Saturday, 25 October 2008

Demonology, Demons And The Demonic


Demonology

de·mon·ol·o·gy
Pronunciation: \ˌdē-mə-'nä-lə-jē\ Function: noun Origin: 1597
1 : the study of demons or evil spirits
2 : belief in demons : a doctrine of evil spirits 3 : a catalog of enemies ................................................................................

Socrates posed a lot of really spot on questions.

I loved the ancient dialogues. Written by Plato, a wrestler and devotee of Socrates, they're extremely readable. Insightful without being pretentious, gripping without being shallow - they boot ten shades of shit out of 99% of everything that's called itself philosophy since.


There's one called Protagoras. Protagoras is this famous philosopher, seen as the wisest man in all of Greece. Socrates sends some of his mates to this guys house to boot him out of bed and bring him out for a 'philosophy off'.

It's a short piece, but important, and here's why. It's where, for the first time, Socrates comes out with one of the core insights for which he is famous:

"No one willingly goes to do evil or what he thinks to be evil."

He goes on:

"To make for what one believes to be evil, instead of making for the good, is not, it seems, in human nature. When faced with the choice of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might equally choose the less."

Socrates' question is simple: If evil leads the person doing it into damaging their relationships, themselves, their own lives - everything that is theirs - why would anyone do it?

And his answer is - we wouldn't. None of us do and none of us would.

"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Lots of people do evil things!"

Yes, but we're not talking about them. We're talking about you.

When have you ever done evil?

Now before you get all down on yourself, don sackcloth and ashes and start whipping yourself for all the things you hate yourself for, that's not what I'm talking about. There's something interesting here.

We are so fast to condemn the actions of others - it rises up from deep inside us as an instinctual hatred or revulsion.

But here's something a little odd. All the times when I've done something fucked up in my life, I was totally convinced I was in the right.

Is that not strange?

I mean, you may have vandalised something, or been nasty or bitchy, but in the actual moment where you were doing it, you considered yourself completely justified.

In fact, there's an even stranger thing. Think back to the moments in your life where you were, with the benefit of hindsight, most shitty. Think back to those real doozies where you really dug the knife in and twisted it.

Those moments where you were most nasty and cruel and hurtful - the moments that you don't like to think about because they make you wince.

There is a universal thing that runs through all those moments.

The moments where we are the most 'evil' as human beings are the moments we are most totally convinced that we were doing the right thing.

Look at your past, at the times when you've inflicted the most damage on those around you. Remember how you felt as you inflicted that damage. The righteous fire.

Moral certainty is what evil looks like from the inside.


You see, a lot of us would react to Socrates' claim by saying "No, Socrates - I know this person who is evil, and they just don't give a shit!" or we might say "What about serial killers?" or we might even pull the old "What about Hitler?"

And of course you're right. It's easy to see shittiness from the outside. But you should bet your bottom dollar that all of these people and every other motherfucker from the dawn of time was totally convinced that they were absolutely, positively, doing the right thing.

We see very clearly the shit that other people are do.

Maybe this person's being an asshole, or this woman's being a bitch. You can see very clearly that they're being cruel. You can see the nastiness and the superiority in their eyes. We get to experience just how creative they can be with their shittiness.

In that situation it's tough not to push back. It's like a reflex to resist their shittiness in whatever form it takes.

And from that reflex it's extremely easy to move from opposing their particular shittiness, and oppose shittiness in general.

Think about it in your own life. How quickly the battle goes from you against some person, to you against what they represent to you.

You're not fighting that bigot because they were racist and you want to hurt them... you're fighting racism itself, you're a hero in the cause of equality.

You're not fighting that bitch because she was cruel to you and you want to take her down... you're fighting bitchiness itself and you want to strike a blow against bitchiness.

You're not fighting that bastard because he's so arrogant - you're fighting him because you hate arrogance and you want to see arrogance destroyed.

I mean think about it.

Fighting a racist, or a bitch, or a bastard, and you're just fighting one asshole.

But fighting racism is a moral crusade.

Fighting cruelty is a moral crusade.

Fighting arrogance is a moral crusade.


There is a subtle switchback trick that something in your head is playing on you. It's been doing this to all of us from the dawn of time.

On and on the mind spins it's tales, drawing the world in broad strokes of right and wrong and good and evil.

We translate from the particular to the universal - from the small and personal to the large and epic.

We're not having an argument with a workmate. We're fighting all arrogance in a grand moral battle. There is something about us now which makes a victory over our workmate a great triumph in an ongoing war of good vs evil.

Even if we lose in the fight against the racist or the bitch or the bastard, there is something grandly tragic about our loss. Instead of being just some guy or girl having an argument with another guy or girl, we are the nobly wounded representativeof the armies of light.

It's not about instigating conflicts. It's about escalating them to a grand scale, and we swallow the lie because it casts us as the hero.

This is one of the core dynamics driving the madness of our society. It is one of the core dynamics tearing this world apart. It is one of the core dynamics creating explosive conflict in your own life.

So how do you stop it?

Well, the first thing you need to realise is that all evil, no matter how grand or powerful, has no real power. It is always based on lies, and all lies have no power at all.

This process, like all lies, cannot be fought. To fight it is to buy into the fiction that it is on the same level as you, and it is not, for you are real and it is a lie.

Think of it like this - a lie has no reality, just like a hole. A hole isn't something - it's the absence of something. If you try to fight a hole in the ground you will not win. There's nothing there to hit. It's a hole - an absence of something.

Swing your fist at it and you'll just fall in.



Same thing with a lie - attack it and shit will explode in your face. And you'll be so busy fighting that you'll forget in an instant that it's a lie.

And as soon as you forget that evil is a lie - it's not a lie anymore.

This sounds weird and metaphysical - I don't mean it like that. Nor do I mean it in some vague mystical way, some vague Ricki Lake kind of way. I mean it very literally - once you start fighting someone you see as evil, that person will see you as evil and fight back.

And in that same instant, the process of 'scaling up' the conflict will kick off in both your minds.

You will both be morally certain of your position.

Every attack from the other side will further cement your moral certainty in your head.

Every attack from your side will likewise make your opponent more certain that you are evil.

And you will both fall into an escalating process of demonisation. You recreate your opponent as a demon in your mind. Your opponent recreates you in his/her mind as a demon.

Both of you see yourselves as fighting a moral crusade. You can see this happen on a small scale with little arguments you have at home or at work.

You can also see it on a large scale with nations and religions throughout history


It's interesting to look at the big versions of this - the religious wars and the national conflicts.

But always remember that humanity is humanity, and these things that take place on a national scale are exactly the same processes that take place on a personal scale in your own life.

So you have a contingent disagreement. It's about where the hedge should be or whose stapler it is.

All of a sudden you're 'fighting evil' and it's an 'issue of principle'.

Neither of you can back down because it's not about the actual fight anymore. It's about good vs evil.

And the further you get into this - and it is a silken and slippery slope - the more the process spirals and accelerates. It grips your mind and you - and your 'enemy' - both begin to unconsciously rationalise the world in terms of your moral conflict.

This is something that happens on an intimate level, inside you. It is the core process of every entrenched disagreement you have or will experience.

And at it's core is one process. This process of demonisation.

Instead of some woman being a bitch, she's an evil whore in a million different ways. The mind builds her up to be this grand bond villainess who needs to be taken down a peg or two - and you're the person to do it.

He's not just some ignorant racist. He's a representative of the mindless hatred that's tearing our society to pieces, that sets man against man, woman against woman. That generates fracturelines and malice where none need to be, and you know what - someone needs to draw a line in the fucking sand and teach these racist bastards a fucking lesson.


And it's not that this guy is an arrogant prick. It's that arrogant pricks think they have a right to push people around, and they've been pushing you around since year zero. No more. Not me, not now, not anymore. Someone should teach these guys a lesson.

You see the process? Small scale translated to large scale. And at the core of it, the process of escalating a personal conflict to the scale of archetypes - or rather, from the small to the epic.

We swallow the lie because it casts us as the hero.

But here's the thing - the escalation rests on something. It rests on our image of our enemy (the bitch, bastard, racist, whatever) as being so uniquely evil that they can act as a stand-in for the universal darkness we tell ourselves they represent.

That's a bit of a mouthful. Let's break it down, make it simpler.

It's about hating someone so much we can fool ourselves we're fighting a grand battle by fighting them.

Or to break it down to just one word:

Demonisation.

Like all universal human processes, people can gather together and do this en masse.

It is the heart of racism.

It is the heart of sexism.

It is the heart of sectarianism.

It is the core process driving bloodshed in Israel and Palestine.

It is a universal factor in all hatred.

And you can sum it up in one word.

Demonisation.

Unless you paint your enemy as a demon you cannot have your moral crusade. And if you cannot have your moral crusade you cannot have your moral certainty. And if you never feel the righteous hatred of moral certainty, you will never be evil.

When you demonise someone you call a demon into being - in yourself.


Whether you think that this is a worryingly accurate metaphor or an actual infernal gateway is by the by - the process is something we each can recognise within ourselves each day.

Just as we can, in the cold light of day, recognise the shattering damage it has inflicted, is inflicting and will inflict on our lives.

Moral certainty is what evil looks like from the inside.

All moral certainty is based on demonisation.

All demonisation is a lie.

Lies cannot be fought.

They do not need to be.

You see, the next time you feel angry, you'll know exactly why.

You'll know that somewhere, some part of your buried unconscious mind has created a monster, a demon, out of someone in the outside world.

So look for the demon. It won't be hard to find. It's the person, thing or concept you're raging about relentlessly in your head.

Then look at the demon. The bitch, the bastard. The racist. The cheat. The liar. Whatever. Whoever has become the bane of your life - look at them.

You'll see the image you have, grand and evil. The furious emotional charge around them.

Look past the hate and see the humanity. See the individuality of the person. See them as they are, not as your rage would like them to be.

You will usually see very quickly the weakness beneath the surface. How the pain they are causing comes not from their grand, evil strength, but from their own fear and ignorance.

This isn’t something you impose on top of your feelings of hate. It’s something that you will see clearly, and in seeing it, your hate will be punctured like a burst balloon, and will collapse into feelings of pity and a consciousness of the irrelevance of your former enemy.

Don’t take my word for it. Give it a go.

And I’m not saying in some bullshit Ricki Lake way - “evil is just fear when you get deep down.” Everyone knows that at some level.

The trick isn’t knowing it intellectually. The trick is breaking the recurring processes of demonisation and hatred that turn you into a bastard and destroy your life. The trick is to break the cycle of hate creating hatred. Of
poison begetting poison.

Of these intractable spirals of emotional and physical violence and alienation which form the contours of every aspect of human life, from the personal scale right up to the global.

The more you look at the dark side of humanity’s consciousness, the more it will seem to you that there is something in there that we have yet to confront in this modern age.

Processes of such twisted and vicious sophistication it's almost as if there were entities hiding in the dark cathedrals of our subconscious minds.

One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there were beings of an entirely different stripe to us. That have no ability to live outside of the worlds of agony in which we humans often dwell.

Things not of flesh or bone. Things that have no power of their own, for they have no reality of their own.

They are formed of lies, they are created of lies, they live in lies and lies sustain them. Their only power is the power of deception, but it is a power they have wielded unchecked for a long time, and they have grown fat on the pain and hate on which they feast.

They cannot be fought, for to fight them is to feed them.

But then of course, like that hole in the ground, you don’t need to fight it. You just look at it for what it is. A hole in the ground.

And that arrogant bastard just becomes a slightly pathetic guy who’s desperate to have people look up to him.

That cruel bitch becomes a vaguely sad figure - a woman desperately trying to prove to herself that she still has some power because so little in her life means anything to her anymore.

The racist just looks like a lost person, a thug. Nothing grand. No great crusade.

Just lost people pulling others off their aim, off track, off target.

And there’s a Greek word for missing the mark.

We all know this word - ironically enough - as one of the main tools for demonisation.

The word is very small.

And when you look at what it meant originally, and how it is now seen and has come to be used you might see it as the most misinterpreted concept in the history of language,

You might also see it as the greatest deception the Devil has ever pulled.


The word is sin.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Tolle, Truth And The Great Lord Xenu


So why Eckhart Tolle? Why not Tony Robbins, why not Brian Tracy or any one of the thousands self-help gurus out there?

Well, it’s a fair question. There are a lot of people reading this blog who’ve never even read his stuff – or even heard his name before coming here.

I decided to write a short piece on A New Earth and why I think it and Tolle are important.

A New Earth is the whole deal, an exhaustive and gripping exposition of Tolle's entire world-view. In it he writes about society, relationships, and takes it right down to an individual level. But then of course, there’s a lot of writers who’ve done that.

There’s scalability to his thought – it sheds light on things from the largest scale to the smallest scale. But then of course, there are a lot of writers who’ve done that.

It's potency - and its revolutionary force is in its clarity, its coherence, and its extreme level of accessibility.

Most gurus, spiritual teachers, philosophers and religious leaders of all traditions have said similar things, but there's always a heavy buzz of background static.

Take philosophy. Pick up any philosophy book today and you find a mass of dense and unreadable prose. I remember to this day the first phrase I read out of a work of academic philosophy. It was by a guy called Bernard Williams, I think.

The phrase was “the deontological nature of non-cognitive meta-ethics.”

Sheesh. I mean, that's not just badly accessible. It's like someone has sat down and invented words to make it less accessible, intentionally. We're talking extreme levels of inaccessibility.

Ironically, this is not far from the truth.

So yeah, I see philosophy, certainly in it’s present academic form, as a dead end. What about self-help? Isn’t self help what Tolle does?

Well, not really. Certainly not in the conventional sense. There’s a deep shift in priorities that Tolle has instigated and I’ll go through it now.

You see, old-school dedicated solely to helping people feel better about themselves and succeed. It does this at the expense of everything else – including the truth.

This is taken to an extreme in NLP-based self-help like that of Tony Robbins where you’re actually trained to program your mind and beliefs in a way that will aid your financial and personal success.

The issue is this - buying into and developing useful fictions spun to make you feel better, do better or perform better will always have a nasty flipside. And it’s this – your life is based on a lie. And that’s not ‘bad’ in some abstract sense.

If your life is given direction and motivation by fiction, sooner or later reality’s going to come smack you in the face to remind you who’s in charge.

I mean, I’ve noticed this in a pretty extreme way over and over in my life. Reality doesn’t give a fuck what you tell yourself. If your life is based on convenient fictions, you will end up deeply and profoundly damaged in ways that you never saw coming.

This isn’t some vague karmic law. This is obviously what will occur. If you’re walking on a path by a cliff face, you don’t stare at the map Tony Robbins drew for you, you stare at the fucking path.

So although many think of and speak of Eckhart Tolle as a self-help teacher, there is a crucial shift from men like Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy to guys like Eckhart Tolle

The former see truth as a tool on the path to happiness. The latter sees happiness as an incidental byproduct of the truth.

That is the difference between what you could call Self-Help and Self Help 2.0 – and it’s crucial. If you set happiness and success as more important than truth, your happiness and success will inevitably be built on fiction.

If you set truth above happiness and success, happiness and success will come as byproducts, and they will be far deeper entrenched than the frantic, manic successes of the first stripe.

And of course the only universal truth is that infinite, universally intelligent oneness that lies beyond and before the prison of labels and judgements in which we live.

The core of Self-Help 2.0 is exactly that the man said way back in the day - Seek only the kingdom of heaven, and all these things will be added to you.

This emphasis on truth is also the hidden meaning of Christ’s parable of the wise man who builds his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who builds his house upon the sand. He’s not talking about architecture, nor is he talking about dogmatically following the static rules of religion.

He’s talking about truth being the only foundation – and a relationship with the infinite intelligence and compassion of the universe (or as he put it God the Father) as the only truth.

Self Help 2.0 is driven, first and foremost, by that truth.

Now, is that truth contained in religions?

Yes, obviously. It’s all they’re about. But in spiritual traditions you find – in every religion, not just Christianity – a rigid hierarchy and stark divisions of the world into good and evil.

Every religion has this – be it Christianity, Judaism and Islam (the good/evil divide), Buddhism, Zen (the enlightened/unenlightened divide), Hinduism (the holy/unholy divide) – the list goes on.

In religion you also often find the deepest truths imbedded in the most ludicrious and wacked out dogmas.

It’s interesting that many of the Christians I know with the deepest and most profound grasp on the human condition are also Creationists.

Many of the commentaries on the Tao Te Ching or the Bhagavad Gita likewise fuse extreme levels of spiritual insight with some really wacky shit about personal immortality (Taoism) and reincarnation (Hinduism).

Of course in all these cases the original texts from which the traditions are derived are, in their unadorned and unanalyzed nakedness, shining works of immense power and insight.

But there is something about spirituality in general that leads to the wackiest, craziest beliefs that are so weird as to boggle the mind.

I call it the Lord Xenu effect.


I digress.

The point is that Tolle's thought is pure and clear as polished crystal. This has two effects.

Firstly his message has clarity to it that I've never encountered anywhere else.

Secondly, because he does not get distracted or pulled away by weird dogmas, he penetrates to the very deepest levels of philosophy and psychology.

The reason that Tolle is seen as a 'spiritual teacher' is that modern philosophy is in a very bad way.

It's a bunch of men (and some women who should know better) arguing with each other over who is the cleverest.

To work out who is the cleverest, they create mind-warping puzzles from the logical structure of language.

They solve these self-imposed puzzles to prove the superiority of their analytical capabilities.

This is not an insult. This is actually what it really is, in real life. Really.

No, really.

This is so deeply entrenched that the philosophical estabishment has yet to notice that a guy who's insight rivals Socrates. A man who has produced a psychological map of such stunning accuracy that it makes Freud's best work look like it was written in crayon.

It seems like I'm heaping crazy levels of praise on the man - in a way this is true. But in another way, it's less a measure of how insightful Tolle is, and more a measure of how far we've fallen. All he’s doing is looking at the human condition in himself and others and describing, in simple terms, what he sees.

But that’s where his strength is. You see, that’s all philosophy is at the end of the day – say what you see. No argument is or can be involved. It’s perverse to think of arguments having any place in philosophy at all, and I’ll tell you why:

If you take philosophy as the examination of the human condition – wait a minute. We all fucking have one. You, unless you are an alien scanning these words from the mothership, have one. If someone raises a point about the human condition, check your own to see if it’s true.

Arguing in abstract terms about the human condition is like arguing in abstract terms about the colour of the clothes you’re actually wearing at this very second. Just look at your damn clothes, and stop being so pissy.

Our philosophical establishment is exactly that - an establishment. It seems to serve no other purpose than the deepening of entrenched argumentative positions.

I think that everyone who calls themselves a philosopher should have yearly reviews in front of a bunch of 5 year old children. If they can’t get those kids understanding what they’re talking about and nodding along, they should be immediately fired and made to get a real job.

It would also stop the death of the thousands of trees that go to make the journals where philosophers bicker with each other over things they have invented in a language no-one else speaks.

I cannot overemphasize how total the destruction of genuine wisdom and insight has been in the modern world of academic philosophy.


Tolle’s A New Earth is a different kind of animal. It doesn't rise from inside the arguments that have been raging for (literally) millennia. It rises from a place so deep that the only thing many people can compare it to is a religion.

It contains a vision of the world that is stunningly accurate and has massive explanatory power.

It contains a psychological map of the human condition that is so accurate as to provide a total explanation for the human animal's entire emotional range.

It contains a social philosophy so deep that it accounts for all human dysfunction, and proposes a way to resolve it which can be empirically tested by the individual (and is being, by this individual, with potent results).

It proposes a totally bloodless revolution which has the capacity to change the world without a single act of violence.

But what is perhaps more miraculous than any of these things, Tolle has effectively proven the existence of God.


He proves the existence of God by providing the reader with direct links with the realm of the infinite.

Let's be frank about this - philosophers have been trying to write this book since philosophy began. It's the wall I've been smacking my head against since I was 17. Tolle just did it.

In centuries to come his name will be spoken of as the man who both ended and began the philosophical project.

He ended the philosophical project as we know it by transcending the arguments and undercutting the structures that philosophy has rested on and been trapped in since records began in Ancient Greece.

He began the philosophical project by changing it from an intellectual pursuit to a real voyage of discovery. He did this because his work provides gateways into a metaphysical realm that is not some hocus-pocus bullshit, but is as real as the ground beneath your feet and immediately accessible.

He ended argument over the existence of God by providing direct experience to the dimension of the divine to the individual.

Don't get me wrong, society has yet to catch up. But it will. It has to. We're shit out of time.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Whispers Of Stillness

Ok - something cool just happened that I want to share with you.

What I've been doing, to bring everyone up to speed, is to carry around an mp3 player full of Eckhart Tolle, and plugging it into my head whenever I'm not actually doing something that requires me to interact with people.

So at work, I'm just doing work, but come lunchtime I plug in. At the end of lunch I get back to work. At the end of work I plug in, and go home. When I'm interacting with people, flatmates, friends - I unplug. Obviously. Otherwise it's just rude. When I go to bed I plug back in and stay plugged in until I wake up again, when I unplug to have a shower then plug back in for the journey to work.



There's a lot of plugging and unplugging involved. It's very complex.

I also bought some fancy in-ear headphones - they're a lot better than the big-ass chunky headphones I had. Although I did like walking around with massive headphones on looking like an NME reject. Frankly, I look damn sexy, like this guy:



But here's the thing - fancy in-ear headphones, when you take them out, hardly make any noise at all. It's because they're buried in your head that they sound so awesome, so clear and lifelike - but because they're so close to the eardrum the noise they make is very small.

So anyway, I'm at work and I take them out and put them on the desk. I forget to turn them off.

The day passes, and I work as normal. Every now and then I 'Zen out' and stare blankly into space for a little while, then snap out of it. But here's the thing.

The politics of the office - yes, the whole office - start to dissolve around me.

Not kidding. All the little dramas, the "he said she said bullshit" as Mr Durst would put it, starts to break down.

Not by much. It's all very subtle. But it does start breaking down. By the end of the day I've made more progress in bonding with the office than I have in the month I've been there.

Hmm, methinks. Let's see what else this does.

So instead of turning my mp3 off, I instead just let the headphones dangle around my neck. Bear in mind that no-one but me can even hear anything this is so silent. I certainly can't make out any words.

It's just the sibilant and plosive sounds I notice every now and then, just on the edge of my hearing. Just tiny, subtle whispers of stillness.

And all of a sudden I realise just how much anxiety I carry around with me. How paranoid I am, not usually in anything huge or major, but just on an ongoing low level. IT flares up sometimes, but yeah, damn.

Paranoia and anxiety, so interwoven with the way I look at the world that I hardly notice it.



I could never see it before, not really. But it's there and it's so unnecessary. I'm having great conversations with everyone. Not deep lifechanging stuff, just normal banter - but easy, flowing, fun.

People start opening up to me, and I start opening up to people. Fascinating.

It's a subtle effect, and each individual breakthough was in itself tiny and almost irrelevant.

But all through the day there was this underlying stream of sanity, of insight.

Really, don't take my word for this, try it.

So I think - let's see how far we can push this.

Point being it looks like the 1000 days just stepped up a notch. I'm not just listening to Tolle when I can. He's whispering just beneath the level of conscious hearing even when I'm doing other stuff. I'll report on this new development as things progress.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Much love.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

It Still Turns

Step beyond the edge of understanding. That's something Tolle says somewhere, I think in the first part of Through The Open Door.

It's one of those 'spiritual' things to say. It sounds ever so profound, and usually provokes one of two different reactions. One is violent, contemptuous rejection. The other is treacly, fawning acceptance.

The violent rejection may seem like the more dark, the more broken, but this is an illusion. At least straightforward rejection, no matter how rash or irrational, has a kind of honesty to it. It dresses itself up as an intellectual rejection - a rejection of the 'pseudo-philosophy' of spiritual thinkers, a rejection of the fuzzy logic, a rejection -- let us be straightforward here -- of hippies.

A filthy hippie

Most gut-reaction revulsion to deep spiritual truths (or whatever you want to call them) comes from this - a strong distaste for the self-delusion of the happy-clappy hippie crowd. There's a lot of this is Christianity too, and I speak as a Christian. I know a lot of atheists claim that they reject Christianity because of the judgemental rules, the doctrines and the dogmas, the injustices, the cruelties, the paedophiles - and all the rest of it.

But I think secretly, the reason most people won't even consider Christianity is because of a deep-seated fear of becoming that weak and fawning, happy-clappy drone, gleefully building a world of delusion around them. It's the fear of being so broken that you are complicit in your own imprisonment, like Winston at the end of 1984, if you've ever read it or seen the film.

At least in the defiance, there is a kind of integrity, broken though it may be. And it is this integrity that many, including myself, cling to even as it drags them again and again into madness, horror, failure and despair.

It's a devil's deal, isn't it? Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Faust

On the one hand, all the darkness that people run to religion to escape. It doesn't go away if you're an atheist. It doesn't give a fuck what you believe. It doesn't give a shit about you.

On the other hand, burying yourself in a world of lies. Breaking so completely that you no longer care what truth even is. You'll agree to anything just to make the pain go away. You have broken. You have failed at the deepest possible level.

And that's it, really. That's how I lived, certainly. One or the other. I would pile on the damage to prove to myself I still had spirit, still believed. In what? Hard to say. The value of courage, the value of the truth.

But the past couple of years I've been feeling weary. Like I was getting really close to not giving a fuck anymore. To breaking completely and just diving straight in to the world of delusion.

And I suppose I tried. But the kicker is this - lies don't make it better. That world of delusion's like a house of cards in a hurricane when the nastiness rears it's head.

But here's the thing. No matter how much of a Goth I've been, no matter how 'film noir' I've let myself become, I have always believed that there's another way. That there's something else that lies beneath and beyond that terrible choice between damage and delusion.

The truth. In and of itself. Something that is not a delusion, something non-theoretical. Something really real, as real as the ground beneath your feet or the chair beneath your ass.

Something real.

We're so used to living in a world of fiction we don't know what reality looks like. We've never used our eyes before. But that time last week I punched through into something. I did it agian last night.

And guys, it's fucking real. Really, really real. Not like 'should it be like this or should it be like that,' but real like a lump of fucking stone or a pair of fucking tits.

Some stone tits

I mean, we argue so much about this or that, but think about this - I hope that we can all agree that we are born into a mesh of cultural judgements, fictions, rules, assumptions and bullshit that is deep and thick.

And we strive for our honesty, for our integrity, for our happiness. Some of us strive for God, some of us don't.

But here's the the kicker - we're so deep in this shit. Like deep deep.

And all the ways we 'change the ways we look at the world' - how the hell would we know that we're not just rearranging the fiction.

I'm not making an abstract point. So many times, reading through the Power Of Now or whatever, I'd get some insight and suddenly I'd 'see the world in a different way'.

But we are so deeply steeped in fiction! How would we know what truth looks like, when we have never seen it in the raw? How?

How easily can we be deceived, can we be led into lies or fiction? How we each want to believe so strongly that we have finally made it through the labyrinth, that this - no, this - no, THIS is the real answer.

How do you know what infinity looks like?

You stare into the night sky. It's just there, it's what it is. Silent, infinite, epic and simple all at once. And so far beyond any of those words that it makes all words, no matter how grand, look like childish scribbles in the sand next to the untamed majesty of the sea.

I just looked at a televangelist ripping Tolle on a US TV clip on Youtube. And it's amazing, it's like watching the Inquisition threatening Galileo with torture for saying the earth revolves around the Sun.

It's not that it's an injustice. It's got nothing to do with that. I'm not saying 'oh, this Televangelist is wrong.'

It's that there's something ludicrious about watching people try to argue with Tolle. It's like watching someone trying to argue away a rock.

A rock is. It doesn't matter how much you rail against it. It doesn't matter how much you undermine it's intellectual underpinnings. It doesn't matter if you believe in it, or how much passion or righteousness you pour into your argument.

A big rock

The rock doesn't give a fuck. The simple reality of a humble rock is deeper than the reality of your best argument or your most impassioned speech.

There's a legend, with no proof to it, that Galileo had a parting shot to the Inquisition. "It still turns," he is alleged to have said.

It still turns. You see, the Inquisition threatened him with torture and he recanted. He announced publically that he had been mistaken, that the Earth was indeed the centre of the universe.

It was a lie of course, and one might believe that it was the lie of a coward unprepared to face torture for what he believed.

But here's what I think.

I think that Galileo knew differently. I think he knew that recanting his ideas meant nothing. That in winning the argument against him, the Inquisition had acheived nothing... because it wasn't about him. It was never about him. Nothing he said would change the fact that the world still turns around the sun. No victory the Inquisition scored could mean anything in the face of that.

The truth is the truth is the truth. And we are so often caught up in the dramas of life that we believe like fools that our beliefs are even relevant.

They are not.

The truth simply is.

And here's the thing. Twice now, once last week and once again last night I was able to get through to that world. That "timeless state of presence" as Tolle calls it. That real world, the really real infinite moment from which all creativity and love arises. And it's really there.

But to finish up, let me sound a note of caution. My mind threw up a thousand fakes before I glimpsed the real thing. Do you believe the darkness in you is so stupid as to be unable to pass itself off as light?

Of course it can. The only time Satan shows up in the New Testament the only thing he does is quote scripture. The darkness is a master of deception and it will fool you.


But the reality is unmistakable. It has a quality of reality to it that is so deeply pronounced it is like a hallmark on gold. It's this sense of clarity multiplied by a thousand, an incredible sharpness to things. Way beyond anything you could ever impose upon reality from the outside.

It's not like I'm living in that state. But I have seen it, and in seeing it, I know it's there.

There are two effects to this saturation so far.

One of them is to give me secondary benefits. Just dwelling in Tolle's presence makes me chill and clear, heals my mind, sorts my shit out.

But the real prize of this whole thing is reality itself. That truth which Tolle speaks of. And the more I glimpse it, the more his words pull themselves into focus in a way I never expected them to. It's like I'm hearing him describe something that I'm increasingly starting to see in real life.

I don't know. We'll see where this leads. But this shit is real, and it is reality which it points to. And it's there, guys. It turns. It turns whatever we think of it, whatever we believe or get lost in. It's there, and it turns like a motherfucker. It's so far beyond the fawning agreement of hippies and happy-clappy Christians.

My honest opinion is that many of them are more lost than the most broken, hate-filled atheist alive.

This shit isn't 'nice' or 'good'. It's way beyond that. It's real. It's fucking real. It's crazy, it's exactly like Tolle describes it but far, far beyond what you picture in your head from listening to his descriptions.

And God, it's beautiful.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Simple And Clear And Crisp And Cool

Looking back over the past few weeks, the change in me has been profound. It's weird though, because with actual, genuine change, you hardly notice it as it happens. There's a load of small little things that are dissolving - little neuroses that always seemed so deeply entrenched.

My diet's improved. I'm eating a lot more vegetables. I'm going to work on time. I'm going to bed at a normal hour, I'm getting my work done efficiently. I'm increasingly able to organise things.

This might seem like a collection of the most banal little things that could possible be. A bunch of boring-ass mediocre shit that only a weirdo would mention. And don't get me wrong, I've never claimed not to be a weirdo. I'd be on pretty shakey ground if I did.

But to me these things are little miracles. The fact I'm eating a lot more vegetables is amazing - I'm fucking 28 and I've never bought vegetables in a shop before doing this. Crazy, but it's just that ingrown childish revulsion to them that I've never shaken.

It's fucking stupid, I know, I'm not expecting you to read this with a straight face, but I cannot describe the relief that I felt when I looked down at my shopping basket and saw a load of stuff there that was actually good for me. I know - retarded, but looking back on my mosey through Tesco's it wasn't like I was feeling more mature or more responsible, or even more health conscious. Nothing like that.


It was more that my body was choosing the food it wanted. Normally my mind chooses the food it wants, which essentially boils down to sweets, chips and meat. But this time, and with no effort at all from myself, I just wandered around and without any thought, gravitiated toward healthy stuff.

And again, you might think this is ridiculous, and from one point of view you are obviously correct. It is fucking ridiculous. But for years I've had this worry at the back of my mind about my diet. I've tried to eat better, and my pitiful attempts have always devolved within days to my usual junk-food fare.

So I hope you can see that when I looked at the shopping bag and saw this stuff there, and realised that, without any thought or effort I'd been eating a lot better recently and really enjoying it, I was overcome with this sense of gratitude and relief.

I get it, this is dumb. But for me, for my life, this is a big change I've tried to make for ages. I just find it happening around me.

And as for going to work on time - every job I've ever had I've kicked off major grief with my boss for being late. All of them. I'm 28. I've had a lot of jobs. Every single one I've been late in. Every single one except this.

And going to bed on time - I realise how gay this sounds. Like I'm becoming a stepford wife. But the truth is that when I look back at the fact that I've gone to bed at between 12 Midnight and 2 am, even on a work/school night, ever since I was 15...

And it was weird. It wasn't like I was partying. It was more like this sort of sullen rebellion to the fact I had to get up to go to work the next day, or school, or whatever. I used to resent hitting the hay in time to give me enough sleep. Always had.

Now I don't. I can actually plan ahead. Just one day, but good God - that's unheard of for me. I'm no longer a fuck-eyed zombie at work, so I can actually enjoy it. I'm no longer late for it so there's a whole dimension of nasty drama that I don't have to deal with.

And fucking hell... I can plan ahead! Me! Ciaran! I can plan a-fucking-head!

So fucking what, I hear you cry. Let me put this in context for you. Once, not too long ago, I was looking into different psychiatric medications. I like to research the shit I'm pumping into my bloodstream. Prozac had become less effective - although that's not to disrespect Prozac - for all the jokes and derision people pour on it, it literally saved my life on two separate occasions.

No, I was looking into remedies for Bipolar depression. The Prozac's good for pulling you out of the bottomless pit of howling self-hate that's at the end of one extreme, but I was just sick of spinning constantly between manic creativity/burning purpose on one hand and the darkness on the other.


So I'm looking at what medicated peeps are saying about Lithium. Pretty fucking scary stuff. I never went on it, and I pray I never do. If this whole thing does nothing other than to stabilise my shit and keep me off that zombie-juice I'll be on my knees throwing thanks at whatever deity's listening.

But one of them said something that really resonated with me. It was one of the few positive things mentioned about Lithium, but it hit me like a hammer. This woman said "I can plan my life six months ahead... and stick to those plans."

I wish I could give you the view from inside my skull when I read those words. To me, looking at the kind of mental volatility I'm packing, the kind of man I am and have been, the kind of personal history I've got, how I instinctually approach and react to situations....

The ability to plan ahead by six months, even holiday plans or simple things like holding down a job, is to me like the ability to fly.


And now I'm doing it. I'm planning ahead. And don't get me wrong - six months haven't passed yet, although they will soon enough; but I can plan and do keep to those plans. It's not some nightmarish struggle. It's simple, and clear, and crisp and cool.

Here's what I think's happening. My problem has never been the inability to plan as such. My problem has been the horde of hidden subconscious neuroses, and the head full of chaos that I've had since as long as I can remember.

Here's a picture of Sigmund Freud, father of psychiatry and proponent of a neurotic theory of human nature. Ironically enough it was drawn by Salvador Dali, well known nutcase.



Now those subconscious neuroses are being drawn into the light of day, and now that there's a level (by no means complete yet) of chill stillness in me, the obstacles are removed. No, that's not right, not really removed. But weakened. Seriously weakened.

I guess I'm just living better than I have before, and that's all I wanted to say with this post. Nothing huge or groundbreaking on a cosmic scale - but these changes are huge and groundbreaking to me. For so long I've just assumed that I was fundamentally disorganised, or fundamentally chaotic. I wasn't happy or unhappy about it, I just dealt with the neverending torrent of shit it caused because I felt that was my lot in life.

And again, don't think I'm floating through a rainbow stream of fairy dust and eskimo kisses. There's shit in my life, there's still a big weight of nastiness inside me. Stuff kicks off, as it always has.

But I am changing, and changing for the better. Changes both profound and subtle that I'd never even hoped for. It's cool. It's really cool.

Get yourself an mp3 player.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Can This Thing Be Engineered?

It is a strange thing when you think about it. The importance of pain in the origin of the key spiritual traditions.

I mean, think about it. Your top three religious leaders are Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed. In terms of being 'hooked up' to whatever's out there beyond the reach of analysis and logic, those three would certainly be pretty damn high on anyone's list.

Now this is very interesting, because in all these cases the individual in question lived a pretty uneventful life until he decided to starve himself in isolation until something mental happened.

Really. Take Jesus. I remember the first time I actually sat down and read a gospel from cover to cover. They don't actually have covers, but you know what I mean. It's very interesting, because one of the big things I got from it was the fact that there are all these sign and portents, but Jesus doesn't actually do anything that intense. He's just this clever working class kid from a shitty, dead-end town.

Then he goes into the desert and he starves himself. And does he meet God?

No. He meets the devil.


After he's resisted the devil he comes out of the desert like a spiritual juggernaut, drawing huge crowds and performing works that would make a Jedi blush.

Mohammed was middle class. Married at 25, a merchant in a merchant family. He gets discontented by life in Mecca, and wants something more. So as a young man he retreats from society into a cave and he stays there until he's 40. Then pow - he has a revelation from God and that's the very first Ramadan.

I decided that I wouldn't put a picture of Mohammed in here. Instead, here's a picture of some lightning with a quote from the Q'uran. This is because I want to live.



Anyway, Mohammed he comes down from the mountain this charismatic powerhouse. By the time he dies aged 62 he's conquered Mecca and Medina, united Arab culture and the rest, as they say, is history.

Buddha was a rich kid. Long story short he seems to have got sick of the emptiness and banality of life, a little like an ancient male Paris Hilton. So he decided, essentially, to sit down and not eat until he gets it.

Check out this picture of the Buddha's 'lean days':

Sexy.

My point is this - what if this isn't just a coincidence? What if these three men have done something, put themselves in a certain situation which has allowed them to punch through to a level of reality from which they were able to draw incredible wisdom, charisma and power.

It's like in each case they turned their lives into a pressure cooker - they exposed themselves to the full weight of suffering. Let 'suffering' or 'negativity' or 'loneliness' or 'the devil' or 'failure' or whatever - let it in. Take the shackles off it and face it full on.

It seems that these men, the top three religious teachers in history, all did the same thing and whatever they did unleashed vast amounts of power inside them. The presence of each of these men radiates down through the centuries. I wonder what any of them would have been like face to face?

What would it have felt like to see such presence in the flesh? What would it feel like to be like that? To have that level of clarity, wisdom and power of mind?

What effect would a person like that have in the modern age?

They punched through to the divine, they all did. Or the divine punched through to them. Or both, or neither, or whatever you want to say.

But all "divine" really means when you get down to it is "something so much greater than anything we can wrap our heads around that to attempt to label it is something of a joke."

And Tolle - the connection he has he openly admits came to him in the midst of deep despair, at the most extreme depths of darkness and self-hate.

And that breakthrough I had recently - nothing on anything like the scale of any of these guys, you understand. But it was the intense inner pain that suddenly gave reality and context to the words Tolle had been speaking.

And shit - I still get lost in my head, still feel that deep pain that we all like to hide from ourselves, hate, judge, label - all the rest of it.

The main difference, and what I was trying to get at in the Ignition post is that 'presence' as Tolle calls it is no longer a theoretical concept to me. I mean, don't get me wrong - I had no idea it was a theoretical concept to me. I thought I 'got it' a thousand times.

But the other day, deep in pain, I suddenly felt and saw the simple and immediate reality of it. It's blasted me to a level I'd never even dreamed of - and I still know I have a ways to go.

That's fine, it's not a problem. It's fascinating. Damn, I'm glad I'm doing this 1000 days.

But here's the thing - here's what I'm trying to get at. If you can disidentify with pain when it's flaring up, you seem to get a massive boost to your 'presence' - and by that I mean connection with the infinite, with God, with compassion, with love, with oneness, with Zen - whatever.

Could we instigate some kind of much deeper and more extreme unleashing of spiritual power through similar means? I'll blaspheme three major religions all at once in one sentence now - but I must raise this question: Can this thing be engineered?

Because if it can - that would be very interesting indeed. Because then you wouldn't be looking at one person in the modern age like this. If there is a process that can be unlocked, there's no reason why more - many more - could not walk that path.

I always think like this. Trying to find ways to kick off global revolutions and save the world. It's one of the deepest and most entrenched parts of the fiction I've written for myself.

Ooooo - it is compelling though, is it not, to think of such an occurrence? Such a process?

I should probably bring some more awareness into the way I constantly turn everything I'm doing into this kind of thing.

Hmm.

In other news things continue to kick off negativity-wise, but they're bouncing off me inside and out in a way I've never seen before. Again, as mentioned I'm very far from Jedi yet, so I'm sure life's going to smack me about a bit going forward... but compared to the neverending car wreck of my past, shit's going swimmingly.

Love to my homs.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Ignition

Today I interviewed a celebrity.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it wasn't like a global megastar or anything, but it's a TV regular who appears with frequency on British TV.

He's a comedian - Sean Lock. He's on a show called 8 Out Of 10 Cats, and he's a regular on various panel games and such.

Here he is on QI.

He's a career comedian - been doing it for 19 years. I got to interview him for a local Edinburgh entertainment review paper. It broke up the day nicely.

In other news, this Tolle stuff continues to kick ass.

I feel like the last post - that whole week - was a major moment for me. I've got a whole new perspective on this whole thing now. It's fascinating.

The best way I can describe it is like a moment of ignition. The past few days I feel like I'm not theorising anymore. For better or for worse, something specific, something very real, some irrevokable mental shift seems to have taken place in my head.

Now if you're nodding along with this, beware. A thousand times a thousand I thought I'd made 'the breakthrough'.

I think it comes of wanting it so much. No matter what caveats Tolle puts into his work, I don't think anyone's really got into it who hasn't reinvented it in their own heads as some kind of utopian paradise.

As some kind of beautiful ending, the thing that will make everything ok. And in a way, it is. But if you're engaging with it in those terms you're not getting it. You might as well be worshipping a stone idol, burning a witch or backstabbing your friends to get ahead in your career.

The fact is that thinking 'ah, I finally see' is a screaming symptom that it's just one more lie filling your head.

But damn, he's right - I knew he was right. There's something here, something real. He's really right, really talking about something highly specific and non-theoretical. This isn't a 'belief system' as much as it a map with a big X on it. There is a very real treasure buried here, very real.

But just as it's not a 'belief system' as such, it will become a 'belief system' very fast. The mind is amazing at constructing belief systems. Do not be so naieve as to think you will, or even can, avoid this. You cannot. If you could, you wouldn't need to listen to Tolle in the first place.

That's why I think this saturation approach is deceptively strong, for all the 'Oh no, that'll never work because of X, Y and Z' stuff that you can throw at it.

I mean, to my mind A New Earth is easily - easily - the most groundbreaking work of philosophy since Immanuel Kant's body of work. There's nothing in the last hundred years that can even come close to it in terms of originality, insight, power, relevance, clarity or power. Not close.

But here's the thing - it's just a book. And a book shining with truth, no matter how bright, will only take you a few days to read. After that, what's left?

The presence? Sure, reading anything by Tolle gives a kind of zen thrum that lasts for a few days.

The ideas? Sure - but in a way that's almost a bad thing. The concepts he uses to point to the internal process he's trying to trigger inside you are just that - concepts. After a few days, weeks, months - whatever - you'll forget them, or confuse them, or distort them. Worse still you might 'agree' with them, and believe them to be 'right'.

There's a lot of subtle distinctions here, don't get lost in it.

Think of it like this - the point of Tolle is not to give you presence. And if you read 'A New Earth' and agree with it, Tolle has failed in his purpose of writing that book.

There is an actual moment, a process. If you know anything of Tolle's past you'll know that in his life there was one moment where he, to paraphrase 'separated from his pain' and triggered the rising of the clarity and peace for which he is now justly famous.

The point is this - ignition. That's what you're looking for. Ignition. There's no point agreeing with the stuff - and piggybacking off Tolle's presence is only a temporary and highly limited way of experiencing what he's talking about.

I mean, don't get me wrong - Tolle's work is compelling and you will agree. But if you don't move beyond that you might as well have read a copy of Mein Kampf for all the deep change that will occur in your life. Nothing will change. You will remain lost and life will break you over and over, as it has always done, as it will always do.

And as for piggybacking off Tolle's presence - if you have any doubts as to the deep power that this guy has tapped into then get a copy of A New Earth and read the fucker. You'll see what I mean. The deep sense of clarity and vibrant calm that you get from it is unlike anything I've ever got from any other book at any point in my life ever.

But who gives a fuck? What does it matter to add a little calm to your life - or even a lot? It's not self-sustaining. All your deep inner shit is still there, it's just held at bay. It's like you have a dark room full of roaches. You can shine a light in the window and scare them off, but you'll not get rid of them forever.

To do that you need to light up the room permanently. Eliminate all trace of shadow. And set a fire that'll burn those fuckers out.

Ignition.

Your head is full of roaches. You know it. You keep fucking shit up. You've got all your regrets and even now, as you live your life day in, day out, even today - you do messed up shit you have no control over and you know it.

And it's not messed up in some vague 'moral' sense. We're talking the kind of deep self-sabotage we're all guilty of that ruins the loving relationships you've watched crumble to dust. That ruins the opportunities at work that you miss because you weren't on the ball, or because you let yourself be sidelined because you weren't sure what to say.

We're talking about that book you'll never write because you'll never have the clarity of vision. The children who will hate you because you'll talk down to them - and even knowing that you're doing it you won't be able to stop. The friends you'll watch leave your life forever - and the awesome friendships you never knew you never had.

There's something else beneath all this - beneath all this shit. Beneath all this talk of Zen and such hippie bollocks as 'spiritual awakening'.

Something's here. A thing you can do inside your head that will permanently change things. I don't know if it's for better or worse yet - I guess we'll find out soon enough.

But ignition. Ignition, my friends.

Beats agreeing with this spiritual bullshit. Beats theorising about the 'correct' way to 'awaken' or somesuch crap. Beats living in fear.

Beats living in fear.

Ignition.

That moment that Tolle speaks of, that he describes, where in the depths of despair he saw his own pain and was separated from it. That's the only thing here worth anything. Everything else is bullshit and chaff.

My formula for ignition is as follows -

Sustained saturation in Tolle. This has two effects. Firstly, it will make you aware of a whole new dimension of reality you'd never known about before. Secondly, it will give you the map - the psychological directions that are necessary to get beyond psychology.

But both of these things are useless in and of themselves. Waste of fucking time. Might as well play Xbox. Timesplitters 2 is my favourite. And Burnout 3. Burnout 3 rules. Timesplitters 3 was a bit of a disappointment though. Nevermind.

This is all about making this shit self-sustaining for you. So you're not dependent on the presence of some dinky German.

This is about putting this shit beyond a point where you can fuck it up.

This is about starting a self-sustaining, irreversible process in yourself.

This is about igniting this shit inside you. Most of the time we're just warming our hands at the fire. But unless we become the fire, unless we ourselves ignite with incandescent flame, this whole thing's going to be one long circle-jerk. Just a bunch of fanboys watching the latest vogue from Oprah.

So the first two things Tolle Saturation gives you:

It makes you aware of a new dimension of reality.
It gives you the map to get beyond your own psychology.

There's a third and final ingredient that is necessary for ignition to start.

Luckily this final ingredient is something that life is happy to provide in abundance.

Pain.

That's right boys and girls.

Pain is needed. It's the only thing that makes this real, that takes this out of the arena of theoretical debate. It's the only thing that can give you the context to apply the map you get - and the motivation to fucking use it.

And before you think I'm getting all Opus Dei on you, be cool. I'm not suggesting you seek pain. I think we're all old enough and ugly enough to realise that it finds you. It always finds you.

Pain will find a chink in your armour. It will crawl under your skin. It will tear you apart.

This will occur. Nothing that you do can stop it.

But in saturating your mind with Tolle you can get the presence and the map to give yourself a chance you've never had before. To use the pressure and heat of your pain to ignite your personal presence. To pass that irrevokable boundary, to make that permanent shift.

And that's what's going to change your life.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

It's Not About The Pain

Well that was certainly, as the Chinese say, 'interesting.'

The last week's been extremely challenging. My neck was just the start - it was as if outside and inside negativity just unleashed a coordinated attack.

On a personal, emotional and professional level, the last week has been one damn thing after another.

It's interesting, this is the second time this has happened recently. It's like a cascade effect.

Mostly we're in a low-level state of siege. Internal negativity, external shittiness - things come up every now and then. It's as if the darkness is probing our defenses.

Since I started this 1000 days I've been feeling a lot stronger.

I think there are stages you go through when immersing yourself in Tolle. One is annoyance - I never had to deal with this, but I've spoken to many people who get angry at Tolle initially, even as they intellectually agree with him, or intellectually acknowledge him as a shining genius.

Ironically, intellectual agreement is one of the most subtle and powerful obstacles to actually getting anything useful out of listening to Eckhart Tolle.

Some other people get massively tired - he just knocks them out. As I mentioned in the comments to the last post, this is because when you've been drawing all your energy from hate, sorrow, rage or bitterness, you build up a huge fatigue debt in your psyche. As soon as you weaken the negativity, a great tiredness comes.

At the same time, the most recognisable immediate impact this has had on my life is to instill within me a great sense of chill, of inner strength, of peace, calm and acceptance.

As such, the general, low level probing of negativity has been bouncing off me like rain. It's almost surreal to watch the things that would normally have crawled right under your skin and driven you nuts just flow through you without consequence.

But these low-level attacks are not the only weapons open to that darkness. It has cunning, and more control over yourself and others than any of us would care to admit or like to believe.

The neck was just the start. Over the next few days poison and toxicity flooded in from various unconnected sources on the outside. Inside, I became angry, frustrated. That feeling of being hard-done-by, of being unfairly treated by life reared it's head. It was accompanied by deep sadness, and moments of despair.

By Thursday I could hardly hear Tolle. The headphones were on full volume, but my mind was louder. Raging at the wounds I'd suffered unfairly, justifying and blaming in equal measure. Then moments of sorrow at the impossibility of the situation.

That night I poured it all out to a friend. It was good - it helped get space and clarity around my anger. That's not what normally happens when you talk about this kind of thing. If you have someone who enthusiastically sympathises and agrees with you that you are hard done by, that just accelerates the rage, sadness or pain. If you have someone who tries to argue you out of it with logic, that's like throwing petrol on a red-hot coal.

But if you have someone who listens with openness and acceptance, they can provide that present awareness to your anger that Tolle advises you provide for yourself.

This is the value of counselling - and the problem with psychoanalysis. But I digress.

My friend mentioned that I should pray. I haven't prayed in a little while, a few weeks or so. And so, as soon as she left, I addressed the big guy thusly:

"God, help me, man. I'm fucked. I don't know what to do. I'm lost in this shit, again. Again, God. Help me, really, please. I'm out of ideas."

I'm still full of frustration. The talk has helped, but it's getting stronger again, coming back.

I get home and walk into the kitchen. There, sitting on the sideboard is an mp3 player. Not mine, my friends. Attached to it were some in-ear headphones. You know the kind that burrow into your brain and make the music echo around in there, like the band is sitting inside your skull hammering away.

I pick them up. I look through the mp3s available. I've used this mp3 player before as a backup. My Creative Zen player can be a little temperamental, so I've put a few Tolle pieces on this thing. What have we got. Let's see...

Choose To Awaken Now.
In The Presence Of A Great Mystery.
Through The Open Door.

Choose To Awaken Now is good. It's got a funny bit right at the start where there's a deafening scream of feedback in the middle of Eckhart's speech. He pulls it back well - the dude's got quick reflexes. I'll let you find out what it's like yourself.

In The Presence Of A Great Mystery I haven't listened to yet.

Through The Open Door is potent. It's like Tolle with full reverb. The acoustics of the room it was recorded in have an echo to them, it makes his voice so penetrating. On top of that, I think he just got out of the bed on the right side that day. The dude's on form.

Through The Open Door it is. Full volume. In ear-headphone-tastic.

Tolle's voice BOOMS in my head. The volume is teetering on the edge of uncomfortable but I don't give a shit because the second it starts it punches through the darkness in me like a .357 Magnum bullet.

This is the best time to listen to Tolle - when you're fucking furious or massively unhappy. Normally his insights are sharp and crisp, but when you're in the middle of a deep negative mind-pattern everything he says is directly relevant. Urgently so.

And there, finally, after having read his stuff for a year, after having filled my head with it over and over, after having tried so hard to dissolve that gaping hole inside myself, I finally, finally see.

I finally realise what he's telling me to do. What I have to do. It's everything he's been saying for all the time I've been listening to him. And it wasn't that he wasn't being clear - it was that I was layering all my different ideas on top of his, creating chaos and confusion.

It's not about dissolving the pain. The pain doesn't go away. The pain is irrelevant.

For so long I've been trying to get to that state of Zen beingness that would make all the shit go away. But it's not like that. It so much easier. So much simpler than this. So much closer than this - closer to us.

We're not a thousand miles away from salvation. We are each the same distance from eternity. And that distance is a billionth of a millimetre. The Kingdom of Heaven, as the man said, is amongst you. Not amongst you all, but amongst YOU, as in you, yes, you, you reading this sentence, you, right here, right now, you.

For so long I've tried to dissolve the darkness. To resolve the negativity. In the world outside, in myself.

But the negativity has no resolution. The pain in your life cannot be resolved. The pain in the world cannot be resolved.

That's not how it works. That's not what it wants. It wants to live, and given even the slightest chance, it will.

The pain says 'if only X could happen, everything would be fine.' If only this person would agree with me, would do things my way, would see my value, would see my talent, would open up, would calm down, would this, would that... then everything would be fine.

It's the lie, the core lie of all pain - that it has a rational reason and that, by rationality, it can be resolved.

No pain is rational. All pain claims to be. In fact, pain is so strident in it's claims to be rational, that what appears from the outside to be the rationality of a person - or a nation, or a world - is in fact just rationalised pain - agony sculpted into a raging mockery of true logic.

For me, it became 'if only I can build up enough presence through listening to Tolle, then I will be able to resolve the pain.'

It will not work, it cannot work, it will never work.

But the reason I committed to this 1000 days was because I believe there is a deeper truth. That Tolle has done what philosophers have attempted to do for millenia. That he has broken through to something that I do not even know. And that this thing, this thing that I do not even see, may yet make these 1000 days something more than what I believe they are.

The truth is not that the pain can be resolved. The truth is that the pain can be seen.

The truth is not that thought can be resolved. The truth is that thought can be seen.

The truth is not that trauma can be resolved. The truth is that trauma can be seen.

The truth is not that hate cannot be resolved. The truth is that hate can be seen.

The truth is not that failure can be resolved. The truth is that failure can be seen.

The truth is not that the harrowing nightmares can be resolved. The truth is that the harrowing nightmares can be seen.

The truth is not that anything can be resolved. The truth is that anything can be seen.

And it's funny, because this is what Tolle's been telling me this whole time. And he's said that over and over again. And I've been looking at the pain, seeing it, waiting for it to dissolve so I can be enlightened, saved, free.

No, no, no. Silly boy. You're not paying attention to what he's saying, are you, Ciaran? You're trying to use stillness as a bludgeon to batter your pain into oblivion.

Oh, it's so simple. And he's seen it, God bless that tiny German bastard, he's seen it. He got it, he nailed it, he nailed it to the floor.

It is as simple as he says it is.

Normally we're trapped in a stream of thinking. We're trapped in a stream of analysis. We're trapped in a stream of judgements. We're trapped in a stream of labels. We're trapped in a stream of worry. We're trapped in a stream of regret.

When we fight these things they are like the hydra of Greek legend. One head comes off, two more grow in it's place. The monster just gets stronger. We get more lost. We get more broken. Either we give up and resign ourselves to a hateful life, or we resist and suffer untold damage.

It's not a great list of options.

But if you look at what is happening - if you look at it, then YOU are looking at IT. You become you. It becomes it. You're not lost in the rage anymore, or the sorrow, or whatever. You're above it.

That's it. That's all he's saying. And it's not like IT then dissolves. It doesn't. That's not what's going on here. That's not where the payoff is in all this. That's entirely secondary and completely outside your control.

Do you hear what I'm saying? All this time we're focusing on how to 'escape the ego' or to 'dissolve the pain-body' or to 'be healed of the pain'.

We're still thinking that the pain is the barometer of our success in this.

It's not. The barometer of our success is the seeing.

Because that brief moment of peace, of introspective silence when we look at ourselves... that's not the route to dissolving pain.

It's way more than that. The pain-dissolving powers of that brief moment where we look at the hate/pain/rage/despair or whatever are incidental.

Do you understand? Incidental.

Now Tolle keeps saying that that 'seeing', that 'awareness' has amazing powers to dissolve negativity and entrenched pain. And I'm not saying that's not true - it is. It's very true. But as long as you're getting the presence in order to dissolve the pain, you're still the pain's prisoner.

Once more in bold - As long as you're getting the presence in order to dissolve the pain, you're still the pain's prisoner.

It's the key to this whole thing.

The presence, the seeing for it's own sake. That's where the action is. And as soon as you realise that - or more specifically as soon as I realised that - this shit just got one hell of a lot more simple.

There I was lying on my bed with Tolle booming at me and the rage boiling inside. And I saw the rage. The rage didn't go away. I just saw it.

But - oh, how to describe this in a way that makes sense - I was me again. I was me looking at the pain. And not some "super-advanced-Enlightened-Ciaran-2000-series" me. Just me. Just plain old me. The me I've always been. The me I am just in general.

Just me looking at the rage. Nothing spooky. Nothing metaphysical. Nothing mystical. Just me.

And it wasn't like it normally is. Brief (or even extended) interludes of presence that I pour onto the negativity in hopes of dissolving it, always ending in frustration because the pain doesn't get dissolved. And either a minute or a month later when the rage/despair/arrogance/whatever arises again I feel like shit because 'it didn't work'.

It will never work. It's not about it 'working'. If it's about it 'working' then it will never happen for you.

That seeing of the thought stream or the negativity is important for it's own sake. Not for what it does to the pain. That's good but incidental. And it's not rapid as in all your pain just evaporates.

It's just rapid compared to every other method, because presence does permanently dissolve pain, even if it takes a while - and nothing else does.

But again - it's not about the pain.

Most of us who look deeply into this do so because we've just had enough of shit kicking off in our lives.

And so we want the shit to stop.

But as long as that's your motivation you're still looking to the shit to tell you if you're successful. And the shit is shit. It's a universe of Godless horror that doesn't give a fuck about you. It will lie to you, build you up, give you false hope, then tear you apart again.

But the seeing - it is so deep. It's so friendly, and so close. It's like slipping into the oldest, most comfortable pair of slippers you own and it's always there, right here, right now. Yes. For you.

Don't agree with this. Your agreement is irrelevant. Your agreement isn't you. It will make you think it is. You agreement is a lie your mind is telling you. Fuck agreement.

Don't argue with this. The world is full of meaningless argument. If you want to disprove it, do it and see what happens. That way, if you want to take this down you can do so with impact.

But yeah - crazy days. Just goes to show that the darkest times are when the darkness is the most vulnerable and exposed.

Just make sure you've got some in-ear headphones and the Through The Open Door mp3 set handy.

It's ever so good.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

My Neck Hurts

The other night I went to sleep with headphones on. Normally I'll take them off to sleep and turn the volume up to max, leaving them beside me so I can hear Tolle gibbering on as I lie drooling in blissful slumber.

This time I stuck the chunky earphones onto my heeeeed. I'm pleasantly surprised that I can snuggle up comfortably on my pilllow with Tolle reverberating at full whack in that hollow boombox I call my skull.

I wake up the next day, feeling Zen as a mountain stream. It's a great feeling, waking up like that. Noticing that I wake up highly alert, and don't had a thought in my head until I'm out the door fully dressed on my way to work. It's pretty cool.

So there I am in work, Zenning away as one does. Lunchtime comes. My neck starts to hurt.

The pain is exactly like you get when you sleep with your head at a funny angle.

It gets worse and worse, stiffer and stiffer.

It still hurts. My neck mobility is hovering somewhere between Batman and Robocop.

Dunno what it is. No other symptoms apart from feeling generally not chipper because my neck hurts.

Thing is Tolle mentions somewhere that physical aches and pains can accompany the dissolution of the pain body. Almost like it's striking out physically as it diminishes. Don't get me wrong, it could well be something far more prosaic like I slept at a dodgy angle due to chunky headphones.

Strange it didn't kick in till mid-afternoon though.

I hope I haven't got meningitis.

No idea what this is, if it's relevant, what it means. But as I'm cataloging this experiment and Tolle himself mentioned things like this, felt I'd flag it up.

Seriously guys, if this is psychosomatic it hurts like a bastard. Motherfucker.

Ow.

Monday, 6 October 2008

A Floodlight Cutting Through Darkness

As you may have noticed by a few things I've said, I've got a job.

It's awesome - I've got a normal job for the first time in ages. I love it.

I won't go into too much detail about what it is save to say that I sit at a desk and stare at a screen from 8:30 to 5:30. And that it's cool.

Here's the thing though. Before I started the Tolle stuff, all my jobs were hard-fucking-core. I've very rarely just done a normal job. Mostly I've been in extreme, high-stress environments. Anyone who's seen me can tell you that the colour of my hair backs this up.

If you'd ask me why you might expect me to say something like "I'm an adrenaline junkie" or "I love a challenge." And if we were in a job interview I might answer like that.

It's not true though. The reason I've always had these crazy-extreme jobs is because for as long as I can remember I've had this crushing terror of living a worthless life.

What I mean by that is simple - I have, all my life, been shit scared of doing 'nothing' with my life. It has been the boogeyman under my bed for so long. Given the choice between a kick-ass relationship, a rock-solid friendship, or the merest whisper of a chance to do something that would have meaning and value, I would run to the latter like a crazy person.

I've sacrificed a great deal on that altar. Relationships, friendships, money, career - anything you can think of, really. Anything I could think of, more specifically. In many ways I've lived my life almost based on the assumption that if I just sacrifice enough stuff I'll be able to get my wish.

Here's a blanket apology to all those reading this (you know who you are) who've been caught up in that. I've done a lot of damage, upset a lot of people. I guess the only solace they can take is that the overwhelming majority of the damage I've done has been directed inward, at myself.

Now, there are some people, maybe even some of you, who would look at that and think it heroic. Really. Don't laugh. There are.

There are a lot of people who feel the same way I felt, who live the same way I lived. I think a lot of the reason I built up the following I built up was because my madness is far from unique.

And look, here's the thing. I'm not here to don sackcloth and ashes and bemoan my past. What's done is done. I'm certainly not here to defend it. I don't think it's useful to morally judge in general. And the judgements we cast on ourselves are always the most damaging and deluded.

Point is this - it didn't work.

I mean, not only did it not work, it led me into one emotional, personal or professional car crash after another. It was fricking catastrophic.

Here's something cool though.

The fear has retreated. Massively. It's still there, like a whisper in the background sometimes. Listening to Tolle does that - his presence pushes back negativity like a floodlight cutting through darkness.

I feel free. I go to work and I can just put all my emotional shit on hold. I work good - better than I have before. Ever. I'm so calm. It's crazy. I've never been a calm person. Now I am. I can actually organise things. Anyone who's ever worked with me will realise that's a miracle on a par with walking on water. Normally I'm a fucking mentalist.

And the thing is, I have had some serious successes - especially in my work life. But they've been in spite of my mindset and not because of it. This is just so much better.

I actually feel secure in my job. That's a weird feeling - never had that before. I mean, it's especially weird given the current economic climate. And I love the work, it's cool. It's not 'interesting' from an outside point of view - if I were to describe my day to you you'd not be enthralled, I'll tell you that now.

But it's cool. Doing things is cool when you're chilled. You can build skills, see yourself getting better, get creative with how you do things - all that jazz.

I love it. I do. I'm not terrified every day that I'm wasting my life every second.

And that, my friends, is a big fucking gift from that tiny German mofo.