re: tangled ball of assumtions


Richard Moore

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re-2: We the People: manipulation vs. democracy
Jim Fadiman wrote:
Very glad I read your wonderful essay which is also about the goals of real education and real psychotherapy and real entheogenic experience as well. And as a reward I found your comment to my note to you as well. 
 Total pleasure. 
Hi Jim,
Glad you enjoyed the material, and your comments mean a lot, given your own depth of experience in the domains you mention. 
I find these interactions, with our cyberjournal community, to be very productive. I had never thought before about a tangled ball of assumptions, surrounded by relatively thin layer of conscious cognition. The assumption domain isn’t the same as Freud’s unconscious, because assumptions aren’t particularly suppressed, simply not looked at much. Freud gave us one dichotomy of mental processes; we have another with left vs. right brains, and assumptions vs. cognition is another useful distinction.
I think the ‘tangled ball’ is a strong and useful image. We can all see a tangled mess in ‘those others’ who believe all kinds of nonsense, like ‘those Tea Party folks’, ‘those knee-jerk liberals’, ‘those conspiracy theorists’ — whoever your ‘confused other’ is. It’s pretty easy then to see that tangled assumptions are part of the human condition. And then we’ve got to accept, each of us, that we ourselves have at least some tangled unquestioned assumptions, that probably aren’t serving us.
The following question becomes interesting: “What is your relationship to your tangled assumptions?” It’s a question worth dwelling on a bit, I think. Clearly, being ‘in engagement’ with our assumptions, by one means or another, at one level or another, is an essential part of any path of spiritual or personal development. Contrarily, if we simply act from our assumptions, we are developmentally ‘asleep’.
Sleep is akin to narcosis. And many people habitually or addictively pursue narcosis, as provided by alcohol, drugs, television, shopping, etc. Narcosis enables one to escape from that which should be getting attention. The drinker escapes from his problems, TV-watchers from the need to have a life, etc. Those who are asleep to their assumptions are escaping from the work of developing and evolving themselves, as human beings and as spiritual beings. 
But what is the equivalent, in this case, of alcohol and drugs? What is it that we ‘do’, that puts us into a narcosis relationship with our own development? I suppose the answer is that this particular narcosis is ‘done to us’. In school, we don’t question the lessons, we try to ‘learn them’, ie, ‘accept them as truth’. Our cognition is devoted to ‘working with’ these ‘truths’, ie. doing homework exercises and taking tests. Our assumption-questioning muscles don’t get exercise and don’t develop.
And then there’s the media. We are always given ‘the news’, and ‘what it means’, in more or less the same breath. And there’s a coherent ‘thread of meaning’ that is continually reinforced, in both fiction and non-fiction programming. This ‘thread of meaning’, or ‘party line’, varies with the channel, so that each of us can select the channel, station, or website we agree with, and that leaves our assumptions intact.
I think we can take as a starting point that ‘questioning ones assumptions’ is inherently something that takes work, and that there is a natural defensive resistance to such questioning. Our schools and our media then do everything they can to help us avoid such work, to keep us infantilized as regards thinking for ourselves. All through life the ‘elephant in the room’ — our own native thinking — is of little interest, except as it can be applied to ‘expressing the programming’. 
Socrates is the archetype of ‘the questioner’. His influence straddles the worlds of philosophical and spiritual pursuits. Every ideology is called into question, and the state is threatened — the youth are corrupted. Death to the questioner. Unquestioned assumptions are the bedrock of the state. They are what transform advanced primates into a less-evolved herding species. 

david moore wrote:
this discussion reminds me of why i like your “local” movement.
re/ peoples’ hard wired assumptions/beliefs and 
reluctance to let go of them:
for me, one of the problems i always had was the “so what” factor. ie, even if all you (or someone else) said was absolutely true and i was willing to accept it, well, SO WHAT ??  
do i quit my job ? buy a gun? run for office ?  try to live a “good” life?   be kind to strangers?  tell everyone else how smart i am?  argue with those less enlightened?  have another beer?
well, that’s where your “think globally, act locally” emphasis (or, i guess, just “engage and create locally” is closer to the mark) is so much more helpful and hopeful and empowering — everyone can see the value of local networking and action, whereas just holding the “proper” points of view in arguments, and being politically correct at the pub really doesn’t accomplish much of lasting value.
anyway, my point is that i don’t think people are as dumb as the  politically correct think they are.  the unwashed masses probably agree with lots of the political criticisms, but don’t see how they can quit their jobs and responsibilities to work for the cause, but they can forge local alliances.

hi dave,
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, for your own native thinking, for bringing your assumptions to the surface. That creates a space where meaningful engagement becomes possible, where more than exchanging opinions can take place.
I agree with you about the ‘local movement’. It makes sense regardless of ones beliefs about ‘big issues’. ‘Pursuing the solution’ does not require ‘understanding the problem’. If we all started applying our energy to empowering our communities, we could change the world, side-stepping such things as geopolitical analysis. That’s how I see it anyway, which may go beyond what you were implying by ‘liking my local movement’.
Unfortunately, there is no local-empowerment movement of any significance, and there aren’t any clear signs that one will emerge. What we do have are plenty of programs aimed at co-opting and suppressing local empowerment. 
As regards co-option, we have Agenda 21, Transition Towns, and the various initiatives around ‘public engagement’. These each have energy and funding behind them, and they naturally appeal, as an apparently effective place to devote energy, for those who care about community and localization. But at the end of the day, they end up channeling energy along the following lines: Collapse coming, there’s nothing you can do about it, and we’d like to involve you in deciding how to arrange your local deck chairs
It’s a way to get us to take ownership of the process of societal collapse, to focus on how the crumbs will be distributed, and not think about why we’re getting crumbs. We need to notice that this official emphasis on ‘public engagement’ has emerged in conjunction with the economic collapse. We didn’t have such things when there were spoils to share.
As regards suppression of local empowerment, we’re seeing, for example, a direct assault on local food growing. There have been SWAT-team raids on local co-ops dealing in locally grown food, and there’s the FDA’s new ‘Food Safety’ bill, S5.10:

In my case, identification of localization as ‘a solution’, simply leads to more attention aimed at trying to understand how things really work. In this case, I want to understand why local empowerment isn’t happening, and how it might be encouraged. Also, it is my work at understanding the big picture that leads me to see that localization not just a good idea, but an imperative for our very survival. When you realize that elites are intent on depopulating and enslaving us, then your motivation to pursue / promote local empowerment raises to a higher level.
Your so-what question is intriguing, particularly when you feature it as the lead item in your comments re/ hard-wired assumptions. It seems like you’re saying, “We all have a way of avoiding looking at our assumptions, and my own excuse is the so-what question”. And then, community is good, partly because it answers the so-what question with ‘it doesn’t matter anyway’. Food for thought, perhaps.
I suppose my own central ‘unquestioned assumption’ is that the “What’s so?” question is of central importance. Perhaps I’m responding defensively to any suggestion of “So What?”. Perhaps I like the Sufi material because it says the Land of Truth is a higher place than the Land of Happiness. Perhaps this has something to do with sibling order. We are our own biggest mysteries.
I agree about people, generally, not being ‘dumb’, regardless of their ideological orientation. ‘Smart’ and ‘dumb’ refer to the ability to think. Most of us can think fairly well, within our thin cognitive layer, the layer where we allow ourselves to ask questions. Political propaganda focuses on deep assumptions, regarding god, country, progress, etc. By focusing on what divides us, and what we don’t want to examine, we are isolated into camps that are unable to ‘think’ about the same things together. 

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