Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

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mind virus management frameworks

Once or twice a year, I spontaneously write something to a mailing list. (Remember 'mailing lists'? They still exist!) This morning some time before dawn, I surprised myself by contributing:

I find myself much inspired by Mark Lewis's presentation on *the self is not
the mind*...

I write now to highlight & expand the heart of those comments, and then to
synthesize how Objectivism & spirituality are each mostly about destroying
mind viruses (negative/useless mental habits) -- and how they are each a
framework especially useful for different life purposes.

Mark put the core of spiritual transcendence in 3 great paragraphs, and I
repeat with some asterisks:

" When we identify our self with our mind, we have fundamentally mistaken
and forgotten who and what we are. We have confused
our self with a tool. We have dropped the context of who we
are. *Enlightenment is the process of restoring and keeping this
context.* It is the FELT experience we have when we rest our awareness in
the I AM (Being) *rather than getting our self caught up in the endless
pontification and fear of the mind*.

" In Tolle's work, the mind includes the process of thinking,
problem-solving, believing, and the emotional reactions and states we
experience as a result of thinking that shape our personality and sense of
life. As he puts it, 'the mind is a superb instrument when it is used
rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it
more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly - you
usually don't use it at all. *It uses you. This is the disease.* You
believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has
taken you over.'

" As soon as we identify our self with our mind, or some content of the mind
(including our wealth, social position, career, friends, sexuality,
physical competence, family, personality, emotions, belief/philosophical
systems, thinking, etc.) we lose our sense of oneness and connectedness
with Being/bliss/inner peace. We create what Tolle calls a "false self" or
"ego" around the things we have identified our self with. We then
structure all our lives around the concerns of this ego, and lead lives of
quiet (or not so quiet) desperation trying to pacify its fears or fulfill
its desires. Our true self becomes enslaved to the "needs" of our ego. We
become the tool of our tool (mind) but because we have forgotten our true
nature (consciousness), we identify with the tool and think we are living
our own lives. *We end up rationalizing and defending our thoughts,
emotions, and choices, even when they lead us to be unhappy, righteous,
fearful, lonely, depressed, angry, and disconnected from the ecstasy* which
is life/Being/spirit. "

Then, Mark described where this spirituality leads the mind:

" ...when we identify our self with consciousness rather than the mind and stop
thinking, "this is not a trance-like state. Not at all. There is no loss
of consciousness here. The opposite is the case. If the price of peace
were a lowering of your consciousness, and the price of stillness a lack of
vitality and alertness, then they would not be worth having." Rather, as
Krishnamurti said 1000 different ways, **when we rest our awareness in
consciousness rather than getting caught up in the roller coaster of mind,
we move beyond "smart" to true intelligence and genius. When we transcend
our mind, the huge amount of energy we would normally use to protect our
ego is freed up to be used by our natural intelligence and creativity.** We
become more present, more aware, more conscious. In this sense, it is only
when we transcend our mind that we become truly rational beings.

" We might say that, in the same way that Rand counsels us to transcend our
emotions and not use them as tools of cognition, Tolle counsels us to
transcend our cognition (or its emotional effects) and not use it as a
source of self or values. Just as money can "give you the means for the
satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires," so
our mind can organize and help us achieve our values, but it does not
create our values. Our values come from our nature as consciousness. They
transcend our mind. If we allow our mind to dictate our values, we will
predictably create pain, suffering, isolation, and hell for others and
ourselves. When we relax into bliss and fullness of the ever present state
of I AM, we know who we are beyond our mind, and are no longer its
prisoner. "

It's easy to imagine Roark sitting in his window or Francisco playing tennis
with this attitude. At least the purest 'ideal' Randian heroes (Galt, Roark,
Francisco, Ragnar, Bjorn...) feel distinctively effortless in this way.
Their minds do not habitually turn the same things over again & again. For
them, every passing moment feels fresh & clear! For them, it is not in any
normal sense true that "happiness is that state of consciousness which
proceeds from the achievement of one's values" (as Rand stated
philosophically -- and with which I very much disagree without massive
reinterpretation). Her most ideal literary characters are basically blissed
out with or without achievement-in-any-normal-sense; why? Maybe because
they're always in the process of achieving? Rand did, after all, also write,
"He who fights for the future, lives in it today." Hmmm, it's hard to
interpret Roark-on-window-sill as fighting for or achieving anything in
those moments (which I got the impression constituted half of his days some
years; what else was he going to do?; after all, they had no Internet back

Maybe this explains what those unflappable Randian ideal men secretly feel
instead of flapping:

" When we are identified with the mind, we find ourselves spending our lives
and energy chasing these experiences of pleasure and working to avoid
pain. We try to achieve conditions in the world that match our mind's
ideal of what should be. Every victory towards our ideal give us temporary
pleasure and mires us further in the drama. Every defeat asks us to
marshal our resources and try harder to win the game of achieving our
ideal. Either way we become fooled into thinking that we need to achieve
more within the game. The irony is that the entire game is bankrupt. It
is dropped context. We will NEVER become truly happy by achieving our
ideal life circumstances. Instead, we typically experience intense emotions
around the drama of creating our ideal life, which dominate our awareness
and distract us from the love, joy, and inner peace which is our nature.
However, because we are identified with our mind, we literally cannot
imagine another way to be happy, so we invest more of our psychic/spiritual
energy into the game. The poor get poorer.

" What Tolle is calling "real" love, joy, creativity, beauty, and inner
peace are not responses to favorable conditions in our manifest life, but aspects
of Being. They are the natural experience we have when we have transcended
our mind and are resting in our pure awareness of I AM. They are the
fruits of enlightenment, be it for a moment, or an ongoing way of
being. They do not come and go with our circumstances, but radiate
eternally from the center of our self. When we transcend the mind, we
become bathed in them and recognize, as he puts it, "**that nothing I ever
could ever add anything to what I already have.**" This connection with
Being, and the bliss that comes of it, is the pearl of great price; it is
the ultimate value around which to build a rational code of life; it is the
ever present gift of consciousness that we are, have always been, and will
always be; it is our Self.

" Tolle asks us to consider that the whole game of mind is bankrupt; that by
either transcending the mind and relaxing into the I AM of consciousness,
or by focusing so totally on our present experience that we forget our
ego/self, we can suddenly realize that we are already sitting on the pile
of gold; that we already have everything we really want, and that we are
truly free to express the love that we are with everyone we meet and in
everything we do. As Christ said, the kingdom of God is at hand. The life
of consciousness is heaven, bliss, love, joy, peace. The life of
unconsciousness, of identification with the mind, is hell, fear,
insecurity, striving, incompleteness, anxiety. Check your premises. Honor
your Self. Your happiness awaits only your willingness to let go of being
right and relaxing into being YOU. "


Next, I promised to describe how Objectivism & spirituality are each mostly
about destroying mind viruses (negative/useless mental habits).

*Philosophy* in general is about dismantling mental errors. All Western
philosophy explicitly recognizes that *falsehood* is a kind of mental error
worth dismantling. Objectivism & other practical philosophies also attack
another kind of mental error: *missing the point* (which could be cast as
implicit false statements about what's important/essential/worthwhile...).

Both kinds of mental errors can infect a living mind & over time waste a lot
of its energy (or even worse). This is why I look at the commonly repeated
or powerful/seductive mental errors as *viruses*. I imagine Agent Smith
would agree.

Objectivism/Aristotelianism identifies essentials in order to produce the
best possible tools for the mind -- and, by implication, throw out
(dismantle) all the poorer ones. Authentic spirituality does the same thing
for subjective experience.

Both frameworks tend to clear mental workspace. Kaizen for the soul ;)

Like other toolkits, either framework can be misused. When either starts to
feel boring/repetitive/useless/dull (BRUD, as I like to say), usually move
on. In those moments, the framework is itself cluttering more than it's
clearing. This is the land of Randroid qua Randroid. BRUD is your mind's way
of telling you that what you're processing is not
novel/integrating/clearing/expanding (NICE ;) ).

Finally, I wanted to indicate how Objectivism & spirituality are each
especially useful for some life purposes. For those life aspects *within
your control & likely worth changing*, Objectivist
epistemology/ethics/attitudes rule. For everything else, the spiritual
outlook/attitudes maximizes shareholder value ;)

As Andrew Schwartz writes:

" My only reservation about [Tolle's] teachings is that sometimes he seems
to subtly disvalue the idea of external needs, of the importance of growing and
expanding in our relationship with the external world as well as with the
internal world. Or at the very least, he seems sometimes to take the
external for granted to some extent.

" I find it very important to keep an eye toward both domains in a balanced
way, identifying and working to achieve both externally-oriented needs such
as creative expression, friendship, romance -- and internally generated
practices that improve and sustain happiness and peace of mind. "

As Bobby McFerrin sings: "Don't worry. Be happy."
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