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The Thrill of the Dark Side.

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Moonsmith

Sorry ED, I just don't buy it.

I understand each of the approaches and techniques for attitude change that you describe.  I can see the utility of many of them even if I have doubts about one or two.  They exist and are reported to work.

What I cannot accept is your assertion that:-

21 hours ago, Earthdragon said:

These concepts surely exist for each of us and we can decide what they mean to us and that's a process we can undertake irrespective of the society we live in...

There is no absolute in "these concepts".  They exist for each of us only in the terms that we learned them.  Very few of us would ever re-learn them.

Most of us are not free to adopt the approaches or techniques that you prescribe and within our perceptions of justice have no motivation nor encouragement to do so.  Why would most of us question the veracity of our nurturing tenets?  It's not a prison, it's a very comfortable three bed semi in a very pleasant suburb.  Good and evil are defined in the Shire or The Hood or The Jund or The Ward. 

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Earthdragon
2 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

There is no absolute in "these concepts".

Agreed. I thought I'd said several times that they are subjective.

 

3 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

They exist for each of us only in the terms that we learned them.  Very few of us would ever re-learn them.

As societal values change many people resist that change but many also adopt new ways of seeing and thinking. Look at the broad acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships now compared to even thirty years ago. 

We needn't wait for society to impress the need to change on ourselves we can be our own driver for that sort of change.

I'm not trying to produce a recipe for societal change here but rather looking spirituality and relating it to freedom and morality

3 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

Most of us are not free to adopt the approaches or techniques that you prescribe and within our perceptions of justice have no motivation nor encouragement to do so.  Why would most of us question the veracity of our nurturing tenets?  It's not a prison,

Where does justice come into it? I am not advocating law breaking. I said that the thread reminded me of the Tantric practice of taboo breaking.  Breaking a cultural taboo need not be illegal. Around here where there sabatarianism in extrema , putting out the washing on a Sunday would be breaking a taboo and there would be knocks on the door and awkward conversations. I don't feel the need to do that though.

Can you flesh out your statement about people not being free to choose an approach similar to the one I describe?

As regards why people would question the veracity of our nurturing tenets an obvious reason ,.as others have pointed,  out is tat they are steeped in Christian culture which is adversarial and condemnatory of any and all pagan ways. To my mind also they are influenced by a mechanistic objectifying paradigm.

Also if we are not free to choose then how does the analogy of a prison fall down?

3 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

it's a very comfortable three bed semi in a very pleasant suburb.  Good and evil are defined in the Shire or The Hood or

I'm not suggesting the average 2.4 plus retriever family in say Surbiton will take on this way of looking at themselves at a moment's notice. But as I said I am not trying provoke societal change or give a recipe for anyone in particular. We are simply looking at these ideas and what they mean to us.

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Earthdragon
7 hours ago, Pearlbrook said:

ED, I'd love to discuss this more with you. I trained briefly in person-centred, and intended to do so with transactional analysis. I think the way therapy and the theories of different therapies interact with personality and spirituality is fascinating. I suppose this isn't the thread to do it in, but maybe we should create another

Sure this is a great area to discuss. I'm more than happy to start a new thread on it. 

I am just about to go offline for a couple of weeks or more but we could get underway on it! 😀

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Ellinas

OK, let's do a little experiment.

I do not accept that morality has any meaning.

I do not accept that good and evil have any meaning.

How can it be said of me that "these concepts surely exist for each of us and we can decide what they mean to us" ?

The concepts only exist for me in the sense that Spiderman is a concept.  Sorry to break it to any who think otherwise - but he only exists in books and films.  I do not have to decide what they mean for me, because I find no meaning in them.  For Leonidas, the whipping of the children as they ritually steal cheese is a "good".  For the president of the NSPCC, it is "evil".  Neither is right, save in his own terms, and the terms of those who agree with him.  Neither is wrong, save in his own terms, and the terms of those who agree with him.  How can it be concluded that these "concepts" have any identifiable meaning?

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Earthdragon

Quite right - for completeness I should have included that everyone can also decide also if they have no meaning at all if they choose to 😁 

We agree they are subjective...they as subjective concepts relate to identifiable behaviour. That is their function for those who use them in that way. 

And of course we are free not to recognise them or use them. It's down to how and if they seem useful in one's paradigm or world view. 

Am I missing something in what you've said?

My definition of evil, which isn't a concept I use very much, is my own. I could just as easily use a made up noun but use the word evil as what I'm describing is an equivalence to a commonly perceived particularly undesirable and damaging type of behaviour. My view of it looks at the process that produces that behaviour and includes that as well.

What, in general, makes a concept meaningful to you, Ellinas? Is it that it applies to an objective reality only and is not down to interpretation by individuals?

My morality is not an objective reality. I don't see my morality as something external to myself. My morality might have no meaning to you. If I share it with you it might still have no meaning to you. Do we agree on these things?

Edited by Earthdragon
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Veggie dancer

Looks like Lots of interesting responses to the OP that I haven't read through yet but how wouldn't I define evil? To me I think it boils down to valuing yourself far far above other, people, animals, plants, the environment. Sure we all have a certain amount of self preservation and prioritise ourselves and rightly so but Im talking about total lack of respect and consideration. When people totally destroy for their own entertainment or gratification. 

i don't think dark equals evil. In this context I'd look at it as the other side of the coin. Death is necessary for new life. 

 

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Earthdragon

From the Stamford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

"Morality (from Latin: moralis, lit. 'manner, character, proper behavior') is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal."

This clear defined morality is a matter of having a mechanism of judgment. Most people decide to some degree what behaviour is proper and what is improper. As it says intention is involved in this. The same action can be seen to be either proper or improper depending on the circumstance and the intention. Or, for completeness, the self same action can be seen as neutral. Morality can be derived from different sources but I argue that it is our own morality to adopt, adapt or recreate as we please. A bit like paganism in general as per the other thread by Moonsmith.

Ellinas, If you don't have any relationship to morality would you consider all actions to be neutral? In which case how do you decide what is acceptable or not? Is it a case of the outcome is desirable for you and those important to you? What about possibly damaging outcomes?

Veggie Dancer defines evil (which we could say in general terms is at the extreme negative end of morally improper behaviour) in a particular way and that involves extreme lack of consideration of negative consequences for others. Do you have any similar motivation to avoid such behaviour? If so I would suggest that you have a type of morality.

My own view: Our personal morality is our mechanism for making  decisions on what we do or don't do. 

Whether they are inherited, invented by us, conditioned into us, or are seen to be absolute laws is all down to interpretation and evaluation.

Spiritual sovereignty, to me, involves examining this and re-evaluating my personal morality in the light of what I find.

It entails the freedom to be who I am and who I want to be. All that exists on a spectrum as to the various spheres of life that I interact within and the different aspects of my own self. 

 

Edited by Earthdragon

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Earthdragon
On 4/16/2019 at 5:57 PM, Pearlbrook said:

Appropriate" is an interesting word in this context. How do we judge if your emotions are integrated appropriately?

Well one thing to look for is that we can observe that emotions are not transferred into another place and time. I forgot to mention Gestalt therapy in the above list. One central idea in this is that we look for completeness tomour experiences and if we do not find such then we take the relate emotions and transplant them into similar or resonant situations. Processing our emotions fully means that webcam approach new situations without those from past events being played out (or "played in" in the case of effects in our inner world but not in our behaviour - Impersonally think that there is a fuzzy boundary between "playing out" emotions and "playing in emotions")

 

 

Regarding spirituality:

On 4/16/2019 at 5:57 PM, Pearlbrook said:

I'm not sure I agree whether feedback from others is important or not, to be honest. After all, psychosis and spirituality are not always very far apart, and could be confused by others. Also, the perspective of others is informed by their own experiences and biases. However, monitoring how a person functions and reacts over time is also a useful tool for trying to rule out issues in the psyche. But I think it is very difficult to judge whether someone is experiencing "true" spirituality or not. 

I think this comes down partly to world view and paradigm. If we receive feedback from others who have a different paradigm to our own then their feedback will be useful insofar as itnwill show up where we are at in relation to their way of thinking. Life is about relationships and understanding how others see us is useful. It helps us to empathise. Feedback from those who have a similar paradigm to our own and who , furthermore, have experienced a similar kind of spirituality will perhaps be useful to evaluate our experiences. People experience events differently but there are few aspects spiritual practice that are relevant as regards assessing where we're at and what we are experiencing and doing. One is stability, another is coherence and another is continuity. These are my way of describing things hanging together in a reasonable way though I don't have time to go into them right now. 

Whether it's "true" spirituality - well I think we are all our own teacher and we are all our judge. If someone knows us well, we value their judgment and they think we are going awry in some way then it's probably best to look at why they are saying that...

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Pearlbrook
23 hours ago, Earthdragon said:

Sure this is a great area to discuss. I'm more than happy to start a new thread on it. 

I am just about to go offline for a couple of weeks or more but we could get underway on it! 😀

ED, sorry I am only just replying, it's been a busy 24 hours. I'll get the thread started, probably in General Paganism? 🙂

On 4/17/2019 at 3:25 PM, Earthdragon said:

Also if we are not free to choose then how does the analogy of a prison fall down?

I'm not suggesting the average 2.4 plus retriever family in say Surbiton will take on this way of looking at themselves at a moment's notice. But as I said I am not trying provoke societal change or give a recipe for anyone in particular. We are simply looking at these ideas and what they mean to us.

Not sure of MS's thoughts on this, but I'd say the problem with the analogy of a prison is that most people don't know they're imprisoned (read: constrained or controlled) by the society that dictates their morality. We are taught to simply accept what is right and what is wrong in primary school or nursery. I'm not saying I necessarily think of morals as "imprisoning" a person - I don't - but this draws interesting parallels with the Unabomber case. (If you haven't seen Manhunt: Unabomber I'd thoroughly recommend it as a great dramatisation of the events). 

19 hours ago, Ellinas said:

OK, let's do a little experiment.

I do not accept that morality has any meaning.

I do not accept that good and evil have any meaning.

How can it be said of me that "these concepts surely exist for each of us and we can decide what they mean to us" ?

The concepts only exist for me in the sense that Spiderman is a concept.  Sorry to break it to any who think otherwise - but he only exists in books and films.  I do not have to decide what they mean for me, because I find no meaning in them.  For Leonidas, the whipping of the children as they ritually steal cheese is a "good".  For the president of the NSPCC, it is "evil".  Neither is right, save in his own terms, and the terms of those who agree with him.  Neither is wrong, save in his own terms, and the terms of those who agree with him.  How can it be concluded that these "concepts" have any identifiable meaning?

Interesting, Ellinas. I suppose we have to assume that if you are not constrained by morality, it is only legality which stops you from committing crime in this scenario. I do agree though that identifiable meaning is difficult for such a personal thing, despite the fact that we have these concepts drilled into us in Western society; and also I agree that it is possible for the concepts to simply not exist for us and that is a valid choice. I can see what ED says about that being one path a person can decide under the umbrella response to the concepts, and don't necessarily think his post and yours are at odds.

10 hours ago, Veggie dancer said:

Looks like Lots of interesting responses to the OP that I haven't read through yet but how wouldn't I define evil? To me I think it boils down to valuing yourself far far above other, people, animals, plants, the environment. Sure we all have a certain amount of self preservation and prioritise ourselves and rightly so but Im talking about total lack of respect and consideration. When people totally destroy for their own entertainment or gratification. 

i don't think dark equals evil. In this context I'd look at it as the other side of the coin. Death is necessary for new life. 

 

VD, I like this definition and think it is a really interesting idea I'm going to have to think more about. But at the same time I'd play devil's advocate and ask: why is this not a moral choice? What is morality to you? Is there a difference between a person being immoral (as you'd judge it) and being evil? What makes the above an evil choice or an evil person? I suppose I think of "evil" as the worst of the worst of the worst, and although I agree that your example is greedy and unthinking, I'm not sure I'd call it "evil". 

9 hours ago, Earthdragon said:

This clear defined morality is a matter of having a mechanism of judgement. Most people decide to some degree what behaviour is proper and what is improper. As it says intention is involved in this. The same action can be seen to be either proper or improper depending on the circumstance and the intention. Or, for completeness, the self same action can be seen as neutral. Morality can be derived from different sources but I argue that it is our own morality to adopt, adapt or recreate as we please. A bit like paganism in general as per the other thread by Moonsmith.

Ellinas, If you don't have any relationship to morality would you consider all actions to be neutral? In which case how do you decide what is acceptable or not? Is it a case of the outcome is desirable for you and those important to you? What about possibly damaging outcomes?

...

My own view: Our personal morality is our mechanism for making  decisions on what we do or don't do. 

Whether they are inherited, invented by us, conditioned into us, or are seen to be absolute laws is all down to interpretation and evaluation.

 

I'll try and unpack my thoughts on this, but it might be long and winding so sorry about that! 

I agree that it boils down to what is personally, situationally and societally appropriate; and like you say, this is a judgement that each of us makes based on our own views and the views of the society we live and were brought up in. If the choice is that everything is appropriate, that is an option, too. I always liked the chaos magic idea that "nothing is true, everything is possible". I suppose my question is, other than social cohesion, why should we accept that there are certain things we just don't do? Lawlessness is something that is hard to comprehend here in cushy, tightly controlled UK and easy to pronounce judgement on; but there are countries both historical and contemporary that are entirely lawless. Life for a lot of people there is probably traumatic, but there will always be some for whom this is a realisation of their potential and their true self. Does selfishness, inconsideration of others or lack of empathy automatically make these people evil? Are people sufficiently complicated that is impossible to call someone all wrong or all right? Is El Chapo a folk hero or a murdering mobster? We can try and judge individual actions as moral or immoral, but it is impossible to take into account all the consequences of actions and when you step back it is almost impossible to say whether someone is generally moral or immoral. 

I also think the question of intention is an interesting side discussion. Does intention really matter? Or are actions the only thing of any real importance? If I hurt someone without meaning to, am I less responsible for their pain? This is going to be extremely controversial and it is only me playing devil's advocate, but why does America execute those judged competent but evil, and spare those who it calls incompetent? If we judge by intention, are we not ultimately saying that the person is good or bad, rather than the action?  Are we ignoring the fact that our decisions are ruled not only by society's judgements but also by our personal circumstances and sensations at the point at which we choose to be social or anti-social. We are very hard to separate from our environments and circumstances if you get right down to it. To me, that makes a lot of moral judgements difficult or impossible. My pet hate is when a judge tells someone how evil they are.

All that aside, and it is rather a jumble of stream of consciousness I appreciate, I do agree with your bottom line. Morality is a mechanism for decision making, however we acquire or un-acquire it. 

2 hours ago, Earthdragon said:

Well one thing to look for is that we can observe that emotions are not transferred into another place and time. I forgot to mention Gestalt therapy in the above list. One central idea in this is that we look for completeness to our experiences and if we do not find such then we take the relate emotions and transplant them into similar or resonant situations. Processing our emotions fully means that we can approach new situations without those from past events being played out (or "played in" in the case of effects in our inner world but not in our behaviour - I personally think that there is a fuzzy boundary between "playing out" emotions and "playing in emotions")

I must admit, I am not fully up-to-scratch on Gestalt, but this sounds similar to the Psychodynamic theories of transference? I agree that past experiences can definitely present themselves to a greater or lesser degree in our present lives and decisions, and a lot of situations can spark old patterns of responding and feeling. I don't know, though, whether we can ever completely eliminate this effect. I am not a person who believes in closure. Therapy can certainly present methods of recognising and combating unhelpful patterns, and I myself have shed many old fears and automatic responses to situations, but it will take a great deal of time for them to feel sufficiently processed and forgotten. I guess the question also comes: what if someone uses the techniques, uses mindfulness, brings themselves to the realisation of the present, enters wise mind and makes the Adult, informed choice to continue what they are doing?

2 hours ago, Earthdragon said:

Regarding spirituality:

I think this comes down partly to world view and paradigm. If we receive feedback from others who have a different paradigm to our own then their feedback will be useful insofar as it will show up where we are at in relation to their way of thinking. Life is about relationships and understanding how others see us is useful. It helps us to empathise. Feedback from those who have a similar paradigm to our own and who , furthermore, have experienced a similar kind of spirituality will perhaps be useful to evaluate our experiences. People experience events differently but there are few aspects spiritual practice that are relevant as regards assessing where we're at and what we are experiencing and doing. One is stability, another is coherence and another is continuity. These are my way of describing things hanging together in a reasonable way though I don't have time to go into them right now. 

Whether it's "true" spirituality - well I think we are all our own teacher and we are all our judge. If someone knows us well, we value their judgement and they think we are going awry in some way then it's probably best to look at why they are saying that...

Agree with most of this! I suppose my only argument is how do you know it is not the other person who is immoral/unhinged?! Without a window directly into their holistic experience we can't judge whether their validation of us matters or not. I think your ideas of assessment sound really interesting, and I'd very much like to hear more of them. Stability, coherence and continuity are probably the three things that I find hardest to manifest or uphold in life! This is obviously going to colour my view as to their necessity.

In a way, and maybe I've been brain washed by the therapy I've been taught, I think that NOT being our own judge is the truly transcendent state of being. Rising above the judgements of right/wrong/moral/immoral is in many ways something which the established psychological theorists tell us to strive for, if taken to extremes. To observe our actions not in terms of judgements but just as they are is something probably not realistically attainable, but feels like peace to me. 

Does our impact on others matter? Do we care because of evolutionary psychology, societal conditioning, personal choice, need to conform, all of the above? I think that's a personal choice and I suppose my impact on others (be they human, animal, rock or anything else you can think out) does form the basis of a personal philosophy or morality: back to my previous statement, my morality is simply what I can comfortably live with. I just recognise that for some, that would include raping, torturing, brutalising and murdering another person while Funky Town plays in the background. And I'm glad the person who can live with that isn't me.

I hope my rambling hasn't totally derailed the original thread, but I'm very much enjoying this conversation 🙂 

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Earthdragon
9 minutes ago, Pearlbrook said:

General Paganism? 🙂

Sounds good

10 minutes ago, Pearlbrook said:

other than social cohesion, why should we accept that there are certain things we just don't do?

Speaking for myself and as a person who like you is aware of how we live in a very safe country compared to some parts of the globe or this country in past times, I think that it boils down to what it means to flourish as David put it and what it means to be in conflict. The violence in nature is usually about taking in order to live and its survival related. We as humans are the most consuming and active beings on  the planet and we have alternatives in how to  achieve this.  If I pursue conflict and violence to achieve what I want then alot of my energy is going to be used up dealing with the enemies that I make. That's the practical side but for me it's mainly about simple enjoyment and relaxation to pursue the pleasures that are to be had in this life. Like you mentioned earlier the more peace there is in life the more potential there for deep contentedness and fulfillment. Also because of the influences I have had and my personality I like to do spiritual work. I like then outcomes that I get from that. It helps to bring inner peace for me. If I allow this to affect my relations with other then it tends to be a positive effect according to this way of looking at things. There is a bit more peace and space for enjoyment in relationships.

Ultimately when someone smiles at you and one smiles back we don't need to create theories and concepts to know that this is a positive experience. I guess it stems from our formative experiences as a human being - it's universal. All humans smile in the same language (a bit of philosophical wisdom from Jefferson Airplane lol ) and it is a similar thing , I think, to be peaceful with people rather than in conflict. 

29 minutes ago, Pearlbrook said:

I think that NOT being our own judge is the truly transcendent state of being. Rising above the judgements of right/wrong/moral/immoral is in many ways something which the established psychological theorists tell us to strive for, 

Interesting. Judgment as a word carries many overtones doesn't it. 

Perhaps being discerning about ourselves and our actions is more in the spirit of what I mean. I do tend to use the word judge though and you ahve given me something to think on there.

Really interesting all of this and very enjoyable , yes. 

Short of time now and as I mentioned I'll offline for a couple of weeks soon...

Best,

ED

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Ellinas
On 4/17/2019 at 11:20 PM, Earthdragon said:

What, in general, makes a concept meaningful to you, Ellinas?

Whether or not I can identify anything that allows me to ascribe a usable meaning to it.  Whether it conveys anything useful to me.  Not quite the same thing as having a definition.

 

On 4/18/2019 at 8:23 AM, Earthdragon said:

Ellinas, If you don't have any relationship to morality would you consider all actions to be neutral? In which case how do you decide what is acceptable or not? Is it a case of the outcome is desirable for you and those important to you? What about possibly damaging outcomes?

I do not consider actions to be neutral.  To do so would indicate that I accept the concept of morality, of good and evil, and regard actions to have no impact on those concepts.  I do not accept that the concepts exist save as an intellectual fiction.  Hence, they have no "meaning" to me, and neither does the concept of neutrality in relation to them.  For the rest, see below.

 

16 hours ago, Pearlbrook said:

Ellinas. I suppose we have to assume that if you are not constrained by morality, it is only legality which stops you from committing crime in this scenario. I do agree though that identifiable meaning is difficult for such a personal thing, despite the fact that we have these concepts drilled into us in Western society; and also I agree that it is possible for the concepts to simply not exist for us and that is a valid choice. I can see what ED says about that being one path a person can decide under the umbrella response to the concepts, and don't necessarily think his post and yours are at odds.

Legality certainly has the advantage of being identifiable.  I am a lawyer.  I have no interest in, or patience with, terms I've seen and heard in the medial concerning "court of public opinion" or "court of morality".  There are no such institutions, no body of rule or principle to which they refer or which they enforce.  Professionally, I am interested only in legally established rules, principles and the facts to which they apply.

A rule is a linguistic proposition that is fact specific and issues a directive.  A principle is a linguistic proposition that is non-fact specific and indicates a direction.  That is not an original thought - I borrow it from the jurisprudential thought of Professor Dworkin.

Personally, I do not commit crime because I have no reason to do so.  The question of punishment (and, in my case, loss of employment) are factors to take into account in deciding whether I have such a reason.  I can conceive - quite easily - of circumstances where I might commit a crime.  Fortunately, those circumstances have never occurred.  I can also conceive of ways of confusing the issue of the "morality" of crime for those who accept the concept of morality.

I don't want to cause suffering.  I have no reason to do so.  That distress has an element of emotional contagion is a factor to take into account in deciding whether I have such a reason.  If I find I have a reason, then it is entirely possible I would cause suffering.  Arguably, I do so every time I get someone locked up.

Rather than morality, I prefer to think in terms of responsibility.  I do what I have reason to do, on whatever basis, and accept the consequences - even if those consequences are unpleasant.

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Pearlbrook

Ellinas, I don't think there is anything I can add to that other than that I think there is a lot of overlap in our views and you have put it in ways that I couldn't have. 

I also think an important point is this idea about legality vs morality. I know it has been discussed here already, but we in the UK tend to be brought up to think of these things as one and the same. In the primary school class room, "right" and "wrong" tend to cover "legal" and "illegal" as well as morality and of course school rules, and it is never explicitly spelled out that there is a distinction. That the law is not really concerned with morality is something which not everyone thinks about.

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