Saturday, June 16, 2018

Spirituality And Reality

There are many people who see spiritual beliefs as a function of failure to deal with reality. This is wrong – this is completely wrong.

The reason is that there is a lot more to reality than what these people acknowledge. I for one have had many experiences with less than a billionth chance of happening whose only possible explanations are spiritual and religious. The number of these experiences is such that I would have to be a complete psycho to deny them. I do not have the luxury of such beliefs.

Some things can be measured. Others cannot be measured, at least using present technology. They are felt. They are intuited. They are real even though they are not measurable with our present machines.

Sometimes they actually can be measured. I used to see master numbers on the clock – numbers such as 2:22 and 3:33 – so one day I decided to set up an experiment. I set four different clocks to four different times around the house and recorded every time that I looked at the clock. One in ten of the numbers I got were master numbers, when by chance it would be one in sixty.

One day I saw in a meditation an outpouring of sorrow in Argentina. Shortly after that I picked up a paper and found out that there was an outpouring of sorrow in Argentina because someone famous had died.

My girlfriend woke up in the middle of the night, complaining that her ex-husband was speaking to her in spirit. In the morning she decided to test it, so she said in her head, “OK Todd, if you have been speaking to me in spirit call me.” Less than a minute later Todd called her and told her that he had been talking to her in spirit.

In 1995, I had a beautiful relationship with a woman named Michelle, who had finished Harvard in three years and who was a poet. In 2000 I wanted to have it recapitulated, so what happens but that I start corresponding with a woman named Michele, who had finished Caltech in three years, who was a poet, and who in 1995 had had a similarly beautiful relationship with a man from Bulgaria whose last name was similar to my middle name.

In all of these cases we see results that are vastly outside of chance, and whose only explanations are spiritual and religious.

When I started talking about these experiences, most of what I got was crap. Supposedly I was stupid; supposedly I was illogical; supposedly I was a kook. I am none of these things. I am somebody who has had many spiritual experiences, and who, unlike any number of those involved in skepticism, is too honest to deny them.

Logic is a method, not a worldview. When something happens that contradicts the worldview, the logical thing to do is to correct the worldview and not to deny the experience. The other path is not logical; it is dishonest.

Just how dishonest? I once knew a young mathematics teacher who said that he ignored all claims of the supernatural. This is not logic, it is dishonesty. In fact there are many genuine scientists who speak openly about their spiritual experiences, and I am acquainted with a distinguished anthropology professor who speaks of such things quite a lot. He can do logic at least as well as any skeptic. He also knows that there is more to reality than what these people believe.

Another false belief about spiritual experiences is that they are all positive. That is wrong as well. Spiritual experiences can be scary. At the very least they are going to be disruptive to a worldview that denies them. That is not the fault of spiritual experience. That is the fault of the worldview.

Do we throw away science? Not at all. However we have the obligation to make sense of such things, whether or not they are what we want or what accords with what we know of the world. As Augustine said, “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” The main implication of such things is that we cannot be simply evolving matter. It strongly points to an intelligent creator; and that means everything for how we live our lives.

A Christian scientist was talking in the church about the “survival-of-the-fittest” theory. He said that the fittest being in the world was Jesus, and Jesus sacrificed Himself for the rest of us. He did not order us to live by Darwinian dynamics. He ordered us to live how God wants us to live.

How could Christianity have outlasted the Roman Empire if it was stupid? How could it have become formative to the greatest civilization in the history of the world? Paul was nowhere close to being stupid. He was brilliant. And people have much to learn from what he said and did.

One thing is for sure. Spirituality is not for fools, lunatics or conmen. It has adherents with vastly greater intellect than its critics, most of whom are also better human beings. Any attempt to pathologize such a thing is supreme arrogance of thinking that your worldview is better than reality. Once again, there is vastly more to reality than these people believe there to be. And the logical thing to do, when faced with this, is to correct the worldview.

I have shared some of my experiences. I have a testimony of many others, including people of exceptional intelligence and character. And they have a much greater understanding of reality than the engineering types who think that they are the only sane and rational people in the world.

To simply condemn something that the bulk of humanity believes in is a far greater hubris than anything that such people ascribe to the spiritually minded. And it is a highly destructive form of hubris that beats people down and prevents valuable things from being done. So it is time that more people call these bullies on their behavior. Do not discard science; discard materialistic bigotry. And allow people the benefits of both mind and spirit, resulting in them leading much better lives.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Psychologists: Improve People's Character, Not Self-Esteem

There are some in psychology who see low self-esteem as the root cause of all social and personal problems and believe that such things can be eliminated by raising people's self-esteem.

This is ridiculous.

There can be any number of reasons for wrongful conduct. It can be due to ignorance, to bad values, to wrong beliefs. It can be wrong done intentionally and it can be wrong done unintentionally. To claim that the universal reason for such things is low self-esteem is just as wrong as the Buddhists claiming that all suffering comes from desire, or New Agers claiming that positive thinking will solve everything wrong with the world.

These people think that solution starts with high self-esteem. That is not the starting point; that is the end point. What you need to do instead is work on your character. Then there is more about yourself to esteem.

If that is not done, self-esteem becomes a goose chase. There will always be someone to tear you down, and keeping getting up will after a while get completely tedious. It becomes a Sysiphean labor. The reason is that nothing real changes. All that happens is that you feel differently about yourself. And that means that your house is built on sand.

Instead it makes much more sense to build the house on a rock. Create solid character. As for psychology, it needs to make much more headway into figuring out just how character can be built. I have some ideas on the subject, and I have experiential reasons for saying that this is in fact possible. I want to see psychology discard its self-esteem errors and figure out instead how to help people build character. And then the changes that do take place will be real and lasting and will actually make you a better person, resulting in there being more reason for you to esteem yourself well.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Feminism And Western Civilization

A former friend of mine wrote in late 1990s that women had become "hateful, arrogant dykes."

I have an idea as to how that happened.

The form of feminism at the time taught that the Western civilization's cultural legacy was racist and patriarchal. They decided that anyone who took part in any aspect of it was an idiot, and that they, as the only people around them who did not, were the only people in the world who were not idiots. Their attitude was not a function of their character. It was a direct function of their beliefs. If you think that the whole world is composed of idiots and that only the people who believe what you believe are not idiots, then you are going to be hateful and arrogant as a function of these beliefs.

Their contempt was directed especially at women who were attractive and women who liked men. They thought that all these women were weak and stupid, and that they were the only smart and strong women in the world. I have seen similar conduct on the part of Nazis and skinheads, who think that they are the only real men in the world and that everyone else is a sissy or a racial inferior.

Wrong beliefs are refuted by reality. Right now, the biggest reality serving to refute these beliefs is the influx of women from Eastern Europe. These women are at least as smart and as strong as any American feminist, and they have better ideas on how to conduct themselves. So we see now in the White House a beautiful, strong-willed woman from Slovenia who can hold her own in any argument with any American feminist.

The more such women come to America, the more there is real-world refutation of wrongful things that have come from feminism.

Is everything that has been part of Western cultural legacy racist or patriarchial? The Western cultural legacy has included many women, and not stupid or weak ones either. I have translated two such influences - Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva. The West has had many great minds, and I have not seen feminists produce work comparable to that of the Western classics. Their influence has been less transformative and more destructive. They were effective at deconstructing various Western beliefs; but their own beliefs have not been an improvement on most of them.

So this stupidity has begotten another stupidity from the other side. It is the strident misogyny that has been going around, claiming that women are stupid and evil and that when they are given freedom they turn into Catherine McKinnon. That is completely wrong as well. There is nothing stupid or evil about my mother or my daughter, and I would punch in the face any man who says such things about them.

What are we seeing happening here? What we are seeing here is a massive intellectual error: Rejecting the legacy of an entire civilization because some influences in it have been pricks. What people who do such a thing perform is failing to avail themselves of useful knowledge. A civilization does not rise to the leadership of the world by being stupid. It rises to the leadership of the world by having valuable ideas; and these can be useful even to feminists themselves.

Of course the Western civilization has seen many different directions. The Western civilisation means everything from Thomas Hobbes to William Blake, and these two would have gotten into a fistfight. I have seen a Western Buddhist writing that the Western philosophy is contradictory. There is a very good reason for that. The Western philosophy owes to many influences that come from many different places. It is contradictory because it comes from contradictory sources. And there are things to be learned from many of these sources for just about anything that a person may seek to do.

So we have Shakespeare writing The Taming Of The Shrew, but we also have Shakespeare writing Othello. We have Nietzsche writing that women should raise great men instead of attempting to become great themselves, and we have John Stuart Mill writing brilliant and passionate work in support of women's rights. As for myself, I support women's rights, and I have been involved in a fight against domestic violence. But in no way do I support destructive, hateful, and arrogant influences such as what we have seen above.

There are differences between men and women, and there are differences among men and women. I was seen in my childhood as a girlie-boy, but women in my adult life have found me to be masculine. I have closely known women who were completely different from one another, as well as men who were completely different from one another. But my daughter has always been very feminine even though neither I nor her mother were instructing her in that direction. I once read a feminist woman talking about how her three-year-old son thought that he was a dinosaur and wanted to chew off her foot, and how she realised at that point that there are clearly natural differences between women and men.

Should all men be coerced in the same way, and all women in another? I do not believe that they should be. However neither is it correct to disown an entire cultural legacy or to have contempt for anyone who takes part in any aspect of it. The correct solution is to present great works, and it is also to produce great works. And that will result in the civilization growing and in people in it - both men and women - growing in knowledge and wisdom.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Self-Esteem And Character

Many in psychology see the solution to personal problems as working on self-esteem or loving yourself. An argument I've heard is that a person who esteems himself well will also esteem others well and be a good person. That is wrong. It works the other way around. You become a better person, there are more reasons for you to esteem yourself well and there are more reasons to love yourself.

The solution is not working on self-esteem but working on character. It is actually improving yourself. That being done, better self-esteem follows.

How do you work on yourself? One part is exercise, which builds discipline. Another is holding yourself to a high standard of conduct. It is to monitor your actions and your thoughts and getting rid of what is unworthy. And it is replacing it with rightful thought and rightful action.

Working on self-esteem is a goose chase. There will always be someone to tear down whatever self-esteem you build. But character is something that nobody can take away from you; and improvement in character is real, lasting improvement.

So I would recommend people to stay away from self-esteem psychology and instead to go to character building. The result will be an actual improvement rather than a perceived improvement. And the perceived improvement will follow.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fairy Tales And Political Correctness

In the Salvation Army's magazine “Others,” Amanda Merrett has made a case for exclusion of fairy tales from the curriculum, stating that they postulated the view that women are objects or that they are only seen as valuable when with a man.

There are many reasons to challenge this point of view.

One of Merrett's examples was in “Beauty And The Beast.” She stated that it “normalizes a dangerous idea that a man's aggressive behavior can be affectionate.” That does not begin to be the message of “Beauty And The Beast.” The true message of the fairy tale is that a woman has been able to turn a bad person into a good person, which is highly empowering to women and sees them as not being less than men but in many ways men's superior. And another message is that a woman can get away from a powerful man who wants her for an acquisition and is willing to do nasty things in his aggressive wooing of her. Both messages are empowering to women.

Somewhat similar is a message in “Peter Pan.” By kissing Peter Pan, Wendy was able to give him the strength that he needed to defeat Captain Hook. Once again, the message here is that women have power – power that men by themselves do not have.

Another of Merrett's examples was Ariel giving up her voice in order to be with a prince whom she did not know. For a symmetry, we have “Cinderella,” in which a prince chooses for his wife a girl from a humble background whom he knew nothing about. In both cases a huge risk is taken – one by a woman, the other by a man. This is, once again, symmetrical, and there is nothing sexist about it.

“Cinderella” is empowering especially to women from the rough side of town. It shows a woman who was degraded at home by her female relatives captivating a prince. Unfortunately, other females degrading the kinder, prettier girls appears to be in fashion these days. Which means that stories like “Cinderella” will be more in demand.

In real life, one of the most best-selling children's authors of all time was a woman named Beatrix Potter. She did not become famous through men. She became famous through her own efforts. And her accomplishment is far greater than that of women who profane the West's literary tradition without replacing it with anything of nearly the same quality.

Are there fairy tales with themes that are misogynistic? In Russia there is “Baba Yaga,” a witch who lives in the woods and eats children. There is not much of an excuse for that. However in the fairy tales mentioned we do not see misogyny. Once again, in many respects the message here is favorable to women.

To the people who take objection to West's literary and cultural legacy, I pose a challenge. Create something of similar quality to the works that you attack. Create something that compares to “Beauty And The Beast.” For that matter, create something that compares to works of Shakespeare. And then you will be a transformative influence instead of a destructive influence, ushering in something that is better than what it stands to replace.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Natural Consequences And Artificial Consequences

When I was 12 or 13, a Russian immigrant lady advised my father to use corporal punishment on me. She said that I was a smart boy and that I would get the point.

What she did not understand was that I was in fact too smart a boy to fall for such a transparent manipulation. The distinction that needs to be made is between actions' natural consequences and their artificial consequences. In the first case we see a logical outgrowth of the action itself. In the second case is a consequence assigned to the action by others. If a parent chooses to be violent to their child, that is not the natural consequence of the child's actions. It is an artificial consequence assigned to the child's actions by the parents.

We see this around us all the time – this confusion between natural consequences and artificial consequences. We see this especially in the matter of love. When love is attacked from many different sides – by toxic feminists, by predatory psychologists, by unethical divorce lawyers – love will be at a disadvantage. Most love relationships will fail. At which point the people responsible for this state of affairs will howl victory and say that they have been right about love all along.

For a long time we saw this with women as well. They were treated as slaves. If you are a slave and you have intelligence or other strengthening qualities, then that will make you dangerous to people who want to see you and yours remaining a slave. So for a long time the women of intellect were seen as danger to society. Most of them were persecuted, in order to keep up the lie that women are stupid and should be slaves. And the ones who would not had to learn brilliant manipulation, which of course was used to claim that women were evil.

Now there are many situations in which artificial consequences are assigned rightfully. If you rob someone or commit murder, then you should go to jail. However let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that this is a natural consequence of such behavior. It is not. It is an artificial consequence assigned to it – in this case rightfully – by society.

So it is important to make a distinction between natural consequences and artificial consequences. If you choose to beat your child, that is not the natural consequence of your child's behavior. That is an artificial consequence that you have assigned to the child's deeds. As for myself, I hold myself to a higher standard of conduct as a parent. And I hope that other parents take my advice and allow the child to learn the actions' natural consequences and navigate life intelligently as a result.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Rationality And Love

There are some people who are of the opinion that romantic love is irrational.

For an opposing view, we have John Nash, a pioneering mathematician, stating that truth is found in the equations of love.

The World War II generation was hardly irrational; but many of them practiced love – successfully. I know a man who was Vice President of the National Academy Of Science – as well as a military colonel – who started his marriage with love at first sight. To the best of my knowledge his marriage continued “till death do us part,” and they raised a very successful family while continuing to love one another till a very late age.

One persistent problem I find in people who think themselves rational is that they consider as being irrational anything that runs by a different logic than what they themselves practice. Something is not exactly the way they think, so it must be irrational. This kind of arrogance and stupidity gives birth to such claims as “taken as a whole the universe is absurd” or “the only absolute is that there are no absolutes.” You have projected your method upon the world; and, when finding the world run by a different method, consider the world itself to be irrational. That is the worst form of hubris that I've ever come across.

To these people, the correct response is that the method exists to discern reality rather than the other way around. Logic exists to discern the universe; universe does not exist to be logical in your eyes. One error this leads to, according to its own mechanism, is the error of nihilism – an error of which I myself was guilty when I was a teenager. If you believe that reality is what can be proven, then the logical outcome of the fact that nothing can be proven to a man with brain damage or a man who refuses to listen to evidence is that nothing is real, and it's Strawberry Fields Forever. So it is important to adjust the definition of what is real. What is real is what exists, whatever your opinion on it may be.

That you cannot understand the logic of something does not mean that it is illogical. It means that your understanding of the matter is not advanced enough. And the correct solution is improving your understanding, so that you can parse it into your supposedly logical worldview.

The correct place of logic is to understand things, not to stomp on things that one wrongfully considers to be irrational. And that is the case with love and any number of other important things.