Hell Is Other People

The title of this piece is the best known quote from the works of the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. It comes from a play (No Exit or Huis Clos) in which three people find themselves in Hell, and the only punishment (though quite sufficient) is their interaction with each other. What Sartre was highlighting is the way we tend to live a ‘knowing lie’ in front of others: presenting ourselves in a way we know is untrue. How cruel, then, to be trapped forever with only one’s lies and the continual threat that they will be pierced.

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The Politics Of Greed

With a few, notable exceptions (but only a very few), the world today seems to be dominated by the politics of greed. At the lowest level – the ‘proletariat’ – it is perhaps understandable that struggling for ‘more’ is a core theme of daily life. You could also call it ‘making ends meet’, or more fully, ‘making the ends meet the means’. But the inevitable result of moving towards satisfaction of that struggle is inflation. And when politicians don’t understand that – or try to capitalize on the working class struggles – we get the politics of greed.

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In For A Penny

It’s an old adage: “In for a penny, in for a pound.” It arose in times when a pound was a very significant amount of money, and it meant that if you’re going to invest in something then you might as well make it a meaningful investment [1]. You might as well invest enough to help the enterprise succeed, rather than just ‘small change’. And that principle applies to many areas of life, including spiritual work.

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Choose One Thing

In order to illustrate the changeable nature of the ordinary man, the philosopher and teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff, told his students a tale of just part of the day, in the life of just such a man. He wakes up already disturbed, because several important things were not settled the day before. He starts to get up, but fumbles his hairbrush and breaks a much loved mirror. He then finds that his manservant has failed to put the morning newspaper beside his coffee and gets irritated at the man. He walks to the office, to settle the business of the day before, but gets distracted and forgets his aim.

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Meaning and Significance

I have touched, in other posts, upon the concepts of meaning and significance. These lie at the heart of the way that the second totality of the psyche functions. They are the products – and the drivers – of intellect and emotion, both of which are ‘closed loop’ systems that amplify and select, by means of association. And understanding them is critical, if we wish to escape from being the slave of those machines.

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In all fields of human endeavour, there are those who seek to oppose the driving thought by arguing that it goes nowhere. They take the arguments supporting that thought and they seek to deconstruct them: to remove their cohesion. The basic method is always the same: to distort each concept – subtly or unsubtly – and then ‘demonstrate’ the gaps between the distortions. It is possible that those who take such a tack really believe the distortions are “true” – are viable interpretations of what they distort – but there is also much evidence that the distortions are wilful and knowing.

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There is, in the formation of the ego, an inherent desire to be able to direct the flow of events. It predicts possible futures, using imagination, selects one (or a pattern) that is most ‘attractive’ and then sets out to make the predictions come true. It is for this aspect that the ego is also called ‘the commanding self’. Even prayer can turn into a last ditch effort to get an all-powerful deity to make our desires come to pass. Why, then, do religions focus on the idea of ‘service’?

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The Witness

In our ordinary life, there is the “I” that goes around ‘doing’, and there is another “I” that watches, assesses and directs. It is always there. Even in our sleeping dreams, it notices and remembers, although the memory may be washed away by waking. It even appears in our speech; when we say “I”, this watcher means “the other I”: the one it watches. But who watches the watcher? What is it that can realise there is a watcher?

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Remember Your Aim

When people consider whether they have ‘willpower’, their yardstick is (usually) how much of what they intend to do actually comes to pass. In truth, though, the main reason why intentions fail to materialise is because – having started them off – we fail to remember to see them through. And then, at some point of resistance, the forces of the universe align on some other outcome instead.

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