The Dangers of Compassion

Categorized under Love

The yearning to be happy is quite possibly the most destructive force in the world.  The amount of suffering it causes, the amount of psychotic behaviour it generates, the number of lives it wrecks, is incalculable. As a destructive force it far outweighs Nature’s meagre attempts to whip up storms, floods, earthquakes and the like.  Millions of lives are being hurt, maimed or destroyed every single day in the name of happiness, yet you will never see a story on this in the news.  It is simply taboo in the modern era to expose the truth this deeply.

The yearning for happiness is also the biggest source of human ignorance. It is easy enough for the mind to deceive itself at the best of times, but once the yearning for fulfillment, security and pleasure is thrown into the mix it virtually becomes a fait accompli.  When a person manages to secure what he thinks is a reliable source of happiness, you can more or less kiss him goodbye.  He ceases to be human and becomes a kind of cunning fox, his mind perpetually on the alert for anything that might threaten his prize possession.  Always on the defensive, his eyes constantly darting around, he intuitively fills his mind with emotions, justifications, rationalizations, platitudes, snippets of scripture, popular opinions, women’s views – anything that can muddy the waters and save him from having to look too closely into the truth of his own situation.

For example, I often encounter philosophically-inclined men who go to great lengths to justify their marriage and being in love with their wife.  They are compelled to go to these lengths because, being philosophical types, they respect logic and therefore agree that it is important to give up attachments.  But when it comes to their wives, they suddenly whistle a different tune.  A common justification put forward, usually in sheepish tones, is that the wife in question is a very intelligent woman who also happens to be deeply spiritual.  But many of them are simply content to argue that their love for their wife is “unconditional” and therefore spiritual in nature.

But is their love really unconditional?  One can say to these men, “If you were to come home from work one day to find that your wife had run away with another man, would your love for her be as blissful and affirmative as always?  Or if you found out that she was slowly poisoning you for the purpose of eventually killing you and inheriting your money, would you continue to adore her as much as ever?”  If the man is honest, he will answer that it would be highly doubtful.  For deep down he knows and I know that his love for his wife is very much conditional.  It is sustained on the strict condition that she continues to love him back – that is to say, that she continues to boost his ego and give him pleasure.

Unconditional love is an entirely different matter.  It is a love which goes beyond the emotions and embraces all things without reservation.  It is an adoration which wholeheartedly affirms everything that happens in Nature, regardless of what it is.  Loving every person that one meets, no matter how they behave.  Loving all circumstances as they occur, no matter how gruesome or unpleasant.  Loving every aspect of every moment that one experiences, right down to the smallest detail.  If you are foolish enough to have a wife, then it means loving everything else in the Universe in the same way that you love your wife.  And should she run away with another man, or die an agonizing death, then that too is loved with as much fervour as ever.  Anything less than this and it ceases to be unconditional love.  It instead becomes just another instance of ordinary, run-of-the-mill, selfish love.  For unconditional love is nothing other than a love for God, a love for the All.

The difference between unconditional love and selfish love is immeasurable.  When a person loves unconditionally he expects and receives no rewards at all.  He gets absolutely nothing back in return.  He loves all things because he clearly sees they are manifestations of his true nature.  All things are literally his self, and thus it becomes impossible for him to isolate one particular thing in the Universe (e.g. a beautiful woman) and cherish it more than other things.  To him, the woman is no more special that the trees, mountains and clouds.  They are all part of the nature of God.   Selfish love, by contrast, expects and demands certain benefits, and if the husband does not receive them he becomes angry and begins to fight with his wife.

The compassionate love for the welfare of all humanity falls into the same category.  It is fundamentally indistinguishable from ordinary, selfish love.  Unconditionally speaking, it makes no difference whether the human race lives or dies, or whether humans are miserable or happy, or whether they are ignorant or wise.  None of this matters to God in the slightest.  And so the mind of the man who is fully immersed in unconditional love remains tranquil in all circumstances.  He has tuned into the All and therefore gone beyond all forms.  He sees the joy of God in utterly everything.  He knows there is nothing he can do to increase this joy, nor does he have any power to diminish it.

Just as a husband expects certain rewards for loving his wife, so too the compassionate person is motivated by the selfish desire to gain rewards.  There is always an underlying egotism to the practice of compassion.  Religious people, for example, like to be compassionate because it makes them feel more holy.  It makes them look good in the eyes of their God (or so it seems to their eyes) and they believe it accrues them brownie points towards the goal of reaching heaven.  What pleases them most is basking in the certainty of a rewarding future.

In non-religious people, there are other forms of egotism at play.  There is the desire to prevent feelings of guilt from arising, for example.  Most people subconsciously know that if they refrain from behaving compassionately in a particular situation before them they will come to perceive themselves as being mean-spirited and self-centred.  There is also the egotism involved in trying to make the world a better place – that is to say, in laying down the groundwork for the production of future benefits for everyone, including oneself.  And then there are some people, usually women, who desperately spend their lives serving others as a way to ward off loneliness and boredom.  Without such an outlet available to them, they would have no life at all.

People often invoke the Golden Rule when it comes to compassion: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  Expressed in this way, compassion becomes an investment in the future.  Weak, vulnerable people, in particular, are quick to adopt this rule.  They instinctively feel that if they treat others in a caring, non-judgmental way, then others in turn will probably treat them in the same manner.  It is a cunning method aimed at disabling the strength and violence of others and wiping away all potential conflict from the world – that is to say, to recreate the womb on earth.   Nietzsche was pretty much on the mark when he described Christians as being haters of life.

Stronger, more successful people understandably tend to be not so enthusiastic about the Golden Rule.  Nonetheless, many of them donate to charities and become philanthropists, not because they expect charity in return, but to assuage their guilt.  Successful people usually gain their success by trampling over people in their eagerness to climb to the top, which can poison their conscience with the nagging thought that they really are despicable narcissists.  Indulging in philanthropy is their way of alleviating, not other people’s suffering, but their own.

Compassion, then, essentially boils down to being just another method to boost one’s ego.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t be helping others, and I am certainly not arguing for the preservation of the mean-spirited, petty-minded selfishness which consumes most people on this planet, but it is important to be completely honest about what motivates us in everything that we do.  All too often, compassion becomes little more than a drug that people take to make them feel better about themselves.  And when people are addicted to drugs they cannot think clearly and they end up causing far more harm than good.

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.

Chinua Achebe

If compassion is limited to simply picking up the pieces in the aftermath of human greed and brutality (e.g. feeding the hungry, healing the injured, comforting the distressed, etc), if it refrains from dealing with the root causes of human suffering, then it does nothing to prevent the same sort of suffering from occurring again and again in the future.  Compassion, in this sense, is like trying to douse flames with petrol.  It might quieten the flames for a moment or two, but watch how they roar back into life with even greater ferocity than before!

The greatest form of compassion is the compassion that seeks to prevent suffering from arising in the first place, as opposed to simply trying to contain it after the horse has bolted.  If human beings could be encouraged to tune their minds into the All, abandoning the desire to seek their happiness in particular circumstances or particular forms, learning to get high on life itself without the need for particular things to emotionally and psychologically prop them up, using reason to free themselves from their mental prisons and becoming fully open to the truth, then 99% of human suffering would vanish overnight.  In other words, the greatest form of compassion is the practice of reason and the perfecting of one’s understanding of reality, all the while encouraging others to do likewise.

Most people, however, are repulsed by the very thought of this, for it means having to make radical changes to what passes these days for ordinary, everyday life, and very few have the stomach or desire to do that.

For example, love is easily the biggest cause of human suffering worldwide.  Anyone can see this.  You don’t have to be a genius to see it.  It is obvious that the consequences of love are truly terrible, yet people everywhere are more than happy to turn a blind eye.  What is the love between a man and a woman but the fertile soil out of which springs heartbreak, jealousy, domestic violence, child abuse, bitterness, revenge, murder, loneliness, low self-esteem and alcoholism?  It is a dreadful condition which, although it might generate the occasional moment of bliss, produces endless amounts of misery all over the world.

Yet who among the compassionate are truly serious about abandoning love?   Not a single one of them, I wager.  This fact alone reveals that their proclaimed desire to eliminate suffering is insincere.

What would be your reaction if you observed a person deliberately setting fire to an occupied house and clapping his hands with joy at the sight of the flames growing larger and ever more fierce, only to start empathizing with the victims as they stagger out of the burning house and actively going over to help them?  You would probably consider him to be an utterly deranged nutter who should be locked away for a very long time for the good of public safety.  And yet that is exactly how the compassionate appear to me.

Compassion and misery are two sides of the same coin.  Just as the joys of harmonic resolution in music depend on the prior existence of dissonant tension, so too the enjoyment of compassion depends on the existence of ignorance, greed, pettiness and violence.  Without human insanity to constantly botch things up, there would be no need for compassion, and the delicious joy that people derive from compassionate acts would be denied them.

And yes, the pleasures of love and compassion can be very exquisite indeed.  It can bring a tear to the eye to watch people who were once apart coming together – the prodigal son coming home, a Muslim and a Christian embracing each other, a black man and a white man becoming friends, the public appreciation of a woman’s skills in a misogynistic society.  These dissolving of barriers speak to our own alienation and conflict with the world.  It brings to the surface our own yearning to be accepted by others, which is the true source of our tears.  The joy found in compassion ultimately derives from own ignorance of the nature of reality, from the deluded belief in our own self-existence.

One of the greatest dangers of compassion is the effect it can have of turning people’s minds against reality.  It is a truism that nothing brings two parties closer together more effectively than the presence of a shared enemy.  We can see that in the way a nation pulls together during a time of war, or when a community comes together in the aftermath of a natural disaster.  In a similar way, the easiest and most efficient way to bring all of humanity together is to make an enemy out of life itself.  Everyone can thus huddle together in the face of a threatening larger reality.  In this way compassion becomes a form of evil, causing people to turn their backs on God.

When the average person is asked to provide an example of a compassionate person, they invariably point the finger at Mother Teresa.  Just as Einstein has become the poster boy of genius, Mother Teresa has nowadays become the poster girl of compassion.  And I admit that in some respects the extreme nature of her lifestyle was admirable.  Most people put firm limits on their desire to help others.  They quickly put the brakes on their compassion as soon as it begins to interfere with their personal lives.  But Mother Teresa went out on a limb and turned her entire personal life into an exercise in helping others.

Yet, as with other compassionate people, her motivation for helping others was entirely egotistical in nature.  According to the official story, Mother Teresa started off on her life-long path while she was teaching at a convent school in Calcutta, where she became increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her.  The sight of all that poverty was making her suffer inwardly, and so at bottom her desire to help others was really a desire to ease the pain inside herself.  It was her maternal impulses coming into play, akin to rushing over to comfort a crying child.  Although she devoted herself to easing the physical and emotional sufferings of the poverty-stricken in an immediate sense, she never tried to resolve her own suffering through wisdom, nor did she strive to eliminate the root causes of suffering in others.  Quite the reverse, in fact, she actively promoted suffering through her desire to get people addicted to religious fantasy, which is like getting people addicted to heroin.

Contrast this to someone like Soren Kierkegaard, who made it his life to suffer for the truth.  Although Kierkegaard rarely helped the poor his compassion was immense, completely dwarfing that of Mother Teresa in all respects.  The way in which he stared into the truth without flinching and the humility with which he took it upon himself to accept the role of being the conscience of humanity, even though it came at great personal cost, is awe-inspiring.  Kierkegaard’s work will continue to live on through the ages, terrorizing the dishonest and the deceitful, while inspiring others to form a genuine relationship with truth and open their minds to God.  Mother Teresa, on the other hand, will increasingly become a dim memory and her influence, such as it is, will vanish.

Here lies the difference between the genuine compassion of the wise and the ordinary compassion of the egotist.  The former seeks to increase suffering in the world (as a spur towards higher things), while the latter tries to eliminate it.  Ordinary compassion is entirely worldly in nature and its core aim is to bring people happiness and peace – or spiritually speaking, to put people back to sleep.  It is the opposite of true compassion in every respect.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, said the compassionate Jesus.

It is no coincidence that the modern worship of love and compassion has arisen at the same time that society has granted more social and political powers to women.  It is a reflection of the growing feminization of Western society over the past century.  In the past the highest virtues were considered to be things like honour, courage, rationality, knowledge, and idealism; nowadays, it is all confined to what is motherly.  Indeed, the archetypal compassionate person nowadays bears a close resemblance to the archetypal mother figure – that is, someone who is soft, comforting, nurturing, accepting and non-judgmental.

There is nothing about Mother Teresa that reflects the Infinite. She inspires no one to abandon their delusions and become perfectly wise.  While the extreme nature of her lifestyle did harbour some possibilities, it was undermined by her maternal manner and her conventional Christian outlook, and so her life failed to express the rarest and most glorious of all things – namely, the madness of the divine.  Unlike her mentor, Jesus, who himself rarely helped the poor and instead spent his life suffering for the truth, she eliminated the dangerous elements from her life and retreated to the safe confines of the mother figure.  In effect, she was little more than a super-mum, with all of the limitations that entails.

This is why I am utterly dismayed that Mother Teresa and her like are nowadays regarded by most people to embody the highest of human virtues. The whole thrust of such worship serves to place worldliness front and centre in people’s minds, while the spiritual wisdom of a Kierkegaard or a Jesus is being marginalized and pushed out of sight.  It distracts people’s attention away from what is truly important and thus becomes a powerful force for evil.

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58 Responses to “The Dangers of Compassion”

  1. Liberty Sea Says:

    Man’s sole impulse: The securing of his own approval, his spiritual comfort.
    “Here lies the difference between the genuine compassion of the wise and the ordinary compassion of the egotist. The former seeks to increase suffering in the world (as a spur towards higher things), while the latter tries to eliminate it. ”
    Thought different in means and visions, these two are generated by the same impulse. The former finds spiritual comfort in higher things, such as truth or perfection. The latter find spiritual comfort in the elimination of suffering. What they want for themselves they want for others. They want others to want what they want. Is that not selfish?

  2. Bob Michael Says:

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, said the compassionate Jesus.

    Yes, and the ‘earth’ sure showed him a thing or two.

  3. Kelly Jones Says:

    Bob, is it not obvious that people only become antagonistic when they have something to protect? The antagonistic response to Jesus, to murder him, was to protect attachment (traditions, social sleepiness, hatred of life) and douse the wildfire of wisdom he was trying to ignite.

    ____

    Liberty wrote: “the securing of his own approval, his spiritual comfort”. That’s an oxymoron. Spirituality recognises self as not inherently real, so has no need for security. And insecurity is a correlated error.

    ____

    David, why only 99%? If one is *fully* open to the truth, and has abandoned the search for happiness in all particular forms (which includes truths and wise insights also), then where is the source of 1% of suffering remaining? Do you mean, the type of conscious suffering of biological pain, being the physical, nerve-based sensations of pain like neuralgia or a heart attack?

  4. David Quinn Says:

    Liberty Sea, I refer you to the passages on unconditional love. A person may well start out seeking the truth or trying to make the world a wiser place in order to find happiness or self-approval (for he still has an ego), but as he develops he soon sees the folly of that.

    Kelly, I was thinking of the suffering involved in trying to become enlightened and perfect.

    And Bob, I think your wife is calling you.

  5. Liberty Sea Says:

    Well, Kelly, man is a machine. The spiritual man finds untruth uncomfortable, finds his own imperfection uncomfortable, finds the imperfection of the world uncomfortable. That is what motivates him toward seeking truth. He finds the idea of being a truth-seeker noble, in other word, comfortable to his soul. Just as mother Teresa’s “desire to help others was really a desire to ease the pain inside herself”, every sacrifice you make is because you are more comfortable with what you sacrifice for than what you sacrifice. When you say “If I do that, I will be ashamed of myself”, you actually mean “Doing that will give me spiritual discomfort”. And when Kevin said he was motivated by disgust he was being motivated by spiritual discomfort, and for that reason he was an egotist. I think I have made clear what I mean by spiritual comfort. If you watch closely you will find that impulse in every move you make.

    Man creates the idea of nobility, of unselfishness to comfort himself, to feel he is an elevated creature. But that is self-deception, and the truth is that man is a machine of no free will. No matter what he does he cannot be more noble than his stupidest and most cowardly neighbor. The courageous ones are caused to be courageous, the cowardly ones are caused to be cowardly. All prides are but mere vanities. Man has no dignity. Do not imagine that he has.
    But when you have perfected yourself, I suppose neither dignity nor indignity enters the picture. Then you will be comfortable with both truth and untruth, virtue and unvirtue. David says is he is utterly dismayed by a tragic fact. This means he is not joyous with all that happens as he pictures the sage. He is not perfect, and nobody was, to my knowledge.

  6. Kelly Jones Says:

    Liberty, Kevin, David, and indeed, most spiritual men, talk about being motivated by disgust of delusion, or love of truth, or make similar statements that appear emotion-driven. One could take it as you read it – existence of some degree of delusion – OR, it could be taken as a deliberate, calculated psychological provocation, for the sake of prodding a dull-witted complacent reader to think a tad about their humdrum, ordinary, comfortable life choices — just as Dan and I were discussing in the “Spirituality and Income” comments a few days ago.

    Anyway, your argument is false. The desire for truth is a desire for comfort, but *when one understands* what truth means, the desire for comfort is seen as false. Do you recognise how internally dysfunctional the argument is: “I will get a greater reward, sense of peace, personal achievement, happiness, and identify myself publicly as a noble grand individual, *when* I choose to sacrifice my egotistical love of getting rewards, a sense of peace, personal achievement, happiness, and noble reputation —- so here goes!” Doesn’t work. That’s why the decision to value truth is for its own sake, not tied to anything else, not for any reward.

  7. Kelly Jones Says:

    Also, it’s a misnomer to call someone who spends most of their time in samsara, a spiritual man.

  8. David Quinn Says:

    Liberty wrote: “David says is he is utterly dismayed by a tragic fact. This means he is not joyous with all that happens as he pictures the sage. He is not perfect, and nobody was, to my knowledge.”

    It was merely a figure of speech. I’m not perfect, by any means, but in this instance you are misinterpreting my meaning. A lot of people have difficulty with this point – that of reconciling the sage’s love for all things and his desire to promote wisdom in the world. It seems like a contradiction, but it isn’t really.

    It reminds me of a Zen story:

    Master Nansen was washing his clothes. A monk asked, “Is the Master still doing such things?”. Master Nansen, holding up his clothes, asked, “What is to be done with them?”

  9. Liberty Sea Says:

    Kelly, the impulse I talked about isn’t so obvious to see, so you need to watch more closely. A man of principle sticks to his principle because he wants his self-approval, not public approval, public reputation or public identification as a noble grand individual, and he feels bad if he cannot keep his principle, his promise to himself, his commitment to what he sets out to do. The concept of authenticity, integrity are all about self-approval. This reminds me of Kevin’s words in his’s last letter to David as he talked about his quest for integrity, and that certainly is not a psychological device to deal with fools.

    When a man acts he may not think concretely about reward but his impulse makes him choose spontaneously what is more comfortable with his ideal, his principle. When you choose to stick with logic, it is because you find yourself more comfortable with logic than any other mean. As you analyzing either/or you find yourself in the mindset “rather this than that”. Once one understands the truth what does one do with it? 1. Commit suicide; 2. Ignore it and continue the mediocre life; 3. Pursue perfection and promotion of wisdom. Nobody chooses to pursue perfection if they don’t find it appealing as a noble ideal, a kind of pursuing self-approval. When a man says: “I don’t want to deceive myself”, it implies that the fact that he may be in state of self-deception makes him feel uncomfortable. The same mindset lies behind words one says to oneself such as: “I can’t forgive myself if I do that”, “Doing that would be selling my soul to the devil!”, “I can’t allow myself to be dishonest”, etc.

    We can analyse the psychological element behind the statement: “I want to value truth for its own sake”. This implies: “Not valuing truth for its own sake is bad”, which implies :”I would feel bad if I do a bad thing” ==> “It discomforts me spiritually if I don’t value truth for its own sake”.

    Valuing necessarily involves attachment. Valuing is about giving something worth, making it worth sacrificing for, worth preserving in exchange of something else. When one says “I would rather lose A than B”, it implies that losing B makes one feel somewhat uncomfortable.

  10. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea:

    A man of principle sticks to his principle because he wants his self-approval, not public reputation or public identification as a noble grand individual.

    Everyone approves of themselves by default. Even when they disapprove of themselves, they are really disapproving of what they consider to have, or at least potentially want to drive away from themselves. The question is whether that approval is justified or not.

    :

    When you choose to stick with logic, it is because you find yourself comfortable with logic.

    There is no logical reason why one should be logical, so this statement is wrong.

  11. Liberty Sea Says:

    @Carmel:
    “Everyone approves of themselves by default. Even when they disapprove of themselves, they are really disapproving of what they consider to have, or at least potentially want to drive away from themselves.”
    That is exactly what I mean when I say man’s sole impulse is the securing of his own approval – spiritual comfort. Not being able to definitely secure his self-approval makes man feel uncomfortable.
    Everyone tries to justify himself to himself. That is a subtle movement of the ego.
    “There is no logical reason why one should be logical”
    And that is exactly why the ‘impulse for spiritual comfort’ precedes logic in making decision. You just prove my point. Thank you for your unintentional help.

  12. Kelly Jones Says:

    Hey Liberty, Kevin’s and David’s letters, at least, as I see them, were about two young men’s struggles to lead a spiritual life, in the midst of deep egotistical fears of being ostracised from society should they give up women entirely. So they were searching for suitable psychological devices and medicines, to try to come closer to more enlightened mindstates. For instance, integrity and dignity — and other noble values like a wild, infinite-spirited freedom, extreme masculinity, uncompromising rationality, and individuality. They were stepping-stones only. Sure, they were like two boys creating new toys, new computer games, new adventures to feed their troubled, fearful egos — and thus quiet that part of the mind while they ventured further into dangerous territory. It is understandable that one has to do this. But there is no alternative for anyone who is still terrified of losing the feelings of solidity, personal power, and tremendous social security that comes from having an ego. One has to take these little stepping stones — but try to create the medicines wisely, with the pure-minded end goal always in view. The purer the vehicle, the less karma it carries, the quicker one makes progress.

  13. David Quinn Says:

    Everything that Liberty talks about relates to the early stages of the spiritual path, when one is still under the thrall of the self. However, there comes a time when the very idea of self-approval becomes meaningless. Consciousness of the perfection of Nature takes over. The self can no longer be found. Approving or disapproving one’s self gives way to approving or disapproving Nature, which is an exercise in futility.

    But in those early stages it is critically important to become attached to the truth and to value one’s intregity. Otherwise, the later stages will never be reached.

  14. Kelly Jones Says:

    Yes. You have put it far more clearly than I did, David. I would only add, a burning sense of destiny that I can only describe as humility. I think it’s bizarre to speak of self-approval and comfort as key aspects of one’s spiritual journey, even at an early stage on the path. How could that possibly bode well? Instead, the mind really ought to be fixing its targets avidly on striving to know exactly what enlightenment is, and how one stands, vis-a-vis emptiness. Reason being, it is so easy for the ego to claim a premature victory, falling into the commonplace pit-fall of circumscribing Reality and saying, “Here it is! I’ve got it!” To try to pin a system down, to speak of approval and comfort is a major misconception of anything the spiritual life entails. Maybe Liberty isn’t actually cut out for the path. He doesn’t emanate the kind of burning keenness for truth, and the cutting awareness of his own mediocrity, that a beginner is known by, and knows himself by. But who knows? Maybe he will some day grow the “guts” to cope with such a keenness, and such an awareness. One can only wait and see.

  15. David Quinn Says:

    I think it is more the case that Liberty, not being a native English speaker, is not quite using the right words to express himself here. I don’t think he means comfort as in contentment, but rather as being true to one’s conscience. Not being true to one’s conscience causes discomfort.

  16. Bob Michael Says:

    “For example, I often encounter philosophically-inclined men who go to great lengths to justify their marriage and being in love with their wife.”

    Likewise it’s also you, David, who goes to any lengths to attempt to justify your ways of misogyny and cowardice. Seems quite clear to me that unless a radical change takes place in you you’ll never come to experience first-hand the innumerable joys and wonders of a divinely-orchestrated conjugal relationship between a man and woman. Quite frankly I feel you’re simply not man enough for such a rare thing. And besides, what worthwhile and self-respecting woman would have any interest in a freeloading parasite who spends his days biting the hands that feed him?

    But don’t feel all that bad, David; Christ, Kierkegaard, and many of your other ‘wisdom heros’ walked in the same very shoes that you do. Hence your clinging to their words, and quite often without any true understanding of them.

  17. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea:

    That is exactly what I mean when I say man’s sole impulse is the securing of his own approval – spiritual comfort. Not being able to definitely secure his self-approval makes man feel uncomfortable.

    Self-approval is something that happens by default for every person. No one can *not* have self-approval, because every person is already himself to begin with. So it’s not necessary to separately seek self-approval.

    :

    And that is exactly why the ‘impulse for spiritual comfort’ precedes logic in making decision. You just prove my point. Thank you for your unintentional help.

    You are positing the “impulse for spiritual comfort” as a logical reason for being logical, i.e, a person will be logical if he finds comfort in being logical.

    When it comes to being logical, it doesn’t matter what causes someone to be logical, but whether they are being logical or not. Also it doesn’t matter what precedes logic in making a decision, but whether the decision itself is logical or not. If the impulse for spiritual comfort is something other than logic, and plays a part in someone’s thinking, then their thinking isn’t wholly logical.

  18. Carmel Says:

    I read Liberty’s earlier posts, and I think I misinterpreted him. I think by “self-approval” he means feeling conscientious as opposed to feeling guilty. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    However, if one follows one’s ideals solely to avoid the feeling of guilt, then one isn’t really following those ideals but merely trying to avoid guilt. At some point one may stop feeling guilty about not following those ideals, and thereby stop following them.

  19. David Quinn Says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Carmel. It is important to fall in love with the truth in a positive sense, to learn how to genuinely enjoy the nature of God. It also helps to burn your bridges, to divorce yourself from your roots in the world as much as possible, as it reinforces in your mind that there is no turning back and you have no choice but to push on.

    Or alternatively, you could hop into bed with your beautiful spouse and enjoy a divinely-orchestrated blowjob. That might work.

  20. Liberty Sea Says:

    David pretty much got me right. Conscience is ego. It is conscience that compels mother Teresa to help the poor, and it is also conscience that compels the spiritual man to pursue truth. Aside from a difference in visions and mean, there is also a difference of interest. Integrity of interest (in this case, intellectual and spiritual interests), disposition and conscientiousness, too, belong to the category of what I call spiritual comfort. Much’s of man motivation is to ease his conscience. People either adjust their conscience to fit their purpose or become spiritually uncomfortable/guilt-ridden. And guilt is the major spiritual discomfort, though not the only one. It is my fault for not using the appropriate language, so I can’t blame Kelly for misinterpreting me, though I must say few are more determined and passionate than me in the spiritual path.
    There is distinct difference between the metaphysical ego and the psychological ego. The metaphysical ego is an illusion, empty of essence. The psychological ego is a function in the brain with its mechanism of desire. To destroy illusion metaphysically is not a difficult task, but we are stuck with our psychological faculties. Consciousness is self-consciousness and necessarily involves duality. I think instead of destroying the ego, what you are trying to do is to extend it so that it can cover everything. You could say it is the same thing, but I don’t think so.

    My major concern is whether the psychological ego can destroy itself and remain conscious. My knowledge in neurology seems to suggest that the psychological ego can only die when the brain dies.

  21. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea:

    It is conscience that compels mother Teresa to help the poor, and it is also conscience that compels the spiritual man to pursue truth.

    Firstly it’s a bit misleading to define conscience to be ego, because it’s usually defined differently.

    You could say that ego is present in both Mother Teresa and the spiritual man but to say that it *compels* them is wrong. To the degree the spiritual man is compelled by his ego, he is not a spiritual man.

    Ultimately both Mother Teresa’s and the spiritual man’s “ego” is like a line drawn in the sand, lacking any inherent basis for existence. But the spiritual man would know this perfectly well, so he wouldn’t care much for satisfying his conscience/ego.

    :

    People either adjust their conscience to fit their purpose or become spiritually uncomfortable/guilt-ridden.

    When it comes to truth, it is truth itself that satisfies in the early stages of spiritual growth. The ego doesn’t become more truthful but its needs are met by the nature of the truths one discovers. But as one advances the focus gradually turns to the ego itself, which leads to its “discomfort” as you put it. After this stage one simply has to go on seeking the truth in spite of the the ego’s discomfort. If not then one could always marry a spiritual woman and spend one’s days enjoying divinely orchestrated sex, spiritual cuddling and bonding sessions, and housework.

  22. Kelly Jones Says:

    Okay, I’ll try to keep that language issue in mind in future. So, Liberty, can I ask you if your argument, put simply, is this: one may understand perfectly well that the self is an illusion but no one can apply this perfectly? If so, (1) it’s an argument that neither personal experience nor science could never prove, (2) it’s irrelevant anyway.

  23. Bob Michael Says:

    “And Bob, I think your wife is calling you.”

    “Or alternatively, you could hop into bed with your beautiful spouse and enjoy a divinely-orchestrated blowjob.”

    Such utter childishness, David. Not to mention your having a gutter mind and further exemplifying your hatred and disrespect for women. You just can’t seem to keep yourself from showing your true colors.

  24. Bob Michael Says:

    K. J.: Bob, is it not obvious that people only become antagonistic when they have something to protect? The antagonistic response to Jesus, to murder him, was to protect attachment (traditions, social sleepiness, hatred of life) and douse the wildfire of wisdom he was trying to ignite.

    Only a fool goes about pushing the multitudes’ buttons. The truly wise man seeks out the few ‘elect’ and helps facilitate their awakening and enlightenment.

  25. Liberty Sea Says:

    @Carmel:
    “Firstly it’s a bit misleading to define conscience to be ego, because it’s usually defined differently.”
    Conscience is a manifestation, a function of the psychological ego, to be correct.
    “To the degree the spiritual man is compelled by his ego, he is not a spiritual man.”
    The compel is more subtle than you think. I think.
    @Kelly:
    It is not a question about whether one could apply it perfectly. It is a question about whether one could apply it at all. You either have a neurological ego or you don’t. The neurological ego is not something that can be wore off gradually. You can have the illusion of selflessness through some sort of meditation (buzz of ecstasy, timelessness, not linking “I” to thoughts, blah blah…) but the neurological ego is still there, even though the ontological/metaphysical ego is never there, even though you are perfectly aware that the ontological ego is never there. You may not be conscious of it, but it is still there, and a hidden ego is the worst. Every cell in your body is selfish, your DNA is selfish, your nervous system is selfish, because they have evolved to be selfish, to work on the basis of self preservation, and sacrifice is made on the basis of conscience. The neurological ego only dies when the brain stops working, because it is fundamental to the brain function. What David and others are doing, to repeat my suspect, is not destroying the ego, but identifying it with the All. I am not merely hypothesizing.

    But yes, maybe it is irrelevant. Carry on what you are doing.

  26. David Quinn Says:

    I’m teasing you, Bob. You do set yourself up for it. :)

  27. David Quinn Says:

    Liberty is right in saying that the “neurological ego” remains after enlightenment. It is an intrinsic part of a well-functioning brain. Even Buddhas have them. If they didn’t, their minds would be incoherent and they would effectively be unconscious. What does get eliminated are false thoughts about the neurological ego – e.g. the belief that the neurological ego really exists.

  28. Kelly Jones Says:

    I think it’s mistaken to equate blind cellular processes with egotism. First, the irrelevancy of the argument: those processes are unconscious, so there’s no way they can be consciously altered (so it’s nonsense to label them as prone to “faulty thinking”). Second, the falseness of the argument: those processes are not intrinsically ego-driven, because they are completely dependent on causality. They don’t fight against it, but depend on it absolutely. Membranes form and dissolve, proteins cross ports, molecular bonds are constantly formed and broken. They are incapable of resisting Reality. Third, their necessity (from a scientific point of view) for wisdom: since those same unconscious, purely biochemomechanical processes are what create consciousness, which in turn can create valid, logical concepts that go beyond what these blind processes are ever capable of understanding, via the intricate interactions of billions of elements, making up the chemical bonds that form proteins, fatty acids, DNA, and other organelles. Fourth, the argument that science can prove or disprove philosophical truths: the meaning of emptiness is the same whether consciousness is formed by such micromolecular machinery or by something else. Fifth, their necessity for spiritual application: the mind just uses the same old functions of self-coordination to respond to important events by making decisions. Yet none of these points actually deals with the basic problem that Liberty hasn’t yet solved: exactly how the self really exists. If he could grasp that, he’d see the false foundation of his worries. It seems like he believes the self and the ego are synonymous. Liberty Sea! Liberty Sea! Are you seaworthy?

  29. Kelly Jones Says:

    Bob, how about telling people who want to cross the Troll’s bridge (and help others cross over also): “Shhh! Don’t trouble the ogre with your bothersome pleas to cross the bridge! If you upset him, it’s your fault! If he eats you, then you brought it all on yourself! Let sleeping dogs lie. (etc.)”

  30. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea,

    The compel is more subtle than you think. I think.

    My point was that if it is there then it distorts the awareness of reality. There is no need to assume a compulsion of any kind where a person is reasoning correctly about something. As I said, all that matters is he is reasoning correctly.

  31. Liberty Sea Says:

    You have largely misinterpreted me, Kelly. And David didn’t, so I wonder if it is a language issue. I have no worry. I want one thing, and that is perfection. I will slaughter anything that gets in my way. Whether my definition of perfection coincides with yours is not my concern.

    “exactly how the self really exists. If he could grasp that, he’d see the false foundation of his worries. It seems like he believes the self and the ego are synonymous. Liberty Sea! Liberty Sea! Are you seaworthy?”

    What you mean by the self is what I mean by the ontological ego. Everything is in a constant state of flux. A thing exists in relation to other things. It is composed of parts and does not exist beyond the parts, thus has no inherent existence. Every particular thing is caused. There is no clear-cut boundary between a thing and the rest of the All. Things exist by definitions, are given boundaries and form by being perceived, etc. That is how the ontological ego is an illusion.

    People don’t have a self, an ontological ego, but they are selfish, greedy, egoistic, egocentric, etc. Now this is what I mean by the psychological ego, the neurological ego.

    My argument is that even if you have no false thoughts, your actions would still be selfish. Selfishness, not faulty thinking. I am not questioning whether an enlightened man still has the “Am I doing the right thing” feeling (conscience), though it is clear that if a man is still concerned with whether his action is right/good (self-approval) then he is still an egotist. My argument is that it is impossible to be selfish against Nature, because every selfish behavior of the individual is dictated by Nature, but it is inevitable to be selfish against some portions of Nature such as the ones harmful to the human species, or the individuals, whether you are under illusion or not.

    Imagine you are walking in a road, and a car runs into you. By your reflex you would be startled and immediately jump aside. Your instinctive fear saves your life and allows you to continue your mission to preach about how to be free from fear.

    If you are bitten by a mosquito you will express a murderous intent, you will immediately kill the mosquito. This is natural because thanks to that defensive reflex the species has survived. Everything that is harmful to the species must be eliminated. But when you are under the spell of unselfishness, you will refrain from killing it, or from hating it at all. This is unnatural.

    The problem is: In order to be ‘unselfish’ you have to undo the defensive mechanism that was installed into your body. But this impossible unless you kill yourself. If viruses invade your body, antibodies will be created to kill viruses. Even breathing, eating, drinking are also selfish behaviors. The body simply protects itself unless some twisted conscience tells it to sacrifice itself, which is an expression of the ego anyway. When you are thrown in to a Battle Royale, a survival game, if you wish to remain alive to promote wisdom you will have to do everything you can to kill everybody else.

    You may argue that so long as you have no false thought then no matter what you do you are still compassionate, selfless. That even if a man is full of homicidal tendency but is joyous at everything that happens then he is utterly holy and full of unconditional love. It means even if you killed the whole world to protect your body (in a situation that only conscience would tell you to do otherwise), you would still be compassionate and unselfish because you have no illusion of being separated from the All. I can’t argue against that. It’s all nice and dandy. Let us rejoice on the suffering of human beings. How joyous is nature, how delirious! Let us see the day you celebrate the rape of 4 years old girls, just as everything else.

    P/S: Gratitude also comes from the ego. If you don’t feel you are benefited you won’t be able to feel grateful.

  32. cathypreston Says:

    Getting in touch with the self that is intrinsically selfish is good, realizing one provides a monthly cheque to the starving children on TV to make yourself feel better or to ease your guilt is a really valuable insight, glimpsing the many strings attached to any good deed is freeing. Experiencing the full force of your own survival instinct is humbling.

    I don’t kid myself, I know that eliminating suffering in individuals is selfish because it is a survival instinct. I truly don’t see how humanity can thrive otherwise.

  33. Kelly Jones Says:

    Liberty wrote: “if a man is still concerned with whether his action is right/good (self-approval) then he is still an egotist.”
    Evaluation isn’t deluded, Liberty. To value doesn’t necessitate the belief that values are set in stone, as a religious fanatic believes. It is very possible to form concepts and decide which are more useful or powerful, without attachment (the deluded frame of mind).

    “Everything that is harmful to the species must be eliminated.”
    Two points:
    1. Evolution doesn’t have a soul consciously perpetuating a value system. DNA has such a low error rate (replication being the basic program responsible for making “self”) because of the “duds”: copies that didn’t endure: certain chemical bonds were too weak to persist in the environment.
    2. Species don’t really exist. Quite literally. But also, if you look at the evolution of mammals, you’ll see adaptation to “harm”.

    “Your instinctive fear saves your life and allows you to continue your mission to preach about how to be free from fear. … If you are bitten by a mosquito you will express a murderous intent, you will immediately kill the mosquito.”
    You’re justifying “conscious” egotistical decisions and values by mixing them up with unconscious behaviours. For instance, you talk about the intention expressed by killing a mosquito, but at the same time represent the action as an utterly mindless, non-conscious response. If a thought arises to do something, then it occurs in consciousness, not in unconsciousness.

    The more an organism can evaluate, the less it operates unconsciously.

    “even if a man is full of homicidal tendency but is joyous at everything that happens then he is utterly holy and full of unconditional love.”
    If he is creating suffering that doesn’t tend towards helping people become enlightened, then I wouldn’t call him utterly holy, but still prone to the delusion of the ego (he cannot see others as part of himself). I don’t think your conclusion has been thought-through.

  34. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea:

    There is no clear-cut boundary between a thing and the rest of the All. Things exist by definitions, are given boundaries and form by being perceived, etc. That is how the ontological ego is an illusion.

    So why the obsession with the “neurological ego”?

    :

    My argument is that even if you have no false thoughts, your actions would still be selfish.

    Selfishness implies an inherently existing self. That is a false thought. Also, deciding whether your actions are good or bad is not egotism if you are perfectly aware of what you are doing. It’s only egotistic if you think that certain actions(like avoidance of suffering or survival) are inherently good or bad.

    :

    The problem is: In order to be ‘unselfish’ you have to undo the defensive mechanism that was installed into your body.

    Why should defense mechanisms imply selfishness when there is no self to begin with! Selfishness is merely the ignorance of this fact.

    :

    You may argue that so long as you have no false thought then no matter what you do you are still compassionate, selfless. That even if a man is full of homicidal tendency but is joyous at everything that happens then he is utterly holy and full of unconditional love.

    How exactly is a homicidal maniac not having false thoughts?

    You talk about things not having inherent existence, and yet nothing else you say reflects that understanding. In fact, you seem to be in the process of trying to disprove that idea.

  35. Liberty Sea Says:

    @Carmel and Kelly:
    Selfishness is different from ignorance. Selfishness has more to do with pleasure and benefit than with Truth, reality and knowledge.

    Nobody ever does anything consciously without the intent to benefit himself (including the benefit of appeasing the torment of conscience, the benefit of being freed from untruth, etc.). In this sense everyone is selfish. Reasoning is just a tool to get benefits.

    If your true self is the All (in fact, it is), then how could you do anything that doesn’t end up benefiting yourself? How could you do anything that diminishes Nature? Including deriving pleasure from the suffering of others when you are enlightened, of course.

    For example I know I don’t have a self, but I don’t know whether I am the only conscious being in the world. Maybe other people are just automaton with in my consciousness, figments of my imagination. Since I don’t have a self, why shouldn’t I get every pleasure I can get even if it costs the suffering of other people, who don’t really exist anyway? If it doesn’t cost me effort and trouble, why shouldn’t I eat children’s brains for breakfasts? If I get to eat their brains, I will be joyous, if I don’t, I will still be joyous. What matters? Living is futile. Killing yourself is futile. Worrying about futility is futile. You are joyous with everything that happens, but you prefer not to cut yourself. What if someone else just prefers babies to hamburger? Then why shouldn’t we do everything we can to get as much pleasure as possible? Is there any logical deduction from the fact that you don’t really exist which states: you must not hurt other if doing so doesn’t help them?

    Metaphysics does not dictate ethics. No law was carved in the fabric of the universe that dictates: once you are enlightened you must help other become enlightened. You want to help others become enlightened, or help others at all, because your conscience tells you so, not because it is a logical deduction from ultimate truth. And appeasing your conscience is securing your spiritual comfort.

    Kelly said: “If he is creating suffering that doesn’t tend towards helping people become enlightened, then I wouldn’t call him utterly holy, but still prone to the delusion of the ego (he cannot see others as part of himself). I don’t think your conclusion has been thought-through.”
    If you can’t feel pain and you cut off your finger and joyously eat it because you like the taste, then are you selfish? Others are part of yourself. Does eating them make them no longer a part of yourself, LOL? I think David would say that extending the ego to cover sentient beings alone would still be egotism because it means separating sentient beings (who are capable of suffering and pleasure) from the rest of the universe (who are incapable of suffering and pleasure). If you love everything, what difference does it make if you eat a bean or your father’s heart? Maybe you prefer bean to human organs in term of taste, which is the same as someone else who prefers Coca Cola over Pepsi.

    Ultimately, evaluation is deluded. It creates a hierarchy of value, and by doing so assumes that a particular result is preferable than its alternatives. But everything that happens is inevitable. Did Nature say it would have been better if the Holocaust had not happened? Nature doesn’t care about value, it doesn’t care if X and Y become enlightened while Z and T remain deluded. If it wants it will wipe out the whole of sentient beings who are capable of evaluating.

    Species don’t really exist. So what? Organisms still protect themselves, grouping with similar organisms in the same areas and fight against other organisms with less similarity to survive.

  36. Carmel Says:

    @Liberty Sea:

    Selfishness is different from ignorance. Selfishness has more to do with pleasure and benefit than with Truth, reality and knowledge.

    I’m afraid your premise itself is a contradiction in terms, so there’s no point addressing any of your other points in the above post. Anything that doesn’t have to do with the knowledge of Reality *is* ignorance, by definition.

    You’re probably just trying to experiment with ideas, but you should think about what you are saying a bit more.

  37. Liberty Sea Says:

    @Carmel: Why are you breathing? Does it have anything to do with the knowledge of Reality?
    Why are you eating bean instead of hamburger? Does that preference have anything to do with the knowledge of Reality?
    You are probably just trying to help, but you should think about what you are saying a bit more.

  38. Liberty Sea Says:

    Being metaphysically/ontologically selfish is ignorant.
    Being psychologically/neurologically selfish is concerned with pleasure and benefit.
    People confuse metaphysics with ethics all the time. The metaphysical question “What is real?” has no logical bearing upon the ethical question “What is good?”.
    Truth and Happiness are two different goals. The True and the Good are two different goals. Knowledge dictates means, not ends.

  39. Bob Michael Says:

    Kelly, you miss the points I was trying to get across (not that they are necessarily correct) and then attempt to drag things into an unending metaphysical ping-pong match. Which will lead nowhere so far as enlightenment or radically new being is concerned.

  40. Bob Michael Says:

    David, I suggest you put the teasing aside and invest your time and energy towards trying to more perfectly understand yourself (especially why you are ‘awake’) and the precise nature of the ongoing human dilemma (why nearly all people are ‘asleep’). Since only then might you come to play a viable part in the solution. Which you are not doing presently.

  41. Liberty Sea Says:

    Do I have to explain common sense to the enlightened men here? It seems that I have to, because a lot of people upon learning the Truth have forgotten their common sense, instead of using their knowledge of Truth to explain common sense.

    The matter of ego is confusing even to those so-called spiritual men, which is why I divide the ego into the ontological ego and the neurological ego. The ontological ego has absolutely nothing to do with sentience. The neurological ego is concerned with sentience in general, mainly pleasure, to the extent that it can feel sensations. There is no clear-cut boundary in nature, but the reach of your nervous system has it approximated limit, and thus if a rock near-by is shattered, your nervous system doesn’t feel pain. Even though the shattering of the rock contributes causes such as sending impacts to the environment and vibrate your nervous system, such impacts are not enough to arise discernible sensation in the nervous system.

    Selfishness means separating yourself from the rest. For the ontological ego, there is no separation, and thus ontological selfishness is ignorance. But for the neurological ego, which is concerned with sentience, there is an approximated boundary created by discernibility of sensation. To common sense, a nervous system is selfish when its pleasure either directly and intentionally results in the suffering of other nervous systems, or doesn’t desire to intentionally and directly arouse any discernible pleasant sensation in other nervous systems (in its community at least), or are not concerned at all with the suffering and pleasure of other nervous systems. Thus we say the pleasure of this ‘selfish’ nervous system is ‘separated’ from the pleasure of other nervous systems.

    Take a common example: You sit next to your girlfriend. With common sense we say there is separation when you are happy but she doesn’t feel happy. Your happiness certainly contributes causes that affect her, when we look at the causal network of the universe as a whole. The nerves that are excited radiate electronic waves into the environment and they spread in the air and vibrate her nervous system and slightly affect her metabolism and so on, but no discernible pleasant sensation in her nervous system is aroused as a direct result of your happiness. And normally we say there is no separation between you and her when your happiness directly results in her happiness, that when you and her have sex you two become one because you feel pleasure together, experience ultimate bliss together.

    So, a person can be perfectly aware of the non-duality of reality and thus are ontologically unselfish but still eat babies and thus are neurologically selfish, because he is not concerned with the suffering of the babies.

    There are different kind of pleasures, of course, such as physical pleasure (orgasm), emotional pleasure (marital warmth, wedding joy) and spiritual pleasure (appeased conscience, freedom from untruth, meditative bliss).

    Based on the definition of ontological ego and neurological ego, I thus establish two kinds of evil: One is ignorance, which is ontological selfishness. The other is related with suffering, which is neurological selfishness. The Buddha has one thing fixed in mind, and that is to eliminate ignorance and suffering. He is concerned with sentient beings, who are capable of suffering, rather than just The All.

    David makes it his concern that promotion of ignorance is fundamentally evil, but promotion of suffering is good if it results in more true knowledge, which is metaphysical knowledge, knowledge of reality. His ethics is clear, radical and extremist: Knowledge alone is good; Knowledge alone should be desired as an end; Knowledge alone ought to exist for its own sake; All actions we perform ought to be for the sake of knowledge. And thus perfection to him means having no false thoughts, having knowledge of reality imbued in every fiber of his being.

    The truth of causality dictates that the universe has no intrinsic purpose. Any kind of imposing purpose and end, of defining Good and Bad, is entirely subjective.

  42. Bob Michael Says:

    L. S., my two posts directly above your lastest post apply fundamentally to yourself too.

  43. Carmel Says:

    @Bob Michael:

    David, I suggest you put the teasing aside and invest your time and energy towards trying to more perfectly understand yourself (especially why you are ‘awake’) and the precise nature of the ongoing human dilemma (why nearly all people are ‘asleep’). Since only then might you come to play a viable part in the solution. Which you are not doing presently.

    But would that leave him enough time to appreciate the nuances of the divine feminine?

  44. Kelly Jones Says:

    Bob, the point I was making was this one: “antagonising others = others are antagonised, not because they’ve been deliberately provoked, but because they’re easily offended”. So my playful scenario merely put the question: Should one suppress one’s views and go around on tip-toes because others are prone to insult? No, of course not.

  45. Kelly Jones Says:

    Liberty, I’ll cut it down to a few simple points.

    The tendency for bioorganisms to clump and form a cohesive units comes from chemistry (DNA is just specific chemical reactions favoured by chance). So, arguing that these blind clumpings are self-asserting (egotistical) is like arguing insoluble chemicals are egotistical, because they precipitate.

    The emotions of pleasure and happiness are mental projections. They stem from a belief that some state is inherently better, that something is gained, that one is empowered.

    You wrote: “If you love everything, what difference does it make if you eat a bean or your father’s heart?”
    Understanding all things to be illusory is a rational understanding, in which valuing of reasoning is embedded. Wisdom understands valuelessness through valuing truth and reason. So, to answer your question, the wise one doesn’t eschew causality (awareness of consequences).

  46. Bob Michael Says:

    Carmel: But would that leave him enough time to appreciate the nuances of the divine feminine?

    We can only cross our fingers and hope and pray that the Infinite gives him a good swift kick in the rear end. Without which it seems there’s little hope for him. While remembering too here that as one grows older the mind atrophies, which can, along with a life of ease, allow one to find a reasonably comfortable resting place rest on the mountain side and never reach the pinnacle.

  47. Bob Michael Says:

    You win the match, Kelly. Congratulations and best wishes!

    To thine own self be true!

  48. Kunga Says:

    It is kinda funny that the ALL is the ONE that lights the fire to the burning house (HIS OWN SELF) , and then runs “compassionately” to the rescue !

    Conquer the angry man by love.
    Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
    Conquer the miser with generosity.
    Conquer the liar with truth.
    ~ The Dhammapa

  49. Bob Michael Says:

    Sounds good on paper, Kunga. However, I would suggest that the conditioned ‘self’ in most men (and women) cannot and will not be conquered via any means, save for their physical death.

  50. Steve Byrne Says:

    Holy Moly! In my world I seemed like I was the only one who even gives this stuff a thought. There are others?

    Just to crunch this down a bit…

    We’re saying that compassion is a folly of the ego. When we show compassion we are both robbing others of their right to suffer and indulging our own egos (in the form of self approval). And if we want to become something better we should embrace the suffering of others and aspire to a higher level of indifference… and the victims of the suffering may one day appreciate their ordeal more than the comforts otherwise provided.

    Man does this sound like a slimy slope to cross. Not because it’s wrong, but because of the mass idiocy we have to coexist with, that could never get their brains around basic determinism, let alone listen to (and admit) their deeper motivations and mine. In public this would not go over well

    As a self deluded truth seeker. I may have to let this sit quietly in my brain, with the other truths that can not be handled by the masses… for now.

    Am I even close?

    How could I explain this cultured indifference to my in-laws and not have them take it personally? I’m already in trouble for not taking my shoes off in the living room…

  51. Kelly Jones Says:

    Many people already know that suffering is mental, and, also, mentally eliminated. Blaming others for a lack of compassion, is an excuse for a lack of self-awareness.

    In Germany, when they asked their doctor, “Am I going to die?”, very sick patients didn’t complain when they heard, “Yes”. In Australia, they do complain. So the German doctor who moves to Australia now needs to learn a “bedside manner”. In this respect, Australians are stupider than Germans, since fear exacerbates pain. The Chinese have a history of not using anaesthetics, as they realised physical pain can be created by emotion and imagination.

  52. David Quinn Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Yes, you should probably take your shoes off before before telling your in-laws about the evils of compassion …. :)

    When I talk about the wise person promoting suffering in the world, I’m referring mainly to the suffering involved when people have their egos (their beliefs, values, attachments, pride, etc) challenged, causing them to think in earnest. Most suffering in the world is not of this kind. Most of it is generated by the foolish behaviour of ignorant people and doesn’t do anyone much good. It doesn’t cause them to want to break free of their illusions and seek refuge in the truth, and thus it has little or no value from a spiritual point of view.

    And I don’t really like the term “indifference”, as that implies a deadness of mind, a zombie-like state. The wise embracing of the All is anything but that.

    But this is just minor quibbling. Welcome aboard.

    David

  53. Ass of God Says:

    David wrote:

    “The yearning to be happy is quite possibly the most destructive force in the world. The amount of suffering it causes, the amount of psychotic behaviour it generates, the number of lives it wrecks, is incalculable. As a destructive force it far outweighs Nature’s meagre attempts to whip up storms, floods, earthquakes and the like. Millions of lives are being hurt, maimed or destroyed every single day in the name of happiness, yet you will never see a story on this in the news. It is simply taboo in the modern era to expose the truth this deeply.”

    A good polemical essay will often begin with a strong ‘hook’ to gain the interest of the reader, and as Kelly says [this polemical stance] “could be taken as a deliberate, calculated psychological provocation, for the sake of prodding a dull-witted complacent reader to think a tad about their humdrum, ordinary, comfortable life choices”. Still, I find the core premise here as a false one. All these suppositions, naturally, arise out of the basic presuppositions.

    I think there is a basic fallacy in operation here and will attempt to locate and describe it, and present an alternative.

    Yearning for happiness and attempting to acquire happiness, as if it were an object like a new car or a fine girlfriend with nice tits, like something that one might go out and get, seems indeed to be a cause for lots of mistaken and misguided choices. When one examines ‘happiness’ of the sort(s) described by satisfied, productive people, one comes to realize that this ‘happiness’ is not an attainment as an object might be obtained, but rather the intangible result of the sum-total of all that a person does within the totality of their life. It seems to me that a person might describe themselves as ‘happy’ when his life and activity, all told, produce in him a kind of ‘satisfaction’.

    David’s conception about ‘happiness’ seems to be tied to the hedonistic notion of happiness: enjoyment of discreet pleasures like sex, food enjoyment, and the ‘objects of sensuality’. But examined closer, what gives value to a person’s life (this is quite obvious) are ‘things’ far and above any immediate sensual pleasure, though sensual pleasure is certainly part of life. ‘Pleasure in isolation is an abstract universal’ (Rufus Jones), and you cannot seek nor attain an abstraction. The notion of ‘eudaimonia’ has a much wider connotation and encompasses the totality of a person’s life. The quality of his relationships, his sense of connection to his community, his sense of potency and influence as a person. In fact, if you began to make a list, which is not really that easy, you’d see that what you describe is not so much things-in-themselves as (?) the quality of relationship enjoyed.

    If life is understood to be essentially valuable and relevant—important if you will—and is seen as a gift or an opportunity instead of a curse and a punishment (which is the core view at the base of Buddhism, speaking broadly), it is fairly easy to see that there is a possible and quite radically different stance available to one in respect to ‘pleasure’ and ‘happiness’. If a person who accepts ‘reality’ (and I suggest here that many who write in these pages make claims about Reality that express their own limitations of understanding, and possibly of imagination, as well as their own dogmatic inclinations) as it is in this plane of existence chooses to thoughtfully and carefully make reasoned choices about how he lives life, what he chooses to do, who to associate with, etc., it is not at all improbable that such a person may know and describe happiness and satisfaction.

    So, instead of teaching (it is a false and destructive teaching) that the desire for happiness and satisfaction through the quality of the life one leads is a form of ‘ignorance’, and couching success in life as a form or extremist negation of activity (which stems from denial of the self, etc.), it is far wiser to encourage people to understand that only through the totality of the life one lives might one know or ‘have’, as a sort of intangible residue, satisfaction and happiness.

    Pay attention to the core axioms that are presented here, and examine them closely. I suggest that when you do this you can readily see that these ‘axioms’ do not derive from ‘absolutes’, nor Absolute Truth, but from partial understandings which seem to reflect and embody the limitations of those who formulate them.

    It seems to me that ‘people’ in our consumer cultures who are cut-off from on-going and genuine ‘philosophical discourse’, make the mistake of failing to understand that ‘happiness’ and well-being (what word might one attach to an ineffable state? As is the residue of life lived carefully and thoughtfully?) come from a whole conjunction of different elements. And these elements, when one begins to describe them, are the basic possible values of life well lived. The greater error is in loosing track of the definition of a valuable life.

    What many here do—it always seems so strange to me, so artificial—is to start from the position of excision: I will start to hack away at my own self, render my own self valueless if not nonexistent, and then recommend a process of disconnection from all things in life, people, relationships, conscious activity in one’s community, and so much more, and call that ‘spiritual life’ and ‘spiritual progress’. I feel at times I have landed among a tribe of dedicated masochists!

    ‘Perfection’ in this context—the context of what I am expressing and critiquing—becomes an interesting question. How can I, within those limits that life imposes, lead a valuable and productive life? How long will it take me to gain the ‘mastery’ of understanding and action so that I gain the wisdom to live well and to ‘know’ that ‘residue’ which is ‘happiness’ and satisfaction?

  54. Kelly Jones Says:

    Ass of God wrote: “If a person who accepts ‘reality’ (and I suggest here that many who write in these pages make claims about Reality that express their own limitations of understanding, and possibly of imagination, as well as their own dogmatic inclinations) as it is in this plane of existence chooses to thoughtfully and carefully make reasoned choices about how he lives life, what he chooses to do, who to associate with, etc., it is not at all improbable that such a person may know and describe happiness and satisfaction.”

    Since your post above is based on the fact you believe your understanding of Reality is without limitations and absolutely correct, while everyone else here in the “tribe of dedicated masochists” are wrong, then you should give your understanding. Leave the rest out and let people make up their own minds.

  55. Ass of God Says:

    I suppose I think that one’s understanding [of things] is revealed in the woof and weft of the ‘message’ one communicates, and so the strategy you outline is not one I’d myself choose. Do you understand what I am referring to when I use the term ‘masochist’? Nice to see you here, Kelly, I hope you are well.

  56. Kelly Jones Says:

    Yet you choose to use that strategy on everyone else here, by specifying in great detail how they’re wrong. Is that the example you really want to show others, of a happy and satisfying life — one where you refuse to extend the same scrutiny to yourself as you do to others?

    Yes, I do understand what you think masochism is. But if criticising others, while refusing to apply the same scrutiny to oneself, helps one to achieve a happy and satisfying life, a life free from masochism, then I would say a “masochistic” life is ethically preferable.

  57. Ass of God Says:

    The criticism that I offer, the contradiction, the alternative view, perhaps the challenge to a general, established view—at least I believe so—arises out of self-scrutiny. I define my strategy or technique differently than you do so your manner of formulation or characterization [of it] sounds foreign to me. You may also take what I think and write as an attempt to be ‘helpful’, and as such it might “be taken as a deliberate, calculated psychological provocation, for the sake of prodding a dull-witted complacent reader to think a tad about their humdrum, ordinary, comfortable life choices”.

    You write: “Is that the example you really want to show others, of a happy and satisfying life?” It may help you to know that I appreciate what ‘you’ do here, and certainly I appreciate this blog as well as GF. I note, and yet I wish you would modify it, a certain aggression or resistance to what I communicate. I feel you would be much better served if instead of seeing me as an opponent you see me as, well, a sort of ‘ally’. Everything I say, even if at times it is with a slight shotgun approach, is something I believe to be true, or to reflect truth in some way. Honestly, the fact that David and others and you too have defined a position, and through the space of years keep working at it, has helped me to continue to work out my own views. True, I see things quite differently but in my way I am also constantly engaged with the core questions.

    So, my question to you (it is your phrasing) is Are you interested in a happy and satisfied life? By stating it in that way it could be taken to mean that you share that as a ‘value’.

    My use of the word ‘masochism’ is, I regret to say (form all appearances) different from what you think I think masochism is. The ‘masochism’ I define stems from the core ‘negation of self’ that is operative in these Buddhist concepts. True, I don’t know what word exactly to use—would you help me?—to describe your (pl) spirituality. But it seems that certain ideas recur and form the basis of an operational philosophy. ‘Masochism’ as I define it is when a part of the self turns against the self. Or when ideas in the head take on a life of their own, a kind of tyrannical life, and lord it over ‘the body’. But much of this you would already have heard. At the very least might you understand—more exactly—what I mean when I use these terms? I am not really sure that you do. They are after all not only unpopular ideas they are also, to some degree, threatening to the constructs you seem engaged with.

    In my own case I am not entirely sure what set of ideas or praxis to take on and to live by. It seems to have been my fate to have a great deal of my established thinking (suppositions, formulations) overturned. I have become aware of a few major strains of ideas that operate in existential and religious idea-structures and they seem to be repeated and differently embellished in different periods. Although I am very open to hearing you (pl) self-define what is yours, I tend to see it as arising from a radical camp, similar to a quote Bob posted of a description of radical Christianity (I’d have to look for it, it was by Needleman). I am deeply critical of, though I am also engaged in and have been tremendously influenced by, any view which is fundamentally negating of life as an ‘opportunity’ and if you’ll permit the cheesy phrasing, a ‘blessing’ or a gift. It is a very attractive position (for those attracted to masochism and self-flaggilation in all its spiritual forms) and always attracts recruits. But just so you know I am working hard to define a position of affirmation of life, constructive activity in the world within all limitations. I am now very interested in reexamining Greek (so-called) paganism (an outlook represented in Homeric poetry). I have come to see that such a ‘view’ is, surprisingly, visible and notable in my own ‘existential religion’.
    _________________________________

    The Needleman quote, what a radical bit of operative structure!, was:

    “The world man lives in, the world into which he was thrown, is a cave, a prison, ruled by ‘principalities and powers’ opposed entirely to the light and goodness of God. Our world is a house of ignorance and illusion, where spirit is captured by coarseness and density of matter. In that world, man is drugged and intoxicated, forgetful of his real origin and asleep to his higher destiny. Either through some great cosmic error and fall, or through the independent rapaciousness of a separate principle of Evil, this life, this world and everything that is in it, is pervaded by ultimate corruption. And it is peopled by human beings totally in the thrall of this corruption, human beings in appearance only. A few men and women, however, have the spark of God within them, and the sole aim of these special individuals must be to sever their bondage to the world and its people, to remember their real origins and escape from the death-dealing pleasures and pains of the created universe in which they find themselves.” (Jacob Needleman – ‘Lost Christianity’)

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that as a core group of ideas and assumptions operating at a foundational level, the view expressed here has a great deal in common with the perspective, and also the choices that arise from a perspective, by which you (pl) seek to live by. Essentially, it is radical dissatisfaction with…well…everything!

  58. David Quinn Says:

    Ass: “Essentially, it is radical dissatisfaction with…well…everything!”

    As a first step, yes. There can be no reorientation of the mind without such a first step. And there can be no reconnection to reality and immersion into the purity of everything without such a first step.

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