A while ago, a person approached me – referred by a mutual friend – with an idea for increasing the effectiveness of democracy. He thought that by using blockchain or similar technology, one could allow people to vote directly on issues that concerned them. One wouldn’t need a house of ‘representatives’. One could extend the same idea, he thought, from local issues to national issues. And the technology would ensure that nobody could forge a result.

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More Than Human

When people think of ‘soul’ or of ‘spirit’, they tend to think of these things – whether they realise it or not – as somehow ‘adding’ to their day-to-day self. If that latter is their heritage as a human being, then these added things are somehow ‘more than human’. The problem with this perception is not only that it is upside down, with respect to reality, but also that it leaves one with the impression that it’s ok not to be concerned with those things. After all, they are ‘add-ons’ that are not needed for ordinary life.

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Helping (and Teaching)

One of the points that the philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff took pains to put across is that we cannot actually ‘help’ another person. And as Idries Shah pointed out, that extends also to ‘teaching’. It’s not (just) that Man-in-quotation-marks cannot ‘do’; at the heart of both of these activities lies the motivation of another person, and that is something we simply cannot reach, let alone change.

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The Margins Of Life

There are some who, it could be said, live on the margins of life – or at least on the margins of society. Some of them accentuate the separation, by living in ‘wild places’; content that those who adore the tumbling mania of ‘normal’ social interactions don’t value the effort to visit such places. Some achieve their serenity by means of a mental isolation: either of their own making, or enforced by ‘the mainstream’. When you refuse to be an ally in the concerns of the mainstream – refuse to be manipulated to add force to this or that ‘side’ – you become less than human in the eyes of those who are identified with their quest: just an irritating gap in the flow of their thoughts.

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The word ‘noetic’ means ‘pertaining to or a product of reason’, where ‘reason’ is a general term for the way we think and solve problems (even when it’s more intuitive than rational). Whilst it’s a nice word to have in one’s mental vocabulary, it carries behind it an important implication. The world we perceive – or at least, of which we are cognisant – is one that is created in our minds. Even concepts like ‘God’ are noetic. They are built out of our experiences, and our attempts to make them rational.

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A Better Life

A great many people – perhaps all, at the outset – approach a search for ‘spirit’ as they would for a pair of shoes. It’s to be expected. There is an idea that some contact with, or improved understanding of, this vague thing ‘spirit’ will lead to one becoming a better person: more equipped for life, or maybe more prepared for death. And exactly the same is true for a pair of shoes. The problem – if you’ll forgive me for calling it such – is that we start off seeing everything in life as something to be used. All except ourselves, of course.

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One of the points of parting between Freud and Jung was in how to represent the totality of the functioning of the psyche. For Freud, there were three elements: the Ego (our normal, waking mind), the Id (our unconscious desires and fears) and the Super-Ego (the self-image that we aspire to make real, but never expect to reach). For Jung, both of the last two elements were jumbled together: he thought that even the Id was comprised of self-images that we aspire to make real; that the dark and the light were merely opposite sides of the same archetype, and their relative manifestation depends only on whether we are drawn to the dark or to the light.

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Many Mansions

I have written before that the sacred texts of the world’s religions often contain elements of real truth, albeit overlaid with centuries of interpretation, and sometimes just ‘wishful thinking’. In all of the major traditions, too, there is a blending of ideas that were sloshing around for centuries, even before they were written down. Every time a prophet came, to renew the messages, those who believed were motivated to pass on their teaching: their new interpretation.

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All of our attachments have their origin in some form of pain: at first real (though not necessarily physical) but then mostly imagined. They are ‘habits of hope’, where that hope is the flip side of the fear of recurrence of that which once hurt us. If we want to unwind our attachments, and become free from their mechanical ‘pull’ on our psyche, we have to return to their origin: to the pain that caused the fear of recurrence.

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What Am I?

This question is one that I asked as I began to explore the inner world that, hitherto, had been ‘me’. There were two, clear reasons for asking it. First, there is a Fourth Way exercise called “I Am”; it involves drawing into one’s awareness all that responds to the word “I”, and then making that ‘common presence’ more vibrant – more present – with the word “Am”. Second, I was noticing that a lot of the “I” came with baggage: stuff that I had adopted from my experiences.

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