Minding Djokovic’s Mindfulness

Those beginning a meditative or mindfulness practice often have a false expectation that they are about to become magically transformed into an awakened being, or perhaps even enter an exalted higher state of consciousness. Perhaps they might be thinking that they can tolerate a few weeks of mindless meditation, a few hours of dull, cross-legged sitting, or even staring at candles in the evening, if that means accessing the Bliss of Being. The petty inconveniences of modern life will all be forgotten once the divine light descends from the heavens, rendering us impervious to pesky feelings and inconvenient negative emotions like anger, sadness and fear… Alas, such people will be disappointed.

Those beginning a meditative or mindfulness practice often have a false expectation that they are about to become magically transformed into an awakened being, or perhaps even enter an exalted higher state of consciousness. Perhaps they might be thinking that they can tolerate a few weeks of mindless meditation, a few hours of dull, cross-legged sitting, or even staring at candles in the evening, if that means accessing the Bliss of Being. The petty inconveniences of modern life will all be forgotten once the divine light descends from the heavens, rendering us impervious to pesky feelings and inconvenient negative emotions like anger, sadness and fear…

Alas, such people will be disappointed.

Consider this. In 2020, tennis star Novak Djokovic, a regular meditator and practitioner of all things mindful, was disqualified from the US Open for accidentally striking a line judge when he whacked a ball in anger. In the following tournament, the Italian Open, he had several emotional outbursts in the final. Queried about his behavior, Djokavic stated:

Of course, it was a shock for me and a lot of people. But that’s life, that’s sport. These things can happen… But I don’t think that this will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court. I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York. I did not feel any kind of emotional disturbance or difficulty to actually be able to play or still express my emotions in whatever way… That’s something that is obviously staying in my mind after what happened in New York. It’s going to stay there for a long time. Of course, I will make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice.[i]

Djokovic said in 2020 that he tries to keep negative emotional reactions on the court to a minimum. But “also… accept it and forgive myself for what happened and move on.”

And then most infamously, just recently, Djokovic was ejected from Australia when it was claimed that the unvaccinated star had deliberately mislead the Australian immigration department on his visa application, including not disclosing a prior failure to socially distance when in the early stages of Covid infection.

There are a wide range of often heated opinions about Djokovic’s Australian debacle, and that covers discussions far beyond mindfulness practice. The reader can make up their own mind on the subject. Yet the key point here is that mindfulness practice isn’t a guarantee of Buddha-like serenity and emotional purity, nor does it necessarily create instant psychological maturity. And it won’t save your butt if you violate societal or legal norms and the authorities come for you. Perhaps most notably, it doesn’t excuse you from the consequences of your actions.

Ego falls are a common experience for anybody on an awakening journey. The further into delusion we descend, the greater and more painful the fall.

Making presence of prime value in your life is a wonderful thing, and if you can attain a high level of mastery, then the benefits are great (including an enhanced sense of personal empowerment). But there are limitations, potential hazards and philosophical concerns that come with the territory. The Grand Canyon is beautiful. But if you don’t pay attention and fall off one of those great cliffs, the spectacular scenery around you will suddenly seem a whole lot less wonderful as you plummet earthward.

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


[i] Djokovic: US Open ball incident won’t change how I deal with emotions. Sydney Morning Herald, 27/09/20.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/djokovic-us-open-ball-incident-won-t-change-how-i-deal-with-emotions-20200927-p55zl5.html

Mindfulness or Ritual? Which One Works Best?

Mindfulness is often most potent when combined with other practices. We shouldn’t employ mindfulness in our lives, naively assuming it is the most powerful problem-solving tool ever invented, while excluding other practical and useful methods and behaviors.

Imagine that you want to lose weight, but have a tendency to eat a little too much at your meals, and like to top your dinner off with a delicious calorie-laden bowl of ice-cream. Not surprisingly, you are finding the weight hard to take off. Desperate, you go to your local meditation center and ask the resident guru what you should do. After he adjusts his white robe, lights the incense and clangs a little bell, he pauses dramatically and peers deeply into your soul.

“You must be more present at your meals,” he announces, bowing his head slightly. “The art of eating is sacred. You must be mindful of each mouthful, and let the food fill your spirit, not merely your belly!”

You bow three times as you exit the room walking backwards, expressing your great thanks. A deep feeling relief fills your soul. But as you stroll mindfully to your car you notice a street sign on the opposite side of the road, indicating the presence of a dietician’s clinic. So, just to hedge your bets, you cross the road and enter the dietician’s office. You sit with her and share your problem. You mumble the bit about the heavy meals and the weight problem. She looks at you as if you are a little dull, but nods her head.

“When you sit for each meal, follow these three simple steps,” she says. “You must adhere to this ritual at every meal, and do exactly as I say. All meals. Every day. No exceptions!”

You listen, skeptical but excited. “Please do share. What are the three steps!?”

The dietician nods quizzically, a sparkle in her eye.

“First, you must cut the food.”

You nod slowly. “Uh huh. And…”

“Then, you must arrange the pieces symmetrically on your plate. In the shape of a triangle”

You scratch your head. “I see…”

“Finally, you must tap your plate three times with your fork. Only then may you begin to eat.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep. That’ll be forty-nine bucks, thanks. My standard consultation fee for ten-minute sessions.”

After flipping your wallet open, you walk out feeling a little foolish.

So, whose advice should you take? The spiritual guru’s, or the dietician’s?

The possible answer may surprise you. Harvard professor Francesco Gino and colleagues conducted a recent experiment, taking a group of people trying to lose weight and dividing them into two groups. The first group was told to be mindful during meals, and the second was told to follow a ritual similar to the dietician’s one, in the fictional story above. Surprisingly, the ritual proved to be more effective in reducing consumption of calories, fat and sugar.[i] As Nir Eyal notes in his book Indistractible, rituals can be powerful. They can help break bad habits and build an empowering identity.

Mindfulness is often most potent when combined with other practices. We shouldn’t employ mindfulness in our lives, naively assuming it is the most powerful problem-solving tool ever invented, while excluding other practical and useful methods and behaviors. Rituals, as indicated here, are very compatible with presence practices. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be combined with mindfulness, helping you manage thoughts and feelings more rationally, without undue hyperbole, catastrophism and generally neurotic thinking. And throughout this book I am suggesting the importance of emotional release as a means to help mindful states of awareness, and to heal trauma. I suggest you experiment with mindfulness, and seeing how it can operate together with your current knowledge base, beliefs and practices.


[i] Allen Ding Tian et al., ‘Enacting Rituals to Improve Self-Control’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 114, no. 6 (2018): 851–76, https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000113.

This post is an extract from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World, which will be out by mid-2022.

Countdowns: A Cure for Mind Chatter

This strong tendency of the mind towards rumination is today a far bigger challenge than it was for mindfulness practitioners of yesteryear. The Buddha didn’t have to struggle with a daily dose of Twitterous twits constantly attempting to trigger him into emotional reaction. Lao Zi’s attention was most likely inward much of the time, aligned with the Dao, not battling opponents on Reddit. The ancient Chinese sage was quite happy to permit the dramas of king and courtiers to carry on as preferred. And Christ’s daily prayer sessions were not interrupted by smart phone alerts, notifying him to the urgent “breaking news” that he just had to read in order to stay informed and on top of his game.

The mind has a tendency to ruminate on problems, issues and especially grievances. In the Digital Age, where clickbait news and social media feeds are assaulting your amygdala on a moment to moment basis, trying frantically to get you to bring your attention to their causes and invest emotional energy in them, it has become more important than ever to be able to spot rumination spaces within your mind and to deactivate them as quickly as possible. A simple but effective tool I developed called “Countdowns” can be used to counter this problem. Countdowns are a simple tool that will quickly quieten the mind, and bring your attention back to the present moment, or to whatever focus you prefer.

The purpose of Countdowns is not necessarily to eliminate reflective thinking, although returning to silent, embodied presence may be the best option in any given situation. Alternatively, you may wish to take more control of the mind, and to focus on something more important. Rumination is typically upon subject matters that serve little purpose, or are perhaps completely pointless. At worst they keep us trapped in drama and conflict with others. In other words, rumination is disempowering. You cannot stand in your power if you do not have rumination in check.

There are obviously life problems and situations that require focussed or even urgent attention, but much rumination is simply not necessary, representing on-going inner babble, a running background TV commentary that serves little purpose other than to fill your mental living room with pointless noise.

You can think of rumination spaces as those bubbles of emotional projection that you regularly return to in your thinking, where you repeat the same topic over and over again in your mind. Quite commonly they involve an imagined opponent, a person or people who are bad and wrong, and who have to be silenced and/or defeated. These might include your political or tribal opponents, the president or prime minister, your partner, your friends, the boss, your work colleagues and professional competitors and so on.

This strong tendency of the mind towards rumination is today a far bigger challenge than it was for mindfulness practitioners of yesteryear. The Buddha didn’t have to struggle with a daily dose of Twitterous twits constantly attempting to trigger him into emotional reaction. Lao Zi’s attention was most likely inward much of the time, aligned with the Dao, not battling opponents on Reddit. The ancient Chinese sage was quite happy to permit the dramas of king and courtiers to carry on as preferred. And Christ’s daily prayer sessions were not interrupted by smart phone alerts, notifying him to the urgent “breaking news” that he just had to read in order to stay informed and on top of his game.

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Rumination has two common drivers. The first is simply the mind’s attempt to stay relevant, to ensure its continued existence. The drama that is entailed in rumination achieves that job nicely. There is a threat or an opponent that just has to be dealt with, or at the very least a serious problem that has to be solved. And we can’t just let that be, right? It’s too urgent.

For the mind, silence equals loss of control, and ultimately death.

The second driver is your story, and that story in turn probably emerges from your original pain. Rumination is often triggered by an external event which mirrors your story and its embedded beliefs, activating your emotional body. That means an instant upload of the usual emotional cocktail: any combination of fear, anger, guilt, shame and perhaps grief. The Countdown tool I share below is therefore best used in combination with some of the healing tools I outline elsewhere in this book. Countdowns won’t heal you by themselves. But if done with strong intention, they will pull you out of the drama and return you to the present moment, where you can focus on whatever is of greater value to your Authentic Self (including healing, if you wish).

Countdowns are simple. Whenever you catch yourself ruminating over someone or something, stop, still yourself, and count down from three to zero, focussing you’re your breath and counting one time on each exhalation. When you reach zero, affirm: “I choose peace.”

But you will likely find that it won’t end there. The mind is a field of habits, and the same subject of rumination will probably appear again within short time. It is important not to judge yourself at this point. It is normal to feel some frustration when we encounter resistance from the mind. But that resistance is perfectly normal. So, each time a ruminating thought or drama enters the mind, simply gently notice it, and repeat the countdown; only this time with a single difference. Add one more breath, counting from four to zero. Continue with this process throughout the day. Each time you find yourself ruminating on the undesirable topic(s), add one more breath to the countdown. I call these expanding countdowns.

The key here is your intention. But intention is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. First you must have a certain degree of intention and set the action in place (countdowns). However, that action also helps reinforce your intention. As you become better at mental self-control, your sense of agency will increase, along with your sense of self-empowerment.

I personally like to use two forms of countdowns. I use the expanding countdowns for targeted dramas. These are the topics that I consider to be most wasteful of time and attention, and most disempowering. Amongst these I include anything to do with differences of opinion on politics, religion, science and so on, or any argument or dispute I might have participated in with a work colleague or administrator, or with a friend or family member.

For other less “serious” thought patterns, those which have little emotional power over me, I usually just use three breaths in the countdown, and I find that to be sufficient. The subject matters here might be everyday things like thinking about news stories and current events, my next workout, what I am writing about in this book and so on.

Therefore, whether I use the expanding countdown or the three-breaths countdown simply depends on the emotional investment my mind has on the topic at hand. I use the expfgvtttttttttttttttttttanding countdown for more serious or lingering ruminations which require attention and self-discipline.

When I first used this mindfulness tool, I sometimes got onto the twenties with my countdowns. That was a little frustrating at times, but I released all judgment and gently but purposefully persisted. After some days the countdowns became less common, and the ruminations began to drop away.

Still, I personally find that during times of greater psychological challenge, the need for deliberate use of mindfulness tools like these increases. But the best part is that they are simple, and once you learn them they will always be with you.

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

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.

Presentation: “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.

This is my very recent presentation at the Society for Consciousness Studies, 2021. “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.” My central argument is that it is vitally important that we retain a strong sense of embodiment & intuitive intelligence even as the 3D Digital Society evolves. To further diminish that awareness would represent the deepening & perpetuation of a major civilisational error that has engendered the crisis in sensemaking. It thus represents an existential crisis that is potentially catastrophic, literally &/or metaphorically. Establishing an Authentic Self via Embodied Presence is a vital component of all this.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Zuckerverse-1024x675.png

Below is the video of my very recent presentation at the Society for Consciousness Studies, 2021. “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.” My central argument is that it is vitally important that we retain a strong sense of embodiment & intuitive intelligence even as the 3D Digital Society evolves. To further diminish that awareness would represent the deepening & perpetuation of a major civilisational error that has engendered the crisis in sensemaking. It thus represents an existential crisis that is potentially catastrophic, literally &/or metaphorically. Establishing an Authentic Self via Embodied Presence is a vital component of all this.

1. About Marcus T Anthony (1:15)

2. What is Critical Futures Studies? (5:10)

3. Context: The Metaverse, Embodiment & the Crisis in Sensemaking (6:45)

4. Deep Futures vs Money & Machines Futures (14:55)

5. Integrated Intelligence & the Extended Mind (16:45)

6. Scenarios: Four Possible Futures of the Metaverse (27:20)

7. Conclusion: Rediscovering the Authentic Self (33:10)

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

Welcome to ITopia

I like to call this virtual space MemeWorld, because it is a reality whose fabric is comprised not so much of the real, but of threads of memes weaved into a great net. And that is increasingly what we see of the world, and how we see it.
Or rather, that is how the world is made for us.
MemeWorld is becoming increasingly alien, relative to how we once experienced the world with our critical faculties and bodily, intuitive senses. Yet we can now identify 14 of its general operational features.

The following is an extract from the introduction of my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World. I use the term “ITopia” to describe a dystopian future in which techno-centrism has replaced a human and nature-centred life. The term “MemeWorld” refers specifically to our currently evolving web space, which is increasingly driven by social media and media memes, and where it is becoming evermore difficult to know what is real.

* * *

I would like to begin Power and Presence with the disturbing proposition that the ITopian nightmare has descended and possessed us. ITopia is my term for the dystopian future which is emerging, where Information technology (IT) has permeated all areas of our lives, creating an imbalanced technocratic society founded on what Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism.”

I like to call our current virtual spaces MemeWorld, because it represents a reality whose fabric is comprised not so much of the real, but of threads of memes weaved into a great net. And that net is increasingly what we see of the world, and how we see it.

Or rather, that is how the world is made for us.

MemeWorld is becoming increasingly alien, relative to how we once experienced the world with our critical faculties and bodily, intuitive senses. Yet we can now identify some of MemeWorld’s general operational features.

  1. Memes usurp fact. The way a person or problem is projected via image and narrative tends to overpower the reality of who that person is or what the problem actually is.
  2. Pervasive hyperbole. When problems and issues are represented and discussed, they are often exaggerated via emotional loading of image and language. In other words, sensationalized. As a result, it is very difficult to tell just how big or serious any given behaviour, event or problem is. Or if it is even real.
  3. Confusion and paranoia. As the disjunct between what is seen and experienced online and that experienced in the physical world expands, there is increased uncertainty about what is real. Trust in the sensemaking system is collapsing, as netizens become increasingly fearful or even paranoid. Fear of the invisible hand of the censors pervades much net activity, and conspiracy theories abound, including in the mainstream, establishment media.
  4. Ungrounded certainty and blind trust: In apparent contrast to the previous development, many choose to simply believe their tribal information sources; even as uncertainty, ambiguity and critical discernment of motive are the more justified attitudes. Many netizens now surrender much of their thinking faculties to authority as the required cognitive capacity for sensemaking becomes too difficult.
  5. Widespread tribalism. Public discourses are tending to split into memetic tribes, each with their own values, cultures, heroes, allies and enemies. The “culture wars” now feature multiple memetic tribes, as Limberg and Barnes outline in their influential 2018 Medium article entitled, “The memetic tribes of culture war 2.0.”  And as Rebel Wisdom founder and journalist David Fuller has pointed out, after the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 US election, the Blue and Red tribes have started to become increasingly internally fragmented as the tensions brought about by the pandemic have begun to take hold. Ironically, Trump had been an intra-tribe unifier, even as he was an inter-tribe splittist.
  6. Weaponisation of ideas: Almost all ideas, good and bad, are now routinely weaponized in order to push agendas: for example, racism, gender issues, sexual orientation, censorship, immigration, the pandemic and vaccination are all widely weaponized, for and against, for personal and political gain. This trend is driven by multiple stakeholders, including political parties, the tech giants, academics, media organizations, celebrities, and grifters of all kinds.
  7. Ubiquitous hostile operatives. Almost anything written or spoken in web space is a potential weapon with which a hostile individual or group can attack the author.
  8. Demonization: The other is regularly mocked as being bad and stupid.
  9. Lack of reflection. There is typically insufficient internal critique by individuals and tribes, as chronic projection at the outgroup(s) undermines self-reflection. Foresight is retarded in proportion to lack of self-reflection.
  10. Conservatism (cognitive, not political) People, political parties, and institutions become slow to learn or change.
  11. Implicit taboos. These include effective prohibition of criticism of “sacred” ideas, narratives, people and groups. Contextual and factor analyses – deep questions – are effectively banned within these sacralized spaces.
  12. Excommunication of dissenters. Those who criticize the tribe or break its taboos are rendered as non-aligned, then othered.
  13. Acontextuality. An author’s web content can potentially be extracted and represented out of context by an aggressive third party to further their own agenda and attack that author.
  14. Atemporality. Web content lingers indefinitely in respect to time. All commentary entered on the net for whatever purpose can be extracted at any point in the future and used to further someone else’s (possibly hostile) agenda. That the Overton Window can shift suddenly and in unpredictable ways leaves authors potentially vulnerable to hostile misrepresentation.

These operational features now clearly distinguish MemeWorld from the physical world we experience from day to day. As time goes on, that degree of distortion will only increase. And as we stand at the edifice of an augmented, virtual reality imbued with a pervasive artificial intelligence, we are in genuine danger of completely losing our grasp on reality and on ourselves.

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 and empower you to rediscover your Authentic Self.

Marcus

Grace and the amazing story of John Newton

Amazing Grace touches a universal human theme, that forgiveness and redemption are available to all humans, no matter how much we have “sinned.”[vi] There is another layer of existence beyond our story of despair and suffering, and it involves a deepening awareness of an intelligence that is not within our immediate control, forces that our small-s-self can barely sense. This is why “Amazing Grace” is one of the most sung of all songs in the English-speaking world, with thousands of recordings. With every orbit of our planet about the yellow star, individuals of our species sing the tune around ten million times.[vii] Many of us live life acting out a story that we did not consciously choose, via a self that has not understood who we truly are. If we can accept that without judging ourselves or others, without making it wrong that we have not quite been true to ourselves, then our Authentic Self is ready to emerge.

We all have a story, and all such stories are legitimate at the level they are lived and told. You are magnificent, regardless of your strengths and flaws, and no matter how far you have strayed from your Authentic Self. We all hide parts of ourselves from others. And from ourselves. We are not quite courageous enough to allow a more genuine expression to settle into our bones, into our hearts.

Yet the tale is incomplete. And so it is that every story told seeks a new chapter. Another layer that resolves its tension and finds closure. For that resolution to occur, lessons must be learned, and themes mastered. Then, in its ultimate transcendence, the world of story itself is witnessed from outside of ourselves. Here we can draw comparisons with narrative types in literary theory. When we are in the unawakened state, we are merged with the story. The story lives us. This is the first-person protagonists’ perspective. Ultimately by adopting a witnessing perspective we can begin to transcend the story as a third-person, objective narrator to our own lives. We now live the story. Finally, in very deep states of consciousness the rarest life narratorial form emerges, that of third-person omniscient narrator. We may experience this in flashes of revelation in meditation, dreams, crisis visions, ayahuasca trips and so on. The study of near-death experiences represents perhaps the most extensive body of report-based data in this respect. Anita Moorjani, author of Dying to be Me, experienced this state when she came close to dying from cancer. As she was being rushed to the hospital and slipping into a coma, Moorjani suddenly found her consciousness being radically shifted. She found herself in a transcendent realm, looking at her life and all lives from an all-knowing realm.

I was transformed in unimaginable clarity as I realized that this expanded, magnificent essence was really me. It was the truth of my being. The understanding was so clear: I was looking into a new paradigm of self, becoming the crystalline light of my own awareness.[i]

Disconnection from the Authentic Self is an inevitable part of all our journeys. We are lost. Then we are found. That is a grace so amazing that it inspired English poet and clergyman John Newton to write these famous words some two hundred and fifty years ago. 

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

  That saved a wretch; like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

  Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

  And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

  The hour I first believed![ii]

We have all heard the song. But you may not know the story behind it. Born in 1725, John Newton’s childhood was one of much suffering and despair.[iii] His mother, who held firm religious convictions, died of tuberculosis when he was but six years old, and his father was absent for years at sea. Newton was thus raised by his cold and emotionally distant stepmother. Newton was soon sent away to boarding school, where his years as a student were marked by angry disobedience and abuse at the hands of his teachers. A brief and bleak childhood all too quickly became premature adulthood, as at the age of eleven Newton went to join his father at sea. The Englishman abandoned all faith in religion, writing: “Like an unwary sailor who quits his port just before a rising storm, I renounced the hopes and comforts of the Gospel at the very time when every other comfort was about to fail me.”[iv]

Newton became a rebellious and recalcitrant individual, and that behaviour led to him being conscripted into the Royal Navy. But he soon deserted, pursuing courtship with a young woman named Mary “Polly” Cattlett, who was a family friend. Yet no love was to be bestowed upon him yet, for the humiliation of deserting followed him like a dark specter, and he was traded to work on a slave ship.

The bawdy young sailor saw no reason to change his rebellious ways, and his life as a troublemaker continued. Newton’s creative flair for language was soon put to use, as he regularly mocked the ship’s captain, deriding him with obscene poems and songs. Other crew member’s shared Newton’s coarse sense of humour, and the songs were regular “hits” on deck. Yet the angry child within Newton wasn’t about to let popularity go to his head, and regular conflicts with his fellow seafarers led to periods of chained imprisonment, often without food. Newton thus found himself shackled like the slaves aboard his ship, and almost starved to death. He was then literally enslaved on a plantation in Sierra Leone. Despairingly, the young Englishman became resigned to his wretched fate, but when he wrote a letter to his father describing his situation, the latter intervened. Shortly thereafter a crew from another ship stumbled upon him, and he was freed.

At the age of 23, Newton was sailing in the Greyhound off the north-east coast of Ireland, when it was hit by a terrible storm. Furious winds tossed the boat while angry seas threatened to swallow it. For hours the crew bailed water from the ship. Newton saw a crewmember swept into the turgid sea right before him. To avoid the same fate, Newton tied himself with another shipmate to the ship’s pump, stating, “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy upon us!” echoing words written in Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, which he had read only several weeks prior. John Newton returned to the deck to take the wheel, steering the battered vessel for almost half a day. In the long hours that it took the Greyhound reach safety, the seas tossed and turned the vessel, even as Newton contemplated his life and relationship with God.

It was another two weeks before the ship was able to land in Ireland, a time during which the crew had almost starved to death. But the safety of port did not quell Newton’s troubled mind. He started to become more humble and prayerful, asking if his wretched existence could be redeemed in the eyes of God. He felt deep guilt at his neglect of faith and mocking derision of others’ religious beliefs.

John Newton’s story was thus forever changed. God had whispered, and the bawdy sailor began to feel that he had a new mission: to do God’s work on Earth. But his was no blinding flash of revelation, no instantaneous conversion. It was a slow unfolding over several years.

Newton changed his attitudes and behaviour enough to convince Polly’s family to allow him to court her and eventually get married. Yet he continued to work as a slave trader, sailing the coasts of Africa as a ship’s captain, then transporting his wretched cargo to North America. It was only when his health deteriorated at age 30 that Newton left the slave business behind. In 1756 he began working as a customs agent in Liverpool, teaching himself Latin, Greek, and theology. And after several years of work in the Church of England community, in 1764 he was eventually ordained and offered the curacy of Olney, a tiny town of some 2500 residents in Buckinghamshire.

Collaborating with William Cowper, Newton wrote the words to Amazing Grace in 1772, as part of a church service. Seven years later a collection of the religious poems of Newton and Cowper was published anonymously as the Olney Hymns. “Amazing Grace” was then entitled “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” Till that point the hymn had had a life of relative obscurity, but it soon became popular in the United States. The version we hear today was set to music by William Walker in 1835.[v]

Despite speculation, there’s no direct evidence that the “wretchedness” mentioned in the song refers to the slave trade, and Newton only voiced abolitionist sentiments after he left Olney in the 1780s. It was nonetheless clearly a religious piece, drawing inspiration from the Bible. The reference to being lost and found, for instance, is taken from the parable of the Prodigal Son, while the theme of being healed of blindness echoes Jesus’ healing a blind man in the Gospel of John.

This is a “wretched” story indeed. But it is not only John Newton’s story. It is, yet again, our story. The journey of the hero. A tale of a man who becomes lost upon dark and stormy seas, who confronts death and the narrative of his own life, who is then to be born again, his story transformed.

Amazing Grace touches a universal human theme, that forgiveness and redemption are available to all humans, no matter how much we have “sinned.”[vi] There is another layer of existence beyond our story of despair and suffering, and it involves a deepening awareness of an intelligence that is not within our immediate control, forces that our small-s-self can barely sense. This is why “Amazing Grace” is one of the most sung of all songs in the English-speaking world, with thousands of recordings. With every orbit of our planet about the yellow star, individuals of our species sing the tune around ten million times.[vii] Many of us live life acting out a story that we did not consciously choose, via a self that has not understood who we truly are. If we can accept that without judging ourselves or others, without making it wrong that we have not quite been true to ourselves, then our Authentic Self is ready to emerge.

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


[i] Anita Moorjani, (2012). Dying to Be Me. Hay House.

[ii] “Amazing Grace.” (2021).Hymnal.net. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/313

[iii] “Amazing Grace.” July 19, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

[iv] Quoted in, “Amazing Grace.” July 19, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

[v] “Amazing Grace.” July 19, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

[vi] “Amazing Grace.” July 19, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

[vii] “Amazing Grace.” July 19, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace