be the accumulation of the transitory mental states of our brain.
I mentioned that along with these huge constraints, we also have paradoxically greater capacity to direct our will than most realize…and you said:
“Yes, I agree. But the biggest enemy of true freedom is unconsciousness. By failing to understand both the chemical and genetic nature of consciousness, many people remain locked in a struggle between social and cultural expectations and their underlying programming.’
True..but in terms of helping to alleviate this unconsciousness, its important to remember that, (according to my understanding of epigenetics), there are switches that can turn genes on and off, and these are effected by the environment, and the environment can include use of ones own mind as a feedback loop…Thats why I mentioned neurofeedback and meditation as a route to maximizing the limited freedom we do have, Also, even if everyone did understand the chemical and genetic nature of consciousness, we’d still be defined by it…but definitely less so. Because then we could begin to observe this truth. But we need tools to develop this capacity to self observe, and meditation is one of, if not the best tool for learning that.
By learning to develop ‘the witness” part of our psyche we can maximize our ability to realize how enslaved or free we are. By developing the capacity to detach from our thoughts, watch how we react to events, the more we can see about what contributes to our patterns of behavior. And the more we can identify less with whatever emotions are operating, the closer we are to being able to change the behavior in the future. Or, the closer we are to realizing how much we cannot change even if we want. But at least by this method we gain clarity about our slavery. Then we can choose what to do about that inability to choose!! ( not to mention that the very nature of this exercise creates measurable changes in the electro-chemical workings of the brain, which, with guidance/training can help move psychological content formerly trapped in the unconscious into consciousness and herein lies an element of free will that is not negligible. Its all we really have.) This is a discipline for sure. But a worthy one in my opinion. And it is far more possible than people realize. Again, my point to is that people ought not give up trying to maximize their capacity for self-direction, even though we are constrained by genes and brain functions.
If I could cherry-pick aspects of Buddhism, developing ones ‘witness’ would be one big one. Minus the reincarnations and other nonsense.
“Many do not allow themselves to explore the full range of who they are, because they are afraid of it. Then when they turn to chemical or socio-religious remedies, they repress or short-circuit their process of self-discovery. Free will can thus be hijacked with much accompanying pain and misery.”
Yes, I agree but I want to make a distinction: sometimes, when a person turns to chemical aid (i.e. anti-psychotics or antidepressants…or even certain ‘recreational’ drugs, when consciously used for such purposes) it can actually free them to begin the process of self-discovery and of delving into their shadow with far less trepidation than before, and with far more capacity. For the actively psychotic bi-polar, or schizophrenic, it’s easier to do their work when they’re aren’t hallucinating. Even though certainly there is a problem with over-medication in our society, and some debilitating side effects with anti-psychotics etc., there is also a tremendous amount of good that has come with these substances. There is an unfortunate tendency in my opinion to inaccurately demonize them. Sometimes one has to get some relief from the intensity of their symptoms, in order to have the psychological energy and intellectual acuity to then turn around and face the depression. With that support they can then dig into the pit of their despair, travel there, be with it, feel the pain and exhume the material, without being consumed by it.
I read a few of your postings about your mom and they always seem to make my eyes tear up. It is very clear that you truly love your mother and that your mother truly loved you. It is sad that religious beliefs can cause such craziness in families. I am sorry you had to see your mom suffer so much, I know how that is. My mother carries a lot of guilt that she doesn’t know how to deal with and no matter what I or anyone else does, she just can’t face it and it is slowly killing her.
I’m glad there is a blog that I can come to and know that biology, evolution, and behavior are a part of the equation in our means of understanding. It is a good place for me to come and workout my writing issues without being attacked. It’s sad when fear rules more people than not. And, I’m real happy that you understand that patriarchy is a disorder and not a natural state.Trying to get more people to understand that, is like pulling teeth. How are we ever going to become more autonomous if we do not free ourselves from patriachy and all the other mumbo jumbos that are trying to keep us from knowing who and what we really are? So many claim they want it, but they arent willing to recognize the root of the problem. Things just don’t get solved if you dont acknowledge the root cause.
I would like to hear more about your views on meditation. I was thinking about doing a cat meditation class to help people tune in to their cats energies. Feel free to email me if you prefer.
According to Hagerty, Devin T., “Nuclear Deterrence in South Asia: the 1990 Indo-Pakistani Crisis,” International Security, (v20 n3), Winter 1995
India and Pakistan nearly did fight a nuclear war in 1990. It was considered to be a very serious crisis.
Maybe Mother was right.
I don’t doubt your reference. But India and Pakistan fighting a nuclear war would have threatened us in Montana how?? You think the U.S. and Russia would have gone to war over India and Pakistan???
I’m sorry, but that’s really reaching. There have been several other nuclear crises in the past 50 years including the Cuban missile crisis and another near-miss nuclear confrontation over the Middle East in 1973. How is any of that relevant to the prophecies that would have required shelters in 1989-1990?? Why weren’t the shelters built in 1973 at the Land of Lanello? Oh, I guess we didn’t have the money then.
Hey, I was there in 1990. She said Soviet missiles were coming, and they had DIRECTLY TARGETED the ranch. If you don’t believe she said that, talk to Richard Smith, William Smith, James Cherry, Edward Francis, my sister Erin Prophet, or anyone else who was in the inner circle.
She also told me everyone needed to be in the shelters by midnight, and had me out there with a bullhorn to make it happen. Then when we were all safely inside, she had everyone start giving judgment calls, calling for the bombs to fall. “Let the right arm of your son Jesus Christ descend in judgment of the Cain civilization,” she repeated over and over in the shelters that night.
The prophecies were dead wrong.
Quote from said article:
As a result, “the Bush Administration became convinced that the world was on the edge of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India.”
Hersh quotes Richard J. Kerr, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1990, as saying: “It was the most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since I’ve been in the U.S. government. It may be as close as we’ve come to a nuclear exchange. It was far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis.”
A nuclear war would become a global event. Montana could have been a target in a nuclear war that could have escalated.
This is quite the set of assumptions on your part. Why do you think anyone would want to escalate? I think Richard Kerr was simply speaking of his fear there might be an exchange, a situation which would have had unprecedented global ramifications even if it had been contained to India and Pakistan. This idea that escalation would be automatic, and then suddenly bombs are falling in Montana is patently ridiculous. And you still haven’t addressed my point that my mother never said a single word about India or Pakistan in her prophecies. Only about the Soviet Union. In early 1990, there had just been a coup in Russia and the Berlin wall was being taken down. It was about as far from war with the U.S. as you could get.
But if these ridiculous extrapolations are what it takes for you to maintain your faith in absence of any good evidence, be my guest.
See, otherwise your house of cards comes tumbling down. So you latch onto convenient facts that bolster your position. It’s called counting the hits and ignoring the misses. This is weak. WEAK.
But that’s what faith is, isn’t it? The maintenance of belief not only without evidence, but also in spite of contrary evidence.
Your web is very interesting. I live in Mexico Ciity and here T.S.L. have hundred of members. I was to the A.M. study goup since I was 17 years old (actually IÂ´m 24). All of this theme about music is interesting to me, specially after read you Pearl of Wisdom about rock in America. I like all kind of music, and many years IÂ´m to repress to listen rock music but now I donÂ´t care, now IÂ´m enjoy to listen rock music. In the past March 10th, HORSE the band played in Mexico City and of course that I went, the concert was great, and I talked a few moments with Baby Horse; “your grandma is cool” I said (with some beers drank jaja). ItÂ´s peculiar that the father of Dash is a popular musician to the “new age”. Do you know David Arkenstone? whatÂ´s your opinion about him?
and Sean, what is do you want for your sons?
Saludos; Dalai R3B3L
Well, you have come full-circle. Glad you enjoyed the Horse show. It sounds like you are not so fanatical. I would advise you to get out of the T.S.L. group as soon as you can, and take as many people as you can with you. Nothing good can come of this made-up religion–the ‘masters’ are imaginary.
I do know David Arkenstone, I just saw him the other day. He is a great musician.
I want my sons to live an authentic life expressing the fullness of their creativity, being honest with themselves and others.
Cheers to you, Dalai R3B3L ;-)
“La bÃºsqueda por conocimiento y razÃ³n empÃricos da propÃ³sito a la vida. Supernaturalism, el mysticism y la religiÃ³n la eliminan. El mejor que cualquier persona puede hacer es procurar eliminar toda la creencia y diagonales subjetivos.”
What happened with Chris (baby horse)?
Why he left HORSE the band?
WhatÂ´s he doing right now?
Greetings from a mexican HORSE the band fan,
a reader of black sun journal
and ex-TSL member.
Sometimes individuals are drawn to groups of people for emotional reasons. They will think themselves into, or lead – a belief system because they are lonely – or hurt or lazily curious, or escapist. Benefits of this group agreement, true or false, included buddies of all ages, rituals that make noise and drown out demands to heal a painful feeling world, instant hope without real effort. It can work for a while.