31 October 2006

A failure at practical living?

A lot of people (practically everybody) seem to think that any consideration of possibilities outside of the social consensus will make you a ‘failure at practical living’. In practice it hasn’t made me so. I am a lot better set-up than my many enemies could have wished and I am sure that my lack of success on social terms (and that of everyone else here) is only due to the hostile social environment.

Of course it is quite true that this is because of what occurred to me on a higher level as the right things to aim at and the right ways to proceed in aiming at them. And that I would not have been on a higher level if I had not, as you know, in a psychologically operative sense, really considered my interests within a finite life not worth defending if (very hypothetically) there was any significant purpose that might override them.

I can only repeat that no description of my past manoeuvres is in any way a prescription of what I think other people should try to imitate. Don’t, on any account, try this at home. Even my 12-year-old manoeuvres were made possible by a relatively centralised psychology, and I shouldn’t think that even those are accessible to most people, even if they wanted them to be.

If anybody wanted to get any higher level psychology they should come here, and if they don’t like that idea, and want to find their own path, in their own way, etc, it is sufficient indication that they will misapply anything that they believe I think, and make their position worse, rather than better, from a higher level point of view.

Of course I regret the fact that, when I was at Somerville, I seemed to drive several people into more occluded and less open-ended positions by my references to the existential uncertainty, e.g. Catholicism (though I find it hard to believe that it was permanent), Methodism (which probably was), and atheistic reductionist socialism (which almost always is permanent). All of these knew me well enough to contemplate the possibility of becoming at least a provisional long-term associate, but rejected the possibility.

Now of course I wish I could get people to become associates in the sense of working here and being partners in the commercial operations without their having to decide that they want to be here permanently. But the belief in society dictates that I should not be given any help, so that people have to override their belief in society at least to the extent of acting against that social rule, and this appears to be virtually impossible.

There is no hope of anyone starting to develop any existential psychology without coming to take advantage of the mildly favourable environment that this place provides; at least here people do not get the continual reinforcement of the worst bits of anti-higher level psychology, which is inevitably provided in any ‘normal’ social environment.

But it takes a long time, and a lot of ‘work’, as Gurdjieff would say, before there is the slightest risk of any perceptible psychological modification, and even then the risks will be slight and easily avoided.

Higher levels play very hard to get.

It is true that there was a time when I wondered if my subconscious was quite au fait with the realities of life in the finite world. One is rather led to think that a subconscious is not very practically-minded, but concerns itself only with airy-fairy considerations. (‘Airy-fairy’ was one of my father’s taunts when I said anything I really meant.) But by that time my subconscious had got me a higher level, so I was prepared to give it the benefit of quite a lot of doubt, and in retrospect I think the subconscious planning did very well, probably as well as possible in the circumstances.

30 October 2006

No advantages, no money, no people

Everything that has ever happened to me works very well on the hypothesis that everybody knows that I am to get no real advantages ever that can possibly be prevented. Any amount of persecution and opposition is OK, but no money, no people to work for me.

This is still the case. As I was thrown out 50 years ago absolutely destitute, with no career, no tolerable way of earning money, no capital with which to do investment, no friends or supporters who would give me money or support my attempts to get it, I felt the pinch very severely, and of course it is still very depressing (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) for everyone here that the brick wall remains so absolutely impervious, and there is no reason to hope that it will ever get less so.

Beating our heads against the brick wall, I mean attempting to interact with the social environment in any way (e.g. by publishing a book, giving a seminar, or meeting a new potential associate), is always just an expenditure of effort and a crushing reminder that nothing has changed; one is still non-existent in the eyes of society and of every individual microcosm of it (except as an object of attack and persecution).

It takes a lot of energy to withstand and recover from the effects of this, every time it happens, and to lick our wounds in preparation for our next tiny onslaught on the barriers erected around us by a hostile society.

But, anyway, that is how it is. It seems as if every individual knows, and has access to a computer database for working out, that we must never secure a net advantage from any interaction with a person, so they will only work on penal terms, or leave quickly if there is any chance of their becoming a positive factor.

It is rather like the exam-taking process. It seemed as if it was something from which I would be able to secure real benefits, but other people were involved; I was not a free agent, and the whole process could be made into a negative.

Stockbrokers assessing your "needs"

Ever since I was thrown out ruined at the end of my ‘education’ (actually a period of incarceration in which I had been deprived of freedom) I have found the only elements in the situation from which I could get any positive benefit in my efforts to repair my situation, were the higher level toleration and endurance of extremely negative circumstances, and the free market system, insofar as it was still free in a virtually communist society.

My efforts to get any feedback out of other people by trying to do work in bad circumstances, or write books in bad circumstances, that might induce them to reward me with status and income, have turned out so far to be absolutely abortive.

This country long ago passed the point of no return as a country in which I would be living except under duress. It used to be the case that, although everyone wanted to make sure you did not get any money (freedom of action), once it was in your possession you were free to use it to try to improve your position, or give it to other people to use as they saw fit to improve their position.

Now stockbrokers are supposed to ‘assess’ your position and needs, and prescribe for you what risks (as defined by stupid 'trained' financial experts – about as reliable a guide to beneficial outcomes as stupid educational experts) are appropriate for you to be permitted to take. This is, I have to keep repeating, a violation of the basic moral principle, which is that it is immoral to impose your interpretations and evaluations on anyone else, and you should always leave a person as free as possible to react to the uncertainties of the existential situation.

Now things have gone so far that a stockbroking firm is seen in the press defending itself from criticism by asserting that it refuses to sell speculative US shares to people over 80.

This is indeed an oppressive society. It could easily be the case that a ruined academic, having failed to make much headway over a grim lifetime, saw so-called ‘speculative’ investment as their last chance to become rich enough to set up an independent university department and residential college in which to live again, at least for the last ten years of their life, and if they failed in that before the age of 82 or 85, they might well prefer to commit suicide. Not that I would do so myself; I don’t have a suicidal personality.

Plenty of people, not only outcast academics, might well regard speculative investment as their last chance of having whatever they want to get out of life.

There are also increasingly penal restrictions on the amount of money which you are able to give to other people without taxation, depending on subjective assessment by tax inspectors (probably of working class origin) of whether you are giving money to another person ‘regularly’ and ‘without affecting your own standard of living’. Whether or not the recipient is in a disadvantaged position in society (relative to his actual and realistic needs) does not enter into it. In a civilised society, the donor should be free to form his own opinion of objective hardship which he is aiming to relieve by giving money to someone else.

A mock maths exam

(copy of a letter)

Perhaps I should attempt to explain the true context when I refer to my useless little bits of apparent success in a social context. ‘You must have been pleased’, you said of my distinction mark in a mock maths exam. Well, it had been a mildly pleasant and enlivening way of spending the few days of unsupervised preparation, a brief holiday from my increasingly desolate and wearing life in the Sixth Form with no exams to prepare for. (This was after I had been prevented from taking the School Certificate exam and hence delayed in registering as a candidate for London University external degrees.)

Although enlivening, in these few days I did not reach as high an energy level as I could have been experiencing every day if I had taken the School Certificate and proceeded to take as many exams as possible as fast as possible. I was also bitterly aware that it was not an exam I had taken for real and could put on my CV. I was thoroughly browned off with coming top of school exams, with nothing permanent to show for the effort that had been put into them, and I did not want to have to do any more of it. It just added to my disaffection with anything not done for real and in the context of a public exam.

Then again, it was a reminder of the right way of doing maths, but I had no way of changing my circumstances so that I could stop doing everything in the worst possible way. I had no right to make decisions about my own arrangements, although my mental age (a concept not yet censored out of existence) was no less than 21 (if my IQ had been 150), not less than 25 (assuming an IQ of 180 which I had been said to have), and not less than 35 assuming an IQ of 250 (which might reasonably have been guessed from my early reading).

25 October 2006

Dawkins, Oxford ideology, and God

Oxford is the ideological centre of this country and Richard Dawkins continues to attack a very crucial element in pre-higher level psychology. In fact the whole of modern ideology is designed to eliminate any possibility of higher-level psychology.

Some time ago, Richard Dawkins declared it is more harmful to bring up a child as a Catholic than to abuse it sexually.* This is because Catholics are supposed to believe, and to teach children to believe, that certain things are the case which cannot be experimentally verified or (which is actually more important, although he does not say it) verified to be in agreement with the social consensus.

What Dawkins is really asserting, on behalf of the modern ideology, is that:
a) there is no God in any sense (other than perhaps that of ‘society’ acting as a god-substitute) and
b) nothing inconceivable can exist.

He wants to eliminate entirely any tendency to notice, however fleetingly, the uncertainties actually present in the existential situation, which might possibly develop into an interest in reality in a sense other than ‘other people’.

It is true that people of his ilk sometimes refer to ‘reality’ in the sense of the physical world, and life forms other than human, as something which gives them feelings of sublimity and transcendence. People such as Dawkins tend to say things like: ‘Why should anyone need an unrealistic religion, when we can lose ourselves in admiring the wonders of nature, which is so much more special than we are ourselves, and makes us feel thoroughly unimportant’.

Actually Catholicism does, or at least did, tend to provide people with some openness to the idea that there might be an extended reality beyond their immediate sense data. Of course this was combined with some psychological drawbacks which were designed to prevent anyone from going too far in the direction of taking an interest in reality, but this could hardly be otherwise in a system designed for mass consumption.

Certainly the psychological drawbacks are no more than are provided to those brought up with the more implicit belief systems of various forms of atheism.

Explicit beliefs are much easier to consider objectively and possibly to reject than are implict beliefs which are being foisted on the schoolchildren of socialist and communist countries, to some extent by systems of compulsory education, before these children can be expected think for themselves. Even as adults they usually do not think for themselves anyway. Independence of mind and analytical thought occur rarely, even in high-IQ adults. But it is certainly much harder work to see through a belief in society, since this involves defining the implicit beliefs before you can criticise them, than to see through a belief in God, in the sense which Richard Dawkins ascribes to that concept.

The God of Richard Dawkins is a loose association of characteristics derived from mass religions, such as Catholicism. This God has directed the course of development of life forms, must be available to receive and answer prayers and forgive sins, and is also supposed to have strong feelings about the ways in which human beings treat one another.

This is not necessarily a bad sort of God for a mass religion to have, but it is easily made to sound absurd by the fact that evolutionary processes can be accounted for on the basis of the laws of physics, and that when people do crude experiments on the efficacy of prayer, these are usually inconclusive. (For example, you have some people in hospital prayed for by a number of people and triumphantly demonstrate that a matching number of hospital patients who are not prayed for do not fare any worse.)

So, of course, it is easy for Richard Dawkins to show that there is no experimental evidence for the existence of God, and hence that it is harmful to bring children up to believe that God does exist. What he, and the modern ideology in general, are really aiming at is to make it impossible, or socially taboo, to allow mental space to any speculative ideas about reality beyond the world of everyday experience, as it is normally experienced.

It is supposed to be damaging to bring people up to believe in the infallibility of the Pope (if they still are) or to have to tell their doings to a priest in order to be absolved from their sins. It is, on the other hand, quite OK to bring them up to believe in the infallibility of the state and its agents, who supervise and interfere in every aspect of their lives and the lives of their parents, taking them into ‘care’ if their parents are not assessed as having a suitable outlook.

There is to be a massive data base on which will be recorded every particular ever observed about every child born in this country by any agent of the collective, so that in their future lives all authorised agents of the collective will be fully informed of any assessment, motivated or otherwise, that has ever been foisted upon these children, and their evil tendencies can be monitored and checked (if considered necessary) by drugging or incarceration when they reach a more mature age.


* The Dubliner magazine, October 2002

24 October 2006

The Da Vinci code and Gnostic Christianity

(copy of a letter)

My next seminar will be on the Da Vinci Code. As I am so suppressed and deprived of status that no one is interested in my views, my name has no pulling power, so I give seminars on topics that do, or may do. I can use the Da Vinci Code as a bait because I happen to have become fairly well-informed about the early part of the historical development of Christianity.

It appears that there was a massive cover-up operation, which lasted for centuries and could be said to have continued to the present day.

In the process of surviving my ‘education’, which was in fact a tremendous psychological onslaught, I realised that human psychology has possibilities which are usually and almost universally suppressed. This is certainly a very strange state of affairs, and I do not see how you account for it in terms of evolution.

You referred to Buddhism; well, of course, I hold no brief for Buddhism and, as I said, if there were a higher level influence at the origin of it, it has had even longer than in the case of Christianity for all the dangerous psychological insights to be suppressed. As the psychology involved depends on very fine criteria and is difficult to convey in any useful way, the suppression takes place very easily.

However, since the Gospel of Thomas does contain some recognisable descriptions of this sort of psychology in a highly evolved state, it is possible for someone who knows about it to speculate about what was actually suppressed, so that one has some views on the plausibility of the various traditions. And that is good enough to make a seminar out of.

I am afraid that those who have come to earlier versions of this seminar were not interested in knowing more about my ideas, or about my incipient independent university as a place in which to make a career, or even work temporarily. What most of them saw in it was probably confirmation of their socialist atheism and rejection of old-fashioned religions, since one certainly cannot regard Christianity has having a well-founded historical basis.

23 October 2006

More about my time at the SPR

(copy of a letter)

Well, as I explained about the way my mind works in picking up on a new area, I may as well say that this is actually relevant to the way I do research, or would do it if not prevented, in any field.

I have always been slandered as being ‘interested’ in parapsychology in the way in which other people are. Actually I went to the SPR (Society for the Prevention of Research) under duress, because my parents, acting as agents of the collective, were putting me under pressure to support myself (‘earn a living’) as a person who no longer had any right to try to find any way of getting into an academic career.

I went there for purely financial reasons, hoping that by selling myself into degraded slavery in this way I might save a little money towards supporting myself when I returned to Oxford as a freelance outcast academic.

I knew nothing about what was going on in ‘the subject’ and I was picking everything up from scratch, but in fact I took in all the information that was going, including psychological and psychiatric, and my mind started to re-structure it, as it does, into potential fields of research in which I might be able to make progress.

My mind automatically discarded nearly everything that the ‘psychical researchers’ were preoccupied with, especially the preoccupation with spiritualistic models, survival, evidentiality, and ‘proof’.

I may say that, while I attempted to be open-minded, I have never found it necessary to invoke spiritualistic concepts when considering the reported experiences.

You said that all this fraud was designed to put people off the subject, and I agree that it is. But I did not consider people’s rationalisations as any guide to their motivation.

Those who concern themselves with parapsychology are as disinclined as anyone else to let anything potentially disturbing be found out. The fact is that some of the reported phenomena are close to issues which people find alarming.

The difference between stress and pressure

"There is a big difference between stress and pressure. Pressure is when you have made a speech in public, for example, and feel good about it. Stress is the feeling you never want to do that again."
(quoted by Andrew Smith from interview with Mark Johnson, Director of CEBO Corporate, In Business magazine, a supplement to the Oxford Times, October/November 2006)

Interesting use of the words ‘pressure’ and ‘stress’, analogous to that of ‘pushing’ and ‘stretching’. You could say that people wanted to save me from the ‘pressure’ of being allowed to take as many exams as possible, as young as possible, and as fast as possible, in order to expose me to the ‘stress’ of having to try to avoid being thrown out at the end of my ‘education’ without any usable qualification at all, and sent to Devil’s Island for life.

The definition of ‘stress’ quoted above is questionable. Isn’t it more the fear of being unable to avoid an intolerable situation from which you have no means of escape, and which you have no practicable way of averting?

As even this article puts it: "Mr Johnson has experience of working for big companies undergoing takeovers which can be highly stressful for people worried about their jobs."

We know that the modern ideology does not accept that any suffering or hardship arising from an unsuitable social position can be objective.

Mr Johnson is quoted as saying, of those facing the loss of their jobs, "At the end of the day, it is about responsibility and talking about the things you find difficult."

Odd use of the word ‘responsibility’. You must take ‘responsibility’ for pretending that you are not suffering from an objective deprivation, which can only be relieved by a change of circumstances. In other words you must take ‘responsibility’ for being unrealistic in the socially required way. If you are realistic, in the sense of recognising how seriously bad your position is, you are not being ‘responsible’ on social terms, and society, no doubt, will offer you ‘help’ in the form of counselling and mind-bending drugs. At the top of this article, Mr Johnson is said to have been "helping people cope with stress for 20 years." That should really be ‘helping’, in scare quotes.

22 October 2006

Degree-taking a dead loss

(copy of a letter)

Well, you may say a second class degree in maths is some good, and of course that was what everyone wanted to make me accept at the time (instead of offering me any help) when I was just aware of being thrown out empty-handed. But the fact was that since it did not get me into the sort of academic career which I absolutely needed to have (residential, with hotel facilities, and socially statusful, such as a Fellowship or Professorship) it was useless to me. I hadn’t got anything out of doing the work for it either, because it had for many years been a case of working without any motivation, in fact in a state of nightmarish stress which reduced my functionality to the lowest possible ebb.

If you neither get anything out of the experience, in fact you get negative experience, and you are left without any usable qualification to provide you with entry to the sort of career which you need to have, and without any tolerable way of supporting yourself at all, then doing a degree is a dead loss. And the B.Litt and D.Phil were, in neither case, positive experiences. They were both just attempts to struggle back towards the sort of career which I needed to be having by doing some tedious and pointless work in bad circumstances, and they produced no result in providing me with academic position or salary, or even access to funding to do research in my own independent academic institution. So all my degrees, so far as I am concerned, were a dead loss, although the maths was the most agonising.

Drinks party

We gave another drinks party, talking about our real position and need for people; audience totally unresponsive, as usual, in fact probably internally agaces.

Fabian says: there is no way we can get our position across to the outside world. We will not get anyone to work for us who is any good except for a miracle.

How does he know that?

I knew, even before I was thrown out, that there was no sympathy being expressed for the predicament of outcast intellectuals, but I did not foresee that there would be none at all, in fact hostility as soon as people guessed at one’s true position.

So, no, I have never thought it possible for a person like me to have even a tolerable, as opposed to excruciatingly intolerable, life, outside of a high-flying career in a university. In exile from it I have never been able to contemplate earning money in any other way, and I have had to aim at recreating for myself conditions identical with those which I should have been having in the best sort of university career.

The first essential has always been to work towards the hotel environment of a residential college, plus administrative and secretarial facilities.

As this appears to be an immediate turn-off to people, we have to try to publicise ourselves as widely as possible, to find the very unusual, miraculous people who might actually want to help us. In this we are opposed by social forces which wish us to remain as inconspicuous as possible so that it remains maximally easy for our situation to be misinterpreted by the largest possible proportion of the population.

19 October 2006

Claustrophobia in Bournemouth

(This is a piece of autobiography.)

In my first year at Somerville College I was in a bad way. My life was blackly nightmarish; everything positive had been squeezed out of it long ago by the adverse arrangements that had been imposed upon me.

In one of the vacations, my parents took me to a self-catering apartment in Bournemouth. I remember it, although only faintly, as an experience of the utmost unhappiness and desolation. Existential illumination was a thing of the past; it belonged in my happy former life.

One night in bed I had a headache, which would not go away. Remaining completely still quietened it and it gradually subsided, but any movement re-aroused its throbbing intensity, and a long period of patient immobility was necessary to quieten it again. I began to have existential claustrophobia. Here I was, trapped in a little cave behind my eyes, not free to move and aware only of the presence or absence of pain. My life was hopeless and terrible, my parents cold and hostile. And I was stuck in a kind of reality that I knew nothing about. All that I was sure of was the total uncertainty.

I had a sort of principle of not trying to terminate existential perceptions, shocking though they might be; they were, after all, realistic. But usually in the past they had quickly ended of themselves; as if my mind automatically blocked out too great an intensity of intolerability, rather like blowing a fuse.

Now, however, the claustrophobia, like the headache, persisted and I lay in my enforced stillness wondering when it would come to an end. I became desperate and wondered whether to go and wake my parents. But what would be the use of that? They did not know anything either about what anything was about. I did not even know if they were real beings with separate consciousnesses. For all I knew, they might be only images in my dream. So no relief was to be sought from them.

But eventually I thought that I must find a way of stopping this. I had always thought that my drive to do research arose out of my perceptions of existential unknowability.

So I said to the claustrophobia: ‘Couldn’t you call it off for the moment? I don’t see that I am getting any more out of this than I have already got. I am in a terrible situation and I don’t know anything, but there isn’t anything I can do about it. There is no way of finding anything out.’

‘However, I think the only answer is to say that I will do research. And I will. The way ahead of me is pretty hopeless and I don’t know exactly how, but I will do research, or at least I will always be trying to find a way. So is that all right and do you think you might stop now?’

The claustrophobia ebbed miraculously and I thought, ‘That seems to confirm that I got that psychological connection right.’

18 October 2006

Further reflections on Christianity

(copy of a letter)

You seemed to agree that there was a parallel between the ‘happiness’ aimed at by Cognitive Therapy and that of Catholicism, both achieved by a resolute disregard or repression of the problems. However, I think there are also differences ...

It would appear that Saint Paul, and anyone else concerned in putting together the package that has survived as modern Christianity, did not get a higher level. But it must be supposed that he, or they, had an insight into what would make an idea system widely acceptable, and many elements in Christianity probably appeal to psychological syndromes which I do not understand. The trap was baited with genuinely positive and attractive higher level side-effects, although in a weak and unmotivated form.

By the ‘higher level’ side-effects I mean the freedom from anxiety and consequent capacity to enjoy life, as well as the association of this enjoyment with contexts in which the belief in an assured and expansive future is reinforced by social solidarity (this latter association not being higher level). This focuses emotional interest on the social, but without one’s self being so strongly defined by one’s power to refuse others what they want - as it is in the case of the successful exponent of cognitive therapy. It is the enjoyment of this power to refuse that seems to constitute the emotional reward offered by the otherwise bleak cul-de-sac landscape of the reductionist socialist.

The exponents of cognitive therapy, materialistic monism, socialist reductionism, etc. do not bait their trap in this way (with ‘higher level’ side-effects) but, I think, more implicitly with the power of refusal towards other people (‘Learn to say No’), and the observation of their oppression by society and their finite (especially physical) condition.

Of course this is not explicitly expressed as an attraction. In practice, however, there is a strong tendency to obstruct and frustrate other people, especially when they know what they want. I think this is a crucial element in the psychodynamics.

Making lists of the few people who have provided any favourable influence in my life, however temporary, ambivalent and halfhearted, and those who have tirelessly opposed me with energetic and enduring motivation, the favourable list is almost universally Christian or ex-Christian, with a high proportion of Catholics, and the list of inveterate enemies almost universally atheistic and socialist.

(It is also the case that upper-class men dominate the list of feeble supporters, and women and a lower-class man the list of tireless antagonists.)

16 October 2006

Catholicism compared with cognitive therapy

Further to my previous post on Catholicism, one may make a parallel between the Catholic joie de vivre, and the 'happiness in a vacuum' that is supposed to result from cognitive therapy, but actually I think their psychodynamics and side-effects are different. Of course, in neither case do I have any direct introspective insight, and can only infer from observation.

But I do think that an openness to the incalculable possibilities of the existential situation is a very important psychological factor, although it seldom (virtually never) goes so far as it did in my case, and I think that a rigorous rejection of it is implicitly or explicitly included in the psychodynamics of modern reductionism.

In the article about me on Wikipedia I am described as advocating thorough-going scepticism. That is not at all an accurate way of putting it. If forced to write about philosophy, which I would only wish to do for career advancement (however unsuccessfully), I am bound to express the sceptical position. But I know that psychologically it does not lead to open-mindedness about the situation, and when applied to the social situation it is usually used to facilitate the rejection of bourgeois, libertarian ideas in favour of immersion in anarchistic reductionism.

Unfortunately I think it is the case that when people abandon or become critical of Christianity, whether Catholic or not, they usually make the same transition from whatever open-mindedness they ever had to believing that there is no Outside, in adopting some version of the belief in society.

It is not necessary to believe anything in particular to notice that there is an Outside; as far as I was concerned up to the time I got a higher level, it was merely realistic to do so. Up to that time what I meant by saying there was an Outside was that the existential situation was clearly inconceivable, so that what existed was not limited by the conceptual range of the human mind. One supposed that there was some inconceivable substructure to the existential situation but there was no reason to suppose that it was accessible to a human mind, or that it was in any way of relevance to oneself.

15 October 2006

Catholicism as a social club

Although my parents were atheist/agnostic socialists, I had much more contact with Catholicism than with any other ideology or religion when I was growing up. We lived in Ilford from the time I was 6 onwards, and there were quite a lot of Irish Catholics in that area. We lived next door to an Irish Catholic family and I was fairly familiar with their outlook even before I went to the convent.

I think the convent was a mistake on my parents’ part, because they did not want me to be pushed, i.e. given any opportunity, and they thought a convent school would be uninterested in academic achievement and probably pay more attention to social graces and moral uplift. However, in one respect they got it right. I remember my mother saying that it was a happier school than the State county high school nearby in Ilford.

In fact, I think everyone outside Catholicism has got it completely wrong, including those former Catholics (such as Karen Armstrong) who are scathingly critical from the point of view of the modern ideology, which is supposed to represent the ideal point of view.

People pick on aspects of it which can be seen as authoritarian, guilt-inducing, masochistic, or sacrificial. But as a matter of fact I think that what gives it its hold over people who are brought up in it, is that it provides people with a way of being happy in an elite society of happy people who know that, whatever their circumstances may be, everything is all right and their future is assured.

I have heard that Catholicism is abandoning its catechism, which is probably another indication that it is offering no real resistance to the modern ideology, and is losing or has lost such psychological advantages as it had.

Right at the beginning of the catechism as taught to young children, and as I heard it in the first year at the convent, you were provided with reassuring information about your place in the scheme of things. God made you and why did he make you? After a short sojourn in this world, ‘to be happy with him for ever in the next’.

So you see you have your happiness assured right from the start, and all you have to do to make sure of it is to keep a few simple rules while you get through the probationary period on earth. And even if you break the rules, don’t worry too much. You have only to confess and be absolved.

I am sure this is very effective if you were brought up in it from an early age, and what it produces, which I think is not found in other religions to the same extent, is a freedom from anxiety and capacity for enjoying the simple pleasures offered by existence which is actually a very faint imitation of post-higher level psychology.

On a higher level, of course, one is assured of one’s place in the scheme of things in a qualitatively different way, and it gives you a genuinely justified and far less fragile freedom from anxiety in the most adverse circumstances.

But a higher level is difficult to get, and people who have been brought up with this kind of social reinforcement of their happy confidence must have a very strong resistance to losing it.

The point of being a Catholic and believing in it all, is to know that you have reason to be supremely joyful. The hymn to the Virgin Mary which was sung to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of the happy holidays ended each verse with ‘O causa nostrae laetitiae’, meaning ‘O cause of our joy’, with the implication that the members of this religion were living in a state of joy as a result of the historical and cosmic events underlying it.

I remember, in a BBC Italian language series, a programme about a home for old people in Italy run by nuns. The old people were clearly at the end of their lives, often wheelchair-bound, and suffering from mental and physical infirmities. The Reverend Mother who was interviewed seemed very cheerful about it all, and said that they aimed to give the old people a life of peace, serenity, and ‘gioia’ or ‘joy’. This seemed to me a bit remarkable, and I think you would not have been likely to hear it from anyone but a Catholic in that position.

Actually I noticed a sort of delight in the existential situation occurring among the convent girls and was even sometimes affected by it myself. When I moved up into the lower Fifth I was sometimes walking past Lyons after school with the girls from the form, and invited to joint them in their post-school celebratory feast. They were far too nice to exclude me as insufficiently like themselves. There was a considerable sense of occasion as the available coins were produced, and it was worked out how much lemonade and cake could be obtained, which was then shared out with scrupulous fairness.

Recently I noticed a newspaper item about a party of convent girls jumping fully clothed into an outdoor swimming pool while visiting a stately home, and the nun in charge explaining that it was ‘just youthful high spirits’.

I don’t, of course, want to glorify this too much. It is essentially phoney, a way of getting some of the advantages of a higher level by repressing all the problems. But it probably makes possible a slight openness to the inconceivable possibilities of the existential situation, and one cannot think that socialist reductionism is an improvement.

Certainly, when I was at the convent, I was very critical of it although not on the normal grounds. It was, I thought, unrealistic and frivolous. It was unrealistic to overlook the overwhelming and shocking threat of the existential situation.

In my first year at the convent I had to learn a poem by Henry Charles Beeching which began,

God who created me
Nimble and light of limb,
In three elements free,
To run, to ride, to swim:
Not when the sense is dim,
But now from the heart of joy,
I would remember Him:
Take the thanks of a boy.

I found this incomprehensible. Life was real, life was terrible, life was earnest. How could you possibly take joy in temporary athletic entertainments – running and riding and swimming – that depended on being a certain age, when the later dimming of your senses was the least of what might threaten you in the future, meaning tomorrow? A far more aggressive and purposeful reaction had to be made.

However, the psychological grounds on which Catholicism is usually criticised are anti-realistic and anti-hierarchical, and effectively rule out any potentially higher level tendencies. (Reality is hierarchical. What is significant is more important than what is not, and waking life is more significant than dreaming.)

14 October 2006

The socialist fallacy

[This piece was written in 1979 but is equally relevant today. The assumption, nowadays habitually made, that "caring" translates readily into "state action", relies on a particular theory of human motivation.]

There was in my father's view of human nature an inconsistency which might perhaps be regarded as the basic socialist fallacy.

When I was eleven or twelve I would sometimes see advertisements on the lines of ‘Let me win the pools for you’, or ‘Subscribe to my infallible horse-racing tips’, and would say, ‘Mightn't one at least try it?’ But my father would say, ‘What nonsense. If they really knew how to win anything they would keep the information to themselves, not sell it to you.’

I thought about this. I didn't see that it was entirely impossible that someone might have a generous motive. Perhaps they might feel that they preferred a steady, moderate income for themselves and would let other people have the chance of making more money in a more uncertain sort of way. My father's thesis evidently was that altruism and generosity were forces so feeble in human nature that you could rely on their not entering into any commercial situation even as partial motives.

But my father, I began to discover, was a great taker of advice. He would endeavour to implement the instructions of anyone with the smallest pretensions to a position of social authority even if this meant a complete disregard for his own perceptions about the situation. He was prepared to believe that people who had never met me could tell him how he should treat me. ‘But what does he suppose their motivation is?’ I came to wonder. ‘What incentive do they have to want me or him to be happy or successful?’ It was true that they had no financial interest in ruining my life. They would be made no richer by my failure, any more than by my success. But that merely left it a completely open question what their motivation might be. If altruism and generosity were totally absent in commercial situations we might surely suppose that these motives, at least, were not present in this uncommercial situation either.

11 October 2006

The high-IQ ghetto

(copy of a letter)

We here, the high IQ ghetto, are in a heavily disadvantaged position in modern society. We struggle against adversity as best we can, but it makes it almost impossible for people here to have any normal relations with their families and former or potential friends.

Everyone who believes in the modern ideology - which is everybody - knows that we are not to get the smallest particle of real help, but we may be subjected to gratuitous obstruction and slanders ad lib. But they want people here to continue to interact socially as if there was nothing to be made up for, and as if the people here accepted that they should be treated in the ways they are and have been.

When one is seriously up against it, one cannot do this. It is a very painful and depressing experience to interact with people who could be helping one in various ways and are not doing so.

So far as I am concerned, I found it too painful to meet any of my college ‘friends’ after I had been thrown out, because it was too painful to ask them for money and be refused, or to meet them and refrain from asking them for money. Only spontaneous offers on their part could have opened the way to social interaction.

Later (decades later) I had crawled up the side of the pit into which I had been thrown far enough to face the refusal that would result when I asked them for money or to come and work here. Then I started to invite them, but none of them were willing to meet me, except in noisy and protective social circumstances which would inhibit my expositions of my position, and where they would have potted palms readily available to hide behind as a means of escape.

10 October 2006

Open-mindedness

I keep writing about the horrors of ‘normal’ psychology, so let me for once try to say something marginally ‘interesting’ about real psychology.

It makes a lot of difference whether or not one is open to all the possibilities of the fundamentally uncertain existential situation. I would never have called myself an atheist as Richard Dawkins is proud to do; the most realistic of all possible perceptions is the perceptions that one does not know anything.

The ability to derive a sense of significance from society/other people depends on losing sight of the fact that there may be factors to be taken into account in any situation which are not plausible or even imaginable. The fact that the existential uncertainty is not being borne in mind is usually implicit or accidental, but the modern ideology, as exemplified by Dawkins, would like it to be a deliberate and conscious rejection of the possibility that there could be anything other than what is accepted as forming part of the prevailing social worldview.

It may be difficult to say whether or not this is present in a certain person’s outlook; it may be, without having been explicitly formulated. This is an illustration of the difficulty that arises (or would arise, if one attempted it) in any attempt to communicate higher level psychology as an exoteric system.

I, at any rate, clearly did not adopt a disbelief in open-ended possibilities, and this aroused strong reactions from both Catholics at the convent (who considered me a materialistic and reductionist person) and from agnostics at Somerville who complained that when most people said they were agnostics they meant there was nothing to get emotional about, whereas I clearly did react emotionally to existence. And I did; I regarded myself as a scientist and a realist, and I found it extremely emotive to be alive, to be having experiences of unknown status.

I always concluded my analyses with a clause to the effect that, whatever the obvious possibilities might seem to be, something inconceivable might actually be the case. This probably affected my psychological development quite a lot, although it is not entirely obvious why it should have had all the side-effects which it did. Conversely, the fact that other people exclude possibilities so as to believe in society in the operative way, seems also to have quite definite effects on their psychology and motivation.

Curiously, and not obviously, open-mindedness appears to prevent the development of meanness and dishonesty, a predilection for which appears to be a part of the social belief system.

People who perceive the possibility of coming to work here/making a career here/helping us etc. and sometimes appear to be, at least to some extent, attracted by this, but then don’t come, seem to take refuge in some social evaluation system, which they prefer to considering the situation in an open-ended or open-minded way. According to this evaluation system, as we are social outsiders and outcasts, it is impossible that we should be in the right and society in the wrong. Social outsiders are always to be viewed with contempt; it is out of the question that they should be regarded otherwise.

Why people didn't want me to do science

(copy of a letter)

You once asked why everyone was so opposed to my doing science (and also you might have asked why they were so opposed to my getting qualifications in several subjects as an earlier age than other people). Well, of course, the opposition was expressed by everyone talking as if it was a foregone conclusion that it was out of the question, I mean, never mentioning it as a possibility. I think this is approved technique for agents of the ideology. They are supposed to listen to what the victim has to say, reinforce whatever is in line with the approved interpretations, and then go on talking as if he had never said the unacceptable bits. This avoids ‘confrontation’, is not supposed to be ‘forcing’ the right attitudes upon him, but is expected to ‘help’ him (eventually) to adopt the right outlook on his position in society.

Well, one explanation of why everyone was so opposed to my doing science:

That wicked woman at the Glasgow University Department of Educational Studies, speaking about gifted children, said, ‘If they do everything easily, they are never challenged’. I did everything easily, and expected to go on doing so. This was a perfectly realistic expectation. I could see very easily what was needed for taking degrees in sciences, languages, and anything else except maths, where I was not provided with the right textbooks, which possibly did not exist.

Mother Mary Angela expressed an attitude very similar to that of the wicked woman at Glasgow. It was supposed to be bad for me that I could do everything I tried to do easily and without effort; at least without the sort of struggling effort that is needed to do things against the grain, in circumstances in which motivation is impossible.

Supposing it was considered essential that I should be ‘challenged’, and that the moral (or social) desirability of this overwhelmed any consideration of whether I might eventually be left with no usable qualification at all, there was only one way of bringing this about. I had to be made to do maths against my will on a ridiculously protracted timescale, in circumstances that I would never have chosen or continued to tolerate as a free agent, and prevented from getting qualifications in anything else to alleviate my position.

You seemed to agree that ‘you don’t have to be the greatest mathematician ever to do physics or chemistry’, so I suppose that is steering me in the direction of thinking that I am really inadequate at maths but I can still do physics or chemistry for my own ‘interest’, as an academic outcast living in constriction and degradation. Doing things for ‘interest’ is the socially approved compensation for an outcast. I do not accept that anything that happened shed the slightest light on how ‘good’ I was at maths, since it only shed light on how badly I could be made to perform, after several years of a war of attrition, at work set by hostile tutors with whom I did not wish to have anything to do. If I had been a free agent, even if only in that one respect, I would have preferred to dispense with tutorials and take my chance on preparing myself for the final degree examination.

Amish culture and medicine

"Locked 200 years in the past at the very centre of modern America, the tribe with a secret dark heart.
Can the Amish continue to survive? ... in the Fifties their children were the last victims of a polio epidemic because they refused the ‘modern’ science of inoculation. Wisely, they changed their ways on medicine when needed." (Daily Mail 4 Oct 06)
Wisely? By getting the obvious physical advantage of some children possibly living longer if their socially appointed sadistic oppressor ('doctor') does not get it wrong, you get the psychological disadvantage of exposure to the immoral/criminal medical profession, in which every meeting with a ‘doctor’ is abusive, a ‘doctor’ who has the immoral power to make decisions on your behalf about things that concern you.

Exposing oneself to such abuse has serious psychological consequences which could easily have lethal side effects, at the time or later.

And, from an evolutionary point of view, you are facilitating the survival of those who are genetically less resistant to disease, and hence are more likely to be the ancestors of children with weak constitutions who will be more in need of being exposed to medical abuse to prolong their lives.

For more about my views on the medical profession, see
http://www.celiagreen.com/medical-profession.htm