Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two Excerpts

Two Excerpts from the Actual Freedom mailing list:

Excerpt 1

The root cause of the contradictory nature (a polite word for ‘perverse nature’) of human beings lies in the basic instinctual emotions: fear and aggression (savage) and nurture and desire (tender). The inherent perversity of all ‘being’ can be easily seen by examining the way that some noteworthy human beings have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of tender feelings, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of savage feelings and then realised themselves as unitive and enduring entities swimming in the ‘Ocean Of Oneness’ (by whatever name) for all ‘Eternity’ (by whatever name).

They have failed to face up to the facts and actuality of hereditary instincts squarely … which comes out of a failure to understand human nature (which is quite understandable as all the ‘Great Beings’ throughout history have remained stuck in the Human Condition and seek to resolve problems instead of dissolving the cause of them). They merely add to the confusion ... and suck otherwise intelligent people into following them blindly into heroic self-sacrifice. All the while they weep crocodile tears at the abominable slaughter and misery that they actively promote and perpetuate out of their abject ignorance.

All religious and spiritual thought – being mystical in origin – is nothing but an extremely complex and complicated metaphysics that does nothing to eliminate the self – the ego and soul – in its entirety. In fact, when one applies these eastern-derived religious and spiritual systems, one’s primal self is endorsed, enhanced, glorified and rewarded for staying in existence. And this is a monumental blunder. All the wars, murders, tortures, rapes and destruction that have eventually followed the emergence of any specially hallowed religiosity or spirituality attests to this. Also, all the sadness, loneliness, grief, depression and suicide that has ensued as a result of following any specifically revered religious or spiritual teaching renders its mute testimony to anyone with the eyes to see.

Culpability for the continuation of animosity and anguish lies squarely at the feet of the Master and the Messiahs; the Saints and the Sages; the Avatars and the Saviours; the Gurus and the God-men. And their feet – upon close inspection – are feet of clay. They lacked the necessary intestinal fortitude to go all the way ... they stopped at the ‘Unknown’ by surrendering to the ‘Unmanifest Power’ that lies lurking behind the throne. To stop at ‘dissolving the ego’ and becoming enlightened is to stop half-way. One needs to end the soul as well, then any identity whatsoever becomes extirpated, extinguished, eliminated, annihilated ... in other words: extinct. To be as dead as the dodo but with no skeletal remains. To vanish without a trace ... there will be no phoenix to rise from the ashes. Finished. Kaput.

Then there is peace-on-earth.

Thus this self – ‘me’ – is not only ‘simple, undemanding and peaceful’ yet ‘very complex, dynamic and associated with emotions and attachments’ in some unknowable and paradoxical way at all … by ‘my’ very nature ‘I’ am defiled; by ‘my’ very nature ‘I am corrupt through and through; by ‘my’ very nature ‘I’ am perversity itself. No matter how sincerely and earnestly one tries to purify oneself, one can never succeed completely. The last little bit always eludes perfecting.

By ‘my’ very nature ‘I’ am rotten at the innermost core.

Excerpt 2

Brain biologist Paul MacLean has put forward the attractive idea that the human brain is a composite structure, composed of three interlocking but distinct elements – three partly separate brains, each with its own software and its own input and output channels. The oldest is the reptilian brain. Next, layered above it is the paleocortex or limbic system, while layered above that is the neocortex (…) the limbic system (together with associated brain elements like the hypothalamus) is the engine of the so-called ‘instincts’ which MacLean has wryly described as the four F’s – feeding, fighting, fleeing and fucking. This behaviour is conspicuously cyclic and repetitive. The pre-human part of our brains still listens to the beat of nature. The outermost layer is our ‘thinking cap’, the part which boasts the cerebral cortex, the seat of language, imagination and reasoning skills. Under this lies the limbic system, which may be loosely thought of as the seat of emotions.

These two layers enfold the ancient reptilian core common to all (higher) animals. These deep brain structures predate the human species by hundreds of millions of years (…) the human brain preserves, in its present structure, the history of its past development. The newer layers are built on top of the older layers, just as younger strata in a geological formation lie on top of – and conceal – the more ancient strata which preceded them. In particular the ancient reptilian core and the next-oldest rind wrapped around it, the limbic brain … the seats of the so-called instincts (…) the fight or flight reaction [is] the instinct which drives us to defend the integrity of our body/self in the face of danger.

When life is threatened, the mind-computer has to make a rapid choice between two options – to avoid the danger by trying to escape from it or to confront the danger by engaging in real or mock combat. Associated with this instinct are the emotions of rage (fighting) and fear (fleeing). These emotions correspond to a sense of crisis which means that they are rapidly aroused and demand an immediate response. Whereas we can ignore or suppress feelings of hunger and thirst, rage and terror dominate the psyche until the threat that engendered them has been dealt with. The [sex instinct is the] instinct which drives us to reproduce. Associated with this instinct of sex is the emotion of lust, by which I mean simply the direct expression of sexual urge without taking into account any of the complicating value judgements which arise when the biological drive is viewed through the distorting prism of the symbolate mind. These value judgements colour the underlying instinct so deeply that the sensation of love, which we normally associate with sex, is seen as the ‘highest’ of all human emotions.

These instincts conform to a common pattern. In cases studied in animals, the instinct is often triggered by a specific signal which behavioural scientists call an innate releasing mechanism or IRM. The role of hormones in instinctive behaviour is often misunderstood. Hormones are responsible for the ‘state of arousal’, the ‘turn-on’ that accompanies the instinct but they do not trigger it. This is the role of the IRM. What hormones do is determine the threshold of response. There has been an enormous controversy over the question of whether IRM’s exist in humans and, if so, whether these are learned or inherited.

The controversy need not concern us. There is no doubt that we share the instincts of the four F’s with our vertebrate relatives (for example, the chemical changes in the blood of a terrified man are identical to those in the blood of a terrified cat), and it seems hard to dispute that these instincts are activated by powerful stimuli or signals. Once an IRM has set the scene in an appropriately primed individual, the final step is the carrying out of a specific action pattern which leads the animal to physically engage in the particular behaviour which the specific hormone has prepared and the specific IRM triggered. Behaviourial scientists call these selective action patterns ‘consummatory’ acts because they remove the source of their own motivation.

The pattern common to all instincts is thus encoded in the following paradigm. Hormones raise the level of arousal and thereby diminish the barriers that inhibit the action pattern; the IRM triggers the action and the consummatory act completes the sequence. Instinctive behaviour is fundamentally goal-driven and goal-oriented. This is why it conveys such a strong impression of purpose (…) we are sexually reproducing creatures so our genes are a 50:50 blend of those from each parent. This mixing of genes makes each of us a physically unique individual. Experience builds on these genetic differences, differentiating us increasingly from our fellows as we grow up.

By the time we are 13 years old, we normally have strongly developed ego-selves – we are recognizable individuals, labeled by society with identity tags called names. Manifestly then, evolution still works on and through individual differences between people (…) human society experiences a mode of natural selection based on competition between ego-conscious individuals. What this process selects for is, in the main, what one might expect of such a system: greed, survival at all costs, a ‘killer instinct’ in business, a massive emphasis on goods which reflect enlarged ego structures, wealth, power, indifference to others – in short, selfishness. Selfish egos replace selfish genes.

The basic nature of the ego-self shows up in the way it is constructed within each individual brain. The ego-self is an expression of the learned layers of memory stored in the cortex but – and here is the crucial point – the ego-self remains inextricably locked into the survival software permanently written into its genes. The genes of every human being create in the physical brain a robot, the limbic/reptilian complex which houses the survival instincts. This robot is the same in all of us. Blindly, it pegs each emerging layer of the ego-self to the ancient feedback loop of self-preservation. The process is one-way. Once an experience has been added to memory, it becomes part of the ego-self, to be conserved along with every thing that went before. Thus the robot – something we all share as part of our evolutionary heritage – becomes the unwitting agent by which our emerging personalities – the source of our differences – become hostage to foreverness. The chemical loop of self-preservation takes into itself the psychological ego-self.

According to its program, what the robot must do is maintain the status quo. This has a far-reaching consequence. Once a strong sense of ego-self has developed during the later years of childhood and the teens, the new (and mostly unimportant) day-to-day experiences of life usually serve to reinforce (or at worst only slightly modify) the current status quo structure of the ego-self. We cling fanatically to our sense of identity, of me-ness, because it has become our lens of life, our window to the world, our personal guardian of the universal survival imperative of the selfish gene. Because selfish egos spring from selfish genes, the ‘desires’ built into the ego-cage are open-ended. It is the nature of the ego to reinforce its own ‘self-image’ by always wanting more of those things which strengthen its ‘definition’ – more money, more power, more time (whence springs its open-ended urge to last forever).

To put this another way and so make my next point, what we dread above almost all else is change. By this, I do not mean the simple addition of ordinary day-to-day experiences which are easily accommodated within the existing ego-self structure: I mean changes that profoundly alter the ego-self, reshaping and remaking it. The reason for this is fundamental. If we change the ‘I’ self-image too deeply, we create a new creature; the ‘me’ that emerges from a profound personality change is, in a real and factual sense, no longer me – it is a stranger, it is other. For this reason, and I believe this is a defining feature of human growth, the transformative experiences of life, those which involve suffering and pain, and ‘shake us to the core’ are innately resisted by the self-preserving robot whose task it is (remember) to blindly maintain the status quo.

Human psychology is inherently self-protective and conservative (…) the discovery of evolution, more than anything else, heightened an age-old tension that has ‘always’ existed between the conservatism of our subconscious (the seat of instinct) and the flexibility of our cerebral cortex (the seat of intelligence). I once described man as a ‘machine that dreams’. The machine is the robot in the limbic brain, fixed in form and programmed by genes to maintain what is as it is. The dreamer is the cerebral cortex, a free-wheeling adventurer whose software programs are written not by genes but by experience. A dreamer dreams of things that are not yet. He dreams of change. And change is what the ego-self fears. We are in literal truth at war with ourselves, the robot in the limbic brain struggling to keep the status quo while the adventurer in the cortex toys with novelty.

This war within our psychology, like the day/night cycle, has become externalized in our myths. Almost every human culture has developed a folklore which shows the universe polarized between warring opposites: God versus the Devil, Good versus Evil, Light versus Darkness, Osiris versus Set. The pleasure/pain centres of the limbic cortex act as ordering foci for these opposites of experience. Now we see that the ‘struggle’ between the pleasurable (good/bright/day) centre and the painful (bad/dark/night) centre is also interleaved with an unresolved conflict between the bottom story of the mind, where instinct dwells, and the upper story where thought lives (…) bedded deeply in the mind then are dual programs which are exactly reciprocal in the sense that one arouses while the other diminishes the desire to consummate the ‘drive’ in question, be it eating, fighting or mating.

These linked opposites are reflected in a wide range of contrasting human attributes: pleasure and pain (the primary feelings) and reward and punishment (the derived values). Carried to an extreme, the primary feelings of pleasure and pain become intensive emotive hyper-states: ecstasy and agony. I believe these linked opposites find direct, unambiguous expression in two of our most fundamental myths, the opposing hereafters of heaven (bliss equals reward) and hell (agony equals punishment);they are also strongly linked to the contrasting opposites of good and evil.

The ancient Aryan Indians talked of the Gods Indra and Soma hurling ‘sinners’ down to ‘hell’ and Vedic scripture contains dark references to a black underground for ‘wrong-doers’. The heaven/hell duality was also mirrored in and reinforced by the other great contrasting principles of human experience – day and night (again), male and female, hot and cold, etc. Most religions contain some symbolism based on the duality of linked opposites – yin/yang (widespread in Oriental religions), light/dark (Zoroastrianism), heaven/hell (Christianity) (…) the fact that our personalities are ‘divided against themselves’ points to a profound evolutionary paradox. Whenever a better adapted form of life appears during evolution, the old form of life from which it arose is doomed. In a sense, a superior variant is a traitor to its own kind for, given time, it will eliminate its own antecedents. Instinctive behaviour is fundamentally goal-driven and goal-oriented.

This is why it conveys such a strong impression of purpose (…) to bring out the inner nature of instinct, we can recap it thus: eating and drinking equals self-maintenance; fighting or fleeing equals self-preservation and reproduction equals self-continuation. We possess all these instincts; they are our ‘original sin’ – the genetic memory of our animal ancestry. However, the selective action pattern of each instinct does not, in the human case, take place in a mindless mechanical automaton like a thermostat. The chemical states associated with each instinct register in our conscious awareness as feelings.

("The Death of Forever; A New Future for Human Consciousness"; By Darryl Reanney; Teacher of microbiology and biochemistry, University of Canterbury. N. Z. ,LaTrobe University, Australia. Publisher: Longman 1991 ISBN 0 582 87054-2)


srid said...

The chemical states associated with each instinct register in our conscious awareness as feelings.

So one can never be consciously aware of instincts (as opposed to feelings) in operation?

Di said...

My gawd harman....I didn't read the whole thing (I will come back later at leisure; after all my poor brain can process only so much info at a time). You are an intellectual. You are all about brain. My love for my god comes from my heart. My brain is involved but it is all about "bhav" for me. So then there are two categories of people. One who analyse, intellectual and the other who are un-intellectual (like me) and who believe/trust/have faith and follow their heart.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Following one's heart keeps the heart (the soul) alive.

And thus one remains human: malicious and sorrowful.

Di said...

hmmmm...don't know what kind of utpatang logic this is. Following your heart makes one malicious and sorrowful. You think I am one?!?!?!

Harmanjit Singh said...

You think I am one?!?!?!

If you feel angry/irritated/hateful/aggressive at times, and if you feel lonely/depressed/bored at times, yes, you are.

The heart is a lonely hunter, as they say.

Di said...

Sweetie the key word is "sometimes" (If you feel angry/irritated/hateful/aggressive at times, and if you feel lonely/depressed/bored at times, yes, you are.).

I feel happy, joyful, blissful, cheerful most of the time. Therefore I cannot be "sorrowful" and "malicious"....chalo theek hai Sorrowful sometimes.....but malicious....no way.....never ever!!!

Anyhow: you are intellectual type; do not follow your heart; then pray why you too have "sorrowfullness" and so called "maliciousness" in you??!!!

In other words, the logic doesn't hold (I feel).

But if I disagree with you you won't be mad at me, would you???

Woh aapka he blog tha naa, agree/disagree wala :)))

Harmanjit Singh said...

Sweetie, I am not trying to see the worst in you, but to point out that if you are living from the heart, it is passionate and emotional living, and we, as humans, have the whole spectrum of feelings, passions and emotions which cannot be wished away in part. We have both the "good" and the "bad" in all of us, different concoctions depending upon our heredity and upbringing but the "best" of us is capable of acting like the "worst" of us at times.

If you feel anger and irritation at times, during those times you are demonstrably malicious. At other times, you are capable of being malicious.

As for being intellectual, I am not /just/ intellect. Yes, I am analytical to a high degree, but I am a feeling being at my core, being human who is on a quest of being free of his humanity (as bad as that may sound :-))

Believe it or not, I used to bitterly cry as an adult. After I became a grandfather (ahem, just joking), rarely, a few tears sometimes form. I do feel lonely at times too.