White Water Rafting

Oh how we want our political leaders to stop being “politicians” and just show some leadership. “Get things done,” we cry! But politics is a lot like white water rafting: you’re riding the churning flow of a nation’s emotions – its private hopes and fears, its commercial lusts, its moral conscience and much, much more. Even the sweetest tongued demagogue can’t control the churn; only deflect the masses from seeing the emptiness of their promises. It’s such a wild churn because all these emotions conflict with each other. Only in certain times – like a rapidly growing world market and a surfeit of cheap labour – do the emotions seem to align for a while. And that’s only because when a nation is comfortable, morality takes a back seat: at least until the trash washes up on its own shore; on its own streets.

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Walking The Spiral

This morning’s post is prompted by two, related things. The first was a quote from Carl Jung, about the purpose of human existence. The second was a series of articles on Shamanism and Shamanic journeys. These two are related because they both refer to exploring the world of the un-conscious. And this is a world that bears more than a passing resemblance to Michael Scott Rohan’s “Spiral”.

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TikTok God Spot

A relatively new phenomenon has been spotted on the various social media services. At first sight, it looks like a continuation of “New Age” trends, in that the messages that people post seem to be drifting away from mainstream religion. However, looking deeper one sees an increasing number of people are discovering – and communicating – a more “personal” interpretation. They have felt something supra-normal in their own lives, and the more they notice it, the more “present” it becomes for them.

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Collision Course

To anyone who sifts the “news” that circulates through different media (even if just the official channels), it can seem at times as if the human race is on a collision course with a horrid and sticky end. Tolerance, it seems, is vanishing. Obsession is on the rise. Repression creeps across the land. Violence and depravity are revealed, even in our leafy suburbs. Nowhere is safe. There’s even a name for the act of this sifting, when it becomes obsessive: “Doomscrolling.” It’s a shame that we teach history in such a dull way, across our schools, because history can be so useful as an “anchor” that illustrates the phrase “There’s nothing new under the Sun.”

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There is – throughout the world (though not in everyone) – a belief that there are “higher” beings who can and do influence the world through their thoughts. For some, there is only one, higher being. For others, there is a hierarchy of being, with some who are very close to the supreme being and others who are closer to the ordinary man, or woman. These latter might, for instance, just be the spirits of ancestors. Regardless of rank, it is also believed that these beings can “hear” the wishes of the living, when framed properly, and perhaps respond to them. Or perhaps they can just be nourished by our belief in them.

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Proceeding In Threes

A great many things in this world can be seen to develop in three, distinct phases. And even when this division is not clear, further examination will show that it is still the case. Gurdjieff described this variation as an effect of having “externally caused vibrations” during the evolution of a new arising. He wrote that where there are many such vibrations, the new arising will have mostly external effects. Where there are no such vibrations, it will have only internal effects. And where there are neither of these extreme cases, effects will be divided between the external and internal. These three cases merit our attention, as they highlight something about how the universe works.

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Here we are, on a planet that is absolutely teeming with life, including around 6 billion other human beings, and yet able to feel all alone. It can seem, at those times, that all that life is merely passing by – following its own concerns and not really “connecting”. It’s as if every other entity is wrapped up in a bubble of self-interest. There’s too much life. What makes it worse is seeing others who do seem to have some connection: who do seem to be able to share unspoken thoughts, common delights. And so we may “settle” for a coterie of associates [hard to call them “friends”], whose bubbles of self-interest might at least have room for a passenger. We become a circling comet to their solar systems, reflecting their light instead of showing our own. But we know that something vital is missing. I’ve been there. I know this feeling well.

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Dangers of AI

This year’s Reith Lectures, a UK tradition (in recent years, at least) are about the dangers to human society that are posed by artificial intelligence (AI). And just a day or two ago (from the date of this post), two AI “programmes” argued in a Oxford Union debate [1] whether AI could be made safer. One side argued that the only method was to have no AI, whilst the other argued that only human-linked AI (with a conscience) could work. Both dismissed a third option – that humans could always stay in control – saying that humans were too stupid for that, and would hasten their own end. Of course, they were only drawing on human fears for that: they weren’t prescient or self-aware. All they did was spot the tide of human thinking. There are some real issues, but we don’t have to be as stupid as their analysis projects.

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