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Midnight Blue

by Craig

There’s a curious phenomenon in our shared psyche as humans, and that’s the idea of “midnight blue.” A blue cast over the world in the middle of the night. You see it often in movies. I learned it in art classes. There are actually techniques in cinematography and editing methods for producing “midnight blue.”

However, in reality, experience of nightscape illuminated in blue moonlight is rare, a phenomenon usually witnessed only during the full moon. But we, as humans, tend to associate this illusion with night in general, and thus “midnight blue” is a popular motif used to establish mood during nighttime scenes in cinema.

It’s interesting how so many illusions pervade our collective unconscious mostly unquestioned. This point of ponderance appeared while reflecting on an event that occurred a few nights ago.

A young man in spirit, now an older man, but neither in dreamland, arrived at a residential development. Houses in a familiar neighborhood enveloped in midnight blue.

And there she was on the doorstep.

He was so relieved to see her as he approached. He had been searching for her for what seemed like a lifetime. She smiled as he gently gripped her face in his hands and kissed her. For him, it was the end of the Odyssey. For her, it was simply a kiss of ‘welcome home.’

In his relief he said, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” He kissed her again.

She chuckled briefly as they parted lips. It was a chuckle of, “What are you talking about, silly man?”

She said, “I’ve always been here.”

He knew. He always knew. And he knew the neighborhood, the house, her smile. Everything. And moreover, he had always been there too. He had never left, but had been wandering in an illusory state of amnesia—a dream that they were separated and he had lost her somehow.

Then the man woke up. The warm light of the morning sun shined through the windows of his bedroom and he realized that he had only been asleep.

In his waking state, he had no clue where she was, if she was alive or dead, or if he had ever seen that midnight blue neighborhood before. Yet he felt a very deep and beautiful sense of peace.

For two days he pondered about that dream and why it felt so uniquely cathartic. And as he wrote it down later, the true message of the dream appeared to him.

 It was a metaphor about Consciousness.

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I’ve been playing quite a bit lately with AI generated art. It’s quite amazing how this technology can interpret words of imaginative idea and translate those words into a powerful expression of visual form.

The following gallery of images was produced using Midjourney.

The Persistence of Dreams and Nightmares

Personally speaking, water has always been a resonant metaphor for the conscious, unconscious, and collective unconscious—the underwater world as the unconscious mind, and the endless sea as a metaphor for the collective unconscious.

While experimenting with blending techniques in Midjourney, AI produced a surprising base image that set imagination ablaze. Altogether, a dozen images were produced, composited, and blended in Photoshop to produce this composition.  

It’s labeled “The Persistence of Dreams and Nightmares” as a tribute to Salvadore Dali, the artist of inspiration. (One of Dali’s most famous paintings is titled The Persistence of Time).

However, it could just as well be named “The Persistence of Desires and Fears.”

The Garden

I was in the process of updating a talk using symbology from the Garden story in preparation for making a video when I was “guided” to AI generated art.

In the original 2019 talk, I used classical paintings from different artists rendered into vector to create a sense of unity in style. It worked for its purpose, but I always wished there was a way of creating a truly synthesized aesthetic. I also wished there was a way to create additional images to accompany points that weren’t illustrated in classical paintings.

By using AI generated art, all of this is possible. This series was produced by unifying the styles of Rubens and Rembrandt.

Isn’t it truly remarkable what happens when we ‘get out of the way’ and just let grace “do the how.”

Lucifer the Angel of Light

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In 2019, I shared a talk introducing Dr. Bob’s Picture of Man (POM) and Picture of Conditioned Man (POCM) to an audience at SAND19. For those unfamiliar with the conference, the SAND (Science and Non-Duality) organization hosts events every year providing a forum for sharing ideas with focus on non-duality. The SAND community is an delightful mix of spiritual teachers and students, philosophers, artists, physicists, cognitive scientists, and others—lot’s of unique voices all expressing a shared truth.

I hadn’t looked at that talk in some time. After discussing it with a friend recently, I revisited the presentation and spent a little time word smithing and updating the imagery. It’s posted below as a PDF for anyone interested.

The Fall of Man parable as used in the talk inspired the theme for this web site. Although discussion about Conditioned Man is adapted into symbology of the Garden story, the POM and teaching ideas are directly traced to Dr. Bob’s Science of Man.

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Letter to Adam

by Craig

Some time ago, a young man was given a letter as he was departing for college. We’ll just call him “Adam” for purposes of this post.


Few moments in a man’s life are as exciting as the day he steps out the door of his parent’s home as an adult. I am sure it’s something you’ve been looking forward to for some time—the freedom, adventure, and opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and capabilities as an independent man. And I realize that step can also be a nervous experience when we recognize the uncertainty of the future and assume personal responsibility for our life.

You’ve been blessed with some remarkable gifts, Adam—not the least of which is an exceptional mind. I have no doubt you will succeed in applying that intellect to mastering any subjects of interest. I was quite like you in that regard when I was your age. If I was interested in a subject, I studied it to the point of expertise. However, as a young man, I didn’t fully appreciate the difference between knowledge and wisdom. It was only after many years that I truly discovered the distinction.

Following are a handful of lessons I learned by the long road. Although my wish in sharing these is to spare you a difficult process of trial and error, I know many of these points only become wisdom when they’re truly discovered for oneself. With that understanding, I hope you will consider these ideas as open hypotheses until proven from personal observation and experience. Perhaps hearing these words at your age will hasten the discovery of their truth.

Be free to be you and don’t measure yourself by the approval of others.

From the time we’re born, we’re continuously subjected to suggestion by society, family, school, and others how we should act, what to believe, and ultimately “what we, as men, should be.” And the way we interpret, assimilate, or reject these suggestions ultimately defines the personality we arrive with in manhood. Some rebel against those expectations in adolescence to assert a sense of autonomy or individuality. Others often find themselves struggling to fulfill those ideals, believing their success as a man is measured by the approval of others.

Despite the implied messages of society, there is no such thing as standards for being a human. Some are tall. Other’s short. Some are black. Others white. And as diverse as our physiology, so it is also true for our personalities and the seamless chain of experiences that brought us to the present moment. And that diversity also extends to the expectations and standards we often use to judge others and ourselves.

No human being will ever comply with the expectations of all others, nor all expectations of any one person. To even try is futile.

You have responsibility for one human on this planet—you. Embrace the true uniqueness of being Adam and let the approval or disapproval of others fall where it does. That’s their responsibility.

Money can buy temporary happiness, but it can’t buy joy.

Many years ago your Dad and I provided protection for a billionaire businessman. By all standards of society, this guy had it all…A beautiful wife, fame and adoration from thousands of people, pride of achievement, and enough money to buy anything he ever wanted. And at the age of 44, that man died depressed and lonely from an overdose of alcohol and pills in the bathtub of his luxurious LA home.

As a tragic irony, some of the most wealthy and accomplished people in the world are the most miserable and depressed individuals on the planet. For some, ambition becomes an insatiable addiction for which specific achievements only provide a temporary fix. For others, boredom becomes a lonely hell when they’ve exhausted all desires.

By contrast, I recently visited Ghana and was completely amazed by the people. Despite an impoverished standard of living and persistent challenge for survival, they are some of the warmest and most joyful people I have ever met. They seem to understand a simple secret to life that escapes so many of us “advanced folks” in the West—Love costs absolutely nothing and offers a richness of fulfillment that can’t be measured. That may sound cliché, but it’s resolutely one of the greatest truths in life.

Bear in mind, I’m not suggesting there’s anything “wrong” or “bad” about ambition or material wealth. Everyone enjoys a new iPhone or better car. Yet when we make fulfillment in life conditional to those things, we set ourselves up for a persistent cycle of frustration and emptiness between temporary episodes of satisfaction—and often at the sacrifice of life’s greatest treasure.

Joy is found in loving others. Not in how others love us.

As part of a recent threat assessment your Dad and I were involved with, we read an autobiographical essay written by a guy who spent most of his youth obsessed with feelings of perceived rejection because he thought others didn’t love him. Watch reality TV on any night and you’ll hear similar complaints from people who feel hurt, rejected, or betrayed because they aren’t loved by their spouse, parents, or others whom they hold in expectation.

It’s a common belief of society that “being loved” is somehow related to our experience of joy and fulfillment. Similarly, many people hold reciprocation as a conditional aspect of love in relationship.

As an experiment, reflect on a time when someone expressed love to you when you, Adam, felt indifferent or upset in the moment. What did you feel? Did you suddenly feel your heart light up with joy because someone stated they loved you? Now reflect on times when you’ve felt genuine love in your experience with others. What was the emotional quality of that moment?

Discover the significance of this point and you may unlock an opportunity to experience a richness of life that’s invulnerable to circumstance.

Trust the River.

An eastern philosopher once described life as a mighty river. And we, as people, often struggle against the river’s flow, getting thrashed against rocks, exhausting ourselves, and sinking as we tense in our insecurity. But if we can learn to relax and trust it, we may find its current naturally takes us around the big obstacles with our energy preserved. We may get skinned occasionally as we brush by a rock, but our head stays above water and we can navigate with its movement.

Your future is going to bring wonderful opportunities you can’t even imagine right now. It’s also going to bring many unforeseen challenges and resistance. Whenever you find yourself frustrated or struggling in opposition to what is, pause for a brief moment and ask yourself if you’re navigating with the river or against it. That won’t make the challenge go away, but perhaps that question can open a new direction that wasn’t apparent before.

Wishing you all the best on your new adventure at school! Never hesitate to reach out if you ever need anything from us. We’re always here.

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swimming lessons

Swim Lessons

by Craig

For a boy living in Pennsylvania, summertime life centered around the Macungie swimming pool. Each year as school ended, a ten-week festival commenced recalled now in slices of memory as cannonball plunges, skin burn, hot concrete, concession stand hot dogs, and frolicking with girls.

As fun as that may sound, the boy’s first summer at the pool wasn’t quite so exciting. Having grown up in New York City, the boy didn’t know how to swim when his family moved to Pennsylvania. And the first summer at the pool was largely spent wading in the shallow water and crafting excuses to conceal his embarrassment. Eventually his parents took notice and decided it was time for swim lessons.

Few childhood memories are associated with dread as much as that week of swim classes.

On the first day, he was told by the swim teacher that all people were born with natural ability to float. And learning to float required surrendering fear and all notions of effort. Just trust the water and it will keep you afloat. Although simple in concept and natural once discovered, learning to swim that week was like an extended visit to the dentist’s office.

Trust the water? Was he nuts? People drown in water! It gets in your face and stings your eyes! How the hell can anyone trust the water?

Yet, the boy had no choice in the decision to be there. His parents had made that decision for him. And so the swim lessons carried on.

Each day the boy wrestled with the teacher’s advice. Maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough. So he put ambition to work and tried to float with all of his might, only to find himself sinking like a rock. After his face plunged repeatedly underwater, ambition was quickly extinguished by reinforced fear. Naturally, the sinking continued and this whole hellish affair perpetuated through repeated cycles of effort and failure.

Then on Saturday that week, he caught a break.

With swim lessons on pause for the weekend, he was able to hang out with friends at the pool with no expectations or pressure.

While having fun, the other boys encouraged him to join them in a game of ‘how long can you hold your breath underwater.’ The idea was a little intimidating at first, but he felt somewhat safe. He was standing in the shallow end and all he needed to do was close his eyes, pinch his nose, and hold his breath. It seemed harmless enough. And after a little hesitation, he gave it a shot and quickly discovered that he could submerge his head underwater and return to the surface alive. What a moment of epiphany! And within a matter of days, he was swimming from one end of the pool to another.

He didn’t return to swim class the next week. A teacher was no longer necessary.

That boy, now a man, hadn’t thought about the summer of swim lessons for some time. The memory only recently returned while coaching his daughter on swimming.

As he was encouraging her to float by supporting her back with his hand, he felt rigidity in her body and observed tension on her face. Fear and force of effort had turned her into a block of stone. No amount of reassuring words or advice made a difference. So he decided to drop the lesson and just let her play. The pointers he gave her were enough for now and there was no value in pressing her or offering further instruction. It would only contribute more to frustration.

Several days later, he glanced at the pool and caught a surprise. She was floating with her hands behind her back, gracefully drifting in a circle, silent and still. Similar to a leaf gently resting on the surface of a pond.

It appeared so natural. So effortless. It appeared as if she had always known how to float, yet only now was remembering a capability that was always there.

Perhaps the previous difficulty she had learning to swim was simply suppression of primordial memory. A kind of amnesia resulting from fear cultivated by the discomfort of getting water in her face and repeated warnings from trusted adults about the dangers of the pool.

And by just playing around without worry about “learning to swim,” the kid discovered trust in the water all on her own.

And shortly later, she was swimming like a fish.

Isn’t it interesting what kids can do when they absorb some tips, ditch the teacher, forget about technique and intention, and just simply play?

A Message for Advocates of Swimming Schools

It is not the intention of this essay to criticize swimming lessons, swim teachers, or students trying earnestly to learn to swim.

Swimming lessons are quite useful. Swim teachers offer valuable advice and encouragement. And getting past a lifetime of accumulated fear of the water and discovering why one keeps sinking often requires some experienced coaching.

Yet at a certain point of learning, the value of a teacher’s words are exhausted and it rests with the swimmer to remember their intuitive capability.

Trust in the water cannot be taught or learned from words.

Sometimes it’s best discovered by heeding the useful advice of a teacher, then just playing around in the water.

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Grigori's Diary - A Fourth Way Spy Story

Grigori’s Diary

by Craig

So what do spies, cigars, and Sufi’s share in common? Welcome to Grigori’s Diary—a story about a disenchanted CIA officer who discovers an unexpected secret during his pursuit to recruit a mysterious Russian professor.

The story concept originated from a humorous thought about what an uninitiated person might think if they read someone’s spiritual work journal with its catalogue of self-observations, intimations, third-person references to identity, etc. In the role of vocation, the author works occasionally in locations were national security services are known for invasive curiosity of foreigners working in security capacities.

Just some fun expressing spiritual work ideas in the form of a screenplay.

For those new to reading screenplays, here’s a key to some terms:

  • INT. – Interior (e.g., building, room ,etc.)
  • EXT. – Exterior (i.e., outdoors)
  • (V.O.) – Voice over. Used to indicate dialogue spoken by someone not currently seen on screen.
  • (BEAT) – Indicates a pause in speaking.
  • (45) – Age of the character. Only used when a new character is introduced in the story.
  • SUPER: – Text superimposed on the screen.

An invitation for your input...

An idea recently emerged about converting the screenplay story into a graphic novel format. After experimenting with illustration techniques, I’ve arrived at a stage where feedback from others regarding the illustration style would be very helpful. Following are some concept images from locations depicted in the story (with no characters or extra treatments yet).

The images are illustrated with three levels of detail (No Extra Detail, Minor Extra Detail, and Extra Detail). Which level of detail in the examples do you prefer?

Your input is most appreciated! If you wish to comment, please send a message through our contact form.

The three levels of detail side-by-side. Click an image to view full-size.

A quick test example with a character and text bubbles.

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A few days ago, a man spoke with a friend who was distressed about an interview he watched on CNN prophesizing a disturbing number of COVID-19 fatalities expected in Florida if the state pursued herd immunity through its current policies. Now the man is no expert on COVID-19 or epidemiology, but he suspected the number of deaths claimed in the interview was inflated given the context of the interview. Suggestion is quite amplified and very much abound these days. And the news media are particularly active players in that game.

Out of interest, the man decided to take a look at the numbers and see what such a scenario might look like based on data reported in the state. And the resulting estimates were between 89,000-170,000 deaths and 516,000-707,000 hospitalizations. Although a breakdown was provided to the friend, how those numbers were derived isn’t really relevant to this article. Don’t invest much credibility in those estimates. It was largely an indulgent experiment in armchair analysis.

Now although those estimates are staggering in the eyes of most, it was not quite the apocalypse as presented by CNN. And that recognition popped a cork open on a bottleful of “Not-I’s” that have been quietly incubating. And here’s some of the inner chatter he observed:

“Those of the left-leaning, alarmist bent who imply it’s impossible to have a functioning economy while responsibly keeping cases under the curve, or who try to earn attention and support by crafting fearful headlines, seem disingenuous at best and often promote a course of direction that risks social and economic collapse—potentially with consequences much greater in loss of life than COVID-19.”

“It seems today’s American left will say nearly anything at the moment to advantage the next election, frequently misrepresenting facts and impulsively rejecting any ideas that emerge from the perceived “MAGA-side” of the political spectrum, regardless of the potential consequences to society. Even liberal friends acknowledge this truth, yet remain glued to CNN like injecting heroin addicts aware their addiction is killing them.”

“Conversely, those in the right-wing spectrum who disregard any personal role in reducing transmission seem to have lost  regard for the rest of society, endanger the integrity of the healthcare system, and consequently, court greater fatalities that could be avoided if we keep the curve under control. Not to mention a potential economic disaster from future shut downs.”

“Fueling belligerence on the right is a president who can easily be viewed as embracing pseudoscience, scoffing at the advice of experts, intentionally divisive, and encouraging disregard for transmission control through his behavior and statements.”

“This matter, the politicization of COVID-19 and polarization of ideological opinions is perhaps the most avoidable tragedy we face right now as Americans. Few people in the public eye seem to be viewing COVID-19 with any degree of objectivity. Even fewer seem to appreciate that COVID-19’s features present a unique opportunity to address both concerns—keep a working economy afloat and avoid healthcare system overload.”

“Perhaps mental inflexibility is America’s greatest disease at the moment.”

“Viewing it from outside any specific political narrative, I observe sadness when I watch the clowns these days. Not anger. Not disgust. Just simply, sadness.”

“By clowns I mean the ideologues of both the left and the right wing circuses who appear to be sleep-walking while swinging chainsaws. It’s maybe a powerful example of what Gurdjieff meant when he wrote, “The terror of the situation,” to describe a world of ‘sleeping humans’ staking prideful beliefs and ambitions against the fate of humanity. “

“Yet I also realize, most people don’t have a choice. Our words and actions are largely scripted by conditioning accumulated through a lifetime of experience, with all sharing a common yearning for security through confidence of belief and sense of order and control.”

And that last string of thoughts flips on a light switch illuminating the room. And the man catches a glimpse in the mirror of a familiar face wearing a clown nose.

And the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil now appears before him, adorned with his words of inner complaint like ornaments on a Christmas Tree.

Story. Story. Story…The man realizes he’s standing on stage holding a script in his hand.

And the actor breaks from character, sets the script down, and recalls an old tale about a farmer and a horse…

A farmer was working in a field one day when a wild, but docile horse appeared. He approached the horse and brought it into his stable.

When he shared the news with his neighbors, everyone was delighted and said how good that was. As a simple man, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and stated he didn’t know much about ‘good and bad,’ but was thankful for the new horse.

A few weeks later, the horse escaped the farmer’s field and ran off. When the news broke out, everyone was dismayed and said how unfortunate that was. Again, the farmer said he didn’t know much about ‘fortune or misfortune,’ and quietly went back to work in the field.

Then, a few days later, the horse returned grazing with a group of horses, and the man’s stable multiplied. Surprised by this turn of events, everyone remarked at how great that was.

As the man’s son was riding later that week, he was thrown from the horse and broke his leg. Everyone was upset and said how terrible that was. The farmer just shrugged his shoulders and went home to tend his son.

Shortly later, the King’s army came through conscripting all able young men for a war. But seeing the man’s son limping on a splinted leg, they passed him over and moved onto the next village.

And so the story continues…

There are so many unforeseeable events that can influence the outcome of our experience with COVID-19. The arrival of a vaccine, new treatments, politics and policy measures, and public cooperation are only a handful of factors which may contribute.

If there’s one remarkable lesson we can all learn from the novel coronavirus, we can often infer probability, but no one can predict the future. Yet we all believe we’re fortune tellers. We do it every time we blame…Every time we complain…Every time we curse at the TV. We do it every time we think a thought or make a statement that starts with the words, “If only…If they…If he…They should…He should…” and so many similar variations.

So where does that leave us actors on stage while in the middle of an act featuring Coronavirus?

Referring back to the farmer story, it seems all the horses have run off and left the farmer’s son with a broken leg. And while the townspeople are lamenting about how terrible that is and what the farmer should do, the farmer shrugs his shoulders and tills the soil not knowing what will happen in the future. Only that it’s not the end of the story.

If you look up at some point and catch yourself standing on stage reading a script with fearful lines about COVID-19, or peek in a mirror and see a red ball on your nose, maybe turn off Fox News and CNN for a while and give farming a try.

It’s not easy work, but you just may find a miraculous Present waiting in the field.

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Last Toast to Bassmi

by Craig

On October 26, 2019, Bassmi Ibrahim departed the party.

The art world knew Bassmi as an abstract expressionist with a painting method and vision that often strips people of words. Although art critics often focus on his talent and technique, I suspect Bassmi’s popularity stemmed from the way his paintings convey a mysterious, yet familiar understanding we all share as human beings.

The author knew Bassmi as a friend and fellow companion on The Way.

Cultural tradition says today is a day to wear black as proper expression of grief and sorrow.

But I can’t wear black today. For black was never a dominant color in Bassmi’s palette.

As reflected in his art, Bassmi was a man of true light–bright, dynamic, loving, and joyful!

And beyond the veil of his quiet humility, lay deep wisdom and insight into the mysteries of life.

And one of the mysteries Bassmi knew well is that life and death are inseparable parts of the creative act…the process of form emerging into and out of being, the abstruse dance of God’s hand, which Bassmi expressed so beautifully through his work.

And with his passing, a humble artist brushed the final stroke of his greatest masterpiece.

That being the life of Bassmi Ibrahim, himself.

A friend and mentor.

A most beautiful man.

If you’d like to see more of Bassmi’s Xpression, visit: www.bassmi.com.

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The following article has been updated since its original posting on LinkedIn in December 2018. |

For many, Christmas is a time of year when we can slow the pace of our busy work schedule and honor the special people in our lives. Aside from its obvious significance to Christians, the holiday is appreciated by many secularists and people of different faiths for its charming cultural traditions and celebration of family. Although Christmas holds different meanings to people in today’s society, most universally appreciate Christmas for its symbolic theme of love and goodwill to others.

As a young Episcopalian, I was frequently reminded of the Second Greatest Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” For many it’s the quintessential ideal and ultimate example of Christian practice. Even outside Christianity, the concept of ‘agape’ (altruistic love of fellow humans) is regarded as one of the highest expressions of philosophic and spiritual living. Regardless of one’s religion or personal beliefs, most would agree that life feels pretty damn wonderful when one experiences other people with a genuine sense of deep connection unbound by the constraints of condition.

Unless one lives isolated on an island of narcissism, it’s natural to experience love for family, friends, and those who share our common opinions. It seems most of us also feel a natural degree of empathy and inner connection toward humanity at large. But what about the Omar Mateen’s and Nikolas Cruz’s of the world? People who commit such horrific acts as the massacres at the Pulse Nightclub or Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

This question arises occasionally in conversations when discussing the subject of love. In my day job, I work as a consultant specialized in managing risks of mass homicide…terrorism, workplace and school shootings, and similar types of violence.

When this subject arises, I like to begin with the word, Empathy.

Empathy is defined as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” With this concept in mind, it’s quite obvious we cannot experience genuine empathy (the precursor of agape) if we view mass killers as ‘evil monsters’ beyond sensible understanding. So let’s start with that line of inquiry…

What really differentiates us from the mass murderers of the world?

Almost all acts of mass homicide are characterized as predatory aggression resulting from a process of ideation, planning, and preparation. The phrase, “He snapped,” is largely a myth. Although acts of mass homicide are often triggered by events, such as terminations or dismissals from school, the pathway to violence is typically established long before the carnage commences.

Although the pathway to mass homicide is largely universal, the motivation for violence is often different between terrorists and non-ideological perpetrators.

Terrorists rationally adopt the use of violence to further an ideological goal. The key characteristic distinguishing a terrorist from any other idealistic visionary is that the terrorist views the use of violence as necessary, morally sanctioned, and values their ideal over the lives of others (and often their own life too).

Sounds pretty messed up, huh?…Well, let’s pause for a second.

In early youth, I was enamored by the hero myth and American ideal of global freedom. I was a true product of Cold War era idealism and cultural suggestion that being a warrior was the ultimate expression of masculinity. And immediately after high school, I joined the Army. During those days, I would have killed any enemy soldiers as instructed and with a conscience cleansed by the noble aim of saving humanity from communist oppression.

When I look at it closely today, perhaps the only fundamental difference between me in those Army days and the terrorists of this world are the specific ideals motivating violent intent, and the rationale for distinguishing which human lives are valuable from those that are not. The individual ideals and beliefs were different, but the underlying mechanics are exactly the same. We both perceived violence as justified and valued an ideal as greater than human life.

So what about those who never wore a uniform?

Well, I propose mass killers aren’t fundamentally much different than you too.

Most non-ideological mass murderers align with Dr. Park Dietz’s definition of a pseudocommando.  These individuals often evolve from angry, narcissistic personalities and harbor perceived injustices as a grievance for revenge. Violent fantasy becomes a refuge for the pseudocommando’s damaged ego and provides a sense of power and control.  And without intervention, rumination and fantasy may become obsessional until a stage where violent fantasy becomes a template for action. If this progression continues unabated until nihilism takes place, commitment to violence is affirmed and often commenced in a planned manner or initiated by a trigger event.

So what does any of that craziness have to do with you and me?

Well, perhaps the pseudocommando’s pathology is nothing but an exaggeration of behavior we witness every day in most human beings.

Starting with narcissism, it seems most people spend the majority of life viewing the world through a subconscious prism of “What does it mean to/for me?”

In essence, we find ourselves perpetually motivated by desire for the ‘good stuff’ (pleasure, comfort, approval, attention, accomplishment) and seeking to escape the ‘bad stuff’ (pain, discomfort, disapproval, rejection, failure).

And if we watch closely, we can see how these primal impulses dominate our attention and behavior.

Now I suspect these polaric driving forces served a great value in evolutionary survival. Perhaps they’re the reason we derive pleasure from sex and eating calorie-rich foods, or seek warmth when our body temperature drops low. But in the modern world, these subconscious urges often result in a rollercoaster of irrational wants and fears resulting in all manner of mayhem. Just look at some of the things that stress people today…“Do I look good in that picture on Instagram?”, “Will people disapprove if I go to the store without doing my makeup?,” “Will my kid be a future failure because she got an F in math class or dyed her hair blue?”

When I discussed this matter with a friend recently, he responded by countering that his main focus these days was his company and family. Note the word “his” in this situation. Perhaps his attention was not centered on his personal desires and fears, but “his” company and family had become extensions of his identity by virtue of possession (“I” by association).

I am sure a few reading this may be offended by the notion that people are narcissistic in varying degrees. If you disbelieve me, great! Skepticism is the best launching point for using the scientific method. Try an experiment to disprove the hypothesis.

Experiment I

For the next few days, consciously observe how often you use the word “I” and “my” in thought and conversation. While at it, observe how much attention you devote to things that suggest possible reward or threaten harm.

Experiment II


Over the next week, observe what initial feelings arise when people approach you with a problem, bad news, or inopportune demand.

Another defining characteristic of the pseudocommando is “injustice collection.” This can also be described as held-resentment or more simply stated…Blame.

Here’s another area where maybe we don’t differ so much from the pseudocommando. Most people can’t navigate a single waking hour of the day without experiencing blame to some degree. It usually begins early when we blame our kids for leaving the milk out overnight or blame ourselves for misplacing our keys. This blame circus then continues through the day and up to the time we go to bed when we blame a stressful work situation for insomnia or our spouse for hoarding the bed covers.

I recently conducted a few experiments while having conversations with people and counted how many times someone expressed blame and its related behavior, complaint. I lost count after thirty minutes!

If you don’t believe me, great. Try an experiment…

Experiment III

Over the next few days, observe how many thoughts or statements you make in conversation expressing blame or complaint.
(Tip: Keep a counter handy!)

Experiment IV


If you have difficulty observing your own thoughts and behavior, go to a coffee house and sit next to a group of people and eavesdrop on the conversation. Make a game of counting how many times you hear people complain or blame.

Experiment V

Observe how often blame and the emotions that often accompany blame (e.g., annoyance, anger, guilt, resentment, etc.) actually change past events or improve situations.

In the end, perhaps the only difference between the average Joe and the pseudocommando is the degree of attention and importance devoted to blame.

So where does this blame stuff come from in the first place?

It seems blame is just a default cognitive response to situations where perceived reality doesn’t match our ideal (our vision of what ought-to-be). And this discussion point circles us right back to beliefs and ideals.

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As satirized in that Walgreens commercial, we humans seem stubbornly committed to the imaginary concept of a “Perfect World” and spend a noteworthy chunk of time and energy trying to ‘fix’ what is, worried, or otherwise spinning our wheels in frustration.

Here’s another fun experiment…

Experiment VI

Choose an uneventful weekend and write an essay about your “Perfect World.” Just let it flow in a ‘Finnegans Wake-style’ of whatever nonsense comes into mind. Really put some heart into it! Exhaust this exercise well and note any realizations that emerge.

Here’s some old examples from Craig’s Perfect World…

When we really peel the onion to its core, perhaps the only difference in motivation between us and the mass killers of the world are the specific ideals that occupy and fascinate our imagination.

Well, maybe the problem is simply that mass killers have delusional (or incorrect) beliefs and ideals.

After all, my beliefs are the right beliefs!…My perspective of reality is the true perspective of reality!

When conducting threat assessments, we emphasize focus on understanding how a person of concern perceives a situation (such as bullying or mistreatment by others) over just the facts of the situation itself. What the subject thinks is going on (in essence, his or her perspective of reality) is ultimately what matters in identifying a possible accelerating motive.

Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui wrote an extensive manifesto detailing his perceived persecution by people over the years. When investigated later, no one in Cho’s life ever remembered him being mistreated in any way.

Eliott Roger, responsible for the 2014 Isla Vista attacks, wrote a 137-page autobiography describing his hate for all girls because they didn’t want him, and men for having the girls. Perceived sexual rejection was his primary grievance for revenge. From the way Elliot described the situation, you would think this rejection stemmed from some condition of extreme unattractiveness such as obesity or physical disfigurement.

Quite the contrary, he was a good-looking kid.

It was basically all in his mind.

And that last statement, “all in his mind,” brings up a critical point in this discussion.

Most people approach life with the belief that they experience reality as objective truth. When in fact, all experience of reality is a constructed mental process influenced by countless subjective variables.

In waking states, information is received through sensory organs and processed into a mental image of physical reality. This sensory data is then interpreted through an unconscious cognitive process to provide context actionable for functioning. And belief plays a tremendous role in that final composite experience of reality.

Belief gives birth to ideals. And ideals give birth to judgement. And judgement, in turn, dictates how we value, relate, and react to our environment. It’s the complex prism through which everything we experience occurs.

Belief is defined as “something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.” Beliefs frame the architecture of what we interpret as reality. Without them, we couldn’t function as human beings. In the absence of complete knowledge, we need to operate on some degree of assumption.

It seems where we get tripped up in life is when we hold our beliefs as empirical truth, rather than simply acknowledging belief as confident hypothesis. It’s easy to point at Cho Seung-Hui and Elliot Roger and label their beliefs as delusional. However, how many times in our lives do we pridefully defend beliefs that we later discover are untrue?

If the previous point wasn’t obvious, here are a few experiments to try…

Experiment VII

Reflect on how many times you wrongly held something to be true. It’s easy to remember major examples which resulted in undesired consequences. But if you observe closely, you may notice that it probably occurs on a daily basis.

Experiment VIII

Knowledge is defined as “facts and information acquired through experience.” With that definition in mind, ask yourself how much of what you regard as knowledge is actually unproven belief. Contemplate this for a while and you may discover something huge.

It seems there’s another underappreciated fact about human behavior: Whatever you, I, or the mass killer does is perceived as being right or justifiable at the moment it’s done. Now we may feel conflict coming to that decision and we might feel differently five minutes later, but at the moment we act, the action is perceived as right or justifiable.

Don’t believe me? Try an experiment…

Experiment IX

Reflect on how many “regretful decisions” you made in life where you later asked yourself, “What was I thinking?”

And that last point brings us to the most provocative idea in this essay…

Not only does the killer perceive their act as right or justifiable at the moment it’s done, but perhaps it was the only thing he could do at that moment considering all factors of influence.

When we blame mass murderers and ponder how someone could commit a horrific act of violence, we often speak with the assumption that the killer acted with a conscious choice. Yet if we observe carefully, it seems most actions executed by human beings are largely dictated by personal conditioning (e.g., beliefs, ideals, gain/escape impulses, etc.) and circumstances that provoke or influence that conditioning.

In essence, something ‘pushes our buttons’ and we react. Sometimes life pushes a ‘happy’ button, other times an ‘angry’ button. But most people seem to live from button-press to button-press with an inner experience largely dictated by circumstance.

When circumstance takes form as a suggestion promising something desirable or threatening harm, we often behave quite predictably in accordance with our conditioning. This power of suggestion can be witnessed everywhere in the form of advertising, sales, politics, leadership, religion, education, etc. I know a few marketing professionals, CEO’s, and retired spies who can strongly testify to this fact.

Consciously or not, we all know this truth and use it every day to our advantage when interacting with others. But when it comes to us personally, people often stand in denial.

Now if the notion of behaving mechanically offends you, make note of that feeling of offense. Did you consciously choose to feel offended? Or did the words in this article dictate your inner experience?

Better yet, try a real experiment…

Experiment X

Make a conscious decision to be continuously happy for the next three days. Make up your mind that nothing or no one can push your buttons. Attempt to disprove the hypothesis proposed here.

Once we understand how people function, we may begin to see that the killer’s conditioning resulted directly from a lifelong chain of seamless events beginning at birth and right up to the moment he picked up a gun or strapped on a suicide vest.

And that principle seems to be true for all of us!

For the author, the chain started in August 1968 in a Pennsylvania hospital and continued through fifty years of interconnected experience right up to the moment of writing these words tonight.

So what does any of this have to do with loving a mass murderer?

A poet once wrote:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Perhaps there’s a profound wisdom in those words.

Most people approach life with a mistaken understanding…believing love is the product of favorable conditions which resulted in a spouse, or a child, or meeting others with similar beliefs and ideals. Some even believe they can willfully make themselves feel love to fulfill a religious obligation, only to feel guilty later when intention is insufficient. Love does not seem subject to the command of our desire. Rather…

Perhaps love is like light naturally radiating from a sun that never sets.

You don’t have to look for it. It’s always there, shining!

Only it’s often eclipsed as we stand with our back to it, obstructing its warmth and luminescence.

Instead, we often live like Plato’s cave dwellers, experiencing reality overcast and distorted by the shadows of our beliefs, our ideals, and ultimately, judgment.

So where do we begin?

Well, the experiments presented in this article are one possible place to begin.

Shine a light inward. Don’t worry about changing anything…Just watch.

Perhaps the simple act of observation can be a catalyst to something remarkable—a depth and availability of love you never knew was possible!

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