New Book.

Transpersonaljourneys has the pleasure of introducing a new book by Cassie James and David Belau depicting beautiful photography taken on their adventures across Australia and New Zealand. The Work is available via Lulu Publishing.

Rewards.

The above poster is contained in the Riley Collection at the Victorian State Library, Australia and it will appear on the Riley Collection website.  It is always a great feeling to know that one’s work is appreciated.  This particular poster, produced 33 years ago, was inspired by the photographs of Angelia Davis, the 1960s African American Civil Rights leader, someone for whom I had a great admiration.

Earthquakes and Tsunami in Indonesia.

                                                   Photo: CNN.27th Sept. 2018.

Is it not time we took climate change seriously?  There have been so many natural disasters in the past few years, surely we cannot call these incidents “natural” in the true sense of the word.  Humans need to be accountable.  As we continue to dig into the entrails of Mother Earth and manufacture weapons for more wars, we need to take notice of the fact that we are all living on borrowed time.  More pain, more mental health issues.  No planet, no life.

My condolences to all involved.

The art of Reading Symbols.

The art of reading symbols is a complex discipline, but those who have this skill can read the details of another secret world that remains cloaked in mystery and suspicion; and along with the hidden mystery and suspicion there comes the hidden trauma.

Take for example Homer’s ancient story of Odysseus who is on his way home from the Trojan War when he is captured by the nymph Calypso who professes her love for him.  Odysseus finds compassion in the goddess Athena and she has him released, but on the way home Poseidon creates a great storm and shipwrecks the vessel that carries Odysseus.

Odysseus then blinds Poseidon’s son Cyclops and continues his journey home only to be turned into a pig by a witch. Odysseus then arrives home disguised as a pig and sees his wife has a number of other suiters. Athena sets a test for the suiters, whoever can string Odysseus’ bow and blast an arrow through twelve axe heads has Penelope’s hand.  Only Odysseus passes the test and he celebrates by killing or mutilating everyone in the household.

The story of Odysseus reveals an important transition in the ancient human history of killing,  from the sacrificing of animals to the gods to sacrificing humans.  The sacrifices to the gods still exist today, only the gods take another form, they are in the building of monuments, the insignia of generals and leaders.  They are robots, machines, drones, guns bombs and fighter planes, everything we value over nature and human existence.   Each new invention must be put to the test as must each new leader or general and the winner takes all.

Such worlds rarely reveal their presence in ordinary circumstances, they arrive with the unexpected, through crises and altered states of consciousness. Trauma is intergenerational and it changes consciousness. These extraordinary states come with memories, histories and the emotional feelings of abandonment, pain and suffering.   Trauma also comes with a loss of identity and a loss of belonging. It happens to everyone, no one is alone with their trauma and we are all put to the test.

We can experience these traumatic events in two ways, we can continue the suffering by transferring it onto others, or we can create new pathways to freedom.  The lessons on transformative freedom are available to everyone willing to undertake the journey.   We might think the Homeric poems are not valid today, but we need them more now than ever before.

Writing about Writing: Contextual Histories.

Patience opens the door to more meaningful opportunities.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media  having been banned from posting on Facebook for several weeks. I have no idea why I was banned, all I do is post positive messages of peace and joy.  There was no one to contact when the ban occurred and no appeal process. When I see some of the destructive messages posted on social media that seem to stay there for weeks on end my ban does not make a lot of sense.  Maybe this is just an indication of the world we are now confronting, a nonsensical world out of which we must create some order. Order requires all of us to exercise some discipline.    Besides going vegan, doing my daily yoga exercises and taking a walk every day, writing has been my greatest form of discipline.  Writing helps me to delve into the past, explore the unconscious and the emotions that get attatched to every day events. Below is a taste of my research for the new book I am currently writing.

                                            Medieval woodblock, Anonymous.

Fact.

The Knights Templar.

In 1300 BC a great famine in Palestine forced the Jews out of Palestine and into Egypt. There the Pharaohs used the Jews as slave labour and treated them with immense cruelty.   Moses, the first of the great prophets, then led the Jews out of Egypt and into the desert. While the Jewish travellers were resting Moses went alone to Mount Sinai as ask for God’s advice.   On Mount Sinai Moses received God’s Ten Commandments, also known as the Ark and the Covenant, but Moses was away for so long the people, fearing their plight, made a Golden Calf for their worship.  The Jews rejected God’s Commandments and instead worshiped their old idols, Astarte, Baal and the Golden Calf.

In the first millennium BC David a descendant of Moses conquered the city of Jerusalem from its indigenous inhabitants the Jedusites. David and Moses both arose from the same lineage that dated back to Jacob, also called Israel.  They came from different sons of Jacob, David was from the tribe of Judah, while Moses was from the tribe of Levi. The Ark of the Covenant was in the care of the Levites.

Below the citadel on Mount Moab David bought a site for a Temple that would house the Ark and the Covenant, but David had no right to it, he was not even allowed to touch it.  David assembled the materials for the Temple, but it was eventually built by his son Solomon in about 950 BC.  The Ark remained with the Levites until Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.

Israel remained an independent state until Solomon’s death when it was conquered by nations to the east that included the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Persians. The Temple was destroyed by the Chaldeans in 568 BC and the Jews were transported to Babylon as slaves. The Chaldeans were then conquered by the Persians who allowed the Jews to rebuild their Temple in 515. The Persians were then conquered by the Greeks, but due to their absence many of the regions were actually governed by Jews.  In 167 BC the Jews gained their independence, but not without constant struggles against neighbouring states. Jerusalem was then placed under the guardianship of the rising Roman Emperors who became the arbiters of power over the entire Jewish State.  The Jews could not assimilate into the Greek or Roman way of life.  Instead, they retained their destiny as God’s chosen people. This was to result in an inevitable fight for their homeland.

A group calling themselves the Zealots resisted the Romans, but they were outnumbered.  Many Zealots burned their possessions, took their own lives and those of their families rather than being tortured and killed by the Romans. A second uprising, led in part by the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth was predicated on the idea that the only way to a victory was to turn the Gentiles into Jews and increase their numbers, but the Jewish conservatives rebelled against this idea. Hence, the second uprising produced a worse result than the first. Many Jews were forced to flee. Nonetheless,  a small number of Jews began preaching to the Gentiles, thus the religion of Christianity was born.

During the many ensuing wars over the governance of Jerusalem a group of men called the Hospitallers assisted the wounded and sick who came to their hospitals from the battlefields. The Hospitalers were so concerned about the ongoing wars they banded together to create their own military order aiming to drive the Islamic forces out of Jerusalem.  They became the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, otherwise called The Order of Saint John.    They were joined by another group, The Order of the Temple who were a religious-military institution founded by a group of warriors in Jerusalem in the decades following the First Crusade of 1097–99. The group first received royal and church approval in 1120, and papal authorisation in January 1129. They protected Christian pilgrims on the roads to the pilgrimage sites around Jerusalem and also helped to defend the territories that the First Crusade had conquered. As members of a religious order, they made three vows: to obey their superior officer, to avoid sexual activity and to have no personal property. They were called ‘Templars’ after their headquarters in Jerusalem, the Aqsa mosque, which westerners believed was King Solomon’s temple.

Western European Christians gave the Templars gifts of land, money and tax concessions to help their Crusades, and the brothers of the order also traded and acted as government officials for the rulers of western Christendom. They acquired large estates in western Europe, set up farming businesses, travellers inns and they  acted as bankers.   In the Middle East they and their fellow military orders, the Hospitallers, faced increasingly devastating assaults from the well-equipped and well trained Islamic forces. The sultan of Egypt conquered Jerusalem in 1244, and in 1291, Acre, the final capital of the crusaders’ kingdom, fell to the Muslim army. The Templars and the Hospitallers who escaped the massacre at the hands of the sultan’s forces moved their headquarters to Cyprus and set about trying to organise a new crusade.

The Templar grand master, Jacques de Molay, was in France planning such a crusade when he and all the Templars in France 
were arrested on the order of King Philip IV of France in October 1307. The brothers were charged with heresy, tortured and killed.

In April 1312 Pope Clement announced that although the Templars were not proven guilty, the order’s good name had been so damaged that it could not continue. He dissolved the order and transferred most of its properties to the Hospitallers. The Templars were sent to live in other religious houses, and their order ceased to exist.

The Templers in 14th-century Britain.

At the time of the arrests in January 1308, there were Templars resident in only 35 of their known houses in England. The king’s sheriffs who arrested the Templars also confiscated their lands. Royal officials administered these and sent their revenues to the king’s exchequer. The king gave some of the estates to his favourites and to important nobles. Many lands were returned to the families who had originally given them to the Templars.

In May 1312 Pope Clement gave the Templars’ lands to the Hospitallers, but the king and his nobles refused to give them up. It took the Hospitallers more than two decades to gain the bulk of the Templars’ English estates; they never recovered some properties.

The Templars’ estates in Britain were concentrated in the east of England and the southern Midlands, with some lands on the English-Welsh border, and there were two sites in Scotland. Their location depended mainly on property which landowners had donated, someTemplars also purchased their own estates.

Templar farms and other lands were grouped into commanderies with the larger manors  administering the lesser holdings. Commanderies in Britain were on flat or gently rolling land, and often sited on rivers for trade and good transportation.

 The Trials in France.

King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of all the Templars in France on 13 October 1307, charged with denying Christ when they were received into the order, spitting on the cross and exchanging obscene kisses, committing sodomy with each other, and worshipping an idol. He ordered they be tortured and killed.

Pope Clement V initially protested, then ordered the arrest of all Templars in Christendom and their interrogation for heresy. In August 1308 the Pope reported that the leading Templars in France had confessed to “horrible things” and that he had absolved them – on condition that they perform penance –and  he tried to ensure that the Templars had a fair hearing. In fact, the only Templars to confess to any of the charges were those under the jurisdiction of the king of France or his relatives.

In the kingdom of Aragon, King James II ordered the Templars’ arrest, but had to besiege them in their castles before he could enforce this. The Templars were interrogated, but failed to confess to anything.

In northern Italy the archbishop of Ravenna refused to allow torture to be used and no Templars confessed. In Cyprus, the Templars and non-Templars who gave evidence insisted that they were innocent. In Portugal King Dinis brought a legal case against the Templars to recover lands given to them by his predecessors, but there was no heresy trial. In all, the results of the trials outside France supported the Templars’ innocence.[1]

Much of the history written about the Templars gives focus to the exotic warrior knights,their exploits and their demise,  but there were many Templars with smaller, less conspicuous roles who were clerks, builders and community officials.  There are families with Templar origins that no one has ever heard of.

The Templars organisation still survives to this day and as individuals they have left their mark on the most unsuspecting of people and places.  My work examines some of the Templar influences at a grass roots family level.

[1] https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-templars-a-brief-history/

 

Light and Dark.

Light and Dark Art.

Edit “Light and Dark Art.”

THE ART OF FAME AND THE SELF-DEPRECIATION OF THE SUBJECT.

Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise.

The Temple of Fame. Alexander Pope 1688-1744.

It is often said that fame has its other in tragedy, but the person aspiring to attract fame feels gifted and unique, s/he thinks little of the intra-psychic factors that might be driving the desire for mass recognition or the dissociation that can come from it.

In the 1950s the word fame was hardly in common usage, at least not amongst the mainstream populous.  Moreover, there was a marked difference between those endowed with celebrity status and those who acquired true fame.  Traditionally, fame was only afforded to people who selflessly served humanity.   In the aftermath of the Second World War fame was more or less attributed to dead heroes. The dead were, by definition, beyond any kind of rapprochement for the life they may have lived or how they gained their fame.   Awarding fame to individuals after the armistice was good public relations because it made heroes out of victims.

By the 1960s the understanding of fame shifted to become an accepted part of the cultural paradigm.  Social values and community expectations had changed, religions and traditions were seemingly oppressive, family units were disintegrating; mobility had increased as had the availability of labour saving devices which provided more leisure time.  While many devoted attention to the rich and famous amongst others there was a heightened social awareness.

In the 1970s fame became dislocated from its sentiments of altruism and respect when the entire notion of the rational human being was called into question.   Fame was then linked to novelty, revolt, money and as much scandal as any one person could create.  In this climate many popular actors, politicians, writers and artists became eligible for fame. Many aspirants jumped on the bandwagon to glory, more frequently to their peril than to their success.

Economic and environmental changes made fame into a commodity fetish.  Fame was democratically advantageous in a society that had become regionalized, segmented, compartmentalized and fully commoditized to suit the logic of international markets. Ambitions towards fame did not have to extend to the global stage; one could be a famous ‘big fish’ in a small pond and still feel a similar sense of empowerment. Fame was also integral to a Human Potential Movement which opened the way for consideration of the individual (‘I’) in relation to its other.  Fame could only occur through engagement with the other.

Fame does not lend itself to a simple definition, but those who gain great fame experience extraordinary lives of power and wealth. As evolutionary theory would suggest fame can only occur when the appropriate material conditions are in place to create it as the solution to a problem.  The problem in the 1970s was how to open up Western society to the world without losing power to foreign entrepreneurs.   The famous were good ambassadors; they were multi-skilled and culturally productive.   Fame was the ambrosia of a progressive post-war economy and today more and more people seem to be achieving its distinction.

Fame has proven its usefulness, but it comes at a cost.  Many famous people have resorted to suicide upon reaching their goals; they include Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemmingway, Sylvia Plath, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams and so on. The downside of fame is that it has its binary opposite in the obfuscation of the corporal body, albeit not always ending in death, but certainly in the depreciation of the primary Subject.

Fame appears to eschew feelings of obscurity and shame, but it also repudiates the primary identity that keeps human beings integrated into the normally stable social structures.   Fame is a transcendent state that separates itself from the primary body and it must therefore be constantly reinvented along a chain of often unrelated signifiers, this causes the original Subject/Thing to disappear.  Fame is not a material realty. Rather fame is a story, or better still, a phantasmagoria.

In a 2012 interview for the American television program 60 Minutes reporter Anderson Cooper asked pop star Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Joanne Germanotta) how she felt about having so much fame (see the interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suu47LOvCs4). Gaga is constantly in performance mode, she cannot go anywhere without the paparazzi hot on her heels. She must constantly change her dress, style and persona to keep her audience interested, but she never seems to tire of the task. Gaga, refers to herself as a ‘performance artist’ and the ‘Master of Fame’.

Notably, Gaga’s meteoric rise to fame has been predicated on the artist’s outrageous costumes, which have included a raw meat frock, a monster snake and bridesmaid’s outfit.   She dons ten inch high-heel shoes and often appears in scanty underwear that it is designed to shock.  Gaga is renowned for her outrageous behaviour as well as the overtly expressed desire to empower her followers.  What is little known about Gaga is that she is an avid scholar, an intellectual, and a classically trained and talented musician.

Gaga enjoys fame and she has created a life in a separate space to her personal and academic existence because she wants to protect what she refers to as her ‘soulfulness’.  Here is the conundrum; the protection of ‘soulfulness’ must inevitably include the corporal body upon which it is based, but the creation of the other (Gaga) must also include the constant depreciation of the body corporal.  In every performance Gaga erodes the very substance that sustains its constant re-invention.

The artist always already makes his or her own production problematic as if it were a separate entity to the ‘Subject/Thing’ because it can only survive when it is open to the other, whereby making the other responsible for the ultimate depreciation of the ‘Subject/Thing’.  Gaga takes this idea to the edge by covering herself with blood and is seen hanging from a rope and dying before her audience.  Asked why she performs this role Gaga says, ‘people want to see decay…They want to see people who have it all and lose it all’.  She is right! How many people flock to a disaster to witness the injury or death of the other, thus pre-empting the horror of their own possible misfortune?

The urge towards demise in the other harks back to Freud’s death instinct, ‘the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state’.  In classical psychoanalysis this is a re-submission into the primary identification and the first separation from the mother.  The philosopher Julia Kristeva calls this dynamic ‘agape’.  Agape means ‘Love’, but Kristeva contends agape is a varied source of comfort, for instance ‘…to be challenged by art is to be confronted by a void of non-meaning and the prospect of our own hell, our own suffering’.  Kristeva argues ‘the unsettling element and its strangeness might become the basis for another self’.

When the primary body is rendered obsolete or it becomes the disappearing body it also becomes the unnameable and that which is simultaneously the foundation of a phantasm.  The dilemma is clear, to use another metaphor, if one removes the soil from under the mountain, the summit will inevitably collapse and disappear.

       Undoubtedly, performance art (in all its forms) presupposes the limits of a binary system and operates in an elevated psychic spectrum where all the various domains can be grafted into an object. Hence, every work, performance or fame invokes a detachment.   Detachment from the Subject/Thing requires clarity for the production of its surrogate which forms its own identity.  Detachment gives the melancholic control over the depressive states; it transforms fears into calm and creates opportunities out of disappointments.   By enacting the expressions of loss in psychic space, other domains can be preserved.  Put differently, by relocating suffering into performance the artist gains resurrection.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem The House of Fame 1379 and 1380, the author devotes three books to the dream state.  While sleeping in a glass house Chaucer is guided by an eagle to the House of Fame which is sound, light and a pathway to Heaven and the Gods.[1]  Today the Heavenly God is dead, but the phantasmagoria lives on.

Sources:

Julia Kristeva, 1983.   Histories d’amour. ICA documents page p21.

Sigmund Freud, 1987.Metapsychology. (Middlesex, Penguin) p. 316.

Kathryn Lynch, (Ed). Geoffrey Chaucer (2007). Dream visions and other poems. N.Y. W.W. Norton.

___________________________________________________________

 

I have always been interested in the dark side of human behaviour that surfaces from the oldest and deepest part of the primal brain.

Watching dreams.
We are still in this together.
We are in this together.
When dreams fade away.
Under the last moon.
Undecided.
Darkness.
Truth.
Edge of faith.
Souls
Core.
Tangled Angels

 

Slave.
Lost fairy.
Not the right way.
Mothman.
Me and the silence
I’ve lost my mind
I will survive.
Hope 2
Hope 1
Hollow Hills
Flying Brain.
Femme Arbre
Escapar
No Title.
Desperation.
Brainwash.

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Writing about writing.

                                                             Don’t overthink it!

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  I do!  I gave up teaching last year to focus on my writing. Focus is the key to succes I am told. A year later I discovered a book I wrote with little expectation of big sales has attract the anthropology departments of universities around the world, including China.  How much more can a writer ask for?  Writing for money is a lost cause, even the greatest of writers have to rely on movie or television series contracts to make a killing.  Writing for one’s self is a good place to start, but writing to share with no financial motivation has its own rewards.

I find the most difficult form of writing is disclosing oneself to others. I am by nature an introvert.  I also find writing about one’s self rather narcissistic. I have learned that focussing on the self simply makes a person neurotic.  It is better to be writing about others.   Writing for others is much more rewarding.

 I have a problem.  I am currently writing an historical novel, it is kind of an esoteric family history ( a family I have never known) but I don’t want it to be a poor version of the Dan Brown mystery model.  Nor do I want it to be somebody’s confessional (although confessional literatures do better than anything else in the mainstream markets).

The work started out as a straight forward depiction of individuals, but clearly none would wish to be identified, so I turned it into a novel. Now I am thinking does my work lose much of its purpose as a novel?  I don’t think so.  If one looks a literary history in the works of Lawrence, Dickens, Austen, Hemmingway and many more we see more than just stories, what we see is an epoch in history we can learn from. That said, a novel requires an excellent command of dialogue and being an introvert, I tend to make dialogue analytical and complex, it is just what introverts do; we are complex people. There is another option, the epistolary novel.  I turned to Wiki for guidence.

“There are two theories on the genesis of the epistolary novel. The first claims that the genre originated from novels with inserted letters, in which the portion containing the third person narrative in between the letters was gradually reduced.  The other theory claims that the epistolary novel arose from miscellanies of letters and poetry: some of the letters were tied together into a (mostly amorous) plot.  Both claims have some validity. The first truly epistolary novel, the Spanish “Prison of Love” (Cárcel de amor) (c.1485) by Diego de San Pedro, belongs to a tradition of novels in which a large number of inserted letters already dominated the narrative. Other well-known examples of early epistolary novels are closely related to the tradition of letter-books and miscellanies of letters. Within the successive editions of Edmé Boursault’s Letters of Respect, Gratitude and Love (Lettres de respect, d’obligation et d’amour) (1669), a group of letters written to a girl named Babet were expanded and became more and more distinct from the other letters, until it formed a small epistolary novel entitled Letters to Babet (Lettres à Babet). The immensely famous Letters of a Portuguese Nun (Lettres portugaises) (1669) generally attributed to Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, comte de Guilleragues, though a small minority still regard Marianna Alcoforado as the author, is claimed to be intended to be part of a miscellany of Guilleragues prose and poetry.  The founder of the epistolary novel in English is said by many to be James Howell (1594–1666) with “Familiar Letters” (1645–50), who writes of prison, foreign adventure, and the love of women”.

Below is a list of epistolary novels.  I was very touched by Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which leaves me thinking that the epistolary novel is the methodology I will employ.  Like The Color Purple, my work tells a sad story with a happy ending.

List of epistolary novels.

  • John Cleland’s early erotic novel Fanny Hill (1748) is written as a series of letters from the titular character to an unnamed recipient.
  • The Coquette; or, The History of Eliza Wharton (1797) by Hannah Webster Foster is a series of letters between several characters.
  • Sophia Briscoe used the form in both her novels: Miss Melmoth… (1771) and The Fine Lady… (1772).
  • Marianne Ehrmann wrote the epistolary novel Amalie and Minna around 1787.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky used the epistolary format for his first novel, Poor Folk (1846), as a series of letters between two friends, struggling to cope with their impoverished circumstances and life in pre-revolution Russia.
  • The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins uses a collection of various documents to construct a detective novel in English. In the second piece, a character explains that he is writing his portion because another had observed to him that the events surrounding the disappearance of the eponymous diamond might reflect poorly on the family, if misunderstood, and therefore he was collecting the true story. This is an unusual element, as most epistolary novels present the documents without questions about how they were gathered. He also used the form previously in The Woman in White (1859).
  • Spanish foreign minister Juan Valera’s Pepita Jimenez (1874) is writing in three sections, with the first and third being a series of letters, while the middle part is a narration by an unknown observer.
  • Bram Stoker‘s Dracula (1897) uses not only letters and diaries, but also dictation cylinders and newspaper accounts.
  • Jean Webster‘s Daddy-Long-Legs (1912).
  • Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace‘s The Documents in the Case (1930).
  • Haki Stërmilli‘s novel If I Were a Boy (1936) is written in the form of diary entries which documents the life of the main protagonist.
  • Kathrine Taylor‘s Address Unknown (1938) was an anti-Nazi novel in which the final letter is returned as “Address Unknown”, indicating the disappearance of the German character.
  • Virginia Woolf used the epistolary form for her feminist essay Three Guineas (1938).
  • C. S. Lewis used the epistolary form for The Screwtape Letters (1942), and considered writing a companion novel from an angel‘s point of view—though he never did so. It is less generally realized that his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964) was a similar exercise, exploring theological questions through correspondence addressed to a fictional recipient, “Malcolm”, though this work may be considered a “novel” only loosely in that developments in Malcolm’s personal life gradually come to light and impact the discussion.
  • Thornton Wilder‘s fifth novel Ides of March (1948) consists of letters and documents illuminating the last days of the Roman Republic.
  • Theodore Sturgeon‘s short novel, Some of Your Blood (1961), consists of letters and case-notes relating to the psychiatric treatment of a non-supernatural vampire.
  • Saul Bellow‘s novel Herzog (1964) is largely written in letter format. These are both real and imagined letters, written by the protagonist Moses E. Herzog to family members, friends, and celebrities.
  • Up the Down Staircase is a novel written by Bel Kaufman, published in 1965, which spent 64 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. In 1967 it was released as a movie starring Patrick Bedford, Sandy Dennis and Eileen Heckart.
  • Shūsaku Endō‘s novel Silence (1966) is an example of the form of the epistolary novel, with half of the novel composed of letters from Rodrigues and the other half composed either in the third person or in letters from other persons.
  • The Anderson Tapes (1969, 1970) by Lawrence Sanders is a novel told primarily in the form of transcripts of tape recordings.
  • 84, Charing Cross Road (1970), though not a novel, is a true account by Helene Hanff written in epistolary form as an exchange of letters between the writer in New York City and a bookseller in London over the course of two decades.
  • Stephen King‘s novel Carrie (1974) is written in an epistolary structure, through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books
  • In John Barth‘s epistolary work, Letters (1979), the author interacts with characters from his other novels.
  • Alice Walker employed the epistolary form in The Color Purple (1982). The 1985 film adaptation echoed the form by incorporating into the script some of the novel’s letters, which the actors spoke as monologues.
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982) by Sue Townsend – comedy diary set in 1980s Britain.
  • The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (1984) by Studs Terkel is a compilation of interviews with people who lived the events that went from the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II, Pearl Harbor, to the end.
  • Michael Dibdin‘s A Rich Full Death (1986) is an epistolary crime novel set in 19th century Florence.
  • John Updike‘s S. (1988) is an epistolary novel consisting of the heroine’s letters and transcribed audio recordings.
  • Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer‘s Sorcery and Cecelia (1988) is an epistolary fantasy novel in a Regency setting, from the first-person perspectives of cousins Kate and Cecelia, who recount their adventures in magic and polite society. This work is unusual in modern fiction in being an epistolary novel written using the style of the letter game.[5]
  • Avi used this style of constructing a story in Nothing But the Truth (1991), where the plot is told using only documents, letters, and scripts.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding was written in the form of a personal diary
  • Last Days of Summer (1998) by Steve Kluger was written in a series of letters, telegrams, therapy transcripts, newspaper clippings, and baseball box scores.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) was written by Stephen Chbosky in the form of letters from an anonymous character to a secret role model of sorts.
  • Richard B. Wright‘s Clara Callan (2001) uses letters and journal entries to weave the story of a middle-aged woman in the 1930s.
  • The Boy Next Door (2002) by Meg Cabot is a romantic comedy novel dealt with entirely by emails sent among the characters.
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot is a series of ten novels written in the form of diary entries.
  • Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002) by Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler uses letters, documents, and other scripts to construct the plotline.
  • Several of Gene Wolfe‘s novels are written in the forms of diaries, letters, or memoirs
  • La silla del águila (The Eagle’s Throne) by Carlos Fuentes (2003) is a political satire written as a series of letters between persons in high levels of the Mexican government in 2020. The epistolary format is treated by the author as a consequence of necessity: The United States impedes all telecommunications in Mexico as a retaliatory measure, leaving letters and smoke signals as the only possible methods of communication, particularly ironic given one character’s observation that “Mexican politicians put nothing in writing.”
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) is a monologic epistolary novel, written as a series of letters from Eva, Kevin’s mother, to her husband Franklin
  • The 2004 novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell tells a story in several time periods in a nested format, with some sections told in epistolary style, including an interview, journal entries and a series of letters
  • In the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly novels, out-of-context text messages, usually humorous, mark transitions between sections
  • Griffin and Sabine by artist Nick Bantock is a love story written as a series of hand painted postcards and letters
  • Where Rainbows End (alternately titled “Rosie Dunne” or “Love, Rosie” in the United States) (2004) by Cecelia Ahern is written in the form of letters, emails, instant messages, newspaper articles, etc.
  • Uncommon Valour (2005) by John Stevens, the story of two naval officers in 1779, is primarily written in the form of diary and log extracts
  • The Great Detective at the Crucible of Life (2005) by Thomas Kent Miller, comprises a variety of letters, parchments, and journal entries that bring to light an adventure by H. Rider Haggard‘s Allan Quatermain
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2006) by Max Brooks is a series of interviews from various survivors of a zombie apocalypse
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney is a series of fiction books written in the form a diary, including hand-written notes and cartoon drawings
  • The White Tiger (2008) by Aravind Adiga, winner of the 40th Man Booker Prize in the year 2008. The novel is a series of letters, written by an Indian villager to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is written as a series of letters and telegraphs sent and received by the protagonist
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan has parts which are epistolary in nature
  • Super Sad True Love Story (2010) by Gary Shteyngart
  • Why We Broke Up (2011) by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman
  • The Martian by Andy Weir, written as a collection of video journal entries for each Martian day (sol) by the protagonist on Mars, and sometimes by main characters on Earth and on the space station Hermes.
  • The Closeness That Separates Us (2013) by Katie Hall and Bogen Jones is almost exclusively written as an exchange of e-mails between the two forbidden lovers, Lena and Ed.[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistolary_novel     Retrieved 22, Sept 2018.

[2] Ibid.

Trauma.

  Trauma. 

     A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao-Tze (c.60 4BC)

There are many ways of looking at trauma, but a philosophical view has rarely been one of them.  People might argue that trauma is too painful and existential to be explored hermeneutically.  Nonetheless, my most recent task has been to espouse the view that trauma does have meaning and we attract it for a reason.   Trauma finds its expression with gusto in the social setting, in wars and protests, in mass movements, as well as in isolation and dissociation.  Life is the reactivation of trauma that we must all deal with in different time frames and on different levels.  Trauma happens in the body and the brain, it changes the neural chemistry and affects human behaviour. Trauma can determine the way we live our lives, it can be the beginning of a breakdown or a breakthrough. So how should we deal with trauma?  Trauma releases adrenalin and cortisol levels in the brain of the individual,  it causes altered consciousness and often disturbing behaviour.  Interventions exacerbate the increase of chemicals in the brain creating a vicious cycle.  People who  experience trauma need to feel safe.  Feeling safe is an antidote to trauma, but we do not live in a safe world. Our nations, cities, neighbourhoods and often our families are not perceived as being safe.

What happens in the human brain when we experience trauma? Let me start with the brain’s development from infancy and move forward from there…The brain stem is the first and most developed part of the nervous system in a new born child, it is what connects the nerve functions in the body to the centre of operation in the brain. The brain stem manages two important features of the nervous system the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system keeps us alive, it regulates the body temperature, heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. The sympathetic nervous system is an alarm system aimed at protecting us against a perceived threat and does so by throwing us into a state generally referred to as the fight or flight. We can add freeze to this reaction because some people become so panic stricken they are motionless.    When a person is in one of these states all rational thinking is shut down and the body redirects its energy (in the form of adrenalin) to increasing blood flow to the muscles, which in turn increases the heart rate.  This allows us to become more alert, stronger and faster; traits our ancestors depended upon when the world was full of wild and dangerous animals. As these responses become more intense the body secretes stress hormones, in particular cortisol, which puts pressure on the vital organs. This can slow the heart rate, reduce the oxygen to the brain and cause a condition called dissociation (a loss of reality or conscious awareness).  The state of dissociation reduces awareness of pain and trauma by putting distance between the individual and the causal events (it eliminates the thoughts and feelings in other words).

In all these circumstances,  what we need to consider is the perception of threat.  Like any form of stress or anxiety trauma is accumulative and the more we experience the impacts the more the brain remembers it, so generally speaking, the feeling of trauma is not aroused by  a real threat, but the body will respond as if it is threatened.

The brain remembers all experiences and stores them in the unconscious until somthing triggers their retrieval. When a person has had a past traumatic experience the brain can trigger a physiological response in quite unrelated circumstances and without warning. For many people a triggered response to past trauma is a constant event causing overwhelming fear and anxiety, which can render their lives to be fearful, uncertain and miserable.  In turn, post-traumatic behaviour can  result in poor decision making. This situation is not easy to remedy because while the individual might remember the first incident leading to trauma; the emotional responses may not be remembered or they may change over time; for better or worse. Why?

Let us turn to the brain’s limbic system. The brain is divided into two hemispheres. The limbic system is in the sub-cortical or inner parts of each hemisphere. The two major features that are relative to trauma are the amygdala which, amongst other things manages our emotions, and the hippocampus, which is key to our learning and the storing of memories.  It is the hippocampus that allows us to retrieve those memories, but it is not the centre that discriminates, we need the part of the brain that reasons for that to happen and, as previously stated, when fight, flight or freeze kick in, reason shuts down.

The area of the brain called the limbic system goes through its major development during the first four to five (and in some cases six) years of life. These early years are crucial  for building the brain’s neural pathways. When development is impeded through early trauma the limbic system fails to develop to its full potential and this can impair the ability to act appropriately to events or towards other people. It can cause the emotions to run wild and lessen the ability for an individual to adapt to changing circumstances or even to feel they have a place in the world.  The amygdala and hippocampus can interact with each other to surface painful memories and put the mind into a constant state of disorientation, which causes them to see the world differently and often as very threatening.

In many respects we all see the world differently and this is not necessarily a bad thing, it only becomes a problem when a person has lost control over their life and wellbeing or s/he puts the wellbeing of others at risk.  The feeling of being overwhelmed can be easily remedied by reducing activity (sit down) breathe mindfully, in other words pay attention to each in and out breath. Allow your body to feel like a rag doll (relax) and be aware that being overwhelmed or anxious is never going to harm you; it is just unpleasant, that’s all.

Let me now mention the pre-frontal cortex (the home of reason). The prefrontal cortex is significantly more mature in humans than in any other species and it governs many of the intellectual functions of the brain including learning, reason and sound decision making, debate, planning and some forms of abstract thinking or problem solving.  This is the area that shuts down when pain, suffering and trauma begin to surface.

We know from neuroscientific studies that trauma changes the neural pathways and we know that trauma builds upon trauma, also that trauma  likes companionship.  We know that trauma has a long history and that its impacts are passed from one generation to another and we know that trauma is natural and inevitable, we can use it as an open or locked gate. When the gate is open we are able to develop better perceptions, improved thinking and a more rewarding life.

Without pain and trauma we would not know pleasure, but trauma also  finds its catalyst in anger and frustration, which in turn drives people to act in ways that  reactivate the trauma.

It is hard to ask someone who has experienced excessive pain and brutality to forgive, but the reality is this, forgiveness is another antidote to trauma and it helps us to feel safe.

Trauma often strikes when a person doesn’t know it is happening.  Trauma can be that deadening feeling that has so many other names. Trauma is so many things, feelings, emotions, apparitions, premonitions, deliberations and delusions. Trauma can be experienced in toxic relationships, after an accident or disappointment, or from  an incessant feeling of lost hope, confusion and despair. Trauma underscores or is related to all other illnesses, but science has failed to fully  understand the importance of trauma as an opportunity heal the internal and disorienting forces that were actually designed by evolution to protect us.   Trauma has meaning, it provides us with the lessons we need to move forward and while the experience is painful, the future can also be promising.

Pain and Suffering.

 

WE ARE ALL ON A PERSONAL JOURNEY WHICH IS UNDERSCORED BY EXPERIENCES OF PAIN, HAPPINESS AND THE CONCOMITANT EMOTIONS WHICH INSPIRE OUR CREATIVITY AND DETERMINE WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN.  The journey is never easy. People struggle.  People can be happy,   but people also experience various degrees of mental and physical pain, which can escalate over time and become highly problematic both mentally and physically.  This can have an accumulative effect on families, communities and the world.  Often the smallest pain becomes a long-term suffering and a burden that outweighs any daily routine and the numbers of people experiencing this malady are ever increasing.   Further, all attempts to get rid of the pain and suffering can make it worse. The more we try to eliminate pain the bigger the chasm we create around it.

Pain is the way the body deals with injury, it is a natural phenomenon, but it can also put the human body into a survival mode that has negative consequences.  Pain raises the heart rate, depletes energy and makes for feelings of sickness and hopelessness. Evolution has created a duality where we must feel the intensity of pain in order to know pleasure; but there is not always a guaranteed route to the immediate elimination of pain.  Better, we deal with the causes of the pain and learn how to push through it so the body and mind can heal naturally. There is always an underlying cause to human pain. We live in a biological system of cause and effect. Hence, dealing with causes is the obvious route to solving the human condition of ongoing physical and existential pain.

Understanding Pain.

Removing pain and suffering generally requires a special kind of work because getting rid of an internal problem is not the same as getting rid of something bothersome in the external world.  The mind is very different in the way it processes and stores information and especially emotional data.   A problem in the external world can often be pushed aside.  However, if one tries to push aside a mental problem it becomes repressed and manifests in much bigger problems.  All pain has mental and emotional data. This happens because brains accumulate memories and grow them into complete and often disturbing discourses. These discourses are not the truth of pain. The pain dialogues originate from mythologies and are often events that have been distorted.   Indeed, our ancestors understood the world around them by telling themselves elaborate stories because the capacity to fully understand the world was limited.  This art of storytelling has been called naïve realism.    Ernst Cassirer provides a very good example of the naïve story and how its language has formed the root of the stories we tell ourselves today:

…take the myth of Daphne, who is saved by Apollo’s embraces by the fact that her mother Earth transforms her into a laurel tree… it is only the history of language that can make this myth ‘comprehensible’ and give it any sort of sense. Who was Daphne? In order to answer the question we must resort to etymology, that is to say, we must investigate the history of the word.  ‘Daphne can be traced back to Sanskrit Ahana, and Ahana means in Sanskrit the redness of dawn. As soon as we know this the whole matter becomes clear. The story of Phoebus and Daphne is nothing but a description of what one may observe every day; first the appearance of the dawn light in the eastern sky, then the rising of the sun-god who hastens after his bride, then the gradual fading of the red dawn at the touch of the fiery rays, and finally its death and disappearance in the bosom of the Mother Earth.  So the decisive condition for the development of the myth was not the natural phenomenon itself, but rather the circumstance that the Greek word for laurel and the Sanskrit word for dawn are related; this entails with a sort of logical necessity the identification of the beings denote.[1]

Mythology is inherent in language, rather than having been created by our language as Cassirer makes clear.   As a species we have not always had the benefits of rationality, knowledge has come from observation and primitive explanations of experience.   Without the ability to think rationally, our ancestors created stories out of their experiences, which can never be viewed as a uniformed system for understanding as naïve realism was only a beginning, everything changes over time.  Nonetheless, understanding became a collection of experiential distortions formulated into myths., which have served to influence the language we use today.

After the arrival of language words could never fully define objects or subjective experience so they were coupled together to create new mythologies. Hitherto, all language and thought has its roots in distortions.    Not only have we grown our minds on the memories of experience, we have distorted the memories in our attempts to try to explain them with tools of abstraction.   Humans have very creative minds, which are an integral part of our survival, but they do not always work to our advantage, in fact the human mind can be the essence of self-destruction, the destruction of others and the world around us, which is what we see a lot of in the world today.  When we realize there is no absolute truth in thoughts and words it should not surprise us to find that reality can never be played out in real time; we live with a holographic view of reality and we must contend with explanations based on mythologies, which in modern times tend to be made up as circumstances permit.  It is not all doom and gloom.   The responsibility for healthy, affirmative thought processing is ours. We can take control of our language by way of actions and rituals. There are many ways for creating changes to thought patterns, but in order to reach this point we need to understand how we got here in the first place.  Knowing how we got here is the immediate objective of all human beings, which in turn becomes the core of every human journey.  Many people attempt to explore this journey to the fullest, while others prefer to walk around with their minds and eyes closed, hoping that everything will turn out for the best.   Unfortunately, it is likely that people who close their eyes and minds and who fear the confrontation of life’s journey will suffer the most. The greatest of all suffering comes from ignorance.  Think about it, when you break an arm or a leg, you have a fair idea of what is going on and how to get it fixed.    When the mind is broken, where do you start?   When knowledge is repressed problems do not go away, they surface in other forms that are very often more severe than they might have been if they had been dealt with earlier.

It is not just a few people who experience pain and suffering, everyone does; it is just a fact of life.  Being human does not take place without a struggle.  No other animals suffer mentally the way humans do, we are unique in this respect. Humans experience psychological pain because we rationalize thoughts, emotions, sensations and memories like no other creatures and because we dwell on the rationalization. [2]  Humans, unlike other animals do not simply observe things, they attempt to analyse what is happening and  how they might change it without asking the question, is there a problem in the rationalization  processes in the first place?   In other words,  is    rationalism in and of itself problematic to the equanimity of the human mind?

There has been an abundance of research on what causes suffering and how to alleviate it, but we are only just beginning to understand how pain works at physiological and psychological levels, there is also still much to learn about existential pain and suffering.  Humans suffer because unlike other animals we have a complex language system, which has been cited as having its origins in myth and distortion.  It may seem strange to assert that our minds produce distorted images of reality.  Or, to put it another way, humans have no given reality; they must make it up as they travel through a physical and psychic life.  Indeed,  while language has made humans the dominant species, it may also have been the root cause of all human suffering, this is because we are able to put words to objects and experiences that afford them a false essence.  This essence  extends the objects into seemingly rational explanations that connect to other rational explanations, otherwise called  relational frames.[3]

Since, we construct language and give it meaning based on ancient mythological precepts  it is not surprising to see ourselves living in an environment of fictions and images that are not real, but which stimulate the mind in ways that create the illusion of a solid reality.  When we distance ourselves from this constructed reality we find a mind that is fluid, but one which can also interpret itself thought creativity.  The result is a copious field of art, architecture, literature, music, theatre, dance, film, video, and more.  As it happens, we find ourselves in a reflexive mode creating our own world of mythologies.  This is not to say that real suffering does not exist; only that we need a better understanding of its aetiology, but understanding the mythologies that have given rise to it.

Relational Frames.

The trend has been to understand language and its implications in terms of  relational frames.  A relational frame means to associate one subject, object thought or group of thoughts with another mode of focus. As already indicated the origins of this trait occur in language the evidence of which can be gleaned through the etymology of words.  For example, to put this into a more modern idiom, the word disaster is derived from the Old Italian disastro, itself derived from Greek. The pejorative prefix dis- and aster (star) can be interpreted as bad star, or an ill-starred event. The ancient Greeks were fascinated by astronomy and the cosmos, and believed wholly in the influence of celestial bodies on human life. For the Greeks, a disaster was a particular kind of calamity, the causes of which could be attributed to an unfavourable and uncontrollable alignment of planets. It is therefore interesting to note that the strict, modern English definition of disaster explicitly stipulates that a disaster is human-made, or the consequence of human failure.[4]  Of course we know that disaster in the modern sense of the word is not always the cause of human failure, rather humans also become implicated in natural disasters.

Associated frames and how they work are said to guide human decisions, and they might be seen as a way of  expanding consciousness in order to understand social connections and how they are embedded into language, keeping in mind that the whole of human behaviour is dependent on language.  Relational frames are taken from relational frame theory.  Relational frame theory (RFT) is a psychological theory of human language.  It was developed originally by Steven C. Hayes of University of Nevada. [5]

Relational frame theory describes how the building blocks of human language and higher cognition form relations, otherwise ‘the human ability to create bidirectional links between things’. Relational theory compares with associative learning and how all animals form links between stimuli in the form of individual and group associations that are held in memory.  Relational frame theory argues that natural human language typically specifies not just the strength of a link between stimuli, but also the type of relation as well as the dimension along which they are to be related. For example, a tennis ball is not just ‘associated’ with an orange, but can be said to be the same shape, but a different colour and not edible. In the preceding sentence, ‘same’, ‘different’ and ‘not’ are cues in the environment that specify the type of relation between the stimuli, and ‘shape’, ‘colour’ and ‘edible’ specify the dimension along which each relation is to be made.[6] Relational frame theory suggests that there are an arbitrary number of relations with different types and cognitive dimensions along which stimuli can travel in order to create language and understanding.    This core unit of relating is an essential building block for much of what is commonly referred to as human language or higher cognition, but its origins became lost in its construction.  We might also liken this to the work of Ferdinand Saussure who was one of the founding fathers of semiotics, (which he called semiology). Saussure’s concept of the sign/signifier/signified are the referent forms at the core of the field of semiotics where meaning in language is found along a chain of signifiers (much like relational frames).  This theory has been applied to many forms of communication including art and philosophy, politics and economics and lends itself to the understanding of the way mythologies have distorted the way humans think about the world.  For example, when we buy a product or adopt a belief we do so because it relates to other beliefs, products, phenomena we are not consciously aware of.

Relational frames are discernible associations, but they are rarely made cognitively clear to the individual as they are experienced in daily life. We do not for instance take a moment to ask where the last thought came from along a chain of signifiers.  The analyst might approach the results of an experiment this way, but humans generally do not think in the same idiom.   This is because humans are not very consciously aware either of their own existence or the world around them.    Almost 98% of the human brain is believed to be outside conscious awareness; nonetheless, the data strongly influences consciousness.  The result is this, when we think we have thought something through very often we have not been able to tap into the origins of the thought processes. That said, we can work towards being more consciously aware, which in turn helps us to comprehend and relieve pain and suffering.

Creativity, and in particular the use of the visual senses, are ways of  responding powerfully to stimuli that is outside language.  Art, for example can tap into the unconscious in a manner where day-to-day dialogue often does not work.  The combination of dialogue and video  can serve to distance the sufferer from the pain and suffering he or she is experiencing.  It can  elucidate and minimize the causes of the problem and change the pathways in the brain. However, creativity alone is not enough to solve the entire problem of suffering; first we must examine the motivation.

The transference of pain to an object is common practice in psychotherapy, a practice that has its roots in the processes of association, which now form the fundamental methodologies of the relational frames approach, but the motivation must be towards the compassion and the healing of others, not simply self-healing.  We formulate our being in relation to others and it is only in offering compassion and healing to others that we are able to heal ourselves.  Let us look more deeply at what this means.

First, what do we mean by healing? In modern medicine when we are sick we go to the doctor, s/he examines us, maybe s/he does a few tests then prescribes a remedy. Why is it then that the individual is rarely fully healed?  Maybe they overcome the original diagnosis, then something else happens and a continual cycle of ill health often occurs.  What is missing?     This brings me to the purpose of this thesis.   The connection between the mind and body are usually ignored. Many modern healing techniques regard successful healing as the cure of the presenting physical problem with little or no thought to how the mind is implicated the health or sickness. Modern medicine can often make the situation worse when it holds the individual responsible for the illness, this can lead to depression and a sense of hopelessness.

Let us briefly examine another possibility.  The mind is the creator of all illness. Let us say that the mind and the brain are not necessarily the same thing.  Rather, the mind is an energy, which the brain utilizes, but may not have full control over.  Let us posit that the mind is non-material,   it is formless, shapeless, colourless, genderless and  it has its own consciousness and knowledge.  Could it be that this illusive mind is the creator of all illness when the body is not properly in balance?  Let me go back to an early statement, pain and suffering are the body’s natural mechanisms for healing. Let us assume that the mind itself is pure, limitless and pervasive and that the problems of sickness can be obliterated by the mind (this of course cannot preclude death as a cure for sickness, but unfortunately in western society death is invoked as a medical failure, not a pathway out of pain and suffering). Let us for a moment examine healing from the Buddhist perspective of the mind.

The problems or sickness we experience are like clouds in the sky obscuring the sun. Just as the clouds temporarily block the sun but are not of the same nature as the sun, our problems or sickness are temporary and the causes of them can be removed from the mind. From the Buddhist perspective, the mind is the creator of all sickness and health. In fact, the mind is believed to be the creator of each and every one of our problems. [7]

This is what Buddhist’s believe:  We are the sum total of our mind and its karmic journey. Karma, which literally means action suggest that actions can be positive, negative or neutral. These karmic seeds are never lost. The negative ones can ripen at any time in the form of problems or sickness; the positive ones in the form of happiness, health or success.[8]

To avoid sickness we have to turn our attention away from ourselves and adopt compassion for other sentient beings.  Some people do this consciously, others fall into it through creative means. Either way a purification occurs. According to Buddhism, we have to engage in positive actions and we have to purify or clear the negative karmic imprints that remain in our mind from previous lives and/or actions.  In other words, Karma is the creator of all happiness and suffering. If we don’t have negative karma we will not get sick or receive harm from others. Buddhism asserts that everything that happens to us now is the result of our previous actions, not only in this lifetime but in other lifetimes. What we do now determines what will happen to us in the future.[9]

I know to a lot of people this idea might seem very far-fetched, but there are many ways of looking at this philosophy.  Harking back to the mythologies and their remnants in language we can see a similar pattern taking place.   Science has revealed that when we turn our attention to gratitude and the compassion for others we are very likely to live longer and often we are free of sickness. Buddhism is … a philosophy of total personal responsibility. We have the ability to control our destiny, including the state of our body and mind. Each one of us has unlimited potential – what we have to do is develop that potential.[10]  We do not even have to call it Buddhism, we can call it common sense.  Nonetheless, let us for a moment continue with this theme.

Tibetan Lama, Zopa Rinpoche, says that the most powerful healing methods of all are those based on compassion, that is the wish to free other beings from their suffering. The compassionate mind – calm, peaceful, joyful and stress-free – is the ideal mental environment for healing. A mind of compassion stops us being totally wrapped up in our own suffering situations. By reaching out to others we become aware of not just my pain but the pain (that is, the pain of all beings).[11]

Another way of looking at this is to suggest that by experiencing a disease or pain, all the other beings in the world might be free of the disease or pain. Can we take on pain on behalf of others?  Does this ease the pain?  Well yes!  This is a common belief in the Christian concept of sharing in the suffering of Jesus on the cross and it also lies at the heart of psychotherapy in the role of transference.

Expectations.

One of the main problems associated with pain and suffering is our expectations of life.  We ask ourselves, what is the purpose of our life?   If the purpose is merely self-interest there is never going to be a sense of fulfillment because as individuals we are never satisfied with what we have, we always want more.  A lot of people accumulate material objects around them because they are unsatisfied with their ‘self’.  Even in creativity we must be prepared to create for others, not ourselves.  Giving is receiving. Blessing is being blessed. Living is recognizing the other’s right to live and be fulfilled.

[1] Ernst Cassirer 1946/1953 Language and Myth New York. Dover Publications pp4-5.

[2] Steven Hayes and Spencer Smith (2005) Get Out of your Mind and Into Your Life. Oakland CA New Harbinger  Publications, p1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/an-introduction-to-etymology-eight-great-word-origins

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_frame_theory

[6] Ibid.

[7] HEALING: A TIBETAN BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
Compiled by: Ven. Pende Hawterhttp://www.buddhanet.net/tib_heal.htm

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.