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A Special Invitation to Gogo

by A Friend

Life delivers invitations in many ways. Sometimes bluntly through dervishes in coffee shops. And other times through more subtle means.

Have you received an invitation too?

Or is it possibly waiting to be found in a busy stack of mail?

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The poem at the beginning of the video is by J. Rumi. The clip afterward is from the 1979 movie adaptation of G.I. Gurdjieff’s book, “Meetings With Remarkable Men.”

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All spiritual work, regardless of form and method of teaching, aims toward a process of releasing attachment to illusion and remembering our true nature. In the Fourth Way tradition, this process is called Self-Remembering. Rupert Spira expresses this concept using the allegory of an amnesiac actor awakening to discover he is not the role he plays on stage as King Lear.

In the opening lines of the following film, writer and producer Daniel Schmidt describes this state of amnesia using the sanskrit word, Maya:

“We are at a time in history where we have not only forgotten Samadhi, but we have forgotten what we forgot.”

“This forgetting is Maya, the illusion of the self.”

Click the play button on the image below to view the film.

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Visit awakentheworld.com to view more videographic Xpressions by Daniel.

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A short extract from The Treatise on Being attributed to Ibn ‘Arabi.

No one sees Him, except Himself; no one reaches Him, except Himself; and no one knows Him except Himself. He knows Himself through Himself and He sees Himself by means of Himself. No one but He sees Him. His very Oneness is His veil since nothing veils Him other than He; His own Being veils Him. His Oneness is concealed by His Oneness without any condition.

No one other than He sees Him. No sent prophet, nor perfect saint nor angel brought close knows Him. His prophet is He; His Messenger is He; His message is He and His word is He. He sent Himself, through Himself, from Himself to Himself; there is no intermediary or means other than He. There is no difference between the Sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the letters of the prophetic message is His existence. There is no other who could cease to be, or have a name or be named.

Because of this, the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He also said, “I knew my Lord through my Lord”. What the Prophet meant by this, is that you are not you but you are He and there is no you; and it is not that He enters into you or comes out of you, or that you enter into Him or come out of Him. He did not mean that you have being and you are qualified by this or that attribute. What he meant was that you never were and that you never will be, whether through yourself, or through Him, or in Him or with Him. You have neither ceased to be nor are you existent. You are Him and He is you, without any of these imperfections. If you know your existence in this way, then you know God; and if not, then not!

Most of those who claim to be knowers (of God) make the knowledge of God dependent on the cessation of being and on the cessation of that cessation. That is an error and a clear oversight; the knowledge of God does not require either the cessation of being nor the cessation of that cessation, because things have no being and whatever has no being cannot cease to be, since cessation implies the prior existence of the thing that ceases to be. If you know yourself as not having being and (consequently) not ceasing to be, then you know God; and if not, then not!

By making the knowledge of God dependent on the cessation of being and the cessation of this cessation, there is an affirmation of polytheism. The Prophet said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He did not say, “He who ceases to be, knows his Lord”. The assertion of something other than God is incompatible with its cessation; or else this assertion is impossible, and it follows that its cessation is also impossible.

Your being is nothing and whatever is nothing cannot be placed in relationship to anything else, whether it is capable of cessation or not and whether it is existent or non-existent. The Prophet alluded to the fact that you are non-existent now as you were non-existent before creation, because now is Eternity-without-beginning and now is Eternity-without-end and now is Timelessness. God is the very being of Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end and Timelessness even though (in reality) there is no Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end nor Timelessness. If it were otherwise, He would not be alone, without anything being associated with Him, and it is necessary for Him to be alone without any associate. His associate would have being through its own essence, and not through the being of God. Then that associate would not need God and would therefore be a second Lord, which is impossible: God has no associate, nor equal, nor like.

For those engaged in The Work as presented on this site, click below for another translation of Ibn ‘Arabi’s text.

Another Translation

No one sees “X,” except “X;” no one reaches “X,” except “X;” and no one knows “X” except “X.” “X” knows “X” through “X” and “X” sees “X” by means of “X.” No one but “X” sees “X.” “X’s” very Oneness is “X” veil since nothing veils “X” other than “X;” “X’s” own Being veils “X.” “X’s” Oneness is concealed by “X’s” Oneness without any condition.

No one other than “X” sees “X.” No sent prophet, nor perfect saint nor angel brought close knows “X.” “X’s” prophet is “X;” “X’s” Messenger is “X;” “X’s” message is “X” and “X’s” word is “X.” “X” sent “X,” through “X,” from “X” to “X;” there is no intermediary or means other than “X.” There is no difference between the Sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the letters of the prophetic message is “X’s” existence. There is no other who could cease to be, or have a name or be named.

Because of this, the Prophet (may “X” bless him and give him peace) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He also said, “I knew my Lord through my Lord”. What the Prophet meant by this, is that you are not you but you are “X” and there is no you; and it is not that “X” enters into you or comes out of you, or that you enter into “X” or come out of “X.” He did not mean that you have being and you are qualified by this or that attribute. What he meant was that you never were and that you never will be, whether through yourself, or through “X,” or in “X” or with “X.” You have neither ceased to be nor are you existent. You are “X” and “X” is you, without any of these imperfections. If you know your existence in this way, then you know “X;” and if not, then not!

Most of those who claim to be knowers (of “X”) make the knowledge of “X” dependent on the cessation of being and on the cessation of that cessation. That is an error and a clear oversight; the knowledge of “X” does not require either the cessation of being nor the cessation of that cessation, because things have no being and whatever has no being cannot cease to be, since cessation implies the prior existence of the thing that ceases to be. If you know yourself as not having being and (consequently) not ceasing to be, then you know “X;” and if not, then not!

By making the knowledge of “X” dependent on the cessation of being and the cessation of this cessation, there is an affirmation of polytheism. The Prophet said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He did not say, “He who ceases to be, knows his Lord”. The assertion of something other than “X” is incompatible with its cessation; or else this assertion is impossible, and it follows that its cessation is also impossible.

Your being is nothing and whatever is nothing cannot be placed in relationship to anything else, whether it is capable of cessation or not and whether it is existent or non-existent. The Prophet alluded to the fact that you are non-existent now as you were non-existent before creation, because now is Eternity-without-beginning and now is Eternity-without-end and now is Timelessness. “X” is the very being of Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end and Timelessness even though (in reality) there is no Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end nor Timelessness. If it were otherwise, “X” would not be alone, without anything being associated with “X,” and it is necessary for “X” to be alone without any associate. “X’s” associate would have being through its own essence, and not through the being of “X.” Then that associate would not need “X” and would therefore be a second Lord, which is impossible: “X” has no associate, nor equal, nor like.

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The Precious Present

The Precious Present

by A Friend

In 1984, Spencer Johnson shared an Xpression in the form of a short book titled “The Precious Present.” The story describes a young man’s journey to adulthood and search for The Present, a mysterious gift he heard about from a wise old man during his childhood.

Like many engaged in spiritual work, it is only after the young man has searched high and low and all but given up his relentless pursuit that he discovers The Present.

The man chose NOW! And now the man was happy. He felt at peace with himself. He agreed to savor each moment in his life…The apparently good and the apparently bad…Even if he didn’t understand. For the first time in his life, it didn’t matter. He accepted each of his precious moments on this planet as a gift.

“I know that some people choose to receive the Precious Present when they are young, others in middle age, and some when they are old. Some people, sadly, never do. I can choose to receive the Precious Present whenever I want.”

As the man sat thinking, he felt fortunate. He was who he was, where he was. And now he knew! He would always be whom he was where he was.

He listened again to his thoughts. “The present is what it is. It is valuable. Even I do not know why. It is already just the way it is supposed to be. When I see the present, accept the present, and experience the present, I am well, and I am happy. Pain is simply the difference between what is and what I want it to be.”

“When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And I am unhappy.”

“My past was the present. And my future will be the present. The present moment is the only reality I ever experience.”

Treat yourself to The Precious Present some time when you’re up for a new read.

Or maybe just choose the Precious Present right Now. 🙂

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Life's Word PDF by Anonymous

Life’s Word

by A Friend

Visiting the Middle East is always a wondrous experience. Few places offer such a unique and rich combination of warm and hospitable people, delicious cuisine, and beautiful cultural customs. And one of those many customs is use of the Arabic expression, “En Shallah,” when speaking about the future. In English, “En Shallah” translates as: “If it is Allah’s Will.”

The following book, “Life’s Word,” expresses this understanding with absolute clarity.

This short book has quietly circulated through spiritual work communities for many years. The hand that penned the book is anonymous. The author is declared in the opening sentence.

As a tip, read this one slowly and without distraction. Aside from the archaic English style of writing, there’s a lot said in this book. Perhaps few texts have ever said so much in only 9,000 words.

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Gnothi Seauton

by A Friend

An Xpression by Ralph Waldo Emerson. –

I

If thou canst bear
Strong meat of simple truth
If thou durst my words compare
With what thou thinkest in my soul’s free youth,
Then take this fact unto thy soul,—–
God dwells in thee.
It is no metaphor nor parable,
It is unknown to thousands, and to thee;
Yet there is God.

II

He is in thy world,
But thy world knows him not.
He is the mighty Heart
From which life’s varied pulses part.
Clouded and shrouded there doth sit
The Infinite
Embosomed in a man;
And thou art stranger to thy guest
And know’st not what thou doth invest.
The clouds that veil his life within
Are thy thick woven webs of sin,
Which his glory struggling through
Darkens to thine evil hue.

III

Then bear thyself, O man!
Up to the scale and compass of thy guest;
Soul of thy soul.
Be great as doth beseem
The ambassador who bears
The royal presence where he goes.

IV

Give up to thy soul—–
Let it have its way—–
It is, I tell thee, God himself,
The selfsame One that rules the Whole,
Tho’ he speaks thro’ thee with a stifled voice,
And looks through thee, shorn of his beams.
But if thou listen to his voice,
If thou obey the royal thought,
It will grow clearer to thine ear,
More glorious to thine eye.
The clouds will burst that veil him now
And thou shalt see the Lord.

V

Therefore be great,
Not proud,—–too great to be proud.
Let not thine eyes rove,
Peep not in corners; let thine eyes
Look straight before thee, as befits
The simplicity of Power.
And in thy closet carry state;
Filled with light, walk therein;
And, as a king
Would do no treason to his own empire,
So do not thou to thine.

VI

This is the reason why thou dost recognize
Things now first revealed,
Because in thee resides
The Spirit that lives in all;
And thou canst learn the laws of nature
Because its author is latent in thy breast.

VII

Therefore, O happy youth,
Happy if thou dost know and love this truth,
Thou art unto thyself a law,
And since the soul of things is in thee,
Thou needest nothing out of thee.
The law, the gospel, and the Providence,
Heaven, Hell, the Judgement, and the stores
Immeasurable of Truth and Good,
All these thou must find
Within thy single mind,
Or never find.

VIII

Thou art the law;
The gospel has no revelation
Of peace and hope until there is response
From the deep chambers of thy mind thereto,—–
The rest is straw.
It can reveal no truth unknown before.
The Providence
Thou art thyself that doth dispense
Wealth to thy work, want to thy sloth,
Glory to goodness, to neglect, the moth.
Thou sow’st the wind, the whirlwind reapest,
Thou payest the wages
Of thy own work, through all ages.
The almighty energy within
Crowneth virtue, curseth sin.
Virtue sees by its own light;
Stumbleth sin in self-made night.

IX

Who approves thee doing right?
God in thee.
Who condemns thee doing wrong?
God in thee.
Who punishes thine evil deed?
God in thee.
What is thine evil meed?
Thy worse mind, with error blind
And more prone to evil
That is, the greater hiding of the God within:
The loss of peace
The terrible displeasure of this inmate
And next the consequence
More faintly as more distant wro’t
Upon our outward fortunes
Which decay with vice
With Virtue rise.

X

The selfsame God
By the same law
Makes the souls of angels glad
And the souls of devils sad
See
There is nothing else but God
Where e’er I look
All things hasten back to him
Light is but his shadow dim.

XI

Shall I ask wealth or power of God, who gave
An image of himself to be my soul?
As well might swilling ocean ask a wave,
Or the starred firmament a dying coal,—–
For that which is in me lives in the whole.

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Dr. “Bob” Rhondell Gibson, who introduced the Picture of Man to the public in the 1980’s, used the analogy of an army to aid in describing the relationship between functions in the diagram.

“Instead of the Physical Body, let’s put “Troops.” In Awareness, let’s put “Intelligence Corps.” And instead of “X,” let’s put “Wise General.”

“The Intelligence Corps receives information from the environment and from the Troops. The Intelligence Corps is well aware of what is going on in the Troops, morale, scuttlebutt, etc. It is also aware of what is going on in the environment. It does not tell the Wise General what to do, but it does relate what it considers to be true as it sees it, the Intelligence Corps, and that it also puts value or priorities on the information. If it feels that it is totally immaterial, puts no value on it, it is not reported.

“If it is valued, it is reported immediately. And the Wise General, of course, gives the orders down through his chain of command, and the Troops carry out his orders. And this aids in the survival and the advancement, or the purpose, of this organism called an army. It has a general; it has all his lines of command. He depends for his information on the Intelligence Corps. The function, of course, is to advance and survive for the army.”

Gibson, Robert. R. The Science of Man, Tape 2.

And when Awareness is contaminated by the influence of Tree of Knowledge (what Dr. Gibson refers to as the “NOT-I’s”):

“It is as though the Intelligence Corps were to identify with some fifth agents and says, “Well, they’re the same as I; they’re in the Intelligence Corps.” And, of course, they could all report to the general and the Wise General would act upon everything he received from the Intelligence Corps as being true.”

Gibson, Robert. R. The Science of Man, Tape 5.

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Although people rarely perceive anything humorous about their own conditioning, there is something often comical about conditioned behavior when we observe it without identification. And one doesn’t need to be a student of The Way to see the humor.

Take the circus as an example. At the circus, the clown’s act is often just a rowdy exaggeration of conditioned behaviors. The audience, watching the clown’s behavior as unidentified observers, can’t stop laughing as the clowns play out a comedic narrative told by bopping each other on the head and other memed demonstrations of conditioned behavior.

And the Conditioned Behaviors of Man are great recipe ingredients for sitcoms too.

For nine seasons, the hit television show The Office entertained viewers with its humorous portrayal of the social circus inside a Scranton paper company office. The show’s success is entirely based in its comedic depiction of the Conditioned Behaviors of Man in the interactions of the cast members.

As an exercise, watch an episode or two of The Office and make a game out of counting how many times you hear someone complaining, sticking up for rights, pleasing others as a means of manipulation, or appealing to an authority.

Microwave popcorn and make an evening out of it. Have some fun.

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Gurdjieff Mechnical Fourth Way

As Dr. Bob explores in Lesson 1 of the Science of Man series, the first step on the path to freedom is recognizing the absence of choice in one’s state of being and how suggestion and circumstance dictate one’s emotions and behavior.

For many, pride strongly opposes this idea when first presented.The notion of being mechanically manipulated by external circumstances is a tough pill for the ego to swallow.

For others, there may be confusion between the topic of ‘choice of inner state’ and ‘choice of behavior.’ Most new students arrive at The Work with the belief they have free agency and choice of their actions. After all, “I make decisions every day.” Or so it seems that way.

If you have worked with Lesson 1’s experiment for while and have not thoroughly witnessed the mechanical nature of your inner experience, try the following as an additional exercise.

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.

And as a tip, consider drawing a small smiley face on the back of your hand or tying a string on your finger as a reminder. Remaining presently aware of one’s inner state and remembering “conscious decisions” are often quite challenging early in The Work.

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Craig Gundry - TEDx

In September 2019, a public version of the “How to Love a Mass Murderer” talk was delivered at TEDx BoggyCreek exploring the psychology of mass murderers and proposing that perhaps these ‘evil monsters’ are not so very different from you and I when explored at a fundamental level.

Although the title theme of the talk focuses on the psychological pathway to mass violence, the inner message is about self-knowing and universal characteristics of our conditioned selves which obstruct the genuine experience of compassion, love, and our greater spiritual identity.

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Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

As English speakers, it’s easy to assume that our language is somehow superior due to its status as an international standard in many fields. But, truthfully, our dictionary often pales in comparison to the rich vocabulary of other languages when expressing subtleties in concept.

One good example is the word, Love.

The Ancient Greeks recognized that not all love is the same, and used different words to describe variations…Storge, for love of family. Philia, as love of friends.  And of course, Eros, as romantic love.[i]

And as perhaps the crown jewel of them all, a fourth kind of love called agape—altruistic and unconditional love of fellow humans.

It seems natural to experience love for family, friends, and those who appeal to our sexual desire. And despite our differences, it seems most of us also experience a natural degree of empathy and compassion 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 MSD High School in Parkland.

This question arises occasionally 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 definition 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 there…

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

Almost all acts of mass homicide are characterized as predatory aggression resulting from a process of ideation, planning, and preparation.[ii] The phrase, “He snapped,” is largely a myth. Although acts of mass homicide are often triggered by an event, such as a termination or dismissal from school, the pathway to violence is usually established long before the carnage commences.

Although this pathway process 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 cause. 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 moment.

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 nationalism and cultural suggestion that being a warrior was the ultimate expression of masculinity. And at the age of 17, I joined the Army.

During those days, I would have killed any enemy soldiers as instructed 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, necessary, 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.[iii] These individuals often evolve from angry, narcissistic personalities and harbor perceived injustices as a grievance for revenge.[iv]

Violent fantasy becomes a refuge for the pseudocommando’s damaged ego and provides a sense of power and control. If this process of continues unabated until nihilism takes place, commitment to violence is affirmed and often commenced in a planned manner or initiated by a trigger event.[v][vi]

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 or for me?”

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

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 my boss disapprove if I’m out sick today?”, “Will my kid be a future failure because she got an F in math class or dyed her hair blue?”

Now, I am sure a few listening to this may be offended by the notion that people are largely narcissistic in varying degrees.

If you disbelieve me, great! Try an experiment to disprove my hypothesis:

Over the next week, consciously observe how much attention you devote to things that suggest possible reward or threaten harm.

Watch closely and you may get a glimpse of just how deep and subtle this gets.

Another defining characteristic of the pseudocommando is ‘injustice collection.’[vii] [viii]Also 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 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 up to the time we go to bed when we blame our dog for barking or our spouse for hoarding the bed covers.

If you don’t believe me, try an experiment:

For the next few days, observe how many thoughts or statements you make in conversation expressing blame and its related behavior, complaint.

And just as a tip, keep a counter handy!

Take it a step further if you really feel adventurous:

Observe how often blame and the emotions that often accompany blame (like annoyance, anger, guilt, and resentment) actually change past events, fix situations, or make anything better in any way.

And you can extend this experiment further to include all negative emotions for that matter.

When was the last time anxiety prevented an undesired event from occurring? When was the last time jealousy caused Santa to pop up and grant your magic wish?

It’s truly amazing how much attention and energy we devote to these emotions which, when we look at them closely, seem to function like an “appendix for the human soul.”…Serve no useful purpose and only make us sick when they get inflamed.

Perhaps in the end, 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 point circles us right back to beliefs and ideals.

We humans seem stubbornly committed to the imaginary concept of a “Perfect World” and correspondingly spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to ‘fix’ what is, worried, or otherwise spinning our wheels in frustration.

Here’s another fun experiment:

Choose an uneventful weekend and write an essay about your “Perfect World.”

Just let it flow in a ‘Finnegan’s Wake-style’ of whatever nonsense comes into mind. Really put some heart into it! It’s actually quite fun.

Here’s a sample from Craig’s Perfect World:

“All traffic lights turn green as he approaches intersections.”

“All cigars taste like black pepper and cocoa.”

“Planes always fly on time.”

“And all women on the planet are petite brunettes with specific features, and find him sexually attractive…And his wife is fine with that too!”

Exhaust this exercise well and note any realizations that emerge.

And by the way, if you wrote less than ten pages, just keep going because you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

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 mass killers just 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 try to 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 motive.

For instance, Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui wrote an angry, vitriolic manifesto detailing his perceived persecution by people over the years. But when investigated later, no one in Cho’s life ever remembered him being mistreated in any way.[ix]

Roger Eliott, responsible for the 2014 Isla Vista attacks, wrote a lengthy autobiography describing his hate for all girls because they didn’t want him, and boys for having the girls. Perceived sexual rejection was his grievance for revenge.[x]

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,” is 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.[xi]

In waking states, information is received through sensory organs and processed into a mental image of physical reality.[xii] This sensory data is then interpreted through a complex 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 call 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 isn’t the existence of beliefs. But rather when we hold our beliefs as empirical truth, rather than simply acknowledging belief as confident hypothesis.

It’s easy to point at mass killers and label their beliefs as delusional. However, how many times in our own lives do we pridefully defend beliefs that we later discover are untrue?

 As 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 might experience conflict coming to that decision or feel differently five minutes later, but at the moment we act, the action is perceived as right or justifiable.

So 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 speak with the assumption that the killer acted with a conscious choice.

But if we observe carefully, it seems most actions executed by human beings are largely dictated by personal conditioning…these beliefs, ideals, gain/escape impulses, and the 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 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, education…and maybe even TED talks too.

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 my words dictate your inner experience?

Once we understand how people function, we may begin to see that the killer’s conditioning resulted directly from a seamless chain of interconnected 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 speaker, that chain started in August 1968 in a Pennsylvania hospital and continued through 51 years of interconnected experience right up to the moment of speaking to you today.

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.”

Maybe there’s a profound wisdom in those words.

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 eclipsed as we stand with our back to it, blocking 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 four experiments presented in this talk are one possible place to begin. Shine a light inward. Just watch. Perhaps the simple act of observation can be a catalyst to something quite remarkable—a depth and availability of love you never knew was possible!

Thank you for letting me share with you.

[i] Philosophy of Love. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://www.iep.utm.edu/love/ Retrieved 10/23/2019.

[ii] Meloy, J. Reid, and Hoffman, Jens. International Handbook of Threat Assessment. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2014.

[iii] Dietz, Park D. “Mass, Serial, and Sensational Homicides.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine.  62:49-91. 1986.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Meloy, J. Reid, and Hoffman, Jens. International Handbook of Threat Assessment. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2014.

[vi] Knoll, James. L. “The “Pseudocommando” Mass Murderer: Part II, The Language of Revenge.” The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 38:263–72, 2010

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Calhoun, Fredrick, and Weston, Stephen. Threat Assessment and Management Strategies: Identifying the Hunters and the Howlers. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL. 2016.

[ix] Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech. April 16, 2007. Report of the Review Panel. Virginia Tech Review Panel. August 2007.

[x] Roger, Eliott. My Twisted Life. (Unpublished Autobiography) N.p. 2014.

[xi] Heuer, Richards. Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Central Intelligence Agency. Washington, DC. 1999.

[xii] Ibid.

 

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