Who Is At The Helm of Your Ship?

Now, there are guides to help you improve yourself in almost every conceivable way – fitness, nutrition, assertiveness, financial success – just to name a few. There are, however, very few sources of basic information as to how to step into your own dominion as the being who is charge of your interior space. This includes mental health and mental well-being, but also on a deeper level this brings into question the spiritual value of your choices to invest in certain patterns of thinking and behaving.This article is intended to start at the very beginning, and focus on the core question of what it means to actually be you.

You have found yourself in a very interesting place. At some point, all of you can recall with varying degrees of clarity having found yourself inexplicably, but certainly and palpably, being. You likely discovered this miraculous fact at some point in childhood, and it may be connected with a certain person, place, event, or other circumstance. Regardless, somehow and at some point, it became significant to you that you undeniably exist.

This may have been one moment of sudden, eerie clarity when the veil lifted, and you saw for what seemed to be the first time that there was a real space participating in reality, and that space was identical with you. It could have arisen in one of many forms. For some people, it dawns as the realisation of your own mortality as a pet, grandparent or some other loved one or relative passes away. For some, it is the sudden and strange sense of being cordoned off from the rest of the cosmos, as though somehow out of the totality of reality, a tiny, solitary atom of existence just sprang into being. For some, it comes as a sense of one’s self becoming smaller and smaller until you are just a head upon a pillow or sitting upon two shoulders.

However it comes, it is a moment of monumental significance. One might even say it is of absolute significance, since everything you have ever or will ever experience will be encapsulated within this strange state, this radiant conscious space in which thoughts and feelings occur, and from which the world before you appears as sky, stars, mountains oceans, and your own hands and feet.

This space that you operate from, that you are, is referred to as phenomenal space. It is the context in which all content occurs, consciousness itself. You can know it is you because every single thing about you can change except for this one thing. You may change nationalities, identities, names, roles, relationships, genders – even species, but never this. You may think the last example odd, but consider how even the strangest of your dreams was still a theater in which the contextual space which you was still the referential hub from which you operate from as an entity. You could have dreamt you were a star, an ant, or the entire sky, but awareness was nevertheless present, and awareness was irrevocably you.

It goes without saying that to wake up as this thing is utterly strange. People are mystified by the strangeness of death, that one should exist one moment and not exist the next, that one should go to sleep one last time and never again wake. Only rarely do we see the sheer strangeness of our inception in this life, awaking out of apparent nothingness as though someone could have woken up without having ever gone to sleep. Birth is a far more mysterious phenomenon than death, and reflects the same questions about the universe on a microscopic scale: how the hell could anything whatsoever come to be? How could being arise, how could consciousness unfold?

And of course, these are the timeless questions of all science and philosophy, the most poignant of human endeavours to ascertain the truth of the matter.

I remind you of this grand beginning because when you revisit the fact of your awareness, of your existence as awareness, you are beginning again at each moment. This is the beginning of your awareness in this immediately perceivable moment right now. You were not conscious in childhood, or yesterday, you are conscious here and now. This is the space I invite you to operate in for the remainder of this article.

And so I come to ask you: who is at the helm of your ship? I use this as a convenient analogy, because the body is like a ship, a vessel for the consciousness – but it makes no difference, you are entirely free to discard the analogy and select your own.

I don’t come to you presuming to teach you anything you yourself do not already know. I am in no privileged position. On the contrary, you are the author of your own space and this is the respect in which you have authority. You are in creative control, and you have no need of anyone to affirm or deny this to affect the truth you know to be true.

Sometimes there is remembrance of the simple fact of our being, and sometimes there is forgetfulness. More often than not, it is forgetfulness and being caught up in everything the perceived world has to offer.

Now, let it be said that this is quite normal. It may not be sane, or conducive to mental and spiritual well-being, but it is normal. Every human either does it, or has done it. The capacity to choose to remember (re-member: to collect together the multiple aspects of your being) is by necessity accompanied by the capacity to choose to forget. Don’t take my word for this, nor anyone else’s – find out for yourself, in your own living experience when, where and how you choose to remember and forget.

It happens with everyone cyclically, and makes no distinction between the saint and the man sitting on death row.

Who are you? Remember, because it won’t be someone else who tells you, it is you who knows.

I want to leave aside all questions of why the world seems to be the way it is. None of that is relevant here in this article. The fact is: the world as it is appears to you the way it does, and you are consciousness – again, find out for yourself whether this is true.

What next? You have choices to make.

Observe the patterns of your thinking, your behaviour, your emotions. Observe the entirety of it. Find out whether you can do this – there is no law claiming that you cannot, see for yourself.

What you may find is that for very long periods, some longer than others, you have been asleep while the helm or the steering wheel has still been turning. It is never still – forces toss the vessel this way and that, to and fro, and action occurs in the world whether you are operating from a place of your dominion, from the seat of your awareness, or not. Decisions are made, events take place. There is either a decision on how you choose to act or react, or there is a delegation of the decision to take place at a lower level in which you do not claim your authority, sometimes referred to as ‘the draw of the lower self’. In any case, choice is happening, happening, happening.

The only question is: are you in the place you want to be? Are you wanting to be in a place of authorship in this life? If you are like any other person in the history of the species, chances are very high that you have deferred this authority time and time again. I want to talk about why this should happen. Let’s now take a look at the role of conditioning.

What is conditioning? Conditioning is a structure like a pathway that can be followed. Think of it as a conduit in which you have the choice to run your energy through. Conditioning could be anything, but the most common kinds of conditioning tend to be genetic and cultural.

Conditioning accounts for an utterly enormous amount of possible human behaviours, pathological or otherwise. The tendency to seek a mate, the desire for food, the aversion to illness and death, the repetition of traditional behaviours and practices, the safeguarding of certain values in society. Almost everything in your life that you can see, hear, feel or think is related to conditioning.

The more energy that has been invested through these conduits, the more easily they are relied upon and reinforced. They are chosen again and again, because these routes are familiar and they are ‘tried and true’ as part of your conditioned reasoning might assert.

It runs very, very deep. In fact, it can be extraordinarily challenging to find any space from it unless you meditate or at least spend time by yourself apart from the incessant influx. Think now upon smaller ways in which conditioning has a presence in your life. The choice to have a meal at a certain time. Isn’t that comforting? The choice to stay with food that you liked, and that your parents liked. Isn’t that comforting? The choice to align to what most other people you know think and believe politically. How does that feel? Does it make you feel safe, loved, part of something larger and more secure?

Now, a disclaimer: not everything that is conditioning is bad. Forget good and bad for a moment. I don’t want to evaluate any of these behaviours as good or bad. That is not my goal here. All I want to do is ask you to see where you are in awareness, where you are in your choice. Are you at the wheel, are you at the helm? Because the simple fact is, if you are not, all of the decisions you make while the real you is absent are being made elsewhere, and these routes of conditioning are very, very easy to pour energy into. They are safe, they are familiar, they are repeated by generation after generation, they have a momentum spanning lifetimes and everything your culture has is designed to grease the wheels of society in such a way that these routes are essentially self-maintaining.

This also includes personal culture, the habits, attitudes and behaviours you have acquired and assented to as an embodied ‘self’. Some of those may be violent, self-harming, vindictive, but they needn’t be. Conditioning also covers relatively benign things such as the way you dress and whether you like sports or build model railways.

What does your culture consist of? It could be binge-drinking on the weekend, or making yourselves nationally feel proud and righteous in order to separate yourself from other countries. It doesn’t matter, it is all conditioning, even the ‘good’ things. These are all very much self-regulating, and they are advertised in the most perfect way possible, because the next generation grow up exposed to the same assumptions and behaviours that their parents were. Every day parents advertise to their children. They advertise their religious beliefs, their worldview, their political beliefs, their national identity, and children won’t even know it is advertising unless they are occupying their space, and that may be a level of spiritual maturity they may very well have not come into yet. They will think all of the ‘facts’ they are digesting must be part of reality, and therefore something worth assimilating simply by virtue of existing.

So you can see the importance of being in space in which you can look at this influx from a place of discernment. You do not need any special education to occupy this space. All it takes is the intention to remain vigilant as what some spiritual traditions refer to as ‘the witness’ and what modern psychology refers to as ‘third order awareness’ (awareness of knowing that you are aware). All you are doing is viewing what is coming through as whether it is congruent, and here I am using this word to mean ‘resonates with your deepest understanding of how reality is’.

For example, you may be aware of the fact that some people are given medicine by missionaries to the degree that they are willing to capitulate to the religious instruction of another culture. You may find that this practice is not congruent, simply because if you are honest with yourself, you really feel that on the deepest level we are all deserving of unconditional help and such a thing should never be asked of a person in need. You may, or may not – that is your purview. This is not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad, but the intention to operate from your deepest knowing and from your space of who you are at the deepest level is how you move forward.

No one can tell you what decisions to make, or what you should feel in accord with as good or bad, right or wrong. You are not a puppet of cultural forces, unless you choose to allow such a manipulation to happen. When you are in your authority, you are operating from connection to the truth of who you are as consciousness. All anyone can ever do is to remind you of this. Find out for yourself whether any of this is true. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you are in your authority to leave it.

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Simon P. Murphy is the author of His Master’s Wretched Organ, a collection of short horror stories that deal with questions of transcendence, terror and spiritual absolution.

Poetry K-Hole 4: Carpentry of Bone

Carpentry of Bone

I am here and maunder
in bright anxiety, a moon
across the stricken brow
of restless exits;

scaling sands
in swollen faith –
my feet, broken
as bones.

Hopeless toes – let go.

Let go those ossein keys
for trees;
roots sunk as ships
in a sea of sod.

Like limbs,
I strive and share
this verdant lust
for ascension –

an approximation of heaven
in the cosmos I cast
with shadows
below.

– Sommer Cullingford

Toxic Femininity

Feminazis and cucks are always screaming about toxic masculinity. The concept, according to Wikipedia, “describes standards of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that encourage domination and control of others while being opposed to intellectualism and emotional sensitivity.”

It’s apparent to any reasonable person who reads this that the concept is fundamentally dishonest, because nothing about the behaviours described above are exclusive to either men or to Westerners.

The concept is fundamentally dishonest because it is not intended to describe any part of reality in a scientific sense. The intent of the concept is to advance the political goals of the person advocating it, not to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge through intellectual inquiry.

However, as above, so below: the concept of toxic masculinity, valid or otherwise, has a mirror image in toxic femininity.

The nature of the masculine is to go outwards and into the material world. Naturally this manifests as a desire to put the material world to order. This is not the same thing as trying to control the outside world, although the two do overlap.

The characteristic emotion of masculinity, then, is anger, and this manifests as physical violence, which basically everyone recognises as bad.

The nature of the feminine is to go inwards and into the mental world. The characteristic emotion of femininity, then, is fear, and this manifests as emotional violence, which very few recognise as bad.

Where a man is more likely to hit someone in order to control them, a woman is more likely to psychologically abuse someone in order to control them.

This emotional abuse takes different forms to physical abuse. The emotional abuser prefers to lay a guilt or shame trip on their victim, coercing them into the desired behaviour by stoking fears of social rejection. The abuser will detail disappointment, shame or embarrassment that they attribute not to their desire to control, but on the actions of their victim.

Another source of emotional violence is dishonesty. After all, to lie to someone is to do them a psychological violence (this is routinely denied by the liars themselves).

The major source of dishonesty in the world is politics, or, more precisely, the desire of certain humans to remake the entire world in their own image (which is all politics is). Because this desire naturally brings egotistical people into direct conflict with others who want to remake the world in their image, a lot of lying about it has sprung up.

For example, the feminazis who shriek about things like toxic masculinity will never admit that they are doing so for political reasons. In particular, they are trying to shift the balance of the culture towards the feminine, for the sake of their own gratification, not that of the wider society.

Claiming that being “opposed to emotional sensitivity” is necessarily “toxic” is a value judgment, not a scientific description of reality. It is a political statement, not a psychological or sociological one.

After all, there are plenty of reasons why emotional sensitivity might be discouraged. It’s not just a simple matter of hardening up for the rigours of a battlefield. Emotional sensitivity is the opposite of emotional stability, and emotional stability is desired by all because it keeps things in good order.

It is not a coincidence that being emotionally sensitive will also leave a person more vulnerable to strategies of emotional coercion and abuse.

This tendency to conflate emotional stability with patriarchal oppressive male domination brings us close to a definition of toxic femininity.

Some have described the pattern of toxic femininity, perhaps without being aware that they had done so, as “feels over reals”. Extrapolating this with what we know about the association between femininity and dishonesty, we can define toxic femininity thusly:

“A specific model of womanhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a womanhood that views men and boys as inferior, sees conversation not as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorises emotional violence as the way to set the world to order.”

In other words, females are equally capable of being toxic as males, and for the same reasons. The only difference is that females tend to use indirect methods.

As described above, toxic females are more than happy to use emotional abuse as a method to impose control and to remake the world in their image.

Their conceit is that this emotional abuse is either 1) not really abuse because it is non-physical, or, 2) causes categorically less suffering than the physical abuse preferred by males and is therefore categorically less blameworthy.

As any reasonable person will have concluded by now, this is utter bullshit.

Leaving aside the politics and related bullshit for a second, it’s possible that the concepts of toxic personality types have some use.

The important thing is to first and foremost learn to identify toxic individuals, because toxic individuals are capable of expressing their nature in either masculine or feminine ways, regardless of whether that person is male or female.

An understanding of toxic femininity might make this easier to do, because if only masculine behaviours are considered toxic a person leaves themselves wide open to abuse by feminine methods.

Psychiatry is Just Rehashed Four Temperaments Theory

It’s so difficult to know who’s sane and who isn’t these days. In the Post-Truth Age, anyone can simply assert anything, no matter how ridiculous, and be taken seriously by hordes of morons. The only reasonable approach seems to be to declare yourself perfectly mentally healthy and everyone else variably so – depending on their relationship to you.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that, aside from the technology of pharmaceutical drugs, mental healthcare hasn’t advanced in 3,000 years, and in significant area has in fact gone backwards, as genuine wisdom inherited from previous ages is forgotten.

Because the wide world all fits into categories of earth, water, air and fire – and always has done – it is possible to fit all of the human personality types into these categories as well.

With regards to mental healthcare, one can simply do this by declaring oneself to be the fulcrum of sanity around which the world rotates, and then applying the four temperaments theory to everyone else.

So “modern” mental healthcare is mostly a matter of dressing up four temperaments theory in a cover of psychiatric jargon.

For example, patients who are sad no longer get diagnosed with melancholia, but with depression. The melancholic personality type, which is associated with a tendency to depression, is now called avoidant personality disorder.

Fittingly for melancholia, which is represented by earth and is consequently the most feminine of all of the conditions, avoidant personality disorder is characterised by feelings of inadequacy and a hypersensitivity to criticism.

Diagnosing someone as depressed and prescribing anti-depressants today is not significantly different from diagnosing someone as melancholic 3,000 years ago and prescribing them cannabis sativa.

The dependent personality, characterised by clinging and submissiveness, also falls into this category.

Marginally more warm-blooded people fall into the phlegmatic category of person. These usually end up getting diagnosed as schizoid or schizotypal, because their phlegmatic nature makes them broadly indifferent to social contact.

Some phlegmatic people are nonetheless capable of extracting small amounts of pleasant feelings from hoarding things. So if you meet a person who appears indifferent to much of the outside world, don’t be surprised if you end up finding out that they hoard newspapers.

Even more warm-blooded people – those who used to be called sanguine – lead us into the domain of the borderline and the histrionic personality disorders.

Unlike people in the previous two categories, these types are much more outgoing – indeed, one of the major distinctions relates to whether the condition causes problems for the person who has it or for other people, and the more warm-blooded a person is the more likely they are to cause problems for other people.

Borderline personality disorder is characterised by instability and impulsiveness, and a person is more likely to be impulsive the more warm-blooded they are.

Histrionic personality disorder, likewise, is too noisy and dramatic to fall into the categories of melancholic or phlegmatic disorders.

These two conditions have the common factor of both being primarily socially orientated. In much the same way that a mentally healthy sanguine person might be described by friends as easy-going, witty and spontaneous, a mentally unhealthy sanguine person would be like a reflection of this in a dark mirror.

Instead of wit there comes verbal abuse and manipulation, and instead of spontaneity there comes a puppet-like mindless lurching from one impulse to another.

The most hot-blooded kind of person was referred to as a choleric personality in ancient times. In modern times, a person like this causes problems because of being too aggressive or domineering.

Consequently, cholerics are often narcissists, possessing a grandiose desire for the admiration of others. This becomes unhealthy when the desire for this gets out of control and they try to force or bully others into showing admiration against their will.

At the most extreme, the choleric personality manifests as antisocial personality disorder, characterised by a pattern of disregard for the rights of others. In particular, the antisocial personality does not recognise rights as anything more than the ability to enforce them.

This is why the antisocial personality so frequently commits murder – if it has the capacity to kill it considers itself to have the right to do so, for if it did not it would not have the capacity.

Antisocial personality disorder could be considered a way of having an excess of masculinity, in the sense that the desire of a person with it is to impose a degree of order upon the world that inevitably brings them into conflict with other people.

Alchemically speaking, it is possible to see this four temperaments theory as representing the spectrum of personality from unhealthy feminine at the melancholic end, to unhealthy masculine at the choleric end.

Correspondingly, the melancholic personality at the feminine end is, at its least healthy, at risk of killing itself, and the choleric personality at the masculine end is, at its least healthy, at risk of killing another.

The Fundamental Masculine And Feminine Intelligences – And Stupidities

There is a lot of hot air and angry discussion at the moment about gender differences and intelligence. Some say men are smarter, some say women are smarter, some say both genders have exactly the same degree of intelligence in all areas.

This essay will argue that there are two entirely separate kinds of intelligence, and that the masculine one is best expressed by men and the feminine one is best expressed by women.

Psychologists have long known that men and women differed predictably when it came to certain tasks that their minds were optimised for. Men are predictably better at maths and logic where women are predictably better at language and psychology.

Less broadly known is that the brains of men and women were optimised by differential survival pressures into tendencies towards slightly different behaviours.

The biological past was a brutal place for humans. Survival was marginal at the best of times. Massive predators shared the same jungles as us, and we had nothing in the way of natural defences against them.

Human survival was primarily a matter of intelligence. Individual humans, as a general rule, are intelligent, because it was intelligence that gave humanity the edge necessary to overcome survival pressures in our ecological niche.

Acquiring the necessary food resources for the maintenance of bodily metabolism was always the main challenge for our intelligence. This was primarily achieved in two ways: hunting and gathering.

Hunting requires something very similar to a masculine intelligence. In order to successfully hunt (as a hominid at least) you need to be able to keep quiet for as long as possible, and then to suddenly explode into tightly co-operative action that has a direct and obvious goal (killing something).

As a consequence, men evolved to be very good at delineating a target from the background of visual stimuli that surrounded them. In other words, we adapted to become good at focusing and discriminating.

The flip side of this is the relative inability of masculine intelligence to consider the holistic picture. It simply isn’t necessary, when trying to club a goat to death, to consider any other factor than the immediate task at hand. In fact, it would be a tremendous disadvantage to waste cognitive resources on such things when food was right in front of you and any hesitation could see it escape.

Because more successful hunters were inevitably more successful at surviving and reproducing, this has led to the evolution of a kind of masculine intelligence that allows its holder to focus their attention on a target.

So because the vast majority of hunting in the biological past was performed by men, this masculine intelligence is mostly – but far from exclusively – possessed by men today.

Gathering, on the other hand, requires something very similar to a feminine intelligence.

In direct contrast to hunting, gathering is a noisy endeavour. A group of primates engaged in gathering are constantly twittering to each other information about what they see in front of them, about who has found what, about where to gather next, about the dominance hierarchies of the group, and all manner of chatter.

This means that the selective pressures on women were different to those that shaped men. A gatherer has to do the opposite of focusing.

For women, it was much more important to not be discriminating, to not focus, to stay open. When gathering the important thing is to keep one’s senses as open as possible so that if an example of the thing being gathered came into view it would be noticed.

The flip side of this is the relative inability of feminine intelligence to identify threats in the immediate physical or temporal environment.

Not only is it generally unnecessary – the idea being that the males on the periphery of the group’s territory will keep you safe – but it is actually a cognitive waste, because it’s much better to keep your field of awareness as open as possible, to best notice any nuts, mushrooms and berries.

From this, it’s possible to describe the two intelligences more simply.

The fundamental masculine intelligence is the ability to correctly focus one’s attention (and to see a narrower picture), and the fundamental female intelligence is the ability to correctly unfocus one’s attention (and to see the wider picture).

This probably explains why the bulk of surgeons, who have a very specific task to deal with, are male but the bulk of general practitioners, who must take as holistic a perspective as reasonable, are female.

It also explains why the national Australian women’s soccer team can’t beat a local representative side of 15-year old boys, and why men commit the vast majority of crimes of truly unnecessary violence.

We can also surmise from this that there is a fundamental masculine stupidity and a feminine compliment of same.

The fundamental masculine stupidity is to over-discriminate, and this takes form in prejudices like racism and sexism. Masculine stupidity draws hard and fast lines between things that do not need to be kept separated. This is also why the majority of autists are male.

The fundamental feminine stupidity, then, is to under-discriminate, and this takes the form of making inadequate threat assessments.

And so, in our modern world, we can see all of this in relation to the issues of the day, such as immigration.

The masculine stupidity draws hard and fast lines between the immigrants and the natives and will not let them mix. The feminine stupidity draws no lines and lets everyone in without due care to whether or not they fit properly or want to cause trouble.

Both of these lead to conflict and violence.

The masculine intelligence, by contrast, learns about history and anthropology so it can make more accurate decisions about who to let in and who to keep out. The feminine intelligence gets to know the immigrants and tries to intuit whether their mentality is something to be trusted or not.

Both of these lead to peace.

How to Self-Evaluate Your Own Religious Integrity, in Eleven Premises

Premise 1: My religion represents the exclusive truth.

By way of an answer, consider this: which of the following scriptures have you devoted to rigorous and charitable study: The Koran, The Bible, The Torah, The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Gnostic Gospels?

Consider approximately in hours, days, months, weeks or years your devoted study to each, and then review your assertion of Premise 1 from a space of honesty and integrity. You will review this yourself with no higher authority than your own to judge.

Premise 2: My religion is unique.

Every religion is unique in its own way. This by itself does not lend a measure of truthfulness. For example, only Buddhism holds that if a statement should not accord with your own sense of reason, then you need not accept it, even if is spoken by Buddha. This may make Buddhism unique, but it does not immediately qualify it as true.

Islam holds that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse. Again, this qualifies Islam as unique, but it does not immediately qualify it as true. Even the belief that Jesus was the son of a virgin and died upon the cross for our sins is not unique to Christianity, as this mythology was already present in a much earlier religion called Mithraism.

Premise 3:

I feel very strongly about my religion/
I have perfect faith in my religion/
I know in my heart that my religion is true/
I have special access to the truth/
I have had special spiritual experiences with this religion that confirm my belief

So does everyone else who adheres to a religion, even to the extent that they would sacrifice their own lives for their faith, Sikh, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Mayan. They each have heaven, miracles, saints and holy days. If their faith is as strong as your own, can it be possible that you are both correct? Are you both wrong? Is there another possibility? What are to be your standards for judging, given that you are the advocate of only your own religion?

Premise 4: When I am uncomfortable, something is wrong and I should therefore avoid it.

False. Something is not wrong when a dancing bear has the ring removed from its nose, and something is not wrong when a woman is in childbirth. When you question your convictions, you are stepping into your own authority and demanding that your assumptions meet the appropriate conditions – namely, that they reflect truth. The most wonderful and transformative change is often initially uncomfortable, this does not mean it is not worthwhile.

Premise 5: Those who encourage me to question my faith are agents of of evil or are otherwise trying to lead me astray.

To the extent that you believe this, you will remain in a spiritual cell. The only thing you have to lose by questioning your beliefs and convictions is illusion – you get to keep anything that is true. No one imprisons you but you, and by your own free choice. Are you worried about losing the illusory? Are you worried about losing what is false?

Recognise this responsibility to yourself and to those who depend upon you. There is no one to reply to, object to, or argue with in this situation, because the only person you need to answer to here is you.

Premise 6: The truth of my religion is established to the extent that we have faced persecution.

This is assumed by every religion. Every religion faces persecution from every other religion, and yet each religion assumes the role of passive victimhood. This is simply not true. All religions both persecute and are persecuted, and all have a history of violence.

Premise 7: My religious community shares love with each other and that is real.

It may very well be true, but so does every other community, religious or not. How do you treat those who choose to leave your community? Do you judge them? Often the love shared between members of a church or a religion is actually conditional. We are happy to give love, care and attention to others within our group just so long as they live up to our expectations by believing what we believe and behaving in ways acceptable to us.

If they leave, then what happens? If their religious commitments change, then what happens? If your religion teaches that they should be treated any different, does that resonate with you on the deepest level?

Premise 8: The holy scriptures that my religious beliefs are based on are very old, and can be proven authentic because within those scriptures is the promise that it is true.

Again, this is ‘true’ for every single scripture-based religious tradition. Each relies upon a circular argument. “God has divinely authored a book in which he promises he was the author, and God would not lie”. This is self-contradictory, and the absurdity of it is clearly seen when the same assumptions are championed by other religions with entirely different assumptions.

Premise 9: If I did not maintain the beliefs, traditions and practices set out by my religion, then the world would collapse into moral anarchy.

The sad irony is that the world is already in a continually worsening state of moral collapse, largely due to interfaith conflict. Please read this last sentence more than once, because it is imperative that you understand. If multiple groups are being guided by inflexible moral rules that are in fact mutually exclusive, then conflict is the inevitable result. Period.

Premise 10: I would rather be wrong with my own religious group than right by supporting beliefs that I experience as heretical, distasteful or challenging.

This is very important to review for yourself, because herein lies the crux of the issue of personal moral and epistemic integrity. That which is true will not always conform to your expectations, preconceptions, and certainly not your comfort zone. Read this last sentence twice, please. It is imperative to understand. If you choose to be wrong with your own group, you are not in your integrity, because what you are in fact choosing is to be in your comfort zone rather than in respect to Truth.

Premise 11: Other religions and belief systems are immoral and misguided.

Now, if you are fundamentalist of any kind this has to appear to be true for you, because you have concluded that the rules set out by your own tradition are exclusively correct. You may be surprised to find with a little honest research that some traditions are very much aligned to your own. They may have an attitude of high respect and tolerance for their ingroup and an attitude of disapproval and even violence of their outgroup. They may even walk the talk better than your own tradition.

For example, the Islamic practice of stoning adulterers and homosexuals is frowned upon by moderate Christians, even though the moral law is expressly the same in the Koran as it is in the Old Testament. Fundamentalist Christians may not necessarily be so far off in disagreement with Radical Muslims.

There are also very loving and moderate religious traditions that may agree with your own teachings about expressing love to outsiders, forgiving wrongdoing and respectfully allowing others of different creeds to live in peace without imposing one’s own views and constraints upon them. Does that really sound so bad? If your teachings inspire you to anger and malign against others, can you honestly say that those beliefs are in the better interest of mankind?

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Simon P. Murphy is a Nelson-based writer. He is the author of the short story collection His Master’s Wretched Organ and the forthcoming Lexicanum Luciferium (both by VJM Publishing). His fiction is heavily influenced by Gnosticism and Alchemy, placing a central focus upon the theme of our navigation of an occulted reality through the use of archetypal symbolism.

What Does It Really Mean to Be Honest?

To honestly assess information, we need to fully inform ourselves.

We have all heard ‘honesty is the best policy’ and, ‘you shouldn’t lie’, but what is honesty at the deepest level, and why is it so important?

Honesty, at the deepest level, is a form of integrity.

Integrity asks you to be spiritually courageous, and involves using your wisdom and discernment even in the face of great pain. Being honest is not always easy. Sometimes being honest means moving away from the comfort of beliefs that we hold great stock in, beliefs which we have been taught over a lifetime, beliefs which inform our our daily lives, actions, decisions, and relationships to a profound degree.

The truth is, none of the comfort or emotional well-being derived from any belief is indicative of its truthfulness. There is simply no connection between what provides comfort and what is true.

Why is any of this important?

Believing things which are untrue can be very harmful, even though we may derive enormous personal comfort from the familiarity and promises of these beliefs.

If someone comes to your door and explains that they believe something without providing charitable counter-arguments, alternatives, or competing explanations, then this is a very strong indication that that person is not acting in their integrity, their honesty.

An evangelist will stand at your doorstep and faithfully show you everything that they believe, including why it makes sense to them, and the path they have taken to arrive at those conclusions. If they present you with any material that entertains a competing explanation, such as another very different religious system, it will always be used to show that other explanations are false.

This is a very, very important point, because this is how we discover whether someone is acting in their integrity or whether they are deluding themselves or others.

For example, a Jehovah’s Witness will not charitably discuss the merits of Catholicism or Islam, regardless of how many believers there are in these faiths worldwide. Other belief systems will only be referenced in passing in order to show that they are mistaken relative to the interpretation of the evangelists’ own religious commitments.

A missionary does not go into the jungle to deepen his understanding of tribal spirituality, at least, not intentionally. He goes in order to persuade others of his culture’s views which he assumes to be superior prior to any philosophical comparison.

Now, again imagine you are an Evangelical Christian and a Muslim comes to your door behaving in precisely the same way as you might. They offer you only an explanation of how Islam is exclusively true and holds spiritual superiority over other faiths. They will not hold competing faiths, including your own, in a favourable light, nor will they provide any charitable explanation of how these work, or the benefits they provide people with globally.

In short, they are not acting out of integrity.

Let’s go back to why honesty and integrity are important.

If you are not genuinely honest about your beliefs and why you believe them, then the relationship of those beliefs to reality will be muddy at best. If we do not allow our beliefs to conform to the best available reasoning and evidence, then our worldview is at risk of stagnating for lack of congruence with reality.

Just think what this would matter to divinity – I am not speaking of religion, but of divinity itself that people on earth should not act upon their integrity. This divinity may not take offense at having been wilfully misunderstood, but it would surely not condone people believing falsehoods without question and not honestly considering different answers, particularly if those false beliefs were harmful to others.

A Baptist who comes to your doorstep to preach about the bible has nothing glowing to say about the Koran, the Talmud, The Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita, irrespective of how valuable these may have been to millions of other lives over thousands of years.

The reason for this is clear – once people believe they have found answers that suit them, they tend to stop considering the legitimacy of other explanations, and feel justified in confidently discounting the validity of those worldviews without feeling the need for further analysis. This is not a Christian problem or Jewish problem or a Muslim problem or an atheist problem – this is a human problem.

When a politician comes to you, whether on television or in person, he isn’t telling you why his competition are wonderful and can help you in your life. He comes to you because he wants your support, he wants your vote. Your belief in his policy is a kind of transaction to him. In fact, it usually does not even matter to him that his policy should make you or your children’s lives any better. All that matters to him is that you vote for him. It is the same with religion.

There are other important reasons that people once deciding upon a belief system do not carefully and charitably explore alternative explanations, and this is because of something called cognitive dissonance.

If you already believe something, particularly if you have believed it for a long time and/or these beliefs inform much of what your personal life is built around, then there will be very strong resistance to changing or even questioning those beliefs, even if those beliefs have been harmful or false.

If an animal in a zoo has been kept in captivity for its entire life, even though it may have been kept enclosed in cramped, uncomfortable conditions, then the world outside will seem terrifying, even the wild where it belongs. Its natural freedom will terrify it to the point where for the sake of its imagined comfort, it will choose to remain caged out of fear and the comfort of an abject yet familiar environment.

We even limit our own children in order to indoctrinate them into our own views. This can be done in many ways, by limiting the friendships they have, monitoring the books they read, the movies they watch, or even schooling them ourselves, bypassing the perceived problem of our children receiving and understanding alternative ideas and explanations.

Christians frown upon Muslims for doing this, and vice versa. If anyone was truly operating in their integrity, in respect for truth they would never limit their children in this way. Now, of course we all love our children, and of course we all do for them what we think is best.

However, if we truly believed what we say we do, then we would allow our children the freedom of education that would naturally lead them to seek the truth, and if what we believe to be true was indeed true, then they would reach the same conclusions as we have.

The fact that people force their own beliefs upon their children is a form of dishonesty. It is symptomatic of a lack of faith in one’s own beliefs and assumptions.

Many religious parents, although somewhat uncomfortable with the inherent dishonesty of indoctrination, reason in the following way: “Yes, I am limiting their beliefs and freedom because I love them and I do not want them to be affected by evil, whatever the cost, because in my doing so I spare them from sin and damnation”.

However, this is precisely the same reasoning that keeps other authoritarian religious traditions which you disagree with in business. If you are a Fundamentalist Christian, you disagree with Fundamentalist Muslim children not receiving a free education.

Yet their parents reason in the same way that you do, only they consider that beliefs in departure from Islam lead to damnation, while you believe the same regarding Christianity.

In honesty, you cannot have it both ways – either you agree that all religions should indoctrinate their children, or you believe that children should be allowed freedom to seek the truth.

Questioning beliefs and assumptions costs energy. If we re-evaluate what we believe and why, then the resulting change can be very difficult, which is sadly why people, particularly those with strong beliefs, have a strong resistance to this.

It is more important to most people to remain comfortable, in familiar territory, and amongst people who believe the same things than it is even to pursue the ultimate truth of reality, who they really are and why they are really here.

They are afraid that if they question their beliefs, then they will betray their family, friends, church, tradition, culture, God.

All that is actually happening is that that person is no longer putting comfort and familiarity first, and is now stepping into the courage and integrity to hold all of their beliefs subject to a rigorous questioning. People do this out of a deep respect for themselves, for others, for truth, and for divinity. Unfortunately, many see it as easier to die for their convictions than to live questioning them.

To the extent that people do not do this, they choose to remain asleep. This is why we have traditions spanning thousands of years, and yet no peace to show for it. Violence, both physical and ideological, is rife, as is suffering, neurosis and fear of death, insanity and damnation, all despite the proclamation of great faith and righteousness. It is not loyalty that keeps you in chains, but fear.

To value and practice honest questioning and integrity is to value spiritual awareness, to be awake to the truth in whatever form it may take.

The time to remain asleep is over for those who choose to awaken and hold to question every assumption that separates us from our brothers and sisters.

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Simon P. Murphy is a Nelson-based writer. He is the author of the short story collection His Master’s Wretched Organ and the forthcoming Lexicanum Luciferium (both by VJM Publishing). His fiction is heavily influenced by Gnosticism and Alchemy, placing a central focus upon the theme of our navigation of an occulted reality through the use of archetypal symbolism.

Poetry K-Hole 2: Oi, God

Big old poof, sittin’ in the sky

Bossin’ us ’round,

Dunno why.

I guess He doesn’t have enough to do,

Can’t sort His own shit out

So He has to give us arseholes

About feeding skinny kids

In Africa.

Why doesn’t He feel bad?

He’s the one who made them,

Racist, too, since he made all the poor ones black.

Or did he make all the black ones poor?

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Simon P. Murphy is the author of His Master’s Wretched Organ.