How a Lion Tamer Came Face to Face With Death… and Life

South African author and lion tracker Boyd Varty learned early the deep knowing which life seeks to instil within each of us: that there is something profound which transcends and connects our discrete human minds.[ii]

Varty’s tale of the terrifying involves a single night, set in time a moment or two following the initial post-apartheid elections in South Africa, when chaos and violence were common bedfellows across the troubled nation.

不出戶, 知天下.

不闚牖, 見天道.

其出彌遠, 其知彌少.

是以聖人不行而知.

不見而名,

不為而成.

Without stepping out the door,

You can know the world.

Without looking through the window,

You can see Heaven’s Way.

The longer you travel, the less you know.

Therefore:

The sage knows without traveling,

Perceives without looking,

Completes without acting.[i]

Lao Zi, Tao de Qing, chapter 47.

South African author and lion tracker Boyd Varty learned early the deep knowing which life seeks to instil within each of us: that there is something profound which transcends and connects our discrete human minds.[ii]

Varty’s tale of the terrifying involves a single night, set in time a moment or two following the initial post-apartheid elections in South Africa, when chaos and violence were common bedfellows across the troubled nation. Barty was but eighteen years old at the time, and he and members of his family were staying in a house in Johannesburg. The nightmare began when Varty was shaken awake, and driven to instant alertness by the sight of a gun being pushed into his face. The young man looked to his left and right to see that his mother and sister were both bound, the male house invaders in complete control of the fate of Varty and his family. Pure terror saturated his being, for he knew well that such incidents often end in rape or death. Or both.

Varty sat fixed with shock, powerless. But things were about to get worse for the South African youth. Moments later he was led outside of the house by the intruders. He relates what occurred next, as follows.

They put a gun to my head… and they basically said, “Now we’re going to kill you.” And the fear was so intense. Then I remember looking up the barrel at the man who was holding the gun to my head and we looked into each other’s eyes. And in that moment something happened… I can’t say what happened…  You might call it the peace of God that surpasses understanding. But I think it was too big for my ego structure to hold, and it collapsed. And as I looked at him all fear left me, and all concern for my own bodily safety left me, and I just felt a profound human connection with him. And as… there were three of these guys standing around me, as that moment happened it was… kind of a weirdness came over everyone. It was as if everyone had become glimmered. And they put the guns down and everyone just stood there confused. And I walked back inside totally unaccosted in any way. And I got the car keys, walked back out and I gave them (to the intruders and) said, “Get in that car and leave.” And they did.

In the years that followed, Voyd Barty contemplated often the happenings of that “bizarre” day.

I felt like I glimpsed through the most terrifying situation… That was the first freezing experience that I had. It was terrifying… I think sometimes of Jung’s description – of what is unconscious will be made conscious. It will manifest into your life until you become more conscious about what you’re carrying.[iii]

What was it that came over those four men in that moment? There was something intangible that Varty says appeared to visibly “glimmer.” Some structure of consciousness, or perhaps spirit, that transcended them as individual men living separate lives. And separate deaths. This transcendent connective field of consciousness is what I call integrated intelligence. By definition, integrated intelligence is within us all. And beyond us all. And it is what Part 3 of this book is all about.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World.


[i] Stefan Stenudd, (n.d.). https://www.taoistic.com/taoteching-laotzu/taoteching-47.htm. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

[ii] Tim Ferris, Boyd Varty. https://youtu.be/sCVJUZlokEU. 14 March, 2022. The quoted section here has some small edits. I have removed some repetitious use of words, as the story is narrated verbally by Voyd Barty in his interview with Tim Ferris.

The University of Suffering

The Movement or Your Soul?

In order to truly heal, you have to let go of your blame and anger, your rage towards your parents, siblings, teachers, the opposite sex, society, the nation, the other nation, the world and ultimately even to the universe and to God.

In order to truly heal, you have to let go of your blame and anger, your rage towards your parents, siblings, teachers, the opposite sex, society, the nation, the other nation, the world and ultimately even to the universe and to God. All of us will find some level of these wounds within us as we engage on a healing journey. If your institution, ideology or social justice movement stands in the way of that, if it teaches you – directly or indirectly –  that it is “just” to hold onto attitudes of blame and resentment to other people or to the world, then you have a choice to make. Whom do I serve? Do I choose the movement and its story, or do I choose healing and to honour my Authentic Self? If the movement or institution freely permits you to heal all of that, without politicizing and weaponising your woundedness, then no such choice is required.

This is true of any given movement or organisation, whether it be your church, Black Lives Matter, the feminist movement, men’s rights activism, human rights organisations, CNN or Fox News, the World Economic Forum, Alcoholics Anonymous, your local meditation centre or even Meals on Wheels. And it is equally true of the online tribes that marshal together the foot soldiers of the culture wars and various other online tribalist conflicts.

That is a choice that nobody should be permitted to make for you. So, what do you choose?

We are all permitted to make the choice, and I don’t personally think there is any judgment for not choosing to heal. But there is a price to pay for not healing. Or rather, more than a single price. The first is that you will go to your grave having not integrated all your unresolved issues. Secondly, you will tend to pass those consciousnesss structures on to your children. Even if you have no children, those unconscious issues will tend to become drivers of drama, both personal and in regard to broader social movements you engage in. Finally, you will have lived and died not having fully embodied your Authentic Self.

I might end here by saying that there are few amongst us who have complete awareness of all the unresolved narratives and self-limiting beliefs contained within our psyches and our emotional bodies. Many of those structures are not actually our own, but are passed down to us from our ancestors, or inherited from our cultures. It may be “unfair” in a sense, but the only person who can resolve those issues is ourselves – and with the subtle help that our integrated intelligence permits.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World.

We become thing we hate… or the thing we love

The most terrible thing that the Internet does is that it brings into full display the shadow, the dark and nasty projections that were once only ever seen in our darkest moments.  The most wonderful thing about the Internet is that… it brings into full display the shadow, the darkness within us all. For as Jung once noted, long before Facebook and Twitter emerged from e-space, we become enlightened not by imaging figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Perhaps then, it is better to think of the Internet not a conspiracy designed to set us against one another, but the universe’s way of getting us to notice how we set ourselves against one another. How dark we can become.

  
Recently, one late evening, I came across a post on my Facebook feed. I have many Facebook “friends” whom I have never met, or whom I barely know, and this poster was one of those. The post was a political one, a very common find on that platform. We’ve all seen them. The post warned of the dangers of fascism and extremism in the “other” political tribe. Now, if we take a detached perspective, it is easy to note that these accusations are almost always made against the “other” political tribe, never one’s own. But most of us have at least some bias in this regard, and tend to see the darkness in the other more readily than in ourselves, in our own side. I responded to the post by chiding the writer and proclaiming something like, “Can’t you see that your side is the same, that your “fascist” enemies are writing precisely the same thing about you and your tribe?”

This wasn’t the most conscious thing I’ve ever written on the net, and after I’d written it, my projections lingered in my psyche. As I reflected upon it in bed a little later, I realised that I had not practiced what I like to preach, and that I had judged the poster and projected against them. In fact, I felt ashamed of myself (and shame does serve a useful function, when we develop the right relationship with it). So the next morning when I awoke, I went to the poster’s homepage and apologized. After all, it was their homepage and their sandbox, not mine. I was out of line.

Catching ourselves in moments of irresponsible projection can be embarrassing. But that sense of shame may serve a positive purpose if it emerges from the Authentic Self, if we acknowledge the truth of what happened, and if we act appropriately in response. A little shadow work can be invaluable in such situations. It can be transformative, helping us to shine a light inward, illuminating the darkness. But if we allow the darkness to linger without bringing the light of attention to it, that darkness can expand, embedding our hearts in shadow. The ocean of voices that is the Internet is awash with the murkiness of billions of souls lost in the illusions of such shadows.

Be careful lest we become the thing that we hate, or so we are told. It is an aphorism for the ages, reminding us that at some level our minds tend to mirror the consciousness structures that we project outward onto the world. Another way to think about this is that we become what we strongly judge. The process of judging – including hating or rejecting something – can shape our minds and our hearts.

There are two ways to look at this. We might note that our brains, and our mirror neurons in particular, tend to assume the morphology of that we imagine is occurring in another’s mind. Or a more metaphysical perspective is that consciousness itself is a primal force that may attract the thing that we focus upon. This later take on the old aphorism is more akin to the new age ‘law of attraction.’  

Regardless of whether we hold the mainstream scientific or the more esoteric version of this principle to be true (or, both, as in my case), when we hear the words ‘we become what we hate,’ we probably don’t stop to consider that if this is true, then logically the polarity  must also be true.

We become the thing that we love.

Or rather, we become the thing that we choose to love. The attitude or relationship that we have with others and the world can also transform us in beautiful and positive ways. It invites us to consider where our power really lies. And that locale is precisely the point in space and time where and when we choose to love (or not to love). My upcoming book Power and Presence: Rediscovering the Authentic Self in a Weaponsied World, contains many practical “actions” that can help us remain grounded in what I call Embodied Presence, and in turn help establish the Authentic Self. Below, I share one such action taken from the book. Its purpose is to transform hatred and projection into non-judgment and love.        


Loving the thing that you hate.

What is the thing that you hate the most? That you most often judge and condemn? Like an alchemist of the mind, you can take that one thing into your awareness and transform it into an object of love. In this alchemic transformation you may just find your greatest power.

Perhaps the thing that you hate is your ex-partner, or the boss who fired you without perceived justification. Perhaps it’s the Russians, the Chinese or the Americans. The Jews, the whites or the blacks. The men or the women; the feminists or the men’s rights activists. The trans folk or the cis gendered. The Republicans or the Democrats; the liberals or the conservatives. Perhaps you despise the fence-sitting centrists for their failure to take a stand. Or maybe it’s the elites, the establishment, the New World Order, the illuminati, the NCPs, the conspiracy theorists, the anti-vaxers, or those mindless sheeple. Perhaps you loathe Russian bots, soulless AI or the luddites. The Stones, the Beatles or Madonna. Maybe it’s the cursed politicians: Xi Jinping, Trump, Hillary or Biden. Or in this age of the Human Extinction Movement, perhaps it is the human race itself.

That which you despise does not have to be a person, nor a people. It could be a thing, concrete or abstract. Perhaps it’s your job, or your lack of a job. The commute to work, or the ‘toxic’ workplace itself. It could be an institution: the bank, the library, the senate or the legal system. Perhaps it’s the media: CNN, Fox News, the New York Times or The Sunday Mail; Rupert Murdoch, Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson.

The most terrible thing that the Internet does is that it brings into full display the shadow, the dark and nasty projections that were once only ever seen in our darkest moments.  The most wonderful thing about the Internet is that… it brings into full display the shadow, the darkness within us all. For as Jung once noted, long before Facebook and Twitter emerged from e-space, we become enlightened not by imaging figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. Perhaps then, it is better to think of the Internet not a conspiracy designed to set us against one another, but the universe’s way of getting us to notice how we set ourselves against one another. How dark we can become.

To practice Love the Thing That You Hate, find a quiet place to sit, preferably alone. Alternatively, you might choose to do this in the presence of another, or with others that you trust. One way to tame the shadow is to gently expose it before others. But these people will need to be well versed in shadow work, the murky machinations of the psyche. The ego tends to get triggered when exposed to the shadow of another, which often leads to drama. And needless to say, many projections are politically incorrect. Doing shadow work is not the time for social niceties and virtue signaling. It’s the time to delve into the darkness, no matter how unpleasant or debauched.

Begin by relaxing deeply, focusing for a minute or two upon your breath, feeling yourself settle deeply into your body. When ready, begin with a prayer or affirmation. Imagine the Great Light of Unconditional Love illuminating you.

‘I permit honesty and forgiveness, I hide nothing.’

Next, bring to mind the person or situation that you have been projecting against, then allow yourself to speak openly to it/them. If verbal expression is not possible, simply imagine or subvocalize the words. Allow any judgment or feelings of anger or resentment to simply express themselves. Speak to that person, place or situation, and let it know exactly how you feel about it. Judge, condemn, or even curse if that is what arises. Or shame, belittle, or berate. If the instinct is to strike or yell, you might like to imagine that, or even act it out for a moment. The key is to simply observe all this without judgment of yourself, without judgment of the projection.

Take no more than a minute or two to do this. It is not necessary to amplify or linger upon it. Gently notice any judgments you have towards yourself for what you have just seen about yourself. Imagine the Great Light before you, accepting it all without judgment. Then afform:

‘I relax and accept these feelings of (anger, rage, blame, judgment, fear etc.).’

‘I give them to the Great Light (or name a higher power).’

Then breathe and let go, safe in the knowledge that you are forgiven, free of any judgment. After all, it takes courage to honour the shadow.

Next, bring the object of projection to mind. Then say:

‘I fully acknowledge that I have judged and condemned you. I accept that I have lingered in resentment and blame. I ask for forgiveness. I allow myself to release all blame and judgment for both of us. I ask for grace and healing. I let go…”

Next, as you gently hold in mind the image of the object or person, imagine the Great Light enter your body, either from above or from before you, then project onto the other.

‘I accept you. I release my judgment and anger. I accept you. I accept you. I accept you.’

Feel yourself relax and fill with light. If feelings of anger and blame arise, do not judge or reject them, just gently permit them their moment, and give them to the Great Light.

‘Great Light, I fully acknowledge these feelings of judgment and anger. I share them openly with you. I choose forgiveness. I am forgiven. All is forgiven.’

When we let go and allow all that is within and beyond us to simply be without judgment, what often emerges is the experience of love and gratitude. If you feel this emerging as your feeling towards the other, give voice to it.

‘Thank you. I love you. Thank you, I love you. Thank you, I love you.’

If that does not emerge naturally, you might practice expressing this attitude. But there is no need to force that. If the feeling does not emerge, simply relax and permit that to be. Give it to the Great Light.

Ideally, practice Loving the Hateful Thing every day, or any time you find yourself strongly judging and condemning someone or something.

In this practiced,  you may just discover your greatest power, and your Authentic Self.   

A final note on this practice. Often when we judge and condemn another, when we feel genuine hatred, anger, blame and resentment, there is an underlying emotional or psychological issue that we have not addressed. The feelings that we have towards the person or situation may be a drama which emerges from some trauma or unfinished story that we have not resolved. Or we may simply be carrying anger and resentment over from other parts of our lives. There may thus be the need for some deeper healing work.

Becoming love
Assuming responsibility for our anger and projections is especially important in this time of tribalism and online drama. It is often true that we cannot directly change the people that we are in relationship with. But what we can do is transform our attitude towards them. We can become love, to use the words of Leonard Jacobson. Or to put it my way, we can become the thing that we love.


The kind of love I write about here has to be a genuine. It has to come from the heart. And for that to occur we will likely have to acknowledge the shadow. That is how we allow the possibility of love. In a sense we don’t control that outcome. We merely permit the possibility of its emergence.

A logical objection to deliberately releasing blame and anger towards another is that our deep feelings of rage and the judgment may be justified. What if the other person really shafted you? What if the boss really is an asshole? What about Chamberland’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938?  There’s no point in waving a white handkerchief when the Nazis are at the door, is there? But the truth is that most of the time the people that we hate are not  Nazis, the situation is not the holocaust, and nor are we getting fed to the machine guns at the Battle of the Somme. Are we really in Hell, dealing with the Devil himself? Or is the bigger problem actually within ourselves?

This is why we must be careful with our language as well as our attitude towards the other, and towards life’s circumstances. We have to be mindful of the images we employ, and the stories that we tell. When we unnecessarily throw around terms like “fascist,” “communist,” “supremacist,” “racist” etc., we are often engaging in hyperbole and catastrophic thinking, permitting ourselves to become something fearful and hateful. Sometimes we must ask ourselves whether we are the ones who are becoming the haters.      

Many of us are starting to realise that this is true. We are starting to realize that that we have to begin to tell new stories. Our media, social media, social justice and social science discourses are badly in need of introspection. There is a great need to teach cognitive responsibility. We cannot merely focus upon what is at fault with the other and with the system. The wisdom journey has to begin with ourselves. Ideally that should be the foundation of our lives. When we are well-established in the capacity for Embodied Presence we can then address what is “out there” in rersponsible ways; beginning from a position of personal empowerment, and releasing the illusion that somebody else is responsible for how we experience the world.

This post is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence.

Why the Current System Will Not Heal Itself

The emergence of a self-generated solution to tribalism in the US and elsewhere is unlikely to emerge from those currently embedded within the system. The system itself promotes division and drama, which in turn sustains the minds within it (in their current small-s expression). In a kind of pathological, dark feedback loop, the system is then perpetuated by those minds and their projections.

The emergence of a self-generated solution to tribalism in the US and elsewhere is unlikely to emerge from those currently embedded within the system. The system itself promotes division and drama, which in turn sustains the minds within it (in their current small-s-self expression). In a kind of pathological, dark feedback loop, the system is then perpetuated by those minds and their projections.

Tribalism is both a cause and an effect of the system. Social media platforms like Twitter publicly display, concretize and immobilize our thoughts and projections, many of them poorly thought-through. This exacerbates the tendency to identify with those thoughts, even as others either affirm or attack them. Further, those public thoughts are often also tribal markers. It is not merely that I am for or against illegal immigration. The very fact that I have revealed that opinion and left it hanging eternally in virtual space means that I cannot simply let it go, as is the case with most random thoughts and opinions that come and go from my mind. Suddenly, the tweet is who I am, and who I belong to.

The current system (Memeworld) and its drama-driven tribalism was not developed deliberately, but this is what it has become. In the US, both the Democrats and the Republicans need each other as enemies (mirroring the human mind’s need for opposition and drama to sustain its existence). An immoral and intellectually lesser other is required in order to perpetuate each tribe’s power over its constituents. That is the drama. An enemy is needed, one that we must unite against, crush and eliminate. In this way those in authority maintain attention and power (at least over their own tribe). The words to “unity” may be mouthed by those leaders, but the politics of division remains, a necessary drug to feed the habit of projection and drama.

The problem is more than merely that the drama is self-replicating. It is that the arrangement is not sustainable. If you need to sow division and stir up projection to maintain power, eventually it is going to blow up in your face. It is just a matter of time before the system becomes violent.

This game is as old as politics itself. And as old as tribalism.

It is interesting to note that many of our institutions – notably political parties, the media, the universities, the intellectual class, and big tech – are largely silent on the idea of unity, of coming together (except along preferred ideological lines). I suspect this is because of the inherently self-stultifying fact that this possible future (this is, peace) is a vote for disintegration of the tribe, and thus their tribal identification and very likely their power base. Too many have a stake in the current drama. The problem is not so much that their founding ideals are bad, but that media, social media and big tech need drama for clicks. And for the profit that flows from those clicks. They need the bad guys. For the intellectuals, the reputation and livelihoods of many in the institutions and the university system depend financially on the perpetuation of their politics and group struggle; or the cost of dissent is simply too great.

In other words, for these people and institutions, the overt, noble narrative of “compassion, justice and tolerance” is subverted by the inherent self-contradiction that on MemeWorld those values often express themselves via tribalism. It is difficult to truly embody these values via the mind in a state of ungroundedness, without deep connection to the present moment and to the body. Conversely, those values tend to naturally express themselves when we are in a state of embodied presence. Then they do not need to be enforced, top-down via regulation, censorship or even violence.

As I have argued throughout this book (Power and Presence), the need for drama is a function of the small-s-self and its constricted experience of “mind.” That mind needs a constant drip-feed of problems, including enemies to crush, in order to perpetuate its existence. For the mind, peace – like silence – equals death. Without conflict, it cannot recognise itself. I believe that this is in part biological. We humans have evolved to fight for survival against outside threats, whether they be other human tribes, wild animals, or environmental hazards. This is built into our hardware (neurophysiology). Therefore, in the current age, the task of we twenty-first century humans is to employ our software (intelligent self-awareness) to disarm that hardware. We have to develop the self-awareness to reduce our predisposition towards conflict and drama – the story we have written (or been written on) over millions of years (and now made worse by the shift towards life online).

So how do we address that?

One means is to intervene physically with the hardware. By this I mean to begin to tinker with human genetics, the body and the brain. This might be something akin to Elon Musk’s Neuralink, where we could implant wireless brain-machine interfaces into our skulls. The aim of Neuralink is to enable people to operate computers and mobile devices directly with their thoughts, but it isn’t hard to imagine applications for similar hardware/software which helps modify our thoughts, behavior and feelings. For example, the University of California has developed a “personalized, biomarker-based” treatment for depression. The process requires drilling electrodes deep into the brain and leaving them there for a year. When the device reads the bio-markers of depression, it stimulates the right ventral capsule/ventral striatum, which in turn reduces gamma brainwave activity in the right amygdala. Yet to date, studies have been only minimally successful, while the therapy is costly and labor-intensive, needing two days of testing and two cranial surgeries.[i]

Such invasive techniques are mostly in their formative stages. Yet over time we can expect the application of such technologies to improve. Physical interventions could potentially help us regulate our neurochemistry and thus our behavior.

Genetic engineering of human babies is another possibility, at least in theory. Perhaps we can tinker with our bits and pieces to create people that are less aggressive, more agreeable and less prone to create drama.

Oh, Brave New World that has such people in it! And then there are the tempests which might follow. The problems with all these physical and technological interventions are multiple, not the least of which are ethical and legal. Are we ready to accept the risks in becoming a truly cybernetic species? Or in producing genetically-modified citizens? Where might that lead to? Where would we set the boundary in terms of how far is too far? It would seem that in the short to medium term the legal and ethical roadblocks to this option are simply too great. Genetically engineering humans is currently illegal, even in China where in 2019 doctor He Jiankui received a three-year prison sentence for editing the genome of three babies to promote their resistance to HIV.[ii]

Not the least, most people would probably find futures peopled by such modified humans to be dystopian.

This is why my preferred future is that we work with the physiology that we have inherited from nature and develop greater mastery of our “hardware.” Grounding ourselves in the Authentic Self through embodied presence directly defuses the power of the mind and the dramas that tend to emerge from it. We can say this is a bottom-up solution. Top-down solutions feature a host of problems. Regulation of online behaviors and information control, as well as physical interventions to human bodies, delimits the opportunity to encourage transformation and empowerment of the citizenry via the six pillars of effective sensemaking. With such top-down processes, there is no embodied presence, no cognitive responsibility, no mastery of society or digital awareness, and no integrated intelligence. And there is no opportunity to use the knowledge that potentially emerges from all that to develop wise actions in the world.

Most notably, top-down interventions also potentially invoke the specter of authoritarianism. This is because there are always going to be at least some corrupt or power-hungry-leaders, and people who wish to give their power away to them. And then there is the problem of those people who resist being controlled. If the number of resisters is significant, what are the authorities going to do? This is the dilemma that all idealistic, utopian philosophical and political movements eventually face. Top-down social and political movements almost inevitably lead to the persecution of dissenters. We have even seen this during the COVID period, where those who have protested the vaccines have faced significant stigmatization in the media and from politicians and public figures.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World (2022).


[i] Clare Wilson, “Woman’s depression treated by an implant responding to brain patterns,” New Scientist, Oct 4, 2021, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2292182-womans-depression-treated-by-an-implant-responding-to-brain-patterns/

[ii] Sui Lee Wee. “Chinese Scientist Who Genetically Edited Babies Gets 3 Years in Prison.” The New York Times, Dec 30, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/business/china-scientist-genetic-baby-prison.html

The Authentic Self vs The Machines

Amidst all this we are foundering upon the collapse of sensemaking, the digitization and politicization of everything, systematically retarding our ability to understand the world and our relationship with it. We have lost touch with our inner knowing, set adrift upon a vast ocean of competing narratives and agendas. Which captains are we to believe, which shores are we to seek, and which winds are we to reset sail upon? These are questions that lie at the heart of this book.

The weaponization of the internet, politics and society is all but complete, and our souls – our Authentic Selves – are being defeated. Our awareness has shifted from the inner wisdom of that Authentic Self to become ensnared in a virtual MemeWorld, which we now increasingly confuse for reality. It is my aim to make Power and Presence a confronting but ultimately empowering book, one designed to shake you, the reader, from the grip of ITopia, empower you to rediscover your Authentic Self; and to build a truly meaningful life.

It is not that related challenges have not existed for those humans who came before us. And it is not as if all our ancestors lived lives that were automatically a genuine expression of their highest good. We all know that this is not true. Any essential reading of History will tell you that in many ways our ancestors had it far worse. Many lived lives that were typically shorter, more brutal and more oppressive. Think of almost any idyllic myth. The little house on the prairie. The Amazonian female warriors. The noble savage. All are likely just that: myths.

Indeed, it is the great progress we have made in a material sense, riding upon the back of increased prosperity, technological prowess and information access, that has enabled a kind of hegemony to creep into our skulls. We have heralded the rise of the Money and Machines society.

Over time we have increasingly lost touch with nature, with our bodies and with our hearts: our integrated intelligence. We can map this over time and note the shifts. There are numerous, but I can mention just a few here. The Copernican Revolution of the mid-16th century saw the planet Earth dethroned from its position as the centre of the universe, and ultimately humankind from its role as jewel in the cosmic crown (under God). The Industrial revolution, beginning around the late 1700s in Britain, removed most of our ancestors from the land and sent us scurrying to populate urban centres; filling ghettos, suburbs, and ungrounded high-rise apartments. The Darwinian Revolution of the mid 1800s was a further humiliation, with we humans rendered as mere big-brained chimps who share 70 percent of our DNA with garden slugs. Our feet left the earth and then city streets and climbed into humming cars, planes and spacecraft; even as our eyes left the increasingly hazy horizon to become fixed upon small screens stuck to plastic and metal boxes; and then ultimately to small devices clasped to our palms. We forgot about our bodies and our hearts and started to squabble with everyone, casting those whose screens depicted unfamiliar stories as stupid and immoral; that is, as long as they were not actually physically present with us.

Thus it is that our challenge to embody the Authentic Self faces a very different set of challenges today. Many of us have unconsciously given our power away to narratives and agendas that we did not deliberately choose. The actions that we take and the words that we speak often represent expressions that are not our own, and that do not serve our highest calling in life. Puppets of The Machine, we have allowed our souls to be colonised, and our minds and hearts have become deeply entangled in the broader socio-industrial complex of the early twenty-first century. We lead lives that are increasingly controlled by a host of external power brokers: media outlets, the Tech Giants and social media platforms, bloggers, political parties, online mobs, ideological movements, corporations, educational institutions and religious groups. Our desires, our goals and even our beliefs are no longer our own. They are driven by the ITopian Machine.

Many of us, and perhaps especially the young, feel powerless to make actual change in the world, instead venting rage from behind keyboards. Alternatively, some express their anger in protests or acts of violence played out upon city streets, or in the tearing down of icons, monuments and government buildings. Yet even as they do so they are often being recruited by agents which are in turn deeply embedded within the very systems which they are seeking to escape. They are again captured by The Machine, realizing too late what they have become. If they realise it at all.

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Amidst all this we are foundering upon the collapse of sensemaking, the digitization and politicization of everything, systematically retarding our ability to understand the world and our relationship with it. We have lost touch with our inner knowing, set adrift upon a vast ocean of competing narratives and agendas.

Which captains are we to believe, which shores are we to seek, and which winds are we to reset sail upon? These are questions that lie at the heart of this book.

Marcus T Anthony

Power and Responsibility

– Higher levels of cognitive responsibility are positively correlated with expanded stages of consciousness evolution.
– The degree of our victim consciousness is inversely proportional to our level of cognitive responsibility.
– Our need for drama is directly related to our unwillingness to assume responsibility for our lives and especially our emotional experience.
– Our sense of personal empowerment (agency) is positively related to cognitive responsibility, and inversely related to our need for drama and identification as a victim.
– A key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility is the often unconscious fear of the emotional pain that we will (possibly) need to feel if we do so.

The need for personal responsibility is an idea you will see me writing throughout this book (Power and Presence). In particular, I like to talk about cognitive responsibility, the capacity to assume the right relationship to the thoughts and feelings that arise within the mind-body dynamic. This includes our reactions to what we experience in the world.

              I came to this awareness of the need for cognitive responsibility many years ago when I worked with some very advanced spiritual teachers in a far-flung corner of the world. They not only had very highly developed intuitive capacities, they were also very strict, thanks to the woman who founded the group. This was a small organisation with the prime purpose of helping people to heal from their emotional and psychological suffering. The leader, whom I shall call Jessica (not her real name) had experienced a very traumatic childhood, which included ritual sexual abuse. But when she reached maturity, she did not allow that to dominate her life and her identity. Instead, she set about finding the best way she could to heal from her psychological trauma. Jessica absolutely refused to take on any victim consciousness. This was years before some current social justice movements assumed institutionalized victimhood; and long before critics of those movements began to re-emphasize the need for more personal responsibility.

              I recall Jessica one day lamenting before a small gathering that, “The hardest thing to do is to get people to damn well take responsibility!” That was about 25 years ago. The human tendency to want to avoid responsibility for our lives and our pain has been around a lot longer than current social justice movements. It is rooted in our psychology, and I would say is a reflection of typical levels of human psychological and spiritual maturity, as expressed in human civilisation over the entirety our history. In other words, there is an interplay of shorter social and political factors, as well as longer historical factors which impinge upon commonly expressed levels of human spiritual maturity. Within that dynamic, individuals and groups may also shift into typically higher or lower levels of cognitive responsibility, according to more localized or personal situations.

              To help people to acknowledge their tendency to give away their power by avoiding personal responsibility, Jessica developed the idea of “levels of responsibility,” as well as an intuitive way to assess how much responsibility a person was taking for their life. It wasn’t an infallible process, but I felt it had much merit, and it helped me and others who worked with Jessica to reflect upon how much cognitive responsibility we were taking for our life experience.

              Having said this, there is nonetheless an issue many people have with taking on too much responsibility in certain situations, and blaming themselves for life experiences which they have had little or no control over. Yet this is irresponsible responsibility, rooted not in a desire to develop the right relationship with life, but in a need to reject and diminish oneself. This is a self-destructive narrative and belief structure that we can unconsciously carry, and it is typically picked up in early childhood, because the child may have no way to properly appreciate why painful things are occurring to them, or why others are abusing them.

              There were several key insights that I drew from working for several years with Jessica’s process; both with her and the group personally, and during the years after I departed that group and country.

  • Higher levels of cognitive responsibility are positively correlated with expanded stages of consciousness evolution.
  • The degree of our victim consciousness is inversely proportional to our level of cognitive responsibility.
  • Our need for drama is directly related to our unwillingness to assume responsibility for our lives and especially our emotional experience.
  • Our sense of personal empowerment (agency) is positively related to cognitive responsibility, and inversely related to our need for drama and identification as a victim.
  • A key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility is the often unconscious fear of the emotional pain that we will (possibly) need to feel if we do so.
  • Addiction to an identity of victimhood (“Poor me!” “Please feel sorry for me!” “You owe me!”) is a key barrier to assuming higher levels of cognitive responsibility.
  • Counter-intuitively, the rescuer complex is often rooted in victim consciousness, or the fear of one’s personal pain. The rescue may be a “drama” designed to ensure that one’s personal pain does not need to be addressed (while we focus upon another’s pain).
  • The persecutor complex may also be inversely proportional to the willingness to assume cognitive responsibility. The rescuer avoids pain by being the good guy; the persecutor avoids his/her deepest pain by playing the “bad boy/bad girl”. Conversely, the victim identity avoids pain by refusing to accept responsibility for it, and/or leveraging pain for attention and power.

All these insights are generalisations. For any given person, self-reflection is needed to develop an awareness of these habits of mind which may have become resident within their own psyche.

              Sometimes, just the “aha!” moment of seeing the pattern is enough to change a person’s life story and behaviour. But typically, it takes some time and diligent focus upon the problem before the behaviour shifts. Typically, that shift occurs in degrees. Recurrences of the drama and its underlying story and beliefs will tend to occur over time. 

              In my own life the victim mindset was once quite deep, but I have largely transcended it. This deep mental habit was offset to some degree by another of my sub-personalities: the warrior archetype. We all have competing sub-personalities within us, but at any given time (or situation), one or more will tend to be dominant, others latent or undeveloped.

 I was very shy and quite emotionally damaged as a child. But the warrior was also there, peeking out from behind the curtain. That was the part of me looking at myself and saying, ”Hey! You don’t need to be so scared all the time!”

At age 17 I decided to play rugby league, which is a fierce game requiring lots of physical strength and courage. I had not developed much of either of those things at the time, but somewhere within me I felt a need to “come out.” My first few games of league were frightening, and my playing ability painfully inadequate. But I persisted for years. Eventually I became a reasonably good amateur player. But it took a decade or so of persistence and blind faith to get there. Playing rugby was a very important part of my spiritual development. I didn’t become a great ball player, nor was I necessarily the bravest on the team. But the experience permitted the warrior energy to be integrated within my psyche.

              In my early  thirties, just after I had stopped playing rugby, I threw myself into self-healing work in much the same way I had thrown myself onto the ruby field while being grossly unprepared. I stumbled upon inner child work with Jessica’s healing group. The process was unfeasibly difficult. Even though I was expressing great emotional vulnerability before others – deep grief, shame, fear and seething anger – it required true courage to allow myself to trust others enough to share my deepest feelings with them.

My personal pain was incredibly deep, I soon discovered. One night, not long after I had joined the group, I had a dream that I was sitting around in a circle with other members of the healing group. Someone called my name and said it was my turn. I stepped out into the centre of circle feeling frightened and vulnerable, and sat down. Suddenly a great wall of flames engulfed me, and I begam to scream in terror as scorching pain filled my being. I abruptly awoke and sat up, literally sweating with fear. I was relieved to realise that the experience was only a dream, but as I relaxed into my bed I began to sob. For at that moment that I realised just how deep my pain really was.

As my intuitive awareness and embodied experience developed, I came to see that my suffering was rooted not only in my personal biography, but in much deeper ancestral and karmic consciousness structures. None of us walks through the world alone. We inhabit a dark forest entangled via vine-like threads with both our human ancestors and contemporaries. Many of those threads represent entangled suffering.

Our belief in separation is a persistent illusion.

              As the years passed, I refined the process I was shown by Jessica’s group to help heal my emotional body. Today, whenever I experience turbulent feelings, I still employ this emotional alignment method (my sharing those understandings is a big part of what this book is all about). Simply put, I deepen into embodied presence and allow any emotional disturbances that show up in my life or in my dream/meditative states to have a healthy expression. I simply permit emotional and intuitive feelings to be expressed and to pass through me, without resistance.

              The key point I want to make is that such “disturbances” still emerge from time to time in my life. But I now have the skills to be able to align with them. I rarely experience these emotions as “suffering,” no matter how “painful” they may be. By reducing judgment of them, relaxing with them and allowing them their place in the light of awareness, I have developed a healthy relationship with them. I am rarely afraid of them.

I write “rarely” because sometimes big issues do emerge, and a fear of looking within can arise. Yet I am now quite familiar with that resistance, and am proficient at working with it. Some adjustment of self-concept may be required. For example, I may have to reset my self-description from a delusional “healed,” to “work in progress.” This is a process in letting go.

Cognitive responsibility does not come without a price. We often have to release some agenda of mind (at least for a time),  parts of the ego which are insisting upon an external outcome. Instead, we may have refocus upon the body and the present moment, and allow ourselves to experience what is arising spontaneously within us – including psychological and emotional disturbances. When our personal agenda and that of spirit are out of alignment, we have a choice about whether to gently acknowledge that, and return to the body – or ignore it. Yet what I learned as that such ignoring also has its price, and one that I came to see as being much greater.

Marcus

This article is an edited extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World

The Moment of Agency: Your Key to Empowerment

The moment of agency and its emotional and intuitive expression is key to the development of your Authentic Self. In order to express your authenticity, you must honour the strong and subtle feelings and information that arise from within.

The following is an extract from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World. One of the reasons I am writing this book is my sense is that much of today’s social and political activism is missing a key ingredient: self-awareness, including psychological and spiritual development. Unless we first develop the “power” within ourselves, I suspect that all the power we wield society and its institutions will ultimately bare little fruit. Indeed, we are likely to cause a great deal of damage to ourselves and others if our actions in the world are not grounded in wisdom and self-awareness. And without a strong sense of personal agency, we are likely to be recruited as agents for someone else’s less-than-conscious agenda.

***************************************************

Much of your potential “power” is derived at the precise mental moment when you become aware of ideas, feelings and perceptions as they arise within you. At the instant such cognition unfolds, you have the potential to witness the thought and decide whether to act upon it or not. This is what I call “the moment of agency.” In spiritually mature human beings there is a strong sense of personal agency, and their locus of control is predominantly internal.

Within the moment of agency there may also arise intuitions; knowings which are typically (but not always) subtle. The more present we are, the more we are free of the past and its pain, the more aware we will tend to become aware of such intuitions. Intuitive information usually expresses itself as a feeling, although it may arise in other modalities: such as inner images, voices, songs or physical sensations.

The moment of agency and its emotional and intuitive expression is key to the development of your Authentic Self. In order to express your authenticity, you must honour the strong and subtle feelings and information that arise from within.

This all sounds simple enough, and in a sense it is. But the prime difficulty is that most of us are not sufficiently grounded in the moment to be able to simply observe thoughts and feelings, and to then shift our relationship with them. That lack of groundedness, in turn, typically stems from several undergirding factors.

Like virtually all people, you have the power to develop the right relationship with mental events and intuitions, even as they arise, and then act according to the genuine needs of your Authentic Self. Yet without the ability to manage your cognitions well, even as they unfold a thousand times a day, you cannot be said to be a truly empowered being. Instead, you will be like a leaky ship tossed wildly upon a stormy ocean. You will have a greatly reduced sense of personal agency.

In order to actualise the potential inherent within moments of agency, we have to be sufficiently healed of past trauma. Our unresolved biographical pain can easily be triggered by current life events, pulling us back into disempowering and delusional dramas. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history may indeed be doomed to repeat it.

In turn, in order to heal our pasts, we have to learn how to be present with the sometimes strong and difficult emotions that arise within any given moment. And being present with such feelings means being able to allow them healthy expression. Such inner work is rarely easy. If you have suffered greatly in the past, or even if your relatives and ancestors have suffered, you are likely carrying vestiges of trauma and self-limiting belief structures within your psyche. We all suffer the sins of the fathers (and mothers) to some degree. The consciousness structures of the ancestors linger, even when their bodies have long turned to dust. A significant portion of this book (Power and Presence) is about how to heal those personal and ancestral pasts.

Therefore, accessing the “power” inherent within the moment of agency is not simply a matter of being silently present. There is almost certainly background work to be done in order for that moment to be clear of distortion by the past and its pain. Past experiences may imprint self-limiting narratives and beliefs within your psyche that can distort the moment of agency. And to know what those stories and beliefs are, we have to do the inner work. We have to come to know ourselves deeply.

This grounding is the foundation of the Authentic Self, where we get to sing our true song, a song that is not distorted by the past, by the stories and beliefs about ourselves and the world with which we have become identified. Yet we must be aware enough to notice when we are living someone else’s story.

Let’s be clear. We all have these stories, even when we live from the Authentic Self. It’s hard to imagine any life that does not have some kind of narrative attached to it. Yet when we embody the Authentic Self, we develop the capacity to see clearly our story-tellers, and to master our stories – even as they try to master us. We must learn to become the agents within a new story of our own choosing, one more aligned with our Authentic Self.

If we do not develop this capacity for being present, for accessing the moment of agency, then we are all too easily manipulated by others and their agendas for power and control.

This self-mastery follows only after the agendas within our mind, our psyche, have been aired and witnessed.

Finally, there is a third source of distortion which threatens our access to the moment of agency. That is, the consciousness fields within which all our minds are embedded. This is a realm little understood in our modern societies. We have tended to equate the notion of the extended mind with the superstition of bygone eras. Yet the truth remains that our minds are not self-contained, that the boundaries of mind are more permeable than commonly recognised by today’s mainstream science.

These consciousness fields are replete with their own messages and agendas, and they can potentially impact and distort our intuitions. Yet for my purposes here, this realm of knowledge is not so important. Such fields of intention lose their power over us once we have healed our own pain, and owned the agendas within our mind.

Mastering the moment of agency is key to self-empowerment. Without such mastery no amount of assertiveness training or social activism is going to heal “the people” and restore our true power.  You cannot fire a cannon out of a canoe.

First, heal thyself.

Marcus

Trumper Thumper: How You Give Your Power Away to Politicians

Regardless of the huge differences in style and substance between Obama and Trump, what unites their stories as presidents is the way that so many gave their power away to them.

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The following is adapted from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weoponised World.

Don’t give your power away to politicians and other leaders.

For many, this is an attack of the bleeding obvious. Yet we may not be aware of just how often we do this. The problem is not as straightforward as we might think.

When I write about giving your power away to leaders, you might first think of extreme cases, such as those who sided with Hitler and Stalin last century; or perhaps those who supplicated before cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones. These are clear examples of giving power away, and we can readily identify such cases. Firstly, the outcomes of these unequal relationships are both disastrous and well-known; and secondly the narrative we are given in our history books supports this idea of how foolish it was of supporters to submit to these sociopathic leaders.

Yet there are other ways that we commonly give our power away to leaders, at all levels. We tend not to notice when we are so deeply embedded within the dynamic that we cannot see what is happening; or wh don’t get it when the process is subtle.

We give our power away to our bosses when we project positively towards them without sufficient criticality. What is less appreciated is how we give our power away to leaders when we regularly project against them.

Information streams often feature an approved relationship with specific leaders. There are often pre-approved saints and sinners whom we can channel our emotional energy towards, or against.

The image of Hitler in World War Two was convenient, because he was such an obvious embodiment of evil that it permitted the Allied powers to establish a sense of moral superiority in respect to their opponents. Yet war is a very dirty business, and no side gets out with clean hands. The image of Hitler made the firebombing of Dresden a whole lot simpler. Likewise, dropping the bomb on Japan was largely accepted because of images of Japanese atrocities during the war. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal entrenched that moral hierarchy, and since the Allies controlled the narrative, they wrote the history. Well, most of it.

Churchill was the good guy, Hitler the bad guy. Simple.

By the way, I’m not arguing for moral relativism. I’m sure glad the Allies won the war, and despite the many evils committed by both sides, I do believe that the lesser evil (by a long way) won. My point here is to suggest how image and narrative helps to motivate populations to project for and against leaders and their ideas.

Time has passed since Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, but human nature has changed little. We still reside in bodies consisting of about 30 000 genes, which produce on average of just three proteins. Our essential neurophysiology has not shifted in the 76 years since WW2 ended.

Something else that remains is that we are still being manipulated to generate positive and negative projections towards leaders, as a normal feature of public discourse. Who is the demon? Who is the saint? This is often decided by those in power: in government, politics, media – and increasingly it seems, by the algorithms.

In 2008 many were ecstatic when Obama was elected the president of the United States. I was one of them. A new dawn had begun, according to the popular sentiment. But of course, Obama as President was just as human as every other man who has ever been elected to that position, with all the limitations that the title entails. By the time he left office eight years later, the US was even more fractured than when he had arrived.

When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the narrative was completely the reverse. A lot of people followed the script. They clicked. And clicked. And clicked. They just couldn’t stop clicking.

You have probably seen the videos of people howling like dogs in the street, in disheveled despair at the coming of the Orange Demon. The end was nigh, or so they seemed to believe. They have been disappointed. Trump’s term has come to an end, and despite much chaos, the world is stil

When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the narrative was the completely the reverse. An Orange Demon had ascended from the sewers of Manhattan to invade the Whitehouse. A lot of people followed the script. Then they clicked. And clicked. And clicked. They just couldn’t stop the clicks.

You have probably seen the videos of people howling like dogs in the street, in disheveled despair at the coming of the Tangarine Tyrant. The end was nigh, or so they seemed to believe. They have been disappointed. Trump’s term has come to an end, and despite much chaos, the world is still here.

Part of the reason why leaders rarely live up (or down) to the expectations (positive and negative) of their followers, is that regardless of who holds office, the greater systemic structures generally remain. I know a lot of people like to run with the popular narrative that Donald Trump was a fascist, but I don’t think that is either a helpful or an accurate description. I see him as a rogue element who embodied the extreme levels of distrust in the system. Many of those who voted for him had simply lost faith in the system and its dominant narratives.

Many (but certainly not all) of those people gave their power away to Trump, and elevated him into a kind of cult-like status. It was as if Trump himself was going to save them.

Regardless of the huge differences in style and substance between Obama and Trump, what unites their stories as presidents is the way that so many gave their power away to them. When Trump’s limitations as leader became apparent, most notably toward the end of his term, many of his supporters were still unable to acknowledge those issues. They continued to give their power away. And to this day many supporters of Obama simply cannot bring themselves to see where he and his party have gone wrong.

Most everyone is doubling down. Now Biden-Harris are the new saviours, harbingers of a glorious dawn. How long will the illusion persist? I suspect not long.

Negative projection towards leaders is disempowering, but in a different way. When we spend large amounts of our mental energy rejecting leaders and systems, we surrender our potential to establish a more positive frame. Your life is effectively the relationship that you establish with the world around you, and with your experience. If that relationship is founded upon rejection and projected rage at what you perceive to be wrong with the world or any of its people, you have given your power away. You have failed to master your mind, and failed to master the system: two of the 12 pillars of self-mastery that I outlined in Champion of the Soul.

During the Obama presidency there was, over time, a rising antipathy towards him in some circles, perhaps most famously seen in the claim that Obama was born in Kenya (thus making him an illegitimate president). That level of negative projection was far exceeded during the Trump presidency, where most of the media and “educated” classes assumed a position of chronic projection and rage against the former businessman. Regardless of Trump’s failures, this represented a mass surrender of power on their behalf. They were effectively permanently camped in Trump’s frame, fixated by his every word and deed. Trump was a master manipulator, regularly making comments and blasting out provocative Tweets which were probable attempts to stir up that segment of the population, and to make them look foolish (to Trump’s support base). He succeeded a lot of the time.

Four years is far too long to spend in a state of chronic projection, staring over your cornflakes at the image of an elderly man in fake tan. Those one and a half thousand days are ones that such people will never get back, and they cannot blame Donald Trump for that denouement. The so called “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” whereby masses of people defined their daily existence by thumping on their keyboards and denouncing whatever was being written or spoken about Trump (and occasionally by what he actually said), is the most extreme case of mass negative projection in recent memory.

There are numerous negative effects and precious little good that have occurred because of this instance of mass insanity, but I am just going to skip all that and stick to my main point.

When we come to identify our own story with that of political tribes and their leaders, we have almost certainly surrendered our power to them. When we become emotionally entangled with political, ideological and philosophical narratives and images, it is very, very difficult to unweave those webs.

It is entirely possible to observe the limitations and merits of even the very best and very worst leaders, without giving your power away to them. Criticality and evaluation can be carried out in engaged presence, as can any words or actions which follow. The ideal relationship with leaders is to establish a frame for yourself which is aligned with your Authentic Self, with the highest expression of your values. And those will always embody psychological and spiritual maturity. The best way to establish that, to my knowledge, is to ground yourself in the body in the present moment. At the very least, we need to be able to know who we are beyond the world of mental  machinations, and to be able to return to embodied presence at will, especially when we notice our minds getting caught up in politics and in the mental contestations which saturate so many virtual spaces.

Part of the issue here is that in the age of social media, we all have our own little soap box, and enormous numbers of people have effectively become social activists. Yet the e-tubule effect means that many of us (perhaps most) are ideologically possessed. We are typically exposed to opinion and editorials far more than to “news,” and so effectively become a channel for someone else’s agenda, or a particular tribe’s agenda.

Ideally, when we are witnessing media or social media commentary, we should be addressing each idea and each fact with detached criticality. At the very least, we need to assume cognitive responsibility for the thoughts and especially the emotions which arise within us as we surf the information universe.

Don’t give your power away to politicians.

Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weoponised World.

Your Life, Your Power and Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules”

%Is Jordan B Peterson a modern Guru or a danger to civilization?%:

Pursue what is meaningful, not merely what is immediately expedient. Stand up straight and face the world with courage and confidence. Get your own life in order before you go out and try to save the world. Treat yourself like a person whom you are responsible for. Tell the truth.

These incredibly obvious pieces of advice are some of the aphorisms found in one of the biggest selling books of the moment: Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. The success of the book and the “academic rock star” status it’s author has achieved recently suggest just how far we have gone off track in teaching the young about life, when such aphorisms come as revelations to many.

Still, 12 Rules for Life is a very good book, and one that many people could benefit from reading. Peterson, who has a vast network of followers on YouTube, is predominately attracting a younger male audience, and I suspect that the book will appeal mostly to them. I see his influence as being a positive development in the evolution of masculinity, as I argued in a recent blog post. Even I, as an older male, found much of value in the book. And women of any age could easily benefit from it as well.

One theme that runs through the book is that we need to teach responsibility to children by setting appropriate boundaries. We need to let them play and explore the world, to make their own mistakes.

Now, given that so many of we adults have matured with deficient parenting, we must teach ourselves such practical wisdom.

Contained within many of the author’s points are fascinating anecdotes and specific, practical applications. Peterson tells stories gleaned from his own life experience, as well as from his experience as a clinical psychologist. There is a lot of history to draw from. The tales keep the text alive, much as with his online videos.

Jordan Peterson’s background as a psychologist influences his teachings. He draws upon biology and evolutionary theory to help explicate many of his points. He famously compares human neurophysiology to that of the lobster, while making the point that we exist in hierarchies that are at least partly explicable as evolutionary patterns. His advice is then to “stand up straight”, following the example of the body language of dominant lobsters. But Peterson is no biological determinist, as his online videos show. He’s simply acknowledging that we humans are not merely ghosts in biological machines, whereby free will and culture determine all behaviour.

 

Biblical allusions
Jordan Peterson draws from many religious and spiritual traditions to clarify and expand his insights, but most frequently from Christianity. One aspect of the book which I found challenging to navigate is the frequent biblical narratives. Using a Jungian approach (Joseph Campbell, if you prefer), some chapters in the book ramble a little, and could be made shorter. The connectivity between some points also sometimes seems unclear. Yet that could have been because I read quickly.

Having said this, the biblical allusions Peterson uses have reopened my mind to the Christian tradition. In mainstream, non-ecclesiastical circles, Christianity is often looked upon negatively. On the political left, it is typically criticised and distained, often at levels which would be termed bigoted if such scorn was directed at any other religion. Perhaps a more balanced perspective is required, lest we jettison entirely a formative wisdom tradition which has helped define us.

Peterson is presumably a Christian, just not a fundamentalist one. He has made the valid point that much of the thinking and values which underpin western thought and legal structures are Christian. Many of the stories in The Bible, including the idea of God, are thus archetypal. They are deeply imbedded within our psyches, even if we do not identity as Christian. Still, it may take some degree of self-discipline for some to wade through the religious mythology.

Commandant Peterson?
Jordan Peterson has engendered hostile reactions which border on hysterical in some cases – and that is not an exaggeration. As just one recent example, a Wilfred Laurier University diversity commitee tried to sanction Lyndsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant, for showing part of a television news clip which featured Peterson. Showing the clip as part of a class debate violated the school’s policy on gendered and sexual violence, she was told. One member of that committee compared Peterson to Hitler, even as he scolded Shepherd.

Peterson’s criticism of bill C-61 was seen by some as an attack on LGBT people in general, but a more reasonable assessment is that it was a criticism of compelled speech and a warning about the encroachment of far-left ideology into the legal system of Canada. The publicity his resistance to the bill garnered, launched Peterson into the public limelight.

In my opinion, a fair assessment of 12 Rules to Life and Peterson’s teachings should negate any fear of an impending Nazi apocalypse. The book is not heavily political, making only brief diversions into politics and ideology. Online, Peterson is very clear in his criticisms of liberal progressivism, and its recent authoritarian predilections. Some see this as vindication of the alt-right, which again is an overreaction. I suspect his work is more likely to pull young men away from the alt-right than to take them there, given that he is openly critical of the far right and authoritarianism in all its forms. My sense is that such critics have typically invested much time, professional training or emotional energy into the various ideologies and philosophical expressions associated with progressivism, and are unwilling to bring critical reflection upon those ideas. This is understandable, because at the level of mind, we naturally feel fear (and respond angrily) when our view of reality is threatened. Peterson represents a threat to many on the far left, because he is willing to stand up and speak his mind. Peterson walks his talk.

The truth is that there are now significant problems with progressivism and the far-left in general, and only long-standing, severe political correctness and its threats of personal and professional sanction for dissenters have thus far prevented these issues from being properly identified and corrected. The time is now right for dissent, and Peterson is an appropriate character to lead the way.

One reason why I feel he can be relied upon to responsibly mediate the current cultural divide is that Peterson is an advocate of introspection and shadow work – looking within the psyche to honestly acknowledge what lies within, no matter how dark. His book lays this ideal down clearly. We are all capable of descending into that darkness, and we must be vigilant to avoid the fate. Such honest introspection is precisely what is missing from progressivism today, largely because it has established an attitude of moral superiority over all opposing voices. This is one reason why it has betrayed many of its founding principles, and become intolerant and often authoritarian. It has divided society.

Guru Peterson
Western society has set far too many men adrift, chronically shaming males and defining masculinity via its pathological expression. 12 Rules for Life may help many men to find confidence and direction amidst this extreme turn to the left. And for that we should greatly thank him.

Of course, given the huge amount of publicity Peterson’s media appearances have generated, there are potential downsides to all this.

Peterson is now very much a father figure to many, as well as spiritual mentor. The shift is occurring in the context of a society which has severely shamed masculinity and devalued fatherhood. Acknowledging all this is a healthy development if expressed responsibly. Yet it seems to me that many of his followers are projecting far too much responsibility onto Peterson for their lives. I call this “giving away your power.” It is a common issue in spiritual circles. Indeed, I would say that it is almost a universal phase of personal and spiritual development. I am no exception, and gave my own power away to one or two spiritual and psychological guides as a younger man. Still, it is to be hoped that those who do this will quickly pass through the phase, and assume greater responsibility for their lives. After all, taking responsibility is a central theme in Peterson’s teachings.

The huge and almost fanatical following that Person has now gathered will naturally produce backlash from those jealous of his success, or who find his teaching incompatible with their own ideals. In turn, online clashes are emerging. I’m not sure what can be done about this, expect for individuals to simply refuse to engage unhealthy online projections. Hateful or violent expressions by some of his fans have already been used to create a case against Peterson. Yet it is hard to blame Peterson for this. Should we blame Obama or Noam Chomsky for the Antifa campus and street violence we have seen in recent times, simply because they cite these figures’ ideals?

Severe Peterson
Peterson is heavily influenced by Nietzsche, and at times his worldview expresses a rather pessimistic bent. Life is suffering, says Peterson, and we must acknowledge that suffering. Life will sooner or later introduce us to pain, suffering and death. Resilience is thus required. The philosophy does make for grim reading at times. Yet he is right, at least in a sense. We all die, and all things pass. We should not waste time in idle pursuits, nor victim consciousness.

Peterson’s is thus almost an anti-new age philosophy. The new age tends to deny death, while naively maintaining that that we can control the world via our thoughts and beliefs. Peterson, on the other hand, believes that death is central to life’s meaning. He implores us to focus our intent, to focus on meaningful work and self-work, and to help make the world a better place. For that is the best way that we can move forward and develop lives of power and purpose. He does not promise utopia. He merely suggests that personal responsibility, meaning and purpose should form a central part of the life journey, regardless of the outcome.

And who can argue with that?

12 Rules for Life is imperfect, but I highly recommend it. It contains much wisdom and thought-provoking philosophy. It is not a book you will forget soon.

Are You a Potential Spiritual Teacher?

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The following is an extract from my book Discover Your Soul Template.

If you want to go the whole hog and set yourself up in business as a spiritual teacher or counselor, then there are some important things to consider.

First, you have to ask yourself why you want to do it. Clarify your intention by listening to what your ego is saying. Chances are the ego will go along for the power trip and the attention. That does not mean, however, that you are not suitable for the calling. All human beings and all spiritual teachers have an ego. Your job is to keep an eye on that part of yourself so that it does not dominate your work. Above all, listen to the voice of Spirit. It will guide you. It will tell you if your ego is starting to party hard, and will often let you know whether you are ready or not, and whether to stop, go, or wait.

Regardless of all other considerations, a spiritual teacher is called upon to serve Spirit. If you are not doing that, if you have no intention to do that, you are not a spiritual teacher, even if you call yourself one. You are a spiritual fraudster.

At a very practical level, you have to decide what it is you are selling. This may not seem very spiritual, but actually there is nothing unspiri­tual about selling or making money. Remember, in the end it is all an exchange of energy.

I highly recommend that you begin part-time. I have met more than a few naïve wannabe teachers who think the cosmos will reward them for the generous act of offering their grand wisdom to humanity. That’s not how it works. You have to honor the language and the realities of the market place. You have to offer a product that has some kind of business worthiness. Someone out there is going to have to want to buy what you are selling. And then you have to let people know about it.

Another approach is to make your teaching into a pastime, rather than a money-making venture. You might see it as a chance to share your wisdom with humanity. This is a perfectly noble ambition. One point to keep in mind, however, is that people often do not value what they are given for free. Scientific studies have confirmed this. When people are charged more for a service, they tend to report more positively about it, and when it is cheap, they tend to dis it. If you write a book, print off a thousand copies, and give them away on the street, you can bet a lot of people will not value it. If you charge market prices, only people who really want it will buy it. If you overcharge people, they will think you are a crook. There is nothing wrong with doing things for no financial reward. However, just be mindful that your desire to take this approach is not undermined by a belief that money is bad, that you are not worth anything, or that abundance is just too hard to create.

Jessica, the woman who was the original inspiration for my theory of Integrated Intelligence, charged hefty fees. She earned about five times more per hour than I did at the time, and I was an education professional with a university degree (she had no degree). But she was so brilliant that she had no trouble attracting clients. She was also very generous. One time I had a one-on-one session with her and at the end she laughed playfully like a little girl and said that Spirit had told her to give me the session for free. And so she did.

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, every time you step forward out of your comfort zone in an act of creativity, it will draw out the resisting beliefs and energies from your psyche. As a Sage you will need to work on your consciousness, as well as deal with the day-to-day running of your business. This takes time and discipline. Don’t overestimate how quickly you can set things up, because it usually takes longer than you think. Creating unrealistic expectations places unnecessary stress on yourself.

Money pushes buttons too. If you put yourself under financial pressure, you may, ironically, cut yourself off from Spirit. Think about it. You open your little spiritual center and nobody comes. Suddenly you can’t pay the rent, and you are asking all sorts of ques­tions of Spirit, and demanding some answers. The ego will tend to get scared and angry and then go into blame and judgment. Fear takes you away from presence and away from Integrated Intelligence and the wisdom of the Spirit. This situation can turn into a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and poverty consciousness. You go into business believing that the cosmos owes you a living. You have a bit of a hard time, and suddenly the negative beliefs within the psyche come forward, and before you know it you are broke, bitter, and screaming, “I told you so!”

This is precisely what happens to a lot of wannabe spiritual teachers. Mostly, we overestimate our level of spiritual development and our faith in the cosmos. Nothing will bring out doubt and fear faster than the rent notice when you haven’t got a penny to your name.

Remember the concept of being a spiritual fraud? I call it fraud­ing, when you believe you have gained a level of spiritual develop­ment that you have not. Frauding involves a rejection of certain parts of your psyche that you are not willing to look at, and this usually means that there is some personal pain that you are avoid­ing. My ego fall at the country retreat, which I mentioned above (not included in this extract), is a classic example. My ego fall came early, as the lie was exposed by perceptive people. In day-to-day life (as opposed to doing spiritual work), a fall also inevitably comes when we fraud. It may just take longer to happen.

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An awareness of the trickster and its tendency to fraud, is crucial for your business and for the manifestation of your bliss in general. When your estimation of your attainment exceeds the reality, it cre­ates a metaphysical wake. A critical instability emerges when the delusion becomes too great. Even as you think you are putting forward positive energy into the world, your psyche will be working against you and against your bliss. Once a certain level of delusion is reached, you have to invest more and more energy in maintaining the charade. Inevitably, the whole thing comes crashing down like a house of cards.

Everyone frauds from time to time, because everyone has an ego. It’s just a question of spotting the lies as they pop up, and gently and lovingly correcting them. When you are frauding, Spirit will send you signals. We have to be on the lookout for the signs. Within my own psyche, I have always gotten a particular symbol in my dreams and meditations at such times: Mickey Mouse! To say that some­thing is “Mickey Mouse” is to imply that it is false or simply of poor quality.

For you the symbol you are given or the way Spirit lets you know you are going into delusion will most likely be different. Your life experience is different from mine, and the symbols within your psyche are particular to you. You have to learn that language.

It is also important to remember that, though the Sage is always a teacher of Spirit, she does not necessarily have to become a spiritual teacher. As long as you are living your bliss and in presence you will be serving Spirit. You will be part of the light, pushing holes through the darkness. I trust that this book has shown you that this is not as easy as some popular versions of spiritual development make it out to be.

Keep in mind though, that beyond the price you pay, the reward is the joyful discovery of your soul, and the knowledge that your time here on earth has been of service to all humanity.

Marcus