In my life I have accepted many beliefs based primarily on authority and consensus, with an underlying foundation of fear and man-pleasing. These have lead me on a wild goose chase. The following lines by W.H. Auden are a good summation of the place where I have found myself:
Faces along the barSeptember 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden. Source: https://poets.org/poem/september-1-1939
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
These beliefs could be collected under two main systems: the first was Science, the second Religion. These I would term as false dichotomies. I also accepted and inhabited other false dichotomies which overlap with these two main systems: Materialism vs Theism, Anarchism vs Monarchism, Cosmic Darwinism vs Fundamentalist Creationism. These overlaps are perhaps more convenient than necessary. I have also accepted and inhabited false syntheses deriving from these dichotomies. For if the thesis and antithesis are false then how can the synthesis fare any better. A good example is conspiratardism.
In the subsequent two posts, I intend to explore these two main false dichotomies from a biographical perspective: my acceptance and eventual rejection of these belief systems. I will define the main terms and try to give a overview of why I no longer subscribe to either of them. One of the difficulties is that any biographical approach is an historical description. It is really about who the writer is now. This can be better understood via the following quote by a contemporary historian describing the historical approach of a 16th Century scholar:
“This use of the Anglo-Saxon as exemplars is characteristic of the historical approach embodied in Parker’s series of editions of historical manuscripts. History is studied for its contemporary relevance, and historical figures are models to be emulated rather than real people who lived in the past. Parker’s edition of Asser’s Life of King Alfred provides a striking example of this mentality.”Matthew Parker and Asser’s “Ælfredi Regis Res Gestæ” Author(s): SUZANNE C. HAGEDORN Source: The Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. 51, No. 1 (AUTUMN 1989), pp. 74-90.
Reason for writing #1. – Purification from belief based on authority and consensus.
Now, I believe myself to be a real person that has a past. It is possible that I woke up this morning into a waking dream with a fabricated history. Irrespective of this my fabricated history and memories would be just as significant to whom I am now.
Either way, I am writing about my own history for its contemporary relevance. Not as one to be emulated, but rather a warning from one who has sunk deeply in the quicksands of authoritarian and consensual belief. If nothing else, I am writing to myself as I attempt to walk on the path of scepticism. My reasons are entirely selfish. It is possible that someone else may find benefit from my biography of belief. At the moment I’m not sure if there is anywhere to get to, apart from back home.
This motivation for writing may be summed up by the motto of the Royal Society, the very first ‘learned society’ which first met on 28 November 1660 [following] a lecture at Gresham College by Christopher Wren.” https://royalsociety.org/about-us/history/:
‘Nullius in verba’
'Nullius in verba' is taken to mean 'take nobody's word for it', or as I prefer it, ‘on nobody else's’ word.’ The Royal Society describes the motto as “an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”
The domination of consensus could be viewed as a derivative of the domination of the authority. The authority now being spread over a group of people: scientists, scientific institutions and societies; priests, churches and cults; even mankind as a whole. To attempt to withstand this is a noble intention, one which can be be applied to both the sensory and spiritual life.
Anyone who has spent much time engaging with the scientific body of received opinion should be able to see the worldly equivalents of dogma, heresy, inquisitions, witch-hunts, censorship, virtue signalling, ostracism, councils, group-think, apologetics, empty rhetoric and baseless propaganda (starting with the young.)
In summary, the first reason why I have started writing is for my own selfish desire to see where I am and to document my errors. If I need to deprogramme myself, do I not first need to understand how and with what I have been programmed? To do this requires a certain amount of faith or belief. The faith that there is a part of me that is not simply an organic computer, a part of me that has remained outside of the programming and is able to observe and remove the beliefs as necessary. This is one belief without which it seems impossible to remove other beliefs. Perhaps once the process has happened this belief can also be dropped, not as something true or false, but as no longer necessary. Once the destination is reached the map becomes moot.
Reason for writing #2. – Overcoming the sickness of fear and procrastination.
At the grand old age of 38, nigh on 39, I have come to my senses far from home. I am overweight, intellectually and physically lazy, with the poisoned arrow of procrastination stuck deep in my heart. The time to pull it out is now, but I’d rather leave it till tomorrow, lest I should see where I am, lost in a haunted wood. I am committing myself to initially publishing one post every week, by Wednesday evening at the latest. (This post is early). This is my first step on an path to reprogramme the organic machine to act promptly and reasonably.
It seems clear to me that my procrastination is a manifestation of fear. To put something off till tomorrow could be modelled as one half of a ‘flight or fight’ mechanism. To live in a state of procrastination is to neglect the body, as one’s energy and actions are consumed by the desire to flee. An animal being hunted has no time for fulfilling its natural wants. Ill health, both bodily and mentally, are sure to follow a life spent in prolonged anxiety. How much of my life has been consumed by the following line written about the public at the beginning of the Second World War:
“The lights must never go out, The music must always play”
Lest I should see my true state and have to do something about it.
If one result of fear is to flee and procrastinate than perhaps the other is to fight. To fight the lies and the liars, the hoaxes and the hoaxers, the dogmas of the priesthood, to smash the system. To desire to be the saviour of mankind when really one is a puppet of one’s own fears. The outcome is the same, the consumption of one’s actions and energies by fear and the neglect of oneself.
“Ye have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’(Mt 5:39)
But I say to you do not resist the evil one;”
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146, Nietzsche.
But as much as one must not fight, one must not flee either. The solution: Aloofness? Folly?
Reason for writing #3 – What do I really believe?
As I mentioned in my “Wands of belief” article, as I try to lay down one belief I find that I am carrying three more. The process works two ways. To get to the deeper beliefs I first lay down the superficial ones. As I start to see through deeper beliefs I must go back and reevaluate superficial ones.
A house of cards can be removed systematically from the top down, but removing the bottom cards brings the whole thing crashing down. Although quicker, one must remember that one of the causative factors and results of externally programmed beliefs is fear. Fear of authority, of what others think, of seeing who we really are once stripped naked of fancy clothing. To remove all beliefs at once could be extremely destabling for the mind.
However, for an example, the removal of the belief in the authority of the media may lead one to gradually question their beliefs in certain events, then larger events, then war as presented and then history. The removal of the belief in the contemporary presentation of history, that it is a hoax, may bring the whole thing crashing down. To see in a flash the that one’s entire conception of the world is based on nothing could destroy a fragile mind.
In the past I dropped my scientific beliefs almost at once. In the interim period I was highly susceptible to accepting a new received system of beliefs. Religion stepped into the void and my latter state became worse that the former. This is why, at least until we get home, I suspect there are certain profitable beliefs which should be maintained.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”Luke 11:25
Bearing all this in mind, my intention is to simply write honestly, undertake research with an open but sceptical mind and publish to my findings, withstanding the fear of authority and consensus, succumbing neither to fight nor flight. Perhaps even realising that there is nothing to fear.
Reason for writing #4 – Collaboration
The fourth reason that I have decided to start writing is to collaborate with others who are attempting something similar. Whilst I believe that ultimately we should be in a position where that which we believe, or perhaps know, is based on “no one else’s word.” However, I can also see benefit in comparing notes with others. When St. John of the Ladder observed men trying to free themselves from bad habits he saw ‘certain men who were stuck in the mud…
Bogged down as they were, they were telling passers-by how they had sunk there, explaining this for their salvation,so that they should not fall in the same way. However, for the salvation of others, the all-powerful God delivered them from the mud as well.‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ St John of the Ladder.
Please do not get triggered over the use of the terms ‘God’ and ‘salvation’. One could as easily see it as the benefit accruing to oneself from pointing out to others how one got stuck in the mud. This experiential knowledge of how one got into a particular state being useful in getting back out and not getting stuck again, at least not in this way.
ASIDE – One that note, if you are emotionally attached to your beliefs and thus easily triggered this may not be the place for you. If you are emotionally attached to your beliefs, (I guess we all are somewhat) but at least have the sincere desire to overcome becoming triggered then please stay.
There are plenty of corners of the internet where infantile wallies can confirm each other’s beliefs and try to impose their pitiable authority on others under the guise of ‘collaboration’ or ‘community.’ If you want to sink further into the mud by struggling against others, there are millions of self-hating, fear-ridden babies who seek to demand authority over others or submit to their leaders’/community’s dogmas. I wish you well. END OF ASIDE
However, I welcome all reasonable criticism and experiences from others trying to lay down the wands of belief and the clamber out of the mud of thoughtless opinion. (I don’t mind opinion at all, as long as there is a certain amount of thought behind it.) Where I fail in this I would be pleased to be corrected.
One final point on authority and teachers. Perhaps one does manage to pull oneself out of the mud but then realises that they are still lost in a haunted wood. There could be innumerable ways out of the forest and innumerable dead ends. (If only I had never sought the gingerbread house in the first place.) Every direction looks the same. Whilst respecting the ideal of ‘on nobody else’s word,’ could fellow wayfarers have left signposts and danger signs on the way? I have had plenty of experience following the signposts of self-proclaimed scientific and religious authorities. But just now I quoted such a supposed authority in St. John of the Ladder. Like a bee can gather nectar from wherever it finds flowers, even in thickets and thorn bushes, I am open to taking the profitable from wherever I find it. Not accepting it on authority and consensus, but applying scepticism, logic and experience as defence mechanisms.
In addition, perhaps I can build up experiential knowledge of the usefulness of signs left by certain wayfarers. Say I have previously ignored the warnings of some fellow wayfarer. Each time, the result was time wasted going down dead-ends or getting stuck in the mud once more. These signs would be rhetoric based on good grammar and logic, both in external matters and internal affairs.
Say I have followed certain signs and the result was always damaging. This could indicate that these signs are akin to empty rhetoric. If I have found some maps more profitable than others can I view the publishers of these maps as more reliable for navigation than others?
Assuming that there are others trying to deprogramme, it seems to me that collaboration, with the foundations of scepticism, logic and the primacy of one’s own experience, should be beneficial. Perhaps I could build up a mental file of wayfarers whose signs I have found to be rhetoric based on grammar and logic. I would still need to check the details for myself but it could act as a primary filtration device.
Potential dangers of collaboration: In my life have demonstrated a tendency towards accepting uncritically the beliefs of others. These beliefs I then parrot back to others as if they were my own. Is being aware of this enough of a defence. Will my ability to exercise scepticism be enough to overcome this tendency? How to tell if my thoughts and words are my own or if I am just a dog barking?
Reason for writing # 5 – Exercise of the mind.
This is perhaps my primary reason for starting to write, but with the way that this article has unfolded it has come towards the end. Firstly, being ridden by fear and in love with its daughter procrastination, I am not sure I would ever have started this blog if it was not for engaging with the work of John le Bon and his fine website johnlebon.com.
In this obscure corner of the internet, I found some others who seem to be sincere in their attempt to realise the state that we are in. Some like me may be just coming to that realisation, others starting to pull themselves out, others perhaps starting their journey home, having put down the ring, left Mordor and headed back to the Shire.
Before reading any further I would recommend reading the following free article on johnlebon.com: ‘The Worth of the Written Word.’ It was published almost three years before this post. It expresses certain thoughts far better and succinctly than I am currently able to. It is not for the easily triggered. If you’d rather not don’t worry as I intend to quote from it as a basis for this final section.
Now that you may have read it, I shan’t go over all the points but I will concentrate on the following section:
One of the ongoing inner dialectics I find myself engaged in is the matter of objectivity vs subjectivity, specifically regarding the content I produce for mass consumption via my YouTube channels and podcasts. For one reason or another, I have generally been inclined to put less of myself (figuratively and literally) into the material I have produced than many of my peers are wont to do. Although this may have somewhat hampered my efforts to build an audience in terms of quantity, I would like to think that it has assisted that same effort in terms of quality. When we are dealing with empirical knowledge and objective facts, why should the audience care so much about the personal thoughts of the individual presenting the information? When a solid case has been built upon empirical knowledge and objective facts, why would a presenter want to dilute or delay that case by infusing his own opinions? When the relevant facts are presented well, then the logical, sensible members of the audience will arrive at logical, sensible conclusions – or, at least, that is the ideal.‘The Worth of the Written Word.’ John le Bon
If I am interpreting correctly, John’s publishing path began with him generally being inclined to present less of himself in his material than others do. Once he had built this foundation of empirical knowledge and objective facts he then started to include some of his personal thoughts or subjective experience. Not that they weren’t there in himself at the beginning or perhaps implicitly in his writing. Currently his published work on his website includes article which use material from his subjective syncs. Synchromysticism is something that I hope to get into eventually.
It seems that with my first two posts, I am starting with my subjective opinions and experiences rather than objective research and facts. On this I would state a few things:
- I have been greatly helped by John’s published research. I have tried to engage with the work actively.
- I have found the podcasts and videos very useful for taking a panoramic view of the land. If I move to a new place I am inclined to wander this way and that; to get to know my surroundings. Taking every alley or short-cut that I come across, I soon gain a shallow but useful perspective of the area.
- I have found the most profit from engaging actively in the long-form articles. Checking the sources for myself. Considering what is being said.
- This I have followed up by starting to engage in my own independent research which I have submitted under the pen-name ‘daibpdaibp.’
- In some respects then I have been engaging in establishing a base of empirical knowledge and objective facts.
- Although a useful tool for navigation, perhaps the objective vs subjective dichotomy, whilst not being a false one, has more of a practical function than an existential reality. This thought started to coalesce after an exchange of comments with JLB.
- All ‘classically objective’ knowledge I receive via my subjective senses.
- Could one view external knowledge or Grammar as ‘subjective’ knowledge which is turned into ‘objective’ knowledge by the application of logic?
- This can be turned back into ‘subjective’ knowledge by the application of rhetoric for the consumption of others.
- Again, I think that this may all be the map and not the terrain.
- Even if one starts publishing with more inclination on the ‘objective’, most likely the desire to start publishing would be influenced by subjective reasons. The two are not divorced but go hand in hand. As one person differs from another, so there is unlikely to be a uniform method of deprogramming imposed from above. However, if there is such a thing as human nature and individual persons, perhaps there are variations on a theme.
- One thing that I have learned from engaging with the work on johnlebon.com, both from his work; from the creations of other members; and indeed from engaging actively in the comments section – is how flabby my mental facilities have become. It seems that I am retarded.
- I have thus started a programme of the study of the trivium (Grammar, logic and Rhetoric), on which I hope to write some initial thoughts and document my experiences once I complete the next couple of articles on the false dichotomies of Science and Religion and my engagement with them.
- I intend to combine this with dealing with my other flabbiness, that of body.
Reason for writing #6 – Motivation.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’Luke 15: 28-30
As I stated at the beginning of this post, the sickness of fear and the love of her daughter have pierced deep into my being. Maybe they are the cage I feel surrounding my heart as I struggle with my wands of belief. What if I can’t do it, what if I give up, what if my work is awful. Hence, I never start. The only person mocking me is myself.
I am the one haunting the woods.
So, I have started. Now. To replace my foundation of fear and man-pleasing with a foundation of scepticism and aloofness. To build on this with experience, both sensory and inner. An offensive on authority and consensus based on a pincer attack of:
- Refining the mind via the Trivium. – Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric. Input, Procss, Output.
- Refining the body: Diet, Stretching, Exercise. Input, Process, Output.
Dangers: Perhaps in committing myself publicly, the poison of man-pleasing will sneak back in through the back door.
If anyone feels a kinship to the thoughts expressed here I would be interested in hearing from you in the comments. Agreements or disagreements. If you are easily triggered, you can comment but my interest may not be so great.
Why I have started writing:
- Reason for writing #1. – Purification from belief based on authority and consensus.
- Nullius in Verba
- On Nobody Else’s Word.
- Laying down the wands of belief based on:
- Nullius in Verba
- Reason for writing #2. – Overcoming the sickness of fear and procrastination.
- Procrastination as a manifestation or daughter of fear.
- Wasted energy in ‘fight or flight’
- Development of an aloofness of spirit or a wise folly.
- Reason for writing #3. – What do I really believe?
- Try to become aware of the the beliefs that I am holding.
- Distinguish between which ones can be safely lain down immediately and those which must be maintained for now.
- For example: The belief that I can lay down my beliefs.
- Realising that although it may be possible to drop them all at once, there may be some danger in doing this.
- Reason for writing #4. – Collaboration
- Actively engaging with the work of those with an open-mind tempered by scepticism and critical thinking.
- Discerning between researchers or thinkers who are engaged in scepticism and ‘filled’ rhetoric rather than cry babies who deal in empty rhetoric.
- Remembering to check things for myself. On nobody else’s word.
- Remembering my tendency to succumb to schools of thought based on authority and consensus.
- Actively engaging with the work of those with an open-mind tempered by scepticism and critical thinking.
- Reason for writing #5. – Exercise of the mind.
- Primary reason for starting to write.
- I have been retarded.
- The Trivium as a possible way to train my mind.
- Approach it with an open but sceptical mind.
- Treat it a a method: a verb rather than a noun.
- Exercise the body as well
- Reason for writing #6. – Motivation.
- Committing myself publicly to certain things.
- Danger: Man-pleasing slipping back in through the back door.
Afterword – Meandering thoughts
The state that I am in now is that of the Fool who has gone off on a journey. He is now lost, having even forgotten that he ever set off in the first place not even remembering who is really is. Thus my journey is not to get to heaven, I am not seeking enlightenment, but simply to get back home. In a sense, I will have become something that I wasn’t before but what that is I cannot now know.
I feel like all of my problems have caused by the solutions that I have created to solve my problems.
So far I have written a lot about scepticism, grammar, logic and rhetoric. The removal of belief in order to journey home. Negative methods if you will. I have written that there may be warning signs and directions left by other wayfarers as they struggle to find their way out.
But what if there are other signs and directions. As this blog progresses I hope to eventually come to some more esoteric topics including synchromysticism. My suspicion is that the best directions home may be within us, but which we discover by projecting them out into the world. It was looking at tarot cards that helped me to start realising what was going on inside myself and in this realm. Others find such signs or coincidences in film, in art, in music, in literature, in poetry. Perhaps the artist intended none of it. For now I don’t intend to say anything else on this topic, but if there is a trail of breadcrumbs leading out of the woods, I think we may have left it for ourselves.
I still have this feeling that I could just lift up the cage, or drop the wands. That the woods don’t really exist and the only person haunting them is myself. There is no mud but still I am stuck in it. Those are just beliefs as well. If only I could see it but I can’t or rather I don’t want to. Yet, If I did, I might realise that I have been home the whole time.
Hence, the journey I am left with is an unnecessary one that, nevertheless, I must take.