Does existentialism imply moral relativism?

Not at all. Existentialist thinkers have tended to resist what we might call deference to the “oughts” of normative ethics — or any idea that there is a moral ordering to which humanity is obligated to submit or conform — but at the same time they also tend to elevate certain virtues regarding how a person lives: virtues like authenticity, engagement, follow-through, avoiding self-contradiction and so on. So we could describe the central tenet of existentialist “ethics” as actively choosing a consistent ethical framework with which to engage the world, and then sticking to it. Again, however, this is not done out of social obligation or reflexive conformance, but because an existentialist chooses to do this as a reliable expression of who they are. As a subtler distinction, if an existentialist is committed to being “free,” and resists being subjugated to the impositions of culture, they must nevertheless operate within cultural boundaries towards their chosen outcome, but again will do so by their own choice, and according to their own reasons. So in this sense, an existentialist, a humanist and a Jesuit could conceivably all appear (from the outside) to be operating according to the same moral convictions…but really have quite different interior pathways for arriving at a given decision.

My 2 cents.

How much light does the Book of Enoch throw on the origin and foundation of Christianity?

First, let’s set the record straight. When Brady Stephenson writes in his answer that “Christians believe ‘all Scripture is inspired by G-d’ (2 Timothy 3:16) and recognize the Book of Enoch is not Scripture” he is profoundly mistaken. For the first five centuries of the Christian Church, The Book of Enoch was widely circulated, commented upon and venerated throughout the Christian community. Indeed it seems to have endured even through the expunging of “the Gnostic heresy” that attempted to establish a more rigidly dogmatic orthodoxy. And of course the Epistle of Jude — which is canonized New Testament scripture — quotes the first chapter of Enoch directly. Despite what some modern detractors might opine, this fact alone should assure even the most fundamentalist view of scriptural hermeneutics that Enoch is worthy of examination…and indeed meets an essential criterion of being “divinely inspired” (at least the part that is quoted does!). Now if a Christian does not trust that the holy spirit indwelling them is sufficient to help them decide what writings provide spiritual edification — that is, what solid food of spiritual gnosis and sophia is suitable for their level of spiritual maturity — then they will forever be stuck in the milk of the word (Hebrews 5) and not grow up in Christ. And it is precisely this type of infantilization that maintains the worldly power structures within the apostate Church in modern times, and helps disrupt the full flowering of the kingdom of God.

As for Enoch, why not read it? It is readily available now, just as it was in the time of Christ. Jesus would certainly have been familiar with some earlier forms of the Book of Enoch, as would any of his more educated disciples. I would expect the Apostle Paul knew it quite well. So to answer the OP’s question “How much light does the Book of Enoch throw on the origin and foundation of Christianity?” it almost certainly offers a substantive glimmer in this direction and is worthy of careful examination.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Brady Stephenson: "I’d be interested to see documentation of five centuries of widespread veneration of the book of Enoch."

Sure, that’s pretty easy; some places where Enoch is referenced as scripture in instructive ways:

1) Jude references

2) Other NT refs that have a very similar content to the Book of Enoch: 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Peter 3:18–22; 2 Peter 2:4; and Revelation 4:1; 2:8. You can also see some of the more abstracted correlations here: On the Book of Enoch

2) Tertullian refers to it as scripture repeatedly (even calling it “the Scripture of Enoch”), and defends it wholeheartedly for edification (quoting the same 2 Tim reference you do Brady!) — see Tertullian’s “On the apparrel of Women” ch.3

3) In Origen’s “De Principiis” (Book IV) he favorably compares the authority of the Book of Enoch to Psalms.

4) The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas quotes the Book of Enoch in numerous places (again as scripture)

5) Athenagoras’ Legatio relies on the Book of Enoch (repeatedly quoted) to support his angelology.

6) The above are not isolated occurrences…the veneration of the Book of Enoch was very widespread and well-documented, with references in Justin Martyr, Minucius Felix, Cyprean, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Commodianus, Lactatius, Cassian, St. Augustine and many others.

7) And of course the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches continued to treat Enoch as canonical up into modern times.

Of course, after the Council of Laodicea, Enoch’s popularity declined. But even as late as Nicephorus I of Constantinople Enoch is listed as an apocryphon, which would have been carefully studied by those committed to a deeper understanding of the Christian faith at that time.

I hope this was helpful.

What's the root of immorality in the world?

Here would be my top six root causes of immorality, in no particular order:

1. Ignorance (often of the damage being done and/or a better way to accomplish the same ends).

2. Lack of empathy or concern for others (and consequently putting one’s own ego, whims and desires first).

3. Willfullness — knowing what the constructive or kind thing to do is, and simply not doing it out of spite, immaturity, uncontrolled destructive impulses, anger, nihilism, despair, woundedness, etc.

4. Feeding the wrong wolf within: constantly reinforcing antisocial and injurious habits.

5. Systemic perversion of the good — environments that encourage self-destructive, antisocial and morally corrosive behaviors (by amplifying fear, perverse rewards, dysfunctional relationships, etc.) and perpetuate systemic oppression and coercion.

6. Drowning out our inner Light, and thereby losing our moral compass. That is, not listening to the quiet, still voice within that is grounded in love, and instead being blown hither-and-thither by the desires of others and demands of a materialistic world.

My 2 cents.

If God is omnipresent, then what is special about being in the presence of god?

1. As a meditative koan: If air is everywhere, what’s so special about your personal ability to breathe it?

2. As a psychological reality: A person in a crowd of people can still feel alone — unless they have a meaningful relationship with one or more those people.

3. Conscious awareness of a thing is not the same as the “reality” of a thing. For example, a person dozing in a hammock in a tree full of venomous snakes may not feel afraid or threatened in any way…if they aren’t aware of the snakes. The moment they become aware of the snakes in the tree will generally be the moment the personal relevance of those snakes hits home for them. So in this sense, personal awareness evokes personal relevance, regardless of the underlying conditions of a given situation.

4. “Being in the presence of God” has a specific meaning in most mystical theistic traditions. In Sufi Islam, contemplative or neoplatonist Christianity, and Jewish mysticism the experiences of intimate union with the Divine have a profound, transformative effect on self-identity and consciousness. Likewise personal awakening to the Brahman/atman in Hinduism is a transformative insight even though the condition preexisted the realization. So in these traditions the abstract concept of existing within a creation permeated by the Divine does not hold even the tiniest candle to the personal experience of “tasting God.”

5. Among many religious practices it is not uncommon for certain rituals, venerated places or ancient relics to evoke a “nearness” to the Divine in ways that a practitioner may believe are otherwise inaccessible to them. In certain traditions that emphasize a distancing of believers from their gods, and a reliance on certain processes sanctioned by that religious institution, the Divine remains hidden behind a veil controlled by the spiritual elite within that institution. This seems to play an important role in elevating clergy and adepts to positions of power or authority.

6. Physicists and other scientists routinely report that witnessing the results of experiments that validate their theories about the forces and subatomic components of the Universe is an awe-inspiring experience. But why? If they know that the existence of a Higgs boson is necessary to fulfill the standard model, why does actually detecting evidence of the particle create such excitement and wonder? Because it validates a deeper understanding of truth…a more complete grasp of what is. In the same way, a person whose belief is subjectively validated by a personal encounter with Divine Presence will feel a similar sense of awe and wonder.

These are just a few of potential examples of why theoretical omnipresence and a personal experience of Divine Presence are not the same thing.

My 2 cents.

Why isn't there an overarching philosophical system to live optimally with respect to human nature, history lessons, and reality?

Great question!

Here’s my take: I agree that there seem to be different philosophical and/or religious systems that attempt to encompass “human nature, history lessons and reality,” and yet seem to come to different conclusions. Why hasn’t any one of them won out over the others? Well, mainly I think it is because of some recurring barriers that are cultural, systemic and “structural” in terms of human propensities. Some of these barriers include:

1. A strong psychosocial impulse for people to conform to the tribe they were raised in, or in which they have found a sense of belonging or emotional resonance.

2. Lots of cultural institutions that formalize, systematize and dogmatize barrier #1 — and profit from it in terms of wealth, influence and power — so that conformity and membership are perpetuated, and doubts, questions and internal evolution are discouraged.

3. The inability of most people to be rational or evidence-based in their beliefs, so that emotions and social relations end up playing a dominant role in how those beliefs are formed and maintained. For example, Ayn Rand’s “objectivism” isn’t objective or rational at all — and in fact isn’t based in any proven evidence. It’s just Ayn Rand’s fantasy of “how things ought to be.” But folks who have embraced what is really quite a silly worldview will claim that it is “rational” and “objective” and grounded in “human nature, history lessons and reality,” when in fact it isn’t at all. In the same way, the cultural mainstream (in the U.S. and many other places) will alternately embrace scientific consensus or reject scientific consensus…and this rejection or acceptance is very willy-nilly, and not grounded in careful consideration of evolving evidence.

4. Our dominant political economy (i.e. highly commercialized crony capitalism) externalizes and commoditizes all wisdom and knowledge — while infantilizing people’s self-concept and social habits at the same time — so that people become dependent on external answers and authorities, and do not learn to think critically or be thoughtfully introspective. They do not know how to seek truth, and are discouraged from doing so by well-funded propaganda. Combined with the increasing complexity and rapid change of modern times, this has lead to an epidemic of reflexive self-stupefaction and rejection of nuanced or complex explanations…usually in favor of knee-jerk ideological adherence.

5. An unfortunate intersection of the Dunning–Kruger effect (–Kruger_effect), the standard bell curve distribution of intelligence, and the types of intelligences our modern culture reinforces as desirable or superior. This is a lengthy topic to explore, but basically we have built a society in which people of relatively limited or mono-dimensional intelligence are able to succeed in popular culture or in our economic materialism, so that natural propensities to become arrogant and overconfident (when one is actually ignorant, misinformed or just not that bright) are made much, much worse. I can think of no better illustration of this than our current POTUS.

These are just the tip of the iceberg, IMO…but I think they provide some explanations about why there is no overarching and cohesive philosophical system that appeals to everyone — or indeed adequately integrates all of our current understanding of “human nature, history lessons and reality.” However, there have been efforts to unify the many different fields of knowledge under an “integral” umbrella (i.e. the work of Ken Wilber, Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, etc.), and develop a unitive, overarching framework for philosophy. Not all of these efforts have been entirely successful, but I think they point us in a helpful direction, and offer perspectives and tools that can inform our own attempts to navigate “big” questions.
In my own work, I’ve begun a project called Sector Theory 1.0, which attempts to sketch out an epistemology for how to navigate and integrate as much data, information, knowledge and wisdom as possible into our ongoing philosophical synthesis. It’s an ongoing and evolving effort, but perhaps it will be of interest to you.

My 2 cents.

How do I get the image of God as imposing and angry out of my mind?

There are a number of ways to approach this — and some will be better suited to who you are (your personality and experiences) than others. For example, you could:

1. Explore the source of your assumptions, and then challenging those assumptions, using the downward arrow technique or other cognitive approach. This can be done with the help of a therapist, or using a CBT workbook, etc.

2. Introspective meditation on the nature of the Divine, the nature of your relationship with the Divine, the nature of your own spiritual Self, etc.

3. Reading love-centric literature about the Divine, such as the poems of Hafiz, or the Gospel of John, etc. There is a fellow named Daniel Ladinsky who has compiled some of the best of these from different traditions in Love Poems from God.

4. Begin a gratitude practice that focuses on all the good in your life, in yourself and in the world. There is a sample outline of this practice in my book Essential Mysticism, which you can peruse online for free here: Integral Lifework —Essential Mysticism

5. All of the above.

I hope this was helpful.

Anarchism: How would an anarchist society defend itself against externalities and foreign military invasion?

One reason that many anarchist cooperatives have not survived all that long throughout history has been because their emphasis — for the most part — was on peaceful cooperation, rather than aggressive military build-up. Until the rest of the globe catches up in terms of moral maturity, anarchist experiments are going to be subject to external aggression — especially if they have control over desirable resources, or are a perceived threat to established hegemony. So I think civic conditions have to evolve a bit all around the world for anarchism to work well. That said, it is conceivable that technological advances will provide superagency to smaller and smaller groups, so that a relatively tiny anarchist cooperative could say “Hey, if you invade us, we’ll unleash X technology to decimate your troops…” or some such, providing the leverage needed to achieve detente. Really, any military spending in the context of a “mentally healthy” world will come to be viewed as silliness, and when self-governance through direct democracy along with relaxation of the profit motive (and transition of private ownership back to the commons) remove the incentives and pathways for despots, tyrants, megalomaniacs and psychopaths to rise to power as they do today, there likely won’t be as much need to arm up. That, at least, would be my hope. :-)

My 2 cents.

What is the relationship between mysticism and philosophy?

I think they are inseparable on a fundamental level, but represent divergent processes and emphases in their methodology. In the Western tradition before Aristotle, mysticism and philosophy felt synonymous. Aristotle is probably the first to tease the two apart — or at least isolate different processes and categories of exploration. But within Aristotle’s differentiations we see the seeds of what later became empiricism, rationalism, and the full-throated speculations of metaphysics. In other words, we see a drifting apart of that which is observable, that which is logically reasoned out, and that which is understood at a deeper level of experiential insight. Later, we would see Thomas Aquinas wrestle with this very same drifting apart, but he would try to honor all trajectories…while also integrating them. It is this tension — along with its attempted resolution — that we can observe repeated in the Western tradition as a fairly contiguous thread through Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Tielhard de Chardin, William James and many others. At the same time, we find thinkers like Bacon, Nietzsche, Russel, Husserl and Wittgenstein steering away from such integration or reconciliation— or even deferent consideration of the intuitive or speculative at all — in favor of the concrete, observable and analytical. Still, I suppose we could say that in the Western canon carries a drumbeat of mysticism forward well into 20th Century philosophy, before postmodernism began to more systematically snuff it out. Since then, however, we have seen a resurgence of the integration among the integralizing crowd (Gebser, Wilber, Rosenstock-Huessy) — and one that for me appears very promising. In fact, this is where I live philosophically, and how I arrived at my own multidialectical synthesis and Sector Theory.

In the Eastern traditions, this process of divergence didn’t occur in the same way — in fact, to my eye the Cartesian divisions never really happened at all, and mysticism and philosophy remained intertwined in a much more persistent and harmonious way up into modern times. There were still sages who focused more on the pragmatic than the esoteric (such as Confucius), but like Plato they apparently didn’t feel the need to distance themselves from mystical perceptions and conceptions. In this light, it is somewhat ironic that it is popular in the West to approach Buddhism or Yoga as a “philosophy of life,” or view meditation as a way to simply recondition the mind into healthier cognitive habits, while ignoring or minimizing the spiritual/mystical/metaphysical elements of these practices and traditions. This is just what we do in Western culture…whereas many Eastern cultures do not appear to have the same (IMO unhealthy) compulsion.

In any case, I feel like I have meandered a bit, but hopefully touched on why mystical and philosophical processes are really aiming toward the same end: understanding self and mind, understanding the world, understanding the nature of reality and truth, developing both knowledge and wisdom about what is. Depending on the school of thought — or mystical practice — these are all just different input streams to fortify human understanding, and deserving of our careful consideration.

My 2 cents.

What are some situations in which a free market fails?

There are many different type of market failure, so there are also many different situational causes. For example:

1. Price-inelastic demand eventually leads to efficiency failures — which is why many goods subject to long-term price-inelastic demand end up being heavily regulated and/or socialized.

2. Rampant speculation has led to market failures through cycles of overvaluation, undiversified concentrations of capital, over-extended leveraging, and subsequent collapse…and to overly abstracted and complex instruments that “game the system” (the post-financialized system, that is) and perpetuate this cycle. This leads to greater debt burdens, bailouts, knee jerk regulations, and tanking of economic activity (constriction of credit and capital flows, etc.).

3. Negative externalities create market failures with the costs catch up with production and are finally accounted for — often because the externalities end up being situationally imposed, widespread and inescapable across entire markets (regardless of regulatory reactions, legal actions, product boycotts, etc., which also interrupt market allocations).

4. Resource depletion is a pretty common contributor to market failure.

5. Runaway rent-seeking also consistently leads to market failures because the market was excluded from the get-go.

6. Monopolies (whether naturally occurring or as a consequence of crony capitalism) are probably the single greatest contributors to longer-term market failure.

7. Unattended markets (i.e. unregulated markets) nearly always fail — there are only a handful of exceptions to this in recorded history.

There are more situations, but those are some of the ones worth researching carefully to understand why markets to fail in various ways. Pareto efficiency is a useful standard to evaluate failure, but there are many other metrics that help us evaluate when a market isn’t working as intended.

My 2 cents.

Why is it immoral to hate people because of their religion? Religion is a number of views which you consider right. Isn’t it okay to judge people based on their views and their decisions?

Well, first off hate is generally either counterproductive or destructive — it very rarely helps alter an undesirable situation. In fact I would say that hate reliably makes everything worse for everyone involved. Also, hate most often issues from fear, ignorance and deep personal wounding…rather than, say, a place of clear-headed righteous indignation or concern for the well-being of others. When we watch children lash out at someone and scream “I hate you!” we instinctively know, as adults, that they are just hurting and irrational little toddlers. Hate therefore requires us to examine our own situation — our own hearts, reflexive prejudices, uninformed reactions, etc. — to see what needs healing. It doesn’t indicate anything about the object of our hate…anything at all, really, except that the object reminds us of our own immaturity, lack of compassion, and lack of skillfulness.

As for religion having some special class in terms of the judgments, prejudices or condemnations that may inspire fear and discomfort, I think the problem arises when we lump a bunch of folks into one big bucket. When we say “all white people are X,” or “all Americans are y,” or “all Muslims are z,” we are applying a generalization that is usually a) not very accurate or insightful, or b) has lots of individual exceptions. In other words, a particular “white American Muslim” won’t actually conform to any of the projected stereotypes — in fact, a LOT of them won’t. So what is the point of such generalizations? Generally, it is to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, or an “ingroup vs. outgroup” orientation, that helps us feel better about ourselves, and perhaps a little more powerful. It assuages our insecurities and props up a weak and vulnerable sense of self. Unfortunately, this is precisely what leaders of hate groups and hate movements are counting on to gain more followers. And why do they want more followers? To empower themselves, because they are feeling the same vulnerability and insecurity.

So how can we address our own sense of fear, vulnerability, discomfort, confusion, insecurity and weak sense of self that leads us to hate a particular religion? That is a much larger conversation, but I would say it begins with educating ourselves about different cultures and peoples, traveling abroad, making friends with a different worldview and breaking bread with them in their homes, taking a long hard look at our own reflexive beliefs and attitudes, and beginning to heal some of our own emotional brokenness and loneliness. In my personal discipline, called Integral Lifework, the objective is to nourish every dimension of our being so that we won’t feel insecure, disempowered and hurting…and this process of self-care can go a long way toward healing the need to hate anyone or anything.

My 2 cents.

What do you think of Thomas Aquinas?

I think Aquinas was brilliant, methodical, insightful, prolific, influential, flexible in his thought, and rightly credited much of his own trajectory to Aristotle. In this sense, I think it is fruitful for anyone interested in philosophy or theology to study his work. Of all of his contributions, one theme that has always struck me as particularly important is his assertion that faith need not operate independently of reason, and vice versa; and, more specifically, that insight and understanding (about God, nature, virtues, etc.) can be arrived at via both avenues and without inherent contradiction. They are simply different forms or avenues of knowledge. This was and remains a fairly major departure from many theologians before and after Aquinas, and is (I suspect) why the rigor of his deliberations was so rewarding. That said, I suspect Aquinas himself, in his last year on this Earth, seems to have realized that this departure from fideism may not have beeb sound as he at first believed…But alas, we can’t really know that this is the case, because he didn’t write about this realization — he just stopped writing altogether. For more discussion of this last point, see T Collins Logan's answer to What could St Thomas Aquinas have seen in his mystical experience?.

Can spiritual awakening lead to success in business?

Maybe sometimes, at which point most of that person’s awakening will dissipate or retreat, mainly because of the demands of our current political economy and business culture. In other words, success in business generally leads to spiritual regression.

It is a bit like asking: “Will my spiritual awakening make me a better salesman?”

Well, let’s take that example. Awakening generally leads to greater compassion for self and others, more insight into skillful healing and wholeness, and less attachment to material possessions and ego accomplishments. So how would an “awakened” salesman act? They probably would try to help people — to do what is authentically best for their customers, without considering their own self-enrichment. Consider these scenarios:

“Is this a good TV?”

“Well, not really, but it’s the only one we have in stock.”


“Can your alternative therapy heal my cancer?”

“Actually no. You are going to die. But I can be a compassionate presence for you as you die….”

And so on. If what is genuinely beneficial to a customer just happens to coincide with what a business has to offer, then there is a possibility of awakening facilitating temporary success. Otherwise, it just runs counter to capitalist instincts.

You see the problem? Being a kind, compassionate, insightful and healing presence can bless others with well-being and skillful aid…but it doesn’t fit into the better bottom line landscape very well. Add to this that most people really don’t know how to handle affluence and material success without becoming corrupted by it (see Paul Piff’s research on this), and tying business acumen to spiritual awakening is sort of a fundamentally unwise idea.

My 2 cents.

Why haven't (seemingly obvious) foreign policy perspectives like those of Noam Chomsky's gained mass popularity in the United States?

For anything to gain “mass popularity” usually requires concerted marketing efforts. Americans — perhaps more than any other population in the world — have become conditioned to externalize all authority and “truth,” and wait rather passively for guidance in the form of sales and marketing entertainment (or the memes swarming their social media bubbles, as the case may be). This is, I think, a natural consequence of two centuries of commercialistic capitalism where most media was slowly but inevitably enslaved to the will of corporate profit-seeking and neoliberal propaganda. More recently, those avenues of mass influence have been further coopted and corrupted by nefarious players like the Koch Brothers, the Mercer family, the Heartland Institute, etc., or by conspiracy-mongering nut jobs like Alex Jones. All of these folks — whether actively or tacitly — have worked in concert to disrupt the ability of the average American consumer-voter to parse reality in any sensible way…let alone to navigate complex foreign policy issues with anything but the most oversimplified, knee-jerk rhetoric. In many ways Donald Trump is a perfect example of what happens to someone shaped by such media: childish, irrational, paranoid, uninformed, reactive, incoherent…but somehow utterly sure of himself. We could, of course, lay all of this at the feet of capitalism itself, but the U.S.A. has developed a uniquely destructive model in terms of creating highly tribalized, infantilized conspicuous consumers who are invested in delusional nonsense for entertainment’s sake, and who consistently vote and make purchases that are highly destructive to their well-being, while serving the interests of wealthy owner-shareholders quite nicely.

Enter into this landscape Noam Chomsky, who sees very clearly the tragic distortions of crony capitalism and its neoliberal policy disasters, as well as the horrific effect of market fundamentalist politics and war profiteering around the globe, and of course Chomsky has identified and explained the mechanisms of a complicit mass media in furthering these nefarious agendas. So Chomsky doesn’t get interviewed on that same mass media anymore. And his observations are ignored by the neoliberal power brokers who shape self-serving policy and jam it down the gullet of elected legislatures (via. A.L.E.C., etc.). In fact most Americans today don’t know who Noam Chomsky even is…because there is no propagation of his ideas by the “authorities” people have come to trust or admire — you know, like Fox News, or Breitbart, or Info Wars. Even left-leaning media are scared to have Noam Chomsky on their programs for fear of losing funding; did you know the Koch Brothers were instrumental in Ken Burns’ last documentary about Vietnam on PBS? And that, as a predictable consequence, the “facts” of that documentary series were horrifically distorted…? And that the very false narrative that Chomsky has debunked over and over again (in book after book, and lecture after lecture) over decades was revitalized in dramatic form on PBS?! And yet, a majority of lazy-minded, ignorant, comfort-seeking Americans gobbled up the bullshit unquestioningly. This is a microcosm of the macrocosm: just follow the money, and you’ll quickly see why Chomsky is ignored, minimized or derided in the mainstream.

Now…with that said, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Noam Chomsky believes or pontificates. And he has, in fact, made some glaring mistakes (Pol Pot was a biggy). I also sense that his ego sometimes gets the better of him. But NONE of this has to do with why Chomsky isn’t more well-known or appreciated, or why Americans aren’t rallying in the streets to shift U.S. foreign policy away from neoliberal imperialism. Just look what happened to Bernie Sanders in the last election: very little media coverage, no DNC support, a drumbeat of “he’s a communist” hate speech from the right, nearly all funding was from the grass roots, etc. The powers-that-be all conspired to shut him down — and Bernie was a milk toast centrist compared to Noam Chomsky!

So for U.S. citizens to appreciate Chomsky on any level, they would first need to wake up from their stupor of toddlerized consumerism and externalized authority, and start actively learning about the world around them via information sources that don’t have a brainwashing/hoodwinking agenda. And that’s probably not going to happen until things get a lot more uncomfortable (economically and materially) for the U.S.A. — and even then, the more immature Americans will still search for a scapegoat to blame for their own failures (you know, like illegal immigrants…).

My 2 cents.

Update: In response to a question about Chomsky's statements about Pol Pot, here is one helpful and well-researched link regarding the Pol Pot issue:

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: Averaging Wrong Answers

I think the writer overstates his own case…using some rhetoric that paints Chomsky in a worse light than he deserves. However, if you remove that rhetoric and focus on the evidence, he documents the underlying disconnect fairly well.

Why is philosophy important?


1. You could be guided through life solely by your physical impulses and appetites; or

2. You could be guided through life by unquestioning conformance to societal norms and expectations; or

3. You could be guided by promptings of your innermost being — the questing curiosity of your mind, heart and spirit.

What would you prefer? What would bring you the most joy, satisfaction and meaning in life? I suppose the answers to such questions will help someone understand why philosophy is useful…and perhaps important.

Of course, this very Q&A is a philosophical exercise. So I suppose the real answer to this question can be found by answering another one: Why do you ask?

My 2 cents.

What do economists think of Karl Polanyi's book "The Great Transformation"?

I suspect that would depend on the economist’s ideological orientation. I’m sure progressively-minded economists are aware of the work as a potent counter-argument to classical liberalism, and to its importance in expanding economics into a much broader interdisciplinary concern. Neoliberals probably hate it, as it slaughters most of their sacred cows.

What's your favorite economic principle?

I’ll offer my top four:

1. Price-elasticity of Demand — And, specifically, inelasticity in this context. For me, this has been a very useful tool in determining which goods and services naturally belong in which L7 Enterprise Schema ( — and which of those can reside within the Universal Social Backbone — in my Level 7 proposals.

2. Externality — The vast expanse of hidden costs that *should *inform any economic policy, strategy, tactic, etc.

3. Animal Spirits — Keynes revivification of this concept should be a potent reminder of the nonrational impulses that actually drive and shape nearly all economic activity and trends.

4. Pareto Efficiency — The starting point that led me to develop L7 Egalitarian Efficiency (

My 2 cents.


How would you define the Hegelian concept "inverted world"?

Well you’ve picked a good one here IMO. Mine is probably not the most popular interpretation, but it’s how I grasp Hegel’s concepts at this time….

The whole of Hegel’s work basically points to a substantial disconnect between how we conceive of the world around us, ourselves, our consciousness…well, everything really…and what actually is. He is grappling with the essences of things — the things-in-themselves — before our perception and consciousness take hold of them. And his central point — and one reflected by his frequent use of the term Verkehrte — is that we get things turned around, entirely twisted, and utterly mistaken, by holding onto our representations of them (i.e. in our mind). Our highest virtue is to let go of this misapprehension…because it is false. And Hegel posits that this is precisely what spirit prompts us to do.

In this sense, when we think we are being rational and systematic; when we amplify our conclusions in cultural agreement; when we codify “the truth” in rigid ways…we are essentially turning reality upside down. We are missing the mark. And the more we invest in these false (i.e. incomplete) representations, the further away we get from what is. So the spirit’s movement — indeed the very dynamism of life itself — is all about rectifying what presents as the arrogant misunderstanding of human intellect, and getting closer and closer to the Absolute. And Hegel assures us that this evolution is possible and evident; that the seeds for both our own misery and misapprehensions AND our liberation from those mistakes are within us — an imperative of the spirit’s movement in the world. But this isn’t a purely analytical exercise…oh no. Not at all.

Anywho…that’s my take.


How should I accept harsh truths about my situation and stop living in denial and fantasy?

In answer to “How should I accept harsh truths about my situation and stop living in denial and fantasy?”

I think this is one of the most difficult and persistent challenges of the human condition, and requires a lifelong effort of learning, careful perception, patience, introspection and cultivation of wisdom. Let’s examine why this may be the case:

1. Some “harsh truths” are situational, conditional or contextual…they may not be what we first assume them to be, or as persistent or as pervasive as they first appear. For example, I seemed to be really bad at math early on in my schooling — mainly because I didn’t attend school in any regular way until I was about eleven years old (and thus didn’t learn many basic math concepts), but also I didn’t have much patience or aptitude for algebraic structures and abstractions. In fact I flunked out of my second year of algebra twice. Then I encountered geometry, and it was like coming home to a long lost friend. I ate it up. When I applied it to some real-world challenges (calculating arcs in a centrifugal fan blades I was making for a hovercraft model), I discovered the spatial relationships and correlations to have particular meaning and satisfaction for me as mathematical representations. And guess what? I even ended up using algebra in my solutions. All along, I had just required a real-world application for these abstract concepts…and that was actually the real “harsh truth” that I had to learn — not that I was “bad at math,” but that I needed to apply math concepts I learned (right away) for them to make sense to me.

2. Some “fantasies” have inspired works of great creativity, compassion, genius or insight. To invest in a dream is to reach beyond the mundanity of our current circumstances, and imagine a different way. If you examine the lives of any of history’s greatest figures, their efforts can appear deluded, nonsensical or even insane…because they did not restrict themselves to what other people believed could or couldn’t be done; they defied convention. Of course, for every person who succeeded in reifying their fantasies, there are many who failed. Even someone who succeeds with one fantasy may fail countless times with other efforts. But it is a uniquely human trait to keep trying…to resist giving up in the face seemingly incredible or impossible odds.

3. Some levels of acceptance may take a lifetime to cultivate. To truly let go of harmful egotistical delusions may require years of therapy and concerted effort. To fully embrace difficult truths about ourselves — about who we are, or how we are, our own limitations, etc, — may likewise require a very slow arc of maturation over many years. Even if we intellectually grasp the letting go, to emotionally feel it will likely take time. And so we just have to keep working at it, recognizing there is no “silver bullet” that will transform our self-concept or self-awareness as quickly as we might like.

With that said…how can we differentiate between a situational or contextual limitation or setback — or a mere lack of imagination or paucity of faith in ourselves — and a fundamentally structural impedance or innate pattern that is problematic? This is where wisdom comes in handy, and yet…most wisdom is gained through life experience, right? A catch twenty-two — like needing to get a job to gain more experience, but needing more experience to get a job. Sometimes we can consult others who have personal experience in a given area to help guide our own efforts, but even in those instances…they’re approach, aptitudes and circumstances are going to be different from our own. So what can we do?

This very conundrum is what led me to begin meditating with more discipline and focus on a daily basis — to look within for answers for the best applications of my time and effort, and to guide my own course through life. And this, in turn, led me to discover the many different forms of meditation that can be helpful in this regard…there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution here either. To be able to differentiate between what is true for me, what is true for someone else, what is true in this moment, and what is the wisest course of action in a given situation have been indispensable to my own well-being — and to being the best person possible for those I care about. And the beginning of that journey was learning how to listen carefully within my inner silence, and start accepting that I had access to all the wisdom I required within that space.

My 2 cents.

Did Locke and other classical liberals ground their theories in religious principles?

I would say that the primary influence on later classical liberals were earlier folks who grounded much of their thinking in religious principles. The philosophies of Locke, Hobbes, Paine, Smith, Price, Mill, Malthus, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Tucker, Paley and countless other influences on classical liberalism were profoundly anchored in Christian/Deist/monotheist religious convictions — albeit convictions that were moderated (or expanded, as the case may be) by the empiricism, humanism and rationalism of the Enlightenment. There are notable exceptions, of course, such as Hume and possibly Mandeville — who were nevertheless reacting to mainstream religion in much of their thinking, and so still shaped by it — but by-and-large the inspiration for classical liberalism can be traced to Christian philosophy and Deist/monotheistic sentiments. At the same time, we can also say that many, if not most of these thinkers railed against the institutional conformism and organized religion of their times. In this light, there is a certain irony that the evolutions and descendants of classical liberalism itself have become so pronounced in their essentially anti-Christian, greed-centric, hyper-individualistic ethos.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question:

Is it ethical to provide guidance and counseling (in a professional setting) if you yourself suffer from the same conditions and have not surpassed them?

In answer to the question “Is it ethical to provide guidance and counseling (in a professional setting) if you yourself suffer from the same conditions and have not surpassed them?”

Surpassed? I’m not sure what is meant by this term. I don’t know of anyone who has “surpassed” anything. Sure, they’ve learned to manage, self-monitor, develop alternate habits, become more disciplined, heal deep and chronic wounds to varying degrees, become incrementally more whole, etc. But “surpassed?” I think that’s probably an ego-based term for a particular flavor of narcissistic delusion, and has no place in any therapeutic or mentoring relationship.

That said, if we replace “surpassed” with “learned to constructively manage,” then I would say it depends — on many different factors, including the nature and severity of your condition, where you are in your own healing/wholeness journey, and the functional level of self-management you have been able to maintain over time.

So for instance:

1. A therapeutic relationship dealing with out-of-control addictions (of any kind) should probably not be entered into by a professional suffering from an out-of-control addiction. Even when, as some of the other answers indicate, that condition can be helpful to empathy and informed therapeutic or mentoring techniques, it can also be extremely destructive to the relationship, and likely to the person you are trying to help. So in that case…a firm “not ethical” IMO (again, if it is still unmanaged). I think the same would be true of unmanaged depression, unmanaged severe personality disorders, unmanaged schizophrenia, unmanaged self-destructive behaviors, unmanaged anger and hostility, unmanaged anxiety, unmanaged compulsions, unmanaged relationship dynamics, etc.

2. On the other hand, if you have demonstrated a high level of efficacy in managing a particular area, are maintaining genuine intentions to continue that course, and have become more high-functioning over time (i.e. can have a modicum of confidence about a given technique or process), then why not share your experiences in the therapeutic or mentoring relationship? Again, mastery is not really the issue…rather, it’s about ongoing integrity around your own intentions, and regarding your efficacy in “walking the walk” in your own life. In such a case, a conditional “ethical” IMO.

3. A very common pattern in folks who become healers, teachers, mentors, therapists, counselors, etc. is that they are initially drawn to the field because of their own struggles. This can be both helpful and unhelpful. On the one hand, they can understand and inhabit the perspective of the people they are trying to help, because they’ve been through it themselves. On the other hand, they may fall into a pattern of projecting their own desire for self-healing onto their clients, students or patients. In other words, they may perpetually be externalizing their own issues. At some point, a good teacher/mentor/therapist/healer will recognize this pattern in themselves, and address it. They may need to take a break from practice to do so. Or they may feel they need to give up the field entirely. This is a reality/integrity check that everyone I’ve known — across many different fields — eventually has to confront. Perhaps that’s where you are now, but the answer is going to be different for every person, and at different stages of their life. It’s a process where we must measure our own strengths and weaknesses against the effectiveness of our work…and when we must finally learn to check our ego at the door — and let go of our own issues — every time we engage with the person we are trying to help.

My 2 cents.

What did you realize - expressed in one sentence - upon spiritual awakening?

“That there is a continuum of insight, burrowing through seemingly endless layers of constructs (one of which is “spiritual awakening”), to mediate encounters with an immediate, nondual rawness of being — an immersion which then tends to be integrated, after-the-fact, by either a) rationalizing the experience to fit with cultural conditioning and language, b) accepting it as what is (roughly, an emergent mystery, navigated and boundarized within the limitations of consciousness), c) interpreting it as an essence or ground from which everything else arises, d) allowing it to infuse us with surprising depths of humility and compassion, e) accepting its stimulation of gnosis and sophia within, f) some combination of all of the above…usually one that relies on discernment, and a specific quality of letting go, to to bear fruit in our lives.”

What are the flaws of modern psychotherapy and why do so many people (myself included) feel so disappointed with it?

Great question. My take on some common flaws in modern psychotherapy:

1. Consumer model. Both clients and therapists often (consciously or unconsciously) fall back on the producer/consumer model, where the therapist is there to “provide” a solution that a client pays for and “consumes.” This ends up emphasizing external resources vs. internal solutions for both client and therapist, and creates an unhealthy, disempowering dynamic — even despite client-centered intentions and protocols — which often results in a lack of willingness to “do the work” that is required.

2. Incompetence or poor training. I often use the analogy of a violinist when describing good therapists: How many virtuoso violinists are there in the world? How many first and second chair violinists? And how many folks squeak away in their basement until a position opens up in the local community orchestra string section? Virtuosos are rare, and hacks are plentiful…so it can take a lot of effort, persistence and luck to find a really good therapist.

3. Lack of cultural integration/acceptance. Psychotherapy should be considered a normal, healthy, even prophylactic resource for well-being…like going to the gym, or going to an MD for a checkup. Unfortunately, it has been polluted with social stigma so that people who could benefit often don’t seek it out — or feel ashamed when they do. This leads to a disproportionate volume of psychotherapy engaging in: a) court-mandated treatment; b) “last ditch effort,” extremely acute, crisis intervention conditions; c) self-help hobbyists. This is not a great group of folks to work with, generally — not in terms of process, or in terms of outcomes — and IMO often results in excessive “lowest common denominator” practices.

4. **The profit motive. **Evidenced-based methods are great — but what if the latest “proven” approach for a given condition isn’t working for a particular client? Well, insurance companies don’t allow such variability; everything must be cookie-clutter compliant with their actuarial tables (i.e. clear diagnosis = rigid treatment protocol). At the other extreme, a provider receiving (uninsured) private pay may not be motivated to use some provenly efficacious, short-term approach, but instead be motivated to create a longer-term income stream. “Perverse incentives” all around….

5. Lack of holism/multidimensionality, and reliance on “silver bullet” modalities. Modern medicine is struggling to reverse over a century of hyperspecialization, where only the separate systems and components of a patient are considered, and not the whole. There are efforts to integrate different disciplines, engage in group consults and assessments across departments, and change this paradigm…but it has been slow, and frequently ineffective. And so modern medicine tends to treat symptoms, and ignore underlying causes. Psychotherapy has fallen into this habit as well — people are complex, and solutions to their problems may also require complexity. This takes time, and multiple perspectives, and acknowledgement that there is no “one size fits all” treatment that is appropriate for a given set of conditions.

FYI I have a guide intended to help folks find a good therapist, here:

Also here is a free assessment process for a more holistic approach to well-being:

My 2 cents.

What are the practical advantages of mysticism?

At least in part, I have engaged in my personal mystical discipline for practical reasons, and it has yielded practical results.

These would include:

1. Much greater clarity about how my inner life is unfolding, what is important to me, what generates forward progress, what aligns with my values hierarchy, etc. — thus improving the ease and concision of knowing, decision-making and day-to-day prioritization of thoughts, relationships, efforts, etc.

2. A broader contextual awareness of the world around me — a multidimensional answer to the causal relationships and “whys” of existence, wellness, society, technology, economy, creativity, knowledge, etc. Appreciating this richer, more holistic interplay has improved efficacy across all of my activities, and helped construct mutual support among them, resulting in both enhanced efficiencies and noticeable multidimensional growth.

3. An improved ability to help others — whether through encouragement and emotional support, counsel regarding personal challenges, insight into situational conundrums, or intuitions about self-knowledge and values-related conflicts.

4. There is more, but ultimately these consequences tend to culminate in a personal directedness, focus and acquiescent contentment that enhances joy and harmony in my own life, and encourages (to some humble degree) the same qualities in the lives of those with whom I have relationship.

My 2 cents.

The Problem of Virtual Causality: Superagency, Cognitive Errors, and the Nature of Good and Evil

(Special thanks to Petyr Cirino, whose thoughtful exchanges with me inspired this particular essay.)

As daily events around the world illustrate, we have unquestionably arrived at the age of human superagency — in terms of both positive and negative impacts. On smaller scales of individuals and groups, there are the negative impacts of mass shootings, suicide bombers, toxic waste leaks, chemical plant explosions, contamination of water supplies with heavy metals, contamination of local food chains with pathogens or harmful chemicals, and other disruptions of limited scope. And of course the positive side of this local superagency includes the complex interdependent systems and services that support burgeoning municipalities and allow them to thrive. So in both constructive and destructive ways, we can easily see how complexity, technology and superagency are linked. On the national and global scale, a more collective superagency manifests on the one hand as disruption of everything from infrastructure and commerce to news and elections by a small group of dedicated hackers or activists, to the accelerating extinction of well-established species all around the planet as a consequence of human activities, to the radioactive contamination of vast swathes of air and water after a nuclear power plant meltdown, to the extreme temperatures and chaotic weather patterns resulting from over a century of human industry. On the positive side, humanity has been able to extract and distribute limited resources far and wide on a global scale, linked and negotiated disparate cultures and language around the planet to the benefit of many, and generated and shared huge amounts of knowledge and information to an impressive degree. At these larger scales, complexity and technology are also intimately entangled with superagency, but such impacts seem to depend more on the collective habits and influence of huge populations than on individuals or groups. Ultimately, it seems to have been the aggregate of individual, group and global population impacts that constitute a tipping point for the blossoming of human superagency on planet Earth.

But why does this matter?

One conventional answer is that this matters because our superagency has far outpaced our moral maturity; that is, our ability to manage superagency at any level — individually, tribally or globally — in a consistently beneficial or even sane fashion. Of course this is not a new observation: social critics, philosophers, prophets and artists throughout history have often observed that humanity is not very gifted at managing our own creative, acquisitive or political prowess; from the myths of Icarus and Midas, to the admonitions of Aristotle and Solomon, to tales of Frankenstein and Godzilla, the cautionary narratives of precipitous greed, clever invention and unabashed hubris have remained virtually unbroken across the span of human civilization. But should this perennial caution be our primary concern? Don't civil society, advancing education, widespread democracy and rigorous science mitigate the misuse or overreach of personal and collective power? Don't such institutions in fact provide a bulwark against an immature or degraded morality's ability to misuse humanity's greatest innovations and accomplishments? Aren't these the very failsafes intended to insulate society from its most irrational and destructive impulses...?

First, I would attempt to answer such questions by observing that moral maturity — along with all the societal institutions created to maintain and protect it — has been aggressively undermined by capitalist enterprise to an astonishing degree: via the infantilization and isolation of consumers, the substitution of internal creative and interpersonal riches with external commodities, the glorification of both greed and material accumulation, and the careful engineering of our addiction to comfort. But these concerns are the focus of much of my other writing (see The Case Against Capitalism), not to mention the more deft and compelling writings of countless others, so I won't dwell on them here. Instead, I would turn some attention to what is perhaps an even more pernicious tendency in human affairs, one that has persisted for just as long as all these other degrading impulses and influences. Yes, in a globally collective sense, our moral maturity and capacity for positive moral creativity has seemingly regressed or stagnated even as our superagency has increased — and yes, capitalism is largely to blame for the most recent downward spirals. But there is something more basic and instrumental in our psyche that energizes greed, hubris, arrogance and reckless destruction...something fundamental to our being that needs to be called out. Something that, by any measure, reliably contributes to all sorts of evildoing.

And of course attempts to explain the nature of evil are also not new. Many have attempted to ferret out the source of our darkest impulses, accrediting them to supernatural beings — Aite, Eris, Angra Mainyu, Satan, demons and mazzikim, bhoot and Pishacha, etc.— or describing it in terms of psychological phenomena like selfish compulsions and egotism, death drives (Todestriebe), maladaptive behaviors, severe mental disorders, and so forth. But identifying a more accurate underlying causal pattern will, I think, require a departure from these traditional frameworks. Instead, perhaps we can evaluate a series of straightforward cognitive errors that supportively interconnect, amplify and then calcify over time to create a specific, deleterious and measurable impact on both human interiority and society. Perhaps "evil" can, on some basic level, be defined as a simple cognitive mistake, and "good" as the correction of that mental error.

A Corrosive Troika Defined

With respect to causality, there appear to be three consistent factors that continually surface across the vast terrain of human affairs:

1. Misattribution of causation (as an unintentional mistake or conditioned response)

2. Intentional masking of causation (as deliberate and targeted distortions that reinforce misattribution); and

3. Willful forcing of causation (designed to support and reinforce deliberate distortions)

Together these create a virtual causality — that is, causality that is almost completely disconnected or substantially insulated from reality, while still imitating certain believable elements of the real world amid elaborate rationalizations. It is this pretend causality that entices a willing suspension of disbelief — for those who are vulnerable, coerced, deceived or conformist — that perpetuates self-insulation and additional supportive distortions. So let's take a careful look at each of these components, in order to appreciate just how instrumental they are in everything human beings think, feel and do, and how the modern age is shaping them.

I. Misattribution

Humans make this cognitive mistake so often it seems almost ridiculous to point it out: we blame the wrong culprit for our problems, and consequently pursue the wrong solutions to fix them. Add some additional, deleterious unintended consequences to these kinds of mistakes, and the resulting conditions could easily be described as "what leads to much suffering in the world;" that is, what has perpetuated much of the destruction, unhappiness, suffering, pain and annihilation throughout human history. The dangers of misattributed causation are identified in many if not most wisdom traditions — we can discern this in admonitions about judging others to quickly, gossiping about our suspicions, bearing false witness, words spoken in anger, living by the sword, throwing the first stone, revenge, showy public worship, etc., along with repeated encouragement to forgive without conditions, be patient and longsuffering, generous and caring, humble and trusting. Such concerns are certainly echoed in more recent empirical and rationalist approaches to both knowledge and socially constructive behaviors as well; for example, research in psychology around the misattribution of arousal to incorrect stimuli, or the application of the scientific method in understanding and resolving complex empirical challenges. But sometimes the obvious and longstanding begs restating, so we'll briefly address it here.

Let's consider a few relatively neutral examples, then drill down to a few more compelling, nuanced and disturbing details. For example, most reasonably perceptive adults might agree from their own direct observations, fairly straightforward and simplistic reasoning, or trusted sources of learning that:

1. Sunlight warms the Earth.

2. Submerging crusty pots and pans in water for a time makes them easier to clean.

3. Regularly and violently beating a domesticated animal will eventually induce behavioral problems in that animal.

4. A sedentary lifestyle, devoid of exercise and full of rich foods, will lead to chronic health problems.

5. Smiling at people with genuine openness and affection generally encourages openness and a positive emotional response in return.

6. A heavy object dropped from the second floor of a building onto someone's head is likely to kill them.

7. Really awful things happen to perfectly decent, undeserving people with some regularity.

8. Choosing "the easy way out" of a given situation — that is, a choice that seeks to fortify personal comfort or avoids personal accountability — is often much less fruitful or constructive in the long run than making a harder, more uncomfortable choice that embraces personal responsibility.

There are probably hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of such causal chains that most people have internalized and rely upon to navigate their day-to-day lives. We may not always be consistent in our reasoning and application of them, and there are often exceptions or special conditions that moderate the efficacy of our causal predictions, but on-the-whole we usually learn over time which causal attributions are correct, and which are mistaken. That is...unless something interrupts that learning process.

And this is where I feel the discussion becomes interesting. For it is my contention that many characteristics of modern society not only disrupt our ability to learn and predict accurate causal relationships, but actually encourage distortions and misattributions. How? Here again we will see how complexity, technology, and superagency strongly facilitate the disconnect...but also that we can add isolation and specialization to the mix as well. If, over the course childhood, my entire reference set for understanding causal relationships is defined by television and video games, and I have never thoroughly tested any of the assumptions inculcated through those media, how will I ever escape their fictional depictions? At around age eight or nine, I myself attempted to duplicate some of the crazy stunts Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner performed in Warner Brothers cartoons. I quickly learned that gravity, momentum, inertia, the velocity of falling objects, and host of other principles of physics were grossly misrepresented in those TV shows. I also learned that I did not recover from serious injury nearly as quickly as Wily Coyote did. But what if I hadn't learned any of this through experience? What I had always been insulated from real-world testing and consequences? What if I kept assuming that the fiction I was being shown for entertainment was the actual truth...?

I find this a handy metaphor for modern society, because, throughout most early stages of development, human beings can now remain completely insulated from experiences that shape our understanding of actual causality. Over the years I have witnessed young people trying to ride a horse, play an instrument, write a story, draw a picture, shoot a gun, drive a car, run a race, play a sport, build a tree house, use martial arts...and a host of other activities or skills...simply by imitating what they saw in a movie, played in a video game, or read in a book. And of course that doesn't work — because they do not understand the subtleties of the causal relationships involved. This is what competently learning a skill most often represents: appreciating all of the causal relationships that influence a given outcome, and practicing each one in turn until they are mastered individually and conjointly. What application of force, in which direction, using which tool at which angle and with what kind of finesse, results in unscrewing a rusty bolt on an old bicycle? Knowing the answers to all the steps in a causal chain, especially through personal experience, is what most reliably produces predictive efficacy over time. But if I've never actually ridden a horse, or hiked a mountain, or slaughtered a chicken, or grown food in a garden, or learned to shoot a bow and arrow, or installed a fence, or built a house, or felled a tree, or any number of other activities that might have been the common experience of folks a mere generation or two ago, how can I presume to know how the world around me really works, or how to accomplish the simplest tasks without the aid of technology, advanced tools or specialized workers on which most of the developed world has now come to rely?

Well I can't, and no amount of assistance from my iPad, smartphone or virtual assistant is going to help me develop a felt, somatic-intuitive understanding of basic causal principles — let alone more complex causal chains. I will remain blissfully ignorant of how things work. However, these same technologies also provide an ever-advancing level of virtual pseudoagency — by turning home appliances on or off, monitoring a child's activities, video conferencing with coworkers, ordering groceries to be delivered, recording a threatening phone call, troubleshooting a vehicle's error codes, managing finances, donating to a charity or political campaign, signing a petition, etc. — so that I begin to believe that I really have no need to grasp those causal principles. In fact, the increasing scope of that virtual pseudoagency begins to feel a lot like superagency itself, even though the only causal relationship I am required to maintain is the one with my iPad, smartphone or virtual assistant. Here again, complexity, technology, superagency, isolation and specialization conspire to support my entanglement with virtual causality. And if I confine myself to the same routines, the same environments, the same social groups and virtual communities, the same homogenous culture and mass is possible for me to remain disconnected and insulated from authentic causality for my entire life. So, just hold that thought if you will.....

Let's now examine a second set of causal relationships that are a bit more abstracted from direct experience, rely on more complex reasoning, or encourage us to develop greater trust in authoritative sources of information:

1. Human industry has been accelerating the warming of the planet to levels that will likely destabilize human civilization, and eventually endanger all other life on Earth.

2. Travelling through space at velocities approaching the speed of light slows down time for the traveller relative to the space being travelled through.

3. Gun ownership may make people feel safer, but as a statistical reality it places them at much higher risk of being shot themselves.

4. One of the best ways to mitigate the most pernicious negative impacts of drug addiction on individuals and society is to legalize, tax and regulate drugs, and then allow them to be administered in a controlled environment with medical oversight, and by folks who are also trained in providing treatment and resources to anyone who is willing and able to overcome their addiction.

5. Quantum entanglement (what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance") indicates an immediate relationship between particles over vast distances, potentially negating the speed of light as a limiting factor of data transmission.

6. Educating people from an early age about safe sex, family planning and child rearing, and allowing them easy, affordable access to reproductive healthcare and choices, is one of the most effective ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies and abortions.

7. Corporate monopolies can often be much more inefficient, coercive, exploitative and corrosive to civil society and individual well-being than the bureaucratic or cumbersome institutions of democratically elected governments.

8. Educating and empowering women to become more economically self-sufficient, and more intellectually and emotionally self-directed, is likely the single most effective means of raising a culture out of poverty, slowing overpopulation, and strengthening local civil society over a short period of time.

Now you will notice that this second set of causal relationships has some notable differences from the first set. Each statement has required more words for an accurate description, for example, and a deeper and broader contextualization. The causality being described can also be much larger in scope, and causal chains much more subtle, abstract or tenuous. And even as these relationships are increasingly distanced from direct experience and observation, they also tend to involve more complexity and interdependency, making them that much more difficult to grasp. Still, any reasonable person who has carefully and thoroughly educated themselves about each of these issues will eventually acquire a justifiable level of confidence in the stated conclusions, because, with sufficient attention, diligence and effort, the causal relationships actually become just as obvious as the ones in the first set.

But wait....let's return to the problem of lacking experiential (felt, somatic-intuitive) understanding about the real world. As very few people will have the chance to experience any of the causal relationships in the second set in a subjective, firsthand way, an additional challenge is created: we will then often be forced to rely on the few people who have the specialized knowledge, expertise and experience to educate us about these causal relationships. And we will need to be able to trust their judgment — and often their exclusive agency — at least to some degree, even though we may not fully comprehend what they are describing in a fully multidimensional way. And, as we shall see, this whole enterprise is subject to a host of additional influences and caveats, so that we may once again find ourselves relying on our iPad, smartphone or virtual agent to support our understanding. Once again our technology, isolation, specialization, superagency and complexity conspire to add more distance and effort to clear or accurate causal comprehensions. Now consider the accelerating complexity of every gadget, tool and system upon which we rely to navigate the complexity of our world to levels beyond our basic knowledge, and the distance increases further still. And as we anticipate the imminent expansion of virtual reality technology itself into more and more areas of our lives, we can begin to imagine just how disconnected human beings will inevitably become — from each other, from themselves, and from the causal workings of the world.

With this is mind, for many people there is also a pronounced gap of doubt between these two sets of causal relationships, with the second set seeming much more tentative, conditional or questionable. For these skeptics, it often will not matter how much evidence is presented in support of any given conclusion...especially if that conclusion contradicts their values system, or challenges certain fundamental assumptions they hold about the world, or is perceived to undermine their preferred information authorities, or pokes and prods at their sense of identity or place in society. Given the choice, the skeptic may instead opt for tolerating higher and higher levels of cognitive dissonance. Of course, the highest level of understanding about these topics may again just be armchair expertise, with no real-world experience to back it up. In such cases, it might seem easy to attribute what are essentially irrational or ill-informed doubts about complex but verifiable attributions of causation to ignorance alone — or to cognitive bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, tribal groupthink, being intimidated by complexity, ideological brainwashing and manipulation, abject stupidity, or some other equally dismissive explanation. In fact I have made this judgmental error myself, often amid roiling frustration that someone really seems to believe that, to paraphrase Asimov, their ignorance is "just as good as" rigorous investigation and knowledge.

But this has been, I now suspect, a glaringly lazy oversimplification; itself yet another misattribution of causation. Instead, what I now believe is actually happening is something much more intricate, and much more intriguing.

II. Masking

There are plentiful reasons why an individual or group might be strongly motivated to persuade themselves or coerce others into believing that one thing is responsible for certain outcomes, when it is really something else entirely. Consider such real-world conditions as:

1. I want to sell you something that you don't really want or need, and in order to part you from your money, I fabricate causal relationships to facilitate that end. For example, claiming that if you purchase a certain supplement, you won't need to exercise or change your diet to lose weight. Or that if you make a given long-term investment, you will be able to retire from your job decades earlier than you would otherwise. Or that if you trust in the products, services or advice I am selling you, you will achieve happiness, romance, social status, or a desirable level of financial success. And so on. This is perhaps the most pervasive example of intentional causal masking and deliberate deception — except of course when the salesperson (or friend, or coworker, or public official, etc.) may actually believe that the causal relationship is real, in which case they were just hoodwinked into complicity.

2. I am confused, fearful, insecure and frustrated by an increasingly complex and incomprehensible world — a world in which my identity is uncertain, my role in society is uncertain, my existential purpose has come into question, and I am simply unable to navigate the complexity around me with any self-assurance that I have any real agency or efficacy. I am also feeling increasingly lonely, isolated and disenfranchised by fast-paced, constantly changing urbanization and leapfrogging technologies, in combination with the pressure-cooker-effect of burgeoning population density. I feel I am in desperate competition — for both resources and achieving any personal value to society — with everything and everyone around me...and I feel that I am losing that race. So I latch onto a group, belief or ideology that helps relieve the panic, and inherent to that process is my masking away the actual causes of my existential pain and suffering, and investing in much simpler (but inaccurate) causal relationships through which I can imagine that I have more influence or control. And thus I may join a religious group, or political party, or online community, and actively surrender my own critical reasoning capacity in favor of comforting groupthink or ingroup/outgroup self-justifications.

3. Some impactful life experience or insight has inspired a reframing of all of my consequent observations and experiences according to a new paradigm — a paradigm that radically departs from previous assumptions, and applies a new filter for causation across all interactions and explanations. For example, after surviving a brutally violent event, I feel the need to protect myself and everyone I care about with elaborate and oppressive safety rules, rigid communication protocols, expensive security technology, and a host of lethal weapons. After my experiences, I simply view all interactions and situations as potentially dangerous and requiring a high degree of vigilance and suspicion. In my revised worldview, everything and everyone has become a potential threat, and I must always be prepared for the worst possible outcome. In this way I have masked all causal relationships with potential calamity and catastrophe — and actively persuade others to do the same. In this sense, I have become conditioned to partial reinforcement — similarly to a gambler who wins intermittently, or a mouse who receives a chunk of cheese at arbitrary intervals for pushing on a button in his cage; whether that partial reinforcement invoked positive or negative consequences, I will insist on maintaining masked causation in order to prop up my compulsions.

4. I have made an error in judgment tied to investment of emotions or efforts, which was then followed by other errors required to support that initial error in judgment, until a long series of decisions and continued investment has created its own momentum and gravitational mass, and now seems an inescapable trajectory for my life and my identity. Perhaps I became invested in some logical fallacy or bias (confirmation bias, appeal to authority or tradition, slippery slope fallacy, vacuous truths, courtesy bias, hot-hand fallacy, etc. — see more at Wikipedia), or initially overestimated my own knowledge or competence in some area, or trusted the advice of some cherished mentor, or took on some tremendous risk or commitment I didn't fully understand, or simply fell into a counterproductive habit that initially seemed acceptable...but has led me down an ever-darkening road. Whatever the case, I now find myself rationalizing each new decision in support of a long chain of mistaken judgments, and must of necessity consciously or unconsciously mask all causal relationships to protect my own ego or self-concept.

Regardless of the impetus, once this masking process begins, it can rapidly become self-perpetuating, a runaway train of misinformation and propaganda that eventually acquires institutional structures like rigidity, bureaucratic legalism, self-protective fervor, a dearth of self-awareness, and so on. In fact, potent beliefs and indeed entire ideologies have sprung forth from such synthesis, to then be aggressively propagated by adherents, with all provable causes forcefully rejected in favor of fabrications that conform to the new, hurriedly institutionalized worldview.

Recalling the two sets of causal relationships mentioned previously, our modern context of isolation, complexity, technology, specialization and superagency certainly seems to lend itself to both the masking process and its runaway propagation and institutionalization. It has become much easier, in other words, to mask the second set of seemingly more abstracted and complex causal relationships — or to invoke vast clouds of hazy interdependencies in either set —so that causation can be craftily shaped into an occluded, subjective miasma of "alternative facts." And although deities, fate, synchronicity, mischievous spirits and superstitious agency may still be credited with many bewildering events, there is now an industrial strength, global communications network that can instantly shape and amplify false explanations for a wide array of phenomena. Via social media, troll farms, sensational journalism, conspiracy theorists, pedantic talk-show hosts and the like, we have a well-established, widely trusted platform to breed outrageous distortions of the truth. And we can easily discern — from the consistency of the distortions over time, and by whom and what they vilify — that the primary aim of nearly all such efforts is to mask the actual causes of countless economic, social, political and moral problems, and redirect the attentions and ire of loyal audiences to oversimplified explanations, straw man arguments, and xenophobic scapegoats. It is professional-grade masking at its finest.

That said, in the age of instant information access and pervasive mass media aggregation and dissemination, I would contend it has now become critical for these propaganda engines to excel beyond spinning evidence or cherry-picking supportive data, and to begin engineering events that align with a given narrative in order to secure enduring conformance. In other words, to reach past merely masking causation into the realm of actually reshaping it. This is what the deliberate, willful forcing of causation seeks to accomplish, and why extraordinary amounts of effort and resources — at least equivalent to those being expended on causal masking itself — have been spent in its pursuit.

III. Forcing

Willful forcing in this context is primarily about the intentional, frequently sustained manufacturing of causal evidence. For example, lets say I am seething with jealousy over a coworker's accomplishments, and I am filled with a petty lust to sabotage them. At first, I might attempt to mask the cause of their success with malicious gossip: what they did wasn't all that great, or they must have cheated along the way, or the boss was favoring them with special help, or the coworker must have been performing favors for others to achieve such results. But if masking the actual cause of their success (that is, their credible competence, talent, hard work, etc.) isn't having sufficient effect, and I am still raging with vindictive spite, well then perhaps arranging some fake proof of my coworker's faults or failures will do the trick. Perhaps leaking a confidential memo from human resources about accusations of sexual misconduct? Or feeding them subtly incorrect data on their next project? Or maybe promising them cooperation and assistance in private, then denying it in public when it sabotages their efforts? If I keep at this long enough, I just might induce some real failures and shatter the "illusion" of my coworkers success. This is what willful forcing looks like, and is sort of connivance we might expect from TV dramas. But nobody really does this in the real world...right?

Unfortunately, it happens all the time — and increasingly on larger and larger scales as facilitated by the global reach of technology, capitalism, media and culture. We've seen such tactics used in the take-downs of political leaders, in the character assassinations of journalists and celebrities, in carefully orchestrated attacks on government and corporate whistleblowers, in how various activist movements are dismissively characterized in mass media, and in the billions spent to turn public opinion against beneficial public policies and legislation that might undermine established wielders of power. But is any of this "forcing" creating a causal relationship that wasn't already there...? Well, as one example, if reports of what happened during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election are accurate, then forcing did occur, via DNC efforts that deliberately undermined Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton; Republican state legislatures that deliberately suppressed Democratic voters with voter ID laws, restricted polling times and places, and other such tactics; and Russian hackers that aimed to alienate Blue Dog Democrats and independent voters away from voting for Hillary Clinton. Assertions that any individual or party who appeared to be leading in the polls actually did not have enough votes to win was...well...carefully engineered to be true. This is what causal forcing looks like on a larger scale.

In a more sustained forcing effort over a longer period, the Affordable Care Act has also become a particularly potent example. In this case, there was a pronounced lack of initial cooperation from conservative state legislatures, relentless and well-funded anti-Obamacare propaganda to maintain negative sentiments across the electorate, and dozens of efforts in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal the ACA itself — all of which has now been followed by the even more deliberate defunding and insurance market destabilizing efforts from the Trump administration via executive action (eliminating ACA cost-sharing subsidies, etc.). And all of this contributed to fulfilling the causal masking that was broadcast from those opposed to government oversight of U.S. healthcare — during the ACA's creation and passage, and every day since then. In other words, years of carefully planned and executed sabotage have been forcing the invented causality of claims like "Obamacare is a total failure and will collapse on its own" to become true.

It isn't always necessary to force causal relationships, of course, to maintain lockstep conformance. There are plentiful examples in politics of people continuing to vote for a candidate or party who never fulfills any campaign promises...ever. But we must remember that masking — and all individual and collective investment in masking — only requires partial reinforcement from observations and experience, an ongoing emotional investment, a blindness to our own hypocrisy or groupthink, and a conditioned receptivity to deceptive salesmanship. So as long as there is occasional proof that some authority we trust got something right, or some attitude we hold is justifiable, or the ideology we have chosen will still offer us acceptance and community, or the rabbit hole we've ventured down with an endless chain of bad choices has few or delayed palpable consequences...well, then those who wish to influence the masses only need to effectively force causation in the rare now-and-again.

Still, I would contend that a consistent pattern of fabrication has been emerging over many decades now: first misattribution, then masking, then forcing, all eventually leading to calamity and ruin in human relations and civil society — and disruption of our relationships with everything around us — thereby generating a closed loop of virtual causality. But in case these assertions seem contrived, let's take a closer look at additional real-world examples.

Virtual Causality in Action

Initially, I considered using "trifecta" to describe this particular trio of causal entanglements, because the motivations behind it appear to be all about winning; that is, it is employed primarily to shape a status quo that either directly benefits those who crave more power, influence or social and material capital, or directly injures or oppresses anyone interfering with that desired status quo. Thus the troika often becomes the trophy, the prize-in-itself, as its inventions and propagation become emblematic of such self-serving success — in other words, a trifecta. But really, this need not be the specific intent behind causal distortions; in fact I would say that the virtual causality troika is unwaveringly damaging in human affairs, regardless of its intent. Let's examine some evidence for this....

If out of fear, discomfort, confusion, ignorance or social conformance I begin to misattribute homosexuality to a personal choice — rather than the innate, genetic structures and proclivities, which are almost certainly the reality for most gay people — and then link that assertion to tribal groupthink and an appeal to my favorite authorities, an almost effortless next step is intentionally or reflexively masking the actual causality with my own preferred beliefs. That mask may be projected into many shapes: perhaps an unhealthy or perverse interest was encouraged in a person's youth that led them to "choose" being gay; or perhaps they were sexually abused by a parent, older sibling or family friend; or maybe there are emotional, social or cognitive impairments that have led them to fear the opposite sex; and so on. There can be quite elaborate masking narratives if the need for self-justifying beliefs is strong enough. From there, perhaps because the misattribution itself is so heartbreakingly mistaken, there is a corresponding urge to force the desired, invented causation. Which leads me to author studies that "prove" early sexualization of children and/or permissive parenting somehow encourages sexual deviance, promiscuity or gender instability; or to engineer "gay deprogramming" efforts that "prove" gay people can become straight; or creating dogmatic propaganda that authentic marriage can only be between "a man and a woman," that gay parents can never be allowed to adopt children because it is "unnatural," that gay people can't hold jobs where they could potentially "corrupt" children, and other such constructions that create an environment where gay people are in some way prevented from becoming successful and happy in their relationships, families, and jobs — and indeed their overall integration in society — thus adding to my "proof" that being gay is not natural, healthy or wise. And this is how misattribution easily leads to masking, which then begs the reinforcement of forcing.

So in such a potent and seemingly enduring real-world example, the deleterious effects seem closely tied to fearful and dismissive intent. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Consider the beliefs of many people in modern culture regarding the desirability of wealth, and in particular the necessity of commercialistic capitalism to create a thriving and happy lifestyle for everyone. Much of the time, this isn't a nefarious or malevolent intent — folks may actually believe that everyone aggressively competing with each other for more and more wealth is "a good thing," and, further, that such pursuits are morally neutral; in other words, permissive of an "anything goes" mentality with regard to wealth creation. And if I truly embrace this belief, I will tend to mask my own observations about the world, about history and economics, about social movements, about government and everything else in accordance with that belief. In my unconsciously reflexive confirmation bias, I will only recognize arguments and evidence that seem to support my beliefs. That is, I will mask the actual causality behind events and data that embody my preferred causality, assiduously avoiding empirical research that debunks the travesty of "trickle down" economics, or that proves most conceptions of the Laffer curve to be laughable.

Then, because my beliefs are not really supported by careful analysis of available evidence — and are in fact thoroughly contradicted by a preponderance of data — I will eventually go beyond seeking out research, media and authorities that amplify my preferred causation, and begin to force that causation in my own life, the lives of those I can personally influence, and via my political leanings and spending habits. On a collective scale, I will vote to have judges appointed who favor corporations in their rulings, or for legislators who create tax breaks for the wealthy, or for Presidents who promise to remove regulatory barriers to corporate profits. On a personal level, I will explode my own debt burden in order to appear more affluent, and constantly and conspicuously consume to prop up growth-dependent markets. And, on a global level, I will advocate neoliberal policies that exploit cheap labor and resources in developing countries, and the ruination of my planet and all its species of plant and animal, in service to the very few who are exponentially increasing their personal fortunes. In these ways, I can help generate short-term surges of narrowly distributed prosperity that do indeed reward those who have already amassed significant wealth, and who will vociferously confirm that everyone else in society is benefitting as well...even when they are not.

In this second example, there can be a truly optimistic and benevolent intent in play — a person may really believe their misattribution, masking and forcing will have a positive impact. But the results of the disconnect between actual causality and invented causation still wreaks the same havoc on the world. For in this case we know that it is not wealth alone — operating in some sort of market fundamentalist vacuum — that lifts people out of poverty or liberates them from oppressive conditions. It is civil society, education, democracy, accessible healthcare, equal rights protected by the rule of law, the grateful and diligent civic engagement by responsible citizens, and much more; this cultural context is absolutely necessary to enable freedoms and foster enjoyment of the fruits of our labor. Without a substantive and enduring matrix of these complex and interdependent factors, history has shown without exception that wealth production alone results in callous and brutal enslavement of everyone and everything to its own ends, so that to whatever extent we fuel our greed, we fuel destruction of our society and well-being to the same degree.

Here again we can recognize that isolation, complexity, technology, specialization and superagency tend to obscure causality even as they amplify our ability to mask or force causal relationships. So on the one hand, it is more difficult to tease out cause-and-effect in complex, technologically dependent economic systems, but, once certain key effectors are identified, human superagency then makes it much easier to manipulate temporary outcomes or perceptions of longer-term outcomes. And this is precisely why the troika we've identified can maintain the appearance of victory within many dominant mediaspheres, noospheres and Zeitgeists — at local, national and global levels. To appreciate these dynamics is to have the veil between what is real and what is being sold as reality completely removed — in this and many other instances. Otherwise, if we cannot remove that veil, we will remain trapped in a spectacle of delusion that perpetuates the greatest suffering for the greatest number for the greatest duration.

As to how pervasive and corrosive virtual causality has become in various arenas of life, that is probably a broader discussion that requires more thorough development. But, more briefly, we can easily observe a growing body of evidence that has widely taken hold in one important arena. Consider the following example and its consequences:

Perceived Problem: Social change is happening too quickly, destabilizing traditional roles and identities across all of society, and specifically challenging assumptions about the "rightful, superior position" of men over women, white people over people of color, adults over children, humans over Nature, and wealthy people over the poor.

Actual Causes: Liberalization of culture, education, automation, economic mobility and democratization have led to wealthy white men losing their status, position and power in society, so that they feel increasingly vulnerable, insecure and threatened. And while their feelings of entitlement regarding the power they are losing have no morally justifiable basis — other than the arbitrary, serendipitous or engineered advantages of past traditions, institutions and experiences — these wealthy white men have become indignant, enraged and desperate. So, rather than accepting a very reasonable equalization of their status and sharing their power with others, they are aggressively striving to reconstitute a perceived former glory.

Misattributions: Recreational use of illicit drugs, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, lack of parental discipline, immorally indulgent entertainment media, immigrants or races with different values, governmental interference with personal liberty and moral standards, and liberal academic indoctrination have all contributed to the erosion of traditional family values and cohesion, resulting in an unnatural and destructive inversion of power dynamics in society and the easily grasped consequences of interpersonal and group conflict, increases in violent behaviors and crime, and general societal instability.

Causal Masking: Establishing think tanks and funding research that supports these causal misattributions with cherry-picked data; using mass media with a dedicated sympathetic bias to trumpet one-sided propaganda about these same causal misattributions; invoking religious sentiments and language that similarly cherry-pick scriptural and institutional support for sympathetic groupthink and activism; generating cohesive political platforms and well-funded campaigns grounded in these misattributions — and in the dissatisfaction, resentment and anger they evoke; and, via populist rhetoric, generally emboldening prejudice and hate against groups that threaten white male power.

Causal Forcing: The strident dismantling of public education and access to higher education; cancelling or defunding successful government programs; capturing or neutering regulatory agencies; destroying social safety nets; rejecting scientific and statistical consensus in all planning and policy considerations; and engineering economic, social and political environments that favor the resurgence of wealthy white male privilege and influence. In other words, removing any conditions that encourage equitable resource distribution, sharing of social capital, and access to economic opportunity, and restoring as many exclusive advantages as possible for wealthy white men.

Consequences: A renewal of income inequality, race and gender prejudices, lack of economic mobility, and cultural and systemic scapegoating of non-white "outsiders;" pervasive increase in societal instability and potential for both violent crime and institutional violence; mutually antagonistic identity politics and class conflict that amplifies polarization and power differentials; coercive use of force by the State to control the increasing instability; and gradual but inevitable exacerbation of injustice and systemic oppression. Adding superagency, isolation, specialization, complexity and technology to this mixture just amplifies the instability and extremism, increasing the felt impacts of ever-multiplying fascistic constraints and controls. Ultimately all of this results in increasing poverty and strife, and in pervasive deprivations of liberty for all but a select few.

Countering Virtual Causality with a Greater Good

In response to the dilemmas created by the troika we've discussed so far, I 've been aiming to work through some possible solutions for several years now. I began with a personal realization that I had to address deficits in my own well-being, deficits created by years of conforming to toxic cultural expectations about my own masculinity, and the equally destructive path of individualistic economic materialism which I had thoughtlessly followed throughout much of my life. I encountered an initial door to healing through studying various mystical traditions and forms of meditation, which resulted in my books The Vital Mystic and Essential Mysticism. However, I also realized that this dimension was only part of the mix; there were at least a dozen other dimensions of my being that required equal attention and nurturing. As I explored these facets of well-being, I arrived at the Integral Lifework system of transformative practice, my books True Love and Being Well, essays exploring compassionate multidimensional nourishment (see the essays page on this website), and the onset of an Integral Lifework coaching practice.

But something was still missing — something more causally fundamental that was hinted at in my previous experiences — and that is when I expanded my attentions to larger cultural, political and economic concerns. I began writing about the failures of capitalism, the distortions of religion and spirituality in commercialistic societies, the need for more holistic appreciations of liberty and knowledge, and the imperative of constructive moral creativity — offering a handful of what I believed to be fruitful approaches in these areas. Much of this culminated in the book Political Economy and the Unitive Principle, and then in my Level website, which explore some initial ways out of the mess we have created. Throughout these efforts, I presented what I believed to be some of the central causal factors involved in our current systemic antagonisms and failures, and some proposed next steps to actualize and sustain positive change. Of course what I have outlined in my work is just one way to frame all of these situations and factors, and, regardless of intentions, there will likely be many details and variables yet to be worked through. This is why piloting different participatory, distributed and egalitarian options will be so important in the coming decade. The main point, however, is that, just as so many others have recognized, humanity cannot continue along its present course.

So this essay regarding virtual causality is an extension of this same avenue of considerations and concerns by burrowing through more layers of the onion — just one more piece of the puzzle, one more way to evaluate the current predicament...and perhaps begin navigating our way out of it. It seems to me that recognizing the cognitive distortions behind causal misattribution, masking and forcing are a central consideration for any remedy in the short and long term. These are the specific drivers underlying much of the evil in the world, perpetuating false promises that will only lead us over the cliff of our own demise. And in order to operationalize more constructive, prosocial, compassion-centered values, relationships and institutions on any scale — that is, to counter the corrosive troika and promote the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration — we must address those cognitive distortions head on. We must end the reign of lies, and reinstate a more honest, open and well-reasoned relationship with causality. We must resist the false reality we are being sold, and open our eyes, hearts, spirits and minds to what really is.

How do we do this? Well, my own life's work describes one avenue, through which I advocate specific individual and collective efforts to reverse our downward spiral. But as I cruise around the Internet from day to day, I encounter countless and varied ideas, practices and resources supportive of positive change. Really, the answers are already out there (and within ourselves), just waiting for us to embrace them. All we really need to do to begin this journey is let go of the causal misattributions, masking and forcing that intrinsically fuel our perpetual fear, mistrust, anger and groupthink, and turn instead toward what is verifiably true — as complex, nuanced, ambiguous and counterintuitive as that truth may be. And there are already meaningful efforts along these lines within some disciplines — Freakonomics comes to mind, as do websites like,,, and — that model ways to peek through the veil of our mistaken assumptions and beliefs. We just require more of these, across all disciplines and all media, along with open accessibility and the encouragement to seek them out. How hard could this be...? Even the most concerted efforts to deceive, distract and medicate us into conformance with virtual causality will fail, if we stop consuming them.

Lastly there are a handful of feasible personal practices that will help resolve part of this challenge. I discuss them in more detail in my writings on Integral Lifework, but essentially they include reconnecting with aspects of ourselves and our environment that modern life often encourages us to neglect. For example: spending alone time in nature; creating a disciplined habit of meditative introspection; investing regular time and energy in a supportive community that shares our values; shifting how we consciously process our experiences, from fast-paced analytical decision-making, to slower body-centered felt experience, to even slower heart-grounded intelligence; making sure we have space and time in our day for creative self-expression; and additional personal patterns that unplug us from electronic dependencies, naturally attenuate modern compulsions and addictions, and encourage both holistic self-care and compassionate engagement with others. Such practices are a powerful means of revitalizing the innate resilience, intelligence and creativity that millions of years of evolution have gifted our species. By returning to our authentic selves, we can regain an inner compass to help navigate these complicated and often alienating times.

When I was a technical consultant, there was a term for carelessly hurtling forward to keep pace with current technology, implementing the latest trends as soon as they emerged: we called it "riding the bleeding edge." The allusion was deliberate, because new tech could be risky, could fail, and might lack both support and future development. Instead, in my consulting I advocated a different approach: extending legacy systems and future-proofing them, or adding new technology that would integrate with legacy systems (or run in parallel with minimal cost) that offered extensibility for future technology integration — a bridge if you will. There was nothing particularly flashy about what I was doing, but this approach solved some fairly complex challenges, lowered hidden costs (such as retraining staff on new systems, or hiring expertise to support new technologies), and leveraged institutional knowledge and existing technical competencies. In my view, we need to do something similar for modern society, slowing down wide-scale deployment of "bleeding edge" innovation, and revisiting basic legacy components of human interaction and well-being. We need to create a bridge to our future selves that leaves as few people behind as possible, while preparing us for new ways of being and doing.

But our very first step must be to abandon virtual causality altogether, and reconnect with the real world in whatever ways we can.


Following up on some feedback I received after initially posting this essay....

Petyr Cirino pointed out that a powerful influence in modern society is our immersion in the 24-hour news cycle, which often results in a strong identification with the same. To be connected at-the-hip with nearly every noteworthy or sensational event around the globe, within minutes or hours of its occurrence, has come to dominate our sense of the world around us, what demands our emotional investment and prioritization from moment-to-moment, and is a determining factor in how we interact with people we know and familiar threads of thinking, how we view the people or thinking we don't know or understand, and how we feel about our lives and ourselves. The deluge of information and "newsworthy" events also tends to distract us from more immediate causality, contributing to an ever-expanding insulation from the real world and the abstraction of our interpersonal connections. Along with other mass media, the 24-hour news cycle consequently helps fuel, shape and sustain the causal troika to an astonishing degree. So it follows that divorcing ourselves from that cycle would be a helpful cofactor in first slowing, then remedying the perpetuation of misattribution, masking and forcing — for ourselves, and in how we amplify the troika in our relationships, social interactions, thinking and learning.

Ray Harris observed that limited cognitive capacity — along with a need to protect that capacity from too much information — may also play a role in evoking and energizing the causal troika. I think this is undoubtedly true, and would include it as a feature or consequence of complexity. Specifically, I think there is a snowball effect where complexity drives specialization, specialization generates insular language and relationships, and insular language and relationships contributes to isolation via homogenous communities and thought fields. These specialized islands barely comprehend each other, let alone regularly dialogue with each other, and cognitive capacity certainly plays a role in this phenomenon. I would also include other aspects of mind that contribute to troika formation, and which are also entangled with complexity, specialization and isolation. For example: how gullible someone is, how disciplined they are in their critical reasoning, how educated they are in general, how tribal their thinking becomes, etc. Addressing these tendencies may also become part of a long-term remedy, but of course there are genetic, dietary, cultural and relational factors involved here as well. It seems that any attempts to manage the troika tendency, or compensate for it in media and communication, would therefore require consideration of a sizable matrix of interdependent factors. Or maybe a majority of humans just need to become smarter, better educated, and learn how to think carefully and critically...? Certainly, we can encourage this through ongoing cultural liberalization — we just need to attenuate the influences of capitalism in order for that liberalization to take its fullest course.

What was your enlightenment experience like?

It’s still going on. I suspect it will never end. There also seem to be many facets and dimensions to it, only some of which are approachable with words. I wrote about one phase of my experience here: Poetry by T.Collins Logan. See the second poem, “Today’s Libation.” That poem brushes up against many aspects of a persistent unfolding/awakening — and my attempts to express it. I could just as easily answer this question with “a deep and abiding silence,” or “a dense and seemingly endless cascade of aha moments,” or “being arrested by an intense clarity of what agape really is…that is, precisely what it looks like, and why it is the only remaining imperative, after the fires of gnosis have burned everything else away.” I think there are probably as many different expressions of this journey as their are stages in the journey…and my insight thus far is that those stages are infinite. Here is something I wrote after some spiritual adventures earlier in my life that I think captures a central theme in my own awakening (from my book The Vital Mystic):

The Cliff

With all of my being I scrambled and trembled and strove
climbing ever higher
but the most detailed maps, the most disciplined techniques
and the careful advice of sages widely revered
did not avail me – for I could not reach my goal, or even
comprehend it
until, one day, with unexpected insight
I just let go
and began an endless falling into God

— My 2 cents.

What are the objectives of metaphysics?

In my view (and in my own work), metaphysics has the following central objectives:

1. Understanding and defining the nature of being and existence, inclusive of primary causal relationships (i.e. between subjects, objects, what existed before, etc.).

2. Appreciating and describing the interactions of consciousness with being and existence, the interpenetration of being and knowing, and the modalities of spacetime within which such interactions take place.

3. Differentiating categories and conditions of truth. For example, the universal from the particular, the absolute or immutable from the contingent, the eternal from the emergent, etc.

4. Differentiating all such metaphysical conceptions from “what actually is” (as an acceptance of human limitations), or iteratively refining those conceptions to integrate new observations and evidences.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:

Can wisdom be mechanized and proceduralized, and if so, what are some of the issues involved in doing so?

IMO wisdom cannot be mechanized — at least not the spirit of what wisdom is really all about (i.e. multifaceted efficacy). It can be “proceduralized” to a limited degree, in that certain input streams, aptitudes and processing techniques can be encouraged that tend to permit available wisdom to percolate up through our intentions and actions (for example, certain types of meditation). But there is no guaranteed approach in my experience. In this sense we could equate characteristics of wisdom with compassion, in that there are ways to inspire or induce those characteristics (or mimic them), but that a rigid enforcement of authentic compassionate responses is really not a practical or “procedural” possibility. Further, the difference between imitations and the real thing are fairly pronounced.

With that said, I once formulated a “pathway” to wisdom that looked something like this:

data/observation → education/information/contextualization → insight/knowledge → compassionate/inclusive intentionality (i.e. “for the good of All”) → application/testing/efficacy → experiential feedback → ongoing practice + fine-tuning → additional multidimensional input streams (emotional + somatic + spiritual + analytical intelligence) → discernment → consistent operationalization + values alignment→ wisdom.

As you can see, this isn’t really a formula or procedure as much as a loose container for a combination of felt experiences, moments of insight, careful attention to consequences and conditions, and continuous adjustment; it is therefore inherently both multidimensional and emergent.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question:

What is the process to become like Gore Vidal, David Berlinski, Slavoj Žižek, Noam Chomsky or Umberto Eco? How many books do they read? How do they define their research topics?

So, first off, wowsa…that’s quite a list! From my observation, research, and learning about these folks over the years (via documentaries, interviews, lectures, reading their work, etc.), I would say there are a handful of common denominators for most of them:

1. Voracious curiosity and ability to absorb huge amounts of information. These guys can take a firehose of new data on a regular basis and quickly integrate and contextualize it. And then — and this is pretty key — they can remember all of it! This is an aptitude like various forms of intelligence…which can, perhaps, be mimicked; but I don’t know if it can become second nature without someone being blessed with certain genetic advantages from birth.

2. An ego big enough to crave public attention and/or recognition. This appears to be a major component of productivity and public engagement for most of these guys — to varying degrees. And it can certainly be mimicked as well…but do you really want to? There are pitfalls to being driven by ego and a need for attention…a certain kind of blindness that undermines the thought field being fostered and propagated by its originator. It can also lead beyond hubris to less savory habits — like unconscious plagiarism.

3. Being a skilled and adaptive communicator. This can be learned — to write well, speak well, etc., and then be able to tailer and condense an idea into accessible language for different groups of people. But it is an absolute necessity to do this…or very few people will understand what you are trying to convey.

4. Pattern identification. This last is really not something that can be mimicked or learned…it is simply a gift, and a pretty rare one. There are academics, writers, philosophers and thinkers that are actually much smarter and more well-read than any of the folks on your list. But they don’t have this gift of seeing patterns in data — and rarely have the “aha” moments that seem to stream out of the thinkers on this list. Someone who possesses this gift can leap to well-supported conclusions almost instantly, while nearly everyone else must slowly and deliberately struggle to catch up…if they even can.

My 2 cents.

Can an enlightened being feel pride?

LOL. Not if they want to remain enlightened, engage the world around them from an awakened state…or operationalize their insight. Pride indicates regression. I suppose it can and does arise in some vulnerable context (beings being beings), but it won’t have any staying power — there is nothing for it to latch onto. The moment the ego is invoked to be deliberately fed with pride, the I/Me/Mine rises up to obscure the unadorned reality that initially attenuated it. So perhaps we could say this is a case of greater/lesser, rather than either/or. But the lessening can be fairly complete, as a matter of consequential maturation. We might even say that experiencing pride is a good barometer of that maturation process.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:

How easy is it to convert a semi-automatic rifle to an automatic?

There is a LOT of ideologically-driven B.S. about this issue floating around the web — from all sides, really. Perhaps as a consequence of this, all of the answers in this Quora thread (see below) that indicate some sort of excessive expense or technical knowledge being required to convert a stock semi-auto to full-auto are…well, let’s just say they’re either ignorant, lying, or sidestepping the obvious. So here’s the (obvious) scoop on this:

For about $200 in parts, $30 in really simple tools, basic familiarity with firearms, some average DIY aptitude, and less than a half hour of time, you can convert any over-the-counter AR-15 to a fully automatic weapon. And here’s the real interesting rub: you can do this “legally” in many jurisdictions whose laws haven’t caught up with burst fire conversion kits.

The concept in play is called “bump firing.” Basically it uses a sliding stock firing action to harness recoil, so that with very little skill (most people can get the hang of it on a first or second try), a shooter can fire at close to the same rate as a fully automatic weapon, and do so continuously. With a little practice, a shooter can unload clips just as quickly as many fully automatic weapons. Here are two example videos (using the YouTube search string “bump fire stock ar 15”):

Seasoned bump-fire shooter with $99 kit:

Pretty obvious amateurs giving bump-fire a try:

Again…this is all with legal, over-the-counter stuff using very basic knowledge.

The answer to this question, therefore, is: ridiculously easy, cheap, and (in many jurisdictions) legal.

And yes…to answer the obvious follow-up question…according to the AP and Time (, the Las Vegas shooter had bump stocks in his hotel room. So…yeah.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:

What disagreement do you have with any of John Searles' major philosophical positions?

From what I’ve read, I probably have a 65/35 relationship with Searle’s work: 65% in agreement, 35% in disagreement. This hasn’t always been the case, as I initially found his naturalism and propensity to embrace “the myth of the given” (Sellars) — and then declare this to be “rational” when it is just another form of bias — rubbed me the wrong way. But the more I read, the more agreement I found. Here are examples of some current positions:

1. Disagreement with his intentionality or representational provision for mental states: desire can be just as amorphous and undirected as anxiety, for example. Similarly, non-conscious mentations are critical…and likely both vast and substantive supportive structures for consciousness…so I disagree with Searle’s seeming dismissal of anything that isn’t destined “to become conscious” — that is, directed or representational.

2. Agreement with mind being a biologically dependent phenomenon — up to a point. While his criticisms of AI resonate with my own views, I disagree that that there are no other, nonbiological structures in play for human beings; for example, transpersonal and transcendent ones.

3. Agreement with the importance of indeterminism in consciousness and free will…though I haven’t fully bought into quantum consciousness as a model yet (I just find it intriguing).

4. Agreement with Searle’s views about direct perception (of things-in-themselves), but I have arrived there differently, going beyond Searle’s subjectivity and biological dependencies, and instead making allowance for spiritual or mystical perception-cognition (*gnosis*).

5. Agreement — on the whole — with his proposed interplay of mentation, intentions, language and collective (institutional) reality. Brilliant stuff. Again, though, I would say “there is more;” for example, that there is intrinsic morality that is non-institutional.

I discuss many of my own views on these topics in my books, particularly Memory : Self (available here for perusal: Integral Lifework, Memory : Self), The_Goldilocks_Zone_of_Integral_Liberty, Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology, etc.
My 2 cents.

I am currently in emotional pain, but feel forced into silence about explaining why to anyone in fear of visceral reactions they may have on what I have to say. How can I reveal my thoughts w/out fear

Great question. Here are some initial thoughts after reflecting on your question and on the interactions you and I have had on Quora…I’m happy to dialogue further about this as well via messaging. First I would like to validate your emotional reaction — I think you are correct that many people feel this way around your age (I certainly did), and I think it is a normal, healthy response to what is arguably a pretty shitty situation. “Adulthood” seems to almost entirely equate a number of different forms of slavery, all descending upon us at once…enslavement to a job or career path, to expected patterns of consumption (house, car, debt, etc.), to a set of fixed relationships (spouse, children), and to a general sacrifice of qualities and characteristics that really make life worth living (creativity, curiosity, playfulness, etc.).

And now onto some potential mitigations and safe ways or environments to communicate how you are feeling….

1. Without hesitation, I would encourage you to hold onto your perspective as long as possible, so that you aren’t reflexively adopting “status quo” expectations about your life. Why should you? At the same time, it may be that there is a way forward into a new phase of growth without all of the downsides you have described — i.e. one that does take on more independence, responsibility and maturity without crushing the child-like qualities that you cherish, or embracing enslavement of some kind. Being open to such a possibility, while not “giving in” to the status quo, can at least allow a sliver of hope into an otherwise oppressive darkness.

2. A key element to sharing our journey with others is finding folks whose values, experiences, perspectives and goals align with our own. In Integral Lifework (, I call this the “Supportive Community” dimension of well-being, and I strongly believe that finding or creating such community is an essential component of being well and whole. In my own life, I found this in many places — in spiritual communities, in joining a theatre troupe, in playing music at open mikes, in hiking and outdoor clubs, in volunteering at environmental organizations, in attending “salons” at people’s houses, in joining writing groups, in political activism and so on. I also was lucky enough to find supportive community in a job at a University for a couple of years. In nearly all of these environments, I found folks I could discuss things I cared about, and whose values and interests resonated with my own.

3. Further, I would also say that the creative efforts I engaged in were often a very helpful avenue of expressing deep and turbulent emotions to others in an “abstracted” way that opened doors into deeper conversations (i.e. attracted the right kinds of folks to engage with). This is actually part of another dimension of Integral Lifework, called “Playful Heart,” and it can be a powerful avenue of connecting with both self and others.

4. More intensive and structured support can also be very helpful — and I certainly sought that out at your age as well. A good therapist (and again one whose values intersected or resonated with my own) became an indispensable part of my own journey then, and over many years that followed. This was especially true when it came to processing strong emotions like pain, fear, anger, guilt, and anxiety.

So these are some initial considerations, with the aim of attenuating “visceral reactions” and potential judgement. At the same time, all such efforts still require courage and a certain tolerance for risk…as there are no guaranteed outcomes in the school of life. And there will certainly be folks — perhaps even the people you care most about — who won’t “get it” or understand you at all, and with whom communication will simply be impossible for a time. This happened with my father, who really couldn’t grok me, my goals and values, my experiences, or even my personality — at least not until we were both much older (in fact, it only began to happen just three years before his death). So some relationships will not fit easily into this process of personal unveiling and growth — and that is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of “growing up.” In fact I think it reflects a principle that is much more the herald of true adulthood than anything society broadcasts or conditions us to believe: learning to let go of things we can’t control.

I hope this helps!

Is there a necessary connection between meditation and morality? Is enlightenment linked to goodness? Is there a possibility that an enlightened person still do bad things?

A difficult question to answer — because there isn’t really a universal or absolute correlation between any of the events, qualities or outcomes described in the question. The answer to all three is really: “Sometimes.” Sometimes, with the right kind of meditation, for a person who is receptive and genuine in their intentions, morality is nudged in a more mature direction by meditation alone. In my Integral Lifework system, however, most often meditative practice would only address one or two of thirteen dimensions that require our attention, care and nurturing — and without engaging all the other dimensions as well, moral growth is a lot less likely. And even then, there will still be many moments of choice when a person must intend to grow, change and integrate their transformational experiences — rather than ignore, reject or suppress them (which can indeed happen) — so that moral maturity is emergent. In the same way, a person’s awakening to unitive consciousness/love-consciousness will sometimes inspire them to be kinder and more considerate of others as an organic consequence — to, in effect, develop skillfulness in their compassion — and sometimes, depending on their inherent character, require more deliberate cultivation. But here again there will be choices about whether an intentionality anchored in “the good of All” is acceptable, embraceable, or actualizeable. Again a person’s native propensities inform what is most likely: are they naturally prosocial? Do they have a mental illness? Are they perceptive? On the autism spectrum? Abused as a child? There are a lot of factors in play, and consistent focus over time is another hurdle in this regard. Once again multiple dimensions of a person come into play. But very often, at each stage in the processes of interior development and exterior operationalization, if a person turns away from the difficult realizations they are facing, they sometimes can and do act out in destructive ways towards themselves or others. So at any point along their journey, the option to drop out, act out, or backslide is always present — and usually less inadvertent that previously, because awareness and awakeness has increased. Here again, though, a choice. Over and over…so many choices. In my experience, most folks (myself included) will shy away from embracing really difficult ahas at one point or other…delaying or denying…and that itself can lead to difficult periods in which all three aspects of the question seem like a disconnected or arbitrary struggle — with lots of negative consequences. But…well…this only sometimes becomes a serious derailment or journey’s end.

My 2 cents.

How is fascism created from "capitalism in decline"?

Fascism is created from capitalism in decline via the following mechanisms:

1. Long-term decrease in real wages (i.e. loss of buying power, social status, etc.). Over time, it is inevitable that increased efficiencies, mass production and the search for cheaper labor and natural resources are exhausted — even as profit continues to be maximized at the same time — result in workers receiving less and less in real wages. And that is exactly what has happened in the U.S. since about 1972 — even as GDP and per capita productivity increased during that period, all that wealth went to the wealthiest owner-shareholders, and never “trickled down” to anyone else.

2. Loss of economic mobility. As income inequality expands, economic mobility decreases for the majority of a given population. So while they still are working just as hard (or even harder), the opportunities for advancement or even basic financial security evaporate.

3. Fewer jobs, and lower quality jobs. In order to fuel economic growth, the consumer base must expand as production costs shrink. This creates an ever-widening capture of cheap labor and resources, and an ever-enlarging global marketshare. Jobs must of necessity either be automated or exported away from affluent countries. Innovation can sometimes fill the job gap, but usually only for short periods.

4. A resulting frustration among formerly affluent populations. Factors 1–3 lead to increasing dissatisfaction and frustration among groups that had once held the most political, social and cultural capital. They become increasingly angry that the promise of economic freedoms and opportunities — and the cultural prestige — once afforded them has evaporated. But beyond that, there is real suffering as poverty begins to take root, and especially when yet another “false promise” in the form of increasing and inescapable debt adds fuel to resentments.

5. Xenophobic scapegoating and nationalistic romanticism. Someone has to pay for this loss of status, loss of affluence, and the snowball effect of failed promises. It could be anyone…and “big bad government” is a frequent target…but it is much easier and more concrete to scapegoat a powerless, vulnerable or “foreign” group than to rail agains more abstract institutions. Political scapegoating can, after all, backfire when half of the population is the group being targeted as scapegoats — they can rise up and exercise a dominant political will. But poor immigrants or helpless refugees fleeing violent oppression are much easier to villainize — especially when they are tarred and feathered as “attacking” a proud national heritage. It does not matter that that national heritage is being viewed through rose-colored distortions…only that it is being attacked by “Them.”

My 2 cents.

How is fascism created from "capitalism in decline"?

Fascism is created from capitalism in decline via the following mechanisms:

1. Long-term decrease in real wages (i.e. loss of buying power, social status, etc.). Over time, it is inevitable that increased efficiencies, mass production and the search for cheaper labor and natural resources are exhausted — even as profit continues to be maximized at the same time — result in workers receiving less and less in real wages. And that is exactly what has happened in the U.S. since about 1972 — even as GDP and per capita productivity increased during that period, all that wealth went to the wealthiest owner-shareholders, and never “trickled down” to anyone else.

2. Loss of economic mobility. As income inequality expands, economic mobility decreases for the majority of a given population. So while they still are working just as hard (or even harder), the opportunities for advancement or even basic financial security evaporate.

3. Fewer jobs, and lower quality jobs. In order to fuel economic growth, the consumer base must expand as production costs shrink. This creates an ever-widening capture of cheap labor and resources, and an ever-enlarging global marketshare. Jobs must of necessity either be automated or exported away from affluent countries. Innovation can sometimes fill the job gap, but usually only for short periods.

4. A resulting frustration among formerly affluent populations. Factors 1–3 lead to increasing dissatisfaction and frustration among groups that had once held the most political, social and cultural capital. They become increasingly angry that the promise of economic freedoms and opportunities — and the cultural prestige — once afforded them has evaporated. But beyond that, there is real suffering as poverty begins to take root, and especially when yet another “false promise” in the form of increasing and inescapable debt adds fuel to resentments.

5. Xenophobic scapegoating and nationalistic romanticism. Someone has to pay for this loss of status, loss of affluence, and the snowball effect of failed promises. It could be anyone…and “big bad government” is a frequent target…but it is much easier and more concrete to scapegoat a powerless, vulnerable or “foreign” group than to rail agains more abstract institutions. Political scapegoating can, after all, backfire when half of the population is the group being targeted as scapegoats — they can rise up and exercise a dominant political will. But poor immigrants or helpless refugees fleeing violent oppression are much easier to villainize — especially when they are tarred and feathered as “attacking” a proud national heritage. It does not matter that that national heritage is being viewed through rose-colored distortions…only that it is being attacked by “Them.”

My 2 cents.

From Quora question:

What is existential phenomenology?

My understanding of existential phenomenology is that it examines the synthesis between and among experience, perception, somatic knowledge, cognition and being. If we say that “experience = being, and being = experience” then what mitigates these equivalences? What role does consciousness or intentionality play? How much of this mitigation is reflexive, reactive or representational, and what might be preestablished, intrinsic or non-semiotic? Is there a way to perceive or conceive of “something -as-it-is” in its a bare, unornamented phenomenological ground? Or is everything always subjective or intersubjective? Is there a way to transcend (or burrow beneath) subject-object relations entirely? How does all of this impact experience and being? And so on. IMO existential phenomenology attempts to explore such questions with an eye towards an emergent gestalt, so it tends to conflict with more analytical traditions. I would even go so far as to say the approach suggests that nondiscursive, noncontextual and ineffable experiences have a useful place in all such questions and relationships; thus, for me at least, it helps provide a meaningful linkage between existentialism and mysticism.

My 2 cents.

What does Corporate Social Responsibility in a developed country look like?

A2A. In my experience, there are really five distinct aspects to this topic that are generally considered in formulations and assessments:

1. The intent of CSR for a given organization.

2. Its ideological context of CSR for that organization.

3. The internal and external marketing spin.

4. The efficacy of a given company’s approach (with respect to its intent).

5. The impact of CSR on the bottom line.

Only when all five of these areas are carefully assessed can we know what CSR “looks like” from any perspective. Often only one or two of these areas are examined or emphasized, which is one way to quickly skew data to confirm a preexisting bias. Taken altogether, however, we can begin piecing together the objectives and effects of CSR in a holistic way. What makes this challenging is that, in many instances, the change agents involved (top execs, board members, activist shareholders, etc.) are not entirely transparent about one or more of these components, preferring to engineer outcomes that align with an undisclosed or deliberately clouded agenda. Needless to say, CSR can be used as cover to accomplish many objectives that are not — in any way — socially responsible.

That said, when there is transparency, genuinely prosocial intent and ideology, and a skillful approach, the result can be a measurable offset to negative externalities, an improved work environment for employees, a higher quality product or service for customers, and (potentially) an increase in brand and employee loyalty from those with shared values. However, none of this necessarily facilitates one of the two extremes promoted by proponents or critics: i.e. cumbersome business processes or improved profitability. Once systems, metrics and adjustment strategies are in place, it generally seems to be the case that CSR is not that difficult to implement, but also has little impact on the bottom line one way or the other.

So really, if the intent is genuine, the results can satisfy that intent without having much influence on business at all. Which is interesting, since, if the intent is not genuine and the efforts are superficial, this can actually backfire in a spectacular way once it is disclosed (see factor #3).

My 2 cents.

Was the busting of Standard Oil necessary and or was it already losing control of it's monoply?

I see this question has already received plenty of neoliberal propaganda in response, so I’ll try to balance the scales with some sanity.

Yes, absolutely Standard Oil’s monopoly needed to end. Adam Smith was perhaps the first to write passionately about the dangers of monopoly, and Standard Oil’s 90% marketshare could have been a poster child for Smith’s predictions. After all, it resulted in:

1. Ruthless and destructive anti-competitive practices involving spying, lying, deception, back room deals, bribes, threats, physical violence, etc.

2. Careful and deliberate amplification of political corruption that supported Standard Oil’s monopoly.

3. Extraordinary, near-absolute influence over markets (price controls, supply manipulations, etc.)

4. Widespread public distaste and mistrust in the resulting consumer conditions imposed by Standard Oil.

While it is true that Rockefeller’s initial success was fueled by increased efficiencies and clever cost recovery strategies and innovation, those advantages paled in comparison to the truly brutal market manipulation that Standard Oil imposed later, when it had finagled and coerced the power to do so.

My 2 cents.

What do you think of Bertrand Russell's political ideas?

In response to this question, I read Russell’s Political Ideals and found myself agreeing with most of what he wrote. There isn’t much that is original there except Russell’s clear and carefully reasoned voice, but his assessments of the problems of capitalism and State socialism are spot-on. His proposed solutions are more about recommended principles than prescription — that is, he doesn’t offer a lot of details regarding those solutions — but again I find myself agreeing with most of his sentiments about the importance of self-governance, avoiding the use of force, the dangers of unrestrained possessiveness, the importance of creativity, and so on. The only criticism I might have is that Russell leans a bit too far in the direction of individualism, and too frequently looks to the State for intervention. In other words, he relies too heavily on the State to manage society, and demands a rigorous protection of individuality that, IMO, is corrosive to civil society. I would quote specific passages, but Quora will undoubtedly flag my post as “plagiarism” and collapse it…so, alas, I cannot back up my assertions with Russell’s actual words. :-) Regardless, however, I was impressed with Political Ideals, especially given the time period in which it was written.

My 2 cents.

Has Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom" aged well?

LOL. No the book has not aged well, except in two areas. Here’s a quick breakdown of why:

1. Friedman’s monetarism is absolutely his most influential contribution to what has remained part of an effective toolbox for government economic influence at the macro level. That section of the book has aged very well.

2. A guaranteed minimum income (negative income tax) is still a popular idea among some reformers — though usually on the radical Left — but it’s not Friedman’s original idea and is usually lost amid his other points. So I’d say that although the idea persists, Friedman’s contribution hasn’t aged well.

3. Plenty of far-right-leaning folks still carry a torch for school vouchers and resistance to government oversight of education, but the jury is still out on whether this will do anything but improve educational choice for rich people, and decrease economic opportunity and mobility for everyone else.

4. Everything else in the book (that is, the majority of his criticisms and proposals) are now viewed as utter bunk by anyone serious about economics or cognizant of recent history. Many of Friedman’s ideas ideas have been tried — all around the globe — and they have failed utterly. This doesn’t stop neoliberals from quoting Friedman, of course, so in that sense the book has “aged well” as a propagandizing tool for Milton Friedman worshipers, market fundamentalists, proponents of laissez faire economics, right-libertarians and other fervent ideologues. In the real world, however, Friedman’s ideas have been soundly discredited. So in the sense of respect from policy makers and economists, only the blindly and irrationally loyal still hold Friedman’s ideas in any regard.

My 2 cents.

Beyond "Wokeness:" Getting to the Real Roots of the Problem

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko - Library of Congress Collection (Public Domain)

First and foremost I'd like to advocate the principle of garbage in, garbage out: If we all don't have good information, we're going to make bad decisions -- especially about causes, effects and the best chance for a reasonable remedy. In the case of race relations in the U.S., there seems to be an endless amount of distraction and misdirection -- a smokescreen cast between those who care about healing the divisions in our country, and what is really perpetuating the divide. And there is tremendous energy behind that smoke, keeping the propaganda spewing forth at high volume, front-and-center, across all kinds of media. So, in the spirit of a storm to chase the smokescreen away, I will offer what I think are some high-quality truths about what underlies the sad state of race relations in the U.S.A., with supporting references at the end of the article.

#1) What looks like clear and indisputable evidence of racism is often a highly targeted and thinly veiled form of capitalist exploitation. In a very real sense, the loudest common denominator of oppression and exploitation in the U.S. is the profit motive. Here are some potent examples of what I mean:

a) Who targets communities of color in their aggressive marketing of tobacco products and alcohol on local neighborhood billboards? Tobacco and alcohol companies. Who has been complicit in the high concentrations of carryout stores selling tobacco and alcohol products in communities of color -- higher concentrations of such stores, in fact, than in any other neighborhoods in the U.S.? Tobacco and alcohol companies. Who has created customized brands of tobacco and alcohol products for marketing to communities of color, including products that are more addictive, more potent and more toxic than those sold elsewhere? Tobacco and alcohol companies. But of course no one is holding tobacco and alcohol companies accountable -- not for their role in perpetuating alcohol and nicotine addiction in black and brown neighborhoods, not for the disproportionate disease and mortality caused by alcohol and tobacco among people of color, and not for the societal destruction they are perpetuating in poor communities.

b) Who benefits most from the militarization of the police, or having assault-style weapons in the hands of both criminals and law-abiding citizens? Gun and military hardware manufactures. And who was responsible for lobbying to relax gun regulations, while marketing fear and paranoia across America at the same time? Gun and military hardware manufactures. Who benefits from flooding our inner cities with handguns, and flooding rural communities with panic that their gun rights will be taken away? Gun and military hardware manufactures. Who benefits from the escalation of gang-related, drug-related and terrorism-related violence involving their guns and equipment, as well as the defensive outfitting of communities overwhelmed by such challenges? Gun and military hardware manufactures. It seems Eisenhower's infamous "military-industrial-congressional complex" has figured out that what they have always aimed to achieve on a global scale can also be implemented on national, state and local scales as well. But of course no one is holding gun and military hardware manufacturers accountable for their role in promoting gun violence or the proliferation of military-style equipment. In fact, the puppet politicians of these corporations have passed laws that protect the companies from liability.

c) Who benefits the most from the "three strike" or minimum sentencing laws that swell U.S. prison populations? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. Who has benefitted most from "the war on drugs" and harsher immigration policies? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. Who benefits from inflating monetary penalties on minor infractions into unpayable debt that triggers warrants, arrests and jail time? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. In fact, which companies make the most money off of the U.S. justice system overall? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. And who has been lobbying legislatures and funding candidates to expand their corporate profits through more aggressive laws and penalties that just happen to impact the poor and people of color the most...? Privately owned, for-profit prisons. But of course no one is holding these companies accountable for the devastating consequences of their systemized greed.

d) Who initiated slavery of indigenous peoples and captured Africans in the Americas, and for what purpose? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of their production. Who perpetuated post-Civil War versions of slavery in sharecropping, truck systems, company stores, etc.? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of their production. Who has invented new forms of wage and debt slavery in the current day, fighting vigorously to keep minimum wages below subsistence levels, and consumers perpetually in debt? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. Who benefits most from "welfare-to-work" programs that only offer shabby, low-paying and demeaning jobs? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. Who still perpetuates exploitation of child labor around the globe, and benefits most from sweat shops and horrific labor conditions both abroad in developing countries, and using immigrant labor in the U.S.? Capitalists, in order to increase efficiency and profitability of production. And yet, too few people think to blame capitalism itself for these problems.

e) Who benefits the most from union-breaking policies and disruption of community organizing efforts? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. Who benefits the most from making tensions around race relations all about ethnicity and culture, and from making sure working folks from different backgrounds are angrily divided against each other? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. And who is laughing all the way to the bank when "race riots," social unrest, violence and death all across America are portrayed in the corporate-owned media as have nothing at all to do with oppression and exploitation of the working class by wealthy owner-shareholders? Capitalists and the puppet politicians who help funnel wealth and power to corporations. But here again, too few people think to blame capitalism itself for these problems.

#2) Although there is much evidence to support issue #1 above, epidemic levels of white privilege, systemic racism and white supremacist extremism are real, and still persist. But shouldn't we still ask whom these prolific cultural diseases really serve...? This is the tricky part, because on the surface it really does seem like such reflexes and patterns are mainly about deep-seated fear and hatred of a particular ethnic or cultural group, and that deliberately disrupting the well being, economic mobility, social status and political influence of these targeted groups is mainly a consequence of that fear, hatred and ignorance. Except...well...let's consider the ultimate outcome of disenfranchising any homogenous group, depriving them access to decent education and employment, disproportionately persecuting and imprisoning them, interfering with their voting and other civil rights, or otherwise "keeping them down." Again, who benefits the most...?

When Republicans rolled back minority voting rights protections in the South, whom did that help in subsequent elections? And when Republicans have thrown up all kinds of hurdles to vote within various regions -- hurdles like requiring voter IDs, or reducing polling places and hours, or changing polling places at the last minute, or removing "suspected felons" from voter rolls -- whom have these hurt the most in terms of voter access? And when an unqualified and mentally unstable Republican candidate ran for President in 2016, and then won the election using flagrantly racist and xenophobic rhetoric to "fire up" his base, who actually benefitted from his ascendance to power? It certainly wasn't the poor, fearful and uneducated white folks who helped vote him into office. And whom do conservative judges, appointed by Republicans, favor when a case between worker or consumer rights and the privileges and power of a corporation comes before their bench? Again, it isn't the workers and consumers, and it's certainly not any poor people. And who benefits most from the legislation written by A.L.E.C. that is passed by Republican-controlled legislatures all around the U.S.? It's not the working class people who live in those states. In all of these cases, all we need to do is follow the money. It is the wealthiest of the wealthy who fund the campaigns of these Republican officials, and who ultimately benefit from these laws. Which is also why Republicans work so hard to roll back any kind of taxes or regulation -- or undermine, disempower or disembowel the regulatory agencies they oversee -- in the name of "smaller government." We know who consistently benefits, and who consistently suffers.

In short: the primary beneficiaries of conservative Republican politics are the enormous concentrations of corporate wealth and power, as wielded by the most privileged owner-shareholders. And it is the working poor of any and all ethnicities, cultures and immigration status who are consistently used, abused and trampled underfoot...even as they are persuaded with outrageous propaganda and false promises to vote for and embrace ideologies and candidates that contradict their own expressed values and interests.

"Hey who got the politicians in they back pocket
Pimp slap pump that gimme that profit..."
- Get Busy, The Roots

Now I will not say that Democrats have been innocent in this puppet play -- for they, too, have been funded by dark money and become subject to corporate influence. I think this is especially true as Democrats seek higher office, become career politicians, and accumulate more influence and power. But at least, along the way, Democrats have with one hand tended to promote social justice, minimum wage increases and wage equality, social safety nets, workplace protections, a level playing field for all religions and genders and races, consumer protections, compassionate laws, law enforcement oversight and justice system reforms...even as they may still throw a bone or two to their corporate campaign contributors with their other hand. At least many Democrats often try to free themselves of the fetters of greedy corporations and the damage these capitalists perpetually do to our society. Which again is why most of the huge concentrations of capitalist wealth in the U.S.A. is used to elect pro-corporate Republicans to office, and to disrupt and discredit both Democratic candidates, and as many Democratic voters as possible. And we need not guess where the latest phony rhetoric around "voter fraud" will be focused: it will be just one more tool to undermine the Democratic base. So although Democrat politicians may still be culpable and complicit at times, they at least attempt to balance the scales and listen to the needs of regular working folk. Republicans? Generally, they tend to almost exclusively serve the corporate Beast with cold-hearted, lock-step conformance.

All of this is why I do not believe the primary issue we must identify and confront is a fundamental conflict between black and white -- or any other skin colors. This is instead mainly a conflict between the "haves" who want to expand their ill-gotten gains, and the "have-nots" who are constantly being manipulated, misled, exploited and oppressed. And of course this insight was shared by many of the greatest civil rights leaders throughout history. Martin Luther King decried the poverty of the U.S. and our need to "question the capitalist economy;" as early as 1952 he wrote that "capitalism has outlived its usefulness." For King, democratic socialism was an obvious avenue for the U.S. to reinvent itself in a more truly democratic political economy. Malcolm X also summed things up simply when he said: "You can't have capitalism without have to have someone else's blood to suck to be a capitalist." He, too, believed the central struggle was not really "a racial conflict of black against white," but rather "the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter." Many other human and civil rights champions -- from Gandhi to the Dalai Lama -- have also concluded that the battle against systemic oppressions cannot be separated from the problems inherent to Western-style capitalism; the two go hand-in-hand.

In more recent times, anti-capitalist rhetoric has gained some traction -- from Black Lives Matter; during the Occupy movement; in a broader awareness of writers and speakers like Alicia Garva, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Thomas Picketty, Greg Palast and Noami Klein; from socially conscious hip-hop; in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign; in the earnest activism of Elizabeth Warren; in the evolving discussions around "racial capitalism" -- but populist passions in this arena often tend to be tepid or short-lived. Even well-meaning academics like Cornel West will agree with Marxist critiques of capitalism and its perpetuation of structural racism, and even promote the "overlapping goals" of democratic socialism and antiracism, but will then ask us to increase our awareness of other power relationships in society, other longstanding threads of racism that predate capitalism, and the "Eurocentrism" inherent to left-leaning revolutionary ideologies...and to do so with seemingly equal energy and attention. And although all of this should undoubtedly become part of the picture, unless the enduring roots of capitalism itself can be excised from our political economy, it simply won't matter how we engage these other cultural issues. Because capitalism will automatically either utilize some other longstanding prejudice, or invent an entirely new one, in order to engineer the mindless, tribalistic, infantilizing conformance that facilitates conspicuous consumption and enduring class divisions. It's simply how capitalism is done.

So yes, there is real and potent racism that arises within cultural and historical contexts...but its perpetuation and amplification is used mainly as a tool by capitalists and their puppet politicians to perpetuate capitalist-imperialist power. And yes, like the other tools being used -- gender discrimination, misogyny and patriarchy, religious persecution and exclusion, anti-intellectualism and science skepticism, irrational fear and paranoia about government, etc. -- racism also stands alone as a grave concern that needs to be addressed. But the far greater corrosive influence arising across the political spectrum is the greed and lust for dominance that fortifies insidious crony capitalism, where plutocrats rule all races in the U.S.A. and around the globe. It is this corporatocracy that employs racism and these other tools as a social means to its nefarious economic ends. For all such efforts aim to enrich and empower the corporate elite, and perpetuate their position of privilege -- regardless of race, gender, identity or beliefs. And the resulting destructive inequity is, in fact, what the entirety of our capitalist system is built upon. It is feudalism with a new coat of paint, and until that feudalism is brought to an end, oppression and exploitation will generate new forms and tools to combine with the old ones, just to keep the gears of commerce well-greased.

Who then will hold the corporations, shareholders and the capitalist system itself accountable for the perpetuation of inequality and injustice?

Here's what we can do. First, I think delving beyond "wokeness" to the deeper, more pervasive roots of the problem is an important first step. The actual primary antagonist here needs to be clearly defined and called out. And if that primary antagonist is in fact our capitalist system, then we all need to start thinking about moving beyond capitalism to something better. Something more egalitarian, more compassionate, more democratic, more sustainable, more environmentally responsible, and more kind. Throughout that process, we can certainly recognize that hatred, fear, prejudice, inequality, injustice and a host of other critical issues also need to be addressed in a new design. In fact that is what many of my own Level 7 proposals are about, and I would encourage you to check them out (and I invite your feedback and ideas as well). But the main call-to-action here is to get this conversation going, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise and propaganda. For our feudal lords take great delight in the masses being redirected away from the man behind the curtain, and while we focus on the sensational tools they are using to manipulate, divide and distract us, they will continue to amass malfeasant mammon and consolidate their power. Most certainly we can and should be motivated by a fervent desire to end all manifestations of oppression, exploitation, disenfranchisement and marginalization...these are all noble and essential aims. But if the very foundation of our society is a political economy that thrives on enriching a tiny percentage of plutocrats at the expense of everyone and everything else, then we can't just put a Band-Aid on the symptoms and ignore the deep festering rot underneath. We need to get more than "woke;" we need to get fierce.


What is Max Stirner's philosophy?

Okay...people write entire dissertations on topics like this…so trying to shoehorn Stirner’s version of egoism into a brief post is…well, it’s pretty daunting, and likely pretty irresponsible as well. Be that as it may, I’ll offer some avenues of further study to explore a bigger picture of Stirner’s thought field after attempting a brief scatterplot.

With that caveat here’s a ridiculous oversimplification of Stirner: Human beings will maximize their autonomy by not subjugating their thoughts or will to anything or anyone. That’s pretty much the core assumption behind most of Stirner’s work as I interpret it. But this isn’t nihilistic bravado, moral relativism, “doing whatever you want,” or even pursuing rational self-interest — it is, more accurately, self-mastery via unfettered individualism.

There is an important contrast here to consider, and that is what Stirner saw as cultural forces and individual habits that he believed to be historically destructive to individual autonomy. Things like unquestioning conformance and groupthink, institutional or cultural conditioning, obsessive individual appetites, rigid rules and codes uniformly imposed upon members of a family, workplace, religion or society…and so on. Stirner saw these forces — and I think rightly so — as oppressive and coercive. And in response, he asserted that real “freedom” could only be achieved by rejecting such external and internal impositions.

Now here’s the thing about this message: it has validity, up to a point. In behavioral terms we could say such a reaction is even a necessary stage of development. Adolescent rebellion against familial and societal expectations can lead to a healthy and productive process of individuation. And before that, during early childhood, the emergence of the distinct individual ego seems an important process that differentiates I/Me/Mine from one’s parents and siblings. So as points of departure — as iterations of personal will in new contexts — these are helpful “egoic” events. But to be forever “stuck” in such a state…well, that becomes problematic. In the context of any civil society beyond a ruggedly individualist Wild West, for example, it actually becomes completely unworkable. Unfortunately, because certain cultures (the U.S. in particular) celebrate this type of individualism (or “atomism”), and mistakenly conflate it with personal sovereignty and liberty, it has been perpetuated as such. Further, Stirner’s projection of personal ego into property seems to reinforce a very individualistic flavor of economic materialism (again, seemingly quite prevalent in the U.S.).

The rather disastrous result of such memes is that right-leaning Libertarians, devotees of Ayn Rand, neoliberal market fundamentalists, and individualist anarchists (again, mainly in the U.S.) often get “stuck” in this terrible-twos/adolescent twilight. They do not realize that there are many, many more stages of ego development beyond these initial assertions of personal will. And that, in fact, ego must eventually attenuate to facilitate prosocial cohesion, and ultimately be relinquished altogether to evolve the greater good. (To appreciate why either of these is the case, I can provide additional resources or answer questions upon request). In a way, Stirner’s egoism is a sort of Peter Pan Syndrome where adherents reject even the most temporary, voluntary or conditional personal subjugation in order to defend their “right” to a particular flavor of individualistic freedom. At a certain point, this tendency becomes more than just willful immaturity…it devolves into a sort of irrational psychosis. (In fact, I think we are witnessing exactly this in Donald Trump’s antics as POTUS.)

That said, to really appreciate the specifics of Stirner’s arguments, we would need to study Hegel, Fichte, Feuerbach, Spinoza and Bauer — and all of these within an envelope of the Kantian lexicon. Only then will we grok what Stirner is aiming for with his “ownness” and his navigation of subject, substance, particularity, universality, and so on. So that is where I would begin for further study. This will help us understand the “why” of Stirner’s quest — but, unfortunately, it may not fully justify his conclusions.

My 2 cents.

From Quora:

Is it possible to love everyone?

This is a challenging question, IMO, mainly because there is such a diversity of conceptions and attitudes about “love” in modern culture. In ancient Greece, they used several different words for love in different contexts, but in modern English our distinctions get a bit muddied. I have spent the past thirty years or so meditating on this issue and writing about it — and still find it difficult to reduce down to simplified definitions. Which means that answering this question will require laying some groundwork first….

What spiritual traditions are talking about when they use the phrase “loving everyone” is really three distinctly different components:

1) The first is having a certain perspective about all human beings (including ourselves) that recognizes human frailty, bad choices, imperfections and weaknesses in everyone, and nevertheless accepts, forgives and is kind to all. This is really more of a behavioral and intellectual discipline that is grounded in humility and functional compassion regarding the well-being of ourselves and others.

2) The second is a felt experience of affection that occurs through spiritual practice; this is difficult to describe without personally encountering it, but imagine feeling the same depth of love you might feel for your own child, a favorite sibling or your closest friend, but for everyone and everything at once. This is a profound apprehension that can happen spontaneously in peak experiences of consciousness, or as the result of disciplined mystical activation practices (see my book Essential Mysticism for elaboration of this process, online for free here: Essential Mysticism); in fact that is what many spiritual practices in various traditions seek to induce.

3) The third aspect of “loving everyone” is inherent to the ideas of discernment, skillfulness, and understanding the relationship dynamics in play. In other words, whether we are exercising disciplined humility (#1), or experiencing an aha moment of universal love (#2), we will want to know whether our behavior and decisions have efficacy with respect to loving others — that is, that they have the desired trajectory, interplay and consequences. This also means developing some metrics around this objective, and understanding what “unskillful” love (such as codependence) looks like.

In the highest order of what I call the unitive principle — that is, a mature and skillful universal loving kindness — all three of these facets of “loving everyone” are developed and refined. In fact, that process never ends…it is a dynamic and fluid interaction within and without. But there is an important conditionality to this journey: it is dependent on our level of moral development (or ego development, if you will). We will not be able to operate beyond our level of moral maturity — at least not for sustained periods of time without the possibility of burn-out. This is because love-consciousness has everything to do with our personal identity and attachment to that identity, as well as how expansive or inclusive our identity becomes. This is a much more complicated topic, but here is a chart that shows the progression of moral development and its correlation to both identity and our ability to “love everyone” in skillful and sustainable ways:

Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

I hope this was helpful.

Was Karl Marx actually a socialist?

There is a lot of confusion around this topic, in no small degree because pro-capitalist, neoliberal market fundamentalists in the U.S. and elsewhere have worked very hard to promote propaganda that keeps anything to do with Marx rather confused (for some elaboration on this, check out the post WWI and WWI “Red Scares”).

Here’s how I would lay things out:

The two main threads of socialism that were championed during the 1800s where social democracy and communism. Marx stepped into this debate with a theory of “historical materialism” that asserted that a specific order of evolution and revolution would occur in human society — one relating to the inherent conflict between the classes that form around different modes of production. It’s an interesting theory with quite a few salient observations about observable dynamics in history (such as the influence of modes of production on sociopolitical systems and consciousness), but it is also very simplistic…which has made if fairly easy to criticize. However, a moneyless, wageless, classless society was always the endgame of historical materialism as Marx envisioned it. And of course this would be facilitated through social ownership of the means of production…which is, of course, socialism.

But then came Vladimir Lenin, who asserted that “socialism” was actually an interim stage in the evolution from capitalism to stateless communism. And because of this interjection of differentiation, the waters became a lot muddier. Before Lenin, a more consistent differentiator between communism and socialism was that communism promoted atheism, whereas socialism did not. But after Lenin, communism was promoted as the endgame superior to socialism, and so perpetuating “socialism” per se would be — in this context at least — antagonistic to an evolution into communism. And for these and other reasons, Marx became forever disassociated with threads of social democracy that evolved in Europe and elsewhere, and which have resulted in the many mixed economies that attempt to balance the worst distortions of capitalism with socialist institutions.

Now something to note…and this is kind of important IMO…is that Marx was pretty permissive regarding violent expropriation, and pretty noncommittal about promoting specific forms of democracy. Marx did praise the democratic process he observed of the Paris Commune — which was itself aiming for social democracy — but apart from that, much of his language leans toward rhetoric like “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” In Capital, Marx does indicate that capitalism’s transformation of “scattered private property” into “capitalist private property” is inherently more violent and oppressive than the transformation of capitalist private property into socialized property: “In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers; in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.” But apart from that comparison, he gives every indication that a revolutionary transition away from capitalism is going to be messy — and not just in terms of counterrevolution. Instead Marx fetishizes the proletariat as an idealized champion of moral rectitude in an unjust class division, and the bourgeoisie as the villains who must be overthrown. And of course this could only embolden the Bolsheviks in their murderous consolidation of power, Pol Pot’s brutal methods, and so on. In any case, I think these two issues — a lackluster and unspecific promotion of democracy, and a permissive attitude (or presumption of inevitability) towards violent revolutions — were Marx’s greatest errors.

With all of this said, the one point the OP is definitely getting wrong is asserting that Marx “never says that the proletariat is justified in revolting or that society will be better off afterwards.” The whole point of Marx’s theory of history and (and advocacy of proletariat self-governance) is liberation — emancipation really — and an end to oppression and exploitation. That’s a really difficult point to miss if Marx’s writings are taken as a whole: he is completely oriented to remedying the problems of capitalism, and insists that such remedies will, in fact, arise of their own dialectic, evolutionary imperative.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this excerpt of Marx…because it is so wonderfully concise, and so insightfully accurate, in elaborating the very problems of capitalism we see manifesting in full force today:

From Marx’s Capital, Vol.1, Part VIII:

“As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the labourers are turned into proletarians, their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralisation of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralisation, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever extending scale, the co-operative form of the labour-process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic régime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”

My 2 cents.

The dharma seems to unfold by itself in an awakened mind. What do you think?

Perhaps the critical modifier in this question is “seems.”

It seems as though most everything is mainly “seeming” to us humans. That seems to be our lot — with our limited perceptions and often predictable cognitive and emotional patterns. Further, it seems there is a differentiation between “what seems,” and “what is,” so that we value them differently.

At the same time, we also have tremendous capacity to project our conclusions about “what seems” onto our conceptions about “what is” and vice versa, and there is ongoing debate about whether such projection actually changes “what is,” or is just more seeming.

From another perspective, is this “seeming” actually an undifferentiated part of “what is,” or is it somehow independent from it? Some have concluded that both of these — as well as the questions evoked by the relationship — are constructs abstracted from the ultimate ground from which all of them have arisen, so that the constructs may be different in character or quality, but not in substance.

But can “what is” actually be perceived in an unadorned way, via some special faculty of our consciousness? And can our consciousness then encounter the ultimate ground beyond both “what is” and “what seems?”

If we define “awakening” as being somehow involved in these patterns of discovery, revelation and exploration, then perhaps we could also say that echoes or representations of the dharma filter into this process as a perceived “unfolding.” This might be our subjective experience of our consciousness brushing up against an ultimate ground, and of our hearts, minds and being effectively undergoing a transformative influence — into a more active embodying of those echoes and representations. Or…we could simply be recognizing how we have always been part of the dharma, with nothing really changing except our awareness.

But is our perception accurate in either case? Or is it just more “seeming?” Are we imitating dharma, becoming part of dharma, recognizing the imminence of dharma within and without, reinforcing an invented “dharma construct,” or something else…? Have we clarified an important differentiation, or relinquished that differentiation in our acquiescence? Have we “arrived” somewhere, or have we simply “let go?” Have we created and rationalized a more elaborate set of constructs, or have all constructs been annihilated in the crucible of unadorned perception?

From Quora