The Four Philosophical Hindrances and Openings
In my first book Meditation as an art of life – a basic reader I presented what I call the four philosophical hindrances and openings in towards the Source. I presented them in order to show what I think characterizes the spiritual practice, as it exists in all the traditional wisdomtraditions. Ever since I have become increasingly puzzled over, how the self-help industry - which claims to work in accordance with spirituality - is turning this upside down. The paradox is that while the self-help industry is claiming to create the authentic, autonomous, resource-filled and competent human being, at the same time is doing the exact opposite: it is making people dependent of therapeuts, coaches, others ideas and ideals; making them modeling and imitating so-called successful people, etc., etc.
The one face of this paradoxical Janus head is the empowerment culture, the other face is the victimization culture (and the connected recovery movement) - read more about this paradox in my articles Self-help and The Mythology of Authenticity and The Hermeneutics of Suspicion (the thought police of the self-help industry) and why I am an apostle of loafing.
The self-help industry is today often calling its method positive psychology. It has especially three sources of inspiration:
1) The American New Thought movement, which is the subjectivistic belief, that your thoughts are creating reality, and that by focusing on what you find positive, and avoiding what you find negative, you can create your life in accordance with your wishes, feelings and needs (see my article The New Thought movement and the law of attraction). The “positive” is identified as success, money, sex, personal power, material glory, etc.
2) Humanistic psychology is the belief, that if you focus on your emotional experiences, needs, will and wishes, you will find your authentic self, which is claimed to be more or less divine. Religion has in that way been reduced to psychology. Humanistic psychology is a central inspiration for management theory (see my articles Humanistic psychology, self-help and the danger of reducing religion to psychology, The value of having a religion in a spiritual practice and Management theory and the self-help industry).
3) The postmodern intellectualism, which supports the subjectivistic and relativistic idea, that there doesn´t exist any objective truth. Truth is something we create ourselves, either as individuals or as cultures, and since there doesn´t exist any objective truth, there doesn´t exist any objective scale of truth. Therewith it also says, that we live in a Matrix, a dream/fantasy, a kind of virtual reality, we have created ourselves, and that there is no chance of getting out of this. Therefore the best is to be interested in finding ways of getting on in this world, rather being interested in finding ways of discovering the truth (see my articles Constructivism: the postmodern intellectualism behind New Age and the self-help industry and The Matrix Conspiracy).
This conspiracy is characterized by what you could call The Mythology of Authenticity. It has two world-images, which are closely connected: humanistic psychology and constructivism. And the two methods used by these world-images are psychotherapy (humanistic psychology) and coaching (constructivism). It is a mythology because it isn´t something real, it is the dream about becoming another, a life in a constant state of in-authenticity; in contrast to true spirituality, which you could call the reality of authenticity, because it here is about being precisely what you are, no matter how insignificant, or negative, it might seem in relation to your own or others´ ideals.
The five main programming technologies of the conspiracy are Management theory, New Age, Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), The law of attraction.
It is on the background of these sources of inspiration, that the self-help industry is turning the philosophical hindrances and openings upside down, so that the hindrances are considered as positive, and the openings are considered as negative. I call this the 666 aspect of the Matrix conspiracy. In the following I will present the philosophical hindrances and openings, and explain the 666 turn further:
The philosophical hindrances are (the mythology of authenticity is written in italic):
1) A rational where you take your assumptions, conceptions and values for absolute truths (hereunder the subjectivistic and relativistic point of view that the power of thought can create reality as it fits you) and hereby end up in a contradiction between your thoughts and lived live.
2) A life-philosophical, where you are circling around your own past and future (the idea that you should get in contact with your hidden resources to either becoming yourself as you once were: humanistic psychology and the idea about your inner core, and its method: psychotherapy and the dream of a lost past – or to become the other, you want to become: the constructivistic idea about your potentials, and its method: coaching and the hope for a richer future) and hereby are creating a closed attitude, inattation, absent-mindedness and ennui.
3) An existence-philosophical, where you in your opinion formation and identity formation strive towards being something else than what you are (the dream about that you in reality are another (humanistic psychology) – or that you always can become another (constructivism)), where you imitate others, are a slave of other´s ideas and ideals (life is about becoming something fantastic and/or becoming a success; you ought to model fantastic and/or successful people; the conception of Man as chronical in-authentic, a victim who constantly has to heal (humanistic psychology and psychotherapy) or form (constructivism and coaching) himself in the therapeutic practice; psychotherapists and coaches as the new authorities), and where your actions are characterized by irresoluteness and doubt.
4) A spiritual where you are identified with your lifesituation, are dependent on political or religious ideologies (the supreme good is lying out in the future, and the end therefore justifies the means; you ought to find ways of getting on in the world rather than finding ways of discovering the truth; it is alright to use thought distortions in this quest) and where you hereby exist on a future salvation. And this evaluating fragmentation is the separation of the observer and the observed.
According to the traditional wisdomtraditions these four hindrances constitute a malfunction in the human mind. And it is this malfunction, which is the cause of the ignorance of the source of life. Ignorance is again the cause of suffering. In this way spiritual practice becomes a practice, which seeks to correct this malfunction. And therefore the two main concepts in spiritual practice are ignorance and suffering. In that way you get the four philosophical openings in towards the source:
1) A rational, where you examine the validity of your assumptions, conceptions and values, and search for coherency between your thoughts and your lived life.
2) A life-philosophical where you are present in the Now, and hereby achieve that self-forgetful openness and absorption in the world, which is a condition for love, spontaneity, joy of life and wisdom.
3) An existence-philosophical, where you in your opinion and identity formation are yourself in the sense of being precisely what you are here and now (no matter how insignificant, or negative, it might seem in relation to your own or others´ ideals), live in accordance with your own essence, and thereby achieve authenticity, autonomy, decisiveness and power of action.
4) A spiritual, where you aren´t identified with your lifesituation, and where you, independent of religious or political ideologies, live from something deeper: The source itself; the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Said in another way: where essence (the form of consciousness, meditation, the divine source) is one and the same with existence (being precisely what you are, existential presence in the now, life itself, the otherness). And this realized oneness is the wholeness of the oberserver and the observed.
I am well aware that the self-help industry is using the concepts of the openings as positive concepts (especially the existence-philosophical opening with its concept of authenticity; that it is good to work with yourself, and realize your illusions, etc.), and therefore would disagree with my claim that they see them as negative. The use of the concepts of the openings is also the reason why it can be hard to discover the paradoxes. But the problem arises because they see them as future-oriented goals or ideals. And in order to reach these ideals you need therapy or coaching. And it is in this "practice" they end in the hindrances. That should be easy to see, when looking at the concepts of the hindrances. What they misunderstand is that the openings precisely are a practice in themselves: the true spiritual practice.
Such a spiritual practice can again be said to contain three aspects:
1) Critical thinking (spotting thought distortions, created by dualistic unbalance, both in yourself and in others – see my book A dictionary of thought distortions)
2) Investigating the shadow (ignorance, the unconscious, the painbody, the cause of suffering, your own dark side, the ego – see my articles The emotional painbody and why psychotherapy can´t heal it, and Suffering as an entrance to the Source)
3) The spiritual practice (going beyond all ideas and images – see my article Paranormal phenomena seen in connection with the spiritual practice)
The reason why the self-help industry considers these three aspects, and therefore the four philosophical openings, as negative, is as follows:
1) There is no objective scale of truth that can decide whether something is positive or negative; it is entirely your own subjective feelings, that decide what is positive or negative. Therefore thought distortions can be seen as positive means of getting on in the world.
2) The positive psychology of the self-help industry is avoiding and ignoring all negative; that is: your shadow, your ignorance, your painbody, your suffering, your dark side.
3) It is not possible to go beyond your ideas and images. The only thing you can do is to change them into what you find positive.
In my article Humanistic psychology, self-help, and the danger of reducing religion to psychology, I explain how the self-help industry, unknowingly, is supporting a kind of black magic, or satanism, which show the essence in the 666 conspiracy, namely that the ego has become an object for “spiritual” worship. This will end in spiritual crises, especially the “positive” aspect of the spiritual crisis called ego-inflation (see my articles Spiritual crises as the cause of paranormal phenomena and The ego-inflation in the New Age and self-help environment).
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