Tag Archives: philosophy

Texas Tropics – a novel

I  just self-published my first novel.  It is a genre blender: a mystery adventure with a lot of mysticism, philosophy, religion and history mixed in. It can be obtained through Amazon books at the following link: Texas Tropics.  I am focusing on such writing these days and have created another site for those interested in that endeavor (as opposed to subject matter normally expected on this site), markcrathbun.wordpress.com.

The Will To Believe

William James observed that ultimately philosophy does not shape needs and wants.   Rather, needs and wants mold philosophy.  Some consider this idea counter-intuitive.  Others demean it as a convenient justification against common notions of morality.  Detractors of James argue that philosophy exists only to keep needs and wants focused in the right direction.  The argument is not without merit.  At the same time it begs the question, who determines the right direction?  It appears to be a dismissal of the view that individuals are capable of exercising free will.  It assumes people are intrinsically incapable of deciding for themselves what the right direction or correct purpose is in life. It also assumes that the proponents of a given philosophy know better.  When that attitude prevails control of thought and behavior can be considered not only acceptable but necessary.

When philosophy (religious or secular) is considered senior to free will, all manner of control mechanism comes with it, both covert and overt.  It is inevitable.  It is evident in religion and in secular circles.  The anti-religious set is not immune.  It too follows philosophies, whether organized, acknowledged, denied or not.  As much as many secular humanists like to denigrate religionists as a form of thought police, they can be just as authoritarian and intolerant as those they sharply criticize.  Sometimes they are not so easy to identify.  That is because they have adopted the language of logic and science to assume the high ground of reason from which to rail against  intuitive-based mysticism and mythology attendant to religion.  All the while, much of their ‘science’ is firmly grounded in beliefs (see e.g.,  Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’). Ironically, one of the earliest and clearest observations of that kettle-pot legerdemain was detailed in William James’ 1896 essay “The Will To Believe.”

I think James’ observation  about what drives philosophy was insightful.  It seems that at the end of the day, one traffics in reason ( including secularism), mysticism (including religion) or a combination of both as one’s needs and wants (free will) dictate.


False Prophets

Any teacher or prophet who does not genuinely wish, encourage and enable students or adherents to ultimately learn and discover beyond what he has to impart is really no teacher or prophet at all.

False teachers and prophets use the learning process as a means to control or enslave rather than to empower or free.

No matter how eloquent or compelling a teacher or prophet may appear to be, whether he is leading one to heaven, purgatory, perdition or ignorance can be predicted by applying this simple standard.

Letting Go

When I write of the idea of cultivating the skill of ‘letting go’, some Scientologists react as if I am from the planet Farsec (the alleged origin point of the universe for all psychs, reference: Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior).   On the one hand this is surprising because it is precisely what one does when one experiences a spiritual ‘release’ in a Scientology session.   On the other hand, the idea of employing and refining that capability in life is looked upon as blasphemous.  It is in a way since so much in Scientology implants precisely the opposite idea in believers.

To help get the concept across I have many times recommended folk read and attempt to think with Tao Te Ching (my recommended translation, The Tao Te Ching, an English Translation by Stephen Mitchell).   A number of people have written  to or told me that they have done so, and find the idea of ‘letting go’ liberating and useful in their quests for self- actualization (equinimity attendant to becoming who one really is and attaining toward one’s full potentialities).  Still many want the ‘tech’ to it or an instruction manual of sorts.

I came across a good description of breaking ‘letting go’ down into a process on buddhanet. net.  It is below for your perusal.  I don’t know who the author is and I don’t even know what all is on buddhanet or who operates it. All that I know is that the following description of the process rings accurate in many ways and may communicate to, and be found to be useful by, some.

Letting Go from buddhanet

If we contemplate desires and listen to them, we are actually no longer attaching to them; we are just allowing them to be the way they are. Then we come to the realization that the origin of suffering, desire, can be laid aside and let go of.

How do you let go of things? This means you leave them as they are; it does not mean you annihilate them or throw them away. It is more like setting down and letting them be. Through the practice of letting go we realize that there is the origin of suffering, which is the attachment to desire, and we realize that we should let go of these three kinds of desire. Then we realize that we have let go of these desires; there is no longer any attachment to them.

When you find yourself attached, remember that ‘letting go’ is not ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’. If I’m holding onto this clock and you say, ‘Let go of it!’, that doesn’t mean ‘throw it out’. I might think that I have to throw it away because I’m attached to it, but that would just be the desire to get rid of it. We tend to think that getting rid of the object is a way of getting rid of attachment. But if I can contemplate attachment, this grasping of the clock, I realize that there is no point in getting rid of it – it’s a good clock; it keeps good time and is not heavy to carry around. The clock is not the problem. The problem is grasping the clock. So what do I do? Let it go, lay it aside – put it down gently without any kind of aversion. Then I can pick it up again, see what time it is and lay it aside when necessary.

You can apply this insight into ‘letting go’ to the desire for sense pleasures. Maybe you want to have a lot of fun. How would you lay aside that desire without any aversion? Simply recognize the desire without judging it. You can contemplate wanting to get rid of it – because you feel guilty about having such a foolish desire – but just lay it aside. Then, when you see it as it is, recognizing that it’s just desire, you are no longer attached to it.

So the way is always working with the moments of daily life. When you are feeling depressed and negative, just the moment that you refuse to indulge in that feeling is an enlightenment experience. When you see that, you need not sink into the sea of depression and despair and wallow in it. You can actually stop by learning not to give things a second thought.

You have to find this out through practice so that you will know for yourself how to let go of the origin of suffering. Can you let go of desire by wanting to let go of it? What is it that is really letting go in a given moment? You have to contemplate the experience of letting go and really examine and investigate until the insight comes. Keep with it until that insight comes: ‘Ah, letting go, yes, now I understand. Desire is being let go of.’ This does not mean that you are going to let go of desire forever but, at that one moment, you actually have let go and you have done it in full conscious awareness. There is an insight then. This is what we call insight knowledge. In Pali, we call it nanadassana or profound understanding.

I had my first insight into letting go in my first year of meditation. I figured out intellectually that you had to let go of everything and then I thought: ‘How do you let go?’ It seemed impossible to let go of anything. I kept on contemplating: ‘How do you let go?’ Then I would say, ‘You let go by letting go.’ ‘Well then, let go!’ Then I would say:

‘But have I let go yet?’ and, ‘How do you let go?’ ‘Well just let go!’ I went on like that, getting more frustrated. But eventually it became obvious what was happening. If you try to analyze letting go in detail, you get caught up in making it very complicated. It was not something that you could figure out in words any more, but something you actually did. So I just let go for a moment, just like that.

Now with personal problems and obsessions, to let go of them is just that much. It is not a matter of analyzing and endlessly making more of a problem about them, but of practicing that state of leaving things alone, letting go of them. At first, you let go but then you pick them up again because the habit of grasping is so strong. But at least you have the idea. Even when I had that insight into letting go, I let go for a moment but then I started grasping by thinking: ‘I can’t do it, I have so many bad habits!’ But don’t trust that kind of nagging, disparaging thing in yourself. It is totally untrustworthy. It is just a matter of practicing letting go. The more you begin to see how to do it, then the more you are able to sustain the state of non-attachment.