Archive for the ‘Future Positive Home Page Archive’ Category

Front Page

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Today I feature an article about one of the contemporary masters of Sufism. It was originally published in the Journal of Human Behavior in 1977.

Grand Sheikh of the Sufis

Edwin Kiester, Jr.

Idries Shah, a worldly descendant of Mohammed, doesn’t mind being known as the leading peddler of Sufism in the West. But please don’t call him a guru. Idries Shah and I are sitting in the village pub near his country estate south of London, elbows resting on the gleaming varnished table top. After a morning of weightier subjects, we are engaged in the middle-age man lunchtime talk – exchanging military reminiscences (his of the Afghan army, mine of the American) and discussing his forthcoming trip to America. Now the waiter places before each of us a plate of cold roast beef and a pint of bitter. In the same idle-chatter vein, I ask the man who has almost single-handedly reawakened Western interest in the ancient tradition of Sufism whether Sufis follow a special diet. Three hours of talking with Shah and a generous sample of this writing should have taught me that Sufis concern themselves with internal matters, not external ones, and that a prime Sufi objective is to rid people of just the kind of preconceived notions and limited thinking I had just displayed. I should also know that ill-informed questions make Shah’s beard bristle. “A Sufi lifestyle, is it?” he asks, spacing the words out evenly for emphasis. “No, my friend, not a bit of it. That’s what people crave. That’s what they demand.

Recently another man came to interview me, and his first question was, ‘What do Sufis eat? You’re vegetarians, of course.’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘You amaze me!’ he said. “I said to him, ‘Now if I can be of any use to you, write that down and see what it means. What it means is that you have been able to elicit from me a reaction which helps you to describe yourself. ‘You amaze me.’ Why do I amaze you? I amaze because you think that all metaphysicians must be vegetarians. Does that tell you anything about me? It tells you things about yourself! Now when are you going to get out of that, and learn things about yourself, and not think that you’re learning things about other people?” Shah leans forward, gesturing with the knife and fork. “We are not totemists who eat brown rice and consult the I Ching. That is not the Sufi at all, my friend. We have other things to do than have a lifestyle. We are getting on with our thing. And our thing does not impose on us the sort of restrictions which other people use as a substitute for getting on with their thing. You can either do something, or you can pretend to be doing something. “Western society seems to have exhausted all its investigative potential. It is largely composed of cul-de-sacs. One cul-de-sac is marked Lifestyle; one is marked Vegetarianism, and so on. People want to know about the Sufis in terms of what limitations they observe. ‘What do you eat for breakfast?’ ‘How many pairs of socks do you wear?’ “What is the relevance of such questions? Why don’t they ask something about what I am doing? One of our traditional functions has been to point out the limitations other people have been putting on themselves, not to impose limitations on other people. That’s what the gurus do. We seek to expand, increase vision, deepen perception. You don’t live by decreasing these qualities. “That’s why you don’t find any lifestyle with us, brother. There’s no eating of brown rice, and no muttering of Sanskrit mantras in our way.” With that, Shah turns back to the beef and the beer.

Over the past 15 years, Sayyed Idries Shah, 53, the grand sheikh of the Sufis and a lineal descendant of the prophet Mohammed, has had myriad opportunities to learn how little the West knows about Sufism – and how much it yearns to know. Since his book The Sufis was published in 1963, the lean, intense, Afghan-born prince has been propelled into international celebrity, sought on lecture platforms all over the world. Twenty more books have followed the first, and all have been bought up eagerly; Sufi “study circles” have proliferated (often without Shah’s blessing) across the United States and Europe; courses in Sufism are the “in” thing at colleges and universities; Sufi theories of learning have influenced educational institutions everywhere. Shah himself has won a host of literary prizes and recently was the subject of a festschrift, a collection of published commentaries by 24 renowned scholars discussing his work – an honor usually reserved for a professor emeritus of 70 who has been tending his scholarly vineyard for 50 years. One small sample of Shah’s impact can be seen in his recent appearance at a U.S. seminar sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. Twelve hundred persons turned out to hear him, at $65 a pop. Ironically, the “product” Shah is “peddling” – to use his term – is anything but new. The Sufis are often called “Muslim mystics,” but their roots go much deeper than Islam. In that cradle of the world’s great religions, the Middle East, Sufi influence has been traced back to the second century B.C. and is said to have cross-fertilized Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism along with the followers of Mohammed. In the golden days of the caliphs, from A.D. 800 to 1800, many of the world’s great writers and thinkers were Sufis. They included Omar Khayyam and Jala ed-Din Rumi, considered one of the titans of the world literature; long before Einstein and Darwin, Sufis theorized that time and space were identical and that humans had ascended from lower animals. One of the West’s own great minds was a Sufi. The Franciscan Roger Bacon, considered the originator of modern scientific thought, studied with the Sufis in Saracen Spain. It was for learning their “black arts” that he ran afoul of ecclesiastical authority.

Explaining Sufism to a word-oriented, linear-thinking Westerner is difficult even for an articulate and insightful man such as Shah. “He who tastes not, knows not,” he says, quoting Jala ed-Din Rumi. Although there are said to be five million Sufis, mostly affiliated with established sects, Shah says that Sufism is “not a religion but a body of knowledge”; the sects represent a “deterioration” or “cultural elaboration of the original internal teaching.” Sufism has no rituals, no holy city and no ecclesiastical hierarchy. Although Shah carries the title grand sheikh, all Sufis are considered equal. Poet Robert Graves, a Shah admirer, compares him to a “fugleman,” which Graves defines as an old army term for the soldier who stood before a company on the parade ground and served as the exemplar in arms drill. Sufis do not even call themselves Sufis, which is a nickname akin to Quakers. They use the terms We friends or Our people.

Genuine Sufism is inward, concerning itself with “true reality – what exists beyond what is observed.” Like peeling an onion, Sufism tries to strip away the outer layers of limited thinking, misconception and social conditioning to disclose the kernel that lies beneath – that unity of existence that Shah calls “the essence of all religion.” Sufism’s goal is to reorganize human mentation so that it is more sensitive to things that are there anyway – “We say in Sufism that exclusion is just as important as inclusion,” Shah says. You can gain Sufi truths from other people and by intuition, insight, folk wisdom and experience. Long before the work on brain hemispheres of Dr. Robert E. Ornstein, the Sufis knew that part of the brain learned through words arranged in sequence and the other part by hunches and seeing the whole situation at once. Of course, over the past two decades, literally dozens of mystical, quasi-mystical and semimystical Eastern sects have invaded the West. If you really want to see Shah’s beard bristle, suggest that Sufism is part of the yoga-and-transcendental-meditation craze. “That gray area of mumbo jumbo and gurus and mantras,” he says, bitingly. “It has little connection with any tradition except the circus. In Eastern countries like India that is fairly well understood. Only the ‘new boys’ profess to see anything significant in the phenomenon. But here the carnival has taken over. We have a grotesque of the true Indian guru.” He also has a few disparaging words for Zen. “No Sufi would ever think it important to think of a phrase like, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ He would regard it as training for automatism. You could obsess people with one hand.” The Sufi has nothing in common, either, with groups that seek to withdraw from the world. “Be in the world, but not of it,” is the Sufi watchword.

When I first met Shah, he struck me as anything but the stereotype of the Eastern holy man. He greeted me in a red turtleneck sweater, glen-plaid slacks, magenta socks and calfskin sandals. He speaks Oxford-accented English with a rich vocabulary and a range of expression that is stunning in its scope; he is the only man I ever heard use the world phantasmagoria in casual conversation. As his books show, he is a gifted storyteller; but in person, his tales are even more compelling, because he acts out all the parts and mimics all the voices. Once, telling of an encounter with a Nubian student from the Sudan during a lecture, he leaped to his feet, put his hand on top of his head to represent a Nubian topknot and dropped his voice a full octave to impersonate the man’s basso.

He also leads the life of a country squire. The Shah home, Langton House at Langton Green, a tiny hamlet nestled into the Kentish countryside southeast of Tunbridge Wells, once belonged to Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement. A rambling, whitewashed, green-shuttered mansion, it is surrounded by 50 acres of gardens and pastureland and by the village green. Inside, like Shah himself, it is a subtle blend of East and West. Oriental carpets, hammered brass trays and a children’s peacock swing designed by Shah’s wife contrast with a massive desk Shah picked up in a junk shop and an IBM Selectric typewriter.

When asked how long he had kept a foot in both Eastern and Western worlds, he said, “All my life.” Although a resident of Britain for many years and a British subject, he was born in the East and groomed from boyhood for his eventual role of building bridges between cultures. The eldest son of the late Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah, one of the legendary figures of contemporary Middle Eastern history, he was born near Simla in the Himalayas and was raised in Afghanistan, India and Saudi Arabia, “thus being exposed to three of the five main cultural traditions of the Middle East.” (The other two are Persian and Turkish.) He never attended school in the formal sense. “I was educated by the old oriental tradition that if I needed to learn something, someone was procured to teach it to me,” he recalls. However, his father insisted that he learn firsthand about the world. The young prince worked a year as a laborer on a farm and served a hitch in the Afghan army. As descendants of Mohammed through the prophet’s eldest son, the family carries considerable prestige through the Middle East. Their influence transcends national boundaries and mere sectarian lines. Shah’s father served as an unofficial adviser to several Middle Eastern countries, and often carried out diplomatic missions between East and West.

Often the young Shah accompanied him, gaining access to the highest ruling and spiritual levels in his part of the world. The experience stood him in good stead. Today, one of the little-known and little-discussed aspects of his life is to serve as adviser to several African and Asian governments. As Shah was growing up, he also adhered to the Sufi stricture that every Sufi must earn his own way. “We have a sense of priorities,” Shah says “To belong to the human community is essential. We say, ‘If you cannot earn your livelihood, go out and learn how and then become a Sufi.’” Shah’s education had given him a thorough grounding in literature, history and economics but no profession; he chose to enter the world of business and finance. He established three successful electronics firms, a carpet factory and a publishing house and still serves as chairperson of each. This record also gave him entrée to London financial and social circles. “Many of my sober business acquaintances would never believe I am to be bracketed with what they consider the guru phenomenon,” he says, laughing. “They know me too well to believe that.”

As Shah poured a cup of tea from a glittering heirloom tea service, I asked him how the campaign to familiarize the West with Sufi principles was faring. He lit one of his favorite small cigars before responding. “The people of the West are starving in the midst of plenty,” he began. “They have made all these discoveries about human behavior but they have not related them to their own behavior. And until they integrate this knowledge, I don’t know if we can help them. It may be 300 years before they have properly absorbed this knowledge.

“People can learn from one another which attitudes aren’t scientific, which attitudes don’t work. It’s just a question of absorption. It’s no use just reading about behavior in a paperback and then throwing it away and reaching for the next paperback, or reading to answer questions in an examination, or to torture your friends with a few gimmicks, like ‘You have an Oedipus complex’ or ‘that’s a defense mechanism.’ The potential is there,” he continued. “There’s an old Sufi story that’s relevant to that. An old traditional Sufi used to dress his disciples in patchwork cloaks and have them carry a beggar’s bowl and repeat certain formulae in order to concentrate their minds. He recommended that they eat mulberries off a certain tree.

“One day somebody said to him, ‘Suppose you went to a country where they didn’t have patchwork, and you couldn’t dress your disciples in cloaks. Suppose the seed coconut from which beggars’ bowls are traditionally made was not available. Suppose mulberries were considered unlucky and suppose these repetitions which you require were considered socially undesirable. What would you do under those circumstances?’ And he said, ‘Ah, well, if I were under those circumstances, I would have to get myself a totally different kind of disciple.”

“The challenge now is embodied in the Sufi tradition that you must teach people in the way that they can learn. The West has the requirements to learn, but nontraditional approaches – that is, nonoriental approaches – must be made.

“You have to come to certain conclusions in order to do anything at all. For example, say that you – or the community at large, or Western society – concludes that contemporary physics shows that it is unlikely or impossible that one will be able to exceed a certain velocity of travel in space, so that our galaxy is closed to us. And as we want to go farther there must be some other way discovered in order to slip through the imprisonment of these dimensions of time and space. “You, or your society, would have arrived at that conclusion through your investigations into the physical sciences. An Oriental might have arrived at an identical conclusion by some other route. But you two would be in precisely the same posture if you decided to start your further investigation by some metaphysical method or non-material method. You’d have arrived at the same jumpoff point by different routes, but you would be able to address the same sort of problem.

“That’s what I’m interested in doing in the West,” he concluded. “Or rather, in the modern Western culture that now covers so much of the world that people of my generation in the Middle East are in fact often indistinguishable from Europeans.”

According to Shah, he had dabbled in writing ever since his youth and, in fact, had produced a widely acclaimed book, Destination Mecca, in 1957; but the idea of a book on the Sufis did not take flower until he was past 40. Graves was one of those who encouraged him to “write for the natural Sufis everywhere,” but, Shah says modestly, “I did not yet feel I had the proper literary skills.” In addition, several other developments were necessary before the West was ready for a book on Eastern mysticism. The East had to live down the Rudyard Kipling view of mystics as freaky savages who slept on nails and charmed cobras; and the West had to accept that human beings were conditioned into limited ways of thinking that obscured their humanity within, rather than creatures of free will. Shah places the Korean War as a landmark. Discovering that American fliers could be “conditioned in reverse” by their captors, American social scientists were forced to acknowledge and to study the whole conditioning process. This development, Shah believes, not only explains B.F.Skinner but the revival of Pavlov. “If I had discussed how man has been conditioned away from his origins before 1950,” Shah says, “I would simply have been put into the same box with Pavlov.” A more recent impetus was given Sufism by Ornstein’s work into the bilateral specialization of the brain. For the first time, science supported the Sufi view that learning could be achieved both sequentially and holistically. “After Ornstein’s work, we were able to introduce what we were saying in a framework not available before, because there was no scientific word for it,” Shah says. “Previously we had to say that our way was not scientific, but artistic – and those words were much too loaded. Now we can talk about the left brain and the right brain and it is respectable, in the sense that people will listen to it.“It also helps us to explain by analogies derived from Ornstein’s work what happens to human thinking systems once rooted in human beings and the human community and how our way differs from – and resembles – other ways of thinking. It can be put down almost diagrammatically, and it does help a person looking into it to understand: whatever is this man talking about? Where does he place himself or what he is saying in the pattern of human thought?” When Shah began to write, he reached back into his childhood and brought forth literally hundreds of simple folk tales he had learned from servants, from village storytellers, from Persian literature and “just out of the air.”

In fact, they are so commonplace that one Turkish publisher refused to publish one of Shah’s collections, declaring, “It is unbelievable to me that anyone could make a book of nothing more than he could collect from the lips of peasants while touring the villages of Anatolia.”) Some witty, some epigrammatic, some pointed, the now famous tales are interspersed in Shah’s books with his own reflections and gathered into anthologies of their own. Many of them concern Mulla (Master) Nasrudin, a kind of Middle Eastern Everyman who is sometimes court jester, sometimes cracker-barrel philosopher, sometimes village sage and sometimes buffoon. He combines native shrewdness and insight in a way that helps him see to the heart of a situation that his more analytical “betters” cannot. He also illustrates, in exaggerated form, the kind of fallacious thinking that hobbles the more sophisticated. When asked to tell some of his favorite Nasrudin stories and to explain their role in Sufism, he offered several:

Nasrudin was throwing handfuls of bread all round his house. ‘What are you doing?’ someone asked.

“’Keeping the tigers away.’

“’But there are no tigers around here.’

“’Exactly. Effective, isn’t it?’”

Another tale recalls the time Nasrudin went into the shop of a man who sold all kinds of miscellaneous things. “Have you leather?” Nasrudin asked. “Yes.” “And nails?” “Yes.” “And dye?” “Yes.” “Then why don’t you make yourself a pair of boots?”

Once Nasrudin was called upon to preach a sermon. From the pulpit, he asked the congregation: “Do you know what I am going to preach about?” ”No,” they replied “In that case,” he said, “it would take too long to explain.” And he went home.

Next day he ascended the pulpit and asked the same question. “Yes,” the people said this time, determined to put him on the spot. “In that case,” said Nasrudin, “there is no need for me to say more.” And he went home. Yet again the following day he put the same question. “Do you know what I am going to preach about? But now the congregation was ready to corner him. “Some of us do and some of us don’t,” they answered. “In that case,” said Nasrudin, “let those who know tell those who don’t.”

Although each of these tales has a punchline, Shah explained, it also contains a teaching moral and can be examined on many levels for illumination of human behavior. Nasrudin’s sermon, for example, depicts the Sufi belief that there can be no teaching to those completely ignorant, none to those who profess to know all the answers, and that the best teaching method is when one who has learned by experience teaches another. Shah considers the tales an ideal way to communicate with the West. “One way we use them is as a sort of test,” he said. “For instance, we often use the old Sufi tale of the sands. A little river has to cross a desert, you see, and it runs into the sand. It finds it’s becoming a marsh. So the wind says to it, ‘Come with me and I will carry you over the desert.’ But the little river says, ‘No, no, I can’t! I’ll lose my identity! I refuse to be turned into water vapor!’ So the wind says, ‘Well, all right. But look at you. You’re becoming a marsh. You have to decide whether you wish to become a marsh or become water vapor.’ So after a great deal of consideration the river finally yields up to the wind, which carries it into the high mountains and drops it in the form of rain, whereafter it continues as a river.

“Now when you tell this tale, some people – crude, barbaric types – see it as a sort of commercial. The guru is asking his disciples to surrender themselves to him and he will carry them safely over the marsh, which is death or some other condition in which they are going to stagnate or putrefy. Other people react in a quite different way. They say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a beautiful story! And they talk about nature and the transposition of substances and ecology and so on.

“People who don’t react in either of these ways can then use the story for further training of their hemispheres, as it were. They don’t have the hangup that they think you are trying to convince them of something, or that they desperately want to be convinced.

“What makes it very difficult in dealing with these stories is that people want to know, ‘Is it a test or is it a teaching?’ and ‘How am I supposed to react to it?’ ‘At what point does it become perceptible to me what it really means?’ Which is rather like saying, ‘Is a house for eating in or sleeping in or blowing up?’ It’s all those things. But the so-called linear mind always wants you to ‘get to the point.’ A great deal of Sufism involves learning not in the sequence the Western mind expects to learn it. That is not acceptable to the sequential thinker who is incapable of thinking in any other way.

”The value of these tales is often misunderstood, Shah said. Like Christ’s parables, they are designed to enable the listener to hold in his mind a kind of structure to which he can relate philosophical or other considerations.

“That’s why there are two men and a dancing bear, or two mysterious dervishes,” Shah says. Because the stories are often funny, they are regarded as slight or insignificant by scholars – “It is not my discovery alone that academics do not encourage humor in what they take to be serious areas.” In fact, they are the very core of Sufi teaching.

“The Sufi people,” Shah explains, “have been held in very great esteem while armed with these stories and using them all the time for nearly a thousand years. They have built them into some of the great classics of the least. They are universally revered as classics. Some of these people have been people of great gravity, great mystical attainments and great discoverers of scientific things – the very flower of various civilizations. It hardly seems likely when you approach it rationally that such people would have gone to such lengths to prepare and maintain these stories, even building them into major facets of their thought, if they were a sideline, something old men in their dotage mumbled to each other. The stories are an integral part of Sufi teaching. If the Sufis are to be respected – as they enormously are – then surely one of their major teaching instruments must be given some consideration in the light of their status and achievements.”

The role of the teacher in Sufism is also often misinterpreted. “There is no Sufism without a teacher,” Shah has written. But the teaching role is quite different from that of the gurus in other sects. Whose antics Shah dismisses as filled with “chanting, ritual and phantasmagoria.” “A teacher is someone who is able to connect instructionally with you,” Shah says. “He need not be physically present. You don’t even have to know him. He doesn’t have to have a white beard and sandals. In a sense, a teacher need not even be a person. “I was once walking with a group of people including a spiritual teacher, and someone asked him, ‘What is a guru?’ And he pointed to a stone in the road and said, ‘Look, if I fall over that stone and I learn from that event to look where I’m going that stone is my guru.’ The teaching role should be an instrument, not an opportunity for theater, not a source of self-gratification.

A Sufi teacher does what he can to produce what he has to. He teaches what he can in a way students can learn it. “We see teaching as a system of interaction. In the ordinary course of events, people persist in certain courses to achieve something. Sometimes they learn by experience that they can’t do it. They find they can’t climb the wall, so they have to adjust. Should I get a ladder? Is it worth climbing? Are there other ways to get over it? By the interplay of themselves and the wall and their knowledge and experience, they learn. “A lot of people in esoteric circles, that is, philosophical and psychological circles, ignore this fact. They tend to look for a sort of Eureka! system, a golden key. They look at our stories, for example, for what mysterious depths and teachings are in them, or for what golden key they might be able to worry out of them, in spite of the fact that the stories themselves often illustrate the interplay between the people and their experience and the teacher or the circumstances, which is very similar to the person trying to climb the wall.

“There’s an old Sufi story about a young man who set off to receive illumination from an old teacher who lived in a remote cave on the top of a mountain. He was an old man with a long white beard dressed in a white shroud, a sort of hermit. When the young man, after great privation and enormous difficulties, reached that cave and almost collapsed in front of him, he said, ‘I have come all this way, and had all this trouble, and I want you to teach me illumination.’ But the old man said, ‘Certainly not.’ The young fellow begged and begged, but the old man simply said, ‘No, I can’t teach you that.’ Finally, the old man said, ‘Go.’ “So the young man went back down the mountain track. Almost at the bottom, he looked back and saw a white figure and he realized that the old man was beckoning to him! So he made his way back up, thinking, ‘Ah, he’s going to teach me, after all,’ and so he went up and up until he arrived back outside the cave. The old man was sitting there and he pointed his finger at the young man, and said, ‘And another thing. Don’t you ever come back, bothering me like that again!’

“Now that’s a joke, a sort of shaggy-dog story, but the teaching moral is that the young man was treating the old man like an employee. He had gone all that way, but he was acting like the old man was a machine – you put something in, and got something out. He said, “Teach me to be illuminated.’ He did not say, ‘I want to learn whatever you have to teach me.’ Teaching, you see, is a matter of interchange between a willing learner and a willing teacher.

“There is another story which illustrates how one must learn by indirect methods. There was a merchant in Persia who was to travel to India. Before he left, he said to his pet parrot, ‘I am going to India and I may see some of your relatives there. Is there any message which you wish me to convey to them?’ The parrot thought and then he said, “Tell them that I am well, but that I live in a cage in a house.’ “When the merchant returned, the parrot said, ‘Did you see my relatives?’ And the merchant replied, ‘I did, but I am afraid they are not well. When I gave one of them your message, he collapsed and fell to the ground.’ When the merchant said this, the parrot also collapsed and fell to the floor of the cage. Whereupon the merchant in great alarm picked up the bird and carried him to the window to get air. The parrot immediately recovered, flew out the window and escaped.

“You see, it is a model of indirect learning. The message that was communicated to the parrot was, ‘Collapse and pretend to be dead, and you can escape.’ There are other messages within it. I was told this story recently by a person who was studying with a professed Sufi teacher. He asked me the meaning of the story. I usually dislike to discuss such meanings preferring that each person discover them for himself. In that case, it seemed to me that meaning was clear, ‘Your teacher may have to do something to you to release you from bondage to him.’”

As in yoga, the Sufis believe there are internal “centers of perception” that can be utilized to help heighten the powers of the mind. There are five such “purity spots” that do not have a physical location in the sense of acupuncture points but that can be visualized for the purpose of transcending normal receptivity. Through a series of concentration exercises, a Sufi may be able to fix his attention on these spots as a means of enabling the mind to move to a higher plane. “But these cannot be attempted by anybody,” Shah says. “This is the method of which there is 1 percent operation, and 99 percent preparation. It is one of the most advanced of all techniques. It could take you 30 years to get to the point where you could do it and it might be over in 30 minutes. “It’s like the simple dervish dance. It’s an incredibly sophisticated instrument which can only happen at certain times and under certain circumstances. To try to make it theater, as it is sometimes done, is itself diagnostic of the inability of the person to understand its role. It disables him completely from what is happening.”

For Shah, the task of bringing the Sufi message to the West remains formidable. All too many presumably intelligent persons remain defensive about their thought processes, unwilling to reexamine themselves to see if a situation might be viewed in a different way. “All we really ask is that they detach themselves from their sophisticated analytical minds to just a second,” Shah says. “We’re not going to cripple them, we’re not going to harm them, we just ask them to let go. After all, if you’re listening to music, you’re not constantly tearing it apart in your mind. It’s a protected situation.

The same with our materials. If you don’t try to be too clever and think about what they might mean, instead of what they must mean, you can gain something from them. It’s not necessary to be perfectly secure in order to learn. In fact, the ‘secure’ people seemed to be the most nervous.”

Idries Shah wrote over three dozen books, many of which are still in print, and make great reading. He died in 1996.

Front Page

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Enlightened humans are often described as being consistently kind and compassionate, and are most admired for their total commitment to goodness. They are often described as calm. In fact, they are masters of calmness with the ability to achieve serenity even during the most difficult and stressful of events. They exhibit such a constancy of strength, grace, and inner peace that they are often considered spiritual masters.

Those individuals achieving enlightenment are consistently described as having powerful intelligence and possessing great knowing. They are considered the wisest of the wise. They appear to have stabilized in the highest level of human consciousness.

Some humans seek enlightenment directly by making it their primary conscious goal in life. One of the best examples of this was Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha.

Other humans seek enlightenment indirectly as an unintended side effect of their hearing and successfully responding to their personal call. These individuals feel called to fulfill some unique and special purpose during their life on Earth. Some hear their call as a ‘message from God.’ Some of these seekers of enlightenment went on to organize religions. More often, religions, based on their teachings, were organized after their deaths by their followers. Sometimes, their followers considered these ‘messengers of God’ to be supernatural — incarnated Gods come to Earth on a holy mission. However, most humans seeking enlightenment in response to a call do not hear that call as a ‘message from God.’

Mohandas Gandhi sought enlightenment when he responded to his personal call. He felt called to liberate his country from domination by the British Empire. Gandhi innovated the strategy of nonviolent social resistance. His employment of this strategy over several decades won India her independence. Gandhi expressed his understanding of this pathway towards enlightenment when he taught: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, and Martin Luther King chose to be the changes they wanted to see in the world, and they realized enlightenment as a side effect of their responding to their personal calls. They felt called to a higher purpose — called to deliver a unique and special gift to their community. And just as enlightenment can never be fully achieved, a life of service can never be fully completed.

When individuals discover their unique and special purpose for living on the Earth — when they live in their calling — when they follow their hearts — when they live an inspired life, then the door opens to the process of their own personal enlightening.

Enlightenment is a unique form of human behavior, which I have been studying for the past several years. Today’s author is one of my favorite enlightenment teachers. This essay is re-posted from his website.

Answering the Call

Marc Gafni

Recently people have been asking me what I mean by the phrase, “Answering the Call,” which I have been talking about so often during my talks about the democratization of enlightenment teachings in these past years. So when I woke up this morning, before I was fully awake, I jotted down a couple of words on this topic. …

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not a historical accident but an intentional expression of essence, then you realize that enlightenment is a genuine option for every human being. Including You. When you realize that your Unique Self is the God having a You experience, everything in your experience of your life changes.

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not the haphazard result of your cultural social or psychological conditioning, but all of these are necessary conditions for the emergence of the personal face of essence which is You, your essential experience of your life transforms. You move from a desperate need to escape your life to the radical embrace of your life.

When this happens, fate is transformed to destiny. Desperation becomes celebration. Grasping becomes purposeful action and resignation becomes activism. The contracted smallness of your frightened suffering self becomes expanded joyful realization of Your Unique Self. At such times, the irreducible human uniqueness of every human being is the invitation to enlightenment. For the full and authentic expression of your uniqueness living in the world as God’s verb, that is, essence living in you, as you and through you, is the essence of enlightenment.

It is from this place that you “Answer the Call.” It is from this place that you give the world your desperately needed “Unique Gifts,” those endowments that derive from your Unique Self. This is what I mean when I talk about Unique Self enlightenment. Enlightenment

Unique Self enlightenment is a genuine possibility and therefore responsibility for every human being. For there is no separation in essence. Every unique expression of essence is part of the seamless coat of the universe. Seamless but not featureless. Failure to clarify the contours of your Unique Self is not a failure of the contracted ego but a failure to love God. For to love God is to let God see through your eyes. Through the unique perspective of essence which is You.

Realizing Your Unique Self and giving your Unique Gifts is the evolution of love which is the evolution of God upon which the future of God depends. There are two key steps involved.

Firstly, you clarify your realization to know that you are not a separate self but a True Self, inseparable from the All.

Secondly, you realize that your True Self has a Unique Perspective. True Self + Perspective = Unique Self. Your Unique Self is able to address a Unique Need that can be addressed by no one else in the world that ever was, is or will be other then you. No one has the capacity to address this unique need in that the way that you are able to do. This is your Unique Gift.

In sum, your obligation and joy in being alive is to clarify your Unique Perspective, realize your Unique Self and give your Unique Gift. This is how you Answer the Call. Transforming your awareness of self to unique Self-consciousness is the change in your life which changes everything.

Democratization of enlightenment therefore does not mean that everyone is enlightened but rather that a full expression of authentic unique essence is a genuine possibility and therefore a genuine delighted obligation for every living being. In other words, it is the joy and responsibility of Answering the Call.

Books, Audios and CDs by Marc Gafni   Marc Gafni’s website   Center for World Spirituality   Spirit’s Next Move

Front Page

Monday, March 26th, 2012

We have just begun private Beta testing for a new online gifting exchange that I call The Gifting Earth. I see gifting as a replacement for Market. As capitalism has been the engine of Market. Gifting is the engine of Co-Operation. Whereas the best strategy of capitalism has been Buy Low Sell High, the best strategy of co-Operation is to Be Love, Do Good, and Have Everything.

Be Love→Do Good→Have Everything

Timothy Wilken, MD

Be Love, Do Good, Have Everything is a phrase I put together. It was created after reading an analysis of being, doing, and having called The Order of Creation by the enlightenment teacher Ilchi Lee, he wrote the following in 2005:

The Order of Creation

If asked what would make you happy, how would you answer? This type of question is often answered with a formula that follows the order of “Have→Do→Be.”

If I HAVE this, I will be able to DO that, and then I will BE happy.”

The problem is that such an order makes your happy state of being dependent on a transient circumstance (having or doing something) and so contains the seeds of its own failure.

Allow me to reverse this formula. The way to “make yourself happy” is to be happy. The formula thus goes in the direction of Be→Do→Have. We begin by being in whatever state we wish to attain.

Being is a more awakened state than having. To be is to exist in a space of pure choice and creation. It is a state of immense power. “I am happy. I am generous. I am …”

These statements are declarations of self-evident truth. Once you decide to be, and to allow that beingness to permeate every cell of your body, then your brain has the potential to create every experience and manifestation related to that state of being.

The natural instinct of a healthy brain, moreover, is to take action. If we know we are something, the our brain will lead us to take the appropriate action→Do. If we are happy, then we will act like one who is happy. These steps create a powerful virtuous cycle. Being happy leads to happy actions, which create greater happiness.

The subsequent state of “have” is almost incidental. The awakened soul has already achieved its purpose just by beginning from its chosen state of being. Yet, beautifully, having is also a natural outcome of consistent habits of being and doing. A woman who is happy will laugh a lot and live with vitality. Inevitably, she will have warm relationships and bountiful opportunities that reflect her habits of happiness.

Beginning from a state of true beingness, then, is to succeed before finishing, and to plant the seeds of havingness, which an enlightened soul does not even require.

After reading this, I realized that some people use other orders of creation.

DO→BE→HAVE, if I DO what my parents say, then I can BE accepted, and then I will HAVE a good life.

Or, DO→HAVE→BE, if I DO Graduate School, I will HAVE a better income and more respect, and then I will BE Happy.

After some reflection, I found myself in agreement with Lee’s recommended order: BE→DO→HAVE, but then I asked myself, could a universal formula be created that reflected co-operation and interdependence, and that also might inspire future humanity? After, further reflection I came up with the phrase: Be Love→Do Good→Have Everything. I have found it so appropriate that I use as part of my signature.

This phrase also seems to form the perfect strategy for following Jesus of Nazareth’s Golden Rule, and for participating in a synergic gift economy.

Click to Enlarge Image

*What do I mean by HAVE EVERYTHING?

It is simple really, if you choose to BE unconditional LOVE, if you choose to DO only GOOD, then you can TRUST that others will choose to insure that you HAVE EVERYTHING that you want and need.

Within a synergic community, humans seek to have Win-Win relationships with each other. They believe in helping each other. They recognize their mutual INTERdependence. They know that sometimes they will need the help of others, and sometimes others will need their help. They choose to WORK TRUST each other.

A synergic help exchange is not a barter system or “tit for tat” exchange system. It is not charity. I give to others and trust that when I need help, others will gift to me.

This is not a philanthropic gift. Philanthropy is defined as the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause, with a defined objective and with no financial or material reward to the donor.

The Rules of the Synergic Help Exchange are few and quite simple.

1)   Do Only Good.

2)   Be as kind to yourself as you are to others within the community. Act with responsible generosity.

Be as generous to others as you can be, but remember to take good care of yourself and your family. Do what feels right, but be responsible in your offers of time and resources.

3)   If you become a member, you will always have a dual role. You will be both a GIFTor and a GIFTee.

In your role as a GIFTor, you will register your offer of GIFTS to others within the community. In your role as a GIFTee, you will also register your NEEDS for what you would like to receive as gifts from other members within the community.

4)   The GIFTor is always the ACTive partner in a synergic help exchange. GIVING is a verb. The role of GIFTee is always the passive part of a synergic help exchange. Receiving is passive. A GIFT is a noun.

5)   As a GIFTee, your list of NEEDS is made available to all GIFTors. Those GIFTors who have GIFTs that match your NEEDs are notified of a match. If they are interested in helping you, they will make you an OFFER of Help.

6)   As a GIFTor, you decide when, where, and to whom you will offer your GIFT. All GIFTing is voluntary.

7)   As a GIFTee, you will be notified when an offer of a GIFT has been made to you, then you will have the opportunity to look at a description of the offered GIFT, and the history, profile, comments about the GIFTor offering the GIFT. You may accept or decline the offered GIFT. All receiving of GIFTs is voluntary.

Visit The Gifting Earth

Front Page

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Today’s author is a gifted psychologist who believes in the kindness and love as the most powerful form of medicine. This essay is re-posted from GreaterGood website.

The Power of Touch

Dacher Keltner

A pat on the back, a caress of the arm—these are everyday, incidental gestures that we usually take for granted, thanks to our amazingly dexterous hands.

 But after years spent immersed in the science of touch, I can tell you that they are far more profound than we usually realize: They are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.

In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.

In my own lab, in a study led by my former student Matt Hertenstein (now a professor at DePauw University), we asked whether humans can clearly communicate compassion through touch.

Here’s what we did: We built a barrier in our lab that separated two strangers from each other. One person stuck his or her arm through the barrier and waited. The other person was given a list of emotions, and he or she had to try to convey each emotion through a one-second touch to the stranger’s forearm. The person whose arm was being touched had to guess the emotion.

Given the number of emotions being considered, the odds of guessing the right emotion by chance were about eight percent. But remarkably, participants guessed compassion correctly nearly 60 percent of the time. Gratitude, anger, love, fear—they got those right more than 50 percent of the time as well.

We had various gender combinations in the study, and I feel obligated to disclose two gender differences we found: When a woman tried to communicate anger to a man, he got zero right—he had no idea what she was doing. And when a man tried to communicate compassion to a woman, she didn’t know what was going on!

But obviously, there’s a bigger message here than “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” Touch provides its own language of compassion, a language that is essential to what it means to be human.

In fact, in other research I’ve found that people can not only identify love, gratitude, and compassion from touches but can differentiate between those kinds of touch, something people haven’t done as well in studies of facial and vocal communication.
Regrettably, though, some Western cultures are pretty touch-deprived, and this is especially true of the United States.

Ethologists who live in different parts world quickly recognize this. Nonhuman primates spend about 10 to 20 percent of their waking day grooming each other. If you go to various other countries, people spend a lot of time in direct physical contact with one another—much more than we do.

This has been well-documented. One of my favorite examples is a study from the 1960s by pioneering psychologist Sidney Jourard, who studied the conversations of friends in different parts of the world as they sat in a café together. He observed these conversations for the same amount of time in each of the different countries.

What did he find? In England, the two friends touched each other zero times. In the United States, in bursts of enthusiasm, we touched each other twice.

But in France, the number shot up to 110 times per hour. And in Puerto Rico, those friends touched each other 180 times!

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why people are inclined to keep their hands to themselves, especially in a society as litigious as ours. But other research has revealed what we lose when we hold back too much.

The benefits start from the moment we’re born. A review of research, conducted by Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment.

Similarly, research by Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney has found that rats whose mothers licked and groomed them a lot when they were infants grow up to be calmer and more resilient to stress, with a stronger immune system. This research sheds light on why, historically, an overwhelming percentage of humans babies in orphanages where caretakers starved them of touch have failed to grow to their expected height or weight, and have shown behavioral problems.

“To touch can be to give life,” said Michelangelo, and he was absolutely right.

From this frontier of touch research, we know thanks to neuroscientist Edmund Rolls that touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion.

We also know that touch builds up cooperative relationships—it reinforces reciprocity between our primate relatives, who use grooming to build up cooperative alliances.

There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body’s vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.”

In a study by Jim Coan and Richard Davidson, participants laying in an fMRI brain scanner, anticipating a painful blast of white noise, showed heightened brain activity in regions associated with threat and stress. But participants whose romantic partner stroked their arm while they waited didn’t show this reaction at all. Touch had turned off the threat switch.

Touch can even have economic effects, promoting trust and generosity. When psychologist Robert Kurzban had participants play the “prisoner’s dilemma” game, in which they could choose either to cooperate or compete with a partner for a limited amount of money, an experimenter gently touched some of the participants as they were starting to play the game—just a quick pat on the back. But it made a big difference: Those who were touched were much more likely to cooperate and share with their partner.

These kinds of benefits can pop up in unexpected places: In a recent study out of my lab, published in the journal Emotion we found that, in general, NBA basketball teams whose players touch each other more win more games.

Touch therapies
Given all these findings, it only makes sense to think up ways to incorporate touch into different form of therapy.

“Touch therapy” or “massage therapy” may sound like some weird Berkeley idea, but it’s got hard science on its side. It’s not just good for our muscles; it’s good for our entire physical and mental health.

Proper uses of touch truly have the potential to transform the practice of medicine—and they’re cost effective to boot. For example, studies show that touching patients with Alzheimer’s disease can have huge effects on getting them to relax, make emotional connections with others, and reduce their symptoms of depression.

Tiffany Field has found that massage therapy reduces pain in pregnant women and alleviates prenatal depression—in the women and their spouses alike. Research here at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health has found that getting eye contact and a pat on the back from a doctor may boost survival rates of patients with complex diseases.

And educators, take note: A study by French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen has found that when teachers pat students in a friendly way, those students are three times as likely to speak up in class. Another recent study has found that when librarians pat the hand of a student checking out a book, that student says he or she likes the library more—and is more likely to come back.

Touch can even be a therapeutic way to reach some of the most challenging children: Some research by Tiffany Field suggests that children with autism, widely believed to hate being touched, actually love being massaged by a parent or therapist.

This doesn’t mean you should turn around and grope your neighbor or invade the personal space of everyone around you.

But to me, the science of touch convincingly suggests that we’re wired to—we need to—connect with other people on a basic physical level. To deny that is to deprive ourselves of some of life’s greatest joys and deepest comforts.


Front Page

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Enjoyed this interview. Nice to see science looking at kindness and co-operation for a change. Reposted from Scientific American.

Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts

David DiSalvo interviews Dacher Keltner

Why do people do good things? Is kindness hard-wired into the brain, or does this tendency arise via experience? Or is goodness some combination of nature and nurture?

Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, investigates these questions from multiple angles, and often generates results that are both surprising and challenging. In his new book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Keltner weaves together scientific findings with personal narrative to uncover the innate power of human emotion to connect people with each other, which he argues is the path to living the good life. Keltner was kind enough to take some time out to discuss altruism, Darwinism, neurobiology and practical applications of his findings with David DiSalvo.

DISALVO: You have a book that was just released called Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. What in a nutshell does the term “born to be good” mean to you, and what are you hoping people learn from reading the book?

KELTNER: “Born to be good” for me means that our mammalian and hominid evolution have crafted a species—us—with remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence and self-sacrifice, which are vital to the classic tasks of evolution—survival, gene replication and smooth functioning groups. These tendencies are felt in the wonderful realm of emotion—emotions such as compassion, gratitude, awe, embarrassment and mirth. These emotions were of interest to Darwin, and Darwin-inspired studies have revealed that our capacity for caring, for play, for reverence and modesty are built into our brains, bodies, genes and social practices. My hopes for potential readers are numerous. I hope they learn about the remarkable wisdom of Darwin and the wonders of the study of emotion. I hope they come to look at human nature in a new light, one that is more hopeful and sanguine. I hope they may see the profoundly cooperative nature of much of our daily social living.

DISALVO: You’ve said that one of the inspirations for your work was Charles Darwin’s insights into human goodness. Because most people equate his name with “survival of the fittest,” it’ll probably be surprising to many that Darwin focused on goodness at all. What were a few of your take aways from Darwin’s work that really inspired you?

KELTNER: What an important question. We so often assume both in the scientific community, and in our culture at large, that Darwin thought humans were violent and competitive and self-interested in their natural state. That is a misrepresentation of what Darwin actually believed, and where the evolutionary study of human goodness is going.

My take aways from Darwin are twofold, and as you suggest above, I was surprised as well in arriving at an understanding of Darwin’s view of human nature. The first take away is found in Descent of Man, where Darwin argues that we are a profoundly social and caring species. This idea is reflected in the two quotes below, where Darwin argues that our tendencies toward sympathy are instinctual and evolved (and not some cultural construct as so many have assumed), and even stronger (or perhaps more ethical—see his observation about the “timid man” below) than the instinct for self-preservation:

“For firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of his fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them.  … Such actions as the above appear to be the simple result of the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive; for they are performed too instantaneously for reflection, or for pleasure or even misery might be felt.  In a timid man, on the other hand, the instinct of self-preservation might be so strong, that he would be unable to force himself to run any such risk, perhaps not even for his own child.”

The second take away comes from close study of Darwin’s Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, published one year after Descent of Man. There, Darwin details descriptions of emotions such as reverence, love, tenderness, laughter, embarrassment and the conceptual tools to document the evolutionary origins of these emotions. That led me to my own work on the physiology and display of these remarkable emotions, and to the science-based conclusion that these emotions lie at the core of our capacities for virtue and cooperation.

DISALVO: You recently wrote an article with the provocative title “In Defense of Teasing.” Because we’re ostensibly a society set against teasing in any form (school, workplace, and so on), what do you think teasing has to offer that we might be missing?

KELTNER: Teasing is the art of playful provocation, of using our playful voices and bodies to provoke others to avoid inappropriate behaviors. Marc Bekoff, a biologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has found in remarkable work with coyotes that they sort out leaders from aggressive types in their rough-and-tumble biting. The coyotes that bite too hard in such provocative play are relegated to low status positions. We likewise accomplish so much with the right kind of teasing.

Teasing (in the right way, which is what most people do) offers so much. It is a way to play and express affection. It is a way of negotiating conflicts at work and in the family. Teasing exchanges teach children how to use their voices in innumerable ways—such an important medium of communication. In teasing, children learn boundaries between harm and play. And children learn empathy in teasing, and how to appreciate others’ feelings (for example, in going too far). And in teasing we have fun. All of this benefit is accomplished in this remarkable modality of play.

DISALVO: Your team at U.C. Berkley has done a lot of interesting research on the vagus nerve and its association with altruistic feelings. Tell us a bit about this research and its implications for better understanding the nature of altruism.

KELTNER: The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system.  It is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord, it activates different organs throughout the body (heart, lungs, liver, digestive organs). When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest, for example when we are moved by someone’s goodness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music. University of Illinois, Chicago, psychiatrist Steve Porges long ago argued that the vagus nerve is a care-taking organ in the body (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to oxytocin receptor networks. And it is unique to mammals.

Our research and that of other scientists suggests that the vagus nerve may be a physiological system that supports caretaking and altruism. We have found that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of compassion and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity.  People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love, happiness. Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with elevated vagal tone (high baseline vagus nerve activity) are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism—that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.

DISALVO: Oftentimes we learn about intriguing academic work being done on emotions, morality and related areas, but are left asking, “OK, but how do we do any of this? Is there anything we can make actual use of here?” Looking down the road, what do you want the impact of your work to be out in the world?

KELTNER: I have always felt that our science is only as good as the truthful rendition of reality that it provides and the good that it brings to our species. In summarizing the new science of emotion in Born To Be Good, I was struck by how useful this science is. The ancient approaches to ethics and virtue—for example, found in Aristotle or Confucius—privileged things such as compassion, gratitude and reverence. A new science of virtue and morality is suggesting that our capacities for virtue and cooperation and our moral sense are old in evolutionary terms, and found in emotions that I write about in Born To Be Good.

And a new science of happiness is finding that these emotions can be readily cultivated in familiar ways, bringing out the good in others and in oneself. Here are some recent empirical examples:

Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.

Talking about areas of gratitude, in classrooms, at the dinner table or in the diary, boosts happiness and social well-being and health.

Experiences of reverence in nature or around morally inspiring others improves people’s sense of connection to others and sense of purpose.

Laughing and playing in the face of trauma gives the person perspective upon life’s inevitable difficulties, and improves resilience and adjustment.

Devoting resources to others, rather than indulging a materialist desire, brings about lasting well being.

This kind of science gives me many hopes for the future. At the broadest level, I hope that our culture shifts from a consumption-based, materialist culture to one that privileges the social joys (play, caring, touch, mirth) that are our older (in the evolutionary sense) sources of the good life. In more specific terms, I see this new science informing practices in almost every realm of life. Here again are some well-founded examples. Medical doctors are now receiving training in the tools of compassion—empathetic listening, warm touch—that almost certainly improve basic health outcomes. Teachers now regularly teach the tools of empathy and respect. Executives are learning the wisdom around the country of emotional intelligence—respect, building trust—that there is more to a company’s thriving than profit or the bottom line. In prisons and juvenile detention centers, meditation is being taught.

© 2012 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

Front Page

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

I believe Genius and Goodness are natural behaviors available to every healthy human. I think that these behaviors can become common if more humans understand how their brains and minds work. I am currently working on a book that will reveal the basis for my beliefs. You can see a brief preview here.

Understanding Human Intelligence and Knowing

Timothy Wilken, MD

I believe that it is possible for most humans to understand, and then master their intelligence fully. Those who choose to do so, can with practice, develop the ability to access all five modes of thinking: Survive, Adapt, Control, Create, and Co-Operate at will. With additional study and contemplation they can gain mastery of the four levels of knowing: Perception, Conception, Mechanism, and Consequence.

PERCEPTION is the understanding of space and sameness—spacial integrity— recognizing WHAT is associated with Good Space and WHAT is associated with Bad Space. PERCEPTION is also knowing WHERE to go to enable or avoid a recognized event—knowing WHERE to go to secure Good Space and WHERE to go to avoid Bad Space. PERCEPTION enables the ability of Adaptation.

CONCEPTION is the understanding of time and difference—temporal sequence—local cause and effect, and from that understanding knowing WHEN to act in time to encourage a desired event, or WHEN to act in time to discourage an undesired event from occurring. CONCEPTION enables the ability of Control.

MECHANISM is the understanding of HOW things work together—what events and actions are necessary to produce a desired resultant—knowing how PERCEPTION and CONCEPTION relate to each other. MECHANISM enables the ability of Creation.

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the understanding of the potential risks and benefits of our actions and their effects on our selves and upon others. CONSEQUENCE enables the ability of Co-Operation.

Let me provide one example of these four levels of knowing, and how they might apply to one problem currently threatening our civilization. As Albert Einstein warned us over sixty-six years ago:

“The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Einstein had discovered one of Nature’s MECHANISMS: E=mc2

The scientists and technicians working at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico used their KnowHow to weaponize this MECHANISM of Nature with the creation of nuclear bombs.

Now let us examine the threat of nuclear weapons from the perspective of our four levels of human knowing. PERCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to adapt to a nuclear event —to know what is associated with a nuclear blast, and to know where to go to escape from the blast of a nuclear weapon. Where is Good Space? Where can I go to avoid Bad Space?

CONCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to control a nuclear event  — to know when to act to either detonate, or deactivate a nuclear weapon. What is the proper sequence of actions to control the process? And, when to I enter the activation code? Or, when do I enter the deactivation code?

MECHANISM is the level of knowing necessary to create a nuclear event — to know how reality allows the forces of nature to interact and result in a nuclear explosion — E=mc2. And, it also is the level of understanding necessary to invent and manufacture the technology of a nuclear weapon — the Manhattan Project. How do I design a nuclear device?

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the level of knowing necessary in order to co-Operate — to know why that we should never have created nuclear weapons in the first place. Why are we creating these devices? What will be the consequence of their existence?


Front Page

Sunday, December 25th, 2011


Happy Jesus of Nazareth Day!

Go Be Reconciled With Thy Brother!

The Golden Rule

Timothy Wilken, MD

Edward Haskell, a pioneer of synergic science, explained:

“The first formulation of the MORAL LAW for a non-human “kingdom” of Universe was Dimitri Mendeleev’s discovery of the Periodic Law in 1869. “The properties of the chemical elements are functions of their atomic weights.”

“What Mendeleev’s discovery states for Atoms is that “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” where “reaping” is the properties of the chemical elements and “sowing” is the co-Action between the atom’s two components ≠ its vast, light, electron cloud, and its tiny, massive nucleus.”

Haskell’s analysis of the Atomic elements showed that these two components ≠ the electron cloud and the massive nucleus related in only three ways ≠ positive, neutral, or negative. Haskell called this the Moral Law of Unified Science.

For humans, the earliest formulation of the Moral Law of Unified Science appeared 3500 years ago as the doctrine of karma.

“Hinduism began in India about 1500 BC. The belief in rebirth, or samsara, as a potentially endless series of worldly existences in which every being is caught up was associated with the doctrine of karma (Sanskrit: karman; literally “act,” or “deed”). According to the doctrine of karma, good conduct brings a pleasant and happy result and creates a tendency toward similar good acts, while bad conduct brings an evil result and creates a tendency toward repeated evil actions. This furnishes the basic context for the moral life of the individual.”

The doctrine of karma was accepted by Buddha ~500 BC and is incorporated in modern Buddhism today. It appeared in western thought ~300 BC, in the Old Testament of the Bible as the phrase: 

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

Two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth stated this law this way:

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.“

Recall Universe is now understood to be process. Reality is a happening. Many things are going on all at once. Living systems ≠the plants, animals, and we humans all live within the EVENT paradigm. Buckminster Fuller defined an event to be a triad of related phenomena≠ action, reaction, resultant.

The dynamics of all behavior can be understood using these three concepts. Fuller discovered for every action there is a reaction, and a precessional resultant.

I can decide on an action. I can then implement my action. The environment including all life forms react to my action, the vector sum of the two (my action and the world’s reaction) produce a resultant. I act, the rest of the world reacts, and when it all settles down the change made by the interaction of the action and reaction is the resultant.

Now reformulating Haskell’s The Moral Law of Unified Science to include Fuller’s Principle of Action≠-Reaction≠-Resultant, we get:

Adversary action tends to provoke adversary reaction ending in an adversary resultant.

Neutral action tends to provoke neutral reaction ending in a neutral resultant.

And synergic action tends to provoke synergic reaction ending in a synergic resultant.

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

We humans have three choices. We can sow adversary actions and reap adversary resultants. We can sow neutral actions and reap neutral resultants. Or we can sow synergic actions and reap synergic resultants.

The First Synergic Scientist

The first formulation of the synergic corollary of the Moral Law of Unified Science was:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This formulation is credited to Jesus of Nazareth who intuitively discovered the synergic way 2000 years ago. He gave us the rules for synergic relationship in his sermon on the mount.

 ”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.  So go and be reconciled with thy brother.”

But, can we modern humans do this? Can North American whites love the South American browns? Can the Jews love the Arabs? Can the Northern Irish love the English? Can the Bosnians love the Serbs? Can the South African whites love the South African blacks?

Are we humans better able to love today? Have we learned enough in 2000 years—“To reconcile with our brother”?

Jesus of Nazareth may have been the first human to embrace synergy. His words seem to capture the very essence of synergic morality. Synergic morality is more than not hurting other, it requires helping other. Jesus was the first human to state the fundamental law of synergic relationship. It is known as the Golden Rule:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law.”

What would you have others do to you? The best one word answer I can find for this question is help. “Help others as you would have them help you.” Synergic morality is helping.

Andrew J. Galambos, in his lectures describing Moral Capitalism, often quoted the negative version of the Golden Rule:

“Do not do to others what you would have them not do to you.”

What would you have others not do to you?

Here the best one word answer is hurt. “Do not hurt others as you would have them not hurt you.”

The negative version of the Golden Rule is true and correct as far as it goes. In fact, it is the underlying premise for the Neutral Morality found in the western world today. But, Synergic Morality requires more of us than simply not hurting. It requires more of us than simply ignoring others. It requires us to help others ≠ to help each other.

Jesus of Nazareth understood this on the deepest of levels. He called for more than a prohibition against hurting others. He asked all humans to help each other.

Synergic Morality is more than the absence of hurting. It is the presence of helping. Synergic Morality rests then on the premise≠ that when you help others, you will find yourself helped in return.

So whether you believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ foretold in the Old Testament, or just a man, his words bring wisdom to all of humanity.

Read the essay: What’s wrong with wishing others a Merry Christmas?

Front Page

Sunday, November 27th, 2011



How a Win-Win Gift Exchange Works

Timothy Wilken, MD

Synergic science is the study of how things can best work together. It examines the processes of Light, Particles, Atoms, Molecules, the Plants, the Animals and we Humans. One of the discoveries of synergic science is that the best organizations–most efficient, most productive and most happy–are those where the participants have win-win relationships with each other.

From synergic science, a tensegrity is the pattern that results when push and pull have a win-win relationship with each other. The pull is continuous and the push is discontinuous. The continuous pull is balanced by the discontinuous push producing an integrity of tension and compression. This creates a powerful self-stabilizing system.

We humans have needs that are continuously pulling on us to be met. To meet these needs we or an other, working on our behalf,  must take actions to meet these needs. While our needs continuously pull on us, actions are discontinuous pushes. Humans as theinterdependent class of life can have positive relationships with each other. We can form a gifting tensegrity, where we are continuously being helped,and where we arediscontinuouslyhelpingothers. For convenience, We can combine the two terms ‘gifting’ and ‘tensegrity’ into a shorter term GIFTegrity.

The GIFTegrity is a newly invented mechanism for the exchange of human help. Let us begin by describing how a GIFTegrity might be structured and how it could work. Every member of a GIFTegrity community would participate in two roles–as a GIFTor and as a GIFTee. Every member participates by both gifting help to others and by receiving help from others.

The continuous pull of the GIFTees’ needs are balanced by the discontinuous push from the GIFTors’ offers  of help. Again we see as an INTERdependent life form, there will be times when we will help others and times when others will help us.

The GIFTegrity works on trust. I give help to those in need and trust that when I am in need there will be those who will give me help. Synergic Trust was discovered long ago, and was once known as:

The Spiritual Principle Of Giving And Receiving

“When we give to one another, freely and without conditions, sharing our blessings with others and bearing each other’s burdens, the giving multiplies and we receive far more than what was given. Even when there is no immediate prospect of return, Heaven keeps accounts of giving, and in the end blessing will return to the giver, multiplied manyfold. We must give first; to expect to receive without having given is to violate the universal law. On the other hand, giving in order to receive — with strings attached, with the intention of currying favor, or in order to make a name for oneself — is condemned.”

And while, The Spiritual Principle of Giving and Receiving relies on “Heaven to keep account of giving,” the GIFTegrity relies on a public database to keep account of giving and receiving. This database of the synergic help exchange is a public space where the exchanging of help is made visible to all members who are participants in good standing.When you join a Gift Tensegrity you sign in and register as a Giftor-Giftee. You will fill out two profiles. The first profile is for your role as a GIFTor. Your GIFTor profile is the list of the types of help you would like to give or share with other members of the GIFTegrity.

The second profile is for your role as a GIFTee. Your GIFTee profile is the list of the types of help you would like to receive or borrow from other members of the GIFTegrity. A third profile will develop as GIFTor-GIFTee members use the GIFTegtity. This is the personal history of each member’s giving, sharing,  receiving and borrowing. This profile is transparent. It can be seen by all members who are participants in good standing. It shows all the gifts you have given, all the gifts you have shared, all the gifts you have received, and  and all the gifts you have borrowed as well as any comments made by you and your partner’s in the gift exchange.

Every exchange generates a GIFTor’s comment rating the GIFTee, and a GIFTee’s comment rating the GIFTor.

Now once a new member has completed their GIFTor and GIFTee registration and entered all their data into the data base, the computer helps the members sort and matche gifts of help with needs for help.

Within the GIFTegrity, the role of GIFTor is active. The role of GIFTee is passive. This means that once the computer has completed sorting and matching registered gifts of help with registered needs of help, the lists of matches are presented to the GIFTor. These matches are not available for viewing by the GIFTee.

The list of matchs can be sorted with those who have the highest ratio of giving/receiving and most positive comments being sorted higher on the list than those who have lower ratio of giving/receiving and negative comments. Or the member can sort them in the exact opposite way. Control of gifting lies totally within the control of the GIFTor. You may choose to support those who have given the most to the GIFTegrity community or you may choose to support those who have given the least. The choice of who and when to gift to other belongs the one gifting. The needs and gifts database can be sorted in multiple ways, as the members like.

Freedom of Choice in the Synergic Help Exchange

However, the Giftor is free to offer his gift to anyone on the list regardless of the order presented. The Giftor is in control of his giving. Once the Giftor has made his choice and selected a Giftee to receive his offer of help, then the Giftee is notified that an offer of help has been made.

The Giftee is then presented with a list of offers of help from those Giftors that have selected them for offers. With these offers of help comes access to the profiles of the offering Giftors. The giftee is then free to examine the offer carefully, read the profile of the Giftor and decide whether to accept the offer or not.

Freedom of choice is an absolute tenant of the GIFTegrity. The GIFTor decides when and to whom to offer a gift of help. The GIFTee decides when and from whom to accept a gift offer of help. GIFTors are unknown to GIFTees unless the GIFTor offers help. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept an offered gift. At this point the GIFTee may contact the GIFTor with questions or clarifications about the offer. If the GIFTee accepts the offer, than that action is recorded as a synergic help exchange and both profiles are updated. Both GIFTor and GIFTee can make comments about the interaction then or at a later time if more appropriate. If the GIFTee declines the offer of help, the GIFTor is notified so they can offer their help to some other member of the GIFTegrity.

What you might give or receive

How do you registering the types of help you might choose to give or like to receive? It would seem that almost any good or service could be exchanged in a synergic help tensegrity. I would suggest four general classes of Gifts as a way of organizing the data base. Also considerations of Local, Regional and Global come into play.

1) Goods – THINGS: Tools, Appliances, Equipment, Automobiles, Trucks, Tractors, Lawnmowers, House Furniture, Household Goods, Furnishings, Materials, Supplies, etc., etc., etc..

And, you can give these things away fully or only gift the use of them for a specified time. Location is very important for the gift of using a tool or appliance, perhaps less important if the item is given away fully. Shipping costs might make a difference, but you can Gift an item with the provision that the Giftee pay shipping.

2) Actions – SERVICES: Projects, Labor (skilled and unskilled), Jobs and Tasks.

This could be as simple as baby sitting, or giving someone a ride to as complex as building a room on someone’s house or writing a custom software program, etc., etc., etc.. It could be a million and one different forms of helping provided by humans in action. Location is very important. Many services would only available locally.

3) Knowing – KNOWLEDGE: Expertise, Consultations, Counseling, and Advise.

Those humans with expertise in almost any field can make that expertise available to others as a gift. Physicians, Attorneys, Accountants, Engineers, Scientists, Teachers, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication.

Knowing can also be available in the form or books, art, courses, online files, etc., etc., etc.. Location may be less important with telephone and internet communication.

4) Compassion – KINDNESS: Empathy, Sympathy, Love, and Support.

Compassion is a very personal form of gift. It is the most human of gifts.  Compassion can come in many forms. It may just be lending an ear, holding space with another, or holding someone’s hand. Those humans with experience of the difficult challenges encountered in life  can share the lessons they have learned from those challenges with others as a gift. Those that have lost the most, have often learned the greatest lessons. Those that have faced Death in the form of Cancer, Major Injury or Illness, and those that have lost loved ones — children, spouses, or parents, may be best prepared to help their fellow humans who face similar challenges.

Because the personal touch is so powerful with Compassion, this gift is often best given locally, but location may be less important with the growing power of internet communication — such as Skype and FaceTime.

Conditional Gifting

You can gift anything with conditions. A gift is an offer of help. The GIFTee is under no obligation to accept the offer. Synergic exchange is fully voluntary. The GIFTor makes offers of help when and to whom he chooses. The GIFTee accepts offers of help when and from whom they choose. Conditions of gifting is both intelligent and synergic.

Things that are gifted can be new or used. Working or not working. The important thing is to describe the offered gift accurately. A television repairman might like the gift of an old TV, that he will repair and use or gift to someone else.

Many of us have tools that we only use occasionally. If I gift the use of a tool for a weekend, I may do so with the condition that it be returned in clean and in good condition.

Since your giving-receiving profile is based not on the number of gifts offered, but rather on the number of gift offers accepted, it is of great importance to have a good relationship with the GIFTee. That means your descriptions of an offered gift needs to be very accurate. No one will be criticized for gifting junk as long as they describe it accurately as junk. Those seeking junk will be happy. Remember one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Transparency in the GIFTegrity

Your ranking on the help offer lists is determined in part by your ratio of giving-receiving. Every time your offers of help are accepted your ratio goes up. Those who give the most to others will probably be the most honored members in the community of the GIFTegrity. So you will want to give as much as you can. Likewise every time you accept a gift offering from others your ratio goes down. So you will want to accept others gifts carefully and only when you truly value  and need them. The purpose of synergic help exchange is to help our fellow members meet their needs. T