Monday, December 18, 2006

Losing the Chains

The following is from an emailed brochure I received from the College of Metaphysical Studies, Clearwater, Florida. I am unfamiliar with the College of Metaphysical Studies, and I’m skeptical of places with names like that, but I enjoyed the title and description of this course:

"RELIGION – THE CULTURAL BASIS FOR STUPIDITY (CT-109/1.0 CH): Starting Monday, January 22. Instructor is Dr. Paul F. Daniele. As a cultural constant, stupidity is routinely transmitted from one generation to the next by the time-honored mechanism of the vicious cycle. Poorly adjusted children mature into maladjusted adults, and then using the same techniques their parents used on them to raise yet another generation of misinformed conformists or malcontented sociopaths. If there is some selection pressure acting to weed stupidity out of each generation, it is, apparently, easily offset by a willing disposition of people to spread it and encourage its continual, spontaneous synthesis."

There’s no doubt that one of the most difficult things facing any individual is to break the vicious cycle of “stupidity” (ignorance, second-hand beliefs) and to find some footing beyond what was passed down by previous generations.

We all know that we are victims of negative ideas about ourselves and the world which we gleaned from the words and example of those who raised and taught us. Probably the most difficult thing in my life has been to shake off such ideas, especially after experience reinforced some of them, even though my parents were very well-meaning and provided what most would consider an unusually benign environment. While I complain about my father’s negative attitudes and the contagious insanity of the Bible according to the Baptists, there very well may be something in me, in my genes, in my other lives, which made me inclined to accumulate negative thoughts in childhood and adolescence.

Environment is not a good predictive factor. One of the things which makes humans so unpredictable is that of two brothers raised in the same circumstances by the same parents – say in a slum – one will blame his endless failures and degeneracy on his environment, while his brother will become a dynamic and creative “success”, which he credits to the stimulation of rebelling against the same circumstances which crushed his brother.

If there were one way I could choose to help other people, it would be to give them a key to freeing themselves from the bondage of their pasts. I haven’t been granted that key. All I can say is that rather than giving in to severe defeatist notions (some of which I creatively invented for myself), I was driven on by desire and enthusiasm and ambition, so that I was never willing to accept the deprivations that surrender would have brought.

The only method of solution I can offer to anyone, based on personal experience, is to keep trying and trying and trying, and although many years of effort may be required, some freedom from the past is gradually achieved.

I was helped not only by luck and a strong life force, but by books such as PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who realized that the self-image held by his patients was more important than their physical appearance. CREATIVE VISUALIZATION, by Shakti Gawain, while not dealing particularly with freeing oneself from the past, was a great help to me, showing the power of imagination and will to bring the results one wants.

I realize that “self-help” books offer no magical cure, and that currently popular authors like Chopra and Wayne Dyer have supplanted those who first helped me, but there is only a small core of truths, and it emerges repetitiously, with minor variations, generation after generation. There is never a time when the “self help” sections of the bookstores don’t carry the same old ideas wearing new cosmetics.

From the 1920’s my mother remembered Emile Coue, of “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” fame – and I saw it pop up in a new incarnation in the Silva Method. I scoffed at Norman Vincent Peale, but some of the same core of truths made THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING a best-seller as did Napoleon Hill’s staple of comic book advertising –THINK AND GROW RICH. Say what you will about those messages being simplistic, I think that over a long time they had the cumulative effect of eroding stones that kept my river from flowing.

And the truth about consciousness and Self, as far as we humans can know it, IS simple. . . maybe because we’re capable of grasping so little. The best book I’ve ever read on consciousness and self-transformation is THE POWER OF NOW, by Eckhart Tolle, and his message is so simple that I suspect he had trouble filling a whole book . . . and what he has written and spoken since then is essentially a repetition of what he said in the first place. Rather than a criticism, this is actually a tribute.

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