Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts on Intuition

Today I came across this article on The Science of Intuition and I'm realizing, especially reading the comments on the Facebook page that as soon as you start to talk about "intuition", all of a sudden you are talking about "soul" and "God in you" and lots of other so called "spiritual" phenomena. I appreciate that the cognitive and neuroscientists are beginning to get a better handle on a lot of this in terms of articulating what is actually going on so that we can pull one more of our human life experiences out of the "mystery soup".

As I suggested in my previous post, I think a lot of our "intuiting" is being influenced by patterns of neurology and biochemistry that are entrenched/programmed from conception on and (I'm just "intuiting" here...) are triggered or activated by things with which we "identify" in the external world. There is a form of "resonance" there between the patterns that have already been established neurologically and biochemically and what we experience as reinforcers or validators of those patterns in the external world. And, trust me folks, the images, the archetypes, the art, the stories, the media, it's all out there, from the bible stories some of us grow up reading, to the cartoons we watch on television, to the stories we read of historical figures, including "spiritual masters" and teachers, and all of the "intuitives" and "psychics" that are now managing to get more and more attention via the internet. There are plenty of opportunities to make a link between what we "feel" or have felt on the inside and what we "see" in the external world, and then interpret our experiences in the same way others have been interpreting their own experiences for hundreds if not thousands of years.

I appreciate that this article suggests that intuition can be "domain specific"; i.e. in areas where you have invested significant energy in getting to know the "nuts and bolts" of the subject matter, then you are more likely to have intuitions with regards to that subject matter, "intuitively" synthesizing and conceptualizing. I also appreciate that this article points to the fact that intuition is better practiced deliberately, and, maybe most importantly, validated by more Rational Analysis after the fact. From my current perspective, I see that as taking what you get from the processes of your limbic brain/subconscious mind and integrating them with the functions of your cerebral cortex and especially the frontal cortex. If you are unwilling to get rational validation of your intuitions, then I would suggest that is your limbic brain wanting to maintain control, rather than submitting itself to the cerebral cortex; i.e. that's the less evolved part of your brain not submitting to the more highly evolved part of your brain.

It is not obvious to most people, but almost all evolving processes are full of this kind of "inertia" or resistance to change. A truly perfect example is that of butterflies. Before transformation certain cells develop in the caterpillar called "imaginal cells" and these are the ones that will eventually be responsible for turning the caterpillar into a butterfly. However, when those cells first appear, the caterpillar's own immune system sees them as a threat and will actually kill off the first ones to appear. Eventually though, the imaginal cells grow to take over the caterpillar's systems and the transformation process continues from there.

So it is with almost anything really "new and transformational" in the realm of human life and culture. The first voices are almost always squelched, but eventually, when there is a "critical mass" then things really start to change. Given the complexities of the human brain and human culture, it is easy for me to understand why human emotional and psychological development has not been able to keep up with our technological developments - truth is, the technologies are not nearly as complex as our brains! And it took Life a very long time just to equip animals with a limbic system. The cerebral cortex is a much more recent development and much of its functioning depends on proper training, and to get that proper training you have to have a culture that supports it and to get that culture that supports it, you have to have a critical mass of brains that have already been effectively trained, and they have to survive long enough to pass those effective training processes down to future generations. It's a really tight loop when you think about it.

Nevertheless, out of all of this seeming "chaos" and complexity of human individuals and human cultures, we have a new "global nervous system" that has also evolved; i.e. the internet. And if there is one fairly sure way to get your intuitions tested, it's to put them out into the world via the internet and see what happens - especially if you throw yourself in the mix with other, more highly trained "rational thinkers". Again, though, as I suggested above and with the references to Ken Wilbur's "Pre-Trans Fallacy" in my previous blog, the key is not focusing on the limbic brain or the cerebral brain only; i.e. intuitive versus rational - it's about being able to effectively integrate the capacities of both.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thoughts on the Origin of our "God" Ideas - A Discussion with Stefan Molyneux

I had the opportunity recently to talk with Stefan Molyneux during one of his "Sunday Morning Call-in Shows".  You can find that discussion here starting at 34:11. 

I know that what I cover in this discussion may challenge the beliefs of many of my family and friends with respect to our ideas about "heaven" and about "God". Furthermore, there are implications for those who are more oriented towards "spiritual" experiences or practices, although I do not go into that with this particular discussion.

Nevertheless, in the past year or so I have come to question all of this. I have become more focused on who and what we are as Human Beings "only"; i.e. as highly evolved biological organisms on this planet.  At the root of my feelings surrounding all of this is that As Long as We Keep Comparing Ourselves to some "Spiritual Ideal" that may only be a remnant of our early developmental experience, and we put ourselves down or allow ourselves to be diminished in a myriad of ways - if we keep feeling "condemned" by the "problematic nature of human existence", then we will not completely Own, Honor, and, most importantly, Be Completely Responsible For our overall functioning and relating here with Each Other, On This Planet and in This World. In other words, if we keep "meditating on ourselves" as "falling short" then we will not be as motivated to continue to strive to reach our full potential as Ordinary Human Beings, who, in my mind, happen to be Truly Extraordinary biological organisms - capable of both amazing and terrible things! 

For anyone who persists in the ideas that, as human beings, we are "inherently sinful" or "born of sin", or even secularists who have a generally negative view of human beings, I'm offering something to counter all of that by suggesting  a possible source of where each of us as individuals got those ideas into our heads in the Very First Place. As I discuss with Stefan, those ideas could have arisen spontaneously in the hearts and minds of every human being who has ever lived, who has ever been in the womb and then been born, and experienced the biochemical patterns associated with all of those experiences. I am coming to the conclusion that the "latent memories" the "intuitions" that are the expression of those biochemical patterns are what we then "project" into the outer world as gods, and demons, and stories of heaven. Furthermore, I would offer that it is even tied to our "projection" of anthropomorphic consciousness onto other living (or even non-living) beings,whether plant or animal, which is the source of animistic religions.

It is not easy for me to stand in place with what I am saying, knowing, that if people really pay attention, they will realize I'm challenging a huge, huge, entrenched history of religious and "spiritual" dogma and dharma, and anthropology, even across all past and present cultures. Some people may think I'm just "trying to be confrontational or controversial." I assure you, that is not the case. I am sharing what I feel are the insights that have come to me fairly spontaneously, and if you thoroughly review the previous posts in this blog, you will see where some of the tendrils of the roots of these ideas first took hold.

There is another reason why I am sharing all of this though, in spite of the reactions it might provoke from some.  Almost all of my life, up until the last year or so, I have been a "believer" myself. From my early Christian upbringing to my more recently becoming a formal devotee of "spiritual master" Adi Da Samraj. In between, I moved around the "metaphysical" communities and drew many ideas from the scientific principles of quantum mechanics, etc., etc. I have probably been more inclined to believe in reincarnation through all of this than I have in "heaven" and/or "hell" and Adi Da's Wisdom-Teaching on these subjects continued to reinforce and elaborate on many of those ideas.

However, in a very passionate discussion I had with Paul Chappell, many months ago, he posed a simple question to me: "But, Lori...What if this is it?  What if human beings only have one life to live here and that's it?" In other words, for all the human beings who suffer abuse, depravity, etc., etc., that's It for them. That is all they will know of what it is like to be a human being. There is no coming back. No getting it better next time. No heaven after they die. As Paul pointed out, it still makes sense to do everything each of us can both individually and collectively to make this the very best experience of being human any of us can have, and that means doing whatever we can to make the world, This Incredible World we live in a better place for current and future generations, in part because, as the Incredible Biological Organisms that we are...we Can Do That.

Alternatively, we can also keep going down the path we are on, more or less consciously (usually less) seeking romantic and spiritual biochemical highs that are generated internally, or we can seek chemical highs from all kinds of other external sources of drugs or experiences that stimulate or modulate our internal biochemistry. We can continue to let our lower biological functioning as it relates to our drives for eating, mating, protecting territory, etc. continue to rule the higher levels of our functioning that allow us to become "self-aware", or we can more consciously develop and use the tools that our more developed brains give us to more effectively, consciously, and rationally manage all of our lower impulses and learn better how to voluntarily cooperate with rather than compete with everyone around us.

But, I am growing more convinced, if we persist in "projecting" from our own experience a necessarily naive point of view, of some "ideal" state that is Not that of being an ordinary human being, based in our most infantile experience and misinterpretation of our lives As human beings; if we do not Get Over That, then we will also be trapped there, individually and culturally, never able to move ahead in our otherwise TRULY INCREDIBLE CAPACITIES as VERY HIGHLY EVOLVED ORGANISMS on this planet.

I do agree with many from all camps, that there is a necessary Shift that needs to take place, and in many ways I feel it already is. I know it has with me. However, I do not necessarily agree with all in terms of the Direction of that "shift". Where some may think we need to be better developing our (religious) "morality" or our (metaphysical) "spirituality" - I would say we need to focus more on our Humanity and our (biologically unique?) Capacity for Self-awareness and Rationality. Everything else has brought us to where we are now, but I do not believe retreating to a prior state, the state of infantile "oneness with everything" or even further to the "heaven" of the womb where "all of our needs are met with no effort of our own" is going to Move Us Forward in our evolution as Biological Organisms on this planet.

Follow-up - 12-14-2013

Through comments posted on the YouTube video I've linked above, I have been made aware that Ken Wilbur has some things to add to this consideration with his description of what he calls "The Pre-Trans Fallacy".  This is a short video where he talks about it, and this is another succinct commentary from another source.

Although I was not familiar with these particular elements of Ken Wilbur's work before, I can see where there is definitely some overlap with my own ideas, and I really appreciate the person who brought this to my attention in the comments. Such is the power of the internet in helping to tie all of our minds and thoughts together.




Saturday, November 2, 2013

When It Comes to "Being All that You Can Be"...Self-Awareness Is Key

This morning I came across this article: "Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy?" The crux of the instruction they are receiving seems to be pointing them towards greater "self-awareness", especially in the midst of mundane or ordinary every day experiences.  As E.F. Schumacher explains in A Guide for the Perplexed..., this is the quality of "z" in the formula, "Man = m + x + y + z", or "Man = mineral + life + consciousness + self-awareness".  In his analysis, Schumacher contends that our capacity for self-awareness is what sets us apart from all other animals - as far as we can tell right now.  From my own point of view, I can appreciate that as long as the language barrier persists, it is hard to get inside the head of say a dolphin, or a member of the lower primate species, to know exactly how they are thinking of themselves. Who knows though, we might figure out how to do that at some point in the future. Nevertheless, for now anyway, I think we are safe in taking Schumacher's assumption at face value.

Furthermore, if every human being were actively using their capacity for self-awareness, all of the time, then there would be no need for this class at Harvard.  Apparently that is not the case. Schumacher acknowledges the fact that even though human beings have the capacity for self-awareness, the degree to which we exercise it tends to vary across populations and even within individuals themselves; i.e. even as individuals, there are some times when we are more self-aware than at other times.

I would offer that there is actually a pretty strong impetus in our society to not be self-aware and instead to be constantly distracted by things and people outside of ourselves; to be more "aware of" what is going on "outside" of ourselves than to be "aware of" what is going on "inside" of ourselves.  I find it interesting that this class is now being taught at Harvard, maybe even being Allowed to be taught at Harvard, because it is a pretty blatant counter to that trend.  I think the fact that it is being so well received by the student population alludes to my contention that human beings are not totally satisfied with just "m, x, and y".  I think because we are capable of "z", of self-awareness, it is something we need to experience to be satisfied with ourselves; i.e. through realizing more of our full potential as human (i.e., "m+x+y+Z") beings.

For a long time now I have felt very strongly that we are at a point in our evolution as a species that we can no longer live our lives as merely a function of "m, x, and y"; i.e. the more biologically based aspects of our existence. I have written several blog posts on this subject such as "The Biology of Heaven""Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part I""Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love - Part II""Overcoming My Addiction to 'Falling In Love'""The Biology of 'Omnipotence'", and "So What Does Love FEEL Like...For Real?", etc. If I were to make a broad summary of all of these posts, I would say they have to do with becoming much more self-aware, even to the point of being sensitive to the "patterns-patterning" in our own biochemistry that we recognize as "feelings", that may be driving us from much deeper biological imperatives, but are not necessarily beyond our conscious control.  I would offer that it is the very fact that we can become more "self-aware" in the midst of that play of our biology, that we actually have more opportunities to regulate it intentionally. The truth is there are all kinds of ways that we are doing things without full-consciousness or intention that are ultimately ways of regulating our emotional biochemistry. Why do we do anything that "makes us feel good"? What is "feeling good" apart from a secretion of certain biochemicals into our bloodstream?

Admittedly, with all of the work I have done in this area myself, I find myself identifying more and more with the "Bene Gesserit" of the world of Dune and science fiction: "But beyond the outer virtues of poise, self-control, and diplomacy, Bene Gesserit training includes superior combat skills and precise physiological control that grants them direct control over conception and embryonic sex determination, aging, and even the ability to render poisons harmless within their bodies...." (according to this Wikipedia article). Granted, that's a Really Idealized conception of what anyone might be capable of doing with regards to regulating their own physiology, but it does point to some inkling of what we might become capable of, at least to a greater degree, especially with better training.

Furthermore, I think for us to have a more functional human culture in this world, and to have more people experiencing more meaningful and ultimately happier lives as human beings, it is important that we give more attention to this higher capacity in ourselves, this capacity for self-awareness and emotional/biological/physiological self-regulation. I think much of the dissatisfaction people are experiencing today stems from the very fact that they are not able to exercise those capacities, that they have not been given the social support and context for developing those capacities within themselves. These young people attending this class at Harvard...they are some of the lucky ones, especially because they are getting exposed to this fairly early in their lives. I am a firm believer that even much younger children can be gently and effectively guided in their learning of emotional self-regulation, but it needs to be something their parents and teachers also understand and know how to practice themselves, before it can be taught to their children and students.

In other words, we still have plenty of room to grow and evolve as human beings in this world, both individually, and collectively.  From my point of view, we have barely even begun to realize the potential of our capacity for self-awareness; i.e. "The Z Factor" (according to E.F. Schumacher). Consequently, I applaud the work of people who are effectively helping others to explore along this path, people like Professor Michael Puett. I am continuing my own "work" in this area as well, and, as appropriate, will continue to share with you here from my experiences and insights.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Is So "Imperfect" about Being a Human Being?

In The Biology of "Omnipotence" I propose the idea that our first experiences as infants outside of the womb leave us with a feeling of "omnipotence"; i.e. when we feel uncomfortable for any reason we may cry and then, somewhat magically, our needs are taken care of (if we are experiencing normal, functional care from our primary caregivers). Since we do not experience a clear distinction between ourselves and those around us at this time, I have made the assumption that we probably feel "omnipotent"; we feel fairly "one with" and "in control of" the forces around us. And even if we do not feel completely "omnipotent" we may presume that those around us have such power.

I totally appreciate that human cognition at this early stage is quite undeveloped, however, what I am emphasizing is the fact that there is all kinds of biochemistry going on surrounding the experience of discomfort and relief. And, furthermore, it has already been determined by developmental research, that children do not begin to experience "separation anxiety" until they are around two to three years old; i.e. when they begin to recognize that they are not actually "one with" their caregivers.

My suggestion is this: If we experience our early infancy as some kind of Ideal State of Omnipotence and Power, then as we actually mature, we experience a Reduction in those experiences, we feel a Loss of Control, a Loss of the Feeling of "Oneness" with those around us, and it is this degradation of our own experience that begins to set-up our judgment of our overall experience of being an (apparently) separate individual, with, in reality, very little control over the world around us, at least while we are still very young. Furthermore, to the degree our parents and other adult caregivers do have the control in our lives, do have the power, we continue to see them as more "godlike" with all kinds of associated "projections", again, coming from our own direct experience of feelings of omnipotence.

I am beginning to come to the conclusion that it is these earliest experiences, first of feelings of omnipotence and then of feelings of impotence, that set-up our judgments about our experience of Being Human, of Being a seemingly separate individual from all other individuals and being "separate" from a godlike "source" of power. We presume that such a "source" must exist and must be "omnipotent" because that is coming from Our Own Early Infant Experiences and Perceptions of Ourselves. And this is so very important to understand because: Anything Less Than That Is Seen as 'Imperfect', whether that is an "imperfection" in ourselves or an "imperfection" in the people and world around us.

I really feel this is something that Has to Be Considered as it sets the foundation for so much of how we have been defining ourselves as human beings, pretty much throughout our history and even, I would offer, our pre-history. If this experience of "omnipotence" and "oneness" are simply latent memories of our own early infancy, and this has been part of the developmental experience of all human beings, all hominids who have had the capacity for self-awareness, self-reflection, and projection, since the beginning, then we have to reevaluate ALL of our concepts of "perfection", and what it means to be more (or less) "like God", or "Jesus", or whomever we imagine to be "more perfect" than ourselves.

However, if we are able to Let Go Of All of these idealizations, then we might, we just might, have the opportunity to consider just how amazing we truly are as Ordinary Human Beings! Given the course of Life and evolution, we are Truly Amazing Organisms, with relatively extraordinary capacities compared to pretty much every other organism on this planet. As long as we keep measuring ourselves (and others, and the world) against some exaggerated ideal that stems from our misperceptions as infants, then I fear we will never realize our full potential, we will never experience satisfaction in the amazing function of all of our capacities, and we will never begin to Accept Full Responsibility for Who and What we Truly Are and what we are capable of as Ordinary Human Beings!

As for me, I am done with any ideas or attitudes about "perfection", whether human or spiritual. As I counseled myself many, many years ago, there is only one thing "perfect" I can be and that is to be a "Perfect Me". I am a unique individual. I am the only one who can set the standard of what a "Lori Lee Bell" should be. My name is the only label that truly Fits "Me", and in every moment I am already being the very best "Me" I can Be. Doesn't mean I do not strive to maximize my potential as an Ordinary Human Being who happens to actually be a pretty extraordinary organism on this planet, but I have no other "ideals" to which I aspire. And I Am Content with that. And I Am Content with all of the variations of already "perfect" human beings around me, and the already "perfect" world in which I live. I accept the Play of Life on this planet and all of the static and Dynamic forces that have brought it to be what it is today - as far as we know - also fairly unique in the vast expanse of the universe. I am no longer "seeking"; I am Already Happy, Already Content. Whatever actions I take now are as an Expression of my Already Present Happiness, not a striving for it - or a striving for some human or spiritual "ideal" that I conceived of as an infant.

I am a "Perfect Me" and that is the only thing "perfect" I Will Ever Be!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy "Mother's" Day...and "Companion's" and "Amazon's" and "Medium's" Day, Too!

I have been personally aware of the "Mother Bias" ever since I read a short book called About Men and Women... by Tad and Noreen Guzie back in 1997. In this book the authors explore the Jungian archetypes of "Mother", "Amazon", "Companion", and "Medium" (for women), and "Father", "Warrior", "Seeker", and "Sage" (for men). If you naturally fall into either of the first two archetypal patterns in each group, then you have experienced positive social bias from the beginning and throughout your life. If you naturally fall into the latter two patterns, then you have lived with the opposite; i.e. a negative social bias towards things that would be "fundamental" to your character and your point of view.

This was a very liberating read for me because I was finally made aware that I happen to be a "Companion/Medium" woman myself. So I have been faced with that negative social bias all of my life (and even especially, within my own family). In addition, popular media has not provided me with role models for what my pattern looks like in a positive and mature form. Instead, I have been faced with role models with which I could not truly identify, or with mostly negative or immature portrayals of my particular archetypal pattern(s). The "Mother" and "Amazon" characterizations express values that are not My Deepest Values and, until I read this book, I just thought there was something wrong with me. I am grateful to the authors for making it clear to me that ALL of these ways, or "archetypal patterns", for expressing feminine and masculine energy are VALID and VALUABLE, as they reflect the realities of life experience for All of Us as Human Beings, just with a different emphasis or primary focus for each. (I will go into that more here shortly.)

In my earliest years, I imagined what so many other young women (and men) imagine: I would find a good man, get married, have children, and lead a "normal" life. But, when that opportunity presented itself for real, in my late twenties, I realized that it was not The Most Important Goal of My Life. Instead, I was being drawn to know myself better As an Individual, not as a "Mother/Wife" only, and one of the ways I came to that self-awareness and self-understanding was through a wide range of personal life experiences, especially in my relationships with men.

As some of you may already know, the first 20 years of my life were defined by my relationship with my mother who was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I have a TEDx talk on that part of my story: "Get Ready: The World Is Waiting". As a result of that relationship, the range of my early personal exploration and experience was very limited. In those first 20 years I identified myself as a Christian, even a "devout" Christian - after all, my mother and I were "prophets sent here to save the world." Going through my early teens, apart from my relationship with my mother, my interests and close relationships were mostly with "non-humans": turtles, fish, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, lizards, snakes, earthworms, etc. I even remember keeping a Praying Mantis for a while. My mother would let me keep just about any critter I wanted, as long as I could figure out how to get them to eat. For the Praying Mantis...it was refried beans on the middle of a toothpick!

I haven't thought about it until now, but even though I took these animals in and "cared for them" as a "nurturer", it was in a more "Companioning" way; i.e. I wanted to know about them as individual species. I read books that I got from the library, and then I would accommodate their needs based on what I learned. I did not gain a lot of self-esteem based on how much they depended on me. I related with them to better understand them. Later in life, this would be the same approach I would take with men, and if my having the opportunity to relate with them was dependent on my meeting certain of their needs (expressed or unexpressed), then I was more than willing to do that (sometimes a little too willing). But meeting those needs was not a way of encouraging or supporting dependency. It was simply one aspect of my relating with them as individuals and (hopefully) as "equals" (though, as it turned out, my ability to take care of myself And take care of them often outweighed their abilities to reciprocate).

So, according to the authors of About Men and Women... how is that different from the way a "Mother" might approach a relationship with a man, in this "interpersonal" realm of relating to others?

"Mothers" identify with and conform themselves to the "role" of "Mother" as "caretaker of those in need" and as the role is more specifically defined by tradition and culture. Furthermore, most true "Mother" types gain a boost in self-esteem having people depending on them (although, too many dependencies can become overwhelming, if they are not careful). Nevertheless, "Mothers", like being "in control", and they like the status that motherhood holds for them in society.

The primary focus of the role of "Mother" is not on the father of her children, but on the children themselves. In other words, and this seems especially true for modern western society, the "Mother" role has taken on much more emphasis than the "Wife/Companion" role for women in relationship to the men with whom they conceive children. Granted, cultural norms shift over time, but, currently, through its welfare programs, the State has actually taken over many of the traditional functions that "Fathers" use to fulfill. The role of "Mother" is now seen by the State, legally and otherwise, as more vital than the role of "Father" when it comes to raising children. As a consequence, there are more and more "Father" types in the world who are not getting to express that archetype, no matter how much it might naturally define their character. Furthermore, there are many more women who never learn to relate on equal terms with other adults who do not depend on them for care.

In contrast, "Companion" women do not automatically relate to a man as a potential "husband" and/or "father" with all of those expectations and qualities significantly defined by social norms. She is not just looking for a "sperm donor" so that she can conceive and bear children whom she can then "Mother". "Companion" women are interested in men mainly as individuals with whom they can share a variety of life experiences (including sexual experiences), and as equals. Typical "Companion" women pride themselves on their ability to adapt, to become a "good companion" for their partner, whatever his interests might be.

Within this "interpersonal" sphere of relationships, where "Mothers" and "Fathers" orient themselves towards the pre-defined, or traditional roles they play (or are allowed to play) within the collective of society, "Companion" women (and their counterparts, "Seeker" men) are oriented more towards themselves and others as unique individuals, and they develop their own identities over time, sometimes a very long time, rather than simply following (or falling into) the roles that have already been defined for them by society. The evidence (or propaganda) of these role definitions for "Mothers" and "Fathers" is prevalent in modern media, as it has been throughout history, while one would be hard-pressed, as I have been, to find the same clear (and/or positive) role modeling for "Companions" and "Seekers".

Although there are, of course, more extensive descriptions in the book, there are a couple of other things I want to add here concerning "Companion" women and "Seeker" men as parents: 1) Because those "Mother" and "Father" images are so prevelant in society, many "Companion" women and "Seeker" men, may at least try to conform their lives to those expecations, even when it is not natural, or even the "right" thing for them to do, especially early in their lives when they are usually not very stable, moving from job to job and relationship to relationship, as they are "figuring themselves out"; and 2) If "Companion" women or "Seeker" men do decide to have children, they will usually relate to their children as individuals rather than as members of the family/social unit. In addition, they typically do not look to their children to define their own status in society, since most "Companion" women and "Seeker" men really don't care what others, what "society" thinks of them in the first place. They can, however, run into "problems", if they end up giving birth to "Mother" or "Father" type children, for whom such things will hold more significance and value. Although there are no studies that I know of to make an analysis, my intuition is that, for whatever reasons, the archetypal patterns run pretty deep, and may not be shaped so much by environment. In other words, the parents' archetypal patterns are not necessarily going to be duplicated in their children, and the fact that the opposite is often true makes for much misunderstanding, confusion, and conflict within families and from generation to generation.

So what about the differences between "Amazons" and "Warriors", "Mediums" and "Sages"?

Where what I have written previously focuses on interpersonal relating, these other archetypes focus more on how one relates with respect to the "plane" of The World. Where our interpersonal relationships span the continuum between the "Collective" and the "Individual", the Plane of the World, spans the continuum between the "Material" and the "Spiritual" (or non-material) aspects of our experience. Consequently, it is normal for one's character to be identified by two archetypes that are adjacent, but not opposite one another; i.e. for women - "Mother/Amazon", "Mother/Medium", "Companion/Amazon", or "Companion/Medium"; and for men - "Father/Warrior", "Father/Sage", "Seeker/Warrior", or "Seeker/Sage". Furthermore, even within those pairings, one may be more identified with one archetype than the other.

Nevertheless, the basic idea is that we all have to interact interpersonally and within the broader world, so there are going to be certain patterns we naturally tend towards in each case. Furthermore, depending on your level of self-awareness, which archetypes you identify with may be more or less obvious to you - and, granted, there is plenty of room for variation along the continuums. But, usually, if you have to choose, there are going to be certain values that you will focus on over others, and that is how your archetype is defined or how your archetype defines you (until you become self-aware enough to possibly grow beyond its potential limitations).

I can pretty much bet as soon as you saw the terms "Amazon" and "Warrior," there were images coming to mind, "Xena - Warrior Princess", or "Wonder Woman", or Arnold Schwarzenegger in any number of his film roles.

You may also fairly quickly realize that just about anyone who has "made it" - as a rock star, politician, professional athlete, etc., etc., both male and female, by necessity have to have the will and ambition to be a "success" in the material world. In fact, this is a key characteristic of "Amazon" and "Warrior" types: They Thrive On Competition! They thrive on receiving the acknowledgment of others for their "accomplishments", on their obvious, visible material successes.

But, our "World" is not being driven solely by competition. The truth is: There is a lot of cooperation that is also critical for anyone in this world to ultimately be a material success. Think of all of the stage hands who have to cooperate to help a rock star put on a show? Think of all of the interns and advisors who work together to carry out a successful political campaign. Think of all of the physical therapists and trainers and water boys and ball girls who support competing athletes. All these people are like the roots of a plant that go about their business quietly, underground, but what we ultimately give our attention to is the plant that "breaks through" to the surface, to "bask in the sun".

These "root beings" are characterized in the archetypes of female "Mediums" and male "Sages". "Mediums" or "Mediumistic Women" and "Sage" men tend to be those who are most empathetic, most sensitive to the invisible/emotional/spiritual aspects of human life and experience. That is part of the reason why they are not inclined to compete with others because...Losing Hurts! And why would they want to go through that painful experience themselves, OR inflict it on someone else with whom they will invariably empathize. In other words, if they lose they feel their own pain, if they win they will feel the pain of loss experienced by the other person! So, in most cases, competition is, emotionally, a "no win" situation for "Mediumistic" women and "Sage" men.

However, this is not to say they are not ambitious. Quite the contrary, they can be very ambitious when it comes to how well they learn to empathize with and understand themselves and others. They will strive to be "superior" human beings...when it comes to certain mental, emotional, philosophical, and/or spiritual "goals". However, their "successes" are most often experienced internally, not externally, and those successes generally do not require validation from others in order to be meaningful to the person experiencing them. Again, like roots growing underground, too much "sun" can actually inhibit their functioning.

Again, as the author's of About Men and Women... explain, and as I hope I have made more clear here, ALL of these archetypal patterns are Valid and Necessary expressions of human beings who exist equally as individuals and as parts of the collectives of their social groups and societies, and as human beings who live in a world that includes both material and non-material aspects. However, I do not think the bias that has developed in favor of some of the archetypes and against others was ever truly intentional. It has just "worked out" that way. The species could not have perpetuated itself if it were not for "Mothers" and "Fathers", and all of the traditional/cultural elements that support long-term stability for society as a whole. And clearly, it was important, especially early in our evolution, that "the strongest survived" in order to fend off all of the other potential threats to hearth and home (such as animal predators).

However, today, the potential range of human experience has expanded exponentially. No longer is one bound to live a life where bearing children is a necessary focal point. As most people know, the human species is doing just fine at reproducing as there are still plenty of "Mothers" and "Fathers" out there who are more than happy to engage in and express those valid and necessary patterns. However, culturally, there is now more freedom for "Companions" and "Seekers" to use their entire lives, if they so choose, simply exploring all aspects of their own nature and, in the broader sense, what it means to be "a human being" apart from the obvious reproductive and cultural aspects.

Also, as people like Garret John Loporto originator of the "Wayseers" movement has pointed out: Some of the greatest advances of human culture have come from Un-Conventional, Non-Traditional, Individual, "Free Thinkers" - people who did not easily fall into culturally prescribed roles. I think his basic idea of these advances in society coming from the interaction of "Uprisers" and "Stabilizers" is a valid one, which also highlights the distinct play of "opposing" archetypes, especially the dynamic play between "Mothers" and "Fathers", "Companions", and "Seekers".

Finally, where we have managed to ever-so-successfully compete in and dominate the "material world", now...now...our problems are more root-like. Now, it is much more obvious that we are fighting over beliefs, ideas, and ideologies, those "invisible" parts of our human experience that ultimately mold our outward behavior. More outwad, obvious, technological advances are, ultimately, not going to save us. In fact, our advances in producing weapons of mass destruction have brought us to the brink of self-annihilation.

No. I would dare say the hope of humanity no longer lies with the "Warriors" and the "Amazons" - at least, not the traditional ones. No, I think we are moving into the age when the "Mediums" and "Sages" are going to have to do more to show themselves and to let their so important and necessary internal and underground work be seen by others. It is interesting to me that advances in technology, especially The Internet, have made it possible for the usually introverted and shy philosophers-sages and mediumistic women to offer up their gifts...as they can do it from the privacy and even the anonymity of their own "dark closets" where they do their best work! (Again, keep in mind the metaphor of the "roots" that generally do not do well when overexposed to the "sun"!)

As for myself, personally, I took some advice from the authors of About Men and Women... and made a determined commitment not only to mature as a "Companion/Medium" woman, but also to consciously "explore my opposite archetypes".

When I joined the U.S. Navy, nearly 14 years ago now, I knew I would be putting myself in an environment that would be heavily populated by "Mother" and especially "Amazon" type women. Furthermore, I was really "coming out of the closet" by having to be closely associated with other human beings, day in and day out. There were very, very few times I was alone, especially when I was deployed on the aircraft carrier, USS George Washington. During one of my deployments, I became overwhelmed by all of the emotional content I was absorbing from so many other people through my natural, "Mediumistic" tendency to empathize deeply. But...I learned something Very Valuable from that experience: Of Necessity (because I simply could not continue to effectively function in that environment otherwise), I learned how to adjust the "radar" down a few notches. I learned how to have more Conscious Control over my emotional sensitivity towards others. Now I feel about as comfortable "out in the world" as I do "in my closet", and by being "out in the world", I have been able to speak more openly to others in support of, and seeking better understanding and recognition for, people like myself.

The very fact that I now have the will, and "backbone", the "ambition", to pursue my writing more purposefully, and, not to mention, to ride my bicycle across the country, is a testimony to the fact that I have not only matured as a "Companion/Medium" woman in my own right, but I have gained a great deal from my experiences "on the other side" - as an "Amazon/Sailor" with the U.S. Navy, as a competitive cyclist for a very brief period during my shore duty in Maryland, and as a marathon and half-marathon runner. No, there was never a complete "conversion", but I learned what I needed to learn to at least bring myself closer to the "middle point" between all of those archetypal extremes. And I have decided, that is a very good place for me to be!

Unfortunately, this is not the case with many, if not most, other people. As the authors of About Men and Women... point out, there is a natural antipathy between opposite archetypes. Furthermore, some "Mothers" and "Fathers", "Amazons" and "Warriors" still think that: a) Theirs are the Only Valid archetypes (and this presumption is greatly supported by the media), and b) Their ways of expressing feminine and masculine energy are the only "right" or "moral" ways to do so!

And therein lies a Big Problem, especially if you happen to more naturally express those "other" archetypes. As I said, for the first 32 years of my life I thought something was fundamentally "wrong" with me. Furthermore, I had no way of knowing how a mature "Companion" or "Mediumistic" woman was supposed to act. But, I did know, after reading About Men and Women... that I would eventually be writing about this, just as I have done here.

And now, I am very comfortable being Exactly Who I Am because I Know Just How Important the Role Is that I Now Have to Play in This World, especially at this critical time in our history. At the same time...I respect the roles that are also being lived by my "opposites" - "Mother" and "Amazon" women - and All of the roles that are also being lived by men. My highest hope and motivation for writing (this blog-post in particular) is that: a) we would all learn what mature expressions of each of those archetypal patterns looks like and aspire to the highest level of maturity we can achieve as individuals, and b) that Everyone Else (besides me) also start to recognize and value those people who express archetypes that are "opposite" from their own.

I feel Very, Very Strongly about this issue. Just as with understanding the play of "anima" and "animus" between men and women, I feel it is also crucial that more people in the world come to a better understanding of these basic, patterned expressions of masculine and feminine energy and consciousness. Once you start to see these patterns in yourself and others, you will also start to see the way they are affecting our experiences in the world as a whole... for better and for worse.

The Key, as in so many areas of Life Experience, is Finding the Right Balance, between "Mothers" and "Companions", "Amazons" and "Mediums", "Fathers" and "Seekers", "Warriors" and "Sages". Again, and I do not think I can emphasize this strongly enough (so I'm using every tool in the box here): ALL OF THESE ARCHETYPAL PATTERNS ARE VALID AND VALUABLE EXPRESSIONS OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS!

(Please understand my descriptions here are by no means exhaustive. Reading About Men and Women... will definitely help round out your knowledge and understanding! It is one of my Most Highly Recommended Books of All Time, and another one of my "Favorite Books Under 200 Pages"! I will also willingly answer any questions and respond to comments. This is probably not the only blog I will end up writing on this topic.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Faith of Our Fathers...and Mothers...and Others

I want to offer this as a very brief follow-up to my previous blog.

It's kind of personal, but something tells me it may "strike home" with some of you, maybe even many of you.

I've been a bit of a gypsy in my life. Prone to shifting my circumstances pretty readily. I joined the carnival when I was 23, ended up in Montana for seven years, lived in Kauai for a while, England, Colorado, then joined the Navy for eight years finishing my tour of duty on the east coast with a follow-up of about four years working for the Federal Government in some capacity or another.

And then I decided to ride my bicycle across the country! Now I'm enjoying Santa Barbara, CA and getting ready to re-start my trip this spring.

During all of these years, my father has told he "loves me" but he "worries about me". At the same time, he's never been one to initiate much contact with me. I'm sorry to say he has not been inclined to "make the effort" to do that. It's always been me calling him.

My mother, well, ever since I started disagreeing with her point of view of my father and "everything else" she's thought (at various times) there was something "wrong with my mind", and she has been concerned that I stopped "following Jesus". In other words, she "worries" about me, too.

I mean no disrespect to either of my parents. They are who they are and I know they've been doing the best they can knowing what they know. And it is not like I came into this world knowing what I know now, or even what I have come to better understand in the last few weeks even.

Nevertheless, neither of my parents have ever taken much time to really get to know me as I am. When I've been at my father's house, along with my step-mother and step-relatives, and my two sisters I've usually spent most of my time listening to the stories of their lives. Nobody has ever really asked me much about mine. I kind of wonder if any of them are reading these blogs.

In contrast, there is a couple in Tennessee, my German professor from Tennessee Tech and his wife, who became like "adoptive" parents to me in my early 20's. Whenever I visit them, it is an almost endless barrage of questions! I have frequently visited them on my way to or from Kentucky where my father and step-mother live, and several years ago I really noticed the striking difference.

Now, it may be that due to the other dynamics of my family and our history together, that there are other reasons why my relatives don't really want to know what's going on in my life. They may feel any "problems" might have something to do with them, i.e. how they have or have not related to me over the years, but I've never really felt that way. It would have been nice to be able to share all of my "successes" in spite of the challenging history, but that has really not been much of an option, either. And, maybe their perception of what is "success" is different from mine.

What I have realized most recently though is what I have really wanted from my family was a little "rational faith" in me, a little "faith" in my ability to take care of myself, based on the evidence of my life. Again, though, maybe their view of "success" is too different from mine, so they don't see the evidence of my adaptability and my courage to take on new challenges, to freely uproot myself and try something new. They don't see those things as positive qualities in me.

As I have thought about this more, I have begun to think that when it comes to parents relating with their children, faith plays a pivotal role. As a parent, can you trust that your child is being guided by their own inner core and Life Purpose, or do you feel you have to make a lot of decisions about all of that for them?

By all means, young children need "care" - they need the effort of love that provides for their basic biological and psychological needs - food, clothing, shelter, protection. Parents need to know what to expect from their children at various stages of development, so they will also know their child's potentials and limits, and challenge the child accordingly in terms of reaching their highest potential at any given stage. This is where close and objective observation (free of parental "projections") is so important. The best parents will make the effort to pay attention to their child, to ask them questions, to help them come to a better understanding of themselves, their likes and dislikes, what is important to them. The parent must provide appropriate "boundaries" and recognize when the child can handle a greater level of responsibility for themselves at each stage of their development.

It is in this way, the parent develops a Rational Basis of Faith in their child, and their child's increasing ability to take care of themselves, to make more and more decisions for themselves, to take on more and more of the responsibilities of daily life.

If that faith is lacking, then it is much more likely that the child will struggle, even long into their adulthood, with having Faith in Themselves, and, therefore, the will to accept the ever increasing challenges, that require effort as part of being a human being in this world.

I have come to the conclusion that, where I have in the past considered the need of each of us as children for "unconditional love", I now think Rational Faith might be even more important, and that is what we also have to offer to one another, based on our actual knowledge of each other as that develops in the course of our relating.

Yes, it is also possible to come to a place of having Rational Faith in oneself without ever receiving it from others. But then again, sometimes, it can make all the difference. Imagine a young man in a classroom whose teacher told him, "You're a good writer" when he wasn't so sure about that himself. That man may go on to write books that could very well help change the world.

I am grateful to all of the people in my life who have expressed their confidence, their "faith" in me as well. It has helped me to be willing to persevere, even during the rough times, and now with this Clearer Understanding at least from my current point of view, I'm looking forward to "Spreading the Faith" to others!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Role of Faith in Life and Love

I'm feeling excited today, the day after Valentine's Day. I took the day "off" yesterday, resting my legs as I've been on my bicycle for most days over the last month, and I needed the rest...but my mind and heart were still "busy".

During the course of my consideration of "Love as Effort", I shared the basic ideas with my friend, Ben Ralston. With regards to being willing to make the effort involved with "self-love", to be willing to do the "work" of self-understanding, etc., he responded as follows:

"I think there's a conundrum/paradox there, too. In order to make the effort towards working through our 'stuff' (so that we can be love and experience the peace you mention) there must be a certain amount of self-love, right? So what comes first, chicken or egg?"

Yesterday, I think I got the best "answer" I've had so far, and, again it is going to challenge some widely held beliefs.

First of all, even I have been tuned-in to and aware of the idea that "Love is the opposite of fear." Ben's video a while back about "How to Be Love" really spoke to that in me, as that is how I have been oriented in my own life for a long time now. However, other personal experiences at the time were beginning to challenge this idea, and those challenges eventually brought me to the conclusion that "Love" actually feels like Effort (the subject of the blog linked above). Nevertheless, I had to take seriously his question, "Which comes first?"

As I have continued to feel into and think about this, I have come to the following intuition/feeling/theory: Faith is what is necessary before we are willing to expend the Effort of Love. Faith may be naive or it may be rational, with the latter being the more mature and conscious of the two. Rational Faith takes Evidence into consideration, objective data, which is not always easy to obtain, especially where "projections" (of shadow, anima, and/or animus) are concerned.

Recall from this blog for instance:

"The anima not only interferes with a man's emotional reactions, she can interfere with his thinking as well.  For instance, when a man is anima-possessed he may begin to give forth opinions instead of genuine thinking.  It is as though the anima begins to talk right through him, and she expresses herself as though she had an animus, which means she expresses opinions without regard to facts, relationship, or logic.  When a man is in this state of mind he begins to argue in a peevish way, and his masculine objectivity is quite lost in a sea of emotionally toned and irrational opinions that prove resistant to reasonable discussion...

In summary, Sanford offers: "...[T]he anima can poison a man's consciousness and rob him of himself should he fall for her insinuations...a man can prevent the negative anima from having this destructive influence on him...by making her conscious." (Invisible Partners...Pp. 35-43).

However, once one becomes more "self-aware" by integrating shadow, anima and/or animus, one can also be more Objective in one's observations, and therefore more capable of Rational Faith - which can be an amazingly strong foundation for the Will to Love, the Desire to Expend energy on behalf of oneself, others, and the benefit of the World.

As Erich Fromm writes in The Art of Loving:

"The ability to love depends on one's capacity to emerge from narcissism, and from the incestuous fixation to mother and clan; it depends on our capacity to grow, to develop a productive orientation in our relationship toward the world and ourselves. This process of emergence, of birth, of waking up, requires one quality as a necessary condition: faith. The practice of the art of loving requires the practice of faith.

"What is faith? Is faith necessarily a matter of belief in God, or in religious doctrine? Is faith by necessity in contrast to, or divorced from, reason and rational thinking? Even to begin to understand the problem of faith one must differentiate between rational and irrational faith. By irrational faith I understand the belief (in a person or an idea) which is based on one's submission to irrational authority. In contrast, rational faith is conviction which is rooted in one's own experience of thought or feeling. Rational faith is not primarily belief in something, but the quality of certainty and firmness which our convictions have. Faith is a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief.

"Rational faith is rooted in productive intellectual and emotional activity. In rational thinking, in which faith is supposed to have no place, rational faith is an important component. How does the scientist, for instance, arrive at a new discovery? Does he start with making experiment after experiment, gathering fact after fact, without having a vision of what he expects to find?....

"....At every step from the conception of a rational vision to the formulation of a theory, faith is necessary: faith in the vision as a rationally valid aim to pursue, faith in the hypothesis as a likely and plausible proposition, and faith in the final theory, at least until a general consensus about its validity has been reached. This faith is rooted in one's own experience, in the confidence in one's power of thought, observation, and judgment. While irrational faith is the acceptance of something as true only because an authority [and don't forget parents in this category] or the majority say so, rational faith is rooted in an independent conviction based upon one's own productive observing and thinking, in spite of the majority's opinion.

"Thought and judgment are not the only realm of experience in which rational faith is manifested. In the sphere of human relations, faith is an indispensable quality of any significant friendship or love. 'Having faith' in another person means to be certain of the reliability and unchangeability of his fundamental attitudes, of the core of his personality, of his love. By this I do not mean that a person may not change his opinions, but that his basic motivations remain the same; that, for instance, his respect for life and human dignity is part of himself, not subject to change.

"In the same sense we have faith in ourselves. We are aware of the existence of a self, of a core in our personality which is unchangeable and which persists throughout our life in spite of varying circumstances, and regardless of certain changes in opinions and feelings. It is this core which is the reality behind the word 'I', and on which our conviction of our own identity is based. Unless we have faith in the persistence of our self, our feeling of identity is threatened and we become dependent on other people whose approval then becomes the basis for our feeling of identity. Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today, and therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to. Faith in oneself is a condition of our ability to promise, and since, as Nietzsche said, man can be defined by his capacity to promise, faith is one of the conditions of human existence. What matters in relation to love is the faith in one's own love; in its ability to produce love in others, and in its reliability." (Pp.112-114)

As, I have pointed out in the last blog, where "Love = Effort", one must have faith in one's capacity to exert effort in relationship to what one intends, what one "promises", and one must be pretty self-aware to know one's capacities and limitations, so as not to promise something one cannot give. At the same time, becoming self-aware often involves pushing oneself beyond one's limits in order to have a better sense of what those limits actually are. As an example, I know my plans for my bike trip have taken many twists and turns in the details, but I was able to stick to the "major objective" and reaching that objective (by completing my bike trip this summer) is still my "intention" and therefore, my "promise" to myself and others. I still have "faith" in myself and "faith" in the support of others as they have been supporting me from the beginning, and therefore, I am continuing to "make the effort" to reach that final goal.

I would also offer, however, that faith does play a major role in our willingness to persist in a relationship. Everyone comes into their relationships with a certain "vision" of how that relationship might evolve, what is potential in that relationship, and our expectations may be more or less appropriate. As I have pointed out in several previous blogs here, especially those concerning our expectations surrounding "romantic love" (here and here), so many of our expectations are in-appropriate, and un-reasonable. When our partners are unable to live up to those unreasonable expectations, when we become disappointed, then we "lose faith". We may "lose faith" in that particular partner, that particular relationship, and move on with "faith" in some future possibility, without ever re-evaluating our expectations. Or, we may, eventually "lose faith" altogether, and give up on ever finding satisfaction in an intimate relationship.

However, if we are wise, if we continue to have faith in ourselves and others, we may "make the effort" with each life experience to come to a better understanding of ourselves and of others. I am hoping with my writing here to help with that understanding because with better understanding Faith Can Be Renewed and with Renewed Faith we can be more motivated to Love - to continue to Make the Effort to learn and to grow in our relationships with ourselves and with others.

And that leads to another "equation" of sorts: Understanding --> (leads to) Rational Faith which --> The Will to Love (and Learn) which --> More Understanding which --> More Rational Faith which --> An Even Greater Will to Love, etc., etc.

For instance, I heard a broadcast of an interview with Alison Armstrong on Lisa Garr's "Aware Radio Show" the other day. I am still "processing", but I think I came away from that with just a little more understanding of men and women.

I am going to keep working on this consideration of the differences between men and women, as well as what is necessary to understand and to practice in order to have healthy, functional, satisfying interpersonal relationships. I guess you could say this has been a "core" focus of my life! Furthermore, because I have developed some Rational Faith in my ability to understand, and even to add, from my own "core", insights that have helped me and may also help others develop greater self- and other understanding, I am going to continue to make the effort to further my understanding, to put into practice what I learn, and to communicate to others.

And you can count on that!