Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In Order To Help Many People, We Must Be Many People

Of all the problems that each person must solve, the complexity of our own temperament is probably the most challenging. Most of us have very little trouble giving other people good advice – we see exactly what is wrong with them – and we tend to develop the attitude that perhaps we have been more fortunate; that through experience or opportunity we are just a little wiser than the others.

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And then a little problem comes home to us, and confusion immediately results. The confusion, of course, arises from the important principle operating in nature that impersonal judgment is always best. It is very true and we cannot deny it, that we can advise others in many areas where we cannot solve our own, simply because personal involvement results in loss of perspective.

We spend many years becoming proficient in some art or science but we must also remember to give some time and thought to disciplining and directing our own consciousness.

Any time we have a feeling that the moods that arise within ourselves are inevitable we develop what might be termed as “blind spots in our understanding”. Several factors can lead to this type of “blindness”. One is prejudice.

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In any area where we have prejudice, we lose sight of facts. Prejudice is a kind of intensity that drives us past what is reasonable. If we study this problem we would come to one general conclusion, which is that each person has areas of his own understanding that has not been developed.

These areas represent fields of activity with which we are not familiar, patterns of life that we have not experienced, levels of understanding that we personally have not known. We must then depend upon advice, or opinions of those more learned than ourselves, “experts” in various fields.

Sometimes those experts are really helpful, particularly on practical levels but no experts can contribute to us their experience; they can merely apply it to our problems, and sometimes this adds further confusion, inasmuch as they are applying a perspective that belongs peculiarly to themselves. They have not experienced our problems, any more than we have experienced theirs. Practice and familiarity and constant work may give them certain advantages, but these advantages also have their limitations.

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So it is important for each of us to experience as wide an area of life as is feasible or practical for us. Our blind spots are nearly always in areas where for one reason or another we may have refused to live, or refused to think through or accept certain ideas that have appeared distasteful or unimportant.

Today it is assumed that we know many things that we actually do not know. It is assumed that in our search for spiritual consolation, we are adequately informed on the principles of religion. This is usually not true. We do not have as much ground work as we might wish. We must develop a greater breadth of thinking in order to meet the challenges of other minds.

The unknown is not or should not be the cause of anxiety. What we do not know should not cause us to be unkind, critical or suspicious. We should assume the unknown is merely an extension of the known. We should realize that the meadows that we have never seen are not different from meadows that we have seen, and that just as surely as the familiar landscape is beautiful so the landscape that we do not know is also beautiful.

Some areas have mountains, and other shave seas; but each has its own beauty. And the same is true of humanity. The people we do not know are not mysterious; they are just like the people we know. Sometimes that is a disturbing thought, but we should accustom ourselves to it. The basic emotions of all people are essentially the same.

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That which we do not understand should not cause us to suddenly pause and tighten. We should approach these things with a desire to understand and an expectation that what we find will be natural, reasonable, and proper. It may not be exactly what we want, but then, what we do understand is not always what we want either.

We must not be afraid of growth or change. We must not fear broader vistas. Of course, we have a right to choose what is most suitable to ourselves, but we should also recognize the right of others to choose. We may admit that tastes differ, but it is very hard for us to really accept this. We have lived so long in the concept that there is only our own good taste and everyone else’s bad taste. Yet, to others, we may be among those with bad taste.

We can gradually correct our tendency to make these generalities. They do not hurt the people or the groups against which we direct them as much as they hurt us. The great danger of a generality that covers a vast area without any deep consideration, and arrives at negative conclusion is that it is continually taking us away from learning. It makes us reject the challenge of that group or situation.

We should remember that we learn most by relaxing; we teach best by listening, we help others in many cases just by gradually coming to understand the total pattern of their kind of life. It creates bridges of understanding.

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Every day we live, we should not only strengthen our strong points of character, but also redeem our weak points. By simply working, day by day to understand and to share, and refusing to permit prejudice or criticism to limit our search for knowledge.

When we decide that there are things we do not like simply because we know nothing about them, or perhaps because we have mistaken one or two solitary instances for a complete picture, it comes time to review the whole situation.

We know for example that today we are having trouble internationally partly because small groups of visiting tourists from a certain country have behaved miserably. They have gone out as ambassadors and representatives and have betrayed their country as far as maintaining any dignity or prestige as far as the homeland is concerned.

As a result, we will find in some small town in Portugal or somewhere the typical Portuguese who does not like Americans. He may also be in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, England, Scandinavia or any part of Asia or Latin America, because they all feel the same way. To them, we are an extravagant impolite, disagreeable, fault-finding, critical, snobbish group, and they know it. After all, they have met six of us.

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The same thing happens here. We do not like a certain religion. We just know it is bad, because we knew two people who belonged to it, and neither one of them was pleasant; therefore, we have all the facts.

Facts about what?

Not about the religion – about two people. But we never seem to be able to keep the points clear. So wherever we have prejudice, we must look a little deeper.

If our prejudice is directed against a religion, for example, we must try to understand why this religion, with perhaps 400 million followers, can survive with our disapproval. Somebody must like it. Some people must find good in it, or they would not believe it. People are not that foolish. Therefore, it is up to us to go a little deeper.

We do not have to join the religion, but we cannot allow it to be a blank area or prejudice in our own consciousness because if we do, it may sometimes cause us to cause a terrible injury upon a perfectly honorable member of that faith. We will not have natural honesty when we come in contact with that person, and this lack of honesty arising from ignorance, will also hurt us because that person might have become a valuable window into a larger world.

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It is the same with every field of learning-art, sciences, industry, politics – all these things have to be understood. This does not mean that we take the Pollyanna attitude that everything is right but we should take the attitude that everything is interesting. In everything there are probably values that we should understand, for we are not even entitled to criticize unless we understand. And usually understanding ends criticism. We have a right to choose what is good for us, but we have very little right to condemn.

We must learn to have a certain amount of detachment. One way to do this is to simply look in the mirror. We shall then observe in all probability that we are not marked by Heaven with any particular symbol by which we are superior to other creatures.

Even under ordinary conditions, even if we are slightly sensitive, our haloes do not show in the mirror, and they do not show to other people. As we observe, as we look at ourselves, we have a somewhat reminiscent similarity to a creature called a human being; that we are just like people. We are people with all others, striving to learn. We were born as they were born, we grew as they grew; we suffered as they suffered; we achieved as they achieved; and in due course we will depart as they departed.

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Therefore, there is nothing about us that demands that we regard ourselves as a peculiar and sacred creation apart from everyone else. We have a perfect right to learn, and to grow and to share, but there are very few persons in this world who have the right to dominate.

It is not necessary that other people agree with us. It is not necessary that others cater to us, or that they should keep their tempers when we lose ours. The thing that is essentially necessary and right is that we shall grow up in the world together, enjoying our own individuality and enjoying the individuality of others – not trying to create conformity, but trying to help people be themselves.

This is real helping, and it means a larger foundation in our own thinking. In order to help many people we must be many people. We must have in ourselves an availability of general knowledge, understanding and appreciation.

We must grow beyond the tendency to criticize or condemn. We may not agree but we can understand; we can sympathize. We can realize the circumstances and conditions that cause other people to be what they are, because we are gradually learning to appreciate the conditions that made us what we are.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

To Live By Medicine Is To Live Horribly

We are all, to a measure, the victims of the environments in which we live. When this environment becomes too oppressive, denying us self-expression, or discouraging it to the degree we no longer have energy or resistance to demand personal rights, we are bound to become unhappy. We then seek a way of relieving the negative pressure in our lives.

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In modern society, certain drugs and assorted pills have come into the category of escape mechanisms.

Before we begin we must differentiate, of course, between the right and wrong use of medication. There are undoubtedly individuals who need medical help, and who, seemingly at least, benefit from a certain use of medications. If a person develops certain symptoms and finds extraordinary difficulty in getting along without sedation; or without some type of artificial stimulation, then this person is probably sick. Such illness needs proper diagnosis, analysis, and care.

However, it does not pay merely to drug ourselves in the hope that we can pass over certain symptoms. We are learning to depend too much upon this kind of thing. Of course, it is very profitable to the pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers to make us all addicts to these remedies, but it is not profitable to us and it is not a good or valid use of medication.

Our forefathers and those of preceding generations made use of natural and simple remedies on many occasions and those were useful. But there is no usefulness in the practice that is becoming prevalent today of carrying a pill bottle at all times and munching on them like candy.

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This type of thing is no answer to anything.

We now think in terms of how many packages of aspirin the average citizen consumes in the course of a year. It would seem as though we are depending upon it as a basic element in our diet, and this is not good. Yet it is hard to tell people that they should be uncomfortable or should not take care of these symptoms that come along because the individual must be able to continue with the daily processes of life.

Pain, discomfort, the sense within ourselves of things not being well-these symptoms are of the greatest use to us. Naturally we try to eliminate pain, but we should not forget that pain is not there merely to be alleviated. It is there to tell us something. It is a voice crying in the wilderness of our mis-behavior and it is trying to convince us that something we are doing is wrong. If we keep on ignoring this symptom, we will suffer more and more until nature will make it impossible for us to endure the difficulty without very strong sedation. If we sedate ourselves too much, we may damage the pain mechanism.

Twenty-five years ago, it was common practice for physicians to tell patients that they should get down on their knees and thank God for pain, because pain is nature’s way of preventing us from gradually killing ourselves without even realizing it. Suppose we should be indiscreet enough to sit down on a hot stove and had no pain reflex. We would probably be burned to death. Of course we can say that no one would be so foolish, but everyone is doing more foolish things than that everyday.

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Though it is possible to perfectly block each symptom, this dash to the medicine closet is no answer to anything. In an emergency, it might be necessary; but as a solution to a problem, it is worthless and always has been. There are a limited number of instances, of course, where minor ailments, aches and pains can be temporarily alleviated, so that we immunize ourselves for six to 12 hours, and where the pain will then not return.

But this is due to the fact that nature has been working behind the scenes to correct the situation itself. It is not proof that aspirin has cured anything; it has simply, perhaps given nature a little help in attempting to ease a difficult situation. This is very different, however, from the problem of our neurotic pressures, which do not respond permanently and will return immediately after the sedation passes. To continually relieve these pressures, therefore the individual must become a chronic or habitual user of various types of sedation.

What does a tranquilizer do? It simply lowers nerve function. It creates a temporary toxic state in which the individual becomes unconscious. The individual whose nerve reactions are not quite so acute feels happier. They become increasingly comfortable as he lowers the threshold of consciousness. If they could be totally unconscious, they probably could be happy all the time.

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It is only when we are awake that we worry. It is only when we are conscious that we are sorry for anything. So if we can keep the individual further and further under the influence of negative drugs, they will gradually emerge as a kind of happy idiot, where they will experience nothing unfortunate because their centers of responsible cognition have been numbed. This apparently is the end greatly desired at the moment. We want to enjoy being foolish and that seems to suggest these tranquilizers.

Everything in life has become the basis of an anxiety mechanism and a dash for the bottle. We face every emergency with a bottle in each hand. Today the pill-taker is the “normal” person; but he is still sick. He is not normal, and he never will be. All these things are just plain foolishness.

We are losing the power to think things through; we are losing the desire to make any real personal effort to solve things. We do not wish to solve them; we wish to be immunized by some fancy method. This can ultimately become as dangerous as a national or international emergency as any we face today on a political level.

Actually, the strength of a nation has to be the integrity and integration of its people, and where this falls to pieces, there is no political power that can hold a nation together.

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We must realize there is no use in merely blocking symptoms, in as much as symptoms tell us facts. Usually, in modern people, these symptoms are more difficult than they were in our ancestors because we have less resourcefulness. We are not as resourceful a people as we were even 10 years ago.

Resourcefulness means that we have something in ourselves that is capable of taking over and contributing to the solution of our problem. It arises from experience, from the actual fact of discovering that we can stand on our own feet. This discovery is becoming increasingly rare; it is almost considered unnecessary. All we have to do is pick up that convenient telephone and almost anything we want is available. Our ancestors could not do that, so when problems arose, they had to either work them out or suffer the consequences.

It is nice to hope that our way represents a new standard of living that will go on forever, but actually it will not. This so-called luxury living, resulting in increasing mental and emotional laziness is not producing happiness or security or well-being that were envisioned in the beginning of our great era of modernization.

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Behind this situation lies a series of false values, which we must eventually face if we do not want to become hopelessly drugged and medicated generation of people.

About fourty years ago, psycho analysis and psychiatry began to loom large on the scientific horizon. These discoveries seemed to fit in with a new need that was arising, and it is quite possible that most psychotherapy is keyed to complexities that have come as a result of our present way of life.

A hundred years ago there were no psychologists as we know them today. People are always referring to the miseries and sorrows of ancient times. We know that in those days, people did not enjoy most of the facilities that we have; life was harder; working hours were longer; rewards were fewer. Yet with all these limitations, and these other pressures people were not as consistently unhappy as we are. Having less, they expected less, and this made a certain kind of balance.

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Nervous tension is not the same as physical effort. We can get more miserable today over the front page of the newspaper than our ancestors did after a fourteen-hour working day. We are more concerned with situations that have less validity and our sufferings are due to a fantasy that has gradually become so real that we are unable to cast it off or evaluate it correctly.

All these together create a set of ills that require pills to sedate the pain.

Our civilization is producing these as inevitable by-products. These disturbances in the body do not simple represent clouds that pass. They are becoming so chronic that is astonishing to consider the amount of research and scientific chemicalization being directed toward these problems today.

Whereas five years ago we had one or two tranquilizers that were of some value, today we have dozens; tomorrow we will have hundreds; before long they will become as common as aspirin. (I think we are already there)

These medications by the way, do have gradually cumulative results. The pill that takes the edge off worry also takes the edge off the will to achieve. The tranquilizer gradually dedicates the individual to mediocrity. It digs in continually under the incentive mechanisms, and the loss of pain also means the loss of self- directive.

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This does not indicate progress. It is merely scientific ingenuity trying to struggle against private stupidity. The painkillers are not progress, but patches upon something that threatens to fall apart. They do no represent any positive advancement in knowledge, but are merely escape mechanisms for people demanding these to a far greater degree than ever before in scientific history.

Most of the ailments for which our assorted drugs are available come under the general heading of “nervous disturbances.” We are becoming a generation of nervous wrecks, and each person has his own explanation for his particular case.

What we call our problems are really evidence of hysteria within ourselves.

Education is contributing to the common dilemma. Our religious systems, also, have not yet been strong enough to lift us out of the problem, to give us again the courage of personal conviction in the things that we do. Yet within each one of us there is an archetypal individuality, something that wishes to be true to itself.

Nature has its own plans and its own ways, and these are now being continuously blocked by the artificial way of life we have gradually accumulated, which has been a burden upon the spirit since the beginning, and now threatens to be a menace to the survival of the body itself.

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It is useless for us to use chemicals in trying to meet this kind of problem. It is useless to believe that by some kind of process of medication we can kill out in man that which is man-the individual expression of life. The person who tries to fit into a norm may then consult a psychologist to see if something can be done to adjust him to our time. And the adjustment is possible, but, in many instances only through a different kind of sedational medication.

Why then, do we try to escape by means of these artificial methods? We feel nervous, things have gone wrong, we gradually develop a sour stomach, a headache and these symptoms are not to be neglected. Twenty-five years ago, it was common practice for physicians to tell patients that they should get down on their knees and thank God for pain, because pain is nature’s way of preventing us from gradually killing ourselves without even realizing it.

Suppose we should be indiscreet enough to sit down on a hot stove and had no pain reflex. We would probably be burned to death. Of course we can say that no one would be so foolish, but everyone is doing more foolish things than that everyday.

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We must learn to use our own nervous system as a thermometer. When it begins to go high, we are in trouble, and there is no solution to that trouble but to find out what caused it. If it is due to an organic or systematic problem, it may be that we are finally reaping a long harvest. Perhaps many years ago we developed attitudes that we have never been willing to change, and which are basically wrong.

No individual can hate and be in good health, no matter how just his dislikes may seem to be. No one can be jealous and not finally come to the pill-taking stage. We may think that the pills will neutralize jealousy; that we will be able to continue to be jealous and not feel discomfort; but he is creating a cause and effect pattern here. He is not improving his attitude, and he is endangering his body.

The purpose of education, of religion, and of philosophy is to make the individual tranquil by understanding without the aid of dope. If he does not wish to grow if he does not wish to use these instruments to improve himself then he will take pills and hurt himself. Nature seemingly continues to fight with man on the ground that nature’s end is that the individual shall be sufficient and that this sufficiency shall not require a pill bottle.

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Our only escape and true solution to most of these situations is to face the facts. Facts are not always what we want, but if we permit ourselves to war with them, we are fighting the most losing battle of all time. We know, as philosophy teaches us, that we live in a world of facts. Some of these facts are good, as far as we can understand them, some we do not understand; and some appear to be very dangerous. But we do live in a world of facts.

Actually when you look over some of these problems that people consider monumental, many of them are utterly ridiculous; and yet, to the person involved, they have become tremendously vital. The only answer lies in facts.

Know what you want, and have the courage to do it. When situations are wrong, correct hem as quickly as possible; and if you cannot correct the situation, if there is no way to correct it, and you see that it is making you sick, simply move out of it. Do not try to find escape by dulling your senses.

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If we find that we cannot enjoy the average normal functions of the body without continual minor medications, then either there is something wrong with our health, or there is something wrong with our psyche and either of these conditions must be cured or at least corrected as much as possible.

In most cases it is hardly necessary to go to a doctor because the situations represent only psychic stress. If after you have made a series of good personal adjustments, the condition remains, then it may be well to consult your doctor. The beginning, however, is always to do the thing you realize right now you should be doing. Most people know what is wrong with them they just will not face it.

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And in order to forget, they use every conceivable means. What we need to do is remember, and while we still have the courage to do it. This will be hard on the pill manufacturers, but it will certainly be a great saving to the individual and a great enrichment to the future.

Unless we solve some of these problems we are going to have a very poor heritage to pass on. We have no way of knowing yet what all this doping and drugging is actually going to mean in terms of heredity.

Cure the cause and the effect will die of itself. You will have better health, freedom from stress and vitality and courage you have never before experienced.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Are People For A World That Does Not Need Their Labor?

One of the tragedies of humanity is artificiality. Having attempted to take over the leadership of our own kind, we have placed human beings under the guidance or dominance of man rather than the intuitional power that is locked within consciousness. Little by little we have simply exiled Diety from its place of existence.

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We use the word God, we attend places of worship but still in most of our conduct we are man-governed rather than nature governed. We are rules by laws we created. We follow habits and policies, which we have fashioned, and we lose the tremendous advantage that comes from living close to the facts of existence.

There is no such thing as an atheist in space; there is only a locked mind trying to be an atheist in the midst of a divinely administered plan. There is no such thing as injustice in the universe; there is only us, creating concepts which result in injustice, and then plaguing ourselves with the consequences of our own invention. To be unhappy has become a habit with us. To be miserable has become our inevitable destiny.

We try to estimate the incredible wisdom that maintains the order of the stars. We can hardly dare to think about the infinite chemistry of space. Yet with all the skill and knowledge that we have today, we still discover every day that the universe is greater than we ever suspected. We go through it and on into it, step by step, with a strange faith that it is lawful.

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If it were not for the fact that we believe in the law of space, we could not send our astronauts out. We calculate their journeys according to laws that we believe are true, and we did not make those laws. Yet we depend on them, because if they were false our astronauts would never come home. We have to believe in a universe in which infinite integrity is everywhere forever manifested. Our whole scientific world and our most exact patterns of thought are based upon this.

Happiness does not arise from copying other people because the things that make them happy might make us miserable. There has to be a universal happiness- something infinitely beyond the individual patterned pleasures which we recognize; and this happiness is the freedom of life in itself.

Perhaps, having gradually lost our positive experience of things being right, we do not know how to revive it, how to make it alive in us; and instinctively, having set up the habit of unhappiness and we carry it along with us through the years.

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We can recognize that most of the way through life we are in the presence of difficult situations, and this is especially true of young people growing up in the present generation. Children growing up fifty or sixty years ago had a little better sense of happiness than the young people of today. Of course, you cannot generalize completely, for there were miseries at every period of history; but young people in the last generation or two before the great cycle of wars and depressions that have upset us, grew up, in a certain security which we do not know anymore.

Their ambitions had less pressure; they had more leisure time; they played more in those years when play was proper for them. They were not attempting to assume great responsibilities while they were still in their teens, and the educational theory was not filled with pressure as it is today.

Young people today do not have very much legitimate expression of simple, honest fun. Nearly every bit of fun we have now is costly, and perhaps detrimental to others. It has become more and more destructive. We have lost the simple pleasures.

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So what is it that can produce for us this continuing state of contentment and inner joy? The obvious answer is that the person to have this must live in a world of light, beauty, of appreciation and affection. We must realize that the great value of our affection is not that we are loved, but that we love, that happiness is not the result of what others due for us but the result of the dynamic expression of our own divinity. It is the expression of our own spiritual strength to be right, and this alone can bring us to the solid sense that we are cooperating with the universe, and that we are true to God, and that we are working constructively with our fellow men and women.

Once we have even a slight experience that there is a better life, a better consciousness that right here and now we are divided only by the wall of our own attitudes from a situation infinitely better than anything we have ever known. Once we really know this, we are inevitably moved to cultivate it. It becomes our duty, and it is also our privilege.

The thing is though, that each person must come to the decision on their own. Are you going to follow the rules which lead to happiness, and be happy; or are you going to follow those rules which lead to misery; and be miserable? We cannot come to any end without a decision relating to the end with which we seek.

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The tendency today, however, is to drift with the main body of human society, to assume that this large collective drifting is the only thing that can be done. Whatever be the styles of the time, those must be our styles; whatever be the policies they must be our policies; because if we try to stand as individuals in this collective situation, we seem to be penalized. Yet the universe did not labor for millions of years to create a human being with nothing but a herd instinct.

A hundred years ago, we had much more individuality than we have today, but the gradual integration and organization of our economic theory has worked a hardship on individuality. The direction in which our educational theory has gone has also worked a hardship on individuality, and we are constantly struggling now to produce conformity. This conformity we accept as so natural and inevitable that we do not even try to resist it. This might not be so bad if the conformity were getting us anywhere, but it is not.

If out of this conformity we came to anything resembling peace or happiness we might excuse it. We might say, “Well by following these rules, we can be well-adjusted people, therefore why not follow them” others have followed them and are happy, so we might as well. But what we really say today if we think for a moment is “others follow these rules and are miserable; therefore, we will follow them too and hope that we will be happy”. We cannot hope to win this way; the odds are too heavy. There is no winning, only various degrees of losing. If we are a slow loser we consider ourselves fortunate, if we are a fast loser than we consider ourselves less fortunate.

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But we are all going to lose unless we depart from a policy which has loss built into it as an inevitable. Somewhere along the line, individuals must regain certain individual rights, and these rights do not necessarily have to produce physical complications.

Actually, the rights that are important do not interfere with those of other people. We can cultivate them without doing damage to our neighbor or our friend. And if we do not do something that is better than what we are doing, we will do damage to our neighbors, our friends, and our world. We will create situation that we ourselves cannot endure.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

How Do You Know If You Are Falling For A False Sense Of Self?

An idealized self sounds like a model of self-acceptance. But, if we take a moment let’s listen to what it tells you:

“You’re doing the right thing. You’re in control. No one can hurt you. Just keep being the way you are now. “ Thus shielded, you can hardly do wrong, and if you do your misdeeds are quickly covered up and forgotten. The beauty of having an idealized image of yourself is that you actually do feel good about who you are.

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However, the image sometimes substitutes for a painful reality.

As you would expect by now, the shadow self has something to say in this matter.

At regular intervals one icon of righteousness, usually a preacher or a public moralist, falls into scandal. Invariably these individuals have committed the very sins they accuse others of, improper sexual misbehavior being the most typical. Cynically we imagine that these Elmer Gantries are rank hypocrites that they live out the sham of public virtue so they can pursue a vice in private.

In reality fallen icons are extreme examples of an idealized self-image. Their powers of denial were superhuman. The shadow couldn’t touch them.

Then, when the shadow did surface, an enormous sense of guilt and shame surfaced with it. Once they fall, these professional saints indulge in extremes of public atonement. But, even in contrition, nothing feels real.

If you pull back from the spectacle however, the whole drama could have been avoided. An idealized self-image isn’t a viable solution.

Only true self-acceptance is, and when that happens there is nothing for others to reject. This doesn’t mean you will be universally loved. Some one else might still walk away, but if that happens, you won’t feel rejected. It won’t result in an emotional wound.

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So, how do you know if you are falling for a false sense of self, which is what an idealized self-image is?

Dismantling your ideal self-image of yourself is a challenge, because this is a much subtler defense than simple denial.

Denial is blindness; the idealized self-image is pure seduction. The way out is to go past all images. There is no need to defend who you really are. Your true self is acceptable not because you are so good, but because you are complete. All things human belong to you.

The most important ally you have is awareness. Judgment is constrictive. When you label yourself or anyone else as bad, wrong, inferior, unworthy, and so on you are looking through a narrow lens.

Expand your vision and you will be aware that everyone, however flawed is complete and whole at the deepest level.

The more aware you are, the more you will accept yourself.

This isn’t an instant solution. You must spend time looking at all the feelings you’ve so diligently denied, suppressed and disguised. Fortunately those feelings are temporary; you can go beyond them.

There’s nothing to reject, just a lot to work through.

This is how a figure like Jesus or Buddha could have compassion for anyone.

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By seeing wholeness behind the play of light and dark they found nothing to blame. The same holds true along the spiritual path you follow.

As you see yourself more completely, you will have compassion for your faults, and that will lead to complete self- acceptance.

The One Versus the Many.

The solution: Surrender to being.

Finally we arrived at the war in your soul.

At this level, the conflict is very subtle, which sounds odd because we tend to think that the cosmic battle between God and Satan must be titanic.

In fact, it’s very delicate. As you get closer to your true self, you begin to sense that you are part of everything. Boundaries soften and disappear. There’s a blissful feeling of merging. As beautiful as this experience is, one last resistance crops up.

The ego says, “what about me? I don’t want to die, like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, whose last words were “I’m melting, I’m melting!”. The ego has been incredibly useful. It has guided you through a world of infinite diversity. Now you are about to experience unity. No wonder the ego feels fatally threatened; it sees its usefulness (and its domination coming to an end).

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The ego mistakes surrender for death. To be whole involves surrender. You give up one way of seeing yourself, and in its place a new way dawns. “Surrender” isn’t a welcome word to the ego, because it connotes failure, loss of control, passivity, the end of power.

When you lose an argument, aren’t you surrendering to the winner? Of course!

Any situation couched in terms of winning and losing makes surrender seem weak, shameful depressing, and unworthy. These are all feelings at the ego level, however. Seen without ego, surrender becomes natural and desirable. A mother who gives her children what they need isn’t losing, even though one could say she’s surrendering her needs in favor of her children’s. That would be a false perspective.

When you give yourself out of love, you lose nothing. In fact, loving surrender is like a gain. Your sense of self expands beyond ego-driven needs and desires—these can never lead to love.

Surrender is not of the mind. You cannot think your way there. Instead, you must journey into pure consciousness, before words and thoughts arise. That’s the whole purpose of meditation, to carry a person beyond the thinking mind, which means beyond conflict.

Eventually one longs to experience the true self completely.

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The shadow is a thing of denial, resistance, hidden fears, and repressed hopes.

The spiritual path delivers everything; it can resolve all conflicts. But we expect too much of it when we ask for a panacea. Spiritual unfoldment is delicate. It can’t be reached when your mind is agitated or your attention overwhelmed by stress and other outside pressures. In other words, wholeness is a cure-all, but not an instant cure-all. You need to prepare the right conditions for going inward.

You only have to gaze around you at the world to see the proof of that beauty, form, order, and growth have survived for billions of years. In dealing with your shadow, you are aligning yourself with the same infinite power.

The instant that life is split into good and evil, the self follows suit. A divided self cannot make itself whole.

Read more in The Shadow Effect

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mixing Culture With Islam Is Like Mixing Poison With Water

It is important to understand Islam from a cultural point of view because the basis of much of the current turmoil within Muslim countries and conflict with their neighbors can be attributed to cultural clashes. Consequently, a clear understanding of culture and its derivatives is necessary to comprehend the relevance of Islam to the civilization of Muslim peoples in the twentieth century and beyond.

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The word “culture” comes from the Latin cultura, which is a derivative of the verb colere meaning “tending” or “cultivation.” It was first recorded in the Oxford Dictionary of English in 1510 as meaning: “training of the mind” or “manners.”1 However, culture in anthropological usage, may be defined as “the way of life of specific group.”

“Basically, the idea of culture arises from the observation that what human beings do and what they refrain from doing is, in part, a consequence of being brought up in one group as opposed to another. People have a social heredity as well as a biological heredity.”

Biological heredity represents practices common to all human societies, like, sleep, marriage, care for children and smiling, while social heredity refers to customs which usually vary from one society to the next. A simple definition of culture would then be ‘the man-made part of the human environment.’ “Members of the human species are trained in the family and in their education, formal and informal, to behave in ways that are conventional and fixed by tradition.”

While virtually all students of man agree upon the indispensable importance of the concept of culture, no single definition has yet won universal acceptance.

The culture of most of the world today is that of Western Europe and America. It was exported to the remainder of the world during the period of European colonization and continued during the neo-colonial era by way of indirect rule. In the twentieth century Western culture has been promoted on a massive scale through the far-reaching effects of the media. Today, it is not surprising to find in the pages of National Geographic pictures of South American Indian youths in loin cloth in the middle of the Amazon wearing baseball caps with a Nike logo or Mongolian horsemen in the middle of the Gobi Desert wearing striped Adidas sweat pants and Rebook trainers.

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Western culture now represents the dominant cultural influence in most countries, both non-Muslim and Muslim. And it is the natural conflict that arises from the clash of cultures, which dominate the social and political policies in both the West and the East. Harvard University Professor, Samuel P. Huntington summed up the essential issues of the cultural clash in his following observation.

“The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. department of defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to impose that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.”

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In this statement Professor Huntington dismisses the usual claims regarding Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as the major threat to the New World Order. Western media constantly reduces the world’s problems to this common denominator. The New York Times carried an article stating, “Muslim fundamentalism is fast becoming the chief threat to global peace and security as well as the cause of national and local disturbance through terrorism. It is akin to the menace posed by Nazism and fascism in the 1930’s and then by communism in the 50’s.”

However, Professor Huntington brushes such claims aside and identifies Islam itself as the main problem for the West because its civilization is fundamentally different from Western civilization. He also identified two distinct qualities of Muslims, which, in his opinion, contribute to the problem. The first is that Muslims consider their culture superior to all other cultures. Most Muslims will openly claim that Islam is better than all other religions and philosophies. This attitude is a natural consequence of their belief that the religion of Islam was revealed from God. It is only logical to assume that the culture created by practicing God’s religion must, of necessity, be superior to any culture resulting from human experiment.

The other quality is that Muslims desire that the laws that govern them be Islamic. Much of the turmoil in the Muslim world today, in Algeria, Egypt, Chechnya, Dagestan, etc., is a direct result of this desire. During the era of European colonization of the Muslim world, the colonial administration substituted European laws for Islamic law. During the neo-colonial era, Muslims who were trained by their colonial masters were given the reins of government of Muslim territories and continued to govern according to European law. Today the vast majority of Muslim governments rule according to British, French, German and Dutch laws, and Muslim law is only partially applied in the area of family law.

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Consequently, as the wave of Islamic awareness sweeps over the Muslim world, the aspiration of Muslims for self-determination has exploded in a series of violent confrontations with existing administrations. In places like Indonesia, where since the era of Sukarno (1945 – 1965) and his successor Suharto (1968 – 1998), Pancasilia, has been the state philosophy/religion taught in all schools to the population of some 200 million Indonesians, 95% of whom are Muslims. And, to suggest that Islamic law be introduced was considered an act of treason.

In 1998 Suharto was finally overthrown by popular dissent. All of those who clamored for power, including Suharto’s henchman and substitute, B.J. Habibe, immediately began paying some allegiance to Islam. And in recent elections, Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was decisively defeated by Nahdlatul Ulama’s Abdurrahman Wahid, who is half-blind and can hardly walk.

On the other hand, Professor Huntington negates the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the chief enemy of Muslims. Although the CIA has a reputation for toppling governments and assassinating political figures, the professor assures Muslims that it is not their chief enemy. He further rules out the American military complex in spite of its presence in Saudi Arabia, its decimation of the Iraqi army, its launching cruise missiles into the Sudan and Afghanistan, and its open support for Israel.

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The real source of the problem facing the Muslim World, according to Professor Huntington, is Western civilization itself. He further explains that the root of the problem lies in the fact that the West considers its culture superior to all other cultures. It considers its civilization and its leading principles what all human beings should aspire for and live by.

Why?

Because, according to Darwinian theory, the evolutionary process refines and improves human beings and their society. From our supposed savage ape-like origins to twentieth century civility, human society has progressed relentlessly. During the last few centuries, the evolutionary principle of “survival of the fittest” appears to have placed Western nations and their culture at the top of the pyramid of human civilization.

Thus, claims the West, the foundational principles of their civilization must be the most suitable for human society. Professor Huntington takes the issue another step further, pointing out that the West not only considers its culture the most appropriate for all nations, but it considers itself duty bound to impose their culture by any means necessary, politically or militarily, on the rest of the world. Professor Huntington has correctly identified these as the essential elements of the cultural clash facing the world as it enters the 21st century.

Dr. Bilal Phillips

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Happiness Is Not In Things; Happiness Is In You.

One of our greatest problems still remains the inability of the religious world to cut through its own orthodoxies to the arrival at some point of common vision or insight.

The goal of religion is to establish an inner strength against all exterior circumstances. The nature of God is truth, beauty, love and joy. These are divine qualities, and the universe in which we live was founded upon these great spiritual principles. Yet we accepting these as true, still do not experience in our own life the wonderful inward composure of spirit that comes from the simple acceptance that God is good.

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Perhaps one of the reasons we have trouble with this situation is that we mistake the works of men for the works of God. We live surrounded by a peculiar confusion of our own kind-a confusion that is rooted largely in the inability of devout persons to find beauty in their own devotion. Most religions emphasize a certain stern sense of duty so therefore, religion has come to be a more or less militant dedication.

The individual feels that he must come under a very strict administration by the universe; that his spiritual salvation depends upon the unquestionable obedience to something that is superior to himself, which he cannot and does not rightly define. So instead of religion bringing a great release of spiritual values, it has a tendency to bring submergence, a state of the individual being tied to some credo, and this cannot be entirely the beautiful thing, which we sense it to be.

Practically all-religious people believe that God is love, but they do not believe it sufficiently to find God’s love in the things that are. They believe in some way that an evil power has corrupted God’s love, and that there must be some great process of redemption by means of which it can be restored again. There is a process of redemption but it is nothing but an awakening. It is a waking up again into the life that is eternal.

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This whole thing is a strange world of delusions in which individuals try to delude each other with only reasonable success, and manage to delude themselves with greater success. And in this delusion, everything that is really fine and happy and good and joyful is sacrificed. It is like a strange intoxication of the alcoholic, in which his toxicity causes him to finally to fall into the terrors of delirium tremens.

To most people of antiquity, God had the implication of great Joy, and this is something we seem to have lost. In the sense of responsibility and duty, we have in some way lost the happiness, and have been unable to make our faith an immediately beautiful, joyful experience of conduct. We affirm these things we believe that Deity wants us to be happy, but we do not seem to find a way of being happy. The moment it looks as though we might be happy, we become conscience-stricken, for nearly all of our so-called daily happiness is so selfish and self-centered that we can scarcely justify our own attitudes.

God wanted to be made manifest in man. God wanted to know himself in man. God wanted to release all the good, beauty, the truth, the love, and the joy through man. These different releases were not evil things if we understand them correctly and build our lives in which good brought joy, truth brought happiness and wisdom brought peace of soul.

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Recognizing that the dictionary is the expression of our usage of words, we can check the word happiness to see what the dictionary has to say about it. The first definition given is “good fortune and prosperity.” Now this is exactly what we would expect, for it is typical of our idea of what constitutes happiness. Happiness is having more than the neighbor, a certain smug sense of satisfaction at some phase of real or assumed superiority. Happiness today comes to the individual who wins in some kind of a competition with others. It also has to do something with luck, according to this definition “good fortune” some sudden unexpected pleasure that comes to us, perhaps out of space which we are all looking for but which the majority of us never find.

This happiness therefore simply means a certain creature reaction it is the individual who says, “I am perfectly willing to smile and be happy if everything goes my way. If I have what I want, do as I please, and influence other people as much as I want to, I will be happy.” One thing that happiness must require today is a vast amount of forgetfulness. If we could forget our own past, forget everything that other people have done to us, and forget all the mistakes that we have made, the result would probably be a colossal peace of mind; but we cannot forget these things.

The idea that happiness is simple the result of status – the larger swimming pool, the better car, the larger home- these things can no longer be regarded as valid. Yet this is where the dictionary takes its first stand, because it means just that to most people, and words have no meanings except the usage that we give them. When an individual tells us they are happy, it almost certainly means that they have been favored in some way by circumstances outside themselves, that something desirable or pleasurable has happened to them from the outside.

The dictionary does however; give us a second meaning for happiness, and that is, “a state of well-being.” Now, if the truth were known, that should have been the first definition, because a state of well-being must precede any effort to be happy. It really does not make much difference whether fortune smiles or not; unless the individual has some experience of well-being within himself, even the greatest gifts that nature can bestow, or the greatest success that can be attained, will not bring any real or lasting happiness. So happiness is a condition that must be cultivated through the establishment of a state of well-being.

We can talk about how to be happy until the end of time, and still be miserable. We can develop all kinds of reasons why we should be grateful, and still remain ungrateful. There has to be something more than in intellectualizing, or even a theologizing, of the idea. In theology, we are constantly reminded of the blessing that we receive from heaven, but very few people are very excited over these blessings because they are really still fighting desperately against the small personal miseries that beset them.

In order to discover happiness, we must have some kind of a vital experience of it within ourselves. There has to be a living kind of happiness, and the only way we can combat the experience of unhappiness is to set up the experience of happiness.

There used to be something of a gaiety, naturalness about growing up something that we have lost. As a result very few people have any vital experience of happiness. They have nothing to hook the happiness concept onto. Broken homes, depressions and insecurity have taken away the laughter, joy and close association with family. Because of these trends, which have become more and more dominant since we have depended so heavily upon artificial sources of pleasure, the average person today does not have the living inner visualization of happiness set within himself.

It becomes very easy for us to be critical and suspicious of other people, to be dissatisfied and rebellious, until finally we have developed one of the heaviest burdens of the present generation – hypercriticism. There is hardly a day when we do not criticize something. We seem to live in a world that suggests criticism, and although we can do nothing about it, still we become critics, constantly dissatisfied.

Out of this dissatisfaction comes a subtle form of self-excuse mechanism. Feeling that we live in a world that is topsy-turvy, in which nothing makes sense, we have a wonderful reasons to be poor citizens. We have every reason to excuse our own failings. We become victims of circumstances, and we say “How can one individual live well in a world that is going to pieces?”

One thing we do not realize in all of our thinking, however, is that this generation is not essentially different, in its basic problems, from the generations in which individuals did find a certain amount of security and peace of mind. We cannot hope that we can create entirely new solutions. We can create new solutions only if the problems that we face are new, but the problems that we face are not new. They are the eternal heritage of our kind.

We all want to live in a world in which we are happy but we also want a world tailored to our desires. We want the world to make us happy, to provide us with everything we need. We want to surround ourselves with situations that will give us happiness and pleasure. Of course, as long as everyone in the world feels that way, the complex gets more and more difficult, because each person trying to fulfill his own ambitions out of the reservoir of world materials ultimately comes into conflict with every other human being and the tensions simply increase and compound.

Happiness is not a matter of environment but of the adjustment of consciousness to the values of life; that the very things that make us unhappy could perhaps be the sources of happiness if we understood them correctly. Always complication destroys peace of mind, and without peace of mind, there is no real hope that any individual can be truly happy. Of course, we have our moments, but even in those moments the heavy burden of destiny hangs over us.

There have always been some who have realized that unhappiness was neither desirable nor necessary; so they have left us rules and patterns by which we could guide our way to a certain degree. A life to find happiness must be a life that has discriminated values. If we use our minds we come to one standard of value. If we use our hearts and our intuitions, we come to another standard of value, and it is this second standard that must come first. In order to know what happiness is, we must finally decide what will make us happy.

We all feel that when we can pay off the mortgage, we will be happy, when we can get that new car we will be happy. We have the simple feeling that if we have what we want, we will be happy. But what do we want? Above all things, we want freedom of fear. We want freedom from ignorance. We want freedom of faith. We want freedom of growth. Of all things we want freedom from insecurity within ourselves, freedom from mental and emotional sickness. We want freedom from the ills and weaknesses, which we recognize in our own natures. The only real freedoms the only real things that can bring us happiness are those attainments within ourselves by which we are free forever from the delusions and illusions that cause misery.

The most difficult and miserable adventure in the world is the desperate quest for personal happiness. The individual, who makes happiness their goal, will fail, because they usually have the wrong concept of what will make them happy. We have not yet realized that we have to be happy from within and that all other things are accidents and incidents- the elements of a providence that may change at any moment.

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Pythagoras said, “all men know what they want, but only God knows what they need.” In our desperate effort to get what we want, we are miserable, we must therefore change to the concept of what we need, to what is most necessary to us. We live in a universe in which love and wisdom, and joy are the very substance out of which creation fashioned things. We live in a tremendous potential for good, and to realize this and cooperate with it, is to begin the unfoldment of our own lives.

The ancients believed there was only one life, the life of God. To live with love for this life was to live in peace with it; to live in hate and fear was to destroy God. The individual who hates and fears is the only true atheist. No one can hate, fear, and worship at the same time.

Happiness does not arise from copying other people because the things that make them happy might make us miserable. There has to be a universal happiness- something infinitely beyond the individual patterned pleasures which we recognize; and this happiness is the freedom of life in itself. It is not necessarily a theological state at all. It is the transference of our citizenship, an inner belonging to another world, so that the suddenly the world of realities becomes meaningful and we realize that this material creation floats as a bubble in an infinitely vaster spiritual creation; that far beyond anything we can estimate is the power of infinite love infinitely working.

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