Archive

Monthly Archives: January 2014

No matter how daunting the obstacles & some are great indeed, there comes a time when the individual has to take charge of their existence. Victim mentalities are entirely understandable, but ultimately they inhibit personal healing & development. Hanging on in quiet desperation.

At some point or another we discover that we sentence ourselves by the thoughts & beliefs we hold on to. No other person is involved. At the level of individuality I am what I think. Or believe. Individuality is an entity created by family, school, peer group & inclination.

Individuality equals ego. In the search for personal freedom a damaged ego needs bolstering. Damaged egos need careful nurturing. But when one is ‘happy in one’s skin’ the next step of personal liberation presents itself. It is to address the question of one’s identity.

To question one’s own identity gives rise to the ultimate question of philosophy: ‘Who am I?’ or, more accurately: ‘What am I?’ This question, if asked sincerely, is the first step to personal liberation. Plato essays this process in his ‘Allegory of the Cave’.

In practice the first step is to begin to observe that one’s own thoughts come and go. Mind is innately friable, it vacillates. It passes. We all have known an occasional change of mind & sometimes we have also experienced a change of heart. Thought, belief is not permanent.

There are deeply-held beliefs that appear to be permanent, but under examination what is really shown is the personal degree of attachment. We are closely attached to those ideas, concepts, opinions & beliefs upon which we build our individual identity. But they’re all chimeras. Our politics, our religious affiliation or non-affiliation (atheism) are all aspects of our identities which we might die defending. Crazy.

Once having realised the unreliability of undisciplined mind and heart the next step is to bring a gentle discipline to our use of them. This step requires decision, intent, endeavour and practice; it IS practical philosophy. It needs stillness & silence (pace Eckhart Tolle).

To be clear, I am not speaking of personality here. An introvert will almost certainly become a liberated introvert. Ditto extrovert. An austere person will become austerely free and a hedonist will retain a zest for life even after self-realisation & personal freedom. Personality is fine, it adds entertainment to existence. ‘Identity’ is the issue. Are we to remain small, or identify with the large?

This was Nelson Mandela’s point when quoting Marianne Williamson, who puts it in a Christian context, but the religion is not essential:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In the practice of observing the movements of the mind it may be realised that self, unlimited consciousness or awareness, is ever present. Self has no other true identity other than its self. It is neither male nor female, good nor bad, short nor tall, fat nor thin. These opposites are all dualities. The self is one, it is truly non-dual. It is singular & alone (all-one). And it is universal & limitless.

It is only by being true to oneself (Hamlet: Polonius/Laertes) & by knowing oneself (The Delphic Oracle) that personal freedom is achieved. And, what is freedom / liberation? It is freedom from the tyranny of the mind, from random, limited, iterative, circling thought. Freedom is transcendent. It transcends the self-imposed mental & emotional limits. It opens the heart & mind to a larger infinite existence.

Once free of the mental & emotional tyranny ‘I’ become master or mistress of the mind & emotional landscape. All become part of the play. Mind then becomes what it is in potential: a great mental and emotional instrument. Reason & freedom become the mark of one’s existence.

Just as one wouldn’t identify with a vacuum cleaner or toaster (except for comic effect) so identity with the mind departs & peace is found.

In freedom one remains true to oneself, honest and happily at peace. This, I would contend, is the greatest gift you can give to the world.

 

This ‘rant’ or thesis was originally tweeted within the discipline of the 140 character maximum on 26th January and has been barely edited for replication on the blog. In so doing I believe the terseness of the original is beneficially preserved. There is much here warranting a more fully developed blog post and it maybe that I will review the subject more fully later. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the message contained herein.

Stephen Coulson

@philositect on Twitter

 

Politics – or more accurately bloody politics: I was thinking about left, right, the democratic centre & associated Twitter bad-mouthing. I find the bad-mouthing of variant views on Twitter tiresome, such as the irreligious volleys and trolling from theists to atheists (especially the crazy Islamic apoplexy).

Extreme political views are very like fundamentalist religious viewpoints: intransigent, blindly inward looking & smugly self-satisfied.

It struck me that at the far extremity of both the political right & left lies intolerance & the ineluctable tendency to tyrannical thought. It is as if the intolerant extreme right meets with & holds the hand of the tyrannical extreme left closing the circle of political thought.

So today it’s not so much a political question of left & right but of front & back, for behind the face of democracy lies concealed tyranny. Political extremism has answers – pat, hard, inflexible, unchanging, predictable answers. Like fundamental religion it has ALL the answers.

Centrism on the other hand is at the point of balance; either left or right leaning it is marked by rationality & even-handedness. At the centre there are genuine questions searching for political answers appropriate to time and place. Occasionally the centre may look wishy-washy and undirected, but at least it’s essentially clean & open to guidance.

Do we wish to be governed by ‘know-all’ extremism (e.g. sharia) or by reasoned and balanced centrists seeking freedom & prosperity for all?

Churchill wryly observed that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried from time to time. The problem with democracy is the 4/5 year electoral cycle which forces political thought to be essentially short-term in nature.

Today we are witnessing Russia retrenching to tyranny, passing Myanmar on the way moving back from dictatorship to a degree of freedom.

Anthony de Mello observes that men kill for money & power but the most vicious murderers are those who kill for ideas & beliefs. Tyranny can never last because the spirit of humanity has an unquenchable thirst for liberty. Tyranny then contains its own destruction. Tyrannical government of a country is ever associated with inflexible fundamental belief, albeit theocratic, communistic or fascistic.

Humanity deserves better.

Remember Edmund Burke’s warning ‘All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing’. Freedom always has to be vigilant. The vicious forces of tyranny are ever seeking to supplant the gentler hand of democracy. If we value vigilance then we must wake up to value a broad liberal education & thereby seek the best for our children & grand-children.

In particular insidious religious belief contained in such ‘subjects’ as ‘creationism’ must be kept away from the classroom and left in the Sunday school where they belong.

 

The above viewpoint was tweeted on 25th January 2014 in tweets within the 140 character limit. I have slightly edited it for publication as a blog post, but decided not to develop the thesis contained therein in order to preserve the essential freshness and tightness needed for Twitter. I may write a more rounded and fully argued post in the future.

@philositect