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Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst around the 1920’s, one of the group of second generation psychoanalysts that came after Freud. He was also one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry and one that was vilified for the most part although he was, and still is, way ahead of his time. His book Listen, Little Man! is mainly about two subjects, how Reich was attacked for his discoveries and his work, and how the individual has the ability and the right to be free. He came to an understanding of what was healthy and unhealthy about human beings. Without creating divisions or neat categories, he saw that each one of us is a whole.

About a hundred years ago you learned to parrot the physicists who build machines and said there was no soul. Then came a great man and showed you your soul, only he did not know the connection between your soul and your body. You said: ‘Ridiculous: “Psychoanalysis!” Charlantanry! You can analyse urine, but you cannot analyse the psyche.’ You said this because in medicine you knew nothing but urine analysis. The fight for your mind lasted some forty years. I know this hard fight, because I, too, fought it for you. One day you discovered that one can make a lot of money with the sick human mind. All one has to do is to let a patient come daily for an hour over a period of some years and have him pay a certain fee for every hour.

The inclusion of the mind in medicine started to occur after Freud and his successors, the inclusion of the soul in medicine is really only starting to be explored. For soul is much more than just mind, but in Reich’s time they were both used to describe the hidden, interior world only accessible by observation and subjective knowing. It is important that Reich saw how these two facets of a person were both propelled by a life energy. So we have four elements at play in any moment that we look at the human as a whole being, the body, the mind, the soul and the life force which he called orgone.

Then, and not until then, did you begin to believe in the existence of the mind. In the meantime, knowledge of your body has quietly grown. I found that your mind is a function of your life energy, that, in other words, there is a unity between body and mind. I followed this track, and I found that you reach out with your life energy when you feel well and loving, and that you retract it to the centre of the body when you are afraid. For fifteen years you kept silent about these discoveries. But I continued on the same track and found that this life energy, which I termed ‘orgone,’ is also found in the atmosphere, outside of your body.

As Reich gives many derogatory statements about what man can be and has been in his observation, I admit I only pulled out the text from his book that spoke of what he was hoping to achieve by his work. I think what he was saying was not possible in 1930 or 1940 or even 1990. In 2015, part of what he describes is actually happening. We have been given a way to have a voice, an opinion, that is what blogs are all about, what social media does, what the Internet is. I think we are still unsure of what that really means though, and how being an individual is the most powerful tool we have to avoid further tyranny and unnecessary suffering.

A GLANCE IN THE FUTURE. I cannot tell you what your future will look like. I cannot know whether you will reach the moon or Mars with the cosmic orgone I discovered. Nor can I know how your space ships will fly or land; or whether you will use sunlight to light your houses at night. But I can tell you that you are NO LONGER going to do, 500 or 1000 or 5000 years hence.

The first of all things that you are no longer going to do is to feel yourself to be the little man who has no opinion of his own and who says, ‘Who am I anyhow…’ You do have your own opinion, and in the future you will consider it a great shame not to know it, not to advocate it and not to express it.

4 Listen, little man illustrations by William Steig

‘But what will the public opinion say about my opinion? I am going to be squashed like a worm if I express my own opinion!’

What you call ‘public opinion,’ Little Man is the sum total of all the opinions of all the little men and women. Every little man and every little woman has a correct opinion and a wrong opinion. The wrong opinions they have because they are afraid of the wrong opinions of other little men and women. This is why the correct opinions don’t come out. For example, you will no longer believe that you ‘don’t count.’ You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don’t run away. Don’t be so afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society.

‘What do I have to do to be the bearer of human society?’

You don’t have to do anything special or new. All you have to do is to continue what you are doing: ploughing your fields, wield your hammer, examine your patients, take your children to school or to the playground, report on the events of the day, penetrate ever more deeply into the secrets of nature. All these things you do already. But you think that all this is unimportant, and that what is important is only what Marshal Decoratus or Prince Inflatus, the Knight in shining armour, are doing.

Spiritual thinkers have said many times over, that one has to accept that they are small, just an ordinary person doing ordinary things. And within ordinary life and work one can be great. Instead we delegate greatness to those who are not deserving, who do the very things that cause harm, suffering and disease around the world. To be great means being smaller than what causes division, what is in us that is beyond race, sex, class, culture or country.

If you were not such a microscopically small man, you greatest scientist of the twentieth century, you would have developed a world consciousness instead of a national consciousness and would have found the means of preventing the atom bomb from breaking into this world; or, if that had been impossible, you would have exercised your influence, in unmistakable words, to put it out of function.

5 Listen, little man illustrations by William Steig

Reich does not have all the answers and the world we have is complex, yet he does see what we could aspire to! Where we could put our precious time and attention in order to give back, after all that the great men of the past have laboured and spent in order to discover for us what it could be to be better human beings.

Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when the mood of Beethoven or Bach will be the mood of your total existence (you have it in you; Little Man, buried deeply in a corner of your existence); when your thinking will be in harmony, and no longer at variance, with your feelings; when you will be able to comprehend your gifts in time and to recognize your ageing in time; when you will live the thoughts of great men instead of the misdeeds of great warriors; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between a man and woman than for a marriage licence; when you will recognize your errors in thinking in time, and not too late, as today; when you will feel elevation in hearing truths, and feel horror of formalities; when you will have communication with your work comrades directly, not through diplomats; when your adolescent daughter’s happiness in love will delight instead of enrage you; when you will only shake your head at times rather than punish little children for touching themselves; when human faces on the street will express freedom, animation and joy and no longer sadness and misery; when people no longer will walk on this earth with a retracted and rigid pelvis and deadened sexual organs.

To have a voice and to trust that voice is also our burning diamond. It is always there, waiting for us, we have only forgotten how it feels, the warmth and brightness of it as it lies in our clasped hands. We have not lost it for we can never lose what is part of us, part of a whole.

“There is only one thing that counts; to live one’s life well and happily. Follow the voices of your heart, even if it leads you off the path of timid souls. Do not become hard and embittered, even if life tortures you at times.”

 

 

They call you ‘Little Man,’ ‘Common Man;’ they say a new era has begun, the ‘Era of the Common Man.’ It isn’t you who say so, Little Man. It is they, the Vice Presidents of great nations, promoted labour leaders, repentant sons of bourgeois families, statesmen and philosophers. They give you your future but don’t ask about your past.

You are heir to a dreadful past. Your heritage is a burning diamond in your hand. That’s what I tell you.

I first read these words in my early 20’s when I knew nothing, I still know very little, and a friend put Wilhelm Reich’s little book into my hands. In 1948, Reich was saying a lot about who we are and what we could be. Listen, Little Man! was way ahead of the explosion of liberation movements of the 60’s and the new age movement of the 80’s and 90’s.

You are different from the really great man in only one thing: The great man, at one time, also was a very little man, but he developed one important ability: he learned to see where he was small in his thinking and actions. Under the pressure of some task which was dear to him he learned better and better to sense the threat that came from his smallness and pettiness. The great man, then, knows when and in what way he is a little man. The Little Man does not know that he is little, and is afraid of knowing it. He covers up his smallness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, of others‘ strength and greatness. He is proud of his great generals but not proud of himself. He admires the thought which he did not have and not the thought he did have. He believes in things all the more thoroughly the less he comprehends them, and does not believe in the correctness of those ideas which he comprehends most easily.

Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst around the 1920’s, one of the group of second generation psychoanalysts that came after Freud. He was also one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry and one that was vilified for the most part by the they, the men in power and positions of authority. He was, and still is, way ahead of his time. Although, I would argue that his time is timeless and always exists since it is an understanding of what a healthy human being is and needs in order to remain healthy. He shocked the they by visiting patients in their homes to see how they lived, and he went into the streets in a mobile clinic, promoting adolescent sexuality and the availability of contraceptives, abortion and divorce, a provocative act in Catholic Austria. He said that he wanted to “attack the neurosis by its prevention rather than treatment,” arguing that neurosis was rooted in physical, sexual and socio-economic conditions, and in particular in a lack of what he called ‘orgastic potency.’ This is the ability to experience an orgasm with specific psychosomatic characteristics, one of which was having the ability to love. According to Reich, the failure to attain orgastic potency always resulted in neurosis, because during orgasm that person could not discharge libido, a biological energy. “Not a single neurotic individual possesses orgastic potency.” Yes, a psychoanalyst who talked about sex, although he was really talking about freedom.

Listen, Little Man! is mainly about two subjects, how Reich was vilified and demonized for his discoveries and his work, and how the individual has the ability and the right to be free.

You don’t see why this is so, why it cannot be otherwise? I’ll tell you, Little Man, for I have come to know you as an animal become rigid when you came to me with your inner emptiness or your impotence or your mental disorder. You can only ladle in and only take, and cannot create and cannot give, because your basic bodily attitude is that of holding back and of spite; because panic strikes you when the primordial movement of LOVE and of GIVING stirs in you. This is why you are afraid of giving. Your taking, basically, has only one meaning: You are forced continuously to gorge yourself with money, with happiness, with knowledge, because you feel yourself to be empty, starved, unhappy, not genuinely knowing nor desirous of knowledge. For the same reason you keep running away from the truth, Little Man: it might release the love reflex in you. It would inevitably show what I, inadequately, am trying to show you here. And that you do not want, Little Man. You only want to be a consumer and a patriot.

Listen, little man illustrations by William Steig

Yet we, as the common man, don’t get it. It is far easier to believe the constructs of our prisons, to work and to pay the bills, to raise children in a numbed, automated habit passed down for generations. The diamond is burning in our hand yet we so rarely feel or experience the burning passions of what life is ~ creation and enjoyment.

You are cowardly in your thinking, Little Man, because real thinking is accompanied by bodily feelings, and you are afraid of your body. Many great men have told you: ‘Go back to your origin – listen to your inner voice – follow your true feelings – cherish love.’ But you were deaf to what they said, for you had lost your ear for such words. They were lost in vast deserts, and lonely criers perish in your dreadful desert emptiness, Little Man.

With how Reich was taunted and ridiculed for his beliefs and actions over the years, he became quite sarcastic and bitter although the message was still clear.

There is one thing you don’t know nor want to know: That you yourself create all your misery, hour after hour, day after day; that you do not understand your children, that you break their spines before they have had a chance to really develop them; that you steal love; that you are avaricious and crazy for power; that you keep a dog in order also to be a ‘master.’  Through the centuries you will miss your way, until you and your like will die the mass death of the general social misery; until the awfulness of your existence will spark in you a first, weak glimmer of the insight into yourself. Then gradually and gropingly, you will learn to look for your friend, the man of love, work and knowledge, will learn to understand and respect him.

2 Listen, little man illustrations by William Steig

Then you will begin to understand that the library is more important for your life than the prize-fight; a thoughtful walk in the woods better than parading; healing better than killing; healthy self-confidence better than national consciousness, and modesty better than patriotic and other yelling.

He continues his basic intentions, which he explored more fully in the earlier part of the book. Like other great thinkers before him, Reich will likely not be understood or embraced for decades to come, if ever. His experiences in Europe and America lead him to believe he would be persecuted and possibly killed because of his successes and insight into what health is and what human greatness and weakness is all about.

Once I was afraid of you, just as before I had believed in you too much. But I have gone beyond you, and now I see you in the perspective of thousands of years, forwards and backwards in time. I want you to lose your fear of yourself. I want you to live more happily and more decently. I want you to have a body which is alive instead of rigid, I want you to love your children instead of hating them, to make your wife happy instead of ‘maritally’ torturing her. I am your physician; I am not a German, or a Jew, or a Christian, or an Italian, I am a citizen of the earth.

3 Listen, little man illustrations by William Steig

The power of duality

Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter. [..]
I am the barren one and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.

These words are from the ancient text, ‘Thunder, Perfect Mind,’ found among many other texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Written before 350 C.E., although the exact date and author are unknown, it is a Gnostic voice of a divine power that suggests we look beyond intellectual theories and sentimental beliefs of divinity. That so long as we continue to see our world from dualistic goggles, we will remain in darkness.

“The mind that believes, the mind that does not believe and the mind that doubts is an ignorant mind. The path of wisdom does not lie in believing, not believing or doubting. The path of wisdom consists in inquiring, analyzing, meditating, experimenting.

Truth is the unknown from moment to moment. Truth has nothing to do with what one believes or stops believing, neither does it have anything to do with skepticism. Truth is not a matter of accepting or rejecting, it is something to experience, live and understand.” Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education

The dark side of having two sides

Duality refers to having two parts. Basically a division or contrast between two things that are represented as being opposed or entirely different. My first introduction into the concept was in the novel 1984, and later, in politics. The novel tells the story of Winston Smith who lives in Airstrip One, previously known as Great Britain. During a period of perpetual war, government surveillance and dictatorship, individualism and independent thinking is considered a crime and the government’s invented language Newspeak is used to control the population and gain power. This Party thrives on the use of opposite meanings.

The Ministry of Truth is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. The Ministry of Peace supports the perpetual war. The Ministry of Plenty rations and controls foods and goods. The Ministry of Truth controls the news and media. And the Ministry of Love surveils and arrests real and imagined dissidents, and converts them back to support for the Party. The novel basically represents a world where the antagonist can never know what is real or fall in love. A nightmare from which one either never wakes from or only escapes by death. Dark, totalitarian, grim, and not the way humans are, in my opinion.

For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.

Politics is the story of us, the intrigue, the greed, the deceit, the striving, the collusion, the power, the way we come together to do good, to protect the weak, to develop a collective. It is how we succeed and how we screw up. But it is ultimately us, each one of us, whether we support it or throw stones at its walls, or whether we appreciate or curse it.

Since reading 1984, my concept of duality was that it was a means of manipulation, a form of cohesion, a tool to confuse and therefore delude someone else. Are we one or the other, this or that. A twofold reality where we must pick our sides. Twenty years later and I am ready to embrace the paradox of duality. That two is always one and the same side, anything else is a distortion of the truth.

I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.

Give heed to my poverty and my wealth.
Do not be arrogant to me when I am cast out upon the earth,
and you will find me in those that are to come.
And do not look upon me on the dung-heap
nor go and leave me cast out,
and you will find me in the kingdoms.
And do not look upon me when I am cast out among those who
are disgraced and in the least places,
nor laugh at me.
And do not cast me out among those who are slain in violence.

But I, I am compassionate and I am cruel.
Be on your guard!

The original whole beyond duality

Give heed, be on your guard she warns, to see something as black without knowing it is also white is a folly. Zen knows this and tells many riddles to expose the paradox of reality and throw the mind off its familiar tracks, or often deep grooves, of logical reasoning. These koans are used to to provoke the “great doubt” and are not meant as logical equations to be explained. Logos means to count, to tell, to say, to speak. It imparts a plea, an opinion, an expectation though word, speech, accounts and reason. It is the ground for order and knowledge, it is problem that can be solved. In Gnosticism the Logos is paired with Sophia, or wisdom. They are a syzygy, a male/female pair and exist equally along with the Absolute, the One. Sophia is effectively the human soul and also the feminine aspects of the One. She was also considered the fallen one for helping to create the material world. Logos on the other hand, was identified with the Son of God Christ, and was seen as a ‘certain rational power’ according to the apologist Justin Martyr. Sophia was banished and removed from history or fused with Logos so that the soul could be considered as part of this rational power rather than it’s own individual ineffable force. Soul is knowing and knowing is the state of being informed with full awareness or consciousness. Knowledge is not the same as  knowing. Logos can learn and speak but only with the soul can he truly know. Without Sophia he is everything, yet nothing.

Saint Justin Martyr 100-165 AD

Things have been skewed ever since, right up to modern times when soul is a word left out of science, politics, medicine, education, philosophy … ah the list is long. In these fields rational and logical knowledge have superseded the actual knowing of wisdom. Consider the words of Samael Aun Weor, “The path of wisdom consists in inquiring, analyzing, meditating, experimenting. […] Truth is not a matter of accepting or rejecting, it is something to experience, live and understand.” It goes beyond black is not white, white is not black. It is more like the Tao, black becomes white and white becomes black because they are not separate. They are equal parts within a whole. Just as Logo and Sophia are equivalents within a whole.

I, I am godless,
and I am the one whose God is great.
I am the one whom you have reflected upon,
and you have scorned me.
I am unlearned,
and they learn from me.
I am the one that you have despised,
and you reflect upon me.
I am the one whom you have hidden from,
and you appear to me.
But whenever you hide yourselves,
I myself will appear.
For whenever you appear,
I myself will hide from you.

The night accompanied the study of genius and love

A noite acompanhada dos gênios do estudo e do amor,
1883 – Pedro Américo

How does duality work then beyond the grim and darkness? A bit like this:

When we work hard to save the environment, we will likely bring it to our own version of ruin.

When we fight for peace, we will likely perpetuate war.

When we think only of what we don’t want, we will surely only bring it into being.

I am control and the uncontrollable.
I am the union and the dissolution.
I am the abiding and I am the dissolution.
I am the one below,
and they come up to me.
I am the judgment and the acquittal.
I, I am sinless,
and the root of sin derives from me.
I am lust in (outward) appearance,
and interior self-control exists within me.
I am the hearing which is attainable to everyone
and the speech which cannot be grasped.
I am a mute who does not speak,
and great is my multitude of words.
Hear me in gentleness, and learn of me in roughness.
I am she who cries out,
and I am cast forth upon the face of the earth.

When we wage war on terrorists, we will surely have more terror in the world.

When we decide a convicted felon needs to suffer by just punishment, he will probably become a more skilled criminal.

When we strive to only be positive and happy, we will more certainly increase our depression and loneliness.

~

References:

Quote from Samael Aun Weor.

Thunder, Perfect Mind text, translated by George W. MacRae.

Lectures and Publication by Lance S. Owens

A real sweet heart

I often have an admiration for a man of ideas. This Valentine’s Day I thought I would share one of my current sweet hearts. David Bohm was an American theoretical physicist whose work contributed innovative and unorthodox ideas to quantum theory, the philosophy of mind, and neuropsychology. As a scientist, he warned of the dangers of unchecked reason and technology and advocated the need for genuine supportive dialogue which he claimed could broaden and unify the conflicting and troublesome divisions in our social world. His main concern was with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole which is never static or complete but is an unending process of movement and unfoldment. He is best known for his book Wholeness and The Implicate Order and his work with J. Krishnamurti developing a method of communication called Dialogue. These Krishnamurti–Bohm Dialogues took place over a span of almost 25 years and can be found on YouTube.

Hearts illustration

Consciousness and Coherency

A few months after J. Krishnamurti’s passing in early 1986, friends of David Bohm asked him to host a weekend seminar. These series of annual seminars lasted until 1992 when Bohm himself passed. They are known as the Bohm Consciousness Seminars and cover his ideas on Thought and the nature of Consciousness. I write a lot about the environment and recognizing what a treasure it is. Lately, the ideas I have come across keep telling me the same thing, that saving the planet from our behaviour is not an external exercise but an understanding of what is going on internally. The seminars put this into a unique and critical light based on Bohm’s insights as a physicist. According to Bohm it is, “Practically impossible to find a place on Earth that is not changed by thought.” And this gem, “The best way to save nature is to solve our problems.” Almost everyone in the West can admit they can’t actually stop thinking throughout the day, and that waking up in the middle of the night unable to sleep but instead preoccupied by thoughts is a common occurrence.

Bohm quote

The word coherency comes from the mid 16th century and meant ‘sticking together,’ from the Latin verb cohaerere. It is to be able to speak clearly and logically and means united as or forming a whole. Incoherent thought is what we are experiencing most of the time. We can’t see the incoherence of the thoughts in ourselves nor the unintended actions they bring us to.

If you are incoherent one thing is that you do not produce the intended results. That is one sign of incoherence. Another is that you are contradicting yourself, or a third is you are deceiving yourself. That sort of thought, what is the point of that thought, we would be better off without it. If you say you see nobody intends to destroy planet. Nobody intended that, they merely intended to get rich. Comfortable, rich what ever it was. Now I am not blaming anyone, I am saying all of us were in it. We did not see that this was dangerous, this was incoherent. If our intention was to destroy the planet, we would have been coherent.

Given the current rate of destruction and change compared to 1992 when Bohm left us, we are in a serious state of incoherence about the environment, a run away train of thought-action. It is what he would have called a sustained incoherence.

Bohm quote

Dialoguing to communicate

He also discusses sensitivity, a great word to bring up for Valentine’s Day. In sharing thoughts with others, we often use force. This is a subtle form of violence most of us lack the sensitivity to observe. To convince means to win. To persuade is to cause (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument. It is also based on the words suave and sweet and means to win by sweet talk. “It wasn’t easy, but I persuaded him to do the right thing.” According to Bohm, thought which does not understand what it is doing tends to fall into violence. He proposes we consider the idea that the ultimate violence and the cause of all the violence in the world is based on the destruction of our sensitivity. This is very contrary to the spirit of Dialogue as outlined by Bohm.

Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization.

In Dialogue, a group of people can explore the individual and collective presuppositions, ideas, beliefs, and feelings that subtly control their interactions. It provides an opportunity to participate in a process that displays communication successes and failures. It can reveal the often puzzling patterns of incoherence that lead the group to avoid certain issues or, on the other hand, to insist, against all reason, on standing and defending opinions about particular issues.

Dialogue is a way of observing, collectively, how hidden values and intentions can control our behavior, and how unnoticed cultural differences can clash without our realizing what is occurring. It can therefore be seen as an arena in which collective learning takes place and out of which a sense of increased harmony, fellowship and creativity can arise.

Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning – not as the result of consuming a body of information or doctrine imparted by an authority, nor as a means of examining or criticizing a particular theory or programme, but rather as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.

To be able to Dialogue means we need to retain and even enhance our sensitivity, we are exploring with sensitivity. “Whenever you use force to meet a problem arising in thought then you you have not really solved it, you have left more problems, although the force may seem to succeed.” Violence and fear are connected. “If you don’t have the power to exert force, then you will feel fear. If you feel frustrated and would like to use force but you are afraid to use force you will then feel fear, you may project into the other person your own violence and be afraid of it.” Thought creates fear. Most of us are living in a fragmented culture thriving on violence, inflicted with fear and lacking a shared meaning.

…it is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.

Saving the world that existed before human thought

Bohm was trying to resolve issues in the late 80’s that are now major crisis we all face and even then he was not overly hopeful of success since we are no longer hunter and gatherer groups of 40 or so people living together. The real challenge is how to create coherency among billions of people living varied lives and each with a unique view and purpose. He also saw that Dialogue requires a thorough understanding of and insight into Thought and the Thinking Process in order for it to be properly implemented. We all have to work on how to do it in order to benefit from Dialogue. Rather than learning Calculus, school children could be drilled on how to Dialogue, the way one used to learn Latin, a subject has to be practical to modern day.

To sum it up, if we want to save the world that existed before human thought, the best approach is to look at those thoughts and what they do. Have a listen.

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Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary who founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that runs hospices and homes for people with serious diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes, orphanages and schools. As she once did, members must take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as well as to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Mother Teresa wiki

The image of her is one of ultimate sacrifice, charity, altruism and generosity to the world’s most unfortunate people. That image is about to change. Christopher Hitchens’ inappropriately titled book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, and a soon to be published study from the University of Montréal are about to alter our assumptions, particularly the latter. As Jerry A. Coyne puts it, “This is a peer-reviewed paper written by academics, not a hatchet-job written by an atheist with strong opinions.” The paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montréal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education will be published in the upcoming March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa.

Who was Mother Teresa?

Their paper dispels the myth surrounding Mother Teresa and concludes that her hallowed image was ‘constructed’ and her beatification was ‘orchestrated’ by an effective media relations campaign. They bring up the facts about “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”

At the time of her death, Mother Teresa had opened 517 missions welcoming the poor and sick in more than 100 countries. The missions have been described as “homes for the dying” by doctors visiting several of these establishments in Calcutta. Two-thirds of the people coming to these missions hoped to a find a doctor to treat them, while the other third lay dying without receiving appropriate care. The doctors observed a significant lack of hygiene, even unfit conditions, as well as a shortage of actual care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. The problem is not a lack of money—the Foundation created by Mother Teresa has raised hundreds of millions of dollars—but rather a particular conception of suffering and death: “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,” was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.

The real question seems to be why Mother Teresa was so generous with her prayers and yet so miserly with her foundation’s millions when it came to another human’s suffering. She was quoted as saying that she actually wanted her charges to suffer because it brought them closer to Jesus. My point would be, instead of demonizing her and feeding the flames that illuminate conspiracy in the media, to be more constructive and ask what was this all about? How interesting that Mother Teresa’s thoughts about the suffering of her “patients” are so unusual and actually lead to greater suffering than was necessary. All the facts point to this by her refusal to provide practical and adequate medical care with funds that were readily available. Rather than point fingers why not ask some questions about what suffering means to this woman and why did it become the focus of her life and work?

In researching the ideas of religion and spirituality, I have found lots of gems along the way. In Sufism, Baqa is the concept that the ideal perfection, or highest condition attainable which is much more human than perfection, (also called ‘Najat’ in Islam, ‘Nirvana’ in Buddhism, ‘Salvation’ in Christianity and ‘Mukhti’ in Hinduism) is the original state of ‘God.’ Inayat Khan writes in his book A Sufi message of spiritual liberty, “To this state every being must arrive some day, consciously or unconsciously, before or after death. The beginning and end of all beings is the same, the only difference is their journey.” However, the sufi’s journey is one of humility, of being ordinary and it is very important that in being spiritual one must also live in the community, get married, raise a family and run a depanneur (corner store), … or other common variations of such a life. Fanaa means to defeat completely the self while remaining physically alive. Persons having entered this state are said to be in full unity with ‘God.’ The true nature of fanaa consists of the elimination of evil deeds such as greed, lust, desire, vanity, show, basically the abstention from sin, and the expulsion from the heart of all love other than the Divine Love. A sufi realizes that the only real relationship is with ‘God’ and this leads to a deconstruction of the self. He cultivates this understanding all the while saying, “That loaf of bread and quart of milk is 4.50$ please.”

Distorted sense of self

In the MICH homeopathic approach to health, most of our foibles and illnesses stem from a distorted sense of self. The MICH definition of self is a projection coming from a oneness or whole with a unique point of view that due to its coordinates in space-time cannot be occupied by any other unique oneness or whole. And this definition of a point of view is lovely, a “portal through which Love and Wisdom can flow … like a fountain, with every breath.” It is only when a point of view, the human being, begins to think it is a separate ‘entity’ and not just one of many points of view moving around the universe of space-time that dis-ease may start. Then the point of view starts to develop a simple or a complex pattern of self, it makes up a ‘me.’ This pattern is not a whole or oneness, but merely a collection of experiences and the thoughts related to those experiences caught on a grid looking out into the world that is. The self is a non-existent entity and what the Sufis were trying to get away from in their search for truth.

Our Western culture loves this pattern of self. We thrive on the idea that it is who we are and we have become preoccupied with it, with perfecting it, fixing it, reforming it and giving it material possessions, status, position or power or information, a page on Facebook, whatever it thinks will make it more real. It is hard not to believe in the potential of the self, to not see it as who we really are. Yet it is merely a fiction of our thought processes. I will repeat this since it is hard to comprehend, it is not real. Once the point of view starts to build up the fiction and gets really attached to that very big ‘me’ it is what MICH refers to as the exaggerated point of view, a caricature of the original unique entity.

Source: Victor Pross - Mother Teresa

Source: Victor Pross – Mother Teresa

A caricature is distorted, usually not flattering and yet always recognizable as the original person. Back to what interested me most about Mother Teresa, her obsession with suffering. As the artist Victor Pross puts it, “She frequently described the suffering of the poor as a gift from God. It is ironic that a woman of almost medieval outlook should have been so revered by the world of secular modernism as well as by the community of the devout. […] Mother Teresa is considered the epitome of sainthood and goodness. Her iconic image is considered beyond reproach. […] But her supposed “goodness” may be no more real than the shadows on Plato’s cave wall.” It was really the illusion of self and as much as Mother Teresa bought into it as a reality, so did we via the work of the media. Yet who was she in her original unexaggerated wholeness?

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/251920172881997027/

Life without a costume

This is Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, the youngest child of Nikollë and Dranafile Bojaxhiu before she became the revered personality we call Mother Teresa. Despite her dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, the myth about her, according to the paper about to be published, may have provided a potential positive effect in the world.

If the extraordinary image of Mother Teresa conveyed in the collective imagination has encouraged humanitarian initiatives that are genuinely engaged with those crushed by poverty, we can only rejoice. It is likely that she has inspired many humanitarian workers whose actions have truly relieved the suffering of the destitute and addressed the causes of poverty and isolation without being extolled by the media. Nevertheless, the media coverage of Mother Theresa could have been a little more rigorous.

I wonder what she might have been like as an adult who developed a more balanced life as the Sufis suggest. A life as part of a family, of being part of a community, of doing her work but also doing lots of the things ordinary folks do? Did she really have to become a holy celebrity wearing one recognizable costume and playing one expected role revolving around the concept of suffering? Do any of us need to do this anymore? To live our precious lives as celebrities or celebrated figures, exaggerated icons of our gifts and dreams. Could we not all simply aspire to lead an ordinary life and do our part with what our unique whole sees through its own point of view?

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There is something useless in reminiscing, yet my thoughts of late keep going back to the past, the early 90’s when I was young and things were of course better, just because they were. “Why I used to have to walk 5 miles through six feet of snow to get to school without any shoes carrying my two little sisters on my back…” You get the idea. Although in my case it is more like, “I had to survive a whole day without a smart phone, Google and an email address, and gasp, if I had to connect with someone not in the same location as me, I had to pick up the phone and call them and actually talk to them.” The irony is I spent the better part of my 20’s without a phone since we could not afford one so living in the present moment with the person in front of us was as natural as using an outhouse in a winter thunderstorm. There is something about modern times that has alarm bells ringing, and not just my own. The century of the individual has morphed into the new century of the social image. Our relationships are moving more and more into a cyber world of social media, texting and email among other methods. And this can be good, interconnectivity to everyone regardless of location and access to almost any information any time, and not so good, the lonely and disenchanted looking through a shiny glass illusion of what life is supposed to look like.

Denman Island living

What worries me is the number of people I know, including myself, who, when faced with a less than perfect situation or experience, will shut the door to the outside world and retreat into their personal space. A continuation of the Home Depot cocoon trend of started in the 90’s now augmented by modern telecommunications. According to Margaret Rouse Cocooning is the act of insulating or hiding oneself from the normal social environment, which may be perceived as distracting, unfriendly, dangerous, or otherwise unwelcome, at least for the present. In the past, most people would have to go out into the social sphere to function. The social sphere was a part of one’s life, an extension of home where one shopped, worked, went to school, interacted socially and lead a greater part of their lives. I have a suspicion that it was easier if one was having a bad day to find a suitable crutch and just do one’s best. A swig of alcohol, a cigarette, a Twinkie, add a Gravol or other over the counter drug and all your problems were pushed aside. It made you a bit of a fool and numb, but you were out and about regardless.

www.feministezine.com/feminist/historical/Good-Wifes-Guide.html

Source: feministezine.com/feminist/historical/Good-Wifes-Guide.html

Now that health is the latest big trend, we no longer want to be drinking and smoking and certainly not depriving ourselves with pharmaceuticals but that means we no longer have our socially acceptable crutches, and we may no longer be hapless fools in public and instead we we might be wounded, hurt and depressed souls wandering out there in the dangerous world of other souls who according to what we see on the TV or the Internet are probably beautiful, happy and leading exceptionally adventurous and fun lives. And who has the time for anyone who is not happy and not having fun. “Why they must think my whole world is a grey and dusty gravel pit where birds never sing and I certainly would not want to be a downer to their fabulous day. I think I will just stay home.”

The less than perfect moments

I once knew an older fellow who was a bomber pilot in WWII flying. He described the bombing of Dresden and how the orders were specific, avoid bombing the cathedral and try to hit everything else. When the dust finally cleared the cathedral had been destroyed. Sort of like saying to your bomber pilots, don’t think about a pink elephant while you are flying around in your cockpit. He also said that people are no longer very alive. “They are so stiff and reserved and trying so damn hard to be serious.” He would nostalgically tell me about the 50’s when it was ok to be glad to be alive and it was ok to have a drink and loosen one’s tie once in a while.

Dresden frauenkirche ruin 1958Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Löwe / CC-BY-SA

Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-60015-0002 / Löwe / CC-BY-SA

Maybe age has something to do with it because when I was young in the early 90’s the guys I knew had taken off and thrown away their ties and passing time with each other was the highlight of each day. It was not the vision of hollywood and the TV sitcom, we were trying to get away from that, it was very plainly human. Now, the mass market, media image has given way to the image of regular folks using the same devices, film, photos and Photoshop but the result is the same, we only see the ‘good’ sides of what being human is. The pretty, the fascinating and the power leaden parts of one’s life. The modern day pink elephant is to be happy at all costs.

I wonder how much people are forgetting what it is to be alive and to just be. To not have to be happy, or serious, or in a good mood or doing great. But to be going through something, to be in pain, to be hurt, to want to understand and ultimately to want to find the most healthy thing of all, social interaction with others.

What it is to be human

Thich Nhat Hanh published a new translation of the Heart sutra last year. In a story he tells to help explain why he wanted to revise the text I see one of the reasons we would be better not to stay at home when things are not going so well.

The Zen master asked the novice monk: “Tell me about your understanding of the Heart sutra.”
The novice monk joined his palms and replied: “I have understood that the five skandhas are empty. There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind; there are no forms, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, or objects of mind; the six consciousness do not exist, the eighteen realms of phenomena do not exist, the twelve links of dependent arising do not exist, and even wisdom and attainment do not exist.”
“Do you believe what it says?”
“Yes, I truly believe what it says.”
“Come closer to me,” the Zen master instructed the novice monk. When the novice monk drew near, the Zen master immediately used his thumb and index finger to pinch and twist the novice’s nose. In great agony, the novice cried out “Teacher! You’re hurting me!”
The Zen master looked at the novice. “Just now you said that the nose doesn’t exist. But if the nose doesn’t exist then what’s hurting?”

We all need someone to help show us ourselves instead of wanting the truth to be that the hurt and the part hurting does not exist or that no one else can see it. Only in the experience of being with another person can we really explore ourselves and what we are doing and what it is to be human. Without each other in these moments we will want to cherry pick what is real and what is happening and chances are we will be in error. And this is what we may be losing in the Western cultures, our real need to be ok with being just the very person that we already are.

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Are you having issues with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, concentration levels, depression and other forms of general mental illness? If you live in a city, probably you are. We all do from time to time in the concrete, laboratory experiment called urbanization. Author Matthew Silverstone has found scientific evidence that hugging a tree can help. In his book, Blinded By Science, he cites research indicating a tree’s ability to alleviate our ails when we commune with them. And you don’t have to touch the tree to get better, just being close will have a beneficial effect. He backed up his ideas by citing several scientific studies. One report of how trees might affect us physiologically came to the following conclusion, “Safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses.” Well move over Big Pharma and build us all a nice neighbourhood park then.

Amrita devi saving trees source: katesennert.com

Source: katesennert.com

Matthew Silverstone, serial entrepreneur with a degree in economics and a master’s degree in international business, wrote Blinded By Science in 2011. Having attempted and failed to make millions before the age of 25, he decided to leave film making for less glamorous sectors of business and developed many successful companies in cleaning, building, property development, childcare and transport. This work came to a grinding halt with the illness of his son, which suddenly became his full time career. Due to the lack of medical help within the orthodox sectors of science he begin to question everything that he had been told about that science. Since then, his son has made a full recovery using an alternative healing method and Silverstone has made some interesting discoveries.

Life in all its forms

Both his brother and father are professors of medicine, so it was not easy to let go of traditional medical ideas and start questioning the very foundations of science. He spent two years of research and then wrote his book. It helps to explain many of the reasons why doctors will never find cures for some of the major illnesses that are affecting society today. He realized it is the vibrational properties of trees and plants that offer us health benefits. He points out that everything vibrates in a subtle manner and different vibrations affect our biological behaviours. When touching a tree, its different vibrational pattern will affect various biological behaviours within our body. He explains that everything vibrates, absolutely everything, from the nuclei of an atom, to the molecules of the blood, our organs, our brain, light, sound, plants, animals, earth, photons, space, the universe and by understanding this basic principle everything suddenly becomes clear. “Once you apply this theory to the world around you, you will be astounded by what you learn.” Einstein knew this with Wave–Particle duality. “It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.”

Sure, we all know everything vibrates, but do we know yet how vibrations interact with each other? Vibrations, whether they are in the form of sound, light, electricity, magnets or gravity, are the number one factor that causes all of the unknown phenomena that western science fails to understand according to Silverstone. “Without an understanding of this we have been guided down the wrong path by science to where we are today. Most of us have had a very poor scientific teaching in the way that life works, for if we did we would all look at plants, the solar system and our health in a completely different light.”

Bold tree hugging potential

Tree hug

Source: lauramarietv.com/en/the-health-benefits-of-nature-for-your-mind-body-and-soul

I have hugged a lot of trees, meditated next to them, wandered around forests for many hours and now that I am living in a city, I feel a real, tangible deficit of their presence in my life. Unfortunately, it is so much harder to hug a tree when you are in a city where everyone is more content to pop a pill in private thinking that will make them feel better. Help spread the word so us tree huggers don’t have to be considered weirdos, especially if real science can now back us up. Or be bold and set the precedent, go hug your nearest tree today. You will feel better because of it.

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