Friday, October 03, 2008

Jigsaw Puzzle

Have you ever noticed how people who are trying to improve the world have a tendency to advocate conformity? They might be trying to win you over to a religion, a political persuasion, a life-style. Others, realising that this sort of endeavour is futile, express the belief that the human race can’t be saved from self-destruction.

We all want to be accepted. All the more so when we find it hard to accept ourselves. Sometimes we change ourselves in order to win the acceptance of others. But this isn’t real acceptance as we are being accepted for who we pretend to be and not for who we really are.

Often we tend to prefer the company of people who either think similarly to ourselves or have had similar experiences. The challenge comes in our relationships with those who are different. But, if we can feel secure in who we are, then we needn’t see difference as a threat.

Think of a jigsaw puzzle. No two pieces are the same. And yet they are capable of fitting together seamlessly into a meaningful whole.

Is it not possible that most of the problems of the world come from our attempts to force ourselves or others into places we don’t fit - either not letting others be their true selves, or not letting ourselves be ours. Think of how much money and potential for joy we can expend on “keeping up with the Jones’s”

You might argue that some people want to do violent things and so need to have their real selves curtailed. But at the heart of violence lies a profound lack of acceptance of oneself or others. The root cause of much violence is the inherent insecurity of a rigid character structure. This is particularly common with men who repress their “softer” emotions and rigidly control their behaviour and what they will express of themselves. Since the emotions they are trying to deny still exist within them and are always threatening to come to the surface, they become paranoid and see the expression of such emotions, or the behaviours they associate with them, in others as a threat. So they may become violent towards women or homosexuals. Of course the inherent insecurity of this kind of character structure also leads to competition, sometimes violent, with other men in the same situation. Another example of this kind of volatile personality is that of the fundamentalist whose sometimes violent opposition to the “sinfulness” he sees around him is driven by the fact that the same lusts he sees (or at times imagines) in others are also welling up threateningly within him.

When we try to force change, whether on ourselves or others, we usually find that it isn’t sustainable because it engenders resentment. So I suppose what I am saying is that, instead of looking around at the mess the world is in and getting depressed or trying to force others to change, why don’t we simply pay relaxed attention to the way we interact with others, open to the connections which form where there is space for them. If, as Keith Johnston says, our capacity for gentleness and tenderness that is most repressed in our society, then perhaps in trying to learn to accept ourselves and each other and express this exceptance in our relationships with each other we will find that that the love we need to save the world has been there all along waiting only to be set free.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bliss and Selflessness

Buddhism and various “New Age” philosophies put forward the belief that the state of enlightenment is one of blissful selflessness. But isn’t the pursuit of bliss a form of selfishness?

There is no doubt that selflessness exists. Every day soldiers, police and fire-fighters risk tremendous suffering and death to help others. Rewards may come from this behaviour, but they could hardly be the reason for it. Nobody runs into a burning building to save a gold medal. But they will do that if there is a child trapped inside.

When a person acts as if a principle is more important than their life or the avoidance of suffering, they are acting selflessly. Down through history there have been countless examples of people choosing to be tortured or killed rather than recant their beliefs. But where is the bliss in that? While I’ve heard of a saint who experienced intense bliss on kissing a leper, I doubt whether being stoned, burned alive or crucified are at all enjoyable.

None of this means that enlightenment and bliss are not worth pursuing, either together or separately. But keeping in mind what genuinely characterises selflessness can only add a much needed dose of humility.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Invisible Economics of Good and Evil

“It is well for our vanity that we slay the criminal, for if we suffered him to live he might show us what we had gained by his crime. It is well for his peace that the saint goes to his martyrdom. He is spared the sight of the horror of his harvest.”

Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist”

Yesterday I went to a party held by an environmental organisation with whom I used to be heavily involved. It was good to see some old friends, but, also, I was reminded of why I’d given up such heavy involvement with the organisation.

The organisation does much good in showing relatively easy ways we can live comfortable lives without placing a drain on the ecosystem. This is all very positive. But while I was working for the group I gradually grew to feel there was something oppressive about it. And this impression came back to me as I mixed with the people yesterday.

It is not something specific to this organisation, but to idealistic organisations as a whole. I realised that, like it or not, they cannot operated without using those two weapons of mass destruction I’ve mentioned before - fear and guilt - and, to some extent, allowing such feelings to drive their own behaviour. How does anyone persuade someone who is not doing “the right thing” except by inspiring fear as to what will happen if we don’t lift our game - the destruction of the world’s life support systems - and trying to make them feel guilty if they don’t comply. And yet fear and guilt oppress the human spirit and cause the repression of the very spirit of love which lies at its base and would provide the psychological basis for the very world the environmentalist is seeking. This is the paradox.

One thing that struck me is how a good deal of the good in the world, and a good deal of the evil, is invisible to us most of the time.

The good that this environmental organisation does is visible. You can go and see the straw bale houses with their solar collectors and roof gardens. But what of the oppressive feelings of fear and guilt they may unwittingly spread?

Similarly, there is much that people do which helps to liberate others from feelings of fear and guilt, and provides them with feelings of comfort and self-acceptance, thus helping to liberate their spirit. This may be nothing more than telling a joke which hints at the taboo things we keep fearfully buried in our hearts, and thus provides an outlet for the tension, and a reassurance that we are not alone with the dark layers of our being. Anything which reassures us about these darker layers eases their grip over us and allows some of the spirit of love, which is the base level of the human psyche to come to the surface.

See things in this way, and old certainties about what constitutes good and evil come into question.

Do we, as Wilde claims, benefit from the behaviour of the criminal? How much more alone would we feel if no one had ever carried out the terrible crimes we sometimes find ourselves contemplating when lost in the dark night of the soul? Why do some of us seem to find a strange kind of comfort in reading the lives of famous serial killers? These people might have killed a dozen people, but a well meaning “do gooder” may blight the lives of thousands with feelings of guilt and fear. The economics of good and evil is not always what it seems.

Of course this is not to condone the commission of terrible crimes. These people live miserable lives anyway. They may bring us some comfort in retrospect, but they bring none to themselves. It is far better that the dark layers of the human psyche be expressed artistically. Movies and books filled with violence can bring comfort to millions and don’t require anyone to suffer or die.

When conservatives sometimes act as if “liberals” were worse than terrorists it is because they don’t want their spirit to be crushed beneath the jackboot of fear and guilt.

But these conflicts take place on the neurotic surface of the human psyche and serve to repress the spirit of love which is buried beneath. This is why faith in this spirit is so important. Because faith in the unifying spirit of love that lies beneath these surface conflicts is what can soothe away the feelings of guilt and fear. We have nothing to feel guilty about, because our “bad deeds” have probably led to some good ends. And we have no cause for pride because our “good deeds” have probably done as much harm as they have done good. And as for fear, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Allow our true nature to show itself and the problems of the world can be solved relatively easily.

There is a phenomenon in idealistic organisations known as “compassion fatigue”. Doing “good”, after a while, can become too much of a burden - one “burns out”. This is because the “good deeds” are an attempt to keep guilt at bay. Any guilt driven activity grinds down the human spirit and does lead to fatigue. This is the difference between neurotically driven approaches to solving the world’s problems and the solutions that will naturally come when we surrender to our true nature, which is one of untiring compassion and love. In neurotically-driven behaviour proving self-worth is a key objective and this wastes a huge amount of energy and requires that there be “bad guys” in order that we can be the “good guys”. When we set ourselves and each other free, we will find that there are no “good guys” and “bad guys”. There will be just us. And we will work together to help each other because that is the very structure of the loving unity we long for.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fundamentalism vs. Faith

Today I went to see the movie “God on My Side”. It’s a documentary in which Australian television personality Andrew Denton interviews attendees at the National Religious Broadcasters' Convention in Texas. As he points out, these are the fundamentalists who were so influential in voting George Bush into the White House, and who believe that he and they are pursuing God’s agenda on earth.

What struck me about most of these people is their lack of faith.

Jesus said of the last days : “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:6-8.

This suggests that we should have faith that what needs to happen will happen and that we are not to try to interfere or try to control it. And yet these people are concerned about things like supporting George Bush and supporting Israel, because they seem to believe that God needs them to do so. Surely what Jesus was saying is that what will happen will happen and what we do is of no importance. He was suggesting we have faith and not allow fear to determine our behaviour.

It seems to me that religious fundamentalism is founded on fear of personal mortality. We are all going to die. There is no getting around that. And even before death, our ego is a fragile thing which can easily break down. But it is precisely at such times that we often have a glimpse of heaven.

I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell as places we may go when we die. But heaven and hell are states of mind we can experience while we are alive.

Heaven is those times when we lose all sense of ourselves, when we are so enraptured by beauty or so involved in some fascinating activity that we forget all of our problems and our attempts to prove our worth.

Hell is when we are suffering so much, either through physical pain or through depression, that we are aware of nothing but ourselves.

The door to heaven is open to us at any time we are willing to accept that we are of absolutely no importance. The bars of our own hell - the “mind-forged manacles” as Blake put it - are our attempts to justify ourselves or prove our self-worth. Accept that none of this matters and we can see that heaven is all around us. It is there in a child’s smile, in the rain that waters the earth, even in the maggots that rise in new life from dead meat. All around us is evidence that life and love are eternal and unbroken by strife and suffering.

As Jesus said : “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.” Matthew 4:25-27

But amongst these fundamentalists we find not just worry about their own lives but, even more so, worry about how others live their lives. They are worried about things like homosexuality and abortion. If Jesus said they were not to trouble themselves about wars and famines, what makes them think that Jesus wanted them to interfere in the affairs of homosexuals or women seeking abortions?

Now my view of God may be different from theirs. I believe that God is love - the force which is most deeply repressed in each of us, buried beneath : the worries about what kind of clothes to wear; the anger at injustices done to us; our sexual desires; and our religious and political beliefs. Beneath all these things which separate us, is something which would unite us if we let it - the spirit of love, the Christ-nature which is our true self.

I think this is why Jesus told us not to trouble ourselves about wars. The Christ-nature can only rise to the surface if all that is repressed on top of it comes out in some way. It would be much easier for us if we could all express our repressed aggression in some other form than war, but this would require faith that war was unnecessary, that God’s will would be manifested if we allowed ourselves to be untroubled by things like terrorism. That’s a pretty hard sell. Most people don’t have that much faith. So, for the time being, war may be the only way for some people to release the aggression which keeps their Christ-nature repressed. And thus it is part of the birth pains.

When it comes to abortion, I think the decision is one for the woman who is carrying the child, and should ideally be made without pressure from either quarter. If God is love, I can’t see that a woman deciding to have her unborn child killed is against God. One vessel of love is as good as another and there are more problems from having too many bodies in the world than not enough. It is not until after we are born that we develop a sense of ourselves as individuals, before that we are just a potential individual, just as the spermatozoa and eggs which don’t ever develop into a foetus are potential individuals.

If God is love, then what is wrong with homosexuality? “Sex is not love,” you may say, and it is true that sex can be an expression of emotions other than love. But often it is an expression of love - a giving and receiving of physical comfort and pleasure - which is something which, when uncontaminated by an unjustified sense of shame - is healing. Now sexual relationships can be shallow, but if love is what is most deeply repressed in us, how is its expression served by sexual repression? The only thing which can make free sexual expression lead to repression is if it is accompanied by the unjustified sense of shame that fundamentalists are trying to engender.

In the film, when the subject of homosexuality is raised, there is much talk of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. Of course this is a story from the Old Testament. The Old Testament God is not love, but a boogieman conjured up to scare people into obeying the laws of society. Society has always been based on repression. Repression of : interpersonal - as opposed to intertribal or international - aggression ; selfishness ; sexuality ; individuality ; and, beneath all of these, the universal love of our Christ-nature. All of these repressed forces threaten the smooth operation of civilisation. We can’t work together if we fight too much. The structure of society could not be maintained if we simply stole anything we wanted. And who would work at a boring job if, instead, they could laze around under the trees, eating, drinking and fucking. And if we all lived like Christ lived, it would also bring down society, as he contributed little to the maintenance of the social system of his time. He was the proto-typical dropout. Religion - from religare, meaning “to bind” - was invented to maintain social order. (What Jesus preached was not a religion. It was only perverted into one after he died.)

Clearly in Sodom and Gomorra the social order broke down as repression lost its hold. These societies became decadent. But think what the term “decadence” means. It comes from the same root as the word “decay”. A decadent society is a society in decay. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Decay is a natural part of the circle of life. All living things, when they are no longer working properly, die and decay. This is the process by which they turn into other things which work better. Why should this not be the case with societies?

Our society today has become one which endangers our continued existence by the pressures that it puts on the world’s ecosystem. And it is a society founded on an economic system for which we slave even though it fails to deliver us any real kind of happiness. Isn’t this a form of civilisation which deserves to die, and is not the decadence which eats away at it a healthy thing? If we let out what we have been repressing, won’t we find - beneath it all - our Christ-nature?

Fundamentalists, of course, don’t see it this way. But, then, fundamentalists have no faith.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Hussein : Can We Do the Christian Thing?

The Christian message says that we should judge not that we be not judged. What does this mean in the case of someone like Saddam Hussein who has committed horrendous atrocities?

I think it means recognising that if we had been given the job of maintaining authoritarian control over the warring parties within Iraq, we would have either committed much the same kinds of atrocities as Hussein or we would have failed in the job. The crimes were crimes inherent in the job he was asked to do, not in the man himself.

Aren’t those who asked him to do that job equally responsible for his sins? This includes those within Iraq who supported him, and also political and business leaders in other countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia, who helped or supported him in one way or another. In fact we could say they bear an even greater responsibility. At least Hussein had the guts to commit the atrocities himself, rather than employ a deniable intermediary.

And yet those who asked Hussein to do this job will not hang with him.

Has Hussein not become a scapegoat for the sins of us all. The sin being our fear of freedom, i.e. anarchy, i.e. the surrender of authority over others.

Now that Hussein has no power he will no longer need to commit atrocities. But those who are afraid of freedom may support another intermediary like him.

The government of the United States repeatedly claims that they are the world’s champions of Freedom, and yet increasingly they enact laws to try to monitor and control the behaviour of their citizens.

Even if we cannot find it in our hearts to do the Christian thing and forgive Saddam Hussein, let us at least vow to be less like him and catch ourselves when we start to try to tell others what to do.

Let those who say they believe in Freedom put their money where their mouth is and renounce their authority over others.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fashion = Fascism

I just finished watching "The Devil Wears Prada". Story-wise it is a light frivolous comedy, which disappointed me, but it did get me thinking about the psychology of the fashion industry.

What is the fashion industry really but an anally-retentive conspiracy against individuality and pleasure? The brittle, mean-spirited and desperately insecure characters who populate the fashion magazine around which the film's story revolves are to be pitied, not followed as arbiters of behaviour.

Clothes can be a fun and richly rewarding way to express our unique personality. It's fun to wear a bright, tasteless Hawaiian shirt, or a pair of tight black jeans or t-shirt with our favourite rock group's insignia emblazoned on it. But the fashion industry is against that. With dictates of "what is hot and what is not" they try desperately to crush the human spirit. And they try to seduce us into wearing clothes which are uncomfortable, expensive and pretentious. Why do so many of us waste our time reading fashion magazines analysiing in anal detail the latest in fashion, when the things we really get the most pleasure from are the things we do when we are naked?

And then you have the dictates of fashionable body type. There is a reason why we have an archetype of the jolly fat person. It's because we realise that it is in sensual pleasures, such as eating and sex, that the joy of life resides, not in impressing others with our looks. But the sad repressed people who run the fashion industry try to use intimidation and flattery to seduce us away from these pleasures and into the hellish prison where they live.

All of this made me think about the parallels between the fashion industry today and Naziism in Germany. In Berlin in the early 1930s society was becoming more decadent, open homosexuality was common and people were engaging in kinky public sex acts in the nightclubs. Then along came the Nazis with their cult of youth and beauty, their forced conformism and their death camps. They felt that it was better that millions of men, women and children be enslaved and killed than to allow people to have a good time in their own chosen way. Today the fashion industry also promotes a cult of youth and so-called physical perfectionism and tries to use intimidation to force conformism. And as a result there are teenage girls all over the world who, instead of enjoying the sensual pleasures of life, are starving themselves to death in concentration camps of the mind.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sins Against the Flesh

"1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age

"2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy

"3. Energy is Eternal Delight"

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

"Those who see any difference between soul and body have neither."

Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young

As both William Blake and Oscar Wilde pointed out, it is a mistake to think that we are made up of three parts - mind, body and soul. The body and the soul are the same thing. We are all made of the same flesh. And flesh loves flesh. It is only the embattled state of our mind which keeps us from communion with each other. A communion of the flesh. For it is flesh that unifies us and is immortal. The mind is mortal. The mind we have now is vastly different from the one we had as a child, and many of us lose our minds long before our bodies disintegrate to find new forms. For this is what flesh does all the time. The flesh of which we are composed today was a short time ago the flesh or the animals or plants we have eaten, and one day when this particular conglomeration of flesh proves no longer useful it will become plants and maggots and other forms in which it can experience the delight which is the natural experience of flesh.

There are no sins of the flesh. There are only sins against the flesh. It is a derangement of the mind which makes us believe we should starve ourselves or alter our bodies in painful ways. When a man kills another man for an idea, that is a sin against the flesh in service of a derangement of the mind. But when a man or an animal kills another animal to feast of its flesh that is an erotic act, because all flesh is one. Rape is the use of force to attack another’s flesh and is a form of repression of healthy sexuality, which is an expression of the natural love of flesh for flesh.

As Blake said, “A Robin Redbreast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage.” The ultimate blasphemy is that the mortification and restraint of the flesh is good for the soul. Since the soul and the body are one, the free expression of the body is the free expression of the soul. There is no spooky ghost soul which is benefited by such a denial of ecstasy. These deranged beliefs are the bars with which we make our own Hell.

The joys of the flesh are all around us to be enjoyed. It is only a false belief that we are unworthy of them which keeps us enchained in a life of slavery. We are slaves to the maintenance of property which gives us no joy, when the heavenly delights of the eternal flesh are ours for the enjoyment. If this is not insanity, I’d like to know what is.

Crikey, Death, Where Is Thy Sting?

(Written on Halloween.)

There has been a lot of controversy over South Park's jokes about Steve Irwin's death and his likeness, complete with gory stingray barb, being used as a Halloween costume. I think he would have approved.

Bad taste is liberating.

Irwin had nothing if not a sense of humour. And he had an admirable irreverance when it came to encountering dangerous critters. Death is the biggest croc of all and I'm sure he met it in that spirit. And he survived all his encounters with such critters, death included.

Steve Irwin isn't dead. Tonight he's going trick or treating with the kids.

Oscar Wilde's Utopian Vision

I've just been reading Oscar Wilde's essay "The Soul of Man Under Socialism". It's really cool. Don't be put off by the word "socialism" in the title. It's against authoritarian regimes and welfare states. It's really about anarchy and the true meaning of Christianity. Powerful stuff.

Here's a link :

Who We Are and What We Can Be

We are all born potential saviours of the world and potential answers to the problem posed by our parents. But, lacking the information we need to pursue this course, sooner or later we either conform to the world or let it crush us. That is no longer necessary. The information we need to understand ourselves and each other now exists. Much has been learned about psychology over the last century and a half in particular. This knowledge just has to be put together in a coherent and easily digested form. This is a process to which I’m trying to contribute here.

There are three main factors in how we turn out as a person :

1. How much love we received from our parents.

2. How much anger we were exposed to.

3. The level of honesty we encountered in the adults with whom we came in contact.

Sometimes, if we are parents, we beat ourselves up about whether or not we gave our children the amount of love they deserved. There is no need to worry about this. The world needs all kinds of people, and their are pros and cons to receiving lots of love. The saying “from those to whom much has been given much will be expected” applies. The more nurtured we were as children, the more of a feeling we grew up with that we had to be the world’s saviour. Jesus was a very well nurtured individual. This gave him great potential to help the world, but it also condemned him to live for others and be crucified. He would have been better off if his mother had loved him less. But the world would have been worse off.

Regardless of how damaged we may feel that we are as an individual, we can be a good parent. All that is required is honesty. When our parents, or other adults, were dishonest with us, or hid their true feelings from us, they presented us with a riddle we had to solve. Trying to solve these riddles could sap a good deal of our enthusiasm in life.

Of course we are afraid to be honest with our children. We are afraid that they will judge us for our true feelings. But each child is like Jesus, and Jesus judged nothing but dishonesty. The only ones he couldn’t forgive where the Pharisees - the hypocrites.

We think of children as being fragile beings, but this is not true. It is we adults who are the fragile ones psychologically. We are never again as resilient and strong as we were when we were a child.

The difference is that a child has not developed the defences we have as adults against emotionally responding to the things around us. And what a child experiences is taken on board as a riddle that needs to be solved.

If we were abused as a child and were able to understand why it happened, it would not do us much long term harm. The problem really is that we don’t know why it happened and so we spend the rest of our lives wrestling internally with that problem.

If our parents were much alike, then we will grow up to be like them. If they were both gentle loving beings, then we will be a gentle loving being. If they were both angry people then we will grow up to be a person who freely expresses anger.

But, if our parents were different from each other, as is usually the case, we will take on the characteristics of both and be at war with ourselves. We will have taken on the challenge of resolving the conflict between our parents.

My mother was a very strong nurturing woman, but one very defiant of the dishonesty in the world. My father was a very gentle intellectual man who kept his anger bottled up. I followed the example of my father in bottling up my feelings and being an intellectual, but what I bottled up was what I got from my mother, a love for all people but a hatred of their dishonesty. You can see from what I have been writing here, that my view of the world is merely a projection of my internal dilemma. But is it not also a realistic perception of how the world really is? I’ll leave that for you to decide, as none of us can be sure we are seeing beyond ourselves.

In trying to resolve this problem of mine I ended up developing what we know as a mental illness. First depression and later bipolar disorder, including periods of psychosis. These are very common paths taken.

In depression we try too hard to work out our problem inside ourselves. The healthiest way to work on our problem is in interaction with others. When we bottle it up within us we are nobly but foolishly trying to take the burden of the world upon our own shoulders. We are trying to be like Christ. It’s an heroic thing to do, but look where it led for him.

What we think of as our soul - if we think in such terms at all - is the psychological underpinnings we have from infancy. The rest of our identity is built on this foundation. So if we want to understand the world of the soul we have to think in terms of a mind programmed for love but lacking any conceptual understanding. A time before language. Thus the language of the soul is a language of symbols. If we need to think of love, but don’t have the word, then we imagine a breast. If we need to think of pain, but don’t have a word, we think of the splinter we got in our finger.

What happens when we become psychotic is that we are so reluctant to let go of the world of the soul that we will sacrifice our reason to remain in touch with it. The delusions of the psychotic are symbolic truths. The imagination is inescapably prophetic. Whenever we tell a story we tell a story about ourselves and our journey as a species. But the danger of psychosis comes through mistaking the symbols for reality. This leads to socially inappropriate or self-destructive forms of behaviour. But often all the psychotic needs is to be in a safe place with people who don’t fight against the process he is going through. He is working on his problem, taking the soulful path rather than the path of reason. It is a potentially dangerous path, but perhaps the only path for him.

It is easy to look around the world and think that things are getting worse, but I see something else happening. I see the seeds of a new and better world growing.

There is a new honesty breaking out in the world. There was a time when you would be harshly judged for your appearance, your sexuality or your beliefs. You wouldn’t have wanted to be : a homosexual like Oscar Wilde in Victorian England ; a person with heretical beliefs during the Inquisition ; a communist during the McCarthy period in the United States, etc. There are still parts of the world were intolerance persists, but they are the exception rather than the rule. One of the things which keeps us from being who we can be, and thus a part of the brave new world, is conformity. As I’ve said, imagination is inescapably prophetic. Fly your own particular freak flag high and you are a part of this new world.

Now we can better understand fundamentalism and conservatism. These things are fear of the new world. If we are a fundamentalist or a conservative, we are a person who is afraid to be who we really are. We have a rigid false self which we are afraid will break down, as, indeed, it must.

Take the example of the Islamic fundamentalist cleric here in Australia who recently caused controversy by blaming the problem of rape on women who wear skimpy clothing. Fundamentalism requires the repression of one’s own sexuality. Hot women in skimpy clothing are, to the man who is trying to repress his sexuality, as a succulent feast to a man who is dying of hunger. The problem this cleric sees in the world is his own problem, and this is true of all fundamentalists and conservatives. They see rampant immorality in the world and feel that the world is flying out of control. But the immorality is in their own heart and it is their own rigid personality structure they are afraid will fly apart.

Understanding this we can see that we have no reason to worry about conservatives or fundamentalists unless they turn to violence, which only a very few of them actually do. What these people need is reassurance that they can survive the inevitable breakdown of their false selves. At the moment there are many individuals in our mental hospitals for no other reason than that they have lost their ability to live in a dishonest world. As the world moves towards greater honesty they will take their proper place in it, and our asylums will become places for the conservatives and fundamentalists to find a comfortable retreat in which they can be eased through the process of their inevitable breakdown in the most pleasant way. I’ve experienced just such a breakdown and it can be a very frightening thing, but it can also be a very exciting and liberating thing. How pleasurable or painful it is depends largely on the support one receives from those around one.

A History of Men and Women

The behaviour of most animals is motivated by the need to maximise the reproduction of their genes. This means competing for food in order to survive and mate. And it means competing for mating opportunities.

With we humans there is more going on than just these drives. We have ideals about the way life should be lived. We pursue a deeper understanding of our world than can be explained by mere utilitarian advantage.

How did we come to be different? How did we rise above the brute struggle for existence?

Here is a possible explanation, based very loosely on ideas I’ve taken from the work of an Australian biologist name Jeremy Griffith. I think his theories, in places, are seriously flawed, so I’ve adapted ideas from his work very freely.

At some point, some of our ape-like ancestors were living in the fertile Rift Valley of Africa. There was plenty of food and relatively few predators, thus allowing the women to nurture their offspring for a longer time. (The nurturing period of humans is longer than that of any other animal.) This made sense for purely selfish reasons. The offspring carried the mother’s genes, so in caring for them for an extended time she was simply improving the likelihood that they would live and be healthy and spread those genes further.

But the emerging minds of the children knew nothing about genes. They assumed that their mothers loved them because loving each other was the way to behave. They became love-indoctrinated.

And so we became a loving, integrative community. And, liberated from the need to struggle for existence, our intellect developed and we began to look around us and wonder about the world and wander around exploring it.

Inevitably we would have had encounters with predators. At some stage a leopard would have entered our tribe’s territory and eaten one of the babies, or something like that.

Love-indoctrination had taught us that the way to live was to love each other. We would have long forgotten what it was to be aggressive like the leopard. But now we would need to deal with this threat, and also, perhaps, come to some understanding of it. Why, if our society was a loving one (i.e. good), was there destructiveness (i.e. evil) in the rest of nature?

Since women give birth to children and have breasts to feed them milk, it made sense to establish a division of labour along gender lines. The men would go out and protect the group from the leopards, and the women would stay at home and tend to the kids.

But killing, even killing the leopards who would eat the babies, ran counter to our indoctrination in love. In fighting the leopards we would gradually become like what we fought. Love was not a big advantage on the hunt, and aggressiveness was. But deep down we must have felt we were doing something evil, because we were doing something that ran counter to the lesson of love we learned at our mother’s breast.

So we men gradually became more angry and ego-embattled. We knew we had to defend the group, but killing put us at war with ourselves. It made us feel insecure in our sense of our own goodness. We encountered for the first time what we would come to call “sin”.

And when we came back from the hunt, angry and ego-centric, the women couldn’t understand what was happening to us. They didn’t know what killing did to a person. They understood it was necessary, but they couldn’t understand why it would make someone angry and ego-centric. All they could do was to try to soothe away the anger with sex, which seemed to soothe the beast in the men. But women’s inability to understand, and our own inability to explain ourselves, meant that the problem could only continue to grow.

We grew angrier and angrier until we began to fight with other tribes of humans.

And also we began hunting for sport. We no longer hunted just the leopards, but also killed and ate the antelopes, etc., as well. (Our ape ancestors had been mainly vegetarian).

As we became more alienated from the loving integrativeness of our original state, we invented religion. What had simply been the fabric of our life, became something semi-alien to us which we worshipped. At first we worshipped the integrativeness we saw in nature. We worshipped trees and rivers. Sometimes when we felt very insecure about our “sinful” behaviour we worshipped angry expressions from nature, like volcanoes. We felt that nature was angrily condemning us and needed to be appeased. Then later we worshipped human-like gods. At first they were goddesses, as it was natural to identify the loving, integrative principle with the women who had nurtured us in our infancy.

But eventually there was the need to seperate ourselves off from nature in cities and to develop a civilised way of life. This meant coming to a compromise between the warlike masculine spirit and the loving, nurturing female spirit. Were the warlike spirit restrained too much it would have meant oppression for men, as it could only be expressed outwardly or turned inward. Turn it inward too much and men would crumple in depression and self-contempt. But if women were exposed too much to the anger of the men, then they would be oppressed by it, and unable to have the generosity of spirit necessary to nurture the young. Society had to become progressively more patriarchal. The spirit needed to remain alive, and this meant not repressing the warlike spirit as much as women would have done had they retained the power they had in the original matriarchal societies. But society also had to place restraints on the way men could express their anger and their warlike spirit. Women and children needed to be protected from it as much as possible. Eventually, the goddess became a masculine god, a representative of the order that men imposed over the chaos of nature and the feminine. Still a representative of integration, but now integration by force. Force and necessity, given the growing anger in men, and also the growing anger of the uncomprehending women.

The only way out of this horrendous situation was to maintain the fragile structure of society while seeking understanding of the world through science. When we could understand the nature of genes, we could explain what made us different from the other animals and we could at last see clearly what had happened to us.

We now have that knowledge and we no longer need to use aggression to protect ourselves from wild beasts. The warlike spirit has now become largely self-destructive. But we mustn’t turn it inwards against ourselves. This is what happens when we become depressed. And currently depression is a plague which is sweeping the world.

What is needed for the warlike spirit to abate is for its heroic role in the history of the human race to be finally fully appreciated. We went out to do battle with the evil we saw in nature and we became what we fought. We took the sins of the world upon ourselves and suffered self-corruption for the greater good of the human race, itself the pinnacle of nature’s achievements. We were immensely heroic. And so were women in living with us, loving us and soothing us with sex and other comforts, even as it drained the energy they also needed for nurturing the next generation. The human journey has been an immensely heroic one, and yet here we are at its end, the goal of a return to paradise - but now with the advantage of scientific knowledge - in our grasp, and yet we feel we are worthless beings, a blight on the planet.

There are many safe ways we can express what remains of our angry warlike spirit. We can channel it into sport or artistic expression. What we mustn’t do is to turn it on each other or on ourselves.

With the warlike spirit fully understood and men appreciated once more, we men and women can talk honestly to each other about what has been going on in our lives and in our minds. Women have often complained that the men in their lives “won’t let me in” or “won’t talk to me about their feelings”. But this is because we men couldn’t talk about some things for fear of being judged. We already felt low enough about ourselves, we didn’t need the response, “Oh, you men and your egos!” or “But why are you so angry?” It was so much easier to just keep quiet.

But I know what it is to live a life with the warlike spirit bottled up. I’ve lived a very peaceful life, not allowing myself to express the warlike spirit as most men do, either in sport or competing in the business world or in war. Which means that I’ve lived a life at times plagued by fears that I would kill babies, and rape and kill any woman I might get too close to emotionally. Those feelings have died down in my life as I’ve found understanding of myself, but they are a stark reminder that the warlike spirit can only go away through being expressed and/or appreciated. Repression isn’t a healthy option.

Worship Only What You Wish to Destroy

We cannot worship something or someone without abasing ourselves. And we cannot abase ourselves without coming to resent that abasement. And so we come to hate what we worship.

There is a difference between appreciating and worshipping. Appreciation waters and tends a flower in the earth, worship plucks it and puts it in a jar on the mantelpiece where it inevitably dies.

Take the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church worships innocence. Central to its iconography is the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. And yet the Catholic Church has overseen the orchestrated destruction of the innocence of children in its care. I'm not talking about paedophilia (though that is the unsurprising result of just this worshipping of innocence), but the psychological torture of children through the inspiring of feelings of guilt and fear of the torments of Hell. This occurred to me when watching the film "Liam", which dealt with the education of a child in a Catholic School just prior to the Second World War. Things may not be quite as severe now. I attended a Catholic School (as an unbeliever) for a couple of years in the Seventies and it was not as harsh as what was depicted in the film. But the principle is clear.

Many religious people believe that it is their duty to worship the diety in which they believe and/or the prophet around whose words their religion grew. This makes no sense. Only the psychologically insecure want the world to bend down and kiss their feet. And, assuming one believes in God, then to worship him is surely to cut oneself off from him in a very real way. To pluck him like a flower and put him on the mantlepiece in one's heart, only to shrivel and die.

Why was the movie "The Passion of the Christ" so popular amongst so many individuals who believe that Jesus should be worshipped? This was a movie devoted not to depicting the teachings or deeds of the man, but with showing his torture and crucifixion in excruciating detail. Is it possible that, in their heart of hearts, they have come to hate Jesus and wish to see him tortured all over again? On a concious level, of course not, but the most profound experiences of the human mind do not take place on a conscious level.

Why do we read all those magazines full of celebrity gossip? Do we love celebrities, or do we hate them and secretly glory in their misfortunes, because we began by falsely believing them superior to us?

Who killed Princess Di? Wasn't it those who doted on her - who bought every magazine adorned by a picture of her. It was to feed their addiction that the papparazi hounded her to her death.

Act from the assumption that we are all equal, and only good things can come of it. Act as if someone or something else is better than you, and you can do only harm to yourself and to them.

The Church's Guilty Secret

In truth the love of perfection and beauty is the root of all evil. We have been taught by many liars, not the least the orthodoxy of the organised religions (as opposed to people like Jesus, Mohommet, etc. whose message these organisations were designed to pervert) that we have a moral duty to pursue and love perfection. Thus we feel ashamed of our imperfections and plagued by guilt. We try to expiate this guilt by giving to charity, recycling our garbage, not eating meat and abstaining from what we have been misled to believe are "the sins of the flesh". And yet it is this guilt at not being perfect which causes us to do all the things which hurt us and others, from fighting with each other to feeling compelled to waste our time accumulating large quantities of junk, when we could, instead, be enjoying the wonders of the world and the fellowship of all other people.

The concept of God the wrathful father is a lie perpetrated by the false religions. God is Love. And Love loves all imperfections as the seeds of growth and wonders.

There is nothing wrong with eating, drinking and being merry. These things hurt us and others less than fighting and accumulating material possessions.

But this is not the only thing I'm talking about.

Take annorexia. Why do some adolescent girl's sometimes starve themselves? Because they have been taught that perfection is something to be pursued.

Why are there so many cases of paedophilia reported in the Catholic Church? Because worshipping innocence and beauty, instead of simply appreciating them as one more in life's many variations, can only lead to resenting innocence and beauty, because we are neither innocent nor beautiful ourselves. Hence some priests find themselves attacking innocent children.

Why do we use up so many of the earth's resources on buying new cars or new gadgets or clothes of various kinds? Because we are led to believe that we must strive for "something better", rather than appreciating and loving our beaten-up old possessions which have give us so much loyal support.

The applications are really endless.

Of course, the Biblical verse says, "The love of money is the root of all evil." But I believe that this is the New Testament equivalent of the "Satanic Verses" reputed to have been inserted into the Koran. I believe that teaching was inserted by the organised church afterwards to blackmail their flock into donating money. The church is not a charitable institution, as it accumulates more wealth than it distributes to the poor. It is in fact a leach on the poor and only serves to succour with aggrandisement the self-loathing egos of the church leaders.

If you read the "Gospel of Thomas" which was not included in the New Testament you will see that Jesus says that everyone can be as him if they will only let out that which is inside them. That what we don't let out is what will destroy us. Kindness, compassion, loving, caring and selflessness are not qualities which can be imposed by trying to force oneself to be perfect. They are liberated when we accept ourselves and give free expression to the things we keep bottled up - though in a non-destructive way preferably, such as cathartic speech, not doing things to hurt people. The act of trying to force yourself to be more like Jesus is an act of self-loathing and can only lead to behaviour which is destructive to yourself or others. This may take the form of intolerance of others as easily as it can take any other destructive form.

We have only what has been passed down to us to form our picture of Jesus. This consists of things he is reported to have said, and an account of how he responded to certain people and how certain people responded to him. There is much that would not have been considered relevant and thus has not been passed down to us, such as what games he liked to play as a child, what his sense of humour was like and what his sex life was like. All of this is a mystery, but perhaps is not terribly relevant to what we can learn from him.

Of course we can't know how accurately what he said was recorded. It's a bit like the question of whether Shakespeare really wrote all those plays. What matters is the words themselves and whether they form a consistent and useful philosophy of life. The reason I query the "love of money is the root of all evil" passage is that, unlike anything else I can find in his teachings, it is quite easy to disprove. The acts of a rapist and a thrill killer are clearly evil. In what way do these acts have their origin in a love of money? Many evil acts do originate in a love of money, but not all. And this is the weakness of an absolute statement. You have only to find one exception to disprove it.

As for Jesus being a mirror, this is a remarkably astute statement. Understanding the application of Jesus philosophy that we should love our neighbour as ourself and that we should love our enemies is, I believe, greatly helped by an understanding of what Carl Jung, himself a student of the gnostic tradition in Christianity, said about projection, our tendency to project our inner conflicts onto our assessment of others and the world around us. What we love in our friends is what we find most useful in ourselves, what we hate in our enemies is what we are most uncomfortable with in ourselves. (A common example of the application of this theory is the often expressed insight that men who bash homosexuals are at war with their own latent homosexuality.) So loving our neighbours requires an understanding that, in a way, they ARE us, in the sense that what we love about them is something we can find in ourselves and what we hate about them is something we can find in ourselves. Achieve individuation as Jung put it, that is find reconciliation between the warring elements of one's own psyche and one cannot help but have a Christ-like love for all one's fellows.

The one group of people Christ could really never find compassion for were liars and hypocrites like the Pharisees. This character-type were the ones who crucified him. And after they'd crucified him they did the best they could to crucify his teachings as well by turning Christianity into a religion. The root of the world religion is the Latin word religare, which means "to bind". Christ's message was not one intended to bind the human spirit, but to liberate it. As the Christian church became a centralised power structure it came to resemble the Jewish orthodoxy of the Pharisees against which Jesus had fought. Much of the writing about Jesus, including the Gospel of Thomas, was supressed as heretical by the Catholic Church. Gnostics - some Christian, some from other traditions - were killed or tortured, along with Jews, women who wouldn't submit to the church, pagans and early scientists who questioned the church's dogmatic views about the nature of the world and the solar system. All of this was a gross perversion of Christ's teaching that we should simply judge not that we be not judged and love our enemies and our neighbours as ourselves.

I believe the chief weapon the church used to attempt to crush Jesus teachings was by insisting that we have a duty to worship Jesus and God. I don't believe Jesus ever wanted to be worshipped. What selfless person would want this. It is only the selfish who want the world to bow down and kiss their feet. But somehow, consciously or unconsciously, the church planted this genuine heresy which would turn much of Christianity into a tool for the domination of the weak by the powerful. When we worship something it is the first step towards destroying it. But also, saying that we must worship the perfection of Jesus and God, is a powerful way of instilling guilt, and all pernicious religious cults from the Catholic Church to the People's Temple that drank the Kool-Aid in Jonestown have based their mind control on the instilling of guilt.

I believe the Gospel of Thomas is one of the most trustworthy of the gospels. It makes little reference to miracles, it is about simple psychology and it doesn't make any claim that Jesus was God or wanted to be worshipped. I think the Gospel of John is probably the least trustworthy gospel because it says that Jesus was God. This is ludicrous. If God is love and Jesus was a totally loving person, then his life was an expression of God. But no human being can be God. Caligula and Nero would have had us believe they were Gods, and look what they were like. Also the Gospel of John recommends that we live through our support of Jesus. I think this is the beginning of the great heresy of the church that we should submit to "Jesus" when what they really meant is that we should submit to them.

I think the time for questioning these things has now come. Look how popular the novel The Da Vinci Code is. Surely this can't be accounted for by its quality as a novel. I've only seen the movie, but it strikes me as a piece of very ordinary pulp fiction. One, however, which raises interesting questions about the orthodox church and its role in history.

Self-sacrifice is hatred of God. Jesus never practised self-sacrifice. He didn't commit suicide. It was others who made a sacrifice of him. A sacrifice to their own insecure egos.

I'm not saying that God is romantic or parental love specifically. These are really very limited, restrained forms of love, in that they are directed only towards certain people. And romantic love usually contains an element of sexual desire, which, though a wonderful healthy thing which a healthy individual feels towards many other individuals, is impermanent and often troublesome.

Love is nothing more than honest communication. That's it. There is nothing more. Speak or behave honestly towards anyone or anything and you are a conduit of love.

But to love others we must first love ourselves. This is not an egotistical thing. A big ego is founded on secret self-loathing. We must find acceptance of all our imperfections if we are to feel the same way about the imperfections of others.

I believe the concept that there is a God who wants to punish us for our imperfections is a lie used by the churches to oppress us. This was a part of the orthodox Jewish church of Jesus's day and would again return in the churches that perverted his teachings. But I believe this God is a fiction created by man in his own image as a tool for oppression.

It is true that being willing to lay down one's life for one's friends is the highest expression of love. But this is honest communication. Say a child falls onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train. We have two choices. We can jump in front of the train and save the child, possibly losing our life in the act, or we can just stand and watch the train kill the child. The latter is not honest communication with the child. Honest communication means responding to the needs of the other. Those needs are communicated to us, and responding to them is our honest communication back.

But self-sacrifice is another thing. Self-sacrifice is forcing ourselves to repress our own needs and desires for the sake of another. But this doesn't work, because we can only feel bitter about it and take that bitterness out on others, often in the form of judgement of them for doing what we won't allow ourselves to do.

Now I'm not saying we should just give in to our desires willy-nilly. That would be reckless and would most likely lead to damage to ourselves and others. But we have to take care of our own needs and find fulfillment of our desires in ways which do not harm us or others.

If, however, we can do as Jesus suggested in the Gospel of Thomas and bring out that which is within us fully, then we reach a state in which the fulfilling of others needs is the sweetest delight. And I'm sure this must have been true also for Jesus. I don't believe he overcame himself in order to serve others. I think he just understood that being a healing presence for others is better than sex.

What Happens to Us at Adolescence

At adolescence we come to realise that the unrepressed loving expression of the soul threatens the neurotic repressed adults around us and we begin to repress it within ourselves, developing a repressed, neurotic character structure ourselves which is in turn threatened by the soul within.

When I reached adolescence I became terrified and found myself at times obsessed with the thought that, if I did not keep my feelings bottled up inside, I might kill a baby. I was also afraid that things I said might cripple the people around me. I couldn't bring myself to attack my soul or the soul in others, but hanging on to it made my psyche a horrendous battleground in which the conflicts of the neurotic adults of the world was played out. At adolescence I also developed the fear that I might gouge out my own eyes as Oedipus did when he realised that he had killed his father (the neurotic ego) and slept with his mother (continued to express soulful love for his mother in a physical form - not fuck her, but simply remain in a close physical bond with her). Freud was right, hence the Oedipus complex and the incest taboo.

An Alternative to Repression, Depression and Oppression


The following conglomeration of mixed metaphors and quotes taken out of context is an attempt on my part to articulate a philosophy of life that has been striving to form itself in my mind over the last 30 years or more. It borrows heavily from various books that I've read. I make no claim that any of what I say here is true. It is merely the best description I can currently come up with for what I believe at this time in my life. I offer it for what it may be worth. If any of it is useful to you, feel free to quote, misquote or plagiarise it. It doesn't belong to me, but to anyone who finds it useful. If you don't find it useful please ignore it. It is not meant to be a prescription for what you should believe or do. We all have to chose our own beliefs and decide our own actions. No-one can take that responsibility away from us.


It seems as if we live in a world which is becoming increasingly polarised between competing rigid fundamentalistic ideologies. It might be the left and the right in politics or different religious ideologies. Groups of individuals who insist, "You are either with us or against us." Repression and oppression tend to characterise the dogmatic philosophies. Of course there are many of us who don't buy into it. But often we are less vocal or less clear about what we do or don't believe. Thus it can be hard at times to defend our position. And yet there must be some psychologically viable alternative which is ethical, but not based on rigid fundamentalistic repression of the individual.


If none of us ever had the urge to do anything harmful to anyone else, the problem of ethics and ideologies wouldn't arise. But we do have such urges. Why? To find the original cause we would have to go all the way back to our origins as a species. I don't want to go into that here. I'll include a link to a theory about this below. Let's just take it as read that human society is one in which there is much conflict and look at ourselves as individuals. When we were born we were no doubt open to the world around us and not carrying the kind of burden of aggressive feelings that we now do. We would have had our needs, for food and warmth, etc., and been upset if they were not fulfilled, but generally we would have had benevolent feelings towards those around us. But we would soon have discovered that we were born into a psychological battlefield of competing egos and hostility among adults that we would not come to understand until we were adults ourselves. Gradually we would start to accumulate stored up anger. Our openness would not always be met with the same. And when we did start to express our anger, we would often be discouraged from doing so, and learn instead to keep it bottled up inside. And so we gradually grew into adults with an accumulation of repressed aggressive feelings. No doubt we also learned to repress other feelings too, if their expression made others uncomfortable.

"Many teachers think of children as immature adults. It might lead to better and more ‘respectful' teaching, if we thought of adults as atrophied children. Many ‘well adjusted' adults are bitter, uncreative, frightened, unimaginative, and rather hostile people. Instead of assuming they were born that way, or that that's what being an adult entails, we might consider them as people damaged by their education and upbringing." Keith Johnstone, "Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre" (Eyre Methuen, 1981)

All this bottling up of feelings made us self-absorbed and in a state of psychological pain. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, you'll find that all of your attention will focus on your sore thumb. Similarly the reason our attention centres around our self is because our self is in pain. Were we not in a state of psychic pain our attention would be focused principally on the far more interesting world around us, and most particularly the people around us.


Psychologically we are made up of three basic levels. At base we have the nature that constituted our whole being at birth - open to the world around us and finding the meaning of its existence in a state of spontaneous communication with it. If I were the sort of person who appears on the Oprah Winfrey show, I might refer to this as our inner child. Then there is the layer of repressed feelings and urges, much of it consisting of aggressive feelings, but also of sexual feelings that we may feel it would be unwise to express. This is kind of like what Sigmund Freud described as the Id. Above that we have the level we present to the world, a more or less friendly sociable persona, and perhaps one which subscribes to some system of morality or ideology.

Of course these layers interact. Some of the repressed aggressive feelings sometimes find gaps in our sociable persona through which to burst out, perhaps when we get drunk or behind the wheel of an automobile. And when we feel very, very safe and secure, the base level of the playful, loving inner child may come to the surface.

But I think that it is the aggressive feelings, the repressed anger, which is most important to our personality structure.

The anger has to go somewhere. When we repress it it forms the structure of our rigid personality or belief system. Matter is energy trapped in a structured form. To the extent that our belief structure is rigid and dogmatic or fundamentalistic, we are much like solid matter and our anger is much like energy. We daren't "loosen up" for fear of losing our sense of our self in what might seem to amount to a thermonuclear explosion. But the anger still has to have an outlet and it often finds it in pursuit of the belief system, but most particularly it is channelled towards any threat to its own rigid structure. Religious fundamentalism and political dogmatism are examples of such a rigid structure. There is often another party against whom the anger is channelled. A religious fundamentalist may channel their anger towards unbelievers, abortionists or homosexuals. A political dogmatist of the left wing may channel his anger towards "capitalist greed-heads", while the right wing dogmatist may channel towards "bleeding-heart liberals". A dogmatic feminist may channel anger against "the patriarchy". In each case our most explosive expressions of anger will occur when we feel it hardest to maintain our structure. The closer a person gets to the soft underbelly that lies beneath the hard carapace of our belief structure the harsher the anger we will spew against them and the less we will be able to control the way we are seen by others. It is at times like this that we are liable to "blow our cover".

"The psychologist Wilhelm Reich developed the idea of ‘character armour', which he said was ‘A protection of the ego against external and internal dangers. As a protective mechanism which has become chronic it can rightly be called armour... in unpleasurable situations the armouring increases, in pleasurable situations it decreases. The degree of character mobility, the ability to open up to a situation or to close up against it constitutes the difference between the healthy and the neurotic character structure.' (Character Analysis, translated by V. R. Carfagno, Vision Press, 1973).

"He might be have been talking about good and bad acting. Drama students who are ‘tight' and ‘inflexible' and ‘alone' are able to receive and transmit only a very narrow range of feeling. They experience muscle tension as ‘acting'. In The Function of the Orgasm (translated by T.P. Wolfe, Panther, 1968), Reich says :

"The facial expression as a whole -- independent of the individual parts -- has to be observed carefully. We know the depressed face of the melancholic patient. It is peculiar how the expression of flaccidity can be associated with a severe chronic tension of the musculature. There are people with an always artificially beaming face; there are "stiff" and "sagging" cheeks. Usually, the patients are able to find the corresponding expression themselves, if the attitude is repeatedly pointed out and described to them, or shown to them by imitating it. One patient with "stiff" cheeks said : "My cheeks are as if heavy with tears." Suppressed crying easily leads to a masklike stiffness of the facial musculature. At an early age, children develop a fear of "faces" which they used to delight in making; they are afraid because they are told that if they make a face it'll stay that way, and because the very impulses they express in their grimaces are impulses for which they are likely to be reprimanded or punished. Thus they check these impulses and hold their faces "rigidly under control".'" Keith Johnstone, ibid.


When we try to change a person's behaviour by making them feel guilty or afraid, we are using the situation as an outlet for our personal anger. Take a bunch of animal rights activists harassing a celebrity in public for wearing furs. We may not know if their intention is to make the fur-wearer feel guilty or simply afraid to go out in public wearing a fur lest they be harassed. Either way, the real purpose of the exercise is the venting of personal anger. It has nothing to do with the animals. They merely provide the rationalisation. The same applies to "right to lifers" outside an abortion clinic. Animals, children and unborn foetuses provide a perfect focus for this form of disguised self-indulgence. It is hard to criticise someone for standing up for innocent creatures who can't protect themselves, and since the injustices we suffered as children are the root grievance we are taking out on others, "I'm doing it for the children/animals/foetuses!" becomes a perfect psychodrama to find catharsis for once having been the innocent victim. It is never really about the issue, but the issue needs to be one which can be rationalised within the rigid structure of the dogmatist's belief system. I've been there. My dogmatic belief structure has often been that of a pacifist, and thus I've shouted "No Blood for Oil" at rallies. But it was never about the innocents dying in the war zone. It was about me getting my rocks off, so to speak. Although this expression is usually used with specific reference to sex, it is a perfect expression also for the phenomenon about which I am speaking. Our accumulated anger weighs us down like a heavy burden of rocks, and we do need to get this weight off of our shoulders.

"The accusation of sin is moral virtue's deadly gin" William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel

If our concern really is to prevent the suffering of animals, the setting up of a restaurant that sells tasty vegetarian meals will do more good than painting "Meat is Murder" on a butcher shop window. As Jesus once said, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." And there is always a way we can light a candle. A way we can simply make it easier for someone to avoid doing the thing we oppose if they should so chose. But the choice must be theirs, free from the compulsion of guilt or fear. And neither should we allow guilt or fear to determine our actions. When we do anything out of guilt or fear we stifle the human spirit within us.


We have no choice about the fact that we have this burden of anger now, but we do have a choice about what we do with it. We can chose an outlet for it which doesn't harm others. And we can arm ourselves with understanding in order to slow its accumulation.

If we have an outlet we can "get our rocks off" and approach the world with a new found generosity of spirit. If we simply try to repress the anger - or lust, or whatever form the spirit of hurt defiance may take - it will find its outlet elsewhere, perhaps in ways we don't fully acknowledge. The self-righteousness of the puritan is the unavoidable result of repression. Accusing others of being hopeless sinners is how he gets his rocks off. He has to have some outlet. And the more that what the "sinner" has done closely resembles what he is having most difficulty in containing in himself, the greater will be his wrath. The more temptation threatens his strategy of containment, the greater his fear of losing his sense of himself in one of those thermonuclear explosions.

Another strategy that needs to be discussed is transcendence. We might take to meditation to rise above the pain and anger. This is achieved through the cessation of rational thought. And there is its weakness. It may provide a useful way of looking at our situation from outside and experiencing a period of inner peace, but, either we start thinking rationally again and the pain and anger come back, or we live continually "off with the fairies" and are clearly no longer plugged into the real living world of others.

I use the term anger to keep things simple, because, if we were once completely open to love, but ended up getting hurt, it stands to reason we would feel angry about that. But the forms that our revenge for the hurt may take are not always things we would recognise as anger. We think of anger as something which is expressed with aggressive speech or physical violence. But the revenge, if you like, or defiance, perhaps, takes a number of different forms. Aggression is one. Materialism is another. Most of us like to be comfortable and enjoy "the finer things in life", but when the joy of owning something is linked to the fact that someone else doesn't, it is a form of generalised revenge for hurt. Sexuality also is a common conduit for this defiant tendency. How often do we say that we like something sexually because it is "naughty". This shows that it is an expression of our rebelliousness as much as it may also be a form of loving communication with the other person. And self-righteousness can also be an expression of this drive for revenge against others.


Repressing the warlike spirit will do us no good, and we can't simply wish it away, but if we realise that it is all about getting our rocks off and not about the issues, then we can trade our guns for water-balloons. We all need to get our rocks off somehow, and the most sensible thing is to chose outlets which don't harm others. Artistic expression can be one of these. Some people channel these feelings into aggressive computer games or playing sport. Some express the rebellious urge through the clothes they wear, tattoos or body piercings.

There are lots of factors that might need to be taken into account if trying to decide how destructive or benevolent a particular outlet for the rebellious urge is. Clearly taking a gun and shooting people in the street would be at the more destructive end of the spectrum. Yelling abuse at the mindlessly smiling faces that appear on your television set is totally benevolent. They can't hear you. No-one loses out, and it is surprising how much better it can make you feel.

Other areas are very complicated. Sexual behaviour is one of these. As far as I can see, barring the dangers of venereal disease or other forms of physical damage, the key factors involve the emotional relationship between partners, not the physical acts involved. There are many ways we can hurt another person emotionally. Whether this occurs in a sexual relationship may depend very much on what each person is hoping to get out of it. Honest communication is the key. If a woman doesn't mind that a guy spends time with her only because she has large breasts, or a man doesn't mind that a woman only wants to spend time with him because he has lots of money to spend on her, there is no problem. The relationship between them will be shallow, but it may be more satisfying than none at all.


It is no wonder that, over time, we have a tendency to dig in deep, to fortify our position, and to fight tenaciously to defend it. We can't expect anyone to drop their guns and leave the fort, simply because we have told them that there is a better way. The world really is a troubled place and things are getting worse. There are genuine reasons to feel afraid. And fear naturally makes us cling more tightly to whatever we have that makes us feel more secure.

Of course, in some cases the war is a literal one. But, in general, what I'm talking about is emotional war, not literally a war of guns and bombs. But in that metaphorical war, the guns and bombs are criticism. So no matter how compassionately and considerately we may suggest to someone that they come out of their metaphorical fortress - be it fundamentalist religion, dogmatic socialism, rigid neo-conservatism, or whatever - our words are liable to be perceived as bombs or gunshots. And nobody comes out when they are being fired at.

The only thing to do is to leave them be. We don't have to fear their fire as we are armed with knowledge of what lies behind it. We know that their expressions of anger or condemnation are the result of the same pain that we have experienced and that their choice of method for getting their rocks off has been restricted by fear arising from the length and severity of their experience of the war. We shouldn't waste time fighting against their position, but rather in providing the aid of knowledge to those who are still capable of being hurt by their fire. The more people who can live safely on the battlefield - that is, live free of rigid forms of dogmatism, just as individuals together, accepting themselves and each other without judgement - the more ridiculous the die-hards in the fortresses will feel themselves to be and the more likely they will be to come out. After all, what's the point if less and less people are attacking them and their bullets no longer have any effect on anyone outside the fort.


Unfortunately, of course, this metaphorical emotional war is not all we have to worry about. Real war, with real bullets and real bombs, is very much a part of our current reality, and no amount of understanding of what lies in the mind of the guy who pulls the trigger will stop the bullet that goes through your brain from killing you. For those whose job it is to respond to violence hard choices often have to be made. Whatever action they take will be affected by the burden of repressed anger they carry with them. Unless they've found a very effective way of expelling this burden elsewhere their response will inevitably also be used as a way of getting some of their rocks off, whether they are aware of this or not, and thus, rather than a surgical response to a violent incident, which deals only with the matter at hand, a scatter-gun approach will be taken and the conflict will escalate. Also, our self-absorption can amount to a form of passive aggression which adds to the problem. If something we are doing negatively effects others in some major way, and we don't pay any attention when they try to point this out, we may be surprised when they resort to violence to get our attention.

Politicians, as those who make decisions about war, and soldiers, as those who carry them out, have a great deal to gain, if they want to do their jobs responsibly and thus reverse the trend toward armed conflict in the world, by learning how to get their rocks off in a benign way. There are many decisions the rest of us can make about the way we live our lives that may effect the situation - i.e. the less we use of a resource people are liable to fight over, the less we contribute to the problem. But, unless we want to become a politician or soldier ourselves, voting for the candidate we feel to be least rigid with repressed aggression and therefore least likely to use war as a way of getting his rocks off may be about the best we can do about the problem. Once again, being able to see what a person's psychological situation with regard to the rigidity of repressed aggression is is the most useful tool we can have or help others learn.

Just as we mustn't be fooled into thinking the anti-fur protest is about the animals, when it comes to those conflicts, such as war, that we can't simply ignore, we mustn't be fooled into thinking that the question of which side started it, or which side is "right" and which is "wrong", is really relevant. We may have little say in what "our side" does, but we have no say in what a group of which we are not a constituent does. All we should be concerned with is whether those whose actions we have some say in respond to the situation in a way which is in our best interests. And by "our best interests" I mean in the larger sense. If we are hungry and we steal food from our neighbour it may seem to be in our best interest in the short term, but in the long term we are not going to be on very good terms with our neighbour and stealing food won't get rid of the fact that we clearly have a food supply problem. Saying things like "They started it!" and "What they did is worse than what we did!" is just a way of justifying the fact that we are using the conflict to get our rocks off. And if we become a truly pathological case we may start to claim that we are fighting "against evil" or "for God". While evil is probably best defined as the irresponsible, and thus destructive, expression of our accumulated anger, to claim to be fighting this while clearly still in the grip of it ourselves is madness. And as for God, I'm sure that, if he exists, he doesn't need a bunch of guys with guns doing his fighting for him. That seems to run counter to the whole idea of being an all-powerful being.

Even in these life or death situations, it is easy to underestimate the power of being able to say with confidence, "I know the game you're playing and I won't buy into it." When we can do this, we contribute to the undermining of the destructive strategy, whereas, when we attack either side we only serve to strengthen it. It is much the same approach that a mother takes when her kids are fighting and she sends them to their rooms without bothering to listen to their self-justifications. Unfortunately we can't send our political leaders to their rooms when they use their position to get their rocks off in a way that is detrimental to us all, but it will be damned embarrassing to them when they realise that everyone can see them psychologically naked.


It has been said that the bloodletting of the Second World War cleared our systems and allowed for the flowering of the Love Generation of the Sixties. But between the two came the Beat Generation of the late fifties. The Beats were all about free expression, and much of what they expressed so freely was very dark. Take a look at William Burrough's "The Naked Lunch" or Allen Ginsburg's "Howl". It is conventional wisdom that this spirit of free expression evolved into the hippy movement of the last half of the sixties. And then all that was lost. How did that happen? Expelling the bile can liberate the love beneath, but the bile will accumulate once more. Only if we continue to provide an outlet for it will we continue to have access to the love. The mistake the hippies made was to try to hang onto the love. You can't do that. "Love is Like a Butterfly" according to the old Dolly Parton song. Try holding onto a butterfly and you'll tend to find that its wings will come off. Desperate to cling to the positives and unwilling to acknowledge the reaccumulation of the bile, the living idealism of the Sixties rigidified into increasingly fundamentalistic and oppressive forms of ideology, leading to the horror that we now know as "political correctness".


"Political correctness" is founded on the delusion that, if we repress all expression of the bile, it will go away. Of course the opposite is true. It goes away when it is expressed. Stop a racist from expressing his hostility toward other races, and you make sure he will remain a racist. Repress a misogynist's expression of his hatred towards women and he will never be able to reconnect with the love that lies buried beneath it.

Now I'm not suggesting that we tolerate the open expression of racism or sexism or any other form of hatred in the presence of those against whom that hostility is directed. But we do have to encourage the expulsion of the bile.

Next time you are alone in your home watching television, try hurling a stream of vile verbal abuse at the bland smiling face of a television presenter. Don't censor yourself. Let it all out. Be as gross and disgusting and hateful as you can find it in yourself to be. Sometimes we are not even aware of the bile we have floating freely in our system. I remember when I was in high school and we were reading "Macbeth" aloud in class. I surprised myself, and certainly everyone else in the class (since I was usually such a quiet pupil) with the passion I put into my reading of the line "You secret, black and midnight hags!"

You may find that, unbeknownst to yourself, you have accumulated a repository of racist or sexist bile. Try referring to the people you see on your television as "honkies", "crackers", "niggers", "jungle bunnies", "gooks" or "kykes". Our culture has thrown up a rich language of abuse. Why not make therapeutic use of it in the privacy of your own home? If you are a woman, try yelling at the man who reads the news, "If you look at me that way one more time I'll castrate you, you male chauvinist pig!" If you are a man you may want to refer to all the women on television as "bitches", "whores" and "sluts".

Why we have these feelings is not really relevant. We may carry a generalised hatred against people of a particular race because someone of that race stole our teddy-bear on our first day at school. A woman may have a generalised hatred for men, because a man once raped her. The origin of the feeling is really irrelevant. What matters is that it is the bile itself which is causing our current suffering, not the person who originally hurt us.

We can't hang onto love, but expel all of the bile and it will be all we have left. Of course the bile will accumulate again. So don't let yourself become constipated. Make sure to have a regular bile movement. There at the bottom of the septic tank of bile, as well as love, we may also find God, if there is one. One thing is for sure. Whatever bile we carry with us, can only keep us cut off from the deity of our particular faith, if we have one.


Depression is one of the most common forms that bile constipation takes. Depression is really self-directed anger. When we are depressed we are like a soldier in wartime who has grown tired of all the bloodshed and lost sight of the cause for which he was fighting and turns his gun against himself. We come to feel we are nothing but a overflowing cesspit of bile, best expunged from the face of the earth. But we are not the bile. We simply need to find an outlet for it, so that we can rediscover the person we really are beneath it all. Often a person who is exemplary in their behaviour may be prone to depression for the very reason that they allow themselves no opportunity to expel their bile.

I feel sure that all forms of mental illness result from the absence of a healthy outlet for the bile. I've had a lot of experience with depression in my life, and some experience also of what was once known as manic depression, but is now referred to as bipolar disorder. For me, depression has always been characterised by the use of fear or guilt to keep angry feelings repressed. When I've experienced mood swings, the high has been characterised by a release of pent up feelings of some kind. In an extreme case this can be the psychic thermonuclear explosion I referred to earlier. When this happens, for a while, rational thinking may not be possible. The expression may not be an obviously angry one, though some experience that. It can take the form of unrestrained sexual behaviour, uncontrollable outpourings of emotion or thought of any kind. This is why I tend to view mental structures - belief systems, etc. - as being constructed of these angry or defiant emotions. Because when they break down tremendous energy is released, though it may not take an aggressive form.

None of this is scientific. I have no training in psychology or psychiatry, this is just my imperfect way of describing what I have experienced. These concepts, parts of which I have taken from the writings of psychologists or psychiatrists, may have no objective reality, but I've found them invaluable for managing the emotional challenges of my life, and freeing myself from the often crippling bouts of depression from which I used to suffer.


When I talk about reconnecting with some kind of submerged layer of pure love, you may think I'm just spouting some kind of hippy-dippy philosophy. The hippies put flowers in the barrels of soldier's guns. Unfortunately a flower will not stop a bullet.

Even if you were to expel all of the bile and reconnect with your capacity for pure love, you might still decide that the only way to deal with a terrorist who threatens you or your loved ones is to kill him. The only difference would be that you would have a much better chance of killing him with due efficiency if your mind were not clouded by all that bile.

What we experience as compassion is the identification of the pain of our ego with the physical or emotional pain of others. If the life of the spirit or soul were one of feeling the pain of others it would be a life of weakness and not of strength. Harm is done only to our ego, nothing can harm the spirit as it has existed since the beginning of the world and all the suffering that has taken place since then has not diminished it by one iota. Pain is felt only in the ego.

"The fountain has not played itself out, the Flame still shines, the River still flows, the Spring still bubbles forth, the Light has not faded. But between us and It, there is a veil which is more like fifty feet of solid concrete. Deus absconditus. Or we have absconded."

R.D. Laing, "Transcendental Experience In Relation to Religion and Psychosis" (

The spirit doesn't care whether our behaviour has been what we consider to be good or what we consider to be bad. Nothing can harm the spirit. We make our own hell to punish ourselves for what we perceive to be our misdeeds. All of this occurs within the ego and has nothing to do with the spirit. This is why in Christianity it is said that our "sins" are forgiven us. The source of destructive behaviour is in the rigid ego, and guilt is part of that rigidity.


This is a weakness in the concept of the "inner child". When we were a child we were physically vulnerable and our ego was not yet fully-formed and thus able to defend itself. So when we say we are going to "get in touch with our inner child" we think we are going to return to a way of experiencing the world in which we are vulnerable and easily hurt. But, in fact, in some ways we are much more vulnerable to suffering now than we were when we were born. Suffering is the suffering of the ego. And the more rigid and precarious the structure of the ego, the more prone to suffering. If we fear contact with the world of the soul or spirit, it is not because it is a zone of super-sensitivity, but because its power threatens the structure of our ego. The soul or spirit is the water, the ego is the dam. The ego knows that it may break because of the strength of the spirit, and thus it fears it. But we are not just our ego, but the spirit as well. It makes sense when we realise this to gradually disassemble the dam from the top, letting water out gradually, and allowing ourselves to grow more secure in the process. A big dam is a more powerful dam, but it is not a more secure one, because the bigger the dam, the more water it has to retain.

Disassembling is much to be preferred. I once experienced the collapse of my ego dam, and it was no fun. I survived, but the process of rebuilding it was a long and painful one and the flying bricks hurt people. Now it is a smaller one and the water behind it not under such great pressure.

We have a choice, we can be a dam holding back the water, or we can gradually let the water out and become a swimmer in a peaceful ocean.


In conventional psychiatry a lot of time is spent probing into the past experiences of the patient to try to find out what experiences led to their ego taking the unhelpful form it now has. But this is really irrelevant. What really matters is how can we make it easier for the patient's ego structure to become gradually less rigid. The less rigid it is, the more it will naturally form itself into something more helpful. The past is the past. Our early experiences may determine the form that the bottom of our dam takes, and thus how much weight it can bear. But if the dam has a fragile bottom, the last thing you want to do is go poking around down there. Much better to help the patient to let some water out over the top of the dam where the pressure is not so great and gradually work down from there. That way, if and when they get to looking at the fragile bottom, it will be no big deal as it will not be required to hold back much water.


Fear of death is really the fear of the dam that it will not last forever. But the dam is not us. We are the water and the dam is just the vessel within which we are contained. So what we really fear is change, because, in a real sense, we can't die. The water will never cease to exist. Only the form of the container will change. And this has happened throughout our life. What contains our spirit today is not what contained it when we were a child.

The spirit is, by its nature, that part of us which is alive. The ego is like our clothes. We may be embarrassed to go around without them. But if we were not inside them they would just lie in a dead heap on the ground. Our clothes have no life of their own, and neither does the ego. It is nothing but an outer form for what we are and experience ourselves to be.


Various things can break off bits of the top of the dam, allowing water to flow through. These include crying, expressing anger in a free - rather than focused and destructive way, or having an orgasm. At these times we feel the burden of restraint ease and the spirit flow freely through our ego. These are the experiences we refer to as being cathartic.

Look at things this way, and some aspects of our world seem less disturbing than they otherwise might. Take violence in movies and computer games and the proliferation of all kinds of pornography on the internet. These things clearly provide an outlet for large quantities of accumulated bile which might otherwise be expressed in ways which directly harm others.

I'm not saying these things are not without some problems. Some people become addicted to these things, as they may to other things like alcohol, drugs or gambling. But, unlike those other things, these cultural expressions of bile, I believe, can be cathartic if enjoyed wholeheartedly and shamelessly.

It is when something fails to satisfy us, so that we need more and more to produce the same effect, that we become addicted. Enjoy it less, need it more, is the formula of addiction. But the opposite also applies - enjoy it more, need it less. Generally what happens with addiction is that we overindulge in something, feel ashamed of ourselves as a result, and, wanting to find an escape from such negative feelings, we throw ourselves back into the same form of overindulgence.

Now I'm not saying that things like violent computer games or porn are the most effective sources of catharsis, nor are they something that appeals to or works for everybody, but perhaps they are not something to worry about as much as we sometimes do.


"My feeling is that sanity is actually a pretence, a way we learn to behave. We keep this pretence up because we don't want to be rejected by other people - and being classified insane is to be shut out of the group in a very complete way.

"Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they're a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confuse the person with the role...

"...When I explain that sanity is a matter of interaction, rather than of one's mental processes, students are often hysterical with laughter. They agree that for years they have been suppressing all sorts of thinking because they classified it as insane." Keith Johnstone, ibid.

I think many of us also secretly feel that we are monstrous or depraved, because of the pent-up bile we carry with us. This is why "sick humour" provides such a useful social function, to reassure us that we are not alone in hiding twisted thoughts and feelings beneath our sociable exterior.


The film-maker John Waters has always been a hero of mine. He filled his early films with all the most vile, depraved, violent and deranged ideas in his head. But these are comedies. They show that we needn't be afraid of our own sick minds. And amidst this unrestrained outpouring of bile, Water's films express a paradoxical generosity of spirit. He clearly loves his characters regardless of how ugly and insane they may be. And some of his later films - such as "Pecker" and "A Dirty Shame" have an almost utopian feel with characters losing their inhibitions, learning to work through their conflicts and coming together in a more honest and meaningful form of community.

"Grotesque and frightening things are released as soon as people begin to work with spontaneity. Even if a class works on improvisation every day for only a week or so, then they start producing very ‘sick' scenes : they become cannibals pretending to eat each other, and so on. But when you give the student permission to explore this material he very soon uncovers layers of unsuspected gentleness and tenderness. It is no longer sexual feelings and violence that are deeply repressed in this culture now, whatever it may have been like in fin-de-siecle Vienna. We repress our benevolence and tenderness." Keith Johnstone, ibid.

At one stage, John Waters, who has always been fascinated with real-life crime, spent some time teaching film studies to prisoners in jail for such crimes as murder, rape and child molestation. Here was his advice to them :

"Next time you feel like killing somebody, don't do it for God's sake -- write about it, draw it, paint it," I advised a startled class of about twenty-five cons the first time I guest-lectured. "These films I make are my crimes, only I get paid for them instead of doing time." It was my tryout at the Patuxent Institution, located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I was a little nervous, but I felt it was good advice. Maybe a little different from the usual therapy, but practical nevertheless." "Going to Jail" in "Crackpot : The Obsessions of John Waters"

He also did impro with them, and his experience seems to back up what Johnstone says about spontaneity liberating the child within :

"The last day I resisted the requests of some of the students to bring in porno videos, and instead we did mass improvs featuring the entire class on camera : a tent revival led by a berserk preacher, a bratty kindergarten class and a 747 full of passengers about to crash were the most fun. With fifteen minutes left before the end, someone came up with the best idea of all. Singed into my memory is the image of the biggest brute in the class playing Santa Claus as each con sat on his lap telling what he wanted for Christmas. Ho, ho, ho was never like this." John Waters, ibid.

"Students need a ‘guru' who ‘gives permission' to allow forbidden thoughts into their consciousness. A ‘guru' doesn't necessarily teach at all. Some remain speechless for years, others communicate very cryptically. All reassure by example. They are people who have been into the forbidden areas and who have survived unscathed. I react playfully with my students, while showing them that there are as many dead nuns and chocolate scorpions inside my head as there are in anybody's, yet I interact very smoothly and sanely. It's no good telling the student that he isn't to be held responsible for the content of his imagination, he needs a teacher who is living proof that the monsters are not real, and that the imagination will not destroy you." Keith Johnstone, ibid.

When we follow the example of someone like John Waters and reveal to the world just how insane and depraved the things going on in our heads really are, but in a safe way, with humour, and while remaining a polite, functioning, responsible member of society, we ease the sense of fear and guilt in others.


One of the social movements that came out of the sixties was the Gay Pride movement. Homosexual men and woman had, for centuries, been living in a state of secret shame, afraid to acknowledge their true sexual desires. The Gay Pride movement encouraged them to "come out of the closet" and be proud of who they were.

Maybe we need to take a leaf out of their book. If we are all fucked up inside from all of that repressed bile, and needing a safe and therapeutic way of unburdening ourselves, perhaps we need a new movement which says, "I'm fucked up and I'm proud!" Because we have every reason to feel proud that we have had the strength to live with this sorry state of affairs for so long in secret. The amount of energy we spend covering up what we are ashamed of and hurling accusations at each other in self-defence is incredible. And when we find that we are really all in the same boat - and that there are fun forms of therapy to deal with it - we will find together a life so rich and rewarding that we can't even begin to imagine it.


These are a few people whose writings I've found useful.

Jeremy Griffith

An Australian biologist who has written three books about the origins and nature of the human condition - our capacity for good and evil. Given the rough time I had with depression from the age of 17 to 35, I doubt I would be alive today if it were not for the help I received from reading Griffith's books - "Free : The End of the Human Condition", "Beyond the Human Condition" and "A Species in Denial". Obviously I'm not in a position to judge the scientific basis of his theories, but his central thesis makes so much sense and is so illuminating of human behaviour that it is very hard to argue with. Which doesn't mean that I agree with everything he has to say. I find some aspects of his treatment of the varieties of human sexuality unconvincing at times, and his interpretation of then current political events in "A Species in Denial" seems over-simplistic at the very least. But, having said that, all of his books contain a vast treasure-trove of crucial insight :

Keith Johnstone

Johnstone is a teacher of theatrical improvisation. His book "Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre", which I've quoted extensively above is one of the most remarkable, insightful and inspirational books I've ever read. You don't have to be an actor to benefit from reading it. It is a remarkable tool for learning to be more creative :

R. D. Laing

A Scottish psychiatrist whose controversial views on sanity and madness caused a stir in the Sixties. "The Politics of Experience" is one of his best books :

Wilhelm Reich

A German psychiatrist who described "body armour" - the repression of emotions through the rigidifying of the musculature (e.g. "the British stiff upper lip") - and "character armour" - the unhelpfully rigid ego structure. He believed that the repression of the emotions was linked to the formation of cancer. He also pointed out that the orgasm serves a useful function in freeing up the armouring. He coined the term "the sexual revolution", believing that political oppression relies on sexual repression. Toward the end of his life he went kind of nutty, and many only know him for the strange inventions he dreamt up during that part of his life, such as the Orgone Accumulator and the Cloudbuster :

Theodore I. Rubin

"The Angry Book" had a huge impact on me :

John Waters

My favourite film-maker and an hilarious writer and public-speaker. His autobiography "Shock Value" and his collection of essay's "Crackpot" are an unending source of delight :

Also :

Gospel of Thomas

It is interesting to compare fundamentalist Christianity as it is today with the view of Jesus and his teachings as described in this short Gospel that was not included in the New Testament :